updates: everyone wants to play with my dog, the director-level typing tests, and more

It’s “where are you now?” month at Ask a Manager, and all December I’m running updates from people who had their letters here answered in the past. Here are four updates from past letter-writers.

1. Am I doing dog-friendly wrong?

Some of this got a little easier the longer I had been there. I bring him maybe once a week now, which is plenty. People seem to accept that I am just “uptight” about my dog and no longer push the boundaries. One thing that worked was giving him a little playtime where he could visit around for about 5-10 minutes a few times a day, which commenters suggested. People get their pets and cuddles and give him treats and then can get back to work. Usually I do this when I take him outside or heat up my lunch. I also successfully used the suggested scripts (“The gate is a must for me to feel comfortable bringing him.” and “He does so much better with the gate.”) I also started jokingly adding, “Don’t be fooled – he only ACTS like he doesn’t get any attention at home,” said winkingly and cheerfully to diffuse the tension if I do have to say no. Only once, with a particularly serial offender, did I have to say, “Please don’t let him out again without asking me first.” in a very measured, serious tone. It did work.

Over time, I noticed some of the other dogs would get into scrapes or have accidents because they weren’t monitored as closely and I think people realized that my dog was never involved in any of that because I keep him under my watchful eye! So some people naturally came to appreciate my approach. I am so glad I wrote because a few months ago a coworker started bringing an 8-week-old puppy every day and, as puppies do, he was constantly getting underfoot, nipping, and having negative interactions with other dogs, and it helped me to just be the established “stick-in-the-mud” so people knew not even to ask “Oh, can’t they play, wouldn’t it be cute, etc.” and let me introduce my dog to the puppy in my own time. My dog hasn’t had an issue, and it was rewarding to feel like it was because I set boundaries and stuck to them. I think folks also saw that what I was doing really was in my dog’s interest, as well, not just mine.

Thank you and the readers for the wonderful advice!

2. Employer had me take typing and spelling tests for a director-level position (#2 at the link)

I always really appreciate you and your readers; I was feeling like I was too close to the situation to really fairly evaluate whether the crazy tests they made me take were actually crazy. Your community was super thoughtful and gave me some possible context for the tests that I had not considered, and also confirmed my instincts. Sometimes it’s just nice to know that other people would have the same reaction you are having, you know?

As I mentioned in a comment on that post, I actually did go to the interview the next day. I went because I really wanted to ask, “So, what’s the logic behind vetting high-level candidates with these kinds of tests?” But I didn’t get a chance – the interview started 15 minutes late and wasn’t with a company employee, but with an outside consultant who was managing their marketing department (!). In the 45 minutes that I spent with this (admittedly very nice) person, I didn’t get a word in edgewise – she didn’t ask me a single question. When she realized we were out of time, she asked if I could stay longer and I said no.

Oddly, despite that, I was invited to the next round of interviews, and again, I went – I figured that it was worth seeing this process through to the end for several reasons: 1) I was truly very unhappy in my job at the time, so even just being invited to interviews helped boost my morale; 2) If this new place gave me an offer, I wanted to see what they thought I was worth; 3) It might lead to more amusing anecdotes. The next round was actually surprisingly normal, all things considered. There were a couple of interviewers that I connected well with, a couple that I didn’t, and I figured that if the offer came my way, I would evaluate it and go from there.

Luckily, the offer did not come. HR called me a few days later and told me that they’d decided to go with a candidate with more experience than I have – which I think was a really good idea for them. At the end of the day, I don’t think the company really knew what they were looking for. They seemed to want someone to come in and “fix marketing,” and I’m not the right candidate for that at this point in my career.

I continued to interview through December and January and in late January had a first interview with an amazing company for a role that would be a promotion. If I wasn’t a realist, I would call it my “dream job.” They told me that their process typically takes eight weeks, but I received an awesome offer at the beginning of February – just a week and a half after our first contact. I accepted and have been working here for nine months now, and I absolutely love it. It’s the happiest I have ever been professionally, and I hope to be able to stay here for many years to come.

3. I was fired and haven’t received my belongings back (#4 at the link)

I finally got everything back around March/April 2018, and have a new job I’m much happier with. I’m still in the same industry, but with supportive coworkers, a healthy environment I can grow in, mentors, supervisors who teach us (we’re a fairly young company, and the majority of my coworkers are all about the same age range as well) so they understand we may not have much experience in the workforce and explain what’s needed in various positions, and commuter benefits, which really helps, because the last position had none of these things.

I’ve also taken some of the advice from commenters and now I keep nothing that’s really important to me at my desk in the event I’m let go again. The only thing I keep at my desk now is a bottle of air freshener since the person in the cube next to me has hygiene issues and the smell from their cube drifts over to where I’m at.

4. I’m participating in a reverse job fair — where my job fair booth will advertise me (#5 at the link … and first update here)

Since then the reverse job fair has happened in my area two or three times a year to great success. I am still in touch with the organization that I attended the capstone course with (and have my adviser reading Ask a Manager) and actually got to be a MC/hostess/keynote speaker for them at one of their graduations!

