passed up for a promotion after 23 years, coworker won’t schedule his own meetings, and more

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

1. I was passed up for a promotion after 23 years

I have been in my position for 23 years and am told that I am an essential part of the office. I am knowledgable, friendly, hard working, efficient, productive, flexible, and dependable. I do have my shortcomings but am told that they my performance is so strong that my weaknesses are trivial.

There is another employee who has been in our office 11 months. She is great and has shined since she has started.

Another position in the office will be opening up that pays more than our position. My boss called my coworker into his office and asked if she would be interesting in taking that position. I feel insulted that my boss wouldn’t offer me the opportunity, considering my longevity and experience. I can’t help but feel resentment. I have no ill will towards my coworker, but my bitterness is interfering with my motivation to go above and beyond. On the outside looking in, can you tell me your opinion on whether my feelings are warranted or not?

It’s understandable to be hurt or upset when you’re passed up for a position you’d be interested in, especially when you have significantly more longevity than the person it’s offered to.

But how suited someone is for a role is much more about the skills and talents they’d bring to the work, not the amount of time they’ve been in a different position. It’s possible your coworker has a stronger track record of achievement in the areas that matter most for this new role or that she’s otherwise suited for it in ways that you aren’t.

It’s also possible that because you’ve been in your position for 23 years, your boss assumes you’re happy where you are and not interested in moving to something new, or he has trouble envisioning you doing a different kind of work. Or your coworker might have actively expressed interest in the type of work she was eventually offered.

In your shoes, I’d think about whether your skills are strongly suited to the work of the other job (and also whether your boss would agree with that). Also, would the shortcomings you mentioned be more visible in the new role or have more of an impact there? You might find an explanation there. But if you don’t, it’s reasonable to talk with your boss, say you were disappointed not to have had the chance to throw your hat in the ring for the role, and ask if there’s feedback he can give about why you weren’t considered.

2. I made a bad joke about my new hire’s job security

I have a new hire who’s coming to the end of his probationary period. Chris is conscientious, smart, and has gelled well with the team. He’s completed his probationary objectives with time to spare, and in our most recent catch-up, I suggested that he start considering his longer-term goals for career redevelopment so we could set his annual objectives together in a few weeks’ time.

When we got back to our desks, we kept chatting, and then Chris said openly, in front of the rest of the team, “Well, in a few weeks you’ll be stuck with me for good.” Thoughtlessly, I joked back something like, “Well, aren’t you confident!” … and then instantly regretted it. I don’t think I said it in a negative tone and I had a smile on my face, but I know that “jokes” like that are never funny when they’re coming with a power imbalance, and I’m sure I saw Chris’s smile falter hard.

Honestly, I didn’t want anyone to think that I was giving Chris an automatic pass, or that he was being cocky about his probation. But equally, I’m sure that nobody is expecting him to fail.

Am I overthinking this? When a new hire is clearly performing well, is it okay to be open about the fact that they’re going to pass their probation? Or should I be keeping up a bit of a façade to ensure the process is seen as a genuine professional trial and not just a hand-wave?

Oh no. Please apologize to Chris, and do it today. He was feeling confident and happy about his new job — and it sounds like he had every reason to, based on your description of his performance and the fact that minutes before you brought up long-term planning — and then you shot him down publicly. At a minimum that’s going to sting, and a lot of people in his shoes would be feeling embarrassed, dejected, and demoralized. Tell him you made a stupid joke and that you’re very happy with his work and have no reason to think he wouldn’t pass his probationary period. (And frankly, you might consider correcting the record in front of the group too.)

Probationary periods aren’t intended to make people feel like “well, maybe we’ll keep you and maybe we don’t.” You’ve hired this person and he’s as much a part of your staff as anyone else. The sole function of a probationary period is to allow you to skip your organization’s discipline process if things aren’t going well. That’s it. People in a probationary period are still full-fledged staff members. And you don’t want them to feel otherwise — you want them invested and feeling like part of your team (and not still taking interviews with other employers — which would be a logical step otherwise).

As for how to talk about people in their probationary periods to your wider team: the same way you’d talk about anyone else. They’re a member of your team, period. If they don’t work out, the probationary period will let you resolve that faster, but that should be the only difference.

3. My coworker waits for me to schedule meetings he initiates

I work for a large organization in a professional role. We have small teams distributed widely and most of our meetings are done remotely via Skype. When I started here three years ago, “Bob” was my supervisor. I’ve since been promoted, so Bob and I are peers. We supervise teams of people doing the same work and occasionally need to meet to discuss our teams’ interactions and workflow.

When Bob supervised me, we met frequently and he always told me to propose dates and times, to do the labor of setting up our meetings. Our organization uses Outlook, and it is a simple matter to use the calendar to see when a colleague is free to meet and send an appointment slip. Bob never did it. Now that we are peers, he keeps not doing it. It’s not an issue with age or technology familiarity; Bob and I are the same vintage and experience level in our profession.

For the life of me, I cannot find a good-natured but firm way to tell Bob to schedule the meeting he is requesting himself. He just emailed me again to ask if there is a time we can meet soon, and I responded “I am happy to meet with you.” But I know he won’t pick up the slack, use the software, and set up an appointment — and it’s important for my team that we have a discussion. Any suggestions?

The next time he asks to meet, say, “Sure — take a look at my calendar and schedule a time that works for both of us.” If he hasn’t done it and you’re invested in having the meeting happen, you could follow up later and say, “Did you still want to have that meeting? If so, if you pick a time and send me a meeting invite, I’ll be there.”

If this doesn’t solve it (although you might have to do it every time), it could be worth saying, “Are you waiting for me to schedule the meeting? I’d rather you do it when you’re initiating the meeting so I don’t get stuck with the scheduling every time. Can you handle this one?”

4. Coworker has a Tinder-esque photo as his work profile

I work for a large organization (almost 100,000 employees) with offices all over the U.S. We have an internal system similar to Twitter and each week we get an email showing posts for all the groups you follow. Yesterday I noticed someone’s profile picture is a (private) bathroom mirror selfie. You can see the shower and sink … it’s basically a Tinder profile picture complete with a hand on chest and smug smile. His post was introducing himself to the company as a recent hire.

I was thinking of emailing him a friendly “Welcome to the company! Just wanted to suggest considering a different photo for your profile; most are head shots in neutral/public spaces.” But would this be an overstep? I don’t know this person or their manager and will probably never work with them. Should I say something to HR instead (although this person is in a different country so I’m not even sure who their HR contact is)? Based on the info in their profile, I think they are a recent grad and it seems like this is their first professional job. Most of the people who work here either have a professional head shot or it’s of them on vacation/doing an outdoor activity. I’ve never seen a selfie and especially not one taken in the bathroom. Say something or let it go?

Let it go. You don’t know this guy or his manager, you don’t work with him, it’s a 100,000-person company … there’s just no call for you to act here. If it’s a problem, someone more closely connected to him will address it.

5. My neighbor wants intros in my field, but I don’t think highly of his work

I work in a popular and competitive field where it’s not unusual to do free work early in your career. It’s also a very social and friendly industry, lots of business done outside a traditional office setting, etc. My neighbor works in a different but similar part of my industry, and another neighbor introduced us for this reason.

When we first met, he asked me to review some materials for him and then meet for coffee to discuss them. At an earlier stage in my career, I would have loved the chance to talk shop with a new friend, but I don’t really have the bandwidth for that now. Still, not wanting to be rude to a neighbor, I said yes (my mistake! I should have shut it down immediately). Complicating matters further, I discovered he had misrepresented where he was in his career, and while we are similar in age, he’s at a much earlier stage of his career and — in my opinion — not very strong at his chosen profession.

I’ve been able to successfully beg off further attempts to share work in this way, using time as an excuse, but he’s now asking for connections to other people in my industry (not specific people, more like “anyone you know who’s interested in X”) and I don’t feel comfortable doing that. I don’t want to connect people to someone who I would not work with myself. But I can’t really use time as an excuse here and I don’t want to make things awkward as we live in an apartment building so seeing him is inevitable. Any thoughts for how to politely disconnect from this and any other requests without having too awkward an elevator ride in my future?

One option is to say, “I’m a stickler about not making referrals within my network unless I’ve worked closely with the person I’m introducing. I’m sorry I can’t help further, but I hope the meeting we had was helpful and I wish you all the best in the future.”

Alternately, since he’s not asking about specific people, you could go with the vague, “If I think of anyone who you might be a good match for, I’ll let you know” and then leave it there. That one is probably more comfortable to say, although it leaves open the chance that he’ll continue to follow up.

The first one is more of a service to him since it’s more direct, but you’re not a terrible person if you use the vaguer option and hope that ends it.

{ 516 comments… read them below }

  1. Lena Clare*

    No1. I feel you. Best bet is to talk to your manager and get some feedback as to what you can do you make your position stronger for next time there’s an opening.

    1. CastIrony*

      I went through something so similar. I’ve been at one of my jobs since 2013, and I couldn’t get a full-time job after six years doing work I was pretty familiar with.
      I asked for feedback, but I, too, am convinced that I will never move up.

      1. Joielle*

        My husband was in a similar position in the beginning of his career (working as a contractor, trying to get hired directly by the company) and the only thing that worked was getting a job offer somewhere else. Once he had that offer in hand, he went to his boss to say that if they couldn’t make him an employee, he understood but he’d have to take this other position… they hired him the next day.

    2. Heidi*

      I agree. Since your coworker is new, she may have discussed a trajectory of growth in this direction when interviewing and that is fresh in the boss’s mind. It’s also possible that they think the promotion will help retain her, while they’ve less worried that you’ll leave after 23 years. If you have formal reviews, that would be a good time to discuss these types of goals. You didn’t mention being unhappy with your current workload, but if you have ideas for shifting your role towards greater responsibility, that could help put you in a better position to be promoted next time.

      1. Avasarala*

        Yes. It must feel awful for OP1 after putting 23 years into this position… but also you’ve had 23 years to move up, move out, or communicate your interest/dissatisfaction to your boss. Start today!

      2. KayDeeAye*

        Yes, exactly. I’ve been here nearly 25 years, and I’ve had only one promotion in that time, but the thing is: I don’t actually want to be promoted any further because that would require that I start managing people and wrassling with the budget and all those things I have zero interest in. Your employers, OP, might just assume that your case is similar. It’s not, so let them know that!

        1. Indigo a la mode*

          Totally agree, but I do want to point out that that’s pretty bad management if they aren’t actually using reviews and 1:1s to check in on your growth track, goals, and progress against those goals. It’s their job to support your development as long as you want to continue to develop. If you’re straight with them that you’re happy contributing where you are, that’s cool, but they shouldn’t just assume that no news is good news and that OP–or anyone–wants to do the same thing forever.

          1. KayDeeAye*

            Good point. I don’t know if my workplace is functional enough to check in with employees about such things (my guess would be: in some departments, yes, but in others, no), but they really should be.

    3. Stanley*

      I’m always baffled by the idea that workplaces exist where one can actively ask for development and feedback to help progress into more advanced roles in the company.

      My current workplace has a culture that if you’re asking to progress or feedback you’re going to be leaving, so might as well limit projects for you going forward, and that criteria for promotion you ever have or have not.

      Seems to be pretty common for my industry as a whole.

      1. Pretzelgirl*

        I work in a support role, in the medical field. I don’t get much along the lines of development. Sometimes I get feedback and can bounce ideas off my boss. But they are in a more clinical role. Although they knows what I do, they have never really done it. It can be frustrating, but its kind of the nature of the beast.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I guess if the company has a flat hierarchy and there really isn’t anywhere for an employee to move to, and said employee makes it known they want to move up, the employer would just assume the employee is looking elsewhere since staying wouldn’t be feasible given the lack of internal positions.

          1. Stanley*

            My company has a very specific outline for advancement, to be X you need to have done Y. To get Y, you need to have skill Z. If you don’t, no progression. So essentially the above.

            The other issue is the company has an older management culture. This is changing but money is/was the only thing thought about when considering employee happiness. So if you’re asking for development and you’re happy with your pay, that means you’re looking to leave. What else could it be?

            One of our new hires asked about developing some skills that are mildly related to avoid having to rely on another busy dept. Our manager said something along the lines of “I’m not going to train you to find another job”

            1. ampersand*

              Ouch! That response seems unnecessarily harsh.

              I’m curious what field you’re in but understand if you’d rather not say.

            2. Indigo a la mode*

              Yikes. That is bad management and that proactive person is certainly going to find a better job somewhere else. My first manager had his faults, but one thing he was resolute in was that managers train people to move forward and upward, a lesson that I’ve carried with me.

              It’s like that old proverb: A CEO and CFO are talking about an employee who has asked for company-paid training and development. The CFO asks “What if we pay for her to learn all that and she leaves?”

              The CEO replies, “What if we don’t and she stays?”

        2. Miss Salty Grits*

          The needs and structure of the organization may not be conducive to a particular person’s movement upward, or even to expanding the scope of their responsibilities.

          I personally work in a very flat organization, but the majority of the positions are at the top and I’m at the bottom. Our big boss is unwilling to hire anyone in the intermediary levels. So if I started asking to move up, or asking for additional development opportunities, that would signal to my coworkers that I want to progress beyond the level at which they need me, with the implication that I’ve outgrown doing the work that they hired me to do. (Luckily that won’t be the case for about 2 years and I have some time to think.)

        3. Goldfinch*

          My only option to move up is to take my boss’ job, and she’s been here 26 years. She’s not going anywhere. Even something small like asking to take our company’s leadership course would be proof that I’m looking elsewhere.

      2. RussianInTexas*

        My company is small, and somewhat flat: owners > couple managers > employees.
        Asking for development means you are unsatisfied with your job, and well, you can find satisfaction somewhere else. And there is no way to be promoted to, really.

      3. Amethystmoon*

        Yeah, my current workplace is set up so it’s essentially on the worker’s own to do things for development. If I hadn’t done Toastmasters, I would still be at the bottom. They will help you a certain amount with a college degree if you need that to get promoted, but that’s about it.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I saw this happen in a previous firm when I was the one who got the promotion up another grade when I’d been in the job a year, and a coworker who’d been there 10 years didn’t get it.

      He’d never expressed any interest in promotion, never asked managers what he could do to get ahead, never even asked people in the senior ranks what they’d done to get ahead.

      He tried to complain but HR pointed out that years of service do not automatically equate to being offered promotions. When he’d first entered the workforce as an apprentice it would have been different I believe as he was a good 25 years older than me.

      1. Lilo*

        In my job it is common for people to stay in the same role for decades (happily, I should add, the majority have no desire to move into supervisory roles). While some of the people who have been there for decades are great, some don’t keep up with the changes in procedure.

        I had to send a correction out and got back a complaint about new changes. Except the particular change this person had messed was a change in the law from over ten years ago. We have multiple trainings on procedure changes every year too.

        Sometimes 20+ years isn’t a good thing.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’m with you there mate. Most of my career has been in the railway and there’s not only a very prevalent old-boys-club atmosphere but also a real reluctance to change any procedure or method at all for any reason. When I got to manager grade in the first firm I either had to let it go or develop an incredibly persistent attitude.

        2. Detective Amy Santiago*

          This is something I’ve been running into where I am. One of my colleagues is so very set in her ways and is resistant to any process improvement or minor change that anyone makes. It’s infuriating. Like, hello, it’s 2020, not 2000, and we don’t have to do everything manually anymore.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            I hear you. At OldJob, the people who worked there were lifers. As in interned there in college and never left so we’re looking at 20+ years. The software version they preferred was being retired by the software company – we were the only ones still using that version and it made no sense. It was 2014 and the system was DOS based. The bitching and moaning I heard about the new system was insane! I became IT’s best friend as I was the only one completing my testing thoroughly and on time (not my first system change/upgrade rodeo) an they started bringing me other people’s test cases to run. When I left at the end of 2019 these coworkers were STILL complaining about the “new” system.

          2. Bubbles*

            I work for a relatively new organization and my boss and I have a saying we use a lot: “Is this a tradition or is it a habit?” It helps us understand and focus how we address the organization because we don’t want to change good traditions, but we want to encourage good habits. It’s frustrating that people simply will not fill out a piece of paper properly because “we never had to do that before.” Well, yeah, Jane, that’s because you weren’t doing it correctly before and we need to fix this before our auditors come.

          3. Dust Bunny*

            My previous supervisor was here for almost 40 years and really lost track of things after about 20 of them. We have a database that now exists only as screenshot .pdfs because she wouldn’t upgrade the software. When she finally agreed to do it, it was so outdated it couldn’t be migrated to anything.

          4. Seeking Second Childhood*

            An old story about resistance to technological improvements. In 1990 I took a temp position at a university hospital. I was given Dr. Bigshot’s CV to update, adding a few new publications at the top of the list. The doc was set up manually, with headers and footers typed on each page of the electronic file. I set up automated headers & footers and returned the task in 20 minutes — and Dr. Bigshot’s admin said I hadn’t done the job right because it should take at least an hour. She redid it herself “the right way” and refused to accept an explanation of headers&footers. In a fantastic display of pettiness, she didn’t talk to me again for the month or so I spent there!

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              (To make it even more fun, it wasn’t even like she was upset at having to learn a new feature of this newfangled Microsoft Word program — I did it in the same old DOS-based MultiMate that she’d been using for a decade.)

            2. Yuan Zai*

              I have a friend who tells a story VERY similar to yours – including the petty co-worker who refused to talk to her – only she wasn’t a temp and hers happened in 2018.

          5. Al*

            My husband has a coworker who insists on checking books out to patrons by hand-keying both their account number and the number on the book’s bar code. She refuses to use the barcode scanner because they didn’t have them back when she started working in the library 30 years ago. Doing it all by hand is much slower and MUCH more prone to error.

            1. Joielle*

              Omg no. I would be so annoyed as a patron! Especially if I was waiting in line while this person takes 10 times longer than necessary.

        3. Jean*

          “Sometimes 20+ years isn’t a good thing.”

          THIS. I had a coworker in a previous job who had been there for 20+ years in the same position. She was devastated when she went out for a management position and they went with someone much newer to the company. But this lady had no self-awareness, plus a long history of disciplinary issues, not to mention that her skills and technical knowledge were nowhere near where they should have been after such a long career. (Not saying that any of these apply to OP #1.)

          You’re not doing yourself any favors staying in one company or especially in one position for 20+ years. It used to be the norm, but not anymore. To get any kind of development or real pay increase, you have to be ready and willing to move on after 3-5 years at most. Kinda sucks in some ways, but it’s the new normal.

          1. CheeryO*

            It’s very much still the norm in my world (state government). I sort of wish it wasn’t, because a lot of people get incredibly jaded and arrogant after 30+ years in one department, but no one wants to give up the benefits.

            There is some potential for internal career development, but it still depends more on your skills than your longevity, at least in my experience – I just got a big promotion and raise after five years, but it was a professional certification that made me eligible for it in the first place.

