my client won’t pay my cancellation fee, company asked us to donate a kidney to a board member, and more

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

1. My friend/client won’t pay my cancellation fee

I have a friend who I met because we both enjoy certain sports. I’ll call him Frank. I only see Frank when I am involved in this sport, but it’s a small community, so everyone knows each other. Because my business caters to this sport and others like it, Frank decided he would like to use my service. And because he is a friend, I gave him a discounted price. My business is appointment based and I can only see one client at a time, so we have a strict 24-hour rescheduling policy. He has cancelled his appointment many times without proper notice, leaving me in a lurch. I explained to him that I am unable to see other clients as I cannot double book my time and not always able to fill the hole in my schedule on short notice. When I confront him about this, he gets very angry and says he is not a “client” (he is “more than that”) and do not treat him as such. He refuses to pay the cancellation fee.

Meanwhile, an ex-employee who was fired for insubordination and stealing clients, is siding up to Frank — disparaging my name and my company, all the while trying to steal him as a client. Because of Frank’s flaky nature, I’m not to sure this wouldn’t be a bad thing.

The problem is that Frank is very good at certain athletics and is a featured client on our advertising campaign. In addition to that, he knows many people in the sporting community and word gets around. Should I suck it up? Or set a boundary, change my campaign, and let the chips fall as they may?

Wow, Frank is being a real a-hole here. Since he’s a friend, he should get to mess up your schedule and cause you to repeatedly lose income? That’s precisely the opposite of how it should be.

Any chance you can say to him, “You’re right, you’re a friend. I don’t want this to interfere with our friendship, so I’m going to refer you to another business for this work from now on.” Or if it would go over better if it wasn’t personalized to him, you could say, “I’ve realized it’s too messy to take business from friends, so I have a new policy of referring friends to other providers.”

Alternately, you could tell him you’re willing to keep seeing him but need to get payment in advance and can’t book the appointment without that.

But yeah, it sounds like losing him as a client would be a good thing. It also might be a good idea to change the advertising campaign that features him, if that’s not a huge pain — or at least to be prepared to do it if he gets more difficult.

2. Our company asked if we’d donate a kidney to a board member

My previous workplace sent a company-wide email (via the COO) asking if staff would donate a kidney to a 70-year-old board member. The renumeration would be “any costs associated with the surgery and post op care.”

I’m from a different country, and I found this email to be abhorrent! I feel it grossly overstepped boundaries, and reinforced privilege barriers (the majority of the workforce at this company is African American or Hispanic, whilst the board and upper level management are almost exclusively white.) Through research and general knowledge, I found there can be long-term health implications with donating organs, and I don’t feel just offering to pay for a surgery that wasn’t necessary in the first place even scratches the surface in terms of compensation.

My colleagues at the time didn’t think this request was unusual. Am I totally off-base with my disgust?

In the U.S. and many other countries, it’s illegal to offer compensation for an organ beyond covering costs associated with the operation, so that’s why they didn’t offer more than that. (The concern is that paying for organs would exploit poor people and could even be coercive.)

That doesn’t mean the email from your COO was appropriate. It wasn’t. Hopefully no one is going to feel pressured to say yes to that request simply because it comes from above, but there is an inherent pressure when you’ve got those power dynamics in play. Plus, if an employee did donate, what does that mean for their employment there? Will they be given preferential treatment? Will others think they’re being given preferential treatment, regardless of whether they actually are? If the person’s performance worsens, will the employer feel comfortable addressing it the same way they would with someone else? If their job is later cut, will the employee feel betrayed? There’s a ton of potential for messiness here, all of it amplified by power and race differences.

3. Student who uses tons of exclamation points

I am a woman professor in a male-dominated field, and I have several undergraduate students who research with me. One, Ellie, includes tons of exclamation points in her emails. Here is a snippet (details changed to protect the innocent).

“Hi [professor]!

I came up with a title for my report! It is [Awesome Title Here]! Let me know what else you need from me!”

I have a rough time knowing what to do with exclamation points. Sometimes I add them to emails to soften my tone, and other times I think I should write “more like a man.” It’s tough being in a field with 15% women. On the one hand, I want to tell my student that all the exclamation points make her sound very young (which she is). On the other hand, I don’t want to tone police another woman. Why are exclamation points such a mine field?

I love exclamation points, but you’re right that overusing them can make a writer sound young, or just out of sync if you’re in a culture that values more sober writing. It’s also super annoying that we still think of classically male presentation as the default that we should all calibrate against and that women are advised to sound/act more like men, rather than men being advised to sound/act more like women. But such is the reality, at least sometimes.

Anyway. I think you could approach this as, “From one woman in a male-dominated field to another, I’ve found using a lot of exclamation points can make people take you less seriously. This is ridiculous, and it’s annoying that I find myself thinking about punctuation and tone as much as I do, but it can also be the reality of our field. I leave it to you to decide if you want to act on that or not, but I wanted to point it out in the spirit of mentorship.”

I’m somewhat torn on this language because this is something that could be worth flagging in non-male-dominated fields too, but I think it works for your context.

4. Company wants me to come in for an eighth interview

I’ve been in talks with a company about a position for three months now. I initially had my phone interview three months ago and have gone there seven separate times (yes seven) for interviews. The company called me two weeks ago to let me know that they were still making decisions, but I was a top candidate and they would be in touch soon.

This was recently followed up by another in person interview request, rounding it up to eight. When I asked about the motivation, it was to get to know me a bit better and “continue conversations.” No hint of an offer was suggested.

At this point, I’m a little hesitant as I’ve recently seen the job on LinkedIn. It’s difficult to continue to take off work since my current employer doesn’t know I’m looking. The company seemed great and the position is what I’m looking for, so should these interviews be a red flag? How many interviews are too many?

Seven was already too many. Have you seen other signs that they’re flaky / indecisive / disorganized / inconsiderate?

And this is to “get to know you better”?! They’ve had seven separate meetings with you where they could have done that. If they’d said, “There’s been a change in the role that we want to talk to you about” or “our CEO just announced he wants to do the final sign-off before we hire,” that would be … well, it would still be too many interviews. But it would be a lot less egregious than “come in an eighth time for no real reason.”

It’s reasonable for you to say something like, “Can you give me a sense of the remaining steps in your process? This would be my eighth interview there, and it’s difficult for me to continue taking time off work to come in. In fact, if it’s possible to do this conversation over the phone, that would be much easier for me to do.”

Caveat: Whenever you push back on a hiring process, there’s a chance you’ll be taken out of the running. So you’d want to be comfortable with that possibility — but really, if they balk at a phone call at this point, that’s valuable info about how (in)considerate they are of people they work with.

{ 549 comments… read them below }

  1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#1, I’m sorry that Frank is being a tool. I’m with Alison—it’s time to fire him as a client. That way, he and your disgruntled ex-employee can keep one another company in their own maelstrom of flaky discontent.

    1. Cat Meowmy Admin

      Definitely agree.
      “maelstrom of flaky discontent” is a new fave phrase, perfect for a variety of situations ;)

      1. SigneL

        I like the idea of telling Frank that your new policy is to collect payment in advance. Frank will probably remove himself as your client, saving you the trouble.

        1. theothermadeline

          I think a danger of that would be the small community – he could learn through conversation with other clients that that may not be the case for everyone

        2. LunaLena

          The problem with having Frank remove himself as a client is that he will probably badmouth the OP to everyone, and depending on the community and how much OP depends on it for business, it could hurt OP’s business. In my (admittedly limited) experience, people like Frank always find a way to make it look like they’re the victim and were unfairly persecuted.

          1. pancakes

            Yes, but the other thing about people like Frank is that people who aren’t Frank-like themselves can see what the Franks of the world are trying to do. You’re seeing it even with “limited experience”!

    2. EPLawyer

      LW 1 you are getting lost in the “advantages” of this guy instead of seeing him for what he is — a tool to the nth degree. He is taking advantage of the fact that you think he is too good for your company to lose. He is not actually good for your company if you aren’t working with him because he fails to show for appointments and he is costing you money. Think of all the diva pro athletes who get away with their behavior because they are so good ON the field/court/whatever. Same thing here.

      Let him go to your ex-employee. He won’t suddenly change his behavior there. Let him cost your ex-employee time and money. It would be karma in action.

    3. Trout 'Waver

      I’d drop him from the ad campaign as well. If he’s that obnoxious in person, it’s likely that he’s rubbed other potential clients the wrong way too.

      1. Tavel_mug

        One piece of information we are missing- is he doing your ad campaign for free as a favor to you? If he is modelling for your ads without compensation, you really can’t drop him as a client and expect him to remain a face of your business, so you would need to stop using that ad campaign. In fact, if he is modelling for free, he may think he is doing you a favor by being your client (letting you use him image, and letting people believe that his athletic abilities are associated with your service) and then the anger and his comment that he is “more than a client” might make sense from his perspective.

        I think it makes sense to not rebook him for sessions/drop him as a client, but I think you need to stop using the ads as well.

        1. JSPA

          Exactly this. If his semi-celebrity status is bringing people in, or his abs (or whatever) are really so amazing that he’s standing in for a high-priced model, and he agreed to by your model to “be a pal,” then he’s actually right, about you not having a standard client relationship.

          That hold even if other people in the brochure (or past brochures) were glad to participate for the fun of seeing themselves in print, or 50% off one session, or whatever the deal was. In contrast, the guy who’s a PITA is worth money, and he knows it. And his worth to a competitor (if there is one) is not only correspondingly high, but higher.

          That doesn’t mean he gets to demand free sessions, but it does mean he’s nowhere near so far out of bounds to expect some slack.

          I’d add up all the money from sessions where you WERE able to re-book; all the money from sessions where you were NOT able to re-book; and also, a comparison of your income “before the Frank ad campaign” and “After the Frank ad campaign.” Then lay it in front of him:

          “With you in the brochure, I’ve been pulling in X% more business, which in theory means I’d make $Y more per quarter. When I book you, rather than someone else, however, I lose $Z per quarter, based on not booking someone else in that slot, and not being able to fill it at the last minute. And that’s not even counting the time that I spend chasing people, trying to fill it, and it’s not counting times when I succeed in filling your slot. Much as I like you, these numbers mean that every time I book you, I fall further behind. I do consider you an important [outside activity] friend. But friends don’t help drive other friends’ businesses into the ground. Now that you know it’s a real bottom line problem, and I’m not just throwing attitude at you for the hell of it, tell me: if you were in my place, what would YOU do?”

          If, on the other hand, there’s been a huge bump in revenue AF (After Frank), even considering his cavalier approach, then you may want to think of it as deferred payment for his services, and hold off on “firing” him. Maybe he actually is “all that and more.”

    4. Door Guy

      It can be hard firing a client, and dealing with short term issues with all the free publicity you could want, but the more they rant the more people will realize that they (the former client) are the issue, not the company.

      Had to fire a customer who kept harassing my staff and demanding to get the corporate number and the like – all over $45. I was out of the office on a remote job site for a few days and came back to everyone telling me how horrible he was to everyone. He’d been getting past due notices in the mail for months and ignoring them (and our attempts to call and collect) but as soon as he needed something (he damaged his door) suddenly we were horrible people for requiring our money for the last time we were out. He had his big sob story on why he didn’t owe us (don’t they all), and after consulting with the VP we agreed to give him credit for his $45 and (politely) told him to pound sand.

      Wouldn’t you know it that an hour later we got a nasty review online about how they were only trying to let us know about their sob story and they would have paid it but now they can’t use us any more. It got a like or 2 and then it got buried under the incoming positive reviews over the next few weeks.

    5. TootsNYC

      also–it’s a small community. Let that work to your advantage in addition to Frank’s.

      It’s OK to mention that Frank cancelled so much that it began to interfere with your ability to serve other clients. “He’s so busy, you know. Nothing personal, it’s just business.”

      Frankly, the second time he canceled and didn’t pay the cancellation fee, you should have refused to schedule him again. You let it go on FAR too long.

      And let this be a lesson–it’s often a mistake to offer people friendly discounts. It’s sad, but when you give people something, they often begin to think they deserve it.

    6. Tequila Mockingbird

      Tim Ferriss talks about when to fire a client in ‘Four Hour Work Week.’ He uses the 20/80 rule: when 20% of your client(s) are responsible for 80% of your support time. Most clients are great. They respect your time, your policies, your needs. But if you have 20 clients and one of them is stealing 80% of your support time or energy, then you need to fire them. Get your time back and focus on your good clients.

  2. FaintlyMacabre

    As a woman in male dominated fields, I pruned all exclamation points out of my correspondence. Then, imagine my surprise that in my new job, while still male dominated, my man boss uses exclamation points and smiley faces a lot (oh so many) and now I feel that I need to start adding exclamation points to seem friendlier. You can’t win!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Ahahaha. “You can’t win” falls into my favorite set of articles on this topic, the “Can we just get over the way women talk?” pieces.

      But I agree with Alison that it would be kind to let the student know, in person, about how those exclamation points might be misread. I’m honestly just excited to see that the student is using proper grammar and spelling.

      1. Devil Fish

        I understand the professional minefield of “how women talk” (as a woman who has been told many times that I have “a very male interpersonal style”—and almost any many times that I need to “be more considerate and stop being so blunt”) but I’m genuinely confused on the gender divide read into punctuation.

        I was always taught that excessive exclamation points are unprofessional and sort of try-hard, just like emojis in professional emails, and the people I’ve known to be most abusive of both these things have always been men. Is it truly gendered? Are there any studies anyone can point me to? Is it about defining professionalism as “less emotional” and therefore “more female” (gag me but I could understand that line of thought, even if it is incredibly stupid)?

        1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff

          I interpreted it this way:
          (white) dude does unprofessional thing = this poor guy is a little bit naive
          woman (or PoC) does same unprofessional thing = ALL women are so unprofessional!!!11!
          In other words, when you are one of the few women in your field, many people will already be out there to get you at the slightest error. You want to leave them as least opportunities as possible.

          1. Quinalla

            This is how I saw it too, Dr. Glowcat, as there are plenty of folks who overuse exclamation points of both genders, but in a male dominated field it would easily play out this way. I would give the advice that overused exclamation points are often seen as unprofessional and that as a woman in a male dominated field she will often be judged more harshly.

            Like many others, I use exclamation points sparingly to convey tone. “Thanks!” is much warmer than “Thanks.” and “We won the job!” or other celebratory/congratulatory exclamation points are fine. I also use emojis sparingly on internal emails and IMs, not with external clients as it just seem to unprofessional to me, but I’ve had external folks use them and I don’t hold it against them.

            I draw the line at multiple exclamation points though in work correspondence, but I don’t hold it against others who use them. I use them all the time to be silly/sarcastic in personal correspondence though.

            It’s actually interesting to me to watch text/internet/1337 (leet)speak slowly leak into the workplace. I’ve been on the internet since the BBS days and it is fascinating how mainstream all of that is now.

        2. Falling Diphthong

          I think of it as cheerleading speak: “Omg! Guys! This is going to be so cool!”

          That can often read as female. Where I associate it with guys, it’s with team captains or coaches for my son’s sports teams.

          (Anecdatum: My field tilts female, and we do not use a lot of exclamation points. To me it reads as young, and as either very excited or trying to draw others into a feeling of excitement, which works better with “We play Central on Thursday!!!” than “Here are the revised art specs!!!!”)

          1. MayLou

            I’ve not seen any young men/boys use large numbers of exclamation marks, which is what I think makes it a gendered issue. It’s broadly an age issue, but it’s an age issue amongst girls/young women, not all young people.

            1. Falling Diphthong

              Okay. Where I’ve seen young men and boys use a lot of exclamation marks, the context was competitive sports.

              1. Trout 'Waver

                I see men use a lot of exclamation marks in the context of sales, but that’s about it in my (male-majority, STEM) field.

            2. fhqwhgads

              My experience with excessive exclamation points in a work context skews much more toward inexperience than it does gender. I agree in general it is often assumed to be a gender-specific thing, but I think you’re sort of falling into a trap here pointing out that it’s Actually A Gender Issue in response to people giving (admittedly anecdotal) examples of it being much more than that. Which is part of the problem. Even if it is not a “how women talk” thing a ton of people will interpret and judge it as such.

              1. AKchic

                My experience is “youth” and “immaturity” rather than gender. We just tend to *notice* the women more because we expect them to *act* more mature, regardless of job title and actual age.

                My husband is nearly 40 and he still writes terribly and uses “text speak”, multiple exclamation points, and is largely unreadable to me. It’s like reading texts from my teenagers. And he’ll throw in emojis too. I have to ask him to resend because I don’t know what he was trying to say because autocorrect tried to change half of his message. He might think he’s telling me about a work problem, but I’ve received a message about a moose and a balloon fart.

          2. Essess

            It reads to me as the written version of “upspeak” where women tend to inflect their speech so that every sentence ends with an uplift so everything sounds like a question instead of sounding confident. Very frustrating to listen to someone doing that when they need to sound like they are professional.

          3. Elizabeth West

            I know someone who does this on Facebook. Every single one of her posts reads like she’s jumping! up! and! down! like! a! cheerleader! and it’s jarring.

          4. CC

            It reads as young(er) and more non-confrontational to me. I’m a 30 yo woman, and if I get an email that has *no* exclamation marks (not even a “Thanks!” at the end) it reads as “Screw you.” I have to remind myself that the sender is older and probably did not intend that.

        3. PromotionalKittenBasket

          It’s also super dependent on context–at my last company, I would rarely use exclamation points or emoji in emails, but at my current company it would be out of sync with the norms and culture and ready way too cold. (And heaven help us if we send an office-wide email about something that does not include a gif!) I think like most things, it really depends on the context of the business and field. (To be clear, when we send serious office-wide communications about role changes, financial or legal matters, we don’t include gifs. Mostly. Happy news is a tossup.)

        4. Aquawoman

          I think it is like this:
          Guy writes a matter-of-fact email = professional email.
          Woman writes a matter-of-fact email = unfriendly email.
          Woman uses EP to make email friendlier = unprofessional email.

          Women have these double-bind double standards all the time. E.g., woman has a higher voice, it sounds “unprofessional,” so woman tried to lower her voice and gets “vocal fry is so annoying.” While men also do vocal fry and everyone acts like that never happens.

          1. whingedrinking

            I remember reading somewhere that women are the main drivers of language change because most children are primarily raised and taught to speak by women (their mothers and elementary school teachers, usually). So people can complain about how young women speak but they get their own back with the next generation.

        5. BBA

          It’s gendered in that the perception of exclamation points is gendered. Since exclamation points are read as more emotive, and being more highly emotional is associated with femininity, exclamation points are often read as feminine/weak/overly emotional – sometimes regardless of the writer’s gender. And women are presumed to use them more often, regardless of whether or not that is actually the case.

        6. Abigail Marshall

          I concur. Both over and under use of puncuation is flipping annoying, no matter who you are. It does make people take your words less seriously, and I don’t believe it’s gendered. If anything, it’s affected by age and education. I don’t even think it has to do with seeming ‘more emotional’, it has to do with seeming ‘less competent’. Like all sentence structure, ending marks should vary within a paragraph. My rule is one exclamation per email, unless its meant to be a cheerleading-type message.

    2. Fortitude Jones

      Yeah, my grandboss is a fan of the exclamation point, as is my dotted line manager, and they’re both men in tech.

      1. Anonomoose

        Also guy in tech, and I overuse them. It’s partly hangovers of internet speak in my professional communications, but I think it’s also me trying very hard to signal, over email, that I’m actually friendly and approachable. There’s a lot of misogyny and other unpleasant behaviours in the field, and it sadly seems quite necessary.

        1. Alice

          I think it’s in big part a hangover for internet speak. On Slack or something using exclamation points, smiley faces is 100% normal, and then emails seems sprarse without any of that

        2. Johnny Tarr

          Anonomoose, conveying tone in an email is notoriously difficult. I for one appreciate your erring on the side of friendliness to help combat a misogynistic vibe. It’s a little thing that means a lot.

        3. JustaTech

          I’ve had to coach my spouse on this: his emails can come across quite cold and abrupt, and he’s not the most ebullient person ever, so a few exclamation points and emojis go a long way in reassuring new reports that he’s not mad at them.

    3. SpaceLady

      People would definitely take me less seriously at work – female in Aerospace Engineering – if I used as many exclamations in my emails as I see in the suggested responses in AAM. In my work place now and at other companies I’ve worked at in the last 30 years, exclamations are usually in congratulatory type emails and correspondence – “Way to go – we won the proposal!” as opposed to “Thanks for thinking of me!” or other phrases which retain their meaning with out the extra exclamation mark.

      1. Cat Meowmy Admin

        (Raises hand sheepishly…) I’m kinda guilty for using exclamation marks here – but pretty much only here, or on social media or in texts with family and friends (only when it “fits”). But I never use them at work. When people use them at work, whatever they’re saying seems something like “Heeeyyyy!!! Surprise!!!”

        1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis

          I’m guilty of seeing multiple exclamation points in the context of Terry Pratchett’s! definition!! of!!! slipping!!!! sanity!!!!!

          1. Pippa K

            Ha, this was my first thought, too.

            “Five exclamation marks, the sure sign of an insane mind.” (Reaper Man)
            “And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.” (Maskerade)

        2. Gymmie

          I’m guilty of it when I’m trying to soften a message to one of my staff. “Thanks.” always sounds so annoyed to me.

