pranking coworkers by repeatedly falling down, is it bad to ask questions about an assignment, and more

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

1. Friend is pranking coworkers by repeatedly falling down

I was having a chat with my friend the other day, and they told me that they were having fun at work by pretending to fall down in front of coworkers and dropping all their papers as a prank. They seemed to think it was all in good fun because they never let their coworkers in on the fact that it was a prank (although they did actually hurt their wrist doing this). I was surprised and responded that I thought it was mean-spirited, because it’s making coworkers stop work to care for them as a “joke.”

They’re now angry that I’m judging them for their sense of humor and they aren’t talking to me. If I were this person’s coworker, I don’t know what I’d do, but I do think it would be weird and uncomfortable once the multiple well-timed fake falls became suspicious. What’s your take on this and how would you communicate with someone as a colleague or friend to help them see how this isn’t an okay thing to do? At this point I’m planning on dropping it with this person, but I have no idea how to most effectively bring this up if I were the colleagues being “pranked.”

I’m not the staunch opponent of pranks at work that some are, but your friend has a weirdly under-developed sense of humor. This just isn’t funny! It’s not that it’s offensive or upsetting like people sometimes mean when they say “this isn’t funny.” It’s just literally not amusing and it’s a bizarre thing to do at work, let alone multiple times.

I suppose if a friend of mine were doing this, I’d point out to them that (a) if at some point they reveal this was a prank, it’s going to look incredibly odd (because it’s not prank-ish in any way), and (b) they’re taking advantage of people’s good will (people who are focused on work and have better ways to spend their time than being alarmed for and helping someone who’s tricking them).

If I were the coworker of someone doing this, I’d be annoyed and ask them to cut it out. If I managed someone doing this, I’d have serious concerns about their judgment and would probably take a closer look at their work across the board because it would be so likely that this wasn’t the only judgment problem happening.

There are no circumstances I can think of where my response would be to share a hearty laugh.

2. Is it bad to ask questions when you get an assignment?

Is it bad to ask questions after you’re not a new employee anymore? I graduated university three years ago and have worked in current job for two years. I do data analysis/reporting sort of job in a big-ish organisation and regularly get assignments I’m unfamiliar with. When I get a briefing for a new assignment, it is sometimes as short as five words, meaning I might have to ask a few questions to clarify things. This happens maybe once a month, but usually not the same person so it’s not like someone is constantly having to explain things to me. However, this has proven to be problematic.

I recently got called in to a meeting with a director who was upset I had asked her questions about the project she assigned me. I had asked very basic questions like who the audience would be and if they would like it made similarly to another report and whether I would present it somewhere or just email it. I didn’t think anything of it as it was only 3-4 quick things and there was no one else I could ask. I thought maybe my wording had been poor over instant messages/email and that’s why she called the meeting, but she was actually angry at me for asking any questions. She said that in a professional position you can’t expect to ask questions as that would be others doing my work for me. She also said that at my salary I should just do things instead of constantly asking for help. I said I was trying to do the best job I can, which she thought was an excuse.

Is she right? I never thought that at some point of my career there would be a line after which I should stop asking and start guessing. Does it make me unprofessional to ask for clarification? I am looking for a new job now and would ideally correct my course of action in case I am doing a disservice to myself with all my questions!

Those sorts of questions are extremely normal, and the director’s reaction was incredibly weird. Anyone with any skill whatsoever at delegating work would welcome those questions as an opportunity to make sure you were both on the same page and to increase the chances that the work you produced would be the work they actually needed.

Is there any context that would make her reaction make more sense? For example, do you have a pattern of asking her tons of questions that aren’t as essential as these were? Or is she known to be highly unreasonable or a jerk? If not, it could be worth touching base with any peers you have who have worked with her to see if they have any insight on what this was about.

But definitely don’t stop asking these sorts of questions when you’re dealing with people who aren’t her.

3. Non-native-born job candidates and hiring for public speaking skills

I am currently hiring for my replacement. I have a fairly technical role that also involves a lot of presentations to executives and training other employees. Almost all of the applicants are foreign-born and do not speak English as their first language. I shine in my current role when I am in front of the room, being very articulate and fielding questions and comments. I would prefer a candidate who’s similar, but how do I navigate these murky waters? I am all for hiring anyone qualified regardless of background, but I prioritize public speaking skills and eloquence.

First, make sure those are the right things to prioritize. They might be, but it’s also possible that there are ways to excel in the job that are different from the ways you excel in the job. It’s crucial to figure out what are truly must-have qualifications for the job and what are more about nice-to-have’s or your own personal preferences. (It probably makes sense to talk this over with your boss, who should have input on that as well.)

But if you do conclude that it’s important for the new hire to be able to do presentations and be able to field questions, test for it in the hiring process. Have your finalists do short presentations with Q&A in a later interview stage so that you can assess how they’ll actually perform on the job. That way you’ll be judging people on their skills and ability to do the work and avoiding assumptions (both positive and negative) based on where they were born and what their first language was.

4. I’m freaking out about a typo on my resume

I recently added volunteering on my resume as a section but had spelled it wrong. I spelled it “volunterring.” Somehow, Word did not catch this typo on a spelling check and neither did I or someone else looking at my resume. I even got a few calls back for an interview for sales jobs (didn’t get the jobs though).

I am distraught. I have to start all over again in my job search. I applied to a lot of big law firms for assistant positions, and embarrassingly listed “attention to detail” and “writing skills” as skills in my resume and cover letters.

Obviously I will not get any of those jobs, and deservedly so. Am I going to be blacklisted forever from these firms? What about the entire big law industry? I have hopes of attending law school in the future and am worried that I have already screwed myself out of ever getting a big law job now. Nothing like this has ever happened to me. I am sick to my stomach…

You will not be blacklisted forever from those firms, let alone from the entire law industry. I promise you no one is swapping info on which candidates had typos in their application materials. Employers aren’t even keeping track of it themselves. They might reject you over it this time, but it’s very unlikely it would come up as an issue if you applied there again in the future.

Also, typos happen. Ideally you should scour the hell out of your application materials to ensure they’re flawless, but sometimes a typo will get through. It happens to good writers and it happens to people who normally have good attention to detail. Our brains are weird and we can overlook errors when we know what something is supposed to say. It’s not the end of the world.

Also, who is freaking you out to this degree about your job search? Mistakes aren’t great, but leaping to “I’ll never get a big law job” now is a massive leap and I’m wondering why you’re making it.

5. How should I track my job applications?

I am currently applying for new jobs and was wondering if you had any tips on how I should track these applications. I was thinking of using a spreadsheet to record the date I applied, if there was a cut-off date for unsuccessful applicants, and the company I applied with. Is this excessive or is this how everyone tracks jobs?

It’s not excessive at all. Some people track their applications and other people don’t. You don’t need to — not doing it isn’t likely to affect your chances — but some people find it useful to be able to see where they’ve applied, how long it’s been, etc. (However, if you’re using this to decide when to follow up with a place you haven’t heard back from, default to not doing that unless there’s some specific context that warrants it.)

The thing to really make sure you keep: job postings. If you get called for an interview, you want to be able to consult the job posting, and it won’t always still be posted where you first found it (or even on the company’s website — some employers take them down once they’re past the application deadline). So it’s smart to save those somewhere.

{ 822 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    A request that comments about letter #1 focus on advice for the letter writer and not whether you personally like or dislike office pranks (something that’s been covered extensively in the past, is always bizarrely divisive, and will quickly take us off-topic here). Thanks!

    1. charo*

      I liked that you questioned the pranker’s judgment and would look at their work across the board.
      I question his need for attention — who’s so needy of attention that he hurts himself acting like a third-grader? And that bad judgment could extend into his work. And is “friendship” with LW.

    2. charo*

      There’s a point people can forget when focusing on an odd act:
      Look at the bigger picture. What’s their behavior in general? The prank guy may be really needy.
      I wished I could post this at the Q. from a woman who shared gossip from a volunteer about someone’s mental health treatment, and got upset when she told her boss who told others.
      The BIG picture w/that is: Don’t be gossiping w/volunteers — they need to be protected. Volunteers at a non-profit aren’t at the bottom, they’re like gold! Free labor! See the BIG picture, who’s valuable. The same can apply to a longtime receptionist, who probably knows a LOT and may have more leverage than YOU do.

  2. PollyQ*

    LW#4: First, a certain percentage of those places you applied to won’t even notice the typo, and some actually don’t care that much. But I’m worried about your reaction. Is it common for you to jump from a small mistake to the most catastrophic possible outcome you can imagine? If so, I’d recommend you look into therapy, because this sounds like something that’s not healthy, but also something that could be helped. Best of luck!

    1. Not A Manager*

      I agree. That’s some varsity-level catastrophizing. If this happens to the LW regularly, it could be really helpful to talk it through with someone.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        The catastrophizing is going to hold them back more than the typo, especially if it comes across in interviews.

        1. aebhel*

          Honestly, yeah. Learning how to roll with mistakes without panicking is a lot more useful than trying to NEVER MAKE A MISTAKE–which is impossible, because nobody is perfect.

        2. Observer*

          This was my first thought. Being aware of the possible negative consequences of your actions is a GOOD thing, but like anything else it can be taken too far. This is a classic case of waaaay too far.

    2. Baru Cormorant*

      Yeah, OP nobody cares about the typo. I care about this: “Nothing like this has ever happened to me.”

      Nothing like what?? Making a typo in a document people will look at? Have you lived a very careful life where every endeavor you consider is weighed against the irrepressible horror that is not completing it perfectly? Do you think that 97/100 is just as much a failure as 30/100, and therefore it’s not worth doing it at all just in case you might fail?

      I also have struggled with perfectionism and not only does it stop you from living your life to the fullest, it destroys your self worth, it destroys your sense of normal/good/bad, it destroys your emotions over every little thing, it destroys your work performance because nothing is ever good enough and you miss the forest for the trees when you need to be quickly moving forward. No matter what job you do there will be times when you make a mistake of this level. You will ask a stupid question in a meeting. You will send an email to the wrong person. You will fart in a quiet office. If these are going to make you sick, you need to become more resilient to mistakes and failure. For me therapy and extensive introspection and practice was helpful. Maybe try a recipe this weekend that is way above your level, just so that you can practice failing safely.

      1. Megabeth*

        Thank you for this, Baru, your post just happened to be something I really needed to read at the moment. LW, this is good advice!
        Also, please consider being more compassionate with yourself. If you can forgive someone else for small potatoes like a typo, then why not extend that towards yourself as well?

        1. Ada*

          Exactly! I bet you’re not thinking about these kinds of consequences for your proofreader who also missed the typo, right OP? I highly doubt you’re obsessing over never trusting them with any detail ever, or telling all your mutual friends to never ever ever let them proofread anything. Show yourself some of the kindness and understanding you show others.

      2. a loiya*

        LW 4 sounds exactly like a lawyer-in-the-making. There is a lot of anxiety, depression, etc. among lawyers. LW 4 can take comfort in knowing that 1) lawyers make mistakes, too — sometimes it requires Congress changing a statute to bail you and your partners out of a multi-million dollar mistake that could cost your client its patent renewal and 2) unlike most fields, pessimists tend to excel in the law because they’re always looking for problems.

      3. Greg*

        My view of perfectionism has changed so much since I started seeing it in my nine-year-old son. If you had asked me a few years ago, I would have seen it as an annoying but not terribly negative habit: that person who takes excessively long to finish something because they have to get every detail right.

        But what I see in my son is much more destructive and stems from a place of insecurity. He is extremely smart, but if he gets one question wrong he beats himself up. If there’s a subject he has trouble with, he shuts down (we had to remove him from Spanish because it was becoming counterproductive to keep him in). And as for things he genuinely not good at, like sports, he wants nothing to do with them because he can’t handle the shame of being bad.

        All of which is to say that while I obviously don’t know the OP well enough to to judge her situation, I agree that her post raises red flags about her perfectionism and how it may be holding her back. OP, I hope you take some time to think about where these issues might be coming from and take steps to address them. Good luck!

        1. Ann Nonymous*

          Please read Carol Dweck’s books and articles. They are enormously helpful on this subject and I wish I read them when I was younger (even though they came out after I was an adult) because her thinking and insights would have likely changed the course of my life. It still does, but not as dramatically as it would have if I had seen her thinking as a child.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Oh, hi, I was that kid. And now I have that kid, and my heart just breaks for her because she’s SO smart but SO hard on herself and focused on the one problem she missed versus the 19 she got right. (Poor thing was reduced to tears because she broke a <$20 household item on Sunday, and her question for us was why we weren’t upset about it – I mean accident, low-dollar, helpful-but-not-necessary-for-life item, sweetheart, of course we’re not mad.) It confuses her non-perfectionist dad because we’re not criers over spilled milk and are pretty liberal with praise both for success and for giving it your best.

          I have been extremely honest with her about how it impacted me (missing out on things because not trying was better than trying and failing) and shared some of the ways that I have worked very hard to not let perfectionist thinking run (and ruin) my life any more. She also sees a therapist for that (among other things).

      4. Lana Kane*

        “Maybe try a recipe this weekend that is way above your level, just so that you can practice failing safely.”

        What a wonderful suggestion. I will be using it, myself!

      1. Np*

        LW#4, I COMPLETELY relate. I graduated from a very good law school and they made us feel like our applications had to be perfect. I’ll never forget when I sent off an application for a training contract, realised that it had a typo in it, and sobbed on the phone to my mother for an hour.

        Ten years on, I am working at a very good law firm, am considered reasonably successful in my field, and still miss the occasional typo when sending off emails. Once I even missed one in a court document! (Not ideal at all, but hey, we’re human. And I was even more careful after that.)

        What I am trying to say is, I know the mindset law schools try to force down your throat. And I wanted to let you know that in the real world, a small typo is NOT THE END OF THE WORLD. You will find a fab job, and will laugh about this years down the line (I certainly do now)!

        I will also leave you with a pearl of wisdom someone told me once: the only people who never make mistakes are people who never work. Good luck in your job search!

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          It sounds like OP is even earlier in this process—they’re pre-law and applying for a non-legal position at a big law firm. But your advice still stands: A typo like this is not the end of the world, OP does not have to start their job search over from scratch, and this will not disqualify OP from a successful biglaw career if OP attends law school in the future.

          Also, can I just say that BigLaw blacklists are reserved for bigger problems than a fleeting typo near the bottom of a resume. There’s literally no way this typo would blacklist OP from getting a job as an assistant at the same biglaw firm, let alone bar OP from a biglaw job post-law-school.

          I agree with PollyQ that the more concerning issue, here, is the catastrophizing. This is very much molehill-into-mountain-making, and it may be a way in which OP is self-sabotaging a bit (i.e., if it’s not perfect it’s a disaster and all OP’s dreams will end). OP, it’s really ok. Honestly. Even the most experienced and respected attorneys make typos, including in important documents. You caught it, you can fix it going forward, and it’s highly unlikely to place you on a black list.

          1. Np*

            Whoops, missed the bit about his applying for assistant jobs! (So much for my attention to detail…) Many thanks!

        2. Bigglesworth*

          LW #4 –

          I’m with NP – I completely understand. I’m currently in law school and applied to legal assistant and law clerk positions so I wouldn’t have to take out loans my 3L year. When I sent my resume to career services (the basic resume that got me three legal internships and my final law clerk position at a firm), they found a typo and made it seem like the end of the world. They didn’t tell what the typo was, but it turned out to not be a big deal and I got hired anyway. Is that typo removed now? Yes (it was a misplaced comma if anyone is curious). Did it take me out of the running for some jobs? Maybe, but so could a million other things.

          I know it’s hard and the legal industry makes it seem like every minor mistake means you’re a major failure. There’s a reason alcohol and drug abuse is a huge problem. That said, you’ll be served well in the future if you decide to stay in law as an assistant or eventually move on into an attorney role if you can filter out, “Mistakes that negatively impact the client or firm” and “Mistakes that aren’t great but now that I know about this, I won’t do it again”.

          Good luck on your job search!

          1. EPLawyer*

            I get why career services are so over the top. They want to make sure you really do put out the best resume possible. So they go overboard, which leads to terror. Although not telling you WHAT the type was is stupid. Why review it and give feedback if not to make sure it is corrected. Geez.

            Here’s a little secret, I have to send COURT ORDERS back all the time for typos. Kid you not. There’s even a Rule of Civil Procedure for how to correct typos. As one Judge put it, you would not believe how many times Plaintiff and Defendant get transposed. Judges clerks, lawyers are HUMAN. We make mistakes. No one has been thrown off the bench or disbarred for typos. They just made a Rule to correct them.

            1. PatentGeek*

              I would love to tell you about an autocorrect which slipped through multiple times in a patent specification, which was addressed at last in the final exam report before allowance. The examiner rather primly pointed out that WHITE does not begin with the letter S, and we were invited to make the necessary corrections throughout. Bear in mind that patent proceedings are all a matter of public record…

              Forgiving minor and accidental errors is an important part of maturity. Keep your tinder dry for the errors that actually matter (like the time I managed to typo “now” as “not” – thank goodness it was to client and not the patent office).

        3. Wintermute*

          Spot on. Remember, LW, firms want the best possible candidate they can get. No one is going to look at a resume and go “sure they’re perfect on paper, but that one typo means we must discard them entirely!” they’re more worried about the skills you bring to the table, IF (and it’s a big if) they even notice it might put a little asterisk next to”excellent attention to detail” if you don’t have supporting evidence (remember resumes should be more about accomplishments than skills, if you have things that prove attention to detail then that minor asterisk is basically gone).

          And to top that off no firm would ever survive the real world and competition with other firms if they saw your application years later and went “they look great, top 10% of their class, member of the law review journal of the university, but five years ago they sent us a resume with a minor typo, shame about that”. They won’t even have your old resume. The only way a law school would conceivably find out about this is if you tell them.

          1. Kate*

            Absolutely. I’m a hiring manager – and I happen to care quite a bit about grammar and punctuation, just as part of my personality. I still interview and hire people with typos in their resumes. To be fair – if the resume was littered with multiple, really bad (obvious) typos, as in the entirely wrong words, etc,; that would be a different story. I actually just interviewed a candidate who had a grammatical error in the sentence where he specifically noted his experience in copy editing. (Yes, I noticed it – the irony.) But did not at all let it sway me from interviewing him or hold it against him. We’re all human. Humans make mistakes – and part of being a good employee is learning from mistakes.

            All in all – don’t beat yourself up, OP! The people reviewing your resume are human too :)

      1. Clorinda*

        Oh wow. Hard to pick a favorite sentence, but I nominate this:
        “Despite the waste of perfectly good crayon seen in both parties’ briefing (and the inexplicable odor of wet dog emanating from such) the Court believes it has satisfactorily resolved this matter.”

        OP, typos happen. You’re fine.

      2. Róisín*

        What.. what the hell did I just read.

        I wish my ex still talked to me because he would eat this right up.

      3. Blue Horizon*

        This reminds me of when I was in grad school. We had two people in our office (one a senior grad student from China, the other a janitor from Mexico) who spoke English atrociously as a second language, with such thick accents that they were virtually impossible to understand. One of my friends once observed them having a long conversation with each other, in English. He couldn’t make out a word on either side, but he reported that they both seemed quite animated and engaged regardless.

        1. Elvis and Jolene forever*

          Wait, what? This seems to be a comment intended for a completely different, far more racist thread.

          1. Blue Horizon*

            Two people with a poor command of the language speaking (or writing) past each other at great length, to the bemusement/amusement of onlookers.

            Perhaps ‘accent’ wasn’t the right term – my grad school was mostly foreign students with a whole range of accents, some quite strong, who normally had no trouble making themselves understood. The problem with these two wasn’t their accent, but the fact that a lot of the words were just outright wrong (dropped syllables and consonants, wrong consonants etc.)

            How was it racist? I didn’t think it was, which proves nothing since people mostly don’t, but if it was then I’d like to understand why so I don’t do it again. Maybe mentioning their nationalities was a mistake, but I wanted to make the point that their native languages were different, so they were unlikely to be communicating by dropping in words from a common language for example.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        Opinions where the parties have REALLY ticked off the judge are my favorite. Lowering the Bar has a great set of them over at https://loweringthebar.net/noteworthy-court-orders. (And, in fact, the Bradshaw v. Unity Marine Corp. ruling is on the his “Case Law Hall of Fame”.)

        Of course, the downside to this is that your name (as an attorney) is forever on an unflattering opinion that is available in Westlaw and Lexis and possibly published in a federal reporter.

      5. Former Employee*

        Laughed til I cried. The whole crayon/wet dog observation was hilarious, but then the not running with sharp objects comment really kind of capped it all off.

    3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      At my office, my first, the boss brought out a cover letter that opened with “Dear Sir or Madman,” We all had a good laugh.
      And we teased her about it, after she was hired. Stuff happens.

      1. Yellow*

        To prove Allison’s point, I had to read your comment 4 times before I saw what was wrong with your coworker’s comment, and that’s knowing that there was something wrong with it to begin with!!

        1. Mockingjay*

          We’ve all seen those FB text memes with missing letters and yet you still can read every word. This is why I have others proofread my work; my brain processes my own words as complete and not misspelled. And I’m a technical writer – people assume I NEVER make typos. Ha!

          Relax OP 4. Get one or two people to look over your resume and cover letters. When you get the job (and you will), you’ll likely find that QC/proofreading is a normal business practice at your company.

          1. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

            You’re absolutely correct. Biglaw firms have proofreaders, and they are excellent! And many people cannot spell! It is not a big deal. Not at all.

      2. London Calling*

        I sent an email to a manager talking about a count of something – except I left the ‘o’ out of count and noticed just as I pressed send. I sat and wondered do I recall it? do I apologise for using ‘that’ word even by accident? or do I assume he won’t notice (English wasn’t his first language). In the end I left it and it wasn’t mentioned.

        1. Boobookitty*

          Yikes, only because I’m envisioning him mistakenly using that word to mean “count” in future conversations.

            1. Just Another Techie*

              We frequently use the abbreviation cnt for count in code. And I had one coworker who recently moved to the US and was not terribly proficient at English who pronounced it that way. Made for a rather awkward conversation correcting him

        2. newmouse*

          I work in a biology research lab, and at one point (before my time there) my boss submitted a grant that had the word “vaginal” in the title, which in this case was the correct and legitimate use of the word as the grant was for research about that part of the body. However, when filling in some portion of the grant submission forms (there’s a lot of them), boss managed to write “virginal” instead and nobody caught it before submission. He still got the grant! And the at one point the grant was actually listed on the granting agency website with the word “virginal” so I guess they didn’t catch it either.

          1. Classic Rando*

            One of my coworkers meant to type “shift” into something we all were reviewing, but accidentally skipped the F and didn’t notice until my manager pointed it out. We all had a good laugh about it. And our boss sent him a box of diapers for Xmas that year as a (good!) prank. Everybody has typos, we laugh at the funny ones and just move on, they’re no big deal

            1. SarahTheEntwife*

              We once sent out an email to our student employees saying that if they had never done night shifts before, to let [Coworker] know before signing up.

              Somehow, none of them noticed that we missed the F.

          2. Double A*

            There are a lot of government and political jobs where you learn to do a search for the word “pubic” before you send anything out. Nothing like a campaign mailer talking about how the candidate is an amazing pubic servant.

        3. Elitist Semicolon*

          My former colleague did something similar when emailing someone named “Cynthia” and her finger was one key off.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        I found a typo on my resume that was reviewed by 2 people besides me – I referred to ‘project mangers’ instead of ‘managers.’ Since it was technically a correct word, spell/grammar check didn’t catch it, either.

        But the human eye sometimes sees what it expects to see, and I wasn’t blacklisted. I also got 2 job offers during that search. Either the employer didn’t catch it, or they didn’t care. Because stuff happens.

      4. Kiwiii*

        Last job worked in very close proximity (a shared room of cubicles) to my region’s daycare licensing bureau. Caught one of their Program Assistants half crying/half laughing at having already sent licensing papers to (first half of the name changed) a new daycare under the name “Tumbletits” rather than “Tumbletots.”

      5. BetsyTacy*

        Adding to this – Typos happen, be aware but don’t freak out.

        I used to work at a school of Public Affairs. Do you know how many applications, cover letters, recommendations, and professors’ CV’s we got that talked about their extensive Pubic Policy work and/or their graduation from the school of Pubic Affairs?

        (We laughed and moved on.)

      6. Quill*

        I would totally hire her over the person who faxed Job From Hell with

        “i am highly experienced in [field] please find resume attached.

        – Sent from my iphone”

            1. Quill*

              There are also ones that will correct your grammar and tell you how to remove the “sent from my iphone” tag, but yet…

      7. Anonymeece*

        Oh, that’s good. I had one that said “Madame” and couldn’t help imagining myself as some brothel owner for a while.

        But seriously, OP, one typo is not the end of the world. Most hiring managers are more concerned if there are multiple typos, or something doesn’t line up (like dates on jobs or something). We’re all human! It’s seriously okay! You fix it and move on, I promise.

        I agree with the other advice too – this type of perfectionism and catastrophizing will not serve you well on the job. While you should always strive to be your best, you shouldn’t strive for perfection, because it’s unreachable. You’re going to make mistakes. The important thing is minimizing – not entirely obliterating – them, owning up to them, and learning from them.

          1. Anonymeece*

            Whoops – it was Madam, actually. Madame is still a bit weird – I hate it when people default to “Mrs” rather than “Ms” when they don’t know me – but yeah, it was madam. Thanks for catching that!

      8. Jadelyn*

        TBH, that would *gain* someone points with me. I absolutely loathe “dear sir or madam”, so the subversion of it – intentional or not – makes me cackle.

    4. aebhel*

      This. Typos happen, plenty of people get hired with typos in their resumes, either because the hiring committee (who are also human!) didn’t notice or because it just wasn’t that important in the grand scheme of things.

      I promise you, LW, you are not going to get blacklisted from an entire industry for a single typo. That’s your anxiety talking.

    5. Third or Nothing!*

      Agreed. My husband has anxiety and can fall into a spiral with little mistakes like the OP’s. His therapist has given him some great tools to stop catastrophizing.

    6. ursula*

      LW4, I am currently 6 years into a truly wonderful legal job that I got just after law school with a typo in my cover letter. I completely understand the freak-out, but the vast majority of employers will absolutely not disqualify you for something so small (if they even notice – honestly, they have so many resumes to skim, they aren’t doing a close read).

      More broadly, I want to gently echo what some others have said about catastrophizing – IME this is an epidemic about legal types and as someone who has been where you are, let me say that investing in figuring out how to manage it and not let it control you will be incredibly helpful to you in your career. You’re doing fine, LW!

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      I think it really depends on what type of position OP is applying to as to whether or not this will be noticed – I hired entry-level paralegals for years, and my recruiter was a former attorney. We noticed the typos, and often interviewing attorneys did as well. They were not wholly disqualifying, but, for positions where I got a lot of applications (entry-level assistant positions for DC BigLaw tend to garner ~100 resumes), they were disqualifying absent some other experience that set the candidate apart. In short, if you’re applying for a position in construction law, your engineering degree will overcome a typo; if you’ve interned in a legal office or similar, that relevant experience will overcome a typo; if you have no experience that sets you apart, the typo may disqualify you for that particular position – not every other position, not anything at that firm, not ever working in the legal industry in any capacity. Just that one job.

      No one in the BigLaw assistant-hiring business is emailing all their peers at other firms about a minor typo on a resume (no one has time for that!). No one who submitted a resume with a typo is blackballed in our hiring system or on some sort of no-hire list. It certainly will have ZERO impact on law school admission or ability to lawyer. (Frankly, the reason we want assistants with exceptional attention to detail is that many of the attorneys badly need a proofreader.)

      I have also worked in the legal industry nearly my entire career, and there is a very high, very stressful emphasis on perfection – the reason that attention to detail is so heavily emphasized is that court/judges’ rules can be stupidly pedantic (and failing to follow them can get your filing rejected) and small details (like a missing comma) can change the meaning of things in a dispute (see O’Connor v. Oakhurst Dairy, No. 16-1901 (1st Cir. March 13, 2017)). Some types of law also involve highly sensitive information, often time belonging to other parties, not our client, and disclosure of that information, even by honest mistake, has to be disclosed to the adjudicating body and impacts our ability to be admitted to protective orders.

      I am also a catastrophizer (yay, anxiety!), and it took a little therapy and a long time to develop the CBT techniques required to manage it. I share other’s concerns about your reaction to a relatively minor setback and would urge you to spend your energy digging into that rather than obsessing about something that is not going to have the atomic impact you’re imagining.

      Mistakes happen, and we deal with them as they come – I have made some truly impressive mistakes over the course of my career (in BigLaw, even), as has anyone who’s been working for any period of time. It’s about how you respond, recover, and learn more than the mistake itself.

      1. Marg*

        “In short, if you’re applying for a position in construction law, your engineering degree will overcome a typo; if you’ve interned in a legal office or similar, that relevant experience will overcome a typo; if you have no experience that sets you apart, the typo may disqualify you for that particular position.”

        But you are still saying that privileged people with the “right” background have advantages that the unprivileged don’t. That isn’t right!

    8. GooseTracks*

      Agreed. I really relate to LW – I’m a lawyer and a type-A personality with lots of anxiety. It’s tough, but seeking help now will greatly ease your path later. Law school is brutally stressful, as is a BigLaw career.

      On a hopeful note, I recently looked back at my cover letter a week into my new job and realized that I had completely omitted a key word from the FIRST SENTENCE. I was horrified. But, I already had the job! No one ever mentioned it and they hired me anyways – I don’t know if they even noticed. One minor typo will in no way ruin your job prospects.

    9. TootsNYC*

      I work in copyediting, where our entire purpose is to correct every typo.

      I wouldn’t interview you.

      But I also wouldn’t go out of my way to alert everyone in my industry about you.
      And I might or might not save your resumé in my file with the error highlighted, in case you applied again. But probably not, on a simple typo. The things that kick you completely out are the ones that indicate something systemic, like the guy who spelled it “Quark Express” instead of “QuarkXPress.”

      But even if I do that, those “expire” eventually. AND…if you applied again in a year or 9 months, and I compared the two resumes, and you had fixed that error, I would not toss you out–I’d treat your resume the same as I did before. Because typos sneak in.

      (being careless with proper nouns, and not having the visual record-keeping of seeing that program’s name in front of you every time you open it–those are attributes I don’t want on my team)

      And I would be sympathetically cringing for you (which doesn’t help you get work, I know, but it might make you feel better).

      Some typos get past because everybody just completes them, or they’re in the type of text (subject header, etc.) that people skim over.

      (and here’s a proofreading tip for you all: Read all the headers, subheads, lead-ins, decks, captions, etc., all at once in a group, separate from a straight read of the text)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Another tip for reading your own work is to copy the Whole Thing into a new document then change typeface, font size, and text colour.

      2. I edit everything*

        Same. But I’d be hiring a copyeditor, not an office assistant. And if other things on the resume or in the cover letter were done well (correctly using a semicolon, a well-turned editing pun, deep familiarity with the subject area or genre), I’d consider overlooking it.

        1. jamberoo*

          Exactly. When I was reading resumes for retail stores I placed far less weight on typos; now that I hire for corporate sales support, however, I treat each resume like a writing sample because written comm quality and accuracy is a cornerstone aspect of the job.

          I’m reminded of a young girl I worked with at an optometrist’s office long ago: She had been hired with zero job/field experience as a favor to her family, and had dropped out of high school halfway through. Every day she was responsible for checking patients in for their appointments, which included going through their history and insurance forms, as well as explaining any additional tests they could opt to do during their appointment. She was so wonderful but every time I hear “Macular Degeneration” I’m fondly reminded of her version: “Mackler Dener-AY-shun.”

        2. TootsNYC*

          Ditto about how other, deeper skills can be demonstrated on a resume and overshadow a simple typo!

          (I hired a freelancer once who came recommended and is quite good; I realized a bit later that she’s the person who sent me her resume with the first letter of her name missing. She had obviously bumped the delete key or the space bar just before she printed them, and hadn’t actually looked at the paper after taking it out of the printer and sticking it in the envelope. There’s no way anybody would miss that if their eyes had passed over it–it was in 36-point type at the top of the page, and the K in Kristine was missing.)

        3. TootsNYC*

          also, there are typos, and there are other errors.

          “volunterr” is OBVIOUSLY a typo and a spellcheck fail. It doesn’t show a fundamental misunderstanding of how the language works.
          (I =might= worry that it showed carelessness in that you didn’t run a spellcheck, but typos happen, and people zip through spellcheck, or they think their dynamic spelling is on when it isn’t….)

          1. TootsNYC*

            “oppertunity” is a misspelling, not a typo. (the “e” is on the opposite finger from the “o”) Add in a few other mistakes including a grammar one, and for me it’s not worth my time.

      3. smoke tree*

        On the other hand, I was once involved in hiring a technical writing assistant, and one of our applicants misspelled the word “editing” on her resume. We laughed when we saw it, but we hired her anyway, although attention to detail was one of our top criteria.

    10. Emma*

      OP #4, I am an attorney in big law, 10 years out of law school. I can guarantee that no one will ever know or care about your resume you submitted for a non-lawyer position if you go to law school and eventually apply to be an attorney. No one much cares about your pre-law jobs after you get out of law school, and if they did (like in specialized fields like patent law) they certainly wouldn’t have a way to know what your old resume said nor would they care much. There’s no “blacklist” you can get on. You can relax!

  3. MommaCat*

    LW #4: I know your typo seems like a huge deal to you, but the vast majority of people are going to miss it, just like you, your computer, and your proofer missed it. People don’t pay nearly as much attention to other people’s resumes as we do to our own. You’re going to be fine, and it’ll be a good story to tell at holiday parties someday.

    1. MissGirl*

      Funny story I now tell about getting my first post-college career job. As I handed off my resume to an alumni, who had just spoken about the importance of zero typos, I noticed in the FIRST line the words, “a editor.” I was mortified but it was too late to grab it back. Before I could send her a new one and ask her to replace it, she emailed me that she’d forwarded it on.

      I fully wrote that job off until two months later when they called me in for an interview. I got the job and stayed ten years.

      1. Sherm*

        I misspelled my hiring manager’s name in an email, got the job, and have been there for 4 years now!

      2. Kiwiii*

        At my last job, we had an applicant send us a cover letter obviously meant for the bureau we shared an office with as we were hiring for similar positions (llama care licenser vs. llama care monitor). Got called in anyway, because she checked nearly all of our qualification boxes, and nobody counted it as a strike against her.

    2. Blue Horizon*

      I used to cross-check resumes against the Great Worldwide Database Of People Who Made A Typo On Their Resume One Time And Are Now Forever Unemployable. But it got to be too big to download onto my devices, and it would take hours to finish a search. Also I kept finding the names of my colleagues and even my managers in it, which got a bit embarrassing. Then I realized that I also needed to check the Great Database Of People Who Missed The Typo In The Resumes Of People Who etc., and that took even longer. Eventually I realized I was in danger of being added to the Database Of People Who Needlessly Limit Their Hiring Pool By Holding Applicants To Unrealistic Standards, and decided to stop.

      1. GeoffreyB*

        And it’s so easy for candidates to get around it by spelling their name a different way each time.

