we ask all job candidates to give PowerPoint presentations, employee disappeared with our data, and more

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

1. We ask all job candidates to give us PowerPoint presentations

I work at a small (around 50 people now) start-up in the industrial biotech sphere. The way my company conducts interviews is that a candidate is asked to give a 30-40 minute PowerPoint presentation, regardless of what position they’re interviewing for, on their previous work experience where anybody in the company can attend. Then, there are three to four smaller group interviews and one-on-one interviews. My question is, how normal/effective are these candidate presentations?

I’ve seen candidate presentations that are really great and interesting, and also ones that have been awful — i.e., the candidate was a terrible public speaker, their slides were too vague or too cluttered or had walls of text, their talk wasn’t organized in a way that made sense, etc. I’ve also noticed candidates from academia tend to be stronger presenters than candidates from industry (because you frequently have to present your research), but are not necessarily stronger candidates overall. But because the presentation is the first thing I see of a candidate, I now have this impression (whether good or bad) that tends to last for the smaller group interviews.

On the one hand, I think the presentations are good for evaluating how clearly candidates can communicate their previous work, but also what if you just aren’t in the habit of giving presentations? Or you’re just bad at public speaking and haven’t had enough time to practice/work on it? I’d love to hear your take on this.

It’s a weird thing to require of all candidates, and it’s bad hiring. It’s like saying “we’re going to assess every candidate for every role on how well they can produce a brochure,” even though most of the people you hire won’t be producing brochures as part of their job.

Anything you evaluate candidates on in a hiring process should relate to the job you’re hiring for. If someone doesn’t need to be a polished speaker, your company shouldn’t be assessing them on that — that’s a good way to obscure who’s actually best suited for the job. And there are a lot of jobs where the person who’s best suited for the role could easily be a bad presenter and it wouldn’t matter one bit. (Think, for example, of accountants, writers, or IT people.)

To be clear, communication skills matter — but when you’re assessing people’s communication skills, you should tie it as closely as possible to the ways communication will matter in the specific job you’re hiring for. By all means, if candidates will need to present as part of the job, test for that. But when it’s not part of the job, test for the types of communication that will matter — writing for writing jobs, clear explanations of complicated data for data analysis jobs, answering questions clearly and concisely for admin jobs, and so forth.

In addition, asking candidates to create this kind of presentation is a huge imposition. Creating a 30-40 minute PowerPoint is a significant amount of work, to say nothing of the stress and anxiety you’re almost certainly causing for people who aren’t experienced presenters. It’s crappy to ask candidates to take that on when there’s no real job-related need for it.

2. Our employee disappeared with a bunch of data

My team employs several part-time remote employees who conduct field research and submit data summaries back to us so that we can report out to our clients. Recently one of them has fallen out of communication before finishing his work — he completed the required field visits but has not turned in the required data. He is now over a month past due and in the last couple weeks has stopped responding to us via any communication method. We are running out of time and if he does not get us the data, we will have to redo the work on an extremely tight timeline. This will look bad to our clients, who will know something went very wrong and who will consider having to redo the visits a burden.

We have tried every type of outreach I can think of, offered additional assistance and empathy, and said that if he can just hand over the raw data we’d be happy to pay him for the time he took to conduct the visits and finish up the rest of the work for him. We’re getting no response back to any of this and truly don’t know if he’s just avoiding us or having some kind of crisis. Would it be crossing a line to reach out to other members of the field team who he may have a relationship with? Do we have any recourse here, or do we just have to eat the lost time and money and redo the work?

I don’t think it’s crossing a line to contact other members of your team, explain you haven’t been able to reach this guy, and ask if they know if he’s okay or how to get in touch with him. These are people who work for you; it’s not like you’re calling his neighbors or his last employer.

But if that doesn’t work, then yeah, unfortunately there’s not much more you can do, and it sounds like you’d need to redo the work. It might point to changes you can make in your procedures going forward though — like maybe it would make sense to require people to turn in their data after each field visit rather than stockpiling it (if that’s practical).

One other thing: if you’re concerned about this employee’s well-being, you can also ask his local police to do a wellness check. (That said, there’s increasing awareness about how police visits can sometimes go very badly, so you’d want to take that into account, especially if he’s part of a group that is historically vulnerable to overly aggressive police responses.)

3. Seat down sign war

My office has an issue with bathrooms. There’s almost 100 of us on this floor and only three bathrooms, one on each end of a big V shape and one in the middle. Two of these are split by gender and one is a single occupancy gender-neutral bathroom, which is the one I sit closest to. I am also one of two women in my end of the office with roughly 40 men in our area.

The problem started with a straight week where I couldn’t walk into the single occupancy bathroom without finding the toilet seat up. After a solid week of this, I talked to our office manager and she gave me the okay to put a sign up reminding people to put the seat down when they’re done. This didn’t seem to stop people from leaving it up, but the problem was slightly better for a while.

Until recently when the entire department went to agile training and someone replaced my sign with one written like an agile user story in a mocking fashion. It wasn’t too bad and I didn’t really care since it still encouraged people to put the seat down when they were done. But then that sign was vandalized several times. And now a new sign has been put up next to it which calls those of us who considered this an issue “lazy and stupid”: “If you’re too dim to realize it’s your problem when the seat is up, maybe you shouldn’t be working at (tech company).” And now I’m at a point where I’m walking to the other end of the office to use the restroom because I’m tired of my call for common courtesy becoming a reason to mock me.

Am I overreacting? Is there anything I can do to restore some dignity and respect to myself in this situation? I’m fairly sure everyone knows I was the one who put the sign up since the other woman here is about as non-confrontational as I’ve ever seen a person. This seems like a silly reason to be upset, but if I can’t even get people to respect me in a shared space, how do I know they respect the work I do? I don’t trust my own thoughts and feelings on this anymore, I could really use some help.

Yeah, it does sound like you’re overreacting a bit. It’s the nature of all bathroom signs to eventually get vandalized. Also, some people really dislike signs telling them what to do in the bathroom. And those same people often fight back with more signs. Office bathrooms, like office kitchens, are just the scene of a lot of bad behavior.

But keep in mind this is just one rude person — not all the coworkers on your floor. And I guarantee you there are plenty of people rolling their eyes at the “lazy and stupid” thing and thinking that someone in your office is reacting in a bizarrely hostile way to a pretty standard “put the seat down” request.

Don’t turn this into an issue of respect in your head. It’s not; it’s just silly bathroom wars. Take the signs down, try to shrug it off, and don’t let yourself dwell on it.

4. I addressed a cover letter to the wrong person

Recently, a friend of mine sent me a job listing I overlooked during my search and urged me to apply. The position was perfect, everything I’ve been looking for, so I sent in my application ASAP. There was no name on the job posting, but I did some LinkedIn research and found the name of the hiring manager … or so I thought. After I sent in my letter, I did some more digging and realized that the person I addressed the letter to left her job this month. I’ve heard that addressing your letter to the wrong person is a death sentence, a surefire way to get your application tossed in the trash. Is this true? If so, how can I fix this?

Eh, I wouldn’t worry about it. There are some hiring managers who will toss applications for that, just as there are some hiring managers who will toss applications for all sorts of ridiculous reasons. A good hiring manager will not, and those are the ones you want to screen for anyway.

That said, don’t worry about trying to hunt down the hiring manager’s name in the future. If they wanted you to use it, they would have included it in the application instructions. They didn’t, so they don’t care. I promise you no one is thinking, “Wow, this candidate has incredible initiative — she found my name!” Seriously, no one cares. If they don’t give you a name, “dear hiring manager” is fine.

5. Another salary success story

I’m reporting another salary negotiation success story. How did this happen? I had the confidence to advocate for myself after reading your site for years, so I simply asked. That’s it. The conversation went like this:

Employer: “We’d like to talk about the offer we sent you.”

Me: “I like X and Y, but I’d also like to include disability insurance, and bump the salary to Z.”

Employer: “Thanks, we’ll let you know.”

One week later: They said no to the insurance because they don’t have it set up, but yes to the salary increase.

I can’t believe that’s all it really takes. If I hadn’t asked, I’d have left $6,400 on the table. So thank you for your excellent advice.

{ 865 comments… read them below }

  1. lyonite*

    OP1: It’s a pain, but those presentations are very common (basically de rigeur) in biotech, at least for scientist roles. Part of the point is to assess the candidate’s presentation skills, but more than that, it’s about how well they understand their data and can answer questions about the results. Anyone who’s job searching will have one ready (they’re even known as “job talks”), so asking for it isn’t much of a burden.

    On the other hand, if they’re having non-scientists present, or even people coming in for lower level jobs, like research associates, that’s weird and someone should probably put a stop to it.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      I came here to say a similar thing. It’s a start up, which means everyone is a bit of a sales person and communicator. It’s not unreasonable to expect people to explain their work.

      That said, 30-40 minute presentation is hours of work (if done properly) and is really unreasonable. A 5 minute overview presentation is a lot more reasonable.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        I don’t see why explaining your work would ever need to be done as a presentation for non-scientists in this company (if that’s normal for scientists; I’m taking lyonite’s word for that since I don’t have that knowledge). I’d love to hear from the OP about the types of positions doing these presentations. Is everyone there going to be presenting as part of their job, or are they making the janitor do a presentation, too? That feels like hyperbole, but based on the letter it very well might be the case.

        1. Jasnah*

          Yeah, I can’t imagine having to listen to a half hour presentation from EACH candidate about their previous work experience in admin roles, or junior roles! Isn’t that a waste of the interviewers’ time, and as OP said it clouds their judgment unnecessarily.

          That’s gotta be hours and hours of prep time for candidates, plus hours and hours of interviewer time wasted, for information you can mostly glean from a resume and a short conversation.

          1. Augusta Sugarbean*

            Agreed. 30-40 minute presentations (for anyone who wants to attend) plus 3-4 group interviews plus one-on-one interviews? When do they have time to do any actual work?

            1. cmcinnyc*

              The “for anyone who wants to attend” part is where I say, nope, no thanks, not interested. I am a comfortable public speaker, but I would definitely not be up for being questioned by randoms. I get the whole flat structure thing but that kind of interview process just opens the door to all kinds of noise. I don’t think I’d want to work in an environment that fosters that kind of vibe.

              1. Stiff-assed Brit*

                “I would definitely not be up for being questioned by randoms.”

                Then if I may be so bold, you are not well-suited to work at a biotech start-up. At small companies everyone, even people outside of formal business development roles, needs to be able to give an elevator pitch. You never know when a “random” might be a source of capital or business advice, especially in a city like London or San Francisco.

              2. Mama Bear*

                Our CEO put an end to large group interviews. We will still interview someone in small teams (say three – maybe the leads in each department where there is interest in this person’s skillset) but not 10. It was getting out of hand. I also agree with everyone else that a 40 minute presentation is a waste of everyone’s time. 5-10, tops, IF necessary. Sounds like this company’s hiring process needs to be streamlined a bit.

          2. EPLawyer*

            Isn’t that what a resume is for anyway? To show your previous work. Presumably people submitted their resumes and were selected to come in for interviews. Now they have to do a 30-40 minute power point presentation on the same thing? Waste of everyone’s time. People with options will screen themselves out of the process rather than do this.

            1. Michaela Westen*

              +1. I can’t imagine a time when I would be willing to do this. If I was unemployed, I would feel my time is better spent applying to more companies than making one presentation (that’s not related to my job) for one company.

              1. Ellex*

                Yeah, there’s no way I’m making and presenting a half hour Powerpoint about my career in data entry (granted, what I’ve done and still do is highly skilled data entry, but at the end of the day I mainly sit at a computer and type data into it). Not only is public speaking and Powerpoint not part of my marketable skillset, it has nothing to do with any job I’d be applying for. And I just about guarantee that OP’s workforce includes people who do some type of data entry. It’s nearly inescapable these days.

                Sounds like a waste of time for both candidates and interviewers to ask this of anyone who isn’t being hired for their skills in public presentation and Powerpoint.

                1. TardyTardis*

                  Although my presentation would have some drama to it with the dog going after me one of he days I did address checking for the census…

                2. Jeny*

                  I agree, if I got invited to an interview and was asked to do a 30 minute PowerPoint I’d decline in a heartbeat. I don’t like having my time wasted so it’s not a company I’d want to work for. I can guarantee you’re losing good candidates over this.

          3. Parenthetically*

            Totally. I’m bored and cringing just thinking about listening to someone trying desperately to stretch “college internship and 1 year working at Starbucks” into a FORTY MINUTE presentation.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              If these are science/technical roles odds are they already have some presentations on past research. The bigger danger is trying to get people to talk for only 40 minutes

              1. Parenthetically*

                OP said it’s for EVERY ROLE. Including the 23-year-old applicant for admin assistant.

                1. Gumby*

                  Yes, that is the main problem. The scientists? It’s not so much going over their resume as going over their research. This is useful! (I mean, I understand maybe 50% of most of the job talks here but my BS is not even in the subject that the candidates have PhDs in so…)

                  But we only have job talks like that from the researchers. Other roles? Even very technical ones? No job talk.

          4. Dontlikeunfairrules*

            I know I would immediately cancel an interview if I was told I needed to prepare a 30-40 minute presentation for it. I don’t care how much I wanted the job.

            It says a lot about the company. As in “We don’t respect people’s time “!

        2. KRM*

          It’s very normal for anyone scientist level or above to have to give a “job talk” about their work. People in these positions need to demonstrate that they can explain their science, show how they work, and how they give talks/interact. This is in large part because anyone scientist level or higher is very often 1-presenting at lab meetings 2-presenting to potential collaborators, 3-presenting at conferences 4-presenting to board meetings, investor meetings, advisory meetings…you get the point. However, making EVERYONE do it seems extreme. Research associates should not have to present. Any non-scientist should not have to present. That’s a waste of everyone’s time.

          1. KTM*

            Agreed. We ask for this type of presentation for anyone coming in at a mid-to-high engineering or scientist type position for those reasons. We definitely do not do it for every position!

          2. Paula*

            Also logged in here to agree. This is normal and expected for Scientist level roles or anyone who has a PhD. Even if the job entails a lot of hands-on bench work, at some point the successful candidate is going to be asked to present to explain what was done, what the justification was, and how the work can be defended scientifically. In many of these types of jobs, presentations become one of the key job deliverables – so it is definitely relevant to see well how a candidate presents.. However, it is not normal to ask people with a bachelor’s degree to do this, or for roles lower than Scientist.
            What is more problematic in these presentations, in my opinion, is they often require presentation of intellectual property from another company. If one works hard one can anonymize the information, but it is a lot of work and people can often guess what was worked on. Many people have signed non-disclosure agreements in previous jobs, so this puts them in a difficult position. It was once explained to me that it is just something everyone does even though they shouldn’t, wink wink.

          3. Paula*

            Just to clarify my comment above, I am in the biotech field. Like the respondent TyB, below, to me this process is absolutely normal and expected in biotech – for anyone in a role that actually involve science and at a Scientist level, which requires a fair amount of job or academic experience.

      2. Colette*

        Depending on the field the start up is in, it may be untrue that everyone is a bit of a sales person and communicator. I used to work for a small company that sold software to aviation authorities – it wasn’t the kind of business you’d even mention to people you meet in day to day life, as there was one potential customer per country.

      3. Gabriela*

        Yes. I am in a field where presentations are the standard for interviews to assess your public speaking skills and how you present information. I’ve never been asked to do more than 5-10 minutes. Honestly, seeing how someone can get in good information with impact is much more telling of someone’s public speaking skills than asking them for 40 minutes- that’s an entire lecture!

        1. Elise*

          I agree. I’m in a professional role that is expected to give presentation to community groups, boards of my organization, leadership, etc. I rarely get more than 10-15 minutes to speak in my actual job, and 10 minutes is the general standard for interview presentations in my field.

          Distilling your work down to a 10 minute presentation is a skill that I want to see from a candidate. And I don’t want a rehash of your resume. We give a prompt that is job related and see where the candidates go with it. It’s very telling.

          BUT, I’m about to hire an office admin. They will not be giving presentations in their job, therefore will not be asked to give one at the interview.

          1. TL -*

            These presentations (for scientists) aren’t a rehash of their resume and 30-40 minutes is normal for science talks.

            I agree it’s useless for non/lower level scientist positions but they are useful for the positions they are usually used for.

        2. Librarianne*

          Same–the longest I’ve ever been asked to present for is 20 minutes, and that was on a fairly complex topic related to my work. If I’d had to fill 40 minutes, I would’ve bored my audience and myself to tears.

      4. Ra94*

        I’ve had to do presentations during hiring for law jobs, which made sense for the roles. The set-up was always, here’s some articles about A Subject- you’ve got 30 minutes and a flip-chart to prepare a 5-minute presentation about it. The focus was very obviously on how well you processed and communicated information, which made sense- it seems muddy to me to combine the factual (previous work experience) with the skills (communication and public speaking).

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP said it’s regardless of what position they’re applying for, so it presumably includes candidates who aren’t actually “in” biotech — accountants, admins, etc. That’s the issue with it.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        It makes me wonder if the senior management are all scientists. As a non-scientist in the biotech space, I have round that some scientists, in their transition to business leaders, have not been exposed to anything other than the academic hiring process where presentations are vital. I remember one scientist who was shocked that the company did not require potential salespeople to prepare a PowerPoint on the product. I needed to explain that in FDA-regulated industries, salespeople who prepare their own materials are likely violating numerous government regulations.

      2. OP1*

        Thanks for the feedback, Alison!

        I want to clarify: at the moment, my company is still mostly R&D and we’re only just now starting to build out the corporate/management/admin side. For the few admins we’ve already hired, I pretty sure they didn’t give any kind of presentation, but at the moment, entry level research associates (even those fresh out of school) are required to give a presentation.

        1. Librarianne*

          As others have mentioned, having to give a 40 minute presentation like this when I was newly-graduate would have been torture. Before entering my field, I worked in catering and as a cashier. 10 minutes on how the skills I learned in those roles will translate to my professional work? Sure. But I probably would have removed myself from consideration if I’d had to talk about it for 40 minutes.

        2. JustaTech*

          How do you deal with people who are coming from other biotech where their recent research is confidential? Do they give a literature review, or do you ask for a presentation on their most recent academic work?

          I’ve been in industry biotech for 8 years and I can’t present on what I do now (at least not without outing my job search to the whole company by asking permission to give a talk), and my academic stuff is woefully out of date.

          1. Lora*

            You scrub it. You use some things the company has published to give an idea of what you were working on, and then you say your work on Inhibitor X was found to interact with Newly Discovered Receptor Y via a novel pi-stacking mechanism and you did NMR confirmed by crystallography to 2A to identify the intermediate structure of the aromatic thingies on loop A-B-C which had been previously reported as unstructured.

            That said, yeah, sometimes people will still know what you were talking about. When I gave the talk at CurrentJob, they all knew instantly what I had been working on – these were the same people on the original research team and we’d previously worked together for years, no amount of “metabolite X” or “protein Y” was going to sufficiently hide it. But that’s sort of accepted as a polite fiction and then you move on.

            Or, you can present things that are very out of date. Or talk in VERY general terms, which is what I sometimes do – I have a couple of generic review papers that I talk about sometimes.

        3. PhD Level Scientist in Biotech*

          OP1: A 40-50 min public presentation, followed by a public or private question and answer session, followed by group interviews, followed by one-on-one interviews, after having gone through 1-2 rounds of phone interviews and screens, is completely and absolutely normal for research scientist level positions and above.

          That means if you have a bachelor’s degree in a life science or greater, you will go through this process to get a job and these interviews often stretch to be a full day.

          It is not a huge imposition to ask candidates to do this. It should be the culmination of your training. If you got a bachelor’s degree in science (or more education) and did bench research with a research group, you presumably spent at least 6 months or more attending meetings to see how these presentations are given and giving them yourself. Being good at communicating your work orally and visually is important, so it’s important to assess how people do this when hiring. Being able to think on your feet in the question-and-answer session afterwards is important.

          Attending these presentations when your company is hiring is important, for the hiring process and for your development as a scientist. At smaller companies, they are mandatory, so them being voluntary is generous.

          It’s part of the work that we as scientists have to do in order to get a job and makes us flex all of the skills that we will continue to use for our career. It’s one of the many, many, MANY sacrifices we make.

          1. TardyTardis*

            You’re absolutely right–for scientists. For accounts payable? Mmm…not so much.

          2. Oatmeal*

            Sacrifice? Give me a break. I have a PhD, I know all about the things that science and research asks of you. Hard work? Yes. Years of your life? Yes. Sacrifice? No. You’re not a martyr.

            1. Herewego*

              Right? This makes me sooooooo happy I decided not to head towards biotech, that’s just ridiculous martyrdom. It’s a job in science, nothing more.

        4. only acting normal*

          When I interviewed for entry level physics/analysis roles (nearly 20yrs ago *gulp*), I typically had to give a 15 minute presentation on my degree project. Where I work now, our new grad interviewees still have to do this (and I imagine our mid-careers do too).
          So yes, even fresh out of uni, a presentation for a science job is normal.
          But 40 minutes is looooong.

        5. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          This is a big reason the word “start-up” is an immediate turn-off for me in a job posting. I’m not saying OP is in that category, but so often they’re feeling their way along. I don’t want to be a business newbie’s guinea pig when I’m looking for a stable livelihood.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      As it truly necessary for everyone to deliver a 30–40 minute presentation, though? I’m not in biotech or a scientist, but I did have to give a job talk as part of my hiring process. That said, I didn’t have to give a 30 minute presentation about myself—it was about my research. And I can re-use my job talk with different employers. It also doesn’t appear as the first thing on the agenda for the day, and I’m given a prep period (usually 45–60 minutes) before I have to deliver it.

      But it seems like requiring presentations for non-scientists, and requiring presentations of this length, are onerous for any candidate. If OP#1’s employer retains the requirement, would it help to move the presentation to later in the day? I’m also wondering how it maps onto skills. As Alison notes, it’s useful to key your hiring criteria to the skills a person would need to do their job. If they don’t need public speaking and presentation/translation expertise, then it seems like an odd thing to impose on all hires.

      1. lyonite*

        Yeah, it’s weird to do it for anyone but a scientist. I just noticed that they were talking about academia versus industry candidates, so it wasn’t clear to me that anyone other than scientists had gone through this process. And 30-40 minutes is long, but it’s also pretty standard, so if people have their talks pre-written they are probably going to fall within that length. (Again, for the people who expect to be giving them.)

    4. Zombeyonce*

      If it truly is every potential employee, no matter the job, this requirement is terrible. Do you make your IT people do this? I am one and picked this field for many reasons, one being that I wouldn’t generally have to do any public speaking. You’re going to miss out on candidates that don’t want and don’t need to do public speaking as part of a job interview. I know that upon hearing this requirement, I would immediately withdraw myself from consideration for the job.