      2. Sally

        I have always had trouble knowing when I need an exclamation point or not. I use them to signify friendliness and that I really mean it when I say (for example), “Thanks for the info!” The are two reasons I think I need this: (1) I’m shy, and it comes across as unfriendliness (I’ve been told this, so I’m not guessing) and (2) my initial draft emails are rather brusque and down-to-business, and even though I add pleasantries before I send the emails, I feel like I need to make up for my initial no nonsense urge. I hate that I think I need to worry about this. This AAM question has given me some things to think about.

          1. Spencer Hastings

            Same here. I like to add a sign-off like “Thanks! —Spencer” to an email full of neutral prose, just so I don’t sound like a robot. But I don’t use them much in the body, unless it’s a set phrase that seems to require it (“Feel better!”; “Happy New Year!”) or if it’s a very short reply (e.g. “Got it, thanks!” and that’s the whole email).

            It’s true that many superiors I’ve had haven’t used as many exclamation points, but it’s also true that the way bosses talk to subordinates is different from the way subordinates talk to bosses in general, so the exclamation point thing might just be a consequence of that.

            1. Close Bracket

              “Thanks! —Spencer”

              I have adopted this style and just used it in the last email I sent. I also need to sound less like a robot and more enthusiastic. sigh. (that is, sigh!)

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          I have two rules for exclamation use:

          1. Whenever possible, ensure there’s not more than 1-2 exclamation marks in any email.
          2. Follow the emphasis rule—one use can be artful, but more than that can make you look/sound like a crank.

          1. Overseer Vimes of the Look

            Agree here. In order to follow the rules, I’ll often type out the email and then go back and edit out all but one or two exclamation points, definitely never leaving more than one per paragraph.

            It’s surprisingly easy to see where you “need” an exclamation point in the context of all of the exclamation points you don’t need.

            1. bleh

              I think of exclamation points in terms of audience. If I’m writing to someone with less institutional power or lower on the hierarchy, I use them. When writing to a peer or someone with more power / higher on the hierarchy, I avoid them. That way I soften down and impress up, if that makes sense.

            2. Valprehension

              I do exactly the same thing! No more than one per paragraph, or two total, whichever is less. if it’s an email to a colleague, maybe one smiley as well :)

        2. Product Person

          For what’s worth, Sally, from a coworker who tends to be brusque, I’d appreciate the exclamation point at the end of “Thanks for the info!”. It would read as friendly and not make me take you less seriously, unless all your phrases ended with nan exclamation.

    4. Rexish

      I really don’t associate !! as being friendly. I find them more agressive unless it is something like “Found it!” and used raarely. Honestly, someone using a lot of ! (male or female) would more likely confuse me than make any type of assumption on their friendliness or maturity.

    5. !!?

      I’m really surprised by the cultural subtext here- it would’ve never occured to me that exclamation points could be read as juvenile, girly, breathless, excitable. In central Europe it’s meant to convey authority, urgency, dominance. Much less now, but in olden times esp. before the 1960s, you got a stern and menacing vibe off letters from authorities who’d use the exclamation mark to emphasise their point that You! Citizen! MUST OBEY!

      1. Tyche

        Here in Italy, it’s more of a “young” thing, like a bubbly, social networks kind of writing.
        In recent years it has been associated with fake news and sort of conspiracy theories and the likes. Think of “this is a cure for cancer!!!” “Read this!!!”…

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Same—I read it as young and bubbly/excited, but not as inherently female. But given that “bubbly” is often gendered, it’s not surprising to me that punctuation is a minefield for women in their professional communications.

      2. redwitsch

        Yes, I would also see it as getting order. Because in Czech exlamation point is called vykřičník which derivate from verb křičet, which translated mean shout. Basically, when I use exlamation point in email, or get, it is read like you must do this.

        1. Johnny Tarr

          This is a fascinating bit of linguistics and culture. And it’s useful to know for those who work internationally. I wonder if Europeans have to sort of talk themselves down after reading emails from Americans – “No, it’s not aggression, it’s just the way they talk. It doesn’t mean anything. Things are fine. Things are fine.”

          1. ??!

            Haha, sometimes yes, esp. with the US habit of not using greetings, just your name, comma, a neutralise sounding text, with exclamation points… Argh!

        2. JSPA

          That’s what “to exclaim” means too, more or less, though.

          Unless in Czech shout =shout at = yell at? Or unless Czechs are known for shouting only in displeasure, not happiness? Or could this be a reaction to a specific set of historical circumstances? (In which case, it’s possibly more about the sociology of raising one’s voice, than the linguistics.)

          1. redwitsch

            Well it can be used as shout in happiness, but mainly it is meant in displeasure, because we usually dont shout, when we are happy – we are crying, smiling, beaming, but shouting is not usual word. I think we have it in our mind as order, because when you are taught Czech in basic school, you learn about 4 types of sentences – questioning sentence, which end with ?, notification which ends with ., ordering sentence with end with ! and then wishing sentence, which can end with . or ! but last 10 year I seldom see wishing sentence to end with !

        3. Rewe

          In finnish the literal translation is shout/yell character (as in the type of character when you type)

      3. Sara without an H

        Hi, !!? — When I was a student in Germany (admittedly, this was decades ago), it was routine to use exclamation points after any imperative: Achtung! Vorsicht! Wilkommen! (Attention! Caution! Welcome!) My language teachers said that was just the way it was done.

    6. Asenath

      I never thought of it as a female thing (although I am female), but as a young/naive/not serious thing. That is, over-use of exclamation points signals a lot of characteristics that aren’t entirely desirable in the workplace. I very rarely use them in writing for work (because Work is Serious) and use them somewhat more frequently in casual emails or texts to friends. It’s an automatic process – I think I can credit one of my elementary school English teachers for instilling that habit, since she was really quite traditional in the style of English she taught. I liked her a lot, and had many reasons over the years to remember her with gratitude because a more formal (and therefore more useful at work) style came easily to me. And if I want to soften my style, I do it by adding extra words rather than exclamation points because exclamation points don’t indicate soft, friendly style to me. I think the student could be given a few hints about her writing style. It’s quite a normal thing to do, particularly for someone just starting out.

      1. LW 3

        I’ve only had one man use a lot of exclamation points, and I remember distinctly because I almost never see them in emails from men. Even male students!

      2. Trout 'Waver

        This is my take as well. LW#3, I think if you explained it to your students in this way, it’d be perfectly appropriate. Although there are some contexts where this kind of thing is gendered, I don’t think you need to necessarily go there.

        Also, as a professor, teaching undergrads how to communicate professionally is a big part of mentorship.

      3. MintLavendar

        The funny thing about this is that, as a hiring manager, I’m so sick of overly-formal, regimented writing. I love it when I read cover letters that sound like a real person wrote them, and they’re so rare, because candidates have really internalized the “formal = business” mindset. I’m sure there are still many companies/industries where that is beneficial, but I wish there were fewer!

        1. Observer

          No one is really suggesting that people need to be overly formal. But you can sound like a real human without resorting to lots of smileys, exclamation points all over the place and what we used to call “text speak”.

          I agree with Alison as well that women should not have to adopt male styles to be taken seriously. But it does behoove women to try to adopt ADULT female styles. You can do that and still not be a robot.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood

      I work with engineering, manufacturing, and marketing. There are a lot more exclamation points in marketing’s correspondence.

      1. "Champ," Lemon. Horses champ.

        I work with university communications and encounter many instances of exclamatory overusage. Gender and age have no bearing in my experience, but I grant my experience is limited. I can’t abide seeing exclamation points at the end of every sentence and remove them with extreme prejudice. Calm down, people.

    8. Kate H

      I was finding it rather funny myself that exclamation points are considered stereotypically female in nature. I (a woman) hate using exclamation points. They sound too excitable in my brain for emails that are simple and straightforward. That being said, I use them in my work emails all the time. A habit that I picked up from my (male) boss.

      1. MagicUnicorn

        My two most memorable encounters with exclamation point users involve men.

        One was our building’s very macho, gruff, manly-man security guard. His emails are so very twee that it makes me laugh. They are full of SOOOOO!!! many exclamation points! And emojis! EMOJIS. EVERYWHERE!!

        The other is an older, very senior colleague who doesn’t seem to understand what punctuation to apply where. He uses weirdly spaced ellipses instead of question marks (i.e., “Which restaurant are we Meeting at. . .. .”), aggressively applies interrobangs in odd situations (“Hope you Enjoy your upcoming vacation?!!”) and likes to capitalize random words.

        1. LOL

          Is he related to ExBossWife? Her emails included the following gem:

          Print off the birthday announcement and post for “each on” their special day

          And she made the marketing dude make a sign like a goddamn Buzzfeed headline that said “Welcome To Widget Limited The #1 Widget Manufacturer In The World!”

          He tried to explain about capitalization and emphasis, but “I took an English class in college and I know what I’m doing!” Meanwhile, I’m over here with an English degree shaking my head.

      2. That Girl From Quinn's House

        Yup, I use exclamation points in work emails all the time. I’ve been told that not doing so is cold and hostile and unfriendly. Ergo! There’s an exclamation point at the end of every sentence now! It soothes everyone’s ego!

    9. LW 3

      I am loving this whole discussion below. Everyone’s comments are thought-provoking. E-mail is our dominate form of communication in academia, and because it is impossible to convey tone in the same way as speaking, I find myself devoting way too much headspace to email tone. With staff/administrators, I want to sound friendly and appreciative–exclamation points help! With scientists above me, I want to sound knowledgable. When I’m chairing a committee, I want to sound authoritative but also not a “bitch” (I LOVE strong, confident women, but I use the term that others apply to us). With students who are my mentees, I want to sound authoritative but also warm and friendly, so they will come to me with their problems. With students in my class who are trying hard, I want to sound approachable. With students who trying to take advantage of me, I want to sound stern but fair so they don’t file a complaint I have to deal with. It’s exhausting! I’m sure everyone deals with this, if you really sit down and think about the different types of emails you have to send. We need like color-coded language or something for email to get tone across. The exclamation point and period are insufficient as punctation.

      1. Guacamole Bob

        A lot of people have touched on the youth and gender aspects of exclamation points, but in my experience it’s actually more closely correlated with rank and hierarchy and type of work. When I was an admin setting up a lot of external meetings, I found that other admins had a much more friendly email style, with more exclamation points (“Thanks! Have a great weekend!!” would have been a totally normal signoff among admins scheduling a meeting between their bosses). When I was coordinating directly with senior executives their email style was much more brusque, and many reserved exclamation points for congratulatory emails and such. This seemed to hold, generally speaking, across a wide range of companies and organizations that we worked with.

        So LW, the instinct to use exclamation points with staff, for example, may be about matching the tone that you typically see staff take. Same with using fewer when communicating with senior committee members.

        The admin/exec divide is correlated with age and gender, but it’s not quite the same thing. I wouldn’t say that exclamation points are inherently unprofessional – the admins I worked with were often very professional. But using a lot of them does give a certain impression, and that may or may not be the impression the student wants to make. Giving your student some advice on noticing the email styles of others and matching tone when appropriate and generally helping her learn to adapt based on audience might be more valuable than “don’t use too many exclamation points”.

        1. Washi

          Yeah, I’ve noticed that when I’m having a hard time paring down my exclamation points (I try to not have more than 1/3 of sentences end in an exclamation point, and never two in a row) it’s because I’m feeling insecure and uncertain about sending an email to someone above me in rank. I try to remind myself that coming across as too deferential can also be weird – there have been letters about employees always calling the manager “Mr./Ms.” instead of the first name, for example. It may be worth pointing out to the student that politeness is a balance of respectfulness and confidence.

        2. Risha

          ^^This. As all the discussion shows, the use of exclamation points, and how often, as a softening or expressiveness tool is highly culturally dependent, and you can’t just say “take out all of these exclamation points because people won’t take you seriously,” because they can be totally appropriate for your job/audience/situation. The best advice to give is to just to always keep in mind what impression you’re attempting to make and who your audience is. (And no matter what, not on every sentence.)

      2. Trout 'Waver

        I think you’re putting too much thought into this. People that like you will interpret your message positively no matter how you phrase it. Likewise, people that don’t will find something to nitpick no matter what. Just be you and let others sort it out.

        1. Academic Addie

          This is my inclination, but also academia has so many issues with sexism that I can see bringing it up. At my rank, I use as many exclamation marks as I want. Earlier in my career? Not as much, unless I knew the other party pretty well.

          But I also don’t get on my personnel too much about their communication style within lab. GIF on the Slack channel? Sure. Dashed off email asking when I’ll be in the lab, whatever. I do ask to review drafts of cover letters and initial contact e-mails for scholarships and awards, since those tend to be formal in a way intralab communication isn’t. I don’t think how a mentee of mine communicates to me is necessarily indicative of how they are communicating in the wider world.

      3. JSPA

        It sometimes works to STATE how you intend an email to be read. Pedantic, sure–but as a prof, why not be a pedant, when necessary?

        “I am sending this with a mix of general frustration and endless personal sympathy for the staff caught in the middle of this mess, so please read it with that in mind.” (Staff, when the computer system keeps going down when grades are due, and you can’t figure out a work-around or a way to find out if powers-that-be are aware enough of the problem to extend the deadline.)

        To the no-show student: “I am sending you the following standard information, without deviation from the official template. Please do not read into it any anger, coldness, or unwillingness to help. My door is always open. ‘Dear Student; you have missed tests and work totaling 60% of your grade in XXX course. If you do not believe you should be listed as enrolled….”

        To the Committee
        “My main goal in contacting you today is X, with an attitude of Y (and a little Z)”

        You do have to be honest, more or less. If you’re telling them that you’re contacting them in the spirit of collaboration, while maneuvering to deny tenure to two of them and cut funding to a third, and rumors are flying…won’t work.

        But if you’re eager and a touch anxious–and worried it’ll be read as tension and the theat of incipient beatings until morale improves–you can get ahead of that.

        Same suggestion for the student. If they wish to use symbols to carry tone and intent in their emails, of course they may. But it will serve them well to learn how to make words carry what they intend to convey, including kindness and enthusiasm, instead of relying, by necessity, on symbols.

        1. Baru Cormorant

          Whuh? Do you mean to literally state your intended tone explicitly in the text? That sounds like a failed Turing test robot. I would be concerned that the writer had some traumatic misunderstandings in the past, or that they generally struggled with non-explicit communication.

          There’s no need to weirdly declare the intended tone when you can use wording and punctuation to achieve the same effect, and look like a competent professional while you’re at it.

          1. Kt

            As a mathematician, I know a lot of people who won’t be able to do what you suggest. It’s much more effective to simply state what you’re trying to convey. I know you mean well, but it just is not so easy for all.

            1. Baru Cormorant

              Business writing is a skill everyone learns. I think it shows more competence to use agreed-upon “symbols” aka punctuation than to point out how you’re failing at it.

      4. Hold that thought

        I’m a male techy type and I tend to use exclamations and smileys way too much. My advice to the student would be what I do about it. Before clicking send I review the email and remove every exclamation I can – “does this !! need to be there?”. And I adhere to a strict “one smiley per email” rule! :D

    10. RoadsLady

      As a dabbling writer, I love exclamation points! But the early elementary teacher in me demands they be used appropriately. I agree with my teacher side.

      They work best for a little flavor, not the whole dish.

    11. Mbarr

      Exactly, you’re damned if you do and you’re damned if you don’t. I actually hunted down this article which captures some good pros/cons of using exclamations (and other “women” type writing): https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/8xyb5v/how-to-write-professional-work-email-women

      Some quotes, “The problem with this, however, is the same as with any other kind of Lean In model of feminism. It places the onus to change on the individual, when the problem is societal. It asks those who are already disadvantaged by social structures—in this case, male-dominated corporate culture—to put in extra work only to further uphold those very same structures. Women shouldn’t have to write “like men” to be taken seriously. People should just take women seriously.”

      “A double standard applies to female email etiquette: we’re damned if we do use exclamation points, and damned if we don’t. In a 2017 article for the New Statesman, journalist Amelia Tait relays several stories of women who received negative feedback because their email tone was perceived as too cold or aggressive. They were judged negatively for using too few exclamation points. This echoes a broader double standard for women in the workplace: it’s not enough to be professional; we have to be friendly too.”

    12. Michael

      As someone mentioned further up the thread, it’s definitely a holdover from internet-speak, but more broadly since that’s basically being replaced by text-speak (including emojis) this, to me, comes across as more of a generational thing. And I don’t mean someone 50+ looking at a 20-ish person specifically, I mean the difference between a 20-something that has never not communicated via text as the primary source of interaction vs people who even just 10 years older still used it as a second language rather than a first. I saw a thread on either tumblr or twitter about kids teaching their teacher the difference of replying “yes” vs “yes.” in a chat and the subtleties the kids who have grown up with text as a their 1.5/2nd langauage have created using punctuation and speach that is essentially internet speak v2.0

      Then again, I’m a guy over 40 who manages a team of people who are all remote so our primary form of communication is IM/email and we are all definitely in the punctuation = tone not emphasis camp. ! is friendly (most of the time) !! is very friendly.

      1. Disgruntled Pelican

        I agree! With my sister, it’s not so much generational (she’s only a year older than me, we’re both Millenials) but comfortability with internet speak. She rarely uses Facebook and doesn’t have any other forms of social media and doesn’t use exclamation marks or emojis in her texts/emails. To me, ending a text with a full stop sounds terse. I have to remind myself that when she texts ‘Yes.’ in answer to a question, it doesn’t mean she’s mad at me.

        I am an exclamation mark user and always go over my emails to make sure I haven’t overused them. I would never do a double exclamation point though. One is friendly, two is aggressive/suprised!

        1. Director of Alpaca Exams

          I once asked a friend if they were okay because they ended a sentence with a period in chat. They were astonished that I could tell something was wrong just from that, but that final period conveys a lot!

    13. JSPA

      Does he use them with other men, as well as with women?

      Perhaps as a parallel to the way people naturally mimic (to a greater or lesser degree) the accent and diction and word choices of those they’re talking to, people can also mirror email tone.

      Some people base their tone on how they internally “hear” others’ email, or how they conceptualize the other person, and what they’d like.

      If boss uses smilies and exclamations with everyone, fine, it’s his quirk.

      If the male engineers get,

      “Harish, can you sent over the update on the dingus-widget tests by 5, thanks, –Boss”

      and the female engineers get,

      “Hanelore! Remember the dingus-widgets??? It would be lovely (!) if I could get an update! Thank you!!!!! : ) : ) : ) –Boss

      I’d be worried that when the really big project opens up–the one requiring the lead to coordinate with outside experts–either Boss will automatically think of Harish, not Hanelore. Or Boss will be cc-ing outsiders on the (normal) Harish emails, and on the (emojified preteen-y) Hanelore emails, and outsiders will get the impression that Harish knows his stuff and is easy to work with, while Hanelore requires either more guidance or more handling than Harish.

      Goodness knows it’s far from the worst thing in a workplace. It’s a micro-infantilization not a micro-aggression. There are a thousand other issues I’d deal with as overt problems first. But it’s still something to be aware of, and maybe bring up if it trends the wrong way.

    14. smoke tree

      I appreciate that Alison mentioned the frustrating tendency to hold up “masculine” forms of communication as the standard that everyone should aspire to. I think there are a lot of areas where many men could benefit from adopting a more collaborative approach. That being said, with professional communications, my strategy is to match the level of warmth and formality of the person I’m communicating with. I will never be the person to drop the first emoji, but once the other person introduces them, I’ll use them occasionally.

  3. SpiderLadyCEO

    This is the third time we’ve heard about office organs! This is so weird, why do higher-ups think it is ever ok to ask their employees for parts of their physical bodies?

    1. Beth

      I suspect it’s desperation. These things can be literally life-or-death for the person in need, and if they’re launching a large effort to reach out to people they don’t even know looking for a donation, I’m betting they haven’t found a willing match among their friends, family, and acquaintances. That doesn’t make it okay to ask their employees or others they have direct power over–the power dynamic is still there and still coercive–but it does help to explain why even generally professional people might overlook the impact of these requests.

      1. Lissa

        Yeah. These people aren’t thinking “if any of my employees were in the same situation, they would not have anywhere close to the same resources that I do for medical care and seeking out a donor.” They’re thinking “how do I reach as many people as possible to save a life” and all the power imbalance and privilege dynamics likely don’t enter their heads at all. (this is true with many things around privilege, people can be super well meaning and not realize they’re in a much different position than others, but I’m sure it’s extremely amplified when they aren’t *feeling* privileged due to a medical situation.)

        1. Cat Meowmy Admin

          Absolutely. Desperation can blur fine lines, crossing boundaries, and the power dynamics can add a whole other layer. I agree with Alison’s point about the potential messiness. And if I were an employee, I would also be thinking about the possibility that one of my loved ones might need one of my kidneys someday, then what? I feel for anyone in this situation, but especially for those who have limited resources.

          1. RUKiddingMe

            I have one actual sibling (lots of “steps” though) and I’ve given thought to “what if.” To be honest I don’t know that I’d agree to donate to her (what if I need it later?) so I for sure am not hiving it yo some non-relative.

        2. Margaret

          There are places where the favour is offered in return. I work in a country with a pretty low blood supply, and our work routinely sends out company wide emails because someone’s intern’s stepmother needs an AB+ donor and can anyone contact HR and come to the central hospital.

          It’s a little weird, but not as upsetting as the letter because it’s applied so democratically across all employee ranks. Maybe that’s a good question for the OP for assessing your personal feelings and what you’re responding to that your colleagues aren’t- if this person was not on the board, do you think the organization communications would have been used the same way?

          1. Not a Blossom

            The difference here is that blood is a renewable resource for the donor and the donation process is relatively easy.

