should I wear a Halloween costume my first week on the job, losing a best friend over a job, and more

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

1. Should I wear a Halloween costume my first week at a new job?

I start a new job the week of Halloween and would love to wear a costume to work on Halloween, which I could not do at my old job. Of course I plan to ask about the office culture around celebrating, but if I hear that others do sometimes dress up for the holiday, would it be a bad idea for me to? Given that it will only be a few days after I start, I will still be in the period where my new coworkers and manager are figuring out who I am, and I worry that a full Halloween costume in my first week would affect how I am seen. The costume I want to wear is tasteful — nothing sexy or scary or likely to cause offense. But it would be a complete outfit, rather than just a prop or accessory. What do you think?

Well, there are a lot of offices where Halloween costumes aren’t a thing at all — especially complete outfits, as opposed to, like, a witch’s hat.

So this is the stick-in-the-mud answer, but unless you hear that the whole office dresses up and people go all out, I wouldn’t do it. You’re still getting to know the culture and people are still getting to know you, and I don’t like the thought of you ending up as the only person in a meeting wearing a full costume your first week at work. There are often a lot of meetings that first week, and people care far more about seeing that you’re listening and processing all that new information than they do about seeing you in costume. It risks seeming like you’re prioritizing your interest in dressing up over what really matters that first week.

The counter-argument is that this is a fun way for your coworkers to get to know your personality. But I’d argue people manage to get to know their new coworkers without costumes every other month of the year, and the risks of it being weird are greater than the potential rewards. It’s a new job, the stakes are high, and there’s no real downside to playing it safe.

If you want a compromise, though, you could go with a small prop or accessory, and save the full outfit for next year.

Read an update to this letter here

2. Am I going to lose my best friend over a job we both wanted?

I recently began a new tenure track job in academia (yay!). The job has been good so far, the other teachers/staff are helpful and patient while I’m getting used to everything, although it’s a little lonely having left friends and family behind.

My problem is that my best friend and were the final two candidates for the job I just started. We are equally qualified and accomplished in our shared field. While he already has a tenure track job elsewhere, he described this new position as his dream job — it’s at the college where he and his husband met/graduated, and is in their hometown (so family/friends/etc). I understand the major appeal for him, but I needed a job too. (We found the job separately — I don’t mean to come off as though I had only heard about it from him and then applied.)

Both he and I were very up-front with everything from the beginning — the application, talking about our campus visits — to the end, when I texted him right away that I was offered the job. To this I got a short “Congrats, well deserved” and then six months of silence.

I get the disappointment, I really do. But I have gone from sad to mad that he could even hold this against me. It was a decision that was beyond my control and he knows as well as I do that tenured jobs in academia are hard to come by, and that I was actively searching. I already deal with major imposter syndrome on my own, but now I feel guilty that I took away his dream job at his alma mater, in his hometown. And while I know its irrational, I feel even more like I don’t deserve to be here. Like this is his school and not mine, that I’m out of place and unsettled — strong feelings already present with a new job.

I got a text from him a few weeks ago to apologize for “being a jerk all summer” and missing me and wanting to talk and hear about the job. Wanting to work it out, I said sure. He still hasn’t called/texted. While he’s been flaky anyway in the past, it pains me that we haven’t talked in so long and at this point I don’t know if he’s worth my time anymore – which hurts my heart because I care about our friendship a lot. So do I just have a bad friend? Should I let this friendship go and stop trying?

You know, there’s no guarantee that if you didn’t get the job, he would have. It’s not that it was his but for you. You didn’t steal it from him; an employer decided not to hire him, and might not have hired him even if you weren’t in the mix.

A good friend might be disappointed but would manage to pull it together for you, not ignore you for six months. (I’m assuming you tried to contact him during that time.) He knew this was a possibility when you both applied, after all. My guess is that there’s either serious immaturity going on here, or something else happening in his life that complicated this for him in ways you might not know about.

Since he did finally reach out, there’s room for a final try. But if you want the friendship, don’t wait for him to call you — call him. Or at least send a message telling him you’re sad not to be in touch and you want to talk. From there, it’s in his court, but I wouldn’t give up without having made a more active attempt to work through it. If he does let this end the friendship, though, that’s not about you not deserving the job — that’s about him.

3. Will mentioning my concussion demonstrate grit in interviews?

I’m a recent PhD graduate applying to full time positions and preparing for interviews. In the last year of my PhD, I had a concussion that took me out of work for two weeks. I bounced back and while recovering from the concussion was able to give an award-winning presentation at an international conference, get a personal essay published in a highly respected magazine, and ultimately defend my PhD.

My question is whether or not I should mention my concussion in my interviews. I mean, I defended my PhD while recovering from a concussion! I think this demonstrates my grit, perseverance, and dedication to my work, and would help me stand out from other candidates in the interview process. What do you think?

Nope, don’t do it. First, medical stuff really doesn’t belong in an interview, and it’ll make a ton of interviewers uncomfortable because they’re trained not to ask about medical issues. Second, a lot of people don’t understand how a concussion can affect you for months and so the point you’re trying to make will be lost on them or they’ll just think it’s an odd bragging point. Overall, it’s just not likely to impress in the way you’re hoping it will!

4. My boss is refusing to hire women for a position

I work in a lab setting. This past year, due to environmental conditions, we’ve had to increase testing. This testing takes place up in our admin building, among the (mostly female) administrative staff. I had been doing this testing and had to deal with the admin’s frosty attitude toward me. It was frosty, but I dealt with it. After a while, they hired a temp to do this work, Pam. She was great, and initially got along well with the admin staff. But after a few months, the admin staff became frosty to Pam as well.

Pam was promoted to the lab after a few months and the search to replace her started. Herein lies the issue: because of the attitude of the admin staff to both me and Pam, my boss is reluctant to hire another woman (the words were, “I’d like to hire a man to avoid these issues arising again”). And in fact, the only people interviewed for this position have been men so far. Is there anything I can do? Is there anything I should do?

Ick. If your admin staff are rude to people, your boss should be trying to address that — not trying to ward it off by illegally screening out women for the job. (Your boss is also making a gross assumption that this about gender and not about basic unprofessionalism or some other issue.)

So yes, speak up! Try this: “I don’t know if you were were serious when you said you wanted to hire a man for this position, but I noticed we’ve only interviewed men for it so far and I wanted to point out we can’t do that. It’s illegal under federal law to take gender into account when hiring, and we could get in a lot of trouble for it.” Or, if you don’t trust that your boss will care, consider discreetly tipping off someone who will (like HR).

5. Can I get out of paying Social Committee dues?

I am in my first year at a new job at a public elementary school. There is a Social Committee made up of some staff members who are in charge of organizing gifts for staff members celebrating life events, retirement, etc., and they also plan to start hosting monthly staff breakfasts. Apparently there are dues required of all staff members ($50 for teachers and anyone else on that same pay grade, $30 for other staff members on lower pay grades). I’m guessing the dues are charged annually to avoid starting up a collection each time an event rolls around, but it also eliminates the opportunity to simply chip in as much as you can afford, or nothing at all.

I fall into the $30 category, but I’m just a couple steps above living paycheck to paycheck, and quite frankly would rather use the $30 toward almost anything else. Is there any way I can get out of these required dues without coming across as a huge penny-pinching Scrooge? I literally didn’t even join the union because I couldn’t justify prioritizing the union dues over my other life expenses.

Agh, the aggravating epidemic of people who feel entitled to spend other people’s money for them.

Say this: “It’s not in my budget.” Say it matter-of-factly, as if of course they’ll understand that (because they should). If you’re pressed, you can say, “Truly, it’s not possible for me to contribute.” If you want, you can add, “I of course won’t attend the staff breakfasts and so forth if I shouldn’t do that without contributing.”

And if you’re comfortable with it, consider talking to whoever’s organizing this about the awkward position it puts people in. Your point about this system eliminating the opportunity to chip in as much as you can afford or nothing at all is a good one.

{ 642 comments… read them below }

  1. Can I get a Wahoo?*

    Arg, we also have a “mandatory “ social committee at my school about the same amount of money. It gives out gifts for every wedding and baby, neither are in the near future for me. I feel bad about not contributing, but also… that’s life

    1. Bongo*

      At my public school where I work, the social committee is asks similar dues ($50 for teachers, $25 for aides/receptionists) but is very clear about things being optional. I still feel the pressure to pay, and hate paying it. Not to mention that beyond standard wedding/baby gifts, they organize the gifts for “boss’s day” and “administrative assistant’s day,” which I don’t love contributing to. However, they also are the folks in charge of circulating cards and sending flowers when folks lose their parents, or buying a teacher a bunch of gift cards to local restaurants after a tree fell through his house, etc etc. It’s nice to not have to feel any pressure about how to react/respond to situations like that, because the social committee takes care of it.

      (Also — you should really consider joining your union. You need the money, sure, but you won’t get any money to keep if you unjustly lose your job altogether.)

      1. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        This. Especially the last sentences about unions. Good union can save your butt–as well as a lot of other peoples!

      2. CanCan*

        My job has a Social and Sports Club, which employees are encouraged but not required to join. Membership is around $100 per year, which isn’t worth it for me. (There are a few pizza days, candy, raffles to win baskets of useless stuff, and discounts on sports activities like lunchtime yoga and children’s xmas party.) Membership is not publicized, so no shaming is involved for those who aren’t members.

        We have a union too, and membership is not optional. Dues are significantly higher (around 1,000), but that’s life.

        Things like cards to people with death in the family, fundraisers for employees facing serious illness or hardship, baby/wedding showers etc. happen on an ad-hoc basis (usually confined to the group/branch you’re working in, or by invitation, or published on the intranet – in the case of fundraisers). It works well. A baby shower, retirement party, etc. is more meaningful when organized by your group of coworkers, with individuals deciding how much to contribute, rather than a committee going off a budget.

      3. Quill*

        Unionize, teachers! In addition to the political and job stuff, your district’s HR will side with your district (or your admin) more often than not if you have to complain about your board or principal.

      4. AKchic*

        I will absolutely agree on the union thing.

        You may think you can’t afford the union, but really, you can’t afford *not* to be in the union. There are benefits to being in the union that you don’t actually realize until well after the fact.

      5. Critical*

        It’s just over $2 a month. Is that really a big deal when they take care of everything else? It’s one soda or coffee.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          From experience, if someone can’t afford to pay $30 a year to the social committee, it’s usually not because they’re out spending that money on coffee and soda. Seriously, why is that always the go to when people talk about budgeting?

          1. wondHRland*

            It sounded to me likd $30/month, not per year. I would totally pay $2/month for something like that, but not 30/month. How many events arethere?

            Definitely reconsider joining the union,though.

    2. Anna*

      Yeah, this post brings back fond memories of my years as a public school teacher when we were asked to pay a $15 entry to come to our office Christmas party, plus $15 for a guest.

      1. Birch*

        Yep. We boycott our Christmas party because it’s £30 each for a pub buffet, and it’s the same price for early career academics and for professors like my boss who make almost 3x my salary. When someone brought up the income disparity and the possibility of subsidizing, the idea was soundly shot down as it would be “socialism.”

        1. A Simple Narwhal*


          ….It’s a Christmas party, shouldn’t they want everyone to come and celebrate?

          Also, if making sure everyone can afford to attend a company party is socialism, then what is their take on Santa coming down the chimney and distributing gifts for free?

        2. Mystery Bookworm*

          Well of course!

          Because generosity and consideration towards others are deeply contrary to the values that we all gather to celebrate at Yuletide.

        3. The Cosmic Avenger*

          WTF??? I would just say “OK, here, I’ll subsidize 10 people who might need that money for presents, or even rent!” and plunk down the money. Maybe that would shame some other high earners into helping pay for it. Really, the company should be paying for this sort of thing or it should be a private, personal event at your house. (Except in government, but then I would just have a potluck or something.)

        4. Petty Betty*

          Well… somebody (or multiple somebodies) didn’t get the message behind the majority of the Commercialmas specials from their childhoods.
          Perhaps they should be visited by the three ghosts, eh?

        5. JustaTech*

          Socialism, eh?

          I would be deeply tempted to Wassail your boss’s house and remind him of ancient English traditions around Yule and the distribution of food, drink and money.

          (Wassialing is basically caroling when there homeowner “pays” you to go away with a hot (alcoholic) drink, food and maybe a coin. It was very common through at least the 16th century. See the lyrics of “Here We Come A Wassaling”.)

    3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      You really shouldn’t feel bad about not contributing. I wouldn’t contribute either. I’m not into forced gift giving at work. If it’s for someone I work with directly or care about, I’ll gladly contribute for a life event. But I’m not giving up my money for every rando I may pass in the hall.

    4. Sara without an H*

      I find it interesting that one of the “you may also like” links for this post goes to a post on “how to handle pressure to donate money at work.” I would bet dollars to donuts that this Social Committee was created after people got sick and tired of being asked to chip in over and over for weddings, retirements, get well flowers, etc. OP#2, depending on how social your work place is, you might find that that $30 spares you a lot of aggravation down the line.

      On the other hand, it sounds like you are grossly underpaid. You may want to reconsider those union dues. You could, if you want to be evil, tell the people who run the Social Committee, that you’d love to join, but you’re saving up to join the union.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m wondering about the nature of “sounds like you’re grossly underpaid,” too. The letter writer said they’re a couple steps above living paycheck to paycheck, which means they’re in a better position than a huge percentage of Americans. Between 1979 and 2013, real annual wages for the top 1% went up 138% and wages for the bottom 90% went up 15%. (Source: EPI). A vast majority of us are grossly underpaid. Teaching in particular is not renowned for livable wages.

    5. just a random teacher*

      We’ve had these some places that I’ve worked too. Part of it is that there’s generally little to no money to spend on “staff morale” things in the district budget, so if you don’t have some sort of social fund you also don’t get to have things like cards going around when it’s someone’s birthday or flowers when someone gets sick. I’ve never been someplace where it’s as high as $50, though. I think the last one at a place I worked was $15, and $15/year to not have it be my job to remember anyone’s birthday or run out to buy my own card when someone I only kind of know is in the hospital felt like a pretty good deal.

      $30/$50 is enough that I’d be grumpier about it but probably still do it, but my finances are less tight than the OP’s. If it’s possible to afford , it makes you look like more of a team player, but there are times when you need to spend $30 on the electric bill rather than the team player bill.

      I wish public employers could just have these social funds out of an actual work budget line, but that doesn’t seem to be politically possible right now. In wealthier school districts, the PTA or other parent group will often fund this sort of thing, but in less wealthy districts a social fund is pretty typical, along with a coffee fund and who knows how many other such things.

      1. Jodi*

        As much as I can’t stand requests to pony up at work, if it’s $30 per year , I’d be inclined to just pay it -IF that means there will be no other requests to chip in for cards, gifts etc. $2.50 a month is certainly doable and worth sidestepping any agro.

      2. Alma*

        Where I am we do it ad hoc, and I have not contributed. I was fine with telling people *exactly* why. Saying no to a general fee shouldn’t raise ire.
        For that reason the one time fee can also prevent cliquishness. It’s very clear on my staff who is generally liked and who is not based on donations. Plus, the last couple of retirements they asked for your full fee for each of or retirees… And dishes for a good bye potluck…
        Here, spending money on us public teachers in a way that doesn’t directly effect the classroom and students is 90% banned. (Twice a year, we get a lunch catered from a grocery store. The other schools in my area do not even get that.)

      3. Humble Schoolmarm*

        I’ve worked in places where I wasn’t asked to contribute to the social committee, but that was because we “volunteered” as unpaid lunch monitors once a week. Basically, the lunch monitor positions were hard to fill, so schools were encouraged to have the teachers do it and the savings on salary were passed to the social committee. We’re unionized and our contract makes it very clear that you can opt out, but in a staff of 15, 1 or 2 people opting out just means more work for everyone else. In my mind, $40 per year is completely worth it to have lunches to myself.

  2. My brain hurts*

    #3: Fellow concussion patient here. Congratulations on defending your PhD while recovering from a concussion!

    However, I don’t think it would add a lot of value in an interview for three reasons:

    1. Some concussion patients, myself included, never completely bounce back. My functioning is within the normal range of what you’d expect from a human being, but I’m not at my 100% and may never be. So your mentioning the concussion would instantly introduce the idea that you might never be functioning at 100% either. (Yes, everyone has health problems and yes, you’re not supposed to take them into consideration when interviewing, and yes, we should be assessing people’s abilities, not whether they’re reaching their full potential. Nevertheless, the idea has been introduced where I otherwise would never have thought of it.)

    2. Different concussions have different healing trajectories, and different patients are limited in different ways when recovering from a concussion. If I hear that someone achieved a lot of things during their concussion recovery, I’d think “Oh, they had the kind of concussion that allowed them to do that” and therefore wouldn’t be impressed.

    3. Sometimes, working through concussion recovery is foolish and reckless. (I say this as someone who worked through concussion recovery and shouldn’t have). So I might find myself wondering if you take undue risks and overextend yourself. If the position involved supervising others, I might wonder if you’d create a work environment where people can take sick leave if they need to.

    Yes, some of these ideas contradict each other, but I’d arrive at some combination of them if faced with an interviewee who mentioned completing a PhD with a concussion, and none of them would really add anything to your case.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Your #3 is something that was on my mind too! The two people I know who’ve had serious concussions were both told not to do anything taxing with their brains for *months* or it could impact their recovery (one person wasn’t even allowed to read), so my immediate thought on reading the OP’s letter was “nooooo!” I realize not every concussion is the same but … yeah, there are just a lot of reactions people could have here that aren’t “what grit!”

      1. Roverandom*

        Agreed. As someone who does not know much about concussions, my thoughts were “well if OP was well enough to defend their PhD then it must not have been that bad, so why are they bringing it up” and “if OP will work while recovering from a head injury, are they going to have weird expectations about what “dedication to work” looks like?”

        OP I certainly don’t want to work with someone who thinks that dedication=working through medical recovery! I just took the morning off so the ear doctor could pop my ear after getting off a plane, it was mostly better but I figured hey I’ll take the morning off and get a nice lunch. That’s where my priorities are at, and I would feel like you’re judging me by telling that “grit” story. What if your interviewer is someone like me and sees it as a negative?

        1. DiscoCat*

          Welcome to academia! Dedication, honour, self-sacrifice in the name of science! To be fair, academic calendars are very limiting and stiff, so maybe OP would have had to wait 6-12 months to defend PhD title… But if you’re not willing/ able to plough through (work load, stress, toxic and hostile environments etc.), then something must be wrong with you or you’re even too stupid to understand or submit to the level of self-sacrifie demanded. I speak from experience as an admin/ manager in academia- people get labelled easily and they loose their social credit/ standing if they show that they are human or value a healthy work-life balance.

          1. No Tribble At All*

            +1 I literally had a note saying I wasn’t allowed to think, and the LW did a conference presentation? Academia needs to chill out. If I were interviewing them, I’d interrupt and explain our medical leave and short-term disability policies.

            1. LJay*

              Yeah, I was told when interviewing that if anyone brought up any medical issue (and a concussion is a medical issue) my response was supposed to be something like, “Of course we do not and cannot take medical concerns into account when hiring,” and then to explain that we do offer medical leave, short term disability, FMLA, etc, and then to move on to something else.

            2. DrD*

              Yeah, academia needs to chill out. As an academic who gets debilitating migraines, I get why OP thinks working when you shouldn’t be working will look good.

              Most academics, myself included, are expected to work while sick. This kind of absurd “work ethic” is one of the things we are trained to participate in as graduate students. It is very difficult to reject this, especially while in grad school and in an academic job before tenure.

              1. anonymuss and fuss*

                When I was in the last six months of my PhD program I started working on my dissertation again about 10 days after surgery for donating a kidney. I submitted my project almost precisely 3 months later and defended maybe 6 months after that. I think back on that now and do not know what on EARTH I was thinking.

                1. Marmaduke*

                  I defended my Master’s thesis while concussed, with double pinkeye, the night after an emergency move. It was completely insane.

              2. pancakes*

                I get that. What I don’t get is how or why this person believes their body’s capacity to recover from a concussion demonstrates “grit, perseverance, and dedication.” People who don’t recover from concussions this quickly aren’t behind because they lack those qualities but because none of us get to choose how our bodies function at the level of brain cells and blood flow. The idea that we can and do doesn’t make a bit of sense to me, and if I met someone who professed to believe we do I’d be extremely wary.

                1. Lavender Menace*

                  Former academic here. That’s what academia teaches you – that the ability to work through misery and pain is a sign of true dedication and passion.

          2. Ponderosa*

            Nailed it. What it will reveal in an academic context is the academic workplace expectation that one’s health is secondary to one’s productivity. Much of academic culture holds that rewards will go to those who can “conquer” their need for sleep, leisure, a social life, a family, etc. in order to become really really good at one specialized area of knowledge/practice. The rewards 40 years ago might have been worth it, but now the reward is more work, less pay, and less stable work conditions for most working academics (most TT people I know spend years and years and years underemployed).

            OP this is a story that will convey good cultural fit to some departments in the academic job market. Some departments really do look, I think, for people who go for the story of grit. Lots of departments now, though, are transitioning towards work-life balance initiatives. Try to get the vibe of the room before you tell the story, and realize that you might walk into a generational rift between the people who could walk into TT jobs with zero publications in 1974 and believe it was the hardest thing ever, and people who had to adjunct for 6 years and secure a book deal before they could compete for TT jobs in 2015 and have watched everyone in their cohort suffer terribly.

            As someone who powered through my defense on adrenaline while I was deeply unwell, I lost steam post defense and never got it back. I dug deep. I too was gritty. But it was sort of like taking out a huge loan on my health that I’ve had to pay back with interest. Some people you interview with if you’re on an academic job search will probably be like “yes! this scholar has what it takes and understands the costs!”. Other people, though, will hear the story and will be curious about how you would do things differently with hindsight in mind, or how you learned from the situation how to better support the students you have mentored. Concussions are frighteningly common for undergrads – I’d see like 4 a semester in a group of only 120 people, lots taking place during school athletics, and we were not even a particularly sporty school. It’s something that could make for a good story in an interview context if it’s something you can reflect on with some nuance. But it will likely open a can of worms.

        2. smoke tree*

          To me, it comes across much like people who are proud of how little sick time they use–it just shows that either you’re lucky enough not to get sick often, or you have out-of-whack priorities when it comes to work and health (this is assuming that they get paid sick time, of course).

      2. Marzipan*

        I came to say something much along the lines of point 3. If I were interviewing someone who started telling me about how they ploughed on working through a concussion as a positive example of something, I absolutely would not be thinking ‘great, what a dedicated person!’ but rather it would be something of a red flag. Like ‘this person could be a problem to manage if they take risks like this with their health – that kind of thing could impact on the quality of their work, or affect the wider team.’

        (And I say that as an inveterate culprit of work-through-everything – I do it, but I know it’s silly and would never present it as a positive.)

        1. Moi*

          Working through concussion symptoms sounds more like someone who is reckless with their health than someone who showed true grit. Sorry OP but if you mentioned that to me if wonder about your judgement.

        2. Lucette Kensack*

          Right. My internal reaction would be “Oh, that must have been a VERY mild concussion. Why is this candidate talking about it?”

          1. Mel (Cow Whisperer)*

            That was my reaction, too. I had post-concussion syndrome after a car accident while I was in graduate school myself. My thesis was halted immediately because I couldn’t speak fluently for several months.


            Fair or unfair, I’d have been insulted by the candidate’s position that grit and determination are enough to pull through head injuries! For most people, head injuries are going to suck and you just have to roll with it – even if that means putting your life on hold for a while.

            So, yeah, avoid this topic like the plague!

            1. Goliath Corp.*

              Yeah, ditto. Recovering faster from your concussion doesn’t make you somehow superior to people who can’t? I’ve had several friends lose YEARS of their lives to concussions. They weren’t lacking in “grit or determination,” they were just disabled.

              To be fair to the OP, I do get it. Capitalism values people only for their productivity, and it’s really hard to experience your own decline in value when living with disability. But that’s something you need to push back against, instead of contributing to.

            2. Academic Addie*

              Agreed. My MS student had a concussion her first year, and I told her to take time off, helped her reschedule assignments, etc. Pushing through is your option … but it is unlikely to look impressive to someone who doesn’t know you.

        3. Door Guy*


          Back when I was first married, my dad apparently slipped and fell doing chores in the barn on Sunday night and gave himself a nasty concussion. As my dad isn’t one to go to the Dr. without someone literally dragging him, he just tried to walk it off.

          The following Friday, he was driving my mom and sister up to see our new place (7 hours away) and that’s when he decided to tell my mom that he might have a concussion right as they were pulling into our town. He’d gone to work all week, he knows he did but doesn’t remember any of it. He was also completely forgetful, like forgetting where they were going, what they were doing, when they got to the hotel he just got out, locked my mom and sister in the car, went and checked in and proceeded to the room without his luggage, and a few other “um WHAT!?” moments.

          (He gave himself another one this year. He was carrying groceries into the house when he slipped and fell and banged his shoulder/elbow/hip on the deck steps. He got up, took a step, and immediately fell again this time hitting his head. He crawled into the house because he couldn’t stand up and passed out in the kitchen. This happened about 12:30 and he was there until my mom couldn’t get ahold of him at 5:30 when she was on break and had her sister go over and check on him. He was lying stuck on the ground and arguing that he didn’t need to go into the hospital because “He’s had concussions before”.)

          1. Never Been There, Never Done That*

            My father was this way too and it drove me absolutely crazy. Plus there’s the byproduct, “Well if I can’t walk it off why can’t YOU?” that people wisely mention above.

            1. It's a Yes From Me*

              In case anyone misunderstands with typo: “Well if I can walk it off why can’t YOU?”

        4. Neuroscience*

          My spouse is in academia (neuroscience) and being this reckless with one’s brain health would be heavily judged by his colleagues, the same way they aggressively judge people who don’t wear bike helmets or let their kids play football.

      3. Patty Mayonnaise*

        On the flip side, my husband is recovering from a concussion right now, and his treatment team is having him keep as regular schedule as possible and do as much as he can (like sometimes the instructions are “do this until you feel nauseous, then stop”). There are just too many variables to concussion recovery for it to be meaningful if LW brings it up!

        1. AngryOwl*

          Good luck to your husband! This is what my specialist is having me do too. They found that the old instructions (don’t do anything with your brain, sit in a dark room, etc) could actually *lead* to concussion symptoms, as well as depression. It’s a new world in concussion recovery!

          But you still shouldn’t bring it up in an interview.

        2. CanuckCat*

          Same; I had a concussion back in the winter and besides taking a week off of work, my doctor just told me to take it as easy as I could but mostly to work at limiting things like screens and excessive activity outside of work. (My boss was more worried than my doctor was; which was really sweet because she’s so nice)

      4. WellRed*

        Agreed! I’ve a friend who wasn’t allowed to use FB etc. my eyebrows were very high at this letter.

      5. Quill*

        Yeah, I’ve got an aunt who’s been dealing with post-concussive complications for a while and my first thought about this PhD student was “holy CRUMBS you’re setting yourself up for further complications.”

      6. Kiwiii*

        Agreed. I was not supposed to read or even look at screens for a month — I had to ignore it, because I literally had 3 weeks of high school left, but I genuinely wish that that hadn’t been the case because I’ve noticed a drastic difference in the way I process and communicate information since.

      7. Rae*

        I was told if they couldn’t do it in Downton Abbey, I wasn’t allowed to either. Took weeks before I could handle a screen for more than 5 minutes and months before I could be somewhere like a movie or sports bar. My work suffered for a long time.

      8. Mine Own Telemachus*

        Yup, my aunt had to leave her job as a flight attendant because of a concussion she sustained while at work. Concussions can be incredibly dangerous and bragging about a quick recovery isn’t always advisable!

    2. Maria Lopez*

      If someone mentioned a concussion and all they accomplished while recovering from one, my first thought would be that they perhaps didn’t really have a concussion or that it was mild enough that it didn’t affect executive functioning.
      Also, if they plowed on through work even when they should have been home resting that is not showing good judgment. There were many times that I had to send employees home (and override their supervisors) because they had the mistaken notion that there is virtue in denying sickness, even when it could adversely affect their co-workers.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, my job would tell me in no uncertain terms to go home and do as my doctor told me to. A few years ago I spent a week lying on the couch with a leg injury. I could have done a lot of my job, but I was supposed to keep the leg elevated as much as possible. I offered to just prop it up on a chair but my boss told me that was completely unnecessary and to use my PTO, for crying out loud.

        And I would not want somebody who thought working through a serious injury was admirable to be in a position where they might try to evaluate whether subordinates were justified in staying home for the sake of their own health.

    3. Mystery Bookworm*

      As an amendement to point #2, I’ve also heard people use the word ‘concussion’ pretty casually to mean ‘oh, she got hit in the head!’ I think if you had someone who wasn’t really familiar with concussions beyond that, they would be really confused and it would detract from the interview.

      As far as point 3, I’m inclined to agree. I work in mental health, so my field might take a different view than others, but in my office this story would likely be taken as a point against your judgement, not a sign of strong work ethic.