I did a few contract positions since then and a few months ago the owner of a business I worked for in 2017 for 3 months called me out of the blue and offered me my former managers position. I had started a training manual while there and it was untouched in my absence. I am now the interim manager, finishing the manual, working with IT to get test pages in our system for new employees to train on and general restructuring work (the company was having issues with the former manager and morale). They are starting to look for my replacement as I was hired to do this a short period of time and then move into a marketing/sales position. I have asked the owner is long term plans as he is retiring within a year or two and he stated his plan was for me to run the company (I hope he was joking as this could be…overwhelming). No matter how long my tenure is there I am gaining a ton of experience and this will be my second time writing a training manual as I also did this at a previous contract position!

{ 34 comments… read them below }

  1. lilsheba*

    The one who has hygiene issues, I would report that because that’s generally against any HR rules. They generally say people have to be clean, and the stench just makes your work environment horrible, you shouldn’t have to deal with that.

    I’m also getting tired of companies that basically make it so no one keeps anything personal or important on their desk anymore. I spend 10 hours a day at my desk and I want it to be homey! Otherwise I would go even more insane than I already do.

    1. Autumnheart*

      My cube is reasonably personalized, but I have a personal “one-box rule” where all the items I keep in my cube have to fit in one box. So if I leave the job, I can make a clean exit. I have some coworkers who’ve just about moved in and their cube is so packed with junk that there’s barely any room for them to sit. It’s ridiculous. (Seriously, I should take a picture.) If one’s work space is a reflection of their professionalism, having a crap-filled cube isn’t a good way to build one’s reputation.

      1. alienor*

        Same–I used to have a ton of stuff in my cube, but after several moves over the last few years, I’ve downsized until I can fit all my personal items into one box. I don’t have any immediate plans to leave, but knowing how easy it would be to pack up and go makes it feel like a real possibility.

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      My last office job, I had a few personal things there, but nothing I would have been upset to lose. For example, a mug I liked, but it had cost me $3 at a shop in Chinatown years earlier. I’m not much of a photo person, but it’s easy enough to get duplicate prints, and put them in a generic frame, not one you’d mind losing. (I also had some chocolate and a few tea bags, but that sort of consumable is different.)

      The one thing I made sure to get back when I was laid off was a reference book I had bought with my own money but sometimes found useful for work.

    3. MassMatt*

      I noticed at one place I worked that many cubes got less cluttered when rumor had it that layoffs were going to be announced.

      I didn’t keep much of value at my desk but a lot of it was pretty fragile—glass picture frames, ceramic mug, etc. It would be quick to pack but if I were all just tossed into a box (and in many offices the only boxes seem to be for copy paper) I would likely receive a box of shards.

  2. Lance*

    Good on OP#1 for keeping everything under control on their end. One can only hope that their coworkers start doing more than just admiring the fact, and actually doing some of it themselves, instead of letting things like the puppy freely going around nipping at people, or any of the altercations (assuming people didn’t immediately step in to stop them; I sure hope they do).

  3. Richard Hershberger*

    LW2: I am a paralegal. I once applied for a position in the county counsel’s office. There was a secretarial position opening at the same time. The initial round had candidates for both positions all in a room. The proceedings included a typing speed test. This is semi-plausible for a paralegal, as writing is certainly part of the job, but typing speed is not, within reason, really relevant. The weird thing was that they told us the minimum standards, and the minimum for paralegal was higher than for secretary. I had no difficulty. Typing was the one useful class I took in eighth grade, and it has served me well ever since. But those minimums were so weird that once I got to the next round I asked about it. The interviewer looked embarrassed, agreed it didn’t make a lick of sense, but someone at some point who hadn’t understood the jobs set it as a bureaucratic standard. I didn’t get that job. I don’t think this had anything to do with it, but you never know.

    The upshot is that, reading the original letter, I could easily take this as being a requirement set by a clueless person in the organization. My concern would be whether this was a sign of general cluelessness or an isolated example.

    1. Auntie Social*

      Same here. I started the test, she could hear from where she was sitting that I’m really fast, so she said, “Umm, never mind. How fast do you type?” I told her 100, she wrote 100 on her form, and we went on to other things.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I couldn’t tell you what my speed is. I touch type, but haven’t practiced for speed in decades. Is this even a useful skill nowadays? Who types from existing text, where speed equates to productivity?

        1. Lehigh*

          It’s useful in some clerical work. Data entry, note-taking for meetings, other admin-type things. It’s also useful, IMO, for creative work because the closer to speed-of-thought you can accurately type, the faster you can go (and the more you can keep up with the ideas you are coming up with.)

          Not that you have to do 90 or 100wpm for that, but touch typing has been very valuable to me.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            The important thing in my experience is not speed, but that the process of converting thought to text be unconscious. I don’t have to think about what key to type, or where it is. I mostly write expository prose. The limiting factor is figuring out how best to organize the thoughts, not how long the conversion to text takes.

          2. TardyTardis*

            I’ve found my manic typing speed to be very useful when taking minutes for a local political group–it saves me a lot of time rather than transcribing from hand notes (frankly, doing the minutes that way takes me about as long as the blasted meeting went, she whines).