          2. Carolyn Keene

            But, donating blood is very different than donating a kidney. Your blood replenishes itself, your kidney does not. I’d have no problem giving blood under those circumstances, since I do donate blood for use by total strangers quite willingly via blood drives and the like

            1. Elizabeth West

              Yeah, I’ve actually responded to a blood drive for a specific person. In this case, it was a former classmate who had been severely burned in an accident (sadly, he didn’t make it), and I consider that acceptable. I donate for strangers too. But asking me directly for an organ is a little much.

              I’d gladly forward or retweet information such as “Our board member Albus needs a kidney; blood type B; can anyone help spread the word?” If it’s a little more general, someone may volunteer or disseminating the info may turn up a willing random donor who matches.

          3. Jaydee

            Also, blood grows back. For the majority of people who donate blood, it’s a safe, non-invasive procedure with minimal and short-lived side effects. I usually get pretty light headed and queasy when I donate, plus I tend toward the anemic, so I don’t donate blood as often as I would ideally like to. I would totally do it in the circumstances you described.

            1. Librarian of SHIELD

              Yeah, giving blood takes about half an hour and if you suffer any ill effects, they’re usually pretty short term. Major surgery can require weeks of recovery, and in the case of an organ donation it can have permanent ramifications on the way you live your life. If somebody at work said their relative needed a blood transfusion and the hospital didn’t have enough units in the right blood type, I’d absolutely volunteer. But organ transplants are an entirely different thing and I don’t know that I’d be willing to go through all the pain and recovery and major lifestyle changes for a person I don’t know well.

          4. NothingIsLittle

            The ease and side effects of both types of procedures make them impossible to equate. Donating blood is, in most circumstances, a relatively simple process with few side effects for the donatee. Donating an organ is incredibly invasive and can take months of prep and recovery. It can exacerbate major health problems down the line as well, though the long-term risks aren’t yet well-researched and it is generally quite safe. Even if you donate part of your liver, which regenerates, there can be some major risks in the surgery itself.

            To me, it’s like comparing donating to charity one month’s paycheck versus your house on which you continue to pay a mortgage.

      2. Bagpuss

        Is there a paired / pooled donor system in the US?
        There is a system here in the UK where people who are willing to donate but are not a match for their own family member needing a transplant, and it allows people to be paired or pooled with other in the same position (e.g. Jane needs a kidney, her partner Jo is willing to donate but isn’t a match, so they are paired with Frank, who needs a kidney and is compatible with Jane and his sister Mary who is willing to donate, and is compatible with Jane but not with Frank ) It is also done with ‘pools’ where there are more people involved

        1. Flower

          This is called a kidney chain (or organ chain more generally), and they exist in the US but I don’t believe they’re as organized.

          1. Aglaia761

            the living donor program is very well organized in the US. I was in the process of becoming one for my aunt some years ago before she passed away. We were going to be in a 6 person chain with people from Florida and Minnesota.

            1. KarenK

              Yes, it is very organized. I worked with a kidney transplant program for many years, and my BFF was the living donor coordinator. It’s very successful, and we’ve done up to five people in the chain.

      3. JSPA

        With the existence of transplant chains (Person A, B, C, D, E, F, G all need a major organ, and don’t have an in-family match; but someone in A’s family or friend group are willing and able to donate to B, someone in B’s family or friend group are willing and able to donate to C, and so forth, until someone in G’s family or friend group can donate to A) this isn’t necessarily a one-way transaction.

        That is, there may be an employee with a family member also waiting on a kidney (or piece of liver or whatever) in such a way that a chain can be formed, and everyone wins.

        Link to one such example in the next post.

        If the boss’s family has not already considered such a thing, it’d be a kindness to mention it.

      4. Jessy

        My husband received a kidney last year, so I can say with 100% certainty that it is ILLEGAL in the U.S. to pay or even ASK for a kidney! He was fortunate in that three family members wanted to donate and went through the donation application process – only one person at a time can go through it, so it took about six months (you couldn’t even schedule an appointment until the previous person was rejected), and all three were asked specifically if anyone had threatened them, coerced them or bribed them. I definitely understand the desperation – after two family members were rejected, I sent out an email to friends letting them know the update and saying that if they were so inclined, they could apply to donate at the link, but I was clear that we were not asking them. I think the employer in this instance could have done the same thing with the wording, but offering reimbursement for an organ is against the law in most countries besides Iran. There’s a great NPR Hidden Brain podcast about this: https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast/for-sale-by-owner/id1028908750?i=1000431076500

        Not to mention that the recipient’s insurance covers everything – the flight for the donor (who lives in a different state), hotel rooms for anyone during the application process, and of course any medical bills. (Assuming this is a board member and so they have some sort of insurance.) I can’t believe the power dynamic here and how not only over the line it is, but again, very illegal.

        1. EPLawyer

          At least this one I can just see as desperation and trying to reach everyone out there. There were no threats here. It seemed more informational than a requirement. Liver Boss was really out of line.

      1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff

        For one moment I actually thought it was one of those reprint of old letters!

        1. blackcat

          That’s what I was about to say!
          Liver donation is a less risky surgery, and it grows back!

          1. Artemesia

            And yet not long ago a man died donating a liver lobe to his brother who lived. This is major surgery and has all the potential for disaster of any major surgery. And of course kidneys tend to decline over time and so because you don’t need two now, doesn’t mean you won’t need them both at 75. This is nothing like donating blood. It is a major sacrifice with potentially huge consequences.

            1. UKDancer

              Liver donation definitely has an element of risk as it’s a fairly major piece of surgery. I looked into donating to a family member who needed a transplant. There are a number of risks from the surgery so it’s not something anyone should do lightly. I was relieved (and felt guilty) when my relative got a liver from a compatible cadaveric donor so I didn’t have to go through with it.

              In contrast donating blood is fairly easy and routine.

      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        I’m actually rather surprised Liver Boss didn’t make it into the related links. I suppose because there wasn’t a close enough matching keyword for the algorithm to pick up. “Donate” gets used an awful lot here, after all.

      3. Jadelyn

        My first thought was “HOW ARE THERE TWO OF THESE PEOPLE OUT THERE???” Bad enough when it was just Liver Boss, and now we’ve got Kidney Boss to add to it. Although at least Kidney Boss isn’t demanding people be tested for compatibility or face being fired, just asking if people would do so.

    2. RUKiddingMe

      Kind if underscores my personal belief that many employers think that by hiring someone it means they actually own them.

      Beyond that…desperation to find someone, anyone that can help I’d think.

    3. Asenath

      I agree with those who say it’s desperation, and I’d add that we do seem to be more public about medical issues than we used to be. I can quite see that if someone has a relative who is going to die soon without a transplant, and a match hasn’t come up through the usual procedures and looks like it might not, emailing everyone at work is really only one step past contacting all relatives and personal friends and putting out an appeal on social media. Doing it at work is less appropriate of course, because of all the power imbalances, but I can understand it happening. No one, of course, need donate, so OP shouldn’t hesitate to not make the offer – and is highly unlikely to suffer any retaliation as a result. I suspect the co-workers who weren’t shocked were simply thinking of it like any other public appeal for a donation. I, personally, wouldn’t take such a risk for anyone other than a close relative, although once I die, any useful organs I have left can be given to anyone.

      1. Harper the Other One

        I agree that general willingness to talk about medical issues is a factor because it’s happening on social media too. In fact, just last week a friend shared a post saying “if anybody know someone O+ who would be willing to consider a living kidney donation…”

        I do feel like it’s a LITTLE different doing a “hey, contact X if you’re willing/interested” than, y’know, actually rounding employees up to test their compatibility, but those in positions of power should still be a lot more mindful of the inherent pressure when they’re sharing an appeal in a work context.

    4. Not So NewReader

      I think there are many components to that desperation: lack of a better idea, lack of family and friends, or unwillingness to use social media. We can’t help it if we have a small or dwindling family. Sometimes there’s reasons for a friend shortage that has nothing negative to do with the person themselves, such as they moved away from their home town or whatever. I am not sure if I would hop on FB or elsewhere to ask for a kidney.

      I am sitting here as an only child, thinking, “Well… what WOULD I do?”

      None of this makes it “alright” to ask employees. But I think emotions can get the best of most of us at some point. Hopefully, OP, people can see this as emotions are driving the request.

      For me, I would still say no. I might need that kidney later. I am not so sure that it is selfish to say no. We see it over and over, put your own oxygen mask on first. My wise friend used to say, “Don’t allow yourself to become a basket case that others have to take care of. They are already busy taking care of people.” With this I concluded that we have to keep ourselves up and running first and foremost.

      1. TooTiredToThink

        Yeah, its not selfish to say no – in my family we have a lot of diseases that even if I was 100% healthy; I still would say no unless I was already like 60 or something, because I guarantee you that I will need to have 2 functioning kidneys. If I didn’t have a family disease I could potentially see donating to someone younger than me, but I would have a difficult time donating to someone older than me.

      2. Michaela Westen

        Yes, I agree with your friend. There are always needy people (not close friends or relatives) trying to make me take care of them. We have to set boundaries to take care of ourselves.

    5. RoadsLady

      With the upmost respect for the organ donation program, I say this:

      This is creepy. You don’t use a workplace like this.

    6. One of the Spreadsheet Horde

      So if you do donate a kidney in this situation, does that mean you get an automatic “exceeds expectations” that year on your performance review? Or will they hold it against you that you need the medical leave to recover from said procedure?

      1. Impy

        Like with Deborah Stevens? Donated a kidney to her boss then was fired shortly after for taking time off.

    7. MatKnifeNinja

      The high ups are from the school, “You don’t ask, you don’t get.”

      I find begging for organs gross. ThoughI can see people figuring why not if a love one has year/months to live.

    8. Vicky Austin

      I remember one of them (the Liver Boss that so many people have referred to in the comments) but not the other. What was the second one?

    9. Former Employee

      It started after “Personnel” was changed to “Human Resources”.

      We are a human resource and the powers that be want to strip mine us of our organs.

  4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#2, this isn’t normal or ok. I’m surprised that no one else seemed fazed by the request. It would have been one thing if the COO sent folks an “FYI” email to let them know that the Board member was having health issues that required a kidney transplant (I think this would have been an overshare, but it sounds like oversharing may be part of the organizational culture). But once you start requesting a kidney, you’ve gone too far.

    1. Artemesia

      I am horrified by this. For a 70 year old to expect a stranger to jeopardize their health to extend their life is incredibly selfish. If my child, grandchild or husband or niece or nephew needed a kidney I’d consider — and probably my brother. But otherwise — this is not something to do lightly; as people age kidneys often decline. I am old and have unexpectedly diminished kidney function. If I had given one away at 35, it would today probably mean I’d be on dialysis in a few years and die a decade or more earlier than I am likely to. for my immediate family, yeah that risk is worth it; for some board member I don’t know because I am pressured, not even.

      1. RUKiddingMe

        Agreed. As I said in another comment I don’t even know if I’d donate to my sister. Not likely though. I know I’d refuse her (grown) sons. They are my only living blood relatives. Wait…the “boys” have young children so I guess I’m related to them too…

        Anyway I digress. The only person I would, without question donate anything to, even if it cost me my own life would have been my son. Everyone else? Mostly they can kick rocks!

        Especially someone already seventy years old. I mean I’m no kid myself at 56, but even the healthiest 70 year old doesn’t have decades left.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen

          The benefit to the recipient is likely to last less time than the risk to the donor, you mean?

          I think I would be more forgiving if the boss were blasting out a request for (say) bone marrow for a 6yo because it’s still a big ask but less physically risky for the donor and has the potential to give more years to the recipient. I certainly wouldn’t think it inappropriate for an employer to say “my family has been affected by (medical condition) which can be cured by (donation) so I’d encourage you to (register with bone marrow register, give blood, etc) if you feel you can” as a general awareness-raising with no pressure.

          1. Not So NewReader

            I like this a lot. And there is a give and take to the flow of life. By doing this maybe an employee would mention the problem to someone else who actually would volunteer to donate. Sparking discussion is a powerful tool. Get people talking to each other and watch what comes out of all those small conversations.

          2. TooTiredToThink

            “The benefit to the recipient is likely to last less time than the risk to the donor, you mean?”

            This is exactly what I was thinking but couldn’t put into words.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood

        For what it’s worth, kidney donors are given increased priority on future transplant lists if nwe’d arises.

      3. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys

        My friend’s mother is 72. She was recently told by her doctor and hospital that anyone 70 and above are ineligible for the transplant list. However, if she’s able to find a donor on her own, she will be placed on the list (in order for anyone to receive a transplant, they must be on the list). If her offering donor isn’t a match, she’ll remain on the list if the donor still donates to someone who is a match. I’m in Texas and don’t know if it’s a country or state thing, or even if her doctor/hospital is making that decision but it all seems pretty screwed up to me. Then again, so is the entire US “healthcare” system.

        1. MsChanandlerBong

          To be fair, there are about 90,000-100,000 people waiting for kidneys at any given time, and there are far fewer donor kidneys available. With such a limited resource, they have to try to maximize the benefit. I have stage 3b kidney disease, but I won’t qualify for a transplant if/when I need one, as I have lupus and heart disease. They’re not going to give me a kidney when there’s a chance I could die of some other disease four or five years later; they’ll give it to the 20-year-old who’s in good health and might live another 60 years. Now, if my health was better, I could have a relative do a directed donation, but I would still not qualify to receive a donor organ from the list. Basically, my mother or brother would be free to give me a kidney even if I was only going to get a few years out of it, but they would not use a stranger’s kidney on me when they could give it to someone with a better chance of recovering and living a long life. It sounds like the same thing is happening here. She’s 72, so her family members are free to donate if they want, but they’re not going to give her an organ that could be given to someone who is 30 and could potentially live another four or five decades.

          Honestly, it sucks knowing that if my kidney function continues to decline, I will just have to accept that I am going to die, but I understand why it is the way it is.

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen

            I’m sorry to hear about your situation. It’s very gracious of you to consider the wider picture so calmly.

          2. Artemesia

            Me too. I am too old to receive a transplant under normal rules and feel that that is as it should be. Maybe it would extend my life some day as my kidneys decline, but I have had a fair chunk of life; someone 25 hasn’t yet.

          3. Liar Liar Pants Dracarys

            I just hate the idea that the “worth” of someone’s life can be determined by strangers or policies. What if they give a kidney to someone who goes on to be a serial murderer? Is that worth more than giving you a kidney? I’m assuming murder isn’t in your career plans, of course. There are far more listees than kidneys (I did not mean that to rhyme) which I also hate.

            As for my friend’s mom, I worry mostly for my friend. She isn’t a match for her mom. Her father is a perfect match, but he gave one to her a couple decades ago. My friend is terrified about what’s coming and I can’t help her.

            I don’t know, just the whole situation makes me sad. You shouldn’t have to face the future you’re looking into. No one should. I’m tired of all the bad things right now. They seem to be multiplying with astounding speed and I’d like some good things to even it out. I know the good things I want may not be rational, but I still want them. I’m having a lot of feelings today.

          4. Former Employee

            As I understand it, your kidneys are still functioning at a moderate level at 3b. My Dad was down to under 10% function before he went on dialysis. If it gets bad enough (Stage 5) the doctor will have you go on dialysis. People can live for many years on dialysis as long as they watch their diet and stick to their treatment schedule.

            I’m sorry you may face this in the future and that your friend’s mother is dealing with it now.

      4. ThatGirl

        My husband’s beloved grandfather’s kidneys started failing when he was around 70. He lived a decent quality of life on dialysis for 10 years. (And it wasn’t his kidneys that killed him, though he was in generally not-great health at that point.) As much as we loved him, nobody so much as broached the subject of a transplant because … he was 70.

        1. Hamstring Disturbance

          Agreed. My grandmother did 3x/week dialysis for about a decade until her (mostly unrelated) death just a few months shy of 90. She was tired a lot, but never complained because she was happy to have the option to keep being around and felt pretty good on the off days.

        2. Robbenmel

          The day my father got the news that he was ineligible for a kidney transplant was a difficult one; he was 68, and suffering multiple effects of diabetes. He got an additional 4.5 years of life with dialysis, and died just a few days shy of his 71st birthday. He was hopeful that a transplant would help, but he would have flat refused a donation from one of his kids. Still, none of this is easy, either as a potential recipient or donor.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood

        Geez, halfway through the article they say “maybe it’s good that Debbie wasn’t a match or else she’d have given her kidney to someone who made her life a living hell” — huh? Isn’t the point that she did and that’s what happened?

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

          It’s a weirdly written article — Debbie wasn’t a match for Jackie, but she still donated her kidney to someone else, and Jackie GOT a kidney from someone else, at the same time. So no, Debbie didn’t actually give her kidney to her jerk boss at all, her boss was just a jerk about her recovering from surgery. I have no idea why the article makes it sound like she donated her kidney TO her jerk boss.

        2. DaisyGrrl

          She donated it to someone else – her boss moved up the list as a result and was able to get a new kidney from a different donor.

          1. BelleMorte

            Exactly what DaisyGrrl said, it’s a chain of sorts. If you get someone who is not a match for you to donate on your behalf, you get moved way up the list to someone who IS a match for you. Jackie would not have been eligible for the kidney she received, unless Debbie donated in her name. It’s not much different than if Debbie had donated directly to Jackie, she directly enabled Jackie’s transplant to happen.

      2. Not So NewReader

        I wonder how many people read this story and decided not to donate an organ.
        I did not realize that it was harder to get insurance because of donating an organ. yikes.
        I hope the woman who donated the kidney here is okay in the long run.

      3. Harriet Vane

        Read the Yelp reviews pictured in the article -someone was working with a manager at that dealership on a lease (I think) and the manager got up to print something and walked off the job! An AAM issue within the Yelp review – can’t make this stuff up. Obviously a toxic situation all around.

    2. Willis

      I agree! I’ve known a couple acquaintances who donated organs to people they didn’t know, so I get the impulse to put the info out there on the chance someone may be inclined to get in touch if they’re interested in potentially donating. But a company-wide request is waaay over the line.

    3. Bilateralrope

      If I got an email like that, it probably wouldn’t phase me. But I’m on meds that mean I can’t donate blood, which probably makes me kidney unsuitable for transplant even if it is a match.

      1. a1

        If I got that email I would think “That poor person. Things must not be going well at all to be this desperate to send out mass emails.” I’d probably have a brief moment of pause, and then go about my day. I wouldn’t feel any ill will towards the sender or the sick. The email may well be ill advised for all the reasons people are saying, but it wouldn’t bother me. They are desperate. They are facing death.

        1. Milton Green

          Thank you for this. There is a good chance that I’ll need a kidney one day, and I could see my loved ones trying something like this if it comes to that. (Honestly, at that point it’s probably more about wanting to tell yourself that you did everything you could than expecting anyone to actually donate). This letter made me really, really sad.

      2. kittymommy

        Same. While I think the email is inappropriate for a work situation (and from a COO), I’m not appalled by it and seeing it pop up in my inbox would probably primarily result in me thinking that I hope that the person who is ill gets better soon and that they and their family have a support system to be there for them during this time; that I wonder if this will raise awareness for organ donation (either living or deceased); 3. how would the logistics of this even work (that would end up as a tangent thought process though).

  5. Ask a Manager Post author

    If anyone’s looking for it, I removed a very confusingly worded comment that was already starting to get a bunch of replies trying to understand what it meant and which didn’t seem like it was going to advance the conversation! (Sami, that was yours! Apologies.)

  6. Research manager

    For #3, my mother always tells me that I (female, almost 30) sound like Tim Tebow when I use too many exclamation points in my writing. In my view it’s more that they’re perceived as juvenile than overly-feminine. Senior people, male or female, don’t need them in every sentence to express themselves. However, I feel like I still struggle between coming off too cold and abrupt or too wishy-washy and apologetic in work emails. My boss (female, late 40s) writes great emails that come across as warm and personable without losing credibility. She includes the occasional exclamation point, but uses them judiciously. I’m striving to emulate her in this!

    1. Not So NewReader

      You’ve got this one fully covered with limitations, too cold, abrupt, wish-washy. No matter which way you turn, it’s wrong for some reason.

      Practice letting yourself up for air. Oddly, sometimes vowing to apologize when we are actually wrong can be a very strengthening thing. It can help us grow confidence because we have decided how to handle our errors. It’s odd how this works.

      Have you ever watched people who don’t apologize, as in they NEVER apologize? It’s like they feel they will fall apart or break in half or something. It takes confidence to apologize when we are wrong. We have to know it won’t break us in half. I was one who would apologize for stuff but I felt beaten by the process. Then one day I realized that no, it actually takes a big person to apologize. With that I stopped micromanaging my own words. I stopped over-thinking things. That decision to find out my mistake, apologize for it and learn from it was very freeing. Give yourself permission to get out of this trap you have going on.

    2. Standard bear #9

      It’s annoying that we think of classically professional presentation as “male,” and worry about calibrating styles in a gendered model.

      Using a lot of exclamation points makes people take you less seriously, as it should. It is ridiculous to think about punctuation and tone in a sexist way. I leave it to you to decide if you want to act on that or not, but I wanted to point it out in the spirit of AAM community.

    3. Close Bracket

      In my view it’s more that they’re perceived as juvenile than overly-feminine.

      Being a woman makes it more likely that you will be perceived as juvenile, so it’s not necessarily one or the other.

    4. Jesmlet

      I find that signing an email “Thanks!” is usually all I need to soften anything that might read harsh or cold.

  7. Fortitude Jones

    OP #4 – my personal interview limit is three (not counting the initial phone screen, which would take it to four). If I’ve had 3 hour-plus long interviews with your company, you should know everything about me short of my blood type. Kudos to you for sticking with this for so long because I would have already taken myself out of the running five interviews ago (or started sending invoices for my time).