            1. Jean*

              You’re completely right, it’s very dependent on your field. Public sector is still geared toward staying for your whole career. I have a good friend who works for a federal agency and has been in the same position for almost 20 years now, but he also has incredible benefits, high pay, and gets regular raises. Private sector is a different story for the most part.

              1. Dragoning*

                In pharma, everyone is either a lifer at their company, or they rotate between four or five companies every couple years to get promotions. The benefits for longevity are great, but it’s hard to get promotions internally.

                1. Dragoning*

                  Not everything in life is about promotions (and you can get some, just smaller ones, more slowly).

                  Pensions. Profit-sharing. Vacation time accrual is generous and steep. Etc.

          2. Lucia*

            I have a spouse who is a C-suite Executive and over 60. For most of his career, he was only at jobs for 3-5 years. It was only after he got to the C-suite that it changed to 5-10 years. That’s unusual for the type of job he does.

            Staying at the same company or even the same occupation over an entire career is abnormal in today’s world. At least, it is abnormal based on my experiences living in the USA (all over the place) and being a Gen-Xer.

            When I (50), am asked to speak to local high school students about jobs or college, the parents get frustrated b/c the advice I give them is that flexibility and continual skill development is what they have to do to be successful. Being willing to move jobs and move locations is critical. There is no occupation that’s for a lifetime anymore. Living in one location for a lifetime is going to become increasingly challenging. Even newly minted doctors and lawyers who work for themselves will face this in their lifetime. It’s worse when you are in a traditional office job and want a solid middle-class life working for someone else.

            So much is being automated. Some of that means change of process. Some of that means obsolescence.

            For all the horrors we can lay at the feet of capitalism, the biggest disruption to how people live is our technological advancement. It has meant that no job, no occupation, no person is truly safe.

            It’s terrifying to think that we’ll have to get on the treadmill or starve, but that’s what most people are facing.

            When I read that LW had been at her job for 23 years, my first thought was “how unusual.” Truly. My second thought was that I bet the employer things she has no ambition and is really looking for a steady paycheck and not career satisfaction. I don’t know LW. It’s entirely possible I’m dead wrong. But 23 years + some of her language makes me think that she’s sending her employer the message that she’ll stay in her position without increase in pay or prestige as long as she’s guaranteed employment.

            Another poster said she’s become like the furniture. I agree.

            I disagree with Allison. I would not ask the employer why or what to do. I’d go in and tell them that I didn’t want to do the same job for the next 20-30 years until retirement. That I wanted to do something different, more challenging. I’d have ideas what that looked like. I’d ask them if there was structure within the company to do so. If I got anything less than enthusiasm and cooperation in charting that path, I’d start looking for other jobs now. It won’t get easier to find new jobs another 10 years down the line.

            While I don’t think ageism is what’s at play with this hiring decision, I do think ageism could be a factor if LW waited and then tried to get a job somewhere else.

            1. Jean*

              Thanks for your response. You’re so right about the ageism concern if OP #1 were to go out and try to get a new job now. Also if I were interviewing or hiring, and this person came across my desk, I’d be taken aback by 23 years in one role. As much as I like my current role, I do not want to still be doing this same thing 23 years from now.

              1. Lucia*

                They only way that makes sense if one is a doctor or lawyer or some other profession or occupation which is based on new and different challenges.

            2. Lora*

              All of this.

              People I know who have moved up quickly, were able and willing to relocate at the drop of a hat. And relocate ANYWHERE in the world. People who stayed employed continuously, were able to learn new technology and entirely new industries very very quickly. They either had no family, or their families were happy to relocate with them – stay at home spouses, or spouses who had especially portable careers. They weren’t very close to extended family and had no obligation to care for aging parents beyond financial contributions; the day to day caring for elderly parents was done by spouses or hired help. They made new friends easily, I guess? Or didn’t have a lot of social life. They mostly postponed hobbies until retirement.

              That means you don’t actually get to do things like buy a house or have a dog until retirement. Fortunately, you get paid well enough that you can afford to retire. If you want children, your partner will be doing the vast majority of the parenting, and either you send them to boarding schools or they will change schools as frequently as Army brats.

              Yes, this also precludes things like voting anything other than absentee ballots or getting involved in local elections and politics, being on the PTO board, or being a scout master or any kind of community participation.

            3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Super abnormal in my field (IT). I am on my 6th job in 23 years in the US. Have stayed in the last three jobs for 6-7 years each. Pretty sure none of the first three companies I worked at, even exist anymore. It does however get exponentially more difficult to change jobs as one gets older, and I’m starting to think that I’ll either end up staying in my current one for a long time, or that my next one will be my last.

              But even with staying in the same position in the same company, again by nature of our field, the work changes. You have to keep picking up new skills or you won’t be marketable or job secure anymore. It was great fun when I first started, and one of the reasons why I chose this career; not quite as exciting now, but it is what it is. Regardless of how one feels about it, it is pretty much a given that our performance reviews always always include a development plan and a map of how and in which direction you want to grow and what new things you are going to learn – even when your job title stays the same.

              I can very well see that, after 23 years in the same position doing the same thing, everyone’s assumption would be that this is what you like to do and this is what you want to keep doing for the rest of your career. If this is not the case with OP1, then OP1 should speak up, get a development plan setup, etc.

              I’d go in and tell them that I didn’t want to do the same job for the next 20-30 years until retirement. That I wanted to do something different, more challenging. I’d have ideas what that looked like. I’d ask them if there was structure within the company to do so. If I got anything less than enthusiasm and cooperation in charting that path, I’d start looking for other jobs now. It won’t get easier to find new jobs another 10 years down the line.

              While I don’t think ageism is what’s at play with this hiring decision, I do think ageism could be a factor if LW waited and then tried to get a job somewhere else.

              +1000 to all of this.

              1. 1234*

                Don’t these two things contradict each other? ” how and in which direction you want to grow and what new things you are going to learn – even when your job title stays the same.”

                If your job remains the same, there aren’t too many new things to learn?

                1. anon for this*

                  Job isn’t equal to job title!

                  In my job (“data scientist”) there are entirely different parts of the company mission I could be working on! As different as economics, geography, or data visualization!

                2. Diahann Carroll*

                  If your job remains the same, there aren’t too many new things to learn?

                  Not true. I work for a software company where many people have the same title, but work on totally different product teams, so you could theoretically keep your same job title and “move up” depending on which product you end up working on (some are more complex than others).

                3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  The software, databases, operational systems that you use, are things that change every 5-10 years (depending on how cutting-edge you want to stay).

                  My first job was on a VAX mainframe, writing a front end(?) in PL/1 to a database that was stored on tapes. I’d be looking for a job requiring this skillset for a long time in 2020.

              2. selena81*

                I wonder what she did in those 23 years. As in: surely there have been other promotions, or at least some ‘Johnny got a diploma so he gets a raise’ situations? But i don’t really get any ‘my boss promised me i would be next, leading me on year after year’ vibe from the letter, which makes me think this is the first time she feels passed over.

                My take on it is that there is another component: that this latest promotion has made it clear to OP that she is getting closer to an age where your supervisor is ‘that kid i used to work with’. OP seems to love being ‘office mom’ so it makes sense that she’d dislike any reminder that she is not senior management while newbie is moving up the ranks.

            4. Miss Salty Grits*

              I think that Alison’s advice was geared more toward the OP as Alison sees the OP-someone who has been demonstrably willing to stay in the exact same position for 23 years and who likely isn’t willing to leave her employer.

              Doing what you suggested, going in and telling the employer that you don’t want the same job for the next 20-30 years, that you have ideas to move up, etc. is geared toward someone who is actually willing to look for other jobs and who (maybe) isn’t as passive as the OP appears to have been.

            5. Goldfinch*

              We’re at a critical point with longevity, I think. The people I know who are with their companies for 20+ years are there because they’re grandfathered into a pension that has since been closed to new hires. They’re accepting being stuck in order to trade it for security later on. Once the aging workforce nudges that aspect out of relevance (I’m ignoring gov jobs here), the average job stay will drop like lightning.

            6. AKchic*

              I agree with all of this.

              My mother wanted to be a SAHM. That did not work out for her. She started out as a receptionist at one place. Met my stepfather there. They were the “power couple” until he died (everyone would say unexpectedly, but really, to anyone who actually knew his diet and health, it was quite expected) of heart failure on the way to work one morning. A few changes happened within a few years and she ended up becoming the head of the state branch, overseeing a few people, the entire warehouse, blah blah blah.
              Now, she thought this would be her retiring job. She was in her 30’s. She was successful. Divorced, widowed, early grandma (go me). New eye-candy (I swear, every inter-office dating policy should have my mother’s name written on it), the works.
              Then the company went under. All of her skills? Oh, they were using outdated software from the 80’s, and here we are in the 00’s. Oh, you’re talking about your last two partners, who you met AT WORK? Hmm. And all of your skills? Yeah… those are all outdated. She ended up spending 5 years working as a receptionist for little more than minimum wage just to get her skills back up to date. A person really has to make sure they are staying up-to-date on software, relevant field advances, coursework, and field-specific topics if they want to be considered not only promotable, but also hirable elsewhere.

              1. Julia*

                I’m sorry that happened to your Mom.
                That said, I can’t imagine a lot of careers that start out as receptionists and end up as branch managers. Especially if you’re female, in my experience, once you’re seen as a sort of secretary, that’s it for you at that company.

          3. TootsNYC*

            “it used to be the norm”

            That was a long time ago.
            I ran across a comment elsewhere in which someone said, “Boomers and Gen X were told they could stay in the same company for life, but that’s nice the case now.”

            I was like, Whut?
            I’m a tail-end Boomer, and I was told, as a teen, “the days when you could stay at the same company for basically your whole career are long gone.”

            1. London Calling*

              I’m a boomer, longest I’ve worked anywhere is 12 years, and it’s been obvious for years that jobs for life have gone the way of the crinoline.

            2. Curmudgeon in California*

              This. I am a tail end “Boomer”, born after 1960, and the lifer jobs were already well on their way out when I hit the work world. The longest I’ve stayed at any one place is seven years.

              Nowadays five years is a long time and people get the title “Senior” when they only have ten years of experience!!

              1. selena81*

                It depends a lot on industry and size of company and personal preference.

                I’ve seen people who’ve been at the same big company for 20+ years after they interned there. They moved up through the ranks and regularly switched departments. Their knowledge of how ‘the floor’ operates and their contacts throughout the company were very useful for anyone wanting to make improvements.

                And i’ve heard the stories of IT guys who got a good job right out of highschool, never bothered to update their certifications (old IT-guys love to brag that they are self-taught and don’t need any external validation of their skills), lose that job after 15 years for whatever reason, and are unable to find something new.
                (there is a lot of talk about shortages in IT, so not everyone realizes there is actually quit some unemployment among elderly low-educated IT-ers)

          4. MsChanandlerBong*

            Can you call my mother and tell her that, please? She thinks anybody who doesn’t stay in the same job for 10, 20, or 30+ years is a “job hopper.” I try to tell her that staying so long isn’t necessarily perceived as a good thing, and she thinks it’s ridiculous that an employer would have a negative view of someone staying at a job for a long time and showing that they are a stable employee who isn’t always moving around.

          5. MuchNope*

            Some of us are dependent on the health insurance and leave accrual that comes with being shackled to a state job for decades, so let’s stop with that shaming right there.
            I would love to leave my job but I’m in a one-horse town in terms of work and my mortgage requires a certain level of pay not offered by other employers.
            So yeah, I’m a lifer.

            1. Lucia*

              Where do you read shaming anywhere?

              Also, your re an outlier. There’s nothing to be ashamed of, but i wouldn’t use your needs as the metric of what’s considered normal in the workforce.

        4. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, I’d like some clarification as to whether they have been with the company for 23 years or literally in the same role. If they’ve been in the same position for 23 years then it seems safe to assume at this point they have no intention of ever promoting her…

          1. Daisy*

            Yes, I don’t really understand the situation. If she’s genuinely been in the same exact role for 23 years there must have been lots of other promotions she didn’t get – why is she so shocked at this particular instance?

            1. Miss Salty Grits*

              This isn’t necessarily true. Some departments are so small that they don’t hire frequently. And/or, when other people were hired it could have been at a time when OP didn’t feel justified in applying for a much more senior position with so little experience (5 years in vs. 23, for example) and that’s why this instance rubbed her the wrong way.

              1. Autumnheart*

                I work for one of these. Our department isn’t small, per se, but openings only come available when the team expands (which it has), because people get hired and then stick around! The job is interesting and the team dynamic is excellent, so it’s kind of like, “Do I leave in order to potentially make more money/move up in my career, or do I stick with a job I actually like?”

                As a Gen-Xer myself who still feels some leftover emotional scarring from the 2000 dotcom crash, the post-9/11 recession, and the 2008 recession, quite frankly I feel damn lucky to have HAD a job for 15 consecutive years, even if it’s the same job. A job that paid well, and where I do interesting and highly visible work. Am I willing to throw that out the window in order to take a risk? It’s not a casual question to answer.

            2. Ace in the Hole*

              Not necessarily. At my agency, there are essentially three roles: entry level, operators, and supervisors. There are other positions that would be a lateral move at the operator level, but they’re not “promotions” in the sense of moving to a higher pay band.

              The thing is we have about two dozen operator-level employees, and two supervisors. Most people stick around a long time once they reach operator – I think our average tenure is 10 years right now but we just had a flush of retirements. So your option for promotion is to leave the agency or wait for a supervisor to retire. Given that, it would be pretty shocking if the rare promotion went to some new person who’d been here less than a year.

          2. Stormy Weather*

            At a job I had *mumble* years ago, someone got some new and interesting responsibility over me and I was flummoxed. I talked to the manager about it and she said I hadn’t expressed interest, that nobody was going to just hand me a promotion.

            Lesson learned. Glad I got it early.

            1. AccountantAnon*

              I’m having the opposite problem. I’ve asked TWO managers now “What do I need to do to earn a promotion, because I would like more responsibility and a $10,000 raise” and I still don’t have an answer. (And yes, that’s been my sign to start job hunting).

        5. Dragoning*

          I work with one of these. And she’s only a year or two off retirement, so she also does not care.

      2. Wired Wolf*

        I was the first person hired for my department; I’ve been there 3 years and have literally trained every stocker we’ve had (even our current AM has said that I know more about the products than he does). I’ve asked about moving up (only to be told “well you need to focus more” which is not me at all and I can’t seem to shake that rumor).

        We got a new person back in October…we assumed he was just another stocker until the manager decided to tell us “oh by the way, here’s your new supervisor!” Needless to say we were all unimpressed. He was obviously brought over by Corporate; he knows painfully little about how we (or the store) works.

        1. Lucia*

          Please be very careful how you treat him. The last time I saw something like this it played out poorly for the person in your position. It’s probable that corporate has him earmarked for some other career path and this is part of his training. He may be sent their to get to know how the business works rather than to do the job.

          Also, it could be he’s the owner’s cousin or something.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Your first paragraph is spot on – I’ve seen that happen a lot even in non-retail settings.

          2. Professional Confusion*

            My boyfriend is running into something similar at [big store where you buy things in bulk]. He’s stock and his grand boss transferred in less than a year ago and she’s a nightmare. He’s getting frustrated and he thinks he has more clout than he (probably) does since he’s been with the company for 5 years and it’s the only job he’s ever held.

            I’m not sure how to warn him that he needs to tread a little lighter than he’s been because she might be there for a reason.

          3. Wired Wolf*

            I am being careful, but it gets difficult to be constantly told “no, this is how you do [thing that I’ve been doing perfectly well for 3 years]” with no explanation how/why it’s changed. He is a complete 180 from all previous supervisors in that he will only work stock if he needs to (but it has to be his idea) and likes to believe that none of us are capable of working independently. He also seems unable to grasp certain supervisory responsibilities; he doesn’t seem to know when people are scheduled. He has asked some of us to work through a break (when already clocked out for lunch), start a large project minutes before our shift ends with nobody to pass it off to when we leave, or clock back in to stay late after we’ve clocked out for the day–which he does not have the authority to do.

            I seem to get the worst of this treatment (apparently “needs to focus” to them means I have the attention span of a gnat so he has to literally follow me around to give direction), but it’s starting to affect the whole team. What my female CW and I find a bit telling is that this sup has backed off of telling the two men what to do, but us girls continue to get directed…both of us are non-neurotypical (I pass as typical and disclosed upon hiring, she didn’t).

        2. AKchic*

          I am going to tell you what I tell my husband, who thinks that just because he is career retail (entry level retail, he hasn’t been a *3rd key manager* since 00-02, before he went into the military) and he is friendly with lower-level managers; that eventually, he will make it to a management position himself:

          Management, and corporate, is under no obligation to promote you. They are looking for a very specific type of person to promote. You are already doing the work and have taken on the responsibility without requiring the additional pay; so what incentive do they have of giving you that promotion? They don’t. If you are in any way knowledgeable about laws and use them to stand up for yourself or your fellow coworkers that are not in the express financial interest of your employer, you are not management material. I can guarantee it.

    5. Trust Honesty*

      I’ve inherited an employee who has been at my company for 35 years in a variety of low level positions. She has expressed a desire to move up, make more $, and develop herself. She is great, truly terrific, at a variety of things. But frankly does not posses the skills (and in spite of coaching, makes no progress) to actually advance to a position with higher levels of responsibility or authority. As her manager, my experience is that her judgement can be poor, she struggles to work independently, and doesn’t always understand her audience. After 35 years I do not think she will learn these things.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I was wondering about the weaknesses OP mentioned and whether she’s shown she is working on improving them. If she’s been getting something like say “given your tenure in this position, we’d love to see you be more proactive about X and show more leadership on Y. But this doesn’t affect your rating since your performance on Z is so great.”

        And OP hears “you’re great, nothing you really need to do differently” and management is thinking “we’ve given her the same feedback for years and she seems content continuing as she is.”

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, the weaknesses may be considered trivial in the current position, but would be a much bigger deal in a higher position. Like certain soft skills – if you’re an individual contributor with bad soft skills, maybe that’s not a big deal if you’re good at the work. But if you manage others or interact more with clients, that becomes a big problem.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            Yup. The other thing that plays into this as well is sometimes the overall skills mix of the team. When an otherwise-good individual contributor has a weakness that happens to be a strength for some of their peers, there may be less of a pressing need to have that person focus on developing those skills.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          Yeah, the wording of that part of the letter made me curious. Are they literally telling her that her good work outweighs her shortcomings? That’s kind of a weird thing for a company to tell you! Was this part of formal reviews? Like “your communication skills could use some work, but you did a great job with that one llama report so just don’t worry about it I guess.”

          1. Miss Salty Grits*

            They could be telling her something like “We need you to keep a better eye on your spelling and punctuation, but the actual content of your reports is great.” I wouldn’t think they would be contrasting two unrelated skills.