        2. Mid*

          When I was a temp, they wanted me to take speed tests. I did a lot of data entry and record entry. I did some “digitalization” of documents which was just me typing text from old paper documents that couldn’t be scanned for some reason.

          So while it’s less common, it’s still a thing.

        3. Mel_05*

          I used to work at a small publisher. We did recurring publications and vanity printing. You would be surprised at how many people hand write things and then want someone else to type them out. Or who can’t be bothered to email it or put it on a thumb drive, but print it out for you to retype.

        4. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

          When I went back to college for my Information Technology degree, we did have to get a minimum speed on a typing test. If you couldn’t meet the minimum, you had to enroll in a typing course. The minimum was only 35 wpm, so I don’t think there were many people from my program in that course. (I don’t remember my speed, but it was faster than most of the instructors’ speeds.)

        5. sb51*

          It can be nice to know how to do — I’m in tech, and in a previous job, at one point, a document we needed had been lost electronically, but we still had a hardcopy. This was early days for decent OCR on computers, and I’m not actually sure we had a working scanner, so everyone was standing around dithering.

          I sighed, held out my hand, and while they were still arguing about it, had the entire thing retyped, accurately and painlessly.

    2. MassMatt*

      I took a paralegal course years ago (1990?) jointly taught by attorneys and paralegals and the paralegal in one unit mentioned she could type very quickly but was extremely guarded about letting her colleagues know lest she be treated as a secretary.

      It’s likely that attorneys at some firms think of all the support staff as interchangeable and someone who can type as a typist, no matter the qualifications, especially for women. And especially back then.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I had a job in the 1990s where I was careful not to let on that I could type. This is very old-fashioned nowadays. I’m sure there are still a few attorneys out there who don’t use computers, but they are a dying breed. Nowadays, computer skills, including typing (I am told it is called “keyboarding” now) are basic life skills within the industry.

        1. CatLadyLawyerEsq*

          For the the record, it’s still called typing among North American millennials. I think I remember someone (generational status unknown) a few years ago called typing “keyboarding” but I along with a few peers were very confused because “keyboarding” sounds more like playing a musical instrument than writing a paper.

          1. Zelda*

            >>“keyboarding” sounds more like playing a musical instrument than writing a paper.

            Or VIS– Very Important Surfing.

  4. XmasNope*

    My partner & I get a little shade for being strict with our dogs, but we also get amazement at how good our dogs are. I’m all for kind, sensible boundaries with pets.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      The best pets are the ones that are well behaved, and well behaved pets are raised by owners who set consistent limits and rules for their behavior. Congrats for being responsible owners.

      1. StellaBella*

        Sensible boundaries make well behaved pets ( and humans, too). Thank you for being a responsible (it sounds like) pet owner.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I am with OP on this one, all the way. My current dog is a clever clown. The stuff he thinks of is amazing. Yep, he is on a short leash. My old dog was more like a trained dog should be. But his thing was to follow someone around when he really liked them. Yep, right into the bathroom with you. “Oh you’re leaving now? I will go home with you.” Well-meaning dog but not everyone appreciates a dog within two feet of them all day long.

      My take on it is I never know when the dog will encounter something he truly does not understand. Then whatever reaction he has to that misunderstood thing becomes my responsibility. If this happens I have failed my little buddy in a big way.

  5. Anonymosity*

    I got fired from a job a few years ago and they offered to send my things, but I politely said no, I’m not leaving without them. So I made them wait while I packed it all up. The manager helped me carry it down to my car. I was not trying to be contentious; I just didn’t want to deal with it once I left the premises.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, they can stand there and watch me pack.
      I do keep it light at work. I don’t want a ton of useless stuff laying around. It only slows me down during my workday. If I have two tote bags of stuff that’s a lot. So watching me pack might be ten minutes out of their lives.

    2. AKchic*

      Yeah, I bring my own office supplies (I have a really cool stapler, it’s mine, and I’m not leaving it behind). No way am I letting anyone raid my personal stash of pens, highlighters, markers, or other assorted “fun” stuff before someone decides to box my stuff up. It will take me 20 minutes or less to have all of my stuff packed, and they can certainly wait that 20 minutes (or less) for me to get it all done.

    3. Blueberry*

      Well done! I wish I’d done this. When I was fired I was too afraid of being frog-marched out by security to make the same demand.

  6. Bookworm*

    #4: Congratulations! I missed the original letter and first update but the concept sounds really fascinating! I’m glad it worked. Thanks for the update.

  7. Marthooh*

    The other thing I love about update season is being reminded of the other WTF letters in the archives: What’s up with Glenn drinking out of lids? Did that one team ever get their time made up to them after the “team lunch” that turned out not to count as a work activity? Did Fergus end up leaving his family for Jane and the baby? I want more updates!

  8. Persephone Underground*

    #3- sounds like you may be taking the comments a little *too* seriously. I think “don’t have anything you really care about” isn’t the same as nothing but some air freshener! Don’t be afraid to settle in a little because of one bad experience.

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