asking junior staff to speak for their generation, doing well in panel interviews, and more

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

1. Asking junior staff to speak for their generation

Any suggestions for how to curb the need some of my colleagues have to use the “youth” in the room — be it younger staff or interns — to speak for all people of their demographic? This happened to me when I was an intern and I hated it since it felt reductive. Now that I’m further along in my career, I feel like I have a chance to make a change, but I’m not sure how to tackle it.

An example is when we’re discussing a social media campaign video as a group and a member of staff turns to the 20-something intern and asks, “What does YOUR generation think?” then laughs.

It’s pretty casual right now and limited to two particular members of the team, but still feels inappropriate. I want people to realize we respect everyone for their opinions and expertise, ones that do not rely on age or social status, and that one person’s thoughts on a matter do not scale up to represent an entire demographic. It’s infuriating and diminishes the person’s opinion to the year they were born, not experience.

Yeah, that’s annoying — and treating an entire demographic as a monolithic block is rude. That said, it’s also pretty natural for people to see “youth culture” as something they no longer understand or relate, and to be curious for the young people they do know to explain aspects of it to them. In other words, you may not be able to shut it down in every situation, but you can try.

One way to do it: The next time it happens, you could jump in and say, “I don’t think any of us can speak for our entire generation, but I’m interested in hearing Jane’s take as just herself.”

If someone is a repeat offender and you have the standing to speak to them about it privately, you could do that too — something like, “I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by it, but when you ask our younger staffers to speak for their whole generation, it puts the focus on their age in a way we wouldn’t do with people who were older. It used to make me really uncomfortable when I was younger and people would do that. It’s great that we’re asking for their input but I think they’d feel more respected if it we didn’t tie it to their age.”

2. I keep ending up involved in things that I wanted to hand off

I’m noticing a trend in my professional life and am wondering if I’m at fault for letting myself end up in these situations. I constantly feel like I end up in the middle of things. I mean, I seem to be in situations where I find an issue at work so I try to bring it to the correct authority, but instead of being able to remove myself from the rest of the scenario, I get roped in. This seems to happen all the time, and I don’t know if I am not good enough about making a clear hand-off or if I am unintentionally keeping myself in the middle because I’m trying to be part of the solution instead of butting out and letting those who really need to be involved take it over.

This may seem like a small example but it feels like a good representation of how it goes: There is a fun run coming up in the city I live and work in. The company I work for would benefit from providing flyers to the organizer of the race because we’re having a similar fundraiser this fall (when I will be out on maternity leave). I know the organizer of the upcoming event, so I ended up pinging between him and the person at my company who is handling our fun run to organize getting flyers and water bottles donated to the event. In retrospect, I wish I had just given my coworker the contact information for the race organizer and stepped away from the situation, but I didn’t.

I think sometimes I feel like I have to stay involved like that because it feels like I’m just unloading an issue onto someone like hot potato if I don’t — but it also feels equally like I’m muddying the water by staying involved.

Is there sample language on how to bring an issue to someone’s attention and make it clear that I don’t plan to continue following up unless that’s required of me? I want to make sure I stay involved if that’s necessary or the expectation, but also to not give mixed signals that I want to stay in the middle – because I definitely do not.

The words you want are “I’ll let you take it from here!” and variations on that. Examples:

* “Jane, I’m connecting you with Cressida Mulberry, cc’d here. Cressida is organizing the county fun run and is the person to talk with about getting our flyers at the event. I’ll let the two of you take it from here!”

* “Cressida, you’d mentioned you might be interested in talking with Jane Smith in Llama Services. Here’s the note she sent me and I’ll let you decide what, if anything, to do with it from here!”

* “In case it’s helpful, I’m sending along the notes I took when I talked with the llama policing program last year. I’ll let you take it from here if you decide it’s something you want to follow up on.”

* “Here’s the contact info for the person who contacted us about providing free llama saddles for the summer picnic. I’ll let you take it from here.”

3. Coworkers are planning a weekend bridal shower for me and I don’t want to go

I have a (good) problem in that my coworkers are friendly and generous. I’m getting married in the fall, and my coworkers apparently decided amongst themselves to throw me a bridal shower.

The problem:
1) I do not consider these coworkers to be my friends outside of work. That wouldn’t be a huge issue if this was a bridal shower held during lunch or happy hour BUT
2) It’s being held in a different town at a coworker’s house.
3) I don’t have a car because i live in the city, and it’s going to be a two-hour round trip for me ON A SATURDAY to go to a bridal shower in the suburbs that I never asked for.
4) None of these coworkers have been invited to the wedding, and I am happy to chat about my wedding at work as part of small talk, but I am not really interested in having my coworkers be part of any of the wedding or pre-wedding activities.
5) They’re both very conservative and religious, which is fine! But my idea of fun outside of work (pub crawl, bawdy jokes, team sports etc) does not align with theirs — sitting around, eating cake and making small talk about our families.
6) They’ve all asked their work friends to attend, but not my work friends. There’s a huge generational divide here.

How can I politely bow out of this without burning a bridge? My weekends are precious to me and I also want to set a clearer boundary that I do not want or expect coworker involvement in my wedding or wedding planning. These coworkers are all my peers, not managers.

You can get out of this — just do it quickly before the planning goes any further! You can say, “It’s so kind of you to offer to do this, and I’m really grateful. My weekends are bananas right now, so doing it on a Saturday won’t work — would you be up for doing it during lunch one workday instead?”

If you don’t want to offer up that alternative, you could instead say, “It’s kind of you to offer to do this! But I think I’d rather not have a work shower — the rest of my life is so full of wedding stuff right now that’s it’s a relief to keep work more of a wedding-free zone. Still, though, it was so lovely of you to think of it — thank you for making the offer!”

4. Can I talk with my husband’s boss about how his job is affecting his health?

I am extremely worried about my husband. He is diabetic and has had two heart attacks in the past year. He called me today almost crying from work because he is so stressed out at his job. I don’t know if I should get involved and talk to his boss. His boss knows the situation about his health but obviously does not care. My husband has spoken to him several times but to no avail. I am very concerned that my husband will have another heart attack or that his health will get worse. What can I do for him? Can I speak with his boss when it is affecting his health?

I’m sorry, this must be incredibly upsetting. Unfortunately, though, you can’t talk with your spouse’s boss about this type of issue. But that doesn’t mean there’s nothing you can do here! While you don’t have standing to talk with the boss directly, you very much have standing to talk with your husband about how to approach this, your concerns, and whether he needs to leave the job. From there, though, he needs to be the one to talk with his boss.

5. How can I do well in panel interviews?

A few months ago, I applied for a job and thanks to your amazing resume and cover letter advice, I got an interview. I wanted to do well for this interview, so I researched the organization, wrote out answers, practiced saying them out loud, etc. I felt very prepared for it. When it was time for the interview, it turned out to be a panel interview with four people from the department. They each had questions to ask from a sheet of paper and they asked 2-3 questions each. I did my best to answer them, however, I was not prepared for interviewing with four people at once. I wasn’t sure who to look at while answering the questions and I definitely stumbled over my words more than I normally do while interviewing. I have had interviews in the past where I interviewed with multiple people, but they were all one-on-ones.

I did not get the job, but I know that I did not do the best interview that I could have done. I am getting back into the job search now and I was wondering if you have any advice for panel interviews specifically?

Treat it the way you would a business meeting with a group of people. The more you see it as a panel of interrogators, the more nerve-wracking it will be.

Introduce yourself to everyone, and thank everyone at the end. When you’re speaking, start off making eye contact with the person who asked you a question, but over the course of the conversation, make sure you’re making more or less equal eye contact with everyone, even people who aren’t speaking as much. Treat everyone with the same amount of respect; don’t disregard someone who seems more junior or less involved (their opinion may carry more weight than you know — and even if it doesn’t, your treatment of her might).

Also, when you’re setting up an interview, it’s fine to ask, “Can you tell me who I’ll be interviewing with?” That way you’re less likely to be blindsided if you walk in expecting one person and it turns out to be a panel. (Plus that way you can learn a little about their roles and backgrounds beforehand, which can help you feel more prepared.)

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 494 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#1, I rarely suggest this, but if the worst offenders keep going, it may be worth analogizing. For example, “Of course, we wouldn’t ask women in our organization to speak on behalf of their gender. Similarly, asking younger staff or interns to speak on behalf of their generation moves the focus from their input to their age.”

    Of course, this suggestion assumes that folks in your office are not currently asking women to speak on behalf of their gender.

    1. StaceyIzMe*

      Your suggestion makes sense! Evil me would be tempted to play the part somewhat broadly in a case where I’ve been asked to speak for a whole demographic. It might be fun to see how far you could go in holding forth on the details of your reaction before the humor wore a bit thin. If not done with too heavy a hand, the irony could be entertaining.

    2. Alphabet Pony*

      Another tack is to try making a joke of it.

      “Speak for a whole generation? No pressure or anything! Hey Jane, feel free to just give your own opinion instead…”

    3. government worker*

      Eh, Alison already said this: “If someone is a repeat offender and you have the standing to speak to them about it privately, you could do that too — something like, “I’m sure you didn’t mean anything by it, but when you ask our younger staffers to speak for their whole generation, it puts the focus on their age in a way we wouldn’t do with people who were older.”

      Personally, I don’t love that advice either but you’re just reciting the advice as given above

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I read it as a different suggestion than the one I made — it’s a comparison to gender, which may get the point across in a different way.

        1. ToS*

          There is often a way to re-orient the conversation to why the connection is being made. The younger person might be Really Really Good at some aspect of social media, or is a digital native, meaning they have lots of consistent experience with the platform, whatever that is, making a knowledge, skills, ability connection, boosting the younger employee. Focusing on demographic information is misguided. For all we know, the younger employee could have been in an off-the-grid community and had their first computer-based technology at college. (Why yes, I read Tara Westover’s Educated)

          1. JessaB*

            Ooh another book rec from the AAM commentariat. Thank you, I just put it on my Amazon list.

            I know that at times of the year Alison puts out reading lists of her weekend advisory what she’s reading now. Is there a list of the how to, personal relationship, business advice, etc. books recommended here?

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I’m really not repeating her advice. Is this a new thing?

        I agreed with her script, and I’m offering options to help build on it if OP isn’t able to make enough headway with Alison’s script. I’m analogizing to an issue that’s more likely to strike people as obviously wrong. For whatever reason, people are much more comfortable making generalizations about age groups or to rely on generational stereotypes. Sometimes folks are aware that they shouldn’t do this under ADEA. But even if they know they shouldn’t do it for older generations, they still think it’s fine to draw those generalizations for younger folks. The purpose of analogizing it is to help them understand why what they’re doing is inappropriate, and to help them understand the “focus on their age” part by redirecting the conversation to individualized input as opposed to drawing a younger/older dichotomy. That’s a related but different approach than identifying and redirecting ageism, which is the focus of Alison’s approach.

        1. Anon for this*

          Frankly, I find the comments section to be pretty full of Alison-parrots, so I tend to comment only when I disagree.

          1. Observer*

            That’s a pretty rude characterization. In any case, that is certainly not the case with PCBH – her comment agreed with Alison in general, but then went further and added some different ways to approach it. Why the derisive response?

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Actually I think saying “women” instead of “older” might be kind of an a ha moment because right now they aren’t thinking anything is off with the age thing. Bring in gender and people might pay more attention to how inappropriate it is.

        1. TechWorker*

          Yeah although I really do think there’s a lot of male dominated industries where asking the woman in the room to speak for all women would also not be seen as particularly bad…

          1. Liane*

            Then all the more reason to compare it to asking a woman to speak for All Women, in an “Of course, everyone knows how wrong *that* would be” tone.

          2. Observer*

            I think you could really use this approach for almost any demographic. But I would venture to say that if someone did push back with the claim that you actually CAN ask A woman to speak for WOMEN, you could turn it around and say something like “Oh, do you mean Joe in shipping can talk for you? No? But can’t ANY man talk for ALL MEN? No? Then why would you expect any ONE woman to talk for ALL WOMEN?”

            Anyone who would push back in the fist place is going sputter and bluster, but I think it would keep a repeat from happening.

          3. TootsNYC*

            and in fact, there are times when women as a group are aware of things men as a group might not be. There -are- trends along gender lines. Some of it’s biology (female anatomy is something women are more likely to be aware of), sometimes it’s societal (there are detective stories where male sleuths ignore clues that a woman who’s run a household spot–fiction, yes, but that can happen). Look at the “designed for men” stories that have arisen lately.

            Of course those are TRENDS.

            The secret is to say, “Are there any gender-related things we ought to be aware of here?” and leave it up to individuals to say (because my brother would absolutely say, “you need room in the bathroom for women to discard menstrual supplies”).

            Instead of turning to one person and saying, “You’re a woman–what do women think?” Because there are some cohort differences in experience, knowledge, and perspective among women (childless, married, income, prevalence of female/male friendships, depth of sexual experience, etc.).

    4. ceiswyn*

      “Of course, we wouldn’t ask women in our organization to speak on behalf of their gender”

      …assuming the person involved actually wouldn’t. Too many still would/do.

      1. The Original K.*

        I’ve been asked to speak on behalf of my gender and race plenty of times. My default response is “I wouldn’t presume to speak for all women/Black people, but my personal take is …”

          1. The Original K.*

            Happens all the time, since my teens (I’m a millennial on the older end of the generation). I don’t get asked to speak for my generation because I tend not to be the only member of my generation in a room, but I’ve been the only Black person and the only woman many times.

    5. Asenath*

      But assuming that the person leading the discussion does want to get an opinion from a wide variety of people, how is this accomplished? By asking Jane, but not admitting publicly that they’re doing so because she’s 25 and the average age of the committee members is 55, or that it’s because she’s a woman and the other 10 committee members are men? Sometimes, particularly when the committee is aware that they haven’t reached some groups very well, they’re going to be trying to fix this by getting information from anyone who is or who appears to be a member of said groups, or at least claims some familiarity with them.

      1. KRM*

        Don’t say “what does YOUR generation think” when you ask the person of said generation. Just say “Jane, I’d love to hear what you have to say.”

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yes! It’s great to ask people of whatever demographic you feel like you’re not reaching for input, but not in a way that makes it sound like you think they’re a hivemind.

          1. ClashRunner*

            Well said. Millennials are poised to pass Boomers this year as the largest living cohort…we’re already the largest segment of the labor force. Our generation spans 15-20 years, depending on your definition–there’s no way I, an older millennial from the Midwest, can assume that I have the same perspective and opinion as a New Yorker born in 1998.

            When this question pops up at work I generally preface my thoughts with “Well, of course I don’t know about the other 73 million of us, but as for ClashRunner, [blah blah blah”.

            1. Jadelyn*

              Oh, I like that response. I’m the youngest on my team by a fair bit – I’m 33, the next-closest in age is early 40s – and I definitely get the “isn’t this a Millennials thing?” more often than I’d like. I’ve been tempted to fire back with “I don’t know, is demanding someone answer for Youngsters These Days a Baby Boomer thing?” but have managed to bite my tongue thus far. It would be nice to have a polite yet mildly pointed way of saying “I’m not the Voice of the Millennials, stop acting like I am.”

        2. Allison*

          I like this. I appreciate being asked for MY perspective, not my entire generation’s viewpoint.

      2. TootsNYC*

        I wonder if you can say, “Jane, do you have any window on how this is perceived among people closer to your age? You’re probably in a better spot to come across that organically than I am.”

        So Jane can say, “No, I really don’t.”

        But the real problem is just lumping any one generation together in the first place.

        “Millennials” is an age group, but lots of the times what people mean when they say it is “white urban-ish middle-class people of that age.”

        I have nieces who grew up lower-middle-class; not quite poverty level, but definitely not as well-off as my kids. They are very different people than my kids. And the kids I know who grow up in small towns or rural area are also very different, in terms of employment patterns, etc.

    6. Anon for this*

      I think you (and Alison, and OP) seem to be misunderstanding a fundamental part of marketing/advertising/media – targeting by demographic. It’s clunky, yes, but that is how campaigns work – targeting people by age, gender, economic status, geographic region… It’s absolutely appropriate and necessary to get the opinions of people within that demographic and soliciting their opinion specifically as part of that demo. If a campaign were being targeted toward women, you bet we lean heavily on the opinions of the women in the room, and we will call on the women in the room to speak up. Another issue is that the juniors in the room tend to be more timid about speaking up, and it really is important to get their opinions. Yes the colleague is specifically calling out their age, but I wonder if that’s just a clunky way of getting them to talk, and I guarantee that when ANYONE in the room is giving an opinion, it is being wordlessly noted by everyone else as “opinion of white upper middle class baby boomer woman” etc.

      1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

        I think you’re missing the part of how the question is being worded in the meeting.

        In marketing, of course we need to sample the relevant demos, keyword being “sample”. Sampling is not expecting one person to speak for an entire demo, like asking your black friend what all black people think.

      2. Project Manager*

        >>I guarantee that when ANYONE in the room is giving an opinion, it is being wordlessly noted by everyone else as “opinion of white upper middle class baby boomer woman” etc.

        Wow. I… Wow. I just don’t even know how to respond to that. Personally, I’d actually choose to *never* give my opinion if I knew it was always being received that way instead of as *my opinion* as an individual. (In fact, I started to give a further opinion in this comment but deleted it for that reason.)

        Thank you for the window into how a profession very different from mine sees things! I am definitely going to stick with engineering.

        1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

          Don’t read too much into that. That’s a comment from one marketer, sample of one. I’m also a marketer. ;)

        2. JSPA*

          Add the article “a.” Opinion of a [person of particular demographic]. Honestly, we can’t keep insisting that companies benefit from the diverse viewpoint of people of DIVERSE BACKGROUNDS, on boards, panels and in their workforce, and then expect them to not include that in their awareness and calculus. We CAN expect them to not be explicit and awkward about it (and ideally, to make sure that their thinking always includes the “a,” and that for common categories, they employ and listen to more than one of each, and that they don’t substitute internal chat for external polling when polling is needed).

          1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

            Sure. But identifying someone by only one marker is not only statistically bad, it’s insulting. (which is not me saying that *at* you, it’s me engaging you in conversation)

            Turning to one hypothetically white, middle class, east coast city dwelling 20 year old intern, and asking her what her generation thinks, hasn’t given you a hella amount of actionable info, AND it has made her feel the value in her opinion is in her birth year only. It’s lose/lose.

            OTOH, just asking her her opinion gives you A voice that isn’t otherwise represented, without fooling yourself into thinking you have heard from a wide spectrum of voices.

            1. JSPA*

              Oh, the phrasing of the question is gross! Knowing, or even suspecting that you’re being asked ONLY because of your age or because everyone else there has testes is a huge negation of being a person rather than a statistic.

              And the “single data point” is deeply problematic (though one person can of course report on more than their own experience). If rooms reflected humanity better, you’d have multiple, possibly dissenting voices from the group “has ovaries,” “young,” “old,” “grew up without any money to spare,” etc etc so that unanimity would be far more useful and convincing.

              But (when relevant to the question) it’s actually possible to be listened to both as a human being, and as a human being who has lived life with ovaries, has never known a world without streaming video, is dating as a gay man in the PrEP era, etc. If you want to encourage people to bring in insights that their life may afford them, that yours may not, there are so many good ways to invite that. “It’s possible, it’s likely in fact, that we’re missing important pieces of the puzzle. Does anyone feel like this issue plays out differently in specific niches that we need to consider?”

              If someone tosses something out, it’s fair game to say, “is that a complete hypothetical, or is this something people are talking about and experiencing?” That avoids, “tell us embarrassing personal details” or “let us assume we get to treat you as our oracle into the college age mindset” but lets someone say, “My friends only used Facebook to keep up with the one grandparent who didn’t use WhatsApp, but now that they’re merging and they both suck, people mostly just went back to texting” [or whatever].

              Listening to a piece on NPR the other day about the first tampons in China (and how hard it was for the all male team in charge of starting tampon sales there, with no female input), having some people to provide minimal “what life’s like, female views” isn’t such a bad thing. I wish there were more childbearing age, menopausal and post-menopausal people who grew up with ovaries in the room when everything from childcare to cancer screening and support to healthy snacks to the use of personal fans on one’s desk were being discussed. Not because they can speak for everyone, but because there’s at least a snowball’s chance that they’ll bring up some suggestions that should go on the survey that otherwise offers ‘beer fridge vs foosball vs nerf gun assassin games” as work benefits.

          2. Project Manager*

            It’s still not okay even with the “a”. I’m an individual, not an avatar of a demographic. Also, a lot of the assumptions people make about my demographics based on my appearance are wrong. (At least, this is true for the assumptions that are shared with me. I suppose the people who keep their assumptions to themselves might have a higher accuracy rate.)

            As an engineer, I have not noticed a strong correlation between engineering skills/experience and demographics. So yes, I believe, and have frequently observed in my professional life, that different backgrounds are highly valuable when solving complex problems – but using people’s demographics to determine their background isn’t likely to get you the variety of education, skills, and problem solving approaches you need. There isn’t a shortcut to actually getting to know the engineers and using that knowledge to build your team.

            The smallest minority is the individual.

            1. Wakeens Teapots LTD*

              If you get a chance, catch Tina Fey’s episode of David Letterman on Netflix. Her examples of how involving women in the writing room at SNL changed outcome are inspiring.

              On its best day, considering demos means that previously ignored voices are heard from and things change for the better for the whole. It’s additive, not reductive.

            2. Emily K*

              I think the difference there is between an engineering problem and a messaging problem.

              I work in cause marketing, and we absolutely require on feedback from staff whose demographic differs from the project creators. It’s not “speak for your generation,” mind you, but it’s, “what are you hearing and seeing on social media from people your age? is this kind of video popular? is this idea catching? do you think this message will resonate?” The idea is that we are specifically not asking for Young Jane’s singular personal opinion – people are quirky and Jane’s personal taste isn’t that relevant or important. But we’ll ask her if she can give an objective assessment of what she sees in a community we don’t have access to ourselves. If Young Jane is in the marketing department, then being able to observe trends and “keep her finger on the pulse” even when it’s distinct from her own opinion is an important skill to develop.

              1. Emily K*

                That should be, “rely on feedback.” Must drink more coffee before submitting comments.

              2. AvonLady Barksdale*

                Yup, agreed. I work in brand research and I used to work for a large, youth-centered brand, as part of their sales department. I would take my research out to clients and would sometimes start discussions with the junior members of their teams– does this make sense to you, does this resonate with you, do you know people like this, etc. It was especially great when an intern challenged me and we would start a discussion about individuals versus generalities. I think I even got a few people interested in research after those discussions. The one time I felt really bad was when I called out the most junior member of a client team and said something like, “Tell me, Lucinda, do YOU have a side hustle?” and then I immediately felt really bad, even though yeah, she did and she was kind of happy for the chance to talk about it.