          2. Filosofickle*

            If this is the problem, it could be down to the “sandwich” method of feedback. I observed some training sessions for a healthcare org, and they coached the nurses to never use the sandwich. Their research showed it was ineffective: The people who most need to hear the negative feedback don’t hear it — they come away with the impression they’re doing fine because they heard 2 nice things. And the ones who are prone to fixating on the negative think the good parts are false flattery and never feel complimented. (I’m the second kind. This is SO true for me!)

            Their recommendation was to give LOTS of feedback (daily!), one issue at a time, as immediately as possible, and be very clear. “Hey Jane, I saw that interaction with your patient, I really liked how you X. Good job.” and “Jane, that interaction missed X, which is part of our process. Talk me through the procedure for next time.” Granted, this was for supervising / training nurses on the floor, so the situation lends itself to that kind of rapid feedback. Not sure this translates to many offices. But it really stayed with me as a good practice.

          3. SarahTheEntwife*

            I’m not sure why that’s so odd. That’s a less dressed-up version of what I’ve gotten on a couple performance evaluations. “You’re weak on X, but you’re great at everything else, so while we’d like you to work on X as much as you’re able, you don’t need to worry about your overall performance or job security”.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                Yes, @Curmudgeon that’s exactly what seems odd to me. Not that they are saying both good and bad things but that she seems to think they are saying it in a way that implies there is no need to try to fix the bad things. So either they are saying something really weird or she is way off base in her interpretation!

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          This is spot on.

          In my old department a couple of my colleagues had been there for quite a long time without moving up, seemingly happily, who would have gotten reviews like that if our manager had been on the ball. The basic job duties were A, B, and C, and they completed them perfectly competently, if in some cases more slowly and less efficiently than I would have done them. They have lots of institutional knowledge and are generally easy to work with. But there was wide latitude in the role to get involved in additional projects and raise your hand with new ideas and such, and they didn’t really do that, and it was kind of clear they were both at the limits of their capabilities.

          One would complain about things that are just normal parts of working in a large bureaucratic agency. He didn’t gripe endlessly or anything, but it was clear he sometimes feels slightly out of his depth or overwhelmed by things that should be considered a perfectly normal part of his workload. Another could be a bit confrontational and defensive about one of his areas of expertise – not enough to make it hard to work with him, but in a way that would be a red flag for promotion.

          I’ve gotten two promotions and I’m several grades higher than when I first came in, while these colleagues are still in their same jobs, because I was able to do the basic job duties but also raise my hand for special projects and show initiative and generally engage in high-level strategic thinking about what would benefit our organization, while my colleagues got bogged down in much more minor things about how system A requires too many steps to run the llama report each month (which took me 10 minutes). The fact that my old colleagues were competent at their basic job duties would not be enough to make them good candidates for promotion, even though they’ve been there a long time.

      2. BetsyTacy*

        You could be talking about my staffer. She does a great job at her primary job duty and has been there for many years. She has expressed the desire for a promotion; however…

        Staffer is borderline insubordinate, refuses to do anything outside of what they consider to be their job duties, is actively hostile to upper level management, fails to grasp that there are more projects and programs than just hers and her priorities, and refuses to teach or coach others.

        She’s been coached and given feedback. Ultimately though, she is not someone whose skill set and abilities matches the promotion she is seeking. She is our organization’s highest level of technical expert in her field, but ultimately I don’t know that she will be promoted.

        Op1. Be ready for some harsh feedback when you ask. Consider if you may need to shift jobs to be promoted.

        Also, please consider if you may be seen as a technical expert and whether that is where you want to be.

      3. Matilda Jefferies*

        This is my position exactly. I’m in a newly-created manager role – there have been people doing the day-to-day work for decades, but there hasn’t been any strategic oversight until this role was created last summer. One of the people I manage has been here for 20+ years – he applied for the manager job as well, but obviously didn’t get it. Two things in particular stood out to my boss when she was hiring – one, he’s not a big-picture thinker. He has a tremendous depth of knowledge, but the managerial job requires significantly more breadth. And two, he’s not a great communicator. He understands a lot of things, but can’t always convey them back in a way that other people understand.

        I think his biggest mistake was in thinking that the manager job would be like his current job but bigger, when in reality it’s a completely different skill set. OP1, if you’re really interested in getting a promotion, I hope you can sit down with your boss and get some good feedback about what she would need to see from you. Good luck!

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          The big-picture thinking is huge. I know a lot of people who’ve been in the same role for a very long time, and many of them struggle with big-picture thinking. They can tell you how they improved processes because the llama grooming report used to be so hard to read in portrait format and they re-did it in landscape, but they can’t really tell you who reads the llama grooming reports or why they’re important. Or see high enough level to recommend that they be a monthly report instead of weekly, or be combined with reporting on alpacas, or see that the llama shearing reports that the new software generates automatically might fulfill the same purpose with much less effort, even if they don’t look quite the same.

          Many people who are good at big-picture thinking are natural candidates for promotion more quickly, because they’re able to pick important areas for process improvement and distill information in a way that’s useful to decision-makers and that sort of thing.

      4. Kiwiii*

        Something similar happened in my last role. I’d come in with a little (less than a year) experience in a role very related to a niche part of the new job that new company happened to be thinking about expanding. Within about 6 months, it was obvious that I was the person best suited for this additional role/position and was part of strategy meetings and things to figure out how best to divide up the duties of my position and how that role in general might best look.

        I learned from the intern in another office that two of the three other women in my position (who’d been in their roles about 5 years each) felt passed over and were saying terrible things about the sort of person I must be to allow the passing over to happen >.> When the position development eventually stalled, I moved to work for a different, related industry, making more than I would have in the expanded position (though my commute’s more annoying). But I don’t think they’ll be considered at all for the position should it start to look as though they can create it again.

    6. TootsNYC*

      Our OP said that she has her faults, but that she’s always been reassured that they’re more than made up for by her other great qualities.

      But those are still faults. Are those faults that would hinder her ability to do the higher-level job? Like, does she forget things sometimes? Not so great at setting priorities? Gets testy when things get fast-paced and confusing?
      Those are things that might easily derail someone from moving up, and yet they’d be a perfectly reasonable employee at their current level.

      1. Autumnheart*

        Yeah, but if that’s the case, then her manager should be explicit about her need to address those things in order to be considered for a promotion. It doesn’t do the employee a favor to tell her, “Your performance is great! Any weaknesses are nbd” when in fact some of those weaknesses are preventing her advancement.

        1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

          I agree that it’s her manager’s responsibility to help OP address weaknesses, with the major caveat others have pointed out: Has OP ever expressed an interest in being promoted and moving up?

          It’s not a good idea for a manager to assume someone wants to be promoted. Some employees genuinely want to stay in their current role and performing at a satisfactory level, not even necessarily getting better and better at their job, just maintaining the status quo. And that’s great for those employees. If an employee wants to move up, then they need to express that to their managers.

    7. Public Sector Manager*

      I realized the hard way that sometimes other people get opportunities like this because they express an interest.

      At my past employer, there was a vacancy for a great position. I mistakenly assumed that the office would post the job, and allow everyone who was interested to apply. I had more experience than my coworker who was also interested, and everyone loved my work, especially the head of my agency. So I sat back and waited for the job to post.

      My coworker just flat out approached the head of our agency, said they wanted the job, and the head of our agency said okay. They didn’t even bother to post the job. I was so taken aback that they wouldn’t even bother to gauge the interest of others.

      Since then, I’ve always taken the position that if I want a new opportunity at my current job, I tell the people who can make it happen and I don’t wait for the opportunity to appear because sometimes, it doesn’t.

    8. Artemesia*

      Someone who has been in a position for 23 years if they have not been actively working with their manager about promotion possibilities is simply not going to be seen as promotable. Maybe the LW does have the appropriate skills and knowledge and would be great at the new job, but longevity in a lower level role testifies against that. The only way to move when motion has not been part of one’s work life is to be working with one’s manager around it. That will also give clues about whether it is realistic to hope for in that setting. If the manager indicates, that X and Y would help, or that they would provide training course in Z which would help, that is possibly reason for optimism. Anything vague just lets you know that you won’t move forward in this environment. In 23 years there must have been opportunities of some sort in the organization.

    9. TardyTardis*

      The problem with being really good at a position is that they don’t want you to lose you there. Plus, the new person who was there only 11 months was possibly brought in with the idea of that he or she would promoted to something up the ladder fairly soon. I’ve seen both happen.

  2. Lena Clare*

    Tinder photo: yeah I’m sometimes surprised by the personal nature of work photos. People are strange…

    1. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

      Yeah, one of the Big Names at OldJob had a badly lit, blurry photo of her in a gold dress as her profile pic!

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Heehee, reminds me of a fresh out of university employee I hired once who gave me an Instagram photo she wanted as her security pass instead of the standard headshots the security team took. It was a very nice photo but I did gently explain that a yoga pose atop a mountain isn’t appropriate for a software company ID.

      (Very good worker! Just needed a bit of coaching on corporate behaviour)

      1. GrumbleBunny*

        Our HR department asks you to mail a headshot of yourself for your company badge in advance of your first day. It is *really* hard to take a selfie that doesn’t look like a selfie and as a result my badge photo looks like a mugshot.

        1. CheeryO*

          My agency uses DMV photos for our IDs. When I first started, I hadn’t gotten a new license picture yet, so my work ID photo is a mugshot of 16-year-old me wearing a fuzzy pink hoodie. It’s entertaining, at least.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          People rag on selfie sticks but they’re honestly really helpful for shots like that. (I don’t carry mine around but I like to use it in our yard when my husband and I get dressed up nice for something and we’ve gotten some of our best pictures with it)

          You can also have a headshot taken at like walgreens or CVS I think (meant for passports) but the benefit of a self portrait is that you can keep taking them until you get one that you’re satisfied with.

          1. SarahKay*

            The other option is an app that will take your photo based on you whistling, or clicking your fingers. Prop the camera up somewhere, and get it to take your photo like that.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I’d forgotten they existed, but you’re right. All my selfies, you can tell that I’m havinga super difficult time holding my phone up, smiling at the phone, and trying to reach the button on the phone screen all at the same time. Maybe time to get a selfie stick!

            1. Valprehension*

              This is why I use a timer on my selfie camera. Hit the button, and then you have time to get the camera into position :)

          3. Elizabeth West*

            I had to buy one to shoot a video for an application (I couldn’t afford a decent tripod). I couldn’t get the clicker on the stick to work so I had to change my settings to voice-activate the recording.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Yeah, I’ve never gotten the button on mine to work so I either use the timer function or the voice-activated function.

      2. Sarah Simpson*

        We all take each other’s photos at work for things like this – much easier to look better if someone else is taking the picture!

    3. Snuck*

      I also wonder about hte whole “I hate my work photo and they should re-take it” drama too….

      Work photos are just kind of… supposed to be a mediocre cropped headshot, but not really… important unless you are using them for marketing material?

      1. Burned Out Supervisor*

        I’ve had a few of those “can I have my picture retaken” complaints. I always tell them to speak to Security, but they’ll probably have to shell out for a new badge. The time to give feedback about your picture is when it’s taken, since it’s all digital now. I even got a retake at the DMV once.

        1. TootsNYC*

          the very first time I had a digital photo taken at the DMV, my “don’t bother me”-attitude DMV worker sent me back to the X on the floor to do a retake because she didn’t think it was good enough. She even coached me on how to get a more natural-looking smile.
          And had me approve the final one.

          It was so funny–her entire demeanor was the one you’d expect from a DMV worker who was just over it, tired of all this shit, and doing only what was really needed. And yet she spent extra time to get me a good picture because “it’s going to be around for a long time.”

          1. The New Wanderer*

            I had the opposite experience getting a passport photo done. The first guy was unable to make the camera work, so called over his manager. I *thought* the manager was just showing the first guy how to work the camera, but instead he took a photo of me without warning me. The resulting photo was dreadful but he wouldn’t allow a retake unless I also paid for that one because “your eyes are open, so it’s acceptable.” Yeah, my eyes were technically open but I look like I had a bad reaction to medication. A-hole.

            1. TootsNYC*

              it’s also kind of counterproductive, as someone pointed out: it’ll be so much easier on future ID-checkers if your photo actually LOOKS like you.

      2. Birch*

        I totally agree that work photos aren’t worth the drama and that there are appropriateness boundaries, but I also kinda wonder…. in this day and age, can we not just use photos that people actually feel OK with? Why in all these places are we still using horrible photos? Why do we need photos on badges that we’re wearing on our bodies? Where photos are useful, would it not be better to have photos that actually show us looking the way we look on the everyday, rather than those off-color, weirdly lit, deer-in-the-headlights DMV style mugshots? This is why people use “unprofessional” photos and cause drama or keep the same photo for 20 years. If you had to find me in a lineup based on my badge photo, you wouldn’t be able to. And my real question: how do people who take thousands of photos as part of their jobs STILL end up taking terrible photos? It’s not that hard to set up a light and adjust focus. You don’t have to be an expert–really little things make a huge difference in photo quality. There is no reason in 2020 that official photos should still look like Polaroids from 1997. Either let people submit the photos they want and reject them as needed, or businesses need to hire professional photographers who care enough not to make employees look haggard -not by photoshopping or anything, but by letting people choose a good angle! Or if you’re in a field where it would be appropriate, let someone on the team with good photography skills spend an afternoon doing it. /endrant

        1. WellRed*

          I agree companies should provide a photographer. Set up an account with someone and send employees there or have a day where he comes in and people can update their photos. I submit my own headshots, but I have a photographer friend who takes great portraits.

          1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

            I didn’t realize that some companies didn’t do that. We have a photographer come in. (Of course, you’re only eligible for a new photo every five years, which nobody takes them up on!) but with digital now, they were able to take a few shots and finally get one where I don’t look like I’m reading my captors demands at gunpoint.

            1. KarenK*

              My company does not use a professional photographer for the standard ID photos. You go to security, stand in front of a neutral backdrop, and the photo is transferred electronically directly to the badge template and printed out on a plastic badge using a special printer. It’s a whole system.

              Now, if we are talking about photos for our website, we do have an excellent photographer (maybe more than one, but I only know one). We can use him, but we have to pay for it out of our individual budgets, which results in either no photos, or photos from the last time you ponied up for photos, which was about 20 years ago or more in my case.

              1. Clisby*

                That’s how it was at my last employer. They certainly weren’t letting us supply our badge photos.

        2. tom*

          > This is why people use “unprofessional” photos and cause drama

          Another reason for unprofessional photos is that mostly few people care in negative sense. Most don’t care at all and some like them. For most people who never meet customers and whose photos are purely internal, it is really low chance that someone who have power to object exercise it.

          In here on this forum, it matters great deal. But back in teams I worked on, “unprofessional” photos were not penalized in any way, not even in terms of behind back gossip.

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          “Why do we need photos on badges that we’re wearing on our bodies?”

          So that security knows it’s really your badge, I suppose.

          1. Amethystmoon*

            Funny thing, where I work, they never change the photos. People can be here for 20+ years and still have a photo of them looking like a totally different, younger version of themselves. In some cases, you might not recognize them except for the name.

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

              Years ago, as a joke, my boss printed and cut out a photo of Elvis and taped it over his photo on his ID badge; another coworker used a photo of Jackie Chan for a bit. Apparently no one ever said anything. If the photo looks enough like it could possibly be you-ish from 10 feet away, that was good enough for security. We are now getting badges that we will need to swipe to open doors.

            2. AKchic*

              I got a military badge and then dropped 60lbs. When it was time to renew my badge, I asked if I could get a new photo since well… I was 60lbs lighter and obviously looked it. He gave me a disdainful look down his nose, muttered about vanity and refused. The next year, the ladies I talked to were appalled about it and said I should have been given a new photo regardless. But their badging machine was broken. Guess who I had to go see at the *other* gate to get my renewal again? And of course he wouldn’t let me update my picture again. I really hope he suffers from multiple papercuts.

        4. LJay*

          By the same token though, if someone had to pick some of my friends out of a lineup using their Facebook photos you wouldn’t be able to. They use flattering angles, filters, etc to the point that their pictures don’t look like them in real life.

          And some of the changes aren’t things that would immediately flag as being altered unless you had seen the person before.

          And the point of having a picture on an ID you’re wearing on your body is so that people can verify that the badge you are using (which presumably gives you access to areas etc that a random person can’t get to) is actually yours and not one you stole to use for nefarious purposes.

          Though I do agree that the people who take pictures for a large portion of their job should be better at it. It’s a quality of life thing. (Though a good angle might not be good or possible – normally you want everyone’s picture to be them straight on so you can see their whole face and at the level people see them every day. But lighting, making sure people aren’t like mid-blink or mid-moving their mouth, not angling too low etc).

          And I also question the need for photo badges in some situations. Large offices with hundreds and thousands of people, people who work with secure information, people who work with vulnerable populations, etc, I see the need for. But if you have them in an average small office, why? People would notice someone being out of place because they’re not one of the people they see every day.

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            Yes, but that works both ways. I’m not recognizable in my DMV photo. It’s not at all flattering. I was very tired that day, the lighting is terrible, and I had a really bad haircut at the time… I look ten years older, 50 pounds heavier, and male (I’m a young woman).

          1. Filosofickle*

            Wow, most of them were really bad at it! Taking a selfie that doesn’t look like a selfie is one of my superpowers. People even ask me who my photographer is for my head shots. HOWEVER. It can take 50-100 shots to get a spontaneous smile, eyes focused in the right place, no visible arm/shoulder, good angle. It takes a ton of patience. I’d like more zoomed-out photos of me in places, especially with my partner, but when other people take my picture I look terrible! I’m too self-conscious to have them keep snapping (it’s hard enough on my own, but at least I’m the only one judging me in that moment) and I can’t get the instant feedback I need to get a better pic.

      3. Wired Wolf*

        My current ID photo is awful; the pictures were taken outside of the break room. I need a new ID anyway as mine got wet and the ink is fading and back I’m considering asking if I can submit my own headshot.

        1. Submerged Tenths*

          Still remember years ago, a sign on the DMV camera when i was getting a new license headshot: “If you want a better picture, bring a better face”.

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Sure they’re not super important, but people care about all kinds of stuff that isn’t really that important. And the way a bad picture can make you feel just kind of… sucks. My work badges are bad enough quality that the picture isn’t even super clear so you can’t really even tell how good or bad it is. But they tried for a while having everyone’s picture show up in outlook and if you hate the way you look in your picture knowing that it’s what everyone sees when you email them is a bummer.

      5. Kiwiii*

        My company will have new hires sit with a professional photographer for our headshots, but they do some very weird photoshopping for reasons I can’t discern. I have like a completely different chin in mine and I feel like my eyes look closer together.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Anytime I get an email, or send an email, or get a meeting invite I’m on, there’s my work photo staring back at me from an Outlook window. Not going to lie, I cannot stand it. But I’m close to 7 years older than when it was taken, and if I tried again now, I’d probably end up with worse results.