    3. Hoya Lawya*

      LW #4: I know your typo seems like a huge deal to you, but the vast majority of people are going to miss it, just like you

      I realize we all want to reassure OP, but this is a big law firm environment we’re talking about, and they tend to be unusually sensitive towards typos (and unlike marketing folks, probably have fewer pairs of eyes reviewing much longer texts, meaning more typos slip through). There may, unfortunately, be firms that bin the resume because of the typo.

      The good news is that this will have no bearing on OP’s application to BIGLAW associate positions in law school. The resumes will be forgotten by then, and they won’t even be reviewed by the same people.

      1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        Sure, but there are going to be a bunch of biglaw firms that also don’t notice or care about the typo. And it certainly won’t place OP on a blacklist now or later.

      2. MissGirl*

        Of course, this could get her rejected. But she flew past this might get me rejected to this will end my career forever more and I am a complete failure.

        1. aebhel*

          Yes, this. Plenty of resumes get rejected for typos, especially for entry-level jobs in highly competitive fields. But it’s not the END OF HER CAREER FOREVER

          1. Joielle*

            Yep. I’ve tossed applications for one cover letter/resume typo, but when you have a couple hundred resumes for one or two openings, you have to draw some arbitrary-ish lines. I remember some of the more unfortunate typos (“attention to detal”) but not any of the candidates’ names.

            Even then, I wouldn’t pass on an amazing-sounding candidate because of a typo. But for the many, many resumes of people who were all pretty similar and would all probably do a fine job if hired, the typo can be the thing that gets you put in the “no” pile (but not the “never-hire-ever” pile).

            (The only thing that ever got someone in the “never-hire-ever” pile was addressing the cover letter to “Dear Mr. Hiring Manager” when there were no men even tangentially involved in hiring, and no possible reason to think that, aside from assuming that a hiring manager MUST be a man.)

      3. CL*

        I’ve worked for a few big law firms. Usually one typo isn’t going to make a difference in the initial culling, it might stop a lawyer from moving a candidate forward, but many times it won’t even do that. Personally, I allow three strikes, depending on what they are and how strong the skill set is. I know some people who toss it after two. I’ve never known anyone who tossed it after only one typo solely due to that, unless it was specifically for a proofreader position.

        1. Just Another Manic Millie*

          Once I reviewed a resume in which the candidate’s name was spelled differently from how it was spelled in the cover letter. The resume was promptly tossed. And it was not for a proofreader position. And it was not for a law firm. I asked TPTB if I could call the candidate to let her know that she had spelled her name incorrectly on either her cover letter or her resume, but I was told not to call her.

          1. TootsNYC*

            yeah, I don’t alert people. Because they need to fix it on their own to be worthy of that second chance.

            1. Jadelyn*

              So if you make a mistake at work, I assume you expect your manager to just discipline you for it, without explaining what you did wrong, since you need to fix it on your own to be worthy of continued employment?

              This just strikes me as weirdly and unnecessarily harsh.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I worked for a place that threw resumes for one typo. The person reviewing those resumes seemed to really enjoy doing it. It was an incredibly dysfunctional workplace also. Make of that what you will.

        3. lawyer*

          I’m a biglaw partner and typos on the resume do, for us, carry very significant negative weight and can be enough to lead to a rejection. But blacklisting is for stuff like “saying something racist in an interview” or “being rude to a staff member during the hiring process.” I doubt we’d even remember that if someone applied to us a second time for a staff position (we probably would for an associate position, but if the new resume was clean, we wouldn’t care that the old one wasn’t).

      4. Observer*

        Please don’t encourage the catastrophising. No one is suggesting that the OP stop being careful about typos. Nor even that they didn’t lose out on a SINGLE opportunity. Just that, even in BigLaw, many places would not have noticed this. And even if they did, it’s not going to have any longer term consequences – no one is passing this around to blacklist them from the industry. They aren’t even keeping tack of this, which means that if they apply there again in a couple of years – especially for a totally different position! – no one is going to remember.

    4. RUKiddingMe*

      “…the vast majority of people are going to miss it, just like you, your computer, and your proofer missed it.”

      Do spoot on!

    5. Bagpuss*

      Agreed. Most people will miss it, those that spot it might, as a result, be less likely to offer you an interview but at worst it is only going to have an impact on that specific job application. It is not going to mean that you can’t reapply to the same company in the future, or that it would prevent you from getting jobs in law further down the line.

      Typos happen, and they slip through. And they make a much bigger impression on you than they are likely to on anyone else reading the resume.

      (See Gaiman’s First Law “Picking up your first copy of a book you wrote, if there’s one typo, it will be on the page that your new book falls open to the first time you pick it up.” – Neil Gaiman)

      As an employer, looking at an application, I would be concerned if there were multiple typos or other errors, as this could suggest that you haven’t checked it at all, but a single one, if I noticed it at all, would not have much impact, and certainly would not stop me inviting you for an interview if your application was strong enough that, without the typo, you’d be getting that call.

      1. shysterb*

        I had a typo slip through on my resume when I was applying, as a 1L, for summer positions, after said document was edited by a friend who was a (then) professional copy editor.

        20+ years on, I’m a partner at an AmLaw 100 firm.

        She has been managing editor for an academic research journal for years, and is still my best friend.

      2. Fact & Fiction*

        LOL re Gaiman’s first law! Now that I’m indie publishing instead of traditionally publishing, I feel a much greater pressure about typos that slip through. But the thing is that a lot of readers are super forgiving and nobody has yet contacted me or (as far as I know) complained to Amazon about an inordinate number of typos. But yeah, the odds are that you always notice them after the fact! Although one positive to indie publishing is that you can actually go back in and fix the typos once you notice them, especially in the ebook editions.

        I worked in a Big Law firm for nearly a decade and agree that this is definitely not career-ending. There are certain individuals who may toss a resume because they see a typo, but plenty won’t notice or will let you slip with one. And even if they do toss that resume, they’re not going to add you to a blacklist the next time you send an updated, corrected resume for a new job. So just take a deep breath, correct the typo, and keep right on applying to other jobs.

        I also live with anxiety/OCD and whoo boy. I’ve had to struggle with that perfectionist/catastrophisizing loop that can be debilitating. You may benefit from reading up on those conditions to get tips on how to deal with them and if you have access/the funds for therapy, that could also be super helpful for you. I hear cognitive behavioral therapy can be particularly useful.

        You’ve got this, OP!

    6. Meercat*

      I had a phone interview 2 weeks ago, where I realized embarrassingly that I had listed my first 2 postgrad jobs with the same dates (I had just changed the format on my resume and had copied the dates over to ensure formatting consistency, intending to change them later), resulting in what either looked like a 2 year gap on my resume or me looking like an idiot.
      I had the phone interview, the lady asked me about the 2 year gap, I answered: ‘Quite embarrassingly, this is a typo the dates are actually x-y, I’m sorry about that’. She said ‘oh ok’ and proceeded. I didn’t get further in the process, but when I got rejected I asked if I could get feedback to improve. The lady did actually call me (and she was a senior manager – I know what a unicorn!!) and gave me 10 minute feedback, saying it was due to experience in one area I lacked, and when asked specifically for critical/constructive feedback she said nothing came to mind but said a couple of positive notes about how I came across in the phone screen. She didn’t even mention the mistake on the resume. I’m not in the US, and the culture where I’m applying is actually known for being quite pedantic and greatly valuing attention to detail.

      TLDR: I made a mistake much bigger than this typo on my resume, for a job that also required a lot of attention to detail, and it wasn’t a big deal whatsoever.

    7. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Please realize that those of us who do notice the typo may or may not care. A random word in a well-written document? No big deal, how are their qualifications? Misspelling your current job title as “poofreader”? Yes that will probably get your resume discarded, but only the party story will be remembered. (That was a real typo I saw the first time I was reviewing resumes — I don’t think I even read the name let alone remembered it. Since it was a first-pass purge, I saw 150+ resumes. No names stuck in my head.)
      Medieval scribes even had a demon for this — Titivillus was said to watch over their shoulder and make them change letters.

    8. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. It might seem like a huge mistake, but most people will likely miss it. I wouldn’t judge someone based on one typo. If I noticed it being multiple errors across the resume and cover letter, that would definitely make me question their attention to detail. One error? Nah.

    9. MCMonkeyBean*

      Embarrassingly, I once had “Education” misspelled in a header on my resume :D

      I wonder if OP had their header in all-caps. I think that’s why Word didn’t catch my typo at the time.

      But for sure OP is thinking about this way more than any potential employers will. It’s super possible they won’t even notice! And if they do notice they certainly will not judge OP as harshly as they are judging themselves.

    10. Vienetta*

      I once sent a cover letter and resume to a job with the TRACK CHANGES still visible/not accepted from when I had a friend proofread it. I was mortified. I still got the job- the hiring manager just told me gently that I had done that and could I send him a clean copy!

      1. Lexi Lynn*

        And for people that don’t know, Word seems to not spell check All Caps by default, but you can fix it in Options-Proofing and removing the checkbox. One of the first things I do on a new computer (along with importing my Quick Access Toolbar).

    11. Dana B.S.*

      When working to make sure our employee personnel folders were following a required checklist (JCAHO) at ExJob, I realized that my resume wasn’t in my folder and went to Indeed to print off the one that I used in my application. There was a typo in my intro section where I was talking about having great attention-to-detail as well. I got the job and my boss never even noticed.

    12. LunaLena*

      Yeah, I’ve been on search committees and there are always a few applicants who have typos or misspellings on their cover letter or resume. People might make a note of it, but unless it keeps happening or the candidate seems unqualified in other ways, it usually doesn’t matter in the least. One person listed photography skills for a position that involved some photography, but spelled the brand of his camera wrong. He still got the job, out of a pool of 70+ applicants.

      Also probably 99% of people put “attention to detail” on their resumes, so I doubt having that and a typo will be a game-changing problem.

  4. Lena Clare*

    No 3. I don’t understand why you’re not recruiting people through seeing them deliver a presentation and Q&A session already, if it’s that important?

    Assuming they can’t do it as well as you because they don’t have English as their first language is, frankly, discriminatory.

    1. PollyQ*

      Exactly this. I’ve worked with many, many ESL speakers, both immigrants and colleagues overseas, and some of them had excellent English language & presentation skills, while many native speakers, frankly, suck at it. The only way to know if someone’s good at it is to ask them to do it.

      And besides being unfair to applicants and not useful to employers, discrimination on the basis of “national origin” is flat-out illegal in the US.

      1. Master debater*

        I have coached parliamentary debate teams in non-English speaking countries. I have to respectfully disagree. Being a native English speaker *is* an advantage in the debate world, even over very good non-native speakers.

        Also, I have found that people who have had their primary/secondary school in the UK or US or similar systems often have a much better command of public speaking in general than those from, say, continental Europe — even if they have no formal training in it. I believe this is due to the notion that in the US/UK, it’s acceptable for pupils to argue with the teacher, whereas that is Not Done in many other countries. In addition, the “show and tell” tradition makes US/UK students much more comfortable in speaking before an audience.

        1. PollyQ*

          First, I didn’t say that native speakers had no advantage, just that there was no guarantee that they’d be good at presentations or that non-native speakers wouldn’t. But more importantly, when you’re looking to hire someone, the odds that someone might or might not be good at something are irrelevant when it’s a skill that you can actually evaluate on a per-applicant basis.

        2. Approval is optional*

          Even if it is true that native English speakers have an advantage in debates (parliamentary or otherwise), it’s not really relevant to the issue at hand, because the OP isn’t recruiting for a debate team; she is recruiting for a technical role in the business world, albeit one that has business presentations/training as part of the role.
          And even if it is true that ‘people who have had their primary/secondary school in the UK or US or similar systems often have a much better command of public speaking in general than those from, say, continental Europe — even if they have no formal training in it’ (though how arguing with your teacher contributes to this ‘fact’ eludes me), it doesn’t mean that a non-native English speaker cannot competently present in public/speak in public, it just means they probably won’t be the best at it. Therefore, to dismiss all non-native speakers from consideration for a public speaking role, let alone one for which public speaking is only part of the role, would not be a logical decision.

          1. Meercat*

            Mhm…. how to phrase this diplomatically….
            1) As someone already pointed out, yes, a native English speaker will most likely be a better debater in English, but this is not what is needed here. You don’t need to have the same skill set to do business presentations and trainings as you would need to debate.
            2) Unless you have heard continental Europeans or those from other countries debate in their native language, and have enough command of said language in order to evaluate the nuance of their debating, I feel you may not be in the best position to judge the quality of their debating.
            There may very well be a difference, but I would point to much different factors that may lead to this: The differences in debating culture you may perceive have little to do with how they do things in the classroom, but with the fact that ‘Debating’ is just not an extra-curricular activity in many countries in the way it is in the UK and the US (they don’t have debate clubs the same way they may have sports teams, neither in school nor in university), therefore people don’t learn and study those techniques.
            3) People may have different command of public speaking than the US and UK, not BETTER. They may have the kind of public speaking skills that may be valued in their culture as opposed to what is perceived to be ‘good’ in the US and the UK (Eg I used to work in a Sub-Saharan African country, and trust me what is good US public speaking would earn you A LOT of raised eyebrows there and vice versa; same, although not as starkly, in my native country).
            And if they’ve been in the US for a while or have had exposure to US culture, they could potentially adapt the style quite easily.
            4) I’m from continental Europe and in my country, arguing with the teacher and speaking up in class is actually MUCH more emphasized than in the US (you may argue that it’s wrong and not objective to do this and I would probably agree, but in my country up to 50 % of your overall grade is made up of the quantity and quality of your oral participation in class, which leads to MUCH more nuanced, extensive, thorough and engaging discussions among students in the classroom; similarly, in my undergrad degree in my native country a significant portion of my grades was made up of formal presentations I had to prepare and give in seminars).

            Signed: Someone who went to high school in continental Europe AND the US, and went to university in 2 different continental European countries plus in the UK (and lived there for 6 years overall), and has lived and worked in 2 other country outside of US/Europe.

              1. Meercat*

                Super sorry! Was meant to be a reply to Master debater! (Probably not a nesting error but an error of hitting the wrong reply button)

                1. Approval is optional*

                  No worries. I was just a bit worried my comment wasn’t as clear as I thought (hoped) it was. :)

            1. Master debater*

              Signed: Someone who went to high school in continental Europe AND the US, and went to university in 2 different continental European countries plus in the UK (and lived there for 6 years overall), and has lived and worked in 2 other country outside of US/Europe.

              First off, with due respect, you’re not the only person with a background along these lines. I’m glad your international background informs your views; that’s how it should be. It doesn’t follow that everyone with an international background will arrive at an identical conclusion.

              To touch on a couple of your points, you state that corporate presentations don’t draw on the same skill set as training in debate. I respectfully disagree; I think that debate, particularly the parliamentary format, is terrific preparation for making corporate presentations. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that so many UK politicians hail from the Oxford Union or similar institutions. The university students I worked with in Asia a decade ago realized this and were attempting to to set up debate clubs in their home countries. Usually the catalyst was time spent at a Singaporean, UK, or US high school or university.

              Second, we’ll have to agree to disagree on the nature of primary/secondary education. Obviously a lot of this country-specific; it would not surprise me to learn that various northern European countries do encourage pupils to argue with the teacher. The countries whose educational systems I have encountered differ, in my opinion, and encourage a much more “algorithmic” style of early education that encourages rote learning and memorization.

              Third, I am willing to entertain the notion that what passes for “good public speaking” may vary from country to country. (I’m not 100% convinced of this, but I suppose I’m not not convinced, either.) But this is beside the point. Here, we’re talking either about a US company or a multinational company that uses English as its working language, so local standards in sub-Saharan Africa are irrelevant.

              1. One of the Sarahs*

                ” I don’t think it’s any coincidence that so many UK politicians hail from the Oxford Union or similar institutions.”

                It’s super interesting that you see this as an indication of inherent skill/genius/whatever, when all the evidence shows that getting into Oxbridge in the first place is generally about privilege – so wealthy people who live in the right area can send their kids to the schools that are over-representede: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-46470838
                People who live in London & the SE are over-represented: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-41664459
                and it’s not just about London, it’s about specific Boroughs.
                And then once someone is *in* Oxbridge, there’s this Old Boys Club where a subset of people with Oxbridge backgrounds hire people from their College or whatever. Sure, if someone who lived in the ‘right’ London Borough and went to the ‘right’ school and got an Oxbridge place, and got the ‘right’ job as a result could feel that it was their inherent intelligence etc that got them there – but the evidence is against them. And sure, they may be better at arguing their position in a culturally specifically “debate” setting, but it doesn’t mean they’re more likely to convince a wider audience.

              2. EventPlannerGal*

                Okay, I really cannot help myself here: “I think that debate, particularly the parliamentary format, is terrific preparation for making corporate presentations. I don’t think it’s any coincidence that so many UK politicians hail from the Oxford Union or similar institutions.” I strongly, strongly disagree.

                Firstly, “UK political debate” and “corporate presentations” are, once again, not the same thing. They are, in fact, two wildly different styles of public speaking. If you think UK political discourse in any way, shape or form resembles a corporate presentation then I would strongly encourage you to familiarise yourself with a) the basic format of a Commons debate and b) a “Best of John Bercow” video.

                Secondly, not to get political or anything but there are a lot of reasons that there is a direct pipeline from private school to the Oxford Union to Parliament and the top-notch debating skills are pretty low on that list. I realise that that is likely off-topic, however, so my apologies in advance to Alison.

              3. Meercat*

                Hey, by no means did I intend to say that debating doesn’t increase your public presentation skill set per se (they train you to articulate clearly, be eloquent and speak in front of a crowd) and I actually didn’t say that. BUT – it’s just not the same thing as business presentations, which is why I disagreed with your original conclusion – that you had seen people from other countries generally be worse at debating, and that you therefore felt that they generally were more likely to have a lesser skill set in the kind of business presentations the OP was referring to.
                I concede, my point that ‘good public speaking’ is inherently massively cultural was minor and not entirely relevant to your post (although I found it super interesting, as it was a steep learning curve when I moved). But I would still stand by my original points –
                1) Being good at debate doesn’t mean you’ll automatically be good at business presentations and Q&As in a corporate setting (eg imagine the scenario where a board member disagrees with your view points, or has criticism to your work; if your rhetoric is trained to ‘win an argument’ you can come off as super combative….);
                2) Therefore being not so up to snuff to debating is not a reliable indicator on how you’ll do in a corporate setting;
                3) Respectfully speaking, you were wrong on continental Europeans not learning to ‘stand up to teachers’, and therefore being worse at public speaking (maybe worse at debating, but you seem to conflate debating and public speaking, whereas the former is just a subset of the latter);
                4) My hypothesis about the lesser quality of debating from other countries that you seem to have observed is that ‘debate’ as a hobby with its very specific rhetorical rules may not be done (certainly isn’t where I’m from) to the extent and intensity it is in US/UK.

                And I referred to my international background to prove that I wasn’t just responding because of hurt feelings about how you misrepresented how education works in my country and other countries on the continent where I’m from (although my feelings were indeed hurt); but I mentioned it to say that I have experienced the differences in education systems first hand and wasn’t just talking about something I didn’t know.

        3. One of the Sarahs*

          Actually, “show and tell” is very much an American thing, and our debating is different to the US style.

          But I’m also confused by your assertion that only in the US/UK do students “argue with the teacher”. If you mean aggressively, maybe the US is different? But I know a load of European people who were encouraged to challenge teachers’ ideas in the way I was.

          But above all, the idea that UK/US people are gifted at public speaking and everyone else isn’t is so out of my realms of experience that I’m legitimately baffled at your comment.

          (And “Parliamentary Debate” as a competitive event is a very, very specific subset of speaking, and there are any number of different subsets that people can excel in, without having any knowledge of it. Just as people can be great debaters in a competitive environment but terrible at the kinds of public speaking needed in work environments)

          1. Rewe*

            Totally agre.

            I’m from continental europe and I have experience with US and UK education systems as well as Chinese. Based on personal experience I’ve noticed that the power distance between students and teachers are bigger than what we have in my home country. Yes, I’m sure some other european country it is more listening to the teacher but I wouldn’t describe US and UK system designed in a way that the syudents are encouraged to debate more than in the continental europe.

            Of course debating in your antive language is an advantage. But that doesn’t make someone automatically a good debator. There are tons of political figures outside the english world that do amazing debates and public speaking in their non-dominant language. I also agree that in some cultures public speaking is more encouraged and therefore people are more prepared for public speaking and performing. It is pretty much an US stereotype. But it is not unique to USA and UK. While generalisation is sometimes needed but in LW’s case they are looking for individual and place of birth should not define this quality.

            1. Rewe*

              wow. my phone keyboboard was set to another language and didn’t check before posting (cause I’m suppose to work). The auto-correct didn’t know what it should do. Ignore the spelling error that seem to really work against me when trying to point out how the non-native english speakers are not that bad :D

              1. Bagpuss*

                Except that you were able to make your point clearly and effectively, even with that disadvantage…

        4. Emma*

          Having worked in a very similar setting – I disagree again. Debate teams may be something of an exception because it’s an advantage to be able to talk very, very quickly, and still be understood, which is typically easier to do in one’s first language.

          But outside of that setting – when you’re looking at more typical public speaking where speakers have time to plan what they’re going to say and to explain and structure things in a less frenetic way – first language doesn’t have much impact. You can sometimes detect bits of a person’s first language in the way they present in English – German sentence structure, for example, is brutally logical and German-speakers sometimes transplant that into English to create a beautifully clear and efficient, if technically grammatically incorrect, way of communicating information – and those transplants can be positive or negative, but this effect is no different to the strengths and weaknesses of people for whom English is their first language.

          Generally speaking, if someone understands the subject matter well and has the skills to organise information logically and to understand and act on the level of contextual and background knowledge their audience has, they will present well in any language that they are reasonably fluent in.

          1. TL -*

            Presenting well involves more than clear logical structure and understanding of subject matter and audience background. Speaking skills (from basic stuff like not mumbling and eye contact to advanced stuff like getting the right tone, appropriate number of pauses/ums, and changing the level of vocabulary in real time response to audience reactions) matter a lot and the more persuasive/engaging you need your speaker to be, the more they matter.

            1. Emma*

              Yes – that’s very true, and those are also skills that tend to transfer between languages (if only because someone who uses them in one language is likely to realise if they’re not using them in another and make the effort to improve)

              1. TL -*

                I’d argue some of them do but many of them don’t. Body language norms vary based on culture. Subtle connotative language choices are one of the hardest things for non-native speakers (of any language) to consciously pick up or unconsciously replicate but they can make a huge difference in speaking skills, particularly for non-technical bits. Even filler words vary a lot by language.

                There are absolutely other skills that can more than compensate (because public speaking is a complex skill) and some people are just very, very good at the above – but public speaking is a complex skill and manipulating that complexity deliberately is difficult.

                1. Oh So Anon*

                  Your point about connotative language choices is a really big deal. It’s perhaps the largest challenge that we have with some non-native English-speaking team members, and it creates challenges even outside of public speaking,

                2. Milton’s Red Swingline*

                  Ah, this.

                  I am ESL, but fluent to the level I get dismissed by with just having a bit of an accent. But I can switch languages on the fly, and reportedly, my ”whole demeanor” changes when I do it. We had my native holiday meeting at the local pub, and there was a group of people there and we were happily babbling in our own language. The pub landlady said it was like watching DrJekyll and MrHyde as my body language had changed as well as my ”manners”. She couldn’t tell if people were being rude or not as the body language was all off and apparently we just directly translated into English when the gin started to work…

            2. Beth*

              These are all learnable skills, though. They’re not inherent to native speakers; if they were, groups like Toastmasters wouldn’t exist. They’re things that people learn through observing public speech and picking up on norms, through training in classes or workshops, and through practice.

              And many non-native speakers DO learn them! I’m a native English speaker, but I speak a second language fluently as well. I’ve been actively instructed in a lot of these skills as part of learning that language, especially in higher-level classes where part of the goal is to sound more professional/native-speaker-like. I also know there are workshops and books and practice opportunities I could seek out if I wanted to improve in this area.

              These resources exist for English too. I’m sure plenty of non-native speakers seek them out–especially those who are considering careers that require heavy English usage. Not to mention, they’re exposed to a fair bit of English-language norms around public speaking every time they watch a speech or sit in on a class; people are known to pick up on these things from context. It’s weird to assume that non-native speakers wouldn’t be exposed to these kinds of norms.

              1. TL -*

                It’s not that non-native speakers aren’t exposed or can’t learn; it’s that the subtleties and nuances and varients of language are extraordinarly difficult to master at a native speaker level unless you are a native speaker.

                Being a native speaker doesn’t mean you’re a good public speaker. But it does mean you’re likely to have an intuitive understanding of the unspoken rules of your language and building upon that knowledge is going to be a lot easier than having to learn the rulebook first.

                That being said, it’s not the only thing that matters. There are lots of other skills in public speaking that can play into how well someone speaks.

                1. Meercat*

                  I get your point, but that being said – the level of things you are talking about may be so nuanced that they (in my opinion) wouldn’t apply to the setting the OP talked about. You can give beautiful business presentations and field Q&As effectively without that level. Plus, the OP doesn’t explain that the foreign born people applying for this job haven’t already had the opportunity to learn this rule book already (they may already be in a position working in the US, may have done a degree there etc.). Also, if you have a role that involves a variety of skill sets, you have to think about which of these skills are things that can be learned and which ones are not, and the importance you place on them when you screen people (as Allison said). I think the level that you apply here in your second reply is something that wouldn’t be needed in the vast majority of roles that involves business presentations.

                  And finally: I am a non native English speaker. I have been told at least 5-10 times a year in the past 8 years that my level of English is at least on par if not better than most native speakers. I have held professional roles that involved coaching, training and presenting in English in 3 different countries and have always received very positive feedback especially with regards to my presentation skills and ability to engage people.

                2. Someone On-Line*

                  But the standard isn’t speaking just like a native speaker. The standard is being easily understood and persuadable and personable. That doesn’t require speaking just like a native English speaker.

                3. nonymous*

                  I’d challenge your comment on the “intuitive understanding” of native speakers, from a socio-economic status perspective. From my observation a non-native speaker with access to a rigorous curriculum with plenty of presentation opportunities in their B-school curriculum and access to a certain type of social network will do far, far better than someone who does not code switch from their blue or pink collar upbringing.

                  I’ve seen people with an excellent track record at giving effective and engaging presentations in the world of teaching struggle with pitching to executives. And of course what is an appropriate pitch to an executive will vary by industry, so one can be great at that level in one field and do poorly in another if they can’t get the audience to identify.

                4. Beth*

                  I think you’re confusing “native or native-like speaking skills” with “persuasive, easily understood speaking skills”. Plenty of people are strong public speakers in a second language while having an accent or making the occasional slip-up on the nuances. You’re putting a lot more weight on sounding like a native speaker than most public speaking actually warrants.

            3. One of the Sarahs*

              I’m confused – are you suggesting that non-native English speakers don’t have skills like like not mumbling and eye contact to advanced stuff like getting the right tone, appropriate number of pauses/ums, and changing the level of vocabulary in real time response to audience reactions? If yes, what’s your evidence??

          2. AcademiaNut*

            I work in a highly international academic field. Overall, I’d say that being a native or fluent from early childhood English speaker is an advantage in giving presentations. However, there is a *lot* of variation in individual ability – I know lots of native speakers who give mediocre or terrible presentations, and lots of non-native speakers who give amazing presentations, even with a noticeable accent and occasionally odd phrasing.

            Two things I’ve found that are primarily native speaker problems – speaking too fast, and not realizing that their audiences don’t necessarily get their cultural references. On the other hand, non-native speakers can have simpler vocabularies, which can work better when presenting to international audiences.

            In a job like the OP describes, it *is* important that the speaker can be understood by their audience, and that they can understand questions. But it’s also important to recognize that native speakers have varied accents, some of which can be very hard to understand outside of a specific region.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              Oh, and as an aside – I know multiple people who would have difficulty giving a technical presentation in their *native* language, but are fine in English. The logical structure of presentations varies between cultures (Japanese, for one), and these people have spent their professional career and much of their university education working in English.

              1. Yorick*

                My boyfriend says his worst interview was in his native language, because all his jobs have been English-speaking jobs so he didn’t know any of the terminology.

              2. Ophelia*

                I agree, and I’d also note that the inverse also works for people who are non-native speakers – I’m a native English-speaker, and I could probably do a decent job giving a presentation in French because I would be doing it in my professional field, have pre-planned the logical flow, have the ability to practice and familiarize myself with what I wanted to say beforehand, etc. Public speaking on the fly–giving an impromptu toast or something–would be far harder for me, and I’d definitely struggle with idiom usage. So depending on what kind of presentations these are, it might be kind of a non-issue for most candidates.

            2. pleaset*

              This. All this.

              I’m reminded of an experience in a slightly different context, writing, where we had an intern whose English was not strong, but whose ability to organize information was much better than the native English speaking interns we had. So when she did things like decks with short sentences and bullet points they were quite good. Needed a little more proofreading than other people, but the basis was so strong.

              If she’d her English was better she would have been a super-star but as it was she was so good.

            3. Tau*

              On the other hand, non-native speakers can have simpler vocabularies, which can work better when presenting to international audiences.

              I’m a quasi-native speaker of English working in an English-language environment with about 95% non-native speakers. There are times I find being a native speaker is an active disadvantage, for basically this reason: you don’t have a good grasp of what sort of vocabulary and grammatical structures will be accessible to anyone with a basic knowledge of English and what requires high proficiency. On the flipside, even a non-native speaker whose English is near-fluent will generally remember how they started out and be able to adjust accordingly when they’re speaking to someone whose English isn’t as good. Add on issues regarding idiomatic/colloquial usage that’s not always taught to foreign learners, speed of speech, regional accents and the like, and it’s perfectly possible for the native speaker to end up as the person who has the hardest time communicating.

              1. Ophelia*

                I also find that when I’m overseas, and using English in a place where people are non-native speakers but use generally good-to-fluent English professionally because of colleagues or clients, after a week or two, I definitely simplify my vocabulary and sentence structure, avoid figures of speech, and tend to use a different speech pattern to make sure I’m getting my point across clearly.

        5. TL -*

          I’d argue that they have a better command of public speaking *within American/UK(?)/Western norms* than others do.

        6. Baru Cormorant*

          Respectfully, I’m not sure how that applies; rather it proves the point that cultural bias is in play here. It makes sense that people educated in a culture & style of speaking would do better when evaluated by members of that culture and when performing in that style. But “public speaking” and “training people to do something” happens literally everywhere all over the world, and it gets done somehow. Do you really think that US/UK students are innately better public speakers than anywhere in the world because of “show and tell”?? This seems like some real confirmation bias to me.

          I work in a country where arguing with the teacher is Not Done and just came from a work meeting where no questions were asked. That doesn’t mean people didn’t learn anything. It means that people will ask questions discreetly afterwards, as is culturally appropriate. Any US/UK person evaluating this meeting would judge it a failure because they are using inapplicable standards.

          This is some basic culture diversity stuff and makes me wonder if you have ever trained to deliver speeches or training in a non-English speaking environment and been judged according to their customs. Arguing with your teacher doesn’t inherently make you a better speaker, sometimes it makes you a disrespectful know-it-all.

          1. Myrin*

            Yeah, I’m not following the logic of “encouraged to argue with your teacher” = “better at public speaking” (or “more comfortable speaking in front of an audience”, for that matter; arguing with a teacher usually happens in front of your class, people you know and whose reaction you can probably assess pretty well upfront – that’s not the same at all as presenting a subject matter to a professional audience full of strangers).
            (It’s also strange to use continental Europe of all places as a comparison, btw, but I digress.)

            Additionally, I also don’t think there is one true way of public speaking – even when talking about just one culture – and you’re either good at it or not.

            For example, if I just had a quick chat with you, I’d simply say that I’m a good public speaker. Which is true.
            However. If I had a more in-depth talk with you about the topic, I’d have to differentiate – I’m a very good public speaker when talking to, for lack of a better word, “the public”. I’m good at breaking things down, filtering out the most important, bare-bones information, and relaying that to basically everyone; I’m not a teacher by trade but I’ve been told many, many times that I’m a good teacher insofar as I can make things understandable even to people who have no experience with the thing being talked about.

            What I’m not good at, however, are highly technical speeches with a lot of highfalutin words of Latin origin (this is not as big a deal in English but my native language doesn’t have a lot of “normal” words with obvious Latin origin so they often sound somewhat forced) and convoluted sentence structures. I can do those, but it’s really hard for me. (Which, as an aside, is especially strange since my natural writing style can basically described as nothing but “convoluted sentence structures”. But I can’t speak like that at all, to the point where people thought I had someone else write a writing sample for me because they differ so strongly).

            So what am I? A good public speaker? An average one? A bad one? I’d say it depends on the audience, the subject matter, and plainly whom you ask in any given moment.

            1. TL -*

              I really agree with your second point – skill depends on speaker, audience, topic.

              I think I’d argue that being a native speaker gives you a “level up” more or less across the board (subject expertise being a major exception.)
              It doesn’t dictate how good you will be or if you’ll be better or worse than a non-native speaker. It’s just a skill that provides a benefit almost everywhere, rather than a piecemeal or specific advantage like in the example you gave.

          2. TootsNYC*

            It makes sense that people educated in a culture & style of speaking would do better when evaluated by members of that culture and when performing in that style.

            This makes me wonder about situations in which the employee’s audience will BE people of a specific culture. Hiring an employee who is not might mean there will be a barrier because of the underlying bias of the audience.

            I’d hate to cater to that–but if you’re going to lose sales, are you going to be tempted to go with that bias?

          3. Milton’s Red Swingline*

            Oh yes. I remember in college we had guest lecturers from UK or US and first they tried in vain to get people to sit closer (nobody sits in the first seats, those are reserved for the ”better people”) and then ”any questions” and the silence to hear a pin drop and a room full of students staring at you… and the natives can comfortably stare for about 15 minutes in silence… Then after the lecture was over, the teacher would get mobbed, but in smaller groups and in a more relaxed environment.

        7. Mary*

          I have taught presentation skills to doctors, many of whom were trained outside the UK and in languages other than English. Yes, having English as a first language can be an *advantage*, but that’s very much not the same as determining who is good or bad at it! We all know native English speakers who are absolutely dreadful at presenting: assuming that you can determine whether someone is a good presenter from what their native language appears to be would be a frankly ignorant error.

          And that’s not even getting onto the fact that someone can have English as a second or additional language and still have completed their entire education in English.

        8. also a master debater*

          Aside from what everyone is already saying about debate =/= work presentations, and many many ESL speakers being excellent public speakers, this person’s information is wildly out of date – the world, european, and school debate championships have all recently been won by ESL speakers, and the top teams around the world are regularly ESL.

          1. Rockin Takin*

            I did parli debate in college and one of my partners was a non-native English speaker. He did fine.

            But oh man, parli debate is not the same as regular public speaking or presenting. You prep for only 20 min before the round, you’re required to speak at rap God speeds, and you have to make sure your flow (debate notes) is good. Most people who only speak English have trouble with this. It’s a very specific skill set.

            Beyond this, I have an ESL friend who’s job is entirely public facing and requires a lot of presentations. People assume she was born in the states because she has no accent. It really depends on the person, and whether they have basic communication skills.