    1. Feltwright

      To be fair, they might need you to come in again to see if you match as a potential kidney donor.

    2. Cat Meowmy Admin

      Yes, @Fortitude Jones, exactly this. Especially in trying to continually arrange time off from work without really progressing further in the hiring process? I wonder what more they need in “getting to know you better”, unless they have a really good reason? They give the impression of being indecisive and/or disorganized, and inconsiderate. I would seriously reconsider at this point because this speaks volumes about what working there might be like.

      1. Paulina

        I get the impression that the excessive interviews are a stalling tactic. It sounds to me like they’re not ready to hire (eg. the position doesn’t exist yet or isn’t vacant, or some higher-up still won’t sign off on it) so they’re trying to keep the OP (and possibly others) on the hook in the interim. Certainly disorganized and inconsiderate, and there’s something going on with how things are managed that will surely also affect working there if the job ever does materialize.

        There’s a major family-owned company here whose president is very hands-on with final arrangements. It makes trying to do anything with them extremely flaky because he makes last-minute changes on who’s available for meetings and presentations, to the extent that it damages most progress. I may be projecting, but this scenario feels a bit like that — there’s some final go-ahead that they don’t have yet, for reasons that have nothing to do with needing to get to know the OP better.

    3. Sherm

      Yup, three is my limit, too, and I would only agree to the third one if the first two gave me a wonderful impression. At eight, I’d be way past the point wondering whether they are respectful of people’s time, and whether anything gets done besides endless meetings and “continued conversations.” OP4 says that the company “seems great,” but I’d think hard about what evidence exists that this place is actually great. Being asked to take off work eight times doesn’t seem so fantastic.

    4. The Original K.

      My friend set the same limit after he had six interviews at a place. At that point he said he felt like they should pay him for his time. Five, six, eight … all too many.

      1. Falling Diphthong

        I suspect they are kicking the tires of the talent pool, and the role is tentative and they are trying to figure out if they even need it. Without thinking about how the talent pool would not have volunteered to come in twice, much less 8 times, if they were told upfront it was more an informational interview about what a CPA does and how that would fit in at this organization.

        1. TeapotNinja

          Or they’re using the OP as a test subject for training interviewers or testing their interviewing process.

    5. Junior Assistant Peon

      Second interviews are bad enough. My last job search required 2X as many fake doctor’s appointments because this has become such a standard thing in recent years. I think there’s a lack of respect for candidates’ time, and I’m lucky I got away with so many phony excuses.

      1. Gaia

        Depending on the role, I’m fine with second interviews IF someone else is involved. My current job did a quick 15 minute phone screen, a 1 hour panel interview with hiring manager and two stakeholder managers, and a second interview with the department executive. But a second interview with just the same hiring manager? It’s not a red flag but it’s definitely edging towards yellow.

        1. Constance Lloyd

          Yep, phone screen, hiring manager, someone above hiring manager seems to be a pretty standard 3 interview format and doesn’t raise any red flags for me.

        2. Media Monkey

          we would always expect a second interview. in my industry, we tend to hire/ get hired through recruiters, so you would normally have a phone chat with them about what you are looking for (some prefer this in person) but that isn’t per role. then a basic chat with the hiring manager to see if they like you/ how you come across to clients/ would you fit into the company culture and team. then for a second interview you would expect to write and give a presentation to answer a brief, or come up with ideas to show your thinking etc. 8 interviews for the same job? not a chance.

    6. T. Boone Pickens

      My personal and professional threshold for “**** or get off the pot” is five interviews. Anything more than five just smacks of either cluelessness or is a warning siren screaming “Danger Will Robinson Danger!” I hope LW is interviewing for a C level position cuz otherwise insert *aint nobody got time for that* gif.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        I hope LW is interviewing for a C level position cuz otherwise insert *aint nobody got time for that* gif.

        Even then, it’s really a big ask from a company and is a waste of time. Why not have two multi-hour long in person interviews with a panel and call it a day? That’s how C level people at the company’s I’ve worked for have been hired, so it can be done.

        1. College Career Counselor

          Exactly. This is also the way it’s done in academia. The candidate is brought before the various audiences (faculty, staff, students, alumni, whatever), depending on the position being filled, and it’s all over in a day. Everyone gets to weigh in (although the decision maker is often free to ignore all the recommendations–which happens more often than one would like), and typically you’re not dragging the candidate back and forth because the president wasn’t available that day or whatever.

    7. Antilles

      Agreed.
      The *only* way this long of an interview process would be reasonable is if it’s for a very senior and critical role (like Chief ___ Officer level) – such roles often have a detailed process to bring in outsiders because you’re literally betting the future of the company on hiring the right person.
      But I doubt that’s the case here because those roles are handled by search committees, executive recruiters, etc, not through “seeing the job on LinkedIn”.

    8. Quinalla

      Agreed, 2 interviews plus a phone screen is generally enough, 3 is reasonable, beyond that I’d be questioning the reasoning and expected timeline if not given a good reason. (As always, may be certain fields where there are unusual norms, but this applies to most IME.)

      And yes, there is a risk if you question they will kick you out of the running, but if they are willing to do that, it would be a blessing IMO.

      1. Mockingjay

        I had four at ex-Toxic Job: initial phone screen, hiring manager interview, HR ‘Culture’ interview, then finally one with the company exec.

        The ‘culture’ interview gave me a lot of doubts (“FEEELINGS, WOAH WOAH FEELINGS…”), but when you are being laid off and frantically looking, you take what you can get. At least y’all got some entertaining stories out me (Meeting Minutes Saga).

        OP 4, if you have the luxury of taking your time to look, skip this job.

    9. Prof

      Even in academia (a notoriously messed-up hiring environment), 2 to 3 interviews max (albeit one usually an all-day or multi-day affair) is the norm.

      1. Oh No She Di'int

        Yea, it IS a messed-up hiring environment, right?

        I was recently asked for a recommendation by a former employee who was applying for a job at a college writing center (not a faculty position). I was presented with an online form that asked me to answer some 10 to 12 open-ended questions about what type of person she was and everything about her work style. “Describe a time when the candidate had to handle such-and-such type of situation.” “What type of things motivate the candidate to do better work?” Oh my God, 12 of these! “Describe the candidate’s writing style.” “Describe how the candidate handled confrontations.” The whole time I was filling it out, I just kept thinking, couldn’t you get the gist of what you need from a 10-minute phone call and save us all a bunch of time?

        To top it off, the final “question” was that they wanted a separate, free-form letter of recommendation. I drew the line there. I said, everything you need to know is in the 12 questions you just asked me. Oh, and they wanted a response within 3 days.

        1. Oh No She Di'int

          Oh yeah, and you couldn’t send them an email. The signature in the email I received warned not to reply to that email address–no one checks that box!

          1. Jaybeetee

            Government hiring sometimes does this too, and it’s mortifying if you’re still trying to get “in” from outside the industry. Like, it’s one thing for me to jump through the hoops because I want the job. It’s one thing if you’re hiring internally and that person’s reference is also in the industry and knows the drill.

            But I remember my first govt job did that during the hiring process. I had been temping/contracting at the time, and my poor private-sector supervisor, who had only known me a few months, had to fill out this freakin’ essay about my skills and email it back. I needed three of those, so a second private-sector reference who barely knew me also had to do it. (At least my third was someone I’d worked with awhile longer in a government setting, so it was less weird). I felt so bad that the other two, who had never seen this sort of thing before and had probably assumed a “reference check” would be like a 10 minute phone call, had to spend an hour+ answering long-form questions about me. I love the work I do today, but I REALLY have opinions about the hiring process!

    10. ErinFromAccounting

      Agreed. 3 is my personal limit, but I’ve rarely needed to do more than a phone screen and an in-person interview for the jobs I’ve been offered. I’m sure there’s some variation depending on field/industry, but 8 is insane!

    11. TeapotNinja

      Three would be about the amount I’d tolerate as well.

      Unless the position had a 2x+ raise and/or some sort of senior leadership role, for which I would expect the vetting to be a bit more rigorous than for individual contributor roles.

    12. TootsNYC

      I had many interviews for my current job, but many of them were also set for after work so I didn’t have to take time off.

      That would be what I’d be asking for–if you want to see me yet again, you should be interested enough that you’ll work late that night.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        Ha! Your last sentence is good – that will separate the time wasters from the company’s that are actually serious. Hell, it may even make them see how silly their request is and just offer you the job already.

      2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters

        Good idea. After hours. Although, frankly, OP#4, at this point they have everything but your DNA and your fingerprints. And who knows, they may have collected those unbeknownst to you.

    13. AKchic

      Low-level roles? phone and at most 2 in-person interviews. Mid-level – phone, and 2-3 interviews depending on how the company structures them (HR interview, manager, and multi-manager interviews). C-suite level – 4-5 at most, but you’d better believe that I’d want the process outlined ahead of time with *clear* timelines regarding the interview and onboarding process.
      8? Oh hayull no. Drop the deuce or get off the pot. This is time wasting and I’m wondering if there is some kind of organizational problem they are hiding.

    14. Jesmlet

      Normally three is my limit too. I had four with my current job, one with would-be manager, next with CEO, then with both for lunch, then last with current manager. That’s the only situation in which I’d be okay going above three, they wanted to see if I could work in a different office instead which happened to work out really well. Unless you’re interviewing for an C-level position, there’s really no need to have more than 2 interviews with the same person and be interviewed by more than 2 or 3 people.

  8. FaintlyMacabre

    I’m genuinely curious- men, do you think about your exclamation points? Has any said you should add more to seem warmer or cautioned you to take them out?

    1. BRR

      I have thought about them. Mostly because I have a thing about using too many (it might be rooted in an episode of Seinfeld). My rule is to use them when other punctuation would seem sarcastic or condescending. Usually for things like “thats great” or ending a request with “thanks!” But I don’t think of it as a gendered thing, because as a man I usually don’t have to, I think of it as just a tone in text thing. The only time it’s been brought up to me was by a female manager who had a VERY formal writing style and expected the same from her direct reports.

      If I was the LW, I would probably give the same advice to any gender. Use them thoughtfully and judiciously.

    2. Doctor Schmoctor

      I’m pretty sure I have never used one in a work e-mail. If I see one in a work email, I think ‘do you have to shout?’

      I use them a lot when I comment on The Onion articles on Facebook, to sound fake outraged.

    3. Dan

      I think about my style overall, but I certainly don’t count my exclamation points. I work in engineering, and I can’t imagine anybody, male or female, would be told that they “need to be more warm.” We write clearly, directly, and perhaps even tersely, but that’s often because we need to communicate clear instructions and what not. Hell, I have a young female project lead on a new project I started, and she writes me emails like, “Can you please update your section of the spreadsheet before Tuesday’s meeting? Thanks.” I’m totally fine with that. If she started adding emojis or more than a “Thanks!” I’d be like WTF?

      That said, there *is* such a thing as being rude, especially depending on where you are in the pecking order. Telling people what they “need” to do or “should” do runs a high risk of getting misinterpreted, so I try to stay away from that in writing. Unless the circumstance calls for it… like somebody’s asking instructions or something. But if I’m initiating an email, I stay away from that language.

      1. Close Bracket

        I work in engineering, and I can’t imagine anybody, male or female, would be told that they “need to be more warm.”

        Are you a man? I’m guessing yes, based on your name. I get this kind of feedback. I’ve been specifically told to be more “warm,” but I have been told similar things regarding my interaction style. It happens to women.

        Maybe you should think about getting over that WTF on receiving an exclamation mark before it happens. It’s just an exclamation mark

        1. Baru Cormorant

          Chill out, this comment chain is specifically asking men how often they think about this. Dan is sharing his experience and doesn’t need to be lectured on what women face when he was specifically asked to share his experience as a man.

          1. Impy

            Don’t tell her to ‘chill out’. He didn’t ‘give his experience as a man’ he doubted the validity of a very real thing because it doesn’t happen personally to him. All she was doing was pointing out that yeah, it doesn’t happen to men, which is why Dan can’t ‘imagine it happening’.

    4. Kc89

      Yes

      I think about tone a lot because I work with medical providers and I often need to tell them to do things that they should have already done and the tone in which you make your request is important because our providers can be touchy lol

      And exclamation points is part of that

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy

        YES. If I use exclamation points to a doc, I’m the rude one. But if the doc writes on the patient’s paperwork “clarifying documentation because (coder) is a dumbass” AND SCANS IT INTO THE PATIENT’S MEDICAL RECORD, he thinks that’s perfectly fine. :P (Actually happened! Not to me, but to a coworker – she was so upset that she was about to quit on the spot.)

    5. Grand Mouse

      Not professionally, but in school I was told to NEVER use them because they are improper. And there was some undercurrent about it making me seem like a ditzy teen girl.

    6. TechWorker

      I (female) have told more than one (male) junior team member to cut back on exclamation points in technical emails because it can sound unprofessional (and then! This other thing!). None of them took it badly and they all cut back. One of them still uses bold and underline in a way that makes my teeth grate but I’m trying to view that as personal preference :D

    7. Anonomoose

      I do, and use them as softeners a lot. I tend to write very, very short replies to tickets, etc, and like putting a “let me know if it’s working! ” Or similar down near the bottom, to make it clear I’m not furious at the users, just busy.

      1. SageMercurius

        I worked a lot for a computer games company on the forums, so have probably cultivated a slightly more informal style than most. I don’t think I overuse them (or at least have not been told to tone it down!) but the temptation to include emojis is sometimes strong.

        Like ‘That change to the schedule is fine with me.” reads as slightly terse without a :) but is probably par for the course for many of you.

        I’ve managed to keep them out thus far – now that I work in libraries I get to use them in posters and things instead!

        Exlamation point count: 2

    8. Antilles

      Mid-career male here.
      Nobody has ever said it, nor have I ever particularly thought about it. That said, I’ve also never used exclamation points like Ellie. My guess would be that if I regularly wrote emails where every sentence ended in an exclamation point, I expect I would get a “fix your writing style” comment – same as if I used ALL CAPS or wrote entire paragraphs in italics or whatever.

      1. Triumphant Fox

        But what about if it’s in all yellow because you don’t know how to change your outlook settings?

    9. PB & Mayo

      Yes, I’m always aware when I use them, and try to keep their use to a minimum. I almost never use them twice in a row. I see that and I think- were both of those thoughts really that surprising or exciting? I usually try to rewrite the sentences or add a sentence in between to break it up.

    10. S-Mart

      I neither think about nor use exclamation points when I write for work. Probably 90%+ of the exclamation points I do see I feel are inappropriate – generally thinking ‘you would not be exclaiming this if the conversation was out loud’. Male engineer – just the facts, please.

      I do think about my question marks (I often write “Can you please do XYZ?” and go back to edit to “Please do XYZ.”)

    11. Jedi Squirrel

      Middle-aged male here.

      If it’s short, and someone is going above and beyond—say, expediting an order that we are desperate for—then, yes, I’ll use exclamation points. “Thanks, Jeff! I really appreciate your support on this.” I use them here, because that’s how I would sound on the phone, and I want to convey a bit of positive emotion.

      But for ordinary, run-of-the-mill emails, I avoid using exclamation points. Business thrives on stability, and I want to sound like I have my emotions under control, and am making business decisions with my head, not my heart.

    12. BenAdminGeek

      I think about them a lot. I spend a lot of time crafting responses to client concerns, and I use exclamation marks to convey warmth in replies, especially when they’re shorter emails. Someone else commented that they try not to use them in two sentences in a row, and I agree with that.

      I do find that overuse for me is defined by the paragraph as a whole. The local PTA sent a letter home where every sentence but 3 on a full-page letter had an exclamation point. That was…. excessive.

      Which reminds me… I do use “…” excessively. Can’t break that habit as it captures my verbal style perfectly.

      1. Anonym

        I have your ellipsis problem, but with parentheticals. I speak with a lot of brief asides, and often have to go back through emails and remove some of them. Le sigh.

        1. Oh No She Di'int

          I do the parenthetical thing to if I’m not careful. Usually I find that it means I need to simplify the sentence. In other cases, I discover I can just remove the parentheses and it reads perfectly fine.

        2. Risha

          I have a HUGE parentheses issue. And ellipses… Basically, I’m all about visual tone and have to ruthlessly prune in work communications.

          1. Jedi Squirrel

            I am (apparently) a parenthetical thinker, so my writing is littered with parentheses and em dashes—Alt 0151 gives you an em dash—and I have to edit them out of business writing. This also happens in my speech—I have been compared to William Faulkner on more than one occasion.

            1. Risha

              My sentence structure, spoken or written, while typically technically grammatical, is ridiculously convoluted. -fistbump of solidarity-

    13. Phillip

      I’ve been working hard to stop using them. I’m a freelancer and I noticed over time that clients were treating me a bit like a rookie (I’ve been at it about ten years), and I thought the overly peppy tone might have been contributing to that.

    14. Alton Brown's Evil Twin

      I use them frequently in more informal contexts – Slack at work, texting with friends and family.

      I almost never use them in work emails. And I definitely never use them in memos, documentation, or anything else that’s permanent unless I’ve got an overriding need to make a point about security or physical damage to someone/something.

      I usually don’t think about it, but I’m a pretty disciplined writer and not very emotionally demonstrative, so the question doesn’t really come up in my mind anyway.

      I don’t think anyone has ever commented or critiqued me about my use of them. I’m more likely to receive feedback about my communications methods after face-to-face meetings (introvert + engineer = dismissive + snide to some people… sigh.)

    15. Bob

      I went back and looked through some professional emails (to and from me) from men.

      At my workplace (mature tech company — male dominated), I only rarely see (and use) exclamation points. Most of the time it is either in emphasizing thanks (e.g., “Thanks a lot all, for the extra effort this week!”) or celebrating wins (e.g., “I wanted everybody to know that we finally shipped the product this week and the customer is happy!”).

      Interestingly, emojis are more widely used than I thought. They are almost exclusively smiley faces (I usually use them to reduce tension in an email/transmit friendliness), and sometimes winky faces (to make it clear that something is a joke/sarcastic).

      1. ECHM

        I sometimes use exclamation points in lieu of smiley faces because email will change the smileys to “J”s.

    16. some dude

      I do. I use them sometimes to indicate a friendly tone, because getting tone from email is tricky. But I do wonder how many is too many and whether it veers into unprofessional.

    17. Dwight

      Never. I would feel weird if anyone used it for anything other than our softball team e-mails or something, or congrats on a big order.

    18. LGC

      So, my entire “professional” career’s been with one organization where our department leadership is almost all female – I’ve actually been told that my more tersely worded missives are OTT (since I’ll use more formal language when I call someone out at work), but…honestly, I’ve noticed that the women at my job tend to use them less than the men. (And surprisingly, tend to write in a more formal manner in general.)

      For what it’s worth, one major thing that’s been an issue for me is being seen as sufficiently approachable, and in person I’m pretty introverted. So I probably overcompensate in written communications.

  9. Iron Chef Boyardee

    Regarding #2 – at least they’re asking and not demanding.

    See “our boss will fire us if we don’t sign up to be a liver donor for his brother,” 4/27/16. An excerpt:

    The owner of the company [I work at] has a brother who needs a liver transplant. Two weeks ago, a company-wide memo went out that all employees would be required to undergo testing to see if they were a suitable liver donor for the owners brother. No exceptions. [ . . . ] People who declined [to be tested] were let go. One of these people was born with liver disease and therefore ineligible to donate. She had a doctor’s note. Other people also had medical reasons as well and some were just uncomfortable with the request and didn’t want to do it. One was pregnant. They were still terminated. My employer’s assistant has said that because our employment is at will, he can legally fire us.

    The full question, Alison’s response, and a whole slew of comments (873, to be exact) can be found here.

        1. EvilQueenRegina

          There was a medical reason OP couldn’t donate. I don’t think we ever heard the outcome of it.

            1. EvilQueenRegina

              I recently finished reading Lock Every Door by Riley Sager, that’s about an organ harvesting ring. Seeing this letter made me pray liver boss has never read it.

    1. Iconic Bloomingdale

      I thought the same thing – at least this was a request and not a demand. The request was still inappropriate though.

      To this day, the “liver boss” letter is one of the most egregious workplace situations I have ever read on this site.

      1. EPLawyer

        To me the ask is not inappropriate. Liver Boss was inappropriate.

        If the waiting list for an organ weren’t so darn long, people would not be forced to find their own organ. There has to be a better way. But that is a rant for another day.

        1. Gazebo Slayer

          Applies to a lot of things about the health care system, and not even all scarce ones like donated organs. People with crappy insurance or no insurance posting GoFundMes for insulin or lifesaving surgeries, for one. It breaks my heart. As I once saw someone on Twitter put it, “You shouldn’t have to have a good brand to not die.”

  10. Vanessa Mc.

    #1 OP – I agree that this friend-client is absolutely being a jerk in his communication. But my thoughts on the overall scenario differ from the response given one important point made: this guy is apparently an UNPAID spokesperson (or at least, an endorsement, a model, etc.) The OP says that he is well known in this sport, so I would presume there has been real value in this friend’s willingness to be “the face” of OP’s services on the website, etc. If I was into that sport, and saw that someone significant in that arena was a client of OP’s, that would definitely increase the chances of also becoming one—and surely many others would feel the same way.

    All that is to say, while rude behavior shouldn’t be excused from a friend, I would caution OP to consider possible ramifications to severing the business/client relationship (at least not without carefully considering if its worth a negative impact on his business.