        This subthread is the first I’m hearing of there being professional photographers used for that. I just came in on my first day, was told to stand in front of a wall and smile, an HR person took my photo with (iirc) her phone, and that was it. Reminds me of a comic where the parents tell their kid about his new puppy, “be careful how you name her, that’ll be your security question answer for the rest of your life” same with my work photo. For the rest of my tenure here I’m stuck with it.

    4. PW*

      Could be an inside joke or whatever. You have no idea what the context is. For years I had a professional looking picture of me wearing an ugly Christmas sweater as my contact picture on Skype for Business.

      1. Mr. Tyzik*

        I spent many years using a pic of Homer Simpson’s face in mid-drool on our company Skype. I was sad when I had to switch to an official headshot. A lot of us had used the opportunity to extend personality.

        My favorite was the woman who used a cat looking through a fishbowl – the face was magnified and made for a great picture!

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      I was recently doing some sleuthing over a conflict of interest issue where I work and found the assortment of personnel photos on a company page amusing to compare. My coworkers and I went through them and were guessing, “LinkedIn. Cheap company ID headshot in front of white concrete brick wall. Selfie stick? Professional photo shoot for professional headshots. Tinder. Cropped photo from going out, maybe?” When you have less than a dozen featured personnel and all the photos look that different, it’s pretty funny.

    6. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      In social media there are photos, and photos… Have I ever told you about the freelance recruiter whose Linkedin profile picture was a sexy French girl bathroom selfie? (Yes, all her contacts were men)

      1. Elizabeth West*


        The only photo I have that I’m really happy with currently is a salon selfie taken a couple of years ago. It’s on the back of my book!

    7. Castaspella*

      Someone I know submitted a headshot from her ‘sexy boudoir photoshoot’ for her work ID, and it somehow got accepted. She posted a photo of her shiny new card on Facebook when she started her job. Quite aside from the metric ton of makeup she had on, it was also five years old, and the head and shoulders shot showed her bra straps, because it was all she was wearing.

      She worked for a massive nationally run healthcare provider.

      The place I worked at at the time had more stringent rules for ID photos than the passport office.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        When I first started working at age 21 I used a photo from my graduation celebration where I was wearing a strapless dress. Of course the way it got cropped I looked naked. Good times.

    8. MOAS*

      Yeah I don’t understand how many people think that tinder-type photos or selfies with the animal/flower snapchat filters are appropriate for work directories. This goes for all genders/ages.

  3. Caramel & Cheddar*

    #3) I have only ever experienced this from male colleagues and it is infuriating. I’m not your assistant and you’re the one who wants the meeting! I’m lucky enough that when they want to meet with me it’s usually something not time-sensitive or mandatory for moving forward, so I have much more flexibility in how I respond. Inevitably, when I ask them to find time in my visible-to-all calendar, that usually means they won’t bother and I never hear from them about meeting for another six months.

    But under no circumstances will I schedule a meeting they’ve requested for them. It’s not my job, I’m not the one who wants the meeting, and if you don’t know how to use our calendar tools, it’s incumbent on you to figure that out. I’m too old for this. If you can’t manage these things, that’s a performance issue for your boss to deal with.

    1. Mills*

      I was just about to reply the exact same thing. I instantly thought he was expecting OP to do it because of gender and I highly doubt he would act the same with male peers.

      1. Annie*

        See, I’m female, and would never arrange a meeting because I feel that it’s rude and presumptuous to just announce, “The meeting is on Wednesday 10am I expect you to be there.” I was always taught that it’s a sign of respect to allow the other person to pick the meeting time, rather than picking a time and forcing it on them.

        1. Allonge*

          I think this is a rule that may have been universal pre-Outlook shared calendars. I have read typewritten letters (pre-everyone has a phone era) that said ‘the big big boss expects you to be at a meeting in two weeks time Wednesday at 1’, addressed to a person’s summer home but it was polite to ask if you can make it otherwise.

          These days you can look at whether or not it is possible to meet. People can choose to share different levels of information on their availability. Asking in a company culture that expects you to use the IT tools available is unnecessary, and therefore not automatically polite. Keeping on asking if have been told to look at the calendar and schedule the meeting is not polite at all.

          Sending a meeting invite allows others to respond (accept, tentative, decline, with or without comments). Would it be helpful for you to see it as a genuine question, instead of a command?

          1. Snuck*

            I feel like using it as a polite request can often smooth ruffled feathers, and will use diplomatic and polite approaches more often than direct ones until forced other wise.

            I am a woman, and am very aware of the male dominated tech workforce approach to dumping all the admin (and other ‘women’s work’) on women, and if it’s a direct peer or insubordinate I weigh up the cost of me doing the meeting vs them… and act accordingly.

            But if I am sending out a meeting invite it’s with a polite but clear request to attend, not a demand. Demands mean if someone is unavailable or being a difficult jerk they can act all outrageous at me… requests take down the aggro notch and then they look a fool for escalating.

        2. Czhorat*

          For internal meetings you can set your Outlook calendar to various levels of visibility; you could share everything or just “free/not free”. This way the person scheduling knows you don’t have anything scheduled; Outlook will even suggest mutually available times for large groups to save hunting.

          We have tools for this; we should use them in concert with the polite heads-up conversation.

        3. snowglobe*

          When you set up a meeting in Outlook, it is called a meeting “invitation”. The recipient is free to decline or schedule other time. I would view sending a request in an email prior to scheduling the meeting as completely redundant.

        4. EPLawyer*

          You can phrase it politely while still setting the meeting. “I’ve set the meeting for 1 on Wednesday if that works for everyone.” That way they know they can let you know of any immovable conflicts but the time is set so they don’t have to wait all week to hear what time the meeting is next week. Which means they can’t schedule anything because they are holding to hear about the meeting day and time.

        5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

          ‘I was always taught that it’s a sign of respect to allow the other person to pick the meeting time, rather than picking a time and forcing it on them.’

          The OP is talking about situations where both sides agree to meet, and can calendar technology to find a time. It’s very simple and avoids superfluous communication.

          Oh, I see snowglobe says it even better:

          ‘When you set up a meeting in Outlook, it is called a meeting “invitation”. The recipient is free to decline or schedule other time. I would view sending a request in an email prior to scheduling the meeting as completely redundant.’

        6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          But… like… the other person can decline or propose a new time? Plus you are taking their schedule into consideration when you’re setting the meeting? (Unless you are like some of the now-departed managers at my workplace and just schedule over the time when the person already shows as Busy.) I guess I was not taught anything one way or another. I just either schedule a meeting, if it’s something I’m organizing, or respond to someone else’s invites, if they are.

          To the question in the OP, I have had my boss ask me to schedule meetings, but never a peer! what the heck! What would happen if the OP pretends she’s not getting Bob’s hint, and tells him “Sure, go ahead and schedule a time for us to meet. Thanks!” Because that’s what I would do.

          1. Trout 'Waver*

            The first time you use the “Propose New Time” button, it feels daunting. At least to me. After a couple uses, though, it becomes a useful communication tool to schedule meetings.

            Plus, if the host can’t accommodate the request, you have an easy out: “Since I have a conflict, can I contribute my piece by e-mail and follow up on any action items after the meeting?” Gets you out of the meeting every time.

        7. Yorick*

          You can type a really nice message asking the person to meet with you in the Outlook meeting invitation.

        8. I'm A Little Teapot*

          Honestly, I think you’re defining “rude and presumptuous” very differently than me, and likely unnecessarily. A key part of my job is talking to people, and 98% of the time I’m sending the meeting invite. I check the calendar availability in Outlook, and if someone hasn’t updated their availability then that’s on them.

          It may be a culture difference, but I literally could not do my job if I took your approach.

          1. TootsNYC*

            it’s also a conflation of social norms and business norms.

            Business is very direct.

            But this “rude and presumptuous” thing is ALSO not applying social norms correctly. In the social world, if you issue an invitation, YOU are supposed to propose the exact time and date. You don’t call someone up and say, “when would you like to come over to my house for dinner?” or “When would you like to go to the movie?” You say, “Would you like to come for dinner on Friday?” and “Want to go to a movie on Saturday?”

            1. Eukomos*

              Depends on the occasion though. If you’re throwing a dinner party then yeah, you announce a time and see who shows, but if you’re asking a friend if they’d like to meet for coffee sometime soon it’s more polite to let them tell you when they’re free, or at least to give them several options from your calendar.

        9. JanetM*

          I’m a woman, and when I moved out of an admin assistant position into a project manager position, the single hardest thing for me to get used to was that I do, in fact, have standing to schedule meetings with people in my department and expect them to attend. When I have people, “Can I schedule you for such and such a time?” or “What time works for you?” the answer was always, “Just check my calendar and set it up.”

          I do try to be courteous of their calendars and not schedule them back-to-back or on a day that’s already heavy with other things.

        10. Miss Salty Grits*

          This might be the case in some places, but in my company/department (Legal) we tend to say “I’ve put some time on your calendar, please let me know if that doesn’t work for you.” I actually think it’s a bit more polite since if the time works all they have to do is accept, and it doesn’t make them do the work of comparing our calendars and setting up the invite. (Of course, in my case I’m not actually requesting to speak with them and the only optional part is when we speak.)

          1. Filosofickle*

            Yes. It takes effort to compare calendars and create invites, which is why it should fall on the person asking for the meeting or a person whose job it is (assistant, PM, etc). Don’t invite me to something for your benefit then put the work on me! If we don’t have shared calendars that changes things but still, I’d rather YOU take the initiative to suggest times once we have a general idea. Going back and forth is annoying.

            In my experience, reserving that space on the calendar is also the smart play because for busy people, that time could vanish in minutes. In the time it would take me to send a “is this time ok” and they respond hours (or days) later, that spot will have been taken by someone who didn’t specifically get permission first. If I don’t act fast, I lose.

      2. Mary*

        Yes–I thought it was interesting that OP3 sees this as “labour” that the person with lower status should do, because I’ve been in lots of jobs where the more senior person picks the time and sends the meeting invite because the more junior person is assumed to have more flexibility in their schedule, and the more senior person doesn’t necessarily make their calendar fully visible. I don’t think it’s cut-and-dried.

        My script for raising it with Bob would be:

        “Bob, I’ve noticed you never schedule meetings directly. You do have access to my diary, don’t you? Let me know if not and I’ll check the settings.”

        1. Allonge*

          That is not how I read OP3. Obviously there is a level of difference in seniority when the junior staffer will not be able to just send a meeting request and expect the director/CEO to show up. In my experience in these cases the senior staffer has an assistant to manage their calendar and send the actual meeting request, knowing what is and is not possible.

          In the case of OP3 though, they and Bob do not have this gap in rank. They both have access to the same information on when they are both available (or if not, that is easily addressed and the one who does not have the information needs to take action!). They agree that regular meetings are necessary – no need to coordinate. The next step is that they don’t go three rounds with the scheduling (shall we maybe meet? when do you have time? is this time ok?) but to use the tech that is at their mutual disposal to arrange a meeting.

          For whatever reason, Bob is not willing to go directly to sending a meeting request. OP3 was looking for a way not to do three times as much work as is necessary just because Bob is not willing to send the meeting request. It would not be presumptuous of him to do it – they both want to meet.

          When Bob was OP3’s supervisor, it was ok for him to say send me a meeting request – up to the boss and actually pretty clear instructions. That situation changed though. They are peers. OP3 should not be the one to always do the scheduling.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            My understanding of it was the same. E.g, my boss would occasionally tell me “schedule a meeting this week to discuss X, invite Y, Z, A, and B” meaning that would be something he’d do, but he’s busy and wants me to schedule and run the meeting. Bob probably used to come to OP with similar requests when he was OP’s manager, but now he’s not, but somehow the requests still keep coming. I agree that with OP that this is strange and power move-ish on behalf of Bob.

          2. Mary*

            >>In my experience in these cases the senior staffer has an assistant to manage their calendar and send the actual meeting request, knowing what is and is not possible.

            That depends very much how senior they are and sector, I think! I’m in a university in a professional role, but you have to go up 2-3 grades before you get to someone with the seniority to have their own PA!

            My impression is that the OP thinks it’s fairly evident that the less senior person is the one who should do the “labour” of setting up the meeting, and it’s therefore damn cheeky of Bob to still be treating him as less senior. My point was that it’s not always the case that the less senior person does the scheduling / sending invites: I’ve worked in lots of places where it’s just an interpersonal thing where some managers prefer to schedule themselves, some prefer the more junior person to do it, and some don’t care either way and it’s just a question of who gets there first. If that’s where Bob is coming from, he might not perceive it as a seniority thing at all.

            It’s still totally legit for OP to be irritated that Bob isn’t doing any of the scheduling himself and to want that to change! It’s just not an indication that Bob is disrespectful or doesn’t recognise him as a peer or anything.

            1. Yorick*

              Whether you see this as labor that a lower person should do or not, a peer shouldn’t be asking another peer to set up the meeting when he could just as well do it himself.

            2. Allonge*

              This is one of those situations when the sentence cannot just be turned around and still be true.

              People of all relative ranks schedule meetings all the time. It is perfectly reasonable for a higher ranked person to schedule a meeting, especially if they have access to information the other party does not. Hell, even if they just wish to! Priviledge of rank, actually.

              Someone who is a peer and has the same information does not get to decide that the other party schedules all the time without coming across as
              1. inept (oh, I cannot for the life of me figure out how to look at your calendar – the mystery!) and/or
              2. self-important and thinking of scheduling as a lower level task that should be done by someone else.

              What other excuse is there?

              It’s a bit like having always be the friend or family member who initiates contact. Is is a lot of difficulty to call friend X, once? No. Is it a healthy relationship if it only ever goes one way? No.

                1. Allonge*

                  Ok, two things:
                  If everyone followed that line of thiught we would never have any meeting at all.

                  More for the specific situation though: when he was manager of OP, he told her to schedule the meetings, as his preference. Now suddenly he is soooo polite that he dares not even propose a meeting time? To me, this does not compute.

            3. Torgo*

              They’re peers, it’s as simple as that. Bob should schedule his own meetings; he’s too lazy to do. It has gotten to the point of being obnoxious, as attested to by the OP. Whatever Bob thinks about this is irrelevant.

          3. JanetM*

            Allonge wrote, “That is not how I read OP3. Obviously there is a level of difference in seniority when the junior staffer will not be able to just send a meeting request and expect the director/CEO to show up.”

            That’s a good point. If I need a meeting with the CIO (my grandboss), I go to his admin to schedule it (he’s the sponsor for a couple of my projects, so I do sometimes need to meet with him to discuss them). Directors, though, I’ll send a meeting invitation with wording like, “If this time isn’t convenient, please let me know and I’ll reschedule.”

          4. Not Bob*

            I’m LW #3. Yes, Allonge, this is it exactly. We both have access to the same info, and he never takes on this task. When he supervised me, it was a normal part of how things go in our org, now it’s just obnoxious.

        2. Facepalm*

          In every office I’ve worked (and maybe this is a US culture thing), it’s an administrative task for a lower level assistant type person to do the calendaring. That means researching when the senior person has availability and then coordinating with everyone else’s calendars to fit. Bob is not providing his available times and asking the OP what works for her; he’s suggesting a meeting and then assigning her the task to look at his calendar for a meeting HE requested and then do the admin work of finding a mutually beneficial time and meeting place for both of them. He’s tasking her like she’s a lower level employee, not deferring to her busier schedule. Even if he were deferring to her, he should be the one asking what’s a good time for her, finding a matching time on his own calendar, and then performing the administrative task of sending the invite.

          1. epi*

            This, it’s pretty clear from the letter that the issue is the work involved. This can be a time consuming, annoying task that is often given to junior people and admins once everyone agrees that a meeting should happen.

            The precise etiquette and IT setup in each commenter’s company is not relevant to this question. The OP knows from direct personal experience that, at their company and with Bob, this is a time consuming task for a lower ranked person, because they used to be in that position themselves.

          2. AKchic*

            Pretty much. Which means the LW is free to say “I haven’t seen an invite for the meeting yet. Please send me an invitation when you’ve gotten it scheduled, or have your assistant check to see our mutual availability” to firmly signal that this *isn’t* her role to be filling.

        3. TootsNYC*

          The OP used to report directly to Bob, so of course it was reasonable for Bob to assign admin work to someone who is his subordinate.

          The OP isn’t the subordinate anymore, and so Bob shouldn’t be delegating things to the OP. It’s not about status so much as it is about whether Bob can delegate.

          If the OP was still junior but reported to someone else, Bob shouldn’t be assigning work to them.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      I was wondering if the OPs schedule is busier than Bob’s, or if Bob might think it’s busier, and he’s waiting for her to pick a time that works for her. Two of my three coworkers have a lot more outside demands on their time than I do so if we needed to meet, I would ask them to pick the time, because my schedule is almost endlessly flexible (within working hours, at least) and theirs is not.

      1. Quill*

        Overall this is how it works when I need to schedule something as the most junior person on my team: People invite me to meetings based on a glance at my (mostly empty unless I specifically block some time for a priority project) calendar, whereas I never know if their “busy” blocks require them to prep first, drive to another location, or what.

    3. SweetestCin*

      Exactly this.

      My response (I was asked to set up a marketing meeting. I was not in marketing. I am not administrative in nature. My response was to one particular gentleman who was not on his first, his second, nor even his third attempt at getting me to do administrative work for me while calling me “honey” and just assuming that since I was “just a girl” I was administrative.) was to give “the look” and state “I’m one extremely expensive secretary, and I believe you’re looking in the wrong department”.

    4. Not Bob*

      I’m LW #3, and Caramel & Cheddar hit the nail on the head. I’m female, he’s male, and it’s obnoxious. I’m going to take Alison’s perfectly sensible advice and put in into action today.

      1. AKchic*

        Can you update us on how it goes?
        A lot of Bobs tend to “forget” (how convenient, right?) that their former assistants (women, almost all of them) are no longer their assistants, and fall back on old habits with such annoying regularity that one has to wonder if they are even capable of wiping their own hind ends without assistance.

  4. NotaDoctor*

    LW2 – No advice to you, but to Chris I would say “RUN!” If not to another company, he should at least try to get an internal transfer to a different manager. I can think of few things worse than working for someone who lords their power to end your employment over you. From the description given of Chris, finding employment elsewhere should not be much of a problem.

    1. Lena Clare*

      I don’t get the impression that the letter writer is “lording” their power over Chris. It sounds like they’re mortified and made a stupid error of judgement. Chris could accept their apology, although he doesn’t have to of course, and then keep an eye out for other errors of judgement to use that to inform his decision on whether to stay or not.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The OP made a thoughtless comment that they immediately regretted, as we’ve all done. There’s nothing to indicate they’re taking any pleasure in lording their power over others (and I ask that we be kind to letters writers and give them the benefit of the doubt).