      1. Elenna*

        Yes, I knew concussions were serious, but not that the symptoms could last for months (this thread has been fascinating) and my response would have been “…okay? why are you bringing this up?”

        Besides, concussion details aside, there’s a level of sickness where you can plow through it and work (e.g. cold symptoms) and there’s a level where you ought to go home and take sick time off. If you say you worked through sickness I’d think it’s either the first one (in which case that doesn’t show grit or anything, it just shows you got lucky not to be badly sick) or it’s the second one (in which case I’d be worried about your judgement in terms of taking sick days in the future). Basically I’d be confused and possibly a little turned off.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      This is such an excellent explanation of why this could easily backfire. And in general, this is not a badge of honor that demonstrates grit. I understand that concussion recovery is highly dependant on the severity and type of concussion endured, but trying to use it as an example of grit suggests a level of martyrdom that signals a lack of work/life boundaries.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree about work/life boundaries. And this can happen because people have misconceptions about expectations. I have worked for a few places where the joke was the employee’s own death was not a reason for not showing up for work.

        OP, some things come under the heading of “things we do for our own satisfaction and no one else’s”. Some of the accomplishments I am most proud of are nothing I can put on a resume. Uh, thinking about this, it’s probably nothing I would talk over with most of my friends either. It’s big to me and that is the extent of it. I do believe though that every time we climb our “Mt. Everest”, we grow parts of ourselves.
        What it does give us though is that quiet knowing. We can quietly know that we have gotten through some very difficult things in life and let it grow our creativity and ability to get through other situations.

        Ever see a person who just exudes a quiet confidence? They aren’t cocky nor do they brag. They simply cut to the point and say, “Yes we have [terrible situation] going on and here is what we can do to start to break this down and actually deal with it.” Where did that quiet confidence come from? In many cases it is because the person has faced and conquered higher challenges.

        Last. Unfortunately, life is such that a good number of people have had their own Mt. Everests. I always say that I don’t want to compete on that level because there is usually someone out there who has had it worse than me. While your experience was a terrible experience that I would not wish on anyone, it’s reasonable to assume that you can end up talking to someone who has a story that frightens you more than your own story. Life can be brutal, unfortunately.

        1. emmelemm*

          The “joke” in your first paragraph reminds me of my geometry teacher from high school. He would always say, “Don’t come and tell me you couldn’t do your homework unless you have two broken legs!”

          Well, one weekend a classmate had gone skiing and guess what, broke his leg. He showed up at school with his leg in practically a full cast, and when time came for geometry class, he said, “Well, I didn’t get to the homework this week.” And my geometry teacher replied, “I said you have to have TWO broken legs!”

          Teacher was, of course, joking.

      2. lemon*

        Academia highly encourages a lack of work/life boundaries. I could see how, if the OP is applying for academic jobs, they would be compelled to demonstrate grit during their interview and think that talking about working through their concussion would do so.

        Agree with others that it would land quite differently and inappropriately outside of academia.

        1. lemon*

          Also should also say, I still don’t think this should be mentioned if applying for academic jobs. Just saying I understand where the urge to do so is coming from.

        2. Cassandra*

          Yeah, as sad as it makes me that someone sincerely thinks “I worked really hard through concussion recovery!” demonstrates grit and a good work ethic, it surprises me 0 that this is coming from academia. Really, this is an academia problem, not an OP problem. :(

    5. Engineer Girl*

      I think there’s another side of it. Not everyone thinks of a concussion as a traumatic brain injury. Rightly or wrongly, they may think of a concussion as merely getting knocked out. They won’t be impressed.
      And let’s face it, there are other horrible things to work through: death of a child, death of a spouse, cancer, etc. All of those muddle the mind too.
      In short, demonstrating “grit” in an almost boastful way will not earn you points. And frankly, the “look how much I suffer for you” martyrdom isn’t healthy.

      1. Willis*

        This is what I was thinking. There are lots of things that people deal with while working or finishing school. While it can certainly take perseverance to do so, I don’t think they speak too much to your suitability for a job or that interviewers should really be weighing the hardships their candidates have faced.

      2. MsSolo*

        To be fair, if you’re knocked out you almost certainly do have a concussion, though it could be a mild one. That’s why any head injury serious enough to result in unconsciousness, even for a very short amount of time, should be checked out by a doctor. I don’t know if Natasha Richardson’s death got as much coverage in the US as over here, but it did a lot at the time to raise awareness of how serious even a little knock can be.

        1. Shad*

          It doesn’t even take a direct impact! I was in a car accident this summer. My head did not hit the steering wheel or the headrest, but the impact of the other car still jarred my brain against my skull enough to cause a concussion.

        2. Quill*

          The trope of knocking someone out by hitting them in the head is just… so unrealistic, (and dangerous!) yet it’s shaped our perceptions so much.

      3. Important Moi*

        I agree that not everyone thinks of a concussion as a traumatic brain injury. A few comments have already addressed that if you can work you weren’t “that” injured. Whatever that means.

        1. hbc*

          I compare it to the fact that I walked into the doctor with a broken ankle. It actually wasn’t that bad if I could go around putting weight on it, or I was foolishly risking damage to myself more for some ideal of stoicism. Some of both, in my case.

        2. Morning Glory*

          It means that there’s a broad spectrum of severity with concussions.

          Without other information, it’s reasonable to judge the severity of the OP’s concussion by how much (or little) it impacted the OP’s ability to speak, think, and work.

          1. My brain hurts*

            As an example of what Morning Glory is describing, another concussion patient downthread describes experiencing nausea to the extent that they could only ingest one Ensure a day, and even that was a struggle.

            My own concussion didn’t give me nausea, and I continued to eat normally.

            That isn’t a sign of grit or determination or toughness on my part, that’s just a sign that different concussions are different.

    6. Reliquary*

      OP#3, I’m a veteran of many search committees, and fwiw, I am chairing a TT search committee again right now. Please do not try to find ways to mention (in your cover letter, in interviews, etc.) any struggles you have overcome, either before or during grad school. It’s true that we really don’t want to hear about any medical issues (including disabilities) for legal reasons, but “grit” and the struggle narratives that may have been relevant for things like undergraduate admissions are just not relevant in your search for a f/t TT job. I know this may sound chilly, but honestly, we’ve all struggled in one way or another.

      We want to assess the quality of your work (scholarship and teaching) thus far, and we want to hear what your (concrete!) plans are for the next phase of your career. Start envisioning your long-term scholarly trajectory, and find ways to convey that to us, and to convince us you can ratchet up your grad-student workload to that of an assistant professor, which is no mean feat.

      1. TechWorker*

        OP doesn’t say whether they’re planning to stay in academia or not – I think the only time mentioning medical issues could be appropriate is if they explain something else? (Our hiring guidelines basically say we expect very strong academic results, or a good excuse – we have hired people who performed well in the application process & had good first/second year results and poor finals due to illness, for example). That doesn’t change the general advice ofc but ‘it’s never appropriate’ may not be completely true.

        1. WS*

          +1, I had cancer and had to withdraw for some time, and that gap needs explaining. It has actually been a bonding experience with interviewers sometimes, but equally people have been dubious about what cancer recovery means.

      2. blackcat*

        Do the people on search committees know that I submitted my dissertation from the hospital bedside of my ill son? Do they know about the paper I submitted between contractions while in labor?
        No, they do not. Well, some may have heard about the paper between contractions because my advisor decided to make that something of a legend (we were on web-conferencing through it). But… no, I do not go around telling people that.
        I have also had a concussion.
        Finishing a PhD with a young, medically fragile child was approximately one million times harder than returning to daily life after a concussion.* So saying something like this would leave a significant negative impression on someone like me, who faced other, very real challenges to finishing the degree, but did it anyways.

        *This could be the other way around for someone with a worse concussion than me! Concussions vary widely, as noted in other comments here.

        1. hateacademia*

          Thank you, blackcat. I’m the sole caregiver to 2 seriously ill parents, as well as dealing with my own major health issues (requiring a lot of hospital stays) – which is nothing compared to what you dealt with. Do my PhD advisors care? Nope, not remotely. One concussion during the dissertation process wouldn’t particularly impress me as a big deal…but that’s also how messed up academia is.

    7. Retired Accountant*

      A friend of mine had a concussion from which it took her weeks to recover. I don’t know what her reaction would be to hearing OP’s tale, but I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t be “Wow, she must have a lot more grit and perseverance than I did. Must hire!”

      There are a lot of ways this can backfire, OP. Don’t risk it.

    8. Mookie*

      Thank you so much for this comment. I wholeheartedly encourage the LW not to perpetuate true grit and bootstrap ideas about “recovery” from / survival of head and brain injuries. Lay people should not be misled in order to further your career at the expense of the rest of us, please and thanks.

    9. On Fire*

      There’s also a chance it could seem like you’re trying to manipulate the interviewers. I know someone who suffered a brain injury and mentioned it during an interview. The committee very strongly felt that he was deliberately manipulating them, putting them on notice that if he wasn’t hired, they were discriminating against his disability. (For the record, there were significant performance and possibly legal issues *before* the brain injury, but his employer waited too long — it’s a complicated story— and then couldn’t terminate a disabled employee.)

    10. Daisy*

      Yes – either she was recovered and well enough to work, in which case there’s nothing much to be impressed by, or she was not recovered and shouldn’t have been working. I can’t really see a middle ground with concussion.

      1. CMart*

        Agreed. I know everyone and every concussion is different, but my own experience with one would mostly leave me totally confused with the OP’s anecdote. When I was concussed I couldn’t do a lot – I lost the ability to read music and mathematical notation for about 2 weeks, among other less dramatic effects. Mostly it just took time to recover, there wasn’t any “working through” it, no amount of grit or tenacity that would have helped. I was either capable, or I was not.

    11. Pippa K*

      These are very good points. I’m an academic who’s both served on search committees and had a couple of concussions, and I’d definitely think about these 3 things if someone mentioned their concussion in the context of hiring. I, too, defended my dissertation after a concussion, and it was fine – as others have mentioned, concussions aren’t all the same, so there was nothing heroic (or reckless) about my return to academic work quickly, and it would have been irrelevant to bring it up on the job market. More recently I had a serious concussion with much longer recovery, and I wouldn’t mention that in a hiring context either. Neither of these are evidence of “grit and determination” – I guess getting the PhD is evidence of that, but for tenure-track jobs, everyone in the pool has one. So what we want on the search committee is evidence of the quality of your work as a scholar (research, teaching, other relevant abilities). Personal struggle narratives aren’t usually relevant. (Separately, though, congrats on the successful recovery. Brain injuries can be scary.)

    12. Joielle*

      Yes! #3 is what immediately came to my mind. Some years ago, my dad had a traumatic brain injury, went back to work too early, and has permanent damage, caused in part by his inadequate recovery time. He’s fine now in a general sense but he’ll never be back to what used to be his 100%. Working through even a mild TBI is not admirable, it’s reckless, and I wouldn’t be impressed.

      1. AngryOwl*

        Though I should also note since I see it coming up in this thread: current research does not advise total brain rest, sitting in a dark room, etc. for concussion recovery. Those things can actually hinder recovery and increase depression risk.

        Everyone will need to rest according to their personal needs, which makes it even more variable and not worth mentioning in an interview.

    13. cncx*

      I had a concussion a year ago and i cosign everything you said. I went back to work too early, i haven’t bounced back, and not everyone’s concussion is the same.

    14. Artemesia*

      I have a relative who has taken months to recover from a concussion; she has a highly intellectually challenging job so that while she appears ‘normal’ she couldn’t do the mental work she needed to do for a very long time. I would think talking about a concussion during an interview would lower your chances of being hired or come across as weird that you would think it advanced your case.

    15. TomorrowTheWorld*

      I like all the comments admonishing the LW for having a lapse in judgement because of an injury that causes lapses in judgement. Fantastic.

      I had a bad concussion coupled with other injuries and PTSD and still had to work because otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to pay rent or be covered by the paltry insurance the company offered.

    16. AKchic*

      Your entire reply is spot-on.

      I’ve had multiple concussions. Most were mild and did no lasting damage. One left permanent damage and here I am, 15 years later still having problems. I can work around it, but there are times when it is noticeable. When meeting new people, especially in a professional setting, I am constantly debating whether or not to disclose my TBI (traumatic brain injury) because either I do and nothing happens and they wonder if I’m lying to some kind of sympathy, faking it to downplay my talents; or not say anything and have a bad day and look really “off” because I’m forgetting words, missing tasks, having trouble focusing, forgetting the name of the person I was just introduced to (as in “hi, this is Jane” *shake hand* “Hi… uh… what was your name again?”).

      For anyone who actually does know about concussions, to admit that you worked through one, especially against doctor’s orders, it could look bad for you. They could assume that you would put yourself at risk, thus putting the company at risk, harming yourself, the product/project you’d be working on, and the company’s image/name/brand just for appearances.

      I can’t be sure of why I have permanent damage from my concussion in 2004. It could be a multitude of things. The accumulative damage of multiple little concussions, the inability to take it easy (I had 3 children under the age of 5 when it happened, 1 potty training, 1 still an infant), no real support system to *help* me so I could cut back on my workload (fulltime classes, fulltime job, home, 3 small children, a marriage, a stalker ex-husband, etc.), a lack of medical care (it was a car accident with no *visible* injuries. It took a year before I was even referred to a specialist for my neck and by that time, my broken neck had already healed wrongly. The x-ray at the ER didn’t catch it and the ER doc thought I was faking my pain anyway).

      I regret not knowing more back then. I regret not knowing how to advocate for myself and for feeling like I had to be SuperMom for a myriad of reasons. But I also have the gift of time and knowledge now to be able to look back and see what I could have done differently had I known better. It wasn’t my fault for not knowing better then, but I can advocate for others now, so nobody else has to be in the same position.

    17. smoke tree*

      I was thinking of your second point as well, maybe just because I’ve known a few people who had really long and difficult concussion recoveries and I don’t think any amount of grit would have helped much. I’m sure it was a real struggle to defend a PhD while recovering, but since there is no universal concussion experience, interviewers might well just assume that the LW’s concussion was very mild.

  3. Drew*

    I want to reach through the keyboard and smack LW4’s boss. You’re the manager, so f—ing MANAGE. What he’s doing is cowardice.

    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Absolutely. He’s also allowing discriminatory conduct to flourish without addressing it. So there’s two problems, each of which is individually infuriating, illegal, and completely unacceptable.

    2. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

      Is he the manager of the admin staff as well? Otherwise – I’d say he was limited to talking to *their* manager about their attitude, but flagging it to HR is probably the way to go.
      He is being a coward by not finding some way of addressing it though, even if he can’t do the direct managing.

      1. BenAdminGeek*

        That was my thought as well- he feels like he can’t change the admin attitude, so is (foolishly) trying to control the hiring process to make there be less friction.

        1. Just Elle*

          This was my take. The admin staff are a bunch of catty woman-on-woman bullies. I’ve been on the receiving end of that and it truly is miserable and wish I’d known how mean they were before I’d accepted the job because, well, I wouldn’t have.

          So I kinda, sorta, maybe get where this guy is coming from.
          But, no, just no, hell to the no.

          The right way to handle this problem is by escalating the issue to whoever the mutual boss is and making sure the admin staff know this will in no way be tolerated. Because you aren’t actually addressing the root cause of this issue by ‘accomodating’ the admin staff. Like, what happens if they hire a new woman admin? Groups like this can drive away tons of great talent.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            We have absolutely no indication that the admin staff would only be rude to women (or to all women). I don’t want to jump straight to “catty woman on woman bullying.”

            1. Just Elle*

              I admit I’m reading between the lines a bit. I’m interpreting ‘frosty’ to mean they specifically iced out these two women, by doing things like not including them in conversations or not saying good morning to them or not helping them with the printer, whatever. I get that its a leap, who knows, maybe they’d be this way towards men too. But I have seen the very specific, only woman-on-woman type of “frosty” bullying often enough that I’d bet on it.

              Still, my point was, even if hiring a man would ‘solve’ the problem, that’s still not the right answer!

          2. Veronica*

            IME people with this attitude won’t change. To really change it, they would have to fire the leaders of this group and give the rest of them a talking to and strict supervision to change their bad habits.
            When I was young it seemed everywhere I went there was someone who made it her mission to hurt me. It’s horrible, demoralizing, discouraging.
            Does OP’s boss know for sure these women wouldn’t treat a man this way? It depends on their motivation…

            1. It's a Yes From Me*

              There’s an abundance of research on this issue which has been published in books such as “Tripping the Prom Queen”.Unfortunately, a statistically significant percentage of women in the workforce are more likely to treat women in a perceived position of superiority much worse than they will treat men in the same position. That’s why, for example, women working in a law firm with only one female partner will fight each other to try to attain that coveted role, instead of working together to increase the number of female partnerships. It was devastating to me to learn this about the working world, but it can help people cope with it.

          3. biobotb*

            We actually don’t know if it’s woman-to-woman bullying in the sense that any woman would be mistreated (or just not treated warmly, I don’t think we have enough information to call it bullying) by this group, or if they’d mistreat anyone in that job and it’s just so happened that the people doing the job have been women.

            1. Anon Librarian*

              Yeah. If they’re that unprofessional, it would probably affect anyone in that role. It could, hypothetically, look different based on gender. But it’s likely there would still be issues.

              1. It's a Yes From Me*

                I gave information about this issue in another comment. There is a statistically significant percentage of women in the workforce are more likely to treat women in a perceived position of superiority much worse than they will treat men in the same position. I mentioned one of the books about this topic, but there are a number.

    3. Mookie*

      Or he agrees and is happy to use it as an excuse, which is common enough a rationale for all manner of discrimination. “Other people can’t cope or are afraid of you, so” *shrug* does not make the speaker a truth-teller nor a wimp but dangerous and untrustworthy and in numerical terms represents the real roadblock, an unmotivated self-styled moderate whose ‘tolerance’ only extends to one side.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Ugh, yes. We just had a letter the other day about a company that used “our clients are white and conservative” as an excuse to fire all but one of the black employees and demote all the female executives.

        1. Tequila Mockingbird*

          We also had a letter the other day where a commenter posted “It’s totally fine in certain professions to advertise that they’re only considering men for the position!”
          (spoiler: it’s not)

            1. Tequila Mockingbird*

              Yeah, the letter was “A recruiter changed my resume without my knowledge” from October 9. The commenter was, uh, clueless. Allison, of course, quickly stepped in with “That’s illegal.”

      1. Sparrow*

        I think we’re missing some information here. Perhaps OP’s boss has good reason to think this is a gendered thing, but I didn’t see that in the context we have. If it is clear that’s the case, it’s still not ok that this is his solution; if it’s not, him leaping to the conclusion that this is gender-based makes this all even more concerning.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Right?!?! Unless the admin staff came out and explicitly told him “Next time, send us a man”, I do not see the logic here.

        I mean, I do see it of course – way back at my first job out of college, my boss was convinced that we females would peck each other to death (his words) if he wouldn’t actively take measures to prevent that. One of the measures was making sure that all women on his team were paid the same amount. It is a nasty stereotype that apparently lives on, that women cannot work together without tearing each other down, because women, you know how they are *eyeroll*

        1. It's a No From Me*

          You are so fortunate that you haven’t experienced being torn down by women in the workplace. It was devastating to me. What about “the sisterhood”? I’m a feminist. I want to support women in moving forward as much as possible. To find that some women don’t feel the same — they will actively work to bring down any woman who is promoted above them — was eye-opening and painful.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I’ve experienced being torn down by everyone. I have also witnessed other coworkers being torn down by gangs of “cool kids” of various genders. I don’t think any gender has a monopoly on that. I do think it is often gendered and has roots in the patriarchy. Men tear women down to put them in their place, women tear down other women because they think only a few of us are allowed to be successful at work and they have to fight for those few spots; men tear men down because boys will be boys or some sh.t. At the end of the day it really comes down to one’s character and integrity. You can be a man, a woman, nonbinary, whatever you want to be, if you were raised not to be a (looking for a non-gendered term that is AMA-appropriate) backstabbing vulture hyena to others, you won’t ever act like one; and vice versa.

            I did leave a comment somewhere on this thread about a female coworker I used to have, who mentored me, acted as my friend, had mutual friends with me, and then one day called my boss and asked to meet for coffee after work, to warn him that I might take advantage of him if he wasn’t careful, because according to her I specifically targeted management, trying to seduce them in exchange for raises and promotions. So yeah I’m fortunate indeed. (Actually I now think I was pretty fortunate that I had it happen at the very start of my new career in the US; so I learned early on to be very careful with, one, who I pick as my work friends, two, to be extremely careful around my home country’s immigrant community, that this woman was a part of.) But that’s on her. That’s the person she is. I absolutely refuse to take the blame for what she did, or to agree that I could in theory do the same because I am also a woman – it’ll be a cold day in hell before I do what she did.

      3. smoke tree*

        Sounds like he’s bought into the stereotype that women are all catty and in constant competition with one another. It’s just “girl stuff,” let’s put a stop to it by placing a level-headed man in the position. They probably all have a crush on the same guy, and if we don’t step in, they’ll be wrestling in jello next.

    4. Pippa*

      I’ve never commented before but I wish we talked more about how much women do to keep other women out of fields. I’m an academic and I can’t have close working relationships with a lot of guys because it would make their wives uncomfortable. I have been told this, straight up. If we’re at an event where spouses are allowed I often end up with the wives, who are lovely but who do not help me network and with whom I can’t talk shop. I also have encountered friction from women in the more stereotypically feminine-coded jobs like admin. When I was harassed a female colleague went around opining that I made it up out of spite. Thinking on it, women have actually done as much or more to hold back my career as men.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I should say that I am a woman and I see this going on, too. (Not everyone reading here will know that I am a women.)

          The stuff women have told me over the years, well, if a man said the same thing it would be a Problem.

          1. BenAdminGeek*

            A friend at a previous job was sexually harassed by her manager, but because they were both women it was treated as “overreacting” to complain about it, and it hurt her career. Very frustrating to see.

            1. Syfygeek*

              In 1988 I was fired from a retail manager job because the District Manager didn’t want any single pregnant women working in her stores. And that’s the reason she gave. I had a heck of a time bringing a lawsuit because I kept hearing “women can’t discriminate against women”. I won my suit, and she ultimately lost her job because she ignored the fact that I was the one doing all the paperwork she either didn’t want to do, or didn’t know how to do.

              If the admin staff is frosty to ANYONE, something needs to be done by the manager.

              1. Slow Gin Lizz*

                Good for you for bringing on that lawsuit. And for winning, because of course you did. (If you hadn’t, I’d be IRATE.)

                And yes to your comment about admin staff being frosty to anyone. No matter who, they need to learn some customer service skills or get a new career.

                1. Veronica*

                  This behavior wouldn’t fly in any job I’ve ever heard of. Even if they never see a customer and only sit at a screen all day, they have to get along with their boss and any colleagues.

              2. Not So NewReader*

                In 2007 I worked for a woman who told me she did not want any female assistant managers, she preferred males. I was assigned to her department she had no say in taking me. I knew I was screwed.

        2. Just Elle*

          Yep. Ugh, it really is disgraceful. Women can be so much MEANER in a sneakier way to other women than men can.

          I kind of agree than wives being jealous is an excuse the men are making, but I’ve also seen it directly out of wives, so, no its not always the men. Its not that men can’t or don’t interact professionally. But they’d think twice about getting drinks with you, spending a half hour catching up about the weekend, etc. Those kinds of personal connections that lead to a stronger professional network.

        3. Cat Fan*

          Yes, I have worked in a group where the admins really bucked against the women they supported, but not the men. It was a strange dynamic.

      1. One of the Sarahs*

        Please do bear in mind that the messages you’ re getting about making wives uncomfortable aren’t always going to be anything to do with the actual women, unless they’ve said it directly to you.

        (“I’d love to work with you but *other people *…” is such a common excuse to perpetuate inequality, it always makes me raise my eyebrows)

        1. Washi*

          Yeah, that’s a choice the guys are making and then blaming on their wives. (I would believe some wives request that, but the husbands don’t have to go along with it!)

        2. Lucette Kensack*

          Yes. This all sounds much more like what living in a patriarchal, male-dominant culture does to women… not what women do to women.

          1. Jaydee*

            This! Women do these things to other women because we’ve been raised in a patriarchal society and have internalized the same messages about ”appropriate” gender roles that men have.

            1. SimplyTheBest*

              Sure, but I’ve also been raised in a patriarchal society and yet somehow I know not to behave that way.

        3. Mystery Bookworm*

          Yes, in regards to the idea that co-worker’s wives are holding back other women, I wholeheartedly agree with this critique. The male coworkers are the issue there, not their wives. In fact, I’d argue that was the case even if the wives were directly speaking to Pippa. It’s really on the men to manage those boundaries and wives have no power to influence their behaviour at work unless they grant it.

          This reminds me a little of a letter earlier this week where management responded to complaints about lack of diversity by saying they were doing it ‘for the comfort of their clients’. It just feels like they’re trying to fob off the critique.

      2. Lizzy May*

        That’s still the direct result of the patriarchy, though. Women are taught by society from childhood things like there’s only room for one woman on the team (Smurfette syndrome) or that women are inherently less trustworthy than men. Women internalize very toxic attitudes about themselves from a very young age and it makes it very difficult to overcome.

        1. Myrin*

          That’s very true – and one of the reasons I keep preaching to people that the patriarchy is hurting everyone, often in almost “hidden” ways – but it doesn’t really matter when you’re the woman who is being victimised by other women.

          I’m well and truly gone from academia as of exactly three months ago, but I had a mentor there, a wonderful, classy, extremely knowledgeable and friendly woman in her early forties with a knack for both teaching and researching, who had been bullied for years by what was undoubtedly the most powerful woman in our whole department. And why? Because that professor, even while holding the most prestigious role in the whole building, felt threatened by every woman who even got a smidgeon of the attention and opportunities that she herself had gathered over the years. Not by the men though, na-ah. Even when I was still just a regular student, I’d always wondered why she has this strange little squadron of very-similar-looking boyish young men around her all the time. And when I got to know my mentor better, I finally got an answer to that – the professor was grooming all these guys for all kinds of positions and they were all of one kind because they’re basically the only kind of person she can deal with, thereby leaving all the women in a lurch.

          Now, she’s almost certainly that way because she internalised some nasty messages about women and their rivalry and whatnot growing up. I actually feel a lot of pity for her and think that it’s sad that she turned out to be such a bitter and unpleasant person. But that doesn’t absolve her and doesn’t mean that she doesn’t have a responsiblity to act graciously and kindly to her female colleagues and underlings and not spread nasty rumours about them or literally push them in the hallways.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I’m not super sure how I feel about that, tbh. Granted, the only person to have ever tried to spread a rumor that I got raises and promotions by sleeping, or trying to sleep, with the management, was a woman. But that’s on her. I cannot hold what she did against my entire gender. Especially since I’ve heard my male colleagues say the same things about other women in our workplace on multiple occasions (and spoke up each time I heard it to nip that talk in the bud. “As someone who’s had these rumors spread about me, I am really not a fan of these theories” turns out to go a long way).

        With that said, yes, I agree that we (the older generations at least) were raised to see other women as competition, both in personal life and in the workplace, and that is sad.

        1. It's a No From Me*

          I probably would have said the same thing 40 years ago, about it being a problem for women from older generations.

          1. It's a No From Me*

            Sorry, that was unclear. Now that I’m in my 60s, after 40 years in the workforce, my beliefs about it have changed from observation and personal experience. I believe many women are held back in the workforce by men. And I believe they are held back even more by other women.

      4. vanillacookies*

        It’s true that women tearing each other down is a big problem. This can still be traced back to patriarchy, but it’s also important for women who recognize this problem to put work into supporting female colleagues, etc

        1. Dust Bunny*


          My mom says, It may not be your fault, but it is your problem.

          It’s men’s problem, too, but they’re not going to address it if we [women] don’t address it first. We should know that by now.

          1. Just Elle*

            I like your mom’s saying!
            You can take ownership of problems and fix them, even if you didn’t create them. The world would be a better place if we all tried to solve the problems within our control regardless of who’s “fault” they were.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I think this belongs on this subthread. OP has commented downthread that the manager is female. I have no words…

        1. Tequila Mockingbird*

          Oh, the fact that the manager is female makes sense to me. As others have echoed, women are often meaner and cattier to other women in the workplace than men.

          A few years ago, I had a female manager who would not allow women to sit next to each other (!) and staggered everybody’s desks male-female-male-female. Her rationale was that “Women chit-chat too much instead of working.” Can you imagine if such a comment came from a male manager?

          1. Nom*

            Is this idea that women are catty mainly due to our latent expectations that men are naturally supposed to be competitive? Because men bully other men all the time! Heck, when I was in school shoving kids in lockers, beating each other up in the bathroom, etc was a real issue.

            1. Tequila Mockingbird*

              Quite possibly true! I certainly didn’t mean to imply that only women are bullies.