      I am not unique, so I imagine you’ve already lost people that would have been fantastic at the job but wouldn’t even try to do this, much less do it badly.

      1. Violet Fox*

        Sysadmin working in academica that works with things like scientific software and research support here. Giving presentations is just a skill I do not have because it is a skill that I have never needed to develop in my work. It’s also truthfully a skill that I am just not interested in having.

        The simple truth is that unless I was extremely desperate, I would decline the interview as soon as I was told about that requirement. I honestly would also assume that the people asking me for the interview would have no idea what my job is supposed to be in a way that I would find deeply worrying.

        Then again I’d also worry that someone said PowerPoint and not simply presentation with slides or Latex or similar, but I’m also in a position where I get to be picky.

        1. Lupe*

          Also a science/sysadmin, and yeah, I think our thinking seems pretty similar. I’d pass on your company, OP.

          I think I’d worry from the requirements that you do expect me to do a lot of talking about the product, which is not really what I want to do. There’s also enough biotech sysadmin job openings that I’m probably going to decline the interview, in favour of somewhere that’s not going to take up lots of my time prepping a presentation. (A 30 min presentation is easily 4 hours work)

          I’d also be a bit worried about how much time the company will waste on pointless things ( I know interviews can be inefficient, but it’s just not a great start)

        2. RandomU...*

          I land on the operations side, whose job does include public speaking, presenting, and creating materials to present. I have zero problems with public speaking, either prepared or on the fly.

          That being said, I’d probably walk away from this hiring process. The whole process sounds like a PITA, and the presentation sounds particularly onerous. I can’t imagine these presentations being open to all. Seems like it would turn out to be one of those goofy optional assemblies that HS students go to, just to get out of a math test. Don’t want to work today… hang out in interview presentations!

          1. TL -*

            That’s generally not how bench positions work. If I want to be away from my work for an hour I usually have to schedule it because most of the stuff I’m doing is time dependant with long protocols.

      2. paperpusher*

        I would like the OP to confirm if it really is ALL roles. Perhaps they meant for all positions, junior to senior scientist? The way they presented it as industry vs academia reads a bit strange if they’re also talking about IT and admin support. Before I get too enraged I’d like that clarification – because I work in a support role in a scientific organization and being asked to give a job talk would be seriously weird.

      3. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

        This. I can see requiring presentations for positions where this sort of thing is part of the job — though I would do it later on in the hiring process rather than as part of the first interview. (I wouldn’t want to spend all that time preparing a 30-40 minute presentation if I didn’t know if there was even a fit with the company!) Making every potential employee do one – no, just no.

      4. Mike S*

        I do medical software development, and while we occasionally do presentations, we prefer handouts to PowerPoint. One of my coworkers took a scientific visualization class from Edward Tufte, and came away with a poor impression of PowerPoint. I’ve done quick (5 minute) presentations as part of the interview process, but anything longer would be a turn off.

        1. only acting normal*

          Some of the best presentations I’ve seen didn’t use PowerPoint. One used a mind map really effectively, and the most successful one I’ve given (made the customer rock back in his seat and go “oh! I get it”) was from a word doc projected on screen.

    5. TyB*

      Also a Scientist from Biotech industry here. That interview process sounds exactly like every interview process I have had. Anything that deviates from that is extremely unusual, and usually a warning sign to me. It’s really the only way to quickly assess scientific skills. But these types of interviews are only for research roles. I’ve given them at every stage of my career, even at the start because presenting and explaining data is a key job requirement (in fact I present far more in industry than I ever did in academia). I have not seen this type of presentation required for non R&D roles though. I think this is just a case of the founders assuming this interview process is the norm for everyone and going with it. Honestly Alison’s mentions of interviews being usually meeting with the hiring manager for an hour and maybe a brief meet with the team sound so wrong to me that I wonder how anyone can hire like that, but different industry norms and such.

      1. TyB*

        Oh, and I forgot to add to my previous post, a 30 min presentation seems on the abnormally short side to me. That’s the length usually allotted to entry level positions. More experienced roles get 45 min to 1 hour. I just really want to stress how absolutely normal and expected this is in biotech. As is an all day interview where you meet with a large number of people. This really seems like a case of them not realizing it’s not the universal rule.

        1. Myrin*

          Thanks for all the input by people actually in this field – I had no idea about any of that! I’m not from the US and a lot of stuff people get really up in arms about on here is completely normal and not noteworthy to me, so it’s very interesting to see the same phenomenon, only regarding fields.

          One question, though – wouldn’t the fact that these bosses don’t realise that this is not a universal rule in itself be a bit of a red flag insofar as it seems to indicate a lack of common sense? It seems pretty unworldly to me to never once think about what the purpose of these kinds of interviews is and how, logically, that doesn’t apply to the janitor or the finance advisor.

          1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

            Yes, varies by field and varies by country – also so that this isn’t necessarily a global norm in biotech companies either. I have some scientific experience in another country and am not familiar with this. I see several problems with this practice: many positions don’t require public speaking, not all jobs are such that you could get a long and interesting presentation out of them, and some jobs have very strict confidentiality requirements so that you can’t talk much about what you do. Also for someone who is looking for a science job but has ended up doing something else in the meantime I can see this would be difficult. Of course there are also positive sides and if this is the norm in US biotech companies then applicants for science jobs can expect it, but I wouldn’t expand this practice to anything where it’s not the norm now.

            1. Booksalot*

              I would struggle with confidentiality as well, since I work with intellectual property. I can direct you to published examples of what I’ve done, but I can’t give you details you could use to reverse engineer my work. Most interviews in my field are about demonstrating that you can learn and think critically, since having prior experience with every company’s customized product isn’t feasible.

        2. Heidi*

          Agreed. I read the first 2 sentences of the post and said, “Only 30 minutes? Score!” It’s customary to give an hour-long grand rounds presentation during the hiring process in academia. If you’re going to be hearing each other lecture for the rest of your careers, you don’t want to hire someone who can’t do a decent presentation.

          1. PhD level Scientist in Biotech*

            Same!! You can’t typically get away with only 30 min.

            Besides – as you know, the dirty secret is that shorter talks are harder anyways. ;)

      2. Myrin*

        Oh, oh, oh, another question!

        OP says that these presentations focus on “[the job candidates’] previous work experience” – so I’m imagining that these are basically vocalised résumés, peppered with explanations, highlighting some key research one did, explaining certain roles one inhabited and whatnot. Is that correct?
        Or are these more just research presentations/presentations on what part of your field you’re most interested and active in, theories and findings you’re working with at the moment, stuff like this?

        And how does someone who applies for their first ever job in such an environment deal with this expectation? Detail stuff they did at university? Or am I completely misinterpreting how this kind of stuff actually works?

        1. Miss Eliza Tudor*

          This, exactly. I think a lot of people interpreted this as the company asking potential hires to present their research, which would make sense, at least for certain positions. But it seems from the letter like they’re being asked to present on their past positions like you said. Which sounds like it would be out of the norm, even in an industry where presenting research is standard.

          1. Jasper Darlington Higgins III*

            off topic but you’ve inspired me to name all my online presences after Morwen’s cats

        2. JustaTech*

          If they’re anything like what I’ve seen in biotech the presentations are like what you would give at a scientific conference: Here is the research question I/my lab is working on, here is our model and our methods, our results and the conclusions we’ve drawn from those results. If the applicant is coming straight from academia they probably already have this presentation made.

          The problem I see for these kinds of presentations is that they would bias against industry: I present all the time in industry, but all that data is private to the company, so if I needed to give a presentation like this I would either need to use decade-old data from an academic job (not great) or give more of a literature review. Neither of which are going to tell a potential new employer about my *current* skills and knowledge.

        3. OP1*

          Yes, the presentations are usually centered around relevant past work experience, why you chose our company, etc.

          When I interviewed as an entry level RA, I also had to give a presentation, but didn’t think anything of it because I had frequently given poster presentations and talks about my undergrad research, and already had slides and data prepared.

          1. pcake*

            What do they do if the candidate worked on a classified project they can’t discuss? This happens in my husband’s field and used to be quite common in my parents’ field.

            Btw, I work primarily as a writer and editor, but I’ve been in entertainment. I suppose I could put together a presentation, but since I have no problem getting jobs, I can’t imagine bothering to do so.

      3. Michaela Westen*

        I work in data management and I’ve brought screen shots of my database to interviews, and explained technical details and answered questions. If the interviewer is familiar with this field, that’s enough for them to determine if the interviewee knows her stuff.
        When I was temping they would give software tests, and at one point I got certifications of proficiency in some programs, so that helps too.

    6. Cedrus Libani*

      I am also a scientist in the biotech industry, and…yeah, this is normal. For scientists specifically, not for everyone. The scientists expect it and will have their presentations ready.

      Job talks are a lot of work to prepare, and much easier for people from academia, who regularly give big-picture talks about stuff they can talk about in public. But done right, job talks are relevant. You’re asking a fairly standard interview question: tell me about an accomplishment that you’re proud of. If you ask a scientist that question, it’s going to be a long story, and one that would benefit from visual aids. You might as well herd everyone who’s going to be talking with that candidate into a room, give her a projector, and let her answer the question properly. You can learn a lot about how the candidate thinks. (These talks aren’t supposed to be resumes in PowerPoint form; that would be awful. There’s usually a brief introduction, which is basically a cover letter, but most of the time is spent discussing a specific problem that the candidate solved.)

      1. Violet Fox*

        I’m not reacting to the scientists being asked to do this sort of talk, I’m reacting to accountants, IT people, administrative folks, etc being asked to do it.

        This is about having the correct interview process for the job in question — presentations where it makes sense and not where it does not.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Agreed. It’s not industry-standard at all for non-scientists. I’ve had almost 20 roles in a half dozen pharma/biotech companies and while I give PowerPoint presentations all the time, I have never been asked to do one as part of an interview process. Neither have I ever been part of a hiring process for a non-scientist where it was expected.

      2. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        Well if you’re doing a research post, of course you’d do a presentation. I’d be surprised if you didn’t. But if your job has nothing to do with the research and development aspects of the business then I can’t see the point.

        Heck I have an academic background and have done various research presentations, but for many of the jobs in my field I wouldn’t expect to do a job talk. My research work is mostly irrelevant to my current job, and having a bunch of applied professionals come listen to me blather about my relatively obscure expertise and academic work would be a total waste of time and wouldn’t tell them much at all about how I’d do in a more practical setting.

        1. JustaTech*

          I work in R&D and I didn’t do a presentation, mostly because I wasn’t hired at the scientist level, so they didn’t need to know if I had the big ideas, they needed to know if I had the lab skills to execute the big ideas.

      3. blackcat*

        “The scientists expect it and will have their presentations ready.”
        Yup. I’m a STEM academic. Husband is a STEM PhD now in an industry scientist role.
        For either of us, putting together a 45min-1hr talk on our work is maybe a 2 hour task. Maybe less if you’re interviewing lots of places and have a well oiled job talk you edit very slightly for each new place. Last semester, my department’s colloquium speaker got the stomach flu and canceled the morning of. I was asked at noon if I was up for giving an hour long talk at 2:30. I said sure. I did 30 minutes of prep editing my last job talk. It was a good talk!
        I think outside of science, a presentation like this seems really onerous. But inside science, this is something you are trained to do. Everyone I know who has a PhD in science and still works in science (and isn’t like 70+ years old, it’s hit or miss with the near retirement crowd) has some moderately up to date talk that they can stand up and give on little notice.
        That said, this sounds like a hiring process created by people with science PhDs, rather than people who think about how to hire for specific roles. It’s wildly out of touch to ask your office manager to give an hour presentation!

        1. boo bot*

          This is hugely relevant, and a point that I think the OP can use in talking to whoever is in charge of making these decisions. It’s also a great way to decide where to draw the line in terms of who should be asked to do the presentations: is a candidate for this role likely to already have something they can present on short notice?

          Personally, I saw “30-40 minute PowerPoint presentation… on their previous work experience,” and cringed – it’s so out of the norm for what I do that it would be a huge red flag along the lines of “answer 15-20 short essay questions,” or “take a long personality assessment test,” or “answer personal, invasive questions about your childhood,” or “rank which is better, a new car or torturing a person,” or “prepare a meal and entertainment for 20 people, right now,” or “decide between your best friend, the man of your dreams, and a woman in need of medical attention, in a confusing, surprisingly low-stakes version of the trolley problem.”

          (OK, never mind, I perused the archives for real examples and there’s much, much worse than a PowerPoint out there! Still, I wouldn’t want to do it.)

        2. ggg*

          Agreed, we ask candidates interviewing for technical roles to give a one hour seminar. It absolutely should not take hours to prepare if you are coming straight from academia — most people give a version of their MS or Ph.D. thesis seminar. Candidates from industry may have more trouble, only because their recent work may be proprietary and not publishable. Sometimes they go back to old presentations or sometimes they give a general overview of their field. No scientist has ever complained about it.

          As everyone said, we do *not* require this of administrative candidates, or even laboratory technicians (who typically come in with an AS or BS degree).

      4. cmcinnyc*

        Question for Cedrus and the other scientists–what do you think of the “open to anyone who wants to attend” aspect? If you’re a scientist, do you want non-scientists in the room asking stupid questions? How about being challenged by people who are not on the hiring team? Is EVERYONE on the hiring team? My fear with this is a) the troll part of human nature comes out, b) a lot of the questions will be ignorant even if well-meant, and c) if it’s a consensus hire they’ll be getting back to candidates with follow ups in about 6 months!

        1. Nesprin*

          Yes- the ability to explain your research question’s importance, put your findings in context and describe how assays were chosen is a necessary skill for scientists. If you’re going to be hiring a PhD level scientist to work with a group of non-scientists these skills are paramount.
          I.e. we ran assay X and the results were Y can mean anything from assay X is not going to be good enough for our purposes to I picked assay X at random and result Y is not relevant to what we needed to know, to result Y means that we’re going out of business next week. The way that this information is conveyed matters as much as the information sometimes.

          1. SenatorMeathooks*

            I figure if you’re hiring a PhD, then you already know they can explain their own research. Seems pretty redundant to me.

        2. Paula*

          It is fairly normal for all interested people to be invited to these talks, for certain positions, especially ones in which the successful candidate will have to interact with a wide group of people, more than could be put on the interview schedule. One of the perks of working at a biotech company is having the opportunity to be exposed to science even if you don’t work in a scientific position. I have never seen a non-science person attend one of these talks and get unruly by asking “stupid” questions. People catch on quickly to the norms of the question and answer session, which is usually that people who have already some background in the material ask the relevant questions.

          1. Tango Foxtrot*

            I’ve also seen some really good questions at science talks come from visitors without a science background! I had a woman once raise her hand and tentatively ask, “If [result] happens in [media] but not [other, dyed media], could the green dye be the problem?” Her question was a major turning point for the project, because we were all so used to working with that substance that we didn’t think about its basic components interacting with our latest subject matter.

            You never know who will have something important to contribute.

        3. Lora*

          Yes, this is also normal. In a biotech startup of the size OP describes, it’s going to be something like 48 science geeks, 1 CFO and 1 admin. The CFO is invariably too busy to go and the admin ordered the bagels & cream cheese for the presentation, so they’re still invited.

          The non-scientists either find the whole thing painfully boring and don’t go, or they don’t ask many questions. The presentation is going to be something like this:

          Slide 1: How We Cured Heart Disease in Mouse 24059j2640yu208y, once
          Slide 2: We cured heart disease! Heart disease is bad and kills lots of humans!
          Slide 3: In the nucleic acid binding domain of RXR21056y7106y, residues H0985406782-F0985406785 are known to utilize cofactor Whatever during heterodimerization with PPARg but not FXR: differential cofactor topology may be a source of metabolic weirdness during oxidative stress generally. In this study, we determined through Massive Unvalidated -Omics Profiling that feeding an extremely inbred murine model of heart disease 20 cheeseburgers per minute has a significant effect on coronary events in sub-group 345697. We discovered that sub-group 345697 has a FXR mutation in A34897 which may be critical to Whatever binding, preventing signal propagation from PCSK9-LDLR pathway.
          Slide 4: [image of a Western blot, poorly annotated, with the markers obviously photoshopped]
          Slide 5: [cartoon mouse]
          Slide 6: [cartoon signaling pathway, with all signaling molecules represented as multi-colored ovals]
          Slide 7: We utilized Incredibly Toxic Inhibitor to demonstrate that when signaling via the FXR-RXR21056y7106y is inihibited, Massive -Omics Profile shifts by three barely-noticeable wiggles in what appears to be a mountain range. We confirmed this result by running exactly one rtPCR reaction.
          Slide 8: [a very lonely gel with two green lines, and again the markers are photoshopped]
          Slide 9: More research is needed. Potential further work…

          1. Lora*

            Oh, and the people who sit in on the presentation do not get to vote in hiring. They can ask relevant questions, if the actual hiring manager doesn’t cut them off and tell them that’s enough questions for today, sort of thing, but that’s about it. Honestly, it’s usually like, the candidate gives their presentation, two people who are still awake ask a couple of lazy questions, one person asks one question that’s even halfway interesting, and then everyone claps and says thank you for coming in and goes back to work. In real life they just want free bagels and a 45-minute break from the lab.

        4. Heidi*

          My first thought was that scientists also ask stupid questions sometimes. There are trolls who ask sabotaging or derailing questions in academic meetings, but my own impression is that the troll will come off looking way worse than the speaker. If you don’t know the answer to a question, it really is fine to just say you don’t know the answer to the question and move on to the next question. Theoretically, if you know that your audience does not have a scientific background, you simplify the talk so that everyone is on the same page. Not always easy, but it’s awesome to see it done well.

          1. Polymer Phil*

            When I was in grad school, it was considered a feather in your cap if you humiliated a speaker. Industrial scientists are much kinder.

        5. Cedrus Libani*

          Academia is notorious for having “characters” that ask unexpected questions at job talks. Sometimes they are trolling and/or chest-thumping, or they’re decades behind the times in your sub-field, or they have a bitter ideological feud with your PhD supervisor and/or whoever put you on the interview list, or they have quietly been allowed to retire in place even though they now believe everything is controlled by the lizard people. It can go off the rails. But this is actually relevant to job performance, because giving public talks that promote your research is a big part of an academic’s job, and the audiences (at conferences, etc) are just as…colorful. You need to know how to get back on the rails without undue fuss.

          Industry is much tamer. The pool of decision makers is smaller. It’s typically the half-dozen or so people who would be working directly with the candidate. You might have another half-dozen show up for the talk, especially if there’s free pizza involved. The non-scientists would only go if you handcuffed them to a desk chair and wheeled them in. (Lora, below, perfectly captures what these talks are like. They can be pretty dismal even if you’re interested in the material; they’re unbearable if you aren’t.)

          The candidate also knows that the people in the room would be their close colleagues. The audience will ask hard questions, because they want to know if they should hire this person or the other person who’s coming in for a talk. But they’re not going to troll, because they really do want to make a good hire, and good people don’t want to deal with stupid and/or obnoxious people on a daily basis. If you leave the candidate with a bad impression, they won’t accept the offer.

      5. PhD Level Scientist in Biotech*

        They are SO normal, in fact, that job descriptions don’t mention that you have to prepare it. Everyone just knows that it’s part of the drill, and if you’re invited to an in-person interview, you’ll matter-of-factly be asked the title of your talk. That’s all.

    7. sheworkshardforthemoney*

      I applied for a job as a baker and I brought cookies that I baked to the interview, I got the job (I don’t know if the cookies helped). If I had to make a 30-40 minute presentation that would be a hard no and a pass for me.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yes. It’s a logical idea for marketing, and anyone who will be making presentations to investors–but nope not everyone needs to be comfortable with public speaking.

    8. Koko*

      I know a writer whose work has been published nationally for more than 25 years and is a rock stat in her field. She doesn’t even know how to make a powerpoint (and wouldn’t need to, accept apparently to apply to this job) and is famously socially awkward. (Aren’t some of the high-tech billionaires too? Just saying.)

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The PP presentation only covers one aspect of an employee’s abilities. It may or may not show the interviewer something about the applicant’s ethics. For example, the applicant could make a great presentation and then later steal their data. That thought crossed my mind as I read down through the short letters.

        I totally agree with the observation that some people can wow with a presentation and turn into Employee From Hell. Perhaps putting the presentation as the last step would help to focus on the other considerations in hiring. And, of course, only have people present if that is going to be part of their jobs.

        And if they do not need presentation skills as part of the job, then your company may want to stop doing that. I know of a court case, sorry I cannot be specific, where each applicant had to take a practical test. The test was NOT relevant to the job. As in OP’s example the people who were good at this activity, breezed through the test. And what do you get out of this? Proof that the person is good at something that is not necessary to do the job. In court the added wrinkle came up that the test was deemed discriminatory. The company was ordered by the court to stop using the test. I never heard the explanation as to why it was discriminatory. I am sure the company was blind-sided by the court’s ruling.

        From my own experience, a hiring committee can get so wrapped up in the presentation that they fail to look at other aspects of the candidate. I have seen this work into very poor hiring decisions. Hence my suggestion to look at everything else first and narrow the choices down to a few people. Have those few people do presentations IF it’s relevant to their jobs.

    9. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      I’m in biotech and I would never torture an accountant, administrative assistant, etc. by having them present a 30-40 minute PowerPoint. Even in a 10-person company, there are employees who (1) don’t sell and (2) whose key skills do not include a PowerPoint presentation.

      Frankly, this seems to be either laziness (present to us so we don’t need to do the hard work of interviewing), lack of imagination (we will create one process for everyone) or adherence to some weird hiring advice (your management needs to start reading AAM much more often).

      1. Michaela Westen*

        There was an *epidemic* of laziness in the early-mid-2000’s, when employers began requiring college degrees for positions that don’t need them. It was easier than doing an actual screening of an actual individual. They assumed (wrongly) a person with a degree would be literate and able to think.
        The whole thing escalated and now we’re seeing the consequences in our economy and society.

    10. Polymer Phil*

      I’ve had to give a presentation in interviews for scientist jobs (including my current one). I had the advantage of being able to re-use a PowerPoint talk I had given at a conference, and I knew that the management of my employer at the time had approved the talk and confirmed that there was nothing confidential in it. If I hadn’t had a conference talk to re-use, it would have been an extremely difficult task to not just write a talk from scratch, but to make judgement calls on what information I can and can’t include (and I wouldn’t have been able to ask my manager for obvious reasons).

      I think this requirement can be useful for a position where the ability to present at scientific conferences is expected, but it will filter out poor public speakers who are otherwise good employees. I’ve also worked with a few buzzword jockeys who were lousy employees, but will probably talk their way into CEO jobs one day.

    11. AJ*

      Agree with everyone above. In my biotech/ diagnostic development company only post-doc candidates present work. We are starting to think about work demonstrations for everyone (thanks Alison!) but no way to we have research associates or other positions present work. This seems like a carry over from maybe your founders or leadership from academia where this is very common and they just applied it to everyone without thinking about it.