        9. wittyrepartee*

          I’m 32. My dad (American born, Catholic school educated) says that the amount of presenting and speaking we did in school was really impressive to him, and totally different than the education he got when he was in high school and middle school. When I spent time in China, a lot of students in college were just starting to do their first presentations. They were impressed that I’d gotten so much experience presenting all through my life.

        10. Observer*

          The debate issue is totally not related to the issue at hand – the OP is not recruiting for a role that requires that set of skills. Also, generally speaking, immigrants are the one group that tend NOT to follow the trend of not ever questioning authority – the fact that they left their native country tends to select for people who can and do question authority / the status quo.

          The ability to present well is a very different skill set. And while it is totally true that all other things being equal any given native speaker will be at an advantage over a non-native English speaker, that does not at all translate into useful information about what a given candidate can do.

          This is true because that’s the nature of statistics – they rarely tell you anything about a specific person / item even when you are controlling for all other variables, with all bets being off when you can’t control for those. But, also, in this case the advantage doesn’t really last in the long term. In the beginning, when someone is learning it really helps, but as time goes on the work that someone puts in really can smooth this out to the point that I would be very surprised if you saw a statistically significant difference 10-15 years into career.

        11. Librarian of SHIELD*

          As a former competitive speaker, I don’t agree with this at all. One of my frequent competitors was originally from a middle eastern country and he didn’t start learning English until his teenage years. But his presentations were meticulously researched and artfully delivered, and he made all of us step up our game to compete with him. Honestly, I saw a lot of native English speakers flame out in competitions while our international students did very well.

          OP, don’t make any assumptions about these candidates just by reading their resumes. If all their other skills match up, bring them in for an interview and actually observe their communication skills in person.

        12. Chris*

          I don’t think it’s particularly relevant whether on average native speakers are better presenters or tend to have debating experience that foreigners on average have less. If almost all of the OP’s applicants are foreign born, it points to her line of work being very international and thus, many of the applicants are likely used to communicating in English all day long.
          Furthermore, I hope the job posting specified the strong need for presentation skills and the applicants self-select for that.

      2. Scarlet2*

        ” some of them had excellent English language & presentation skills, while many native speakers, frankly, suck at it.”

        THIS. So much. Being able to speak clearly is only one aspect of being good at public presentations. And honestly, it doesn’t have much to do with being a native vs non-native speaker. If the LW is concerned with the accent being an impediment, I’ve seen a lot of lectures by both native and non-native speakers and the native speakers aren’t necessarily clearer. If anything, non-natives tend to articulate more carefully and speak more slowly, in my experience. Also, don’t forget that native speakers can have a heavy accent too. A lot of Americans have a hard time understanding people with a strong Scottish or Northern English accent.

        1. wittyrepartee*

          Also, you have to practice and think through your speeches more carefully when you’re presenting in a non-native language (I’ve had to speak semi-publicly in both Spanish and Mandarin for classes and/or work).

    2. Beth*

      This is what I scrolled down to say! Plenty of ESL speakers are comfortable, professional, and polished in their use of English. It’s weird to assume that just because they’re non-native speakers, they’d be unable to be articulate or give presentations well. If a given individual doesn’t have the language skills you need, that’s one thing–but leaning against non-native speakers categorically is discriminatory (not sure about the legality of it, but definitely in the colloquial sense of the word).

    3. LittleRedRidingHu..?*

      Couldn’t agree more. My first language isn’t English either, I’m trilingual and have worked/lived in Ireland for 15 years and being a non-native speaker has its benefits, especially when it comes to grammar and spelling. I see mistakes/typos my Irish colleagues don’t notice, because I have to be just that tad bit more thorough when reading and writing in a foreign language.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        Yes, this!

        I’m Mexican and speak four languages (and, since my mum’s American, I grew up speaking English at home, too). I’m also a translator. I will notice typos and grammar mistakes native speaks miss sometimes because I had to pay extra attention to avoid them growing up. My line of work depends on being able to communicate between languages effectively.

        Also, assuming that a foreign speaker will have a thick accent or lack fluency — not neccesarily true. The vast majority of people who hear me speak in English assume I’m American because I sound and speak as one (I’ve been asked if I’m from the Midwest, for example).

        That is not to say I will not make mistakes sometimes, but you know? Everyone does, even in their native language. But you’ll never know what I can do if you don’t literally let me speak and write because you assume I can’t do it.

      2. Emma*

        Yes, this is my experience too – ESL speakers have often learned English in a more structured and rigorous way and therefore often wind up with much better technical skills in English than native speakers, who have picked up all sorts of bad habits throughout our lives (and I love them – I’m a fierce proponent of all things dialect and regional slang – but by professional and academic standards, BBC English still sits on top!)

        1. texan in exile*

          When I lived in Miami, people asked why anyone would hire me instead of a native speaker. I answered that unlike many people who grew up hearing Spanish at home but didn’t study it in school, I, who started studying Spanish in kindergarten (my dad was stationed outside of Madrid) and took upper-level Spanish in college, might not have a perfect accent but I know the grammar and how to read and write in Spanish.

          1. Former Employee*

            That’s a strange comment to make if you were hired to read, write and translate Spanish to English and/or vice versa. I’ve known many people who grew up speaking Spanish at home, but I have no idea if they are able to read and write in Spanish since their schooling was 100% in the USA.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        Agree. When Husband was still working on becoming fluent he had an English professor who was quite frankly a dick. Finally Husband said “I’m not illiterate, I speak five other languages fluently. How many do you speak?”

        Today Husband us fluent, can speak English without an accent at all, and always catches those mistakes from others, even from me the resident grammar queen.

      4. aebhel*

        ^ my absolute best beta reader has English as a third language and she always picks up spelling and grammar fails that go right over my head, because she’s much more conscious of the structure and rules of the language than I am as a native speaker.

      5. wittyrepartee*

        Yup! And in the States, many of the 100% native speakers haven’t taken classes in written and/or formal Spanish. I’ve worked on documents and caught a lot of missing silent “H”. The verb “haber”, I’m looking at you!

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I assumed (maybe incorrectly) that she’s spoken to these candidates and knows from that that they’re not flawless English speakers — not that she’s assuming it just because English isn’t their first language. She should still do the hiring exercise because even non-flawless speakers can still give very effective presentations. But if I’m wrong about that and she’s assuming it only based off their resume, then it’s even more crucial that she not make those assumptions.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        Even so, I’ve noticed that some people, especially monolingual speakers, especially people who have negative opinions of immigrants or people from X country/background, can be extra harsh just because someone has an accent or makes a mistake that doesn’t obscure meaning.

        I’ve been helping my very very bright colleagues communicate with our English-speaking head office and it really felt like they didn’t trust our expertise in our field because it was delivered through a translator or through an accent. They often ask questions that are vaguely-worded, or full of idioms and business-jargon, instead of choosing to be clear and direct (even I have trouble understanding them). There’s a subconscious “the bar is here, where I am, and if you don’t meet that, I’m not coming down to you.”

        If the candidates really struggle to make themselves understood in the language that’s one thing. But if you wouldn’t fault someone for stuttering, or having a non-foreign regional accent or something, then it’s really not fair to hold other candidates to a higher bar for no reason.

        1. Mid*

          That’s my worry as well. I know an unfortunate amount of people (who are monolingual and) who assume that an accent means you can’t communicate in a language. Or a lack of knowledge of idioms means you aren’t fluent. However, those same standards aren’t applied to native speakers (e.g. no one faults an American for using pants to mean trousers in the UK, no one assumes an Aussie can’t give a presentation because of their accent). Just today, a coworker told me a client clearly didn’t understand his case, but when I talked to him, he seemed to understand it better than my coworker did—he just had a non-English accent and it was assumed he couldn’t understand things because of that.

          It’s not even outright, intentional discrimination, just something engrained in many people, and something that few people are given the opportunity to really challenge within themselves. So, I guess I’m urging LW to really reflect on their internal biases and the biases reflected in their organization and hiring process.

          1. Meercat*

            So much this. I find that too often people conflate having an accent with being fluent. Especially monolinguals.

          2. Yorick*

            In grad school, I had classmates with very strong English skills and accents that were not really very strong get horrible teaching evaluations because they “didn’t speak English” and students “couldn’t understand anything they said.”

            1. ReadItWithSpanishAccent*

              As a person with an accent, I noticed this is an excuse used to be discriminatory. I can see they understand me perfectly – they just don’t want to talk to me. I have also had situations when vendors have refused to do something for me yet agreed when a native speaker called right after.

        2. pleaset*

          “I’ve noticed that some people, especially monolingual speakers, especially people who have negative opinions of immigrants or people from X country/background, can be extra harsh just because someone has an accent or makes a mistake that doesn’t obscure meaning.”

          And if anything to a listener hearing a minor mistake in what is clearly someone’s second language is nowhere near off-putting as hearing a native speaker make the same error.

        3. Decima Dewey*

          English was not the first language for the novelists Joseph Conrad and Vladimir Nabokov, or for the critic John Simon. These and others did fine communicating in English. Nuances and idioms can be learned. Focus on the candidate, not their accent.

        4. Kotow*

          “Make a mistake that doesn’t obscure meaning” though can be slightly subjective. I’m reminded of a Ukrainian class I took one summer. It was an intensive, 6 hour a day class for 6 weeks. The teacher was a native Ukrainian speaker and a university professor; so clearly, non-native for English but obviously fluent. It would be difficult to earn a Ph.D. and NOT have at a minimum a good written command of English, even if it had to be proofread over and over.

          Still, it was difficult to follow along. It’s not that any English grammar or vocabulary mistake truly obscured the meaning of what she was trying to say, but over a period of several hours it became difficult to follow along and required more time to comprehend what she was telling us (it was slightly funny because all of us in the class would have a 5 second pause to figure out what she wanted us to do and then we would get a lecture about how we’re not paying attention!). Actually a lot of it wasn’t even truly a “mistake” in the sense that it was a grammatical error; it was more vocabulary choices and phrasing. She was obviously fluent but in that context it made it hard for true beginners. That said, my experience in having multiple foreign language classes with native and non-native speakers of the target language has made me realize I don’t learn as well as a true beginner with a native speaker. Past the beginner levels though, I’d want a native speaker! But that’s perhaps getting far off topic!

          I actually think that depending on the responsibilities, the issue tends to be more with writing than with speaking. But that goes to Alison’s point of if there’s a particular skill set that is needed, to test for that skill set specifically and make the decision from there.

          As an aside, if a large number of applicants are non-native English speakers, I wonder whether it’s a field in general with an international audience. In that case, non-native English speakers actually may not be at much of a disadvantage in part because “conference English” is very much a thing (much to the dismay of native English speakers at times) and they may equally clear in that context.

        5. Pommette!*

          This was my main concern when reading the OP’s email. You’ve explained the situation very well.

          Some people think that only what they perceive as unaccented English is good English, and that speaking unaccented English is a prerequisite for being a good public speaker. Some think that only some English accents (mid-Atlantic, BBC British, CNN English) are “good”, while other native-speaker accents (like Singapore English, some Southern US Englishes, etc.) – and all ESL accents – are “bad”. Some also have a very narrow definition of what constitutes good public speaking: one that emphasizes form (smoothness, confidence, use of colloquialism) over effect (effectively communicating information and maintaining the audience’s interest).

          I’m worried that the OP may think that merely having a pronounced ESL accent means that someone will be a bad public speaker. That’s not true! If s/he thinks that public speaking matters for this role, s/he needs to find a good (and non-discriminatory) way to evaluate the candidates on this skill. What matters is whether the candidate can clearly convey complex technical information to the audience – not what you feel about their accent.

        6. Curmudgeon in California*

          I would have them do a simple presentation for a panel on some technical aspect of a previous job.

          Warn them ahead of time that they will be doing this, or set it up as a second interview, so they can make slides, outline, or whatever other prep they need.

          Have the panel ask questions and interact with the applicant like they do when you are doing the job.

          After the presentation, have the panel grade it on whether they were understandable, how well they explained the technical aspect, were they able to answer questions, etc.

          Do this with all applicants, not just the non-native English speakers. Because there are people who only speak English that would badly fail that test.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I read it the same way as Lena Clare and was taken aback by the assumptions OP seems to be deploying. It’s extremely problematic to proxy “do not speak English as their first language” for whether someone “shines” because they’re “very articulate” and have strong “public speaking skills and eloquence.” I don’t think OP has spoken to these candidates; OP’s framing suggests that they want to paper cut the candidate pool on the basis of ESL status. I can’t imagine how OP could have vetted for strong presentation or communication skills, because OP doesn’t even mention engaging in spoken communication with candidates.

        I may be taking this personally because both my parents are ESL. Both speak English eloquently and flawlessly, and both have excellent presentation skills. It is a massive disservice to the position to assume that those who speak English as a first language will also be strong and articulate presenters.

        1. Gerta*

          Your last point really resonates with me! My mother is a non-native English speaker, and I have never caught her in a mistake. Her accent sounds native with very rare exceptions (non-English proper nouns, specifically) and because her married name doesn’t look foreign, many people take a very long time to realise it isn’t her first language, if they do at all. She is also a very competent public speaker.

        2. Anonymous 5*

          Also there’s the racist connotation of “articulate” for first-language English speakers who happen not to be white, which always manages to jump out at me in situations like this.

          1. WS*

            +1. My brother and I are white and also native English speakers. We both speak near-fluent Japanese, he also speaks near-fluent Mandarin Chinese. His wife is Chinese. (They met while both studying Japanese.) She is fluent in English, French, three dialects of Chinese, and Japanese. But he and I are praised to ridiculous extents for speaking a foreign language, and she is considered not so articulate because she has a (very mild) accent in English and Japanese. It’s flat-out racist.

            1. Former Employee*

              Would you say the same thing about the person being racist if the person were Japanese and referring to someone whose native language was English but who had learned to speak Japanese?

              I mention this because I have been told that non-Japanese people who speak Japanese are seen as oddities by Japanese people, especially in Japan.

              1. Japan anon*

                I feel like I’ve been summoned!

                WS is likely referring to how white native English speakers are often patted on the back patronizingly for trying to learn that exotic garbledy-gook, they must be so smart. Meanwhile non-white people who speak multiple languages are “inarticulate” no matter how fluent they actually are. This happens in Japan, the US, everywhere. Non-Japanese people who speak Japanese are unusual but people definitely treat and think differently the white business exec stationed here vs. the Vietnamese convenience store clerk, even if the Vietnamese person has mastered all the levels of formality while the white exec is still trying to put words together.

                It’s the same thing OP is hinting at in their letter: holding people to different performance expectations based on their race/ethnicity/country of origin/skin color/native language.

              2. WS*

                Yes, I would. White people who learn Japanese are praised for doing it, even if we’re not that good at it. People from other Asian countries who learn Japanese are judged much more harshly. (As are other non-white people, but particularly Asian people.) It’s positive discrimination towards white people which has definitely benefited me, but it’s not a good thing!

        3. Quill*

          Yeah, my exit interview for my spanish minor was “stop relying on your eloquence and charm to cover your vocabulary and grammatical errors,” and believe me, if my spanish proficiency is eloquent despite my abysmal command of verb tenses? Eloquence has nothing to do with speaking fluency and is all in presentation.

      3. Toronto88*

        OP here – you assume correctly. Our first round is actual a pre-recorded video interview, so I have seen all candidates speak directly to camera. My problem is that all candidates struggled with this and I don’t know how to articulate this to HR in a PC way.

        1. Observer*

          Stop worrying about being “PC” and focus on what’s happening. Are your pre-recorded videos really representative of the kind of presentation work you are doing? And are you sure that the setup is not posing issues that have nothing to do with presentation ability? Like maybe the issue is the technology, which under normal circumstances they wouldn’t be dealing with.

          The reason I ask is that it really is odd that ALL otherwise apparently strong candidates are having a problem with this. Which means that you want to be very sure that your screen is screening for the right thing. Also, make sure you are using the same standards for ALL your applicants – and don’t ding people for accents!

          If you check and it really is presenting a genuine problem, then what you say to HR is NOT “They don’t speak English as a first language” but “This person provided a presentation that was flawed in this particular way”, whether they mumbled, were unclear, used inappropriate language, etc. And you do this for each person.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            This. Because I have seen native English speakers mumble, not be able to answer questions coherently, and not be able to clearly explain technical concepts.

            Accents are much less of an issue than actual presentation skills, IMO.

        2. anonymous 5*

          How did they struggle? If they were factually incorrect, that’s a problem. If they used incorrect terminology for technical matters, that’s a problem. If they were disorganized, that’s potentially a problem. If they spoke with an accent, or just didn’t give a presentation the way you would have, that’s not actually a problem at all. More to the point, if you can’t articulate your concerns to HR in an *objective* way, then the problem is that those concerns aren’t actually valid.

          1. Observer*

            Exactly.

            Also, a perfect example of how there are multiple way to present the same thing. You’re saying pretty much the same thing I said, but in a different way. And I think that both have their advantages.

        3. Genny*

          If there were any candidates that otherwise seem like a good fit and struggled less in the recordings than others, it might still be worth bringing them in for an in-person assessment. Video recordings can give you an idea about proficiency level and some other aspects of communication, but people tend to act differently on camera and usually they end up speaking more stiffly than normal. If you really don’t think any of the candidates are worth bringing in for an in-person assessment, then make the case to HR the same way you would when passing on a candidate for other reasons. Focus on concrete examples about why each individual isn’t a good match.

        4. Lepidoptera*

          To further Observer’s point about how pre-recordings aren’t necessarily representative of the type of work they will be doing I want to point out that speaking to a camera and speaking to a person are vastly different experiences.
          Remembering to do the same facial expressions and gestures towards an inanimate object that you would do towards another human is really difficult to remember if you aren’t used to being on camera and know that it’s a recording that will be watched later instead of a live performance.
          Also, have you watched the native speakers without the sound on? Their performance might be ‘better’ in your mind because you are seeing what you want to see because they are hitting the right notes with their intonation but they could as stiff as a board in their body language or the timing of their gestures is slightly off.

          1. BigLo*

            I totally agree with both of these points. For anyone it can be really awkward to speak in front of a camera in a way that doesn’t at all translate to talking and connecting live with a group of people and the fact that this would make or break your eligibility for a job really piles onto the awkwardness.

            It seems like since the video recording was a requirement, your candidates are aware of the public speaking component to this role. I agree you should give a handful of the people who articulated easier on camera a chance to present in person. Also – you may not need to find someone who performs as perfectly as you, someone who’s been in this role for awhile, can right off the bat. Perhaps your standard needs to be “Capable of adequately presenting with strong understanding” rather than perfect performance.

          2. One of the Sarahs*

            Plus things like charisma, and how someone connects to an audience can be completely different in real life and on film. There are any number of great actors, eg, who are fantastic on the stage but don’t work well on film/tv – and vice versa. Sure, some are great at both, but they’re a minority.

            (Of course, some jobs need people who are excellent at speaking to camera, but that’s not “public speaking”)

            There’s such a difference between speaking to an audience and responding to their cues than there is to speaking to a camera, even without factoring in the anxiety about having to make a video for a job application.

        5. Richard Hershberger*

          Dump nearly all your conceptions about what “PC” means. The right wing has been working the refs here for decades. The PC way to say that the job requires a high level of English language proficiency is to say that the job requires a high level of English language proficiency. The non-PC way is to add “so stop sending me all these goddam [insert racial slur here]”

        6. EventPlannerGal*

          Okay, here are a few possible things they could be doing wrong: mumbling. Lack of eye contact. Poor body language. Lack of confidence. Hesitance. An objective lack of language proficiency. Poor subject knowledge. Rushed pace. Inability to answer questions. Frequent digressions from topic.

          Those are all things that are objectively problematic in a presenter and are actually very easy to articulate. I wrote that list on my phone in thirty seconds while walking. If you cannot similarly articulate why you have a problem with these candidates beyond some vague handwaving about their fluency or wanting them to be “like you” (yikes), then I think the problem is actually a you problem. (And it also doesn’t really speak to your own eloquence, either.)

      4. Observer*

        I’d love an answer from the OP on this – it didn’t read that way to me at all.

        Honestly, it really doesn’t sound likely that NONE of the non-native speakers could present well. So maybe that’s why I’m reading it this way.

      5. Thursday Next*

        Respectfully, Alison, LW#3’s last sentence is a textbook example of things people say to justify discriminatory practices. I’ve been on the receiving end of biased assumptions, and this is one of the more benign-sounding ones, but it’s unmistakable.

        And in case I’m wrong, LW, my apologies. But you should consider the fact that your statement pinged my radar so strongly as a sign that you should re-examine your motives and *your* presentation of your practices.

    5. Language Lover*

      Yeah. I feel like I’m missing something for the LW to conclude that mostly having candidates where English is a second language is something to worry about.

      It’s not impossible that there will be a candidate or two with poor English speaking ability but I suspect most will be perfectly able to converse and present with ease in English. They might have an accent but most people are able to understand or learn to adjust to someone with an accent.

      LW, have you considered doing some initial phone or Skype interviews? If you can communicate with candidates via phone or computer, then they should have no trouble communicating with people face-to-face as face-to-face communication tends to be even clearer than over a device.

    6. Baru Cormorant*

      I agree, honestly OP, absent of knowing you and your context, your question reads like someone ready to discriminate but who wants to avoid it (or doesn’t want to get caught). Alison handled it very well, pointing out that you are basically looking for yourself in the talent pool–your skills, your background–and this will lead you astray. Surely you don’t want your next job to be hiring people based on how “similar” they are to the previous incumbent.

      There is no reason why people whose first language was not English cannot communicate “articulately” and “eloquently” in English. First language/place of birth does not indicate level of proficiency in English, nor does it indicate public speaking ability or familiarity with the technical nature of your job. Many people who learned English as a foreign language are virtually indistinguishable from monolingual English speakers. Also having an accent does not mean that people can’t understand them. Speaking a different dialect of English does not mean they’re not “articulate.” I work in a country of my 3rd language and surely make mistakes a native wouldn’t, but I’ve made multiple training presentations successfully. One of my coworkers is from a different country and routinely works in his 2nd language.

      If anything, someone who is familiar with multiple countries’ and cultures’ ways of doing things may be even more creative than you about how to set up and present technical content. Someone who has mastered multiple languages may know ways to explain things even more clearly than you can. So instead of looking for a candidate who is similar to you, which leads to biased decisions as well as business-unwise decisions (because surely you have weaknesses as well), hire the person who can best excel in the role.

      1. TL -*

        I’ve worked with a lot of ESL speakers in a field where presentations are routine – though presentation skills are surprisingly undervalued and undertaught – and in general, people who are good at presenting in English are people who have practiced presenting well in English and people who are great are people who have a combination of practice + experience + talent.

        In general, native English speakers tend to have more lifetime practice presenting in English, given that it’s required all throughout school. However, in specific, it does widely, hugely vary person to person regardless of primary language. But it’s safe to assume anyone applying for a job where presentations in English are part of the requirements is likely to be someone who has practice and ease with that particular skill.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I need to strongly object to 1 assumption– that native speakers will always have had practice in their native language because of school. I attended a highly-ranked primarily white middle-class School in the US. I can count the number of oral presentations that I had to do on one hand. Tw of them were in French. I went to an ivy league university and was not required to do aNY except in a Russian class.
          I’m also not applying to jobs requiring those skills!

      2. TL -*

        Personally, I have only met one person who I genuinely thought was a native (British) English speaker who spoke English as a second language (and didn’t learn it through immersion as a child). I can recognize several primary languages by grammar/phrasing mistakes better than accent, though.

        I’ve met many amazing, persuasive ESL speakers, with accents and with little to no accents. The goal isn’t to be indistinguishable from a native speaker; the goal is to use what you have (clarity and ease in avoiding figurative language, particular precision in word consideration and choice, a pleasing musicality in accent, unusual recognition of and ability to subtly mimic speech patterns…. whatever) to present well.

        1. Blarg*

          If British English is the standard, Americans have accents. Canadians. Scots. Indians. All native English speakers — we got it from you. Everyone has an accent if they don’t sound like you. That’s how it works. Your “neutral” isn’t neutral to other monolingual English speakers. Nor is it more legitimate.

        2. Baru Cormorant*

          I totally agree with your second paragraph!

          To your first, there are So. Many. People. in the spectrum of “native speaker” that even the category of “ESL” doesn’t make sense to me anymore. I think when I lived in the US my brain categorized people as “native English speaker” and “doesn’t speak English well” and then when I traveled and moved to non-English-speaking countries, I realized I didn’t know how to categorize these people (and OP, how would you judge and categorize their speaking abilities?):
          -went to public school in non-English country and won English speech contests for years even at the national level
          -went to primary school in non-English country, moved to the Philippines and learned English there
          -raised in non-English country but went to high school at an international school in France where they were taught in English
          -born and raised in Singapore, speaks Singaporean English
          -raised in non-English country but parents spoke English at home, so they don’t know “business English”
          -learned English in public school like everyone else so messes up grammar sometimes but watches tons of English movies so has no accent
          -parents are from US but didn’t speak a ton of English at home, so kid knows English as a first language but their second language is stronger
          -learned English as an adult but has an AAVE accent because they love rap music

          It’s a really fascinating field and I encourage OP to consider linguistic diversity a benefit, rather than a drawback.

          1. TL -*

            I’ve always worked in workplaces with 50% or more ESL speakers from a whole bunch of places/backgrounds and a whole variety of language skills and accents as well as traveling a bit and living in another (English speaking) country. I also grew up in a truly bilingual area of the USA – I definetly think of language skills as a continuum, not as “native or bad.”

            But I stand by my first paragraph :) Somewhat ironically, he was not a very good public speaker. Not bad. But not great.

        3. Asenath*

          I’m astonished that the OP assumes that non-native speakers are poor presenters in English! By all means, give all applicants a chance to do a presentation as part of an interview process – you’re going to miss out on some good candidates if you eliminate all non-native speakers. In my workplace there are a lot of non-native speakers. They’ve usually had an extremely long and thorough education in and exposure to English, and even though many of them still have a noticeable accent, they are as likely as the native-speakers to be good presenters. This is important because doing presentations is an important part of the requirements for the role most of them are in.

              1. TL -*

                Aw, I love the Boston accent and am hopefully moving back soon.

                I get there’s a lot of racism wrapped up in “pleasing” versus not accents but if you are a public speaker and people find your accent charming, use that to your advantage.

        4. Pommette!*

          Exactly! Some of the best public speakers I have encountered were people who had very pronounced ESL accents.

          Obviously, lots of things went into making them good – the way they organized information, related to the audience, expressed complicated ideas, etc. But one thing that they all did was to modulate their speech to make it easy to understand. They didn’t try to minimize their accents. What they did was to work “with” it in ways that showed an awareness of what might make it hard for others (who didn’t share the same native language) to understand them. For instance, sometimes slowing down and over-enunciating on the words that were particularly hard for them to pronounce the way a native speaker might. Basically, they spoke in a way that evinced a strong awareness of how others perceived and responded to them. Which is a prerequisite for good public speaking, in any language.

      3. Femme d'Afrique*

        Unconscious bias may indeed be at play here. I learned English at nursery school in a former British colony, and I’ve never figured out how to categorise myself: native speaker? ESL? In any case, I went to college in the US and things got weird. My teachers would routinely “correct” my spelling (categoriZE, not categorise). Ok fine, whatever. I figured I was in an American school so I should adapt. Until I had a class with a British student whose work WASN’T corrected because apparently she was using “alternate spellings.” It seemed that people looked at me and figured I just didn’t know any better or something? I don’t know, but it continued for 4 years.

        Also, just because I speak and write English fluently doesn’t mean that everyone from my country does too. There are massive differences in access to education, the quality of teaching etc. Conversely, just because someone has met a person from my country who doesn’t speak English fluently shouldn’t be a basis for assuming that that person represents us all; we’re not a monolith. If LW would just treat everyone as an individual and assess them fairly, she should find someone who can fill the role. Assumptions rarely help.

        1. TL -*

          I didn’t recognize Indian English as a specific regional variation until I had read several Indian co-workers’ writings and realized the “errors” I was seeing were actually consistent across all their work because they were norms I was unfamiliar with – and very different from my Indian co-worker’s writings who had learned English much later in life.

          It definitely improved my editing and now I’m more careful about asking, not assuming, if I’m not sure to what extent English is used in a country.

      4. Blunt Bunny*

        Yes that’s how u read it too. I think the applicant usually state what level of fluency they have in applications but there are some other indicators.

        Living in a former English colony (e.g India)
        Going to a British/American school abroad (my danish friend went to an American school in Saudi Arabia)
        Living in English speaking country for a long time
        Qualifications in English
        If they put hobbies/interests such as singing or reading
        Well written application
        Working for a global company (good English is a requirement for my colleagues in other countries)
        Working in tourism, airports or capital of a country
        Phone interview could reveal some things as well.

    7. Annneee*

      Yep, you don’t have to be native born to speak native level English or whatever language. Presuming someone might fail at something due to their nationality/ origin/ heritage is discriminatory and hurts careers.

        1. Femme d'Afrique*

          Spot on. Going by the LW’s logic, everyone in the UK whose native language is English is automatically a good public speaker! Treat everyone like an individual and these issues won’t pop up.

          I’m wondering if people looked at the names Kofi Annan or Lupita Nyong’o and assumed they weren’t fluent in English and couldn’t speak well in public. Annan was also fluent in French…

        2. Asenath*

          Well, native-born speakers also have a variety of backgrounds in their own language, depending on their amount and type of education and experience using it (for example, if they have had training in formal presentations or experience in theatre or, well, any number of other things!). But without diverting into the topic of prescriptive vs descriptive in language use, there’s another factor in some English-speaking areas. I graduated from high school in Canada in 1970, and was one of the last generation of students in my area to have a traditional grammar-based education in English. The students following me had quite a different curricula, moving away from formal instruction in grammar. In my opinion, that made a big difference, because without formal instruction, you tend to go by what “sounds” right more, and this is a big disadvantage if your background and/or interests didn’t provide you an ear for level (formal/informal/conversational) or instruction in all the associated grammatical structures and even spelling. You don’t even get the language needed to understand an answer to a question like “why does ‘its’ sometimes have an apostrophe and sometimes not?”. Besides making it a bit more difficult to acquire native language skills, this sort of thing makes it harder to learn a second language – I took French classes with younger anglos, and not having this background made their work harder. Although I never became and English scholar, I have often been very grateful to my English teachers (although I wasn’t at the time!) particularly with my old-school language teacher in Grade 8 and my literature teacher in high school.

          1. Femme d'Afrique*

            I said something similar above. Just because someone from my country may not speak English fluently doesn’t mean that I don’t. Access to – and types of education – vary even within countries.

          2. Oh So Anon*

            You finished high school around the same time as my parents and similar-aged relatives, and this is something that they constantly complain about in regards to younger people. They immigrated from elsewhere in the Commonwealth, did the tail end of high school and then maybe university/college in the early 70s – they see themselves as the last cohort to have learned “the Queen’s English” regardless of whether they were in a university-preparatory high school program.

            Something I’ve heard from a couple of them is that when they started managing entry-level workers in the late 70s, they started seeing really serious grammar issues with people a bit younger than them, particularly those who didn’t do much writing past high school. I think you’re right in that the difference they were noticing was less “ugh, kids these days” and more about curriculum changes.

    8. KJ*

      Agreed! The assumption that these people can’t present purely because of where they come from is so off-putting.

    9. Artemesia*

      Anytime you need a skill, particularly an interpersonal or presentation skill you must make that part of the interview process. I have hired a lot of people to teach in universities; they always teach a class for us — we find one of our regular classes that matches their general expertise and have several faculty observe the session. When hiring researchers they always do research presentations in addition to teaching. If presenting is critical then make presenting part of the interview protocol.

    10. Nanani*

      This. A lot of people are like “But native language is easier” as if native bilinguals don’t exist and no one ever achieves fluency in a second or later language.

      English speakers in majority-English environments are in such a bubble.

    11. Observer*

      Assuming they can’t do it as well as you because they don’t have English as their first language is, frankly, discriminatory.

      Also, stupid and unnecessarily limiting. I’d suggest you google a list of non-US born CEOs of American and multi-national companies, then listen to some of their public speaking. You’ll find that their capacity to present well does not significantly differ from the capacity of native English speakers, even when there is a noticeable accent. It’s obviously not just CEOs, but that’s one of the easiest lists to find.

    12. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I had the same reaction.

      A large portion of my sons’ college professors, at two different schools, did not have English as their first language and were not born in the US. That’s just the way things are in the 21st century. Does LW’s workplace want the best candidates, or the ones that sound like LW? the two sets of people are not the same. Choose.

    13. Dahlia*

      Probably a good idea as well to point out that being from the US or UK doesn’t automatically mean your first language is English, either.

    14. Not a Typist*

      If presentations in English are an essential function of the position, is should be stated in all recruiting notices and materials. It should be listed as an essential function on the job description with demonstrated skill as a requirement for hiring.

    15. Nyltiak*

      Agreed. LW3, I am in the hard sciences (Physics and engineering), and I have heard a lot of native and non-native speakers give presentations. I have heard plenty of terrible presentations from both groups, and plenty of good presentations from both groups. Being a good presenter is not correlated with native English skills, as long as the person’s English skills in general are sufficient. If presenting and training are big parts of this role, you should ask your candidates to give a short (but sufficient) technical presentation as part of the interview process, and make sure that you ask them probing questions about training experience, style, and how they deal with common problems you’ve come up against when training.

    16. Kelsi*

      Definitely this. I work with a woman who came to the US and learned English in her early 20s. She still has a strong accent, and sometimes struggles with finding the right English word–but part of her job is presentation, because she’s TERRIFIC at it. She’s incredibly knowledgeable in the field, very personable, and while her accent is strong it’s not at all difficult to understand. She’s a popular presenter and coach with our clients–again, more so than some of our employees who are American-born and speak English as a first language.

    17. Foreigner*

      Agreed. Being foreign-born and English not being their first language does not speak to proficiency. Many people (like me!) can be native English speakers despite English not being our first language or not being born in the U.S.

    18. JD*

      I’m smelling “anyone who has an accent obviously isn’t a good presenter”, which…

      I see a specialist for a medical condition. He has an accent, and sometimes I have to ask him to repeat what he said because of it. My college advisor had an accent, as did many of my other professors — people whose public speaking skills are central to their work. Being able to learn from someone with an accent is an essential business and life skill. Speaking without an accent, isn’t.

  5. nnn*

    I’m so curious about the internal logic of how the friend in #1 thinks it’s a prank. “I fell and dropped my papers! And they thought I fell and dropped my papers!”

    1. Zombie Unicorn*

      If it was a coworker and I realised it was a joke, I’d be tempted to react by taking it really, really seriously.

      Like, call for a first aider every time. Inundate them with information about workplace safety and occupational health assessments. Express concern to their manager that they might get injured.

      That’ll stop it.

      1. Rectilinear Propagation*

        Heck, they *did* get injured!

        Even if no one realizes it’s fake, they might still end up with people wondering if there’s an underlying health issue causing all of their falls.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          There’s a “Hold my beer” aspect to this (actually getting injured in your fake fall) that just isn’t held up by the inherent humor in people in offices tipping over.