    Say this friend has flaked on 5 appointments. And each appointment was for a service costing, say $200 per appointment. That’s $1000. Now, think of how much business this friends association and endorsement, plus willingness to be on the website, may have driven toward the business, in the past and potentially in future. What if OP got 10 new clients that way—and each have booked services 5 times. That’s $10,000! Without this friend’s endorsement, not only does OP stand a chance of losing those clients, but not getting as many new ones. And, unless OP has another such friend willing to be “the face” for their business/services, OP will surely have to pay real money (or, at minimum, contractually offer free services?) sure to cost far more money in the end. My take? sideline the “friendship” (the guy IS a jerk) but consider to keep the business connection!

    1. Willis

      Yeah, I think how much advertising Frank is doing would impact how I’d handle this. If there’s print or online ads, videos, or something like that with him advertising my business, I’d be more inclined to try to work something out with him, cause I would be getting some value out of the association. If it’s just like a testimonial on a website that would be easy to swap out with another client’s, then bye to Frank.

      Another thought if you do want to try and keep Frank – could you schedule him only at the end of the day? Like if I usually had clients from 9 to 5, maybe I’d limit him to a 4 timeslot (and leave early if he flaked) or 5 timeslot (and then I’d get some extra revenue if he showed). May not work depending on the OPs schedule and how long appointments are, of course. I also like Alison’s idea of requiring prepayment for clients who’ve no-showed (i.e., Frank).

    2. Rexish

      This. I was thinking exactly the same thing when reading but I couldn’t word it. The friend thing here seems irrelevant. It’s more about how valuable Frank is to the company if he is worth tolerating the jerk behaviour and how easily he can be replaced as the face of the company.

      1. MayLou

        That’s a fair point – one option is to keep Frank as a client but stop having him as a friend. Because this isn’t good friend behaviour.

          1. Vanessa Mc.

            And Frank might be correct in thinking that he’s doing OP a valuable “favor” by lending his name and endorsement to the business. If his association drives significant business that way, he might reason that a bunch of missed appointments shouldn’t be a big deal, given how much OP benefits from all that. Of course, even if he’s right, Frank’s *behavior* (not bothering to call in advance to reschedule) is rude.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      It depends on what the OP means by “a featured client” in their ad. I read that as being something more like one testimonial out of several, not “the face of the company.” But if it’s something that has a ton of impact, then yeah, the OP has some calculations to do!

      1. RUKiddingMe

        FWIW I read it as “one of several.” Kind of like just one if the eight testimonials (e.g. “I’m Wile E. Coyote and Acme TNT is my go to for getting rid of pesky road runners!!!”)

      2. Vanessa Mc.

        I’d suggest this (if OP agrees there is value for the business in keeping the connection): Tell Frank that, within a given period—a month, 6 months, whatever—he can request X-number of appointments, PERIOD. (Since we don’t know the specific service[s] provided, we don’t know how frequently is the norm for clients to use it.) And, that any of his allocated appointments not canceled in 24hrs will be deducted from the total. Does he get 3 appointments in a month? His behavior might change quickly if he realized that, by not following the cancel/rebook procedure, he’ll lose those slots. This way, OP’s office has already factored in any time/costs regarding Frank. It won’t cost any extra, or lose any more $ should Frank be a no-show. The burden is squarely on him to use or lose.

      3. a1

        I was picturing more that his image was in some marketing materials. Not that he was doing anything specific for them. But if he is doing more, then yes, that does require more consideration.

        1. Vanessa Mc.

          If his image (his face) is on marketing materials, then typically that would be secured with significant monetary compensation. Licensing one’s image IS “doing something.” For any notable figure in the major pro sports to have “their image on marketing materials” could cost a business in the millions to use such a person’s likeness. Since we don’t know which sport (or at what level) the OP is talking about, the amount would of course vary widely per context. Maybe it’s just a few thousand in this arena.

    4. Not So NewReader

      Can I just say, that when someone is well-known, a good question to ask is “Well-known for WHAT?” While it is possible that he is well-known as being good at this sport or good at whatever his contribution is to the sport, he may have an even bigger rep as a jacka$$.

      My friend used to work with Well Known Person (WKP). This person had published books and done tv shows etc. WKP was a fairly recognizable name and his knowledge was widely admired. His real reputation with people around him is that of a jacka$$. People who know him roll their eyes when ever his name is mentioned.

      OP, you unhitch yourself from this client, “Jack”, and you may find that one by one people come over to you and tell you, “Congrats on getting away from that guy.” Then you will realize they knew all along and never said anything. These stories sometimes have odd twists and turns.

      1. AKchic

        This.

        A lot of people will stay quiet because they’ve been on the receiving end of a person’s bad side and would rather not do it all over again. Especially if the current hangers-on are enamored with their Golden Boy and would repeat any of the words being said.

    5. Oh No She Di'int

      I had a similar thought, but a slightly different possible solution.

      Once upon a time, I was a freelance graphic designer. I had a strict policy: if I had resolved to take on a particular job I would either get paid what the job is worth or do it for free. I didn’t do discounts because I found that once people pay that first dollar, they think they own you. By doing jobs for free–say in exchange for breaking into a certain market or getting a client with a certain prestige–I could do the job 100% on my own terms, including how much time I’d put into it and when I would deliver the product.

      I don’t know if this would work for OP#1–their business might be too complex or resource intensive to make this a reality. But if not, I’d consider it. Then everyone understands that Frank is getting the free version of the service. Meaning, if someone else wants to book an appointment time at the same time as Frank, then well sorry Frank I have to move you. Again, I don’t know the nature of the business, so I don’t know if such a move would be a huge inconvenience for Frank. But if it’s no more inconvenient than say, moving a dentist appointment, then it might be worth it to Frank to get the free service.

      And I don’t think you necessarily have to sideline the friendship either. Friendships are valuable, and people have blind spots. It’s possible Frank just doesn’t really “get” what he’s doing in this case, but for all we know he’d be the first in line to donate a kidney to OP (or OP’s board member–see what I did there?)

      1. possible solution

        I was thinking that too that Frank doesn’t “get” what he is doing. He may be so involved in the sport that he doesn’t understand the business side of things. I was also thinking that maybe Frank has a well known name that he thinks people will automatically accommodate his schedule. Is Frank necessary for your business to grow? I have a friend who sold a product that a celebrity was willing to endorse but my friend had a lot of hoops to jump through. My friend declined (much to the shock of said celebrity). It took a little longer but she was able to grow her business using word of mouth and reorganizing her advertising campaign. The celebrity is no longer at the peak of popularity they once were, hence those hoops would have been void regardless.

    6. TootsNYC

      This is a good point.

      And if it is how you’re going to view it, then be clear-eyed about it.

      Also don’t kid yourself about how valuable he -really- is.
      And yes, stop thinking of it as a friendship, and start thinking of it as a business expense. And decide whether it’s worth it.

      (also, if he never shows up to use your services, how good of a reference can he be? if you put his face ont he website, but then says, “oh, I don’t go that often,” how valuable is that? Personally, I think I’d be making major efforts to not need him)

  11. Dan

    #3

    This reads like such a simple letter/question, but there seems to be a lot going on underneath the hood on this one, and it’s not clear to me how much of this is actually a gender issue.

    1. First things first, we *are* dealing with a young person, who may not be familiar with formal/professional email writing. Being able to correspond professionally is very much a soft skill that is needed in the work place. To the best of my knowledge, exclamation marks should rarely be used in formal/professional correspondence. While I wouldn’t think twice (or even notice) a “Thanks!” at the end of an email, if somebody punctuated Every Sentence with an exclamation point, that would be cause for some “coaching.” Same goes with too many emojis (I’m a male, and I use them from time to time in a work email), “lols’ or other kinds of text speak. But I only use emojis and what not when I’m writing more casually with people I’m more comfortable with. E.g., I’d never stick an emoji in an email to my grand boss.

    2. More broadly: it’s very important to learn how to communicate clearly and appropriately, age and gender aside. At a previous job, I worked with someone whose emails were incoherent. She spoke just fine, but her email writing was borderline illiterate. It was never clear to me what she was trying to convey.

    3. OP writes about being in a male dominated field. For the sake of conversation, I’m going to assume she’s talking about engineering or something. If that’s the case, then more formal writing is a consequence of us doing what we do. From Day 1, everything we learn how to do is very literal and methodical. Technical writing is its own style; it just comes with the territory. In fact, when writing prose and what not, one needs to vary the writing and shift tone and what not. In technical writing, we don’t do that. The writing is more formal, the tone more consistent, blah blah. And since many of our emails are about our work, the emails adopt a similar, direct (and even terse to some extent) style. I don’t consider this a gendered thing at all, it just is what it is.

    As a total aside: My company uses a commercial IM software that we use. My team is a lot of software developers, and many coding things that we might stick in a message the IM software translates as emojis. Drives us nuts.

    1. LW 3

      Yes, good advice. I will leave gender out of it when I mention it to her. Have you ever put your writing through an analyzer that will tell you if you write “like a male or a female”? For example, this one: http://www.hackerfactor.com/GenderGuesser.php. Caveat: I do not know how scientifically accurate it is. But, I’m betting if you put in technical writing, it will tell you that it is “male”. Technical writing developed in fields that were all men, and I wonder what the scientific writing style would look like if historically it was females who had been 99% of the field? Maybe nothing, maybe gender plays less of a role than I think it does, but it would be interesting to see.

      1. Close Bracket

        “maybe gender plays less of a role than I think it does”

        Or maybe gender plays more of a role than Dan thinks it does. He doesn’t see it bc male privilege means he doesn’t have to.

        I’m a female engineer, and Dan’s viewpoint just makes me sigh and get very tired.

        1. Anonymoose

          I’m not in STEM but in a traditionally male dominated field, and same. The whole “it’s not a gendered thing, it is just how it is” attitude that I see from the men in my field completely ignores the fact that men, particularly white men, shaped and continues to shape the norm of what is considered professional behavior.

          Personally, I don’t use a ton of exclamation marks (it’s normally thanks! Or have a great weekend!). But women and POCs are in a damn if you do and damn if you don’t situation. You’re either seen as frivolous or a bitch.

    2. Goose Lavel

      Well said Dan!

      I also come from an engineering perspective and agree 100% with regards to office email. I never saw exclamation points in any except at the end where a “good job!” really meant you went well beyond expectations.

    3. we're basically gods

      I once had a software *compiler* try to translate a bit of code into an emoji. Either that, or the 60-year-old men who wrote the code I was testing decided to toss in a couple of emojis. I’ve never been sure.

    4. JustaTech

      As someone who works in a technical field, I say that there are still times when technical writing is not the most effective style. Writing a report or an email about a project or to a client? Yes, technical all the way.
      Writing an email to someone in another department who you need to do something for you (like Supply or Document Control or HR)? It might be beneficial to ease off the technical and be a little more warm/human, especially if the person doesn’t know you in person. Making a personal connection can make a big difference in how smoothly things work.
      And when you’re giving written feedback to a direct report? That should be serious and direct, but maybe not technical. Can you imagine if your annual review was written in an academic style? It would take a whole quarter just to parse it!

      So, yes, this student needs to learn that there are different styles of writing and when to apply each one.

      1. Former Help Desk Peon

        Totally agree that the “technical” style isn’t the most effective always; I write a lot of software instructions for my end users…some stuff is very direct “Click here, then here, then do this other thing, add 4, then click here. The End”, but when relaying higher level concepts I get more laid back and use analogies and such; more folksy, I guess, like a DIY-er blog post, because my usual audience feels comfortable with that style and will actually RTFM.

  12. StaceyIzMe

    On the request for that eighth interview? No. Walk away. Even if there was some context where their interview process was specialized, elongated or just very different, there’s no reason to require eight interviews to hire someone. They either have no clue about what they want/ need or they have no clue about how to manage. Probably both. It’s like dating a person. You don’t go on a fourth date if the first three yield evidence of flakiness, unreliability or an overall lack of integrity. Maybe if you’re in the running for an ambassadorship or CEO of operations for the 2020 Olympics (maybe!). Otherwise? Wishing that this job would materialize won’t make it so. They’ve seen you, they’ve spoken to you, they’ve vetted you and they don’t need no more stinkin’ data. They are simply incompetent, in my estimation.

    1. Dan

      Reading about some of these interview experiences fascinates me TBH. I work in tech, and make six figures or close to it. It’s the norm in my field to get flown in for interviews, and while I’m often local, the processes are set up to get people in, interviewed, and out. I’ve never had a process take more than a phone screen + 1/2 day to one full day of in person interviews. I’m usually meeting with 4-8 people over the course of the interview.

      I’ve only ever been called back for an “extra” interview… and I got rejected.

      So when I read these questions/stories about extended interviews, I’m always like WTF? What is it about their processes such that they’re afraid of making a decision? And to your point, if they can’t make decisions now, what’s it like working for them?

      That said… I’ve worked at places with lousy HR/recruiting departments, and I’d have hated for people to have made employment decisions based primarily off of their interview experience. Actually working there was great, and HR/recruiting was just a bad first impression.

      1. Powercycle

        I work in tech/government and I’ve never had more than one, or two, in person interviews for any given job. 7 or 8 interviews just sounds ridiculous to me.

    2. Cat Meowmy Admin

      +100 – Yes, there’s no real progression in the hiring process. Expecting the LW to keep arranging more time off for that many interviews? Inconsiderate. It speaks volumes about what working there might be like. No thanks. (I commented similar upthread)

    3. Jaded

      Yeah, my absolute limit is 3 interviews (2 is the norm in my experience for my country / profession). I’ve only once had a third interview – they wanted a fourth and I withdrew. I suspect they didn’t hire anyone for the role; they seemed to be talking themselves out of hiring as the process went on.

      1. Fortitude Jones

        My current company told me towards the end of my interview process (well, towards what I thought would be the end) that they may have me do a fourth interview with the VP of sales, and this was after asking me to complete a written exercise that ended up taking about two-and-a-half hours. I almost, almost, said, “Eff that,” but the position sounded too good to pass up for me, so I did the exercise and told myself I could suck up one last interview (and swore to myself that I’d decline to go any further if they then requested another interview after that since trying to come up with plausible reasons to get off work early/work from home at my current job was a hassle) – I felt they were leaning my way.

        Luckily, once my exercise was submitted, I received an offer the next business day, so I think the VP shut that down. Having now met this guy in person, he seems to be incredibly decisive with no time for games, and thus, would have no reason to speak to me since I had already spoken to the top three people in our department that I’d be working with on a regular basis. He also seems to trust my boss and grandboss’s judgment, so he probably didn’t feel the need to triple check their work.

        1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2

          And in my field (IS/IT/computers) quite often a lengthy interview cycle might involve series of test cases.

          There have been times where I was brought in for interviews – only to discover that they had problems they needed resolved and the interview cycle was a great way to get the answers they needed a) without hiring anyone and b) without having to pay a consulting fee.

          If the eighth interview was a continuation of a series of “how do I do this” sessions, send them a bill.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      Yeah, there is no legitimate reason to bring someone in for interviews that many times. I would decline the 8th request and take myself out of the running. Unless you are meeting with different people, and they can’t coordinate all of those people on the same day, there really shouldn’t be the need for more than 2 in-person interviews.

    5. Tan

      OR… I was thinking that maybe it’s not that the company has no clue about what they want rather but rather they know exactly what they want but can’t quite compromise. My guess is a current employee left /is leaving and they want a direct replacement. In most jobs that never happens, I think this interviewee ticks most boxes but the company is worried about something rate him 1 short of getting the job and want to keep looking… to me this 8 interview process (so far) tells you it is a company that has management and decision making issues. Everything points to the fact that is is probably difficult /frustrating place to work.

  13. Exclamationenthusiast

    OP#3 – I’ve had two instances of exclamation point policing – both at the same workplace, both very different, butboth received favourably. It was my first job out of uni, I was desperate to impress and therefore bombarding every email with !!!!!!

    The first from my boss: Face to face by the cofee machine he asked if he could give me some gentle guidance. Once accepted he brought up the exclamation marks and said that he didn’t mind at all but when emailing higher stakeholders, it would be more professional to limit my ! to where they were really needed. He also added that passion is important and ! are a great way to add some oomph to an email when congratulating someone or emphasising a point. He argued that if I used them all the time it would be hard to tell when I really wanted to shout about something. Very tactfully handled and I was left feeling that this was his advice but ball was in my court. I was grateful.

    The second from my manager (one under my boss) who I was quickly very friendly with. We shared a similar sense of humour too. She sat next to me and on opening a heavily punctuated email she just exclaimed “Holy exclamation marks!” which got the point across whilst making me laugh. She then jokingly appointed herself the exclamation mark police and would tease me good naturedly about it. Kinda only works if you’re friendly/sat near the person I guess but worked for me.

    1. LW 3

      Thanks! That’s the kind of approach I’m going for, since I am mentoring this student. I want her to do well and be taken seriously.

      1. Sara without an H

        Yes, LW3, you are a teacher. Norms of professional communication in your field is one of the things you teach. I really don’t see it as “tone policing.” I would think of it more as teaching a distinction between professional and personal communication.

  14. AJ

    Re #1, I don’t think I’ll ever comprehend how people feel that “but we’re friends/family” is justification for treating you disrespectfully. Not only that, but to actually feel put out or offended that you would ask a “friend” to offer you the same level of decency and courtesy that you would ask of a client? In this situation, I would be reevaluating my personal relationship with this person, not just my professional one.

    1. Devil Fish

      The obvious solution to having those kinds of friends and family as clients is to give them the “friends and family discount” that’s actually a surcharge (assuming you’d still work with them for additional compensation).

    2. Quinalla

      It would be one thing if he flaked once for an understandable reason and asked humbly if he could skip the fee as a friend, but as a repeat offender, he’s just being a entitled jerk!

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

      Exactly. Frank is NOT your friend OP. If he was he wouldn’t be taking advantage of you and your relationship.

      1. Not So NewReader

        This. Frank is a user.

        My friend works for me, helping me with my house. This is a double thing for me, I don’t want to hurt the friendship and I want to pay my friend enough money so he will be willing to come back and help me again. One day he came to help with an emergency. I had a tree limb that was near a wire, when the storm kicked up the day before that limb just bounced the wire all over the place. (My friend has been cutting trees since his teens, so this is a piece of cake to him.)

        I paid he four times his usual rate. He started to object. I said, “It was dangerous work, you came on an emergency basis and I want to make sure you know you are being thanked.” He took the money and I think he even surprised himself on that one. I got a heck of a deal because he saved my house from burning down.

        In my mind, his work AND his friendship are of high value to me, so it’s up to me to keep that at the forefront of my thinking. OP, I am thinking of you in parallel to how many times my friend has helped me. I am willing to bust my butt if my friend needs something. You have helped your friend with your professional services how many times and he won’t pay you when he needs to pay you?? I know for a fact that if I did this to my friend he’d be gone. I have seen him walk away from users before.

        Sometimes I do work for him- this gets to be a two way street. We ask each other, “Are we good here?” at the end of the task. The idea being if one feels they are not paid enough (or the trade was uneven) SPEAK UP in the moment. Don’t let the weeks and months go by and then decide to say, “Remember that Thursday I helped you? Well I am not happy with that deal.” We handle the imbalance immediately.

        This is what happens when people put the friendship above all else, they check to make sure the other person is comfortable.

    4. TootsNYC

      Miss Manners has said that it’s even MORE important to be polite and kind in our interactions with family and friends. Because they’ll be around longer, and more intensely.

    5. Gumby

      Seriously. A family member owned an eating establishment. Said person never billed us when we went to eat there and refused to take our money. You know what we did? Snuck cash to anyone else who was on staff that night to cover our food. [Pretty sure that was an open secret but seemingly it was okay if the cash appeared in the till by indirect means.] Because you don’t steal work from friends/family!

      If they specifically gift it to you? I’d consider it. I think my sister had her wedding photography given as a gift from a professional photographer who was a friend. But that was offered, not asked for, and NOT assumed.

      1. Gazebo Slayer

        Thank you so much for doing this!

        I once worked for a guy who told me after I’d already finished a project that it was a favor to his friend and I wouldn’t be paid for it. NO. You don’t get to unilaterally decide that I am going to work for your friend for free.

        If you hadn’t tipped the waitstaff, they’d probably have been in a similar position, considering how absymally paid tipped restaurant workers usually are. Thank you for ensuring that didn’t happen.

  15. WS

    There are ways that they could talk about a board member needing a kidney, and those ways would be by discussing organ donation in general, and how important it is for your family members to know your wishes, and things like “Frank’s recent illness has focused our attention on organ donation, here’s what we’re doing to support employees who are interested in being a registered donor (list of appropriate actions/donations and links for employees).” Straight-up asking is totally inappropriate.

    1. Cat Meowmy Admin

      Yes, that’s the way to address the situation, by bringing awareness (and not “pressure”). That was a very thoughtful comment.

    2. Lime green Pacer

      I think that approach would only work *after* Frank received his kidney or died. Otherwise people would quickly connect the dots and conclude that the intent is, in fact, finding a donor for Frank.

      1. Sylvan

        Is that necessarily a bad thing, though, in a hypothetical situation where nobody’s pressured? An old workplace handled an employee’s need for a bone marrow transplant similarly and nobody was bothered. And now a few of us are in the donor registry, to potentially help anyone.

      2. KimberlyR

        I think its still ok to have the implication out there that Frank needs a kidney and anyone (employee or not) who is interested in possible organ donation might be able to help Frank. As long as nothing is said overtly, there is no pressure (or not as much!) because no one has to outright say no or look the higher level guys in the eye after choosing not to donate a kidney.