    12. Nicki Name*

      lyonite, thank you for explaining that this is common in biotech. I went through this exact process once when I interviewed at a biotech company. But as a software engineer, it was extremely weird compared to the normal interview process I encounter (even at non-software companies).

  2. Embot*

    Ha, I love the simple salary “negotiation” story! What a good reminder that you don’t always need to stress about entering that discussion. That’s how my conversation went for my first job out of college. They offered me $35k, I said “actually I would like closer to 40k” and they told me that was out of their range but then sent me an official offer for $37k. $2,000 for 10 seconds of speaking!

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      I had a very similar success story. The company I now work for offered me a base salary of $59k with additionally quarterly bonuses up to $12k for a total of $71k, and I told them I had an offer for another company that was $80k and asked if they could at least meet that. I knew after my phone screen with HR that my current company only budgeted up to $75k for the role, but I was hoping that if they liked me enough and thought I could perform at the level they need, maybe they would be willing to come up a bit. They asked me what my absolute base salary requirement would be, and I said $70k because I wanted to leave room for small increases during yearly salary reviews – my last position isn’t really one where there’s a next step for me to be promoted to, so I know I’ll be in it for a while (hopefully many years). I didn’t want to go for the whole $75k and cap myself.

      I expected that they would come back and negotiate me down to around $65k, but not even an hour and a half after my phone call with the HR rep where we discussed this, she sent me an email and cc’d management on it confirming my offer of $70k base with the $12k quarterly bonus potential. I was stunned – I thought for sure we’d be going back and forth on this, but they just said, “Okay, done.” They even gave me five extra vacation days. I was so beyond grateful that they did this, and it definitely started my working relationship off with them on an excellent foot.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        my last position isn’t really one where there’s a next step for me to be promoted to

        That should have said my new position.

      2. Zombeyonce*

        Stop me if this is too off-topic, but I always wonder when people say they don’t go for the max salary when they’re qualified so they can leave room for increases during reviews, as you said.

        Wouldn’t you rather just have that money up front if they’re willing and be capped right off the bat? I realize employers might worry that it would decrease motivation if you know you won’t get a raise, but you also might be fine at that rate for years because you know you’re making a really good salary. Am I missing something?

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          Nah, for me I don’t want the full amount upfront because I’m weird and I’m really motivated by cash incentives, lol. The idea of not getting any type of raise at all for the next however many years I’m in this role because I’m already at the very top of the pay band would suuuuck for me.

            1. Andraste's Knicker Weasels*

              Where I’ve worked, a position is put in a pay band and that’s it. You cannot be in that position and move into a higher band.

              1. Fortitude Jones*

                I’ve had the same experiences. You could only move pay bands if you were promoted at every place I’ve ever worked. If you were at the very top of your pay band, but weren’t working at the level management thought you needed to be to justify a promotion, but you were still doing good work, they may give you a one time performance bonus. Otherwise, no change would occur to your base pay.

        2. Mazzy*

          On a related note, I work with someone who started off at the high end and they’re a nightmare for other reasons, and the salary is one less tool they have to force him to perform. He hasn’t gotten a raise in five years. Saying he won’t get a raise unless he performs doesn’t seem to work, because at the end of the day, he earns a lot. Yes there are other issues here though

        3. Show Me the Money*

          Yeah, I would take the “extra” money now and invest it. No finance person would leave money behind now for possible money later, there is a time value to money. I could get a time-off award or something and be happy, but show me all the money as soon as possible.

            1. Tango Foxtrot*

              I’m with you. Raises make me feel particularly valued and motivated. If 70k is enough to meet my needs (and for me, and I believe for a lot of other people, it is!) and still leave the opportunity for the motivation of raises, then that’s what I want. It lets me be the best employee I can be, and gives me the feel goods.

              1. SunnyD*

                This feels like female gendered (socialized) money reasoning. I had to fight my way through a lot of that myself, and now believe in getting all the money you can upfront.

                1. JSPA*

                  How about we allow people to have and to value their own motivational psychology, without presuming it’s a) all sociology and b) the standard paradigm = the male paradigm = the best paradigm, and that all deviation is harmful?

                  After all, those are two, divisible issues.

                  (Someone could just as easily say that “show me all the money, all the time, as it’s of paramount value” is “problematic, male socialized money reasoning.”)

              2. Fortitude Jones*

                Exactly, Tango Foxtrot. I am very comfortable with the pay increase I received, so the extra $5k I have to play with over the next two years in raises will keep me inspired to doing my best at this job.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            It’s not because I’ll be getting that money over time. I’m happy with that.

    2. Gaia*

      I love these success stories so I’ll give my own. I just switched jobs and their initial offer was for $65k and was for full-time, in office. I asked for a full break down of benefits and costs (which is normal for my line of work – we’re picky and in high demand). Their benefits were more expensive then I’d expect (they are a much smaller org than I’m used to working for) so I asked for $70k a year plus the ability to be full-time remote. They offered $68k and agreed to remote work. The extra $3k was enough to cover most of the increase in my health care cost and working from home will drastically lower my commute and lunch expenses so I come out ahead in the end. They’re happy. I’m happy. It can be done and it doesn’t need to be stressful!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Awesome! I’m fully remote too, but I didn’t have to negotiate that – the position was built to be remote. Still, that’s awesome they were willing to give that to you. Every other place I’ve worked prior to this company was really weird about working from home, and most of the positions didn’t technically need to be done out of an office anyway, so I’m glad to see more companies coming around on this.

        Congrats on your success!

          1. debby*

            At one negotiation I was too nervous to ask for more money, but asked to start with an extra week of vacation, which is essentially a raise (and for me, much more useful, due to religious holidays that are not Xtian).

    3. Spreadsheets and Books*

      My story is similar. With my current job, I asked for just a few thousand dollars more because I really wanted to make it over the six figure line. I was told that there was no room for additional salary (which I fine because that told me I wasn’t leaving money on the table) but they were willing to give me a signing bonus that was even larger than the salary bump I asked for. Just with one simple email. You never know if you don’t ask!

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        You never know if you don’t ask!

        Agreed. It’s scary to do (the little voice in the back of my head was thinking, “What if they pull the offer and move on to the next?!), but the end result usually makes it worth those 60 seconds or so of uncomfortableness.

        1. OP5*

          You’re right, it was scary. But definitely worth the 10 seconds of uncomfortable conversation!

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Yup, congrats again! I’m still riding high off this salary increase, lol. My last and current paycheck at this place is niiiice. It feels so good to not be worried about money anymore – I just need to keep my expenses in line, keep investing in both my 401K and IRA accounts, and I’ll be good at this company for a while.

        2. Filosofickle*

          It is a legit fear,. I do have one friend who almost had an offer rescinded after she negotiated, and having seen her go through that I know it’s a real thing. (In the end, after their grumbling, they did not pull it but they turned down every one of her requests.)

          In my best and most confident place, I’d like to think that if I negotiated reasonably & respectfully, if they pull the offer then I probably don’t want to work there. It would be devastating, but what kind of people do that? I have nearly always negotiated successfully.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Right – it’s insane to pull an offer from someone if they were polite about negotiating. All the employer has to do is say no if it’s truly not something they can do and then ask the candidate if it still makes sense to proceed. I would have happily taken the job I have now even if they hadn’t come up that high because I was pumped about the work I was going to get to do (it’s a newly created position) in the industry I’m doing it in (software) and getting to work from home full-time. The rest of the benefits and time off is fantastic too, so overall, with or without the bump, I would have been fine because the other stuff is good enough to balance out a lower salary.

            That being said – still glad I got that raise, lol. With the amount of work I stepped into, and the amount of job coaching I have to do with our SME’s and salespeople, I deserve it.

    4. Brigitha*

      Same! My first graphic design position the opening posted “salary” was $10.50/hr and I asked for $13 siting industry norms (even higher!) and my previous admin work (you don’t have to office train me!). I was young and the pitch did NOT come out smoothly or confidently, but even stumbling through the ask got me my requested pay. I was so surprised that it was that easy!

      And, yeah, those numbers are low, but it was the rural midwest in the early 2000s so …

      1. OP5*

        I was surprised too. I wrote in to reinforce that Alison’s script was easy to use, and worked.

    5. BlueWolf*

      That’s pretty much how my “negotiation” went when I started my current job. They asked what I wanted and I gave them a range. They said “actually the position pays $X” (slightly below my range). Then, when I filled out the formal application document, I put a number $2000 above $X and that’s what they ended up giving me. Of course, at that point I was kicking myself for not putting a higher number haha.

    6. smoke tree*

      I do regular (lower-stakes) fee negotiation as part of my job, and it really is very boring. Salary negotiation may feel more personal to the candidate, since it feels like you’re putting a dollar value on your worth as an employee, but to the employer it’s probably very routine and they just need to confirm with their boss or whatever.

    7. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      And in a start-up, that may be useful!
      They may not be giving professional presentations any time soon but collaborate on or proofread presentations that will be held by others.
      I quite recently attended a conference where a presenter had caught a bad cold to the point of almost losing her voice, so an intern (!) just along for the ride had to present, the senior person just answering the more difficult questions. Everybody was understanding, the intern did a good job (he had proofread the slide deck, checking formatting and references) and made a name for himself as a can-do person.
      Win-win all around.
      In my group, we did PowerPoint Karaoke: The Master of Ceremonies hands the player a slide deck from the Internet on some obscure topic unrelated to our field. The player gets exactly 3 minutes to look the the material, the goes up to present. Hilarity ensues. Extra points when the slide deck is in a language the player does not know.

  3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#3, I wonder if the sign issue is frustrating because you’re feeling a lack of accommodation as one of only two women on your side of the floor? Bathroom etiquette disagreements are common, as are sign-fights. But I’m reading a sense of frustration between the lines, and it sounds like it bothers you that folks using the gender-neutral bathroom are effectively converting it into a men’s bathroom by making it less accessible to women.

    So I think there are two things you can do, although I recognize both suggestions may be onerous or non-viable. You could raise the issue of accessibility to an appropriate bathroom, which sounds like it may be a design issue. For example, many of the gender neutral bathrooms I’ve used have a urinal in addition to a sit-down toilet, which encourages folks to leave the seat down. The other thing you could do is request that bathroom facilities are equitably available to folks of all genders, which could mean converting all the bathroom facilities to gender neutral rooms.

    I don’t know if your employer owns the building or can make these kinds of decisions or requests of the building owner, but it may help redirect energy away from the sign war toward the policy issue that’s bothering you.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      As a woman engineer I’d be really tempted to put a spring on the seat that would automatically snap it down…

      But adding a urinal is really the right solution.

      1. valentine*

        converting all the bathroom facilities to gender-neutral rooms
        This would double the problem and remove OP3’s sanctuary, as even the multi-gender bathroom is currently a men’s or stander’s room.

        Like with the enraged recycler who put recycling/compost on top of their bins (which I would’ve seen as sarcastic noncompliance), perhaps OP3’s colleagues think she agiled the sign, which they experienced as an escalation.

        1. jDC*

          I’d hate that. I want a bathroom that men don’t go in for numerous reasons. Many still owe everywhere (not that some women don’t but due to sitting it’s less), I’d prefer a woman catch a “smell” than a man, and more.

          1. SunnyD*

            As a woman, I don’t really get why the seat has to be down. Somebody is going to have to put the seat up or down – why always the men?

            (The exception is 3 am in a dark bathroom, when you’re expecting a seat and instead get a old toilet-water nether bath.)

            1. Filosofickle*

              Yeah, I tend to agree. Of course I prefer to find the seat down, 100%! (Especially at night; just this week my BF left it up and boom I fell in.) But if men outnumber the women in the area that much, then actually I don’t think it’s unreasonable for her to adjust. At the very least, this is not a battle I’d choose. It doesn’t look winnable.

              Weirdly, growing up, it was my Dad and brother who were the sticklers for “down”. Mom and I often left the lid up (but seat down, obvs) and that drove them crazy — they believed it was all of our jobs to put down both seat AND lid. Better aesthetics/safety, I guess? I can’t argue with that either, though! That was probably the most genteel and universal solution.

            2. Addie H*

              Hello female here :) I completely agree with you. Men have to lift the seats all the time – what is the big deal about grabbing some tissue to put the seat down? (How men (some/a lot) leave the toilet (wipe seat/floor please :)) is another matter :)

            3. Blerpborp*

              Yeah, this is a case where I would go in assuming the seat would always be up because men are the majority of people using it. It’s not an “accessibility” issue if the seat is easily put down. Like you said, the seat being up is mainly an issue if you’re in a situation where it’s likely you’ll be groggy or it’ll be dark and you might not think to look before you sit. I’m a woman and will sometimes use our a single person bathroom at work and yeah, since it’s possible a man used it last I just put the seat down, it’s never occurred to me that it should bother me.

            4. Canadian Public Servant*

              Seat down should be default because: 1) everybody poops, and 2) everyone can sit down while urinating.

              1. A woman*

                Well women can technically hover to pee, but that doesn’t mean they should have to. Everyone should use the bathroom in the way they feel most comfortable. But then women pee more often than men…there’s a lot of factors if you want to get technical. I remember once reading a study that crunched the numbers and concluded that the seat should be left down unless the male/female ratio is greater than 5/3, which it is here. And given that it’s a workplace, so the half-asleep falling-in issues is unlikely…I say leave it up.

            5. JSPA*

              If there are not enough toilets, really, for the work force, one answer is that men desperate to pee can hold / clamp down better than women desperate to pee, or either sex desperate for a dump. But really, if that’s so, the workplace isn’t very healthy–they need more toilets and urinals.

              If space is close, I’d actually rather put a seat down than sit next to a stinky urinal (or next to those intensely scented carbolic-y urinal cakes–what on earth are those things?)

              1. A woman*

                Is that supposed to be true? That disagrees with every experience I’ve ever had of men holding their bladders vs. me holding mine. I always assumed that since men are more easily able to urinate outside, they don’t develop the ability to hold it like we do. Maybe men are better at it generally, but if so every past boyfriend, male coworker, and male family member of mine is an exception!

                1. Arts Akimbo*

                  Men tend to have larger bladders than women. Beyond that, ability to hold it in is largely dependent on pelvic floor tone. On average, older women and women who’ve had a kid or more tend to have a harder time holding it in. (Obviously individual circumstances will vary.)

      2. Bluesboy*

        I’m pretty sure that would a spring on the seat would just lead to men peeing ON the toilet seat instead of just lifting it up…

        And in relation to Princess Consuela’s idea of converting all bathrooms to gender neutral would mean the toilet seat being lifted up in all bathrooms. At least now there is one female toilet where presumably the seat is typically down.

        I’m not sure there is actually a solution to this other than ‘use the female bathroom’.

        1. Beatrice*

          Or just deal with putting the seat down. It’s not that difficult to do, and the era when it became “common courtesy” to do so was an era where there were a lot of small meaningless courtesies extended to women (opening doors, standing up, giving seats, removing hats, not swearing) that just served to perpetuate the myth that they were the weaker/more sensitive/lesser sex.

          More men than women use the bathroom and it shouldn’t be a huge deal to leave it in the configuration that suits the vast majority of its users. The disproportion between male and female workers in that area feels like a problem that would certainly frustrate me, but focusing on the bathroom aspect of it misses the point and draws attention to the wrong side of the issue, imo.

          1. SeluciaMD*

            I spent most of my 20’s and early 30’s living with mostly male roommates and I used to get really upset about the toilet seat up vs. down thing. One of them asked me why it was any harder for me to put the seat down than it was for him to put the seat up when needed. I realized that I couldn’t really answer. As someone farther down chain pointed out it was kind of a weird convention that seemed like it was rooted in protecting women’s “delicate sensibilities” which felt weird and unnecessary. This same roomie pointed out that if the seat was up, at least I could have confidence that nobody had peed all over it LOL. I decided that was a very good point and stopped letting it bother me.

            That being said, I also agree with the other commenters that this issue in this particular office is emblematic of a much bigger issue about women in a traditionally male workspace and having at least one of those men being aggressive in a way that is problematic. So I think maybe let go of the toilet seat issue and focus on trying to address the bigger problem. Good luck to you OP3 – so sorry your colleagues are making you feel unwelcome and disrepected. That really sucks.

            1. Show Me the Money*

              Yep, why should penis owners have to raise the seat all the time? Non-penis holder here, but I think leaving the seat up is nothing but habituation and shouldn’t take up more brain space/time than it takes to lower it. I definitely think OP is being a bit extra about it.

              1. lilsheba*

                It’s just plain nasty to have the seat up. In my house (with a male and two females) the seat and lid are kept down at all times, and everyone has to raise and lower the same. It looks so much nicer with the lid down, and I figure while the lid doesn’t usually exist in public or work bathrooms putting the lid down looks so much better. Leaving it up is really lazy.

                1. Preppy6917*

                  How many office toilets have actual *lids* though? And who cares now nice it looks – the work bathroom isn’t a showroom. If anything, considering the OP is one of only two women on the entire floor, her leaving it down is being lazy.

                2. MagicUnicorn*

                  We are a lid down house regardless of gender, because otherwise the dog drinks from the toilet or someone inevitably knocks something into the water. And the lid down keeps any flushing overspray to a minimum.

            2. Goya de la Mancha*

              This. I grew up in a mostly male household. The seat in one bathroom was always left down for my mother, but I had to share a bathroom with my brothers, whether they had to lift it or I had to lower it, there was no reason we couldn’t.

            3. Frank Doyle*

              In a public bathroom that doesn’t have lids, I can see this argument; but in a bathroom in a home, flushing the toilet with the lid up is DISGUSTING and no one should be doing it. It sends spray of urine and feces all over everything else in the bathroom, like maybe your toothbrush.

              1. Robin*

                This +1. Thank you for mentioning it. When my husband & got married, we agreed everyone puts the lid down; this way, everyone also has to lift something, and it’s more sanitary.

                On a funnier note, when I see a toilet with the lid up, I imagine it’s saying, “Feed me, feed me,” like a baby bird.

              2. Eukomos*

                Yes, this! Who leaves the lid up? It’s nothing to do with the seat. If there’s a lid, it should be closed except when the toilet is in use. You wouldn’t go around leaving the lids off of all the other things in your house that come with lids.

                1. SunnyD*

                  I never close the lid. It seems beyond precious. Funny to see how dogmatic everyone is about their own preference.

                2. Micklak*

                  Ooh SunnyD, if you’re not closing the lid before you flush then the stuff in the bowl is getting splashed all around the bathroom. There have been studies about fecal matter on toothbrushes. Close the lid, for all our sakes. :)

                3. JSPA*

                  in the US, most worksite / industrial / airport toilets don’t have lids. They do, however, often do a much better job at flushing without atomizing contents (especially in areas where there are low-flush requirements, and there’s a sort of vacuum process that helps suck everything down, rather than pushing it down.)

              3. Cascadian*

                My 2-woman household always leaves the lid down, both for sanitary reasons and the bad feng shui of flushing your money/luck down the toilet. You never know ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

              4. A woman*

                I’ve heard this argument a lot, but as I’ve lived in homes with no toilet lids and managed to never contract any fecal borne diseases, I don’t think it matters all that much. Sorry, but there’s particles of nasty on literally every surface. When you wipe a surface with 99.9% antibacterial wipes, what’s on that surface now is the .01% of strongest, most resistant bacteria, furiously reproducing. Bacteria is everywhere, you won’t win.
                Of course if you have an unusually compromised immune system, I understand taking extreme measures, but a healthy person doesn’t need to expend stress on this.

                1. SarahTheEntwife*

                  Same here. I hate all those LOOK AT ALL THE BACTERIA WE FOUND ON X scaremongering reporting. Yes, if you’re having intestinal upset probably put the lid down, or if there’s someone immunocompromised in the household, but otherwise we got along just fine before finding out what was living on our toilets/toothbrushes/doorknobs/sponges. There’s even quite a bit of research now showing that we’re probably better off getting *more* casual bacteria.

            4. CaVanaMana*

              Yes, when I first moved in with my husband, I fell in the toilet a few times not thinking or maybe thinking about all the sitcoms where I was “taught” it was the man’s responsibility to put the seat down and my brother and father always did. I said “husband, why don’t you ever put the seat down?” And he said “why is it so hard for you to do it?” And joked “aren’t you a capable woman?” I laughed and had no logical response.

              If more men are using the bathroom, it makes sense that the toilet seat would be left up more frequently. If I was incredibly bored, as a woman, I’d be tempted to vandalize that sign too! Who knows, maybe it’s the other woman in the office vandalizing the sign thinking, “I’m a capable woman I don’t need you to put the seat down! Why is she making us women look bad? Like, we can’t even be considered capable of putting a toilet seat down? How are we expected to earn respect with actual work?” It’s a stretch but if it’s some kind of gender war, why not?

            5. Risha*

              On a personal level, it bothers me because I tend to sit down without looking and then fall into the toilet! I recognize that this is a personal problem, however.

              1. Dwight*

                Wooops! I agree the toilet seat should be put down after use. But maybe you should be checking the toilet seat regardless. Last time I went to sit down on the one at work there were gross hairs and stuff, and also, just the flushing tends to splash gross waste and toilet water onto the seat. And sometimes they automatically reflush moments after the person has left. You really wouldn’t want to sit on that. That you can’t blame on men.

                1. Michaela Westen*

                  I’ve worked in more than one place where the sink is close to the toilet and people tend to splash water on the seat when they reach for a towel after washing their hands.
                  For many years I’ve always checked the seat and wiped it off before using, in case of non-visible water drops.

            6. Grapey*

              In my house, my husband puts the seat down after because we both take nighttime trips where we could fall in the bowl lol.

              So in homes/hotels/wherever people sleep at night I’m in favor of a “put the seat down” convention, but “at least I know the seat wasn’t peed on” is a large reason why I’m also not passionate about the topic either way.

            7. Jules the 3rd*

              Men should put the seat down at home so that when *anyone* makes the 3am ‘I’m mostly asleep’ bathroom trip, they don’t end up falling through the extra large ‘no seat’ hole. Says the mom who’s been woken at 3am by her kid crying because he is short and doesn’t have the leverage to stand up or anything to grab to pull himself up. The guest who left the seat up heard about it, and not in a ‘so funny!’ way, because it wasn’t actually funny, then or now.

              It’s less an issue at work, but the at-home courtesy is something that people should do, especially if there are kids under 10 or elderly people in the house.

              1. wb*

                this sounds more like a teachable moment for your kid to look before sitting than a reason for toilet seat position to be the sole responsibility of one gender over the other.

            8. cryptid*

              Given how few men wash their hands, I’d rather put it down and back up myself, since I trust my own hand washing.