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        The first two examples you give really sound like problems with your male coworkers rather than than with their wives. Making their wives uncomfortable is not your problem and it’s on them to manage their own relationships with their spouses so if they are choosing to withhold from you that is on them. And dumping you with the exiling you to be with the wives at work socials is definitely bad behavior on your coworkers part.

      7. Gaia*

        The Patriarchy can be spread by any gender. Women who hold back other women are doing with the work of the Patriarchy just as much as any gender holding back women. It is what makes it so hard to fight and so important to fight.

      8. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        +100, I have run into men openly giving me the “I won’t listen to a woman!” crap just as often as I’ve run into women aggressively policing me with regards to gender norms.

        Though I will say, a few times I got annoyed at an older woman (same age as my parents) for mentoring me with outdated tips for dealing with sexism, and I got grouchy with her for being sexist instead of really listening to what she was saying and how it related to our particular workplace, not Women’s Rights In General.

      9. MOAS*

        Pippa & everyone else – that really sucks. I’m sorry you all went through that.

        I’m not discounting anyone’s experience by any means, but honestly IMEO some of my worst coworkers/bosses (yelling, berating, freezing out) have been men. and I’ve encountered issues with women as well…and I’m sure I’ve been a bad coworker in someone else’s story (I’m a woman). Over time, I’ve stopped trying to look at it as a gender issue and more of a “this person is a jackass” issue and we all know jackassery transcends gender.

      10. Reliquary*

        Pippa, I am truly dismayed by your comment. I’m an academic, and over the past couple of decades, I’ve worked in several institutions of different types, and I’ve never been in the kind of environment you just described here. I’ve always had very supportive colleagues of all genders. I suggest you try to get out of your current university, because what you describe is incredibly toxic, and sounds really unusual.

    5. Mama Bear*

      Agreed. If the admin staff routinely get frosty toward people, then it’s an admin staff problem. It needs to be addressed, independent of a new hire.

    6. Assuption*

      Why is everyone assuming it’s a male manager? The OP didn’t mention it was a male manager at all, only Allison did.

  4. PollyQ*

    LW#2: I’m sorry that your friend is a jackass, but your friend is a JACKASS. You didn’t to anything at all to him, or take anything from him. He didn’t deserve the job more just because he may have wanted it more. You have nothing to apologize for, and I’m completely sure that you are more than qualified for the position.

    I like Alison’s advice for trying to salvage the friendship, but please don’t blame yourself if it doesn’t work out.

    1. MM*

      Agreed. ESPECIALLY in the context of the academic job market, when he already had the TT golden ticket and OP (it seems) did not. This is beyond unreasonable. In the fantasy scenario where he got the job over OP, it is extremely possible that she never gets a TT job at all. (For anyone unfamiliar with academia, this is in no way a comment on OP’s abilities or accomplishments–it’s just that brutal out there.) I’m sure he doesn’t actually imagine such an outcome as preferable, but in OP’s shoes I would feel he was at least implicitly communicating that he does. What she stood to lose by not getting it and what he has lost are not equivalent. I would find this much easier to understand if they had both been coming at it from the same starting point, though even then it would not be good behavior.

      Backing off that aspect, I can understand that his specific emotional attachments to this school and locale mean he might well have had some grieving to do. That’s fine. But again, given the stakes of this kind of job market, it’s wildly inappropriate to me to communicate that to the person who did get it, let alone a best friend. Maybe one day down the line, if Friend becomes a ~rockstar, he’ll be able to pick and choose where he lives, but for most academics that’s not the reality, and he shouldn’t be punishing OP for that. (My cousin left a school where she had tenure and started over from scratch, basically, so that she could move from GA to MA! The trade-off is that big even for people who have been quite successful!) Especially when, in fact, OP is now dealing with the exact same thing her friend is: having to live away from her friends and family for the sake of her academic career. There is a real opportunity for mutual support as friends and colleagues in this situation!

      Anyway. I agree with Alison that OP should give it one last try (it sounds like you’ve been very much leaving the ball in his court, OP–it’s possible the two of you are now in a vicious cycle where neither of you reaches out because each of you thinks the other doesn’t want to hear from you). But if the friendship ends over this, yes, that’s entirely on him. And it’s certainly no comment whatsoever on OP’s suitability for the job, or right to take it. Congratulations, OP. I hope things get emotionally easier as you settle in.

      1. Jane Plough*

        Re: “it’s wildly inappropriate to me to communicate that to the person who did get it”
        I missed the bit where he did communicate this to the OP. He sent a congratulatory text, ghosted her for a while and then apologized. People are allowed to have feelings of disappointment and some people deal with that by retreating to lick their wounds. By reaching out and apologizing he’s shown that he wants to make good. I don’t see what the issue is with his behavior here.
        OP, Alison’s right that you get to decide now if you want to keep the friendship, if you want to forgive your friend for ghosting you now he’s acknowledged he was in the wrong, or if you want to move on. My take on this is that best friendships are rare and if they matter to you, sometimes they involve working through conflict instead of running away.
        To me the bigger thing for you to work on is your feelings of inadequacy or like you don’t deserve the job, because this will hold you back from the future you deserve far more than this one friend’s reaction to disappointment. Your comments about feeling lonely being away from home, about how it’s normal in a new job to feel like you don’t belong (it’s not), signify to me that you could do some work on building your self esteem and sense of connection to your new place, so you’re not placing outsize importance on how this one friend may or may not feel about you.

        1. cierta*

          I agree with this – grief is odd, and not being able to do the work you love in the town where you want to live is an OK thing to grieve over. If you’re in a very specialised field, there might be literally only one job in the town with your friends and family in it doing the work you want to do. I don’t think the OP did anything wrong at all, but it’s also OK for their friend to be upset they didn’t get the job, and to need a bit of time and space to process that. AAM has a very casual ‘if this job is wrong, you can leave it!’ attitude that is generally very healthy, but is much harder in very specialised fields like acadaemia.

          1. anon*

            I agree. This friend was mourning a life he came close to living. I don’t think he meant to be a ‘jerk’.

            We had the same thing happen to us and it was devastating. The result is we now live 6 hours away from family and friends and miss our hometown very badly. My niece was born this year and instead of being able to pop over to tea to see her I have to wait until we can squirrel enough time off from our jobs. My mother had a fall this year and broke her hip and I couldn’t really support her much. My heart aches at not being there for my family.
            I don’t resent the friend of my husband who got the job, it was fair, but I think for a while we had to lick our wounds and learn to move on. It hasn’t affected my husband’s friendship with this man too badly, but I struggle with meeting him still (although I completely hide it). Still, it’s not a problem really because we live 6 hours away from him .

            1. anon*

              Sorry OP, I projected too much. I just wanted to explain why it might seem unfair that the friend is being a jackass for reacting this way, and why it’s a little deeper than that.

              OP, I’m glad for you though – a tenure job is hard to find!

            2. Senor Montoya*

              He may not have meant to be, but his behavior sure was jerk-y. Six months of silence? with your best friend? who just got a desperately needed job? Sorry, I understand his *disappointment*, but not his unkind behavior. I’ve been on both sides of this kind of friendship, many times — that’s what happens when you’re friends with people in your field. If I’m the loser, I swallow my sadness so that my friend’s good news is the center of attention and not me, boo hoo I didn’t get the shiny new job. And when I’m the winner, I’ve been fortunate that most of my friends who were competing with me were happy for me.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                I agree, it’s understandable to be disappointed but six months of silence is much too long. It sounds like the friend already had a good job so it’s not like they have just had to move far away from their family as a result of this or anything–they’re just in the exact same place they were before.

              2. Joielle*

                Yeah – the disappointment is understandable, but if it’s your best friend, you have to either put on a happy face, or if you can’t, at least be able to say “I’m really happy for you but I have to admit I’m jealous. I have to work through some feelings about all of this on my own, so for now, can we just talk about non-work things?” Being close with someone means you have to be honest about your feelings! You can’t just ghost your best friend, that’s crappy behavior.

              3. ChimericalOne*

                We don’t actually know how much they texted/chatted before this, though. One of my best friends in the world is a terrible texter (and okay, I’m not great at staying in touch, either!) and I wouldn’t blink if I went 6 months without hearing from her. It’s possible that the length of time wouldn’t be that unusual to OP, either, if they weren’t imagining their friend stewing the whole time. It’s also possible that the friend (who OP describes as being somewhat flaky) is more apt to respond to a text than initiate one, and OP has been avoiding texting them because of this presumption of anger. Alison says, “I’m assuming you tried to contact him during that time,” but personally, I think it’s just as likely that OP did not.

                1. Jennifer*

                  I thought of this too. Also, he may view the friendship differently and may not think they are as close as the OP does.

                2. biobotb*

                  I don’t think the LW is presuming anger–the friend described themselves as “being a jerk,” and if 6 months of radio silence from this friend were normal, it seems like it wouldn’t have worried the LW to this extent.

                3. ChimericalOne*

                  @biobotb, sometimes anxiety turns something normal into something abnormal. My husband isn’t super chatty by nature, for example, so I usually don’t notice if he isn’t talking to me much. But if I just did something that I think he’s upset about, I suddenly notice the silence and it can seem to stretch. Also, I might refrain from making casual comments to him if I think he’s upset (in any way — angry, grieving, whatever) to avoid disturbing him (I mean, if your partner is upset, you’re not going to be like, “Hey, look at this meme, lol” or even “Oh, hey, are we going to be visiting your mom anytime soon?”), and in doing so, I can unintentionally prolong the silence.

                4. OP2*

                  Hi all – Thank you all for your insights. It didn’t want my original question to be overly drawn out but I actually called a couple of times and texted every so often for the first three months then stopped. I can take a hint, and didn’t want to push it if he was in pain.

            3. BethDH*

              I had a friend who was also in this situation (I wasn’t the friend who got the job) and she had some of OP’s same feelings as a result of NOT getting the job — (heightened) imposter syndrome, loneliness, etc. Guilt about how their career took the spouse away from hometown. Plus dealing with a whole lot of family who do not get academia and had all kinds of horrible things to say about her not getting it.
              Not trying to defend the ghoster’s behavior here, just saying that disappearing may have been broader than she realizes and not solely directed at her. Disappearing from social contact is certainly common in depression, and depression is plenty common even among academics who have “made it.”

        2. Daisy*

          My feeling is that I’m not sure why OP has to decide anything at all just now? There’s nothing up in the air – he apologised and OP said fine. On the surface everything is okay with the relationship, it sounds like they don’t live close to each other anymore, I don’t see any reason OP either needs to give up or reach out right this second. She can just leave it until she wants to meet up. That’s pretty normal for adult friendships.

          1. Majnoona*

            If they were competing for the same job they probably do similar work in what is often a small field. They may be colleagues at conferences etc. for decades. Best to establish a civil relationship

            1. Daisy*

              Right, but it sounds like they’ve left it at civil. I don’t really see a need for the OP to make a big ‘do I cut him off forever’ decision right now. The situation seems stable.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Nice catch regarding the feelings of inadequacy.
          OP, odd things become connected in our minds. While this makes no sense on the computer screen, it might make sense when applied to day-to-day life. If you work on accepting the fact that these knowledgeable people think you CAN do this job, you might find your friend’s reaction has less upset for you. That sounds odd, I know.

          I think this question regarding a competitive friend comes up often enough IRL that it warrants our discussion here. I don’t think your situation is unusual and I tend to view your friend’s reaction from a neutral perspective- as in it’s not good but it’s not bad. It just IS.
          In my younger years, where competition for employment seemed more fierce, I decided not to tell friends what jobs I was applying IF I knew they were job hunting also. I still tend to carry some of that mentality with me. Because we were new to the workforce we could choose to let a job go and apply for something else. That is how I framed that. It’s less so with professional jobs.

          Not really a consolation but friendships have ended over buying a particular house, getting a certain dog and a whole bunch of other things. Personally, I lost friendships because I moved away from the town I grew up in. Perhaps that is why I tend to be neutral over something like this. People walk into and out of our lives. If I was able to choose, they would never leave my life. We can’t make them stay if they don’t want to.

          I recommend giving the person space to process whatever he needs to process. That space could be a week or it could be decades. Hold the door open but continue on with your life. I don’t see where you “have to” decide to end the friendship. I think you can shift it to the back and let things settle out. From what you have written here, I think you might hear from your friend when they finally find something of their own that they are truly happy with and truly value. For whatever reason your friend has unhappiness, probably for more than one reason. And this job loss was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

        4. Ms. Ann Thropy*

          He ghosted her for six months, and after finally contacting her again, is flaking again. That’s not a good friend. That’s a petulant person blaming his friend for his disappointment. OP doesn’t need psychological help. She needs a real friend who will celebrate her success, instead of punishing her for it.

          1. ChimericalOne*

            How much is this the friend ghosting her & how much is this the OP not reaching out, either, from feelings of guilt and/or a perception that her friend is angry? The friend initiated contact & then it sounds like OP didn’t exactly welcome them back with open arms, so the contact faded. And we don’t know how much the friend used to initiate contact before this happened, either — I have plenty of friendships where my friend reaches out more than I do & we chat fairly frequently, but if they went silent and waited for me to break the silence, I probably wouldn’t get around to it for months (which maybe makes me a not-amazing friend, but I’m quick to reply when they do reach out — I’m just a bit out-of-sight, out-of-mind).

            1. CmdrShepard4ever*

              I agree with you chimericalone, OP said that the friend was already flaky before the job issue, so the flakiness really isn’t a deviation from the norm it is the norm. Here the friend is trying to to reach out to OP. We don’t know that the friend is blaming the OP for getting the job, but rather that they are disappointed that the didn’t get it. The friend might have made the calculation, I am really disappointed in not getting the job I know it was not OP’s fault, but currently I can’t muster enough fake happiness for OP. So instead of bringing down OP with my simmering disappointment, I will take a step back for a while.

            2. OP2*

              Thank you for your insights. It didn’t want my original question to be overly drawn out but I actually called a couple of times and texted every so often for the first three months then stopped. I can take a hint, and didn’t want to push it if he was in pain.

      2. Nanani*

        This. You said everything I was going to write, down to the Golden Ticket analogy.

        LW, This guy is not coming off as a good friend.
        Is he petty and jealous in other areas of life? He sounds like the kid who throws a tantrum when your ice cream has more sprinkles than his, because he already ate some of his sprinkles.

        Grieve the friendship and enjoy your tenure track!

    2. Engineer Girl*


      Calling someone a jackass? Really?

      I have a different take. I think the friend was incredibly invested in getting the job. That meant that they were really disappointed when they didn’t get it. They were dealing with broken dreams and grief. Healing comes in fits and starts. And sometimes healing means staying away from the thing that causes deep pain. Kind of like a wounded animal hiding.

      Should they have behaved that way? Probably not. And now they are apologizing for it.

      I’d wait to hear what they have to say before passing judgement. You clearly don’t have the whole story. The friendship may survive. Or not.

      1. Jessica*

        LW2, your conduct around this job was fine and your friend should have done better, and also I am confident that you are probably fantastic at whatever it is you both do and will be a huge success at this job. But if this person is truly your “best friend,” I would make a lot more effort (or just show a lot more patience—I don’t mean all the effort has to come from your side) before giving up on the relationship. In every long-term relationship there’s going to come a time when there’s some sort of rift, and the strongest friendships are those where both parties are willing to be the person who cares enough to reach out and try to mend it.
        Also, you both need other friends right now. You’re not the right person for him to talk to about his grief over not getting this job, and he’s not the right person for you to talk to about your worries about the new job. He did try to reach out to you, though, so do the same. If you genuinely value this person, you don’t want to regret how lightly you let him go.
        And to the commentariat: I think you’d be much much easier on Friend if, say, he was an infertile woman and the LW had just managed to have a baby. Not everyone has the same dreams, and knowing you’ll never realize yours while trying to watch a friend get what you want and trying to act decent about it is hard whatever the dream was. Let’s have some compassion.

        1. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

          Yes but Friend isn’t someone who didn’t get tenure. He already has it. Just not the one he wants. So with your example it would be more like a woman that had a baby already but wanted a different one.

          1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

            Which has happened in my social circle – person A had sons, three of them, who were very much adored. Person B evenutally had a daughter, and person A actually stopped speaking to her for a while because she very much wanted a little girl and it hurt her almost physically to see all the little dresses she would never get to buy for her own children (there were physical reasons after baby 3 that meant he would be the last baby).
            People are funny about their hope and dreams and desires and the grief that comes with having them broken.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              What the actual heck. Saying this both as a mother of two sons, and as a daughter of a woman who only wanted one child, and wanted a boy. How on earth did it make person A’s children feel to know that their mother wanted a different kid so much that she stopped speaking to her friend because of that?

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Yeah, that example doesn’t make the LW’s friend sound better it’s just another example of someone being extremely unreasonable in a way that is probably pretty hurtful to others.

              2. Joielle*

                Yeah, this is a serious issue to be worked out in therapy, not an example to be held up as a reasonable expression of grief.

                1. Quill*

                  Staying away a while until you can work through it in therapy is possibly a necessary compromise but… get thee to therapy, pronto.

              3. CMart*

                Nothing in that anecdote indicates the friend’s sons heard a peep of her sadness.

                I think it was a perfectly fine analogy: people are weird about their hopes and dreams, and when confronted with a reminder of the inability to achieve them people react in odd ways to their private grief. Removing yourself from the reminder is a very common one.

                And this was an example of someone who had a thing that many people want and struggle for (children at all) and yet still had a grieving process of a future they will never experience. Much like the LW’s friend who already had the tenure track position, just not one that would have been incredible for his family. These kinds of scenarios happen across all aspects of life.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  She didn’t have to sit the kids down and tell them, “Now, little Bobby, I love you, but what I really wanted instead of you was a girl.” The kids can tell when something is off.

                  At least LW’s friend’s tenure track job isn’t going to be hurt and confused when it realizes how LW’s friend feels about it… silver lining?

                2. CMart*

                  At risk of derailing, @I Wrote This In The Bathroom: really wishing you were able to have another child/always having imagined your life looking a certain way is absolutely not the same as regretting the children or life you have, or wanting someone/thing else instead of them.

                  Gender disappointment is very common and normal, and everyone realized it’s irrational. It’s not “I wish I had a girl instead of my son”. It’s “I always pictured myself with a daughter, and I am sad that is not my reality.” Humans are complex creatures, we’re perfectly capable of being happy with our lives while mourning lost possibilities.

                  And the way to deal with those complex feelings is to do so quietly and maturely. Like limiting contact with the reminder of the thing you’re missing out on until you reckon with your complex feelings. Isn’t the advice always that you can’t help having feelings, but you can help how you act on them?

                3. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  @I wrote this in the bathroom the situation that @WonderingHowIGotIntoThis is not unheard of. I am one of four boys in my family, my parents loved us unconditionally and never showed disappointment in us, but I do think that at some point/level they wanted a daughter. Saying “I would have liked to have a daughter but I love the family I have” is not that same as “why weren’t you born a girl?”

                  Yes some parents can be very obvious who the favorite child is or that they wanted a different gender, but that is not always the case.

          2. Patty Mayonnaise*

            @Wondering, but the point is that the pain Person A experienced about not having a girl isn’t really comparable to the level of pain of someone facing infertility – and if it is, Person A should probably be diving into that, possibly with professional help (I honestly think Person A should think deeply about her feelings as it stands – not talking to someone for a while just because they had a girl is a little over the top to me).

            1. WonderingHowIGotIntoThis*

              She already had 3 boys so having children was not the issue – it was voluntary infertility (she could, in theory, have gone on to try and get pregnant again, but the doctors heavily advised against it). And none of us were having involuntary infertility issues, so it’s not like she was comparing having the child she wanted with not having a child at all.
              We (the rest of the social circle) were a bit stunned, to be honest. We just tried to be supportive of all parties – Person B was a bit overwhelmed as a new mum and Person A was being very emotional and distant. None of us are therapists, we did the best we could in a face to face way, kind of like what the commentators do here.

          3. Pippa K*

            This is a minor point generally (but not to academics!) – friend didn’t have tenure already, just a tenure-track job. Conventional wisdom in academia holds that it’s harder to move after tenure: the job market is awful generally, and most positions are hired at the assistant rather than associate professor level, so once you’ve gotten tenure and promotion, you might find very, very few openings in the whole country for your field and rank. LW’s friend may have been extra invested in this as his one chance in his career to move to where he actually wants to be.

            Not that it justifies his treatment of the LW, just some additional likely context.

            1. tape deck*

              Yes, this. This isn’t just losing out on a job, it’s losing out on quite possibly the only opportunity LW’s friend will have to live where he wants without sacrificing his career. His behavior is still bad, but honestly, I would have a hard time being gracious in his position. But it’s still not LW’s fault and she shouldn’t feel bad; it’s just the way things shook out. I might give up on reaching out, but leave the door open if LW’s friend gets over it and wants to resume the friendship.

            2. Artemesia*

              The easiest way to get tenure is to move schools as an assistant prof and get tenure as part of being hired. It is MUCH easier to get it this way than within a school. Many of the more competitive schools almost never promote assistants to associates but they do hire people in as associates who have excellent track records.

              1. Pippa K*

                This is…not an easy way to get tenure, and not the way most people get tenure. I know there are a few places where it’s possible, but I wouldn’t describe it as easier.

          4. BethDH*

            Tenure is not the only goal in an academic job. I hope we wouldn’t tell someone here who was disappointed about not getting a dream job in another field that they should be happy because after all, they have a job.
            Should he have ghosted? No. But there’s room between that and being an irredeemable jerk.

            1. nom de plume*

              Are you an academic? Tenure *absolutely* IS the goal of every academic job, and the aim of every new professor in a tenure-track job!! No sane academic will say otherwise.

        2. CM*

          The infertility scenario is exactly what I was thinking of here.

          I had a good friend who ghosted me when she was having fertility problems. She came back a year later apologizing and saying she just couldn’t handle talking to me when I have children and she doesn’t. We didn’t really hang out again, her choice, until she had a baby.

          I get it — it was too painful for her, even though it was also really hurtful and unfair to me. One doesn’t trump the other.

          Our relationship never fully recovered, tbh. But she definitely was not being a jackass. This is just very difficult.

          And even though it’s not the same situation, I think there is a strong similarity. One friend has something that the other friend wants so badly as part of a core vision of their life. Even though both friends know it’s not really rational or fair to feel bad about that… you both still do.

      2. Massmatt*

        I don’t think the description is out of line, given the friend’s behavior, esp. as it was not directed at the LW.

        The friend ghosted her for months over something outside the LW’s control—LW did not make the hiring decision. this isn’t something LW did TO the friend.

        IMO the friend is being very immature and there’s a good chance this sort of thinking is what sank his chances for the job. Kind of similar to rejected candidates that send angry screeds to the hiring manager; they are reaffirming the manager’s decision.

        I encourage the LW to think on the relationship and whether the friend has done things like this before. The friend seems to be bailing out, maybe that’s not a bad thing.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I guess you have better friends than I do. Most of mine have flaws. Just like me. That’s why we sometimes have to work through the rough spots.

          Ghosting isn’t good. It’s hurtful. But it isn’t a destructive behavior like gossip, or gaslighting, or verbal sliming when angry.

          Try working it out. If it doesn’t work you’ll know.

          1. MK*

            This isn’t about demanding perfection from your friends, it’s about expecting them to behave like adults and treat you with basic respect. But mainly it’s about taking responsibility for the not-good, hurtful things they did.

            The OP’s friend ghosted her for six months and then send one apology text and disappeared again. He is not, as you inaccurately wrote in your comment, “apologizing for it”. Which makes “wait to hear what they have to say before passing judgement” pretty odd advice, because this guy isn’t saying anything at all, or seems willing to take any steps to patch up the friendship. Is the OP supposed to hunt him down and extract this explanation from him?

            Sure, there are worse betrayals out there. That doesn’t make him any less of a jerk, nor does he absolve him of the responsibility to fix the problem his behaviour caused; in my book, his not following through on his apology text is worse than the original ghosting, because it’s a pretty clear indication than he isn’t willing to do any work to repair the friendship. I am not saying that the OP shouldn’t ever talk to him again, but I wouldn’t expend any energy or emotional labor chasing this flake/jerk/whatever you want to call him. If he has something to say or explain or apologize, he can do it himself.

            1. Whoa, Nellie*

              The OP’s friend ghosted her for six months and then send one apology text and disappeared again.

              Whoa, Nellie.

              OP wrote that her friend apologized for “being a jerk all summer” and wanting to hear about her job. “Wanting to work it out, I said sure. He still hasn’t called/texted.”

              For all you know, the friend is waiting for OP to tell her about the job. He thinks she’s serving the tennis ball. He certainly didn’t ghost her. He apologized.

              If she wants to salvage the friendship, she should reach out.

              1. MK*

                Yeah, I don’t agree at all. The friend ghosts the OP for a really long time and then sends a text apologising, admitting he was a jerk and saying he wants to patch things up and hear about the job. That’s actually great: it shows he understands his behaviour was bad and that the OP might not be trilled to hear from him, so he chooses a respectful, low-key way to test the waters. The OP says ok, let’s talk. It is now a 1000% on the self-admitted jerk who disappeared on his friend for half a year to propose a direct way to reconnect, a phonecall, facebook messenger, whatever. If he is waiting on the OP to reach out, that’s putting the burden on her for repairing what he screwed up. My guess is that he isn’t rushing to do it because it will be unpleasant for him to have a conversation that will center around a) his bad behaviour and b) the OP’s new job. It’s human nature to avoid unpleasant tasks, but waiting around for things you broke to repair magically (or by someone else’s efforts) is not a great characteristic.

                1. CmdrShepard4ever*

                  I agree with you MK that waiting for OP to reach out is leaving the ball in OP’s court. But many times when you hurt someone the advice is to apologize and leave the ball in their court if they actually want to reengage with the person that hurt them.

                  If I hurt someone and then I apologized and the other person said “okay, lets talk” I would not be sure if is a genuine offer to actually talk or a low key way to keep me at arms length. So after I apologized, I would wait for the other person to reach out to see if they actually want to reengage with me.

                  Also was the friend a bit immature sure, but all they did was say “congrats it is well deserved,” and then go silent for 6 months. The friend didn’t tell OP that they didn’t deserve the job or that they stole it, or gossip about how awful their life now is. What the friend did is the equivalent of “If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.” It seems that the friend was actually trying to work through their pain and disappointment.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            “Ghosting isn’t good. It’s hurtful. But it isn’t a destructive behavior like gossip, or gaslighting, or verbal sliming when angry.”

            Well, yeah, randomly walking into your friend’s house and regualarly eating their food without permission isn’t as bad as gaslighting either. That doesn’t make it decent behavior that a friend should put up with. If the friend had been like “hey, I need to take a bit of a break,” that’d be one thing. But ghosting and then trying to come back without actually making any effort to repair the damage caused? Nah. I’m not reaching out for someone like that.

          3. Not So NewReader*

            I like the way you think EG. I try to remember the times friends have worked through my flaws with me and kept going. I see people really upset with the friend, but it’s a fairly common occurrence for people grieve something they lost.

            I know people who are able to draw that sharp line and they shut down friendships never to reopen them on a better day. As life goes on, they have a long list of canceled relationships and they can end up very lonely.
            This is not a deal breaker for me but others feel differently.

            OP, technically speaking you won here, you got the job. You don’t have to slam the friendship door and lock it here. OTH, you do not have to beg for this person to be your friend either. There is a middle ground where you can say, “Yep, I understand that not getting a job can hurt.” And you can just go on with your life with hope that some day will be better for this friendship. In the end, we can only control our actions, we cannot control the actions of others.

            1. Washi*

              I totally agree. Sometimes ending a friendship is an act of healthy boundaries, but I’ve also seen it happen in myself where I feel tempted to end something because I’m afraid of being hurt and want to control the situation so I can never be blindsided, never love more, never feel like a “sucker” for caring about someone and not getting what I need back.

              And the thing is, my friendships have actually been better as I’ve tried to let go of some of those fears, and love people as much as feels good for me, knowing they can walk in and out of my life freely. It’s ok if the OP doesn’t want to continue this friendship, but it’s also ok for her to try to take steps to repair it, to even try harder than her friend is trying right now, if that’s what feels good for her, as long as she feels like she can also let go of her end of the rope when she needs to.

          4. Patty Mayonnaise*

            The read I have on this letter is that LW WANTS to still be friends, hence she is writing in looking for advice, but her friend has ignored whatever she’s done in the last 6+ months to repair the friendship – this doesn’t read as a “I want to cut him off and I want you to back me up in doing that” kind of letter. Yeah, LW can keep trying to reach her friend and repair the relationship, and keep communication lines open, but the friend is the one that doesn’t seem ready or interested in repairing the friendship, and that’s what’s pushing him into jerk territory for some people.

              1. fhqwhgads*

                I think people are assuming she must have because “and then silence for six months” isn’t such an epic blow unless that silence was not just a lack of initiated contact but also a lack of response. If LW2 didn’t reach out either then the advice would be completely different, which I take is probably your point.