                But in discussions/meetings like these, I think it’s really important to make sure you’re talking TO the people in the room, not just ABOUT them. I sometimes find myself as the only woman in a discussion about something specifically targeted towards women, and it’s really frustrating to hear all of these middle-aged white dudes talking about what my peers and I like without even thinking to ask me. My boss tells me to speak up more, but since I’m usually on the phone and he’s in person, it’s not that easy. I would very much appreciate it if he said, “You know, AvonLady’s on the phone and she is ACTUALLY a woman, so I want to hear what she thinks.”

                All in the approach, as with many things like this.

                1. RUKiddingMe*

                  “I would very much appreciate it if he said, “You know, AvonLady’s on the phone and she is ACTUALLY a woman, so I want to hear what she thinks.”

                  Can you tell him this? Just like this?

              3. Yvette*

                But from the way the letter was worded, this does not sound like a genuine, albeit clumsy, desire for feedback from a demographic.
                “An example is when we’re discussing a social media campaign video as
                a group and a member of staff turns to the 20-something intern and asks,
                “What does YOUR generation think?” then laughs.”
                It is the laugh that to me puts it in condescending/patronizing territory.

                1. Emily K*

                  It’s always hard for me to interpret laughter in a business context, since laughter can be such an ambiguous thing and we’re getting these secondhand descriptions. Maybe the guy was laughing at her for…being young? Or maybe he was laughing at himself for having become so old that he has to ask a young person about the youths of today? I tend to think that with someone who laughs derisively or in an insulting manner at a colleague, that’s usually not going to be the only rude thing they’re doing in the workplace, so if the person isn’t being rude or insulting in other ways, I would probably lean away from that as the interpretation of the laughter, but if they’re otherwise a jerk I’d lean towards it.

              4. Kate the Great*

                Of course. Whether you’re talking about age, race, sexual orientation, being married/single/divorced, having/not having kids – it would be a waste to have these people in your organization or even on your team and not ask for their feedback. If not personal feedback, their perception as a member of that group of how others in that group would react to whatever’s being discussed.

          3. Genny*

            Agreed. The value in diversity and inclusion is hearing viewpoints you might otherwise not hear and tapping into experiences/information/perspectives the group might otherwise lack or overlook. Some of this will be based on external markers like race, gender, or age, but that’s not the limit of diversity.

            The key though is to avoid making someone the token fill-in-the-blank, which is what happens when you ask someone to speak on behalf of their demographic. It’s good to invite people to share their thoughts, especially when you have a demographic that tends to be marginalized, but you can’t designate them the spokesperson for fill-in-the-blanks. It’s patronizing at best and reeks of the “my one Black friend” trope.

            1. Mazzy*

              Yes. That’s what market research is, otherwise you’ll have 30 year olds researching wrinkle cream etc. I’m not getting the responses here that any demographic factor should ever be included. Of course they should, especially age. Buying habits definitely follow a trend over ones lifetime. That being said, I wouldn’t ask someone to speak for a generation. While I see shifts between, let’s say, a 50s kid vs a 90s kid, I’m not going to delude myself that people born 5 or 10 years apart have completely different lives beyond growing up with different pop culture and current events. I think late boomers – genx – millennials have a lot more in common than they like to admit and so I think it’s patronizing to talk down to a 20 something as if they grew up in a completely different historic era under different mores and values, since it’s just not true. Many of my friends try to cling to some identity as a “genxer” and equate to positive attributes such as independence and resilience, but I think that they’re deluding themselves thinking that only people born in the 70s have those qualities that don’t really depend on age.

      3. Observer*

        Actually, competent marketers would never do this. For one thing, they would do a WHOLE lot more segmenting – as you yourself note there is a lot more to demographics than any ONE factor, be it age, gender ethnicity etc. Secondly, you NEVER ask ONE person as the avatar of their demographic. ESPECIALLY when you are looking at ONE factor (in this case, age).

        My 21 YO son might give you some insight into the thinking of young, unmarried Chassidic men, but you might as well be speaking to a Martian for all the insight you are going to get into the thinking of a 21YO black young man in Wise County (economically depressed epicenter of the opioid epidemic) or a 21 young woman in Beverly Hills, etc.

        In short asking ONE person “tell us what you think so that we understand what young / old / black / female / immigrant people thing” is not just uncomfortable for the person being asked, it’s stupid, sloppy and lazy.

      4. ket*

        I thought in advertising there were trends to use, like, data and information to form these campaigns. For instance, using the observed behavior of thousands of Asian-American millennial houseplant lovers from the Midwest or whatever. I thought that people were paid to research this and know things. I’m really suspicious of any company that puts their gourmet food delivery service marketing budget entirely on the words of Fergusina who is a 22-year-old Indycar enthusiast who doesn’t know what Snapchat is.

        To anyone reading who is at a company that makes their marketing decisions by asking the one (x) person what all (x) people think, please, know there are better ways to do this! You want to know about averages and long tails. Surveys, click data, and all sorts of digital information can be used! Get the insights of people outside the room as well. Solicit Tania’s opinion on (y) because she’s an amazing marketer who delivers clever tag lines, not because her secondary sex characteristics, age, and skin color give her magical powers. And if you’re going to make Ellen the spokesperson for All The Youngs, make it her job, not a random “oh you can speak for all with no prep, right?”.

        1. TL -*

          I think it’s meant here as more of a preliminary thing. If I’m interested in pushing a QR code for my event, for example, a quick, informal conversation with an American millennial would most likely give me, “I know what they are but nobody uses them.” Which is valuable information and might make me decide not to pursue research into QR codes.

          If, on the other hand, I want to know whether it’s worth it to use audio on FB videos aimed at millennials, that’s a problem I probably want to approach more formally from the start, with market research, ect…

    7. CanCan*

      I know the OP is not the one being asked to represent the younger generation, but the person being asked could reply with something like: “I can’t speak for an entire generation, but I personally think …” or “I don’t know what my generation thinks, but here’s my opinion…”

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        It’s great advice for anyone, especially people newer to the workforce, to learn to stick up for themselves and redirect uncomfortable comments/questions professionally. I really appreciate, though, that the OP (who isn’t [currently] personally affected) wants to put the burden where it should be: making leadership responsible for not making people uncomfortable.

      1. JSPA*

        Or they realize that it’s landing oddly, or could land oddly? Let they who have not laughed in a moment of mild awkwardness, cast the first stone.

  2. government worker*

    Panel interview LW: Alison’s advice is spot on. I recently interviewed for a promotion with a panel and got some tips from the inside, which essentially amounted to: make eye contact with everyone involved, greet everyone individually and don’t act weird if they’re not reacting to you (they can’t). Good luck!

    1. Alphabet Pony*

      Yep, this is spot on. Also, the panel will get that it’s a bit weird for you and you can’t look at all of them at once.

      1. TootsNYC*

        Just be sure you look at them equally. My pastor tends to look ONLY at the right side of the church during the sermon–I watched carefully one Sunday and he literally never looked at the section right in front of him.

        So spread it around, and be a little conscious of any hidden bias about not looking at women or younger people (not saying you would–but it’s often one of those things we don’t realize we’re doing–my husband did that once, and I couldn’t figure out a way to point it out to him in the moment; when I told him after, he was MORTIFIED).

        1. AnnaBananna*

          Caveat: When beginning to respond to each person’s questions, make sure to start with the person who asked the question. Otherwise it looks like you’re ‘performing’.

          — Person giving and receiving panel interviews for last ten years

    2. Nikara*

      All of my recent job interviews have been panels (super common in government jobs). I always try to mainly direct my answer to the person asking the specific question, but make eye contact with everyone throughout. They’ve generally warned me at the start that I won’t get a lot of eye contact from people during the interview, because they are expected to write lots of notes. Say hi and bye to everyone. And try hard not to feel like they are interrogating you! This is pretty typical. Maybe get a few friends to practice with, so it feels less intimidating. (Note- how routine a panel interview is may vary greatly by field- ask others who have interviewed recently in your field about the norm).

      1. Thankful for AAM*

        Nikara’s point about the notetaking is important! At my last govt interview, I spoke to the tops of people’s heads when I spoke. Someone asked a question and as soon as I started speaking, they all looked down and started avidly taking notes. I’m short and never see the tops of ppl’s heads; I saw lots of the parts in ppl’s hair that day!

        I work for a govt and have interviewed 3 times for each promotion (thats another thing, you have a panel interview for each position/promotion!). So by my 3rd interview, I thought I was pretty familiar with our processes and I am pretty comfortable in interviews generally. But looking at the tops of all their heads made for a strange and uncomfortable interview even though I knew them all!

      2. Blue*

        The point about interviewers taking notes can be a big one. I’m in a field where panel interviews are the norm, as are strict HR rules regarding the questions you ask and the notes you take. As a result, it’s very common for there to be brief pauses between questions as people finish their notes.

        Don’t let that throw you – a lot of candidates get nervous (even though it’s brief, it feels long when you’re in the hot seat) and feel the need to fill the silence and begin to ramble even though they’ve already concluded their response. Resist the urge!

        1. Smithy*

          Where I work panel interview are very common but not so much on HR rules. In its own way, that also leads to a similar kind of behavior. Some people are inclined to plan questions ahead of time, others off the cuff – but because you don’t know what the other people on the panel will say – you often need to write even more notes.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I do want to note, just so no one gets the wrong impression, that a panel interview doesn’t inherently equal “can’t ask follow up questions or react to what you’re saying.” You typically see that in govt and academia, but lots of employers outside those sectors use panel interviews and don’t have those restrictions.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            This. I have panel interviews in the private sector, at non-profits, as well as in government and academia. Even within government and academia, the “no follow-up questions or reactions” thing isn’t a universal feature of panel interviews.

    3. Avasarala*

      Panel interviews are really common where I am and I don’t think they’re any more difficult than having rounds of interviews back-to-back. Instead of having to answer the same questions over and over, you get the “hot seat” pressure. I think a lot of it is that psychological feeling of being interrogated, so maybe you can turn it around in your head to a different situation where one person might address a group–a presentation, a moderator, a judge, a debriefing, a stand-up routine, whatever gives you confidence!

    4. Wendy Darling*

      I’ve done one panel interview at a community college and no one warned me that the interviewers weren’t supposed to react to what I was saying, so I went in expecting a regular private sector one-on-one interview and instead got five people who, in their efforts to not react to me, just looked extremely sternly at me for a full hour while I struggled to figure out whether they understood any of the technical things I was trying to explain or not.

      I didn’t find out that was intentional until months later I was telling a friend who’d worked in the public sector about my bizarro experience and she explained. I’m really dependent on people’s facial expressions to tell if I’m pitching my explanations at the right level so I was a MESS. (As a bonus it turned out the job description had been overly vague and I was WILDLY unqualified for the job so I assumed they’d been glaring at me because they were peeved that they got stuck wasting their time interviewing me!)

      1. Hapless Bureaucrat*

        I’ve worked in government nearly my entire career and yet was thrown by a panel that was doing the rigid try-not-to- react thing. Their hiring culture was more strict about it than mine had been.

        At least, they were at the time. I got the job and have hired others here, and we’ve loosened up on our reactions a fair amount. Turns out it was less HR’s rules and more the new hiring manager’s interpretation of HR’s rules.

        1. AnnaBananna*

          The not reacting thing is really stupid. What is the point of having a human in the seat if they’re just going to act like a robot, you know? And I get that each candidate needs to be asked the exact same question so it’s easier to rate the candidates against each other, but I’ve had panels that wouldn’t even clarify the question when it was overly vague. Seriously, what is the point of the humans then?

    5. AnotherSarah*

      Yes! I think the situation the LW described is actually very good–each interviewer asked questions. I have heard of panel interviews where only one person asked the questions (or asked the majority of them), and then it was especially tricky to address everyone and treat them equally. But if each person is asking a few questions, it also tells you something (good, imo) about the way things work in the org/department/etc. They coordinated and have a real process, and possibly also a commitment to equity. (Not guaranteed but but this style of interviewing strikes me as a good sign.)

    6. TiredScientist*

      I like to include at least one small panel when I’m evaluating a candidate for my group. In the past, we’ve screened out candidates who didn’t ever look at the junior team members (who they would be managing!). One particularly egregious example was the candidate who, in a small panel of a senior woman and junior man, addressed all his answers to the man, regardless of who was asking the question.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I’ve seen people describe that same situation so many times in the AAM comments. It’s discouraging that there are so many of That Guy out there. :-/

        1. TootsNYC*

          it can be so unconscious! It can also be influenced by the demeanor of the other people; men often carry themselves in a more assertively authoritative way, and women are more matter-of-fact, and even sometimes socialized to blend in.

          That’s what happened to my husband once in a joint conversation; the most important person was the woman, but the guy started the conversation, and he leaned forward while the woman sat upright, and my husband just kept going with talking to the guy. I couldn’t figure out how to warn him in the moment. When I told him afterward, he was MORTIFIED.

          So if you’re the interviewee, you need to be alert to that process.

          1. AnnaBananna*

            Yah but I wouldn’t really call that a gendered bias. We still rely on non verbal communication to get our cues, and if the woman was just standing there and not appearing as though she was interested, I can totally see why your husband was more engaged with the man. I probably would’ve been also.

    7. Booksalot*

      I’ve tried to practice this, and been told I look like a deer about to be run over, all wild eyes rolling around. In my head I picture it like Ross Gellar in the coffee shop, glaring like a serial killer while narrating his soil sediment university lecture.

    8. (Former) HR Expat*

      Eye contact with everyone is important! I can’t tell you the number of times candidates haven’t made eye contact with me, even when I’m the one asking the majority of the questions (I’m the only female on the panel and the only HR person). It’s always a talking point for the panel when that happens….and it’s usually not a good outcome for the candidate.

    9. Kathleen_A*

      We always do panel interviews here – the first interview is usually 1-1 or perhaps 2-1, but the second interview is usually a panel.

      I should add the caveat that I don’t think we do it very well – we almost always have too many people, most of them don’t have any authority, and some don’t really have much to add. But we definitely do it.

      Anyway, Alison’s advice to start out talking to the person who asked the question but then make the effort to look at everybody else as your reply continues is a good one. It will make it seem more conversational, and it will look and feel more natural, too.

      1. GreenDoor*

        I have served on many hiring panels in government (so strict ask-answer-ask-answer format, as opposed to more a more conversational format). Believe me, it’s akward for those of us on the panel, too! Many time’s I’ve gotten excited about answer and wanted to probe further, but couldn’t. I’ve wanted to say something personal like “I was a Girl Scout, too!” but I can’t. Sometimes I think the questions are pure rubbish but I have to ask anyway. Just make sure to sweep the room with your eye contact, speak at a normal pace. And it’s OK to ask questions like, “Can I go back to question 5?” or “Could you tell me the next steps in your process?” or “Is this the apprpriate time to ask a question about X or Y?” Even in government we’re not so rigid that you’d be penalized for that!

    10. LW #5 (Panel Question)*

      I really appreciated the advice. I would have never thought of asking who I would be interviewing with while setting up the interview. I will definitely be using that the next time.

      Also, I have a tendency to gesture a lot while I’m talking, as I have ADHD and moving helps me think and articulate what I’m attempting to say. Is gesturing a lot considered unprofessional? I am still fairly early on in my career and trying to figure out professional norms.

      1. Kathleen_A*

        Man, I hope not – as my mother always says, if you made me sit on my hands, I wouldn’t be able to talk!

        I think you’re probably find so long as your gestures aren’t so sweeping as to be distracting. So you might want to tone it down a bit, but you definitely don’t need to completely alter your way of expressing yourself.

        I have found gestures more distracting in Skype interviews, for some reason. But in person, they don’t bother me and I don’t think they bother most people.

  3. StaceyIzMe*

    Your husband sounds like he might need several kinds of support (physical health, dietary, mental health and lifestyle). He sounds like he’s overwhelmed and like he isn’t able to effectively stand up for himself. All you can do as his spouse is to hold up a mirror to allow him to see himself, his behaviors/ choices and their impact. You shouldn’t go “all in” on trying to solve issues for him and your worrying, while completely understandable, won’t resolve anything. Get yourself some sort of a game plan and help your spouse to do the same (if he will). Even if it’s as simple as “we’ll hire a counselor to help you navigate your work stress and help you communicate what your boundaries at work are” or “we’ll make home a work free zone- a sort of sanctuary where you can focus on recharging and getting some bandwidth that will allow you to function better overall” (or whatever seems doable, sustainable and relevant to you and your spouse). The essential point is for each person to look within and to identify resources that will help to address external contexts. Self-awareness and self-regulation are the most powerful tools we have in managing ourselves and our world and definitely precede the ability to manage relationships and social/ professional contexts well.

    1. JSPA*

      If it happens that he feels trapped at the job in large part because it is the source of health insurance for one or both of you, look into health care options available to you (one or both of you) including the hard questions he may not be ready and willing to ask.

      If it happens that he feels trapped in his job because losing it would dramatically change your standard of living, look into ways that a much-reduced income could leave both of you with a tolerable life, even options that include dramatic changes.

      After all, if he has a worse health crisis, these may become ever-less-optional choices.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        This is really excellent advice, and something I think everyone can benefit from at any time. You just Never Know. It can be really empowering and liberating to know what you can live without.

      2. Liane*

        “Look into healthcare options available…”
        This is the closest comment I have seen to where my thoughts immediately turned:
        Is OP’s husband taking care of his physical health (seeing the doctor and doing what the doctor suggested) and if not, why? Is it because his job keeps him too busy/stressed to exercise? Because he thinks workload changes alone are all he needs? Something else? These are things you may be able to help him with.

        1. PicoSignal*

          I’m a big fan of compliance with doctor recommendations and exercise, but please consider how this comment blames a person for his own ill health. Nothing in the letter indicates that a behavioral change would improve LW’s husband’s health.
          Believing that exercise, e.g., is a panacea for things like heart problems and diabetes provides the illusion of control – the sense that you can prevent yourself from falling ill – but it also contributes to our culture of judging ill people for being unwell and disabled people for being disabled.

          1. Ra94*

            I don’t think the comment has a blaming tone at all- it’s just exploring where the nexus of stressful job x ill health lies. If the husband is too busy at work to see a doctor, for example, that’s a different issue than if work is just destroying his health regardless of whatever else he does.

          2. gwal*

            +1 Thank you for bringing this up! Preventive medicine is a matter of likelihood and correlation–perfectly compliant individuals can get sick; doctors can recommend things that aren’t effective. What this person needs is a holistic solution that feels doable and sustainable, not external judgements about the adequacy of their health behaviors.

      3. Yikes*

        I also think this is excellent advice. Several years ago, I got sick and had to stop working, which unfortunately triggered a multi-year period of unemployment that continued even after I got better (I eventually found a job by moving to a much better market in another state). Though I have mostly recovered, I had to make changes which included not being physically capable of returning to the punishing life of a litigator. I am so much happier working 9 to 5, that I look at other people miserable in the grind and wish they would let themselves set different priorities. I am making 1/3rd of what I was at the height of my output, and while my family lives modestly and we sometimes have to be creative to make ends meet, life is so, so much better.

      4. Natalie*

        After all, if he has a worse health crisis, these may become ever-less-optional choices.

        I want to highlight this as I’ve been there with my husband – he left a good job for health reasons, spent a big chunk of time unemployed while waiting for/recovering from surgery, and is presently slowly building back his professional life. It sucked. It still sucks. But I believe planning ahead as much as we could made it much less devastating.

        None of this uncertainty is easy to face, but there can be some magical thinking that preparing for the future crisis will somehow make it happen. So people just freeze and hope the stress will just… go away. (I used to see this with tenants with failing businesses, too – they wouldn’t change anything about how the business operated or wind down deliberately, just get deeper and deeper into the hole until something failed catastrophically.)

        Whatever is stressful about his job, whether it’s coming from him, his boss, the work – it’s not going to magically change on it’s own. It just won’t. The two of you will have to decide on what *actions* you’re going to take to start changing this.

      5. TootsNYC*

        “If it happens that he feels trapped at the job in large part because it is the source of health insurance for one or both of you, look into health care options available to you ”

        Oh yes, so much!

        I had a job I was near-suicidal in, and I felt I couldn’t leave because I was the only person who had health care for our family of 4. (My husband was freelancing from home.)

        My husband’s idea of supporting me was to pat me on the back and hold me for a minute while I cried in the hallway before leaving for work. And to not be angry with me that I was screwing up at work, desperately trying to recover, and in danger of being fired.

        Did he go research health insurance for our kids? No.
        Did he research health insurance for him and me? No.
        Did he try to get any kind of job (even Starbucks) that would provide some level of health care? No. (especially infuriating when I learned the next year that he’d only earned $1,000 for that year of freelancing)

        So look at the practical dangers your family faces, and go do something about them.
        Feeling that it’s not all on him would probably ease his stress completely.

        Also get him to actively plan what he might do if he did just quit.
        Get him to talk to the doctor about whether he could take FMLA for medical reasons, or short-term disability–whether there’s a medical situation that would give him a reason, or if mental health qualifies.

        (That, you can do–talk to the company about what the medical benefits are; you’re on the plan as well, and so you’re entitled to that info. It’s not the same as talking to his boss.)

        1. Natalie*

          He may also qualify for unemployment if he has to quit for health reasons – my husband did, and it’s more than nothing!

    2. OhNo*

      This is very good advice. So often, when people have issues, they get stuck in magical thinking – “Everything will be better if I/you/they just did X”, and that sort of thing. It’s worth considering the possibility that there’s a little bit of this going on in your husband, and possibly yourself. Are you/he pinning all your hopes for his health on his work Finally Getting It, because that will fix everything?

      It must be scary to be in that position and not have much control over the situation, and I sympathize. I think looking into some of the things StaceyIzMe suggests will help, because those are things you can control, namely the support your husband has outside of work and at home. It won’t lead to a magical fix, but it can at least get you started on the right track.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

    OP#4, I hope this does not sound insensitive, but I would bet money that your husband’s boss is relying on your husband to draw firmer boundaries to protect his health. Assuming your husband’s boss is not craven or heartless (he could be!), he may not want to unilaterally change your husband’s workload or expectations—doing so could be seen as an ADA violation. That means that nothing will change until your husband has a sit-down talk with his boss about what he needs to decrease his stress levels, which could include offloading certain projects to others, hiring support, allowing husband to take vacation or medical leave, etc. So as Alison notes, you can help your husband prep for that kind of meeting (e.g., by identifying very concrete “asks” and recommendations), but you cannot speak to his boss.

    Other things that are within your control: Your husband may need to apply to a different role/job. I’ve seen folks have heart attacks at 40 because of stress, and ultimately the only way to resolve it was to change the nature of their work for positions that paid slightly less but had significant work-life benefits. If you’re not in a position to weather a job hunt transition (he may need to quit without the next gig lined up), then you could help focus on building up savings during the interim time so he doesn’t carry that stress, as well. And it may be worth encouraging your husband to seek therapy/counseling, because it sounds like he’s internalizing external pressure/stress in a way that makes him feel like he has to sacrifice his health (or that his health is a lesser priority).