                1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

                  There’s quite a bit of public health research indicating that men fail to wash their hands at a higher rate than women. Approximately 49.7% of men failed to wash their hands at all or only rinsed with water (no soap), while 22.1% of women failed to wash their hands or only rinsed with water (i.e., 77.9% of women use proper handwashing hygiene).

                2. Nous allons, vous allez, ils vont*

                  Men wash their hands, but there have been a few (now old) studies showing that on average, men wash their hands less diligently than women:

                  2005 NYT article citing 2005 study:


                  2007 study from American Society for Microbiology:


                  2009 study (related to H1N1 outbreak in Britain, not gender, but incidentally discovered that women’s handwashing increased more than men’s in response to news about H1N1 outbreak ):


                  2013 study from Michigan State University:


            9. Curious*

              Agree that this is totally a chivalry thing and I doubt anyone would be expecting men to open the doors for their female coworkers (other than as a general courtesy extended to all coworkers male, female or otherwise). I often see people saying how important it is not to draw attention to gender in the workplace, especially in male-dominated industries, so why do it with this sign?

          2. Show Me the Money*

            Husbands and other people with penises don’t always do this, so good luck. Not a hill to die on for me.

            And signs come across as lecturing, which nobody want to hear.

            1. Inca*

              Which in itself is kinda aggressive: not wanting to be addressed. (Oh. And the people who say ‘come to me personally’ usually say that because if someone does actually bring it up in person, they’ll totally make you feel bad about bringing it up.)

          3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I would really really really rather not touch the workplace toilet seats with my hands, like, ever.

            A little BG, both my 20-something sons live with me at the moment, and anytime I walk into either of my home bathrooms, the odds are close to 100% that I will find the toilet seat up. I do not mind putting it down. But this is home and my immediate family members. I do not feel that close to my coworkers.

            FWIW, at my workplace, the single-use gender-neutral bathroom has both a toilet and a urinal and I’ve never seen the seat raised up in it.

            1. Vveat*

              I can understand the feeling but this means all male colleagues will have to touch it. Twice – to lift it up and then when done to put it down just in case next person over is the female colleague.

              I am a woman, but I also cannot understand why would my needs be a priority over the men on this issue. Takes a second to put it down.

              1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                And it is easier to tip the seat down with your foot than it is to kick it up if folks want to avoid touching public toilet seats

                1. Anon Y. Mouse*

                  As someone who shares a wall in my office with a neighbouring bathroom, hearing toilet seats slam from people dropping them all day gets old real fast.

                1. Cercis*

                  Exactly! And make so much less mess too. Because, even with the lid up, they splash and it’s really so gross. The men in my life don’t see it and I’m boycotting cleaning the toilet so they can see it, but they’re still not seeing it. I guess they don’t see or smell urine?

                  But there’s no health reason they CAN’T sit, they just choose not to because they don’t have to.

            2. Michaela Westen*

              I use a wad of toilet paper to put the seat down when necessary. And then I wipe it off too, just in case.

        2. Black Bellamy*

          All toilet seats permanently fastened down, a moisture detector on the seat surface activates a klaxon and flashing lights. Patent pending.

          1. Not Me*

            This. I had no idea the common decency of not peeing where you’re not supposed to pee was so difficult for men.

            1. Lehigh*

              It’s difficult for women, too. Have you been in a public women’s restroom lately? The number of ladies who seem to think it’s acceptable to pee all over the seat and then leave it for the next person to clean up… *shudder*

              1. Kitty*

                Ellen did a great bit about this phenomenon. :) I’m inclined to be charitable and assume that in most cases, water on the seats is caused by splash backs when people flush.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  I’ve had women tell me (online) about how they were teaching their young daughters to hover and showing them how to make sure they got it right. So my strategy is “hope for the best and prepare for the worst”. It might be splashback water, but it likely is not.

                  Just realized that I tend to wipe public-restroom seats with TP before I sit down, so I guess this means I’d be okay with manually lowering the seat *applies for a transfer to OP’s office*.

                2. Yellow*

                  Teaching your daughter to hover pee is the equivalent of not vaccinating your children. Your’r prioritizing your own children at the expense of everyone else.

                3. Double A*

                  I sometimes hover when I pee in a public restroom…but I lift the seat first and just hover over the bowl!! I honestly don’t know why more women don’t do this (though I don’t think I realized I could til I was like 30). It’s a larger hole and no chance you’ll pee on the seat.

                4. Snarkastic*

                  Ohmygod. Going to look this up, because it drives me nuts! Clean up your mess, ladies!

              2. I was never given a name*

                “If you tinkle
                while you sprinkle
                be a sweetie
                and wipe the seatie”

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            a moisture detector on the seat surface activates a klaxon and flashing lights

            (offtopic on)In most women’s public bathroom, the lights will burn out and the klaxon run out of batteries within two weeks of being installed. (offtopic off)

        3. Grapey*

          Another actual solution is to grab a few squares of TP and just…put the damn seat down.

      3. Bow Ties Are Cool*

        Someone needs to invent a toilet that lowers its own seat as part of the flushing mechanism.

        1. TNT*

          We just bought a new apartment that has a fancy bidet set up, and it does this! It’s amazing. Nothing I would have ever bought for myself, but I can quickly see it becoming a need-to-have in my life.

        2. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I live alone, but I have toilet seats that lower without slamming. You have to nudge it, but that’s all it takes. My male guests get a kick out of it, and I don’t flinch from loud noises when I’m cleaning my bathrooms.

      4. SheLooksFamiliar*

        As a woman in general, I wonder why women just don’t put the seat up when they’re done. If we want the seat put down for our specific use, why not show the same – courtesy? understanding? – in return.

        1. Vicky Austin*

          Because the default setting for the toilet seat is down.
          There are four times when the toilet is used:
          -when women pee
          -when women poo
          -when men pee
          -when men poo

          3/4 of those times, the seat is down. Therefore, the default setting for the toilet is down.

      5. LeisureSuitLarry*

        That doesn’t seem like a great solution since it would require spray-and-prayers to hold their equipment and the seat and slightly bend over. You’ll see a lot more messy bathrooms with dubious puddles around the toilet with that one.

    2. A woman in tech*

      Came here to say something similar to OP #3. If you’re one of only two women among 40 men, and someone posted a sign obviously directed toward a woman suggesting you’re too dim to work at a tech company, that’s hostile. It speaks of a sexist culture that is being tolerated by management. I think the issue runs deeper than a sign/bathroom war, which explains why you’re more upset about it than you might normally be.

      1. Tau*

        Agreed. I’m not even fussed about seat-up vs seat-down but I’d be really upset about this in a way that women who work in less male-dominated environments might not understand, and the reason is that it’s a potential sign of an undercurrent of sexism which could cause huge problems for me. And the anonymity means that I have no idea which of my coworkers is the problem. OP, I have no good advice but I’m really sorry you’re dealing with this.

        1. Jasnah*

          I agree that it seems like both people are talking past each other about bigger problems than the toilet seat.
          “Please be considerate and leave the seat down” = Please be considerate of the women who also use this space.
          “If you’re too dim to realize it’s your problem when the seat is up, maybe you shouldn’t be working at (tech company).” = If you expect men to kowtow to you, then you’re not welcome in this space.
          Even in OP’s letter: “I can’t even get people to respect me in a shared space, how do I know they respect the work I do?” = If the men here don’t respect my needs in this trivial way, how can I feel respected in more important ways at work?

          This is not about the toilet seat.

          1. General Ginger*

            This. I’m sure the actual toilet seat is part of the problem, but I think the problem goes way beyond the toilet seat.

          2. CM*

            Agreed. In particular, “if you’re too dim…” reinforces the stereotype that woman are not smart enough to be in STEM fields (I’m assuming because the OP referenced Agile). As a former techie, I DEFINITELY experienced male colleagues constantly questioning my skills and whether I belonged there.

            That said, I don’t think guys should have to put the seat down. If anything, maybe the OP should be putting the seat up out of courtesy to them. But that’s a different issue than the disrespect.

          3. Jules the 3rd*

            +1 It may have started about the toilet seat, but that second note is openly hostile and management needs to shut that down.

          4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Yes—this was my concern. There were a few notes in OP’s letter that indicated that this is about more than a toilet seat. You captured it perfectly.

          5. cryptid*

            THIS! I felt like Alison really overlooked this – the seat is a red herring. The real problem is there’s at least one massively misogynistic coworker.

          6. wb*

            She 100% has valid concerns about sexism in the workplace, that was a misogynist and disrespectful and smarmy reply to her sign in the bathroom.

            At the same time? The hill she’s chosen to fight this battle on is mystifying to me. If she had a problem with the state of the restrooms, bring it up with management and let it go. Its their job. Getting approval to put signs up herself is not the same thing as management putting forth a policy that The Toilet Seat Shall Be Put Down After Use. That is her manager being a bad manager and avoiding the conflict instead of A. thanking her for bringing it to their attention and addressing it themselves, or B. telling her that such a policy is not one that they will be pursuing and she should consider using the women’s bathroom if it bothers her so much.

            I just cannot fathom letting an employee go around posting signs about things not explicitly in their bailiwick, you’re just asking for a big passive aggressive sign war. Even if this were not a gender issue in a tech office with a big men/women disparity, signs posted by other employees just come off as passive aggressive.

            Whoever put up the a-hole reply sign should definitely face some consequences, and it sounds like her office has real gender issues to address, but she really was being unreasonable to think it was anyone else’s responsibility but hers to put the seat down for herself and short-sighted to think that posting a sign about it would lead to anything less than a passive aggressive sign war.

            1. Arts Akimbo*

              I have chosen some mighty petty hills to die on in response to being pushed past my personal BEC point with a person or situation. I get where OP3 is coming from.

              1. PersephoneUnderground*

                This- exactly this. The last straw often looks really trivial, but it isn’t about the straw. It’s about the bigger picture.

            2. Jasnah*

              Agreed, I think the toilet signage etc. is a weird decision, personally I wouldn’t try to start anything if I was that outnumbered by other genders at work.

              But if I made an anonymous request that outed my gender (like asking people to leave the seat down), and the response was “You’re too stupid to work here”? That’s basically sexual harassment IMO. If the response was non-gendered trolling then that’s a different story.

        2. Liza*

          Yes, I could definitely see how the manner of the vandalism could be loaded in this situation. I don’t like the idea of the signs at all but it’s clear the situation has already escalated.

        3. SpaceySteph*

          Female engineer and I thought the same. Whoever wrote that KNOWs its the women who want the seat down, and they meant that as a gendered insult.

          Also, I would bet the OP has an idea of who wrote it. Because that kind of mindset probably reveals itself in other interactions, too.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Yes, as soon as I heard that I knew this goes far beyond bathrooms. OP likely can’t specifically point to all the ways she’s being othered and put down in the workplace but these signs are providing a concrete THING to point to.

      3. Yorick*

        Yes, at least this one person is hostile towards women, and OP is probably either seeing it in other ways or now worrying about how/when it will show up in other ways.

        1. mamma mia*

          I don’t think it’s fair to say that OP’s coworker is hostile to women based on his response here; that seems like a major unwarranted reach. The sign was a mistake and I don’t blame the coworker for being annoyed with it (although I probably would have just rolled my eyes and went about my day instead of “vandalizing” it). As a woman, I agree with everything the coworker said. Those kinds of signs are passive aggressive and annoying. If you can’t take two seconds (and that’s a generous estimate) to put down the seat, that’s honestly your problem, not your coworkers’.

          1. ket*

            I disagree. “If you’re too dim”… is a direct insult to the letter writer’s intelligence, tied to a gendered action (seat up/down), and then it follows up with telling the letter writer she shouldn’t work there

            1. mamma mia*

              I think it was a rude comment, that’s for sure, but I don’t buy that it’s inherently sexist. Sometimes an issue with a toilet seat really is just an issue with the toilet seat; it doesn’t need to be seen as a referendum on gender politics. Again, just seems like a reach to me.

              1. Delphine*

                You’re right, it’s intent may not have been sexist, but when you’re one of 40+ men and you know a woman left a sign asking for the seat to be put down, and your response is to call that woman lazy, stupid, and dim, and imply that she shouldn’t be working at the company at all, in a public space where everyone can see your response–that still reeks of sexism and a woman who was the target of such behavior would be free to consider it sexist.

                1. mamma mia*

                  I just don’t think specifically insulting one woman in particular who put up an obnoxious sign means he’s “hostile to women.” It almost seems sexist in itself to say that by insulting one woman who he has a (not entirely illegitimate) problem with, he’s somehow behaving in a sexist manner. You can be a jerk without being a sexist jerk.

              2. A woman in tech*

                Inherently sexist, maybe not. But sexist in the context of two women working among 40 men, and the comment being directed at a woman’s intelligence and fitness to work at a tech company? As if it takes intelligence to put down a toilet seat?

                I don’t like signs of various kinds, and I don’t care personally about the seat being up or down. But I recognize a larger context here, because I’ve lived it. People who don’t work in tech fields don’t know how bad the sexism is.

                1. Tau*

                  Yeah, this is a major red flag to me. Going from “someone is leaving annoying notes about the toilet seat” to “that someone is stupid and isn’t fit to work here” is a huge leap, and the fact that that was the response means the person in question was probably already primed to make that leap.

                  And… personally, I usually take having people respect me and my work for granted. OP worrying about it makes me wonder what else is going on in her job that to her it’s something to defend and fight for.

      4. Show Me the Money*

        All posted mom type signs are hostile. People tend to react badly to them.

      5. Red 5*

        Yup, I came in to the comments to say that I think this question is really about the gender disparity in the workplace more than it is typical “bathroom arguments” that just happen everywhere.

        The whole toilet seat thing is obnoxiously gendered, and the conversations about it end up being unnecessarily so every time I’ve had them come up when there was disagreement (there are plenty of men who are like “I know, I don’t get it, you put the seat down, what’s the big deal? Why are other men arguing this point?”). There’s pretty much universally been a tone of sexism to the conversation that I’ve been catching since I was a kid that’s always felt off to me, and I could only imagine how much worse it would get in the type of work situation described here.

        This isn’t like my annoyance at work that people keep ignoring the “please clean up your coffee spills” sign. It’s possible that absent any other problems it could be, but any firm that has only two women working in the office probably has larger problems and this is just a very visible indicator of them.

      6. cmcinnyc*

        Yup. It’s the comment that you don’t belong in tech that stands out. That makes it not a normal bathroom war.

        1. A woman in tech*

          Exactly. People who don’t work in tech fields don’t truly understand how prevalent and entrenched the sexism is. 40 men to 2 women? A bathroom sign directed toward’s a woman’s intelligence and fitness to work at a tech company? I can smell the sexism from here.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            +1000. Been working in tech since (omg) ’89 and I have yet to see a man telling another man that he is too stupid to work in tech (even if he really isn’t too bright). But women, especially when said about women in general? A very popular statement.

    3. Liza*

      Is it really less accessible, though? If it were, wouldn’t leaving the toilet seat down all the time make it unequally inaccessible? I don’t consider a lifted toilet seat inaccessible, just a coincidence of who happened to use the bathroom before me. If it had sexual graffiti and Playboys, then I would consider it an accessibility issue because that would read as an aggressive marking of the space as a man’s domain.

      I must admit, I actually really dislike the whole “leave the toilet seat down for the ladies” thing because it feels condescending and steeped in outdated chivalry. If I saw a sign like that in the bathroom, I would cringe, much like if I saw one saying “gentlemen, please remember to open doors for the ladies and carry heavy things for them!” I dislike the implication that I need to be protected from touching the toilet with my delicate lady hands (which will be washed afterwards anyway).

      1. Jojo*

        Thank you. I honestly don’t understand the problem with grabbing a few squares of TP and flipping the seat down. It’s quick and easy. Save your indignation for bigger problems.

        1. Temp*

          This is how I handle it. I hate coming in to the lid down over the seat in a public/shared loo but I just grab some toilet roll and open it. If it was up I would grab some toilet roll and lower it. I’d rather that than cleaning up someone else’s wee off it. Sometimes in our shared ladies room they leave blood on it, which is disgusting. I aprecaite that anyone might have an accidental contact of something they didn’t mean to with the seat, but grab some toilet roll and clean up behind yourself. Anyway, can promise if these people wee’d on the seat, they’d leave the wee there for you to clean up. Better they remember to lift it and forget to put it down, leaving it clean for you next time. Hell, put it back up when you’re done and make sure it stays wee free!

          1. Vicky Austin*

            Don’t get me wrong, I agree that men should put the seat down in a gender neutral bathroom, but women leaving blood on the seat is much, much grosser.

        2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          At work, yeah. At home, I understand better — taking the midnight plunge when you weren’t awake enough to check first is no fun! — but presumably at work you’re awake and oriented enough not to just plop down without looking first. Put the seat where you want it to be and go about your business.

        3. Show Me the Money*

          This is what I do. Total non-issue for me. figure the seat lifting/lowering balances out over time.

        4. Red 5*

          And grabbing a few squares of TP and flipping it up before you go is also quick and easy, and people should save their indignation for bigger problems.

          The entire argument about any of it is a complete non-starter because whoever decides that their way is the right way first is usually the one who’s being inconsiderate, generally, and it’s never going to get out of that rut no matter which way you turn it or try to present it.

          1. Mr. Shark*

            Yes, but in this case, all but two of the people in that area are men, so the default makes sense to be up rather than down. If everyone puts it down, then all the men will not only have to put it up, but then put it down again, versus the two women putting it down and then men putting it down when circumstances dictate.

            If it was mostly women and just two men, I could definitely see that the default should be down, and the men should be polite enough to put the seat down.

            The real problem in this story is the LW thinking she can dictate that (though the sign is pretty much not a big issue, and could easily just be ignored), and the man (whoever it was) responding in a negative way that is pretty sexist and totally inappropriate.

        5. Rikki Tikki Tarantula*

          This is another of those “letter from a parallel universe” situations. Where is the world where people care so much about the toilet seat being up or down?

      2. Viva*

        Absolutely agree. Men have to lift the seat after women use it, and women have to lower the seat after men use it. So what?? Yeah, such a physical burden to lift or lower a piece of plastic. Most people have lived with someone of the opposite sex at some point in their lives (parent or partner) and this is one of the stupidest hills to die on.

        The toilet seat is a red herring. The hostile defacing of the sign (that shouldn’t have been put up to begin with) is what points to a BIG problem at this company.

        1. TechWorker*

          Agree – the sign was out of order.

          Also agree that putting the toilet seat down is just not a big deal – I think we’ve been almost socialised to find it a big deal (‘omg my husband is terrible he *always* leaves the seat up!!?’ type thing) when as you say actually it’s really not that much effort or that gross to put it down – and not any more gross than putting it up which we obviously expect men to do! (Or that lifting the lid of the toilet seat, should someone have put that down – it all touches you know :p and gets equally gross when a flush sprays everywhere…).

          1. Tan*

            +1 I am also more concerned that OP3 and colleagues appear to not have /use a toilet lid. When we flush germs are splashed into the air and the lid helps contain things. The rule should not be about the seat. Everyone should always be entering the toilet and lifting 1 or 2 pieces of plastic, and leave a closed lid.

              1. londonedit*

                Totally agree. If everyone closes the lid before they flush, then everyone has to lift either the lid, or the lid and the seat, when they go to use the loo. And then everyone has to put the lid/seat and lid down again when they’re finished. Fair whichever way you look at it.

                1. CupcakeCounter*

                  That is my friend’s solution at home – it is her and 3 men/boys. Everybody has to pick something up and everybody has to put something down each time the toilet is used.

                  the toilets at my workplace have no lids so won’t work for me.

                1. mouseshadow2001*

                  Or dogs drinking from it..lids down in our house, because we have three dogs and secondly when you flush the impact of the flush throws some of the contents into the atmosphere

              2. TechWorker*

                Whilst this is good advice unless you have one of those special lids that fastens with a seal (which I’ve only seen in service stations..) putting the lid down when you flush results still nasties flying out, just at force directly sideways rather than everywhere.

                (Just beware where you store the toothbrush)

            1. Thankful for AAM*

              There are no lids on the toilets at my workplaces and I have almost never seen a lid on a public toilet where I live.

              And count me as another who thinks men lift, women lower the seat when the use the toilet. It is not a requirement that it be left in any position.

              1. Tan*

                Really? Here, UK, they are common unless broken /vandalised. In fact, I’ve noticied a trend towards “hiding” the flush behind the lid in public toilets in order to force people to lower the lid

              2. Xarcady*

                There are lids on the toilets at my office, but a closed lid is a signal that the toilet is not functioning. Closing the lids would lead to chaos as people ventured from restroom to restroom looking for a place to make their bladder gladder.

              3. RussianInTexas*

                I’ve never seen lids in any public restrooms in the US either. It’s not a thing.

              1. londonedit*

                I don’t think I’ve ever seen a toilet without a lid…maybe in a dodgy pub loo, certainly not in a workplace.

                1. Not Me*

                  I can honestly say I don’t think I’ve ever seen a workplace or public toilet with a lid. Do you mean seat? Or lid?

              2. smoke tree*

                I’ve seen public toilet lids gradually disappear as part of the push to make everything in the bathroom hands-free. The irony.

            2. Anonyville For This*

              Thank you. Bc ya…toilet germs!! WAY back in the day, it used to be that the average office toilet seat had less germs than the average office…keyboard or desk surface, I forget which (maybe both?). Nowadays, it’s supposedly that the office toilet seat has less germs than the average cell phone. If there’s a lid, I *always* put it down (unless, for some reason, someone ever gave me a really, really, REALLY good reason not to, but I cannot think of anything that would be good enough…my ex-husband had rectal cancer, had 1/3-1/2 of his rectum removed, and was still able to open the lid in time to use the bathroom). *shudder* I’ve had toothbrush caps and toothbrush UV lights for years. As recently as 6 months ago, I was in someone else’s home and their toilet seat was up when I walked in…with toothbrushes uncovered on the counter, approx. 18-36″ away from the OPEN TOILET. I almost threw up.

            3. SpaceySteph*

              I have never been in a workplace or public bathroom with a lid. I would think a workplace bathroom WITH a lid is unusual.

          2. RandomU...*

            The one thing about the home toilet seat being left up can be a big deal… in the bathroom, with the lights off, in the middle of the night is the classic time for this to become a big deal. :)

            That being said, the conditions aren’t likely to be replicated in an office.

            For me the solution becomes who has the highest amount of users… In a bathroom that more men use, then yeah, the seat should stay up and women bear the burden of lowering. Predominately women users, then the men lower the seat.

          3. Grapey*

            Yeah if I’m going to get mad over men’s bathroom habits it’s going to be them not washing their hands more than anything to do with the toilet configuration.

        2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

          There was a study several years ago (which unfortunately I cannot find to cite directly) which basically summarised the situation (for HOMES) as if there are more men than women in the domecile, the default should be seat up, if there are equal or more women, default is seat down.
          I believe this was actually due to the fact that men also require the seat down for some bodily functions, whereas women require the seat down for ALL bodily functions.