          When I was pregnant in deep snow I would very slowly tump over to the side, waving my arms, unable to recover once my center of gravity shifted. My husband assures me it was hilarious.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            A friend of mine and I were walking down a sidewalk one day and she, on a wild hare, boops-a-daisied me (bumped me with her hip, sideways). She caught me at an awkward phase of my stride and I fell right over sideways. It was snowy so I was fine, but I was wearing a heavy coat and had my hands, in mittens, stuffed into flannel-lined pockets–the mittens and the flannel stuck and I couldn’t move my arms. And the sidewalk was slightly higher than the ground so my feet were above the rest of me. And I was laughing hysterically. I couldn’t roll over or I would have been face-down in the snow. All I could do was kick helplessly.

            It was HILARIOUS.

            1. That One Person*

              I sometimes mocked mum walking on the grassy fields by pretending to stumble and fall, but that was a joke between family and I always made sure it was a slow and dramatic fall so I didn’t actually hurt myself.

              Considering friend has already managed to hurt themselves I’d be worried about other injuries they might incur in this weird practice because it just takes the wrong place and/or wrong time to make it become an actual incident when they didn’t intend for that (whether they’re the one getting hurt or someone else is). Even if it doesn’t become an incident, if the coworkers find out then there will be perception repercussions because, as pointed out, it’s a weird ploy. If the friend can’t accept that people will consider them differently upon finding out or that this intended prank could potentially cause a real accident then unfortunately only consequences might make them see reason. Hopefully they simply drop it before something does happen.

        2. Colette*

          That would be my first thought – that the prankster needs medical attention (or has an illness/condition that is causing the falls). Not funny in any way.

          1. Artemesia*

            If this happened several times to a subordinate, I would be sending them to health services if we had such a thing or insisting they come back with a doctor’s clearance to work. There are lots of bad things that lead early in their course to falling down, MS comes to mind and I would be worried that this might be the problem. There is nothing funny about this. (not that a fall in some circumstances might not be funny — but not falling down in the office repeatedly)

            1. boo bot*

              I actually wonder if something really is wrong, and the friend is talking about it as if it’s a joke just as a way to bring it up to his friend?

              I realize that sounds unlikely, but people react to stress in odd ways, and the idea that it’s actually a joke seems even less likely. On the other hand, people have odd senses of humor, too.

              1. OP #1*

                Hi, OP #1 here! I’m about 99.9% certain it was truly faked falling, based on my past relationship with them. They pride themselves on being a jokester.

            2. OP #1*

              So we’re siblings, and our mom actually has progressive MS. My older sibling (not the one written about here) and I have a real fear of one day developing symptoms. Our mom hasn’t been able to move her legs in years, but there have been past traumatic moments of her falling that still upset me. I believe them that it’s a joke and not truly MS symptoms (although anything is possible), but it does make this “prank” especially tone deaf and insensitive to me.

                1. OP #1*

                  Sibling, they/them pronouns. I said friend initially for a little anonymity but felt it important to give context to the MS comment as that really struck me.

              1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

                I would be concerned that your sibling is exhibiting signs that they aren’t emotionally processing your mother’s illness in a healthy manner. Attention seeking for imaginary balance/coordination issues that mimic your mother’s symptoms isn’t a good coping mechanism for anxiety/fear/grief? and might be a sign of mental health distress rather than just “prankster” and “insensitive.”

              2. I GOTS TO KNOW!*

                Are they doing like Three Stooges prat falls? Like, ridiculous over the top falls that are supposed to be funny to see? Otherwise…. I truly. truly, truly do not understand how falling and dropping papers frequently is a prank.

              3. Kms1025*

                this makes it immature and mean spirited, i’m sorry about your mom and your natural fear of the disease itself…your sibling needs to grow up and knock it off

              4. Flash Bristow*

                Well, blimey. Because my instinct was that maybe they *are* ill and just pretend to you it’s a joke so you don’t worry – but presumably you see them often enough in different circs to know they are perfectly capable of walking unhindered when they want?

                Yeah, not funny – especially now you mention the MS reference, that’s just baffling. Woah. I’d tell them to cut it out but presumably it’s gone so far that their work colleagues would be enquiring whether they’d got better, etc. Yikes.

              5. Not So NewReader*

                OP, I am with you on this one. The prank is in super bad taste given the context.

                However, because you are sibs and not coworkers my take on how to handle it is a bit different.

                “Well, thanks for letting me know, Sib, that if you are on the floor I can just step over you and go about my day. Good to know that it’s a prank and not a 911 call.”

                And, I would also find away to work this one into conversation:
                “Sib, I am warning you not to do this at work. WHEN, you get written up and/or lose your job please don’t involve me in those stories. I don’t want to listen to it because I am saying right now that this is a bad plan.”

                I am an only child but I do know that some times people can be too close to each other to help each other. By close I mean, they are around each other so much that they can tend to tune each other out. Couples can fall into this pit also. You do have the option of drawing a line that looks like this, “Do what you want. WHEN it blows up on you, do NOT involve me.” Then hold the line. Sibling starts telling a story about falling down on the job, just say, “Hey, don’t wanna hear it. We talked about this before. I am done talking about it. Do as you wish.”

                If I were sibling’s boss, I’d want a doctor’s note and I would be pressing HR/my boss to make a plan to do that.

                Sometimes, OP, we just have to let things run their course. You tried your best here.

              6. e271828*

                Context really shifted the framing on this one!

                Your sibling needs counseling. Therapy. They are seeking attention by mimicking symptoms of a real disease that is really harming someone close to them. This is troubling behavior and it is not a joke.

                As you know, MS falls are terrifying to witness. I assume your sibling is copying them from experience. What they are doing is cruel and manipulative. At some point management is going to have to take notice, as a business cannot have people being injured at work and falls like this are hazardous. Your sibling may not have thought of the humiliating consequences of being exposed as a faker.

              7. NightHeron*

                Do any of your sibling’s co-workers know about your mom’s condition? If so, I would say this escalates to being especially bad and manipulative. If not, it’s still weird and insensitive. With the sibling dynamic at play, I wonder about the context this was presented to you: did they say this knowing it would upset you? What do they potentially “get” by telling you this: attention? Concern? A certain reaction? Family dynamics and communication can be a challenge and often things are expressed as a way to step around an issue people don’t want to directly talk about.

                At any rate, I feel for your situation; we have/had MS in my family and in addition to being devastating for the person afflicted, it brought out some really nutty opinions and behaviors of others. The unpredictability of the illness really can send shockwaves through a family. Best to you.

            1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

              +1 That’s where my mind would lead if a young, seemingly healthy person started just falling all the time.

      2. One of the Sarahs*

        If they’re in a big organisation, I’d hope they get asked to complete health & safety incident reports (which are annoying to do, but so useful in make workplaces safer).

        Mind you, if a friend was doing this, I’d be warning them that if colleagues guess they’re faking, it’s much more likely to look like they’re trying to scam a workplace accident payout, are mocking people with disabilities, or are just someone willing to risk actual injury to laugh at colleague’s reactions – all of these are *terrible* looks and will destroy their workplace reputation.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          THIS. I would think your friend is mocking one of our co-workers who have difficulties with balance and/or bad joints. And I would avoid your friend in the future.

        2. Acolyte of Artemis*

          The company I work for requires a report for every fall, to keep on OSHA’s good side. Faking those as a “prank” would be very very bad, like disciplinary action bad.

          I think the LW should be relieved this person is ignoring them – you don’t want to be known as friends with someone like that.

          1. Barney Stinson*

            If you hurt yourself at work, even if it was done on purpose, it’s covered by OSHA and your management will not be amused at their insurance being affected.
            And if all that happens because someone did something dangerous on purpose, someone will get fired.

            Very, very bad idea.

        3. Antilles*

          Honestly, I’m actually fairly surprised this hasn’t happened already. If it was just one fall, then whatever, it happens, most places would just shrug and call it a one-off…but this is happening fairly frequently, enough so that I would have expected Safety, HR, or their manager would have gotten involved with some combination of Near Miss Reporting and “not to push, but is there any medical issue we should know about?”.

      3. RUKiddingMe*

        And since it keeps happening…maybe he has a neurological thing happening…? Might want to see a doctor snd get tested and cleared before coming back to work.

      4. Bilateralrope*

        I’m a fan of pranks that backfire because the target behaved exactly like they should if the prankster was being honest.

        Like a supervisor pranking new employees by telling them to get some assumed to be fictional part. Until the day he gets an employee who does exactly as he was told and places an order for them. An expensive order.

        1. Sharikacat*

          I’d read recently on one of the notalwaysright pages about a young employee at a fast food place who was told to mop the freezer. It got the restaurant shut down for a few days by the health department.

      5. Triplestep*

        Everyone seems to have skimmed over the part where the prankster hasn’t told his co-workers that this is a prank. Which makes him not a “prankster” but a “faker”.

        1. AKchic*

          That’s my line of thinking too.
          Nobody else is in on the joke, therefore it is not a joke. It is a “trick”, yes; but really, the so-called “prankster” is only fooling themself if they think that anyone else will find the humor in this so-called “prank”.

          Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like LW 1 is a coworker to this person. Honestly, with such poor judgement, I’m wondering why LW 1 is friends with such a person. They (the “prankster”) are showing poor judgement, a willingness to lie for attention, a willingness to allow others to submit false reports on their behalf (any Near Miss Reporting, accident reporting, etc.) and to get injured on the job for their own purposeful amusement (that wrist injury) which may very well lead to a financial gain (worker’s compensation). That is some petty, attention-seeking behavior that I’d be questioning in my personal friendships.

          1. Flash Bristow*

            LW1 has commented that they are actually siblings. Harder to unfriend your relation (tho not impossible, obv, but the situation is somewhat more complicated).

      6. TravelJunkie*

        I’m of two minds on how to handle. I would tell prankster to stay down until we get help, call HR to alert them so they can get whatever paperwork started to document the fall, etc. but that gives prankster too much attention which is what they’re looking for. The alternative would be to not reward this behavior at all by ignoring it. Act like nothing happened and maybe they’d stop it.

        Here’s something idiot prankster should consider. How this nonsense can affect a coworker. I have a family member with severe epilepsy and has 3 different types of seizures including drop seizures where with no warning he crashes to the floor. He has suffered many injuries over the years including a devastating traumatic brain injury that has left him with severe impairment. My entire growing up we were on edge because you never knew when a seizure would happen. I definitely have residual issues from this and if I had a coworker doing this nonsense it would be like reliving the stress of all those years.

      7. Semprini!*

        Google up medical conditions that could be causing it! Then start trying to sell them essential oils to address those conditions!

      8. SheLooksFamiliar*

        My father used to think it was funny to clutch his chest and act like he couldn’t breathe, then laugh at the confusion. Work, church, the grocery store, anywhere he could cause a stir.

        He did it at an amusement park while getting off a roller coaster. The ride operators immediately shut down the ride, rushed him to a bench, radioed for EMTs, and did things responsible people do when they think someone is having a heart attack. My mother kept saying he was just joking, but no one stopped what they were doing. Who would fake a heart attack? Once the EMTs got there with their equipment, he finally admitted he was ‘just joking.’ At least he never did it again.

        1. AngryAngryAlice*

          That must have been such a satisfying end to this “prank” for all of you who had to put up with something so stressful for years on end!

        2. Dr. Pepper*

          Serve him right! Glad he finally decided to knock it off. How scary and stressful for everyone else. Tee hee, you thought I was dying, oh how funny! He should be glad it didn’t end in a The Boy Who Cried Wolf situation.

        3. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I felt so bad for the people trying to help him, they were nice even after they found out he was ‘joking.’ Irritated, but polite about it. And yes, it was somewhat satisfying to see him deal with the aftermath.

          1. Zelda*

            “Irritated, but polite”? He’s lucky he didn’t wind up with criminal charges for wasting emergency resources!

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              This happened a long time ago, and I don’t think he would have been charged even though he deserved it. He did apologize to the ride operators, and they were far more mature than he was about the whole thing.

        4. wittyrepartee*

          Ugh. And jeeze… there’s such a high cost if he ends up living out the parable of the boy who cried wolf.

        5. NotMyRealName*

          And that’s why everybody thought Redd Foxx was just doing a bit when he had his massive heart attack on the set.

      9. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        I fell at work. My boss rode with me to the hospital. She got back to the office and six messages from HR. If someone played this “prank” in front of her, she’d lose her mind.
        OP’s friend should go to work with the trio who thought pretending to have the coworker arrested for fraud was hilarious. They deserve each other.

      1. Owl*

        This is exactly what I was thinking of! I was picturing them doing a really goofy, flailing fall down every time. I can totally see how that would develop as a funny inside joke between friends. What I don’t get is dragging in other people or thinking it would be funny out of whatever context you’ve created in your head.

    2. Marni*

      My take on #1 is that by “pranking” the Friend means “entertaining myself by feeling superior to suckers who fall for my trick.” More like a prank TV show than like the usual in-person pranks. They’re imagining an audience laughing along with them at their “stupid” colleagues. This also explains why they got so upset with the Letter Writer for not appreciating their “humor.”

      And I realize I have now overused the scare quotes…

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Yup. considering that he’s now throwing a sulky shitfit because someone told him his prank isn’t funny, this clearly isn’t someone who actually has a sense of humor.

        1. NYWeasel*

          Agree with this line of thought but I also feel like there might be something there about forcing people to care for them. I know when I was younger and felt ignored, the thought of having people concerned on my behalf was very attractive. I’m a pretty unassuming sort of person, so this mostly manifested in me feeling jealous when other people got lots of attention, but I could see a different type of person aggressively trying to force the issue. Telling the friend it was all a joke may have been a way to assess how deep a hole they’ve been digging, and when the friend was horrified, the “prankster” might have doubled down rather than admit there is anything wrong.

      2. Owl*

        This is exactly why I hate most pranks. I love funny ones! And I have no problem being laughed at. But most that I’ve seen are people saying something that’s in no way funny and then mocking other people for believing them. “Ah ha ha ha you thought the meeting was really cancelled! What an idiot!” And then mocking others as “too sensitive” when they react by refusing to listen to other things they say. It’s all just a weird creepy power play in my mind, where you prove your own dominance and try to make someone feel embarrassed for believing something totally normal (ie I fell down).

        1. Sharikacat*

          If you’re going to prank a coworker, you have to know the coworker is right for it. This means they need to have both the same sense of humor as you (so they’ll ultimately find it funny and not mean) and be in the right mood to receive it. While The Office’s Jim had hilarious pranks on Dwight for the audience, that’s a clear case of harassment in the real world. Even if Dwight shared the sense of humor, you don’t want to find your office supplies in the vending machine on the same day you lose a family member.

          Which all really goes to show that workplace pranks are almost never a good idea. If everything doesn’t go 100% right, someone could very well get fired.

        2. Vicky Austin*

          Whenever someone tells me to stop being so sensitive, I respond by saying, “I’ll stop being so sensitive when you stop being so insensitive.”

      3. Dr. Pepper*

        It has that flavor, doesn’t it? Like there’s an invisible audience that’s supposed to laugh at the coworkers and how they were fooled or something. I’ve never liked those prank TV shows because they cross the line almost immediately from someone doing something obviously outrageous a la Tom Green and his baguettes to making innocent people think you (or they) are going to die/get hurt/be arrested.

      4. LunaLena*

        This was my take on it too. I’ve always thought that pranks like this are similar to prank calls, where the caller gets the listener all worked up about something while silently laughing at them for “falling for it,” and they always just seem mean-spirited and not funny to me. At least radio show prank calls are fake, though.

      5. TootsNYC*

        I think you can lay the blame for the excess scare quotes squarely at the feet of this “prankster”

      6. Not So NewReader*

        Right on, Marni.

        The story of the little boy who cried wolf comes to my mind.
        Some day that sibling might be laying on the floor in need of actual help and no one bothers to help them.
        And right here is why that happened.

        I have some pretty scary stories about coworkers who went to the far side of the building to do something, and fell while they were there. Coworkers laid there for HOURS before someone went looking for them. In one instance a cohort had two broken limbs, some industrial size pain and could not move or lift themselves. Coworker laid there for hours waiting for help.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t get it either. My little brother did fake falls to get my sister and me in trouble when we were children. An adult shouldn’t be doing this.

      If I were the coworkers, I’d just make the fall as inconvenient as possible for the friend. Act concerned, insist on filling out an accident report, etc. “I’m okay.” “No no, you must have landed hard. You need an ice pack. Let’s have maintenance come look at that carpet you keep tripping on.”

      1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

        My brain went to a similar place. (A weird, highly convoluted and specific place…)
        I went to school with someone who was bullied. The bully would trip this person, making them drop their school books, while the bully and friends laughed and said it was only a prank. This led to the victim learning to respond to these “pranks” by laughing along. They also learned that it was a way of getting attention – making others laugh.
        Now, the person I went to school with grew out of this (it started at aged 11, had stopped by age 14), but it doesn’t take a great stretch to see someone who didn’t grow out of it.

        I’d almost go in the opposite direction and ignore the behaviour. When they scream in pain, call a first aider, but otherwise, stop giving them attention. They’ll stop when they realise no one is helping them pick up papers any more.

      2. Colette*

        In fact, if you fall for no reason, that’s a sign that you need medical attention. So I’d be strongly recommending a doctor’s visit, at a minimum.

    4. Penny*

      I have an 8 year old who thinks *this exact thing* is the height of hilarity. He will stumble through the house causing chaos, and then ask me “mama, do you think I really fell? Mama did I fool you? No, don’t say maybe, tell me yes or no!”

      And I don’t post this just to say that the prank faller is immature. This is a thing people really do in the world. Just that those people, in my experience, tend to be 8. And it’s probably almost bedtime, they should be brushing their teeth, and are in that kind of silly/manic state kids get when they are overly tired but don’t think they are overly tired. It’s exasperating when it’s my child. I can’t imagine how it would feel if it were an adult I were trying to work with, or heaven forbid, manage.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        Oh, no, you mean my five year old isn’t going to outgrow this kind of thing for at least three years?

        1. AKchic*

          Each child at their own pace. Some start earlier, some start later. Some finish quickly, while others stay in one stage longer and move through a different stage faster.

          We all have our own path to walk in the woods. This phase will pass when it passes.
          -Mom of too many stunt-doubles

      2. Goggle Eyes*

        I’m just imagining that episode of The Office where Andy is trying to entertain the new boss by careening around dumping cheese puffs on himself, pouring hot coffee down his clothes, and drinking dish soap. Cringe.

      3. Silly Putty*

        My 8 year old does the same thing but will say “mama, do you think i actually fell over? Say you do think I actually fell over!” and once I say yes, will then tell me all about how they only pretended to fall over. LOLZ. Kids.

      4. nnn*

        I wonder if it would be effective to tell him that he fooled you as a “prank”?

        Kid: “Mama, did I fool you?”
        Mom: “Yes, you fooled me”
        Kid: “HA HA! I fooled you!”
        Mom: “You didn’t really fool me, I just said you did as a prank! HA HA! I fooled YOU!”

        I have no idea whether this would disarm it or make it worse.

      5. Toddler Humor*

        Yes!!! My brother will fake fall when running around with my kids. He runs and crashes into a couch or chair or something else soft. They think it’s super funny. They’re toddlers.

        And, with my kids at least, it’s the obviously fake falls that are funny. The stumbling, arms waving, giant crash kind. Not a real looking one!

    5. Samwise*

      He’s having a secret laugh because he fooled them! I thought pranksters liked revealing their cleverness to their victims, but apparently this guy is getting some sort of smug satisfaction that people are helping someone who doesn’t need help.
      Well, not that kind of help, anyway.

    6. NotAnotherManager!*

      I had the same thought. Maybe my sense of humor isn’t sophisticated enough to get it, but, if I had a coworker who repeatedly fell down, I’d consider that they had a medical condition that may be affecting their balance before going to “hilarious” prank.

    7. Nanani*

      I’m puzzling over this too.

      All I can come up with is attention-seeking, maybe in general, or maybe there is a specific colleague whose reaction to falls the prankster particularly enjoys.

      1. Nea*

        My bet is attention seeking in general. Suddenly the prankster is the center of attention, even more important than work, plus people are performing a minor service by picking up all the papers.

      2. Flash Bristow*

        They, um… don’t get to look up skirts from their position lying prone on the floor, do they?

        I wish I hadn’t thought of that. :(

    8. ErinFromAccounting*

      Yeah, I’m most bothered by how stupid and not funny this prank is. Who does the ‘prankster’ expect to entertain with this stunt? I guess nobody but themself.

    9. Anita Brayke*

      I’d just ask if they’re okay, and when they start laughing and being all “yah!!! Hahahah!! Got ya!!” I’d say “what an odd thing to do!” and move on.

      At my office of 5 people, two of them hide under desks, in empty rooms, in boxes, or behind the door in the bathroom so they can jump out and literally scream at the top of my lungs, sometimes even when we have customers. I’ve told everyone I have PTSD and am not responsible for what comes out of my mouth when this happens. I’ve tried to be nice, but apparently my PTSD is a big joke, too! Who knew?? Yes, I’m looking…

      1. Essess*

        If they are deliberately trying to trigger your PTSD, that would be a definite harassment complaint and hostile work environment and I’d be reporting to the EEOC.

    10. Personal Best In Consecutive Days Lived*

      Prat falls can be hilarious but I would never do it at work. This sort of joke counts as horseplay (in this case you are the target).
      Now the next safety has an item to discuss that say “A worker sprained their wrist after they fell down on purpose. Recommended action is reiterating he firm no horseplay policy.” Or something.
      Also if you do this enough people will assume you’re goofing off so you are screwed if you ever hurt yourself at work for real.

  6. One of THOSE immigrants!*

    Hey LW with the public speaking skills question.

    Worldwide, being multilingual is the norm, not the exception. Many people are charismatic, quick-witted and well-spoken in 2 or 3 different languages and cultures. Also, assuming that you’re from the English-speaking world, a lot of these immigrant candidates may have learned English starting in primary school and grown up partly consuming English-language media.

    From this litany you might guess that I’ve worked a lot of public-facing positions in a second language. And, you’re right. I’m glad that all of my bosses back during my time as an immigrant, from bar owners to tour companies to art galleries to my university to firms in my field, were open-minded enough to talk with me and assess my language skills rather than ruling me out by my background or the number of years I’d lived in their country.

    Please consider doing the same and taking Alison’s suggestion.

    P. S. An accent also is not necessarily a barrier to effective and polished public speaking.

    1. Sandy*

      I work in a super-multicultural environment in Europe where literally everyone is from somewhere else. Thousands of us! My European colleagues often have better English than the Canadians, Americans, and Brits do. They have learned it systematically where our teachers just assumed we would pick up the rules of grammar by reading.

      There is an assumption implicit in the OP’s question— that Americans don’t have accents. Most of my colleagues have also gone to universities in the English-speaking world for undergraduate or graduate study. I always giggle (internally!) when one of my European colleagues comes out with a completed unexpected accent in English, like the Portuguese colleague who went to Louisiana State or my Polish colleague that grew up in Western Canada.

      1. One of THOSE immigrants*

        Yeah, I used to regularly fix grammar issues in native speakers’ work just because I had the actual training to do it. Until I got good enough to speak instinctively, and forgot a lot of it.

        And yes, nobody’s speech or presentation sis neutral. We all have an accent and a culturally inflected style of speaking and interacting. Having lived in different places or grown up in an immigrant family can be quite the advantage when it comes to choosing how you present yourself, because it builds awareness of how it’s all relative!

      2. TL -*

        Oof, I wouldn’t say speak it better if you mean grammatically correct. “Better” depends on the listener.

        The point of language is to communicate well and the rules are more like social norms than laws – they change a lot and frequently. If I’m reading a native English piece from Britain or New Zealand but assuming it’s American, some of the perfectly correct phrasing and grammar choices will feel off, and off-putting. (50 shades of grey is guilty of this a lot, actually.) And Kiwis who read my writing make very similar comments, that certain phrases should be rephrased because they feel “off”.

      3. cncx*

        same! i work with a colleague who studied abroad in New Orleans. He has one of the New Orleans accents in English, it’s hilarious and so cute.

      4. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Yes.
        I’ve known people from the US who couldn’t understand people from other parts of the US. I’ve known someone who had to translate English to English because the guy from the Bronx and the guy from Glasgow couldn’t understand each other in person. And they had already been collaborating by email!
        And even though I have an English grandmother and cousins in the UK, I have to put on the subtitles for anything with British actors because I can’t follow their accent.

        1. MsM*

          My mother has a fun story about the time she tried to buy tickets for the Sydney Olympics, and she and the operator eventually broke down laughing because they couldn’t understand each other’s English.

        2. Librarianne*

          Yup! I speak Spanish as a second language, and when I was in the Canary Islands I had to translate between someone from mainland Spain and someone who lived on the Canaries. Apparently the accent on the islands is similar to Mexican Spanish, which is what I learned, and I spoke slowly enough that both of the native Spanish speakers could understand me. We all thought it was a weird, funny experience.

        1. londonedit*

          Two of my favourites are Peter Schmeichel (Danish/Mancunian) and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer (Norwegian/Mancunian). Absolutely brilliant.

        2. Essess*

          I had a Vietnamese coworker who learned English from a Texan resulting in a vietnamese-accented Texas drawl. It is such a great and unexpected combination.

      5. TootsNYC*

        My German prof said he did grad work in Germany, and the guy in his class who was most fluent in the language had a really thick Texas accent.

    2. Tyche*

      Yes to this!
      I’d like to add, as a non-native English speaker, that many native English speakers have accents and bad ones too!!!
      I learnt a more “British English” in school both in grammar and in pronounce, and I was recently speaking with an woman from the USA (I know the city she’s living, but she wasn’t born there) and I almost it didn’t seem to me English at all, an when I call in Australia they have another accent too, and I won’t speak about my fellow Scottish friends. I imagine it’s normal even for native English speakers to be taken aback from the various accents.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        In college I visited cousins in England. They put me on the train for the next stage of the trip and said “You’ll know you’ve crossed the Scottish border when you can’t understand the conductor anymore.” It made me smile because I’d had a time adjusting to his West Midlands accent when I first got there.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          We were in Norway during one of the summer Olympics. When we traveled to one of the bigger cities, the hotel got the BBC. We were confused for a moment because the announcer’s accent sounded like Norwegian except we could understand him. He was Scottish. Turns out a Scottish accent has about the same lilt as Norwegian.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Here here, with an extra upvote that accents are not barriers to effective and polished speaking! (Especially because we all have accents.)

    4. Master debater*

      >Worldwide, being multilingual is the norm, not the exception.

      As a data point, according to ilanguage.com, 40% of the world population is monolingual. While this statistic means that 60% are, in some form, bi- or multi-lingual, it’s still high enough that I would question whether you can call it a “norm.”

      >P. S. An accent also is not necessarily a barrier to effective and polished public speaking.

      An accent can often enhance public speaking. (This is why Arnold Schwartzenegger actively tried to retain his accent while in Hollywood and in public life.) Parliamentary debate teams with recognizable accents (Singaporean, subcontinental, African, Texan, etc.) often have an built-in advantage. However, those teams often consist of native English speakers or near-native English speakers. Truly bilingual people (e.g., Canadian politicians who can debate in both English and French) certainly exist — but I think it would be premature to say that level of fluency has no bearing on presentation skills.

      Several examples from international diplomacy come to mind. In the Arab-Israeli conflict, many Arab diplomats often felt outgunned when appearing on TV talk shows with Israeli diplomats, because many of the latter had native English skills. The USSR, and then Russia, often put Vladimir Posner on those TV talk shows, because he was a child of Soviet diplomats who grew up in the US and had native fluency.

      I work in international law and am based out of an Asian country. On a recent deal, I spent about 30% of my time editing “Tinglish” out of legal documents. All the descriptions below of non-native speakers correcting native speakers’ grammar do not, generally speaking, jive with reality.

      To be sure, I am not saying that non-native speakers cannot give excellent presentations. But being a native speaker remains a huge advantage.

      1. TL -*

        This is generally my experience. Being a native speaker is a significant advantage, though being a non-native speaker is not an insurmountable barrier by any means.

        Also lack of a (foreign) accent can be a hindrance to ESL speakers, as the English mistakes sound “wrong” in a way most native speaker’s mistakes don’t and thus the assumptions listeners make can be harsher.

        1. Nanani*

          1) Everyone has an accent. Some are just valued more than others.

          2) Isn’t that just conceding to biased people ahead of time? A nebulous someone might maybe judge a person with a given accent, so you want to judge them now, in a job interview?
          Wait no that’s just you being biased and passing the buck.

          1. TL -*

            What? I was talking about ESL speakers who speak with an accent matching a native-English country not refusing to hire someone with an obviously foreign accent.

      2. Barlet for President*

        To be clear, they don’t jive with YOUR reality. But, your reality is not universal. My ten years working abroad as an American is not the same “reality” that you describe.

        Frankly, you seem very intent on implying that your native English speaking status makes you “better” than the rest of your colleagues, and that’s quite unfortunate.

        1. TL -*

          To be fair, if your ten years of working abroad were spent communicating English to primarily ESL speakers, then your version of good English communication is going to be a lot more rule-bound and look very different from someone who is communicating primarily to native English speakers, particularly if those native speakers are from a common cultural background.

      3. Emma*

        We have similar backgrounds, it sounds like! I’m very grateful that I did my LLB at an international university with close ties to the EU institutions, where the culture was that legal documents should be clear, concise and effective, and that perfect adherence to the multitude of ‘rules’ of English-language legal drafting is useful only insofar as it serves the overriding goal of clearly communicating the point. If I can tell that a document was written by someone who speaks English as a second language, I was taught not to care unless there are mistakes or uses of language which are ambiguous or open to misinterpretation – and when those issues do exist, it’s entirely appropriate to replace that language, even if it appears native-written, with something which is clearly ESL but more clear and effective.

        My undergrad dissertation could be not too inaccurately summarised as “the field of law is up itself about linguistic rules which serve more to define an elitist in-group than to actually ensure the utility, reliability and consistency of interpretation of important instruments, here’s how I think we should fix that” and I stand by every word of it!

      4. Baru Cormorant*

        Thailand has some of the worst English proficiency ratings in East Asia. Do you think that’s a good standard to judge “non-native English speakers” by?

        Native English is certainly an advantage (thanks colonialism). But that’s a different question than is being asked, which is “is fluency good enough?”

        1. Baru Cormorant*

          I realize this may be a little harsh. I apologize.

          I don’t disagree that having proficiency in English is a game-changer in the world. And having the privilege of having learned it as your first or primary language as a child is a huge advantage. It’s why you and I have jobs.

          But (1) there are all kinds of “native” and “non native” speakers with varying abilities among the 4 language skills nevermind outside of language skills. And when you’re the only native speaker in a room full of not-even-close-to-native speakers, we can forget that it’s not a clear line and our experience is not everyone’s.

          And more importantly (2) language/cultural norms don’t negate the content of a message. Surely you wouldn’t say someone should judge knowledge of the law based on how much Tinglish is in their writing. That’s the situation OP describes.

        2. Master debater*

          “Thailand has some of the worst English proficiency ratings in East Asia. Do you think that’s a good standard to judge “non-native English speakers” by?”

          I submit it’s more representative than speakers of various Germanic languages that are closely related to English — particularly if you’re doing business outside of Europe.

          1. Baru Cormorant*

            Sure but I’m not speaking from a Germanic language perspective. I’m speaking as a native English speaker who has worked in Asia for 10 years.

      5. EventPlannerGal*

        The examples that you are bringing up here and in other comments are all highly specific to your background as a debater, which to be frank is not the type of speech under discussion here. Debates and political talk shows all value being able to speak quickly and off-the-cuff under high pressure with great confidence, with an almost improv quality and a lot of interaction with other participants. In terms of speed and confidence, yes, a native speaker probably would have some advantage there.

        However, we have no evidence that the job under discussion involves anything like that. Professional presentations and speech-making are in fact basically the opposite of that. Presentations are usually planned in advance with an opportunity to practice beforehand, sometimes can involve notes or other memory aids, and are not usually combative in style and involve limited audience interaction (i.e perhaps a closing Q&A). Often presenters will need to be able to reliably give the same presentation over and over again with minimal changes. IME, the qualities valued there are pacing, clarity of speech and knowing the material. There is no inherent reason that a fluent but non-native speaker would be at a disadvantage for any of those, and might be at an advantage considering that native-speakers can be more prone to rush or ramble.

        Basically, I’m unsure why you are convinced that the OP is looking for a parliamentary debater.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          (And before you say it – yes, the OP mentions “fielding questions and comments”, but in the context of a professional presentation or training session that will still require a different type of speaking skills than a politician being interrogated on national TV.)

        2. MsM*

          Yeah, personally, I question the LW’s focus on “eloquence” as a mandatory quality. Making a speech that sounds good to a native speaker when the goal is to make sure non-natives understand the concept is not necessarily going to get the job done as effectively as simple but direct.

          1. DreamingInPurple*

            Same here… My organization makes and services a specific type of teapot, and our site is the training hub for teapot field service engineers from all over the globe. None of them – absolutely none – care about whether the Teapot Service Trainer is eloquent or uses spotless grammar. They just want to be able to understand what the training means and how to follow its steps, and presenting that in an easily understandable way is a very different set of skills than debating or writing legal documents. I understand why “Master debater” keeps bringing up debate since they work in a legal setting and the two skill sets are actually connected there, but that isn’t relevant for many jobs and doesn’t seem to be the case for the OP.

            1. Master debater*

              I understand why “Master debater” keeps bringing up debate since they work in a legal setting and the two skill sets are actually connected there, but that isn’t relevant for many jobs and doesn’t seem to be the case for the OP.

              My post inspired a lot more commentary than I thought it would, but I’d like to reply to this particular point. I actually think that public speaking skills are more important in a business context than a legal context (*writing,* as opposed to speaking, matters more in the latter).

              A few years ago I was invited to judge the final round of a business plan competition in a big Asian country. There were about ten companies that pitched and an equal number of judges, some of whom were native English speakers and some of whom were not. There were a handful of companies that clearly had intriguing ideas but simply did not have the language skills to convey them effectively in the pitch, must less respond to the judges’ questions. The reality is that those companies would have been well-advised to have a native or fluent English speaker present the pitch.

              Company pitches are a big deal — I would say the lifeblood — of buy-side investing, particularly in the early-to-growth stages where companies tend to approach investment funds, rather than the other way around. The reason I bring up the parliamentary debate example is that I think parliamentary debate, much more so than evidence-debate formats, is excellent preparation for these kinds of pitches — you have to learn how to respond quickly and “think on your feet” in response to what the investors want to know.

              1. DreamingInPurple*

                We’re coming at this from two different perspectives informed by our backgrounds, so I get why we don’t see eye to eye on this. In my industry, there are many positions that would involve both presentations to executives and training of other employees but have nothing to do with giving a company pitch (the presentations to executives would be technical updates). I haven’t read an update on exactly what type of presentation is being given, but OP states above that the first round of interviews is a pre-recorded video interview – which would hardly test for ability to think on one’s feet, and makes me wonder whether the position is closer to what I’m assuming than what you are, but only OP knows for sure.

                Either way, if OP really needs that level of facility and ability to massage language but they’re consistently not seeing it in their candidates, they should go back to the job posting and see what they can do to make sure their candidate pool reflects what they want. If they are able to define what is needed and set up some type of a rubric for grading these presentations, then they will have actual, appropriate feedback to take back to HR. It’s asking and evaluating for something nebulous and undefined (and possibly not even explicitly included in the job description, I don’t know) that has the potential to get them into trouble. If, on the other hand, they don’t actually need it, then they should hire someone based on the skills they do need and then help to develop them in that direction.