    I’m so so sorry you’re going through this. It sounds incredibly stressful, and I think I would be distraught if my SO had gone through what you and your husband have endured. I’m sending positive thoughts and hope that you both will come through the other side of this dark tunnel.

    1. RC Rascal*

      OP#4–There is some terrific advice here. One thing to add— take a very hard scrub of your household budget. What subscriptions can you cut , including cable? Are your cars paid for? If not, can you use the equity in the ones you are paying for to purchase something older outright? Can you relocate to a lower COLA area? Can your kids go to public schools? Typically when people are this stressed at work there is also a financial burden at home. Secondly, prepare for this situation to get worse. Given his stress level, your husband is probably not performing at work as his boss would like. Boss may see fit to apply additional pressure to manage your husband out. This is especially true if your husband has issues (i.e. time management, refuses to delegate) that are contributing to his stress.

    2. CM*

      Totally agree with PCBH, and also: it sounds like you and your husband are both focusing on his boss as the solution to your problem, but please think in a broader way about the issue (your husband’s health needs to improve) and what you can do about it. It might be a change in how his boss/workplace treat him, but it could also be medical treatment, a different job, therapy, a vacation, a change in your health insurance situation, alleviating his stress in some other way — there are lots of things you could consider. It’s not worth it to sacrifice your health over a job.

    3. Little Pig*

      Most of the advice so far has to do with helping OP’s husband set external boundaries to manage his stress. I would suggest that he also think about what he can change internally to experience less stress. Does he have perfectionist tendencies? Could he accept negative feedback with more equanimity? Can he implement the 80/20 rule? What happens if it takes him 2 days to do something instead of 1?

      I’m not blaming him for being stressed, and I know that sometimes bosses are just awful. But for myself, the demands of my work during the years when I was crying myself to sleep at night were not any more arduous than the demands of my work during the years when I was happy and balanced. I just learned how to take challenges in stride, and to become less scared of making mistakes.

    4. Former Employee*

      Given what we see in the contenders for worst boss of the year, plus the fact that the OP said that the boss knows about her husband’s health situation, but doesn’t care, it’s entirely possible that the boss really thinks that if someone’s health makes it difficult or even dangerous for them to do the job tat the person should just leave.

      Perhaps someone who has diabetes and has had two heart attacks should consider applying for disability. Does he have a disability policy? Would he qualify for Social Security Disability?

      In addition to consulting a disability attorney, the OP’s husband might consider speaking with someone who specializes in employment law to see if he might have a legitimate Workers Compensation claim.

  5. jm*

    LW3, i cannot get over these women you don’t socialize with outside of work deciding they’re entitled to hold you hostage in the suburbs to give you a bridal shower for a wedding they’re not invited to. and they’re inviting only their own friends? what? they must just really love parties. GOOD LUCK. and please send an update. i’m dying to know how this shakes out.

    1. Aphrodite*

      Did you ever once wonder if maybe this bridal shower might actually be an MLM “party” because it is so weird like JM noted.

      1. VictorianCowgirl*

        Oh man I think you got it on the nose. That didn’t occur to me but it sounds so right. Yuck.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Nah, it’s just a bunch of women who only see things through their own lense. She’s getting married, that means bridal shower. We must throw one for her. They didn’t think beyond that. It’s about what they want, not what the bride would like. They think they are being nice and doing the expected thing. They are not.

        LW please cut this off now. Because IF you ever have children, they will also throw you a baby shower. In the suburbs, on a Saturday, inviting their friends. Because that’s just they way they are.

        1. SunnyD*

          I mean, they’re not monsters. They’re well meaning and not good at imagining the other side.

      3. Oxford Comma*

        I think that’s a bit of a stretch.

        Most of the places I’ve worked coworkers have banded together to throw wedding or baby showers, whether or not they were invited. I suspect the OP’s coworkers have good intentions; they just haven’t really thought this out. I wonder if it was one of those things where the person for whom it was most convenient to host just happens to live 2 hours away and that’s how it arose; showers are usually held during the day, not after work, etc. They may have just not thought out the guest list. There’s often a lot of assumptions going on with these gestures, but it sounds like this was kindly meant..

        Use Alison’s script.

        1. DaffyDuck*

          I think they have good intentions also, just don’t realize what an imposition on OP the travel time would be.
          This is very much a cultural thing, probably more prevalent in the midwest and/or small towns. Traditionally, bridal showers are not hosted by family but by friends.
          I am not very social and would have been fine with no shower at all, but when I was married (back in the dark ages) three different groups threw showers for me: work, local friend group, and one in my hometown (2+ hours away! Populated mostly by relatives, family friends and old school chums, it was by far the biggest) by my second cousin’s MIL whom I had met once before!
          They are trying to be nice, use Allison’s script and see if they can change it to a workday lunch or similar format.

        2. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

          Agreed, I think they had all the best of intentions, but haven’t considered logistics from the bride’s point of view. I wonder if they even realized that she doesn’t have a car?
          Sounds like they are also all older than the bride and are doing what they were taught was polite. Just sounds like good/nice idea but poor planning and follow thru.

    2. RUKiddingMe*

      Right? That kind of bothers me too. It’s like they unilaterally decided to do this thing and they aren’t even friends outside of work at all. It feel…intrusive.

    3. MK*

      That’s a very uncharitable and frankly overblown interpretation of what is happening and their intentions. These women haven’t forced the OP into a car and whisked her off to the suburbs; they are proposing to host what sounds to me a pretty traditional shower. Probably they are being thoughtless about it (they should have consulted the OP about the guest list), but there is no reason, and not really a point, in assuming dark motives.

      Also, I wonder if they realize they won’t be invited to the wedding.

      1. anon*

        That’s the reading I’m taking on it as well.

        I work in an office with quite a few women who wear Christmas sweaters unironically and cook exclusively in a Crock-Pot. They’re nice, thoughtful, not-really-my-kind-of-people – but total earnest sweethearts. This is the kind of thing they would do thinking they were being really nice and getting very excited about plans to knit a bride and groom matching toilet roll covers.

        That being said, it does sound a super tedious way to spend a Saturday. I hope Alison’s script works for you OP. I guess you’ll just have to be busy on Sat/Sun for the next few weeks.

        1. Pigeon*

          How dare you besmirch the lovely Crockpot! Especially on a 90 degree day when using one means I don’t have to turn on my oven.

          1. SunnyD*

            Ninja Foodi…

            Just throwing that out there. Crockpot, Instant Pot, and air fryer in one…

        2. Working Mom Having It All*

          The problem here is that, as well-meaning as these women are, it’s like some kind of insane patriarchal compliance feedback loop where nobody is actually behaving in a genuine way and everyone is just trying to “be nice”. These women don’t truly want to throw a virtual stranger a bridal shower. LW doesn’t in any way want to attend a bridal shower thrown out of obligation by virtual strangers. The correct course of action here is to shut it down, not for LW to get on the Well Meaning Express out of Trying To Help Station.

      2. JSPA*

        Exactly. This is one hundred percent kind and culturally normal for a large percentage of women in a large percentage of the USA. It just happens to be a culture that OP distinguishes herself from (and frankly apparently looks down on? above and beyond the religious aspect?) The women may be culturally conservative and also religious, but there’s nothing intrinsically conservative or religious about a shower. It’s just, broadly, cultural. It’s also a place where women let their hair down a bit and bond. Frankly it could do OP a lot of good to participate, especially if it’s the surface cultural differences that are stopping her from bonding with her coworkers we’re seeing them as anything other than a cultural monolith. Explain that you need one of them to pick you up and one of them to drop you off. Among other things it will help get you out of an encroaching bridezilla mindset (where it is not only your right but your duty to determine everything that happens) and a useful window in two ways that marriage, marriages and the experience of being married, develop over time. You may find near-zero commonality now, but in 15 years you may reach her actively find that the experience was incredibly helpful. (Either because you are having some of the same experiences that they did or because you are so grateful to have known what to avoid.)

          1. valentine*

            Explain that you need one of them to pick you up and one of them to drop you off.
            No. Never be trapped, especially someplace you didn’t want to go.

            a useful window in two ways that marriage, marriages and the experience of being married, develop over time. You may find near-zero commonality now, but in 15 years you may reach her actively find that the experience was incredibly helpful. (Either because you are having some of the same experiences that they did or because you are so grateful to have known what to avoid.)
            Hanging out with colleagues at one of their homes when they’ve never socialized with them outside of work, at a bridal shower, is not going to help OP3 with their marriage and the colleagues behaving like family and trying to impart wisdom or advice, especially if they let their hair down, would rapidly become inappropriate.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              Yes! Never, ever, ever let yourself be trapped. Always take your own car/have your own escape.

              Agreed on the marriage insight. They might give her insight into how they do marriage, not marriage in general. The whole thing is way inappropriate to be something being done by people that she merely works with.

              I get that some people are/become friends with coworkers, but the letter says these women are not her work friends, have invited their own friends, and not…interestingly OP’s actual work friends.

              Sounds like they are using OP as an excuse to have a party and making an obligation for her (because…politeness) as they are doing it “for her.”

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            “Frankly it could do OP a lot of good to participate…”

            I think this is presumptuous at best and very paternalistic. How do we know what would/wouldn’t do the OP a “lot of good?”

            The most germane thing here is that these women, coworkers, not friends, not even work friends, took it upon themselves to plan something for OP without asking her if she wanted it and she doesn’t want it.

            This puts her, unnecessarily in an awkward and uncomfortable position based on their actions and choices that had nothing to do with her beyond the fact that she is getting married and, giving them all credit for good intentions, this is how they think things are/should be “done.”

            Despite whatever their good intentions likely are, they are interlopers.

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Whoa, please do not make the sexist assumption here that any woman getting married who has her own opinions on how she’d like to spend her weekends has an “encroaching bridezilla mindset.”

            The OP is allowed to decide who she does and doesn’t feel a connection with, and there’s nothing wrong with turning down a weekend shower she doesn’t want from people she doesn’t feel connected with (and who haven’t inquired into her preferences at all).

            There’s no need for others to be demonizing these women, though. The OP needs to just tell them she doesn’t want this, since currently it sounds like they don’t know that.

            1. JSPA*

              Didn’t mean to imply that particular cause and effect. More like, control issues are something that impending weddings commonly bring out in whichever partner is more invested in the wedding planning.

              I found it jarring that OP seemed to have a blanket dismissal of so many people in her workplace, all of whom happen to be older, either more conservative (or presumed so) and either religious (or presumed so). It’s miserable to be up against an actual monolith, but if the monolith is partly in our own perceptions, we make our lives far easier by learning to distinguish individuals. (I know we can’t draw equals signs between people who are in the majority, and have majority privilege, and people who are in a minority, but it’s still a valid thought experiment to ask how our reactions might be different if the women in question were seen as being monolithically part of some other group.) As many unthinking stereotypes as there are among old people of young people, there are at least as many, in the other direction. As many unthinking stereotypes as there are among conservatives, about liberals, or among members of traditional churches, about free thinkers / the unchurched / atheists / agnostics, there are also plenty in the other direction.

              I didn’t say that OP was obliged to go. I didn’t even. say it would be enjoyable.

              I said that OP might find it hugely helpful, as far as getting a nuanced, less monolithic sense of a bunch of people that she’s (oddly) certain she has nothing at all in common with. We talk about meeting people half way, in attempts to be collegial; seem to me that they’re meeting her much more than half way–they’re downright enthusiastic to make her welcome–and that’s not something to be written off lightly. Also, some day, OP may be managing people who on the surface have some commonalities with these women. Or OP may have clients who tick some of the same boxes. Getting past the big, “nope, certainly nothing in common” barrier is going to serve her well.

              If OP had come out of such a background, and was fed up to here [making motion above top of my head] with it, that would be different. But OP didn’t say so–and OP seemed shocked by the idea, which suggests she’s not from the same sub-strata of our varied culture. These women resemble enough of America (or represent a big chunk of America, to OP?) for OP to choose to learn just a little about them and their ways, and assure herself that there’s indeed some common ground. Worst case, it’s anthropology, of a very mild sort. They’re not going to check her for an intact hymen or tie her down and keep her in the basement until she swears fealty to the great god of Tupperware. I’d be very, very startled if anything sloppy happened; she’ll perhaps find out what age they were when they had their first kiss (or at least, their public answer to that question).

              It’s human to ascribe a lot more judgementalism to people in our out-groups than is necessarily there, and that in turn cuts us off from a lot of bona fide vicarious joy, received wisdom, sympathies, and (in case of a real crisis) casseroles and help walking the dog. I’m a lefty, gender-nonconforming, bike-riding, agnotist-to-atheistical, emphatically non-procreative loudmouth, but Midwestern Church Women (and in many cases, their families) have walked me home when I was too ill or had crashed too badly to get there myself, fed me in ill health and during family crises, checked in on me and taken my cats and chosen family to vets and doctors when I could not, and shown an (at the time, to me, surprisingly) nuanced view of life, love, relationships, theology and general acceptance. Even including some I’d categorized as small minded jerks, when we were all healthy.

              Marriage and procreation are way tougher than weddings. Forming unlikely alliances over the small stuff, ahead of time, is super, super valuable.

              I agree that having some sort of exit is probably smart, but that seems more like a reason to push for the inclusion of some of the actual work friends (ideally with a car) than to shut down an invitation to go to someone’s house, which in this case is a trust-exercise, on their part, more than on yours.

              1. JSPA*

                Still missed the point: not that “wanting not to go” is itself indication of a control issue! But that doing something that you’d never have chosen yourself, is a good antidote to that creeping sense of “should” that’s reinforced by the wedding process in general. A reminder that there are a lot of ways to “do wedding,” and that however it works out, willl be fine.

              2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                But there’s nothing here that indicates the OP is the partner more invested in the wedding planning. The fact that she’s a woman doesn’t on its own indicate that.

                And there’s nothing to indicate the OP doesn’t know these coworkers/is judging them with info. To the contrary, it sounds like she knows them well enough to know that her interests don’t align well with theirs, and she’s making the rational choice that she doesn’t want to use up a weekend day in this way. The fact that they’re older/conservative/religious doesn’t mean that she’s cutting herself off from people different than her; she supplied those details as context for why their idea of a shower isn’t aligned with her own.

                I think you’re projecting a ton into this that just isn’t in the letter.

                1. JSPA*

                  I’m not thinking of the organizers themselves only (OP’s point 5) but also point 6, about the people invited: “They’ve all asked their work friends to attend, but not my work friends. There’s a huge generational divide here.”

                  The “their not her friends” is problematic, but–separately–so’s the fact that there’s a “huge generational divide” at work. All their friends are old, all of OP’s are young, and there are no age-boundary crossing friendships at all? This sounds like a minor party problem overlaid on an entrenched clique problem which is also in some indefinable way tied in with age and possibly marital status (with presumptions of complete friend incompatibility running in either or both directions).

                  I therefore found it lovely that someone from the other clique was reaching across the divide.

                  Now, I’ll be feeling less charitable and finding it a lot less lovely if it’s indeed (as someone suggested) an intentional “welcome to the married women’s club initiation rite.” (But I’d be even more curious about it, anthropologically.)

        1. MagicUnicorn*

          …or the OP may legitimately have zero interest in exploring a potential future commonality in what precious free weekend time she has before the wedding. She isn’t in danger of succumbing to an “encroaching bridezilla mindset” (WTAF?!) for not wanting a bridal shower foisted on her.

          1. Emily K*

            Yeah, believe it or not, some people don’t jump at the chance to spend hours of their limited free time engaging in activities that don’t interest them with people they have little to nothing in common with, with the icing layer on top of them being work colleagues and therefore her professional self has to be activated throughout the event, on one of her two days off. And they aren’t in danger of becoming a sexist stereotype of a woman with too many opinions just because they don’t relish the idea of turning a multi-hour outing with coworkers into some kind of personal growth opportunity.

            1. RUKiddingMe*

              “…sexist stereotype of a woman with too many opinions …”

              Or any opinions, or thoughts, or desires, or…well anything that’s not just nice, quiet, submissive, and taking the least amount of space possible. Act like a normal human being who is entitled to be treated as such? Oh well the dictionary (in all languages interestingly enough) have a bunch of words for that, all directed at women, ‘___-zilla’ being the least of them.

          2. RUKiddingMe*

            Exactly. Her life, her weekend, her choices how to navigate both.

            Not wanting her coworkers, who again I emphasize are not even “work friends” obligate her to spending a weekend day driving for a long time, then hours at the home of someone she doesn’t know outside of work, with coworkers’ friends and not OP’s actual friends…does not make her a ‘bridezilla,’ or wrong, or weird, or, or, or. It makes her perfectly normal and rational from where I sit.

        2. Miss Eliza Tudor*

          What part of the letter led to the comment that OP looks down on the culture of these women? Not wanting to participate in a culture doesn’t inherently mean you look down on it.

          It seems off to me to suggest that doing something the OP clearly doesn’t want to do is going to put off “an encroaching Bridezilla mindset,” which seems like an odd thing to bring up, especially since the term can be wrapped up in a lot of sexist ideas.

          OP gets to decide they don’t want to spend hours with coworkers on their weekends, even more so with ones they aren’t already friends with. It’s a big ask, and it doesn’t mean they’re being rude, judgemental, or a burgeoning Bridezilla.

        3. MagicUnicorn*

          Acknowledging that this is a double reply. This entire comment is so degrading it merits more.

          The idea that “Frankly it could do OP a lot of good to participate” is revolting. A bridal shower isn’t a character development class. A bridal shower with coworkers, to the extent that it takes place at all, is not a marriage counseling session, nor “a useful window in two ways that marriage, marriages and the experience of being married, develop over time.” And “you are so grateful to have known what to avoid” makes me think you believe these women intend to sit her down and tell her how her relationship should work.

          1. JSPA*

            I didn’t mean to imply that wanting to own her own time made her a bridezilla. We all have the right to that.

            Weddings and the wedding industry do however make money by pushing people hard in the direction of treating their wants as needs, and rating their preferences as more important, at this particular moment, than they otherwise would be, at every other moment in life. And yeah, that’s sort of crappy for all concerned.

            My bit about “what not to do” was only to say, the more ways you see people who are happy and unhappy in marriage, the more you can figure out what potentially works and doesn’t work. Doesn’t matter if it’s hetero, homo, or a triad+; relationship stuff can be baffling, and the ways it can suddenly change following the granting of a marriage license (which is a piece of paper!) can be especially baffling.

            If OP has other, old long-married friends in her current social sphere, this may be less useful.

            But a lot of us end up in relative monocultures, where we know mostly people at the same life-stage as ourselves. This leaves us more perplexed than necessary when things go pear-shaped, whether it’s a snit the day after the wedding day, creeping “taking for grantedness,” that first miscarriage (if procreation is on the program), the first “yes, dear”… or whatever other life happenings that that frankly transcend political and religious affiliation.

            If I had a nickle for every time I heard, “but they’re a [freedom fighter / justice democrat / socialist / feminist / vocal proponent of equality] and they [always ask for the right pronouns / speak truth to power / assure me of their support and devotion], so why do I always end up [picking their clothes off the floor after the cat barfs on them / being the one to move when they get a new opportunity / mending bridges after they’ve declared a mutual friend not open-minded enough / helping them with yet another resumé] and resenting it”?

            I’d…well, I’d probably only have 95¢, admittedly, because I’m not a good person to bring that to.

            But still: long term relationship examples (that’s examples, not advice) are like gold. Whether because you see them working in all their idiosyncratic glory, or you see that they’re a bit of a train wreck, or anything in between. And for that, you need to know people who a) are older and b) have been paired off (or triaded or whatever) for a while.

            1. ColorPalette*

              I’m going to say that the function of your coworkers isn’t to broaden your life experiences and expose you to the wider world, but rather to do what the company tells you both to do.

              And I think that the OP not WANTING to attend a two hour event with coworkers she doesn’t really know is 100% fine and in no way an indication of the Empire wedding industry forcing her to give in to narcissistic inner desires.

            2. Anon2*

              Why are you assuming the coworkers are married? Or that they are going to be sharing personal stories with someone they hardly know?

              There is nothing wrong with no wanting to spend nonwork time with coworkers. And I really don’t see work showers as a place to learn about relationships.

        4. Naomi*

          I mean, maybe it might be a bonding experience… or it might be terribly awkward and uncomfortable. OP doesn’t have to go to an event she doesn’t think she would enjoy just because it might be “good for her” to bond with people she isn’t really friends with. She gets to pick who she wants to spend time with outside of work.

          I’m sure the coworkers intend to be kind and supportive… but they’re going about it in a self-centered way. They’re throwing the kind of party they like, but they haven’t given thought to what kind of party OP would enjoy, who she would want to celebrate with, or even where it would be convenient for her to travel to–even though the event is supposed to be all about OP. When you’re trying to do something nice for someone, you have to consider what they really want, not what you think they should want.

          1. RUKiddingMe*

            “When you’re trying to do something nice for someone, you have to consider what they really want, not what you think they should want.”

            But it might be ‘good for her’ to do it the way they want because that way she can learn to compromise which is a ‘good insight’ into how marriage really works. She should learn now that she will have to submit to the will of others (the male/husband) and these women are just trying to be helpful.

            Plus they are older so they know better and she needs to just do as she’s told…which they may feel is another thing she will need to learn about marriage…doing as she’s told to do that is. After all isn’t that how a good/real wife does things?

            /s <–just in case it isn't patently obvious

            1. MK*

              Is it really helpful to the OP to use her letter’s comments for satirical over-the-top interpretations of apparently friendly coworkers’ motives?

            2. JSPA*

              If you can suss out the many ways that long-term relationships work or fail by examining only people in their 20’s and 30’s and even 40’s, I’m all ears.

              I’m not saying that all marriages have to be forever, to have been good. Though many people do have that as their goal. And nothing about long marriages automatically makes them good ones.

              But after 30+ years of marriage–or rather, during the years that add up to having been married that long–people work out all sorts of quirky ways of getting along and making things work. And if those things are usefully represented in magazines, newspapers, publications, the internet, in ways that we can easily sort through them to say, “this is a way we could be”–well, I have not found it yet. Back when most people lived out their lives in one small geographical area, enmeshed in a small interdependent society, we had examples unavoidably in front of us. But we also had far less choice of who, how and where to be. So if neither history nor a search engine can provide relevant examples, we’ll all have to keep using our own eyes, I guess. And in a world where fewer people connect “in person” vs “online,” we get curated information, not raw data.

              An invitation like this is an invitation to a small chunk of real life that we would not otherwise see. Seems a shame to pass it up even for the known pleasure of another great brunch with the same great friends.

              1. Grapey*

                Imo the time to instill good relationship habits is long before one is actually in a relationship.