          But I agree – the signage thing is not about the toilet seat.

          1. NHB*

            Funny (related to this post) story: I am one of 5 kids (from the same parents). Four girls, and then my brother was the baby. So: 5 females, 2 males in the house. The rule was no burping/farting in general when around other people, and leave the toilet seat down. My Dad explained this to my toddler brother as “well, son, there are more girls than boys, so we do this for the girls”. So, five years old, my brother enters kindergarten. Within the first week, my Mom gets a call saying that my brother won’t stop burping and farting in class, including during quiet time…he’d gone in the first day, tallied up that there were more boys than girls so thought it was OK. My Mom never let my Dad live that down. Lol.

          2. That Girl From Quinn's House*

            In college, my husband’s dorm floor had two toilet stalls in the *men’s room*, so someone decided to be efficient and designate one toilet the “seat up” toilet and one toilet the “seat down” toilet. Sounds sensible, right?

            No. They got in trouble with the RA and maintenance, who ripped the signs down and gave them a lecture about being respectful in communal spaces.

        3. Mr. Shark*

          It’s definitely different at home with a lid on the toilet. I agree in that situation, you should just put the lid down every time you flush, and either men or women would have to lift it, just the lid, or lid and seat, as appropriate.

          In the workplace with 40 men and 2 women, the default makes sense that the seat would be up just based on usage, so I agree, the problem was the sign and the (likely sexist) response to the sign.

      3. WS*

        Well, I would expect the toilet seat to be left down if you’re at home or a hotel – anywhere where you might have to stumble in half-asleep and not want to fall into the toilet. At most workplaces, it doesn’t really matter.

        1. Thankful for AAM*

          WS, until he moved out, my household was one female, 2 males. The seat stayed up and I learned to put it down b4 sitting, even half asleep in the middle of the night.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        It’s easier in a unit with a lid as well as seat– everyone puts the lid down. Some people lift lid and seat that’s all.
        I started this because of a dog who drank from the toilet. ..

        1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

          Several years ago my neighbour’s dog had to spend time on a drip at the vets because he drank from the toilet bowl which had one of those bleach rim-blocks inside it, poisoning himself. It was stressful and very expensive!

          We have cats, and the lid of the loo stays firmly down unless someone is actually using it, to avoid the same scenario.

        2. Emilia Bedelia*

          Agreed! I am militant about closing the lid of the toilet every time, for sanitary and feline reasons.
          My boyfriend used to be very terrible about leaving the lid/seat of the toilet up at my house – I explained it many times, but it didn’t really sink in for him until he watched my cat drink out of the freshly-used toilet, then walk over and start licking his hand. Very gross, but a very effective learning experience.

          I guess my advice therefore is to get an office dog and train it to drink out of the toilet, thereby requiring everyone to close the toilet lid every time. Problem solved!

          1. Myrin*

            I don’t even have that rational of an argument for it, I’m militant about closing the lid just because of how it looks! To me, an open lid is just not “right” – it’s like leaving the kitchen cabinet doors open; I want to scream just thinking about it.

            Weirdly, the fact that the toilets at both of my workplaces don’t even have lids doesn’t bother me at all, though. I seem to not care about bathroom aesthetics unless it’s the one I live with.

          2. SusanIvanova*

            My cats never drank from the toilet – they drank from the sink instead. But they expected to have a solid intermediate point as they were parkouring from floor -> toilet -> sink. A wet cat is not a happy cat.

        3. MtnLaurel*

          The major reason I keep the lid (and seat) down is to keep the dog and cat out of the toilet. Started years ago when I had a dumb cat that liked to jump onto the seat and I’ve never stopped.

      5. HannahS*

        Same. If there are more men than women, per the math posted elsewhere on this thread, it actually makes the most sense for the seat to stay up. I am perfectly capable of touching a toilet seat and could even use toilet paper if I was really uncomfortable, and I don’t want the men around me to do unnecessary things out of courtesy-because-there-are-ladies-present.

        This is being seen through a lens of sexism that makes me worried that there are much more significant issues at play that are being expressed through the toilet seat. If there are, leave behind the toilet seat and talk about those!

        1. BookNerdish*

          Maybe I am missing something, but if there are three bathrooms and two are split by gender, and the OP is one of two women, why wouldn’t she just ALWAYS use the women’s restroom and avoid the men’s and the gender-neutral bathroom? I HATE being nagged via passive/aggressive signage. Plus, I don’t think it ever works. Just use the other restrooms and go on about your day.

          1. Yorick*

            So, she shouldn’t use the bathroom closest to her because it’s mostly for the men who are also close to it?

            1. Roscoe*

              If she has this much of a problem with it, then that is an easy solution. She wants this mostly male area to cater to her, and is going through the trouble of making a sign and writing into an advice column. She would probably spend less energy just using the other one.

              I’m a guy. I have had jobs where the our bathroom is filthy. So I just started using the bathroom on another floor instead of getting miltant about it.

              You can’t change other people’s behaviors, but here she has another option that she is just choosing not to use.

              1. PersephoneUnderground*

                Really? “She wants this mostly male area to cater to her”? No, she wants to be able to use the most convenient facility like everyone else. Yes, she should just put the seat down, but it’s not about the seat really- especially after that note about her not belonging there. It’s about an overall feeling that because you’re the minority you don’t count and everything should run as if you weren’t even there. So the gender-neutral bathroom feels like it’s really only for the men because of this situation, and it’s just one more thing that makes her feel unwelcome. It’s hard to be so outnumbered, to be the one who’s different. So it would be kind for the majority to make an effort to be inclusive, especially if it’s something so trivial to do.

              2. Jasnah*

                I kind of agree. If I were in her shoes, I would have looked around the office and realized that it would be a big ask to expect 98% of the office to change their behavior for 2% for something that’s not really an inconvenience for us 2%. Leaving the seat up doesn’t mean women can no longer use the unisex bathroom, and it seems like a waste of energy to decide to start policing this. Plus since the other woman doesn’t seem to care, it’s going to come across as selfish to the rest of the office.

                That said, I think OP was upset about being respected in the office in general, and once her sign was vandalized, I think she has a right to be upset about that. I think OP should forget about the toilet seat and focus on the bigger issue here.

      6. Zephy*

        > wouldn’t leaving the toilet seat down all the time make it unequally inaccessible?

        I assume you meant “equally inaccessible.” No, because men can also sit to pee (and they should, it’s less messy).

        1. LegallyRed*

          Exactly! There is no anatomical reason why men have to stand up to pee; it’s a preference. If they want to indulge that preference, they should bear the burden of raising and lowering the seat.

          1. Show Me the Money*

            Good luck trying to change a lifetime of habituation. I hardly see any form of peeing as an indulgence.

          2. Dwight*

            And put my naked butt where other people put their naked butt more than necessary? no thank you. You can try all the arguments you want about how men should sit to pee, but it’s never going to change. It’s a normal bodily function to pee while standing. That said, it’s not the biggest deal to move the toilet seat up or down. I usually put it down when I’m done, but that’s just me.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              Yeah, I don’t get the idea that men should sit down to pee. It’s so much easier and convenient to not sit down.

              I think women would 95% stand up to pee if they could, so in this case, with 40 men and 2 women, the seat will likely be up 80% of the time.

              The easy situation is to add a urinal. That’s my only issue with the gender-neutral single-use restrooms, when they go away from a mens/womens room with two restrooms in a facility. If they get rid of the urinals, it just causes more mess and more issues with seat up/seat down.

              I get women not wanting to touch the seat and put it down, but by the same reason, I don’t want to touch the seat to put it up (or down, afterwards).

          3. Anon Y. Mouse*

            Some guys might /prefer/ not to dunk their bits in public toilet water every time they pee.

            1. CatMintCat*

              Either the men you know have really big, really dangly bits, or your toilet isn’t flushing properly. There’s no way the water would reach anything anatomical normally.

      7. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I think OP has already made way too much fuss and asking for more accessible bathrooms when there is literally no actual barrier to her using the bathroom would be waaaay too far.

        Whoever wrote that sign implying women shouldn’t work in tech is a piece of garbage and that is a real problem, but unfortunately there is no way to know who did it.

        But honestly, before that sign was written, OP was making way too big an issue out of all of this. I’ve been in a couple of “seat wars” myself–but if there are 40 men and 2 women then I actually think it’s not really reasonable to insist on putting the seat down. Add to the fact that there is a women’s only bathroom she could be using if this really bothers her that much… OP should never have made as big a deal of the seat thing as she did IMO.

        1. RandomU...*

          Agree with all of this.

          Signs never work! (and they open the writer up to mockery in most cases regardless of the genders involved)

        2. Lucidity*

          I don’t think the man who wrote that sign was really saying women shouldn’t work there, just expressing frustration with OP’s selfishness. I’m a woman and I completely get where he’s coming from. OP is one of only two women on the floor and she wants everyone else to lower the seat for her? The men could be writing passive-aggressive notes asking her to leave it up, since that’s how the majority uses it most of the time. If the seat is up, is IS her problem, just like if she leaves it down, that’s the problem of the next man to go in after her. Her sign was out of line and I think that’s what the other sign-writer was responding to, not that they don’t think woman should be in tech.

          1. Delphine*

            Her sign was, as far as we know, polite, and sanctioned by her boss.

            I don’t think the man who wrote that sign was really saying women shouldn’t work there, just expressing frustration with OP’s selfishness.

            And yet, that’s what he implied: that one of the few women working in that area was too stupid to be employed there. I can’t imagine any scenario where I would ever think it acceptable to call a coworker lazy, stupid, or dim.

      8. MissGirl*

        I agree, especially when we’re talking such a high number of men versus women. Even if 2/3 the men remember, the seat is still going to be left up a lot of the time. Not a fight you want to be known for.

        If OP is feeling discriminated against in other aspects, that’s where she should focus the attention. Stop with the signs.

      9. Half-Caf Latte*

        I didn’t realize until this thread that I had always assumed that men leaving the seat up were doing so to avoid washing hands, which is why I’ve always found the habit icky.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          No, no. Men leave it up for the same reason that women want it down–so they don’t have to touch the seat. Men still wash their hands, I’d say, with the same regularity as women do ( we know there are non-hand washers out there, regardless).

      10. Lilysparrow*


        A “less accessible” toilet is one where the person is not able to use the equipment safely in a reasonable amount of time or space, or not able to use it at all.

        To call the seat being up “less accessible” is a huge exaggeration.

        People who prefer to sit are not only capable of flipping the seat down instantly, people with typical mobility are also capable of using the toilet with the seat up!

        This is a minor annoyance that spiraled into a petty territorial battle for no good reason.

        As long as everyone has the space and privacy they need to do their thing without fear of being harassed, excluded, or barged in on, you’re already winning the toilet gender war.

    4. Susie Q*

      I don’t know how a left up toilet seat makes a bathroom less accessible to a woman. I’m a woman, it takes two seconds to put the seat down.

    5. boop the first*

      Yeah, I personally don’t feel bothered about toilet seat position at all. But it does bother me that someone wrote “if this is an issue for you, maybe you shouldn’t be here.” It’s POSSIBLE that a seat sign in the bathroom is put up by a dude who likes to poop exactly at 9:05am every day, but stereotypically that position is often held by a woman, and telling a woman that maybe she shouldn’t work there if she has the wrong genitalia would be a huge indelible black mark on my experience of being there.

    6. Architect*

      Plumbing code varies state-to-state, but in general, you can’t just change the signs and suddenly have a gender neutral bathroom. There’s real (expensive) construction involved that often results in fewer fixtures than you originally had.

    7. wb*

      how does one woman’s personal preference for not putting the seat down herself make the bathroom less accessible to women?

      Accessibility is a word that should not be thrown around for things like ‘men are gross they dont put the seat down.’

    8. Valprehension*

      …is the toilet seat being up really an accessibility issue though? Presumably at least some of the people leaving the seat up are going through the trouble of lifting it, so why can’t OP just put it down when she needs it?

      I’m big on toilet seats being down in home situations, because there’s those late-night, half-asleep, in-the-dark bathroom visits to contend with. The office washroom is presumably always well-lit, and you’re going to see the seat position before trying to sit, so a free-for-all seems fine to me.

    9. OP3*

      “it sounds like it bothers you that folks using the gender-neutral bathroom are effectively converting it into a men’s bathroom by making it less accessible to women.”

      This is exactly why it bothers me. I might be in the minority, but that doesn’t mean I don’t exist. And I realize that it’s not that difficult to put a toilet seat down, I am perfectly capable of doing it and have been doing it all along. But in a space that’s specifically labeled as Gender Neutral it’s frustrating to see it being used as a men’s room assuming the rest of us will just deal with it because we’re vastly outnumbered. It isn’t marked “Men’s Bathroom, But Women and Gender-Non-Binary People Sometimes”. I think of it more like a dishwasher: Everyone puts dishes in the dishwasher in the kitchen at work and when they do they have to open the door to the dishwasher, but we expect people to close the door again even knowing that the next person who walks in might open it again. Probably because not everyone will and to those that don’t it’s an inconvenience to deal with when they weren’t responsible for opening the door to begin with.

      1. Arts Akimbo*

        I have so much empathy for you on this. It is awful feeling not just invisible in your workplace but actively erased. I hope you can explain it to your manager in a way that he can understand.

      2. PersephoneUnderground*

        I totally get it – if it’s up by default, it reminds you you’re outnumbered every time, and feels like no one really cares that you use it too.

    10. Essess*

      I agree with others that you’re turning a toilet seat into a personal attack on yourself. You have a preference as to the location of the toilet seat. Obviously others have a different preference. Despite all other arguments, it is a preference inside a common shared area and everyone has an equal say. I strongly recommend that you refocus your energy. A toilet seat being up or down truly doesn’t impact the ability to do your job. It is just as much common courtesy to leave the seat in the same position you found it as it is to demand that everyone put it in the position that one person dictates. The demand for others to touch a toilet seat so that you don’t have to seems too overreaching in a work environment.

    11. Chatterby*

      The sign declaring (obviously the women of the office) stupid and underserving of working in the company tipped the bathroom letter into the realm of There’s a Bigger Issue. Namely, there is an ugly undercurrent of animosity that the LW has stumbled upon.
      Also, you can tell a lot about a place and the workers by the state of the bathrooms. It is one of the few unmonitored areas in any company. If employees trash a bathroom, or deface signs, that is a very clear indication on how they feel about the company as a whole. The first replacement was done in the spirit of humor, but the later ones not so much. Mature adults know not to scribble on things and ignore what they don’t agree with.
      The LW should take the insulting sign to her boss and explain that she is now uncomfortable using the bathroom at work, and wondering which of her co-workers thinks women are stupid and shouldn’t be working there.

  4. Robin Q*

    I want to disagree a little with Alison’s response to #1. If you’re asking non-research applicants to do it, sure I agree. But a 30-40 minute presentation about your research is incredibly common in biology in academia and required for basically all but the most introductory of lab positions in academia. If the people you’re hiring have a masters or PhD then asking for this is an expected part of many job interviews and not an unusual imposition.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      She said they have applicants for all positions do it, not just research candidates. That’s the problem — otherwise I’d agree with you that it’s not weird.

    2. Kate*

      We only require public presentations for TT positions. Our masters level employees rarely have to present in public, so why ask them to give a presentation as part of the hiring process?

    3. cheese please*

      However, I agree that asking candidates to make a new 30-40min presentation can be a lot of added work. It would be better to give candidates the option to present something they have already done for a conference etc.

    4. fhqwhgads*

      The question was not about research applicants, though. The whole point of the question was they are asking EVERYONE to do this and is that normal, and the answer to that is no, it is not normal for every applicant for every type of role to do this.

  5. Magenta Sky*

    OP3: Always putting the seat down is a convenience to women. Always leaving it up is a convenience to men, albeit a bit less so (since men have to sit sometimes, too). Insisting on either is saying that the convenience of one group of people take priority over the convenience of another – based on sex- and that other people should take the trouble to set it the way you want it so that you don’t have to. That irks some people greatly. The most mechanically efficient approach is to leave it wherever it is when you’re done, because that way, at least once it a while, it will be where the next person wants it.

    In any case, on a practical level, writing the less to AAM has expended more energy that it takes to put the seat down. And whoever made the mocking sign has expended more energy than it takes to put the seat down, as well.

    You should probably be grateful that no one has decided to not lift the seat *up* in the first place when they pee.

    This is one of those things that people get really, really, really worked up over, that just isn’t worth it.

    1. Engineer Girl*

      Never underestimate the annoyance factor of having to do something stupid for the 1000th time.

      1. Lonely Aussie*

        Exactly. In my general experience of sharing with the blokes, the vast multitude of stuff that seems to go on in there is pretty bloody gross, the least they could do is put the seat down. I do not want to have to look at the piss spots all over the rim/underside of the seat.

        (Whenever I’ve been sharing a bathroom with blokes, my general rule is that the lid is also shut. That way every0ne is equally inconvenienced…. at current job site with rats at plague proportions its also cut on the amount of rats that fall into the bowl looking for a drink and drown)

        1. WickedWindyGlider*

          This. I understand that in most public restrooms there are no lids, but in my house we always put the lid down. And even though my husband passed away at a young age and we are an all-female household, we still do it. When my youngest was just walking and getting into things, it helped prevent her from putting things in the toilet that didn’t belong. We’ve just kept the practice even after they all grew up.

          Also, for the most part, even when the toilet seat is down in a public restroom, I always grab some toilet paper and wipe the seat off. I’m unable to understand why some women apparently hover over the seat and spray everywhere.

          1. Jennifer Thneed*

            Thank you! In my house, it took having cats that ran across the back of the toilet and knocked magazines into the bowl. So. Gross. After that, the lid was always down. I even tell male visitors that this isn’t about the seat, so if they can figure out a way to leave the seat up while closing the lid, I will applaud their creativity.
            (I know someone whose cats like to jump up (all 4 feet) on the toilet seat to drop their toys into the bowl. So. Gross. The owners focus on the toys, while all I can think about is “dirty cat paws where my naked butt goes”. And because of the floor plan, that’s the restroom most guests will use, too.)

            1. Chinookwind*

              As someone who had both a cat and a dog that liked to test if their toys could float (they would end up in both a toilet and their water dish), I still leave the lid down. DH has started to do it once he noticed that the puppy was using it as a water dish (which none of the other animals had done in our presence).

      2. Magenta Sky*

        Like having to put the seat down even though you know the next person to use the toilet will likely need it up? Yeah, that can get pretty annoying.

        1. Penny Parker*

          Leaving the seat up is uncivilized. Any etiquette column would tell you so. Men can be slobs, and most of them are slobs in the bathroom.

          1. Penny Parker*

            I did a goggle search on “etiquette to leave the toilet seat up” and there are pages and pages and pages explaining why it is wrong to leave it up, including a site giving “scientific reasons” to leave it down, and sites lambasting men for their poor manners. If one is to look at the accepted etiquette of this one will soon find attitudes saying it is okay to leave it down are in the vast minority. Why can’t men just act decent? This is indeed about respect.

            1. Mr. Shark*

              The random article I googled is ridiculous. First, the rules are different if there is a lid or isn’t a lid. With a lid, absolutely, everyone should put the lid down before flushing. I don’t think there’s any argument to that being more hygienic.

              With no lid, it’s a different story, especially if the ratio is 40/2 men vs women. They complain about the article supporting leaving the seat up, but it’s perfectly valid. If there’s significantly more men than women, then the default position as up makes sense.

              It’s also funny that they suggest that men should pee sitting down, when women complain about having to do the same. It’s easier and faster to pee standing up, so why sit if you don’t have to?

            2. Jake*

              This is literally the first time I’ve been offended by a woman saying something sexist about men.

              I’m not one of those men’s rights idiots, but holy cow, I thought people like you were just straw men that weren’t actually real.

              1. Jake*

                For what it’s worth, I do put the seat down after every use, if for no reason other than habit.

          2. Fuddy Dudd*

            Erm… I can assure you that slobbish behavior isn’t gendered. Your comment is really sexist.

        2. AKchic*

          There’s also the issue of a disabled person who may need that seat down who can’t actually put it down easily that comes in after the person who leaves the seat up. It can embarrass them to have to exit the bathroom to ask someone to lower the seat for them, and delay their necessary bathroom trip to the point of an accident.
          It’s best to just assume that all rear ends will need to sit at some point and start there as the baseline.

          1. anon for this one*

            ….are you really implying that disabled people are so helpless they’ve never been able to put a toilet seat down before and need help from someone able bodied? Because that’s just. wow.

    2. Perpal*

      Yes I’m not sure why insist on putting the seat down; why not leave the seat up after you are done, for courtesy? LW let this one go. Maybe replace the sign with something funny and unrelated, IDK. (FWIW I am female and the only time I think it’s courteous to put the seat down is if I am pregnant and trying to pee frequently in the dark at home because I don’t like being blinded by lights at night – so that’s between me and my hubby)

      1. Weblady*

        I agree on the toilet issue, if theres only 2 women, wouldn’t it make more sense to leave it up since the majority of users would need it up? And the 2 who need it down could use a small amount of toilet paper to cover the edge of the seat and put it down. It would be even more rude if the men were leaving it down and urinating because it would get all over the seat. I’m a female and used to get frustrated with my husband for this same issue, but when I framed it as “at least he’s not peeing on the seat” I was able to let it go and move on. But, yes, if it happens in the middle of the night, that can be a problem! :) Also, it is nice to have single use restrooms at work for certain business- I have stalls and as a woman, it’s very uncomfortable having to take care of certain business with others in adjoining stalls!

    3. Imprudence*

      I, a woman, live in a house of men (well teenage boys). I lave the seat UP so as to increase the chnace it will be clean for me when I next need it. The inconvenience of putting it down and then up is less than the alternative.
      (and yes, we are working on training them….)

      1. Chips and Dip*

        This is what I was going to say. I would much rather put the seat down than clean the seat. Good luck on the training, I recently gave up and we have a male bathroom that I tell guests is not working.

      2. AKchic*

        Mom of adult and teenage boys – you will be training them forever. Their wives, girlfriends, boyfriends, husbands, and/or other partner variations will be training them forever. They have to be taught early on to hold their wacky water weasel during the “performance” and reminded constantly, or forced to actually clean up after themselves every time they leave a mess behind (and sometimes clean up after someone else’s mess too) before they start to get it.
        My 10 year old was absolutely horrorstruck when I made him clean up his own mess in the bathroom because he decided to let the dog in the bathroom with him *and* play on his 3DS while urinating. I don’t think much got in the toilet at all. He did clean plenty off the wall, replaced the towel hanging on the rod next to the toilet, replaced the toilet paper, had to empty the trash can, and mopped the entire bathroom to ensure it was clean/sanitary. He got much better about paying attention after that.