          5. MCMonkeyBean*

            Highly disagree–someone ghosting me for 6 months would be much more destructive to our relationship than gossip or a verbal altercation. At least in those scenarios you can talk it out afterwards. You can’t talk it out with someone who won’t talk to you.

          6. Jennifer*

            “I guess you have better friends than I do. Most of mine have flaws. Just like me. That’s why we sometimes have to work through the rough spots.”

          7. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Whether LW’s friend is well-meaning or not, fundamentally a good person or not, the fact remains is that he is not in contact with LW. He disappeared (assuming that LW tried to keep in touch with him like they used to, and he was not responding), finally reached out for a second, and disappeared again. I agree with Alison’s advice to try to schedule something with this friend one last time. If the friend gets back in touch, great. If not, he’s gone, through no fault of LW’s. At which point, it’s kind of pointless to discuss whether he does or does not have flaws, and whether LW should or should not allow her friends to have flaws, because he is no longer a friend of LW’s. By his choice. Over a *job*.

          8. CanuckCat*

            But ghosting can take a toll on you if it’s a repeat thing. I have a former friend who when he was around, was a really fun guy to hang out with. But then he’d disappear for up to six months at a time before resurfacing with some excuse or another, until eventually I got tired to the emotional labour of trying to maintain a friendship with someone who was frequently so unresponsive and only came around when it was convenient for him/he got bored and/or lonely.

      3. MK*

        After 6 months, jackass is right. I get needing a few days/weeks to deal with the disappointment, but radio silence for half a year is too much. And then offering an apology and disappearing again. At best this guy is very immature.

      4. Senor Montoya*

        He apologized but then didn’t follow through with OP, who misses her friend and, quite reasonably, is upset that *her best friend* couldn’t manage to at least pretend to be happy for her. I’m a little surprised at how many commenters are explaining the friend’s poor behavior in a way that, it seems to me, makes the OP look unreasonable for being hurt, or if not unreasonable, then “please understand your friend and don’t make this about you, he’s got such sad feels”

        OP, you are not unreasonable. Your friend needs to grow up and act like a friend. He may not be able to, so yes, you may lose the friendship over this *and it’s his fault* — it is not *your* fault for getting the job.

          1. CmdrShepard4ever*

            I haven’t seen anyone calling OP unreasonable. Saying that the friends reaction/feelings are understandable is not the same as saying OP is being unreasonable. Understanding/reasonableness is not a zero sum game. I think in this situation both the OP and friend’s feelings are understandable. The friend did what they felt they needed to do to deal with their feelings, and the OP is understandably hurt by those actions. This is a situation that sucks for both people, yes it sucks for OP more because it was no fault of their own, but it still sucks for the friend.

        1. Crivens!*

          Thank you. I’m a bit surprised by some of the reactions too. Her friend is certainly allowed to be in his feelings about this but grownups talk about these things. He didn’t even give her the courtesy of saying why he needed a break.

          1. Washi*

            I think most people are in agreement that the friend should have reacted differently, and OP has every right to be upset, and even end the friendship. But it sounds like OP wants to repair the friendship, and I think people are offering perspectives on how to let go of the “should haves” and move forward in such a way that even if the friendship ends, OP can feel like she did what she could.

      5. Tequila Mockingbird*

        Yeah, I agree that calling OP2’s friend a “jackass” is way harsh and uncalled for, given what little we know.

        The friend didn’t handle the situation very well – ghosting your best friend for 6 months is not cool – but it is totally understandable. He may have invested all his hopes in this ‘dream job’ and was very disappointed when it didn’t happen. Even more disappointed that he lost it to a friend. I don’t think it makes him a bad friend, especially since he has reached out and apologized and has expressed interest in making things right.

        Also, did it occur to you that it sounds like OP2 texted his/her friend the news BEFORE the friend had been told he hadn’t gotten the job? So in addition to him not getting the job he wanted, he found out about not getting it from a text from his friend. Talk about devastating.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I don’t know if he’s a jackass, but his behavior (without additional information) certainly falls into jack-assery. I’ve gone up for jobs with super close friends before, and once a friend only applied to a job because I mentioned I was applying (there’s more context for why this wasn’t shady). We are all still close friends, and despite our individual disappointments, we were and continue to be genuinely happy for one another.

      No one has “dibs” on a job simply because they’ve pinned their dreams on it. Although it’s very normal to be disappointed and to take a bit of time/distance to process, ghosting someone for six months, apologizing by text, and then ghosting them again is not well done. I’m also having a hard time feeling sympathy because the friend already has a tenure-track job (rare!) while OP did not. If I were OP, I’d call him and try to make it easy for him to reestablish contact. I would work very hard not to stew in my feelings of hurt at the separation, only because it’s very likely that the distance was more about him than it was about OP or the value of their friendship.

      OP, I’m sorry you’re going through this. It sounds painful and tough. I hope you’ll have faith that you deserved the position, you’re clearly qualified (or they would have hired him or someone else, right?), and you should be able to celebrate moments like this with the people you care about. I’m hopeful that if you give your friend a chance to patch things up, he’s now in a place where he can rise to that occasion.

      1. o'henry*

        Although it’s very normal to be disappointed and to take a bit of time/distance to process, ghosting someone for six months, apologizing by text, and then ghosting them again is not well done.

        You are being very hasty when you say that the friend is “ghosting her again.” Please read her letter. He apologized and asked about her job. She replied “sure.” For all you know, he’s waiting to hear about her job and thinks that she’s now ghosting him because he admitted to being a “jerk all summer.”

    4. AcademiaNut*

      The way I would put it is that his disappointment was stronger than the friendship. He wasn’t able to fake it until he got over things, but dropped a close friendship completely for six months.

      So for the OP, it might be helpful to think of what happens next as forming a new friendship. You’re not necessarily going to get the old, supportive friendship you had in the past, or be able to erase the resentment, but you might be able to start a new friendship that works going forward.

      And also – after six months of being pointedly ignored for something that was not your fault, it’s okay to be angry about it, and it’s okay to feel differently about him based on his behaviour. You don’t have to pretend it didn’t matter because he was disappointed.

    5. Beth*

      This is pretty hard on a guy who just lost his chance at a thing a lot of people want in life (living near family). He doesn’t have to be mad at OP, or even feel like he should’ve been the one to get the job, to be understandably upset over losing that opportunity. (And I think it is understandable; while yes, he did have a tenure track position already and therefore less to lose than OP, it sounds like he did have a lot invested in this chance nonetheless. Just because academia makes getting a decently stable position nearly impossible doesn’t mean that we’re not allowed to be upset over the sacrifices even those positions often demand.)

      And while sure, six months of silence isn’t an ideal way of handling that…isn’t it better at being upset AT OP while OP really should be celebrating her accomplishment? It sounds like he knows it wasn’t ideal and reached out to apologize and reconnect when he could actually be happy with her. Sometimes there is no ‘ideal’ option and you just have to do what seems least bad in the moment and patch things up when you can. That’s not a jackass move, it’s just life being complicated.

      1. Beth*

        Just to make sure this is clear, none of this means OP can’t be upset about the long period of quiet, or that they have to forgive and forget. They’re absolutely allowed to be hurt by this, and if they decide they’re done, that’s a valid decision. But I really don’t think OP’s friend is an irredeemably selfish entitled asshole, either, and if OP decides they want to keep the friendship, I bet there’s space for that to work out.

      2. Overeducated*

        Yeah, it sounds to me like the friend tried not to express any negative feelings to OP’s face, but didn’t have it in him to muster up positive ones for a while, so held back. This is more considerate than some alternatives.

        I’m also hesitant to fully accept that it was complete “ghosting” and that friend not organizing plans after apologizing is that bad either. Did OP make efforts that were rebuffed, or did OP just wait to hear from friend, when friend may have thought ball was in OP’s court? Could be a little bit of a comedy of errors depending on how mutual the silence was.

        1. Washi*

          I agree; I didn’t read this letter and immediately think that the friend is a horrible person. It’s fine if this is a dealbreaker for the OP, but I don’t think disappearing for 6 months is absolutely a friendship-ending thing. Even in generally healthy people’s lives, there can be events that touch a deep, raw nerve and can be incredibly painful – and it’s not necessarily something that someone on the outside would understand completely. There would have been better ways for OP’s friend to react, but I like to make room for human frailty when it comes to these hugely emotional things.

          I’m actually more concerned that the friend reached out to apologize and then disappeared again. It indicates some lack of self-awareness on his part – he knows he’s been a bit of an ass, but he’s clearly not over it and possibly isn’t ready to do the work it would take to repair the friendship. If I were the OP, I would probably try to get myself into a compassionate mindset and write an honest letter or email – that you care about him, miss him, and are hurt by this. I would also lay out what you want – do you want to hash this out? Do you want to just start fresh and move on? Would you need an apology? And then let the ball be in his court.

          1. EPLawyer*

            I’m thinking as noted above, he apologized and is waiting for OP to act. All OP said was fine. So friend waited to make sure things were really fine.

            OP, if you want to talk to this person and share things again — DO SO. Don’t want for them to start. They could be waiting for you to start to make sure things are really fine. If you do start sharing again and then hear nothing, well you know. But I am betting if you go “OMG, I have to finish this paper I am presenting at X conference and I have writer’s block” you will hear back “Ugh I hate writer’s block. BTW going to X conference too, wanna grab lunch together and catch up?”

            It’s a lot harder to get back to where you were when you don’t live near your friend and can’t just have lunch or coffee to catch. So catch up via emai or text. Just START.

            1. a1*

              I agree the ball is in OP’s court. If I apologized to someone and that person said fine, I would think it’s up to them to move forward. I don’t want to force the issue. I also wonder if the initial “ghosting” was like this as well. Friend congratulates, and then neither OP nor friend contacted after that. ALison said “assuming you reached out in that time” but I think that’s a big assumption.

              I’ve always gone by if I want to talk to or connect with someone I call or message them. I don’t play this game of who contacted whom last. And guess what, it works out. Sometimes they contact me, sometime I contact them, it’s probably even in the total, but it’s not “well, I called last time and even though I miss them it’s *their* turn so I’m going to sit here and be upset”.

            2. Washi*

              Ah, I had read it as the OP tried to get things moving again post-apology and the friend never replied back to her overtures.

    6. Vin Packer*

      This is way too harsh. Academia is a different beast. This isn’t your standard “someone else got a job I wanted” — now that LW2 was hired, it’s very likely that neither this job nor any quite like it will ever available again for LW2’s friend.

      Friend needed some space. He didn’t yell at anyone, but he needed time to process that he’s now stuck in whatever town he lives in for the foreseeable future. That’s not LW2’s fault and, sure, I guess he *might* not have gotten hired anyway (again, unlikely; academic interviews are very involved so if they were the two campus visits it was pretty much definitely going to be one or the other), but that doesn’t mean he wants to help the person who got it move.

      LW2 can be mad at him if she wants to, but I actually don’t think the guy was that much of a jackass here, considering. It may well be hard for him to visit her there for a very long time. Personally, my preference is to get mad at academia for its absurd hiring culture and the systems that make these modest-paying jobs such unicorns in the first place. “A full time job where I live” shouldn’t be such an impossible dream, but it is.

      1. T. Boone Pickens*

        I think there’s a much simpler explanation which is it sounds like this is a friendship that seems one sided. LW describes the guy as their “best friend” how does the other person describe LW? Perhaps the two of you aren’t as close as you thought?

      2. Not So NewReader*

        When the name calling starts, the respect has gotten up and left. We see this often in marriage where one spouse says, “Well, that stupid @#$%!” Respect just died. And it’s unlikely it will come back. How can one be a friend/spouse to a person who they believe they can refer to as “jackass”?

        Resorting to name calling telegraphs that logical discussion is over and empathy for the other person is gone.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        Yeah, I agree (albeit as a non-academic so I’m sure some of the intricacies are lost on me). It sounds as though this job was really meaningful to him and losing out on it to his best friend obviously hurt more than he thought it would. Some people process feelings like that by talking about them; other people retreat until they’re ready to move forward. His communication level obviously wasn’t ideal but I also sympathise with feeling unable to just put on a happy face over your disappointment – and he did reach out and acknowledge that he’s been being “a jerk”.

      4. Elise*

        I agree. I am not in academia, but in a niche field that can be limiting for open positions in my area. I was very unhappy in a position and applying for a job that would be in my wheelhouse and additionally would put me in a better position to spend more time with my family (I had a newborn at the time). I was up against a friend. Luckily for me, I got the job. I think I would have had trouble hanging out with my friend for a while had he gotten it over me. Not because I would blame him, but because I was that miserable in the job I would be staying in and the circumstances that kept me from spending more time with my husband and child at the same time. We’re local so I wouldn’t have ghosted him, but I also would have needed a break to keep from showing my disappointment. It would to me have felt like a gift to him to not see how gutted I was over the outcome. I think some commenters are being pretty harsh and unforgiving about this and assuming things about the friend that aren’t written in the letter. Should he have ghosted for 6 months? No. Was that a result of his being only human and not reacting perfectly to everything that happens to him? Maybe.

    7. Jule*

      …All he did was take a break from talking to her when he was in a vulnerable period, and he’s getting sworn at? This is not sound.

    8. schnauzerfan*

      Something that I don’t see mentioned here… Friend may have been fooling himself thinking he had a chance at a TT position at his Alma Mater. I don’t know if it’s universal, but at the institution where I work we simply don’t hire our own grads for permanent positions. We hire grads as adjuncts to fill in for people on sabbatical or FMLA. And we’ll hire an alum as a “lecturer” if they’ve retired from industry or something like that… But. I can count on one hand the number of people who did their undergraduate work here, did grad elsewhere and came “home” and ummm none who did bs, ms, phd and stayed on. We did just hire a president who did his bs on campus and went elsewhere for 25 years or so. For the first time in 140 years.

      1. HigherEd on Toast*

        I was waiting to see if someone had said this! Exactly. I don’t know of anyone who graduated from either of my alma maters (college or graduate school) and then got hired back, not even someone who became a genuine “rockstar” in her academic field. It often doesn’t happen at all. Other times, I have seen job postings that say something like, “If you have a degree from Hiring University, it must have been at least five years since you received it,” and people I know who got their degrees there and have applied for jobs like those have not gotten hired. Sometimes the concern may be exaggerated, I suppose, but I really doubt that this guy’s alma mater was just salivating to hire back their grads.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          OP said the position was down to her and her friend. I can’t imagine a university is going to go through the trouble of interviews, campus visits, etc if there was never an intention of hiring the guy because it’s his alma mater. I would think they would have passed as soon as they saw his resume.

      2. Hope*

        This is a really good point. I once had a prof (who had written other recommendations for me) refuse to write a recommendation for me for a grad program at the same university I did my ba, entirely because he thought it was bad for someone to do all their studying/research at the same university. Nevermind I didn’t have a choice–I was working as staff and just trying to take advantage of tuition remission! Thankfully, none of my other profs were as ridiculous, but this is DEFINITELY a thing, and even more so when it’s hiring someone to teach. It’s rare for someone to end up with tenure at the same place they got their degree unless a lot of time has passed or they are a major cash cow rockstar.

      3. EventPlannerGal*

        The OP does say they got down to the final round of interviews – would they let him get that far if they had no intention of hiring him?

      4. Clisby*

        I was curious about this, too, since my impression is the same as yours. Or, at least, my impression is that to get a tenured position at your alma mater, you generally have to have worked somewhere else for years. If that’s so in this case, though, why would he be a finalist for the position?

      5. whistle*

        He was on the short list and did a campus visit. He was not fooling himself. That is not how academic hiring works. They were going to offer the job to someone on the short list.

    9. Mama Bear*

      I have had a couple of friends ghost when life situations changed (jobs, moves, new significant others) and I think sometimes it’s a reflection of the parameters of the friendship. If I cannot maintain a friendship with someone because one of us got a new job or one of us got married (or both) then the friendship wasn’t as solid as I thought and based on a situation vs a deeper relationship. It can be hard, but silence is an answer. Might not be the answer I want, but it’s an answer. I would give it one more shot and then move on.

    10. 00ff00Claire*

      I have a feeling that if the OP’s friend really were such a jerk, there would have been other signs he’s a jerk and OP would recognize that. There’s a lot of information that we don’t have, but this particular nugget that we do have sticks out to me: “I texted him right away that I was offered the job”. OP, did your friend hear from you that he didn’t get the job? If so, I could imagine that might have been particularly painful. Even if you both had an agreement that you would notify each other as soon as one of you heard from the university, he may not have anticipated how much it would actually sting to get the news from you directly instead of getting the official rejection first. This all really sounds like a situation that was set up to be, at best, very awkward whatever the outcome. And unfortunately it has instead unfolded the way it has. From your letter, it is apparent that neither one of you set out to hurt the other, but you have both wound up hurt, whether or not logic justifies the degree of hurt felt on either side. And that can happen easier than we expect, in all kinds of relationship. To address your specific questions: 1) you might have a bad friend, or you might have a friendship that just got messy (sometimes it’s hard to tell which it is but your letter reads like the latter, unless you are leaving out important details); 2) if what you yourself want is to continue a friendship, I would suggest that you keep reaching out and maintain contact.

      1. Elise*

        I thought the same about the text. If his friend was the one who broke the news to him, even unwittingly, that could be a tough pill to swallow and be gracious at the same time. I’ve been in the position where I got a job over a friend and didn’t say a word to him until I knew he had found out he didn’t get it. The quiet could have been self-preservation.

    11. Sara without an H*

      “Jackass” is a bit harsh. All of graduate school is designed to induce emotional illness in students. Given that LW#2’s friend has also been pursing the chimera of a T-T job in his hometown, a scenario that makes unicorns look as common as pigeons, I think he can be excused for his behavior on the grounds of temporary insanity.

      I would agree that LW should reach out, but be very, very gentle. In addition to the psychological damage inflicted by graduate school, his buddy is also recovering from a delusion, and is undoubtedly still grieving. Reach out slowly and gently.

    12. Librarianne*

      When I was in grad school, my *roommate* and I ended up applying for the same job, which I ultimately got. It was a little awkward at first, but she eventually got over her disappointment and we’ve remained good friends. Academia is so competitive that you’re almost guaranteed to be going after the same jobs as your friends.

      That being said, it’s so, so easy to stake your identity on your ability to get a “good” academic job. I don’t think the friend is a jackass; if he thought he was a shoe-in for the job, not getting it likely delivered a huge blow to his ego. OP, remember that you did nothing wrong, congratulate yourself on the new job, and give your friend time to process.

  5. Sleve McDichael*

    LW #5 if you’re worried about missing out on networking and socialising opportunities by skipping the breakfasts don’t be afraid to turn up and just chat without partaking. If anyone mentions it a casual ‘Yeah it didn’t fit in my budget but I’m here anyway because I enjoy spending time with you.’ should cover it, if your colleagues aren’t awful. Like Alison says, just be matter-of-fact and if you treat it like no big deal most people will follow your lead. There is no shame in having a tight budget. Also, if you bring your own thermos or mug many people won’t even notice you’re not eating.

    1. Saberise*

      If she goes that route, I would highly recommend when someone pushes her to still partake she decline. We all know who never brings in a dish for the potluck and still takes part because someone tells them there is plenty. It’s not what you want to be known for.

    2. Roscoe*

      I don’t know. Something about that just doesn’t seem right to me either. Its like, this party is only even happening because everyone else chipped in. So even if you aren’t partaking in the cake or refreshments, you still are showing up somewhere that you refused to contribute to. And if you think word won’t get out that she didn’t pay the dues but is still showing up for the fun, it absolutely will, and people will judge her for that.

      1. banzo_bean*

        I agree, I think showing up and not eating comes off as stingy, whereas not contributing and showing up comes off as “not in my budget”. You’re not just paying for the cost of the food, you’re paying to be a part of an organization that arranges those events.

        1. Alli525*

          I dunno, I think it’d be fairly easy to say “oh I’m on a particular diet so I already ate breakfast this morning! But I wanted to see everyone and talk to Lucinda about XYZ.” Sometimes a white lie is the gracious thing. OP shouldn’t necessarily have to miss out on networking and social opportunities just because they can’t afford the annual dues.

          1. Roscoe*

            If that happened once, I’d agree. But if this was every single social event, people would definitely catch on

          2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

            Eh….the problem here is if you want to come into the event, even if you’re not partaking, you still need to chip in for “cover charge” if anything at all.

            I’m not a fan of “I never will have babies or a wedding, so I won’t chip in for others celebratory events!” as an excuse to get out of paying. I don’t plan on having children, I still buy people baby shower gifts. I don’t like certain food, I still pay my attendance charges, it’s just not a good look to attend and also not pay for any reason.

    3. CollectiveGood*

      Totally agree. She’s already free-riding on everyone else’s union dues when it comes to benefits, pay, and working conditions. She should just show up and eat the food. No one will mind.

      1. CollectiveGood*

        OTOH (no snark), the union should recognize the difficult challenges new teachers face, and really should be offering heavily discounted dues for new teachers in their first couple of years on the job. If the union isn’t doing something like that, they’re doing a disservice to people putting their hearts into the work.

  6. phc jr.*

    LW2: Another thing to remember is that “dream jobs” often turn out to be not as dreamy as the applicant hoped. Sure, it can be great to be back in one’s hometown, close to family. Or it can turn out that it was actually a blessing to have some distance from those people — sometimes we think we want something, or we persuade ourselves we want it, and the reality proves different. It could also turn out that another opportunity comes up that is just perfect for your friend, and that he’d have missed it if he’d gotten this position. You can game this out endlessly, but it’s like that old Zen story; nobody can know how things might have gone, and there are better ways for you and your friend to use your energy than fretting about it.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      It’s super helpful to believe there is an ebb and flow to life. A give and a take.
      Most of us have moments in life that anyone would covet. Likewise most of us will face moments in life that would put FEAR into the hearts of strong people.
      I am hoping time balances things out for your friend.

    2. DariaInABox*

      Honestly, I know people who got their tenure track dream jobs just ask described, and it was everything they dreamed. I don’t blame LW’s 2 friend for being disappointed, and it’s very possible they’ll end up in a less ideal situation. That’s just life, you’re stuck with how things go no matter what.

    3. Alina*

      People who believe in the one true love/dream job/BFF for life model of living are almost always in happier than those who know there are multiple paths to contentment.

    4. Old Biddy*

      This. 20+ years ago “Sansa” and I interviewed for the same faculty job in awesome city. Sansa and I worked in the same research group, albeit at slightly different times (she started her postdoc right after I graduated and started my own postdoc in a different group) We knew each other, had mutual friends, and probably would’ve been close friends if we were in the same place at the same time. Anyway, of the 4 or 5 candidates who did on campus interviews, it came down to Sansa and I. They called us to make sure we were serious about the job. After a few weeks of hearing nothing, I knew Sansa had gotten the job and I was bitterly disappointed. I made a not so nice comment to mutual friends about being at a disadvantage because I’m not canadian, and I regret that to this day even though I don’t even know if it got back to Sansa.
      Fast forward 23 years. Shortly after I interviewed for the dreamjob, I interviewed at a startup in my hometown and took the job (I was not even trying to move back there, although it was a nice bonus.) We eventually collaborated with Sansa, so she came out to visit on several occasions. She made some off the cuff comment about wishing she had come to work for the startup when it was getting started. So we were both envious of each other’s situation.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah, I strongly believe in fate. I can want something, try for something and then not get it. That means that the universe didn’t think it was a good choice. This way I leave it up to the “Universe” and not the people around me. It’s not their fault that things shifted.

      I “missed out” on a job once. Then was called back a few weeks later when their first choice didn’t work out. If I had gotten the first bite at the apple the other person did, how do I know it would have turned into a decades long job? They got me and had a pair of rosy glasses in place because the other person was a wreck. It worked out perfectly for me in that case.

      Other times I’ve passed up on jobs and found myself in places I would never have been had I not.

      If I had dated at a different time in life or deleted my dating profile on that whim I almost had, I wouldn’t have found my person when I did, when I needed it the most, etc.

      Seriously, I wish people were able to go with the flow a lot easier and not get wrapped up in their fairy tales. It’s great to dream, I encourage dreams and following them but you have to accept when you get to a detour or a road blockage, that you just have to try another road. Don’t just sit at the end of that dead end and refuse to move because this was the only road that could possibly get you to your happiness.

  7. Approval is optional*

    OP4: Apart from the fact that your manager is trying to ‘work around’ the admins’ behaviour rather than dealing with it, and that it’s possible that his work around is illegal, it seems he is also just assuming it’s a gendered thing (ie the admins – most of whom are women -don’t ‘like’ other women [the old ‘women can’t get along together’ trope?]) without evidence – unless there is some that you don’t mention in your letter. If so, that’s some pretty rage inducing sexism. After all there are any number of reasons one ‘type’ of employees might resent another ‘type’: it could be they resent that the lab techs are paid more, that you are considered more valuable by the org, that you have more flexible working conditions etc. None of that excuses the frosty of course, but it’s also not going to be resolved by hiring a man.
    Your manager is a git basically! :)

    1. Engineer Girl*

      The manager is not addressing gender discrimination in the workplace. Those admins need to get realigned with legal behavior.

      Notify HR.

    2. Massmatt*

      I am dumbfounded that this boss thinks this is a) a solution for an issue in lieu of you know, managing the staff, and b) OK at any level in a legal or moral sense! AND he blabbed about his “plan”! He is terrible on so many levels it’s ridiculous.

    3. EPLawyer*

      It could be something as simple as the admins are sick of having the testing done in their office when it wasn’t before. They had their set up and their daily habits, now there is someone else there interrupting things. Which means they will be frosty to anyone – male, female, human, pig, cow, etc.

      The manager needs to address the frostiness, not the gender of the people being frosty.

    4. cmcinnyc*

      OP4 tells us Pam got along fine–at first. Then the admins became frosty. It’s not so strange for things to start frosty and then warm up–going the other direction often has a cause. And I’m looking squarely at this manager who thinks the solution is to never hire women. You might be experiencing second-hand frost, as in, this jerk is doing/saying something that makes the admin staff hate him and that’s being extended to everyone who works for him. Doing you a favor/making your work life easier helps your manager, and it sounds like the admin team might call 911 if he was on fire but probably wouldn’t pour a cold coffee on him in the meantime. I could well be wrong, but admin teams don’t usually go frosty to entire work teams for no reason. Being women is not the reason.

    5. Sally*

      In addition to the possible explanations that “Approval is optional” mentioned, I’d add that the testing might interfere with the admins’ ability to get their work done. Or maybe they’re just being rude at work for some other reason. In any case, changing the hiring plan for the next tech is not the answer, especially when the plan is illegal.

  8. Enigma*

    I once started a new job, and my first day was on Halloween. Worst start day ever. The HR head had happily invited me to come in costume, but I wasn’t sure what the office culture was yet. I could go out all, and realize that “dress up” really meant wear a hat or Halloween sweatshirt, this forever marking me as the crazy one; or be the weird stick-in-the-mud while everyone else dressed up. I chose a middle ground—all black outfit with a devil horns headband, figuring I could just ditch the headband if no one else was dressed up.

    1. Roverandom*

      I agree, this is just not a place and time to experiment and take chances. There is literally an episode of the Office about this. Bring a headband or a little pumpkin brooch or something seasonally festive and leave the costume for after hours.

      1. Bowserkitty*

        Oh GOD, Pam as accidental Hitler gives me the most cringe. (Or Carol at Diwali!)

        I think OP should definitely do something like Enigma suggested. Find a safe middle ground that can be adjusted if you need to.

      2. pleaset*

        Definitely don’t take chances.

        But if photos of previous year’s are available, that might provide info.

        And a quibble with AAM – she wrote “the whole office dresses up ” but it need not be the whole office. If half dressed up, that’d be a lot and doing it would be fine. It would jump-start people knowing the OP. But you have to be *sure* that it really is a lot of people and also be sure about the nature of their costumes.

        1. Doug Judy*

          What half dress up kinda does matter, though. I’ve been at my job 8 months. There’s a company costume contest, however no one in my immediate department/area will be dressing up. So if a lot of people dress up but no one OP will be with that day do, it’s still wise to err on the side of not wearing a full costume.

        2. annony*

          I disagree about half being enough. The point is to not stand out too much before you get your bearings. So if half are dressing up and half not, it is still safer to go with something subtle or easy to remove than go full costume. If people don’t know me yet I don’t want to be “the woman who dressed up as X.”

        3. Daisy*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t trust ‘oh, about half the office dresses up’. Even more people might flake out this year. Or the half that dresses up is all of IT and Accounts, but OP is sales. Anything less than ‘yes, everyone is super into it’ is a bit risky.

        4. CheeryO*

          It’s just risky. I could easily see someone saying, “Oh yeah, people dress up! Half the office, at least!” when really it’s a handful of people who actually go all out. Better to just bring an accessory that you could easily stash if need be. There’s always next year.