          2. Dankar*

            I worry about the focus on eloquence and articulation, as well, as those have often been used as subtle markers that any non-white English speakers (including native-speakers!) are unqualified.

            This whole thread is amusing to me, as it reminds me of my beloved thesis advisor from Baton Rouge. He consistently gets dinged on RateMyProfessor as being too difficult to understand, because he has that Louisiana accent. He’s most certainly a native speaker, and an English prof to boot!

          3. Genny*

            It depends on what kind of public speaking the candidates will be doing and who the audience is. Eloquence is probably less important for a highly technical presentation, but would be important in a persuasive speech (e.g. a sales pitch, advocacy, etc.). It’s also just one factor of many that goes into successful public speaking, so it’s definitely worth making sure you’re (LW) aren’t overvaluing it at the expense of other skills that might be more important in achieving the end goal.

            1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

              This is a great point. One can be fluent in English but have such a heavy accent, it’s difficult to understand. My spouse orked at a university with many non native speaking professors. It only became in issue when some had such heavy accents they could not be understood by their students They were fluent in English but very difficult to understand. I can see OP worrying about that. Fluency means little if you can’t be understood.

        3. aebhel*

          This. And it’s a highly specific skill-set that even plenty of extremely articulate native speakers totally lack. I’m a native speaker, and I can write and present perfectly well, but I would freeze immediately under those circumstances.

          IME as a *writer* who regularly deals with other writers around the world, fluent non-native speakers are often very good at spotting grammatical errors and oddities that native speakers miss (My big one? Lay/lie. In my spoken American accent, they sound almost identical, so I have a habit of mixing them up while writing. My Israeli beta-reader does not have that issue, so she catches them. And yeah, she has a non-native accent, but her written fluency is indistinguishable from a native speaker’s).

    5. German Girl*

      I mostly work in German these days but my husband’s work has always been mostly in English because his colleagues are from all over the world. As a result, even though he’s never lived outside of Germany and I have, his English is fluent while mine is starting to rust and I have to keep it up by reading and commenting here.

      So you really can’t judge someone’s language skills by where they’ve lived and worked.

      Speaking skills (re-)develop quickly with practice. I guess I’d be back at near native level after a month or so of living in the US again. But I’d have no problem giving a technical presentation today. There’d be the occasional quirky sentence, but from experience as a listener that doesn’t usually make it less intelligible or enjoyable.

    6. Shamy*

      This comment really hits the nail on the head with the problem with OP’s thinking. I hope I don’t sound unkind, but the assumptions stated along with the “I want someone similar to me” mindset are a bit concerning and imply some (possible) unconscious biases. This kind of mindset can hold back a number of people that could be greatly successful in the role. OP3, I hope you will look more at what the role really requires and try to see ALL your applicants abilities. I think that if your initial reaction is to reject a candidate due to assumptions about their native language, it might be good for you to take a second look at their application along with doing a bit of self introspection.

  7. sheworkshardforthemoney*

    LW#1 I truly detest pranks especially in offices with a captive audience and a hierarchy. There is nothing worse than fake smiling through a “joke” that no one finds amusing. It’s very telling that your friend is angry and not speaking to you because you expressed your opinion of their “pranks.” I’m betting that a few people in their office have caught on to them and don’t find them amusing at all.

    1. Decima Dewey*

      I’m a tad amused that LW #1’s friend continues doing this, even though she injured her wrist in one of her fake falls. I’d consider that a hint to stop.

      Perhaps in time she’ll move to more professional “pranks”. Like making people look down and flicking their noses.

      1. charo*

        I assumed it was a “he” who is very needy. A Michael Scott from “The Office.” And I’d be wary of a “friendship”; his being upset w/you might be a blessing.

  8. Zombie Unicorn*

    #2 “She said that in a professional position you can’t expect to ask questions as that would be others doing my work for me.“

    You need to look for a new job, because you work with people who are not reasonable.

    It isn’t bad to ask questions. In a normal workplace not staffed by people who make comments like the above, it would be true to say that there ways of asking them are better than others. There can be a bit of judgement and impulse control involved, whether it’s waiting to ask questions all together (rather than emailing every time you think of a question) or setting up a quick meeting. You mentioned instant messages and email, so I did wonder if perhaps you’d sent a bunch of different communications which might not come across so well.

    But it’s not normal to expect you to divine things about the assignment, and it’s not normal to get upset and ream you out.

    Most people would want you to ask questions rather than spending time doing a project in what might not be the right way. People aren’t doing your job for you if they tell you what they want you to do.

      1. Zombie Unicorn*

        It’s a director though, and I think OP is in a bind here – said director has told them to stop asking people questions, and may hold them to that in general.

        But also, it speaks to the bigger picture that this director called this meeting – it doesn’t suggest it’s a great place to work.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Maybe, but there’s nothing in the letter that indicates that. It could be someone they work with once a year, who knows. “Find a new job over this” is a big deal and it’s not something that should be said lightly (although as Fortitude Jones points out, apparently this person was already looking). I’m belaboring this because it especially troubles me to see it said to someone who doesn’t have a lot of work experience to calibrate that advice against.

          1. Cloudbasket*

            Hi, I’m the person who posted the question. I really appreciate all the advice! This director is my managers manager and is in fact the person who hired me, which is why I try to take her advice carefully. I work directly with her 2-3 times a year. I noticed before already that she doesn’t have a lot of patience for my questions, so I try to ask only the ones I absolutely need answers to in order to be able to do my job. But these are too much too! I only have this issue with her and one other person from her department, but they are both key people for my team so I don’t know what to do. Due to my questions on this project she also emailed my manager to complain. I showed it to a colleague who thought it was a weird email, but I don’t really know what I can do here. I’m changing jobs because I hate guessing instead of asking and this seems to make me a poor match for the company culture in current job.

            1. Fortitude Jones*

              Your manager didn’t try to push back on this at all with her knowing that you have little work experience? That’s odd (and were you copied on the complaint, or did your manager give it to you?). You’ve been there a couple years – was she always like this, or did this start recently? Sorry to ask so many questions, I’m just trying to figure out what she could possibly be thinking here.

            2. anon4this*

              Why didn’t you ask your manager what’s going on? Perhaps they could provide the context for this. It sounds to me like a power trip (“why is this lowly subordinate talking to me?”) or the last person that did this role did not ask questions and that’s their preference.
              But the director hired you? Why not just ask them how they’d prefer you communicate, since asking questions is a normal function of literally every job out there.

            3. juliebulie*

              I’m thoroughly depressed by all this additional information. Ideally, when giving an assignment, basic stuff like deadlines, audience, etc. should be included, and they should identify someone who can answer questions.

              And then she complains to your manager and your manager can’t give you any guidance? (Like, “you can always assume that the audience is []” or “even if they don’t ask for a Powerpoint they’ll always be happy if you have time to make one to go with the report.” WTF. I’m sorry. That’s nuts.

              I get mad when people ask a lot of inane questions (like, “should I also do this other thing that you actually told me to do but someone else who isn’t involved wasn’t sure about?”), but I’m thrilled when they ask the right questions… or check their assumptions with me before running off in the wrong direction.

              Thrilled.

              I hope you find an employer who appreciates someone who asks the right questions.

              1. AnnaBananna*

                Agreed on all points.

                LW #2
                As a data wrangler/report/chart producer myself, I would have an exceedingly short fuse with this director. It’s not even a matter of being new to the industry, she’s making it almost impossible to gauge where cultural norms might blow up in one’s face. ESPECIALLY when it’s a report.

                As for what to do when you do before you leave for another employer, I would go through your previous work examples and pick a middle of the road version (not the best, not the simplest) that you can use as a turnkey template, to just plug your data into. That way at least you’ll have your own parameters, and then they can provide feedback, and then you can adjust accordingly.

                That said, between you, me and the water cooler, I’m guessing she didn’t know how to answer your questions and that pissed her off because she felt stupid. Going forward, I would only as your manager and peers (is there someone who used to have your job? Can you take them for coffee?).

                Good luck and please send an update!

            4. Master Bean Counter*

              Just know that I wish I had 10 of you working with/for me. Life would much less stressful is everybody stopped and asked a question before they proceeded uncertainly. Seriously took us three days to clean up something that shouldn’t have happened because one person missed the point about dates being very important to the project at hand. And that person never stopped to ask a question.

              1. Jedi Squirrel*

                Same here. I encourage asking questions all the time rather than just winging it. My mantra is it’s better to make a mistake together than on your own.

            5. Secretary*

              My boss does this to me!! It’s extremely annoying but not necessarily something I’m leaving a job over. The main difference is that he doesn’t dock me in performance for it, he’ll just assume I don’t know how to do the whole project if I ask a clarifying question. Ex:

              Boss: Hey I need you to email this invoice to Regular Client for $1,200.

              Me: Ok, no problem. Was that for the teapot glaze or design?

              Boss: ok. I need you to write an invoice. This is going to Regular Client, we’ve been doing work for them the last 2 weeks. On the invoice I need you to write “Teapot Glaze, $1,200” then send it in an email to our contact from Regular Client. And make sure to call them and confirm they got it.

              Me (been doing this every week for 3 years): Right, I know how to invoice it, I just needed to know if it was for the glaze and design. Thank you I’ll get on invoicing them for the glaze.

              Boss: It’s for the glaze. It’s $1,200, for Regular Client, and I need you to invoice them.

              Me: [internal eyeroll] Yes no problem I’ve got it.

              So so so annoying, but after 3 years I think it’s just a quirk. In your case OP, it sounds like it might actually be hurting your performance.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Viewing the person very charitably, they may have articulated themselves poorly. When I read OP’s letter, I wondered if the director felt OP was asking questions without first trying to look things up or review other materials that would have answered OP’s questions. That might be a legitimate concern from a higher-up, even if it wasn’t communicated well.

      But assuming that’s not a factor, then the director is behaving strangely. That doesn’t necessarily mean OP should leave—there may be many other normal people OP works with who balance out this diretor.

      1. Cloudbasket*

        Hi, I posted the question! The director just asked me if I could do a report on user behaviour. This was all she said. I asked questions about very basic things like deadline and what sort of occasion and audience is the report for. She didn’t reply to any. I too thought I had managed to upset her by poor articulation because she sent a nasty email to me and my manager about my questions. I apologised via email about the misunderstanding, after which she had the meeting with me about how unprofessional it is that after two years in the company I’m still asking questions. I tried to ask my manager for opinion but as the director is my managers manager, he doesn’t want to get included and has been avoiding me.

        1. Annneee*

          You manager has been avoiding you instead of giving guidance and opening avenues for communication?? He needs to be involved, even if it’s just to tell you that “yeah, we’re weird and expect clairvoyancy from our staff, stop asking questions” or “yep, that’s how things go here, I don’t like it either, sorry but you need to adapt.” I’d be out too, seems like atoxic place to learn bad work styles in.

          1. Fortitude Jones*

            Agreed. It’s your manager’s job to advocate for you and coach you, especially since his manager is giving you vague requests and then chewing you out for not being able to read her mind – the fact that he doesn’t want to deal is deeply concerning. I, too, would move on from this situation because your boss is apparently a pushover and the director’s a tyrant.

          2. EinJungerLudendorff*

            Agreed.
            His report is not getting the basic information needed to do their job, and his boss is scheduling meetings to make (seemingly unreasonable) complaints about his report. Dealing with situations like this is quite literally his job.
            The fact that he avoids his own report in this situation also makes me suspect the grandboss’s issues are well-known and quite severe.

        2. Fey*

          Whenever I had any issues with the MD and/or other colleagues, my manager never wanted to get involved either. She couldn’t avoid me as we sat next to each other, but she would dismiss my concerns by saying, “Oh, don’t worry about it!” or “I’m sure it’ll be fine!” She truly lacks leadership qualities.

          I’m glad you’re already looking. Good luck with your job search.

        3. Fieldpoppy*

          I teach leadership in a university, and one of our key messages is that questions are more important than answers. I encounter people like your director occasionally, who are quite fierce and rigid about their knowledge being the thing that makes them a success or in charge, but they are the people who are terrible at engaging people to do anything creative or innovative, and awful at leading any change. Your questions were completely reasonable and I support you finding an environment where you don’t feel punished for trying to get a robust picture of what you’re supposed to be doing.

          1. Just J.*

            +1

            OP, IMHO, you are experiencing gas-lighting. It appears your director is taking out personal frustrations on you. Perhaps she is mad at herself for not anticipating your questions? And then takes it out on you.

            Your questions are completely appropriate. They are appropriate whether you have two years of experience or twenty.

            I also support your decision to look for a new environment. What you are experiencing is not normal and it is not healthy for you personally or professionally.

            1. Bostonian*

              Or maybe the director doesn’t really have/know the answer to these questions. Director has some vague idea that it would be nice to have some user data, but hasn’t thought through what that would look like, so gets annoyed when OP asks for clarification.

              Still not good, because “I’ll know it when I see it” type of requests are not efficient uses of anyone’s time.

              1. TooTiredToThink*

                That’s immediately where my brain went – is that the manager is a “I’ll know it when I see it type.”

                I’ve had managers like that. And yep, I’ve often had to redo work 2, 3 or even more times until its “just right” because they can’t answer the initial questions. I’ve just learned to deal.

                1. MAC*

                  I worked in state government and for a federal contractor for a combined 20-ish years. We called this the “Bring Me a Rock” approach. It never got easier to read minds.

                2. Veronica*

                  My boss goes to far with complications, asking me for more reports on things we’ve already done. It sometimes seems like he’s making simple things complicated by over-analysis. Also I have to put aside other assigned work when he does this, and it seems like I’ll never get it done!
                  I get along by remembering I’m paid for my time and he’s in charge of how I use it. If this is what he wants, it doesn’t hurt me… I still get paid, and I’m still in good standing. I document his requests in case there’s a management change, and I’m good to go.
                  Same with your managers – it’s frustrating in the moment, but they’re paying for your time and they decide how you’ll use it. You get to go home with your pay, they get the headache of time management. :)

            2. Agnodike*

              This is not gaslighting. Gaslighting is deliberately misrepresenting a situation in order to make the target doubt themself and their ability to interpret reality. Telling someone that asking questions is unprofessional is an (incorrect) opinion, not a targeted campaign. I urge you not to take the power out of meaningful terms that describe violent actions by misapplying them.

        4. hbc*

          While I think the director is over the top, I might expect certain things like that to be understood at this point. Or at least, you do some of the thinking. So instead of, “Who is the audience? When do you need it? Will it be emailed or presented?”, I would like “Okay, I can put something together like the XYZ report and have it done around the middle of next week. Let me know if you need it sooner or if there are any special requirements, like formatting for outside consumption.”

          If the director is unsalvageable, she might still get mad for you not intuiting that this is going to be a presentation. If she’s basically reasonable and just giving out too little info or you’ve not been making reasonable guesses based on the info you already have, then this should solve it. Especially if you phrase everything as statements–“Let me know if this isn’t okay” > “Is this okay?”, even if they mean roughly the same thing.

          1. Holly*

            I agree with this approach – I was in trouble for asking too many questions once and it was because my supervisors wanted me to “take the initiative” and they would correct if I was wrong. The reaction of the director was way over the top, though.

            1. it's me*

              See, that would drive me nuts. Why not tell me to begin with, and then I wouldn’t waste time doing something that wasn’t correct

            2. Jadelyn*

              But then what if your “initiative” was incorrect, and they had to correct you when they found out you had approached it wrong? Now you’ve wasted time on the incorrect approach. Faster to just clarify everything upfront rather than playing hot-cold along the way.

          2. Quinalla*

            Yes, I have used this approach with these types of folks that prefer you to essentially make assumptions and get moving rather than asking questions and waiting for their response. Instead of asking questions, just send essentially an assumptions follow up email like this:
            Re: Report on User Behavior
            Regarding your request for the Report on User Behavior, I am proceeding with the following:
            1. The audience for the report is internal management
            2. I will match the format of X report
            3. Etc.
            I will send a draft of the report to review on X date and get the final report picking up your comments 1 day after you get back to me.

            For the vast majority of people you work with, they will welcome questions, so don’t stop asking others. For this boss, use the setting assumptions method and put it in writing or the next angry meeting you have with them will be them mad that you proceeding with their ok. For a boss I likely wouldn’t do this, but you can also add in a “if I don’t hear from you by X date, I am proceeding as follows:” if that makes sense in other contexts. Also, your immediate boss is not doing their job of coaching you and backing you up, I’m much more concerned about that.

            1. it's me*

              Yeah, maybe they are expecting you to do something like this. If they then get upset that you didn’t read their minds accurately, well… time to get another job, lol.

            2. Antilles*

              The only caveat with this is it relies on the director being reasonable. Given that the director specifically said that “asking questions is unprofessional” and thought that simply asking 3-4 questions is worthy of (a) emailing the person’s manager to complain and (b) meeting about professionalism…I’m skeptical.
              Your method is good for reasonable people who just want to get started and adjust later ( for the record, can be the right call in many situations!). But based on the director’s behavior, I do think OP should be prepared for the director to respond with an irritated “what? this is a terrible suggestion! why are you proposing X report? this should be like Y report!”

            3. NotAnotherManager!*

              This is exactly the strategy that I recommend to my folks when someone is “too busy” to give them thorough instructions or answer their questions. It looks proactive and like you’ve thought about the requirements, and it makes it easy for them to say no and clarify, if you’ve missed something. It also doesn’t put you in the positoin of waiting for them to get back with you to confirm – you’ve told them what you’re going to do and by when, and it’s on them to clarify, if needed.

            4. sacados*

              Ooh, this is really good.
              I agree that the workplace seems to have a lot of issues– especially after OP’s update about how their manager is avoiding getting involved and refusing to help smooth over the situation.

              But I think this sort of framing is something that could be REALLY useful to @Cloudbasket for however long they are still at this company. That way instead of questions, it’s “based on my past experience I am going to proceed this way, after assessing the priority of my other current projects I can get it to you by X date”
              And, since this person is so high-level, maybe end with something like “Please let me know if there is anything you would like me to change/any areas I should modify my approach”

          3. Dust Bunny*

            These questions weren’t a matter of “understanding” something, though–they were discrete pieces of information that specific to the situation. Offering to have it done by next week and guessing at the target audience just opens the OP up to being criticized for guessing wrong–it’s far more reasonable for the director to give her this information in the first place.

            1. hbc*

              I’m not saying this is Cloudbasket’s situation, but I’ve absolutely seen it where someone should have been able to “guess” correctly based on the available information and they’re still asking questions. For example, the default for reports is emailed unless otherwise noted. Or I would have asked marketing to put together the user report if the audience was external.

              Don’t get me wrong–I’m slapping people’s hands on a nearly daily basis for getting angry when their vague instruction or undocumented corner case doesn’t go the way they imagined. But I have also been the receiver of a lot of “So, should I do this exactly the way I did this the last time?” questions, and those are much better received in the form of “I’m planning to proceed like last time, let me know if that’s a problem.”

        5. BRR*

          I produce reports by request and sometimes people, like your grandboss, aren’t good requesters. It sounds like your reports aren’t one size fits all so this would be in your

          Your manager is dropping the ball on this. Your manager should be trying to help you out with this and managing up. Do they generally shy away from things like his that are difficult? Are they staying out of this because your director is generally unreasonable (and in this situation it sounds like your director is unreasonable)?

        6. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yegads. Those are pretty basic things.
          If any new projects come up during the time period, I’d suggest asking one question only: “Who do you want me to contact about project requirements?”

          1. LQ*

            I’d say go directly to boss and ask them for that information instead of asking director. Boss may have more information and be able to answer the questions or point to the right person.

        7. it's me*

          What? It’s completely reasonable to ask basic questions about a deliverable like when it’s frickin’ due.

        8. Sara without an H*

          To use a phrase that’s appeared on this blog before: “Your grand-boss sucks and isn’t going to change.”

          If it were just your grand-boss, I’d suggest you rely on your own manager for feedback, or recruit a senior colleague to coach you: “On user behavior reports, directors usually look for a, b, and c, with lots of graphs.”

          But since you say your own manager is avoiding you (what the french toast!), then, yes, you probably should be looking for other jobs.

        9. Acolyte of Artemis*

          Your manager’s avoiding you? Ooooh that’s bad. (For your manager, not you.)

          As someone else posted, your Director is a tyrant and your Manager is a pushover. Those two things are directly related. Job searching is wise, young padawan.

        10. Lily Rowan*

          Oh, that’s terrible! I worked with someone who was as unreasonable as this person sounds, and at least my manager (and her manager!) were 100% supportive of me. That person was still a factor in my leaving that job, though.

        11. Tan*

          I have a relatively secure position, so if someone ask me to produce a report on user behavior without guidelines and chewed me out for asking follow up questions, I would do the bare minimum and quickly as possible. No doubt that a 1 page memo saying very little would not answer their problem but I’d then have a way pointing out why each of the follow up questions was a “need to know” thing and couldn’t be guessed. However… from what you’ve said your director hasn’t a clue and is likely to fire you for “making him look bad” or some other petty reason.

        12. aebhel*

          O_o asking for a deadline when one is not provided is extremely normal. And yeah, your workplace sounds toxic as hell.

        13. 2 Cents*

          My mouth just dropped open in disbelief, then I laughed—this person is so unreasonable. She thinks you asking questions means she’s doing your work for you? I guess it’s ok for you to waste your time researching all possible permutations of her insufficient request rather than get a 2-second answer. You are not in the wrong here. I’ve been doing a similar role for 7+ years and still have to ask basic questions like that so no one’s time is wasted and expectations of deliverables is reasonable (no, I can’t “call Google” to ask what the keywords are!)

        14. A Poster Has No Name*

          OMG, as someone who works in a similar role to yours, your boss & director SUCK. Generic reporting requests are the bane of my existence because it’s impossible to provide a useful report unless you know, at a bare minimum, what they’re going to do with the information you provide. Reporting needs detailed requirements from the requestor in order to be useful at all. Not to mention, to be blown off as someone who shouldn’t ask any questions at all, after a whopping 2 years in the organization, is ridiculous.

          You’re not the one being unprofessional, here. She is. And she’s wasting your time by not providing you guidance ahead of time, and you know she’ll be mad at you if you don’t read her mind and produce exactly what she had in mind from her vague “user behavior” request. Argh.

          1. Susan*

            Yes. As a data analyst, asking the questions is critical for being efficient and accurate. I’ve always described the difference between an analyst and a senior analyst as the following – an analyst gets a request and goes and does it; a senior analyst asks the requestor what is the problem they are trying to solve for. Too many times people don’t know that there are better ways to answer the question.

            1. Jadelyn*

              I’ve never heard that distinction before, and I love it. Because that behavior – asking “what are you trying to accomplish here?” and working with people to develop the report that best answers that need, rather than just blithely fulfilling requests – was something I learned to do over time, and it’s what allowed me to basically build an analyst role for myself on a team that hadn’t had one before. If I hadn’t developed that skill, I’d still be an associate who sometimes creates reports, rather than an analyst.

            2. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

              Susan, I love this! This occurs in the practice of law, so often! Someone (a more senior attorney, or a client) will ask you to find the answer to a particular question, rather than explain the situation that concerns them. And then you will find out that the answer to the question they asked doesn’t solve their problem at all. Or it partially does, but there are other factors.

        15. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          Ugh, I’m sorry OP. The director sounds miserable, and I’m side-eyeing your manager. I’m sorry they’re all failing at their jobs as managers and reasonable humans.

        16. Allypopx*

          If you take anything from this comment section – this isn’t normal or okay and don’t take these norms with you to your next job. Toxic workplaces early in your career can be really, really hard to shake off because it’s all you know. Go into your next job expecting people to be rational, answer questions, and not avoid you when there’s a problem. I’m glad you’re looking and sorry you’ve had such a frustrating experience.

        17. Observer*

          He doesn’t want to “get included” because this email is from his manager?! That’s totally backwards!

          It’s his manager, so he should ABSOLUTELY be the person who gives you guidance on how to navigate this. Is this kind of thing normal through out the organization?

          1. Tequila Mockingbird*

            I am speculating that the director is (to borrow Allison’s speculation) a highly unreasonable jerk. Manager is avoiding the situation because the director gets easily triggered by anything.

            OP#2, I’m curious to know if your manager avoids your director in general, or has a pattern of avoiding confrontation when his input/guidance is really necessary.

        18. Jadelyn*

          Wow. That’s…wild. And ridiculous. She got mad that you asked for a DEADLINE? I’d be tempted to start assuming that all requests from her have a 6-month lead time, and when she gets upset that I don’t have her report for her yet, act surprised since she didn’t give me a deadline so I had no way of knowing when she would want it by.

          I’m an analyst as well, and if one of our directors asked me for “a report on user behavior”, that gives me like…literally nothing useful to go on, aside from which system to pull the raw data out of (transactions vs employee data, for example). I could look at the data set and make some guesses about trends and patterns they might find useful, but I could guess completely wrong and wind up wasting days on a wild goose chase. The kinds of questions you’re talking about are pretty much my standard clarification questions that I always ask when someone requests a report: when do you need it by? Who is this going to be shared with? Is there a particular focus or type of behavior you’d like me to dig deeper on?

          That director is being absurd, and your manager is refusing to do his job and manage. From the initial question, I wouldn’t have said “get out and get out now”, but the more I hear about it the more I hear the buzzing of evil bees that fills that office. You have a boss that’s refusing to support you, and a grandboss who’s being completely unreasonable. Get out. Get out now.

        19. LunaLena*

          Expecting people to be clairvoyant is depressingly common in creative fields, unfortunately – Clients From Hell is full of stories from people whose client or boss expected them to just read their minds to do a project and then got unaccountably upset when they didn’t get what they wanted. I agree with everyone else, your questions were completely normal no matter how many years you’ve been there. I have 13 years of experience in my field and I routinely ask those same questions for every project I receive.

          One approach I use with people who are impatient and don’t understand why such questions matter is to say upfront “I just have a few quick questions about this, to make sure we’re all on the same page and ensure that I don’t waste your time or mine on something you don’t want.” If there’s pushback I emphasize and repeat the “not wasting your time” part (even though what I really mean is wasting MY time and/or causing me frustration), because they can’t really argue with someone who’s being considerate of them. Sometimes I’ll add something like “I’d hate to work on this for two weeks only to find I misunderstood what you needed because I didn’t ask and it turns out to be no good, and have to just throw something together quickly because the deadline is coming up.”

          One of my past managers also solved this problem for me by creating a Google form that had all of my routine questions on it (“when is this due,” “who is the target audience,” “what do you want to get out of this” etc) and requiring everyone to fill it out. The form generates an automatic email to notify me when a request has been added. People don’t always remember to use the form, but quite a lot do, and it saves me a lot of time and hassle.

          Hope it gets better for you! And I also agree that your manager is a terrible manager for trying to stay out of it and avoiding you.

        20. Tequila Mockingbird*

          So your director didn’t reply to a single one of your Qs, instead took/wasted the time to compose “a nasty email” about your Qs AND to have a meeting about your “unprofessionalism”? And now your manager is avoiding you because “he doesn’t want to get involved”? Holy moly, that is a cauldron of toxicity. I hope you land elsewhere soon!

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, the outline of the problem is the sort where I would expect basic questions that could be answered in other ways. But the specific examples–e.g. intended audience–are both logical things to ask and quick to answer.

      3. Grey Coder*

        The only way I can make sense of this is that there is context which the director thought the OP had already. Like, there was a previous email to the director which gave more details of the brief and a person to go to for questions, and the director thought she had attached or forwarded the email to the OP but didn’t.

        Unfortunately, to resolve that, you need to ask the question, so I’m at a loss. I would have suggested OP ask their manager if they were aware of any context but it sounds like he’s dodging his responsibility.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I’ve always appreciated superiors who could reason “You don’t know thing 2a? Or thing 2b or thing 2c?… Did I not send you document 2?”

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          I would recommend that in future, you forward the request from the director, and your questions with your best answers, to your MANAGER (not your director) first, to get clarity. So your email to your direct boss is, “Cecilia just send me this request. I’m guessing this is going to be based on X report, due next month, and the audience is Y. Does that sound right to you?” At least then you’ve had two people’s best guesses on the task.

          Some people are unreasonable like your director. She probably thought you didn’t show enough initiative on some previous assignment and now has this mark against you. My grandboss is the exact same, she hates to answer any questions because “someone with gumption like we need will figure it out for themselves.” She is terrible about training new people and is a very black or white thinker – either someone is “good” because they will spend hours finding the answer to something someone else could tell them in five seconds, or they “lack initiative.” Everything is a “test” with her. I find her exhausting and try not to work with her unless my a** is covered.

      4. nonymous*

        I was wondering if the director thought those questions were legitimate, but they shouldn’t be asked of her. That is, when OP was assigned the task of doing a report on user behavior, the questions should have gone to the manager or a peer instead? So the director is chewing her out b/c the expected follow up was that OP would do some research and get back to her shortly (whatever that means for the org) with a suggested deadline and with the specs fleshed out.

        Obviously when starting new project specifications are necessary, but it’s unclear to me whether that responsibility falls to the director vs an underling. It’s interesting that this question came up on the same day as the ESL one, because I’d say that this is a great example of how norms can differ even within a relatively homogeneous group. Clearly the director is taking the perspective that questions do not respect the inherent power differential, which is not a perspective shared by OP.

    2. Lilo*

      As someone who gives out assignments, I would be much, much more upset if someone just didn’t ask a question and forged ahead in doing the wrong thing. People who refuse to ask for clarification exist, and they are usually terrible to manage. You try to give all necessary info and be clear, but it’s normal for there to be follow up.

      1. The Elephant in the room*

        This. I mean, what is the goal of not allowing questions? Manager yells at you for asking, but if you had guessed what she wanted and it was wrong, then you’re at square one and she’s upset anyway. Can you talk to her about why you are asking? Like, I’m unclear why you are frustrated by clarifying questions. I could produce 5 versions of the project you requested dependent on the variables. Do you need all 5 or only 1 with X variable?

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Yes, my pet peeve.

        One of the most infuriating moments of my career was the time when I went to ask a team lead a question about my assignment that was in her area of expertise, and she did give me the answer that I based my work on, but (unbeknownst to me) she had *guessed* at it. And her guess ended up being wrong. Nicest person otherwise! I heard she was later promoted to management. I no longer worked at that place by that time.

    3. Artemesia*

      Yes. This person is a loon. There is no more important thing to know when planning many things including any sort of training or speaking than ‘who is the audience? What do we expect them to be able to do when this is done?’ or if making a new product ‘who is the customer and what do they need?’ Unless there is a procedure for getting this information from someone else, this is pretty basic. Since this person is a loon, avoid those questions with her but the first step is then to identify someone who can answer them.

    4. Jane too*

      I do data analytics and reporting as well. For some managers, who are not data types, it could be a source of insecurity and the follow-up questions on the request are pushing those buttons. As I’ve done this longer, there are times when with a better read on the requester and audience, I make some assumptions – since in data analysis, we’re always making some assumptions – and am ready to defend my choices if asked. Some of your questions on deadline indicate that this person is not reasonable. But again, the question may be triggering an insecurity that leaves her thinking she should have given you a deadline in the original request and so she’s now flipping out on you now. Having said this, your questions are not unreasonable at all. When posed to reasonable and curious people, they would be welcomed and everyone comes out better for having learned more about the process and accomplishing something as a team. I worked with someone known as a difficult person who made a comment about me ‘and all my questions’. I was younger then, it caused me some self doubt, but now with more experience and confidence, I’m learning to better deal with all types of folks.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Maybe not “look for a new job”, but definitely a red flag.

      Now OP knows how the director at her company makes decisions that affect the company (including OP) – by guessing, assuming, and overall pulling things out of her a$$. So much so that she expects the same decision-making process from everyone else at her workplace, and reprimands people for not following it. That can end badly. I wouldn’t say “look for a job”, because bad directors come and go, she might not be the only one in a decision-making position at the company, etc. But it definitely increases the potential of bad things happening down the road.

  9. Kiki*

    #1: I don’t think this is a particularly mean-spirited prank, but unless there’s something I’m missing, it’s just odd! It’s not even really a prank, it seems more like a ploy to get attention.
    If I were a coworker or manager of your friend, I would probably at first treat them as real falls and ask if everything is okay with the floors, their shoes, etc. If they then said, “Oh, it’s a prank” I wouldn’t address whether it’s funny or not, I’d just tell them to stop because it’s distracting and dangerous (esp since your friend ended up actually hurting their wrist!!)

    1. Zombie Unicorn*

      It’s mean-spirited because it will worry people and it mimics the symptoms of some medical conditions – and because it wastes people’s time with no payoff. If you are going to upset people with a prank at the very least have a payoff. This is like pretending you forgot a birthday and then… nothing.

      1. Mookie*

        This. The first sign of my aunt’s cancer returning (having metastasized to her brain stem) was falling down at work. None of this is funny, all of it is, at best, profoundly socially detached and tone-deaf, and at worst monstrously cruel.

        LW1, if you love or once loved your friend I’d reconsider dropping them before trying one last time to reason with them*, if not for their sake then for the sake of their colleagues. None of this is funny.

        *I’d advise friend to just stop, and never try to explain what they were doing. Both the substance and the form of this “prank” itself is wildly offensive. Multiple pratfalls interpreted as actual accidents rather than clumsiness will never not read as a pressing medical issue. Friend’s colleagues don’t need to deal with this; there’s enough illness and death to go around, y’know? Trying to garner attention by faking accidents or ailments is different, only in degree, to various malingering behaviors that, apparently contrary to friend themself, are difficult to control. I’m not engaging in armchair diagnosis; this person is just a jerk, it sounds like.

        1. Mookie*

          Just realized I contradicted Alison’s take on “this is not funny.” I’d argue the literal and figurative meanings of the phrase, both. This is actually both upsetting and a sign/symptom of an underdeveloped sense of humor. No one understands more than I do a compulsive desire for any sort of attention or acknowledgment of one’s existence but, fookin’ hell, this is just grim, morbid, inappropriate, and kind of pitiful.

    2. Bilateralrope*

      I’d treat them as real falls until he admits it’s a prank. Including making sure an accident report is filed every single time as procedure requires.

      Once he admits to lying I’d go complain to my manager about the extra work he has made for me with his lies.

      Then I’d laugh at him.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        My mind was going in this direction, only it was how many times is he going to fall down before they send him for a drug test.

    3. Elbe*

      Agreed.

      If this person was honestly trying to make OTHER people laugh, noting that other people don’t find this type of thing funny would be valuable feedback.

      But if they’re not even telling these coworkers that it was supposed to be a joke, it really makes it seem like they’re just entertaining themselves or seeking attention at others’ expense. Like… why? This isn’t the type of behavior anyone should be bringing into the workplace, especially if they’re injuring themselves to do it.

  10. Enigma*

    For the questions, I suspect it depends on the type of question, as Allison said. I had one coworker who always asked me really basic types of questions, to the point where it caused issues with other employees. As an example, I’d ask her to compile a spreadsheet with leads from a trade show, and she’d come back with the precise layout asking it this was okay. Frankly, I didn’t care and she seemed to need the reassurance, so I let it go. When I left, that tendency caused problems for her. Some bosses really don’t want to know the details and don’t care and get really annoyed by what they consider nitpicking.