        5. Liane*

          Regardless of anyone’s religion, or where one sits on the Liberal > Conservative scale, it is somewhere between Thoughtless and Rude to try and impose a *4 hour round trip* on someone under the guise of “honoring them” (or “team building” or “getting to know people better” or…)

          1. Rugby*

            Calling it thoughtless and rude is a little over the top. Having a bridal shower at work is not that uncommon. Some people like to acknowledge their coworkers’ major life events. It sounds like OP hasn’t actually told these coworkers that transportation is an issue for her, that she’s busy, and that she doesn’t want a shower. It’s fine if the OP isn’t interested in having a shower with her coworkers, but she needs to tell them that and redirect them.

            1. Lily Rowan*

              “At work” is the key phrase there. A work shower should be at the office/nearby, during the day.

            2. Blushingflower*

              I think it’s “thoughtless” in the sense that they literally probably have not given thought to the travel logistics. People who live in the suburbs and drive everywhere often don’t think about the fact that there are people who don’t have cars/don’t drive. (Likewise, people who live in the city and rely on public transit often don’t think about whether or not there is available parking at a venue)

              1. Decima Dewey*

                No, we know whether or not there is parking. There isn’t anyway at most libraries, and our coworkers will be leaving every two hours to move their cars so they don’t get ticketed.

            3. RUKiddingMe*

              And she shouldn’t have to tell them *after* they *unilaterally* decided to do this. They should have *asked* her *before* they made plans.

          2. CheeryO*

            It’s two hours round-trip. And honestly, there’s no indication in the letter that the coworkers are aware that it would take her that long – they probably just haven’t thought that part through. Don’t attribute to malice what can be attributed to ignorance.

            OP needs to use her words and either ask that the shower take place at lunch during the week or ask for a ride if they go ahead with the off-site shower.

            1. ahp*

              Liane isn’t attributing malice – people don’t necessarily intend to be rude and thoughtless, but it is still worth calling it out.

          3. LiveAndLetDie*

            +1000. These women are not taking the OP into account AT ALL here, they’re just using her as the reasoning behind this whole thing. I hope OP puts a firm stop to this immediately.

          4. Pommette!*

            Assuming that the office is downtown (since the OP doesn’t need a car to get there), these women do the two-hour round trip daily. If their life is anything like the suburban parents I know’s, they do similarly long round-trips a couple of nights a week to take their kids to and from activities, or to attend social events. To them, that’s just life. They probably don’t see travel time as a big deal, and may not even have considered the fact that the OP doesn’t have a car.

            It’s entirely possible that the co-workers are genuinely well meaning, and really do think that a shower is “obviously” the way to honour a co-worker’s big life event (and that showers must happen on weekends in big houses in the ‘burbs, of course!). That attitude reflects a lack of perspective, for sure! And that lack of perspective can be read as a kind of thoughtlessness. But it’s probably the well-intentioned kind of thoughtlessness that will easily be dispelled by a simple conversation, and a simple no thanks.

            1. Oh So Anon*

              +1. This isn’t an imposition – it’s just them not being thoughtful, despite being well-intentioned.

            2. fhqwhgads*

              I think the issue is it’s 2 hours round trip for the LW because she doesn’t have a car and would be using transit. So the commute to the office is likely a lot less for the coworkers. I don’t disagree though if they’re used to to-ing and fro-ing from the burbs they may have a totally different scale in their minds for what constitutes a long trip for a short party.

          5. JSPA*

            two hour round trip. And we don’t know if that’s because it’s on public transit (or by bike). OP doesn’t complain about having to rent or borrow a car. Could be it’s 30 or 40 minutes each way by car for the people doing the inviting. That’s not weird, anywhere I’ve lived.

        6. Joielle*

          I think their intentions are good, but execution is pretty inconsiderate. In my opinion, it’s 100% required that if you host a shower for someone, you find out if there’s anyone the guest of honor would like invited. You don’t invite all your own friends and leave out the guest of honor’s friends! That’s just rude.

        7. Manon*

          > This is one hundred percent kind and culturally normal for a large percentage of women in a large percentage of the USA.

          Really? I’ve always heard of the family and bridesmaids organizing the shower, not coworkers you’ve never socialized with outside of work. LW coworkers aren’t even going to the wedding and even though this party sounds well intentioned, LW is under no obligation to go along with it.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Yeah, a shower at work, either in the staff room at lunch or maybe at a local bar or something after work seems very normal to me, and honestly in my workplace is more an excuse for cake than Bonding Over Marital Bliss (for one thing, they’re not gendered). But I’ve only seen truly outside-of-work showers thrown when someone was actually friends outside of work, and then it’s a friend who you happen to work with throwing a shower.

          2. Oxford Comma*

            It’s been done at every job I’ve ever had since hitting adulthood regardless of who was invited to the wedding.

            Some of my friends have had multiple showers: family member throws them one, friends throw them one, coworkers throw them one.

            Usually, the work one is done during work hours, either at a lunch or for like an hour at the end of the day. Most of the time, the planners approach the guest of honor and offer to throw the shower. If it’s declined, there is sometimes a collection to buy a group gift and card. If it’s accepted, they ask the guest of honor who they would like invited. It’s totally voluntary for us to go to or contribute to. Usually, the planners ask where the guest of honor is registered.

            What’s missing here is the piece where they approached the OP and asked if this is something she would like and my guess is that the planners were just making an awful lot of assumptions.

            1. Manon*

              Oh yeah that I totally understand. A lunch or small work party seems par for the course, but not a weekend party that only includes a select group of coworkers.

            2. pony tailed wonder*

              I think you have summed this up well. There are no rude, bad, or evil people here, just well meaning people all around with two different ideas of what would be a good thing to do.

            3. JSPA*

              And then we get the “too many parties for too many things at work” letters, and occasional “feeling left out at work because I’m not having life-events-that-are-celebrated” letters.

              I’ve encountered this sort of thing the same places you get a lot of bingo, bake sales, fish dinners during lent, and people not only owning something black for funerals, but offering to carpool to the funeral home viewing when the family member of a coworker has died, and being a bit startled if you’re not planning to go. It’s where, if your lawn isn’t mowed or the driveway isn’t shoveled your neighbor knocks on the door to see if you’re OK, if you need to borrow any tools, or need a hand.

              It’s not one state vs another so much as a certain speed of life. It’s not at all incompatible with rainbow flag-flying churches and coffeeshops, nor does it particularly correlate with red or purple or blue voting behaviors.

          3. RUKiddingMe*

            Yeah I’d sure like to see the actual data of “large percentage.” I think it might be a large percentage in certain areas, but by no means do I agree that it’s in a large percentage of the US.

            I say this as someone who has lived in … lived not ‘visited’ 40+ states and experienced lots of local cultural norms. Note, I’m not saying I’m correct either. I have no data! I’m just talking about personal observation over several decades.

        8. neeko*

          Holy judgments, Batman. She doesn’t want to bond with her coworkers and she doesn’t have to. She didn’t say that she doesn’t want a bridal shower. She doesn’t want a bridal shower WITH THEM. She could have one with friends already planned plus plenty of married couples in her life to give her “useful window in two ways that marriage, marriages and the experience of being married, develop over time. “

          1. neeko*

            She doesn’t have to spend her free time with people she doesn’t want to especially people that she works with. That’s not bridezilla. That’s healthy boundaries.

          2. New Jack Karyn*

            What ‘Bridezilla’ vibes are you picking up on, here? Where is this coming from?

        9. Ann O. Nymous*

          I think it’s out of line (and honestly sexist) to imply that OP3 is exhibiting bridezilla behavior here.

        10. Dankar*

          I can’t even wrap my mind around the idea of socializing with coworkers contributing to some kind of deeper understanding of marriage. If the OP’s personal beliefs/cultural expectations have almost no overlap with coworkers’, why would their experience of marriage have any overlap? Marriages are unique to the people comprising them, so I strongly doubt that she’s going to get any kind of powerful insight from sitting around with a bunch of people she doesn’t know or barely knows. I agree with the person above who reads the suggestion as paternalistic or at least rooted in some very gross ideas about women’s roles in marriages.

          And I read nothing bridezilla-y in the OP’s questions. Wanting to determine how you spend your personal time outside of work is her prerogative, even when you’re not planning a wedding!

          1. JSPA*

            Uh, the coworkers were dismissed as (among other things), “older.”

            That doesn’t make them wiser. But it does mean they’ve had a longer time to get marriage right. Or wrong. Either of which is instructive.

            Sure, as kids, we’ve all seen marriages in our parents’ generation, but we didn’t think of them (at the time) with the eyes of an adult entering marriage. And then a lot of us bounce all around the country and the world. We often end up without a lot of friends who are more than 10 years older or younger than we are.

            It used to be considered empowering to point out that women can learn from the lived lives of other, older women–when did that cease to be true, and become “gross”?

            There’s no level of schooling, no degree that can protect someone from a bad relationship. Ivy league professors have come out as having been battered spouses; others have killed their spouses. Kindness and comity (and how to have a backbone without increasing the quotient of outrage in a conversation, or distrust and belittling in a relationship) are something that any of us can learn from any source. No props to people who grit their teeth and hold on when both are miserable, but forging a relationship where people work well together for decades is darn impressive. And if you want to see that, you need to have some older friends who’ve been lucky and dedicated enough to make that happen.

            1. neeko*

              This is one of the most baffling comments I’ve ever seen on this website. Just because these women are “older” doesn’t say anything about their marital status or the health of their relationship if they have one at all. The OP could very well have people in her life that have long, happy, and healthy relationships that she will get any tips and advice about marriage from. Like I said in another comment, boundaries are great things. She doesn’t have to want to know about her co-workers’ personal life!!

      3. Anonymouse for this*

        Yes – I’m surprised at the tone of the comments about this.

        OP just tell them your weekends are taken up with wedding plans and suggest they hold it in the office during the week instead.

        1. Mrs. H. Kenway*

          This, 100%.

          Frankly, I think it’s very refreshing & decidedly *un*-Bridezilla-like for a bride to not desire a shower, rather than seeing it as the chance to shake people down for more of that sweet Free Stuff so many ‘zillas seem to feel is the whole reason to marry in the first place.

          My only real comment to the OP is, don’t underestimate how “wild” religious/conservative women can get at events like this. Just because they’re prim at work doesn’t mean they can’t let their hair down & get pretty bawdy at events like these, with just “the girls,” & a new bride. (My guess is this is why they don’t want to do it at work.) Which of course doesn’t mean you have to go along with it, just don’t e surprised. So you might have a great time, even at a work shower!

      4. The Other Dawn*

        This is my read, too. As soon as she mentioned a large generational divide, I figured it was a traditional shower. I agree they should have asked OP about it first. If OP wants to allow them to have the shower then she needs to speak up and tell them she’d rather have it at work during lunch or something. She’s not being held hostage. She just needs to speak up.

        1. fposte*

          Right. They’re trying to do a nice thing for her, which is okay, but she doesn’t want the thing, which is also okay; if they knew she didn’t want it, they really wouldn’t want to do all that work.

        2. Upstater-ish*

          The bride can do what she wants of course, but a good old fashioned in the house bridal shower is the stuff of memories. The pictures of the bride in the bow hat alone are irreplaceable. If these ladies are as traditional as you say there is likely to be some slightly risqué lingerie for gifts.
          If OP was my daughter I would tell her that she will forget the errands she is going run but will remember the shower fondly in years to come if only as “remember when my co worker practically kidnapped me for a shower”

          1. MagicUnicorn*

            What on earth?! No, submitting to a (however well-meaning) kidnapping by coworkers is not a memory anyone needs to make. Ever.

          2. Jamey*

            So let me get this straight….. the fact that her *coworkers* might get her *risque lingerie*……. is a plus? That sounds incredibly inappropriate to me.

            1. Chloe*

              I’ve been on the side of thinking the OP should say thank you but no thank you. But now I kinda want you to go so you can write back in and ask Alison for advice: My coworker who I don’t know very well gave me risqué lingerie. What do I do with it?
              (Some sarcasm but love to hear Alison’s advice)

          3. The Other Dawn*

            “remember when my co worker practically kidnapped me for a shower”

            This is not a kidnapping. No one is snatching her from her bed, stuffing her into a car and driving her hours away to remote part of the woods to partake in cake and punch. OP has it in her power to say she doesn’t want a shower at all, or one that takes place at lunch at work, or whatever it is she wants (or doesn’t want). All she has to do is say so.

          4. SarahTheEntwife*

            To me, a traditional bridal shower would be humiliating and I would hope anyone throwing one for me would know me well enough to know that. It would not be a happy memory except in that “oh god remember what a disaster that was” war-story kind of way that’s fun to tell years later after the emotions have worn off. (And I want to emphasize that I have no objections to the existence of traditional bridal showers. But for me, and plenty of other people, they are not a universal happy thing.)

            1. Jamey*

              For real. I’m a trans guy getting married to a guy. My family asked me if I wanted a shower and I said absolutely not. It would be a completely humiliating experience, highlighting the way people still see me as a “bride.”

              Luckily in my case, they asked me and I was able to just give them a strong no thank you.

              1. JSPA*

                I ran into a sparkly and raucous “two grooms” shower (back room, local bar). Not saying your family would do it that way (you know them I don’t)…and it was definitely not “work appropriate” (unless you’re a safer sex educator*). But what a hoot!

                *and maybe not then; in retrospect, it’s good luck nobody choked on a condom, during the candle contest.

          5. Curiouser and Curiouser*

            Huh? A bow hat and risque lingerie from my coworkers sounds like the worst possible way to spend a day for me. It’s fine if this is something someone enjoys and wants to participate in…but we shouldn’t pretend like these memories are wonderful for everyone.

          6. NW Mossy*

            But not everyone feels as you do about memories, though. Some people simply aren’t nostalgic in that way, and they aren’t broken or wrong for feeling that way.

            If the OP says she’s not interested, we should take her at her word. If she’s adult enough to marry, she’s adult enough to decide that this is a set of memories she doesn’t care to make.

          7. Cat Fan*

            No to lingerie given by coworkers. Yikes. These are people she works with, you know, at work. It will not be the stuff of memories if she is being forced to spend her time with co-workers she really doesn’t know that well and all over their friends.

          8. Nacho*

            I’m not super social, but there have been a lot of times in my life where I thought to myself “If I just do this one social thing that everybody else seems to be doing, maybe I’ll like it.”

            Turns out I’m actually a pretty good judge of what I do/do not like, and I hated all of them.

        3. RandomU...*

          I’ll reply here since this and @fposte’s seem like the most reasonable :)

          Totally agree. I think everyone (ironically except the OP) needs to get a grip on this topic. Social invitations are just that… invitations; not kidnappings, conversions, hostage situations(!) or anything else.

          As the OP with the reasons described, I too wouldn’t be super excited about this shower and would use the tactics that were suggested in the response. I would also feel like my coworkers were trying to do a nice thing for me.

          Other than that my suggestion for the OP is to not read these comments since a lot of them are so over the top :)

      5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Just because their intentions are good, doesn’t mean it’s appropriate. If they want to throw her a shower, they do it during the work day, or you know, ASK her what she wants them to do. Unless you know someone well you shouldn’t assume that they would enjoy this type of thing. They don’t socialize outside of work, so they shouldn’t be throwing her a party on a weekend. They’re putting her in an awkward position, and setting her up to be a jerk when she says no thanks. I hate being the center of attention, so when I got married my co-workers (who were also my friends) knew that I didn’t want anything done at work. The co-workers that were invited to the wedding were invited to the shower that my FRIENDS threw me .

        1. Adalind*

          This. This is my take. I don’t know about most people, but any time work people threw any type of shower it was AT work. Not at someone’s house or on a weekend. That’s a lot to expect of people you aren’t super close to and aren’t even invited to the wedding. Yes, it’s nice and thoughtful, but a bit much for a work shower. They should have asked and not assumed she’d want to do this. I’m uncomfortable thinking about it myself.

    4. LiveAndLetDie*

      Yeah, considering how far out of OP’s way it is to even get there, AND the fact that they’re inviting their OWN work friends but not the OP’s work friends basically screams that it isn’t even honestly about the OP, when you get down to the nitty-gritty. I hope the OP puts her foot down and declines this nonsense.

    5. Mama Bear*

      I had a coworker I did like/was friends with host a shower and assume that several other people were invited when they were not…and miss my friends and family who were invited. It caused a lot of hurt feelings. If you want to meet in the middle, thank her for the offer, but say you’d rather keep it as a lunch at work or something. We often do things for people with new babies during lunch and that way nobody feels obligated to do a lot of travel for it. I wouldn’t hedge if you really don’t want to go to the suburbs. Tell her you can’t attend and either ask to cancel entirely or see lunch option above.

  6. Alphabet Pony*

    #4 I’m curious about what your husband said when he talked to his boss – did he ask for whatever accommodations he needs?

    If I was you I would be asking if the job is inherently stressful / if his boss is unreasonable or if it is simply that e is less able to do it due to his health, as you’d need to approach those in different ways.

    1. Richard*

      I had the same question. I’d be worried that the husband is not being honest with the boss and is telling them “I’ve been having a rough time but I’ll power through and be back to normal soon” rather than something healthier and more realistic.

  7. MP*

    I wish I had a group of people throwing me a party, where I will be the center of attention and receive lots of gifts. I would actually be wary of refusing this; methinks you would anger the gods if you didn’t see how fortunate you are, and spite their kind offer.

    1. Bowserkitty*

      Some people don’t want this though, especially from people they aren’t even really friends with or don’t have common interests with.

      (Unless all of that was sarcasm and I didn’t pick up on it!)

    2. Avasarala*

      I would be wary of offending them with a refusal regardless (so go with “sorry I’m busy” not “actually I don’t want to hang out with you”) but I don’t think it’s weird to not want a bridal shower thrown for you 2 hours from your house by acquaintances you’re not close with. And I don’t think it’s kind or helpful to call OP ungrateful.

      1. Jennifer Juniper*

        And how the heck do they expect the OP to get there? I doubt she can afford to pay for Uber for that distance. Nor should she be expected to do so!

        1. Samwise*

          They may not realize that OP doesn’t have transportation. OP seems to be taking them as having good if misguided intentions, and they may not realize that their offer is not well considered.

          1. Liane*

            And I don’t advise the OP to bring up her lack of transportation as a reason. These coworkers may be lovely folks, but I suspect they are lovely folks who would insist on driving her, not realizing it would trap her for hours.
            Stick with Alison’s “Let’s do a long work lunch instead.”

            1. valentine*

              I don’t advise the OP to bring up her lack of transportation as a reason.
              Yes. Do not give reasons they might “solve”.

              I would be wary of offending them with a refusal regardless
              If someone can’t tell you “No, thanks; I’d rather not,” you don’t have a good relationship and it’s inappropriate to throw them a shower.

          2. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, a lot of people in places where cars are essentially required just don’t think about the fact that not everyone has a car.

        2. Genny*

          Since LW says she lives in a city, I suspect she can take public transit out to the suburbs, but it would take an hour each way (two hours round trip). Think San Francisco to Berkeley, DC to Vienna, or Philadelphia to Doylestown. Metro or lightrail is likely available, it’s just a pain for something you don’t want to do, especially getting to and from the suburb station and party location. Just my reading of course, but basing it on her mentioning the time problem, but not the cost problem.

          I think Allison’s solution of redirecting to a work-hours party is a good one. If that doesn’t work, could LW appeal to their sense of tradition and propriety? Maybe pull aside whoever you have the best report with and explain that you don’t feel right letting them host a shower for you when you won’t be able to invite them to the wedding? Not the first thing I would try, but it might work in a pinch.

          1. Jen2*

            Not to mention that it wouldn’t be a good idea to plan on taking public transit home from a shower. What if she gets a bunch of bulky gifts? I’m sure the gift givers are expecting that she’d be able to transport the gifts back home with her, but that’s hard to do on a bus or train.

            1. M&Ms Fix Lots of Problems*

              Very true. This is another reason I’m guessing that the co-workers just don’t realize she doesn’t have a car.
              I think the initial idea was good, but it has fallen apart a bit in the planning and doing stage.

    3. Actual Australian*

      I think the trick here is redirecting rather than rejecting. E.g. Alison’s suggestion to move it to a weekday lunch.

    4. Emily W*

      How is it kind to set up an unwanted and massively inconvenient event that many people (tho not OP it looks like, good for you!!) would feel socially obligated to sit through? Genuine question.

      1. Asenath*

        The party-givers probably don’t think it’s unwanted and inconvenient – after all, they’re probably people who would love such an affair themselves, and since they’re suburbanites, they’re used to commuting! It’s far more likely that they’re being kind than that they’re deliberately setting up an event that they know the guest of honour would dislike. The best response is to try to suggest something at lunch (as Alison suggested) – second best would be to accept it as one would any other well-meaning gift that isn’t to one’s taste.

        1. ceiswyn*

          Well-meaning gifts require you to take two minutes to say thanks and shove an unwanted item in a box.

          This ‘gift’ requires the LW to give up several hours of her weekend to do something she doesn’t want to do at an incredibly busy time for her. An acquaintance’s well-meaning thoughtlessness really doesn’t deserve that level of commitment.

          1. valentine*

            since they’re suburbanites, they’re used to commuting!
            For two hours, one way? Sounds rural.

            1. Oxford Comma*

              DC, Houston, LA, Toronto – I have friends who live in the burbs of these cities and have commutes that are in the 1-2 hour range (one way).

              It’s not that unusual.

            2. pentamom*

              Why is everyone reading “two hours one way” when OP said “two hour round trip”?

              1. Alanna of Trebond*

                One hour each way without a car on a weekend, which could be a 25-minute drive when there’s no traffic.

              2. Grapey*

                And why is everyone even arguing about the commute time when I get the impression OP wouldn’t want to attend even if it was being held next door to where she lives?

            3. Willis*

              The OP said a 2 hour round trip for her. So coworkers would be commuting one hour each way, which is not unusual in a large metro area. (And that’s assuming they’re all going by the same mode of transportation and traffic is the same on a weekday and weekend, which is unlikely…)

            4. Blushingflower*

              It’s an hour each way (2 hours round trip) for the LW to get to the party location. Which could meant that she and her coworker each live 30 minutes from work but that they live in opposite directions from the office. Plus, if she takes transit, that can add travel time if there are transfers (especially on weekends when trains/buses may not run as often).

              (Also, my commute is between 1 – 1.5 hours each way on average and I live in the DC suburbs).

        2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          Just because their intentions are good doesn’t make it right. They aren’t friends and don’t know her well because if they did, they would know this isn’t something she wants. It’s like giving unsolicited advice – the giver may have good intentions but most of the time it comes across as judgmental and unnecessary.

          1. fposte*

            It’s a party and gifts! That’s not at all like unsolicited advice. Nobody likes unsolicited advice. Lots of people like parties and gifts.

            I think if you frame this as “right” or, presumably, “wrong” it’s going to suck you into a misleading binary on this. It can be something the OP doesn’t want without being a wrong thing to do.

            1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

              So because people like parties and gifts, you think this is okay? You are completely missing my point. Good intentions do not make this okay. Clearly she doesn’t want this as she expressed in her letter, and making the assumption that most people would enjoy this because it’s a party and gifts is ridiculous. They are not friends and do not socialize outside of the office, and they’re not invited to the wedding. If they want to do something for her, they need to do it at work.