          1. Artemesia*

            Get all kitted out as a young new hire and that is what people will remember for years — oh and that ‘aren’t you cute’ and ‘aren’t you immature’. Not a good way to establish a professional reputation as a serious person. Now if it turns out the whole office really does turn out in full costume (very unlikely ) then next year off you go. I would have a funny hat or arrow through head or holiday earrings this first year and see what the lay of the land is. In fact on any new job the most important thing to do is to lie a bit low and observe what the norms are, who has informal influence, who has power and who undermines co-workers before you make bold moves in friendship, dress or work initiatives.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              I used to have a Star Trek communicator badge that beeped when pressed. It turned standard black slacks & red shirt into a subtle full costume.

        5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Ooohh, good idea about the photos! My current office does have last year’s on the intranet somewhere. (Pretty sure there was a costume contest too.)

        6. Vicky Austin*

          “Half dressed up”

          For some reason, this brought to mind people wearing shirts but no pants!

        1. The Original K.*

          There’s an episode of The Office in which Pam is working at Dunder Mifflin’s corporate headquarters, and she doesn’t know that nobody dresses up for Halloween there, so she comes to work in full costume and is the only one.

      3. tink*

        A red and white striped shirt with black pants… you’re either Where’s Waldo or just a coincidence. :)

      4. Nikara*

        My version of an easy to put on/take off costume is Hermione Granger. I wear a black dress, then have a wand and Gryffindor Scarf that can be put on or hidden away very easily. These kinds of costumes are super useful in a field where I might have to be involved in a disaster response without know it.

        1. Elitist Semicolon*

          Hermione was often involved in disaster response without warning, so that costume is doubly good.

    2. Heidi*

      The easy-to-ditch costume is a good idea. My workplace goes all out for Halloween, but as our wise social worker once said, “It would be weird to do a suicide screening questionnaire dressed like a unicorn.”

      1. Anonymous Lawyer*

        My previous job was an on-site partnership with a children’s hospital. Naturally, Halloween involved fairly elaborate costumes and decorations there. One of the social workers said almost the exact same things yours did, but I think her example was the potential awkwardness of calling CPS while dressed as a clown. Her costumes were usually of the easy-to-ditch variety – black cat ear headband, cowboy hat and bandana.

        I picked accessory-heavy costumes that worked with professional or business casual dress:
        – Elle Woods (black dress with pink cardigan and pink high heels, pink legal pad, pink pen, and stuffed chihuahua with glittery pink collar)
        – Leslie Knope (grey suit with red top, “JJ’s Diner” logo taped over the logo on a reusable Starbucks cup, Pawnee City logo printed out and slipped into the front of an empty binder, “Leslie Knope for City Council” campaign button)
        – Hermione Granger: (black skirt, white dress shirt, long grey open cardigan, knee high Hogwarts socks, time turner necklace, and wand)

        I highly recommend going this route the first year. You get the fun and creativity of dressing up, but then if it turns out no one else really dresses up or you have an important meeting, you can just leave your accessories on your desk and no one will be any the wiser.

        1. Heidi*

          Ha! My workplace is indeed a children’s hospital. I guess there are only so many places where elaborate Halloween and serious psychosocial issues coincide. The thing around here is to have your whole department have a theme for your costumes (Sesame Street characters, Angry Birds, all the different colored M&M’s). They wear their regular clothes but put a foam costume or headpiece over them.

    3. Jen S. 2.0*

      As someone said in the thread last year about the chick who got fired for wearing a full-on Princess Tiana getup to work at a suits-and-ties firm and attempting to trick-or-treat in a meeting with the C-suite and a bunch of important clients:

      “Accessorize an otherwise work appropriate outfit. And if it doesn’t go over well, it takes exactly 5 seconds to take the cat ears or tiara off, shove them in a desk drawer, smooth your hair down, and pretend it never happened.”

      This is good advice.

      1. Ama*

        We did our first costume contest last year and the two winners were the person who dressed up as the “She doesn’t even go here” meme from Riverdale (hoodie, sunglasses and a handwritten sign) and someone else who dressed up as a project that was frustrating half the office, who just printed out logos from the various vendors involved and taped them to his shirt. In fact both of them were from the same department — and had to be in a meeting with a VIP that day, so they had to have easily removable costumes.

    4. Engineer Girl*

      I would be tempted to go in a full suit and wearing blue nitrile gloves.

      Two by two. Hands of blue.

      Easy costume, easy to turn into normal wear.

      1. T3k*

        That or bring shades, instant MiB costume as well :D

        (Also sad they didn’t continue Firefly and Alphas)

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I once made a Psi Corps badge and dressed in a pencil skirt with blazer and tight bun and black gloves left from marching band…. people kept asking if I had a job interview. Sigh.
          (On the bright side, apparently my metalworking skills are better than I realized. People thought it was real jewelry.)

      2. Mystery Bookworm*

        I also knew someone who used to wear a superman shirt under a normal button-down and carry a pair of Clark Kent glasses.

        Instant costume if you need it.

        1. Moonlight Elantra*

          My husband is a branch manager for a credit union and this has been his go-to costume for the last few years. He’s going as Dwight Schrute this year, though.

          1. Scout Finch*

            My nephew wore his regular work outfit – khakis and a polo. Put a “Hello I am…” adhesive name tag on and became Jake from State Farm. Pull the tag off, he is back to himself.

        2. MOAS*

          Ha wonder if it was the same person! One of my coworkers who had just started weeks prior, came in to work at 12 PM dressed in a suit and tie. We’re a super relaxed company, so whenever we see someone dressed up, we think “job interview!” He said it was a doctor’s appointment, so we teased him about that (aka, doctor appt is code for interview). Later on that day was our halloween costume party, and he had the superman T shirt underneath. That was 3 years ago and he’s gone now, but the “code” still lives on…..

        3. CanuckCat*

          I have totally done this one before; white button down, blazer, suit pants (I skipped the tie because I can’t tie one to save my life), with a Wonder Woman shirt underneath and the button-down strategically unbuttoned a few.

      3. Alica*

        Every time I have to wear blue nitrile gloves at work I want to make this reference…but no one at my work has seen Firefly. *sob* (I had to explain my “you can’t take the sky from me” tshirt the other day to my boss!)

      4. Quill*

        Reference would have been lost in any lab environment I’d ever worked in, due to the amount of time we spend wearing blue nitrile gloves. :)

    5. Coverage Associate*

      I once interviewed on Halloween at a place that did do fairly elaborate costumes. I came in a suit, and they totally understood that of course I had to take the safest approach. I got the job.

      1. Doug Judy*

        I had a Halloween interview where both were in full costume and almost seemed offended that I was not. It was very distracting. The face makeup made it hard for me to read them and the whole things was a disaster. I did not get the job. Glad your interviewers understood that no way should an interviewee be in costume!

      2. Helena*

        Were your interviewers in full costume too? Because I’m not sure I could take an interview panel seriously either if it consisted a unicorn, a Disney Princess and Darth Vader.

          1. Admin of Sys*

            heh – back in the day, when I worked at IBM, but in a warehouse, I’d dress up in a full suit for Halloween. When folks asked if I was interviewing, I’d tell them I was dressed up as an office manager

            1. Quill*

              That works!

              When I was in college we went on a networking trip to the state lab of hygeine and we were greeted at the door by the sesame-street yub-nubs. How anyone did anything from inside of one of those glorified bedsheets still baffles me, but holy sheet did I want to work there.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            One place I worked as a lab tech, I came in in a horribly mismatched “suit” ensemble – bright blue jacket, yellow tie, brown shirt, plaid pants – I was dressed as a “nerdy engineer.” I even had a pocket protector. One of the engineers actually asked me if I was coming over to the engineering side – he didn’t notice the clash, just the suit and tie motif. It was hilarious.

      3. Coverage Associate*

        Maybe half, and the higher ranking people at that, were in costumes. No heavy makeup. I can see that being a problem.

        I heard once about a wacky, prestigious firm that sent associates to court in costumes. I can’t imagine that. I am reluctant just to carry a pink briefcase.

    6. Harper the Other One*

      There are also tons of clever subtly Halloween themed shirts/sweaters you can find. A button-down shirt with a subtle cobweb pattern or something would be a nod to dressing up while not being too out there.

    7. Boomerang Girl*

      I suggest bringing the costume in a bag and getting dressed up at the office if everyone is doing so. Just asking others might lead to a gentle prank on the newbie to get her to dress up when no one else does (a la Legally Blonde).

      1. Antilles*

        That was going to be my suggestion too – wear regular work clothes but bring a costume in a bag. If you walk in and see everybody’s fully decked out, you can slip into the restroom and change. If nobody is, you’re safe.

        1. your favorite person*

          My first day was on halloween 8 years ago. I was just out of college and didn’t ask if I should dress up. I brought a devil horn headband in my purse, and that was it. They didn’t dress up, so I didn’t need worry about it!

      2. EPLawyer*

        Even if everyone dressed in costume on Halloween (and not everyone in an office where “everyone” dresses for Halloween does it), the first week on the job is not the week to dress for Halloween.

        You want to be known for your work, not what you wore for Halloween. You do not need people’s first impression of you to be whatever costume you wore for Halloween. If you don’t dress up, reasonable offices will not remember that. But if you, most offices will remember.

        Crivens, for some reason the Bar Offices had a blood drive close to Halloween. It was also the day they dressed up. Nothing like getting up off the table and seeing the ED dressed as the Angel of Death.

      3. Colette*

        Agree – bring a costume you can put on if everyone is dressed up, or leave in the bag otherwise.

    8. Wilhemina Constance*

      Oh boy, this reminds me of the office where there was a new director (think it was actually a new CEO) who’s first day was Hallowe’en. One of his “most important tasks” that day was costume judging! I guess we made an impression on him. As far as I know he still refers to the best costumed department when he gives his annual state of the company briefings.

      (For the record, I generally *don’t* dress up for Hallowe’en – although that year we’d all bought red wigs, which was quite an eerie effect given that we wore otherwise regular clothes with uniformly *bright cherry red* chin-length hair – even the men)

    9. Minocho*

      Yes, this is my solution too. Cat ears, in a color that is close to my hair color. i can take them off as needed, but am a participator! (participater?)

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree – I was a cat one year. A super easy and versatile costume. OP, wear all black and pack a black pencil, a tail, and a pair of ears. If you decide to go through with it, draw some whiskers and a dot on the tip of your nose, attach the tail, put on the years, and you’re a cat! if you don’t, you’re just wearing an all black outfit, as you do. (I am blonde and had my hair dyed super light platinum blonde back then, and was still a black cat, because every team had to pick a theme (rhyme not intended) and our team somehow got stuck with Halloween Ghouls.)

    10. MOAS*

      We always have a costume contest for halloween at work, and some people go all out, full makeup and all, while others just do small, easy accessories (me). We’re a tax/accounting company and the ones who don’t dress up have a built in excuse: “I’m going as an accountant.”

    11. Bunny Girl*

      Yes when I started at my company everyone told me that they went “all out” for Halloween. Apparently all out in an office and all out to a trained Fx artist and haunted attraction worker are two different things. Who would have thought?

      -Signed the only zombie nurse in the office :)

      1. Heather L Angus*

        Once I went in regular office clothes, but with an empty Cheerios box worn as a necklace, with a plastic knife stuck into it.

        Only a couple people guessed my “costume”: I was a cereal killer. :-)

        Probably be dangerous to do that in today’s work environment. I might be arrested for threatening behavior while the goblins and zombies got appreciative chuckles.

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        Reminds me of an artist I once worked with. She started working on her costume months in advance and they were incredible. Lots of creative types there who went all out. I usually wore funny character tee shirts–I didn’t have their talent.

    12. Mama Bear*

      I agree – last year I was new and I kept it very simple with a themed shirt because I didn’t know what office usually did but I was here long enough to know that I could get away with a shirt. This year several of us on my hall independently decided to decorate a little, so culture is shifting, but again that wouldn’t be something someone new would instantly know. A lot can be done with accessories.

    13. Dana*

      One of my co-workers started on Halloween and came dressed as a crew member of the Starship Enterprise. It was completely fine, though a fun story that still occasionally comes up. That said, my office is one where we have a costume contest (both best individual and best group) every year along with a “parade” during which everybody who chose to enter walks around the building so that everybody can see their costumes. I suspect that HR invited him to participate if he wanted to.

    14. Donkey Hotey*

      Ah, the joys of being a dude. Two words: Halloween tie.

      Also: Old job had a full fledged bring your kids costume party/parade. Whole departments came in group costumes (My favorite was the IT department who all came as Steve Jobs). It was also a textile company, so one year, I came as a mummy, claiming to be “Egyptian cotton.”

      1. Veronica*

        One of my colleagues has a black shirt that says “This is my Halloween costume” in shiny orange letters.

    15. Librarianne*

      That’s a good middle ground. It’s also nice to be able to de-costume yourself if you get pulled into a sudden meeting, have to speak with customers, etc. I usually wear either a cat-ear headband or a fun shirt that I can cover with a cardigan if need be.

  9. Heidi*

    For OP4, it’s not obvious to me from the letter that gender is motivating the attitude of the admin staff. How does the boss know that a man would not have these problems? Maybe they’re just mean.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, from just reading the letter, it never would’ve occurred to me that gender could be the problem here – it sounds much more like a clique-ish “us vs. them” mentality where Pam and OP were the outsiders to an otherwise homogenous group of admins. There is really nothing guaranteeing that a male lab tester wouldn’t face the same treatment.

        1. Myrin*

          Exactly. It’s not clear, of course, whether OP’s boss is also the admins’ boss, but even if he isn’t, he needs to have a talk with their boss and seriously try to find out what’s going on here, not take the easy way out and discriminate during the hiring process on the off-chance that he’s right about this scenario.

      1. Ama*

        Yeah I worked in university admin for a long time, and my immediate assumption that it was one of those situations where either the admins resent having to share the space, or that they were (likely incorrectly) told that the situation was either temporary or limited to a certain number of hours, and are now mad that that’s not the case.

        The amount of weird drama that happened when I was in academia that was caused by two managers/department heads “agreeing” to something but then telling their teams different parameters for that arrangement was considerable.

    2. Lynca*

      Honestly from reading the letter I expect that anyone would have been treated frosty so the boss is just wrong.

      We have a little bit of a lab tech/admin frostiness where I work. It comes from a number of things and isn’t gender based. Probably the biggest thing is pay, we have a lot of admins move into lab tech work so they can move up but not everyone can make that transition. My agency doesn’t control the admin payscale so we can’t advocate for them like we can for literally every other position.

    3. Blunt Bunny*

      Yes I don’t understand why they would assume they wouldn’t act coldly to the man I think it is more he wouldn’t put up with it? Could it simply be they have a high workload and are stressed and are snappy at the new person for asking questions? Could you say we want to hire someone to help with the high workload your having but your attitude towards people needs to improve before we bring someone in.

    4. Former Govt Contractor*

      I agree, my husband has had 2 jobs where he was bullied by the female staff (and I promise you, he doesn’t deserve it, he’s a good guy – and he’s not the only guy being pushed around). The stuff the women in his current office say out loud is unbelievable! If the situation reversed (men talking about women the way the women in his office talk about men) there would be hell to pay.

    5. Nesprin*

      Eh, I’ve seen tech vs. admin stuff before. I’ve had admins expect me and other female techs to take part in the office caring work (notes, coffee, scheduling parties and cleaning up), since #femalesolidarity, and are surprised when the we female techs have other things to do and prioritize the stuff we’re paid to do and promoted for.

  10. googs*

    #4) I feel like I could have written your letter. Do you work in a large hospital, by-chance? Anyways, I can see those Admin folks now and it takes me back to OldJob, where I don’t want to go mentally, ha. It’s so aggravating to want to just do your work and people just being so unpleasant for no reason. And your boss, like mine, probably with good but extremely off-base intentions is mitigating this by discriminating against woman applicants (and weirdly assigning you blame by blaming it on your being a woman) to “save them the harassment” rather than speaking to the Admin folks’ boss about how they are treating people in a shared space. Granted, the latter could just make them become even more frosty but at least they will know your boss is on your side and willing to advocate for you.

    You should talk to him and let him know that it’s not the person in the position – it’s the clique-like attitude in that space that is the problem and that’s not gonna resolve with a man in the role. This makes me think the admin woman in your situation are also woman and he sees his as “female cattiness” (blegh). It’s also compromising your work as he is excluding a whole group of people, one of which might be the perfect match for your lab’s needs outside this one issue.

    1. Morning Glory*

      Yeah, it’s really gross. He’s assuming that men get more respect than women, and therefore be treated better by the cold admins – like, if a woman is disrespected, it’s her fault for being a woman.

      Obviously, I hope the admins start getting held to the same standards of professionalism as anyone else. But if not…I at least hope they’ll be as bad to a man in the position as they were to a woman.

  11. mark132*

    OP5, I understand where you are coming from, but on this I mostly disagree with Alison on this. If you are new in this job I wouldn’t pick this battle over $30. I wouldn’t want risk starting off on the wrong foot. And missing out on social engagements related to the job as Alison suggests could be “costly” in social connections that are valuable for your job and perhaps career. (Trust me I understand the frustration you are getting).

    1. Marmaduke*

      In my experience working in elementary schools, it’s such an enormously cooperative environment that preserving relationships with other faculty and staff can make a big difference in getting the job done. This isn’t something I would recommend pushing back on.

      1. Roscoe*

        Totally agree. As well as the fact that you can get pretty isolated into your grade level or group. When I taught 8th grade, one floor was only grades 7 and 8, which meant I rarely saw others. They did eat lunch at the same time as 6th graders, so I saw those teachers then. But aside from that, it was isolating. IF not for the social stuff, I wouldn’t have gotten to know many colleagues. I think OP should just pay the money

          1. Quill*

            And it’s coming right out of her “cost of teaching” fund which covers things like, I dunno, having any recreational books in the classroom, all visual aids (school won’t buy those), and any ad-hoc physical accommodations she’ll need to make for her students this year.

            Or maybe she doesn’t even have that, depending on the district, plenty of districts pay poverty wages compared to cost of living in that district.

            It’s not a throwaway amount of cash when you’re a first year teacher.

      1. Holly*

        Agreed – $30 could be someone’s food budget for a family that can’t come from elsewhere. But it’s worth mentioning that if that amount of money has been seen as acceptable for everyone else earning the same salary as OP, it might cause resentment that OP isn’t participating when they had to. I am also assuming that it is $30 for the year.

      2. Grapey*

        Then they are the ones that can say “It’s not in my budget” with a straight face. Otherwise $30 once a year is absolutely doable for the majority of people, come on.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          “I don’t want to” should be a valid reason, and honestly, if people push back at this, or isolate the OP, then it’s a lousy place to work, and being told to give up $30 for something you don’t particularly want to do, or when it might be affordable but you have other things you’d rather spend your money on, or else it’ll “look bad,” is honestly indefensible.

    2. Bree*

      I sort of tend to agree – the value of these kinds of social events is really high in many workplaces. I wasn’t clear if it was $30 annually or $30 monthly (which would be way too much). If annually, I think it might genuinely be worth paying if at all possible.

      Of course, in an ideal situation employees wouldn’t have to cover these costs at all, but if you’re new your ability to push back is limited.

    3. Policy Wonk*

      Agree. Some schools can be really clique-ish, and you don’t want to find yourself on the outside. If the $30 at one time is hard, ask if you can pay it in installments – $10 (or if that’s too much $5) from the next few paychecks. They should understand that.

      1. annony*

        Or even just say, “I’m sorry, I can’t afford $30. I can contribute $10 though” and leave it at that. That might be better received than just opting out.

    4. MatKnifeNinja*

      Having worked in elementary schools, pay the $30. The places I worked were beyond petty over this, and would ramp up retribution to Mean Girls level.

      Unless you have a dead soul, meaning you absolutely don’t care if anyone includes, or about being ghosted, then don’t pay the $30.

      In a non education setting, man I would push hard hard hard not to pay this extortion. Education is it’s own box or cray. It’s hard enough figuring out the queen bee rulers and favorites, let alone dealing with the hate beams on your back. Women are their own worse enemy when it comes this crap, and administration almost never gets involved in Mean Girl drama.

      The $30 is protection money to keep the lunatics off your behind. I worked in 3 different schools and always paid it. I saw what happens when you don’t. First year at a new school is hard enough. You don’t need added interpersonal drama.

      1. Coffee Bean*

        As someone who also spent many years working in a few different K-12 schools, I absolutely second everything MatKnifeNinja said and it’s a shame their post isn’t more visible. I understand and sympathize with OP (and oh God I hated some of the forced socializing activities and the whole culture around it) but it will absolutely be a problem for OP if they opt out of this. Not that it’s right, but there are a lot of odd social things that happen in schools that aren’t “right” but you gotta learn to live with them anyway.

      2. Middle School Teacher*

        I totally agree with you and unfortunately I think Alison isn’t quite right on this one. Elementary schools are just That Place and paying for relationship peace is worth something. I’m guessing it’s $30 per year (that’s usually what it is; ours is $50).

    5. kittymommy*

      Yeah, assuming it’s $30/year it’s probably better to just go along, especially if a lot of informal work discussions end up taking place at the breakfasts.

      We have something similar at my office, though it is $5/mth. This provides coffee (+ creamer/sugar/etc.), utensils/paper products, and cake & cards for birthdays. It’s voluntary (truly) and some don’t pay as they don’t celebrate birthdays (religious reasons) or drink coffee. For them many tend to bring in items that they do use when the office is running low: dish soap, sponges, paper products, etc. Maybe something like that might work?

    6. smoke tree*

      Although it’s probably helpful to think of it less as $30 specifically and more as an amount of money you could scrape together but will cause financial difficulty, since it sounds like this is a financial hardship for the LW. The actual amount of money is kind of immaterial if you can’t afford it.

  12. Jojo*

    But I went a year (working full time) without being able to afford a single new pair of cotton underpants, stole quarters from my sister’s spare change pile, and broke down crying when babysitting my 7-year-old niece because she had a salon bottle of hairspray with a $14 price tag to herself.

    1. Morning Reader*

      I’m sorry you went through that, it sounds awful. I hope in the future you won’t be too afraid, or proud, or otherwise reluctant to ask for help in that kind of situation. If I were your sister I would have been happy to buy you some new underwear (for birthday or any excuse) especially if I could afford a child and hairspray. (Or at least pay you for babysitting!) (Also, the hairspray price might have been before it was marked down, or maybe it was a weird gift, or lifted or borrowed from some tot dance class backstage…the bleakness of your situation might have been giving you brain weasels.)
      Still, point taken on the unbudgetable unexpected hit on your finances from a social fee. These things should be optional or at least opt-out-able.

    2. Flash Bristow*

      I’m so sorry. I used to walk down the streets at night looking for pennies people had dropped (particularly around benches, and checking phone boxes for change) so I do understand.

    3. DataGirl*

      I have been in the place where I was scrounging nickles and dimes to buy milk and bread for my child, while I myself wasn’t eating and ended up weighing 90lbs before things got better. $30 could be a week of groceries, or a tank of gas, or what keeps your power from being cut off. No one should be forced to participate in something like that at work.

    4. CM*

      It strikes me there could be a middle ground — I think the OP would be perfectly within their rights to say “I’m so sorry, I’d love to be able to contribute but I have no room in my budget even for a $30 expense,” but if they would be willing to pay they could also say “I can give you $15 instead,” or “Maybe I can give you $5 a month for 6 months” — I would hope at that point the organizers would realize if it’s that much of a hardship the OP should be excused, but it might help with maintaining the relationships at school.

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      You are not a lone.

      I have had many friends over the years who have been in the hand-to-mouth setup due to life and being in the thick of the recession, where nobody would hire them, even though they had shiny college degrees in hand that they were told by everyone under the sun that they just had to go get immediately or they’d be totally worthless in society. Then they couldn’t get a job in retail because “You’re just using us until you get a better paying job.” [Duh, just about nobody plans on staying in retail, dude.]

      I’m gutted that your family didn’t know your struggles or if they did, they weren’t able or willing to help you out. I’ve had to fill the cupboards of more than a couple family and friends over the years. I still buy my brother underwear and socks for Christmas, not because I can’t figure out something loving and creative but because I know that’s the stuff he skimps on and doesn’t mention it to anyone if he’s having his finances pinched with bills always forever increasing and such.

  13. Anon for this*

    To #3, as a fellow concussion patient 2 *months* in, I don’t consider coming back to work after 2 weeks to illustrate grit, tenacity, or perseverance. To me it illustrates LUCK, with a small side dose of arrogance / health privilege.

    I was out of work for 6 weeks, should have been longer. I still cannot watch TV or read a book. Today I tried to drive for the first time (verdict: went 2 blocks; dizzying ; collapsed for hours when I got back inside). Two weeks in i was forcing down one Ensure a day while lying in the dark 24/7 trying not to throw up. Had you had my concussion, trust me you would not have been back to work in 2 weeks.

    And some people have it worse than me, I’m sure! Everyone has different underlying factors that worsen the duration – age, gender, prior health status, prior migraine. They hit their heads at a different angle or with different force. Yes we can do things in recovery to help the process but most of it seems like just waiting and trying to stay patient.

    So that’s a long way of saying, this letter upset me in a way no prior letter did. If your recovery shows grit and strength, the implication is mine lacks it. Hence my comment about health privilege. I feel like I have been the strongest person ever to have survived these past 2 months. Both on the micro and macro level. Just like someone in a coma would look at both of us and say it took them years to walk. I am happy for you that your recovery was that quick but please don’t by implication denigrate those of us suffering who are only doing the best we can.

    1. Anon for this*

      In the last paragraph, substitute “to have survived these past 2 months, and to look at the future each day and contemplate surviving it.”

    2. TheCommenterFormerlyKnownAsRUKiddingMe*

      As a former coma patient I agree. It didn’t take years to walk only months thankfully, but it did take years to function “normally.” “Normally” not anywhere near what it was previously.

      Twelve years on I’m mostly ok most of the time but there were days, weeks, months when I had serious doubts.

      1. Watry*

        I was in a coma for two days nearly 18 years ago. Fortunately it only took me three days to relearn how to walk, but there are parts of my brain function that have never been quite the same. And I was an actual child at the time, so it was likely much easier for me to bounce back. Bodies are the worst sometimes.

    3. Massmatt*

      Unless the job is boxing or ultimate fighting, the ability to withstand a concussion is not a good yardstick for expectations of job commitment, etc.

    4. Also Anon This Time*

      This is pretty much exactly what I thought as well. I returned to work just last week, seven months after my concussion. I’m still not at 100% and may never be. I’m glad the OP recovered quickly, but the implication that that’s due to her superior grit and dedication is infuriating. I didn’t sit at home for seven months because I’m weak-willed and lazy. I sat at home because I suffered a serious brain injury that’s still not entirely healed.

    5. blackcat*

      I bounced back fully from my concussion (grade 2) within about 6 weeks, and I was back to somewhat normal in ~3 weeks. It was a scary first 72 hours, because in that time I was extremely confused, not always knowing where I was. I was in the hospital for that time.
      I’m sure I recovered quickly because I was 1) otherwise healthy, 2) only 18, and 3) lucky. It has nothing to do with determination or anything that impacts my ability to heal from a job.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        I had a skull fracture and concussion in grade 1. I spent two weeks in the hospital, but otherwise seemed to recover OK. Except for what I later found out were common long tern effects of TBI, including emotional disregulation, difficulty with task initiation, etc. I ended up diagnosed with ADD.

        Then at 33 I ended up having a stroke, and had to learn to walk and talk again. I found that pushing myself to read, even if I had to read the same page ten times for it to stick, was crucial to getting my brain restarted. It also exacerbated the left over symptoms from my concussion, and the ADD.

        I pushed to return to 30 hours a week work before I was ready. This actually screwed me over – the disability insurance considered 30 hours a week to be “full time”, so they cut me off, but they didn’t have enough work for me to go actual full time at 40 hours. I got laid off, and it took years of crappy temp jobs for “the disabled” before I managed to make the career switch into my current field.

        If they need an example of persistence, I would mention seeing the PhD through in spite of medical issues and setbacks. No further detail is needed.

    6. TotesMaGoats*

      A high school friend of mine had two back to back car accidents and horrible concussions. She has TBI. She hasn’t worked in 6 months and has 4 boys under 7. Two of which are twins at 2.5. She is going on permanent disability soon. She’s 37 and was an elementary school teacher. There is no amount of grit that would improve this situation. She barely leaves the house as it is.

    7. CheeryO*

      Watching my coworker go through concussion recovery has been really eye-opening. She was out of work for a few months and is just starting to drive, a year and a half after her accident. She needs accommodations to be able to work at all without setting off headaches. She’s still making progress, but it’s incredibly slow. The idea that she just lacks “grit” is laughable, frankly. A bad concussion is basically a TBI, and working through one is not necessarily something to be proud of.

    8. vanillacookies*

      This is a really good point. Response and recovery from an illness or injury (especially when the severity varies so drastically) rarely has much connection with one’s character or abilities.

    9. Concussed Grad Student*

      All of this. I did not realize how severe concussions were until I had one myself. I slipped and fell down a flight of stairs and landed on my head…on granite. Because I didn’t move for three or four seconds, my poor friend thought I was dead. I refused an ambulance and drove myself home — 40 miles! on an interstate! — and continued studying and going to school. That was the stupidest thing I have ever done. I should have accepted the ambulance, or at least had my friend drive me to the ER. I definitely should not have driven around afterwards.