      1. Czhorat*

        Agreed, but I overall feel that the way they are looking at the probationary period isn’t really healthy – I think you addressed this in your answer. Beneath the joke is an idea that a probationary employee is less than a full team-member and needs to “earn” a permanent spot. If the letter writer can correct this thinking in their head it’ll be better for everyone (and if this is the only red flag I agree that it’s nothing over which to run away).

        That the letter writer feels bad about it speaks well of them, and their presumed ability to change. If the letter were “My employee got mad about my good-natured and funny joke about their probationary period” this would be a different discussion.

        1. tangerineRose*

          I didn’t like that the LW seemed to feel that Chris shouldn’t know whether or not they’ll have a job at the end of the probationary period. If Chris is doing well, how about saying so?

      2. Artemesia*

        This — it was classic ‘banter’ that misfired given the relative power difference. And Alison’s point was well taken that probation should not be considered a trial you pass, but merely a convenience for dismissing someone who really doesn’t cut it. i.e. you dn’t ‘decide to keep them’; they should assume they are in a permanent job. Only if there are real problems should it become an issue and then early on.

    3. Diahann Carroll*

      Not to pile on, but I’m going to echo everyone else here – this is a radical interpretation of the text. OP #2 seems to have internalized a very strange view of what the probationary period in a workplace is supposed to be, made a thoughtless (and, therefore, insensitive) joke, and regrets making it. Alison has now clarified what the purpose of the probationary period is, the OP got confirmation that her instinct about being wrong here was right, and now she can apologize to Chris and move forward. If she didn’t feel regret for making her statement, then maybe your comment would make sense, but as it stands, it’s wildly off base from what was written.

      1. Daisy*

        ‘OP #2 seems to have internalized a very strange view of what the probationary period in a workplace is supposed to be, made a thoughtless (and, therefore, insensitive) joke’

        But isn’t this strange view of the probationary period exactly what makes it NOT a joke? If the OP had stopped there I would have thought it was an awkward joke, because of course he’ll be staying… but then she follows it up with a whole paragraph on how she really doesn’t want Chris or any of the staff to be confident in their continued employment. It sounds like the comment conveyed pretty much what she really thought, that it was presumptuous to assume he’s being kept on. I don’t view it as harshly as the commentator above, but I think Chris was right to be a little alarmed.

        1. Annony*

          Yeah. I think that is where the problem comes from. It wasn’t entirely a joke. The OP says “Honestly, I didn’t want anyone to think that I was giving Chris an automatic pass, or that he was being cocky about his probation” so it was meant to take Chris down a notch. That isn’t ok. It does seem to stem from the weird view the OP has of the probationary period. Hopefully going forward the OP will be comfortable having people who are doing well assume that they will pass probation. That’s normal. And if they do something that means they aren’t going to pass, they should be told that well before the probationary period ends. Passing/not passing probations should never be a surprise.

          1. HBJ*

            Exactly this. It makes me uncomfortable because why shouldn’t he be confident? The OP gave him every reason to be by talking about long-term goals at the company. And if he is not on track to passbook his probation, he needs to know. Alison talks a lot about how letting someone go/firing should never be a surprise. If he was not going to pass his probation, he should know that. I’m sure the OP does mean well, and this really was a slip, but I do think he or she should really think about Alison’s response and what issues may need to be dealt with in their management style (making sure they’re not leading people on who are about to be fired.)

    4. AmADoctor*

      There is no Lording going on. It’s was a spontaneous thoughtless joke with no malevolent action behind it.

    5. Mookie*

      Eh, I don’t like thar the LW is worried about what other staff think in relation to her keeping Chris on past his probation; if Chris is exemplary, his peers already know he’s worth keeping and has earned his position. That uncertainty on the part of the LW strikes me as an expression of her insecurity as a manager, and that may be worth exploring, rather than an enlarged ego.

      1. Mookie*

        The thing about a competent peer being brought onto a team is that this is an event that should alienate precisely no one. Everyone, operating in good faith, welcomes such additions. Apart from where precedent, law, and labor contracts dictate otherwise, functional workplaces don’t always need to run out the clock before they hire someone on or move them past a probationary period; sometimes there is little value in doing so, particularly from a morale perspective. So, again, the LW’s concerns, primarily about how she herself appears here, seem outsized.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yeah, if I am delighted to finally offload the llama scheduling onto our new team member and go back to focusing on my regular role, the manager suggesting maybe Chris will be dropped like a hot potato in 2 weeks is alarming. It’s not a reassuring reminder that they are scrutinizing Chris’s fit throughout this probationary period.

      2. TootsNYC*

        and also, you only invoke the probationary period if Chris is awful–so awful that it’s really not going to be possible, or remotely easy, to bring him up to speed.

    6. SarahTheEntwife*

      Wow. To me it sounds like it was a good-natured-ribbing sort of joke that came out before the LW’s internal filter realized that this was not at all the appropriate context.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, I think it would have been a harmless joke if made by a peer Chris had a good rapport with. The OP probably mainly wasn’t thinking about the power dynamics of making the joke as Chris’s manager.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I agree–peer-to-peer and with a warmer personal relationship, it’s funny joshing. It just doesn’t work when there’s a power differential.

    7. Quickbeam*

      I worked at a facility where the probationary/permanent divide was huge and the cause of hazing and bullying. If you were on the probationary side you had no rights and had to take whatever anyone dished out. It was a very ugly tradition and those who were permanent felt a lofty superiority to those who had not been made permanent.

      1. Violet Crumble*

        Ages ago, I worked for a company that had a 90 day rigorous probation period and it was made very clear that our positions were very contingent. They’d bring on a group of new hires; all through training we were told “horror” stories of other trainees being “let go” at any stage of the probationary period. In our group about 70% passed probation. On the 91st day, we were all called in individually to speak to the VP. In my meeting, she said it sure was nice to see someone we took a huge chance on actually pass training. My heart sunk. I hadn’t realized that I had been such a poor candidate from the get go. I had “graduated” at the top of the training class and at that point felt rather useless. Come to find out later, she said that to ALL of the trainees that passed. This is something that has stuck with me over the years, and moving into management, I have always tried to be mindful of how I speak and what I say to new hires/trainees.

    8. EvilQueenRegina*

      Someone who thought like that wouldn’t have worried about the reaction to it and/or written in for advice.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Exactly. I think this response (and a few others downthread) are reading way too much into LW’s query. People need to get a grip.

    9. snowglobe*

      I kind of agree. It’s not the joke itself – anyone can let a bad joke slip out at the wrong moment. But the idea that LW doesn’t want Chris to be too complacent that he will get past his probation and doesn’t want other staff to think that a decision on keeping Chris is a done deal. The LW used the word “cocky” to describe Chris after his comment that the co-workers would be stuck with him for good. If Chris is a great worker and you want to keep him, why on earth do you want to make him continue to worry that he might not make it past probation?

    10. Trout 'Waver*

      Ugh. I did the same thing LW2 did once to a contract employee, and still cringe to think about it. Not quite as bad, but along the same lines. Sometimes people put their foot in their mouths. I wasn’t lording any power over the guy and I wasn’t his direct manager; it was just a really stupid unfunny joke that I immediately regretted.

      I sincerely apologized, the guy avoided me for awhile (understandable), but we work and get along well together now and he’s a full-time direct employee.

    11. T2*

      Something I learned a long time ago. Do not screw with someone’s sense of job security without a really really good reason. No one appreciates that.

  5. PollyQ*

    Re LW#2 — am I the only one who feels that Chris’s statement was a little cocky? After all, just because the probation period’s over doesn’t he couldn’t be fired anyway. I don’t think LW’s statement in response was totally outside the tone of the conversation.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      It sounded like he thought that because he and OP were chatting in a group and, presumably, had a good rapport that he was joking – saying, “well, looks like you’re about to be stuck with me” is the kind of flippant thing I would expect friends to say to one another. Sure, OP isn’t actually his friend, she’s his boss, but still – if the guy can’t even kid around with people for fear of having someone read into what he said as arrogance, then he may indeed need to go find a new workplace. I wouldn’t want to work with people who make negative assumptions about my character based off an off-handed comment.

      1. PollyQ*

        It didn’t sound to like LW did make any negative assumptions about his character though, just that he was joking back. Which I’ll agree maybe wasn’t the best way to handle the situation given the power dynamic, but I do think Chris opened the door with his initial comment.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          My comment was from the hypothetical of if the OP had taken your reading of Chris’s joke – reading something negative into something that’s very commonplace (a one off, self-deprecating joke) is weird and would make me feel uncomfortable and out of place. There was no cockiness to be had from my reading of the original line.

    2. Avasarala*

      I read it as self-deprecating. After all, “stuck with me” implies that they wouldn’t want to be with you.

      And it’s not like Chris’s comment came out of nowhere. OP had just told him to start planning long-term at the company: “I suggested that he start considering his longer-term goals for career redevelopment so we could set his annual objectives together in a few weeks’ time.

      Chris, or even OP, could be fired anyway. But it’s pretty crappy for a boss to joke with their employee that they might fire them.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Jokes from management about firing everyone are one of the least funny contenders on AAM’s April Fools jokes gone awry threads.

        1. Anon or not*

          I used to tell my kids that if something was a joke then both parties should be laughing. Clearly Chris didn’t view it as a joke and the power imbalance makes it especially problematic. The fact that so many commentators are dismissing this as just a joke is puzzling.

          1. Allonge*

            A lot of stuff we tell kids is oversimplifying life. The it’s only a joke if everyone is laughing is meant to separate bullying from joking.

            This was an interaction between adults and is a joke that fell flat, not a deliberate attempt at humiliating someone. It was a BAD joke, but a joke still. It happens! Adults need to be able to deal with it – both on the apologising side and on the accepting the ambivalence side.

          2. Oh So Anon*

            The joke that wasn’t really a joke in the first place was Chris’, not the LW’s response – the LW described feeling uncomfortable with it, even though they joked back. This situation wouldn’t have played out as it did if the LW didn’t find Chris’ joke to be awkward in the first place.

    3. Esther09*

      I work in financial services in the UK and this kind of banter would be so normal in my workplaces that no-one would bat an eyelid. My boss and I regularly have similar interactions.

      In reality I wish my boss was more encouraging towards me! But I don’t think there’s much chance of OP being at that stage. If I was OP I would make a point of showing appreciation for Chris at the next few available opportunities. That would cement that the joke was (Meant to be) funny not because it was true, but because it was the opposite of true.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Most of my work has been in heavy engineering sector of the UK and that kind of banter would be totally normal too. I think I even said it myself when I was out my probationary period at a firm!

      2. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Banter like this would totally be normal every place I have worked too. Especially when it’s clear the opposite is true.
        I get why the joke was inappropriate, but I also do wonder whether it’s necessary to make a big production with a public apology. That’d be ideal in the moment, but more than a day afterwards? Eeergh, seems a bit awkward and OTT to me.
        Personally I’d do as Esther09 suggested, just make it clear through everything else that you’re happy with his work, and unless OP gets the sense that he may have taken it to heart I wouldn’t make a big deal of it. The fact that OP picked up on a slightly faltered smile, and that it bothered her enough about it to write in to AAM for guidance tells me she’d be sensitive to pick up the cues if he did seem genuinely bothered.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          I think it can land quite differently depending on tone and warmth of the relationship. Something people with actual social awkwardness struggle with, that if it’s funny when Wakeen says it why isn’t it funny when I say it?

        2. WellRed*

          I agree, it’s banter and it’s probably a bantering office. Not sure why people are reading so heavily into it.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            Just because it’s a bantering office doesn’t mean that the LW and Chris are cut out to have a bantering relationship with each other, though.

        3. CheeryO*

          I agree. Chris could have made a face because he got self-conscious about making a self-deprecating joke, or maybe he didn’t make a face at all and the LW is totally overthinking this. It sounds like completely normal banter to me, and I think a delayed apology would be bizarre unless there were signs that the relationship became strained or something.

        4. Trout 'Waver*

          I worked places where this type of banter would be standard, but only after you got to know the guy. Also, managers should always be the straight man in the banter. Let the rest of the team land the zingers.

        5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This is pretty much the only way people talk to each other in our industry. Managers as well.

          But we’re also team oriented so there’s also plenty of praise going around as well. So it’s offsetting thankfully.

      3. Mary*

        Yeah–it would strike me as completely normal too. These days, the boss’s response wouldn’t phase me at all, although it would have done when I was earlier in my career. (I was *terrified* about my probationary review in my first post-graduation job, and was desperately reading the handbook in advance to find a loophole that said they couldn’t fire me. I’d built it up to such a big deal that I burst into tears in the meeting itself when my manager off-handedly said that of course I’d completed my probationary period. Which was partly my inexperience and partly some n0t-great stuff going on in the role itself.)

        In my last job, my manager joked that she’d got the email with the Big Red Button saying, “click here immediately if you have any concerns to raise whilst Mary is still in their probationary period” and I asked if she was tempted to just to see what would happen.

      4. EvilQueenRegina*

        I can see a situation where that kind of banter is normal in OP’s workplace, but Chris has come from a place where it’s really not, maybe that kind of banter is easier when you know someone better than OP knows Chris and has a better idea of how it might be received?

      5. Not So NewReader*

        Yes, I have worked a few places where this type of thing is normal and is said in place of, “We love you and hope you will stay.” The exact opposite of what is said is the real story.
        There are places that the absence of this type of joke can indicate a problem.

        All that to one side, I agree that OP should apologize. OP, I have done a similar thing and I realized that I just needed to make it my SOP that I never joked about anyone’s employment status… or rate of pay… or paycheck… or… Yeah. I have a pretty good list of things I do not joke about, even if the person themselves is joking, I do not play along. This type of thing takes a nose dive quickly, it’s good to just stay out of it.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Yes, it’s okay to apologize when the thing you meant to be funny clearly landed wide of the mark.

          I’m sorry = “I feel sorrow”

      6. Myrin*

        Yeah, I can easily imagine myself on either side of this back-and-forth and wouldn’t bat an eye at it unless, I don’t know, the manager clearly had it out for me and spit this at me in the most venomous tone imaginable.
        Reading the comments, there definitely seems to be a cultural component to how something like this would be received (which I find interesting and surprising – I wouldn’t have expected this at all!).
        That being said, OP says that she’s sure she saw “Chris’s smile falter hard” so it probably hit him at a tender spot and it would be best for her to apologise regardless of the broarder cultural circumstances.

        1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Just going to throw it out there, but a ”hard smile falter” for some people could be sudden self awareness too? As an easily embarrassed, socially awkward person, if I were in a situation like Chris’s – getting my joke returned with “well aren’t you confident?!” – it’s more likely I’d be overtaken with worry that the people I’m still trying to impress might think my comment was cocky/arrogant/presumptuous. (As opposed to suddenly worried that the boss, who just gave me excellent feedback, has changed her mind in only a few short minutes and is now threatening my job.)

          1. MD*

            But wouldn’t you only be feeling called out for being cocky/arrogant/presumptuous because the comment about being confident implies that “Actually, you are sorely mistaken and way off base, and I will be letting you go shortly”?

            1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

              No, I wouldn’t jump to the conclusion that my job was suddenly on the line only several minutes after hearing the contrary – unless it was an extremely dysfunctional environment. But second-guessing and painfully overanalysing every single that came out of my mouth while still trying to adapt to a new social environment? You bet.

        2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

          Also, I hear you on surprising cultural differences in what sounds like UK vs US workplaces! I’ve noticed that pattern on several comment threads and I’d love if Alison would consider writing more specifically about this, on the off chance she happens to read this.
          You can prepare yourself somewhat when you know there’ll be an obvious difference in culture, but you don’t expect English dominant western workplaces to be that dramatically different from each other. Yet I feel like it’s a minefield we haven’t really probed.

    4. Rexish*

      To me it sounded like there was a bit of banter from Chris to which OP responded in similar way. I don’t think much harm was done, but because OP has the power they shouldn’t participate to banter in that way.

      1. Alicia Bumble*

        I’m with Esther09 and Rexish on this one. The hardest part of being the boss is that you can no longer take part in office banter just because you are giving off signals due to the power dynamic. It’s the worst part of the job to constantly be biting your tongue. I’ve made (what I thought were innocent) jokes that people turned out to be still upset about three years later.
        May not be an issue for some people, but if making an off handed joke is your natural way of dealing with stuff it makes it really difficult.

        1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

          FWIW, I find good-natured banter with a boss important. I’m naturally introverted and awkward, so establishing a relaxed rapport helps me feel comfortable talking to them when more serious issues come up. I feel the open dialogue helps make the working relationship more productive too.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            I agree that good-natured banter is important with your boss, but I kinda feel that it can really only work when they’re happy with your performance and you don’t create too much of a management burden for them. If you’re not good at your job, you don’t get the benefit of having a comfortable relationship. Being relaxed when serious issues arise can easily be read as being flippant.

            1. There's probably a cat meme to describe it*

              Agreed. Banter can make a good working relationship great, but it can’t make an average one good. An undercurrent of unhappiness from either side means the “good-natured” part isn’t genuine and throws it in toxic/bullying territory.

        2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I think there’s jokes and jokes – if LW had responded something like “I’ll have to start wearing a disguise so you don’t see me” or something obviously ridiculous then it would have been carrying on the banter, but since it’s actually possible for her to let him go, a reference to that didn’t hit the spot as a joke.

          Like with messy teenagers you can joke “if you don’t clean your room I’m going to put you in a box and mail you to Berlin” but not “… turn off the router.” Because you actually could turn off the router, and that would be The End Of Days, so it reads not as a joke but an actual threat.

          1. LizB*

            This is a very good point, but also I’m totally going to use that mail-you-to-Berlin threat against my cat next time she immediately sheds all over my clean laundry. I think she’ll pay about as much heed to it as a teenager would.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          I strongly agree with you, Alicia. The boss’ words take on a lot of extra weight that may have never been intended.
          I did joke. I decided to joke about things not people. And after hitting a few more potholes, I realized I need to limit my jokes to things that are “waaaaay over there” and not in our immediate surroundings.

          It’s also good to make it standard practice to apologize immediately, when realizing the joke did not sound right. Nothing wrong with saying, “Ugh. I am sorry. That sounded like I meant something else, I did not. It was a poor joke, I should not have said that.”

          What never ceased to amaze me is how forgiving people are. Sure they seem to accept the apology on the surface, so I would watch for residual upset to see if I needed to reopen the conversation. Very seldom was there any further conversation and I saw evidence that the same level of trust remained in place.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            The post got away from me.

            I just wanted to add that I was very impressed with people for their ability to move on.

        4. Joielle*

          Yeah – I think it would have been perfectly acceptable banter between peers, but when you’re the boss you have to be extra careful with what you say.

    5. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It doesn’t read as inherently cocky to me. It depends on what his tone was, but it sounds like this was gentle ribbing and was meant as a self-deprecating way of saying, “Hey, I enjoy working with y’all.” If he’s been told his performance is solid and has received other signals he’ll be staying, he could just be articulating what he thought was a shared understanding.