              1. fposte*

                I think you’re reading stuff into my comment that I didn’t say.

                The OP absolutely doesn’t have to go, and it’s perfectly reasonable of her not to want to.

                It was also, however, perfectly reasonable for her work friends to want to host a shower for her. These things happen all the time. Yes, it’s okay. “Okay” doesn’t exist only if it delights other people, and its being okay doesn’t obligate the OP.

              1. fposte*

                And nobody claimed they did. However, it is more reasonable to think somebody might like parties and gifts than unsolicited advice or a poke in the eye.

            2. Working Mom Having It All*

              I feel like people saying this have never actually been the guest of honor at a bridal or baby shower. It’s not in any way comparable to “attending a party” or “getting gifts”.

              I mean, yes, you get gifts, but in these settings it’s typically not actually fun gifts meant for you to enjoy. Like, yes, sure, it will be nice to make waffles from scratch in this waffle iron, but it’s not the same thing as getting a video game console, a surfboard, a gift card to your favorite store, or a book you’re excited to read. Or worse, OP is the sort of person who doesn’t want gifts and didn’t register for anything, or who registered for a honeymoon, and these people don’t know that/don’t approve of that/”just want to get you a little something” and are going to go rogue and give her god knows what.

              More importantly, at events like this, you are completely the center of attention at all times. Even more than if you threw a dinner party or made fun birthday plans. Often there are games in which you, the guest of honor, play a significant role. It’s almost mandatory for the OP to open gifts in front of the guests and make a comment on each one. Not to mention needing to log who got you what for thank you notes, which is a whole thing you wouldn’t even have to do at all if these people hadn’t “meant well” and thrown you this shower.

              I get that this could be fun for an extrovert who just loves being the center of attention no matter what, but unless that describes the OP, honestly it’s a lot more work than I think some people are assuming.

      2. Samwise*

        “unwanted and massively inconvenient” — the party throwers don’t know this is the case unless OP tells them. However, I agree that OP should not say, this is unwanted and massively inconvenient. Redirect to a weekday workhours event is the best response.

      3. fposte*

        It can still be kind. That’s not the same thing as its being thoughtful.

        These are friendly people entertaining in the idiom that they’re accustomed to. They should have asked her, but that’s not always a custom in groups where people tend to really want and enjoy these things. So they don’t know this is an unwanted and massively inconvenient event that the OP would feel socially obligated to sit through; they’re just putting together the usual do.

        I think it’s absolutely reasonable for the OP to decline, and the reasons she gives are compelling to me. But I think this is a little like Ask vs. Guess, in that people of the “We’d never do that” culture are interpreting the OP’s co-workers’ action as if they were in that culture but bucking it, so it means a lot more deliberate boundary trampling. But I think they’re coming from a “We want to make sure we include the OP and do our usual shower for her, and we couldn’t possibly be so chintzy as to suggest that we do this over a work lunch rather than a proper party” place.

        How frustrated or anxious a situation makes us isn’t necessarily a read on how badly behaved the other people are, and I also don’t see a gain here from putting a harsher read on the situation here. These are people the OP likes and will be working with for a while, presumably. If this gets taken as proof of them turning out to be steamrollering boundary-tramplers who care about nobody but themselves, that’s likely to be harmful to the work relationship, whereas if it’s people who issued an awkward invitation without realizing it, that makes it a lot easier to stay congenial colleagues.

          1. valentine*

            These are friendly people entertaining in the idiom that they’re accustomed to. […] they’re just putting together the usual do.
            I don’t see this because:
            They’ve all asked their work friends to attend, but not my work friends.
            I might understand if they did this to everyone who didn’t involve them in their wedding (or personal life at all), and if they invited the whole team/office, or a good amount of the bride’s work friends, but these details and the use of someone’s home OP3’s never been to (because they don’t have that kind of relationship) make the coworkers appear ham-handed and intrusive.

            1. fposte*

              They’re putting together their usual do with their usual people. Maybe they expected input from the OP on the guest list–it’s pretty common with bridal showers–or maybe they just don’t think outside their usual box.

              Their being not good at shower throwing doesn’t make it a bad thing for them to have tried to do.

        1. CheeryO*

          Excellent take. I really think OP could get away with thanking them for the kindness and requesting a lunch shower instead of an off-site shower, citing general busy-ness. They might be a little miffed, especially if they’ve already done a lot of planning, but it’s probably worth enduring some version of the work shower in order to preserve those relationships. You don’t want to be the one person who refused a shower, if that kind of thing is really entrenched in the culture, assuming you see yourself staying in the job for a reasonably amount of time.

        2. Close Bracket*

          “How frustrated or anxious a situation makes us isn’t necessarily a read on how badly behaved the other people are”

          yep. Just bc you are uncomfortable doesn’t mean the other person is doing something wrong. It’s a lovely gesture. OP should turn it down graciously while assuming good will.

          1. Working Mom Having It All*


            Yes, of course it is!

            If I do something for you that I would enjoy, but that you would really dislike, that is not a lovely gesture. It’s thoughtless at best, cruel at worst.

            Generally if you’re trying to be helpful or do something kind for someone else, you may want to take into consideration whether they will be put out by your gesture. Because, yes, making someone frustrated or anxious is bad. No matter what the initial intention was.

        3. JSPA*

          It’s like putting a flyer under neighbors’ doors to invite everyone to participate in the yearly pre-Halloween kids costume parade and block party.

          It’s reasonable for the planners to anticipate any of several fairly common responses (” I’d love to, what time? / sorry, we’re not in town / we’re doing something else, but I’ll check out the pictures on facebook / our family don’t believe in that, but thanks for thinking of us / my kids find costumes scary / I’m only interested in parties with beer / will there be prizes / etc”) rather than, say, a post on NextDoor saying that the cops had been notified of the satanic invitation, and any further satanic messages on the property will be considered religious harassment. (Not that strong feelings can’t be made known, or should not be respected; it’s just not something that people should be expected to anticipate, to the point of not flyering for an annual party.)

          Similarly, here, people are offering their standard version of A Nice Thing. You roll eyes, don’t want to? Then you don’t have to. (Unless maybe you decide to do it after all, to amplify general niceness, as it’s clearly a one-time thing.) You Really Don’t Want To? You Really Don’t Have To! Really! But don’t get too bent out of shape because their version of A Nice Thing doesn’t resemble your version, or (especially) because they’re not the people you want extra niceness from.

          Any hint of, “they think I’d want to celebrate my impending wedding like their sort of people would, with THEM, and in their actual houses?!?!? ewwwww, ick” is over the top. Unless there’s some aspect that’s hugely problematic in your universe*, there’s nothing to be gained by kicking people for offering their standard version of A Nice Thing. You don’t have to emphasize some theoretical ickiness to justify saying No Thanks. Just say “No Thanks, that doesn’t work for me.” Throw in at least a little, “oh, that’s so sweet all of you thought of me, but really I can’t.”

          If you come up with all sorts of excuses and reasons, you’ll get all sorts of solutions and counter-reasons. And double-side-eye for making it at all about who they are, and that they’re not already your friends (but daring to acting all friendly as if you were), and older and living in the suburbs, and a whole hour each way (like the A train doesn’t run late and run slower than that, in city).

          *the various -isms and -phobic “no-nos”

          1. Working Mom Having It All*

            “they think I’d want to celebrate my impending wedding like their sort of people would, with THEM, and in their actual houses?!?!? ewwwww, ick”

            I think you’re reading something into the post that wasn’t intended.

            For one thing, it’s OP’s wedding. Not theirs. It’s for OP to decide what she’s comfortable with, how she would like to celebrate, etc. It is not Brenda in HR’s decision how OP, who is a work acquaintance, should celebrate a major life milestone.

            Secondly, there’s a lot that comes built into wedding stuff, which is why this is usually not the sort of thing organized by a random acquaintance. All the stuff about time, location, etc. comes into it, but in addition, people really do have different ideas about these things, and often those ideas have repercussions. Is it going to be the kind of bridal shower where people gift you novelty lingerie? If so… maybe OP is not comfortable mixing that sort of thing with work. Is it going to be a bridal shower that is all about traditional wedding gifts (usually household items)? If so, does OP have a traditional wedding registry? What’s on it? Are the people throwing the party going to be irritated if OP doesn’t want or need a blender, etc, and didn’t register for that sort of thing? What if OP’s tastes aren’t the same as her colleagues, and they either can’t easily get to the store where she registered, or the items she registered are too expensive, not what they’re familiar with, etc? What if OP, or her colleagues, are from a different culture (much more common than you’d think!) and there are different customs around this sort of thing? And I’m not referring to, like, a Hindu wedding or ancient Inuit ceremonies or something; I’m talking about stuff like “is it OK to gift someone cash” and “are they going to want her to wear a hat made out of paper plates at some point during the party”. (That last thing is an actual thing.) There’s a reason people don’t usually throw these types of parties for acquaintances, as well as a reason that, when these things are organized at work, they tend to take a form that is very much not this. Because these types of events are a little more intense and require a little more emotional labor than something like a birthday party or a 4th of July barbecue.

        4. Avasarala*

          Agreed. I think people here are sometimes too quick to jump from “mistake” or “guessed wrong” to “malicious, intentional attack.”

    5. Lioness*


      Ignore the people trying to guilt you to feelings bad about not wanting to go. Alison gave some great advice about getting out of it without an outright rejection.

      It doesn’t sound like this party would be any bit fun for you, so don’t feel bad about getting out of it.

    6. Princess PIP*

      Wish all you want, but the OP is someone outside of yourself who has every right to feel however she wants about this situation you are not in.

      1. MJ*

        Exactly. Just because you want it doesn’t mean everyone else has to. And it’s unkind to suggest the OP should be grateful for something she never asked for and doesn’t want.

          1. jamberoo*

            It’s not a reach to point out that it’s unkind to tell someone how to act and feel.

      2. lawschoolmorelikeblawschool*

        Yaaah this sounds like torture to me. To each their own. My work “bridal” shower was a few of my actual work friends going for a drink after work, one days notice.

    7. MK*

      No one should have to feel grateful for things they haven’t asked for and don’t want, just because other people might want them and not get them.

        1. valentine*

          Yes, it’s “There are starving children in China, so clean your plate.”

          MP, if you would enjoy partying with these strangers, it’s too bad we don’t yet freecycle unwanted invitations.

      1. RandomU...*

        No they don’t have to feel grateful. But they should show some grown up social decorum. (Not saying the OP won’t in this case).

        But honestly the comments on this today are acting like a bunch of spoiled children. I can’t imagine living in a world that throwing a party for someone is considered the root of all evil. I’m not even a pollyanna, rose colored glasses, kinda gal. but wow…

        This post is harsh, but some people need to get a grip.

        1. Abby*

          Wouldn’t social decorum be asking the bride to be if she wants a party before planning it, and inviting friends of the guest of honor instead of just your own friends?

        2. Aspie AF*

          Get a grip? How novel! I wonder why I didn’t think of that the last time I was suffering from sensory overload. How much get a grip would you prescribe for an autistic meltdown or an anxiety attack?

    8. ceiswyn*

      You actually want to drive two hours out of your way, to hang out with people you don’t particularly like, in order to receive gifts that may or may not be useful or attractive, on a day when you have a lot of other things to do?

      Well, you do you. Regardless of your own desires or issues, the LW does not actually have to happy or grateful for any part of this inconvenience.

    9. Sark*

      LOL what a hilarious take!

      Can you imagine if someone genuinely thought this!? OMG the ridiculousness.

      Well played!

    10. Morning Flowers*

      Not everyone enjoys attention, and people that don’t enjoy attention are usually patently miserable being the *center* of attention. Be careful about assuming something that sounds good to you sounds good to someone else. I have friends who would go to this shower because they’d enjoy it; I have friends who’d go because they didn’t particularly want to but appreciated it as a networking opportunity; and I have friends who’d move heaven and earth to escape being trapped in what, for them, would be a genuinely awful situation.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        So true! I considered eloping just so I wouldn’t have to be the center of attention at my wedding. I turned down all offers of bridal showers, too. I also am an adult that lived on my own for many years before getting married, so I really don’t need more stuff I didn’t ask for. People are different and assuming they’re ungrateful just because they have different wants and needs than you do is ridiculous.

    11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      “And receive lots of gifts”, yikes and ick! That’s presuming a lot and greedy AF.

      If you aren’t close to a group of people, you don’t use their generosity. You let them down easy.

      Accepting this event comes with strings attached in the end. They’ll assume you’re closer than they really are and you’ve got to assume you’ll owe them gifts right back for their future life events as well.

      1. CheeryO*

        I mean, it’s okay to acknowledge that gifts are a large part of a bridal shower. And the rest of your comment is really workplace and culture-dependent. At my job, we do showers (at lunch, thankfully) for everyone – it doesn’t signify closeness, really. And yes, if work showers are A Thing at your workplace, then you’ll be expected to contribute in the future, so you might as well let them celebrate you now, perhaps with some slightly firmer boundaries.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          It’s not an office tradition though, you’re missing the fact that it’s not AT THE OFFICE.

          Being a gimmepig is vile, end of story.

      2. Mrs. H. Kenway*

        It’s not presuming & greedy at all to assume gifts will e given at a party whose sole purpose is the giving of gifts.

    12. LiveAndLetDie*

      You would be grateful for a party at which your own work friends were excluded and to which you had to spend 2 hours each way in transit because the coworkers organizing it weren’t actually thinking of you at all when they organized it? That’s interesting.

      1. MP*

        Well – no one is going to throw me a party because I’m single and childless, and that’s why people get parties thrown for them (I guess birthdays, too, but with everyone I know, it’s usually the significant other who throws the birthday party if there is one, and well – I don’t have one. I guess maybe a best friend might throw you a birthday party, but same thing – everyone I know’s closest friend is their spouse/long-term partner so again, I’m out of luck). I haven’t had good work friends in awhile because my career has been funky the last decade, and I’m not working with people who are at my level intellectually (so no true work friends, just people you’re friendly with during the day). So yep – would change places with this ungrateful woman in a heartbeat. I’m telling her – it could be SO MUCH WORSE – she really should count her blessings here.

        1. Ann O. Nymous*

          If this letter rubs you the wrong way so personally maybe you should take a step back. It’s not cool to call OP ungrateful just because she doesn’t want the same thing you would want. This reads like the attitude of people who struggle with fertility who get incensed by anyone who isn’t over the moon to be pregnant.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m sorry you’re in that position, but the OP is not ungrateful for not wanting this particular party, and it’s not okay to call her that here.

        3. jamberoo*

          How far does this philosophy of yours reach?

          Am I ungrateful and rude for politely rejecting a man’s offer of assistance when I’m very capably changing my tire or filling them with air at the gas station? Is it my fault when he tells me I’m rude and he was just trying to help? Would a man be equally rude in rejecting my offer to assist him?

          Is it my fault for finally telling my aunt to please stop giving me ultra-girly gifts that make me feel like she’s projecting on me because she always wanted but never got a daughter of her own? Should I stay silent and continue to let her pay for things I do not want in any way whatsoever? Should I just pile up the gifts in my closet? How is that okay? Just to protect feelings and continue to exude a sense of gratefulness when I DO NOT WANT IT?

          Ungratefulness is not showing thanks for something you have ACCEPTED — that’s what you’re missing completely. Rejecting something is not ungratefulness. Full stop. So STOP.

        4. jamberoo*

          I sympathize with your circumstances, but it’s clear from your explanation that you are projecting really, really hard on people who are getting but not wanting things you yourself wish people would give to you.

        5. Oh So Anon*

          I sympathize with your situation, I really do, but people are allowed to make choices about who they spend time with, regardless of their options (or lack thereof). Something I learned too late in life is that happier people tend to be more discerning about who they choose to be friends with, even if they’re friendly with everyone.

    13. Ann O. Nymous*

      I think it would anger the gods if you planned a party for someone without asking or considering what they want or whether they even want said party in the first place.

    14. Curiouser and Curiouser*

      The idea of a party where I will be the center of attention and receive lots of gifts…that a group of people will sit and watch me unwrap…is truly my idea of a nightmare. To the point where my close friends know never to set one up for me, no matter what the occasion. I see from your other comments that you may be conflating “something I would feel fortunate to have happen” with “something everyone should feel fortunate to have happen”, and the truth is that many, many people would not. OP is allowed to not feel “fortunate” to have a social obligation forced on her. And while she shouldn’t villainize the women offering it, who seem to be coming from a kind place, she’s well within her rights to turn down something she doesn’t want to do that inconveniences her life for whatever reason.

    15. Me*

      Well for starters you aren’t the OP and she most certainly doesn’t want it.

      That said it’s not a kindness to force something upon someone they didn’t ask for and don’t want. There is nothing wrong with saying thanks for the sentiment but no thank you.

    16. CoveredInBees*

      I really hope this is satire.

      Honestly, I find “traditional” bridal showers dull at best and was happy to forgo the expected presents to not have one of my own.

    17. fhqwhgads*

      And I would never want any group of people to throw me a party of any kind, nor would I want to be center of attention; and I highly doubt anyone but those who know me very well would get me gifts I’d actually appreciate and use. So just goes to show different people are different and want and like different things. OP gets to know what she would or wouldn’t enjoy.

  8. Zircon*

    I have only ever had panel interviews! One interview I attended had 8 people on the panel!! They sat behind tables in a semi-circle while I sat on a single chair with nothing in front of me. It was very weird. I got the job (senior management) and the work was great and many of my peers and the staff who were my team were great, but the organisation’s skills in the HR area were sadly lacking.

      1. NewHerePleaseBeNice*

        Ha! I’m a trainer. I think my natural behaviour in that instance would be to get up and start walking around the room checking over people’s shoulders to see how they were getting on…

    1. LadyG*

      My field loooooves panel interviews. The “worst” one I ever had actually turned out the best, in a weird way. My colleague and I both interviewed for the same role, along with 2 external candidates. I think our director was worried about fallout if one of us got the job, or if neither of us did. So he invited everybody and their mother to the interviews. I think there were 9 people, including 4 directors. No pressure there! The interview went okay, but my colleague very deservedly got the job over me. However, one of the people in the interview was the director of HR, and a few months later, when a new role in another department opened up, she remembered me, and approached me to suggest I apply. I certainly wouldn’t have done so without her encouragement, but Reader, I got that job, and have grown a ton professionally in the 3 years since. You just never know what may come of an interview, even one with a panel of interrogators :)

    2. Phoenix Programmer*

      Yeah something similar happened to me but it was for a junior role and there were 12! people on the panel. My boss, his whole team, the whole team of the team we worked closely with and their boss. There were no set questions and various staff had various levels of engagement with the questions. I took the job because they were willing to relocate me to the city but man did that not give me a lot of info on how working with that team was going to be!

    3. Stabbity Tuesday*

      I interviewed for a receptionist position that had every. single. employee. in the room for the interview. It was like 14-18 people and every one of them had a question to ask me, which meant that some people asked relevant questions and some asked what kitchen appliance I would be, or if I’d bought anything on a big online sale that had just happened. A few friends asked how I thought it went and I couldn’t even answer because there was no way to get a read on that situation.

    4. Dankar*

      Same. I’ve only ever done panel interviews. The thought of doing a one-on-one interview actually seems a little bit awkward and more intense to me!

      1. The New Wanderer*

        The one-on-one can be intense, totally depends on the rapport between you and the interviewer. Most of my interviews have been one (or two) interviewer plus me. In a few instances, the conversation was really stilted and I just didn’t get a good feeling or response from the interviewer. Mostly they have been fine, and a few have been really great conversations.

        The one panel interview I had was for a management position that I didn’t realize was management (the job title didn’t include Manager and the job description didn’t specify people managing). That would have gone badly regardless of format but it was slightly worse to have a panel of people watch me flounder.

      2. LW #5 (Panel Question)*

        I am fairly early on in my career and I’ve only had a handful of interviews. The last interview that I had where I got the job was 3 one-on-ones in a row. I preferred it to the panel interviews because I only had one person to focus on and develop a rapport with. In my panel interview, they didn’t give much of a response (which I have now learned from this post that little to no response is common) and I think that threw me as well.

  9. Grand Mouse*

    For #4, it sounds like your husband has already talked to his boss several times. Maybe he could be more firm or direct, but it really sounds like things aren’t going to change. How much more direct do you have to be than “I have had two heart attacks because of stress from this job”? A caring boss would be doing whatever it takes to make things better- or at least be honest if their hands are tied.

    Simply, I think your husband has to leave this job. Nothing is going to change, and despite how worried you are (I understand!), talking with his boss wouldn’t make a difference and could count against him. The problem is the boss, not how loudly and clearly you make your point.

    I had a job that gave me permanent mobility issues, so while it’s not as severe as a heart attack, I wish I got out way sooner. No job is worth that.

    1. Moocowcat*

      I’m so sorry that the OPs family is going through this! OP, have you and your Husband discussed the possibility of another job? If the current job can’t or won’t change, your husband may need to remove himself from the environment. Sometimes people can even stay in the same company, but move to an adjacent shop or division. Husband will probably need a lot of professional supports too. He should consider talking to his doctor, a counselor, a nutritionist, and hiring a cleaner. Those are all people that my family found to be useful when recovering from a heart attack.

    2. EPLawyer*

      We don’t know what he said to the boss. We know from lots of letters to Alison that people THINK they conveyed something but they were less than clear.

      I can see Hubby telling the boss upon his return from his second heart attack, yeah the doc cleared me to return to work, I’m good to go. Thinking well the boss KNOWS I had two heart attacks, surely he’ll lighten up on me. What the boss hears is Situation Normal, back to work. What Hubby tells Wife is I talked to the Boss, but he won’t change my schedule. Notice in there nobody actually discuss workload or job requirements. Just everyone assuming everyone was talking about them.

      1. fposte*

        We also don’t know what “lighten up” would mean in the hubby’s job and what accommodations may have been offered already. In some jobs there aren’t many workload accommodations that could be made, and it’s also possible that he’s dealing with some inherent anxiety isn’t going to be externally addressable by accommodations.

      2. meeting needed*


        There need to be a clear talk between employee and boss saying – hey, This is not working for me. I need to change workload, or different role so I can function.

    3. CanCan*

      It’s not clear what the husband has told the boss. “I have had two heart attacks because of stress from this job” is not at all enough. (It’s like dumping his problem
      He needs to offer a solution, or at least outline the problem more clearly. Is the job inherently stressful (e.g. dealing with irate customers)? If so, he can ask to be moved to a different position / assigned different duties. Is he working with toxic people? (Ask if he can work with someone else, or if anything is being done about these people’s behaviour.) Are deadlines unreasonable? Workload unpredictable? Lots of overtime expected? Too much travel? Bad scheduling? etc.

      Would it be possible for the husband to take a vacation so he can relax and then with a clear head think about what makes his job stressful and what can be done about it? Some stressors can be hard to see clearly when you’re in the middle of it all.