    4. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

      My problem with toilet seats up isn’t the inconvenience, which is minor. It’s the grossness, cause the bottom of a toilet seat is nastier than the top (even a women’s-only toilet gets splash back). I prefer not to see my coworker’s pee.

      1. PJH*

        That’s the second response I’ve seen mentioning the ‘state of the underside’ of the seat.

        Do the people who clean these bathroom leave other areas, that require attention, untouched?

        1. Lonely Aussie*

          every mixed gender toilet I’ve used always seems to have a filthy underside of the seat/rim. I’m not sure the dudes I work with just have poor aim, but even if the cleaners were cleaning it, they were only in three days a week and it was rank.

        2. hbc*

          They don’t clean it after every use, and some bathrooms only get cleaned like this once or twice a week. I mean, think about why we ask men not to pee with the seat down to begin with–that same stuff we don’t want on the seat isn’t magically staying put once it’s lifted.

      2. Yorick*

        I agree with this. It’s grosser to leave it up. Women always need it down, and men sometimes need it down. Those add up to putting the seat down.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      I’ve never understood the issue. Growing up, my dad and brother were 50/50 if they’d remember to put it down. My mom never fussed, so I didn’t have anyone to teach me the outrage, I suppose.

      Which helped me continue not to care when I ended up with a partner raised by other males, therefore they habitually leave it up. And working with mostly men, it’s just so “whatever”.

    6. Elizabeth Proctor*

      I agree. Do I prefer having the seat down, sure. But I think the expectation that it should always be down should be loosened, especially when there are so many more men than women using that restroom. If it bothers you so much and you identify as a woman, use the exclusively female bathroom (though I do think single occupancy bathrooms shouldn’t be gendered).

    7. RickCartland*

      Ahh! Seat up vs seat down!

      My opinion, as a man, is this: the seat goes up and the seat down, and either sexes are capable of operating it. Whenever I’ve heard arguments of “It should be left down because we need it down” my instant reply is along the lines of “well, we need it up, so leave it up when done!”. In a male-dominated office (numerically), then that logic would reign true.

      However, several years ago a colleague brought in a magazine and pointed out a particular article to the office. I can’t remember the magazine name now, but the general gist of it was around particulates being ejected from the toilet bowl when flushed and can land (from memory) up to 15′ away from the toilet (we’re talking invisible/microscopic here, not “chunks”). I think this was covered on an episode of Myth Busters where they tested tooth brushes (IIRC) for faecal matter/particulates after flushing. The recommendation was to leave both the seat AND lid down before flushing.

      So, in my office, the rule is twofold (and yes, there is a sign for this!):
      1. Lower seat and lid before flushing
      2. When flushed, check bowl is clean

      You see, what really grinds my gears around shared bathrooms – whether mixed gender or not – is opening a toilet lid to see a chocolate goldfish staring back at you. You are now in a predicament as if you do nothing about it and have that awkward interaction of bumping into a colleague going IN to the very stall you’ve just used, they will think the monster-from-the-deep is YOURS. Awkward!

      This isn’t strictly a “male” thing – we have shared bathrooms at work and it’s not uncommon to find used female sanitary products hanging around in the bowl.

      OK TMI.

  6. Suzy Q*

    No. 1: If you have any power at all, stop this ridiculous practice.
    No. 5: Well done, you!

  7. KR*

    OP 1… I want to really push back against this. Especially for ALL positions?! Like you’re telling me if I want to work in accounts payable for your company I not only need to make a 30-40 minute presentation on my professional experience but present it even though the role usually requires no public speaking that I know of and allow anyone in your 50 person company to come in and learn all about me in detail? Just for the chance to work for you? Hard pass

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      Yup, I’d pass too since I most certainly wouldn’t be in a role that would require presenting research, and I don’t even have problems with public speaking – well, I don’t particularly like it, but I’m very good at it thanks to years of theater training. But asking me to put together a PowerPoint to tell you exactly what’s on my resume (that you should have read) and my cover letter (again, probably should have read that) when I’m going to be sitting behind a desk all day writing? Yeah…nope.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        I’d pass, too. I’m a translator/interpreter and I’m pretty comfortable with public speaking (I’ve been a terp in conferences with hundreds of attendees), but don’t ask me to put a PowerPoint presentation together — especially not if it’s going to take me quite a while to do it, and on top of that you’re going to judge me on it being too vague/cluttered/but not enough, etc. That has no bearing in my ability to do my job.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      Yeah, it’s a bad requirement for every single position. Public speaking regularly beats out death as the biggest fear people have in surveys, so lots of good people would bow out or be so nervous they’d be really bad at this.

    3. Viva*

      Bingo. HARD PASS.

      I work in admin roles. First, there’s no way to fill up 40 freaking minutes with truly meaningful stuff, even using stories or anecdotes. Second, potentially 50 people can come sit in on this and judge me and maybe ask questions? And most of them are NOT going to be the decision maker(s) nor my direct superiors???

      HARD PASS.

      1. Augusta Sugarbean*

        Oh I didn’t even think about *how* to fill 30-40 minutes. I’ve been working for 30 years and I’d probably have to go back that far to make it to the 30 minute mark – but how are jobs that old relevant? This is a terrible practice. I’ve been looking for a new job for over 2 years and I’d be very likely to pass on this.

      2. Optional*

        I have been making presentation in uni, pretty normal and standard. Like I can make a presentation with extensive information about a topic that would be 10-15 minutes long. I think I made one 30 minutes presentation that was a very big GROUP project. But 30-40 minutes for a job application?!?! That would be a huge stretch. I would also pass if I was told this will be my interview.

      3. Parenthetically*

        Yep. OP’s company is absolutely losing out on good candidates — especially ones with other options. This is a WORLD of no.

      4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

        I could probably fill 40 minutes with anecdotes and stories. But a lot of my stories are really not ones I’d share in a job interview, because they usually go like “and it turned out he was a sex offender so I kicked him out while he screamed the c-word at me,” or “And needless to say when the police finally made him come out of the restroom, we had to bleach the walls.”

        1. Librarianne*

          A significant portion of my stories from my catering/cashiering days are like this. Not exactly what I want future coworkers to remember about me!

    4. Rebecca*

      Agreed! I wonder how many good hires they’ve missed out on due to this silly requirement. I mean, if it’s your job there to put together a presentation on how a project is going, maybe, but 30-40 minutes? That’s asking a lot.

    5. jDC*

      Can you imagine the sleeping viewers of that presentation. “And then I entered this into payroll”. Snoring.

      1. cmcinnyc*

        I love this. Speak in a low, soothing voice. Put everyone to sleep, and then rob them. You won’t need a job.

    6. Peachkins*

      I agree. I hate speaking in public, and would never apply for a job that I thought would require it. And then this company is telling me that I not only need to do that, but also create a Powerpoint presentation? That will eat up 30-40 minutes? There’s no way. I’ll bet there are a ton of good applicants who take one look at these requirements and pass on the opportunity.

    7. Canadian Attorney*

      Yeah this is insane. I have prepared powerpoint presentations before, but it’s really not a core function of my job (I draft contracts for a living, so no need to be a great public speaker, just attention to detail and negotiation abilities) and unless I am presenting to a team of lawyers I have no idea what I could say that would be even moderately interesting and that most people would understand. Also I don’t do interviews that require that much prep work and seem ill-equipped to assess my competence – it would be a huge red flag for me.

    8. Dontlikeunfairrules*

      Total pass for me as well. Of course if it paid 5x the average salary and had WfH 3 times a week and every other incredible benefit offered MAYBE I would consider it. But man, it would need to be absolutely amazing and a once in a lifetime position to even consider having to prepare something like this. Ugh – it makes me nauseous just thinking about it!

  8. Luna123*

    1. I’m biased because I hate public speaking, but a thirty-minute presentation about one’s work history sounds like an enormous hurdle, not to mention pretty weird if it’s for a junior or an admin position that doesn’t otherwise require public speaking. And what about people without much relevant work experience, or recent grads? What do they talk about?

    1. FaintlyMacabre*

      Yes! Plus if this requirement isn’t in the job ad, I would be annoyed if I applied and got an interview, just to be told I had to make a presentation. I’d be curious how many people drop out of the hiring process at that point.

      1. Peachkins*

        I’ll bet they’re losing out on a lot of good candidates. I would take one look at those requirements and assume the job isn’t for me. I’m not even sure desperation would make me jump through those hoops.

    2. Diamond*

      30-40 minutes is a LONG time, that’s an entire lecture about your work history! That seems a very difficult amount of time to fill without adding in a lot of random details and tangents

      1. Optional*

        Yep. I’ve had interviews that were 30-40 minutes as a whole, like everything. Back and forth questions and all the details

      2. blackcat*

        Yeah, this process was created by scientists.
        A 30 minute talk is a mid-length talk to me. It’s actually easier for me to give a 45min-1 hr talk on my work, since at least the first 15-20 minutes is all background stuff before I get to the Cool New Exciting Work I Do.
        Longest I’ve given was 90 minutes + 30 minutes discussion/question session (that was so exhausting! It was a job talk at a big R1 and I had an audience of maybe a hundred, and it’s hard to keep the personal connections going for that long in a massive lecture hall).
        So a scientist says 30-40 minute talk in front of <50 people thinking it'll be easy! And that's just not so outside of science!

        1. Yorick*

          But academic job talks aren’t about your work history, so it’s ok that they’re longer than 30 minutes.

          1. Zephy*

            The logic here goes like this:

            Scientist applies academic hiring conventions to biotech startup. Everything works as expected as long as they’re hiring fellow scientists. Startup founders realize their business needs support staff and start looking to fill admin/IT/finance/other non-science positions. Scientists haven’t had non-science jobs/gone through non-science interviews before or recently, so they just go with what they know. Except admin/IT/finance people haven’t been doing research, so what will their 30-minute talk be about? Job history!

            1. blackcat*

              Yes, I can legit see tons of people I know making this exact mistake. This is the exact train of thought. It’s understandable to me, but it’s also a red flag that the company has too many scientists running things!

              1. That Girl From Quinn's House*

                And it’s a valid red flag. My FIL worked for a small scientific research firm, and it turned out that not only was the place run entirely by scientists, the guy handling the finances was a scientist. Needless to say, when the economy slowed down, they went out of business, because he did not know anything about handling finances.

            2. RandomU...*

              At some point I would hope all of these super smart scientists would go “Hmm… I’m not sure this is quite relevant and necessary to hire someone who will be doing our payroll, or shipping, IT support, or whatever non-research related position. Or after they are hired one of those folks say “You know… this is actually a big waste of time for a lot of our job candidates and the people who are on the hiring panels.”

              1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                The absent-minded professor stereotype holds awfully true an unfortunate amount of the time. Just because someone’s super smart about their science doesn’t mean they’d ever realize that a standard science interview isn’t working for payroll/admin roles.

                1. Zephy*

                  +10000. It’s like they traded away all their common sense in exchange for their doctorate. “Sorry, we deleted all memories of my high school job bagging groceries to make room for the structure and function of the gustatory cortex.”

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      I’m ok (now) with public speaking.

      I’d pass.

      Because a company that values something like this values style over substance and I am not into that nonsense.

      Also I have better things to do with my time. Like prepare for an interview with a company that’s worth it!

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Because a company that values something like this values style over substance

        That’s it exactly. I’d also assume this was some kind of trick to get free work out of me. Why would I need to make a presentation about my work history when my resume is right there?

        OP#1, please push back on this if you can. It’s good you wrote in because you know something isn’t quite right. Your company is asking candidates to spend hours of their time doing something that is immensely stressful and humilating.

      2. boo bot*

        Yeah, the style-over-substance thing is what I’d assume as well, or at least that there was some hidden sales or marketing aspect to the job itself (which would definitely put me off).

    4. No Trimble At All*

      Please enjoy my 10 minute “about me” talk followed by my 20 minute “pictures of my cats” talk!

      1. Zephy*

        Honestly yeah. I don’t have enough work history to stretch that out into a 30-minute, one-sided presentation. If it were a conversation, though? Absolutely, I used to work at an animal shelter, I’ve got days of stories about dogs.

    5. No Tribble At All*

      Also, what if your previous work history is classified? I don’t know how often this happens in biotech, but I definitely know people who can’t talk for 20 minutes about their work history without the audience having TS/SCI.

      1. katelyn*


        I was going to say this as well. I have worked primarily in finance and while I have some interesting anecdotes that can be anonymized, the most interesting ones only make sense with context I’m not able to share. So you’d get a dry recitation of the boring things I’ve done and a very quick glossing over of the interesting bits. And I could only answer with hypotheticals if presenting to a large group. Because if I don’t keep my previous employers’ dirty laundry to myself you can be sure I won’t keep yours to myself either, and then why would you hire me anyways?

      2. Quoth the Raven*

        I hadn’t stopped to think about it, but it’s also my case as a translator — many of the documents and clients I’ve worked for required a NDA (not uncommon at all in the field). So there’s no way I could fill 30-40 minutes.

    6. Justme, The OG*

      I actually LOVE public speaking but I would totally pass on a position that required this (other than something like a faculty position where I was presenting research).

  9. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#2, this happened to me twice (!), and my advice is to immediately move to your Plan B. Even when I worked for employers with data upload protocols, I had a coworker once ghost for over 6 months with several really important datasets that reflected 4 years of field work. I had to clean the data, reassemble the datasets, and analyze it all over again. If I also had to go do field work to recreate the data, I would have had a nervous breakdown.

    Definitely go ahead and reach out to coworkers to verify whether your employee has truly disappeared. But don’t use this time to wait for his response—you have to start moving on data recovery or recreation, now, or it will be more painful in the future.

    This situation sucks, and I’m sorry.

    1. Blue Horizon*

      Do you know for sure he actually gathered the data in the first place?

      Something similar happened once with a manager of mine on the way out, who had agreed with the company that he would complete the paperwork and interviews on the latest round of performance reviews as part of his transition. I was one of the people he would have needed to talk to, and I made several unsuccessful attempts to contact him (he was working remotely at the time). At one point I checked his calendar to see if scheduling issues were getting in the way and… it was completely empty. I’m not sure how he was coordinating his sessions with everyone else (nearly all of whom, like me, were in a different location than he was) but he wasn’t using his calendar to do it. Later, after he had left, I was informed by the new manager that the feedback and reviews had all been done but somehow ‘lost’ under mysterious circumstances, nobody could figure out quite how. I never did get a meeting with him and nothing ever appeared in his calendar.

      All of which is to say that I agree with the Princess and the scenario in which he has done every part of his job properly and correctly except the turning over of the final data to you is becoming more improbable by the day. Every day you delay on starting your recovery process is one day less you’ll have to get it done (sorry).

      1. AnonAnon*

        I think there’s a very good chance the person in #2 never did the fieldwork. To the OP, I’d think about how you’re going to quality check anything the ghosting employee does provide – it’s not unheard of for people to just make up data under pressure. I’d start making plans to redo the work.

        1. triplehiccup*

          That would be my larger concern too. Ideally there’d be some kind of quality assurance happening and

          1. triplehiccup*

            (Sorry, hit submit by accident!) And the threshold for Plan B would be much much sooner.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I’d certainly be concerned about that in this type of scenario, but OP2 seemed concerned the onsite people would be annoyed by additional site visits….which they couldn’t be if the originals didn’t occur. It’s possible he never did any work on whatever was collected, but it seems like in this case there should at least be raw data because there were apparently other people there when it was collected. If the ghost never went in the first place either the other people (the potentially annoyed ones or the team that was with him OP mentions wanting to talk to) should have brought up that none of this happened or if they didn’t there’s a bigger problem than the ghost that no one else called out this having never occurred.

      2. Lily*

        or even if they have the data, that it comes in a readable and workable way once you manage to get them to hand it over. In an organisation I vulunteered for another volunteer had a silent breakdown. When managed to track him down and ask for the work, done or undone, we got a cardboard box with half of the half-done work, not sorted etc. The other half never resurfaced. It was horrible.

        1. Arts Akimbo*

          Horribly, I have done this in one of my first jobs!! I’ll omit some specific details to retain a little anonymity, but it was a contract to do a survey of an ENORMOUS site. The contract had chewed up 3 in my position prior to me and spat them out, one guy after three whole years. The implication from my employers was that I would have the summer to gather the data.

          I literally nearly worked myself to death! I didn’t realize it but I was on the verge of dropping dead from drinking too much water and getting not enough sodium. I didn’t find this out until later. All I knew at the time was that counting the commute I was working 12 hours a day or more, I constantly felt like I was about to collapse, that no amount of drinking water(!!) was fixing my symptoms of dehydration(!!!) , and that I had only managed to do get a tiny percentage of the total area surveyed. Also, guess what guys– this was MY DREAM JOB!

          Near the end of the summer, I had a near-total meltdown and identity crisis. If my Dream Job was doing this to me, what the hell was I doing in grad school anyway? I’d already neatly overqualified myself for all the science jobs I loved, and now I’m in the running for jobs like this utter hellscape? I just… lost it. I scheduled a meeting with my supervisor and was soon sobbing into the conference table. “We just want you to finish the job you agreed to do,” he said, and I realized at that moment there was no way I was capable physically or emotionally of finishing that job.

          He put me in a position of having to argue that I was quitting for a sufficient reason. At the time I was very scared that they would, I don’t know, ask for the money back that they had already paid me? I wasn’t thinking clearly. I agreed to just turn over the data I’d collected and leave notes for the next person.

          Only… my data and notes toward the latter part of the summer was… starting to become a bit eccentric. I look back and cringe. Common plants that I should have known the names of instantly were noted as “weird round-leafed sessile opposite thingy: look up!” or the like. Now I realize it was probably my cognitive ability getting muddled from the progression of the hyponatremia. I was so embarrassed by those notes, and for 3 days I had every intention of cleaning them up. But finally, I just turned them over as-is and fled.

          When I FINALLY went to a doctor, my electrolytes were so out of whack he was amazed I was still walking around. I can’t believe I was driving long distances throughout this whole crapfest. For everyone working outdoors, just know that the symptoms of hyponatremia are almost identical for typical symptoms of dehydration, and don’t forget to salt up as well as hydrate!

          I dropped out of grad school at the end of that summer, too, and I had been something of a rising star in the department. Just unfortunate all around. One bad job really can mess you up in a life-altering way! But what I ended up doing was realizing my REAL life’s passion, art, and I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world!

          The one thing I do wish I could change is leaving my notes in such a horrible state for the next poor fool to take on that contract! (Three months, indeed!!) Sorry, next person!!! :( I hope I didn’t make your life worse.

    2. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

      LW#2 should assume the data collection isn’t done – or that there’s no chance of getting it, unfortunately.

      I’ve had this happen twice. It’s a big company and we often ask we don’t know directly to do the fieldwork. First time the person disappeared. I eventually found out they went on long-term sick leave. The second time (different person) they were meant to do the work in December and … didn’t. (They were fired, for that and other reasons.)

      Both times I would have been better off assuming the data wasn’t there, apologising to the client ASAP, and starting plan B quickly.

      1. Lance*

        Absolutely. Sure, there’s still a chance that not only will you get in touch with the disappearing co-worker, but you’ll also get any data they’ve created… but that’s only a chance. Feel free to continue to make small efforts to try, but your biggest priority should be restarting the data collection process now; the longer you wait, the longer the clients will have to wait.

    3. Booksalot*

      What on earth do you do, that you had to recreate data sets while having a law job in academia?

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Do you really want to know, or are you generally frustrated when I share anecdotes?

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ok, the bigger context is that I come from a low-income family, and I started working (under the table) at 10, and legally since I was 14. So I’ve had 20+ jobs, including holding multiple part-time gigs for several years whenever I was a student. This is why I have so many strange work stories in so many different sectors.

            In my post-college but pre-law life, I was an econometrician who managed epidemiological field studies for ~ 3 years. I recently joined the academy, where I still practice law, and my research is interdisciplinary and empirical (i.e., still rife with datasets and sometimes with field surveys).

        1. Booksalot*

          …Frustrated? What the heck for? I just think it sounds like your job asks way too much of one person.

          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

            Ah, got it. The previous times folks have asked me that question on AAM, they were incredibly annoyed with me. So I wanted to check that I wasn’t mistaking tone before answering and annoying anyone further.

            My job does ask too much of me, but thankfully data recreation is no longer on the list :)

    4. OP #2*

      Thanks all for the advice – I am starting to think you’re correct that the data collection wasn’t fully completed, at least not properly (we do know he went to the sites because we confirmed that with our clients). We finally got a response back from the missing field observer last night, basically just to say that he is okay and has been receiving our messages, but that he’s been struggling and is seeking help. He also said he would submit his raw data so that we could complete his work, but what he sent was spotty and incomplete.

      I think at this point we have to conclude that even if he sends us anything else, we can’t trust the quality of the data and the work has to be redone.

      1. Ginger*

        At least you got some sort of answer so that’s that.

        Might I recommend a cloud solution or some sort of repository where data is backed up? Make it a requirement that once data is collected, the raw data is uploaded and all work in progress is saved in a system that can be accessed. Even if a person doesn’t ghost you, you could leverage other resources to help on projects and collaborate together. Even if this person didn’t ghost, what if his laptop had crashed? Is there any back up going on?

      2. Matilda Jefferies*

        Frustrating for all of you no doubt, but I’m glad he’s okay! Once this crisis is over and you have your data and QA and so on, that would be a good time to do some thinking about how you’re going to handle this in the future. Take the time to sit down and do a really good analysis of how you might prevent this from happening again, as well as the steps you will take if (when?) it does.

        From your question, it sounds like this is the first time you’ve had someone disappear without handing in their data, but I expect this would be a relatively common issue in your field. So there must be risk management and policies & procedures out there to help get you started on your own. Good luck!

      3. Starbuck*

        What stood out to me in your letter was “…and said that if he can just hand over the raw data we’d be happy to pay him for the time he took to conduct the visits… ”

        Does this mean he hasn’t been paid anything yet? Shouldn’t he have been paid for his time by now if he’s an employee and not a contractor?

        1. boo bot*

          Given the setup, where he’s doing the work without any oversight and submitting the end results, he probably is a contractor (and probably is accurately classified as one).

          That said, it’s not great that he’s gotten to this point without being paid, and this kind of arrangement – long deadlines without intermediate milestones for payment – can be detrimental to both freelancers and people who employ them; if he were turning in raw data to be paid regularly in stages, (a) they would have the data he did gather, (b) they would have realized there was an issue much sooner, and (c) he wouldn’t be working for months without the guarantee of payment.

        2. OP #2*

          He has been paid along the way – for this role the field observers generally conduct the visit, write up the report and then submit the hours for a completed visit all within a one or two day period. But since he fell off the radar, he also wasn’t submitting his time for going out to the sites.

      4. Willis*

        I’d wager that whatever spotty and incomplete stuff he sent you is all there is. I’ve realized that when I have to hound someone to send some piece of work they were supposed to have done like this, it’s usually because it’s not done and they know I’m not really going to want what they do have once I see it.