        1. KarenK

          Their program might be different, but the kidney transplant program I worked with would not consider any employee of the company, regardless. The opportunity for coercion is too great. We have turned down employees who wanted to donate to their bosses.

  16. Zombie Unicorn

    #1 I realise it’s too late for this advice now, but for the future, I would try to have the following rules / boundaries for your business:

    – If someone doesn’t pay the cancellation fee they cannot book another appointment, let alone a discounted one, the end.
    – If you would feel unable to enforce that with someone, they cannot book an appointment in the first place.

    I used to run my own business and I found it best to just never accept work from people if I wouldn’t feel comfortable chasing them for money or firing them as a client. Tip: look up the broken record technique for saying no, and practise in a mirror.

    1. Colette

      Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking – he can book another appointment once he pays the cancellation fee.

    2. Moocowcat

      Or that Frank has to pay for his next appointment up front? Basically, Frank is being a bad friend and a bad customer. I’d seriously be crunching the numbers on if he’s worth keeping for the business.

    3. Vanessa Mc.

      Except if that someone has been driving business to you via their endorsement, etc. We’re not talking some wannabe Instagram “influencer” here, but rather a popular sports figure in the sports universe that OP’s work is part of. We don’t know if its golf or basketball or surfing, etc., so we don’t know how lucrative things can get, of course. My bet is that OP’s business has benefitted in very tangible ways by their association—without it (unless they have another “friend” like that) OP may actually lose business from others, as friends and peers of Frank follow his lead to another service provider. All Frank has to do is make, literally, ONE social media post for that to happen: “I’ve just found a great new provider of XYZ services [i.e., a competitor of OP] that I highly recommend!” Then, too, OP may be forced to formally contract and pay $ to another sports figure to do what Frank’s been doing as an informal “exchange”—i.e., I’ll drive significant business your way, and all I want from you is to hook me up with comped/ discounted services from time to time.

      (Frank still sounds like a jerk though!)

        1. Vanessa Mc.

          That’s what I’m thinking, too. A contract of sorts will make both sides very clear about what each is giving and is receiving in the arrangement.

  17. CouldntPickAUsername

    “Frank you know I’m not attracted to you right?”
    “Yes…….”
    “Then why are you trying to fuck me?”

    OP 1, Frank isn’t your friend. Friends respect each other. He sees you as someone to use. Lovely little game he’s got being able to use your “friendship” to get away with treating you poorly.

    Allison is right, it’s time to cut ties or enforce strict boundaries, minimum requiring a deposit up front and if he actually pays and he cancels again makes sure to require that deposit the next time as well no matter how many times he says he “already paid it.”

    1. Cat Meowmy Admin

      For a brief moment when I read your first few lines, I’d swear that you were my boss lol – seriously, this is what he says *verbatim* to business associates who attempt this type of ish.

    2. Joielle

      Yep. Perhaps this is getting too far afield, but I kept thinking of my least favorite quote of all time – “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” Which is exactly wrong – love (and friendship, in this case) means having to say you’re sorry all! the! time! You treat a friend better than a stranger, not worse. Frank is no friend to OP 1. I say cut him loose.

      1. juliebulie

        Agreed on all points (especially saying sorry all the time). A friendship is a two-way thing. Sounds like OP has been a friend to Frank, and Frank has been a leech to OP.

    3. EmKay

      “Am I wearing lipstick?”

      or, the always classic Samuel L. Jackson

      “does he LOOK like a B*TCH”

    1. Deejay

      It reminds me of the “motivational” poster on despair.com on the subject of sacrifice. The caption reads “All we ask here is that you give us your heart” with a picture of an Aztec pyramid.

  18. Cat Meowmy Admin

    As an Exclamation Point Enthusiast, I sometimes like to use EP’s when communicating with family/friends and on social media. As long as it “fits” the situation (especially if you’re genuinely happy for someone, with congratulations, etc.) I do love them for this purpose.
    Admittedly, I do tend to use them when commenting here on AAM! Especially if I strongly agree or relate to something, or excited about a topic or comment thread. (I do try to temper that usage though.)
    However, I rarely if ever use them at work…for example, if someone does a big favor for me or helps me out with a time crunch project, then a “thank you very much!” with one EP is thoughtful and expresses sincere appreciation without being too “extra” imo. Otherwise, EPs are not useful at work imo. (Like my spouse lol.)
    Language with the right usage of appropriate punctuation is an art, an important soft skill. Exclamation Points can be wonderfully expressive when used in the right context/place/time. Use them in moderation (like fine wine) and know your audience/situation.

  19. MommyMD

    No surgery is without risk. Healthy people have died giving up an organ. This request should never be made at work. Are we now at the point we have to legislate this outrageous nonsense?! Don’t ask employees for parts of their body?

    1. NJ Anon

      Besides, you can’t just ” donate a kidney.” You have to be tested to see if you are even a match.

    2. Goose Lavel

      Medical errors are the third leading cause of death (400,000 in the USA yearly) and they mostly occur in hospitals. I would only donate to a loved one to take on such risk.

      1. Lime green Pacer

        From Science-BasedMedicine.org: “Unfortunately, in the three years since its publication, the Makary study has taken on a life of its own, and it’s basically become commonly accepted knowledge that medical errors are the third leading cause of death, even though this estimate is based on highly flawed studies and these numbers are five- to ten-fold greater than the number of people who die in auto collisions every year.”

  20. RUKiddingMe

    “I’m from a different country, and I found this email to be abhorrent!“

    OP I’m from the US and I feel that this email was abhorrent!

    Who just asks fir an organ, particularly from not-family, especially their employees?

    1. Grand Mouse

      I agree. I hate to sound callous but in the 70s is not an abnormal time to go. Of course, I have beloved family in their 70s, and we all want more time with people, but I just wouldn’t expect the same kind of desperation compared to someone in their teens, 30s, 50s. We don’t know if that would buy them much time. And considering the race and age and other dynamics of potential donors… hm

      (I am barely awake, apologies for any wording problems)

    2. Lynca

      I’ve known people who received kidneys both ways (via non-related living donor and from a deceased donor through the waiting list). A 70 year old is not going to be a high priority candidate on the waiting list so a living donor is probably the only way they would get a donation.

      From what I’ve seen of the process, you have to do a lot of self-advocacy to find a donor. There are resources but not everyone is lucky to find someone already tested and a match. The person I know that got a deceased donor kidney looked for years for a living donor. So I’m not surprised when people solicit for donors at work. The problem is really more the power imbalance, favoritism, pressure, etc. that donation could cause in a work relationship.

    3. KarenK

      To be fair, people who need kidney transplants who are likely to wait a while for an organ are encouraged to reach out to their circle of friends and family for a living donor. Frequently, this is done by a close family member. The problem here is that it’s employees.

  21. YetAnotherUsername

    Im really curious whether the email of many exclamations would be considered normal / acceptable in a female dominated industry? Anyone who works in a female dominated industry want to weigh in on that?

    1. NewHerePleaseBeNice

      I work as in L&D / training in educational publishing which is a very female dominated industry and we LOVE our exclamation marks! It wouldn’t be considered weird to end an email with Thanks! or Best! (I’m in the UK, btw)

      1. Zombie Unicorn

        Also in a fairly female-dominated field (charity/not-for-profit sector) and screamers are a fairly common way of softening messages although I wouldn’t use one on a closing greeting.

        Examples:
        Thanks for X, I really appreciate it!
        I need to reschedule Y, sorry!

        But they are still to be used sparingly and with consideration.

      2. Mary

        Ditto–university professional services in the UK. I generally go through my emails at the end to make sure I don’t have any consecutive sentences ending with exclamations marks.

        I’ve just checked my Sent folder and this is the second-top email, which was to another woman in my team:

        “He has a year’s experience, and has set up his own production company! So all good stuff.

        Thanks for these links! I think this is exactly what he’s looking for.”

        Would also use smilies with people I talk to at least once a week or more. Except my genuinely close friends, in which case I’d be more likely to use sarcasm than smilies.

      3. Allonge

        For me there is a qualitative difference between using Thanks! or Best!, or Sorry! and I did my job! As I do every day!

        There is a place for exclamation points in professional emails. The problem is using them at! the! end! of! every! sentence! which reads like an excited child to me.

    2. londonedit

      I work in book publishing which is very female-dominated, and we do tend to have quite a relaxed communication style where exclamation marks aren’t really seen as a big deal. I do remember one colleague at a previous company saying she was going to make a concerted effort to reduce her use of exclamation marks, as she thought it made her look less professional, but generally people use them and it’s not something that would be commented on unless someone was using! Exclamation! Marks! At the end! Of every! Sentence!

      I quite often sign off emails with a ‘Thanks!’, especially if I’m emailing a colleague, or if I have some exciting news for an author I might say ‘I’m really pleased to say that we now have first proofs for your book!’ We’re quite a relaxed industry generally (people wear jeans to work, swearing isn’t a huge deal in most offices, etc) and I think that spills over into a more friendly/casual sort of communication style, rather than a more formal/corporate one.

    3. Sylvan

      I work in a female-dominated company and industry. We almost never use them.

      My editor, who is a woman, would not be happy if I developed that habit.

    4. NJ Anon

      I’ve worked in both. I frankly NEVER considered it to be a male/female thing. It’s more about personality/age/office culture.

    5. Morning reader

      Retired librarian here. Have never noticed the use of EP as a gendered thing professionally. I too would interpret it as immaturity or personal style. I think my own use is usually to add tone to comments that might otherwise read as sarcastic. “That was very helpful, thanks.” If spoken, “that was very helpful, thanks!” would finish with a rising tone and a smile, but with the period seems flat and unenthusiastic.
      In old style hand-written notes, my sister used to put little hearts or smilie faces instead of the dot in the exclamation point. I thought that was both feminine and juvenile, but she was both at the time so it fit.

    6. JSQ

      Social worker checking in. An occasional exclamation mark might sneak in around these parts, but excessive use of them would be seen as inappropriate.

    7. smoke tree

      I work in publishing, and contrary to what you might expect, in my experience no one is really that concerned about details in email tone (depending on context, obviously). Maybe it’s because we have an outlet for our pedantry. I doubt anyone would be concerned about rampant exclamation mark use unless it was wildly inappropriate for the context.

  22. You would too

    If you were dying from kidney failure you would also be desperate enough to ask for an organ and hope that someone would be altruistic enough to help you. It’s easy to mock someone who is sick and dying, if you were in the board member’s shoes you would do the same. They know that it an enormous ask and know that most will ignore the email, but the off chance that someone could help save your life is worth sending an uncomfortable email.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I haven’t seen anyone mocking the board member — that would be unkind and uncalled for. But it’s not mocking to point out that there are serious issues with the email that was sent out, given the power dynamics.

    2. Bagpuss

      No one is mocking them. However, Alison ansd most of the commenters are pointing out that making such a massive demand of people who work for you and therefore who are likely to feel pressure to comply is wildly inappropriate.

      Had the message been a more general one, letting employees lnow about the board member’s illness and suggesting that people think *in general terms* about organ donation, making sure that their families know their wishes, and even mentioning that it is possibl to be a living donor for ceertain organs including kidneys, people would not have had the same reaction.

      Asking your employees to donate carries an implied threat that not responding positively may harm your career , and even if that is not how the person asking intended it to come over, it will be in the back of the minds of at least some of those receiving the request.

      For what it is worth, I asked a friend of mine, who has received a transplant, and is likely to need another in due course, and her imediate response was “Oh H*** no!” to whether this was remotely acceptable or appropriate.
      She commented that her family have, (with permission), advertised fundraising events at their places of work and have asked people to re-post information (about blood / organ donation in general) but would not see it as acceptable to make a direct request like this one. And as I understnad it, they are not Board Members or senior staff so the pressure of having your boss making the request is not a factor in her case.

      The issue isn’t about publicising the fact that someone neds a donor, it’s about the abuse of power.

      1. Apostrophina

        This exactly. I work in a close-knit office and I wouldn’t be surprised to see an email like “As you may know, Jim Teapot from our board is in need a a kidney transplant. If you know someone who may be in a position to help, they can give details to Barbara Higherup and she’ll pass the information along.” Spread the word, but don’t put pressure on the employees!

    3. OzzieGirl

      I don’t think anyone (including myself, I wrote the letter) was mocking anyone? I don’t disagree with trying to help someone in need, but I just don’t think this is an appropriate way to do it. That company already had an “us vs. then” culture when it came to staff and management, and this further fuelled that for me. I was interested to know if the board and upper level management had already had their suitably tested before they emailed staff, but I left not long after..

      1. LGC

        I love it when LWs comment because often it changes the letter A LOT.

        To be honest, I was wondering what race had to do with the situation (and I’m black!), but now that you’ve mentioned that employees and management are at odds…that makes much more sense. And also, that makes the ask even more tone-deaf in my opinion – “we know y’all are mad at us, but could one of you spare one of your organs for the board?”

        1. OzzieGirl

          “Tone deaf” is the perfect way to describe it – and may have contributed to my horror at the request. The company culture is rife with toxicity, and that request showed a real lack of insight into how staff perceive management. We were always made to feel we were less valuable than our managers (unless they need our kidneys of course). Perhaps if staff and management relations were more positive, the email wouldn’t have felt so widely inappropriate?

          1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss

            Honestly even if everybody got along and there was respect going in both directions, the email would still be inappropriate. Although if management respected their employees and email like probably never would have been sent…

          2. TheOtherLiz

            When you applied to work there, did they ask you your desired salary range and how many kidneys you had?

        2. Dahlia

          Actually, kind of interesting, cross-racial organ transplants can be tricky if I remember correctly? Like the rates between different races aren’t as good, I believe, and capatibility can be much harder to find if someone is, like, biracial?

          1. Ramanon

            A lot of medical procedures are tricky for non-white people because a lot (nearly all) of medical trials are done on white men.

            It’s very difficult to actually say if cross-racial transplants are tricky, at least with living donors, simply because non-white people both donate and receive less organs and typically donations are within family and friend circles anyways, so studies end up with a pool of maybe five cross-racial transplants to look at.

    4. Morning reader

      At the risk of seeming ageist, at age 70, no, I would be disinclined to go through surgery for a donated kidney. At any age, I wouldn’t actively solicit donations for myself like that. (Might be tempted to do it for a child as I can imagine being more desperate and boundary-exceeding on behalf of a loved younger person.) A factor in my thought process here is that the kidney problem would not likely be the only health issue, and other factors would be limiting life expectancy so I would be inclined to think it was just my time. I have a little sympathy for the requester’s situation but not to the point I think I would do it too. If I imagine myself doing such a thing, it would be through social and community connections. I would never ask employees.

    5. Psyche

      Desperation does not excuse exploitation. Is it completely understandable that he is desperate? Yes. Ask family and friends. Put out a call on social media. DO NOT PRESSURE THOSE UNDER YOU. When making an enormous ask it is imperative that you know that everyone you are asking will feel like they 100% have the option to just ignore the email. The chance to save a life is not worth making someone feel coerced.

      1. KarenK

        And any transplant program worth its salt would not accept a living donor where there is any possibility of coercion. Donors are evaluated separately, and if any whiff of being guilted into it is found, the donor is turned down, and the recipient is told, “They can’t be a donor.” No other info is given.

        The employer/employee relationship is assumed to be coercive. The program I worked with would turn down any donors obtained this way out of hand.

    6. Mr. Tyzik

      Read the comments again. No one is mocking the board member who needs a kidney. People are *criticizing* the way the company went about the solicitation.

      And don’t dare speak for me. I find this awful and abhorrent and certainly *would not* do this. Don’t presume to speak for everyone – stop that.

    7. Yes, I dressed up as the kidney!

      But there are ways to raise awareness about organ donation that don’t involve, you know, coercion. I speak from experience.

      At one of my former institutions, a coworker’s father desperately needed a donated organ, because otherwise he would die. Instead of sending out a company-wide e-mail asking for kidneys, you know what they did? They launched a yearly organ donor campaign in the father’s honor. For a week every year, there was a booth, staffed by volunteers from the company, where people would talk to you about what it means to be an organ donor, and where you could fill out an organ donor card. People even made costumes! There was a heart and a kidney. It was really fun, and there was no shortage of volunteers to man the booth.

      The father never received an organ, sadly, but they’ve probably signed up thousands of organ donors over the years, and maybe even saved some lives at this point. If I needed an organ donation, this is what I’d want people to do for me, instead of hitting up a captive audience so that maybe one of them could cough up an organ for me.

    8. Not So NewReader

      Where is anyone mocking a sick and dying person? Can you link to that comment or comments?

    9. TGOTAL

      The laws in the country where I live explicitly bar organ donation – even if the donor ostensibly consents – when the power and vulnerability dynamics might suggest coercion.

      In other words, around these parts, this completely inappropriate request is the prelude to human trafficking.

  23. AngelZash

    OP 3: As a former writing teacher, I can definitively say that exclamation points should be used sparingly. Overusing them isn’t just going to make the person look young or less capable, it’s also going to take away from the exclamation point’s power and immediacy. Someone using a lot of exclamation points might as well be using all caps—it’s basically a lot of yelling instead of calling attention to something or giving the sentence and it’s point emphasis. This can also make the writing hard to read if there are too many in a short space. Regardless of the field and whether it is male-dominated or not, the student should be counseled to restrict her use of exclamation points to as necessary since that’s going to be all around better for both her professional and academic careers.

    OP 2: It’s totally inappropriate for a board member to be using their influence to secure an organ from within his/her organization. They could maybe put in an update regarding their health and that they need the organ, but straight up asking for is a horrible practice for all the reasons Alison named. While it’s unethical, I don’t think it’s illegal, however. So I would feel free to ignore their summons for the organ. It WOULD be illegal for them to retaliate against you for not attempting to donate an organ.

    1. Purt's Peas

      That’s one perspective on the exclamation point, but usually the reason for excess exclamation points is to take away the *period’s* power and immediacy. In most casual online communication, if you write, “I came up with a title.” that sounds very severe; normally you’d write “I came up with a title” with no punctuation, and that would be read with a normal tone. With this context, the exclamation point is sort of a replacement for no punctuation–it doesn’t sound as severe as putting a period at the end of a sentence, but is more formally correct than leaving off punctuation entirely.

      1. S-Mart

        Periods are severe? I must not be anywhere near current in accepted punctuation usage. To me periods have always been the end of a normal sentence.

        To me, “I came up with a title.” is a basic statement. “I came up with a title” leaves me thinking there’s more you meant to write and forgot or haven’t gotten to yet.

        1. Reba

          Check out Gretchen McCulloch’s recent book “Because Internet” — it’s about these new subtle rules of communication that are emerging from new technologies.

          Anyway, periods are severe in text messages and chats, i.e. informal communication, which is likely this young person’s most familiar mode of writing.

          1. HailRobonia

            I was going to write just about the same thing… instead I’ll just say a hearty SECONDED!!!!!1111eleventyone!!

            On Twitter, Gretchen McCulloch (@GretchenAMcC) posted some excellent advice:

            “It is my professional opinion as an internet linguist that if professors want a specific style of email from their students they must teach it to them in class (or at least explain it on their websites).

            Yes, even upper level courses. See this thread for why.”

            “We never expected students to “just know” how to write a memo or a business letter or a resume. I was taught these things explicitly.”

            1. teclatrans

              Thanks for the recommendation! I just followed and am looking forward to reading this book!!

              (Um, that first exclamation mark was unexamined; the double marks were calculated!)

          2. S-Mart

            Interesting. I don’t text/chat with a ton of people (maybe a couple dozen), but I want to say all of us still use periods. So I went back over my recent chat logs to see how well evidence aligns with my thoughts. Turns out some of us are 50/50 on period use, some are pretty much 100% still using it. None of us (in my recent/very small sample) have dropped it completely. I guess I should check out that book or an equivalent – I have questions, but I’ll stop derailing this thread rather than ask them here.

            I guess my social circle is behind the times.

        2. Washi

          Purt’s Peas is talking about “casual online communication” which I took to mean IMing or texting where yes, typically line breaks are used in the place of periods. And it is possible that this student may have texted more than emailed and is used to considering the period as stern, and then feels weird even using it in an email, hence the many exclamation points.

      2. Dan

        That’s probably true for IM and Twitter style of communication, but emails are a less causal method of communication. While I don’t expect edited perfection in a business email, the general standard is a grammatically correct and properly punctuated email.

        The number of exclamation points should not exceed the number of periods.

      3. AngelZash

        If the simple use of a period makes the sentence sound too severe or abrupt, the better way to deal with that problem might be to rewrite the sentence. You can handle the problem but changing how it is worded, making the sentence more complex, or by adding/merging the sentence into another.

        Casual forms of writing developed from texting and email are a writing teacher’s bane. Students forget they need to know their audience and write accordingly, which does not mean sounding like an overexcited preteen at a concert or like you are writing your girlfriends. Overusing exclamation marks seems very tiny and easily explained by today’s culture, but not addressing them or other small mistakes does not encourage the student to better their writing and learn professional norms. This will inevitably hurt them in the long run.

      4. Not So NewReader

        Periods are severe? wow. So how does one figure out where a sentence ends and a new one begins? Doesn’t that get confusing?

    2. Una

      I’m surprised you think exclamation points always convey a shouting tone when many people (see the many comments above) use them to soften their tone in emails and other less-formal forms of communication. If you were to read them out loud, it’s the difference between the falling tone at the end of a sentence (period) versus a higher, perhaps cheerier tone (exclamation). Imagine saying “thanks” in those two tones – the first one might sound flat, unenthused, or sarcastic, while the second conveys friendliness.