      1. Mrs. H. Kenway*

        & we don’t know for sure that the heart attacks were due to the work, either, & that may not be obvious. Two heart attacks & diabetes speaks to physical issues, not just stress.

      2. Gazebo Slayer*

        I really can’t blame someone who’s had two heart attacks for telling his boss “I’ve had two heart attacks because of the stress of this job.” Expecting him to come up with “solutions” to this before “dumping the problem” on his boss is grossly unreasonable.

  10. AzaleaBertrand*

    Re OP 2: I also find myself in these situations so I feel your pain! I often use scripts similar to the ones Alison has suggested, but both parties end up pulling me back in and I end up with SO MUCH extra work on my plate that’s not tied to my performance measures… Any commenters have suggestions on how to push back further?

    Further context: I work in the VP’s office (on her personal team of 20) so people seem to think I have special influence to get things done – I do get things done but it’s just because I work my butt off, not any special power.

      1. AzaleaBertrand*

        Thanks Alison! I identify strongly with the resentment you mention at the end there. I think that for so long I never said no, and now that I have been my colleagues are pushing harder (not a great combo when I’m both a workaholic and a people pleaser…).

        I’m memorising those phrases now so I’ll have them on hand when I feel like I’m about to cave!

        1. InfoSec SemiPro*

          I’ve done a lot of internal work to convince/remind myself that part of how I can maintain high standards for being reliable and getting things done is by picking the things I take on carefully and clearly communicating what I am and am not doing. Saying no, clearly is that communication and is a gift to others and to my reputation.

          There was a period of adjustment where people were surprised to hear clear nos from me, but we all got over it.

          1. Emily K*

            My favorite I/O psychologist phrases it that, “Saying ‘no’ makes your ‘yes’ more powerful.”

        2. EPLawyer*

          Every problem is not yours to solve. Just remember that. Just because someone comes to you with something does not mean you are the one to solve it.

          More directly for OP, one thing you can do is just stop bringing these things up. Usually the person who brings up the idea gets to run with it. Using your example, you saw what you perceived was a beneficial relationship between your organization and the Fun Run. So you acted on it. But you could have let it go. You’re a problem solver — see something, do something. But you don’t always have to act. Think about whether you WANT to be involved before even bringing something up.

          Obviously this advice does not apply to true safety issues at work. If you see any unsafe situation, obviously speak up.

          1. Inthemiddle*

            That’s really helpful to hear because my tendency is definitely to fix what I can. But just because I can doesn’t mean I always should.

    1. Samwise*

      Are the folks pulling you back in your boss or people who have a reasonable call on your time/effort? If not, you can turn them down when they kick it back to you: “I’m sorry I wasn’t clearer! [if you want to ease into the “no”] I really do not have time to take on the llama race, but I hope it goes well for you!” or “thank you for the compliment [if they say, you’re so good at planning llama races or some such], but I really cannot take on the llama race. I hope it goes well for you!” Or even just “I really cannot take on the llama race. I hope it goes well for you!” I’d use some polite phrase first, though, unless they are insistent and have asked more than once.

      If it’s your boss, then you can ask about your boss’s priorities: If I take on planning the llama race, I won’t have time to complete the TPS reports by deadline. Will that work for you?

      1. Phoenix Programmer*

        Ugh this is my issue. Except my “what can I push back?” were met with “make it work” and the other staff would then go and complain to my boss that I was not “helpful” or a “team player” which inevitably ended up with boss telling me that since I am good at X time consuming, mundane, task that no one likes it’s now my job forever.

        The result is I don’t volunteer ideas or solutions nearly as much as I have them because I don’t have the time nor the desire to do the front work on every team or role I happen to have ideas or knowledge for.

      2. Inthemiddle*

        It’s a mix – but I actually am very proud of myself for having a conversation like you described at the end of your comment about clarifying what to focus on as I have an upcoming leave and want to leave the company in a good position. It was able to clear up some of the things I was “in the middle” of and helped make sure administration was clear about what would be the best use of my time.

    2. Uncle John's Band*

      My department has become the catch-all for the projects other departments don’t know what to do with. I have to blame my boss, who is great, but is also a fixer and as a result, those who work for her are tasked with responsibilities that are not in our purview or part of our goals. It doesn’t help that her output is extremely high, which puts pressure on the team to not only perform our regular duties, but those that really shouldn’t belong to us.

  11. 3Edyjer*

    Hi OP#2,
    It sounds like you have lots of ideas and want to see them come to fruition.
    If someone has a good idea, then they are the best person to take it forward. You’ll probably find that if you want to hand off to others they won’t have the same passion for it as you. So make sure you’re prepared for your ideas to not happen at all or not turn out as well, if you want to completely extract yourself from the process.

      1. Chriama*

        I think it’s still useful advice for the OP, though. In the fun run example, her company could benefit from donating the flyers but it’s not an absolute necessity. OP’s coworker might drop the ball on following up with the external race organizer, and the company fun run might suffer in intangible ways (e.g. less prominence in the community) but still turn out ok. I think maintaining these boundaries is important, but OP will keep getting drawn back in (or at the very least feel anxiety and/or frustration) until she acknowledges that other people might execute her ideas differently or not at all. She has to prioritize for herself, and if something from her list gets handed to someone else, she has to let them prioritize for themselves too.

    1. Alphabet Pony*

      This is not how things tend to work. Your advice here is a bit too close to Gumption! TM

      1. a1*

        It’s doesn’t mean they are the only one to make it come to fruition, but it makes sense to stay involved. Whether it’s a issue to fix, a process improvement, a one-off project – if you’re the one to ID something, something other people missed/are likely to keep missing, it just makes sense to have the person who understands the issue/process/goal-of-project to stay involved.

    2. Avasarala*

      On the flip side of that, I think sometimes it can be healthy to let go of your investment in “your baby”. Sometimes being too attached to your idea can cloud your judgment and make you focus more on the project than on its outcome. Letting go lets you move on to other things and practice trusting others, and it’s the only way to take the risk that someone else might be able to get it done better than you.

    3. Akcipitrokulo*

      That doesn’t follow – someone who can see an opportunity may not have the skills to follow through – or the time or the inclination. Sometimes you might want to see it through to the end, but sometimes realising person a and person b could do something cool if they were in contact, putting them in contact and stepping back is a lot more productive.

      1. Mary*

        Also, once you get above a certain size, the whole point of an organisation is to have defined roles and responsibilities! I have the kind of role where we sometimes have to deal with people in other parts of the organisation deciding to freelance a bit rather than hand contacts or projects over to us, and it’s a nightmare!

    4. CouldItBeThat...*

      Is it possible OP that you’re the type of person who has tons of good ideas that happen to generate a lot for others if you don’t follow them through yourself? I have an employee like this. He has great ideas, but we’re all overworked already and no one really has time to see them through. He gets frustrated if we don’t jump on his ideas, but we really just don’t have the time to put them all into practice. I will often tell him, “That sounds like a great idea, please go ahead with that if you have the time around your other work.” As long as his core work is getting done I don’t mind if he puts some of his other ideas into practice, but I just can’t continue to overburden myself or others when we’re stretched this as it is. (Just to be clear, like the pamphlet idea, his ideas are good but not make or break for the organization and if I had more staff we’d definitely put more of them into practice.)

      1. Inthemiddle*

        I think that’s a completely fair assessment of the situation. I am in a position where I have a bit more breathing room to look around and identify inconsistencies that probably should be addressed – but aren’t *really* damaging the company so are understandably not a priority. I do also feel like I can see how these seemingly little issues can ripple through our remote locations and cause chaos as they go, but since they aren’t the biggest fire – they aren’t addressed. I really appreciated Allyson’s sample language and also the thread that was linked about saying “No” to things as well. I do think sometimes I get caught up in feeling that the lack of follow through on a coworker’s part is a reflection of me, but I do think that it’s not fair to assume I always have the best understanding of what is an important issue versus what is not.

        1. Jerk Store*

          I know for me, sometimes this stems from knowing it’s going to create extra steps for steps for me if it’s done way A and not way B, but I have gotten a lot better at letting go of that of that if the Decision Maker(s) want A.

      2. CM*

        +1 I was wondering if this might be part of it, too. Sometimes when you try to hand a project to someone and they hand it back to you, they’re really saying, “Great idea. If you have time to do it, go ahead, but I don’t.”

    5. Emily K*

      And sometimes an idea might not happen or not pan out the way you wanted to, because the person who you handed it off to didn’t agree that it was the best use of their time, and as the resident subject matter expert they might resent someone in another role swerving into their lane and trying to tell them how to do their job.

      At my org the culture is very clear that everyone is welcome to offer ideas to anyone, but job-owners own their jobs and get final say in whether and how something is done. You’ll start to alienate people if you don’t respect their right to make decisions about their area of responsibility.

  12. LLG612*

    Re: Letter 5. This is sort of an offshoot but I’m hoping people may be able to give insight. I’m the executive director of a small nonprofit and am the hiring manager for all positions. Since most roles intersect with other departments/roles, I set up our in-person interviews to be either panel or a series of interviews with various staffers. In the interview invitation, I let applicants know that the interview may be panel or with multiple individuals (dependent on the job). Am I doing enough to prepare them for what they’re walking in to? It’s never more than three on a panel, or three in a departmental interview. Most applicants have done well with this setup, but some have seemed very flustered despite the forewarning (red flag, I know). But totally open to suggestions!

    1. Alphabet Pony*

      but some have seemed very flustered despite the forewarning (red flag, I know)

      This isn’t a red flag. Why do you think that? Lots of people get nervous in interviews. And it sounds like you’re not telling them which it will be – panel or solo – so maybe they’re hoping for 1:1 and then feeling flustered when they find out it’s a panel.

      I think keeping them in suspense isn’t ideal and it would be better if you let them know when you do whether it’s going to be panel or 1:1s. Also, are you doing anything to help ease people in at the start or just launching into your first question?

      I’m in the UK where panel interviews are pretty normal. I’ve usually been sent the names of the panel beforehand – is that something you can do?

      Also are you letting them know what you said here about how it will be no more than three people? And have you had anyone look at your interview invitation text and check it’s coming across the way you mean it to? It is always worth checking this with someone else, however senior you are and however clear you think you’re being.

      1. LLG612*

        I think that because I specifically say “you’ll be meeting with X, Y, and Z in a panel interview” and they come in and say nervously “I didn’t realize there would be more than one person.” I think that’s pretty reasonable to consider that a red flag.

        Everything is eased in. We’re a casual work environment and that translates to our hiring process: Even in panels or in departmental-level interviews it’s not an extremely formal process and, I’ve been told by many applicants, is inviting and is conducive to their being their best.

        Yes, all levels in my organization have reviewed our hiring process, from the board down to our lowest-level part-time staff.

        I’m really just looking for suggestions for those outliers who seem to not understand or be comfortable with a multi-person hiring process.

        1. BRR*

          I wouldn’t say it’s a red flag but I would find it a little off if you say they’ll be meeting with joe, Jane, and Fergus as a panel and they’re surprised. It sounds like you’re doing this, but are you specifically saying it’s a panel? My current job listed everyone but didn’t say it was a panel and that threw me a little since it was six people.

          If a candidate was otherwise great I wouldn’t call this a red flag though. I can see it being part of a larger picture though.

          1. LLG612*

            Definitely calling it what it is. Sometimes it is three independent interviews, other times it is a panel. I feel I’ve been exceedingly clear so I’m surprised when they’re surprised. It’s just sort of disconcerting when I’ve been very clear with the process and we have candidates being visibly shaken by the process.

        2. MsM*

          If they’re surprised, I think it’s more of a red flag for you that they’re not reading the invite carefully enough and may have other issues with paying attention to detail. (Also, as someone else in the nonprofit sector, I’m more surprised at this point if an HR phone screening is followed by a one-on-one and not “here’s the whole department!”)

          1. LLG612*

            Yes! It feels like lack of attention to detail. We are so small that we don’t have HR, but it’s essentially the same–as ED, I do the primary phone screens and then bring people in to meet with multiple staffers.

        3. KRM*

          Understand is different from comfortable though. If they don’t understand what a panel interview is, then yes, that’s on them. But I could 100% understand that I’m having a panel interview with 3 people, and underestimate how flustered I actually end up feeling when I am in a room with three people asking me questions. Especially if I’ve never had a panel interview before! I think you can feel free to discount people who come to you and say “I didn’t know that a panel interview meant meeting with everyone at once!!!” because they could have looked that up. But if someone isn’t comfortable with it, remember that is a totally different thing, and discounting that person simply for feeling uncomfortable isn’t your best move.

          1. WellRed*

            Not sure what other definition of panel interview there could possibly be. It’s a specific meaning.

            1. LLG612*

              I can understand flustered in general (except, given the positions for which I’m hiring, I need relatively unflappable folks), but I am very specific when I let them know. “You will be meeting with X, Y, Z together, and then speaking to A to give you an overview of the facility.” I don’t know how I can be more clear.

    2. Avasarala*

      How do you set up the room? Do you have 3 people behind a desk and one lonely chair on the other end, like an interrogation? Or do you have them sit at a small round table at 6 o’clock and the interviewers sit at 2, 12, and 10? That can set the mood for sure.

      1. LLG612*

        Always a round table, and always interviewers scattered at various intervals around the table. There’s no “wrong” seat for the candidate to sit in, and they’re able to make eye contact with all and feel included rather than ganged up on. We also often start with a tour of our facility (we’re in a unique industry, and it matters), so seating takes place organically around the table at the end of the tour.

        1. Willis*

          It sounds like you’re doing a lot of things to put people at as much ease as possible. But, interviewing can be nerve wracking in general and there are plenty of people who are nervous despite having lots of info ahead of time. As long as they are the outliers, I wouldn’t worry too much about adjusting your process because nothing you can do will calm every interviewees nerves.

          But the people you specifically told they would be doing a panel interview who then seem confused by it…yeah, maybe they didn’t read the email very closely or forgot. I wouldn’t hold it against them if the interview goes well though.

          1. LLG612*

            I think the problem is that these people generally tank in this sort of interview. They wowed me in a phone interview, I gave them specifics for the in-person with panel/multiple person interviews, and they come in like a deer caught in headlights. I literally just had one come in today (with whom I clarified multiple times the nature of the next round, very articulately) who told me that this process was “too intimidating”. I…just don’t know how to respond when we’ve set them up for success. But also, this candidate told me I’d be too intimidating to work for because I’m “too accomplished” and she’d “always feel inferior” (?!?!???!?!??!??!?!?!). Trust me, my staff just did my 360 review and this isn’t an issue. But I don’t know how to screen better for these sort.

            1. SunnyD*

              This sounds like something else is off. If this happened once, maybe twice, people are quirky sometimes. But multiple times starts to tip it toward you doing something inadvertently.

            2. Avasarala*

              That sounds like someone who has a lot to work through. Honestly it sounds like you’ve set a reasonable bar, and if people fail to meet it (ie communicate well under mildly stressful circumstances, try to minimize how much feartalk leaks out of your brain or onto your face) then… I don’t think you want to hire them.

    3. AzaleaBertrand*

      We include the full name and title of each panel member in the interview confirmation email, as well as clarifying which panelist is the Chair, who the hiring manager is etc. That said, we do have a pretty rigid system and the whole panel (min 3 people) is involved in selecting candidates so we know well in advance exactly who will be sitting in.

      1. LLG612*

        I do that, too, even though we’re a pretty informal org. I’m just struggling with the disconnect.

  13. Emma*

    #5 is so interesting! I’ve thought hard about it and I think I’ve only ever had one interview where there was just one interviewer (and I may have just forgotten about someone in that one instance, because I had such a fantastic time chatting to the CEO about the organisation’s work and all sorts of related areas – I don’t remember anything he asked me, or anything I said about my experience or qualifications for the job, just magnificent, really interesting tangents. I didn’t get the job, but it was the most fun I’ve ever had at an interview!)

    It’s usually 2 or 3 people at an interview, usually one person is the obvious “lead” interviewer and the others are asking fewer questions but are making notes, and after the interview they’ll all compare their impressions.

    I wonder if this is a geographical difference (UK), or a third sector thing, or maybe it comes of being more accountable to funders about hiring process?

    Like I say, interesting!

    1. londonedit*

      UK here, too, and I can’t remember a time when I’ve been interviewed by just one person. You usually have at least two interviewers, maybe three, because then they can go away and compare notes and it’s not just one person’s opinion. Whenever I’ve been invited for an interview it’s always been explained in the email/phone conversation – ‘You will be meeting with Lucinda Smith, Head of Publishing; Bob Jones, Commissioning Editor; and Arabella Johnson, HR Manager. Please report to Reception before your interview and ask for Lucinda Smith’. Usually the highest-ranking person will take the lead for the interview, but the others might chip in with questions too. Then if you make it to a second interview, you’ll usually meet with the lead interviewer from the previous round plus the CEO or some other sort of higher-up boss, depending on the role and the size of the company.

      1. Mary*

        I wonder if this is also why we have fixed day/time interviews, and the US has “call us to set up an interview at our mutual convenience.” I’ve wondered before how on earth people manage to schedule that, but it makes more sense if most interviews are 1:1 rather than panel.

        1. Rugby*

          This one letter is not representative of all interviews in the US. Panel interviews are common in the US. 1:1 interviews are also common in the US. Sometimes there is only one round of interviews and sometimes there are 2-3 rounds. Sometimes the employer assigns a time for each candidate and sometimes the employer asks candidates for their availability. It depends on the employer, the preference of the hiring manager, and a lot of other factors. There is no one standard way of interviewing in the US.

      2. UKDancer*

        Ditto UK and I’ve only ever had panel interviews. Usually 2-3 people and usually I’m told their names in advance. Sometimes they just tell you the name of the panel chair or who to ask for. I do wonder if it’s a UK thing. I would agree, it provides a much more balanced assessment of the candidate.

        Most of the jobs I’ve gone for have only involved one interview although sometimes the process includes something like making a presentation and sometimes there’s a written assessment as well.

        1. SageMercurius*

          UK as well – panel interviews seem to be the norm (just finished a bunch today actually!). Names in advance sometimes happens, but not always.

          When I was a teenager, a lot of the jobs had a single interviewer – jobs in cafés and shops and so on. But that was probably more because they didn’t have many people working there anyway?

          Perhaps it’s the level I’m currently at, but I’ve only ever had one interview per job – not ever had to come back for a round of interviews. But that might also be a field thing…

    2. Morag*

      Fellow UK third sector worker here, and I have never been interviewed (formally) by one person! I’ve had a few informal coffees before interviews, but that’s about all.

    3. Humble Schoolmarm*

      Could it be a Commonwealth thing? All of my interviews (except 1) here in Eastern Canada have been 2-3 people.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Perhaps, but not sure about that – I’ve lived/interviewed all over Canada, and I’ve had a mix of one-on-one and panel interviews.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Interesting. I’m in the UK too, and would agree that 2 interviewers is fairl common.

      In my organsiation, it does depend a bit on the role.

      For instnace, we recenly took on someone as office junior / reception cover . Our ofice manager did the interviews with our receptionist.

      For more senior roles it would typically be the head of the relevant department plus either one of the partners, or our practice manager, and for those roles there will sometimes be a second interview with one or more partners.

      It helps to have at least two people as it can reduce the effect of any unconcious bias, and also ensures that you can involve both the people with power to hire and fire and the people actually doing the job, and you get to discuss your impressions of a candidate which can be very helpful in clarifying things. I tend to find that hen I interview with one of my collegues, there are always things that one of us will pick up on the other doesn’t, so between us we get a more rounded view.

    5. Hope*

      I’m US, have interviewed in a few different fields, and they’ve always been panel-style interviews. I don’t think this is a geographical thing.

  14. Chriama*

    I think it’s still useful advice for the OP, though. In the fun run example, her company could benefit from donating the flyers but it’s not an absolute necessity. OP’s coworker might drop the ball on following up with the external race organizer, and the company fun run might suffer in intangible ways (e.g. less prominence in the community) but still turn out ok. I think maintaining these boundaries is important, but OP will keep getting drawn back in (or at the very least feel anxiety and/or frustration) until she acknowledges that other people might execute her ideas differently or not at all. She has to prioritize for herself, and if something from her list gets handed to someone else, she has to let them prioritize for themselves too.

  15. Caroline*

    Oh OP1 thank you for addressing this! I get this so much at work (particularly from my boss) and it is incredibly annoying. Not only because I don’t think I am a ‘youth’ any more (I’m 29!) but also for all the reasons you list – ie no one can speak for their whole generation. I’ve tried to shut it down in the moment but unfortunately had no success so far. Hope you do better!

    1. boo bot*

      An additional frustrating thing about this is, it’s preemptively dismissing the insights that everyone else at the table might have! At least some of the non-youths presumably have children, grandchildren, friends, cousins, neighborhood rascals, or other significant contacts with the youth of today.

      Besides which, it’s not terribly useful. Aside from from broad, generational trends where the data is readily available (millennials have college debt, have not technically ruined kittens or sunshine) all any one person can add is their own perspective. If they really want to know what young people think, they need market research, or possibly an hour on social media.

  16. Traffic_Spiral*

    “Can I talk with my husband’s boss about…”

    NO. Wait… maybe he’s invited to dinner and she wanted to ask him about any food preferences or allergies before she planned the menu?

    “…how his job is affecting his health?”


    Come on, it’s always no. Seriously, there should be an autoreply for this: “You are not your spouse’s parent or owner, nor is your spouse’s boss obligated to fire whatever bit of fluff or rough your spouse is cheating on you with. Does this answer your question?”

    1. londonedit*

      I think this is a bit harsh – OP’s husband clearly has some serious health issues and he’s clearly extremely stressed. I can totally understand why they’d be at the end of their tether trying to think of a way they can make things better before their husband ends up with a serious health situation, and I can totally understand why ‘This is so serious that I’m thinking about speaking to his boss’ would be a thing that would cross OP’s mind. They probably knew it wasn’t the right thing to do – they wrote to Alison to double-check their instincts, after all, rather than just going ahead and calling the boss – but they’re probably feeling pretty desperate and thought there was a slim chance Alison might advise them to step in.

      1. Myrin*

        I also think these kinds of questions can occur to someone more easily depending on the personalities involved – for example, I’m very unwavering as a person, which has both good (no, you can’t convince me of your dumb idea no matter how long you keep nattering at me!) and bad sides (stubbornness, a problem to concede to some points).

        If I find myself in situations like the one OP describes (which has actually happened with my poor sister, who is much more courageous than me when it comes to bringing up issues, but not nearly as forceful), my first instinct is always to say “let me handle it!”, especially when I’ve witnessed the other person’s giving in or letting someone else walk all over them; I know that won’t happen to me, so I want to take it on to spare the other person.

        But obviously, I can’t do that most of the time. But the impulse is always there and I have to consciously stop myself and sometimes even get outside input to get back on the right track, mentally (which a letter to Alison might be).