      OP cracking the joke that they did may undermine Chris’ sense that he was reading the room correctly, and Alison’s advice is spot on. The sooner OP can apologize and clear the air publicly (as appropriate), the better it will hopefully be for Chris, who may be walking under a gray cloud worrying about his prospects. I’m glad OP recognizes their comment may have been more harmful than they intended and is hoping to rectify it.

    6. CupcakeCounter*

      Keep in mind that Chris and OP had just had a discussion of long-term goals and projects so I can totally see reading that (as Chris) to mean that even though the probation period isn’t technically over, the boss is talking about long-term objectives so looks like I’m staying. Nothing overly cocky about that, just a natural “oh yeah” reaction to good news (although being told you got the job/can keep the job is a small moment where a bit of cocky is allowed IMO).

    7. Czhorat*

      Yes, you are.

      The probationary period can feel like a weird liminal space between a secure position and unemployment; joking about them being “stuck with you” is a whistling past the graveyard way to make light of your own fear.

      It could also be a way to fish for reassurance, in which they received the opposite.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Both whistling past the graveyard as well as fishing for reassurance can be super offputting to a manager, though. Making light of your own fear can be easily read as dark and negative, and I can see a manager wanting to punish someone for that kind of display.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            I’d agree with that, yes, yet I’ve known someone to be this way because they wanted to maintain a positive team environment and a sense of gratitude. That, in their case, went as far as being very uncomfortable about the idea that probation could be stressful for an employee.

        1. Avasarala*

          I mean, I suppose that’s true, but that’s not what LW wanted to do! She didn’t want to punish him, it was an accidental misstep.

    8. Bikirl*

      Agree. There are lots of reasons he could still be fired–and his “you’re stuck with me forever” makes it sound like he thinks he’s above that now. The LW’s retort doesn’t seem that off-base to me either.

      1. SarahTheEntwife*

        Yes, he could technically be fired at any time, but in a healthy workplace, by the time you get toward the end of your probationary period, you shouldn’t be looking around the corner for a pink slip at any moment. (Unless there’s something unusual about this field or something). Heck, at most places I know, the probationary period itself is pretty nominal and more of a chance to let someone go easily if it turns out they were dramatically the wrong fit. If you’re doing your hiring correctly, a probationary period shouldn’t be a “wellll, we’ll give you a chance and see how you do” sort of situation.

      2. DyneinWalking*

        Eh, no. As other commenters have said already, the probationary period shouldn’t really be a test, but just the ability to fire someone quickly if you made a crass misjudgement in hiring. If the person turns out to meet your expectations… you keep them because that was the point of hiring them. You wanted the role filled.
        The employee had been informed that he was meeting expectation – that his work was very good, even – so it makes perfect sense for him to assume that passing the probationary period was, by that point, a mere formality.

        Well, unless circumstances change, of course. But “unless circumstances change” is a condition you can tack on onto anything. For most people there’s no need to point that out, because they are aware that that’s the case for pretty much any situation. Stating that something is not completely certain therefore implies, for most people, a higher uncertainty than “well, there may be an unexpected change of circumstances”. It implies that even if everything stays exactly the same something is not completely certain.
        To the employee, OP’s “joke” must have sounded like that – that even if he continued to work like he had, even if nothing changed, he might not pass. Which most employees on their probationary period would be alarmed to hear, because, again, the idea is that if the employee works out in their role, you keep them there.

    9. SpaceySteph*

      To me it seems like the whole organization might have a skewed view of probation period. Where I work there is absolutely an expectation that the substantial majority of people will make it through probation without issue, to the point where nobody would even mention “being stuck with me permanently” near the end of their probation period, because probation expiring is a non-event unless you’ve already been struggling significantly.

    10. Pobody’s Nerfect*

      Depends on where they work. If it’s US govt/public sector, they very well could be stuck with him forever, as it’s so very difficult to fire people once they’re “in.” I don’t know why this continue to be the case, but it is. Betting Chris knows that.

  6. mazarin*

    #1 Is the new worker younger than you? From the outside, with you being there 23 years and them 11 months, this sounds like straight out ageism. I hope it is not, because if it is there is nothing much you can do. (Because they are unlikely to admit that age is the reason, and might not even consciously realise it)

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      this sounds like straight out ageism

      Not necessarily. Just because the new hire has only been with the company for 11 months doesn’t mean she didn’t put in many years of work someplace else. Additionally, if this position was for a strategic role within the company, I could see why they might decide to promote the new hire – she’s a new set of eyes who hasn’t yet had time to drink the company’s Kool-Aid so will probably have fresher ideas than someone who’s been entrenched in the company for as long as OP has. We’re dealing with this now at my company – our sales process and how we do business needs to step into this century, but a lot of the old guard (no pun intended) don’t want to do things differently. It’s tiring.

      1. Annie*

        It does sound like ageism.

        Someone who’s been in the same job for 23 years is certainly at least middle aged, and unfortunately that is considered old in many industries.

        It’s very unlikely an ambitious new hire who’s being fast tracked is middle aged. Come on. Maybe not impossibly but unlikely.

        And unfortunately I think staying in the same position for 23 years without moving or pushing for promotions is probably regarded as a sign of lack of ambition. Work culture has changed so much over the past decade and the concepts of loyalty and “job for life” are being replaced.

        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

          There’s not enough in the letter for this to ring the ageism bell. Additionally, tenure in a position or with an employer does not necessarily mean that person is better qualified or suited for a particular position than someone who joins later in time.

          The letter doesn’t suggest OP is being penalized for a lack of ambition, but it’s possible that the employer is looking for outside perspectives, for different skill sets, or may wrongly assume OP prefers their current role.

          1. Sam.*

            Yes, exactly. I admit that I may be a bit sensitive to the claim of ageism because I’ve been in the coworker’s position (promoted ahead of long-tenured colleagues when I’d been there one year), and I feel very confident saying that I was objectively much better suited to the requirements of the role. From an external perspective, you could assume ageism was part of it (I was in my late 20s; they were in their 50s), but while my colleagues had strengths, their shortcomings (including resistance to change and lack of outside-the-box-thinking) quite simply would’ve made them less effective in the position I occupied.

            1. Quill*

              Also it’s entirely possible for someone newer to the workforce to have more recent experience at other companies / more recent training.

              You don’t want someone who’s been doing the same thing for 20 years taking wild stabs at how chocolate teapots can be competitive with caramel teapots without them doing significant research beforehand, and the new hire may actually come from Caramel Silverware and understand the caramelization process industry.

          2. Falling Diphthong*

            I’m with PCBH–there is not enough there to indicate that it’s age.

            I also think there comes a point in tenure where people assume you don’t WANT to move up, sideways, or any other direction. That you like dealing with clients and hate being trapped in a back room with piles of paper, or vice versa. (Or, that management tolerates your quirks in this position in return for your depth of knowledge, but that tradeoff would immediately fail in any other position.) If a manager told me they were looking to promote from people who had been there 23 years, 2 years, and 1 year, I’d expect the contest to be between the last two.

            1. Oxford Comma*

              Or this is what happens: You start in a job and you’re interested in moving up and whoever is in charge tells you that you need to put in your time in whatever your position is before they can promote you. Or maybe there just aren’t a ton of positions. Maybe they want people with unique qualifications for the new jobs that you just don’t possess. This keeps on happening. Maybe that’s just how the culture of the job is at the time, and it doesn’t shift for years. You may have a certain level of trust in management so when they told you a while back that you had to put in your dues, you believed them. Maybe they told you that loyalty mattered a lot and you’ve stuck it out to be loyal.

              New management happens over time and they are looking at you and saying, “Good old reliable Jane. She’s great! A rock.” (Subconscious/conscious use of the “old” btw). They don’t know that you’re interested in moving up and even if you say anything, they’re looking for new blood. Young blood.

              I don’t know that this is the case, of course, but I would be willing to bet that there’s been a culture shift somewhere in the OP’s workplace and I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that ageism is at play.

              1. Lucia*

                That’s possible. But my direct personal experience is one in which plenty of Jimmies and Janes just express a desire to be paid more/have more prestige without putting in the work to make themselves more useful. Wanting to be promoted for the pay and prestige is very different than wanting to do new and more challenging work. I can see LW’s boss thinking she’s not really interested in the latter.

                Has LW taken on responsibilities outside her job description?
                Has LW went out to get training/learn new skills?
                Has LW done everything possible to mitigate her own shortcomings?
                What does LW do outside the office that may help her in her career?

                One cannot sit back and expect the employer to train you for your entire career. One has to be constantly working on improving.

                I’ll give you an example: Many of the lawyers where I live do private practice plus some governmental supplement position. Recently, the gentleman whose side job was representing people who were alleged to be incompetent in guardianship proceedings decided to retire. Several of the local attorneys without conflicts wanted the job. It’s an extra $30,000 per year. This is a lot for our low cost of living area. The best candidate with respect to the subject matter was in his early 70s. He didn’t get the job. Why? He doesn’t use computers. Our state is making a big push to digitize everything in the legal process. That lack of evolution alone cost him the job.

                Sometimes it isn’t the company passing someone over when they should be nurturing them.

                We are all responsible for our own career paths.

                I think that LW needs to find an external job coach and start looking at how to make herself more marketable for the types of jobs she would want.

                1. Oxford Comma*

                  Oh, it’s entirely possible that what you’re describing is the case.

                  But as someone who has been in her job for over 10 years, I can also tell you that what I am describing happens. Sometimes if you want to advance, you simply have to leave because quite often you get typed as good old reliable Jane, you aren’t moving up. No matter how you demonstrate your worth or express interest in moving up.

                  I’m at a point where I don’t want to move up. I’m happy with my position. I have work I enjoy doing and it’s what I trained to do, but I’ve got colleagues who do want to move up, who do really good work, who demonstrate improvement, and who just do not get advanced (enough are over 45 and female that I’m inclined to look at ageism and sexism as the culprits).

                2. Lucia*

                  Oxford comma

                  I could see either scenario being true or even a bit of both. I think LW needs to do some soul searching on this. I don’t think the answer will be easy whatever the circumstances are.

                  Also, I love Oxford Commas.

          3. CupcakeCounter*

            Age absolutely could be an issue if some of the shortcomings they mentioned include resistance to change or issues with technology that are vital for the new role.
            However, I tend to agree with the overall group that it could be as simple as the newer employee being vocal about their long-term goals. OP – have you ever broached the topic of your career development and potential for advancement with your boss??

            1. Dust Bunny*

              However, the LW may not have a realistic assessment of her own level of resistance here. She says she has some shortcomings but didn’t elaborate on what they were, and most of us are inclined to underestimate the importance of flaws when facing them would be really uncomfortable. If her shortcomings are that she’s, well, not great with new technology and her skillset is a bit wilted, it might be fine for her current position but definitely not enough to move her up.

          4. Lucia*

            I’m 50 and female. I didn’t see ageism at all.

            What I saw was someone whose been too comfortable in a job and an employer who regards them as dependable, but not exciting or someone whose going to move up and outward in terms of trajectory.

            I’ve seen so, so many women in offices put in hard work and loyalty to the current position but not take the driver’s seat in charting a lifelong career. They get passed over by others who may not have been there as long, worked as hard, or been as loyal. Those others have ambition and a plan. So the employers know they needs to provide new opportunities or lose the employee.

            LW may have inadvertently sent the message she can be taken for granted b/c she’s not going to leave.

            1. Miss Salty Grits*

              Yes! The biggest mistake that you can make is thinking that you can “help” your way into a promotion, or “have loyalty” and move your way into a promotion. You become a fixture in the role you’re currently in, not a competitive candidate to move upward.

              1. Lucia*

                I think this is true of work and some interpersonal relationships.

                If you are a time and effort person, you need a specific work environment and specific romantic relationships.

        2. EventPlannerGal*

          I don’t know if that *is* an unfortunate assumption, though. 23 years is a very long time to spend in one position and if someone had spent that long doing the same low-level job, never showed interest in movement or promotion and appeared content with that for 23 years, I think it’s pretty reasonable to conclude that they are not particularly ambitious. Loyal, yes, which is a very valuable trait, but loyalty is not the same thing as ambition (if anything it’s often quite the opposite). If the OP has been doing things like pushing to take on new responsibilities, widening their job role etc that whole time then that’s another matter, but as described here I can see how they would give the impression of not having ambitions beyond their current role.

        3. snowglobe*

          The ‘new’ employee may have been at this company for 11 months and in similar work in the same field for 30 years.

          What strikes me is that the LW has been in the exact same role for 23 years. That is a long time to be in one job, and I’d say it’s likely that management has decided that LW doesn’t have the skills to move up.

          1. Matilda Jefferies*

            Or the interest. It’s possible that this is the first time OP has said anything at all about wanting a promotion, so the boss may have assumed she just wasn’t interested. Which, if someone was in the same position for 23 years, I think I would probably make the same assumption!

      2. Senor Montoya*

        I agree. Particularly if the OP has been in the same position for the whole time, or even just a long time. Has OP been passed up for promotion previously? Has OP ever discussed promotion and professional development w their boss? Not clear from the letter.

        Allison’s advice is spot-on. I wouldn’t assume ageism without more info.

    2. Mels*

      There is literally nothing to point to ageism. We don’t know their relative qualifications, skill levels, skill sets or ambitions. Just because one person may be older than the other doesn’t mean they’re automatically better suited to be promoted.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Shoot, the coworker could be older and just be newer to the company. She might have been in the industry for 33 years, but at different companies. Knowing how the competition operates would be a good qualification for a higher level position

        1. Anononon*

          My mom has gotten a couple relatively quick promotions at the company she’s been at for the past several years. She’s also been in the industry for decades, and the initial job was a demotion (due to layoffs and then job searching in one’s upper fifties).

      2. AnotherAlison*

        20 years in my industry, 15 years with my current company (6 roles), so I speak as a now “older” employee.

        I think 23 years in one role is more likely to point to someone *not* being suited for promotion in the eyes of their management. OP’s management knows everything she has done professionally for 23 years and feels like they have her capabilities defined. She’s pigeonholed.

        I’d suggest the OP look at her skills and goals and figure out if this is where she wants to spend another 10-20 years. My mother recently retired and spent about 30 of 32 years as an accounts payable coordinator at one company. She had opportunities to move up, but she didn’t have much confidence because she didn’t have a degree and turned down opportunities until she no longer received them. It’s likely the OP’s management sees her as someone who doesn’t want to move. She may need a new company to get a new role.

    3. Mommy.MD*

      Not really. The new person is probably fresh, exciting and ambitious. And has obviously made a good impression. If OP hasn’t significantly moved up in 20 plus years she may be seen as content with her position or not ambitious. Company may just prefer the new energy.

      1. Lilo*

        10 years isn’t exactly new, though. I think more likely she’s in her long time there, demonstrated relevant skills.

      2. Lucia*

        I personally think it is an energy, ambition, and flexibility issue.

        I don’t want to be harsh to LW in pointing that out. It’s also possible we are all reading through our own dirty lenses on that one.

        It is, however, something she needs to seriously consider.

    4. Smithy*

      First of all, just because the new staff member has been in the role for 11 months has nothing to do with their age.

      However, the thing that stuck out to me was the mention of short comings – and whether any of those relate to teamwork or management. I used to work somewhere that had a very long tenured employee who was never considered for any other positions. Because while she was very talented at her specific work, her overall teamwork skills had leadership consider her unsuitable for management.

      Because she had decades of experience, her knowledge base would have qualified her to manage a department. But no one had confidence she could manage a small team. If she ever had decided she did want to take on management – she would have been best served going to a new place where those assumptions weren’t so ingrained.

      1. Trust Honesty*

        This point about soft skills is spot on. Short comings for an individual contributor or SME can be overlooked, but running a team or managing is entirely different and soft skills are key. If the writer doesn’t have them and can’t develop them after 23 years. She is likely stuck in her position. Her management long ago formed their opinion of her.

        1. Smithy*

          It may also be that the OP’s specific job hasn’t demanded management specifically. In the situation I was thinking of, the person was a lawyer. While certainly she needed to work with other people in the organization, she was never their direct manager. And there are some people who also choose legal careers where management of other lawyers is not an aspiration. So the organization evaluated her soft skills/people management was weak – but that she was a strong attorney in a specific field working for a nonprofit. So the institutional decision was to not push her to build on the weaknesses and assume she was happy with her role that also came with some additional institutional freedoms.

          Now this could not fit at all with the OP – but it’s a situation that immediately came to mind reading this letter. That the weaknesses being overlooked are weaknesses no longer being addressed with an interest in strengthening or mitigating them. And while they may have minimal impact in the OP’s current role, are far more significant for promotions and from an employer who may have decided there’s no room for growth.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Excellent point. I once worked with a DBA who was a genius troubleshooter and his technical knowledge alone could have got him to manage a whole department. But he was so uncomfortable around people he would have been a disaster.

    5. Cheluzal*

      It’s a very real possibility and I’m surprised more people aren’t open to it. I guarantee you the new hire can be promoted at a cheaper salary and they might think that after 23 years somebody would be possibly retiring sooner than the other. Several facets that just have to do with longevity at the company, even if tangentially related to age.

      1. snowglobe*

        More people aren’t jumping to that conclusion because we don’t know the ‘new’ employees background. She’s new to that specific company, there is no reason to think this is her first job out of college.

        1. Lucia*

          Also, she could be a college grad but have training and job experience directly relevant to the position.

          There’s absolutely no information to suggest she’s a lesser, or even equal, candidate to LW.

      2. AnotherAlison*

        Retiring sooner?!?

        I’ve been in my industry for 20 years. . .I’m 41. I’ll be 44 at 23 years in the industry (2 companies), hardly retirement age. YMMV, but my department hired a few people over 60 and several over 40 recently. No one here is worrying about it. If you get 3-5 good years from someone, it’s worth it.

        Plus, as snowglobe said, we don’t know either employee’s actual age. OP could be 41 starting out of high school. She could be 60. The new colleague could be any age, too.

    6. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yeah, that was my first thought. My second was some other kind of discrimination. The third possibility is that OP1’s bosses just don’t agree with her assessment of her performance. The fourth is that, as others have said, maybe OP1 lacks management skills even if she is good at her job.

      Two possibilities I don’t think I’ve seen are: OP1 is *so* good at her job as an individual contributor that they won’t promote her because they don’t want to “lose” her (which is shortsighted but hardly unheard of) or that the company only promotes people who explicitly ask for promotion.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        OP1 is *so* good at her job as an individual contributor that they won’t promote her because they don’t want to “lose” her (which is shortsighted but hardly unheard of)

        This is the story of my mother’s life, but she won’t leave her low-paying position because she’s convinced she won’t find another one that pays as well (?!) at her age (she’s 53). I believe she could find a better one with higher pay – her accomplishments at her workplace are hella impressive – but she won’t listen, but will complain when other, younger people in her company come in and move up quickly.