      Thankfully, I only missed a week of class, but that meant I could not do anything mentally rigorous. No reading, no drawing, no watching tv, no rigorous exercise (like running). My doctor really wanted me to take two weeks, but we agreed to do a followup after a week. She cleared me to go back to class but now, I wish I had taken the full two weeks, because I did not do as well as I could have on my finals. It took weeks for the headaches to stop.

      So all of this. Working through a concussion is not “grit” — it’s honestly a massive worry and red flag.

  14. Anon for this*

    I should also add, I went back to work in 6 weeks because I had no choice, and I work from home, alone, in a studio apartment which I cannot leave except to Uber to the doctor once a week or two. Most hours of the day, I don’t leave my recliner. Just clarifying that my “back to work in 6 weeks” is not even in the same ballpark as where you were at 2.

    And I can read AAM now for the past few weeks because it’s discrete, like tweets or Facebook posts, which I can also now read for a short while. I like the 5 question posts for this reason. The one long question with 300 replies is like, by the 15th reply my brain is saying “but they’re all saying the same thingggggg” cue invisible hysterical sobs because it’s all running together and I can’t focus. It’s easier to read the few replies to each of one of 5 different small topics – at 1 or 2 am when there are less than 100 posts. In case anyone wonders how I can do this.

    This is only my 2nd reply after being a multi year reader – It just really struck a nerve, I think because I’m IN IT now and not looking back in reflection. And yes I’m one of those uninformed people who before this happened thought concussion meant you hit your head and were maybe headachy and woozy for a few days.

    I guess what I mean is: people who don’t know won’t appreciate your story, and people who do know are likely to resent it more than esteem you.

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        Thank you for sharing. I appreciate the immediacy of your response and I’m sorry you’re experiencing this.

        1. Anon for this*

          Thank you for your kind thoughts. And I’m glad it helped. I never understood any of this either before it happened!

    1. cncx*

      yes, as a fellow concussion haver, you hit the nail on the head with the “people who do know are likely to resent it more than esteem.”
      Also, like “my brain hurts” upthread said, everyone’s concussion is different, so if someone came up to me and was like “i did this this and this while actively concussed” i would…probably be slightly jealous. It wouldn’t be a plus.

      I have about four months of memory loss, i am now a headache person, and a year out my executive function hasn’t bounced back (and it wasn’t good before). Concussion recovery is a lot of luck or lack thereof and i don’t read anything more into it than that- if someone “pushed through” i’m like, again as “my brain hurts” said upthread, okay, well that person’s concussion experience allowed them to do that. I’m really sorry yours has been so gnarly (i’m definitely not comparing).

      1. Pippa K*

        It’s been really helpful to read the range of experiences people here have had. I know, intellectually, that brain injuries and recovery tracks vary widely, but it’s still disappointing that I can see effects of my concussion several months afterward. I’ve been feeling like I should have a better read on how recovered I am vs ought to be, and seeing other people talk about their own different outcomes is sort of comforting. So thanks, everyone!

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          Hate to break it to you, but some of those side effects are permanent. I had a concussion/skull fracture in first grade, and I was still seeing side effects into my thirties and beyond. Be kind to yourself. Give yourself permission to develop work arounds for the problems.

  15. HA2*

    LW1: Can you just ask?

    It’s your first week, so everyone knows you have no idea what company culture is yet. Just straight up ask your manager – “Hey, since this is my first week, I don’t know whether this workplace celebrates Halloween. Do a lot of people come in in full costumes, and would it look normal for me to do that? Or is it typically more low-key, and maybe I should just wear a witch hat? Or skip that and treat it like a normal day?”

    I just noticed that in the letter, there was no mention of just asking your manager, who would probably know the workplace culture better than any of us here on the website.

    1. Akcipitrokulo*

      Was coming to say this. Ask!

      At oldJob we had a contest for costumes – office about 100, up to 20 took part. In that one, anything from no costume to all out ready to appear in a horror movie would have been fine! Other places do nothing.

      It’s a normal question to ask! As well as asking manager, also ask around team “so what are you thinking of wearing?” so that you’re not turning up in costumw which is allowed, but you’re the only one.

      1. Jenny*

        Yeah, if you’re going to ask, word it specifically to find out more whether it’s a thing commonly done in the office rather than whether it’s okay to do so. Even if it’s okay, you don’t want to be in the extreme minority of those wearing costumes in your first week.

    2. Ready Reader*

      From the letter: “Of course I plan to ask about the office culture around celebrating…”


    3. Anononon*

      Unless the response was that every single employee dresses up full out, and there is photo proof from last year, I still wouldn’t do a full costume. It’s just extremely likely that you’ll get different responses from different people based on enthusiasm levels.

      1. thatoneoverthere*

        Most of the time if an office is super into Halloween there will be announcements stating so. I’ve worked in 2 places were costumes were encouraged. It was made VERY WELL known in both places. Emails, overhead announcements, fliers distributed etc. Places that didn’t celebrate, I never heard a word about Halloween.

    4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Halloween is the favorite holiday at my company. We’ve had signs up for at least a week now announcing when our costume contest is going to be*. So if we had a new hire starting this week (or even the beginning of next week), I’d see their participation as joining in the office culture.

      I will also note that in past years costumes have run the full spectrum from Evil Clown (complete with makeup) to a pair of devil horns and a blue dress (Devil with a Blue Dress On), and everything in between. It’s also not uncommon to change into more complicate costumes right before the contest.

      It’s also perfectly reasonable to ask other people not only if they are dressing up, but what they’re planning on going as. That can give you a great idea of what your team in particular considers normal for Halloween.

      *We usually observe Halloween on the closest Friday, so this year it’s on November 1.

    5. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I still wouldn’t dress up even if the answer was yes it’s okay. Until you witness it with your own eyes, you have no idea how people handle Halloween. Being brand spanking new, its not worth it.

    6. Teacher Lady*

      I would advise asking a variety of people – maybe a peer and a manager, including at least one person who’s been there a while. My workplace (note: an elementary/middle school) was a no-Halloween zone for years, but in the last two years they’ve tried to roll out some limited Halloween stuff. Staff adoption of Halloween has been limited, though. Last year this one first-year teacher came in totally decked out, and while her costume looked great, she was the only one in the grade level who did it, and it came off as really out of sync with the culture (even if it was technically allowed). Nobody was rude or anything, but she was pretty obviously embarrassed to be the only one in costume. That might not bother some people, but I know I’d have felt the same way in her position!

  16. NW Cat Lady*

    LW #2 – what strikes me is this: “when I texted him right away that I was offered the job. To this I got a short “Congrats, well deserved” and then six months of silence.”

    It sounds like you possibly texted him before he had been told he hadn’t gotten the job. So in addition to him not getting his “dream job,” he found out about not getting it from you. That’s gotta be devastating.

    1. Holly*

      I agree, I’m surprised it hasn’t been mentioned before. Not that his reaction is OP’s fault at all, but OP should have waited.

    2. No Tribble At All*

      Oh, good point. When I’ve applied for internal promotions, the hiring managers have specifically told us to be chill when we hear back, because they know that coworkers are competing with each other. Plus they usually don’t reject everyone until the accepted person has finalized all the paperwork, etc. So the OP really may have broken the news to her friend.

    3. blackcat*

      Eh, when I was in this same situation–but with multiple jobs instead of one–my friend and I kept each other abreast of when we heard back from our jobs. For one job, I found out because he texted me and said “I just got a rejection from Dysfunctional U. Have you heard anything?” And that moment, the rejection popped up in my email!

      I do agree that OP surely told their friend first–since they don’t normally say “We’ve offered the job to someone else.” For my situation, for the jobs I interviewed for, I heard from one on a ~5 week timeline, but the others were 8+ weeks between interviewing and rejection. They wait until things like start up are fully negotiated, which can take a while depending on field.

    4. Patty Mayonnaise*

      Eh, I think you can come at this from the other direction too. LW could have waited until Friend got the rejection and then he’s mad he didn’t hear from her first. I think it’s a personal preference thing that LW would have a better sense of than us.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, I feel like it would be worse to *not* tell him and let him think he’s still in the running when you know that he’s not.

    5. CupcakeCounter*

      That was my first thought to his reply – usually they don’t call the rejected candidates BEFORE they extend the offer and have it accepted so OP was probably the one who informed him he didn’t get the job.

    6. Door Guy*

      Even for not a dream job, hearing about it from someone other than the people hiring sucks and can just hit a nasty nerve.

      Last job I was gunning for a promotion with a coworker. We interviewed and were told we’d find out on Friday. Wednesday, I’m walking through the warehouse when the warehouse manager says “Hey, did you hear Marius got the promotion? I heard him and GM talking that they want him to start on Monday!”

      I had a good relationship with that coworker (and still do even after I’ve moved on) and discretely talked to him. He had no idea that they hadn’t mentioned anything to me, was mortified that I found out through office gossip, and was very apologetic. I made sure he knew that I wasn’t upset that he got it, because I wasn’t upset about that. Disappointed, but that’s natural.

      Apparently, my GM got a big dressing down from the regional manager, I got a couple big apologies from the GM, and that was it. Find out later that the job was not what either of us thought it would be, and he absolutely hated it. He lasted about a year and then got a different job.

    7. whistle*

      In academia, it is highly likely that you will know someone else got the job before the university tells you you didn’t get the job (even if you are on the short list). What LW2 did was a kindness – they made sure their friend heard from them instead of from a third party.

      (Many fields in academia use a wiki to post all news regarding available positions in that field. The wiki is usually how you learn that you didn’t make the next round of cuts. E.g. someone posts that they got an interview offer, someone else posts the same, and then you know that since you haven’t received an interview offer that you are not moving forward. )

    8. OP2*

      Hi NWCatLady – I am OP2 :) Thank you so much for that perspective- I really appreciate it! I did think about it before texting him but I thought I would share my reasoning for doing so. First and unfortunately, academic applications in my very recent experience almost never give you a rejection notice. You basically never hear back unless you are moving forward in the hiring process. It sucks but that’s how it is :/ the result is that he may not have known for a VERY long time, and then we would be in a more awkward position. Secondly, and not unrelated, is that he is my best friend and we talked a lot- there’s not much I wouldn’t tell him. I felt that it would be better coming from me than having to bite my tongue during our conversations. To me, it felt more back-stabby and less honest if he had found out from anyone besides myself.

    1. Claudia*

      Uh, this REALLY depends on the person and the relationship. I hate the phone and anyone who is a friend of mine would know better than to call me. Email/text/DM me, do NOT call.

      OP, you know your friend and your relationship best. If phone calls were a part of that in the past, great! Call away. If not, or if you know they don’t like talking on the phone, don’t put that extra strain on the relationship.

      1. stefanielaine*

        Same! People who love the phone often assume the phone is an objectively superior communication method. It isn’t for everyone!

    2. Moi*

      I agree. It’s possible there’s something else going on. Maybe he is suffering from depression. Give him the benefit of the didn’t and give him a call

    3. Tequila Mockingbird*

      Thank you. Texting is NOT an appropriate medium for a deep friendship talk. Or any conversation longer than 10 words, for that matter.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        That is *very* person dependent. If any of my friends actually called me on the phone, I would assume someone was dead. Talking on the phone is incredibly awkward for many, many people. I have long, deep, emotional text conversations with friends and family. On the phone it’s all awkward silences.

        1. Tequila Mockingbird*

          Well, if someone sent me a “long, deep, emotional text” in lieu of trying to talk to me, I would ignore it and I might even think there was something wrong with them. And if the long text was trying to repair a damaged relationship, that’s even worse – I’d think they were cowardly and insincere.

          I’ve heard a lot of people say that phone calls are “all awkward silences” but I really don’t know what they’re referring to. I grew up in the 80s when everyone gabbed nonstop on the phone 6 hours a day and–unless the other person was extremely shy–calls in my youth were never awkward or silent in the slightest. Same goes today with professional calls that I have in the office. Unless the connection is bad, a phone call is always quicker, more efficient, and (most importantly) more personal.

          So yeah, I guess it is person-dependent (and generation-dependent), because I would never consider using text to rekindle a damaged friendship, other than the introductory “hey, let’s talk sometime, what time works for you?”

          1. SimplyTheBest*

            Well, I said conversation, so I didn’t mean sending someone one text that was paragraphs long. I meant…well, a conversation. Back and forth. Me texting a sentence and the other person replying, over and over, the way a conversation usually goes.

            I just can’t agree that a phone call is inherently quicker, more efficient, or more personal. I have business phone calls all the time. I talk to service people on the phone. Nothing about that is personal, whereas the ongoing conversations and group chats I have with friends and family over text are all personal. Lots of people are more articulate when they write as opposed to when they speak (I know I am) so an email or text can often be far clearer and far more succinct than a conversation that just goes in circles. And a phone requires both parties to be present. I can send a text or an email and you have the information or the question or the start of a conversation at your fingertips when you need it and/or are ready for it instead of hoping you’re available to answer your phone. And then when I receive an email or text can answer at my convenience.

            None of this is to say text is inherently better. The phone is fine. But it’s not the be all end all communication tool and acting like it is when gabbing on the phone as opposed to texting is on a downward swing just seems out of touch.

    4. OP2*

      Hi April – I am OP2 :) Thank you for your insight. Generally were both pretty busy so texting is our main mode of conversation but for something like this I agree – a call is best. Thanks :)

  17. Jenny*

    I’ve never really worked in an office where Halloween costumes are a big thing. The kids at the in building daycare all wear their costumes and have a baby parade, though and it’s super cute.

    Just don’t do it. Next year when you better know the culture, you can decide, but it just doesn’t seem like something to do off the bat. While one boss may be okay with costumes, one might now and the possible advantage just isn’t worth it.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Its my dream to work in an office that goes crazy for Halloween. My sister’s office does and so do a couple of my friends and I’m so jealous. Halloween is my favorite time of year. I have an “ugly Halloween sweater” as opposed to an ugly Christmas sweater, but it’s a tad too graphic for my work place and it bums me out.

      1. Jamie*

        You should work at my place. There is going to be a costume contest and jokingly anyone who doesn’t dress up has to buy the office lunch.

        I’m going to dress how I normally do and go as an IT person.

        I don’t do this kind of thing, but I did realize I kinda like it here when I kicked in the $1 for the contest and volunteered to bring cookies to the potluck I won’t eat at.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        My old office would have been right up your alley. Basically the whole week was decorations, contests (e.g. scariest dessert, best cube decoration), costumes, etc.. It was pretty fun. Some groups went all out. One group turned their area into the Overlook Hotel – as in floor to ceiling walls, doors, etc..

      3. Filosofickle*

        I used to work in an ad agency that created a haunted house in the entrance and costumes were 100% mandatory. I would have been thrilled to swap jobs with you for the week!

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      So jealous you get to witness a baby parade next week. I love seeing small children in costume!

    3. Vicky Austin*

      I uses to work in a building that also had a daycare, and the little ones used to come trick-or-treating to our office and all the other offices in the building every Halloween!

  18. Who Plays Backgammon?*

    LW4, it sounds as if there may be more to the story and possibly more nuance going on here. I’d make a distinction between frosty and plain rude, and if it’s a general deep freeze, I’d want to look a little closer. I’ve been one of “the admin” (collective noun) who’s been on the receiving end of a woman new hire who herself has been “frosty” to make an us-vs-you distinction to bolster her own standing. One man I worked with noted that women were often far tougher on admin than men, to show they weren’t part of “the girls.”
    And these women would insist they treat the admin like professionals when in fact they do anything but. I’ve also been a manager with multiple admin reporting to me, and while I had high standards and expectations for them, I also made sure they weren’t treated like lackeys. Sorry if this sounds choppy & brusque; pinkie-typing & trying to be brief while on the road.

    1. cmcinnyc*

      The only places I’ve worked where the female senior staff had to act “above” the female admin staff to distance themselves were workplaces where women were ridiculously outnumbered in management and professional roles because of jerk managers like this one who think women are some kind of emotional bomb waiting to go off at the best of times. That man noting that women have to be tough to show they’re not “part of the girls.” HE is the problem. Not the “girls.”

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I’ve experienced more than one such workplace, and in recent times too, not just back in the dark ages of one token woman exec. It’s pretty sad that some feel they “have” to treat people that way.

  19. Beth*

    OP1: If you want to dress up, go for something that mostly looks like normal clothes but can be turned into a cute/clever costume with a couple additional props. (For example, wear a red dress and bring a pin-on Heinz Ketchup label, which you can choose to put on or take off depending on what others are doing.) Something small, cute, and removable like that is a nice balance between showing personality (you’re clever! you’re fun! you engage with things!) and practicality (you don’t want to be trying to work in a Swamp Monster bodysuit all day; you also don’t want to go all out and then realize that it’s out of step with team culture).

    1. Phony Genius*

      Idea for men: Wear a Superman logo t-shirt under a button-up shirt. If costumes, are OK, open a few buttons to show you’re Clark Kent. For added effect, bring glasses.

      Idea for all: If you find yourself in an office where everybody has a costume except you, wrap yourself in adding machine tape – instant mummy.

    2. Lepidoptera*

      I have a halloween costume which I call “corporate vampire”.
      It’s black leggings, black tunic top, black belt with a large silver clasp that sits just above my hips, long silver necklace with a pendant that’s about the size of a silver dollar and has a silver spider web and a black jeweled spider (if you aren’t paying attention it just looks like an abstract pendant), and finally a bright red cardigan with 3/4 length sleeves.
      I wear my hair in clips with ringlets coming down or in a stern bun, and I finish it off with a set of small vampire fangs which attach directly to my teeth and are quick and easy to remove if necessary.

    3. Hope*

      Something that’s also super, super easy is to wear a black dress, and bring a witch hat (or headband with little witch hat attached). If everyone’s dressed up, put on the hat. If not, you’re still perfectly appropriate.

    4. Bagpuss*

      Shaun of the Dead is good for low-key costumes – white shirt, black pants, and ‘hello my name is Sahaun’ badge.

      Accessorise with a red abnd clack tie and a bloodied cricket bat and you are good to go. Putting down the bat and taking the tie and bdge off and you are back to nroaml office wear. (and if it turns out the ofice does go all out, you can add a few ‘bloodstains’ if you want to.

    5. ThatGirl*

      My go-to work Halloween costume is a Minnie Mouse-inspired polka dot dress, which I pair with pearls, black leggings, yellow flats and a sparkly ear-bow headband. If I take the headband off, it’s not immediately obvious, and without the yellow flats even less so. It’s still more dressy than I usually am at work but it doesn’t scream Halloween costume.

    6. She's One Crazy Diamond*

      I’m a black-haired woman with bad eyesight, so last year I straightened my hair, wore my glasses instead of contacts, put on winged eyeliner, and said I was “Alex Vause out of prison”.

    7. EnfysNest*

      In my outside-of-work life, I do a lot of cosplay/theater/costuming stuff, so a lot of my coworkers in my immediate office, who know that about me, usually expect me to be dressed for Halloween, but I always still want to look professional, especially if I end up with unexpected meetings or if others come in to our office, etc., so I usually go with one of two options:

      1) Throw on my cowboy boots (which I sometimes wear to work on regular days anyway) and a plaid top and now I’m a cowgirl / farm hand for anyone who asks, but it’s still basically something I would wear on a normal day.

      2) Regular clothes that are inspired by a character (like Disneybounding, for anyone familiar with the term). For example, a blue and red blouse, yellow skirt, and apple pendant necklace for Snow White. Again, it still passes for normal office clothes, but is a fun nod to a character as well.

    8. Cog in the Machine*

      I’ll second the idea of a person possibly not wanting to be in a full costume all day! I did the mostly normal clothes with a few add ons thing last year, and had pulled everything off by lunch. All I had on that was extra was a mask, a tail, and gloves. I’d specifically made the mask so it wouldn’t interfere with anything, too.

    9. Rose*

      Last year I went as “the Halloween fairy” — I wore an orange sweater, black pants, and a pair of wings. If I needed the costume off, then the wings went into a bag and I just looked like I had a nice orange sweater on, which is a nod to Halloween without it being a problem. The wings didn’t even go on until I was actually at work, because I was not dealing with those on the train.

      Of course, I work at a library and have been there for long enough to know that the children’s librarian always goes full out and so do a few of the clerks, while others may do nothing or just a nod to the holiday. So I knew what I had planned would fly. But wings aren’t bad if you have a bag big enough.

    10. willow19*

      I went one year as Men in Black and one year as Dilbert (with the flippy tie) and one year as Blues Brothers. Very office appropriate!

  20. Beth*

    OP2: Speaking as a grad student in a field where academia is our primary career path, this whole situation sucks.

    First, you didn’t do anything wrong here. You got a job! It’s tenure track! You did amazing!!! You wouldn’t have gotten anywhere near that if you hadn’t earned it (I know saying that doesn’t magically stop imposter syndrome, but it’s still true and worth saying).

    But I think there’s some room to go easy on your friend, if you can. It sounds like he was pretty invested in this opportunity. Depending on your field, it’s possible that this was his one chance at a tenure-track job in this area. So even if he’s genuinely happy for you on one level, there’s likely another level where he’s grieving whatever hopes and future goals he had that rested on finding an opportunity like this. Things like the possibility of living near his family, which isn’t a small thing to give up on! Especially since he did congratulate you at first and has reached out recently to acknowledge his silence, apologize, and try and re-initiate friendship, my read is that his behavior has been about not wanting to make you deal with that process, rather than out of any kind of anger at you.

    If you’ve reached a point where you’re feeling like he’s too flaky and not worth your time anymore, then that’s a valid choice you can make; you don’t owe him your energy at this point. But since it sounds like you’re really missing him as a friend, I think you should reach out one more time. Something like “Hey, let’s do that catch-up you suggested. When’s a good time?” That only takes a couple minutes, and it has the potential to get you back into a friendship that it sounds like you value pretty deeply.

  21. BizCorp*

    OP #4 – There are obviously issues of gender imbalance in the organization, or maybe just in that admin part of it that OP references. Yes, your boss should address any performance issues that emanate from that dept, but aside from that, expressly hiring a male for the purposes of balance and equity is surely only a good thing?

    1. Approval is optional*

      Where does it say there is gender imbalance in the organisation as a whole or, more particularly, in the lab side of the org – which is where the vacant position is? And even if there is, why is it ‘surely’ a good thing to favour gender balance over merit for this particular position?
      Besides, if the manager is discriminating against women, (as opposed to making stupid comments and then coincidentally only receiving good applications for the role from men) there’s zero evidence he’s doing it for balance and equity: his comment to the LW is, however, support for the LW’s belief that it is about avoiding what the manager perceives to be problems between the admin staff and female (and only female) lab staff.

    2. Alice*

      Aside from the fact that we don’t know if the company has a gender imbalance issue (having 2 out of 2 female employees does not show a pattern), gender equality is not about hiring the same exact number of men and women. It’s about treating men and women equally. Wanting to hire a man because women are being treated badly by admin staff runs directly counter to that.

  22. Discordia Angel Jones*

    Hey OP2, CONGRATS on the tenure track job! Those can be crazy hard to get.

    Don’t feel guilty about your friend. You deserve the job, 100%. You didn’t take it away from him.

    I know it was his alma mater, and actually, depending on your field, that might be one of the reasons he didn’t get the job and may never have got the job. In my husband’s field they do not like students (undergrad or grad students) or postdocs staying or returning to the same university, unless it’s significantly later on in their career.

    The postdoc in my husband’s lab applied for a professorship (not tenure track) and was bluntly told he wasn’t getting it for that reason, and that’s not the only or first case we know about.

      1. Hope*

        Depends on the applicant pool. If you’ve only got a couple strong contenders and the only thing giving you pause is that one is an alum, it’s worth going ahead and interviewing instead of failing your search. Especially if you’re in the boat that my department is, where you have a limited window to fill the position or else you’ll lose that TT position to another department.

  23. Adereterial*

    OP3 – I’ve had a (mild) concussion and recovered fully but even to me, going back to work in 2 weeks doesn’t demonstrate grit. I was off work for 6, part time for another 6, and needed adjustments to my job for a further 12 months before I was fully back to speed.

    What you did lead me to think two things. Firstly, that you demonstrated a surprising lack of concern for your own health. Which is fine on its own, it’s your health, after all, but it has wider implications.

    Secondly, your approach to your own health and the fact that you feel it should be in some way celebrated means you’ll take that approach to the health of those who may one day work for you. ‘I had x and recovered quickly/was still able to come to work’ isn’t uncommon in managers and puts undue pressure on their staff to return work when they are not ready and implies that those who need extended time off or additional support are just not trying hard enough. I absolutely would not hire anyone who displayed evidence of such a tendency.

    So – not only would I say don’t mention it at all, but I’d also recommend you spend some time thinking about your own thought processes around illness and how that might be skewed or warped.

  24. Asenath*

    # 5 – I thought your workplace charges for social events sounded high until I worked mine out – they’re charged each payday; $2 to one fund and $2 to another. It makes the total sound a lot less. More to the point, ours are completely voluntary – you’re told of the their existence, and if you choose not to participate, that’s fine, no one comes after you or nags you or anything. But the response depends on the workplace. Yours may be different. I would suspect that there might be a fair bit of expectation in an elementary school that staff be collegial and sociable and participate in this sort of thing to show how collegial and sociable and so on they are. I’m basing this on a single data point actually; a school system I knew better than any other except the one I attended myself. There was a noticeable difference in the attitude towards such group activities between the primary/elementary staff and the junior/senior high staff.

  25. LGC*

    So, I think on letter 2…it feels like LW2 is blaming themselves a lot for their friend not speaking to them as well – to the point where they’re having doubts about whether they deserve the job.

    It sounds like the friend had extremely high hopes (probably too high) for the position – it’d be in his field at his alma mater in his hometown! – and he might well be grieving the loss of that opportunity. So I don’t know if he would really blame LW2 for taking that away from him – and I totally agree that LW2 should NOT blame themselves for that (because, again, they did not take jack squat from him). It doesn’t mean that he’s NOT being a bad friend, it’s just that I don’t know if he dislikes you specifically.

    And it’s hard. It’s easy for me to say behind a smartphone screen that it’s no one’s fault. But the way the friend is acting certainly makes it look like it’s LW2’s fault. But LW2 – give yourself the kindness you’d give another LW here. Like, if someone else wrote this letter, would you think they were correct to feel so guilty about taking a job (that they heard about fairly!) that they weren’t sure they belonged?

  26. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Frosty. But does the work get done? If the work is getting done and it’s just that the admins are not friendly, then it should make no difference about the gender. If the frostiness is impacting work – “I don’t like you for some reason so I’m going to file your report three times longer than it should and oh, did that impact your deadline?” – it should be addressed directly instead of hiring a man.

    That said, a frosty environment can make work a drag. I wonder what’s causing it. (I hate to raise this spectre but I also wonder if it’s not a silent racism creating the frostiness. There’s no mention of it in the letter but I’ve seen it happen where the white person gets just nicer treatment while the POC gets polite but frosty treatment.)

    I worked with someone who became frosty. I gradually came to hate the job. Boy, was I happy to leave.

    I worked with another woman who went on a malicious gossip campaign if she felt that any new “girl” was a threat to getting attention from the men in the office. It was so very odd.

  27. TimeTravelR*

    I was a fairly new manager (a few months in the job) at a place where most people had been there a long long time. I learned that non-supervisors often dressed up, and my team was planning a whole theme. Apparently, managers did not generally dress up. I actually don’t enjoy dressing up, but I thought it would be a way to ingratiate myself with my team. It really did! They loved it. The following year, most of the managers, including the COO dressed up. I just had to take the first step.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      It’s great that it worked out for you, but it could also backfire too. You had been there a few months, this will be her first week. I wouldn’t do it.

      1. TimeTravelR*

        Oh I definitely had a back up outfit with me! I agree with a lot of the posters that a subdued costume might work… I especially liked the one who posted about wearing a red dress and having a Heinz label to slap on in case it became obvious she should be in costume. So clever!

  28. Juli G.*

    My first job out of college I started on Halloween. First of all, it never occurred to me that adults outside of Roseanne dressed up at work (my mom was SAH and my dad was in a highly regulated industry). I walked in to work in my best new business casual outfit and EVERYONE was full on decked out. Wigs, makeup, the works. I felt so awkward but the thought that others would dress up never even flickered across my brain!

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I was going to say this – that I have worked at several places where everyone was in full-on costume on Halloween (including my current workplace last year). (A former colleague used to tell a story about how he’d come to the US on a work visa, and on his first day at his first US job, everyone was in costume. He’d been a university professor in his home country, and wore a suit and tie to work on his first day. One of his coworkers came in dressed as a flasher (the 90s, eyeroll). Somehow he didn’t quit on the spot, but was definitely wondering what he’d gotten himself into by taking that job. These offices do exist. You’d come in wearing your regular clothes and stick out like a sore thumb. If I were OP, I’d ask what the office culture is at her new job. There’s really no way to guess.