        1. londonedit*

          Yes, my mum is the same. Even if I preface a general whinge with ‘I’m just venting, I’m not asking for solutions’ she can’t help but get upset on my behalf and start reaching for ‘But we should do X! You should do Y! Do you want me to talk to someone for you??’

          I think it’s a natural response for a lot of people, and it comes from wanting to help and not wanting to see a loved one in distress. It isn’t always helpful, but it’s coming from a good place (which I try to remind myself when my mum does it!)

        2. fposte*

          It’s also the kind of thing that can be one partner’s job in a relationship–Riley always handles billing stuff and complaints, because Taylor folds in an instant. It can be hard to realize that there’s territory where Riley has to leave it to Taylor.

    2. Squeeble*

      See, this is the kind of reply that makes me wary of ever writing in here with a question.

    3. Cat Fan*

      Wow, this comment is so off the mark and unnecessarily mean that I can’t believe Alison actually left it up.

  17. Tabbythecat*

    OP3. Tell them immediately that you are not having a bridal shower and you have everything sorted. Tell them you prefer to celebrate with friends and have a few drinks. They won’t be offended. The rejection will sting a bit and return to normal.

    1. Asenath*

      I have a friend who tried that – a relative who simply couldn’t believe that she really didn’t want a shower threw one anyway. A surprise shower.

      1. Weegie*

        A colleague did this to me too. I told her numerous times that I didn’t want a farewell party, she went ahead and organised it, and I didn’t go. Things were a bit frosty at work for my last couple of days.

        How I wish I’d had a script back then to convince her I really meant it, and I wasn’t just joking.

      2. Anonymous 5*

        Yep. This is what I would worry about. I’ve had nominal success in other “forced socializing” scenarios with a cheerful, matter-of-fact, “I won’t be going, but enjoy!” But I haven’t been in a situation to decline being a guest of so-called honor. Good luck, LW3 (and best wishes for your marriage, regardless of the shower situation!).

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Eh, I’d go with Alison’s advice to redirect instead of reject. Redirection allows the coworkers to still use their energy/effort, just in a way the LW would appreciate. An outright rejection of any attention could seem harsh to the coworkers, especially if LW already isn’t that social with them. Sometimes you have to let other people win a little in order to get what you want. For the sake of letting the coworkers feel like their efforts are appreciated, redirect them towards a workday lunch.

    3. Savannah*

      They will be offended, and it will not go back to normal. Outright rejecting the shower will not go well, only do this if you are planning to leave the company, because you will alienate these women and their friends. Coming off ungrateful about stuff like this is the type of thing people remember every time they see or hear your name for the rest of your life.

      1. Coco*

        Just wha?! Declining something you didn’t ask for isn’t being ‘ungrateful’. OP called them generous and friendly. If they cannot understand OP not wanting a shower that happens at a location that is inconvenient for the OP and inviting people OP is not close with, they would not be ‘generous and friendly’. If the party planners make things uncomfortable for the OP if she rejects the shower, they are the ones in the wrong. People are allowed to reject things they don’t want. It is far more rude to push / guilt someone into accepting something and then punishing them if they refuse than politely saying no thank you.

        Also for the people the planners invited who the OP is not close to, they may wonder if the OP is going to invite them to the wedding/ Trying to get gifts from more people. (Obviously OP isn’t doing that but if I got invited to a shower for someone I wasn’t close with, I’d wonder ‘why?’)

        OP, wedding planning can be a time suck. I can understand not having the time to travel 2 hours for a party when you could have other things going on.

        1. Just Me*

          I think she’s saying it might appear ungrateful to decline versus decline the weekend event and redirect to an alternate time. Her coworkers are trying to celebrate an exciting event in her life and just saying no to that might be something that they take personally. Suggesting a lunch event instead may be a compromise that preserves friendly relations with these women.

          Sure no one should be forced to do something they don’t want to do, but there is a social give and take at work where you should consider how strong your feelings are in relation to what the consequences are for you taking that stand. If there’s some reason that OP doesn’t want to (or can’t) subject herself to a lunch event for whatever reason, then okay.

      2. Emily K*

        Uh. I can’t imagine holding a grudge against my coworker for saying she didn’t want a bridal shower. If anything I might be a little bit worried that I’d overstepped and offended her and might be a little awkward/nervous around her for the next few interactions until it was clear that she wasn’t perturbed with me. And then yes, it would go back to normal.

        I honestly can’t remember the last time I would have used the word “ungrateful” to describe another person’s behavior. To me, that word says more about the attitude of the person saying it than the person they’re applying it to.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Yeah, people who hold lifelong grudges against someone for “ungratefully” declining an inconvenient invitation are selfish, petty, and emotionally manipulative, not generous and friendly.

          1. valentine*

            are selfish, petty, and emotionally manipulative, not generous and friendly.
            And difficult to work with, so OP3 may as well find out now if what they’ve seen so far was the honeymoon.

      3. jamberoo*

        If these women perceive it as ungratefulness, then that’s their problem, not the OP’s. If they choose to then hold it against her “for the rest of your life” then they are insane, immature, and to be kept at a distance.

    4. Observer*

      If you phrase it this way? They WILL be offended. They are extending what they see as a generous offer to celebrate and give gifts and you are telling them that you don’t like them enough to celebrate with them. Not offensive at all….

      1. jamberoo*

        “you are telling them that you don’t like them enough to celebrate with them”

        You’re projecting and putting words in the OP’s mouth. If that is how these women perceive her decision, they need to grow up.

        1. Savannah*

          They may need to grow up but depending on how many are involved in the planning (ratio of the department/company) and what position they hold (can their opinion of the OP break her career there) this can go very badly for the OP if she chooses the route to be blunt and alienate the women.

          Either way giving them the option to have a lunch bridal shower is a better compromise. This lessens any hurt feelings that stopping the shower all together and telling the women she works with 40+ hours a week that she would rather celebrate with friends would cause.

        2. fposte*

          Observer says specifically “If you phrase it this way.” It’s about the phrasing, not the decision.

      2. Observer*

        I’m not putting words in anyone’s mouth. What I am saying is that the specific phrasing here (Not Alison’s script) is that they are NOT her friends. The idea that this is not likely to offend people is just not realistic.

      3. SarahTheEntwife*

        But she probably *doesn’t* like them well enough to celebrate with them. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Some people like to celebrate things with absolutely everyone they feel at all positive toward and other people like to keep things to just close personal friends.

    5. CM*

      I think Alison’s advice was a kinder way of saying this. “Prefer to celebrate with friends” implies that OP#3 specifically does not want to spend time with these coworkers. Saying, “Thank you so much for thinking of me, but I’m so busy with wedding planning that having a shower really won’t work for me,” and optionally adding “unless we have something casual at work during our lunch hour,” accomplishes the same thing.

  18. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP1: Why do people do that? Asking a younger person to speak for their generation makes the speaker look old, out of touch, and offensive.

    1. Oxford Comma*

      I’m a Gen Xer and I have been asked by Millennial co-workers to speak for my generation. It goes both ways.

    2. CM*

      Am I the only one who doesn’t have a big problem with this?

      To me, asking “What do Millennials think” is different than “what do women/men think” or “what do people of ethnicity X think” because I do think there are generational differences in, say, the pop culture we’re aware of and how we use technology and communicate with each other. As long as you’re not really expecting the person to speak for their whole generation, and you’re saying something like, “Of course I’m looking at this from my perspective as a 50-year old — Jane, do you see this differently as a 25-year old?” or even “Do you have a sense of how other people in their 20s would see this?” doesn’t seem out of line to me. I remember being asked similar things when I was this age and I felt like I was just being asked for a different perspective than others in the room had.

      1. Emily K*

        +1 – The other difference between what women/men think is that our society is much, much more segregated along age/generational lines than it is along gender. Women and men share homes, work together, attend the same churches, and routinely socialize with each other and have conversations about all manner of topics under the sun – you have to be pretty oblivious to have absolutely no idea how the other sex feels about something when you’re interacting with them that often in that many different contexts.

        Comparatively speaking, it’s much less common for people from different generations to socialize with each other, and for many people, their main contact with a person from another generation might be just a few people in their immediate family, or a few older/younger people at work who they only ever seen in a professional context discussing work matters – hardly a random sample from a variety of contexts.

        1. SunnyD*

          I have found many men to be gobsmacked by routine female experiences. #MeToo

          To be fair, white me is often gobsmacked to learn how different life can be for people of color.

      2. Zombeyonce*

        Generations are large swaths of ages and you really can’t get any sense of what they all might think by asking just one. Millennials are from 22-37 years old! There are massive differences between them, even at the same age. You can’t even ask someone how they see something “as a 25-year old” because there’s no consistency there. I know 25-year olds still in college living it up with no major responsibilities and 25-year olds married with kids and a solid career, and plenty in between or something completely different. I suspect you think all people of a certain age have similar experiences or that they’re all technologically savvy, but neither of those are true.

        You can ask them for their perspective as the exact person they are: as someone familiar with a specific technology, as someone who lived in a certain place, as someone who has studied a specific thing. But asking someone to speak for others isn’t reasonable.

  19. Kamatari*

    OP of #4, I absolutely BEG you to talk to your husband and have him tell his boss that he has more work than he can handle. My father was in the exact same position, and he had 2 strokes a couple years apart as well as uncontrolled hypertension. He refused to tell his boss how stressed out he was from all the work he had to do. His coworkers used to joke about how many emails they would get after midnight.

    He finally got a promotion to the job that he has wanted for the last 20 years (having a software engineer stuck in management is a huge non-no!). He finally started taking his diet and exercise seriously when he realized his dream of wanting to hike the entire 1200 miles of the Appalachian trail. His relationship with my mom was the happiest it had every been. He had the best 6 weeks of his life.

    Then, very early on the morning of Easter this year, he was working out at the gym and had a massive brain bleed. They did a craniotomy to try to reduce the swelling but it didn’t help. We had to withdraw care because he had told us that he would rather die than never be able to use his hands or do software engineering again (the doctor predicted my dad would be completely left side paralyzed and blind and deaf on at least the left side. He passed away on the 27th.

    His coworkers insisted on a memorial lunch and his boss told us he felt responsible because he had no idea how much work my dad was doing. I hold nothing against his boss because my father was a very opinionated man and should have said something about how much work he was doing.

    OP #4, if your husband’s boss does not have a way to take off some of the work that he has to do, please have him the find some kind of de-stressing hobby. My father knew he had a potentially life threatening medical condition but thought he had enough time left (he was 53!). There were a lot of things left undone to ensure my mom will be financially secure in the short term. She was made his health care proxy but that doesn’t mean anything when the doctor tells you that he wants the patient to wake up and tell the doctor himself that he wants care withdrawn.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I’m so sorry. It wasn’t your fault or your mom’s, any more than it was his coworkers’ fault.

  20. Roscoe*

    #1 is interesting, because honestly the problem sounds more in how they are saying it than what they are going for. The fact is, they do want their opinion as someone from the younger generation, and i think in marketing, that is important. You want diverse voices in the room. Its why you want women and POC etc, and as much diversity as you can have. The thing is, since they are younger, they may also be less likely to speak up and need to be asked. So maybe them saying “what does someone of your generation think” isn’t the best phrasing, the intention is good. If a team asked me what I think of this as a black person, I wouldn’t necessarily feel like I’m speaking for ALL black people, but speaking for myself. I guess you can push back on the language a bit, but again, I think the are trying to be more inclusive overall, which is good.

    1. Jerm*

      Agree 100%. Inclusion in decision making, having a seat at the table, etc., are other ways to describe what is going on at your office.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yep! Good intentions, good basic goal, but the details of execution could be improved.

    3. SunnyD*

      But laughing after asking? It makes me less inclined to think they’re being super earnest and respectful.

  21. Luna*

    LW3 — That sounds like a non-problem. Just tell them that you are not intending on going to this bridal shower. I suppose mention how nice it is of them to ‘think of you’, but still. Just plain don’t go. And there’s not even a need to justify yourself. No need to explain about the car, the time, the fact that you don’t care for these people, etc, etc. You don’t need to justify ‘why’.

    1. Colette*

      That’s really dismissive. This is a problem for the OP, and it’s a legitimate one.

      It would be incredibly rude to respond to “we are having a party for you” with “I’m not going”. These are not strangers the OP never has to see again, nor are they people with a history of trying to run her life. They are coworkers doing something they believe is nice (and it is nice, even though it’s not what the OP wants). The OP will get much better results if she follows Alison’s advice.

      1. fposte*

        Absolutely. The feeling you want them to have is “She likes us and enjoys our company, but she’s not up for a shower.” Which from the OP’s description seems reasonably true, so why not?

        1. valentine*

          and it is nice, even though it’s not what the OP wants
          It’s not nice for OP3, so it isn’t inherently nice. Not even chocolate is inherently nice. Nice would be asking and taking no for an answer and inviting OP3’s work friends and scheduling it at a time and place convenient for OP3.

          1. fposte*

            That was Colette and not me :-).

            But while intent isn’t magic, it does matter. I can’t support an approach where “nice” means only “somebody who gives you exactly what you want.” It’s just too transactional.

            1. Colette*

              And there’s no indication that the coworkers have any idea that the OP is less than happy about the offer. It’s a nice offer – they’re doing it because they think she’ll like it. And the OP is entitled to decide it’s not for her.

          2. smoke tree*

            It wouldn’t be nice if they knew the LW didn’t want to do it and pushed her into it anyway. But until she tells them that, they are just inviting her to a party–presumably one they, themselves, would be happy to attend. She can give them a further opportunity to be nice when she graciously declines.

      2. Former Retail Manager*

        Totally agree. This is a situation to be handled kindly and delicately as I’m assuming there is a need to maintain a good working relationship with these ladies.

    2. Rugby*

      No, this is bad advice. Telling them “no” with no explanation is too hostile. OP specifically asked how to turn them down without “burning a bridge.” These are coworkers that OP works with everyday and she wants to maintain positive relationships with them.

    3. Tableau Wizard*

      The OP doesn’t need advice on how to “not go” – that part is pretty simple, as you mention. The difficult part is how to not go AND maintain a good relationship with her coworkers who are trying to be kind, however misguided. It’s incredibly short sighted to not recognize how your actions might impact others around you and how to handle yourself to mitigate those negative impacts.

    4. Anononon*

      …these aren’t telemarketers or door-to-door salespeople that OP will never see again. I’m pretty shocked that you think that just refusing to go wouldn’t cause any issues, when these are OP’s coworkers with whom she interacts with on a likely daily basis.

      These variants of “no” is a full sentence that love to crop up on this board are rarely ever appropriate. (And for the other variant, where the one super unusual counter example is mentioned to prove a comment “wrong”, note that I said “rarely ever”.)

      1. SunnyD*

        Right? “No is a full sentence” is terrible advice for the vast majority of people, and excellent advice for pathological abusive jerks.

    5. Oxford Comma*

      This is not like when Jack from accounting is throwing a big BBQ at his house and invited everyone and you don’t want to go.

      OP is the guest of honor.

      OP’s desired outcome: “How can I politely bow out of this without burning a bridge?”

      Simply not attending will burn bridges. Alison’s suggestion of redirecting does not burn bridges.

  22. blackcat*

    To get out of the bridal shower, I’d keep saying your weekends are booked with pre-wedding stuff. You have the perfect excuse! Lean into it.

    1. Yarrow*

      Yeah, honestly wedding planning is one of the few things that most reasonable people will give you a pass on. You can claim to be busy and people will at least pretend to understand. And if they don’t, that’s their problem, as long as you were polite and friendly about it.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        Not to mention, it’s probably legitimately true. In the couple of months leading up to the wedding, between the OTHER showers planned, visits to the venue, dress fittings, and my regular, every day responsibilities for work and etc., I had hardly any free weekends in the couple of months leading up to my wedding!

  23. Faith*

    One advice I have for panel interviews is be sure to pay attention to all interviewers. Do not ignore someone who you perceive to be “less important” because they are not the most senior person in the room, or the hiring manager themselves. It does not always happen consciously, but it doesn’t become any less rude because of that. I frequently give presentations to large groups of the executives, and it takes a conscious effort to make sure I’m speaking to the entire room, and not just talking to the CFO, which feels like a natural thing to do.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yes, this is critical. I hire in Academic Libraries and one thing we often do is have senior Student Assistants or interacting with the candidate in some context. Seeing how candidates treat people they think have “no input” on the hiring decision has revealed some things I never would have seen otherwise. Always treat everyone as though they are just as important as everyone else. You just never know who is really critical.

  24. Bella*

    Panel interviews are the only way things happen in academia for 90% of your interview! They’re usually groups of 5 or so people, but I’ve seen up to 15 people involved at a time. That’s not to mention that if your job requires a presentation that it’ll be open to a lot of people, and you’ll have 20+ people asking questions of you after.

  25. Incantanto*

    Panel interviews are pretty common I think, so I’d go in expecting it. I can’t remember applying to any jobs that didn’t have one in my last round of applications (industrial science.)

    Still irritated at the company that told me two people would interview me and I got 8.

  26. agnes*

    OP #1 I think the request is an (admittedly) awkward way of recognizing the value of the contributions of different demographics. In my career I have been in way too many meetings where “younger” employees’ input was dismissed because the powers that be felt they didn’t have enough experience to make a meaningful contribution. And, at times “older” employees were thought not to be “up to date” on newer trends and therefore their input was neither solicited nor considered.

    We consciously work hard in our organization to build diverse teams, in part because we want differing perspectives regarding the work we are doing. Although the team lead in your situation is handling this somewhat awkwardly, I don’t think there is any ill intent. If you can start with that perspective in mind, your discussion with the leadership will go better. I agree with Alison’s suggestions, just asking you to consider that sometimes people don’t really understand how their behavior is perceived by others and to give them some benefit of the doubt.

    1. Observer*

      Assuming you are correct, intent here doesn’t really matter that much. It’s still a very bad way to go about things. It’s more than just awkward, and doesn’t even get you where you want to go.

  27. MatKnifeNinja*

    A nasty case of food poisoning the day of cures this nightmare. *wink wink nudge nudge*

    Send a gift and regrets. No way would I go to this mess.

    1. fposte*

      That sounds like maybe you missed that she’s the guest of honor, though. The last-minute bail is usually fine for a guest, but when people have put in all the work with the specific point of your presence and you *know* you won’t go, you really can’t just wait until the last minute to blow them off.

    2. KarenK*

      I think you’ve missed the point. Yes, if this were a shower for someone else, a last-minute illness would do the trick.

      But, the shower is for OP#3. If she waits until the last minute, many people would have already put a lot of effort and money into the party. This can be avoided by simply saying, as soon as possible, that the OP appreciates the gesture, but her weekends are full and she would not be able to attend.

    3. Oh So Anon*

      I’m not that much of a stickler for honesty, but seriously. Everyone involved here is an adult and probably has reasonable communication skills, so there are ways to decline proactively and politely without burning bridges or resorting to white lies.

  28. CupcakeCounter*

    I can see your point and the “and then laughs” at the end of the your generation comment seems incredibly condescending.
    I am curious about whether a comment such as “As someone more familiar with the current social media trends, could I get your take on this video?” or “Since we have a couple of people in our target demographic in the room, I’d like to get their opinion on whether this is something they or their friends and classmates would find interesting?” Obviously no laughing but since there is still a reference to age/generational differences would that also seem out of line?

    I ask because we did something like this with some interns working on a marketing campaign to try to attract new applicants to our company as our target group was recent and soon to be grads. It was definitely more of a what are you looking for in a company/what perks and benefits really appeal to you/how can we grab your attention with our advertising type of questioning but the interns weren’t the most diverse group I’ve ever worked with. I’m hoping it came across as we were trying to improve based on changing wants and needs as opposed to what you reference in your letter.

    1. Observer*

      I think that this is much better. For one thing you are not asking ONE person. For another you are explicitly asking for what their network thinks, not just the token(s) in the room. You still may not be getting the diversity you need, but you’ve probably gotten some decent information about that slice of the demographic.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        Agreed. You’re asking about specific people (that person and the people they know), not a massive amount of people of which the person has only met a small portion. Those kinds of directed questions are totally fine.

  29. Argh!*

    Re: #1

    The best way to ask about some “young” thing is to ask about that thing! “Who here with an Instagram account would like to weigh in?” It’s not just reductive to think young people represent their generation. It’s also ageist to assume that nobody over 30 or 40 can understand it just because Big Boss is out of touch.

    In my previous job, several of us were let go because they needed to bring in “digital natives.” We all got severance, but seriously? Just because someone has a Facebook account doesn’t mean they are experts on the internet. Look at me here right now, over 40 & internetting just fine!

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Whoa, they actually came out and stated their age discrimination in so many words?! I suspect (and rather hope) a lawsuit is forthcoming.

  30. Checkert*

    OP2 I had this issue when I worked a govt job because people are well known for not taking ownership of problems to a degree that is troubling and almost impressive. I found that when I discovered an issue I wanted to bring to someone’s attention, it not getting handed back to me had everything to do with that very first communication. 1. Specify upfront that it is not your responsibility (not my lane, outside my purview, etc). 2. Try to come with a solution not just the problem (I would suggest you get in touch with so and so, you should try ____, next steps should be ____, etc.) 3. Take it to your supervisor and let them run with it for you. 4. If they do try to pass it back to you, decline. (I don’t have the bandwidth for that, I don’t have the resources, etc). It’s tricky and you may feel out of line at first, but it’s likely not breeding as much contempt or disrespect for you than you think. I’m a female and while I’m sure there may have been some muttering behind closed doors, I was always treated with respect and standing up for myself and my time actually gave me and what I did more clout because of it.

  31. Observer*

    #4- You have my fullest sympathy. But you NEED to have a real conversation with your husband. And unless your husband has actually told you this, don’t assume that the boss “obviously doesn’t care.”

    Strategize with your husband – not just “talk to your boss” but about WHAT to say, and how to approach it. And a real discussion of whether the job is the right fit. And if it’s not, strategies for getting out.

    What you CANNOT do is call his boss. There is no chance that you are going to be successful and there is a very high chance that you will make things significantly worse.