    1. Lilo*

      There are definitely the “You can get this info yourself” questions, but asking about the audience on a presentation doesn’t seem to be that kind of question.

      1. aebhel*

        Yeah, that’s just… basic information that you need to do your work. If it’s not provided, it’s totally normal to ask.

      2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        Unless she’s sort of asking the wrong person. Perhaps there is a hierarchy of who the OP should be taking these simple questions to — like the director’s assistant, or the OP’s own manager, rather than straight to the director — even if the director is ultimately the one who decides.

        1. Jadelyn*

          But if that’s the case, the director should’ve said that. She didn’t. She specifically told OP that they should “just know by now”. The implication there is that OP shouldn’t have to ask any questions, of anyone. If it was a “wrong person” sort of issue, the director would’ve (presumably) said that – “I don’t have time for these kinds of questions, talk to your manager/my EA/whoever instead”.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP2, I am a technical writer. Asking questions like that is my job. Some of my questions over the years have changed the details of a product before it was released to customers who would have had a problem with it. Keep to your questions. It wouldn’t surprise me if the director overreacted because she just didn’t know the answer, or she found out later that her answer was wrong.

      1. Sally*

        And/or maybe she was embarrassed/defensive that she didn’t give you all of the necessary information when she first gave you the project. But jeez, if it was something like that, she could have just apologized and given you the information.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Ooo nesting fail. At least it snuck into a reply to a comment to the same OP.
        (And come to think of it, this makes it a “see everyone makes mistakes!” to today’s OP4.)
        OP2’s followup has me even more perplexed, because they really are critical questions. Even if you’ve done three similar documents in a row, the answer isn’t always “do it the same as the last 3 you did” because intended audience depends on the company’s current intention.

        1. it's me*

          OP also said the director didn’t even want her asking when the deliverable was due. And her manager isn’t getting involved. Unless we’re missing some other critical context, and I don’t know what that would be other than as someone else said maybe the director thought she gave out this information already, this is completely unreasonable.

    3. Spreadsheets and Books*

      Perhaps she came from a background like mine, where formatting was of the utmost importance. In my last role, I’d put together simple information requests for my SVP, things that weren’t going to anyone beyond her, she would give me repeated formatting changes, sometimes multiple iterations if her original changes turned out not to be to her liking. Nothing ever went anywhere, to anyone, unless formatting was specifically approved. There was far too much oversight in that job in every capacity.

      I left three days before she did, but old coworkers I’m still in touch with have said that things work much smoother and more efficiently without her there. I didn’t carry that concern forward with me as my new team has made it clear that formatting isn’t a priority, but I can see how someone would. That seems like a situation where an explanation of expectations (“please stop asking me about formatting; it’s not important”) would be warranted.

    4. Artemesia*

      I once had a boss in grad school who liked to give difficult challenges like handing me something in an obscure language (to me) without any context and telling me to get it translated. He would not answer any questions, even ‘what language is this?’ as he had this absurd notion that development required digging holes and requiring people to escape them without ladders. Being given no guidance was supposed to train you to be self sufficient and maybe show adequate gumption. It worked in that we mostly could get it done. So some people are like this. It is not very functional in the workplace. Perhaps the boss is perceiving this as basic information that is just part of doing the job and is highly resistant to handholding and the OP sees the questions as more routine.

    5. Observer*

      Well, it sounds like you were including the important information and she was badgering you on inconsequential details. Like if you had asked asked about a spreadsheet of leads and didn’t say from where those leads were supposed to come from, it would be reasonable of her to ask “do you have a source you wanted the list from?” unless it was standard for her to pull that kind of list together after every trade show. And even with your request “when is this due” is a reasonable question unless you know that she really has nothing going on right now.

      The OP is asking baseline questions that make sense, like due date etc.

  11. Zombie Unicorn*

    #3 “Almost all of the applicants are foreign-born and do not speak English as their first language”

    This isn’t mutually exclusive with being articulate and good at public speaking. I hope you’re actually right about them being born elsewhere, and aren’t assuming it from their names. Even if that is the case, you are making some other assumptions here – so it’s definitely wise to introduce checks on those assumptions, like the test Alison suggests.

    Please just try to remember that people can be fluent in more than one language.

    1. Toronto88*

      OP here – 100% agree, they were all raised and schooled in India, and I have met them and done video interviews to assess their skills.

    2. H.C.*

      Exactly, I moved to the U.S. in 2nd grade and never Anglicized my name & my fulltime job is a public relations practitioner, so I definitely do a lot of writing & speaking (w solid of portfolio of works, incl. ones that have won industry awards) even though I’m foreign-born with English as second language.

  12. Fortitude Jones*

    OP #2, the director is a nut. I’ve been working for 14 years (nine post-grad) and still ask questions when I’m not sure of something. The last thing I want to do is assume I understood instructions that were vague and go off and spend hours doing something only to find out I was doing it wrong the whole time. That’s not an efficient use of my time.

    Maybe the director is bothered by how you ask questions? Like, maybe she wants you to start coming to her with something like, “Director, I received your email asking me to run the report on the number of times our PM’s used the company introduction piece in Qvidian, but it wasn’t clear if you just wanted the parent company data or the data that includes the subsidiary introduction information as well, so I was thinking of pulling the data for just the parent company piece – is that correct?”

    Basically, she may be one of those people who wants you to show you thought about something on your own first, looked for an answer, and then if you still couldn’t figure it out, only then did you come to her for guidance. I admit that I can be that way as well, but that’s because I naturally try to problem solve before taking a question to management. But again – your director is nuts. If that’s what she wants, she should have just calmly told you that. There’s nothing inherently wrong with asking questions when instructions are vague even without doing the extra problem solving step first (because sometimes you just can’t do that first without spending a ton of time on something that may not be necessary).

    Good luck on your job search. I hope you land somewhere sane.

    1. LKW*

      Agreed, these are exactly the types of questions I ask when someone asks me to build a presentation or other material. Perhaps you can frame it differently to add context and in the process clarify that you are asking these questions to reduce the amount of time you need from her. For example “Who is the audience?” you can try to frame as “Do you need an executive summary with all of the details as backup or is the objective to present the details?” or something that implies – “how do I make you look successful?”

      Don’t stop asking the questions. Just try to work around her weird ego.

      1. pleaset*

        I’ll add that if I have an inkling the likely answers, I may ask questions in ways that seek confirmation:

        “I assume the audience is X and that the format should be similar to the one we did for Y. If that’s not right, let me know so I can get started correctly.”

      2. Hi there*

        I agree here. Open-ended questions are tough to field. One helpful piece of advice that I got from this site is to ask questions that have possible answers built into them. “In light of C should we do A or B?” Here that could be “Usually this information is for water-polo players, I’ll prepare it that way and it will look like the August WP report.”

    2. Holly*

      Agree with this – I had the same issue at a job (different field) and my bosses wanted to see I “took initiative” and tried to figure it out on my own first.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        I think this is what’s at play here.

        I actually feel like we’re missing a little bit of the story because this behavior seems SO odd (calling a meeting over to scold someone over what would appear to be wholly rational behavior). What gives me pause is that elsewhere in the comments OP says that she also has this problem with one other person. So that begins to look like maybe a pattern is emerging here.

        For example, is it possible this is the umpteenth report of this kind, and OP should know by now generally how these are expected to be done? Or perhaps OP is expected to be able to read the surrounding conditions and make educated deductions about what is needed?

        I have an employee with whom I have similar tensions. She has been in her position for a couple of years, but with each new assignment, I almost feel like it’s Day 1 each time. She tends to ask questions that are entirely reasonable for someone in their first couple of months. But at a certain point, I do expect her to understand how our business operates and to be able to determine whether Option A or Option B is appropriate based on understanding the broader context.

        Is it possible there’s a bit of that going on?

    3. Spreadsheets and Books*

      I’m absolutely this person. I’ve only been in my current role for 5 months but in the field for ~6 years and I’ve always approached work from the perspective that it’s best to be as prepared as possible. I regularly ask for things like priority on projects, turnaround dates, distribution lists, what review expectations are (can I just send this report off, or does someone need to look at it first?), etc. I feel like these kinds of questions are really important because I’m not a mind reader.

      However, I do think there’s a difference between asking for details on expectations versus asking for instructions on how to do a task. I’m still new at this job and I play a lot of the “say I understand what’s being asked of me, but really I’m not positive” game, which leads to a few hours of trying to piece things together before I either correctly interpret instructions or need to eventually ask for a little extra clarification.

    4. Bostonian*

      I think you may be on to something, considering one of the director’s responses was that asking questions was the same as someone else doing the work for you. (Which is ridiculous when the questions are more about clarifying the scope of the assignment.)

    5. Oh No She Di'int*

      So I went back and read the original post, because the more I think about this situation, the weirder it seems to me. Why would anybody say that the simple act of asking questions constitutes someone else doing your work for you? It literally just doesn’t make sense.

      Two other details I think are pertinent: OP is a recent college graduate, so I am going to presume that we’re talking about someone in their mid-20s. Also, the director’s feedback had a lot of “a professional shouldn’t . . .”, “someone at your salary should . . . ”

      Put all this altogether and it seems possible (not definite, but POSSIBLE) that OP has landed in a position of some considerable responsibility and hasn’t quite adjusted to the expected level of independent thought or analysis. Again, I don’t know details. But especially the bit about someone else doing your work for you makes me think that OP is expected to be able to research or deduce these details from context or history or documentation somewhere.

      In addition to all the other advice in this thread, I would also advise OP to take a look at whether you have in fact fully thought through your assignments before seeking guidance. This is not INSTEAD of other advice; it is in ADDITION to other advice.

      Again, I am reminded of one of my own employees who tends to ask a bevy of uninformed questions when given assignments. It’s not that asking questions is inherently bad. It’s that the nature of her questions shows that she hasn’t thought very much about the assignment. When she asks “Should we do A or B?” On the outside I say, “Please do B”. But internally I’m thinking: “2 minutes of thought about what you’re doing would reveal that A is totally ludicrous in this situation. What else aren’t you thinking about?”

      So it may be (again, MAY be) that OP’s boss is concerned that there’s not enough critical thinking going on for OP’s position and may be worried about her ability to think and act independently when necessary.

  13. alienor*

    #2, I’ve found that sometimes people who get annoyed at questions respond better to an outline of what you’re planning to do, for example:

    “Hi [difficult person],

    I’m starting work on [name of project] and wanted to confirm the details with you. It looks as if the audience is X and the report should be formatted in the same style as Y. I’ll plan to email it to [recipient] when it’s complete, but if you’d prefer to have me present it in person, please let me know.”

    This way you’re still asking for clarification, but it comes across a bit more as if you’ve already thought about it and formulated a plan, which can sit better with that type of person. If they’re only giving a 5-word description, then they shouldn’t be shocked at having to provide some additional detail, IMO, but the people who don’t give you enough information to start with are usually the ones who also think they’re too busy and important to answer questions.

    1. Fortitude Jones*

      OMG, yes to your last sentence. I always think, “If you just clearly communicated your needs upfront, you would probably have more free time since you wouldn’t be spending half of it answering questions.”

    2. GM*

      Agree with Alison – that’s great advice.
      Always better to clarify assumptions than ask open-ended questions, as much as reasonably possible.

    3. The Elephant in the room*

      Wow, this is excellent! I never would’ve thought to reframe questions this way. I may use this even when though my boss has no problem with questions.

    4. hbc*

      I replied above before reading this, but 100% agree. And the best part of it is that it works if you’re unknowingly on the side of asking too many questions. If the TPS reports are always emailed on Fridays and I ask you to put in some extra information in this week’s TPS report, I’m going to be pretty annoyed if you ask me whether it still needs to go out on Friday and if it needs to be distributed by hardcopy.

    5. BRR*

      This is a great reply. I produce reports and have done this many times. I don’t like it. The ideal solution would be clear requests* or the ability to follow up with basic questions, but sometimes you have to do this to people higher up. With people at my level, I can push back more.

      *OP, if it works for your role, would a request form or request guideline document be helpful?

    6. LQ*

      You can do a lot of good strong guessing under the assumption that you are the expert, not the person requesting it. It gives you the opportunity to say “Hey, I know what I’m talking about!”

      Would it be great if all bosses and direction givers everywhere gave a perfectly detailed list of tasks broken down by how many minutes it would take to do each one and what all the resources were for it? No, because then you’d never get to grow and you’d still be doing things the way they would. You may (will!) do it better because you are the expert. So yeah, ask some questions, but stop and put yourself in their shoes for a minute and see what you can do. Is there a board meeting coming up? Did the company just end up in the news? Did a new CEO just send out an edict email about improving customer experiences?

      I’d also suggest taking these kinds of questions to the boss, especially for the grandboss since they’ve shown they don’t like questions, and boss may have more context that may be useful for the answers.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Apparently, the direct manager is equally as useless as the director, otherwise, I’d agree with you that the questions should be directed to the manager.

        1. LQ*

          Manager sounds like a wimp, but may do ok if these are brought up with an air of “I don’t want to get you in trouble with grandboss so I’m coming to you with these assumptions.” (I hope.)

    7. Clever Name*

      This is great. I’m well into my career, and I still have questions when I’m given tasks. It’s normal. In fact, I am right now working on a proposal for a client, and I need to know the exact boundaries of the area that I am to evaluate. I I could ask the client “can you send me the boundaries of the area”, but instead I went online and looked at the parcel boundaries on the assessor website and I will send a file asking them to confirm that the boundaries are correct. Both give me the same answer, but one requires less legwork for my client.

    8. Dr. Pepper*

      Yes yes yes! This is perfect. It makes you sound confident and competent yet also gives others a chance to put in any needed corrections. I’m like OP2, I NEED to know details so I can put my best work forward, but occasionally encounter people who don’t respond well to questions. They take it as I’m unsure of myself, or that I doubt my skills/knowledge. I’ve had very good results with a “this is my plan” type approach.

    9. smoke tree*

      Agreed. I’ve found that with certain managers, particularly those who receive a lot of email, it’s most effective to phrase emails as a yes or no question as much as you can. I often use this approach when I just need someone with more authority to sign off on a question in an area that I’m pretty experienced with. In the LW’s case, it sounds like the director is weirdly opposed to giving even very basic project information so they may be too far gone for this kind of approach, but it’s a good strategy to have on hand.

  14. MissGirl*

    OP 5: I have a Word document where I copy and paste the job posting along with the date I applied. I usually don’t need any more notes than that. If I do interview, I try to keep those notes in there as well. That came in handy a few weeks ago when I interviewed for a company I’d met with last year. I had a lot of notes with insights about the company.

    1. bookartist*

      Similar here: my Word files contain the link to the job post, a cut and paste of the post itself, a copy of my reply/cover letter, and a copy of any resume refinements I’ve made. The filename is the date I sent my cover letter & resume in, the company name, and job title (e.g., 190905_RedLetterMedia_Productiondirector.doc) I hadn;t thought about keeping notes as well; great addition, thank you!

    2. Colette*

      I create folders for each company, with subfolders for the specific job (if I apply for more than one with the same company). In the folder, I put a copy of the resume and cover letter I used, as well as a text document with the posting (or screenshot, if that’s easier). That way when I get a call for an interview, I can quickly find the details about the posting as well as what I sent them when I applied.

      1. Hopeful*

        I do the exact same thing to keep track of all the job application documents.

        To keep track of all of the jobs that I’ve applied to, I have a spreadsheet with the name of the position & company, where I found the job listing, the closing date (if there is one), the date that I applied, and a link to the posting. It’s also color coded based on the status of the applications. Light orange means it hasn’t been started yet, light yellow means that it’s in process, and green means that it has been submitted. It’s a bit elaborate but it works for me to keep track of all of the applications.

        1. S*

          I keep a spreadsheet. I created a template for the students I was working with (in career services) to help them keep track and so I could see their progress. It was shared on Drive so we could both edit and I could share links with openings I found straight to a different page of suggestions.

          Some of my students color coded, some didn’t, some hid the rows that had sent rejections. I found it to be a great way for us to talk about their progress without them having to rehash their entire week. Plus, it helped us see who was reaching out without an application (people who found them on Indeed) which allowed us to be more careful a with those companies. It allowed us to make sure they were being deliberate when applying for the same company multiple times. I just like data, and that helped us keep track. I found it super beneficial.

          Another thing I did was kept the title of the job description that I had saved in another folder on drive (or a link to the job description) so I didnt get jobs mixed up and made it easy to find them when I got phone screen calls that werent scheduled.

          1. Elsajeni*

            Yes — it’s easier to save the job descriptions as a PDF or in Word or something like that, but the spreadsheet makes tracking and sorting so much easier, so add a column for “filename of job description” to your spreadsheet and you’ve got the best of both worlds!

    3. Turquoisecow*

      When I was job hunting, I created a spreadsheet and noted the company, the job title and the date I applied, simply because I’d keep seeing the same jobs pop up on job search boards and I was applying to so many jobs that I forgot which companies I’d tried and which I had not.

      I also started moving all my job hunt-related emails into a folder – my sent emails and otherwise – so I could find them easily and check whether I’d gotten a response or sent them a cover letter.

    4. Just Elle*

      One thing I’ve learned the hard way is to always save PDFs of the job descriptions when you apply (or copy paste like MissGirl suggests).
      Very often, by the time they’re calling you to interview, the job posting is no longer available online. And I’ve been stuck wondering “ummm what role are you calling me about again?” more than once. Plus it helps me to cater my interview questions to highlight the soft skills they’ve mentioned in the posting as most important (eg some managers really value attention to detail, others public speaking, or whatever).

  15. The New Wanderer*

    LW 3, pleas do consider having applicants perform some kind of presentation and have a small audience to provide a range of feedback. That way you’ll avoid the bias of only valuing a speaker in your own mold and may even get some insight into how other speakers with different styles may excel.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      This is very common in the sciences, both academia and R&D–applicants give a brief presentation on some past research and answer questions on it.

    2. Mostly lurking*

      Absolutely. I’m in a field (academic librarianship) where having to give a presentation as part of the interview is common and having those who attend give feedback is the norm. I’m a nervous public speaker so I don’t love it from the candidate side, but from the hiring side it is valuable for jobs that do require being able to present.

    3. Dr. Pepper*

      This seems to be the simplest solution. If the job requires good presentation skills, well, test candidates’ presentation skills. It’s expected in academic interviews and the presentation can and will make or break your candidacy. Instead of trying to assume anything, find out.

    4. Pommette!*

      Yes, exactly!

      Honestly, it would be worth working with your audience members ahead of time, to break down what makes for a good presentation in your field, and what kinds of presentation skills you hope the candidate will bring. Having clear an well-established criteria for evaluating the presentation will help you distinguish relevant criteria (speaks clearly and in a way that all audience members can understand) from unfairly discriminatory ones (speaks unaccented English).

      Frankly, doing this will also help you provide guidance to employees about what you want from them in their public speaking roles. (And you could even provide the criteria to the candidates ahead of time, to give them a sense of what you are looking for.)

  16. Anblick*

    LW5, I totally keep a spreadsheet with the link, job title, company name, and date of things I applied for! I got in the habit while on unemployment but honestly it’s just super useful anyway. Then you can add notes if you get interview requests, you can quickly reference if you’ve already applied across multiple websites if you can’t remember when you’re really aggressively looking, it’s just very organized and convenient!

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      +1

      I made my mom something similar last time she was job searching, and it was really helpful for her to keep track of everything.

      And I will always do Excel over Word for the filtering/analysis piece Excel gives you that Word tables do not!

  17. Emms*

    LW4: I work for a Biglaw firm and part of my job is writing attorney bios from their resumes. Typos, bad grammar, and general poor writing abound. Don’t sweat it.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      There’s a saying among writers–the best spellcheck is the Send button. Every. Damn. Time. (Not on my resume, but when you send thousands of words, yeah, one is wrong. And you will finally see it… an instant after it’s too late.)

  18. Jdc*

    Long ago i was taught to spellcheck documents by reading it backwards. Bottom to top last word first. This way they are just words. You brain doesn’t read whole words so you can easily miss typos when reading a sentence as you expect the next word so gloss over it.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      Sure, that is how I was taught to look for mispelt words. But I dont have any mispelt words in what I write, not after I’ve put it through a decent spellcheck.

      What slips through a spellcheck is when you use the wrong word. Or when you make a typo and autocorrect picks the wrong word without notifying you.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        (Another tangent of things I have learned from AskAManager: Some of the “misspellings” I had problems with in grade school English turn out to be British spellings. Apparently my English grandmother was more involved in teaching me to read and write than I knew! In US English “spelled” is the verb’s past participle, and “spelt” is a historic wheat grain.)

  19. Elizabeth West*

    #5–I use a color-coded spreadsheet with columns labeled where I found the listing, the date, company info (name, address, a space for a person’s name if I addressed a cover letter to a specific one), and a drop-down list of different versions of my resume, among other things. It’s really helpful since I often see jobs re-posted, and I can check to see if I’ve already applied.

    And yes, Alison is right about saving the job post. Just save it as a PDF and stick it in a file folder. I have subfolders all organized for that too. If I get an interview or someone calls me for a phone screen, I can refer back to it even if the company’s taken it down.

    The tracking has enabled me to see how little growth the market where I currently live has exhibited over the last ten years, which factored into my decision to GTFO.

    1. fawn*

      thank you so much ! i didn’t even think about saving the posting so that’s definitely going to change

    2. Weegie*

      I do something similar with folders: I have one Job Search folder, with one sub-folder per job application, named after the organisation; sometimes I include the closing date in the sub-folder name.

      Into each sub-folder I put a copy of the job description and any other useful info, plus the copy of the CV and cover letter I used for that application. If it was an online application (it usually is), I also download a copy of it, as it often has additional details not in the CV or letter. If I’m called for interview, I have everything to hand.

      I don’t keep a spreadsheet – I guess this system acts as a kind of spreadsheet in itself – but you could easily have one as well as the folders.

    3. danr*

      Download everything that seems to be important about the job. Documents, screen shots of company webpages, save URLs in a document. If you have a separate folder for each job, it is easy to find when needed. Information comes and goes on the web or changes locations without redirects. If you have the download, you’ll always have the information and a reference point.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Thanks! :)
        Unfortunately, I’ve given up looking in MyCity. I’ve put the house up for sale and will become the literal nerd in her mother’s basement until I either find a job in BiggerCity near her or elsewhere. It’s advantageous to ditch this house. I’ll have a little money in the bank for a new place when I find a job.

        Plus, if a company out of state asks how fast I can relocate, I can legit tell them I’m ready to leave at any moment, shove my essentials in the car, and go. A sibling agreed to store the bulk of my crap so I can get it later, and I’ve been selling off or donating everything I can easily replace. I still kept way too much craft stuff, though. >_<

        So far, my spreadsheet is mostly purple for No reply and dark grey for Rejection. :(

    4. SciDiver*

      Yep, each org has a folder, and multiple apps to the same org go in a subfolder. Save the description, cover letter, resume/CV you use, basically make a copy of the application package you send them. The other thing I do is use an active and archive folder for applications; that way once I get a rejection I can move that package into the archive folder and not worry about them all sitting in a pile together.

      My color-coding is less extreme than some of the other systems people have shared here, the most useful thing to me is checking which applications I still have to complete, which are processing, and which are moving forward. Next time I’m searching (hopefully not for a good while) I want to add some details about the application process (online app, email submission, etc.), version control for my CV as I make tweaks and edits, and links to the saved job descriptions.

  20. Owl*

    I’ve always saved the job posting in my cover letter word file (the single page .pdf gets sent) also have word-clouded both my cover letter and the job posting to see if I’m emphasizing the same skills the job posting is… and then when I’m called in, have all the info. The files are saved as company-position-applied date so they’re easy to find again. Maintaining a spreadsheet just feels depressing – as it’s easy to see that you’ve applied for 100 jobs and gotten 4 interviews.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      I posted above about my love for spreadsheets, but this is a really good point. Spreadsheets are great if they work for you, but absolutely not required if they don’t. You probably need to have some kind of system for tracking your job applications, but it doesn’t have to be any particular kind of system. Whatever works for you, do that!

  21. Rectilinear Propagation*

    LW #2 – Their reaction only makes sense if what they’re trying to say is that you’re supposed to be the one making those decisions. I could maybe see them thinking you should be the one to decide how to best do the report itself but I can’t see how you’d decide who the audience is.

  22. fawn (lw 5)*

    thanks so much alison for answering, i’ll defin start saving the job postings i never even thought

    1. ScarletNumber*

      You reminded me of LW 2. Of course you should use a spreadsheet. The unadvertised feature of spreadsheets is that they act as informal databases.

    2. The Elephant in the room*

      I didn’t think to save postings when first job searching either. It definitely helps to go over before the interview especially if you’ve been applying to a lot of jobs.

    3. BRR*

      I save them as a pdf (with chrome) and keep folders with the posting, my cover letter, my resume, and any other items like position-specific questions or notes from the phone interview.

    4. That Would be a Good Band Name*

      And don’t be too quick to get rid of them! I interviewed for a job last week that supposedly closed July 10th and their website no longer contained the full job description.

    5. Person of Interest*

      I don’t keep a spreadsheet, but I save the job posting text by forwarding to myself the auto-reply that thanks me for applying, and copying and pasting the job description into that forward. So I always have a record of when the process started and the job description. Or, if there’s no auto-reply I’ll just forward my application email to myself with the job description copy and pasted into that.

    6. Bookworm1858*

      I actually set up a Google Form for myself where I just plug in the relevant details I want to track – so helpful when I was first job searching as a new grad without a specific industry I was targeting and I applied to a LOT of jobs! I did job title, company, address, link, job description, and if I submitted a CV/cover letter or filled out an online application. You could also include if you have any connections to the company or whatever details you might reference. Such a valuable resource!

    7. Lyudie*

      I had to track job applications etc. when I was on unemployment several years ago (I never had to show the form to anyone, but I suppose the state could have asked for it if they thought I wasn’t actually looking) and I found it really helpful. I tracked the date when I applied, dates when I got any responses, job title, etc. I do encourage you to do it!

      1. The New Wanderer*

        Me too, and I just kept it going as long as I was job hunting. I logged all the jobs in Excel, and about half the time I remembered to save the job posting and added that to the folder with my resume and cover letter for that job.

    8. LeighTX*

      When my husband and I are job-hunting we save each cover letter with the name of the company to which it was sent and the date, and also a PDF copy of the job description from the company or recruiting website.

      Fun fact: back in olden times, I would cut out the job posting from the newspaper and staple it to an index card, and write down the date I applied and any notes if they called or interviewed me. :)

    9. Blunt Bunny*

      Yes I usually print the vacancies off also. The completed applications are good for when you need to answer similar questions. I also have an applications email folder to store all the confirmation emails.

  23. Rectilinear Propagation*

    I also use a spreadsheet. I agree with Owl that it can get depressing but it has been helpful in preventing me from applying to the same job twice when the employer re-posts the ad or when I come across the same, old post from 8 months ago.

    It’s also helpful in keeping track of how often you apply for a job with the same employer, so you don’t do it too often.

  24. Award winning llama wrangler*

    Lw#2 – I am a director who ends up doing a lot of presentations even though it has never been in my job description. I frequently ask all your questions and more and I have never had anyone complain. In fact our CEO recently called my presentations the company’s secret weapons. Not sure if would help, but Nancy Duarte’s books emphasize the need for knowing your audience. Although if that director is expecting you to know, I’d explore other routes of finding out, maybe the person organizing whatever the presentation is for?

  25. Wren*

    Regarding OP1. Possibly remind him that his antics could discourage people from helping people who do fall over for medical reasons. I’m currently awaiting a consultation with a balance specialist due to extreme clumsiness, dizziness, and falls. As a jobseeker I’d be mortified if I had a workplace accident and someone found it funny.

      1. Wren*

        Sadly it’s probably going to be chronic like POTS (I have Ehlers Danlos and they’re commonly co-occuring). Once I know what it is I can probably get help, meds, and any necessary workplace accommodations :)

        1. Miss Astoria Platenclear*

          Wising you well, as I’m sure other AAMers do.
          The falling-down prankster is running the risk of “crying wolf,” or appearing to mock someone who actually stumbles. They should take their pratfall act to an improv class.

        2. Flash Bristow*

          Fellow EDSer here, wishing you well.

          And yeah, falling / stumbling / any of that is no joke.

          Thinking about it, I’d be telling OP1’s friend (if I were in their workplace) something which worked for me : put stuff in a bag around your body so your hands are free for the stair rail or to catch hold of a table or whatever. Wouldn’t that be good advice to someone who keeps falling and throwing their pages on the floor? Especially if they *only* seem to fall when carrying suitable paperwork…

        3. KoiFeeder*

          Fellow EDS+POTS spoonie here, best of luck! Salt will be your new best friend if you do end up diagnosed with POTS.

    1. juliebulie*

      One of my coworkers – a highly respected colleague – had to retire early because of progressive idiopathic cerebellar ataxia (so severe he can hardly even speak any more). In the early stages the only symptom was unsteady gait. I don’t think he ever actually fell while he was here, but it was an increasing possibility. If someone thought that pretending to fall was a funny joke, we would rake them over hot coals.

      Wren, I really hope you get good news.

  26. President of the Lutheran Sisterhood Gun Club*

    LW4: I’m on a medical school admissions committee and I once reviewed an application where the candidate talked about starting a “meth club.” They meant to say math club. It was a hilarious typo that gave me some good entertainment. They were actually a really excellent applicant and I’m pretty sure they ended up being accepted.

  27. RUKiddingMe*

    OP1: Your friend is acting like an adolescent boy. You might ask him if this how he wants yo be thought if when his “pranks” are outed… I dint know that he will react positively in the moment, but he might at least think it over

    1. i forget the name i usually use*

      The fact that the friend stopped talking to LW1 because they disagreed with their pranks definitely suggests immaturity as well. I’m not sure “what if you were found out” reasoning would help, because they think that everyone else should think it’s funny too.

  28. Amylou*

    OP5, yes to the spreadsheet! Especially when you are starting out, entry-level or early career, I feel you need to cast a wide net. I don’t mean randomly sending your CV around, I mean really adjust your cover letter and CV to every posting! But that can be a lot of work, and it can be overwhelming the amount of positions there are available, which is where the sheet comes in to organize all this and my brain.

    My job search spreadsheet contains several tabs even:
    – List of positions/job ads with company, deadline, etc. – I colour code these based on whether I applied or not, if I had a rejection/reaction/interview at all and when. As Alison mentioned, don’t use these to follow up! But it is nice data to see and remind yourself that sometimes reactions/rejections take a couple of weeks to get to you.
    – Sources of job ads: not just LinkedIn or other job boards, but also specific companies I’m interested in, with the link and the date I last checked whether they had new openings.
    – List of agencies and CV databases I submitted my CV to and when the CV was last updated

    The first tab is the list of positions I find interesting (for whatever reason). Do a quick round around your “source” sites and enter them into the sheet. When you are in applying mode, look at the deadlines – are there any that are closing soon? – and look at the most appealing ones. Apply to those. (How many you apply to a day, is up to you and your situation. Just out of my last internship, I aimed for 2/3 a day. When I was working a job with too many hours, I was happy to get out 2-3 a week.)

    In addition, I save job ads as PDFs ever since I couldn’t find a specific opening anymore and I make sure my file names contain date-company-position applied for.

  29. MommyMD*

    Stupid and immature prank. Don’t waste another second worrying if he’s mad at you. If he is, he is a bit of a jerk.

    1. it's me*

      Agreed. And for what it’s worth I’d start avoiding this friend; he seems immature and to have poor judgment.

  30. AngelZash*

    LW 1: It sounds like the friend wants some attention and this is how they are going about it. It doesn’t mean they are spiteful or mean; they’ve just got something to work through and they’re possibly not emotionally mature enough to do it in a mature way. Or they could just have a phenomenally awful sense of humor, which might also indicate some emotional immaturity. Either way they are playing a dangerous game. A lot of companies and workplaces like to record EVERY LITTLE STUMBLE for just in case. I remember one time I tripped walking to the door in the training room at my new job. The trainer who saw it was incredibly worried, but I was only embarrassed and not hurt in the least. The very next day a good supervisor pulled me aside to have a 10 minute conversation to ensure I was okay because apparently despite my not being hurt, my trainer put in a report about it. The same could happen with the prank-playing friend. If that happens, what will they say? “Oh it was just a joke” might not go down very well with HR or their supervisor. In fact, it could make them look very immature and untrustworthy. If I was LW and I wanted to talk to the friend about the pranks again, I think I would simply bring up the possible consequences if someone reports the fall as a fall and help them realize the repercussions this could have on them and their career. I might also probe gently about what makes them think this is a good joke or idea, but only if the friend is not getting upset over others not sharing their amusement again.

    LW 4: This strikes me as something someone who might normally suffer from anxiety would become upset over. Typos happen, but if you are extremely invested in something or already have an anxiety condition, something like this can seem like the end of the world. I like Alison’s advice here, but I think I would also look at how I react to other stressful situations and situations out of my control if I were the LW. Perhaps they should consider seeing a psychologist to discuss their reaction, especially if this is something that happens regularly and/or causes problems for them in any way (even if only in small ways).

    1. Scarlet2*

      I think anyone over the age of 5 who thinks falling down is a good way to attract attention has very deep issues and should probably see someone asap for their arrested development.

  31. Kate, short for Bob*

    OP4, my very first CV – typewritten and photocopied – billed me as an accurate typast. 33 years later and I still cringe.

    1. Lexi Lynn*

      I believe there is a gremlin (like an evil tooth fairy) who reviews resumes for the words “attention to detail” and if found, adds a typo. There may be resumes out there that use the phrase and have no typos, but I have seen very few so I recommend never including the phrase in a resume and thwarting the gremlin.

    2. Cats and dogs*

      This is so spot on that I think I may have thought it was a purposeful joke if reviewing your resume.

  32. Well...*

    Re: public speaking and English as a second language.

    I’m in academia in a stem field that is pretty international (I work in a country outside the US right now where English is not the dominant language, but I did my PhD in the US). In my field, career success absolutely depends on your public speaking, and a good majority of people speak English as a second language. Most of the best talks I’ve heard came from people with strong accents, and in my community that is probably a mainstream opinion. I felt that way working in the US, and working abroad hasn’t changed that.

    I think maybe some bias is sneaking in here….

  33. staceyizme*

    Falling down at work for fun and (humorous) profit? That would make me question the mental stability of my friend. Add in the extreme response to your disagreement with his premise that it’s funny? AND the injury he sustained? This may be a personality disorder. Or a manifestation of a physical change (tumor? stroke? dementia onset?). When people have behaviors that are far outside of the norm AND if those behaviors represent a significant change from prior history, it’s time to inquire further. In your shoes, I’d have questions and might contact a spouse or family member.

  34. cncx*

    One of the things i would like to tangentially mention in terms of OP3. I’m a native English speaker who is completely bilingual in French (officially tested at C2 and went to a French university, not “i had two years of college French and studied abroad a semester” bilingual), but i do have an accent. I’ve gotten passed over for positions and the people who were selected may have had less of an accent but they were also less fluent than me in written skills, or they were native French with extremely poor English (in a job which required a similar level in both). This kind of bias is frustrating.

    Also, public speaking is a separate skill set from language proficiency. Native English speakers can be poor public speakers. I would suggest following AAM’s advice- do a Q&A, have them do a presentation- test this specific skill set rather than assuming something based on their native language.