      5. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

        The more I think about this situation the more it’s giving me hives! In my field we only get one chance to record data, since we destroy what we study as we go along. The notion of someone basically running off with all the data, or not recording it when they were supposed to, is nightmare territory. Do you have a system for offsite backups etc. depending on the format you use?

        I was really shocked at my last employer when I found that, despite the fact that 80% of what we were doing was digital photography, the site supervisor had no way of backing up the files every night. I actually complained to the project manager because it would have meant that all of our work would be for nothing if the photos were destroyed. They finally brought a laptop after one of the staff broke a camera and we thought the memory card with weeks of photos on it was toast.

    5. designbot*

      This may seem like an extreme option, but I’ve been in #2’s situation before, and getting legal involved solved it. The only difference is that ours was a little more clear-cut in terms of what was going on—the employee in question did documentation of one of our projects, then handed in his two weeks notice and left before turning over the documentation. I asked him repeatedly for it during his notice period and he was like “oh yeah, I’ll get that uploaded for sure! Don’t worry about it!” and then of course left without doing so. Then we saw the documentation posted on his personal website. I escalated it to my manager to ask if there was anything to do, and ultimately what happened was legal wrote him a letter basically saying, because you got that documentation on company time, with company tools, with access granted you based on your position with company, per your contract it belongs to us and if you do not produce it within X period of time we’ll have to resort to legal action to recover our property. He turned it over the next week.

  10. Twigs*

    Op3, I would say you’re overreacting and spending way too much time on this issue. It takes a couple of second to put a seat down, just as it will take the guy a couple to put it up. And a sign makes this whole thing even more ridiculous. I imagine going to this bathroom, putting the seat down, takes less time than walking over all the way to the other bathroom.

    1. jDC*

      The only reason I like the seat down is for late night bathroom runs when It’s pitch black. I’ve fallen in. Otherwise whatever. It’s nice that I have a husband who always puts it down but we always close the whole lid before flushing anyway because particles flying around.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, I know a fair number of people who scoff at the idea, but it’s entirely possible to dash into a lot of bathrooms in a hurry and not register the seat position. A standing man is much less likely to do this since he’s facing the toilet, and even if he does, the worst that happens is that he gets some pee on the seat. Someone coming to sit down is facing away from the seat (so much more likely to not see the seat up) and can soak themselves in toilet water or even get injured.

        As far as risk analysis goes, the choice is obvious.

        1. Penny Parker*

          As far as standard and commonly accepted etiquette goes the choice is obvious! Close BOTH the seat and the lid!

        2. Mr. Shark*

          I agree, it’s easy to scoff at the idea, because men have to have the seat down at the time, and it takes less than .2 seconds to register if the seat is up or down, so it is a struggle to understand why women can’t do the same thing.

          That said, with a lid, the default should obviously be down. With no lid, and in this instance with a 40/2 ratio, seat up makes the most sense as the default.

  11. Fortitude Jones*

    OP #2: Something very similar happened to me, and I was frustrated as all hell. Back when I was an in-house claims adjuster during the 2017 hurricane trifecta (Harvey, Irma, and Maria), I contacted one of my company’s trusted field adjusting firms to have them assign independent adjusters to go and inspect damaged houses in Texas, Florida, etc. They only had five adjusters available who could and would go to this area to inspect houses, and they sent a guy out who had never worked catastrophe claims before and dumped about 100 claims on him in the course of a couple days (it wasn’t their fault – natural disaster, and with only about 20 field adjusters in total from the firms we used, this was unavoidable).

    Well, I get a phone call one day from a very irate homeowner who said she was given the name and number to this field adjuster who was supposed to come and inspect her property, and after a week of waiting with no sign of him, she called him to see what’s up. He told her he wasn’t going to be coming out to her home and told her she needed to call her insurance company and let us know this. This was not protocol – if an IA wasn’t able to complete a job, the IA was supposed to notify the firm that contracted them on our behalf and the firm would then reassign the claim to another IA and notify us. I called this guy’s firm to see what the hell was happening because I was stunned at how abrupt he was with the customer – the firm knew nothing about it. They told me they’d try and call him to find out what was going on because he hadn’t said a word to them, but they’d had some complaints about him on a few more claims he’d been assigned, and they couldn’t reach him either.

    I get a call back from the firm a couple hours later – apparently, the IA had a mental breakdown and quit in the middle of an inspection. They finally got a hold of him when he was being discharged from a hospital. Of course, they were able to get some of the inspection notes and estimates from him, but not nearly enough, and what they did get back was largely incomplete. We had to reassign all of his claims, which took awhile to find a few more people to get down to that region. It was a mess, and we ended up paying twice on a few of his files where we needed to have a reinspection performed because his observations were incomplete. I felt really bad for him and more than a little guilty that I was ready to chew the guy’s head off when he was in serious mental distress. I now try to tell myself not to assume the worst and to check all my bases first before flying off the handle over someone’s perceived laziness/incompetence – you never know what someone’s going through.

    1. Phoenix Programmer*

      Honestly this sound like your companies fault completely. They were able to get a few more folks when they had too so should have done that from the start instead of overloading a person.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Our company hired the independent adjusting firm who then hires contractors to do the work – my company had no control over that whatsoever. Additionally, there was a field adjuster shortage period, let alone adjusters with catastrophe coverage experience. The IA firm we used should have never given these assignments to someone who was relatively new to field adjusting with no experience with CAT claims for sure – they should have done whatever they did to get the backups who took over for him from the beginning, but some of these guys were already deployed in other regions, which would have delayed the claims (they ended up being delayed anyway, but that’s the nature of CAT situations).

      2. hbc*

        I think everyone would be complaining a lot more about their insurance rates if all insurance companies had to carry enough inspectors on staff to make sure they’re comfortably covered for three hurricanes at all times.

        1. Fortitude Jones*

          That too. Not only do most insurance companies no longer retain in-house adjusters who can also do field work, independent adjusting companies also don’t retain a large number of field adjusters – they’re aren’t enough of them that specialize in property claims or who have the knowledge to handle the very rare CAT claims that come through. And since the field adjusters are independent, they can work for many different companies at once, which can leave firms in the lurch if their regular stable of IA’s are already deployed to other claims for other companies.

    2. OP #2*

      It’s such a good point and why we tried to be sensitive to any potential mental health issues once we realized something was very wrong. We heard from him finally last night and he is okay, so at least I don’t have to worry about doing a wellness check. But at this point we definitely have to assume even the work he did is incomplete and all of it needs to be redone.

  12. Turquoisecow*

    Op1, I don’t hate public speaking, but if I was applying to any kind of job other than an important executive role, I’d probably take one look at that requirement and walk away. Especially the part about how anyone in the company can come by and see my presentation! It’s one thing to present to a small group of decision makers, but to present to a bunch of random strangers who are there just to judge me? Nope.

    1. KR*

      Yess!! I tried to say this in my comment but couldn’t figure out how to say it as eloquently as you did. I know application materials have no sort of formal legal confidentiality but I have a real problem with telling a bunch of people I don’t know my entire work and education history

      1. jDC*

        This came up for me in a group interview. We were all very uncomfortable sharing all our personal details with everyone. Luckily my interviewer was a truly amazing person and had tried the group route for the first time. When he realized people felt a bit uncomfortable he right away said so and changed it to one on one interviews. I find this even more true if they were to ask you why you left a position. I’m totally comfortable mentioning “i had to take time for health issues that are now resolved” to the interviewer but that isn’t the whole companies business.

    2. Jasnah*

      Good point! It definitely feels like inviting unnecessary judgment. Are these random people going to be asking questions or even offering any input on the decision? If not then why are they there, don’t you want them working or spending their time better?

      1. Turquoisecow*

        Yeah, if it’s a specific hiring committee then okay, but any random person in the company? Presumably they’re asked for their input, so now I have an entry level marketing guy giving input on a highly technical presentation or similar…. what’s the value to either person in that scenario?

    3. irene adler*

      Yep. It’s a non-starter for me.
      They are losing anyone who has a fear of public speaking that outweighs any interest in applying for the job. And that has no bearing as to their ability to perform the job itself.

    4. JustaTech*

      Scientist here: The way I’m sure this started is the way that you hire scientists: they come and give a presentation on their research. It’s something they’ve probably done a dozen times, and it’s about the work they did on a specific project. It’s not a resume, or a work history, it’s a “This is what I spent 5 years at the Footloose lab researching, here are the methods, results and interpretation”.

      Is this appropriate for the non-science staff? Nope. Heck, this isn’t needed for the non scientist level lab staff.

      But it isn’t “talk about yourself for 40 minutes and be judged on your value as a human”. That would be horrific.

  13. Sign Vandal is a Jerk*

    Ug, I agree with Alison that it is small in the grand scheme of things, but that person who wrote that OP 3 is lazy and stupid is an ass for doing that.

    Someone specifically and intentionally deciding it is too much hassle not to put the seat down for the convenience of others is much more stupid and lazy than a person asking others to consider them and save them from having to touch a gross toilet seat. Lazy because they are INTENTIONALLY not doing it now for the sake of being a jerk, and stupid for not realizing the above. I’d feel uncomfortable in the office knowing someone was that much of a jerk, too. It’s something that just has to be let go, but you definitely have my empathy OP.

    1. Sarah*

      Agree absolutely with the nastiness of the additional sign.

      I’m a little confused though. Why is it ok to make men touch a gross toilet seat and not a woman? And given the gender disparity you will end up with far more people touching it if you leave it down each time.

      1. Susie Q*

        100% agreed. Why are we asking men to do all the work? Put the seat up and down. Doesn’t seem very genders are equal.

      2. Parenthetically*

        Because they choose to put it up. They don’t *have* to stand to pee, they don’t *have* to lift the seat. They choose to because it’s easier for them, so then it’s common decency to do the thing that makes it easier for others. The next man in that stall may need a sit-down. It’s better for him too.

          1. Parenthetically*

            Yes, the REAL problem is women being mean to men, as you keep saying in all your comments.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          It’s so much easier to stand to pee, and faster too. I think most women if they had the choice would stand as well. Regardless, it is the generally understood standard that men stand up, so in this case, the default for the seat position is pretty obvious, and the LW is on the wrong side of the matter statistically.

          1. Cercis*

            And so much messier. The toilets get splash and get really gross really quickly. If men were to sit, the bathroom would stay cleaner (same for if women were to sit rather than that weird hover thing so many do). Pee running down the front of the toilet is almost never from women but from men dribbling and splashing, and it’s happened in every men’s room I’ve been in.

            As far as “faster, too”. Yeah, let’s go down the rabbit hole of why women are discriminated against in public restroom facilities since we have the same number of toilets for a process that inherently takes longer.

            While I don’t like the smell of urinals (I mean, do they flush, if so do men ever flush them? because they ALWAYS smell like urine) they do take a lot of this out of the equation. Just don’t put it right next to the toilet so that when you sit it’s literally right in your face.

      3. Archaeopteryx*

        Because it’s less gross to touch a seat that you just used than one that someone else did.

        1. Sign Vandal is a Jerk*

          Yep, this is exactly what I meant by that. :) It had nothing to do with the gender of the person.

  14. FabJob Tag*

    # 4 when my company is hiring for positions that involve online research, and it literally takes less than 30 seconds on our website About page to find the name of the person doing the hiring, any application letters that begin “Dear Hiring Manager” go directly into the bin.

    1. FabJob Tag*

      However, if someone submitted an application to someone who just recently left our company, that application would not be discarded.

      1. FabJob Tag*

        And I will clarify, for those who assumed it’s a “guessing game” or a “trick”, we say up front that the application is to be addressed to the hiring manager by name. If someone skims over that instruction and doesn’t take the minute it would take to actually find that person’s name on our website, it’s unlikely they will do the thorough research we require for the role. This is based on 20 years of hiring experience.

        1. Stardust*

          Well, if you’d mentioned that in your original comment people probably wouldn’t have jumped to ‘guessing game’–that’s a pretty relevant detail!

        2. pleaset*

          So this is a test. The announcement says “address the hiring manager by name” but the announcement doesn’t give the name? That’s strange, and projects an impression of lack of interest in user experience (the experience of the applicant – adding a small hurdle for them that you could easily avoid by typing it in once – as opposed to having every single applicant look it up).

          So yeah, it’s not literally a trick. It’s an unannounced test.

          1. pleaset*

            The more I think about it, the worse this sounds:

            If I read “Please address the hiring manager by name” and the name wasn’t specified, I’d think the company was either disorganized or arrogant or lazy. It’s whack. It’s a bad image.

        3. Half-Caf Latte*

          Internet stranger’s take:

          I’d still be stressed out by this, unless you also have the hiring manager’s honorifics on your website. I come from an org wherein academic titles are a Big Deal, and we also are doing work around gender identity and pronouns. I’d hate to mis-gender a hiring manager.

          I am a woman with a traditionally male first name, and I’m married but didn’t change my name. Car dealers, doctors offices, banks, schools- lots of people trying to be polite call me all sorts of variations of things that I don’t consider to be my actual name.

          1. Half-Caf Latte*

            Also, I have a terminal degree.

            Code-switching comes into play here too. I don’t expect the mechanic to call me Dr. Latte, but here at work at WeLoveTitles? You betcha.

          2. Half-Caf Latte*

            Last comment cut off – Here at WeLoveTitles, I’m Dr. Latte. If I went to work at FirstNamesRUs, I’d happily go by Half-Caf. It might be difficult to know/guess the culture of an org from a website, though.

        4. katelyn*

          How do you know who the hiring manager is though? Is it the Department head? The unit head? The managing director? The HR director? In many organizations it is unclear what is meant by “hiring manager”. It it my boss or my boss’s boss? The name on the req that we just sent to HR was my boss, but I’m going to be the supervisor for the role. Does the candidate fail if they put me and not my boss?

        5. Aussie*

          I used to do a similar thing when hiring for stressful administration roles in law firms. I would specify in the advertisement “please attach a separate cover letter and resume, both in PDF format.”

          It’s a pretty simple task, and although applicant’s that didn’t wouldn’t go straight in the bin, it certainly wasn’t a great starting point for anybody that didn’t do it.

      1. FabJob Tag*

        I agree. And we don’t do it for all our positions, just the positions in our editorial department that require excellent online research skills.

        1. Akcipitrokulo*

          Even with online research skills… so you find out who’s in charge of that department. And then make the reasonable decision not to address it to them if their name were not on the advert because that is rude.

        2. EPLawyer*

          then if you want people with excellent online research skills, don’t make them guess that is a requirement for the job to find out the hiring manager’s name. It’s a job application, not a scavenger hunt. There are other ways to find out if someone has the skills you want than expecting them to read your mind.

          1. Miss Pantalones en Fuego*

            This. I can figure out who the most likely person is much of the time, but there may be various non-obvious reasons why that person is not in fact handling the hiring for this particular position. It feels like a mind game to throw out the applications of people who decided to err on the side of caution and use a neutral greeting rather than gamble that the person listed on the website (unless it’s blatantly labelled “hiring manager: Esmerelda Jones”) is the right person to address.

            Then again I wouldn’t want to work for a company that ditches applications for this kind of trivial thing anyway.

          2. FabJob Tag*

            It’s interesting you would assume that. In fact, the job listing says to address it to the hiring manager by name.

            1. Lance*

              That’s not the point; the point is, is the manager’s role specified, or is there some degree of guessing at which titled manager will be their hiring manager?

              1. Yorick*

                That’s what I was thinking. You can find the heads of departments or whatever easily, but how would you know if the head of the department is the correct hiring manager?

              2. Commenter*

                Exactly! At my company, it’s not even clear *to employees* who the specific hiring manager is for a given job posting, since the postings generally mention the hiring department but not the specific hiring team (and there are generally many managers & teams in our departments).

                So for us even internal candidates aren’t necessarily going to know who the hiring manager is for a specific role, without asking someone on the recruiting team for that info.

              3. Jasnah*

                Yes, I wonder if by “hiring manager” they mean “HR”. That’s the only way it would be consistent for all positions.

            2. WellRed*

              Maybe your comments here aren’t as clear as you think they are? Is the hiring manager listed in the advert or not? For all the letters posted here with people asking “is this a test?” I am not surprised that a bunch of us are shaking our heads at this?

            3. General Ginger*

              So is your hiring manager always the head of the department needing the role filled? Never an HR person?

          3. Yorick*

            Yeah, if you want to know if they have excellent online research skills, just have finalists do some sort of quick task that requires online research.

    2. Observer*

      That’s all good and fine. But the OP made it clear that the hiring manager’s name was NOT on the job posting. And also, there is no indication that the position requires research of any sort.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      Unless your website specifically states “X is the hiring manager for Y position” then many candidates – including me – woildn’t address the application to them because that’s preumptious and may come across as GUMPTION!!!

      If you want someone to address a specific person, tell them that. Don’t turn hiring into some kind of weird guessing game.

        1. Candi*

          But it’s a test candidates don’t know they’re taking, which is not the same for no spelling errors, etc.

          1. CM*

            Agreed — if the ad explicitly said, “Please address your letter to the hiring manager by name. Since we are hiring for an online research job, we would like you to do online research to find out the hiring manager’s name,” that would be fine. But as others are pointing out, just saying “by name” without saying the person’s name would just result in anxiety for people who want to follow the instructions, but don’t want to overstep by searching for the person’s name. Also, candidates don’t know how your management and hiring works — I’ve interviewed for plenty of jobs where the person who is hiring is not the person who the role who will actually report to, so I wouldn’t be certain about who the company considers to be the “hiring manager.”

          2. Ross*

            There are a lot of those when you apply for jobs in my experience. Tests you don’t know you’re taking that is. You’re fine FabJob Tag.

            1. Observer*

              “If everyone were jumping off a bridge, would you?”

              That’s an annoying question, but it’s a classic for a reason. Hidden tests are NOT a good idea.

        2. ceiswyn*

          But it IS a guessing game. Candidates have to correctly guess that the hiring manager doesn’t want them to adhere to polite norms.

    4. Argon*

      What poor practice. If you want them to address it directly by name, put the name in the ad. Otherwise, this is just petty game playing and makes your company look ineffectual.

    5. Mairzy-Doats*

      I get you. When I hire for admin people with “attention to detail” I use this to weed out those who have typo-riddled resumes and cover letters. Your job is research so you want people who can think to do some! My office is heavy correspondence and other documents. I need to know I don’t have to proof every word of every document all the time.

  15. Phoenix Programmer*

    Signs tick people off. There is an entire website dedicated to mocking the passive aggressive notes people post.

    Not trying to make you feel bad op, but know that it is an ineffective tool. The poor behavior on the notes are not directed at you so don’t take it that way.

    Some examples from my office from just this year:
    Someone posted a jokey please keep me clean note on the microwave. Next day it was smeared with red sauce.
    Later someone posted a no liquids in bin sign: next day someone drew an exaggerated angry anthropomorphic cup. Few days later that sign somehow got wet so it had long oozing ink strips.
    Sometime later a sign was put up to not throw away prints. Then another sign was posted below that about keeping the pile of not tossed prints organized. Then someone posted a sign on that one to not forget to post signs when you can’t be bothered to get your own prints. That escalated a sign war which led to signs and post it’s on nearly every cube until management came and took them all down. All except the red sauce and water stained original ones anyway.

    Hopefully this just goes to show it’s really not directed at you.

    1. Mel*

      I had an office manager who put signs up for everything. Anything from, “Wash your dishes” to a sign about how the trash can lid works (no one had, had a problem working it) She was MEAN so no one ever did anything but roll their eyes behind her back.

      Until we got a new co-owner. He saw the trashcan lid sign and started putting up signs on how everything else in the office worked.

      Suddenly the signs stopped going up.

      1. WellRed*

        Greeeeeeat, a new passive aggressive co-owner to cancel out the passive aggressive office manager.

    2. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      Ha, the receptionist put a “workday starts at 10am” sign at the the door, which started a meme war.

    3. Yorick*

      I think this is different from those examples given the gender dynamic in the bathroom sign response.

  16. Grand Mouse*

    I guess I don’t understand the hatred towards signs. The worst is an eyeroll when its kinda patronizing. I don’t see signs as inherently passive aggressive either because there often would be no way to inform everyone elsewise! And obviously those signs are needed since they’re put up. I empty garbages and would be pretty annoyed at the backlash towards the “no liquids” sign. Liquids in trash are a huge problem if the back leaks, which it does easily. The reaction is pretty inconsiderate. It seems like a workplace culture problem.

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        While I don’t get irritated at signs, I find most eye rolley myself. My point is that they are generally not effective and OP should not take the backlash personally. A lot of people have knee jerk reactions to them and the culprits almost never change their behavior based on them. So why post them?

        That’s differtnet then say, more informative notes like boochie posted below. But things like: do your dishes, don’t make a mess in the microwave, pick up your trash in conference rooms, etc are going to be at best ignored and likely to escalate in most shared space situations. Best to not engage or take it personally.

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      I agree. Signs are meant to inform, there’s nothing inherently rude or passive-aggressive about them (which isn’t to say they can’t ever be).

      But yeah, the reaction to the sign is really immature and reflects poorly on the culture.

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        I think the interpretation of passive-aggressiveness comes from the fact that most signs *should be* unnecessary. As in, a bit of common sense would tell a reasonable person not to pour liquids in a bin that only has a thin liner prone to tears.
        Unfortunately, common sense is a rare commodity, and these signs become requirements. The back-lash then comes in the form of “well, if they’re going to treat us like imbeciles instead of rational adults…”
        Quite often, a passive-aggressive sign is either (depending on the point of escalation) the tip of an iceberg, or the final straw.

        1. Mystery Bookworm*

          Mmm, I can see what you’re saying there. I do think it’s a little unfortunate, because there are situations where clear signage is going to be first rationale point of recourse if people are misusing something.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Personally, I think a sign that says “please keep the microwave clean” is not passive-aggressive. Useless, but not p-a. Decorating that sign with food stains *is* p-a.

        3. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

          Meh, I think they’re a good way to communicate norms for those who don’t already know them, or to establish a standard. For example, the sign in our breakroom: turn coffee burners off if the pot is less than half full. Obviously, you shouldn’t leave the last bit of coffee to slowly evaporate off and stink up the joint with burnt coffee stench, but where is the line? There, the sign says where the line is. Simple and clear.

        4. That Girl From Quinn's House*

          If you’re customer facing, or dealing with a large number of people (like you’re the one employee tasked with making the other employees follow safety rules in the kitchen, or something), a sign is a great way to cut off arguments.

          It’s an established rule, there is a sign, there’s no room for negotiation.

    2. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

      I agree, and I’d be wary of someone overreacting to such a small thing. Oh no, you’re being asked to do something miniscule that will make life easier for other people, what a nightmare! And I can’t believe (well, I can) that people would deliberately ignore a no liquids sign and throw liquids in a bin.