  32. CupcakeCounter*

    How do you know about the shower at this point? Have they asked you about it or did you just overhear something or see something on a printer?
    If they haven’t said anything directly to you yet, this is a “them” problem. They are planning an event that they have no idea if you are free for. When they finally say something, you have a conflict that day. If they propose another weekend, saying that you are very busy planning the wedding and since you and fiance both work FT everything has to be done on the weekends. If they start to pout and do the “but we wanted to throw you a bridal shower” thank them for their thoughtfulness and but say it isn’t necessary. If they push, recommend a lunch or happy hour time slot that you mentioned in your letter as an alternative.
    If they have asked, Hey OP…do you have plans on X day? and you said no its a bit harder. If the shower is supposedly a secret that you aren’t supposed to know about then you have no reason to not make plans on that day. Dress fitting, cake tasting, who the hell cares but you have an appointment in the city that day.
    If they said something about “oh don’t make plans that day” and are under the impression that you are all for this shower…you messed up. As soon as you realized the situation, you should have said something like “oh that doesn’t work for me – my weekends are packed” or “that won’t be possible – I don’t have a car and am afraid that is too far away for public transportation”. But since we are human we rarely do things like that because most of us don’t want to hurt someones feelings or don’t really know what to say right in that moment and then fret and stew for a bit (I’m currently in that mode right now so no judgement even if it might sound that way).
    Best thing to do now, if you know the details for the shower are what you described in your letter, is talk to one of the organizers who you know the best and let them know “Hey…I know you mentioned a shower for me a while back and that is really sweet of you but I’ve been hearing some details that really won’t work on my end. I live in the city and have no vehicle so getting to the suburbs is a no-go. I’m also really busy with the wedding planning and weekends are all I have so I really can’t take that time right now. If you still want to throw a shower the best time would be during a lunch hour or an after work happy hour.” Or leave that last part out and end with “I’m sorry – I now you’ve put a lot of time and thought into this but I will not be able to attend a shower at X’s house any weekend and didn’t want you to go to any more trouble when I know it won’t work out.”

  33. panel*

    Interviewers- please be clear. I’ve had bad experiences there. Early in my career, I was hit with one unprepared- think several people on one side of horizontal table, myself sitting opposite with my own table. When asked, I told them honestly- it felt like American Idol. The whole interview had been terribly awkward, so I felt safe throwing caution to the wind. I still don’t really like that method for a first interview.

  34. voluptuousfire*

    #4—-Oh my. That is not good! Please, please, please see if your husband can take FMLA or something along those lines. Hearing that he had two heart attacks in a year as a diabetic is super concerning. My mom was type 1 diabetic and had complications due to uncontrolled blood sugar and one of the complications was heart issues. She had a few heart attacks and also was hospitalized several times for heart issues. Your husband’s quality of life can be severely impacted by this. Please try to get him some time off!

    As someone who has seen what the complications of diabetes can do, please get your husband the help he needs!

  35. Kiwiii*

    OP 5 – one thing to remember in panel interviews (at least in the context of government-related ones) is that they’re often working from a set of questions that have been more or less assigned to them and literally have a set of answers that they’re looking for. If there’s one place you should try to include what feels like too much information or explaining about a thing, it’s a panel interview, as if you don’t mention a thing in so many words, there’s a chance they can’t count it. Even if it’s on your resume. Even if they can realistically assume something.

    I had a coworker who would always get incredibly upset after interviews if she was told afterwards that she didn’t talk enough about her experience, stating that “they should know” and she “shouldn’t have to” explain herself, despite knowing what they’re meant to be taking into account. She’s experienced and intelligent and has been looking for a new job for like 4 years.

  36. Jerk Store*

    #3 – in addition to what sounds like having to take public transport to the party which takes quite awhile, imagine trying to corral all those gifts to the bus stop / train station then try to hold them all on the bus or train & get them home. Yeah, that’s a no from me.

    1. CanCan*

      Don’t use transportation as the excuse! The coworkers may offer to drive you there and back. Just say you’re terribly busy on weekends and how much you appreciate their offer. Don’t bring up any of the other issues. If they are reasonable people, they will understand that either you’re truly always busy on weekends or you actually don’t want the shower and are being polite about it, and so should they. It’s not burning a bridge if you say it all kindly and seem genuinely grateful.

  37. irene adler*

    OP #4-
    What’s not been said is what the doctor’s orders are for the OP’s husband. Certainly he’s been advised by the docs as to what to do to avoid any more heart attacks, how to manage the diabetes, etc.

    Maybe I missed something here.

    My thought:
    Husband ought to have WRITTEN orders from his physician indicating that he must reduce stress or some other such directive. Ideally, something specific the boss can put into action. This should be presented to the boss. Maybe that’s what it takes for the boss to understand the situation. Or, the work place rules require that boss needs written notification from a physician before he can make modifications to any employee’s job tasks.

    1. Willow*

      I am not going for an unkind tone here, just a logical one: Your husband had heart attacks, but (presumably) there are people at his job who have NOT had heart attacks. So yes, the boss needs to know EXPLICITY what changes your husband needs to his job responsibilities. Longer deadlines/less immediacy? More assistants/assistance? Part-time work? No more phone calls? No more being held accountable for things he has no control over, like finances? Assurances that he, and others in the company, won’t lose their jobs due to things outside their control, like lack of clients with billable work? Comfortable chair? Time for a walk at lunch? Fidget spinner? There are so many ways to “reduce stress”, his ways are likely different than my ways or your ways.

  38. legalchef*

    I’m going to disagree with Alison and most (all?) of the commenters re the bridal shower – I think at this point the LW might need to just deal with it. It sounds like invitations have gone out and plans have been made. The time to have spoken up to say no would have been when they first suggested it, but if plans are in place and money has been spent, I don’t know that there is a way to get out of it without burning a bridge.

    1. post it*

      If it’s being hosted at one of their houses, I don’t know what they could have spent money on that couldn’t be used for a shower at work instead.

      1. valentine*

        if plans are in place and money has been spent, I don’t know that there is a way to get out of it without burning a bridge.
        Things happen. It’s not a subpoena.

    2. Clementine*

      I tend to agree. It may be unfortunate, but if you plan to continue to work with these people, it could well be worth the inconvenience and time.

    3. jamberoo*

      If during my wedding planning phase you told me I had to suck up and deal with something like this that I did not want, you’d better duck. That, or prepare for me to start crying, because that period of time was beyond stressful, and some brides/grooms are already shoulder-deep in people trying to impose their own spin on your event.

  39. Heidi*

    Hi OP4. Sorry to hear that your husband is unwell. You mentioned that your husband has talked to his boss several times, but you didn’t elaborate on what was discussed. For what it’s worth, I’ve found that it really helps employers if you have very specific requests rather a general request to cut back. For instance, he could ask if he can stop working on Project X and hand it off to Colleague Y. He could ask to work from home 3 days per week. He could ask to limit his hours to X per week or to not travel internationally. He could request alternative parking so that he doesn’t have to walk a long distance to get into the building. If there is a physically strenuous part of his job, you could ask for scheduled rest breaks or to eliminate that part of the job entirely. Your husband’s doctor can also write a letter supporting these requests. If the requests are not specific, the employer has to make guesses as to what is appropriate, and most employers don’t really have the expertise to do this effectively. And unfortunately, some jobs are just stressful and there is no way to make them not be stressful. If that is your situation, you both might need to start planning an exit strategy from this job.

    But please don’t talk to his boss directly. I suspect you’re imagining a scenario where you explain how worried you are and the boss sees how wrong he’s been about all this and changes your husband’s job entirely so that he’s not stressed out any more. This is unlikely to happen, and it could make things worse for your husband. Sometimes not intervening is the hardest thing to do because outwardly it feels like you’re not doing anything, but it’s the right option here. Good luck to you both.

  40. Name Required*

    I’m a senior-level technician who’s also a woman, and one thing I’ve noticed a lot as an interviewer in group interviews is that there are a lot of male technicians who tend to specifically address their more technical answers to the men on the panel and then give more simplified answers to me as if I won’t be able to understand the really complicated parts. At one job, we even kept that in mind as an interview tactic; a lot of our clients were women, and we wanted to get a feel for how new technicians might interact with them, so we would interview in a pair with a male technician and me without mentioning my job role at first to see how they were at talking to me, and then tell them my job role halfway through to see how their interactions changed. A lot of people interacted with us both the whole time, which was great, but a lot of other people only really paid attention to me after finding out that I was also a tech, and sometimes people would do things like listen to me ask them a technical question and then give an answer that was a mix of technical and non-technical where the technical bits were only ever directed at my male colleague and the non-technical bits were directed at me like a translation even after they’d been told my job title, which was especially egregious when my male colleague’s stated job title was non-technical or clearly junior to mine. It was interesting to watch, although sometimes frustrating to experience.

    So if you’re interviewing with group, definitely pay equal attention to everyone in the group, but also treat everyone like they’re an expert at what they do. Go by job title, and don’t make assumptions. If they don’t give their job title or you don’t remember, then it’s better to assume that they’re more knowledgable rather than less knowledgable, and to treat them like they’re going to know what you’re talking about. If they don’t then they’ll ask. If you’re giving a technical answer and there’s one person in the group who’s title indicates that they might need a less technical version, then it’s okay to ask questions to see if that’s the case, like “you mentioned you’re the teapot supervisor; do you have a background in spout design or…?” which isn’t just helpful for the interview but also gives more information about the company and gives both you and your interviewers more context for your answers.

    If you suspect that you might have any unconscious biases that might come out in where you’re directing your answers during a group interview, even if it’s just a tendency to pay more attention to people on your left (I do that one), then A) good on you for recognizing that because most people don’t, B) make a conscious to direct some of your answers to the people you think you might unconsciously overlook, and C) try to practice that beforehand if there’s any way to do so at all. That’s not just an interview thing, either; that will help you in presentations and other interactions every day, so it’s well worth the effort.

    1. CM*

      As a fellow woman in tech, interesting and frustrating sums up this whole story very well!

      I’ve actually had the reverse experience where I was being interviewed by two people, but one of them dominated while the other sat back and barely got a word in edgewise (and it didn’t seem like this was on purpose, it just felt like the first person was dominating and not paying attention to the second person). One time it was a man and a woman, one time it was a senior and junior man. Both times it really put me off the organization. I’ve had enough of being ignored and talked over, I don’t want to work someplace where it’s so ingrained in the culture that they do it even during interviews.

  41. Wantonseedstitch*

    OP#5: My office does a very similar kind of interview. It’s primarily because we want to get input from a lot of different people as we go through the interviewing process, but we don’t want to subject the interviewee to an entire day of one-on-one interviews, one after the other! We have questions that HR has provided us that are behavioral interview questions, designed to get at how a person has behaved in the past in circumstances that are likely to occur in the job for which they’re interviewing. We coordinate what questions each person will ask because it makes it easier to ensure every candidate gets asked the same questions, so we can make a fair comparison between them. We aren’t supposed to discuss our impressions of the candidate afterwards until we’ve submitted our formal feedback. This helps keep us from biasing one another (and it means we aren’t all gossiping afterwards, if you’re afraid of that).

    I would say Alison’s advice is spot-on. Sometimes the highest-ranking person in the room isn’t necessarily the person making the hiring decision. Even if they are, ignoring lower-ranking people–particularly if you’d be reporting to one of them!–is one of the worst things you could do.

    All in all, I am unlikely to hesitate to hire someone because they seemed nervous in an interview, unless their nerves prevented them from giving solid answers to questions like “In the past, how have you handled situations where you had too much work to complete and not enough time to get it all done?” As Alison says, look at the person who asked the question, look at others when they are talking, and make sure everyone gets some eye contact. Having a question prepared that all of them could answer wouldn’t be a bad idea to help this, even something like “what do you find to be the most challenging and most rewarding things about working here?”

  42. Former Retail Manager*

    OP#3….I’d strongly encourage you to request that they have the shower at work or maybe even right after work, but I would NOT request that they cancel it. I know the types of ladies you speak of… family is full of them…heck, my mother is one of them, and I can assure you, that they may be polite to your face, but declining to have the shower at all will not be well received. If you don’t really need to work with them with any regularity, you may not care how they take it, and that’s fine I suppose. But if you want to maintain a friendly working relationship with these ladies, I would make every effort to participate while at work if you can. If they have already incurred the expense to begin purchasing food/ingredients, decorations, cups, plates, etc., they may or may not be able to get their money back depending upon how long they’ve been planning this, which would just add insult to injury (in their view at least). Good luck!

    1. valentine*

      I would NOT request that they cancel it.
      OP3 should start how they mean to go on and like a hostage.

  43. CM*

    OP#2, you could also try being even more explicit, like, “I’m connecting you two so you can coordinate on providing water at the race. No need to keep me in the loop,” or “You don’t have to CC me,” or “Feel free to communicate with each other directly, I don’t need to be included,” or if it’s at work, “Hi Bill and Ted, I noticed that there’s an issue with X and am alerting you both because it affects both of your areas. Thanks, Me” and then don’t reply to any followup emails, or just reply to say, “Glad to hear you’re addressing this. Please take me off the CC list, thanks!”

  44. WKRP*

    I feel you LW 2. I learned how to update something on the company website in order to put a project of mine online. Word immediately got around that I knew how to do it and suddenly I became the go to person. I have literally had this skill 1 month. I am not an expert in how to do it. In fact, I should be an emergency contact sort of person… unless it’s an emergency there are other much more qualified people who could do it and also other people who would be much more appropriate.

    Disentangling myself from the assumption that I’m the go to person, has been sticky and frustrating and to be honest, a bit of a representation of how disorganized the team that should be handling it (or training others on it) is. Sigh.

  45. dear liza dear liza*

    OP #1, I think it’s also important to emphasize that one person’s opinion does not necessarily extrapolate to their community. I’m in higher ed and have been on LOTS of committees with student representatives. I always cringed when the other committee members would take the sole student’s comments as gospel. Students do their best to represent their constituents, but when asked something like, “Do you ever feel like there’s a need for a food pantry on campus?” or “Do students still use Instagram?”- well, they can only talk for themselves.

    1. AnotherLibrarian*

      Maybe your campus works differently than the campuses on which I have worked. But where I have worked when a student is acting as the “student representative” then they have usually been placed on the committee by the Student Government Association (at least at my campus) and the whole reason they are there is to represent the student body. Otherwise, they wouldn’t be the “student representative”. So, I don’t think expecting them to speak for the study body (which is their job) is particularly problematic.

  46. Veryanon*

    OP #1 – I had a meeting with a manager to discuss some performance concerns he had about one of his employees. He described the employee as “Oh you know, he’s a typical Gen-Xer.” I gently asked him, “What does that mean to you, exactly?” He kind of fumbled around until he was able to articulate what he meant by the comment, and I pointed out to him “Well, I am also of that generation, but I’d be willing to be that [employee] and I don’t have much in common except that we are close in age.” I think I got the point across about gross generalizations. Ugh.

  47. ToS*

    For OP #4, remind him of his options. Knowing there are other jobs out there can bring some air to the situation – update the resume! Talk through three options with him: Restored health, Improved Health and No Change. Leave his boss out of your spousal discussion unless it’s something that can be changed (such as a transfer, but there is some stress for learning a new boss) The Boss is managing The Work of the department, which is soldiering through staffing and performance at whatever level spouse is performing, including over- or under-performing. Do NOT add an extra communication channel where Boss has the extra work of telling you and your spouse that they cannot talk to employee spouses, even if employee health is a concern. It’s up to the employee to bring it to the fore. Spousal role is one of supporting the employee on the home-front.

    How robust is HR? Is this an FMLA (50 employees minimum, but with his history, I’m guessing he’s used substantial leave) or ADA (15 employee minimum) situation? Granted, some jobs (fire fighter) have stress within the essential functions, but there may be room for a nuanced discussion. Go to the Ask JAN website to see how people have adapted on the job with his health condition.

  48. The answer is (probably) 42*

    There has been a lot of excellent advice here on how to decline to attend, I don’t have much to add there. But I will say this: There may be internal politics or unique circumstances to consider that would make it very hard for you to bow out, like if they have any authority over you or will make your life living hell in some way or another.

    In that case, one last thing you CAN do is make your transportation to the party THEIR problem, not yours. They are the ones who decided to have this party 2 hours away from you, with you having no access to a car. That’s extremely selfish of them (which very much lines up with “planning an unwelcome bridal shower and steamrolling the bride into attending”) but you can be very matter-of-fact about the fact that you simply have no way of getting to and from their party. Present this as a completely insurmountable obstacle for you that has absolutely no viable solution you could accomplish yourself. And make it clear that this is a problem in both directions, so they don’t find some half-assed solution to just get you there and then abandon you. I predict one of these scenarios:
    #1: They’ll balk at driving four hours round-trip to collect and prefer to cancel the party.
    #2: They’ll rope someone else into driving you, which unfortunately means you’ll be “able” to attend if all other strategies fail, but hey at least you get a ride there and back and you’ll hopefully get some good gifts out of it.
    #3: This won’t work either and they’ll do some mental gymnastics that somehow steamroll you into attending anyway.

    I really hope that #1 occurs, it’s worth a shot in my opinion. You have my sympathy, good luck dealing with these ladies at work in the future, regardless of what ends up happening!

    1. Colette*

      It’s a 2 hour round trip, which might be as little as 15 minutes one way if you are driving.

    2. Mia_Mia*

      If they drive to work, it probably doesn’t take them 2 hours round trip. It takes me an hour to get to work on public transportation. If I owned a car, it would take 15-20 minutes. They also probably don’t realize the added time for someone without a car, if they even know she doesn’t have one.

      They were just trying to do something nice without thinking it through. LW should just be honest and ask them to move it to work or cancel it, not hope they refuse to offer her a ride.

  49. Sleepy*

    It just goes to show the grass is always greener…no one I work with even acknowledged my wedding and I was pretty hurt, more than I really should have been. I didn’t want a full-blown shower but…a card would have been nice? My husband’s boss who had never met me threw a super fun happy hour for us while my boss, who has known my husband for many years, did nothing and asked me to check my work email while I was taking vacation days to prep for the wedding.

    So while totally acknowledging that this shower idea sucks, I also have to say I’m a little envious that you have coworkers who bother to acknowledge your life milestone. (but yeah, I’d still be mad if this was a shower for me as it sounds crappy.)

  50. Free Meerkats*

    ““What does YOUR generation think?” then laughs.”

    I don’t know, Bob; what do 50ish balding men with poor fashion sense think about it? Then laugh.

  51. theletter*


    I’m guessing that this coworkers know they’re not invited, and are interested in celebrating you anyway. It sounds like they might all live out in the burbs, and probably like to hit the road a little early at the end of the day? Maybe that’s why they didn’t think of a happy hour downtown?

    You should just straight up tell them that you don’t have a saturday to spare between now and the wedding. Or that in prepping for the wedding you’ve found yourself just too exhausted during the week to plan a daytrip to the suburbs. I feel like if you say “Daytrip to the suburbs” a lot they’ll figure out that what’s homebase for them is a long way to you. “that’s really sweet but there’s no way for me to get there.”

    They might hand you a train schedule. Remind them that trains don’t run as often on the weekends. Tell them their house isn’t anywhere near the train hub. Tell them you have an emergency fitting that day. Tell them you’re off the cake until after the honeymoon. Tell them you’re on saturday morning fitness plan. Tell them you just can’t wake up that early. Tell them that you have tickets to a show that night. Tell them that your pet rock looks ill. Just straight up say you have plans, even if those plans are to be on your couch watching TV. These are your plans!

    Other tactics include telling them that you already had a shower from your family and it would feel too ostentatious to have another, that your registry is just a honeymoon registry, or a donation to a favorite cause, that you’ll let them take you out to coffee one morning. You can do this. Stay strong.

  52. Elizabeth West*

    #1–Yesterday, I talked to a cop who was so young, I was tempted to ask him for ID. #badumtss


    But seriously, that’s annoying. It also seems like it would marginalize the older workers; they’re not all luddites. What if the most social media-savvy person in your company was not the 20-something but the 40-something? And of course, all 20-somethings aren’t incompetent babies, either.

    #4–I’m so sorry for OP’s husband. He needs to get out of that job. I would sit down with him in a neutral moment and discuss finances, how he can start looking for something else, or if he’s close enough to retirement age where it might make sense to take it a bit early and finances allow, maybe he could do that and work part-time instead. But he can’t stay in a job that’s stressing him out so much it’s literally killing him.

    #5–I almost always ask who I’ll be interviewing with, if they don’t tell me. The front desk person usually asks who you’re there to see. That way, I can tell them, “I have a 10 o’clock appointment with Celestina Warbeck.”

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ooh, good point about the older workers. I once, years ago, had a 64-year-old coworker who handled all our database stuff despite being in a job that had nothing to do with databases “officially.” She was awesome.

      Also, thanks for the interview tip.

  53. Officious Intermeddler*

    My parallel loves for AAM and Miss Manners collide for OP #3–this is, in its heart, a question about how to politely decline an invitation to an event one would rather not attend, no? There’s no law that OP 3 must attend a gathering, even one thrown in her honor, but for personal and professional reasons, consider a few things:
    – decline the invitation as soon as possible to spare the planners time and expense that they might forego.
    – decline in a manner that expresses that one is grateful for the thoughtful gesture (and it is thoughtful, even though it isn’t perhaps welcome or practical for OP to attend).
    – don’t give an explanation or fictitious reason for not attending. Certainly don’t use an easily-discoverable lie. If OP is willing to attend a shower during business hours, something like “I cannot attend events on the weekends” like Alison suggests will be truthful and might prompt a change of plans without seeming demanding.

  54. stickywicket*

    This not business related but I just want to say “thank you” to Alison. My daughter-in-law called me today about something not really my business. I had just read this post and went to “you guys have got this so you can take it from here.” Perfect; got me out of a sticky-wicket.

  55. Richard*

    #1 Another angle on why that “let’s ask the youth” question is bad is that it ignores the fact that many older adults are parents of (or otherwise have in their lives) teenagers and young adults and may have as much insight into that generation as members of it.

    1. Observer*

      As a parent, I’m going to say that this is not correct. The view of a parent is absolutely going to be different than the view of the child. I’m not saying that the parent’s view is wrong. But it SI going to be different and there ARE going to be things they don’t know.

      1. Richard*

        You said I was incorrect, but your statement was totally unrelated to what I said. I said “may have insight,” not “will always know everything about that group and represent it comprehensively.” I’m a millennial parent and have learned a lot from coworkers that are parents of teenagers about the kinds of technology and communication preferences that people a little younger than me use. In general, members of a group can be less adept at articulating its culture than those who observe it from a close distance. Yes, experiences are different, but asking a young person to speak for all young people is just as unproductive as ignoring what a parent says about their experience with the young people they live and regularly interact with.

        1. Observer*

          You said “as much insight” which is not true – a parent is not going to know as much about how their kids think as the kids do. It’s really that simple.

  56. nora*

    The first question raises my hackles. A couple years ago I went to a roundtable discussion (not willingly) about “generations in the workplace” with a supervisor who was in her late 70s. I was in my early 30s at the time. I didn’t feel comfortable saying anything since the discussion quickly devolved into YOUNG PEOPLE ARE THE WORST ALL THEY WANT ARE HEADPHONES AT WORK AND RAISES EVERY YEAR AND THAT’S WHY WE CAN’T KEEP YOUNG PEOPLE ON STAFF

    And I’m sitting there like, who cares about headphones (my supervisor did, in fact she forbade all music/radio/whatever) in the office, and have you SEEN our student loan payments? Of course we want raises regularly. To no one’s particular surprise that agency does have a hard time holding onto new staff.

    1. Richard*

      The shorter version of that story is even more transparently dumb: “We constantly complain about our staff and then our staff leaves and we can’t figure out why but we’re sure it’s their fault.”

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