        1. straws*

          I’m sure you’ve had other anecdotes to share with her, but my mom restarted an entire career in her mid-50s after being a SAHM for 20 years or so. The first job she landed wasn’t what she wanted, so she left for another position. She then left that job for a 3rd in her late 50s. If you are good, there is someone who will pay you for your skills. She retired last year from her 3rd job after returning to the workforce, where they were continually offering her promotions that she turned down because they included management (which she had done and hated). I hope your mother will at least come around enough to put feelers out!

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Thank you! That’s what I’m saying. Look, I’m not trying to say that ageism isn’t a thing – it absolutely is. As is racism, as is weight discrimination (all things she’s likely to face) – but come on. You don’t just throw in the towel, lie down, and take it! She’s got such a negative, defeatist attitude right out the gate, which I also noted could be sleeping into her interactions at work and making her even less appealing to management for promotions, but she just won’t listen. It’s so frustrating; I want her to win.

      1. Lucia*

        I think it’s that in a nutshell. Coworker is shiny, ambitious. Likely flexible and has a more current skill set.

        LW is going to have to reinvent herself. She may also need to realize she can’t get promoted in her current firm and needs to get out.

        It really, truly is a difficult situation to be in.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      Straight out ageism? No.

      23 without a promotion is shocking to me. The fact that the LW not been promoted in the past 23 years is a warning sign that there’s something or many things that mark her as not able to do the higher level job.

    8. Rockin Takin*

      I am unsure this would be ageism, and it’s unfair to assume that if the coworker is younger than the OP.

      I’m a supervisor in “teapot filling and packaging” and we have a coordinator type position that we needed to train someone on, because the person who currently does the job is retiring. Instead of opening it up for interviews, the supervisors all got together and looked at the skill sets of our employees, who has asked us directly/seems highly interested in more responsibility, and who we think could succeed in the job. We chose an employee who has worked here less than a year, based on his customer service experience (which the job desperately needs) and his good communication skills.
      Another employee who has been here 20+ years was upset that we didn’t select her. Honestly she wasn’t even on our list because she’s never shown interest in moving up, is difficult to communicate with, and has no customer service experience. It had nothing to do with age.
      Automatically getting something based on longevity alone is not how most industries work now. You have to show/tell your superiors that you want it, and ask what needs to be done to get there.

      On the flip-side, I have another employee who has mentioned in 1-1’s that he wants to move up, but his actions don’t suggest that. When we’ve had openings, he doesn’t apply. When we offer him new tasks, he does them halfheartedly.

      1. 1234*

        I am absolutely not placing blame on you at all, but are the new tasks for the “flip-side” employee ones that relate to the role he wants to move up in? Were the openings suitable for his skill set? For example, if the opening was for “Senior Teapot Filling Manager,” or “CEO of Teapots” then it wouldn’t have made sense for him to apply.

        1. Rockin Takin*

          They absolutely were. For instance, we have workers Level I-IV. He’s a level II, but he’s been doing work on a machine used by level IV employees, and has become a SME on that machine. We had 3 level IV slots open up, and he didn’t apply to any of them. He would have been given the position if he applied, and he was encouraged to apply.
          He’s specifically mentioned his long term goal is management. So we gave him a project where he could step up and be the leader (which is what he was told). Instead, he took the backseat and let other members do most of the work.
          Things like that.

          I appreciate the feedback though!

    9. AKchic*

      They could very well be the same age.

      Example: LW joined the company right out of high school at 18 and is now 41.
      The new coworker worked elsewhere, worked through college, worked at another place, spent time at another place, maybe 2-3 other places, and is now at the current company. This coworker is 40. However, due to being in a few different semi-related industries that overlap in technology and skills, and one having a sales component, it allowed this second coworker a different perspective, also allowing this coworker to be a fresh set of eyes, and giving them the opportunity to have worked with a software that the company is planning on bringing in within the next year that LW may not be aware of.

      It’s not to say that the 23 year veteran of the company’s time isn’t an asset. She has institutional knowledge of the company. She is needed. However, if she hadn’t specified that she was actually interested in moving up in the first place, they may not have known; and add in the aspect of new tech that everyone might be learning, you could see where wanting someone who’d already have experience with it is necessary (in this extremely hypothetical example only).

      Just because someone is newer to the company doesn’t automatically make them younger.

  7. Anancy*

    LW2 This is also a great time to demonstrate to all of your team that managers sometimes mess up, but that good managers take ownership of the mistakes they make. You will also be showing Chris and the rest of the team a template for apologizing, owning, and rectifying the mistake. And that’s a very valuable lesson.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Excellent advice, and I hope LW2 takes it. In addition to providing a good model for owning up to mistakes, it also gives LW2 the opportunity to show staff that it’s safe to admit to errors, rather than hide them.

  8. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    OP 3: I’m c-suite and coordinate 5 managers who each have a team of people they coordinate. I’ve given everyone access to my schedule, showing when I’m free, traveling, and otherwise occupied. When I need to meet with one of them, I ask them to review my schedule and drop on an appointment that meshes well with their schedule and the operations for that day. I was very clear about this when I took the team on and made sure to revisit the topic every couple of months since then. The only rule I have is to ask if the meeting request is same day, just in case I’ve had a last minute adjustment.

    I’ve kept to my word. If I’m at a location and I’m shown as free, then I’m free. I don’t sway from this.

    At first I got a lot of pushback from the managers on this, but most of come around to how much easier this is for them. Except one, he’s dead set that this is somehow a favor for me. He insists on doing the antiquated dance of “does MM/DD at HH:MM work for you?” And then waits for me to create the calendar invite.

    I cannot for the life of me figure out how to navigate past this. It’s a behavior issue that certainly fits the theme of similar behavior issues he has, and in the long run will hold him back. I’d love to figure out how to steer him towards a more cooperative mind set.

    1. London Calling*

      My reply would be ‘Works for me, if it works for you please send me a calendar invite.’ If I don’t get it I assume the time doesn’t work for them and they changed their mind. Not my job to chase them up for a meeting they asked for.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I wouldn’t even bother to check my calendar. ‘No need to check thanks, please just drop in an invitation for whenever I’m free’, every single time. I’d probably have it set up as signature option by now.

        1. Joielle*

          This! If you’re above someone on the org chart, this is well within your prerogative and is probably the only way to get through to this guy.

      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

        I agree with London Calling, here. Even if you’re requesting the meeting, if you’ve told folks to send you the invite, then he needs to send the invite. I’d be super direct, and if he passive-aggressively declines to send an invite, then you owe him nothing.

      3. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

        Agreed. If meeting required = send invite, then by corollary, no invite = no meeting required. Ignore and carry on.
        Bet that’s what 99.9% of men do.

    2. Allonge*

      How is ‘As discussed, please schedule a meeting for any available time as per my calendar’. Don’t check your calendar! He does not schedule, you do not meet.

      If this persists, you can also say that this is ineffective behavior that will have an impact on his assessment.

      This may (MAY) have been polite 30 years ago when people’s calendars were on paper in their agendas. No more! And actively refusing to comply with the system your boss sets up is not a wise carreer move.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      For the specific situation: Eh, just tell him that it’s his job to create the calendar invite, just as everyone else does in his department.

      For the general setting: If you haven’t already, it is okay to announce to the group that you want to implement a new standard operating procedure. Then tell them what the procedure will be.

      I suspect you have been hinting and hoping with this guy and that just is not going to work. I am one of these people who says, “Don’t make me guess what you want, just tell me and I will do it. It’s not a problem.” I deeply resent having to mind read or having to watch others to figure out what the boss wants now.

      There’s nothing wrong with a group wide email or in person announcement that says, “I see we have been having difficulty with X. I would like to try a new method of handling all X’s. Here is what I want us to do [blah, blah, blah]. ” You can even add that you are open to suggestions as you all go along with the new method, if this is true.

      For your specific situation, tell Bob personally and directly, since no one else in the group seems to be having this difficulty, that standard operating procedure is for HIM to make the calendar invite. And he will need to do that each time.

      If you have to speak directly to this issue again, you can go firmer with something like, “Bob, you are responsible for making the calendar invite. Failure to set up that appointment is a failure to do a basic part of your job.”
      Put your foot down. Jobs are hard enough without having to deal with stuff like this.

      1. rubyrose*

        He said he made the policy clear up front and revisits it every couple of months. I think a group wide email when the problem is with one person is not the approach to take. If I were one who already complies and sits through the reminder every couple of months, my thought would me that my manager has an issue with one or a few and is being weak in not addressing it with the specific individuals.

        I think your suspicions about not having had a direct and clear conversation with the individual are correct. That conversation needs to happen now.

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      My response to that would be: Check my calendar and if it’s open, go ahead and add it.

    5. Marthooh*

      Next time he does this, send him a calendar invite like “Meet w/OP; RE: HOW TO SEND CALENDAR INVITE”. At the meeting, show him how to look at your calendar and pick a time and send an invite. Tell him the only time he needs to check first is if it’s the same day, and even then, he still needs to send the actual invite via the actual calendar.

      Then end the meeting.

    6. Observer*

      You are c-suite and above this manager in the reporting and management chain, correct? So, it doesn’t MATTER if this a favor to him or to you. This is the way you want to operate, this is what you consider most effective and it’s HIS JOB to make your life easier!

      So, just tell him flat out “This is the way we are doing things.” Do NOT get into a discussion of who it’s easier for and who this benefits. Also, as others have noted, please just refuse to play along with this “dance”. When he asks about your schedule keep telling him “Please check my schedule” and stick to that.

      A couple of other thoughts.

      Are you female (presenting)? If so, I would look around and see how he treats other women.

      How is he when it comes to taking direction in general? And how is he about accepting authority? I’m just dumbfounded by the idea that he pushes back on doing what you want him to because it’s a favor to you! Who on earth thinks that helping their boss is something that they get to refuse because it’s helping their boss?!

      Lastly, how change resistant is he, in general. I mean, it’s very odd that he’s having such a hard time with doing scheduling in a different way. Even if it really were a bit more work for him it is not THAT big of a deal. Why is he having such a problem with it?

      And on your side – Are you spending too much time trying to get people to do things because is specifically benefits THEM, rather than understanding that sometimes a new way of doing things may either not especially benefit them or it may even be a bit of an annoyance or difficulty, but still needs to be done for other reasons?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Actually they are now peers. He used to be her supervisor, and she has been promoted to his level.

    7. Stormy Weather*

      First, thank you for keeping your calendar up to date. A lot of people don’t.

      Is this exception new to your company? If he is, he might come from a culture where people have told him, “Oh, I put blocks of time on my calendar so I can get work done, but just ask me and I can probably meet.” I’ve run into that more than I care to.

    8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      He sounds like he needs to stop flexing on an executive. That requires you not taking this kind of disregard for your SOP.

      Lots of good wording already but he’s trying to undermine your position. Sadly he needs to be properly disciplined if he can’t stop wasting your much more limited time.

      Our CEO is the nicest person in the world. You can be an approachable, easy going executive and still require everyone to do a very standard thing. By letting these things slid you’re creating a crack in your management. This guy has more issues that you’re not a fan of. That means he’s leading part of your crew towards attitude and behavior you don’t want as an overall theme in your company culture.

  9. Maria Lopez*

    I think OP1’s mistake was in staying at a job for 23 years without a promotion. Perhaps OP really was content in their position and it only occurred to them that they should be moving up in the company a few years ago. OP should put out feelers for other jobs. Unlike Alison, I think OP probably should have been promoted long ago but has been so dependable and non-dramatic that they have been continually overlooked. Because of the longevity of their career there I don’t think it is a matter of not being up to the responsibilities of a higher position. More like management feels like why promote OP if they aren’t making any waves about it.

    1. DustyJ*

      I agree. There definitely is such a thing as ‘becoming part of the furniture’ when you stay with the same employer for too long, and 23 years is a very long time to work for the same employer in the same role. There may be other benefits and advancements for which LW1 has been passed over that they haven’t noticed yet.

      1. Mel_05*

        Yup. I was at a place for 12 years. And I was pretty disgruntled at the end, so I didn’t think it would be a shock when I put in my two weeks.

        But people were super surprised! I’d been there for SO long, they just thought I’d keep doing that forever.

    2. Mary*

      >>Unlike Alison, I think OP probably should have been promoted long ago but has been so dependable and non-dramatic that they have been continually overlooked. Because of the longevity of their career there I don’t think it is a matter of not being up to the responsibilities of a higher position

      I don’t really get this mindset–do you mean that you think people are automatically entitled to a promotion after a certain length of service, or that length of service by definition makes people qualified for a higher level position?

      1. JSPA*

        Seniority based promotion (or rather, seniority – based, contingent on possession of certain minimal ratings or skill set) was, indeed, a common thing for decades. I’m sensing OP has not noticed that it’s very rarely explicitly followed these days (with the exception of a subset of mostly union jobs). If so, that’s a) a reason OP might feel ill- treated, b) a reason OP might have been waiting for a promotion to drop in their lap, rather than actively laying groundwork, c) possibly a reason that OP is not being considered for that job (if the job requires awareness of, and openness to procedural and cultural shifts). And/ or… d) if OP is correct about how their workplace normally promotes, then their workplace may be a bit of a dinosaur in the regard. In which case, I suppose bets are off, about what else the company does that’s more 1950’s standard, than acceptable in this era. Other possibilities also certainly exist (this can be classic “blue collar vs white collar norm clash” stuff).

        1. Lucia*

          This began to shift in the 60s and 70s. It was a topic of discussion when I was a child in the 70s. So, no one working today should have this mindset. If they do, they are really really not paying attention to the working world. It is, however, sadly common.

          Husband is a C-suite exec and has several Boomer men working for him who have this attitude. They are also stubbornly resistant to changes in routine, hierarchy, or personnel.

          Husband also a greying Boomer and tells them point blank that the world hasn’t worked that way since they were all children. He also informs them they are competing with a younger, more flexible, and GLOBAL workforce. So they need to either adapt or be pushed out. He’ll help them adapt, but they have to want to do it.

          I’m sure it won’t surprise you that many of these men take early retirement rather than make changes to how they do things.

          I think LW needs to examine why she thinks her years of service automatically mean she gets any open slot she wants. That’s implied in her letter. Beyond the actual issue at hand, it’s very easy to get caught up in “this is how it should be” and fail to see “this is how it is.” Unfortunately, a lot of us are taught that hard work and loyalty means automatic rewards.

          1. Oh No She Di'int*

            I am glad you put GLOBAL in all caps. I have a helluva time trying to get my US-based staff to understand this. And they are mainly Gen-Xers and Millennials. I try to let them know: sure, you can do just the bare minimum and probably not get fired outright. But know that someone in India or Ukraine or the Philippines is going to put in that little bit (or a lot) of extra effort, and that’s who you’re competing against. At some point that is going to catch up with you. Is that fair? Should it be that way? Irrelevant questions. That is the way it is.

        2. KRM*

          At OldJob I had a coworker who didn’t get promoted for 7 years. She’d complain and complain about it, and would ask various people how to deal with it. I told her that she should tell her manager that she was interested in moving up and that they should sit together to make a plan for that moving up. She never did it–and anytime any of us gave her that advice she stopped asking us about it. She basically wanted them to just promote her for being there, which the company did not do (this policy made lots of people angry even though the job was very clear about how to earn promotions, and how you had to take ownership of your career path if you indeed wanted to move up, but some people wanted to be promoted just for being around a certain time). And in the whole 7 years she never really showed any initiative or growth potential–she thought volunteering to basically do the scut work higher ups didn’t necessarily want to do would qualify her for a promotion. But it limited her because she didn’t show any new skills!

      2. Maria Lopez*

        I think people are indeed passed over repeatedly for a number of not valid reasons. Age, gender, not looking like what the higher ups think a manager should look like. People like the OP will often be perfectly qualified for promotion but will be given various excuses to cover the fact that the higher ups don’t want to promote this person for superficial or biased reasons. Unconventional looks, being obese, not from the majority group that is in management. You get the picture. But the person will be told they are “not ready” or lack some intangible promotable quality. Gaslighting at its finest.
        And if the person is not business savvy about these things, as many older and also female employees can be, they don’t even question that it is not them, it is the higher ups who are the problem.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I agree also.
      I am biased. I have seen way, way too much of this.

      What went wrong:
      The boss never asked OP if they had any interest in moving upward.
      OP never told the boss they had interest in moving up.
      The boss never explained that if OP wanted to move upward then OP would have to initiate the process, not the boss.
      The boss never mentioned in general conversation how people move around inside the company.
      OP never asked how people move around inside the company.
      Or any combination of these things.

      OP, for myself, I would be telling myself that I stayed too long at this place. I’d be kicking myself, honestly.
      And I’d take a look at my beliefs/opinions about how workplaces function. I have no clue where I got it from but I believed that if a person was doing a good job then they would be asked about taking a promotion. For the most part, this belief played out poorly and I had to shake it off somewhere. Squeaking hinge and all that, OP. You want something you do have to ask.

      OP, they have kept you in this slot for 23 years. They are telling you where things are at. It’s okay to believe them.

      1. Leela*

        “The boss never explained that if OP wanted to move upward then OP would have to initiate the process, not the boss.”

        I really, really wish that they would lay this out for you as early as the interview. So many bosses I’ve worked with seem to think that we’ll all just magically *know* that we have to come tell them, while most of us feel that the boss is looking at our work and thinking about promotions when the opportunity comes up and that because of the power imbalance, we’re limited in our ability to push back. Kind of like that LW a while ago who wanted people to bring her written documentation of their work like a proposal on why they should get a raise…we’d never just guess that. If the boss is waiting on us to initiate career development, that should be stated ASAP

    4. Detective Amy Santiago*

      The problem with this mindset is that often times the only promotion track available is management and some people have no desire to manage others.

      What someone in that position should do instead is ask for additional projects that will stretch their skills and make them more valuable.

      1. Smithy*

        Additionally, there are lots of places now that won’t promote someone into management if they have no experience managing others.

        Regardless of the specific dynamic of where the OP works – I do think this is where the OP vocalizing their ambitions to their boss/leadership has held them back. Through those conversations the OP would have had the opportunity to learn more around how they are viewed and whether those perceptions are ones the OP wants to change or would rather just seek another opportunity elsewhere.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        That’s the situation at my office! Our company’s org chart has like 3 levels: us peons, VPs, and the CEO. I don’t have much desire to become a VP because I don’t excel at the strategic side of business – it’s just not how my mind works. So I’ve asked for more projects and professional development. Actually got to write several blog posts for our website recently. :D

        1. Detective Amy Santiago*

          My issue is that I’m actually pretty good at the big picture stuff but I know I’m not cut out to be a people manager and those usually go hand-in-hand.

          1. Allonge*

            Two words: deputy manager. It’s magic! I get to do long-term planning etc. and my boss deals with all the humanology and people being people. Would recommend, 10/10.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              Oooh, can we be partners? I’m good at the people-ing but not the planning. Together we can be unstoppable!