      I’m with you, OP#3. These guys are jerks. Let them have their dirty bathroom, make your one at the end of the office super nice and enjoy it.

      As for respecting your work, are there any indicators they don’t? Do they talk over you, ignore your instructions, leave you out of meetings/group events, etc.? If so, those could be the things to tackle and you can see the bathroom sign as an indicator of the problem, not the cause. Sorry you’re dealing with this!

      1. Susie Q*

        Or OP could just put the seat down and then put it back up. It’ll make life easier for other people.

    3. drinking Mello Yello*

      As a waaaaaay former commenter on Passive Aggressive Notes (The blog that Phoenix Programmer was mentioning) in the early days: In the PassiveAgressiveNotes.com (RIP) context, on that blog, a sign or note was dubbed “Passive Aggressive” and got posted to the site when:

      a) Somebody decided to use a sign or note instead of confronting somebody directly (and it’s obvious they knew or could easily find out who Did The Thing the sign/note writer didn’t like).
      b) It used actual passive aggressive language.
      c) It was bizarre and ridiculous and worth sharing anyway.

      Eventually, it spread and got to the point in many people’s thinking (not just PAN commenters, but in general) that any and all signs and notes are automatically “passive aggressive” just by virtue of being in writing and not being spoken. It got to the point on the PAN website where even relatively innocuous (and uninteresting) signs/notes were dragged as “passive aggressive” because they were A Note.

      Which yeah, it’s good when you know who Did The Thing and you can go and directly ask somebody not to do that thing anymore. Direct communication is usually the ideal! Buuuuuuut like others mentioned, sometimes you need to communicate ideas to a large group of people. Signs are a perfectly valid way to do that.

      (And btw, the sign in #3 was pretty innocuous and the “stupid and lazy” vandalism it got was pretty damn assholish. I don’t know that I’d be bothered enough by seat up to post a sign, but again, the one OP3 posted was Innocuous.)

      (Innocuous is my word of the day, I guess. I’ve used it three, uh, four now, I guess, already.)

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Yes, this is what I was trying to say. The fact that it’s a sign does not make it passive-aggressive, though many people have decided to interpret it that way. The next time you complain about a sign, ask yourself if you’d prefer they called a company-wide meeting to inform everyone personally that they need to keep the microwave clean.

      2. Red 5*

        These are a good set of rules. If I knew who in my office was ignoring the basic kitchen rules (as the person who cleans our kitchen because the cleaning staff doesn’t) I would just go to them directly and ask what the heck their issue was because honestly it’s NOT THAT HARD.

        But I don’t have any clue who it is, especially since I’m fairly certain at this point there’s at least one point that is doing a few things intentionally to drive me up the wall and rebel against the extremely basic “please don’t leave your spilled food on the counter, we have a pest problem” rule.

        Sadly, signs are my only recourse for this and they don’t work because some people just hate signs. There’s no actual solution except just not having a kitchen, which I’m about two weeks from advocating for.

        1. cmcinnyc*

          After years of signs reminding people to wash their dirty dishes, the Facilities staff decided to just throw out dirty mugs, bowls, spoons, etc. If it’s in the sink when they come around, they dump the water out and trash it. No asking around “whose is this?” no warning, no “please wash your dishes.” In the trash. Result: no dirty dishes in the sink! I don’t know if people are washing them or just losing a dish a day, but Facilities made it clear you could read the sign or not, they don’t care. And bravo them.

          1. Cercis*

            The only problem with that was that I had bought some (thankfully, cheap) dishes and left in the kitchen cabinet for my use and also anyone else’s (we had space and I had permission to store them there). Over the course of about 3 weeks they all disappeared because people would use them and then leave them in the sink and someone would come in a throw them away. Now, I would have washed them had I known they were there (I would have bitched mightily, but I would have done it). But I didn’t know it was happening until they were all gone for several days in a row (I had the last lunch, so I had just assumed other people were using them for their lunch that day).

            The person throwing them away finally bragged to me (yes, literally bragged to me) that he had done it and too bad for me. Really soured my opinion of him and the culture that allowed him to think it was okay.

      3. Phoenix Programmer*

        Well we don’t know how jerky the interim agile sign was that is what got the stupid sign backlash. But yeah pretty immature.

    4. General Ginger*

      A standard “no liquids in this bin” or “turn off AC when you leave” or something like that sign wouldn’t bother me in the slightest. But the number of cutesy signs I’ve seen in office bathrooms, like “if you sprinkle when you tinkle, be a sweetie, wipe the seatie” or “please be nice, always flush twice” etc — those set my teeth on edge.

  17. Observer*

    #3- Rude signs are rude, but it’s ONE person.

    On the other hand, why on earth are you spending so much energy? I’m a woman and I’ve never understood the idea that 40 people need to something to accommodate 2, when it’s not a matter of basic accessibility. So, if it were not possible to use the bathroom that would be one thing. Or even if it were just very difficult. But that’s not the case. It’s a couple of seconds.

    1. Checkert*

      SAME. When I get frustrated about it, I realize how silly it is to expend energy on something that requires less energy to just do. My favorite is when the argument is made that the men are lazy, when it is the woman’s laziness that is ultimately the fuel for the problem.

    2. Rocky*

      Completely agree. It intrigues me that the OP thinks the vast majority of her colleagues should do this for her and the other woman on the floor. I’ve never understood a) why the lid debate is even a thing and b) why some woman seem to think the lid being down is a reflection of common courtesy or respect.

  18. Jeanne*

    OP1. You could do an analysis of your job applicants and their presentations. Do you currently score their presentations? If so, why don’t you ask managers to provide you with the names of employees who are working really well, and those who are not so great. Then look at their scores for their presentations. If there is a correlation between a high scoring presentation and a great employee, you might be on to a good thing, but if the high scoring presentations don’t actually predict high performing employees, you have evidence to support dropping this part of your interview process.

  19. soupmonger*

    #2: if the majority of ‘your’ bathroom users are men, then it’s not rude if they leave the seat up, since they are leaving the seat in the best position for the next potential user – likely a bloke. If every bloke put the seat down after use, the next man to use it has to put it up, then down again – and who wants to touch a loo seat twice if they don’t have to? lThere are bigger battles to fight than a toilet seat; this is a non-problem.

  20. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

    #1. 30-40 minutes!!? That’s a long time to talk about yourself. I could maybe do it, but I’d have to go all the way back to high school jobs in unnecessary, repetitive detail. 10-15 sounds more doable, if this was even a good idea at all.

    Granted my jobs have not been thinking work, so most of your potential employees probably have more to talk about. But any job which is mostly repeated daily tasks is not going to lend itself to this length of presentation.

    1. TechWorker*

      Totally agree. Its also long enough that I’d put it squarely in the category of things that are too onerous to expect for free and will put some job candidates off. From google 30-40min is like 5000-6000 words – that’s like a full on essay. Pretty sure most hiring managers would consider a cover letter that long inappropriate..

      1. Dan*

        Good, polished presentations that are appropriately leveled for the audience at hand are not quick and easy things to do. My personal opinion is that it takes years of experience and practice to do them efficiently; asking for a presentation for a junior level role is a big ask.

        1. Optional*

          In order to make a 30-40 minute presentation it might take me the better part of the day. Like it took at least a few hours for a simple 10-15 minutes one. I’ve never had pre-interview tasks that took more than an hour or two at most. Even research ones. They were simple enough that it didn’t take me so much time, but specific enough that the interviewers could check my skills so we have something to discuss on the interview.

      2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        Further google extrapolation tells us that 5000 words is about 10 pages single-spaced. Which is well over the 2-page CV length!

    2. Optional*

      Yep. In my life so far I’ve had 5 jobs with an employment contract (we have them in my country). I’ve also had the few odd jobs for a few days/weeks and 2-3 internships. How would I fill in 30-40 minutes is beyond me? “So when I was a hotel receptionist I would check in guests, check out guests, give information, answer question. When I was a call centre agent I would bake inbound calls, outbound calls, answer question, answer stupid questions, handle assholes” :D

      1. KRM*

        This is exactly why having everyone do one is so out of the norm! Yes for a scientist–it’s expected. Scientist level people who are job searching already have a job talk that’s 40-45′, about their research. But even for an associate level–we just hired someone who JUST graduated from college. It would have been cruel to tell him that for this job he’d have to talk for 30′ about his past work. He doesn’t have that much past work! It makes no difference to his ability to do this job! He’s working out great!

  21. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – as well as all the other points about why it isn’t appropriate to have this across the board (recognising for some roles it may be appropriate) – you are risking missing out on people you want to hire.

    People who are desperate for a job might put up with it. People who are in demand – the top candidates – will walk away. So you’ll select out many of your top candidates without interview, and whoever you do end up hiring will start off with a negative feeling towards your company.

    It’s worth reconsidering.

  22. Dan*


    I’m gonna sort of answer this question and sort of not.

    I work as an analyst in a technical field. Part computer programmer, part data analyst, part “other duties as assigned”. Just kidding about the last one. in my line of work, anybody who is the primary analyst on any sort of analytic work is going to have to present it. My role is technical, and any presentation I do is about technical material.

    Even as an experienced professional, a 30-minute (with questions!) presentation probably takes me 20 hours (if not more) to put together. I usually do a brain dump (within reason) to figure out what content I have, then I figure out what content I *need*, and then I get the draft down. My department management are hard asses (for the better) about doing practice presentations; it’s not uncommon for my presentation “editing” to take as long as the first draft. I say this because even as experienced professionals, there is an expectation in my department that you will have to practice a presentation before a small group of people who are experienced in giving feedback before giving the final presentation.

    So my first thought in response to your question is what are you really trying to assess with the presentation, is it necessary for the role, and is the presentation an effective way of doing it. I have a Masters degree (no PhD); with one exception, every job I’ve had has not made me do a presentation. One did. For my masters, I did not have a thesis requirement, so I had to prep a presentation for one job. I was fine with it, but if someone were to say, “just give me your job talk, NBD”, well, guess what, I don’t have a job talk so it’s a big deal.

    Then there’s always the issue about knowing your audience (or not). I work in a niche field; I just had to put together a conference presentation for a general audience that is way more high level than what I would ever do for my colleagues. Give the wrong presentation to the wrong audience and you’re screwed. Give a detailed presentation to people who don’t know your field, and you lose them. Give a high level presentation to people who are experienced in your field, and you leave them wondering what you actually know.

    While presentation skills are important, unless you know it’s a PhD or whatever who should have a job talk ready to go, you’re asking a lot of your applicants for something that may not even be an effective way of assessing what you want.

  23. thatgirloverthere*

    For OP3, I know this isn’t related to the question but is 3 toilets for 100 people legal? (it definitely wouldn’t be in my country). The lack of toilets is probably exacerbating the issue – maybe something to take into the overall experience working for this company?

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Mine (UK) does. I assumed most places did!


        How many toilets should a workplace have?
        The relevant legislation is the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992. Regulation 20, Sanitary conveniences, states:

        Suitable and sufficient sanitary conveniences shall be provided at readily accessible places.
        Without prejudice to the generality of paragraph (1), sanitary conveniences shall not be suitable unless –
        the rooms containing them are adequately ventilated and lit;
        they and the rooms containing them are kept in a clean and orderly condition; and
        separate rooms containing conveniences are provided for men and women except where and so far as each convenience is in a separate room the door of which is capable of being secured from inside.
        The Approved code of practice goes on to give minimum numbers of facilities:

        (The number of people at work shown in column 1 refers to the maximum number likely to be in the workplace at any one time)

        Number of toilets and washbasins for mixed use (or women only):

        Number of people at work Number of toilets Number of washbasins
        1-5 1 1
        6-25 2 2
        26-50 3 3
        51-75 4 4
        76-100 5 5
        Toilets used by men only:

        Number of men at work Number of toilets Number of urinals
        1-15 1 1
        16-30 2 1
        31-45 2 2
        46-60 3 2
        61-75 3 3
        76-90 4 3
        91-100 4 4

        1. gsa*

          Either you’re an architect or an engineer, or maybe a plumbing contractor.

          No normal person would know where to find that level of detail… :D

          I am married to an architect, and I am an engineer by degree.

          I don’t know all the details, but it is very similar in the United States. There are other contingencies, based on usage.

          For example, is there dedicated space for conference rooms that might introduce an extra 50 people into the space.

          1. LMGTFY*

            It’s the second link on Google when you search “UK toilet number requirements”. Hardly hidden arcane knowledge!

    1. Mystery Bookworm*

      Hadn’t thought of that, but OP, if you’re in the US, a quick Google search of OSHA suggests that your company needs to provide at least five bathrooms.

      1. Hekko*

        “Two of these are split by gender and one is a single occupancy gender-neutral bathroom”

        If the two split bathrooms are actually a men’s and a women’s each, shouldn’t they count as two each? That makes it five bathrooms (or at least five toilets).

        1. Darren*

          Additionally it seems to imply only the gender-neutral is single occupancy.

          I assume the rest have the required number of stalls.

    2. Lioness*

      We don’t know that it’s only 3 toilets.

      OP mentioned only one being single-occupancy. I thought since the other two weren’t gender-inclusive that they actually had multiple stalls.

    3. LGC*

      To be fair, I think it’s three bathrooms, with multiple toilets in each bathroom. Like, my building has 100-150 people in it on average (between employees, transition students, and people in job training – plus visitors), and we have four multi-occupancy bathrooms. (2 men’s rooms, 2 women’s.) I don’t enter the women’s room routinely, but each men’s room has three stalls, 3 urinals, and 3 sinks. (I think the women’s rooms have 4-5 stalls each.)

  24. Bluesboy*

    This is true, but the reason the bottom of the toilet seat gets disgusting is because people flush when it’s down and it gets splashed. So if that is the issue wouldn’t it make more sense for it to be up most of the time? If the men put it down each time before flushing, the bottom of the seat will get splashed a lot more.

    I think it would be helpful to know the text of the note. If it was courteous of a ‘would you mind…?’ kind then I would be cool – I am quite happy to put the seat down if I know it will help someone out. If it was aggressive, suggesting that the people who don’t put it down are rude then it would have annoyed me slightly (although not to the point of vandalising it).

    There are two women, and they have a bathroom just for them if I understand correctly, assuming that the OP doesn’t sit at the exact opposite end of the V shape the female bathroom can’t be more than a 30-second walk away. It seems a strange thing to get so het up about.

  25. Dan*

    #3 “And now I’m at a point where I’m walking to the other end of the office to use the restroom because I’m tired of my call for common courtesy becoming a reason to mock me.”

    So you’re walking to the other end of the office to use the restroom because you are unwilling to put the toilet seat down and expect others to do it for you? The first part is odd, the second is entitled.

    This is one of those things where you can ask a question/be aware you’re asking someone for a favor but then you have to be willing and able to take no for an answer.

    1. CupcakeCounter*

      Agreed! It is only common courtesy for the OP and the one other woman in the area. For the 40 men it is not a courtesy for them. I’m sure I’ll get blasted for this but it seems the person being sexist here is the OP. If the area was split 50/50 or predominantly female I would see her point a bit more but her request/demand for the men to put the seat down for the convenience of the 2 females just doesn’t fly.

      (I am female and live with my husband and son and the only bathroom I really use is the one in my bedroom since I can guarantee that all of the others will have the toilet seat up. NBD – I just walk down the hall and go in mine which is still up about 25% of the time since Hubs uses it as well)

      1. WellRed*

        I don’t agree with the OP here, just put the lid down, but how is the OP being sexist? The nasty sign could be construed as sexist.

        1. Kathleen_A*

          But it isn’t actually gender specific. Everybody has to sit down sometimes, right? It’s true that women sit down more often, but I don’t think the guys are standing up while they evacuate their bowels.

          1. Jack*

            Right, but we don’t see it as a huge effort to put the seat down when we need to, or for that matter to put it up when we need to. I’ve never understood why women think it is so difficult to put the seat down.

    2. Marthooh*

      But the OP is complaining about the mockery, not the toilet seat. Obviously she was using the shared toilet until someone got obnoxiously nasty about the sign.

      1. Errol*

        I was just coming to say that. It seems like she realized it is what it is until the notes started getting nasty. Someone is being very hostile about a simple request. You can ignore the sign if you don’t want to do it, it’s not really an excuse to put up “you’re stupid and lazy because you asked a very simple thing from us”.

        1. Dan*

          The sign was not a simple request. Sure, the English wording might have been, but signs are not simple requests. They are passive aggressive.

          1. Delphine*

            Of course they’re simple requests. The easiest way to get a message to a large group of people is to use a sign.

          2. Errol*

            See, I always though of signs as the least passive aggressive because it doesn’t force a reaction or confrontation. You can look at that sign and choose to ignore it instead of having someone walk up to you and say “Errol, can you please make sure the toilet seat is down” which would be SUPER weird in an office and I’m sure I’d be so startled by that I would be rude in return.

            But I guess it could be the wording. If the sign just said “please put the seat down when finished” that doesn’t seem passive aggressive at all, but if it’s a sign like “putting the toilet seat down won’t cause brain damage”* I could see that being considered aggressive.

            *I also googled “toilet seat down sign” and that was literally the first image

      2. Dan*

        Even though I quoted it, I somehow missed it. So fair enough.

        While the op is complaining about the signs, it’s stemming from a sense of entitlement that she not need to touch the seat.

        1. Eirene*

          No, it isn’t about feeling too entitled to touch the seat. It’s about the shitty response she got to a simple, manager-sanctioned sign, where she was called too stupid to work at her company for making a request. She’s one of two women, surrounded by 40 men, in a male-dominated industry. Context matters.

          1. Dan*

            Since context matters…

            OP writes this in the letter: “The problem started with a straight week where I couldn’t walk into the single occupancy bathroom without finding the toilet seat up.” There’s certainly an expectation that the toilet seat *should* be left down. Sticking up a sign to ask people at large to cater to the *desires* of two people? That’s entitlement.

            She wasn’t called too stupid for making a request, she was called dim for expecting that other people would cater to her convenience. Which is exactly what this issue is over. It’s no less of an inconvenience for OP to put the toilet seat down than it is for anyone else to do it. OP thinks that her convenience is more important than others, and on this issue, it’s simply not.

            Change the issue and take away the gender, and I think two people in an office environment asking 40 people to cater to the two people’s desires isn’t going to go over well, period.

            1. Errol*

              While I can see what you are talking about, the issue isn’t the seat anymore. The issue is the following:

              And now a new sign has been put up next to it which calls those of us who considered this an issue “lazy and stupid”: “If you’re too dim to realize it’s your problem when the seat is up, maybe you shouldn’t be working at (tech company).”

              That’s bypassed Not going Well into oddly hostile.

            2. Jasnah*

              If the response hadn’t been so clearly “Why do you expect us to cater to you, woman, you don’t even belong here”, then I would agree that yes, OP is out of line to expect people to adjust their behavior for her. So the two issues here are OP’s initial expectations, and the gendered response.

              It’s like if OP asked the whole office to change their deodorant to lavender, and a male coworker responded, “Go back to the kitchen.” The initial ask is a reach, but the response is problematic.

  26. Kathlynn (Canada)*

    For contrast LW, I would rather have the seat left up, then sit in a seat that’s wet because the guy didn’t put the seat up *or* clean it off afterwards (and since there are only 2 of on shift I know who it was). I usually check, but it’s not always that visible.

    1. Thankful for AAM*

      We have gendered toilets at my workplace. So the seat is always down but I always wipe every toilet seat before sitting. There can be not very visible liquid on the seat: left from the last person (many women seem to hover rather than sit) or water from the flush (no lids on the work toilets). I find the flushes are so splashy that spray gets on the seat.

      My point is, seats down is not always a guarantee they will be dry.

  27. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP2 – depending where you are, this may not be relevant – but you may need to report a data breach. If you are somewhere where there’s data protection legislation, your DPO needs to be all over this.

  28. Ruth (UK)*

    3. Usually in shared public (or home) loos I think toilet seat down should be the default in unisex ones (though it doesn’t especially bother me to come across it up. My workplace has mostly gender neutral toilets). However, with 40 men and only a few women as OP describes I would actually argue the default should be seat up! This would result in the fewest number of people having to alter the seat position and for the seat position having to be altered the least often overall as most of the time, people would need it up in this situation and have to put it up then down again each time. I once read somewhere about someone running the maths on this and accounted for men sometimes sitting (eg. To poo) so even when numbers were equal, seat down was better. I can’t remember the results by I think men needed to be something like 2/3rds the majority for seat up to be the least labour intensive overall. But with the gender ratio described in the post, I have to say I think there’s a strong case to argue the seat should be left up… or at least each person should be allowed to adjust it for themselves and leave it as they used it.

    In honesty, lowering or raising the seat takes about 2 seconds at most and you can wash your hands afterwards. I don’t like it in a home situation at night where you might not notice and fall through… That said, a previous living situation of mine was sharing with 10 men and 5 other women. I lived on a side of the flat with mostly men so I never insisted on toilet seat position…

    1. Hekko*

      I personally think the “least labour” option is to leave the seat where you needed it. In that case the next person needs to adjust it if – and only if – they need it in the other position. And I’m baffled by how many people think that of course men should adjust the seat for women.

      The thing that should be automatic is making sure you leave the toilet reasonably clean for someone else to use.

      1. Yorick*

        When men put the seat down, they’re not just doing it for women, they’re also doing it for men who need to poop (or the occasional man who might sit down to pee, who knows).

        Men do use the toilet with the seat down, but women never use it with the seat up. So it’s gender neutral to have the seat down.

        1. Roscoe*

          Not when there is this much of a disparity. The toilet seat is still going to be up for the VAST majority of restroom visits. No one has to prepare the toilet for the next person coming. That is some entitled thinking right there.

        2. Ruth (UK)*

          I am a cis woman and am fully capable of using a toilet with the seat up. If I’m in a rush or if it’s not very clean, I will just not fully sit when I go and not bother adjust the seat of it was left up (ok actually I’ve been known to just sit on it with no seat too, it’s just a bit precarious). Some trans women would also use it seat up so I’d disagree with the ‘women never…’ part. Regardless, I generally agree with you that least labour is normally seat down even when men slightly outnumber women because men sometimes sit and women almost always sit. But since men stand/pee more often than sit/poo, and hugely outnumber men in ops office, I think it sounds like seat up would still likely be the actual least labour intensive in this particular situation.

          However, it’s not something that I think really matters in practice. Assuming none of the employees in question have a specific disability that would make then unable to change the seat position (in which case they should have some sort of accessible toilet presumably) it still comes down to around 2 seconds’ of people’s time (if that) to adjust the seat how they want it if they wish to change it from up to down or vice versa so I think any discussion on it is fairly academic…

          As mentioned above my workplace also has unisex toilets. Women slightly outnumber men and I reckon I am about as likely to find it up as down. To be honest, I’m more irritated when I can’t find the end of the toilet roll and it’s just spinning around in the holder as I search for it…