      Formality of email tone also really varies based on workplace culture. I would seem wildly out of touch if I started all my emails with ‘Dear so and so,’ and sometimes I wonder if my usual ‘Hello so and so’ is too formal in a workplace where most everyone starts their emails with ‘Hi.’ For the record, I work in academic research.

      1. juliebulie

        An occasional exclamation point for emphasis or enthusiasm is hard to misconstrue. But when they’re in multiples, and/or on every sentence, I don’t hear that as “softened.” I hear it as “giddy.”

      2. AngelZash

        When someone uses a lot of exclamation points, the exclamation point stops holding it normal meaning and function. That’s when, I do believe, it becomes more like shouting and can make the writer sound like they are giddy or very perky, as Julie bulge noted. It’s not the exclamation point itself that makes it seem this way, it’s the overuse (and quite frankly, abuse) of it that does.

      3. Not So NewReader

        I am old. I read exclamation points as shouting. I have to look again to see what the person is actually meaning. I don’t see warmth in exclamation marks, I mean they are for exclaiming which usually is not a good thing. But I am old, I think.

    3. smoke tree

      The standards for exclamation marks in formal writing or creative writing are quite different from those for emails and texts. In those contexts, a slightly different punctuation “vocabulary” is needed to accurately convey tone–in some ways, it’s closer to spoken language. It makes sense because emails usually need to be concise to be effective, so you don’t have paragraphs and paragraphs of text to communicate all the emotional nuance you want to convey.

  24. Augusta has gone East

    OP1, if keeping Frank as a client is needed for a while because of the costs of changing the campaign, could you always schedule him right after your last appointment is? Eg. if you see clients typically between 9-5, schedule him at 5? It’d be overtime for you but if he’s a no show, you’re not taking away time from other clients.
    Of course, as Frank sounds terrible and entitled, I agree you’re better off referring him to another business.

    1. b

      I really like this solution; Frank will most likely cancel again (which you already know) but he gets to feel like he won the passive aggressive duel not knowing you don’t actually care if he shows up or not.

    2. NotMyRealName

      My go to tactic is to be “busy” – “Sorry Frank, I don’t have any openings available until January for you.”

  25. NYWeasel

    OP3: As a fellow exclamation point lover, some feedback I’ve gotten is that when I send emails globally, the exclamation points are perceived in certain countries not as enthusiasm but rather yelling. I don’t cut them totally out of my writing (that would be impossible!) but I try to keep my use of them to a minimum for my international coworkers.

    1. Fortitude Jones

      My direct boss is in The Netherlands, and she definitely overuses exclamation points and emojis in emails to our team and other SMEs in the company. However, she doesn’t use them at all when sending emails to executive level colleagues – I wonder if it’s because of the potential for it to be read as shouting like you said or seeming too excitable.

  26. jam

    Letter 3– Aside from questions of juvenile/feminine, the trouble with the quoted email is that all the exclamation points cancel each other out. The writer is using them to convey warmth, friendliness, casual tone, but because everything has an exclamation point, it ends up having the same effect as if they were all full stops. Except weirder.

    I would raise it with them in person, and maybe have the latest email printed out or on the screen to show them.

    “Student, there’s something I wanted to raise with you about communicating by email. One of the things I’m meant to do as your mentor on this project is help you learn some professional and academic norms, and you are such a promising student I want to help you succeed. In the email you sent me about your project title, every sentence ends with an exclamation point, and I’ve noticed you do that a lot. I think you want to sound enthusiastic and friendly, but this is just a fairly routine ‘business’ email, and you don’t have to worry that I’ll interpret it as ‘unfriendly’. Usually in professional emails you want to use full stops (periods) more than exclamation points. Setting a baseline with full stops will help the sentences you do want to use exclamation points stand out. And I hate to even mention this, but some people will see an email like this and think it looks childish. As you know, women are in a minority in our field, and I really would not want something like this to hurt your chances. At any rate, this is easy to fix, and most students have to learn how to write professional emails. Yours are most of the way there already! I would just recommend doing a quick punctuation check before you hit send.”

    1. LW 3

      Good advice. Thanks! Yes, she does it with every email opening and almost every sentence. It’s too much.

      1. Allonge

        Just a small point for the record: in email and letter openings, some languages use exclamation points as a standard as opposed to a colon. So, the correct way to start a letter is
        Dear Professor X!
        Blah blah etc.
        and not
        Dear Professor X,
        Blah blah etc.
        So this might just be a different problem from all the other exclamation marks (using non-English punctuation rules).
        Thank you for being willing to address this!

  27. Reality Check

    #3 I don’t know that exclamation points are “feminine” or “masculine.” They are to emphasize, give a sharp command, or convey shouting, etc. It is not appropriate to end every sentence with an exclamation point, that’s just Grammar/Punctuation 101. Let her know that in the spirit of mentoring.

    1. LGC

      I don’t think that being grammatically incorrect is that much of an issue – email is often more informal than other forms of writing.

      As for what exclamation points mean: it depends! If LW3 is younger than about 40 (or even if she isn’t), she might be interpreting it as showing too much exuberance. In fact, I think that might actually be how she’s reading it – Ellie’s emails come across as overly perky to her, I think (and that’s the way the sample read to me).

      Personally, as a guy who loves exclamation points (and I probably use them too much at work myself), Ellie should lose at least two of the exclamation points in that message. Actually, that might be how I’d approach it if I were LW3 – if I mentioned it, I’d say that it can come across as overly enthusiastic if she uses multiple exclamation points. (And I don’t know if I would, even – Ellie just might write that way to LW3 because she’s comfortable with her, so it might be less of an issue.)

      1. Not So NewReader

        And suddenly the baby became beautiful!

        If only she would stand next to my check book and commandingly say, “What a LOT of money!!”

  28. LGC

    You know what – I thought of something: what’s the opportunity cost of putting up with Frank vs. letting him go?

    On one hand, my first impulse was DTMFA (and yeah, I still feel like he’s a MFA that needs to be D’ed). But…maybe I’m reading into this but it sounds like Frank is a professional athlete of some sort. (He’s definitely a well known athlete.) So…how hard would it be to change the campaign? What good is Frank’s name doing you right now? If you lost him as a client, would you lose other clients on net? These are hard questions to answer, and I’m not sure they can be answered definitively.

    At the very least, I’d say that I’d be charging him standard rates. I mean, if you do keep him as a client you might as well get paid for it.

    1. Joielle

      And on the other hand – Frank sounds like a bit of a jerk all around, what if his presence in advertising is keeping other customers away? I practice a sport in what sounds like kind of a similar small, tight-knit community, and there’s always a certain level of drama. There are definitely people I dislike and whose spaces I try to stay away from. If one of those people was featured in advertising, I’d be inclined to go somewhere else.

      Anyways, this all makes a hard-to-answer question even harder, but there’s a lot to consider.

      1. LGC

        True, but everyone is saying that LW1 should drop Frank like the Rockets dumped Melo, so I tried to see it from another perspective. (So, yeah, I was playing devil’s advocate.) For what it’s worth, I still thought that on balance things leaned towards firing Frank as a client, and after reading it again I realized I forgot that he would get hostile when LW1 let him know that he was violating his agreement. (So, yeah, that’s even more evidence in favor of DTMFA.)

        Basically, though, I think that…it’s easy to say that Frank should be let go, but you’re right in that it is somewhat complicated. Frank is definitely taking advantage of LW1 in multiple ways, and it’s probably worth it to cut ties in this case. But also, I can see different pitfalls – Frank takes other (better) clients with him, for example.

      2. Not So NewReader

        I bet if OP crunched some numbers they would find they are losing money on Frank. This can be how stuff like this plays out once ya put pencil to paper.

  29. Alex

    LW #2, I feel this is a strong ask especially because of the age of the recipient. It might be better if they were younger, but it still feels in bad taste.

    1. LGC

      Honestly, the age didn’t even register for me. I feel like the much bigger issue is that this is a board member, so I don’t think it’d be any better if they were 50 instead of 70. (You’re right about the prognosis, though.)

      At the very least, this is extremely questionable optics (we here at AAM hate it – which is the correct answer – but I can easily see a lot of people thinking this is acceptable).

  30. also in the fitness service industry

    OP 1, I also work in a job where I do 1-1 service appointments for clients, and while I normally don’t hesitate to fire people who flake and don’t pay the cancellation fee, I do also have a friend (in my case a fairly close friend) who is very, very flaky. The difference is, my friend KNOWS that the flakiness is an imposition. Really, I think Frank does too, but he’s counting on you not wanting to burn the friendship.

    I accommodate my friend by sending extra reminders and scheduling that appointment only at the end of a string, so that I can go home once it’s evident there’s a no show situation. I could also see a situation where I only offered slots that were definitely not going to get booked by other clients- meaning I accept appointments only on fairly short notice from “Frank.” So if Frank doesn’t come, I’m still where I was before I gave Frank an appointment.

    But you are well within your rights to perform a “release to the industry” with Frank, using Allison’s excellent script.

    1. Marietta

      I was going to suggest something similar – try to schedule Frank’s appointments when you wouldn’t otherwise have an appointment so you’re not losing income. I can understand that in a small community, you may not want to lose a high-profile client to a competitor if you can help it.

  31. Purt's Peas

    I don’t think it’s worth bringing up the exclamation points. There’s a chance that Ellie’s an obtuse person who doesn’t pick up on tone, but I think it’s more likely that as a student, she hasn’t yet been immersed enough in an email culture to pick up its norms.

    And I think it can feel incredibly oppressive to have someone tell you, well, *I* don’t think you’re flighty and stupid, but *other people* might…I think there’s no way to phrase it without that undertone, without reinforcing the sexism of that; and it sounds like it’s just not really a problem yet.

    1. Anononon

      But that’s the whole point of mentoring – to bring up concerns now before they become an actual issue. This line of reasoning could be taken with any problematic thing an intern/student does and then where would we be?

      1. Cranky Neighbot

        I’m not sure that Purt’s Peas is arguing against correcting people who are being mentored. I think they’re arguing against saying something to the effect of “I don’t perceive X badly, but (a nebulous group of people) think X is (very specific criticism of X).”

        If I’m reading that right, I also don’t really like that form of guidance. I think it’s much more helpful to own your criticism and your advice.

    2. Falling Diphthong

      Some people are bad at picking up on shifting norms, and grateful that someone more experienced once just point blank told them what the norm that they had missed was. Several examples in the thread.

      Especially where you’re supposed to be guiding someone, telling them that the exclamation points make their email seem over peppy for its mundane content, or that they need to put their deliverable in the first paragraph in case that’s all the recipient reads, is usually a kindness.

      1. Heidi

        I like the way you phrased that. I will start saying, “I think the norms have shifted on this practice.” No one is to blame, it just shifted.

        In terms of giving feedback, I’d wait until I found a prime example of the too many exclamation points and say something like, “I think this is a great point. Let’s really set it apart by only putting the exclamation point after that sentence.” I think demonstrating how your advice improves a real thing has a greater impact than just general advice.

    3. EventPlannerGal

      I agree strongly with your second paragraph. Honestly, I know that if someone had tried to tell me to change my punctuation because someone else might be sexist and think I was an idiot because of it, I probably would have used more exclamation points, not less. It would have made me think less of a mentor if they told me that. I know that Alison often talks about addressing things as they are, not as they ideally ought to be, but I really think that this type of language just reinforces and reproduces the problems it’s trying to address.

      I do think there are a *lot* in the quoted paragraph but it doesn’t need to be addressed in terms of “oh, I don’t think this makes you look like a dumb girl but other people might… I’ll leave it up to you…”, just as a basic style-guide type thing, the same as if she liked to type in all-caps or wrote everything as one huge paragraph.

      1. Washi

        I disagree, I would rather know that I was deviating from typical professional norms in a very easily correctable fashion. Maybe I wouldn’t change anything, but at least I would be making an informed decision about the pros and cons of how I choose to present myself.

        1. EventPlannerGal

          I would also want to know that and have in fact had this precise issue (excessive exclamation points) pointed out to me. However, again, I think that addressing it as a gender issue simply reinforces the underlying sexism it’s ostensibly addressing. Address it as what it is – a slightly odd and jarring stylistic choice.

          1. Washi

            Hm, I guess to me part of the full picture is that not only is it a jarring stylistic choice, often as a woman you’ll be judged more harshly for it. That’s something I would likely mention, but yeah I agree that I wouldn’t go into too much into the “some people might think you’re dumb, definitely not me, but some people” thing.

            1. juliebulie

              “Often as a woman you’ll be judged more harshly for it.”

              True, but that applies to a plethora of things besides exclamation points. For that reason, I’d recommend leaving that out of this particular mentoring session, and devoting a whole other session to it later.

    4. fposte

      She doesn’t have to be told about perceived flightiness to be told that there’s an office style that she needs to adjust to. It’s not a big deal–this is exactly the kind of thing she’s there to learn.

      1. fposte

        I lost track that this is a student-professor relationship and not an office at all, but all the more reason to teach.

  32. Christmas

    One of the kindest things a friend has done for me was to tell me directly that I use too many exclamation points. I had just returned from a job interview, and had drafted a follow-up email to one of the interviewers. I asked my friend to look over it, and she immediately remarked that I “used way too many exclamation points.” I was immediately relieved that she pointed it out. I don’t know how I was so blind to it because the moment she said it was like a veil was lifted! I’ve never forgotten her comment, and I keep it in mind whenever I write professional emails. It has really helped me.

    1. Bigglesworth

      I agree with Christmas. My natural writing style uses a lot of exclamation points, because I read those as being friendly, excited, etc. I wish someone had told me years ago to not do this instead of letting me figure it out on my own.

  33. exclaimer

    Regarding #3- I’m cringing a bit because I’m a well-respected mid-level manager with 13’ish years of professional experience and I use a TON of exclamation points. In very formal emails I purposely go back and edit these out, but I tend to compose emails using my own voice, which is usually genuinely excited about everything! (I’m basically a border collie in human form). If I got that email from a student (I adjunct at a local college as well), I would probably think “wow, it’s so great that Elsa is so excited about this paper! I’m excited too! Yay!” Now I’m wondering if this is holding me back at all…

    1. Heidi

      If people like you, this kind of thing is a lovable quirk. If they don’t like you, it’s unprofessional. But I’m guessing people like you – who doesn’t like border collie?

  34. LadyByTheLake

    As you get more senior, more interviews are common, so eight seems like a lot to me, but not outrageous BUT the question I would have is whether the interviews have been with the same people. For example, I was interviewing for a senior role in a department that would support another department — I needed to meet with the leaders of both groups (about 16 people in all), so although they did their best, it meant coming back multiple times to meet everyone. But if it is eight times and it is just the same people– no. Whatever they need they can ask it on the phone.

    1. Sled dog mama

      I think it’s also important the length of the interviews. I’ve seen for more senior roles a full schedule for a 2 day interview. In my field it’s common to travel for interviews so they are almost always an all-day thing, I had one that was 7:30 am (when I was picked up at the hotel) until I was dropped off at hotel around 8 pm after dinner with the whole team. So to me more than one on site interview seems hugely strange but it this is come in for half an hour and meet with one person then it’s still too many interviews but actual in interview time wise it’s about the same as 1 all-day so the interviewer may be forgetting that each interview represents a much larger commitment for OP than just the time they are in the interview

    2. MonteCristo

      I would be interested to know that too. We recently interviewed a candidate, they were here from 9am-4pm interviewing with 5 different people, one being during lunch. Would that qualify as 5 interviews or 1? Plus we did a pre-screen over the phone, and we will likely need to speak to them again if we proceed. When I was hired, I came in two different days, each time lasting approximately 4 hours and meeting with 3-4 people. Seemed a bit excessive at the time, but at least for my interview, they each touched on a different part of the job, so it makes a kind of sense.

  35. Anononon

    I’m a younger female attorney, and I constantly email older, male opposing counsel, and I’m always conscious of the tone/wording of my emails. One of my biggest internal debates each email is whether or not to sign off “Thanks!” or “Thank you, [signature block]”. Many of these attorneys I’ve worked with numerous times, so we have a collegial enough relationship for me to use the “!”.

    1. Joielle

      Same here! As another younger female attorney, I do think we have to be especially conscious of this. I’ve taken to using “Thanks -” as a signoff… it feels a bit more fitting for emails where enthusiasm wouldn’t be appropriate, but is still fairly casual.

      Although I do aspire to the level of idiosyncrasy of an (older, white guy) attorney I know who signs all his letters like so:

      I remain,
      Very truly yours,
      Fergus Lawyerguy, Esq.

      1. Oh No She Di'int

        I’ve even started to question my own use of “Thanks” or “Thank you” with or without exclamation point. These days I try to be more sensitive to the actual content of the email. Half the time recently, I end up thinking: I just gave YOU useful information, why am I thanking you?

  36. Delphine

    Re exclamation points !
    I’m surprised that you pin this as “female”. For me this is a grammatical matter. “Exclamation point” are not “point”. They are here to express emphasis on a sentence. If you put ! everywhere, there is no more emphasis, only fussiness. Just like to boy who cried wolf, ! has lost its meaning.
    Also, my point of view is that it looks childish. I had a subordinate that was using ! “as a way to convey dynamism” just as your student. It does not.

  37. SigneL

    My husband only has one kidney, and it’s failing. He’s 78. We don’t want to take a kidney from a younger person. It wasn’t even a hard decision.

    1. Former Employee

      I’m so sorry your husband is having to deal with this serious health condition.

      I hope his doctor has talked to him about dialysis. As a number of people have commented here, a person can live for many years on dialysis.

      Best of luck to both of you.

  38. Alfonzo Mango

    I have started to take exclamation points out of my emails. I’ve worked at this company for a year and a half, people know me.

    I like to follow the rule that you only get 1 exclamation mark per email (with someone you’re only a professional acquaintance with). If it’s a pal or team member, that can increase- but when I edit, I usually remove.

  39. Faith

    Letter #2 made me think of a story I’ve read recently about a woman who donated kidney to her boss and was fired shortly after for “performance issues”, which supposedly had something to do with her taking too much leave.

    1. Jennifer

      Wow! Well, that does raise an issue I never thought about. What if the employee that gives the kidney starts taking advantage and feels they are untouchable because of their donation? Risky all around.

    2. Temperance

      She thankfully won a confidential settlement, but like, only after giving up a friggen body part.;

  40. Samwise

    OP 3, from one female prof to another — this is easy. I would not get into the gendered implications, because they aren’t pertinent here.

    What I do for any low level issues w student email (exclamation points, overly casual greetings, careless spelling, and so on) is to first answer the student’s questions and then add a BTW. In this case, I’d say: BTW, using so many exclamation points comes off as overly casual and it will annoy some profs Try not to use them unless it is completely necessary = almost never on correspondence with instructors or really any professional in college or in the workplace.

  41. Jam Today

    This might be a semantic thing here #1, but Frank is not your friend. Frank thinks he can treat you like garbage because of his social & business standing. He is not a good person.

  42. CheeryO

    LW#3, I honestly would not bring gender into the conversation at all. Being able to clearly convey technical information in a warm, pleasant tone is a HUGE strength, and she shouldn’t have to squash her personality to fit in some nebulous man-shaped mold. I would give her a rule of thumb to lean on at first (maybe a maximum of one exclamation point in a short email, or two in a longer email), but the message should absolutely not be that she needs to sound more like a man. I say this as a fellow woman in a male-dominated engineering field who is a big fan of the judicious exclamation point, and who feels very strongly that we shouldn’t be teaching our young female engineers that they need to tiptoe around men’s feelings.

  43. Koala dreams

    # Frank is a bad friend, a bad customer and a bad ambassador for your brand. You need to stop scheduling appointments for him and change the advertising campaign. Maybe you will lose some business because of that, but see it from the bright side: you will have more slots open for paying customers who value your services. And those people will make much better ambassadors for you in the long run.

  44. Database Developer Dude

    Quote from Alison: Caveat: Whenever you push back on a hiring process, there’s a chance you’ll be taken out of the running. So you’d want to be comfortable with that possibility — but really, if they balk at a phone call at this point, that’s valuable info about how (in)considerate they are of people they work with.

    THIS TIMES 100000000000000000!!!!!!!!!!! I pushed back on an unreasonable aspect of a company’s hiring process, and immediately got removed from consideration. I dodged a bullet!

  45. mostlymanaged

    OP#3 — I work in a tech company where exclamation marks are more normalized, but still wanted to cut down on the number of exclamation marks to frame myself more seriously. One thing I found helpful is just to write my email the way I would normally, and then remove all the exclamation marks but one. I found that keeping the one exclamation mark made me feel better about “not losing my personality” but also made my presentation more professional.

  46. cmcinnyc

    OP #4, I cringe because this could be written about my company. We. Are. The. Worst. An interview process is set up, and along the way, as it gets closer and closer to “This is The One. We’re making an offer!” every Tom, Dick, and Harry needs to “vet” this or meet this person or sign off or sit in and it is a FARCE. Yes, we lose awesome candidates. I don’t know how we have the fairly awesome crew we have because while we are good at so many things, hiring ain’t one of them. I will say–when we get push back, at least half the hiring team starts to jump up and down and demand that an offer be freaking made already. Alas, the other half doesn’t feel the urgency. We’re in NYC so there’s nothing but talent all over the place and it makes people complacent.

    1. cmcinnyc

      Oh–just one thing to add: you needed take yourself out of the running. You can ask them to make up their mind. That is how I got hired. Honestly, it came out of my mouth out of sheer frustration, but if I had it to do over I’d come up with something very professional but unmistakeable to say, along the lines of the next conversation we have needs to be an offer.