    2. Becky*

      My current office runs the gamut–some people don’t dress up at all, some people do the minimalist costume, some people do the all out full blown getup. There’s enough of each category that you don’t stick out really no matter which one you fall into. But then there are 600 people in our building.
      There have been some AWESOME costumes over the years and there’s always voting and a prize for best costume and best group costume.

      My grandboss one time came as BoJack Horseman. I didn’t even realize he was dressed up because he didn’t wear the horse head all day and without the horse head you look pretty normal.

      One woman in particular always has a great homemade costume–Ursala, Queen of Hearts and Sally from Nightmare before Christmas are all ones I remember.

      I enjoy the heck out of seeing the creative and awesome costumes, but I don’t dress up myself.

  29. Solar Moose*

    LW2: Frankly, you deserve better. Try your best to be proud and happy — you got a tenure track job! Congratulations!

    I understand your friend is a bit disappointed to not get the position. That’s reasonable. But radio silence for months? C’mon. You deserve better than that. I mean, maybe you don’t. Maybe you drown kittens in your spare time or something. But from what’s in the letter, your friend is just being a bitter jerk, and it would behoove you to move on and focus on your new job (!!!) and other friendships.

    I had something similar happen – 2 open positions, that my friend and I were hoping to get together. I got it, she didn’t. She was pissed, and didn’t want me to speak about that position for the year that I had it. But we at least had the excuse of being high school students!

    Honestly, while you perceive yourselves being equal, I suspect he thought he’d be the Obviously Better candidate, and he’s now reckoning with you being just as good as, or even better than, he is. Regardless, bad attitude. Please don’t let him taint your accomplishments. You’re allowed to be happy!

    1. Jule*

      Have I landed on a different planet? People aren’t “bitter jerks” because they’re in pain and need time to themselves. I would absolutely love to see the reaction here if someone wrote in saying “I’m unemployed, though I’ve come very close to some jobs that would’ve been ideal for me. I’m really struggling and have needed time to myself, but I recently found out that a former friend in my field has been spreading on public forums that I’m bitter and lashing out about her not deserving a position she got. But I told her congratulations about a job and she didn’t reach out to me again for six months! When I did reach out to her, she seemed to be grey rocking me. What can I do? I’m really worried this colleague in my field is saying things about me that aren’t true, and I still need a job.”

      1. Anonymous Me*

        OP didn’t call her friend a “bitter jerk”. Solar Moose included it as part of a comment. Since no names or identifying info is used, unless the friend reads AAM, they will never know.

      2. fhqwhgads*

        It depends on the friendship. I have plenty of friends who I mgiht not interact with for six months and it didn’t mean anything is frosty between us. I have others I interact with weekly if not moreso and if they suddenly didn’t speak to me for six months…that would not register at all as “in pain and need time to themselves”. If it were really ghosting – as in I reached out and got no reply on several maybe less frequent than usual occasions – I’d be either seriously worried something terrible happened, like death or coma, or if I knew that didn’t happen, I’d take it that they were done with me. Your example of someone unemployed isn’t a great analogy for this LW since it really is a key point that the disappointed friend has a tenure track job already. I’m not saying he can’t be bummed because he wanted this other one, but there are a finish number of that type of job, in whatever specialty these two are in. The pool of people who want one is much larger than the number of jobs there are. Having seen what my now tenure track professor friends went through with that type of search, it’s really hard for me to consider a scenario in which both friends have tenure track jobs vs one does and the other doesn’t as a major downside for the guy who has a job in both scenarios. Maybe he hates his current job, and I’m not saying he should be stuck there forever. But it is the norm in that type of field where most folks are like “great, I got something tenure track, I’m good now” because so many will never get it at all. Sure be upset, but it doesn’t make sense to be upset at the person who did get the job rather than just being upset about not getting the job.

        1. ChimericalOne*

          We have no idea, though, if OP did reach out at all. Considering the overwhelming feelings of guilt & imposter syndrome that she describes, I wouldn’t be shocked if she went silent herself to “not bother him,” and then that turned into 6 months of neither of them speaking.

      3. Gazebo Slayer*

        There’s a fine line between “in pain and need time to themselves” and passive-aggressive sulking, and I’m not sure where this falls. However, this friend is NOT unemployed, and I don’t know where you’re getting the “grey rocking” from.

        1. OP2*

          Thank you all for your insights. It didn’t want my original question to be overly drawn out but I actually called a couple of times and texted every so often for the first three months then stopped. I can take a hint, and didn’t want to push it if he was in pain.

    2. OP2*

      Thank you all for your insights. I maybe should have said this but I didn’t want my original question to be overly drawn out- but I actually called a couple of times and texted every so often for the first three months then stopped. I can take a hint, and didn’t want to push it if he was in pain.

  30. Roscoe*

    #2 So I don’t think it makes him a bad friend, just didn’t handle the situation very well. I’ve had (and still have) my share of friends who just don’t react well to things. He was very disappointed that he lost out on his dream job. Even more disappointed that he lost it to a friend. Both of those things are fair. But, I also kind of get distancing himself for a while. I mean, this will be a big life change for you, so its clear that a lot of your conversations when you were new would revolve around how you are adapting to this new job and new life, one that he had probably pictured himself in. This is one of those things where, if he was a good friend with a good record before, I wouldn’t want to say he isn’t worth your time because of this.

    #5 This is one of those things where I kind of disagree. I understand those social dues are annoying and aren’t in your budget right now. At the same time, you have to ask yourself if you really want to be the person missing every single social event. No birthday celebrations, breakfasts, holiday parties, etc. Now don’t get me wrong, it sucks that you have to pay for them, but that is education. I was a teacher and when I moved to private sector it was amazing that all this stuff was paid for. However, you are new, and teaching can be kind of segmented. You will probably get to know the people in your area/cohort, but for $30 will be missing out on really getting to know a good portion of your coworkers. So to me this isn’t necessarily about whether you CAN opt out, I just don’t think you should. It reminds me of Seinfeld where Elaine yelled at everyone about all the celebrations, then felt bad when she was left out. It may sound ok now, but it may not be that way all year

  31. Alice*

    Why are we assuming that OP2 reached out to Friend during the six months of silence? OP2 doesn’t say that. “He ignored me for sixth months even though I was texting him” and “neither one of us texted for six months” are not the same.

    1. OP2*

      Hi – thanks for your post. I actually called a couple of times and texted every so often for the first three months then stopped. I can take a hint, and didnt want to push it if he was in pain.

  32. blackcat*

    I’ve been the friend in #2! Last year, a friend and I were finalists for the same three tenure track jobs in our field. It makes lots of sense–our work is similar, so if someone wants someone who uses theories from Yak shaving to understand llama grooming, we’re two of like four people in the world who do that. There were three jobs nationally in llama grooming last year, and friend and I both interviewed on campus for all of them.
    Job #1 was at a dysfunctional cesspool of an institution. Search failed, likely due to internal politics.
    Job #2 was at a reasonably good school with a super creepy, toxic department chair (during my sit down with him, he literally stared at my chest while telling me about the faculty who don’t pull their weight). It went to someone we both sort of know but not super well. We both wished him luck…. because both of us left our interviews there going “Yikes! I don’t think I want to work here.”
    Job #3 was the holy grail: a functional, well-funded, prestigious department. My friend got that job.
    I got a post-doc that’s working really well for me. I also have ZERO hurt feelings. Academic hiring is all sorts of quirky, and I got food poisoning the night before the first day of my interview… so the first half of my interview, I was going on no sleep looking not so good. It wasn’t a good interview. Those things happen. And my friend totally deserves the job! He’s been on the market longer than me–he needed a job more.

    Your friend has been in academia for a while. He needs to let it go. Send him a text, try to pick up where you left off. I don’t know if you’re like my friend and I, but if you are, perhaps finding a project to collaborate on is a good idea! I’m in the early stages of writing a paper with my friend.

    1. OP2*

      Thank you for your post! I appreciate hearing this from another person in academia. I think its worth a call and then just leaving the door open- at the very least to maintain a professional relationship.

  33. Senor Montoya*

    OP #2 — you are right to be upset with your friend, because he already has a tenure track job! and you had none! (Folks who are not in academia: this is a very big deal — tt jobs are very hard to come by in many fields). If he were a good friend, he’d have been happy for you, even if he felt sad for himself.

    It seems that he recognizes this, sort of. I’d reach out to him once. After that, the ball’s back in his court.

    BTW, you got the job — nothing imposterish about that! You should feel really proud of yourself.

    1. J.*

      This was my reaction, too! It’s one thing for him to be disappointed, especially if he was hoping to move closer to family. But to begrudge you a TT job when he already has one is incredibly selfish, and you didn’t do anything wrong.

    2. OP2*

      Thank you for that – I am actually pretty excited about the job! I am crossing my fingers that someday he will come around and have a more optimistic outlook on the situation – I am hoping he will think of me as another positive part of him visiting home – especially since before we lived in different parts of the country. Until then I think I will just leave the door open – at the very least to maintain professional relationship.

  34. deesse877*

    For LW2: this is a Thing in academia. It is sad and hurtful, but some version of a broken relationship has followed every professional success I’ve ever had, and always by ghosting. Once or twice I’ve reconnected years later, but mostly people just vanish. My field has a decades-long employment crisis and a scarcity mindset, so everything feels fraught to all of us. I think people who spend their lives in school, with everything graded or ranked, can fall into a habit of comparison and envy as well.

    I realize this isn’t so helpful, but maybe it is useful to know you’re not alone. Congrats on the job!

    1. Patty Mayonnaise*

      This is interesting to me, because I’ve heard about people who are in grad school or PhD programs with an “I’m not here to make friends” attitude, and it always made me kind of sad – but I never connected that to the hyper-competitive and tiny job market for academics. From this thread, I’m starting to think those people might have the right idea! If you don’t get super close with anyone in your program, you don’t have to worry about friendship fallout down the road.

      1. blackcat*

        This makes me really sad, because I have so many awesome friends in my field. We celebrate each others’ success, go to bat for each other, and work together often. I can’t imagine staying in one of the hyper competitive fields (but it is also true that in my subfield, it’s easy to get non-academic jobs and a lot of people do that).

      2. Jennifer*

        I know a lot of people disagree, but I think it just makes life easier if you work in that kind of field. Thankful that I don’t.

        1. OP2*

          Thank you very much for your insights. It does help to know I’m not totally alone on this. I think that it hurts so much because of how rare true friendship can be in professional/academic fields. It can be really lonely, it’s hard to find real connection when you aren’t sure if someone wants friendship, or just wants something from you. I hope that this relationship can be repaired and we can reconnect- I think at the very least I will hold the door open for him.

  35. Professor Ronny*

    #3 I have hired a lot of Ph.D.’s and telling the hiring committee about a concussion will absolutely not have a positive impact. It is so far outside of normal that you will always be “that” candidate.

  36. Amethystmoon*

    #1, there’s always dressing according to the dress code in Halloween colors, if you like any of them. For women, there is always wearing Halloween jewelry or scarves. I’m sure men can find a Halloween-themed tie if needed. There’s also saying “I’m dressed as a muggle” if anyone asks about your lack of costume.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        “Serial killer. They look just like everyone else.” (Probably not actually a good plan for a brand new job, I suppose, but a classic line. :) )

    1. Vicky Austin*

      One year, I came to work wearing red pants, a red blazer, and a white blouse. If anyone asked, I said I was dressed as Hillary Clinton (I’m a white woman with blonde hair).

  37. Tuckerman*

    Some of the comments for LW 3 seem a little harsh. I agree with the advice not to use concussion recovery as an example, but mostly because I suspect she has better, more effective examples that would demonstrate tenacity/grit without calling into question her judgment or ability to perform. Plenty of people have used stories of recovery from injury/illness to promote themselves and their work. Think of Amy Cuddy, for example, or any number of Ted Talk presenters.
    I think one issue is that concussion recovery isn’t directly related to LW’s work. If she was trying to get a job as an OT working with TBI patients, then her experience might be more relevant.

    1. CheeryO*

      I don’t read them as harsh as much as, “Nooooo, please don’t!” It’s just not an appropriate interview anecdote. Honestly, it’s not even really comparable to inspirational recovery stories. It’s more similar to running a marathon during cancer treatment than training for one after you’ve recovered. People don’t have context for how bad the situation was and might wonder if it was actually wise in terms of your overall health, and you really don’t want someone to be questioning your big-picture judgment skills in that way during an interview.

    2. Reliquary*

      “Grit” is not one of the qualities we look for in hiring onto the tenure-track. Everyone already has it — they’ve finished a PhD, for goodness’ sake.

  38. Jamie*

    I once started a job on Halloween and I wore a costume. On my first day of work! To be fair, I wore my normal clothes to start the day but I had brought my costume clothes with me (which I could put on over my regular clothing). Once I got there and met everyone and saw that almost every person in the office was wearing a costume, I happily put mine on. Everything was fine and I didn’t have to feel out of place on my first day in a new office.

    1. Agreed*

      This is exactly what I came here to say! Arrive dressed in regular clothes, and pack a bag with a costume that you can change into in the bathroom. But I wouldn’t suggest anything that requires more than 5 mins to get into (elaborate makeup, very teased/hairspayed hair, etc).

  39. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – yes you have a bad friend. Part of being an adult is handling disappointment with maturity. You did nothing wrong – you were up front about the job and he’s acting like a toddler. If you really want to remain friends, give him one more chance to salvage it, and then let it go. If he’s going to treat you this way for something you had no control over, it may not be worth saving the friendship. A true friend is supportive, in good times and in bad.

    1. SimplyTheBest*

      Sometimes the mature thing to do is extricate yourself from situations that are causing you pain and upset. Like taking some space to grieve the loss of something you really wanted while not shitting on the celebration of the person who got it. Friendship isn’t always bright and shiny “i’ll be there for you no matter what.” Sometimes it’s taking a step back when you’re not emotionally available to be what someone else wants you to be.

    2. annie*

      Another part of being an adult is taking other people’s feelings into account. If this happened to me, I’d need to lick my wounds for a great deal longer than 6 months, and if the friend who got the thing we both wanted couldn’t back off, and needed to insert themselves into my grief so they wouldn’t have to feel guilty, I would back way off from the friendship and likely end it.
      Where does this attitude come from, that if you have feelings about rejection and need time to process them, you’re automatically at the emotional level of a toddler? This idea that all disappointment must be immediately brushed off and someone who is dealing with a devastating loss is trash if their main emotion at that time isn’t “YAY YOU!” It’s so cruel. Is this a Gen X thing? Like wtf?
      You are not entitled to ANYTHING from a friend, or anyone else. You are not entitled to their attention. You are not entitled to have them always be in contact with you. You are not entitled to violate their boundaries to assuage your own discomfort with your fortune and their misfortune. You are not entitled to an explanation of why they aren’t in touch with you.
      If this person doesn’t want to be friends with OP anymore, it is sad, but it makes sense, and the OP might have felt the same way if roles were reversed. That’s their right.
      Give people space and don’t expect warmth and congrats from someone who’s hurting. If you care about them as a person, respect the space they need. If you want to help, give them a good professional reference, support work they’re doing, signal boost an article they wrote. You’re not entitled to their attention or happiness on your behalf.

      1. OP2*

        Thank you for your perspectives – I really appreciate it. I do want to clarify – I know that I can’t force him to be my friend and I have given him plenty of space. I never expected him to throw me a party certainly, and he is completely entitled to his feelings. However, I know he would have rather heard the news from me than someone else- I was not waiving it in front of him for the purposes of being a jerk and demanding congratulations. My problem is that I took his feelings too much into account and made myself feel guilty for getting a job I had earned and was the right fit for.

  40. AltAcProf*

    I love AAM, but sometimes I feel that Alison does not fully understand academia and this is one of those times. If you were the final 2 candidates, and you got it and he did not, yes, you took the job that would have been his because no one wants a failed search. That said, presumably they KNEW of his connection to the town and school and so you must have been miles ahead as their first choice because no one wants a flight/tenure risk either, and with those ties he’s more of a sure thing than you. BUT academia is harsh. Depending on the field it goes from “competitive” to “there are literally no jobs in your field.” If you got this job, you should be very very proud and do your best and make your life there and enjoy your success. Your friend, though, is allowed to feel how he feels and I don’t blame him for ending the friendship. It’s not out of spite, it’s just that he can’t bear to see it. The upside is, he has a TT job. That’s more than most people could say. If he were now jobless then it would be completely devastating. You didn’t do anything wrong, but you need to let him cut you off if that’s what he needs to do.

    1. Heidi*

      Agree that OP can’t salvage the friendship without the other party also wanting it, but it would be advantageous for OP’s friend to make that effort. Academic circles can be pretty small and you end up having to see the same people over and over again throughout your careers. Plus, if another position opens up at OP’s institution in the future, it’s better for him to have a friend there instead of someone he’s cut out of his life completely over something that was not OP’s fault.

    2. Tuckerman*

      I work in academia. It’s my understanding that often institutions actually prefer not to hire alumni or people from the area for tenured roles. They prefer to bring in people from other areas to increase diversity of experience, thought processes, specialized expertise. I worked at a school where an incredible internal candidate was turned down for a Dean role because they wanted to bring in someone from the outside.

    3. Goofy*

      Agreed, I found Alison’s comment that “there’s no guarantee he would have gotten the job if you didn’t” to be off — the letter literally says that they were the final two candidates for the job, so by default if OP hadn’t taken it, friend would have gotten the offer. I think Alison just missed it.

      1. Blessed with Flushable Turds*

        No – Friend was an inbred candidate who probably wouldn’t have been hired and it would have turned a failed search.

        1. whistle*

          While universities generally do not like inbreeding, they would not have put him on the short list if that was a deal breaker for them.

        2. SimplyTheBest*

          What university would have gone through the trouble to interview, do campus visits, etc if that was an issue. Wouldn’t they have rejected him just from seeing his resume?

      2. HigherEd on Toast*

        But if OP hadn’t been in the search, someone else would have been, and they still might have hired that person over her friend. There’s no guarantee that, “OP wasn’t in that search, friend gets it.” For all he knows, he might have been up against an even stronger candidate who has no idea who he is.

      3. Old Biddy*

        I’ve seen a lot of departmental searches that do not make a second offer if the candidate declines. There has to be consensus that they want to hire candidate 2, and this is suprisingly uncommon. It’s very different that hiring in other industries. So friend might not have gotten the job even if LW3 had declined.

    4. Frankie*

      Another higher ed person here. LW did nothing wrong and I definitely blame the “best friend.” Sure, maybe a little distance in the friendship makes sense, but you don’t ghost your best friend for six months if you care about the friendship more than you do your own success.

      I will say that I’ve seen friendships fall apart in situations like this when there’s already competition and imbalance, so maybe the friendship was always on a shaky foundation. But, interestingly, what I’ve always seen is the person who perceives themselves to be in a stronger position is the one who can’t handle when the other person starts to see their own success. Pretty revealing about the BF.

      And also, many academic departments don’t even like to bring in their own undergrads for PhDs, much less hire their PhDs as faculty. There are exceptions, but particularly for tenure track positions, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an alum get one of those.

    5. NW Mossy*

      Even accepting your premise that the OP took this job away from her friend, does that really change the advice Alison offered? Short of the OP resigning her position and somehow guaranteeing that vacancy for her friend (which she probably doesn’t have the power to do), there’s really not much else to offer other than “hey, I still want to be your friend if you’re up for it.”

  41. Lily in NYC*

    I see a ton of comments specific to concussions, but I think that’s a bit of a red herring. It doesn’t really matter what the health issue was – it’s just not a great idea to mention it in an interview. The only time I think it would be ok is if the person is interviewing at a place that specifically deals with that issue – for example, I have a friend with asthma who works at the National Asthma Association.

  42. MCMonkeyBean*

    I love Halloween and costumes so much I actually usually ask about it in interviews! I feel like it helps me get a sense of the overall office culture of the office to ask if people get into Halloween. At my last two jobs the response indicated that a few people might dress up but it wasn’t super common. In my first interview they reminisced about a time someone dressed up as a big calculator (we are accountants). For me, as long as it wasn’t forbidden, that was good enough.

    I think it somewhat depends on what the costume is too. Not just that it’s not *inappropriate* but there are plenty of costumes that can be made entirely out of normal work-appropriate clothes. One year I dressed as the 11th doctor with a pair of black work pants and white button down shirt, adding some suspenders and a bow tie borrowed from my husband. Another year I dressed as Archie Andrews with orange pants, a white work shirt, a black sweatervest with an “R” for Riverdale (a small one up in the corner though instead of the big one he wears mostly because that’s what I found at Joann’s) and a little green bowtie necklace I found on Amazon. …I promise my costumes aren’t all bowtie based lol.

  43. OP1*

    Thanks for your response, Alison. I kind of figured I’d get the stick-in-the-mud answer but I think I just needed to hear it from someone else that it would not be a great idea. I’ll play it safe and not wear a costume to my new job.

    For me the joy of Halloween is less about Halloween and more about the socially sanctioned excuse to wear things that are very much not normal clothes, so for me it’s full costume or nothing. So I won’t be bothering with a small accessory or Halloween colours or a not-obviously-a-costume type of costume as others are suggesting.

    1. Syfygeek*

      OP1, if you’re a Walking Dead fan, do what I did a few years ago. I wore a printed blouse, slacks and a cardigan. And I had a tray of cookies. I was Suburban Carol. Only a few folks got it, but when they did, they knew to take a cookie and walk away.

      1. ChimericalOne*

        I mean, they just said that what they like about Halloween is the chance to wear things that are “very much not normal clothes” and that there’s no point, to them, in wearing a “not-obviously-a-costume type of costume.” So I think we can safely assume “subtle costume” is not their cup of tea.

    2. MOAS*

      I hear you! I f it helps, I love socializing but I don’t really do costumes but I still socialize. You can’t really go wrong with a small accessory like ears or a mask or wearing all black. Like someone said above, those are really quick and easy to take off if you find yourself out of place. Last year, I went as a cat, so I wore a regular black dress and leggings adn just did makeup (and of course cat ears).

    3. ChimericalOne*

      I’m sorry people don’t seem to be really “hearing” you, even now that you’ve posted directly to say that you’re not interested in small accessories or subtle costumes. I totally get the thrill of going total goth, or dressed to the nines in ostentatious flash, or other dramatic costumes. I hope you get lucky with your new workplace & find that you’d fit right in for next year!

      1. OP1*

        Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to listen to what I’m saying, and for your kind words. I hope next year I can go all out!

  44. CupcakeCounter*

    Someone else said it but save the full costume for next year. This year, talk to your manager and the people working closest to you and if they do dress up, go light and stick with a more accessory based costume like a witches hat.
    I would also shy away from anything that paints you as overly young or naive (not sure how early you are in your career).

  45. Ulf*

    #3–Since there are various degrees of severity among concussions, I’d be curious about what your doctor recommended you do following the injury.

    In effect, I would think one of these two things if I interviewed you and you talked about working through a concussion:

    *Your doctor recommended that you resume normal activities relatively quickly after the concussion, and you followed the doctor’s orders. Which is fine, but suggests the concussion was fairly mild, and thus the story doesn’t really demonstrate grit; or

    *Your doctor recommended a long period of rest (since the concussion was serious business), but you did not follow the doctor’s orders. Which you may have had reason for, but which calls your judgment into question.

    Either way it doesn’t seem like you’d be getting the reaction you’d be looking for.

  46. MOAS*

    #1– I’m going to be a stick in the mud for this one, even though normally I’m of the type that loves socializing with coworkers and team building stuff etc—there’s just something to be said for someone who gets too comfortable too fast. Even in my company, where we’re super relaxed, going all out on a costume (whether it’s offensive or not) the first week or two is a bit…too much. Just like, if it’s your first week and you’re like “omg so glad for Friday!” “Yay happy hour!” I can’t articulate why it feels and looks weird but Alison nailed it.

  47. OP4*

    In a odd twist: my manager is female!

    I’d like to thank Allison for the advice! Unfortunately our current HR put their two weeks in and their last day was the 22nd. I believe we’ve hired her replacement, but she’s yet to be in the office. :(

    1. MMB*

      Someone upthread mentioned this, don’t know if you saw it, but is it at all possible that they’re frosty because you’re in their space and it upsets their routine or creates some other unseen issue for them? It doesn’t change the fact that your boss is handling things in a less than ideal manner but addressing that possibility in a casual, non-confrontational way could provide some answers and a better solution.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        I think it’s telling that they start out “nice” and then go frosty. Like something is switching gears in their minds about the people as individuals. It’s not just straight up frosty from the get go!

        I wonder if they’re asking the admin for things that aren’t admin jobs…my stormy little raincloud of a former coworker sucked at saying “Actually this isn’t my job, please ask Other Person.” she just rolled her eye and huffed about it, then promptly forgot you asked her whatever you did or for whatever thing you asked for, etc.

        So yeah, if there’s a wrong procedure in place and they’re getting bent out of shape over it, that could be really the problem here. It’s strange the OP’s boss assumes it’s based on gender.

    2. cmcinnyc*

      Women can be just as sexist as men. That she only wants to hire men is not ok, regardless of her own gender.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sexism knows no gender in particular. Just go back to the women who thought we shouldn’t be allowed to vote!!!!

      Having a gap between HR *shivers* That’s not a good life choice for the company.

      1. SimplyTheBest*

        I mean, tons of places don’t even have HR. Having a gap of a few days (the 22nd was just two days ago) shouldn’t be a big deal.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The places that don’t have HR are also a nest of angry bees.

          A lot of places aren’t OSHA compliant and a BOLI nightmare on wheels. That doesn’t make that acceptable behavior either.

  48. Not Elizabeth*

    #5: Hmmm. I wouldn’t be surprised if “eliminating the opportunity to chip in as much as you can afford or nothing at all” was the reason they instituted the social committee fee — that is, preventing some people from free-riding while others bear all the costs. If you want to have social events at work, someone has to pay for it, and if the employer can’t or won’t (that’s the case where I work), employees have to chip in. So yes, see if you can opt out of the whole system, but consider that there will be social and possibly professional consequences to doing so.

  49. Blessed with Flushable Turds*

    Academia is a wholly different thing. Alison, may I suggest you leave anything academic related to ask-the-audience days?

    1. Bring something to change.
    2. They probably wouldn’t have hired him anyway for inbreeding. You got the one golden ticket over hundreds or thousands of other applicants. You’re not required to feel guilty about this, and if this is only your first time beating out friends (I doubt it), it for sure won’t be the last time. It’s the name of the game.
    3. OMG NO. The search committee will tag you as “special” and not in a good way.
    4. I’m imaging a university here too (or hospital, national lab, etc), where you work for one department that does environmental testing throughout another building which is populated by admin staff that report to someone else? Yeah – you can’t control a) what those admin people do, b) how your boss perceives the problem, c) what your boss does. You *can* say, “Hey HR, this guy thinks he can use gender/sex in making hiring decisions. Is that cool?” and let them take it from there.
    5. In school environments, everyone is pinching pennies, everything is collaborative, everyone needs everyone else, and you can’t opt out of any of that right off the bat. Pay what you can.

    1. awesome*

      Completely disagree with you number five. Yes, people talk about teachers not making enough, but there is a HUGE pay disparity between what teachers/counselors/librarians make and what the hourly staff makes at a public school. Yes everyone needs everyone else, but snacks for your coworker’s baby shower isn’t one of the things they need you for.

      1. Roscoe*

        Its not really about what they NEED you for. Its about the environment and getting to know your peers. In schools, you just don’t get as much time to do that as in private sector jobs (I’ve done both). So those baby showers/breakfasts/happy hours become the way to get to know your coworkers. Her choosing to not go to those things would be a bad decision, especially her first year there

    2. Carlie*

      I think Alison does well with the academic questions, and doesn’t often overstep what she does and doesn’t know about that environment. I like having the variety of questions that shows that not all workplaces are the same.

      I’ve seen several people say that they wouldn’t have hired the friend in #2 for inbreeding. I’d say that’s probably not the case. If that’s really their policy/culture, they wouldn’t have even brought him in for an in-person interview. Those slots are expensive and it’s really difficult to bring in more if the first batch doesn’t work out, so there’s no way they’d spend the money and time to bring in someone they know they’re probably not going to hire. And normally searches bring in three candidates, or even four. If they really only brought in two, they definitely wouldn’t waste one of those spots on a courtesy interview.

      That said, they may have been open to it but he came on way too strong in rah-rah-alumni mode, with unrealistic expectations about what it would be like to work there, and that did turn them off. But there’s no way to know. What you do know is that they wanted you, and there’s nothing to feel bad about in that. Almost nobody gets to have their “dream” job in academia, especially with respect to location. You didn’t take away anything from him, and he had no reason that he should have expected it. He might feel too let down to be a good friend, but it’s nothing you did wrong.

      1. OP2*

        Hi Carlie! Thanks for your insight. I think that’s a very rational read of it. As it happens, I found that it was between the two of us in the end, which is pretty crazy, but in the end, they felt I was a better fit. I think the inbreeding is a big thing too – not for every situation but it can definitely be a count against a candidate as they usually want to bring in new perspectives. I will probably at least leave the door open for him- I care about him very much, at the very least, it’s in both our interests to be “professional” friendly especially being in a small field.