    1. Coffee Cup*

      OMG thank you for this. I get this a lot and I am a C2 level speaker of French and a native-level speaker of English, and I speak a third language, which is supposedly my mother tongue and “strongest” language that I have never used in a professional context and barely use in my daily life. Language bias is real and needs to stop. If I had to make a list of all the times I was passed over in favor of native speakers who had poor language and writing skills because on paper any kind of native speaker is always better than a trained copywriter… Hmmm.

      1. cncx*

        it’s SO FRUSTRATING. I work in an office where the main language is German and my German isn’t as good as my French (but still good enough to DO MY JOB), and my German colleagues, with no experience to back their assumptions up because we rarely do anything in French here, just assume my French is as good as my German when in reality my French is probably better than my English. Like, listen to someone, read what they write…just because i’m American doesn’t mean i’m not good in languages…

  35. Angus McDonald, Boy Detective*

    LW #1, I really don’t understand this prank either! I worked with someone whose idea of a prank was to make people believe things that weren’t true. So when I first started, she told me her mum was Indian and her dad was African. I knew she had an Indian background, and I’d never met her parents, plus I barely knew her, so I believed her. She thought it was so funny! She also did it to a colleague, convinced her she had a 2 year old son. Again, we barely knew her at this point, why would we think she was lying to us? So bizarre.

    1. Reality.Bites*

      Ah yes, every prankster’s favourite tool, the lie about something no one cares about in the first place.

    2. Myrin*

      Yeah, it’s just so strange! I knew someone like that as well and people honestly just started to avoid her once they’d clued in because what are you even going to do with a person like that whose every word you maybe can or maybe can’t trust because they might in reality just be having a chuckle with themselves instead of simply telling you something?

      Honestly, the funniest thing about this letter is Alison’s answer – she has such a way with drily conveying surprise and a sense of “what the heck” which is just peak comedy to me.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      My fatherinlaw’s classic joke was to tell people he was from Miami Ohio and that of course he ahd orange trees on his property when he was growing up.
      THAT is a joke because at some point you’ll remember that Ohio has blizzards that would kill most citrus trees. And then he can tell you that the “osage orange” is a common weed tree in Ohio.
      Telling untruths about your personal life is not a joke but a lie — there’s no general knowledge about your personal life that someone could remember and realize that you told a joke.

      1. Random thought*

        I grew up in Ohio. We once planted a seed from a pink grapefruit in a pot. It grew to be about 4 feet tall. We would bring it in the house during the winter. If I had heard your father in law’s story I’d think he did the same?

        Also jokes can be hard because general knowledge is regional/ cultural. Someone unfamiliar with the US or Ohio’s climate wouldn’t get it. Even those who are familiar with Ohio but know little about citrus trees wouldn’t get it either. Sometimes jokes make people feel stupid because they lack the same context.

        1. boo bot*

          Yeah. I actually feel like “from Miami, had oranges,” = “from Miami, Ohio, had osage oranges” is probably hilarious to people from Miami, Ohio, who are familiar with the common weed tree of that name. Like, that is legitimately the kind of joke I would love, if I had the context for it. It’s just a know-your-audience thing.

          I think people like the falling coworker, or the tellers of lies-of-no-consequence sort of misunderstand which part makes something a joke? So, in the father-in-law’s example, the thing that makes it funny is the fact that the statement “I’m from Miami, we had orange trees,” turns out to be TRUE, but in a totally unexpected way – it’s the reversal of expectations that’s funny.

          I think the lies-as-jokes crowd hears that same joke, and decide that the funny part is that you, the audience, were WRONG when you assumed he was from Florida; they miss the punchline entirely. So, based on that logic, it’s just as funny if I say, “I’m from Miami, we had orange trees,” and then I tell you I’m from Brooklyn and we had honeylocust trees.

          Um, you’re welcome for that unnecessarily thorough analysis?

  36. Ruth (UK)*

    4. When I applied for my current job, I typoed on the application. Hilariously, I typoed within a sentence talking about my attention to detail! I only discovered it some time after I was hired when I was helping a friend write an application and had pulled up my most recent one. I asked my manager if they had noticed or decided to interview me regardless. They said they had no memory of a typo so probably the former. I think a single typo should not usually be a deal breaker in an application where you’d otherwise interview a person. Multiple typos may be more concerning and an application riddled with them obviously isn’t good.

    Ps. Any potential typos in my post here I blame my phone and autocorrect on…

  37. T*

    #1 – if someone dropped in our workplace we would call the site emergency number and they would end up in an ambulance. If it turned out they were doing it for fun I would anticipate that leading to a disciplinary matter.

    1. irene adler*

      And reimbursement of the steep ambulance fees, I would hope. That might just disabuse them of ever repeating this sort of “prank”.

  38. Reality.Bites*

    I can’t help thinking that if someone in an office is repeatedly falling down and dropping their papers they’re going to be sent home, or asked to see a doctor, etc.

  39. EBStarr*

    Has anyone ever said that they were “all for” unbiased hiring without following it with a wildly biased “but”?

    OP3, if you truly believe in unbiased hiring but your kneejerk response to a non-native speaker applicant is to assume that they can’t be an effective public speaker, you need to do some reading and reflection and learn about what it actually means to treat people equally. Most people are in need of education about this, so it doesn’t make you a bad person!

    I’m not an immigrant but as a woman in corporate America this absolutely reminds me of the situation that women are put in all the time. “I’m all for hiring women if they’re qualified, but the most important thing is Undefinable Quality X [leadership/dedication to the role/charisma with clients] and gee, she just doesn’t seem like she’d have that!”

    Consider a couple things: 1) whether excellent public speaking is truly important or whether you only started to think it was important when you saw a string of applicants who were different from you, and 2) why you reflexively assumed that non-native speakers can’t be effective public speakers instead of testing them. If it’s truly important, yes, test for it! But if the whole concept mostly occurred to you as a subconscious way of expressing that you kind of don’t want to hire an immigrant… you wouldn’t be the first person to express unconscious bias this way, and you can grow and learn and do better in future.

    (And when you do the test, you need to come up with an objective rubric FIRST for judging their skills so that you don’t let your own assumptions affect the grading, because if you grade it subjectively you just leave it open for your assumptions/biases to affect the grading anyway.)

    1. LQ*

      The way you do all for unbiased hiring is stripping identifying information like names from the resume. Even better is removing unneeded requirements from job descriptions.

    2. Antilles*

      Has anyone ever said that they were “all for” unbiased hiring without following it with a wildly biased “but”?
      Nope. People who are *actually* unbiased in hiring don’t need to state how committed they are to unbiased hiring, because their actions speak for themselves.

      1. Anonish*

        Yup. Our new CTO’s response, when asked whether there was an active recruitment plan to address the horrendous gender ratio in our tech department: “Of course, I’m a big supporter of hiring women! But we need to make sure we’re hiring the right person for the job.” As if those two things were mutually exclusive. (Every new hire in the last six months has been a cis white man.)

        1. EBStarr*

          Yes that is such a classic! (I like to call it the Matt Damon response.) Most people either look at a homogeneous group and think “Wow, it would be great if this were more diverse, we must be missing out on talent from underrepresented groups” — or they think, “Sure, it would be great if this were more diverse, but we want the best people and the only way to get diversity is to hire less-good people.” They don’t always even realize that this logically implies they think that people from underrepresented groups are less-good, because they believe there’s no way they could possibly be biased even though the evidence is right in front of them.

          I really hope the OP gains a new perspective from this comment thread!

    3. Shamy*

      I should have read further before replying with my thoughts upthread. You said what I was trying to, but so much better. The whole “I want someone similar to me” mindset really didn’t sit right with me. I hope OP3 heeds your advice.

    4. smoke tree*

      Yes, I think being unbiased in hiring really requires a commitment to creating processes that discourage bias. I’ve run into a depressing number of people who assume that if they don’t have any overt biases (that they are aware of), then naturally their hiring processes must be unbiased. I guess it was just a coincidence that there were only ten women working in that building of over 300 people (and most of them in HR).

  40. Crazy Cat Person*

    #4 – I applied for a job where accuracy and attention to detail were key skills and, yes you guessed, made a typo in my cover letter. I don’t think anyone even noticed, and I still got the job. I suspect you’re like me and respond to the advice “don’t worry about it” with a hollow laugh, but honestly this isn’t a big deal – update your resume to correct the mistake and just carry on. Best of luck!

    #5 – nice to know I’m not the only one with a job searching spreadsheet! Mine also does stats of outcomes (nearly 40% get no response at all – how rude!), but then I’ve always loved stats and data so that’s possibly just me being weird.

  41. MistOrMister*

    OP4, when I applied to my first office job at a law firm, the interviewer pointed out a typo on my resume. It was mortifying and I made some comment about how I couldn’t believe I’d overlooked it. Then we moved on and I ended up getting the job. (Better believe I corrected that typo immediately for my next resume!!) Some people will cut you out of the running for it, but typos happen to everybody. I think many people would be willing to overlook one typo. Its when your resume is riddled with them that you are in danger of being moved directly to the reject pile.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      It’s an interesting tactic for an interviewer: simply ask the applicant about a typo. The way they react will tell you a lot. The person I’d want to work with is someone who expresses some sense of “oops” and is embarassed and says it will be fixed. I wouldn’t want to work with someone who shrugs and doesn’t care that there’s an error. And I wouldn’t want to work with someone who gets huffy & defensive, blames someone else who proofread their resume for not spotting it, or who argues that “poofreading” is an acceptable alternate spelling.
      (If it’s a punctuation issue, I’d be content with an educated argument about the Oxford comma, or the pros&cons of hyphenating words like re-education. And if company style guide chooses the opposite decision, I’d ask a follow-up question to be sure they’d be able to follow that style guide even if “feels wrong” to them.)

  42. Coffee Cup*

    As a non-native, but native-level, speaker of English who has made almost her entire career in English and has a lot of public speaking experience, I admit that I take exception to LW#3’s approach. How do you know these non-native job candidates will not be good and eloquent public speakers? It is impossible to judge this from a resume without speaking to them, and frankly this kind of prejudice is often an obstacle in the careers of many very capable people who are dinged for normal, native mistakes everyone makes and are considered unqualified for things because of this.

    1. Wine Goblet*

      Yeah, seriously. I’m a non-native speaker of English but English happens to be my best language. The prejudice in this one is strong.

    2. Quill*

      Yeah, this rubbed me the wrong way as well. I’ve almost always worked with multilingual teams and the barrier to comprehension is not actually very high – not to mention non-urgent mistakes such as calling the vortexer the “Sample tilt-o-hurl” because everyone in the office forgot the english word for it are a bonding experience.

      Plus, the global reality is: most secondary english speakers’ english is better than my (secondary) spanish, because I started at 11 and often go weeks at a time without having to use it. OP seems like they’ve gone leaping to prejudicial conclusions.

    3. Database Developer Dude*

      My native language is American English. I’m a polyglot (English, Spanish, German, Czech, French). OP#3 is several things I can’t say here. Many ESL speakers with accents are just fine in English. Having an accent doesn’t make you dumb. Thinking it does, however, clearly does make you so.

  43. Marthooh*

    OP #4: If anyone ever brings it up, just tell them volunterring means making gratuitous typographical errors.

    1. GoryDetails*

      Love it! (When I read the letter I immediately thought “what a marvelous typo ‘volunterring’ is”!)

  44. Mel*

    LW 2: unfortunately there are some people in authority who are wierd about questions. Like. Really weird.

    I worked for years at a place where not asking would have been unprofessional and weird.

    Then I had a job where both my boss and her boss would get REALLY agitated by questions. They said I needed too much hand holding, but like you, I only wanted the basic parameters of the project, so I could do it correctly!

    That came with a tendency to micromanage really small projects. Once, printing 8 labels for internal use took a whole day.

    I’m back at a place where people think questions are a normal part of the work day and I’m much happier.

  45. Delta Delta*

    As a lawyer I’m going to weigh in on the typo question. Generally, no, typos are not a big deal in the grand scheme of everything. However, an application for an assistant position in a law firm with an obvious typo is probably going to get binned. Last time I hired an assistant I got seventy two applications. Some were great applicants. But I had to draw the line somewhere because I couldn’t interview 72 people. I may have missed out on a good hire because of a typo, but instead hired someone else who was good who didn’t have a typo. And this wasn’t in BigLaw, this was a 15-attorney firm in a medium-sized market.

    Now, that said, BigLaw firms aren’t a cartel who talk to each other and say, “don’t hire Cordelia because she misspelled volunteered.” This just isn’t a thing. And in the event OP is in a spot even to interview for an attorney position in a BigLaw firm (which is a long way down the road and may not even be in the cards for many, many reasons), it is likely a) not the same firm, and b) even if it is, probably not the same people doing the hiring, and c) will not recall in several years that there was a typo on a prior resume.

    1. Observer*

      Say someone applied for an assistant position and you chucked the application that had a typo. If a year later that person applied to a different position would you even care that there was a typo in the old resume, even if you remembered?

  46. I coulda been a lawyer*

    I work in a professional office and Mr McFall here would have our safety officer apoplectic. Each fall is worth about 2 hours of paperwork at the local level and I don’t know how many as it moves up the chain. This also affects insurance rates. So not funny.

  47. Bookworm*

    #3: “I am all for hiring anyone qualified regardless of background, but I prioritize public speaking skills and eloquence.”

    Do you really want someone who’s going to BS their way through a presentation and will be unable to answer questions because they *sound good* but don’t have the substance?

    I hate giving presentations but that is a skill that can be taught. I side-eye you and your organization if they’re allowing you to prioritize the style over knowing the material. And the non-native speaking English comment? Again, that can be taught. Also says a lot more about you than you realize.

    1. Approval is optional*

      I wondered about that comment too. It would be interesting to know if the LW’s manager would have the same priorities. IMO most managers would prioritise the skills/knowledge of candidates for what the LW says is a fairly technical role; eloquence etc would be a bonus.

  48. Justin*

    Oh man I have so many thoughts about 3 but I will be concise.

    Background: decade as English language teacher, incl masters, now getting doctorate and researching linguistic discrimination. So.

    All you really need are presentation skills. It is in fact true that monolingual audiences often claim not to understand certain accents and that you thus may want to pander to this (and you may make said claim yourself). Be better. We all have accents. Those who study the language are often more precise. Screen for skills and not anything related to nationality or group membership.

    1. Justin*

      This is the type of stuff that leads directly to racism but if someone points that out they’ll say race was never mentioned.

    2. Coffee Cup*

      Justin, I would be so interested in any research about this type of linguistic discrimination, now that I know that it is a research area that exists! It might even be my calling in life.

      1. Femme d'Afrique*

        Not Justin but, to expand on something I said above, it would be like assuming Kofi Annan and Lupita Nyong’o (not being native English speakers) wouldn’t be qualified to give presentations in English (or be “eloquent”). Not sure the same thought would apply to Charlize Theron, so yeah, I can see how this could be a slippery slope towards a racist conclusion.

        1. Coffee Cup*

          Very good point Femme d’Afrique! I agree with you that this would happen when hiring face to face. And just to illustrate the ridiculousness of the idea, all three resumes would be rejected by LW#3 because on paper they aren’t native speakers, even if racial prejudice could mean that Charlize could go through over the others if someone met her without seeing her resume.

    3. fposte*

      I was thinking about the blind auditions for orchestras–do you know if anybody’s trying blind presentations yet? An employer could ask for a remote audio presentation with slides. Obviously voices convey more about the person than an instrument sound does, but it might be interesting.

    4. On a pale mouse*

      “monolingual audiences often claim not to understand certain accents”
      Are you saying everyone who says they can’t understand someone with an accent is lying, or biased, or something? Because there are many people with accents that I can easily understand, and I would never screen someone out of a position just because they might have an accent. But there are also some speakers I have great difficulty understanding. I’m open to the possibility that this is some sort of bias on my part that I can overcome, and in fact that would be great, not just for people who are experiencing unfair bias from me, but also for me, because it would sure make phone calls like the tech support call I made last night a lot easier. But if I sound skeptical, it’s because I am. Maybe I’ve misunderstood you?

      1. boo bot*

        I’m not sure what Justin is specifically referring to, but some people will basically just hear an accent and say, “I can’t understand,” right away without trying to listen for a second and see if they might be able to get the hang of it.

        Sometimes it takes me a second to kind of sync my brain up with someone’s accent, especially if I haven’t heard that accent before; I have to pay more attention than usual until my brain keys in to the pattern. That doesn’t mean some people won’t have more trouble understanding each other – it just means that someone who is accustomed to hearing an accent and shutting down automatically would probably benefit from taking a moment to listen and try to understand.

        1. Koala dreams*

          Yes, it becomes a self-fullfilling prophecy. You think you won’t understand anything, so you stop trying. How much we understand depends a lot on our expectations.

          I sometimes read books or magazines in different languages on the bus, and sometimes when I look up from my text it seems to me that everybody is speaking an unknown language for a few seconds. Then I realize they are all speaking my native language, while I was expecting a different language.

      2. fposte*

        There’s been a lot of good research on this, in fact; one famous early example was an audio lecture where they used different images for the same passage. People who saw an Asian face perceived an accent; people who saw a white face didn’t. That kind of finding repeats itself over and over in subsequent studies.

        That doesn’t mean that you or anybody else are making it up when they say they’re struggling to understand; it’s just that there are external things that can influence our adaptability and our assessment of difficulty.

        1. Quill*

          And anecdotally, from aquaintances with auditory processing problems, accents are less likely to be a problem than electronic feedback/background noise anyway.

        2. Justin*

          To answer the question asked of me, yes, it’s a bias, but not necessarily a hateful one, just a lack of familiarity that becomes an issue when weaponized like LW3 might be doing. One indeed might have to take a bit more time to understand unfamiliar pronouncation but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re less proficient.

          1. Pommette!*

            Exactly. There’s nothing wrong with not understanding someone’s accent; the problem is with framing that as evidence of a problem on the speaker’s part. And with the fact that that particularly framing often gets used for speakers from some countries/languages, and seldom for others.

        3. Justin*

          My old coworker tried to tell me repeatedly that our Nigerian client was “very very hard to understand” (he wasn’t, and I have no particular familiarity with Nigeria or its most prominent non-English languages).

        4. Old and Don’t Care*

          On the other hand, I have a much, much harder time understanding someone with an accent on the phone, obviously without seeing the other person and often not even knowing what kind of accent it is. In person I usually do just fine.

      3. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

        I certainly cannot understand some accents, or I can understand them but only if I listen very hard and ask them to repeat stuff. It makes it very difficult to learn complex ideas, since I have to spend so much effort understanding the words that I have none left over to understand the content. And in a lecture type setting, I can’t ask the speaker to repeat themselves every time I don’t understand.

        This is not a symptom of racism. It is a symptom of unfamiliarity with an accent. So of course the people who have twenty Indian (or Scottish) coworkers understand them easily. They understand the accent. I don’t.

        When I went into my last job, I had a hard time understanding some of my coworkers. The local AAVE (if that is the correct term) is particularly strong and I was unfamiliar with it. A year later, I could usually understand everybody just fine.

        In other words, sometimes people who say they can’t understand someone you can understand aren’t bigoted liers. Sometimes they just can’t understand.

        1. Justin*

          What the research shows is that, yes, familiarity is key, but that people struggle, all things being equal, with an unfamiliar accent attached to a different ethnicity than to one attached to a familiar ethnicity. Maybe not you, but overall, that is the trend and the data.

          ANYWAY, the OP says coded stuff like “eloquence” that is worthy of side-eye.

          And everyone is somewhat bigoted and biased. It’s just on all of us to recognize ourselves and work on it.

    5. Olive Hornby*

      Yes! In college, I had a student job coaching and evaluating graduate students who were non-native speakers of English (anyone who had been required to submit the TOEFL as part of their application.) Most were in the sciences. The students had to pass the evaluation in order to work as teaching assistants (it was a very detailed evaluation, focusing on organizing material, stressing the correct syllable or word in a sentence, distinguishing vowel sounds, etc.) and most passed on the first try. (The others were asked to take an ESOL course before going into the classroom with undergrads.) Still, they often received feedback from student evaluations about their “difficult to understand accent.” When we got that feedback, the students were reevaluated. They nearly always passed again. For some reason, the more challenging the class and/or the more likely it was to be a weed-out for med school applicants, the more the students complained about the TA’s accent…

      For the OP, you might consider an evaluation of your candidates’ presentation skills along the lines of what we used, with an audience similar to the one that the candidate would be speaking in front of (in this case, undergraduate students) and with the candidate speaking on a subject and in a format that would mimic what they’d actually be doing in the job. You don’t need your candidate to have time-share salesman slickness if what you want is someone who can demo new software for small groups of junior colleagues, for example.

      1. Justin*

        The entire “accent reduction” industry is based on this sort of discrimination. Also, you can’t remove an accent so much as you can adopt an additional/new one that you then use more often.

      2. Pommette!*

        I’m an ESL speaker. Back in TAing days, my accent was still strong enough that strangers regularly asked me where I was from. Students would sometimes mention it in their evaluation forms, but always in positive terms (charming! easy to understand! quirky!). The feedback was mostly nice, especially since I worked so hard to make sure that I was understood. Some of it was exoticizing in a way that have would been worrisome if had been part of a larger pattern (I might be quirky, but my accent, which is shared by lots of others, isn’t).

        Fellow TAs, and even professors, whose English was, objectively speaking, as good as or better than mine, would often get much more critical feedback. They were hard to understand! They weren’t understandable at all! They shouldn’t be allowed to teach if they couldn’t speak English! They sounded stupid! They were hard to take seriously!

        The main difference between the people whose accents got treated as quirks and those whose accents got treated as flaws were race and country of origin. If you were white and from a colonizing or settler-colonial country, your accent mostly got good reviews; if you were brown or black and from a country that had been colonized, your accent got mostly bad ones. It was unsurprising but also eye opening.

        I don’t think that the people who wrote those reviews thought of themselves as behaving in a racist or xenophobic way. The way we perceive accents is shaped by the experiences we’ve had in an often biased world. I’m sure that OP’s intentions are good, but s/he needs to be really careful about how s/he evaluates candidates’ speech.

  49. Urdun*

    LW 1:

    To me your friend’s behavior sounds like someone who really wants attention. It’s sad but I’m betting that he enjoys and feels validated by his coworker’s concern.

    It reminds me of my MIL’s often crude attempts to get attention by causing concern . For example, not answering her phone, turning off all the lights in the house, and then sitting back and enjoying (I suspect), the sounds of us all rushing up to her bedroom shouting her name. “Oh you were WORRIED about me? I was just NAPPING.”

    1. Tinybutfierce*

      My grandmother does this, except despite wanting the attention, she also gets MAD when people get overly concerned about her, I guess because she perceives it as people thinking she can’t take care of herself. Recently there was an incident where my mother and none of her sisters were able to get ahold of their mom for hours, and given that she lives alone by herself out in the county, they inevitably started to freak out. When someone finally did get her on the phone, grandma got legitimately upset that she had so many missed calls blowing up her phone, because ???

      She’s done this sort of emotionally manipulative stuff so often, I’ve pretty solidly distanced myself from her. And that’s honestly what I’d do in the case of the coworker in #1, because it’s just such a WEIRD judgement call (at best).

    2. fposte*

      And as a friend, that might be a useful way to deal with it. A serious “It sounds like you feel pretty overlooked there–is there a more functional way for you to deal with that?” is both taking the prankish air out of the person’s sails and focusing on solving the possible underlying problem.

  50. KF*

    LW#2: I also work in a data analysis/reporting field, and have had these problems as well. I know it may be a little late for your current job, but the best advice I can offer is this – for any of these reporting requests, send out a standard form (I use a .pdf document where the user can type in each response), asking all the pertinent questions to complete a report. Columns needed, selection and search criteria, deadline, distribution method (one time data dump, auto run, user can run themselves, etc.), is it to be based off similar report, and so on.

    This has saved me countless hours of tracking people down and going back and forth with questions to figure out what it is they actually want. It sounds like you may not be in a position to implement this, but if you can get to a point where users know they need to fill out the form in order to get their report, your job may run a lot more smoothly.

    And yes, I realize that certain people may balk that they don’t have time to fill out the form, or they are asking you verbally – In those cases what I have always done is complete the form myself, with the information given, and email to them for their sign-off before beginning the work.

    Again, seems daunting at first, but to me it beats creating the report based on partial information, and then having to go back-and-forth with the user multiple times to make it how they really wanted it in the first place.

    I hope that might be helpful, and good luck with your job search if you do decide to move on!

  51. Jellyfish*

    I had the incorrect graduation year for my bachelor’s degree on my resume. During the background check phase of my last job offer, I was completely terrified they’d realize the year was wrong and pull my offer for lying.
    No one noticed, and when I brought it up later, no one cared.

    OP 4, this is a wild overreaction, but I’ve been in that headspace too. It’s okay – no one who you actually want to work for expects total perfection all the time. Correct the mistake, learn from the experience, and go get that law degree. You got this!

  52. Tinybutfierce*

    #1 Add me to the pile of people who see this less as a prank and just a cry for attention. If I was this person’s coworker, as soon as it became clear that they were fine and just doing it for the lolz, it would definitely affect my perception of them. I’d just start ignoring it when it happens and honestly put some distance between myself and my coworker, ’cause man, is their judgement WEIRD (at best). I’ve unfortunately worked with a lot of people in the past in various jobs who were various levels of awful/toxic/etc., and have become super sensitive to red flags about that kind of thing, and this would at least give my spidey-sense enough of a ding that I wouldn’t want to interact with them more than work absolutely required.

  53. Jennifer Strange*

    #4 – Anytime I get down on myself about a small mistake I just remind myself of the time at a previous job when the head of my department (Fundraising) sent out a letter signed by the head of our organization to a major donor in which the donor’s name was misspelled in every instance it was listed (misspelled in the same way at least, but misspelled nonetheless). I was just a lowly associate and only had a scan of the signed letter sent to me after the fact to put in the donor’s file so I didn’t have a chance to proofread it, but when I looked it over it just stunned me that so many people higher up than me could overlook a pretty obvious error. I did end up pointing it out but by that time the letter had gone and there was nothing we could do.

    Obviously in this case no one was applying for a job so I get that it’s not a perfect comparison, but the point is even people near the top of the totem pole can sometimes overlook things. Maybe the typo will affect the jobs you’ve already applied to (though I’m going to guess in some cases they’ll let it pass – if they even notice it) but please take a breath and remember that you are human and this is not going to end you in any manner.

  54. Detective Amy Santiago*

    LW #1 – As someone who has severe anxiety, your friend’s antics would likely cause me to have a panic attack if I was his coworker and saw this happening frequently. If I found out it was his idea of a prank, I’d be furious.

    Not to mention that there are many people with genuine medical conditions who do have balance issues that he is essentially mocking. If your friend has a shred of empathy for other humans, this should get him to knock off the crap.

    Honestly, if you have any way to contact his coworkers, I’d do it and let them know what’s going on.

  55. Question #4 OP*

    I am the OP from question #4. First, thank you very much for your kind words and support. It means a lot, truly.

    Second, I promise I am not as freaked out about it as I was when I wrote the e-mail to Alison. I wrote it when I first fixed it and felt like I had to tell someone! :D I have moved on and even had a phone interview yesterday!

    Third, I am probably more stressed than usual because of an employment gap for multiple reasons (personal health issues being the biggest one). Anyone here who has had a gap likely knows how stressful it can be when applying for jobs (even if you have a valid reason for one).

    Thank you again for the kind words. It is appreciated. :)

    1. Quill*

      Hey OP, best of luck – I was unemployed 6 months when I got current job, so believe me, the gap, while nerve wracking, may not be a detriment.

    2. Database Developer Dude*

      Before I joined my current firm, I had multiple employment gaps, *because* of being in the Army Reserve. I feel your pain, OP#4….I really do.

    3. Crazy Cat Person*

      I’m in much the same position – job hunting having been unemployed for months due to health issues – so I really feel you! I wish you all the best, with this job if it’s right for you, or with the one that is.

  56. jcarnall*

    #LW1 – My first thought when I read your letter was that your friend isn’t actually “pranking” co-workers with these repeated falls: they’re suffering from some kind of illness or disability that leads them to fall over more often than normal. And they prefer to pretend that they are doing this on purpose for fun and games than to have to think about the fact that they keep falling all of the time and there is something organically wrong. I may be wrong – you know your friend and I don’t – but I am myself a sufferer of an invisible disability that leads me to bump into things, drop things, and spill things. I no longer try to make fun of myself for doing this – this has been my life now for decades, and there are better coping mechanisms – but I recognise this as a familiar coping mechanism in someone who really doesn’t want to think of themselves as ill/disabled. I can’t offer a solution – but I’d be concerned.

      1. jcarnall*

        Yes: “And they prefer to pretend that they are doing this on purpose for fun and games than to have to think about the fact that they keep falling all of the time and there is something organically wrong.”

        #LW1 knows their friend, I don’t: I just would consider this a possibility if someone suddenly started falling down all of the time, even if they claimed it was a prank they were doing on purpose.

  57. MuseumChick*

    OP 1, I’m with you. This is a mean spirited prank as it gets your coworkers to 1) worry you got hut 2) Stop what they are doing to help you. I’m not sure there is much you can do for this friend if they refuse to see what they are doing as disruptive to others.

  58. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    #4: Your typo, if it was a section label, might not have been caught by spell check because there’s an option in MS Word that lets you turn off spell check for acronyms by not searching for errors when a word is all in caps.

    Make sure that you either change the setting, or get super careful about checking those all-cap words. It’s so easy not to proofread bits of a resume that you don’t think need changing.

  59. Womens Rea*

    LW #4: Fellow lawyer here! Man, law school really messes with your head. Catastrophizing is a part of that, and so is questioning if you are “good” enough to be a lawyer. I heard advice all of the time during law school that if I made a single typo, no one would ever take me seriously as a lawyer. Which of course is ridiculous – people make mistakes, and it’s ok. I graduated a couple of years ago and that mentality for me has faded over time. I would really encourage you to not tie minor mistakes, like typos, to your worth as a lawyer or your ability to to work in big law. I know law school breeds that kind of mentality, but it adds unnecessary pressure to yourself during an already stressful time.

    Also, seconding the advice from others to consider therapy. I started right after I graduated law school and it’s one of the best decisions I’ve made for myself.

  60. NEWBIEMD19*

    Letter #1 – I’m confused. Is it a group of coworkers who pretend to fall and scatter their papers? Is it choreographed and they all fall at once? Do they do it separately throughout the day? I feel like it would be like working in a Three Stooges movie!

    1. valentine*

      It is one person, OP1’s friend, who is now mad that OP1 feels for the friend’s coworkers, who are presumably concerned and helping to pick up all that paper.

  61. Jessica Fletcher*

    OP #1 – Repeatedly falling down could make your friend’s coworkers think they have a medical issue. (Because it’s not funny and nobody else thinks it is!) If/when they reveal this as a so-called prank, they might find some are peeved that they worried for nothing. Some may even think it was a ploy for attention and sympathy, which frankly makes more sense than a “prank.” Perhaps your friend would be swayed by the potential embarrassment of others thinking they were pretending to be sick.

  62. MicroManagered*

    OP1 You actually asked for advice in dealing with your friend, who is now angry that you don’t see the falling down as a funny prank. I would let the situation cool off. Don’t do anything to fix or apologize or caretake your friend’s feelings.

    When your friend decides to talk to you again, they will. If they never bring up the “prank,” fine. Let them act like an ass at work, and let their manager deal with that. Stay in your lane. If your friend specifically asks you about your take on the falling down prank again, be honest but not judgy or shaming about it. Say simply and kindly “I don’t mean to upset you, but I just don’t see the humor in that prank.”

    If they decide to end the friendship over this, then they were pretty immature to begin with (and this tracks with my take on the falling down “prank” anyway).

  63. Samwise*

    OP #3. I’ve been working for 40 years. I’m the person in my office people come to with questions. *I* ask questions just like the ones you are asking when I get a new project. And I check back periodically to make sure there aren’t any changes. I ask questions every single day.

    Your boss is not just weird, as Alison says; your boss is a fool. That kind of attitude is guaranteed to produce work that is off-point and even just wrong, sometimes catastrophically and expensively wrong.

    You can either keep asking questions (the questions you listed are exactly right) and annoy your boss, or you can stop asking questions and get the info from someone who is not as short-sighted as your boss, or you can stop asking questions of anyone and risk doing wrong work — that last one is risky to *you*, so I don’t advise it. Personally I’d keep asking my boss, if she’s the one who has the answers, but I’m old and my feeling is, what’s she going to do, fire me? Fine, fire me, now have fun distributing my large amounts of work, sucker. You may not be in that position. But it’s worth thinking through what the consequences might be for continue to ask questions. See if there’s a level-headed and objective old hand in the office you can talk this through.

  64. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    #1: Intentionally falling down at work is perfectly acceptable, provided it’s 1975, and your workplace is the set of Saturday Night Live.

  65. Ametjystmoon*

    #2 depends. Are the answers to the questions documented? Have you done the sane type of thing before? If you always do reports for this person and you never present them and the audience is always her (or the people in your department, or whatever) and it never changes, then yes, it would look bad. Is she the kind of toxic person that hollers at people for little things? I could maybe see why you would feel the need to ask then, but if it’s just the sane kind of report you do normally, you shouldn’t need to ask. Maybe try creating a frequently asked questions document for yourself that you could refer to. Unless this woman has threatened your job, or is overly hostile, you shouldn’t need to look for s new job.

  66. Jk*

    #2

    Your questions were fine and she seems unreasonable. Her not providing this information makes you inefficient.

    If I were you I’d set up a new procedure for requests. Create a short, intuitive form and have all pertinent questions up front and make it clear work won’t proceed unless it is completed. Anything more complex they can come to you with questions, sometimes people have awkward projects.

    This is normal and enforceable. It will make your and their lives easier

    Get your boss on board to back you up.

    That Director is cheeky making a statement about your salary. What a stupid thing to say.

    1. Database Developer Dude*

      *LMAO* oh, that’s cute. First time OP tries to do that they’re going to get reprimanded. Logic and reason is not in play here.

        1. fposte*

          There’s a good suggestion upthread about framing it as a followup plan that the director can correct if they want. But refusing to do the work unless you get what you want is going to be somewhere between tone-deaf and insubordinate at a lot of workplaces.

          1. it's me*

            I must have missed where anyone said “I refuse to do the work until you give me what I want [basic parameters and a due date].”

            1. Myrin*

              From the first comment in this thread: “Create a short, intuitive form and have all pertinent questions up front and make it clear work won’t proceed unless it is completed.”

              1. it's me*

                Okay, so OP doesn’t have the required information, can’t ask questions about it, can’t attempt to impose a standard form for parameters. Got it.

                1. Myrin*

                  I don’t know why you’re replying to me as if contributed any content to this conversation – I was merely answering your implied question of “Where does anyone say X?” by quoting the comment that does indeed say X.

                2. fposte*

                  Realistically, she doesn’t have many options in a situation like that, so yes, you do have it. But the suggestion upthread is a really good one that isn’t any of the options you note.

      1. Fortitude Jones*

        Yeah, unfortunately, the boss is a coward who already doesn’t stand up for OP against the director’s ridiculous demands, so it’s doubtful he’d back her up on implementing this very logical workflow process.