    2. Goldfinch

      My company does this on both ends: during initial hiring, AND we lose temp-to-hire people constantly because everything is radio silence until their last Friday. Managers strut in with ‘the good news’ like they’re the protagonist entering stage right, then act dumbfounded when the temp pushes back with “Sorry, I already accepted an offer”. Like these poor people are supposed to just twiddle their thumbs as the clock ticks down.

  47. Veryanon

    Seven (!!!!!!) interviews?!?!? No. Just no. If they don’t know you well enough by now, that’s too frickin’ bad. I’m just appalled at how disrespectful that is of your time.
    I like the suggested language, but I’d probably also add something like “I’m not really sure what else I can share with you that hasn’t already been covered during our previous meetings.” And as Alison noted, be prepared for them to remove you from consideration.

    1. lulu

      I’m almost hoping they somehow don’t realize that OP has come in 7 times already, and seeing it in writing will make them embarrassed and apologize for it.

    2. ErinFromAccounting

      After interview 3 or 4, it seems clear to me that the company is a disorganized mess that doesn’t value their candidates’ (or employees’) time. It’s just disrespectful at a certain point!

      1. Pineapple Incident

        Absolutely that limit. There was a position I was considered for that entailed a phone screen and ended up progressing to 4 in-person interviews in which I met 9 team members. No follow-up after the last one for 8 weeks until I reached out myself, and got a very lazy “you were great we just went another way”-type response with no recognition that sitting that long without feedback was a pretty big slap in the face for someone internal to another part of the organization. I’d have been okay with the 4 if I’d just had someone reach out to me personally to give me the rejection after that, but it was just radio silence until I had the gall to email the hiring manager about it.

        Never again – any company/group asking for more than 3 meetings and doesn’t offer them to be phone calls won’t be getting my serious consideration in the future. People deserve more than this when they’re taking time out of their lives (and more often than not, time off from a current job) – I don’t understand why hiring teams think this is okay.

  48. Buttons

    Frank is the kind of guy who demands that he knows the restaurant owner and will loudly proclaim “do you know who I am!”
    The worst.

  49. possible solution

    OP1
    I have not read all the comments yet. Is there a way you can already be “booked” on the day he requires servies? Use an excuse that your new advertising campaign is really taking off. Or only book him during times when you know there is little to no chance that someone would require your services. Maybe once in the rare blue moon book him in a prime spot. I realize that this is avoiding the issue, but confrontation isn’t working, he won’t accept the cancellation fee because you’re friends. In addition it sounds like you are a little uncomfortable with things escalating; this might save face and solve your problem.

    1. Yvette

      One thing I always wondered in general with businesses that charge a cancellation fee. What if the business is the one that cancels? I am a consultant, hourly, no paid vaction or personal. If I take a day off for something (like a Dr. appt) I ususally try to schedule other things as well, of course leaving plenty of time in between, or I am taking an entire day just for this thing. If they cancel at the last minute, I am out an entire day’s pay (hundreds of dollars) and a wasted day where I could have done somethng else. Do I get to charge a cancellation fee?

      1. possible solution

        It’s definitely a catch-22 situation. Hopefully in communication/ contract there is enough stated to protect both parties for last minute cancellation. However in this specific case, to me it sounds like Frank is just scheduling OP’s services as a placeholder then canceling because it’s not convenient for him.

        1. Yvette

          No, I understand Frank is being a jerk. Especially with the multiple cancellations. This was more in general than this specific situation.

      2. Natalie

        A cancellation fee is generally agreed upon ahead of time. So unless you can get your doctor’s office to agree to pay a cancellation fee before you book the appointment, no, you can’t charge them for that.

        1. Yvette

          I was being faceteous. But if I ever had to pay a cancellation fee, and then had a subsequent appt. and that Dr or whoever cancelled, I would certainly point out the irony (right word?) of the situation.

  50. Scout Finch

    #2 – I can see this email being “if you have ever considered being a living kidney donor, please consider getting tested for Bob” – still kinda icky, but I am willing to give desperate people a pass. The employment factor could be seen as making it more a financial than altruistic arrangement.

    There are several anecdotes (in the US) of people giving a kidney or liver portion after seeing a billboard, t-shirt or social media post. I am always happy for those feel-good stories. I was born with one kidney, so most of what I can do will be after death.

    I can see me being that desperate if my sister needed an organ.

  51. Shay

    2. Lots to think about with letter #2 … the psychological evaluations involved in live organ donation focus on rooting out coercion as the motivation for donating. Is the donor candidate being pressured to participate? (By family, by a friend, by an employer?) This happens a lot and the donation teams watch carefully for it and offer the donor candidates an ‘out.’ What is interesting here is the age of the recipient (70). It is questionable ethically whether a 30yo person would even be allowed to donate to a person with just 15 or 20 years of life left, leaving that donor disadvantaged with just one kidney for another 60 years of life.

  52. Laurelma

    Ref:
    2. Our company asked if we’d donate a kidney to a board member

    This story got a great deal of coverage in my home state. Woman donated kidney to hear boss, was not healing as fast as her boss wanted and was terminated. Do not mix organs donation with employment. Normally if this happened somewhere, I would say go to the board of directors about this. Not possible here. Wonder if they cleared it with HR or not. HR could have been too intimated to go against the board’s wishes.
    Link:
    http://www.lifedaily.com/story/long-island-woman-donates-kidney-to-her-boss-she-gets-this-in-return/

  53. Jaybeetee

    Eight interviews! For anyone who has ever been through a similarly byzantine hiring process – what are they even asking by an eighth interview?

    I work for the Canadian fed, and hiring here is a *process* – usually screening questions during the application (“Have you ever turned on a computer? Please provide examples.”), then a subject-matter test (“Please list and describe the four federally-regulated teapot designs.”) that can often be done on your own time but you sometimes have to go in for. Then an in-person interview, which focuses on HR/interpersonal/situational questions (“If you came into work one day and discovered a colleague had set your desk on fire. What steps would you take to resolve the situation?”). On rare occasion I’ve seen an additional test or interview. But… that’s still 3-4 “rounds”. I would think by the time you’re getting to rounds 6-8, are they going back and repeating questions from earlier in the process? Getting sooper-granular in terms of subject matter? Asking about projects you did in grade school? What are you even talking about by that point?

    1. Zephy

      Swimsuit and talent competition in rounds 5 and 6. Round 7 is a game of chess with the janitor. Round 8 is the trial of the gom jabbar. Clearly this company is looking for the Kwisatz Haderach.

      1. Veryanon

        Yeah, that’s just too much. There are a LOT of bad interviewers out there.
        I had an interview not that long ago where the hiring manager asked me why I had majored in [my college major] when I was in college. A great question if I were a recent grad, but I am…not. And frankly, my college major doesn’t really have much to do with my ultimate career path. So I politely said, “Well, that’s quite a while ago and it doesn’t really have anything to do with my career path. Why don’t I talk more about my relevant experience and how it relates to [role]?” She just looked at me like I had 5 heads and said, “well, this is part of our standard hiring process” and I was thinking, “Lady, how does my college major from 30 years ago relate to the person I am today?” The interview pretty much went downhill from there and needless to say, I didn’t get the job.

  54. agnes

    #4 when I was a recruiter, I had a client like this–interview after interview, no ability to make a decision. My advice–cut your losses and say no. If they don’t know enough about you after 7 interviews, then they need to move on.

  55. we're basically gods

    I’m sure my use of exclamation points marks me as young and female(ish), which I’m okay with, and yes, I tend to use them as softeners, and I don’t see that as being a bad thing; it’s the same as how I use different tones of voice to convey different moods.
    However, I’m aware of how it can come across, so my rule of thumb for professional correspondence is not to use two in a row, and also to somewhat follow the lead of whoever I’m communicating with. (I would never, for example, send an unsolicited smiley face in a work email, but I’ll send them in response to someone who’s already initiated that that’s where we’re at.)

    1. Oh No She Di'int

      I do something similar in that I limit myself to one (max) per email. That means that I have been known to get to a sentence late in the email that I feel really needs an exclamation point, and so I’ll go back and edit one out from earlier.

      Oh the verbal gymnastics!

      I mean, oh the verbal gymnastics.

    2. Shan

      This is exactly where I’m at. I’ve been in my industry long enough to know what’s acceptable, and I just skim through and make sure I don’t have too many (or, sometimes, too few.)

    3. PretzelGirl

      I do this as well. Both in my personal and work life. I have a few friends who are lovely people but tend to get offended super easy. Adding an exclamation point, makes my life way easier.

  56. Mujj

    #3 I feel that exclamation point issue in my soul. I work in a female-dominated field so I don’t currently worry about the gender aspect as much as the age/inexperienced aspect. Using exclamation points to soften a message is a tough habit to break for me. But a lot of my colleagues do the same, so usually I’m left feeling frustrated about why we can’t adapt to new usage rather than stigmatize it. Very good to keep in mind for future career changes, though.

  57. Sue Wilson

    #3: I would make sure the student isn’t tailoring her email to you. Do you know she uses excessive exclamations everywhere to everyone else? If i were going to address, I would clear that up first.

  58. Essess

    If Frank is going to pull the “he gets very angry and says he is not a “client” (he is “more than that”) and do not treat him as such” stunt, then you can return it with “if you actually considered me a friend, you wouldn’t stand me up repeatedly and cause me to lose $xxxx by making appointments that you won’t keep. Since you aren’t treating ME as a friend, then all future appointments need to be treated as a client relationship.” <<–give the total billable hours lost so far from his cancellations.

  59. Princesa Zelda

    I’m in my early/mid 20s and I’m struggling to find the right balance between friendly and direct. I’m very perky in my work persona, since I interact with customers all day, and so it’s quite alien to me to write an email without an exclamation point. Periods make me seem so terse! One-word sentences like “Thanks.” sound annoyed, and “Please do (x).” sounds like I’m giving an order. I also don’t send a lot of email in my current role so I don’t get a lot of practice.

    The most recent email I’ve sent was:

    “Hey all,

    I’m going to be cleaning out the fridge on (day). Please make sure that anything you want to keep has your name and date! Thanks!

    Sig block”

    A lot of people here have said two exclamation points in a row is too many. What other techniques do you use to convey warmth and friendliness?

    Also, for what it’s worth, I’m in a public library! It is a female-dominated library, and it’s a stereotypically female field. Thanks in advance!

    1. MonteCristo

      I personally wouldn’t have any problem with that email. It is pretty obvious that the exclamation points are intended to be softening to the implied threat of “deal with your food or I toss it” which is appreciated.

      For me, massive amounts of seemingly unneeded exclamation points has the same general effect of decorating your office like Lisa Frank exploded in there. Childish glee is fine, not not necessarily what I want to bump up against in the office.

      1. jam

        the exclamation points are intended to be softening to the implied threat

        This is key, I think. The “clean your stuff out” message is one that lots of people would feel needs softening. The example of the student’s message given is different — it’s just conveying project information. It’s stuff the mentor needs/wants to know; it doesn’t need softening, the student is just (presumably) nervous about contacting her supervisor. Having taught undergrads in the past, that’s really the root issue. It’s a good thing for the student to learn to have a little confidence, enough to communicate with peers and superiors without worrying that providing them information that they want is “disturbing them”.

    2. Jennifer

      I wouldn’t have a problem with it either. The exclamation points are used to convey warmth and soften the message a bit without being excessive.

      As someone said above, women communicating differently is perfectly fine, but we should all sound like adults.

    3. fposte

      I don’t think it matters that much in a message like that. However, I often do “Thanks!” as essentially a closing–on a line by itself above my name, which is above my sig block. While you would still technically have two exclamation points in a row, it breaks up the repetition a little.

      So–

      blahblahblah fridge.

      Thanks!

      fposte

    4. Delphine

      I think in your example you could have taken out the last exclamation mark. The message is already warm and casual, and no one is in danger of reading terseness into the thanks at the end:

      “Hey, all,
      I’m going to be cleaning out the fridge on (day). Please make sure that anything you want to keep has your name and date!
      Thanks,
      Signature Block”

      I use one or two marks per message to convey warmth and friendliness. You usually don’t need more than that. All you want to do is give an impression of your tone, which will influence how the rest of the message reads.

    5. Risha

      I, personally, would have removed the exclamation point from either after ‘date’ or ‘Thanks,’ and positioned ‘Thanks(!)’ on its own line, but wouldn’t have thought twice about receiving your email as written. It’s completely appropriate for the message.

  60. Jennifer

    Again with asking people for kidneys? I hate that I live in a world where that has happened in more than one workplace.

    Re: Exclamation points. I must say when I get an email with a ton of them I imagine an annoyingly perky person that’s had too much caffeine screaming the email at me or an angry person kind of growling it at me. Gender doesn’t really make a difference. I think exclamation points are great for conveying warmth, sometimes, but as a general rule, I was always taught that they should be used sparingly.

    In general, I agree with getting over how young women express themselves. I just never thought this fell under that category.

  61. UniKidney

    #2, while this is *obviously* bad practice in a company setting, and this is generally BANANAS, as a live donor myself, I want to add that LW2’s assertion that “there can be long-term health effects from donating organs” is, for kidneys, overwhelmingly not the case. I realize that by saying “can,” the poster isn’t technically wrong (there are risks to any/every surgery), but it is misleading. Risks of kidney-related issues are actually lower for donors than the general pop b/c they have so many tests done to test their function (https://www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/donor-nephrectomy/about/pac-20384867). And on a topic that could negatively effect people’s view of a life-saving procedure, it’s important. Allison, would you consider editing or adding a note from the Mayo Clinic or Kidney Foundation about the relative safety of it?

    1. cmcinnyc

      Oh hell no. I don’t care how safe it is, my boss doesn’t get to ask for one of my kidneys. Full stop.

      1. we're basically gods

        I don’t think the point is to say the boss was justified, the point is that the stigma around organ donation is a huge problem, and perpetuating it *is* an issue. There’s research (that I can’t link anymore because I’m no longer a student with access to journals) showing that the negative presentation of organ donation contributes to people’s reluctance to donate.
        It also doesn’t matter if it’s dangerous or not; the boss would also be remiss to ask if any parents had loose baby teeth they could bring in. It’s weird and invasive, but we don’t need to contribute to the cultural miasma of “organ donation bad and scary” to point that out.

        1. cmcinnyc

          Right, but this is a blog about employment issues, so asking to insert a “by the way, organ donation is great!” bit at the end is, for me, off.

          1. Jennifer

            Regardless of what type of blog this is, it’s misinformation. I think it would have been better to ask to have it removed. The entire situation is bonkers enough without that little bit.

    2. Jennifer

      I get your point. You aren’t saying that people should give their boss their organs – I don’t know where people are getting that from. You just don’t want to discourage people in more appropriate situations from donation.

    3. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device

      If the risk is lower for donors than the general population, it’s not because they’re donors: they would have the same healthy kidneys if they hadn’t donated one. The discussion at that Mayo Clinic link includes

      “Some studies suggest living kidney donors may have a slightly higher risk of kidney failure in the future. But this risk is still smaller than the average risk of kidney failure in the general population.”

      That doesn’t mean that donating is a major risk; it does mean that your assertion that risks are “actually lower” is itself misleading, because it implies that donation improves the health of the donor.

  62. not neurotypical

    OP #1, it sounds like you are using Frank to advertise your business. Is he compensated for the use of his image in that way? If not, is it possible that this, rather than friendship, is why he believes he is “not just a client” and therefore entitled to the perk of being allowed to cancel without paying a fee? Regardless of how he feels, how does it work out for you? If the value of his well-known (within that realm of athletics) face on your advertising worth the occasional lost hour?

  63. Alice's Rabbit

    #3 For this one, you can leave the gender politics out of it entirely, and still get your point across. Simply state that excessive use of exclamation points is inappropriate for professional communication, and ask that she limit herself to no more than 1 per email if she wants to be taken seriously.
    And yes, I know that you can use more than that, but it requires good judgment and experience, neither of which she has, yet. This will give her some structure to start with.

  64. No Coffee No Workee

    With emails, I simply follow the protocol of the person I’m speaking with (esp. If they are senior to me or a client).

    If every email they write starts with them addressing me by name, I will respond back with their name (unless it’s a simple ‘thanks’ or ‘got it’).

    If they write short, no-nonsense sentences, I respond back with just the info they need. If someone likes to fluff up emails with pleasantries, I comment back with equal small talk.

    And I’d they dont use exclamation points, I dont. (Though my default is to use them. I try not to use more than 1 in a paragraph, if I write something that long)

    I mentor a lot of young people. My biggest pet peeve is when professionals go too formal (Dear Ms. So and So; Sincerely, etc). I feel like they are asking permission to engage with me, vs. talking to me like a peer. (I dont care what level someone is at, you are my peer). When I write to people junior than me, I tend to be more casual/use exclamation points and the occasional emoji. I want them to feel comfortable saying what they need to say.

    For reference, I am female, 36, and am generally respected/taken seriously by all genders/ages/levels. I also work at a huge, stuffy financial company. (And previously I worked in a small agency that interfaced with many Fortune 500 clients and vendors.)

  65. Noah

    OP1 and Alison are missing the key point, which is that Frank gives OP key advertising for free. OP1 should try to find a third option that would work for both him and Frank, but short of that, yes, suck it up. Free publicity ain’t free and that’s alright.

    1. Lilysparrow

      OP needs to evaluate the actual ROI of those ads/publicity. Maybe Frank isn’t actually bringing in valuable business at all.

      If OP is losing more on wasted consultation time than Frank’s face is bringing in with new, long-term clients, then the whole campaign is a negative. And if OP doesn’t have the time to meet with potential new clients because Frank is wasting so many time slots, then the campaign is pointless.

      Put real numbers on it, and decide accordingly.

  66. MotherofCats

    #3, it never occurred to me that exclamation points were a gendered thing. I’m a woman and they annoy the hell out of me. Every sentence is not that important!!!!!!!!

  67. Barney Stinson

    If I am asked to donate a kidney to a board member and I do, is the whole thing covered by OSHA? What if I die doing it? I know that kidney donation is relatively safe, but stuff happens. What if I die earlier than I normally would because I donated?

    These people are crazy.

  68. Wy

    #2 Seriously… what were they thinking??
    What’s a good reason why anyone would want to donate a kidney to their company’s board member?
    It’s not like donating money – you can’t grow another kidney.
    Making a sacrifice for a loved one is one thing, but for a pretty much a stranger is totally different.

    1. Lilysparrow

      I can understand a patient or their family who is desperate for an organ thinking it would be good to widen the net of their search and ask everyone they can possibly think of.

      But the rest of the organization structure should buffer that desperation and shoot that idea down.

  69. Wyhy

    #2 Seriously… what were they thinking??
    What’s a good reason why anyone would want to donate a kidney to their company’s board member?
    It’s not like donating money – you can’t grow another kidney.
    Making a sacrifice for a loved one is one thing, but for a pretty much a stranger is totally different.

  70. Kira

    I’m noticing a new coworker who uses exclamation points at the end of every sentence. I think she’s knew to written business communication and believes that an exclamation point is the best way to make her friendly tone of voice come across. I hadn’t thought of it as a feminine/masculine thing – just a fear of sounding rude somehow?

    So my takeaway is that I don’t think the gender element would need to come into play if I were to talk with someone about toning down their exclamation points.

  71. Lilysparrow

    I don’t find that grown women in any field use exclamation points in professional writing more than men, except perhaps certain types of marketing where Enthusiasm!!!! is considered a key job function.

    It doesn’t read as feminine, just inexperienced. It shows a lack of ability to distinguish between what is truly significant, and what is ordinary. Or a lack of vocabulary to express engagement, interest, positivity, etc. It’s a verbal hammer that turns every expression into a nail.

    And I freaking love exclamation points! But casual, social writing is different than professional writing, and students of all genders need to learn that.

  72. Mahkara

    Having done the 8th interview thing, I’m fairly sure in retrospect that the company was just using my “interviews” as a free consulting service. (e.g. they kept asking “what would you do in this situation”, “how would you handle this type of thing”…which makes sense as interview questions, except that they got more and more detailed and clearly were taking advantage of experience that I had that was not present in this company.)

    I’d run. At this point, it seems highly probable that they have no desire to hire you.

  73. Siriously

    Re: Letter 4. Seven interviews is waaaaay too many. Ridiculously so. If they cannot make up their minds by now, their process is broken.
    Unfortunately, you must consider Alison’s caveat, “Whenever you push back on a hiring process, there’s a chance you’ll be taken out of the running.”
    Recently I pushed back on a company’s requirement that I interview with their recruiter via FaceTime, an Apple product. Won’t run on PCs/Androids (the only devices I have access to). Game over for me.
    And it wasn’t even for a job in a company that only uses Macintosh products…

  74. Jennifer Juniper

    OP3: Ellie’s overuse of exclamation points makes her sound flaky and melodramatic at best and overemotional and unstable at worst. She needs to cut that out.

  75. Former Employee

    What’s also strange about the whole kidney donation issue is that if the board member is white and the employees are mostly Hispanic or African American, then it is unlikely they would be a match, anyway.

    While someone’s blood type could match, different races/ethnic groups do not usually match at the tissue level, which is required for organ transplant.

    That’s why there is an organization called Ezer Mizion which is a bone marrow donor registry for Jews. It’s hard for someone ethnic to get a match outside of their own group.

  76. Stacinator

    #3 – A mentor once told me that I’m allowed to use three exclamation points in my life, so pick and choose them wisely. Yes, I’ve used more than three since then, but each has been picked and chosen wisely.

  77. JustNoKidney

    I work at the company where the executive requested a kidney for a board member. What OP didn’t mention is that the email request talked all about what a good Christian the board member is and how god will bless whoever donates a kidney to him…smh

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