  50. Now in the Job (formerly Not Desperate for the Job)*

    Curious on a slight twist to #1–Halloween is going to be during my *third* week at the office. I’ve already done some work and people seem (at least somewhat) impressed with what I’ve done. Safe to dress up, or nay? Generally my department doesn’t, but there are two people who definitely want to and have asked me what I’m going to do since it came up during our department welcome lunch. I was thinking a Starfleet officer would be subtle enough–it’s really just the top with black pants and black shoes…I think going all out with the Bajoran nose ridges would definitely be in the “too much” camp!

    Generally I don’t attend meetings, and I could easily wear a solid shirt underneath it and bring a sweater to throw over top if I needed to. The whole company apparently gets really into it…except for, specifically, my department. XD

    1. Mockingjay*

      It’s a wait and see, to me. You could be in an office (like mine, ha!) in which everyone says, “oh, yeah, I’m dressing up. I’ve got elaborate costume X planned! We all do!” Then on Halloween, 90% of them don’t wear a costume. “The wig didn’t arrive from Amazon.” “Didn’t have time.” “Got called into a meeting.” And so on.

    2. MCMonkeyBean*

      In my personal opinion, a costume that is just a show-specific shirt with normal pants and shoes should be totally fine in an office where you know other people are dressing up. But I’ve commented elsewhere that I always wear a costume to work on Halloween so other people will probably say otherwise.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I think this is a safe thing to do.

      I would simply steer away from anything that’s you know, attached to/or painted on your face kind of stuff. Think about what you’ll do if an unexpected visitor shows up and you need to be taken seriously.

      Something that’s easy to blend in with like a shirt/low key theme is just that, lowkey and not going to stand out much in the event that something goes sideways and you need to talk to an officer of some kind.

      This is why I like accessories the best. I can toss a headband if I need to run out to put out a fire or fire someone that day unexpectedly. Nobody wants to be fired by a frigging Teletubbie you know?

    4. Close Bracket*

      In your shoes, I would totally do a subtle costume. I’m about 6 mo into my job and debating whether to wear a subtle costume to work. It’s pretty straight-laced here. I think some people would like it, but I don’t know how much the people who wouldn’t like it would look down on me. Decisions, decisions …

  51. AnotherAlison*

    OP#2- It may not help your friendship survive, but it may make you feel better if you consider that your new job was not meant to be for your friend. Perhaps moving back to his home town and alma mater would have caused unforeseen problems in his life. It’s not the intended path for him.

    I’m not a woo-woo person, but about 6 years ago, I was recruited for a role in corporate strategy at a former company that I really, really wanted. I had something like 4 interviews over 3 months. The recruiter was saying things like we just need Mr. EVP to get back from his trip to Asia and we’ll get the paperwork to you. I didn’t get the job. Very soon after, the CEO retired an a new CEO was promoted. That EVP left the company within a year. I moved out of the strategy group at my current company and am doing something different, and I’m glad I didn’t get that job. Easy to make the narrative fit in hindsight, but really, he will probably be glad he didn’t get that role for one reason or another eventually.

  52. Quill*

    1) I need to know about the costumes, because I have a bat sweater. So far no one in my group has mentioned a bring-your-kids or any other event so I think I’m out of luck though. If your office hasn’t mentioned an event, they probably don’t celebrate.

    3) There are a lot of grades of concussion, with different symptoms and severity and generally the only people who know a lot about them have either had someone in their life affected by one or are medical professionals. I’d avoid bringing it up because it smacks of ‘I overcame my (temporary) disability with a can-do attitude!’ which just isn’t always possible for people. Short recovery times don’t demonstrate grit: they demonstrate luck and quality of care.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Don’t wait for people to mention it, ask your boss! I’m very curious about this bat sweater. Like a sweater where the sleeves look like wings? That sounds really cute.

      1. Quill*

        The sleeves are connected to body, and wing shaped. And my boss is out this week, maybe I’ll hit up our admin. :)

  53. Cyrus*

    #1, office-friendly Halloween ideas: Clark Kent. Glasses with frames all the way around the lens, black slacks, a necktie, a white button-down shirt, and under the shirt, a Superman t-shirt. If other people are in costume, then loosen the necktie and unbutton the white shirt. If everyone else is businesslike, then it’s a totally normal day, or maybe you were just a bit more formal than usual because you had a meeting or something.

  54. Peaches*

    #1 – This reminds me of the office episode where Pam is working at the corporate office. She dresses as Charlie Chaplin, only to realize no one dresses up for Halloween. She can’t take the hat off either, because then she’s accidentally Hitler (so, just a snippet of how full costumes might be too much – haha). At the most, I’d do an accessory-type costume. However, I wouldn’t even do that unless you heard that others in the office dress up for Halloween.

  55. 4Sina*

    RE: Not Hiring Women – and yet, men keep trying to maintain that STEM fields aren’t heavily misogynistic (one instance in particular of a white cis man I knew who vocally believed he wasn’t getting a fare shake because women were in his lab comes to mind). I wish LW, Pam, and the potential new hire best of luck with this lab and genuinely hope the culture gets reckoned with soon.

    1. 4Sina*

      (Here, I’m talking about the lab that is “frosty” – it’s also important to point out that in STEM, women can and very much do punch down or compete with other women, because misogyny in science often creates space or opportunities for One Woman when in truth there are multiple opportunities, and I’m sure this is is the case in many fields. I don’t know if this 100% applies to LW 4, but it’s A Thing.)

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Considering that OP just added a comment upthread saying their manager IS a woman, I expect it’s this kind of thing. :-/

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Bucket crab syndrome in STEM and tech is a very real thing. I’ve lost count of the number of (figurative) knives in my back because I wasn’t the “right” kind of woman in the job, or was competition for another female appearing person. I personally have a policy of boosting and amplifying my female coworkers, but many women don’t – if anything the opposite. Some of my worst managers in this field have been women who favored the men on the team.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Yes–and to some women who boost other women, those “other women” do not usually include women who are admins. When I’ve seen an admin mentored toward advancement, she’s usually very young and just starting out.

  56. TooTiredToThink*

    #1 – Definitely ask around. I usually agree with Alison and if you have a standard office environment she is right; but I was shocked to find out at a job – also in my first week – that the managers of that job would go hog-wild over any chance to dress up. It was highly encouraged (but respected if people didn’t participate).

    #3 – Alison is so right here. Unless you’ve had a concussion or know someone closely enough that you’ve heard about what’s happened; people don’t understand the seriousness of concussions. I blame tv shows and movies where people regularly have concussions or have been knocked out and they just jump back up into the fight. But also – good for you! I hope you are fully recovered from the concussion.

  57. Shadowbelle*

    OP#1: Whether you should wear a costume depends on not only your company, but also your job. Personally, I loathe it when people wear Halloween costumes to work. It makes it very difficult for me to work with them because it’s hard for me to concentrate on complex technical and business issues when I am talking to someone who is wearing face paint and a costume. So, if you were one of my colleagues and asking for my advice, I’d say, “Anything beyond orange and black normal clothes, or a piece of jewelry, or something equally non-distracting: not this Halloween, not ever.” This advice comes from someone whose department has a yearly costume contest because they think it improves “employee engagement” (a term I have come to despise).

    1. Jamie*

      I have the same issue and I was wondering how the pro-costume people deal with serious business matters that day.

      I had to have a very serious conversation with a report once, that couldn’t have waited, and that’s really hard to do when all I could focus on was this tiny glittered top hat perched atop her head as part of her costume.

    2. Close Bracket*

      it’s hard for me to concentrate on complex technical and business issues when I am talking to someone who is wearing face paint and a costume.

      Is this something you could work on to change about yourself? People don’t become less technical or business oriented bc they put face paint on. You are letting your perceptions influence you unduly.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I am very pro costume but I like trying to make a costume out of clothes that are work-appropriate (though maybe a little more casual). I would feel like face paint or wigs is a little too far, though I’m sure there are a lot of offices where that is normal (and I sort of wish I worked in one).

  58. Shadowbelle*

    OP#3: No, do not mention your concussion. I have a traumatic brain injury that has been causing me various difficulties for decades. I have NEVER mentioned it in an interview, because it doesn’t impact my ability to do my job, it doesn’t need any special accommodations, and it’s none of their business.

  59. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Working with a concussion isn’t gritty, it’s dangerous and can lead to horrifying consequences! Are you from a sports background? This line of thinking is what’s ended multiple athletic careers and ended in loss of lives. It’s why sports organizations have been forced to retool their treatment and clearance of traumatic brain injuries.

    Please read about CTE and wash your line of thinking about how gritty and badass it is to disregard a brain injury. One concussion makes you more likely to get another. Many go undiagnosed because of the “he’s up and walking now, nobody needs a doctor, rub some dirt on it! It’ll make you stronger! Put em in coach!” Mentality that is killing people in the end.

    So yeah. Don’t bring it up. Some of us know too much about concussions to think it’s a triumph to go against doctors orders.

  60. Arctic*

    Luckily, I don’t have a lot of experience with concussions. But I would be worried about opening the door considering all the news about CTE and head injuries leading to long lasting neurological disorders. (Sure, I don’t think one concussion leads to that but I also don’t know for sure.)
    An employer might think “could this person end up with long-term health disorder that impacts their work?” Of course, it’s an illegal thing to consider in hiring. But you would have opened the door and it would be hard to prove.
    Trying to prove grit could cost you the job.

    1. Arctic*

      Also, I’m obviously ignorant about the issue and that’s immediately where my mind went. Because it is so present in the news. So, even if you get an interviewer who doesn’t know how dangerous it is from experience or actual knowledge they won’t automatically think “woah, grit!”

  61. BlueWolf*

    #1: Sadly, my office doesn’t do Halloween costumes (we’re a law firm, so somewhat conservative). I do have some Halloween socks I’ll probably wear though. Funky socks are generally a safe bet (unless you’re at a really conservative workplace) because they’re not too in-your-face (literally haha). A subtle Halloween accessory like earrings or other jewelry would be fine too, I think.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      My office does them, but I don’t participate. Anything I would wear for a costume would have to be store-bought, and it’s hard enough finding decent plus-size costumes for adults that are appropriate for work dress codes. I could always go as a Star Trek officer, having multiple Star Trek polos and being a member of a fan club, but I wouldn’t win any creativity awards.

  62. Jamie*

    If someone I interviewed told the concussion story it would be a huge strike against anyone who could end up in a management role.

    The mind set of working through serious injury or illness as being a positive thing is all too common and not something I find appropriate in a manager. I worked at a place where a guy was praised to the heavens for only taking one day off when his wife had her leg amputated and held up as the standard bearer for commitment to work.

    IOW it sends a message, but not the message the OP wants to send for some of us.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*


      It’s like those who seemingly brag about never taking vacation or sick days or using medical insurance! It sends up a message that you may discourage others from taking time off.

      I actually told our CEO it’s crucial he use his PTO and unplug sometimes to show everyone that is how we want things done. Use your time off. Take care of yourself. Go to a doctor if you need one.

      I “Good boy”ed him in a meeting when he mentioned it and used it as a driving point is to remove yourself from work at least a few times a year and do something else.

      I bristle at “oh never needed a sick day!” responses during new hire orientation. And respond with “they’re here to use as needed, we want people to take time off when they need it.” Slowly but surely they start seeing others use them and they’re shyly asking about taking a day off because they feel sick or have a sick kid. And they get the reinforcement of “of course, feel better. Let us know before next shift if you’ll be able to return or not. Take time and heal or handle your health or family health whatever.”

      1. Jamie*

        I wonder how many of the never needed a sick day people are bringing that up because they’ve been scarred by toxic workplaces who shame or otherwise punish people for being human.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I assume it’s 99% of them! That’s why I try to crush it upon arrival and be kind but firm about the whole thing.

          It’s manufacturing…production people are often bullied into thinking that they’re so replaceable that if they dare to call in sick, they’ll be fired and that sick-time or PTO is just a trap or just for management. YUCK.

          I’ve seen it first hand when I was younger and now I’m too big for my britches and call it for what it is. Tyrannical management who doesn’t care about turnover. I like not being always-hiring.

    2. Amber Rose*

      This! I’d be more impressed by someone who actually took the necessary time to recover, since I feel like the attitude of “must continue to the detriment of my own health” is the more common one, and it’s a bad one. I don’t wanna work with someone who works themselves to death or a long hospital stay. That’s not grit, it’s obsession.

    3. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, that’s a big red flag for the kind of manager who retaliates against people for being out sick.

      (OT: I love your Hello Kitty on a broomstick gravatar!)

  63. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I wouldn’t go too crazy with Halloween or any holiday in particular. You don’t know the culture or the people. Lots of people won’t say it to your face that they think poorly upon adults who celebrate what’s usually seen as a kids holiday but it’ll still be a mark against you in their minds.

    At least let them get to know you first. I don’t care in the end what anyone thinks about my dorky behaviors but I always try to “blend in” the best I can for the first 6 months. You’re going to depend on these people to help on board you. So come in like a lamb not a lion. Feel free to dress as a lion next year though ;)

    I decorate for every holiday. I’m a sucker for a theme. But I only drag it out after firmly establishing myself to protect others and myself…from myself :p

  64. Greenfordanger*

    In respect of the OP who is stretched to come up with the 30 dollars, I agree that she shouldn’t be pushed into it – although there are risks because she will then be on the outside of what may be important bonding events with co-workers. But more alarming is that she has decided to forego paying union dues. I’m not sure how that is possible unless she is at a workplace that is not unionized and she has decided to forego paying dues to a union that would allow her to continue to do so but whatever the case, this is not a good idea. The union offers at least some form of protection and if her workplace actually is unionized, its the opportunity to have a say on the type of benefits that are bargained for. Union dues may seem unnecessary until you need the protection of collective bargaining and a union behind you.

    1. Arctic*

      Union dues can’t be mandatory in several “right to work” states. But it is definitely a mistake. And I hope she doesn’t expect to get the advantages without paying in.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      27 states are Right To Work states. So you cannot be forced to join a union.

      I’m lukewarm on unions, I’ve seen them do wonderful things and I’ve seen them just steal your money and give you no protections or assistance. So it’s a personal choice and shouldn’t be pressured.

  65. Jennifer*

    Re: best friends

    I don’t think the friend has done anything wrong here. He is disappointed he didn’t get the job. If you didn’t get the job, you would have been disappointed as well, however, the stakes are higher for him because the job was in his hometown near his family. It doesn’t mean that he’s not happy for you. He congratulated you and apologized for ghosting. I think you may be imagining that he’s really upset with you when it’s not the case.

    Not getting the job may have been the last straw in a long string of disappointments you don’t know about and he may just be depressed. Or maybe it was too difficult to hear you talk about your great new job at first so he kept his distance. The lack of communication could be due to any number of things that have nothing to do with you personally. Check in with him occasionally and let him know you still care and will be there when he’s ready to come back to you. Best wishes.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I don’t know that the stakes were higher for the friend since he already had tenure track and the LW seems not to. Professionally, that would mean the stakes were a whole lot higher for the LW.

      Not getting the job might be a small part of the ghosting, but the ghosting itself is a pretty poor way to treat a “best friend” no matter what else is going on in your life.

      1. Jennifer*

        The personal stakes were higher for the friend, I guess I should have specified that.

        As far as it being a poor way to treat a friend, I disagree. He congratulated her and then he took a step back. I’ve needed to take a break from certain people when I was going through tough times. It reminds me of how it can be difficult to be around a friend that’s blissfully happy in a new relationship when you’re heartbroken and going through a difficult breakup. Doesn’t mean you aren’t happy for them, but sometimes you have to take care of you.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Yeah…I think that he’s just sulking more than anything. Let him wallow and leave him alone about it.

      When people ghost me, I assume that it’s them, not me. Try to not take it so personally. Even my cousin goes radio silent for awhile and I found out it’s because she’s in a horrible marriage [along with having children, so super busy lady and emotionally donezo]. I just give her space and we will reconnect when the time is right.

      Part of relationships, both romantic and platonic is that you trust each other to come back to you when they’re ready or you can also just decide it’s not worth it and end the friendship yourself. But really, just disappearing is a lot of people’s coping mechanism.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Yeah I think the only issue here is that the BFF should have given a short “I’m going through some emotional/mental stuff right now and really need space. If I’m not responsive for awhile, it’s just be getting the cobwebs out of my head, I’m not dead and not mad, just you know, dealing.”

          But you also have to have that kind of relationship to do that. It could be that OP and BFF aren’t really compatible as best friends in the end given this episode. Which is acceptable as well but yeah, the BFF isn’t in the wrong if that’s the case. Neither of them is. It’s just that one thing that teaches you to adjust your people when you need to. Sadly many of us outgrow or change enough over the course of life.

          I say this as someone who a few years ago had to cut a long term best friend loose because we weren’t healthy for each other.

    3. CM*

      I agree — I think both the OP and a lot of commenters are conflating the OP’s impostor syndrome and feelings of guilt with the friend’s actions. The friend isn’t making OP feel that way! That’s a completely separate issue. All the friend has actually said is “congratulations” and, later, “I miss you and I’m sorry for being out of touch.”

    4. OP2*

      Hi Jennifer- I’m OP2 :) Thank you for the insight. It’s a very rational way of looking at it. This is me talking of course, but I think I was in a more desperate situation, as he already has a TT position, but I DO see where you are coming from, and its where I get the feeling that I took something from him. If I hadnt gotten the job he would have. I care about him so I feel guilt. I know there are other things/pressures going on in his life and I expected some pull back when I told him, I suppose I just didn’t expect the extent of it. I will try to leave the door open for him. Thanks again :)

  66. incompetemp's colleague*

    #1, why don’t you bring your costume with you and if you see a lot of people dressing up, change into it during one of your breaks? :)

    1. OP1*

      Hmm, something worth considering, thanks! My costume will wrinkle easily and also take up most of the space in my bag so it may not be feasible, but I’ll definitely think about it.

      1. Close Bracket*

        Fold it carefully with tissue paper? Do you have a costume from a previous year that doesn’t wrinkle that you can recycle just for work (and wear this year’s costume in the evening)?

  67. mindovermoneychick*

    #1 if by chance you hear the do go all out, and people are really enthusiastic about it, then yes you should wear your custom. We had this exact scenario in my old company, a couple of new people starting just days before Halloween when that was a big thing in our company. We always scheduled our yearly all-hands meeting for that morning, had catered food and award prizes for the best custom. The new people dressed up in full custom and it the higher ups were thrilled. They scored big points.

    Caveat, I should add is that we told them in advance Halloween was big – they didn’t even have to ask. So that might be your cue. If people aren’t really mentioning Halloween it’s probably not going to be that big.

  68. HRAwry*

    Ah, I learned the hard way not to wear costumes. There was a year where I had to terminate an executive while wearing fake blood and a full costume. I’m sure he laughs about it now but at the time it was really embarrassing for everyone.

    1. Amber Rose*

      This is both the funniest thing I’ve read about someone getting fired, and the strongest case of second hand embarrassment I’ve had in a while.

      1. Fuzzy Lady*

        I once worked at a summer camp, and cut my finger badly and had to go to urgent care while dressed head-to-toe as a pirate.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      This is where my mind went! What if something happens like this or you get an OSHA visit that day. I don’t want to be talking to safety inspectors while I’m in full costume.

      So I’m pro “low key” celebrations. I mention it above, I can toss off a headband or remove a sheet over my clothes for a formal issue that pops up.

    3. Jennifer*

      Reminds me of The Office when Jim dressed up in a tuxedo to as a joke because of something Dwight said, then corporate (in the form of Idris Elba!) showed up for a visit he didn’t know about.

  69. Dust Bunny*

    LW1: I absolutely love Hallowe’en–one of my grandmothers had her birthday on Hallowe’en and I will envy that forever–but if you’re new I would go with a fun (but removable, just in case) accessory. If it turns out that costumes are a thing, you can dive in next year.

  70. Amber Rose*

    The office across the street from ours has a huge Halloween celebration, with a potluck, costume contest, fully decorated office, etc. I was there for the aftermath, it was pretty astonishing. I’m jealous as hell too, since I’ve only worked one place where dressing up was a common thing and I was only there for one Halloween (I won the costume contest that time lol.)

    I’m allowed to dress up here, but since nobody really does I don’t wanna be the odd one out. I usually wear a silly hat or cat ears or have a little mask on my desk or something just for fun though, and my boss has a unicorn wig.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      My way of getting around others not doing things…is low key extra encouragement.

      I once bought an assortment of cute animal masks in and left them in our breakroom. Then people would see them and go “LOL these are cute” and I’d have someone pop into my office wearing one all “OMG! These! Masks! Tho!”

      Dollar stores, man. Keep me outta them.

      I always tell people that don’t be scared by my gingerbread house home, I’m not stuffing kids into ovens, I just really like candy and I’ll fatten anyone up on it that wants to join in.

  71. Vicky Austin*

    #1: if they tell you at work “we’re having a Halloween party at lunch and giving a prize for the best costume!” go for it.
    Otherwise, just wear a simple Halloween themed accessory, like a pair of skull earrings or a tie with pumpkins on it.

  72. Jennifer*

    Re: Not hiring women

    I think that the admins would be frosty to any new person that was hired. They are just a cliquey group. Maybe the boss will realize this once a man is hired and he is treated the same way.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I find it telling that they seem to be “nice” for awhile and then go frosty. This is mean-girl behavior. You are sweet as pie and trying to lure them in. Then you find out they’re not “one of you” and you ice them out.

      Instead of hiring a man, you need to figure out why they’re acting rudely and then get rid of the toxic waste dump wherever it may sit in the admin pool. It shouldn’t be made a “Lab” problem that they can’t behave like adults.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Or even one true ringleader in my experience.

          We had one person with a frosty annoying attitude when I started. It made people flinch a bit when asking her a question. And it bled into her team, they weren’t nearly as bad but the vibe in the department…just nope. She left and the little storm cloud left the building with her!

          Lots of time people will feed into that mentality just because it’s their energy sucking ways. Flush the turd, y’all!

  73. SomebodyElse*

    I see LW 1 chimed in already… but one thing that I didn’t see mentioned. I would be very careful with costume on Day 1… isn’t that normally when your id badge picture is taken (not to mention the one that gets plastered around all the MS office applications and email?

    While that may be a great conversation starter for the next few years, I’m not sure walking around with your ID picture sporting the Charlie Brown, Elmo, or Freddie Kruger look will be all that great… not to mention starting that skype meeting looking like little bo peep will lend much credibility :)

  74. Colorado*

    OP #1: I wouldn’t do it. And now I can’t get the picture of Reese wearing the bunny costume in Legally Blonde ;-) Maybe I’m getting older and crabby, but I just don’t get the adults dressing up for Halloween at work thing. It’s hard enough to figure out a costume for my kiddo.

    1. Bland*

      I agree. Even if you ask around and find out that “everyone dresses up” – just don’t. My team was new in the month leading up to Halloween one year and we asked our boss about dressing up. She cheerfully said lots of people dress up. So we dressed up and were the only ones! That was an awkward day.

  75. Violet Fox*

    As a general question, just how common is it for work-places to celebrate Halloween/have people in costume, etc?

    1. CM*

      I think it varies a lot. I’ve had a bunch of different office jobs — at some of them you’d get a handful of people wearing an orange sweater and no other acknowledgment of Halloween, at some lots of people would be in full costume. I’ve never been somewhere where absolutely everybody dresses up.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It really does vary drastically depending on roles and industry.

      Our shipping company rep, comes in full dress for all holidays.

      Whereas most of the coworkers I’ve had will maybe add something holiday themed but dressing up, no.

      Years ago I had a guy dress up as a Minion. It was hilarious because he was out there using heavy machinery in his outfit. But that’s the only time someone went all in, everyone else just wears some mouse ears. I’m a mouse, duh.

    3. Reliquary*

      I’ve never seen it at any job I have ever held in my entire life, and because of that, it always strikes me as odd when folks talk about adults dressing up in costumes at work.

      (Yes, I have held a lot of jobs in many different industries over a period of decades, and I’m in the US.)

  76. fieldpoppy*

    I’m a bit late to the Halloween (Comment) party, but I was thinking about this all day. Last Halloween I was facilitating a big strategy planning meeting in a hospital. We had planned to do mini video interviews with some of the participants as part of the package for communicating the strategy more broadly. Great idea when we planned it, but we didn’t factor in the costume factor — it wasn’t an official thing, but about 20% of the people dressed up, so we now have this video about very serious patient safety stuff where two of the interviewees were wearing scary costumes and you can see a giant cat pushing a cart in the background. Um. Sometimes you just don’t think through the implications ;-).

    So if I were the newbie, there is no way I would dress up — there are all the reasons other people have mentioned about your immediate environment, but what if that’s the day someone decides you have to get your ID badge? Or have a zoom meeting with people in some other place for the first time ? Or wants to interview you for some reason?

    I’d maybe bring some cat ears, as others have said, as a nod to playfulness, but only take them out when I was really sure that I would be one of many. And they could come off as needed.

    1. WellRed*

      I’m surprised it didn’t occur to the interviewees how that would look, though I love the image of the giant cat pushing a cart in the background

  77. IWishIHadAFancyUserName*

    OP 1, know — really *know* — your office culture before you go all out dressing up for Halloween. Better yet, err on the side of extreme caution, and just don’t. Save your fun for your personal time.

    My office is not really into Halloween dress-up: maybe spider web earrings, or an orange tie with a black shirt, but subtle, very subtle. Once upon a time, a new-ish employee wore a skin-tight (as in “how do you breathe in that thing?”) superhero bodysuit to work on Halloween. Super inappropriate and cringe-worthy for staff and clients. We referred to as the male stripper costume for years.

    As a new employee, you want to be careful to communicate that you understand the social norms of your office, and not be cringing for unexpected consequences years later.

  78. OP2*

    Thank you for answering my question, Alison! And thank you to everyone else for your insights and perspectives! I did want to clarify that I am in no way trying to force my friendship and gave plenty of space, and of course, he is absolutely entitled to his feelings.
    Academia can be lonely and can absolutely take from you and keep on taking. It’s so hard to even know if someone wants to be your friend, or just wants something from you, making real friendships rare and amazing.
    I care very much about this individual and I hate the idea of causing them pain in some way, thus my guilt.
    The guilty feelings may have also amplified my feelings of inadequacy/insecurities in the new job- but I will continue reminding myself that I was chosen because I was the right fit for the situation.
    I wish I had my friend back, I will leave it up to him. After considering some feedback I think that its probably worth a call and then to keep the door open, at the very least because we work in a small professional field and it’s in both of our interests to be collegial.
    Thank you again everyone :)

  79. Cats4Gold*

    LW1: Pro-tip, bring a tiny thing that can easily become a costume. Tuck a pair of black cat ears or horns or whatnot into your bag, and if you get to work and find that folks are wearing costumes, put them on!

  80. Op3*

    Hello all, and thank you so much for your feedback on my ask! I wanted to write in and clarify a few things.

    I know that some of you who have dealt with concussions were hurt by what I wrote. I’m so sorry! By no means was I trying to diminish what you’ve gone through, or say that I’m better than you in any way. That was not my intention at all—concussions are absolutely horrible, and I’m so sorry that so many of you have had to deal with them.

    I never knew how completely debilitating a concussion was before I experienced one — in the beginning, I couldn’t do simple things like washing the dishes, checking email, or anything that involved looking at a screen. I did take my recovery seriously; I was out for two weeks right after the concussion, worked reduced hours and took several days off after that, and also talked to my advisor and reworked my schedule so that I could work from home (I’m thankful my advisor understood!).

    But I was still severely limited in what I could do; sometimes I could only look at a few emails before the brain fog would set in and I would have to rest. I’m fortunate in that I did get better and was gradually able to start doing more, but in the beginning, I had very limited energy/capability. This definitely taught me to slow down and be more kind to myself (as opposed to the work-yourself-to-death mindset of academia. I’m still trying to unlearn all the bad habits that academia has ingrained in me over the years, such as the idea that productivity=self-worth).

    By no means am I fully recovered (still can’t drive on the highway and am prone to migraines), but I’m proud of what I have been able to do. One of you wrote about “personal Mt. Everests” , and this has definitely been a personal Everest for me. I’m proud of myself that I was able to make it through this difficult time, and I’m so thankful that I even did recover enough to get back to work and do the things that were important to me. I understand now that a personal Everest is not the same thing as a job-related accomplishment, and should not be confused for one.

    Thank you again for all of your insights, and again, I’m so sorry to all of you who are also recovering from concussions. I wish you the best in your recoveries!

  81. ladycrim*

    My first day at my job was on Halloween, and I love wearing costumes. Since I didn’t know the office culture, I did a low-key costume: black pants, a red sweater, and devil horns on a headband that could be easily removed. I got to work and two of my co-workers were in full costume, so the horns stayed on most of the day. I’m still at the job 19 years later, and still dress up on Halloween.

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