      2. Jk*

        LMAO, no nonooooo… you’re cute! Have you never put processes in place before? I’ve had VPs and presidents follow them. Assume you’re a defeatist then? Something perfectly normal and implemented in most workplaces is apparently impossible in this setting unknown to us. What we do know is that no one has tried to fix this problem.

        Come back later with some real feedback when you’ve had time to think this through.

        1. Rabbit*

          This is a very rude comment. Given that OP stated that they were reprimanded for asking for essential information and that their boss has been avoiding them and has been totally useless in terms of backing them up I don’t believe that putting the questions into a form rather than asking verbally has any realistic chance of making a difference.

          As you say, the director seems unreasonable. So why do you assume she will have a reasonable response to a new procedure?

          1. fposte*

            I actually think exploring a form isn’t unreasonable, especially if it’s a workplace where forms are common and it’s a workflow that lends itself to a form. It’s the refusing to do the work if your form isn’t filled out that I think would be disastrous.

        2. DreamingInPurple*

          I think it’s valid to say that at this point, after OP2 has already been bizarrely called out on the carpet over this, the director would absolutely not respond well to being asked to fill out a form. This is a very different situation than someone coming into a position, designing a form, and asking for it to be filled out *before* they had basically been reprimanded over something similar. That would have been putting a process in place; doing it now (especially if this director is the primary reason for the form’s existence) would look like retaliation and I can’t imagine it would fly. As Fortitude Jones has mentioned above, if OP2’s boss won’t stand up for them then they’re unlikely to have any meaningful support with this – and may even end up ganged up on by the director and boss together.

        3. Observer*

          Are your directors all children who LIKE being treated like children? The condescension of your response does NOT add any credibility to it.

          What makes you think that a director who wrote an angry email over this, and then called a meeting when the OP tried to clarify is going to follow the “demands” of someone of lower rank?

          And what makes you think that someone this autocratic is going to go along with a workflow they didn’t initiate?

          Please come back with a response when you’ve had a chance to figure out how to respond like an adult speaking to other adults.

    2. Observer*

      Your really think the OP is a position to “enforce” ANYTHING with their Director? And that a boss who hasn’t backed them till now WILL back them on something like this?

      It sounds like the Director is an unreasonable piece of work. But this will probably get the OP fired.

  67. StressedButOkay*

    For OP1’s friend, I wonder if they end up getting actually injured on the job while doing this and their company finds out that they’ve been throwing themselves on the ground repeatedly and on purpose, that it somehow gets them out of having to pay for workers comp for being injured at the office?

    1. On a pale mouse*

      I was wondering that too. I know a few things about work comp but not this answer. If they do have to pay for injuries from this behavior, they are likely to try to fire the person (although they may hesitate because it could look like firing in retaliation for making a work comp claim, which I’m pretty sure isn’t allowed, so they’d need very good documentation to show it was the intentional behavior that they were firing for, not for making the claim).

    2. Tom & Johnny*

      As someone who helps handle workers comp claims for my company, this dude is a nightmare.

      If I was a co-worker and found out he was doing this, an effective way to get him to stop might be to concern troll him. “Oh no Fergus, you fell again! We really have to file a workers comp claim this time. This can’t go on!”

      Not to mention, “horseplay” is almost always an excluded category for workers comp. The company can refuse to cover you (or more accurately the policy is written to exclude coverage) if you’re nerf gun fighting with each other, play wrestling, skipping through the halls, or like this bro, fake falling.

      What a dude.

  68. Database Developer Dude*

    OP#2, time to look for a new job. This is the kind of “leader” who is often defined as toxic.

    Speaking as a subordinate, if you as the senior give me a task, I need to know what your intent is, and what right looks like. Yes, I’ll take initiative, but I will need to ask questions, and if you fault me for the simple act of asking questions, you’re one of those “I’ll know it when I see it” types that drive me right up the wall and make me want to kick them.

  69. Granger*

    #2 Alison asked, “For example, do you have a pattern of asking her tons of questions that aren’t as essential as these were?”

    This is exactly what I was thinking as I read OP2’s post. I have a staff member who asks SO MANY questions about EVERY SINGLE task and it makes me crazy and I have to constantly remind myself that for her *every detail is important* – that she doesn’t distinguish between or evaluate the value of the details.

    I suspect the manager was already at a boiling over point about the question asking because of a pattern – either with OP specifically or it could be several staff members, etc – before this (totally reasonable) example/situation happened and it resulted in a totally unreasonable response (NOT defending the manager here!).

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      I feel like we’re missing some necessary details from OP’s story, IMO. The reaction just seems way out of proportion to the “offense”.

    2. Amethystmoon*

      Yeah, I had a coworker for 3 years who always asked basic questions about things he had done many times before. What’s worse is I even wrote up documentation at his request with screen prints, the kind of click here–click here thing that you give to newbies, including specifically the questions he kept asking repeatedly, and he never referred to it. Not ever.

  70. Bopper*

    Asking questions:

    I wonder if your approach to asking questions could be modified…
    Instead of “Could you analyze the data from ABC company” and you text back “When do you want it? Who’s the audience? What kind of report do you want” it might feel kind of defensive/combative like you don’t know where to start…

    “Manager, I was looking at the ABC Company project and want to make sure we are on the same page. I was thinking about doing this like we did with the XYZ company and also am assuming the audience is the mid-managers. It should take about 2 weeks. Is that what you were thinking?”
    Then you seem like you know what you should do but are just confirming.

  71. stitchinthyme*

    #2 reminds me a little of my boss. When I first started this job, I’d finish a project and ask my boss for something else to do, since I hadn’t been there long enough to just know what needed to be done next. In my first performance review, he made a comment about me coming to him too often, which really annoyed me since how was I going to know what needed to be done if I didn’t ask? It’s not like he was coming to me with a new assignment when I’d finish something. So I stopped approaching him altogether and just web-surfed when I had nothing to do, and waited for them to give me a new project. (It did get better later; they first created project leads who I could ask for stuff to do, and then they added another manager between me and that boss who is much more approachable.)

  72. Plush Penguin*

    Reading #4 reminds me, I had a far more devastating typo when I was in undergrad. I was trying to find summer jobs in my field, and I was sending out resumes, and at one point I opened my resume to look at it… and my PHONE NUMBER was incorrect. Like, two digits were incorrect. I still don’t understand how that happened, either.

    I never had great luck sending out resumes for summer positions, but this certainly explained why I heard nothing up to that point.

    1. Stephen!*

      Oh no! Back in the day of faxing resumes I sent a resume to a wrong fax number. Luckily they readvertised the job and after my initial “Oh, not even going to interview me? Your loss, suckers!” internal response, I realized my mistake, applied with correct fax number and got the job. Humans! Mistakes! We make ’em!

  73. Dagny*

    LW3: this sounds like a situation in which the job description does not match what you are hiring for. If it is actually very important to have good presentation skills, then that needs to be part of the job description, and you may even ask candidates to list their experience or abilities in their resumes or cover letters.

  74. Jaybeetee*

    Lw1: I’m with Alison here that your friend’s “prank” isn’t offensive, per se… it just isn’t funny. It’s kinda dumb. What jumps out at me is that your friend isn’t talking to you over this. Silent treatment is a hella juvenile way to deal with conflicts, and can even be abusive if it’s a close relationship. Knowing nothing else about this friend of yours, you don’t need this kind of crap in your life.

    1. Jennifer*

      Taking a break and the time to cool off after an argument, even one as silly as this, is not abusive. Really over the top.

      1. Batgirl*

        If it’s just that, yeah, a cooling off break is fine. If he said “Oh they’re fine!” and OP pushed her agenda about it being unfair to the colleagues before he was ready to admit it was a dumb move, then nopeing out of the conversation is a good idea.
        However, it sounds like the friend is being very precious in addition to that. He says he feels ‘judged’ and like no one is not allowed to call him out on jokes because it’s.. his sense of humour?! Which is sacred apparently?
        Oh the humanity. I’m with Jaybeetee. His response to OP not blindly laughing along at whatever stunt he can think of, might be the most immature detail of all.

        1. Jennifer*

          Immature – sure, but abuse? Come on, now…

          People jump to the wildest conclusions here sometimes whenever pranks are mentioned.

          1. Batgirl*

            A pointed, sulky silence is absolutely a punishment tool. Abuse? Not for me but it’s in the eye of the beholder.

            1. Dahlia*

              No worries! OP has since commented explicitly that the person uses they/them, but you’re definitely not the only one on this train lol.

      2. Jaybeetee*

        To be clear, I didn’t intend to say that the friend was abusive (that was my caveat about “close relationships”, but evidently I wasn’t clear enough). Silent treatment is certainly a tactic in abusive relationships to punish or gain compliance from somebody. I brought it up in this context not to suggest friend is “abusive” (friend strikes me as childish and petulant, but not “abudive”), but more to emphasize to OP that silent treatment is just really crappy behaviour and combined with the friend’s brand of humour, suggests that OP can probably find better friends.

  75. Trello Addict*

    OP#5, in my last job search, I used a tool called Trello to track my applications. It’s kind of like a kanban board, with columns (lists) and cards that go under the columns. I used 5 columns, “Rejected”, “Apply To”, “Jobs Applied”, “Phone Interview”, and “Accepted!” to track the states the job application was in. Each job application got it own card and the card titles would follow a “Company Name – Job Title – Job Number” pattern. Within the card I’d note the job application link and copy the original Job Description over. If there was a specific version of my resume I shared or a cover letter, I’d also attach that to the relevant card so I could reference it easier.
    Then, I could move the card through the different columns as it’s state progressed, and add additional notes to the card if I talked with someone or if I had a specific question to ask during an interview.

    The “Rejected” column got pretty long, but it helped to make sure I didn’t reapply to the same job position on accident.
    I really liked the “Apply To” column because I could save jobs there that I needed to apply to, but was too tired or burnt out after applying to multiple job for that day. It helped guide my applications and made it easy to batch 3-4 potential jobs and apply to them at all at once instead of falling into a searching-applying cycle.

  76. just trying to help*

    #1 – pratfalls went out of fashion as funny a long time ago. This has the potential to become a case of the boy who cried wolf, should this guy ever actually drop something or fall down. This guy has a weird sense of humor for the office.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      Based on the prank faller’s reaction to LW’s saying it doesn’t seem funny nor professional… I don’t think it’s really a prank. Honestly, I don’t think this prankster even knows why they’re doing this. Attention? “Humor?” A malicious attitude toward their coworkers/job? A cry for help? I mean what the hell IS falling down on the floor or suddenly dropping all your papers? What is that? I think we agree it isn’t really a prank. It doesn’t rise to any known definition of funny. It doesn’t seem to fill any other recognizable purpose. I’m calling it as early stage mental illness. Because this behavior doesn’t sit inside the Venn diagram of “things adults normally do at work,” “pranks,” or even “workers comp scams.” When people behave outside shared reality I tend to think they’ve left the building mentally or emotionally.

  77. HailRobonia*

    On the topic of typos: if you name is John Anders please fix the typo in the contact section on your resume! You somehow listed my phone number on it and I keep getting calls for interviews! Don’t you want a job?

    (When I first got these messages, I deleted them thinking they were some scam, but then I started calling back and telling the contact that I don’t know who he is. It has to be at least a dozen over the course of a year. Actually, it’s gone on so long that I think he might have the wrong phone number listed on purpose for some inscrutable reason…)

  78. Not Me*

    LW1 – If someone came to me (in my HR manager capacity) and told me that Joe was repeatedly falling down at work, as a joke or not, I would tell Joe we need a doctors note to release him to work because it appears he’s not physically able to work. The LW even says he injured himself already. I would shut that down very fast.

  79. HailRobonia*

    If I were an employer and my employee was prank falling I would definitely tell them to knock it off. I would be concerned about liability.

    1. Clay on my apron*

      I’d be concerned that I’d hired an 8yo. I can’t comprehend someone thinking
      this was hilarious, not just once but repeatedly.

      I’d certainly question their judgement and probably avoid giving them any type of assignment or responsibility that they might decide to use as a comedic opportunity instead of *doing their work*.

  80. Dwight*

    #2 she sounds like an unhinged nutcase loon. I would start job searching. Obviously you don’t want to become a job hopper, so be sure, but someone who freaks out over a few questions about an assignment is the same type of person who would freak out at you because you didn’t read their mind.

    #5 When I was collecting unemployment, we had to track our job applications. My system was a simple spreadsheet, and in dropbox (in case something happened to my computer), I would create a folder for each application, and leave a print pdf of the job description, the specific resume, the cover letter, transcripts, and any other materials. If I had an interview, I’d leave notes there too. Made it much easier to come back at a later time, or if I wanted to recycle a resume or cover letter.

        1. atalanta0jess*

          “unhinged nutcase loon”, i would guess. Not that cool to use words that degrade people with mental illness.

  81. Ladylike*

    LW #1 – my company is hyper-focused on safety, and I can honestly say that if it was discovered that someone was intentionally falling down, even once, they’d be formally disciplined for risking an injury. Maybe you can tell your friend that?

    Also, anyone who thinks slapstick comedy is hilarious at work, and who gets mad when you call them on it (!!!) sounds extremely immature. You might think about distancing yourself anyway, so you’re not viewed in a negative light.

  82. voluptuousfire*

    I used to keep a spreadsheet of what job I applied to, the date, and a few other things. That ended up being tedious and a pain for when I was mobile. I ended up creating three folders in my Gmail account: one for application auto-responses (which kept track of the role itself), one for job descriptions (I’d copy and paste the JD into an email and sent it to myself) and one for interview requests. It made going to interviews a lot easier and everything is updated by just moving the email from my inbox to my folder. Easy peasy. If there was a specific resume I used or cover letter, it was in my Google drive. I’m not a Windows sort of gal anymore. :p

  83. Catsaber*

    #2 – For data analysis/reporting type work, the questions that you are asking are important for any assignment, provided they are not already included in a specification document or email request, or whatever. I have been working in data analytics in higher ed for the past 7 years, and let me tell you, a true specifications document with all that information on it already would be a DREAM. But my reality is that 90% of the time, I’m handed an assignment to “make this report” with very little context, and I have to ask questions about audience, format, usage, etc. If you notice a pattern for the same type of requests, then sure, you can start to make some assumptions – but in the world of data analysis, I have found it’s best to avoid assumptions, and always get clarification if you need it. You definitely don’t want to start on a project without having any context and waste time going down the wrong path.

    1. CM*

      Yeah, these are not “I need help” or “I don’t know how to do this” questions — they’re scoping questions that it’s normal to ask at the start of any project. They’re meant to clarify what the request is, because the way you approach and report on the analysis would change depending on how it’s meant to be used.

      IMO, the most likely thing is that the Director didn’t know the answers to those questions and, because she has low EQ, being embarrassed or whatever from not knowing the answers has translated into, “OP did something wrong by making me feel this way!”

      In abusive, authoritarian workplaces, asking normal questions can also be interpreted as “arguing” with the person who asked you to do something, or trying to find problems with the request — but it comes back to the same thing: the person doesn’t know the answers to your reasonable questions, and they don’t have the skills to cope with feeling wrong-footed for a second, so they lash out.

  84. Sally*

    To LW# 4 – I just got hired into a new position with a typo on my resume that wasn’t pointed out to me until I was in the last of four interviews. As written, I appeared to have graduated from grad school before I started. Whoops. So there’s definitely still hope!

  85. Jennifer*

    #1 I would just tell my friend that it’s not all that funny but I wouldn’t make a big deal of it. If this friendship is important to you, I’d just drop the subject. They could be a good person despite the fact that you have very different senses of humor.

    I think they have become defensive because you accused them of being “mean-spirited,” which, imo, was a bit of an overreaction. Silly, annoying, and a bit immature, but not mean-spirited.

    1. Batgirl*

      Yes! I think her unexpected shock has unleashed a LOT of defensiveness from someone who really wants to be noticed and indulged. I think these two are not meant to hang out.

  86. Shawn*

    OP #2…this is completely not normal. Most managers would rather you ASK questions than to misunderstand and complete the assignment incorrectly. It saves them both time and money to have it done correctly the first time and often, this is done by asking questions! Sounds like this person has an ego problem. I’d look for something else…an actual professional who is willing to help when needed.

  87. spaceygrl*

    OP #5 – I searched the comments to see if anyone else suggested this and couldn’t find it, so hopefully this isn’t a duplicate. I saw some people suggest Word docs or Excel spreadsheets for tracking jobs you’ve applied to. I actually use https://gojobhero.com/ which allows you to put in dates, link to the actual application, etc. I found it really helpful to track stuff and set reminders for deadlines, etc. Give it a try.

  88. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – if your friend isn’t speaking to you because you told them the prank was in poor taste, then that speaks to their maturity level. I would drop it unless they bring it up again, and give them the “boy who cried wolf” scenario. When colleagues figure out that it’s their definition of a prank, they will start to ignore them and hopefully there never s an actual emergency where they need medical attention. Pranks are rarely funny to anyone other than the person doing the prank. I will never understand the appeal.

  89. ArtK*

    LW#2 reminds me of a CTO/Executive Vice President who came to me and said “build a portal.” I asked appropriate questions like “who will be using this” and “what actions will they be performing.” He didn’t answer and later trashed me to a colleague saying “ArtK is the worst architect I’ve ever had. Anybody else would have that portal built by now.” I reported directly to him so this was a tad uncomfortable until he got replaced by someone rational. As an aside, he also waggled his finger at me, like he was lecturing a recalcitrant child, and then accused me of being unprofessional when I walked out.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Silly architect, should have just built it willynilly and wasted time redoing it all over when they noticed it lacked everything they had actually wanted!

      Bless the hearts of the “NO QUESTIONS! JUST DO IT! (but read my mind or imma be soooooo pissed off!)” people.

  90. Dasein9*

    LW4, I have a good friend with a theory that someone wrote code into MS Word early in its inception that is triggered by the term “detail-oriented:” any document that contains that term has one random change added to it half an hour after the document is saved and closed.

    Naturally, this is not true, but the frequency with which typos seem to appear in documents with that term makes this particular type of confirmation bias an almost-fun game. Maybe it can cut the anxiety of the job search a bit?

    (I once submitted a resume with the wrong email address, yet am gainfully employed. Try not to panic.)

  91. Jennifer*

    #3 This doesn’t sit well with me. It sounds like you are making assumptions that someone will not be a good public speaker mostly based on whether or not they are a native English speaker. I can assure you there are plenty native English speakers who would not be great presenters. Whether or not they are from this country should have absolutely NO bearing on determining whether or not they are good at presenting or not. Do what Alison suggested, let them present for you, and judge them on their skills, not their nationality. I’m worried that you aren’t judging everyone that applies for this role fairly. The tone is almost as if you’re annoyed you have to deal with non-native English speakers.

  92. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Falling down isn’t a joke in the workplace O.o

    It requires an accident report and when it comes out as “on purpose” during an accident investigation that’s required in lots of places due to occupational health and safety regulations, yikes that’s a fireable prank. Up there with using our industrial ovens to bake a cake in or eating glue.

    I know that falling is sometimes seen as hilarious to some but work isn’t the right place. Keep it for party tricks if that’s the case but out of the office.

  93. Quill*

    Allison, I’m surprised you didn’t mention that #5 will, in most states, need to keep the unique job ID if they need evidence for unemployment, or if they’re working with recruiters (to avoid being submitted to the same job multiple times and potentially disqualified – this has been my experience with recruiters for STEM contract roles, especially because the recruiter often has no idea what the job actually is, or what your resume actually means.)

      1. Quill*

        Essentially, jobs posted (Perhaps only in the state of Illinois? that’s the only place I’ve ever got unemployment from,) have a listing number that’s usually something like “company code: string of numbers including the date” so that you know if the same job title posted on indeed, zip recruiter, and monster via a contracting agency is three different positions, or the same damn one.

        I was told I’d need the ID regardless of whether I was applying for a contract or a direct hire job last time I was unemployed in IL.

          1. Quill*

            That explains it, I just assumed it would be more than one state because the reasoning made a certain amount of sense and a friend applying for jobs in, I think Iowa, had the same advice.

          2. Tabby Baltimore*

            FYSA for anyone still reading this late in the day: Federal jobs (look at any vacancy announcements on the usajobs.gov site) typically have both a vacancy announcement number AND a control number.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This must be an Illinois thing and possibly other assorted states of course.

      We only have to keep track of the places you’ve applied to. This is done by just listing it on a sheet and signing that it’s true under penalty of perjury in Oregon.

      There’s no such numbers listed on any of our job adds, you can do a quick look at the postings on Indeed or another job board for other states and you’ll see that they don’t have that code you’re talking about.

  94. Toronto88*

    OP to #3 here and I wanted to clarify that I have video and live interviewed all candidates and then come to the conclusion that the current talent pool is not able to conduct the trainings/sales demos that are necessary for the role, there have been no assumptions on my end.

    1. PollyQ*

      You may just need to keep looking, then. Being in a time of very low unemployment by definition means that finding qualified employees is much harder.

    2. Observer*

      If there really are not assumptions, then there is no reason you cannot come up with a clear, coherent and cogent way to express this to HR. Also, you would realize that this is NOT about what their first language is.

      If presentations really ARE that important, you need to focus on what is REALLY wrong with their presentations – NOT “they have an accent” or “they don’t do it like me” or “I don’t like it” and then describe that in a factual fashion.

    3. Semprini!*

      I wonder if it might be time to review the job posting, since you don’t seem to be attracting candidates with the skills you need.

      It might also be useful to look at applicants who were rejected before the interview stage and perhaps interview some of them as an experiment, to make sure you’re not inadvertently screening out people who have the skills you need.

    4. Tau*

      So, question from another angle:

      How sure are you that what you’re hiring for is realistic? I ask because… well… you mention that it’s a role requiring heavy technical skills but that you’re also looking for very good public speaking skills and eloquence. To my mind, this isn’t that common a combination. Many technical career tracks don’t even offer the opportunity to gain much practice in the way of public speaking, and tend to attract the sort of people who’d rather avoid it. I know you say that you’re good at both parts of this, but it’s possible you’re more unusual than you realise.

      What you have is a candidate pool that doesn’t support what you’re looking for and is made up mainly of non-native speakers. I wonder if the “made up mainly of non-native speakers” is a red herring, and your candidate pool doesn’t support what you’re looking for because you’re looking for a very rare constellation of traits. In this case, you’re going to have to compromise in some way (train the hire on the technical side of things, train them on the public speaking side of things, raise your budget for the position to see if you can attract a unicorn that way, etc.)

      I may be completely off-base, of course, since I don’t know what area you’re in. I’m basing this on my experience as a professional in a technical area (software development now, maths previously), and for those fields, finding a technical person who is eloquent and shines at the front of the room would not be easy.

      1. Baru Cormorant*

        Agreed here. OP you need to take another look at what you’re hiring for and do some real soul-searching about what diversity in hiring practices looks and feels like, because even if you didn’t intend it, your letter pinged a lot of bias 101 red flags, and your practices (your update here included) are going to lead to a monoculture in your organization.

    5. Acornia*

      Video and live interviewed…but have you seen any of them deliver a presentation? Or are you just concluding that they can’t based on….not seeing them present anything? They are different skills. You can’t know anything about someone’s ability to drive a car based on seeing them ride a bike.

    6. GraveHistorian*

      OP- I’m guessing the number in your name is your birth year or something similar? I only ask because the number 88 can have some nasty implications when it’s used in discussions about race and nationality.

      1. nêhiyaw ayahkwêw*

        Was just thinking this. Hoping it’s just a birth year, but that number in combination with some racism worries can get a little spooky

  95. banzo_bean*

    OP #1 , this reminds me of a prank Justin Trudeau used to do at parties where he would fall down a flight of stairs. I’m not joking, you should look it up. The news clip on it was very entertaining (although those pranked by him likely disagree).
    I remember this clip because my husband has a very similar sense of humor. He’s into acrobatics, yoga, and parkour, and so he’s able to pull off stunts like this without getting hurt. Based on the videos and social media accounts he follows, this is a very common joke for participants of acro/parkour. Maybe your friend is seeing jokes like this online and thinking they’ll play off the same way in person?

    1. Mike B.*

      The singer Sandy Denny was also known for doing this; she eventually died of a head injury (or perhaps the collective impact of several).

  96. Batgirl*

    OP1, I can see why you went straight for ‘mean spirited’, because it’s inconsiderate and annoying behaviour, but as someone who teaches 12yo boys this behaviour is rarely motivated by meanness and is usually just a complete lack of both maturity and the social ability to make connections.
    You would have made more impact with “Hmmm, how is that a prank?” Or “They must think you’re really strange and clumsy” Or “I don’t get it.”
    However it’s unlikely to be worth it unless you are willing to either love his silliness and sulks unconditionally like a parent or act like a pre-teen yourself. He doesnt sound like the most rewarding friend for a grown up.

    1. "Champ," Lemon. Horses champ.*

      An adult in an office should know better. We’re not discussing little boys here.

      1. Batgirl*

        Interesting point that adults may be have a different motivation. Do you think adults who hang on to this behaviour have developed mean intentions? Or they always had them and this is proven by them not maturing out of it?
        I don’t think the OP can do much with a ‘mean person’ diagnosis regardless. She can’t make him admit it. She can only ask herself if she can hang with behaviour this immature.

  97. Just a Manager*

    #5. Use Evernote to keep the job descriptions. It’s a browser add-in and with a couple clicks you can have a copy of the jd for as long as you want.

  98. Boomerang Girl*

    I find it helpful to read documents out loud to proofread because, although my brain autocorrects words, my mouth doesn’t.

    1. Luna*

      Read them backwards! Read the sentence backwards.
      Backwards sentence the read.
      Since your brain quickly processes words faster than your eyes do, it really likes to ‘see’ the typo and just automatically correct it before you get even close to it, making it that much easier to miss.

  99. TypityTypeType*

    Prankster: *Falls. Lies on floor moaning*
    Co-workers: “Oh, that’s just Prankster being an idiot again. Ignore them.”
    Prankster: “No, guys, I really fell this time, I’m hurt. Please help.”
    Co-workers: “Sure, sure — you can pick up your own dang papers this time. ”
    *Co-workers go about their day.*
    Prankster: *Expires*

    Not that I wish OP #1’s strange friend any harm, not at all. But there’d be a certain “cried wolf” symmetry to it.

  100. pleaset*

    OP1 wrote “although they did actually hurt their wrist doing this”

    Am I obnoxious for thinking this is the only funny part?

  101. Sam*

    LW #2: I am a manager and sometimes staff people come to me with questions very similar to yours, that I find frustrating. However I am typically frustrated because those staff people should already know the answer to the questions – they were in the same meetings I was in, part of the same discussions that led to the report/deliverable being requested, and they are now merely being assigned the task. It makes me question whether they are paying attention to the bigger picture of the project, paying attention in meetings. I don’t want to have to fully direct a mid-level employee’s work 100% – I expect them to engage with the context of their work, take notes, and use their best judgment.

    To be clear, I don’t want to discourage questions! I don’t have any problem with staff people **confirming** the scope of the task, but unless they are truly coming in with no context, I don’t expect them to come to me with only questions. I expect them to think through the reasonable components of the request and propose structure/solutions. I am then 100% fine with the report coming to me for confirmation.

    For example, if a report came to me and said, “OK, I can do the report, who is the audience, what topics do you need, and when do you need it?” I would be frustrated if they had participated in a meeting where these items were discussed.

    However if they came to me and said, “OK, based on the meeting, I think it makes sense for the audience of the report to be Y, for the report to include topics A / B/ C, and for me to deliver it by Z date before the next meeting. Does that sound right to you, anything to add/clarify?” I would 100% receive this positively.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      Yes, this was my thought, which I’ve put elsewhere in this thread. But you said it much better.

      With my one employee, I have that same series of reactions: “You saw the same email from the client that I saw.” “This is the exact set of topics we were discussing at meeting X two weeks ago.” “This assignment isn’t coming from nowhere; it’s coming from a context that you should already know.”

      It’s not that asking questions is bad; it’s that some questions reveal that you aren’t paying attention to the broader picture of your job.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      Yeah this is a great point. The questions as the OP wrote it seem entirely reasonable if it’s the case that the only context they have is the 5 word blurb they mentioned. If that’s all there is to it, this director is being unreasonable and should welcome the questions so you know you’re on the same page. But if the blurb is brief because there were previous meetings or emails providing all that context, and OP was privy to all that, then the same question suddenly does become unreasonable, not because that info isn’t needed to do the work, but because that info was previously provided.

      So I think that’s really the question the ask oneself about questions: Should I know this already?
      If there’s absolutely no way to have known this before without asking, it’s not reasonable for the director to be perturbed about being asked. You’re not a mind-reader.
      If there were meetings or emails or documentation or trainings that were intended to provide this context, then asking is likely to vex because they’re not asking you to read minds, they’re asking you to retain the info from all that previous stuff.

  102. whistle*

    I hire in the medical field and the only typo I care about is “HIPAA”. However, since approximately 95% of the resumes I get spell this incorrectly as “HIPPA”, it is not something that I can really care about in the end or I would have no one to hire. LW, I don’t think this typo will affect your options, and I hope you can put it out of your mind.

    1. Anon for Right Now*

      In my mind, I always pronounce it as “hip-AAAAAAA” to help me remember the proper spelling.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I have seen so many acronyms mucked up, I just care if I can figure out what they’re actually trying to say LOL

      But yeah, unless it’s for an editing position, I’m not going to really notice it unless it’s funny in most cases.

  103. RTFE, please*

    LW1 – you could also look at it as a safety issue. They may think they can control the fall, but the potential is there for major injuries. My company has a very strong safety culture, so falls are not taken lightly. Multiple would raise red flags and lead to more questions and medical evaluations.

  104. House Tyrell*

    #5: My system is definitely what some would consider to be “excessive” but I also love organization and making spreadsheets. I have a columns for company, title, what salary I requested, If they required a resume (and what version I used), if they required a cover letter, what city the job was in, and the date the application closed, the date I applied, plus additional information. I color coded each job- red for rejection, light yellow for need to finish application, light blue for applied and waiting, purple for interview offer, green for they cancelled the search, dark yellow for withdrew application, and dark blue for offer made. Since I was unemployed at the time, I had a sheet for full time “professional” jobs and another sheet for part time job

    Then I had a separate sheet for interviews, with columns for company, title, interview date, what type of interview it was (phone, in person, Skype, etc), how confident I felt, and additional info (things to mention, if I had a contact there, etc.) These were also color coded for rejection, cancelled, withdrew, offer made, and finally, offer accepted!

    I was unemployed at the time so applying to jobs and managing this spreadsheet was my full time job and made me feel like I had some control over the process. A few friends have used my method in their job searches and it does help to keep organized with what information you provided and what the posting was so when you do get an interview you look like you have it all together.

  105. Fabulous*

    #5 – Haven’t read the comments yet so this may already be mentioned, but do more than just save the link to a job posting – print it out or save it to a Word doc. Postings go away all the time and links become defunct. It is incredibly helpful to have the original job posting as you interview to reference.

  106. socentury*

    LW 2:

    Sorry if this is duplicative of anything above, but it’s unclear to me if you’re asking these questions all at once, in a single e-mail or meeting, or if you’re asking them piecemeal throughout the day. I’ve noticed I tend to have a better response when I come into a meeting with all of my questions and get them answered all at once, versus popping into the office of whoever assigned me the project numerous times with minor questions.

  107. Fabulous*

    #1 – The coworker reminds me of those “prank” videos on YouTube where the girl falls down repeatedly either in a food court or grocery store with lots of stuff in her hands that splays everywhere. The videos can be funny seeing people react (Candid Camera style) but I can’t imagine it’s funny in the moment. It’s a weird prank to repeat in the office.

  108. Noah*

    OP1 Pratfalls are hilarious. This IS funny. Alison is re not the final arbiter of funny and he’s doing something that has been central to visual comedy for over a century (probably longer). But he’s got to add something to make it clear it’s a joke.

    1. Flash Bristow*

      Um, ok, one person here might find it funny. Good for you.

      But I don’t think you are the arbiter either; no one person should be.

      Lots of people here clearly don’t think it’s funny .

      Also, if someone kept falling in front of you, would you be laughing at it? “ha! Bob fell over again! Ha! ” ? what if, like their colleagues, nobody knows it’s a joke…? Still funny?

      1. Noah*

        I DON’T think I’m the only arbiter. But Alison declared this a bad joke work because it is fundamentally not funny. That’s not so; lots of people would find this funny.

        It may be a bad work joke for a bunch of other reasons. My comment didn’t address that issue because I’m not particularly interested in that point. I would note, however, that I specifically said that he’s got to make it clear it’s a joke, so clearly I don’t think it’s funny if, “nobody knows it’s a joke.”

    2. Observer*

      Pratfalls only work as humor (if you are into that kind of humor) in a very limited context. Part of that context is the fact that people actually know that there is a performance happening. That’s not what’s happening here.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It should be reworked, it’s not that pratfalls are a bad joke.

      They just have to have timing and audience in mind, like all comedy.

      Typically the office is not the place to pull these kind of jokes.

      Granted, this question didn’t come from a coworker of the guy though. They may be bending over in hysterics and if that’s the case and the place doesn’t mind the liability issues, have at it, all day long. If someone did this in our office, it would be a big deal because it’s simply unsafe behavior not because it’s a bad joke.

      I had to give someone a UA because they made a joke about doing drugs and someone took them seriously and reported it. I would have laughed because I knew the people and knew they weren’t doing anything but they rang the wrong bell, got the wrong door and got the Rice O Roni.

    4. Jennifer*

      In a different setting, I think they are hilarious.

      It may not be funny at work but definitely not worth some of the over the top comments.

  109. Noah*

    OP2

    “very basic questions” — that’s a red flag that you should perhaps know the answers.

    “who the audience would be and if they would like it made similarly to another report” — after three years, it’s not crazy that you might be expected to know this already. It’s hard to tell from the letter.

    “whether I would present it somewhere or just email it.” — if you’ve worked on something like this before, you perhaps should know this answer, too. If you do need to ask this and you’re asking a lot of not terribly deep questions up front, it would probably makes sense to save this one for later as you don’t need to know the answer to do the assignment.

    1. Mike B.*

      Agreed. It can be frustrating to be asked questions where the answers are either obvious from the context or easily picked up through basic research, especially if the person asking has been doing the job for a while.

      That said, I don’t think it was the place of the director to give OP this feedback, assuming she isn’t her direct report.

      1. Noah*

        Depends where you work. I have a bunch of people that do tasks for me that aren’t my direct reports, and I can certainly address issues with their work. In large organizations, this is pretty typical. For example, my assistant would never get better at her job it I had to communicate with her through a game of telephone with the secretarial manager.

    2. Close Bracket*

      regularly get assignments I’m unfamiliar with. When I get a briefing for a new assignment, it is sometimes as short as five words, meaning I might have to ask a few questions to clarify things. This happens maybe once a month, but usually not the same person so it’s not like someone is constantly having to explain things to me.

      After 3 years, OP regularly gets assignments they are not familiar with from people they have not previously gotten an assignment from. Why would they know a priori whether the unknown assignment from the new person will go to the same audience in the same format with the same delivery as any other assignment they have gotten? And which previous assignment should they model it on and what do they do if they guess wrong? No, that sort of basic information is the kind of basic information that should be included up front with the assignment, and the assigner should not get testy when asked.