      3. Leela*

        “The boss never explained that if OP wanted to move upward then OP would have to initiate the process, not the boss.”

        I really, really wish that they would lay this out for you as early as the interview. So many bosses I’ve worked with seem to think that we’ll all just magically *know* that we have to come tell them, while most of us feel that the boss is looking at our work and thinking about promotions when the opportunity comes up and that because of the power imbalance, we’re limited in our ability to push back. Kind of like that LW a while ago who wanted people to bring her written documentation of their work like a proposal on why they should get a raise…we’d never just guess that. If the boss is waiting on us to initiate career development, that should be stated ASAP

    5. Miss Salty Grits*

      Being “dependable and non-dramatic” means that you’re suited for the position you currently occupy, it doesn’t mean that you’re automatically suited for a higher-level position.

      I realize that in some professions (I believe in blue-collar ones, like welding or certain mechanics) the above combined with years of service actually would mean that it was time for a promotion. But in most office jobs this wouldn’t be the case. You’d need to show that not only were you good at your job, but that you were able to stretch a bit beyond it and show tenacity.

  10. LobsterPhone*

    LW1…I was on the opposite side of this situation once and the other person literally never spoke to me again, wouldn’t even acknowledge that I was in the same room and lodged a formal complaint about my appointment to the position. I’d worked with her for a few years and thought we had a good working relationship. Although she had many years more library experience than I did, the difference between us was that I was also doing relief work for the other five libraries in the system, taking acting opportunities above my/our level and studying for a library degree. My colleague had been in the same part time role for 10+ years and declined every opportunity to take on high level opportunities or relief work. That was her prerogative, but it’s also what made me the preferred candidate for a higher level position. I’ve also been on your side of the situation and I totally understand your frustration, I just wanted to say that sometimes there are other factors at work other than longevity in a role.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          It does to me – the difference between a few years of varied and developing experience and the same year’s worth of experience umpteen times in a row. Lobster had the former and her colleague had the latter.

          The craft analogy would be someone who in two years tries every knitting pattern she can get her hands on, and someone who has knitted the same sweater fifty times in ten years. Who would you rather hire to knit your legwarmers?

          1. Avasarala*

            That’s exactly what I meant! OP’s been knitting the same sweater for 23 years, Lobster’s been knitting and crochet and sewing ambitiously, who do you want to head the craft department?

        2. JSPA*

          Agreed, the analogy is off (it refers to 10 intro experiences, sequentially, as being negative, vs 10 years of development in one job).

          More like, 10-fold experience in the course of one year vs failure to develop much, despite 10 years on one job.

          Referring only to LobsterPhone’s post, not the OP, of course.

        3. Just Phoebe Is Fine*

          Huh? It sounds EXACTLY like that. 1 person is doing the same work over and over and not learning or developing (1 year of experience x 10 times) and the other is taking on new stuff and seeking out new opportunities and growing and learning (10 years experience x1)

  11. Maya Elena*

    LW2 – Apologize if you feel like you need to, but I wouldn’t dwell on it too much. You can demonstrate that you are not a power-tripping lunatic by not being one, and if Chris isn’t preoccupied with analyzing power differentials, he’ll also roll with it.

    LW 3 – I’m with you in that I’d be offended at a peer treating me this way; it would look like a dominance move.

    With a supervisor, if they’re busier and have more responsibility than I do, I think being the one to schedule the meetings – if that’s how they roll – isn’t that big a deal. As a task in itself though, I probably wouldn’t frame it as “labor”.

  12. Random IT Guy*

    @ OP#1 – While it sucks if you do not get the promotion you wanted, especially after so long – i have to ask.
    Have you ever expressed targeted interest in growing? Indicated to your manager that you`d like to grow in the company?

    i`m currently at this place of work for 11 years and 2 days (on Feb 4th) – and i have expressed to my managers (i`ve used up 5 now) that because I am content where I am – i`d like to remain in my current role. Of course, additional training is nice, so i can expand my skills (or sometimes, expand my base of stuff I know a little bit about) – but I am not looking for a promotion (and the additional responsibilities).

    After years, thinking ‘yeah, i wanna be a manager’ – i`ve realized I would be a bad one. (And probably become a source of letters to AAM) – as i do not handle some pressure well (due to being on the autistic spectrum – also a recent discovery).
    So, i`m content where I am. My clients (colleagues) like me (or pretend they do). I have some travel (in a team of 12 people with the same role in other countries, there is 1 other that does travel – so it`s special), and most important – my employer knows my home situation and offers flexibility should it be required. (50% paid time off – and 50% unpaid – within reason of course) – and that is not counting a generous vacation day collection (we earn more when we get older – currently i can take 30 vacation days of which 6 are assigned by the company)

    So, i have no reason to ‘move on’ as it would mean more stress, more responsibilities, and a limitation of all the above. So, if newbie colleague gets promoted – i`m really happy for her. As long as it isn`t me!

  13. Lady Heather*

    I feel for you, LW1. It sounds very frustrating and demoralizing.
    Your situation reminded me of pigeonholing and a quick Google search of “being pigeonholed at work” gives a l9t of tips on how to get out of a pigeonhole.
    Perhaps that is worth looking into.

  14. His Grace*

    LW 1: When was the last time you talked with your boss and discussed your long-term goals with the company? When was the last time you were considered for a promotion? After 23 years, it’s clear that you have a body of work to prove your worth to the company. I hate to say it, but I think it may be time to look elsewhere.

  15. staceyizme*

    Wow! LW2-!how is that okay? You have a good feedback session with a new hire and kind of throw him under the bus because he dared to say you’d all be stuck with him soon? It comes across as hostile and needlessly adversarial.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This. And at all levels, it’s usually how well you acknowledge and recover from the occasional misstep that counts over never once using the wrong tone.

    1. londonedit*

      It was obviously a joke. Maybe an ill-thought-out one that OP2 is obviously now regretting, but it was a joke nonetheless. I really dislike the word ‘banter’ but I work in a fairly laid-back industry (and country?) and this sort of joking ‘banter’ has been really common everywhere I’ve worked. I’ve had plenty of similar back-and-forths with my bosses, off-the-cuff comments very similar to ‘Well my probation finishes next month, you’ll be stuck with me soon’, ‘Don’t count on it, you’ve still got to get that project finished on time!’ or ‘Don’t forget my probation is nearly up, so if you want to fire me then you’d better get on with it before Friday!’ Of course it depends on the sort of relationship you have with your boss, but a bit of good-natured joshing on both sides is really common where I work, and it has been over my career in general.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I’m pretty sure I’ve had a similar conversation with my boss when I was on probation. One of my colleagues recently came off probation and I know we joked about it.

        I would agree with Londonedit this is fairly common in offices in the parts of the UK I’ve worked in.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Yes, I think this would be normal for a British workplace, though there are better and worse examples of it and this is towards the latter. It’s the same kind of joke as “See you tomorrow!” “Not if I see you first.”

      2. Lilo*

        It’s a joke but when you’re supervising someone new you have to be careful. Starting a new job can be a mind trip and my experience is that imposter syndrome is common. I have spent more time reassuring high performers that they are doing fine than giving a reality check to poor performers.

        1. Cheluzal*

          You can be careful and still be a human. Everyone of us has said things and immediately realized after they came out of our mouth and they were no good. Honestly if said with a smile this is really not a big deal that it is being made into, and I would feel even weirder if the manager came back to me days or weeks after if our relationship was fine.

    2. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Chris made the joke first and LW only replied in kind. I think she’s probably overthinking the whole thing.

      1. Observer*

        Totally not overthinking it.

        I don’t think that the OP is a hostile monster, but “only reacted in kind” is a kind of childish excuse. The OP most definitely should apologize in public. Not a Big Discussion, just “Hey that was a joke that wasn’t as funny as it sounded in my head.” kind of thing.

    3. kittymommy*

      I’ve actually had this joke made about my probation along with the subsequent apology. I honestly thought it was funny and still think it’s funny, but that’s the type of relationship I had with my director. I appreciated the apology not so much because I needed it or took the joke seriously but because it showed that he realized it might not be appropriate for everyone. FWIW though, he never joked like that with others, at least not while I worked for him.

  16. Mathilde*

    That must be upsetting. But listen, I have to be honest here : someone who stays in the same job for 23 years… I assume they don’t want to change, and I would also think that you are not really proactive in evolving, or you would have moved sooner (expressed interest in a promotion, learned new skilss etc…). 23 years is a long time to do the same thing.

    One of my colleagues has been in the same job for 18 years. Everybody knows she’s not going anywhere, because she doesn’t know anything else.

    From the outside, you can’t really expect people to guess that after 23 years, you are suddenly interested in a promotion, and it would be bad management to offer to you just because you happen to have been there longer.

    You might have better luck trying in a different company if you want to be promoted, because in yours, people might not be able to think about you in a different job than yours.

    1. Mommy.MD*

      I think if OP wants a bigger job or promotion to look for another job. There are many factors in hiring or promoting someone and sometimes longevity doesn’t even play into it. The new hire may be dynamic and that’s a characteristic that’s just genetic.

    2. RecentAAMfan*

      “ From the outside, you can’t really expect people to guess that after 23 years, you are suddenly interested in a promotion”


  17. Fikly*

    #1: Have you ever told your manager that you are interested in a promotion? Conversely, do you know that new coworker has not told manager that they are interested in a promotion?

  18. Cas*

    OP#1 I’m in a similar situation, but I’m the newer co-worker. After 3 years I received a promotion over my colleague who has 12 years service, and she was very very upset. It came out that our bosses didn’t know she wanted a promotion, she’d never said anything, and she had long stopped putting in the extra effort required to get one. She was coasting on her time served, never put her hand up for new projects, rarely revised processes etc, didn’t train new people, and clung to the ‘way things are done’. She’d thought that length of service naturally qualifies you, but if doesn’t. I’m not suggesting you are the same, but If you’re being honest, have you demonstrated that you want to be promoted over the last couple of years?

    After 23 years of the same role naturally there is a comfort zone, and it applies to both the employee and the manager of the employee. The employee would have been promoted by now if they were suitable, and after a certain amount of time managers stop thinking of an employee as suitable for development when they know you won’t leave.

    Sadly I reckon you’ll have to leave to get the promotion you want.

    1. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Ding ding ding! Excellent perspective from the other angle.

    2. iglwif*

      Yes, all of this!

      I haven’t exactly been either of these people, but I have worked for, worked with, and managed both. I have seen an employee with 5 years’ tenure get outraged because someone with 10 years and didn’t want it. I’ve seen young hotshots advance quickly, do really well, and suffer from both cold-shouldering and impostor syndrome when there was no need for either. I’ve seen people say over and over that they want to advance into management but do absolutely zero activities that might demonstrate their aptitude for it or help them gain the knowledge and skills they’d need (while being reliable and competent in their actual job, and otherwise apparently content to stay in it).

      Given the way things have worked in white-collar industries for many decades now, it’s astonishing how many people do still think that promotions and pay increases are prizes you get for sticking around for a long time.

  19. Allonge*

    A few commenters made the point that your boss does not necessarily know you wanted (would have wanted) the new post. They are right, but I want to add: it’s ok if you have just discovered this yourself! We can have things that we never knew we wanted suddenly become desirable when we see other people get them!

    So if that is the case go talk to your boss as Alison suggests. Make it clear that this made you think about your own possibilities for the future. Don’t make this about how offended you are – not a good look and water under the bridge anyway.

    And no, it is not obvious that someone who was in a role, appreciated, for 23 years, should be interested in a different one – even with more pay. A raise in your own role? Sure, that is a given (although sometimes you still have to ask, but no one thinks anyone would decline). A different role? Whole other thing.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      I think this is a good point–people do change over time, including between say 50 and 60. Sometimes the reasons you wanted A before and B now are external and obvious, like flexibility or predictability at your job when you have young kids. Other times something is okay until one day it doesn’t quite fit any more.

    2. Bagpuss*

      I agree. You can, I think, say that you were surprised that your boss didn’t ask you whether you would be interested, as long as you don’t make it appear that you are angry or bitter about it.

      Then make clear that you would have been (still are, if the other employee hasn’t accepted the offer) and ask what you would need to do / change / improve to put you into consideration next time a new opportunity arises, and whether there are any specific qualification or additional training you could undertake to improve your chances.

      Also, think about the weaknesses you have or any areas where you’ve been told you aren’t so strong in terms of your current role, and consider how you could improve on those, and whether they are things which might be of more importance in a more senior role.

      I think you might also want to consider looking around for other jobs – it can be hard to change people’s perceptions and if your current bosses think of you as reliable but unambitious, they may struggle to imagine you changing to meet new challenges, and be less likely to promote you (and you may find it easier to take on a new role elsewhere, where people haven’t known you in a more junior position.

    3. Lilyp*

      Honestly OP I can’t really tell from the letter if you really *want* this new position at all, or if you just feel slighted that you weren’t asked first. If you think about it and you really do want to move into a similar position in the future, including whatever additional workload/responsibility or different duties or being expected to answer calls nights/weekends it comes with, then you should talk to your boss about that, but stop to think about what that would entail and whether you actually want that over just a raise/development in your current role.

  20. Ethyl*

    LW 2: I’m really thrown off by this comment:

    “Or should I be keeping up a bit of a façade to ensure the process is seen as a genuine professional trial and not just a hand-wave?”

    As Alison explained, a “professional trial” isn’t the point of a probationary period, but even if it were, playing games like “keeping up a bit of a façade” is not a good management strategy.

    1. Lilo*

      Not at all. It would be a facade if there weren’t standards to be met, but there are here and the guy met them. It’s not a ruse, the guy did what he was supposed to do.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, but the OP was actually asking is they SHOULD keep up a faced even when it’s becoming clear that the person is meeting the challenge appropriately.

        That’s just bad management.

    2. triplehiccup*

      Agreed. You don’t have to pretend have power over your subordinates – you actually do have it. My most effective managers haven’t worried about standing on ceremony correctly – they embrace and respect the power they have and use it thoughtfully as a tool to get the actual work done.

      1. Oh So Anon*

        Yes, this, and to add to that, the most effective ones are consistent about how they demonstrate that power imbalance regardless of how well their subordinate is doing.

    3. Perpal*

      Yeah, employment is a two way street. If you want to keep a good person with you, best to let them know you like their work and want them to keep going, not keep them guessing, insecure… and maybe job hunting!

    4. Juli G.*

      Agreed. If someone is failing a probationary period, they shouldn’t hear that for the first time on their last day. Feedback should be continuous and if your new hire is succeeding, they should know that.

      Transparency is good. And here’s a tip for managers that often works – if you tell people that they aren’t succeeding, they improve or they go get a different job to avoid being fired. And then you don’t have to fire them. It doesn’t work 100% of the time but it works often enough that it’s worth it.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, I find this thought concerning.

      Please sincerely and genuinely train this person, OP. If their work needs correcting then correct it. If they are doing something well, tell them they are doing it well and to keep doing it that way.
      Don’t turn this into a game, it’s not a game. It’s real. If you are happy with their work then let it show. If there is a problem give them the opportunity to correct it so that they can pass their probationary period with flying colors.

      If you have to start pretending this or pretending that, then either you have to wrong workplace or you have a misconception about your immediate role in a situation.

    6. CheeryO*

      I think it depends on the workplace. At my job, it’s a complete given that everyone passes their probationary period. You’d have to like, commit a murder or steal a state vehicle to be fired during your probation. So I do sort of appreciate it when supervisors keep up the facade that people actually need to perform well, since it lends a sense of legitimacy to the process and sets somewhat of a bar for new employees.

      At the same time, this was so clearly a joke, and Chris started the banter anyway, so I don’t think it’s anything to worry about.

      1. Observer*

        Chris started is? Seriously?! Both the content of the jokes and the power imbalance are important here. The content would not be that big of a deal if the two of them were of equal rank, or at least the OP didn’t have the power to actually decide that Chris doesn’t stay.

        That’s true regardless of the workplace.

        1. SimplyTheBest*

          I mean…he literally did start it. Yes, the content and power imbalance is important. But so too is the context that OP was responding humorously to a joke Chris made. She didn’t just make a random cruel comment out of the blue.

          1. Anon or not*

            She just meant to put him in his place and take him down a peg. Can’t have the underlings getting too cocky.

      2. Ethyl*

        I really have just about zero opinion of the joke honestly, that part seems like a symptom of (and disrraction from) the underlying issue of how the LW manages. If they think it’s a good idea to pretend that the stakes are other than they are, or keeping someone’s honest feedback from them so they remain off-balance, that’s terrible management and a terrible instinct.

    7. Observer*

      This was exactly what I was thinking. I decided to read the comments, just in case someone else already pointed it out, and here you are :)

  21. Keymaster of Gozer*

    LW1: I was once that person who got promoted over a long time employee. I felt pretty bad when he outright complained about it. When he’d started in the industry as a young apprentice back before I was born the length of time in service to a company had a big effect on whether you were offered a promotion. And they were offered. In our industry at the time you did not ask.

    So, in his eyes, it was ridiculous that a woman with a year’s experience in the role was being promoted up over him. He complained to HR. It got a bit messy for a while.

    But there is a good ending to this. HR paid for him to go on a series of (in-company, we were a monopoly) courses on, essentially, modern management and how things like promotions are evaluated. He stayed at the firm (our pension plan was one you can’t get anymore) but began to do things like examine our job vacancies, see where he’d need additional knowledge for a step up in grade and then set out to learn them. He even started a little group on our company forums for staff over 50 who wanted to still progress their careers and when I left it had over 500 members and he was in charge of it.

    I don’t know if any of this helps, but it was a path that made him happier.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        My own Dad started work at the firm (different department and geographic location) during that time and he joined that group too, just to pass on his own knowledge to others. Dad is retired now but I really hope that forum is still running.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      That does sound like a great resolution. Kudos to your company for giving him the support to do it too.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        They were a fantastic firm. I’d gladly have stayed with them, but alas they decided to centralise our function to a city that would have been a 5 hour commute to work for me (I lived 100 miles from the office already) so I took redundancy.

        If they ever decentralise IT again I’ll be back there like a shot.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I don’t blame you – companies that are invested in employee retention and development seem to be a rarity these days if the comments here from week to week are any indication.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Very rare. All the IT related qualifications I hold were paid for by that firm (never learnt computer science at school. Even my degree is in a totally unrelated field) and their management training courses were just exceptional. Every other firm I’ve worked for has gone ‘training? Do it on your own time and purse’

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I kind of love your old coworker for taking feedback and running with it to get what he wanted all while helping others in his position

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It surprised a lot of people. The guy had apparently thought long and hard and decided his new course of action. I think before he retired he was given operational responsibility of the entire company forum structure and granted a pay rise (given we had final salary pensions that would have been nice too for him)

    3. Mary*

      >>When he’d started in the industry as a young apprentice back before I was born the length of time in service to a company had a big effect on whether you were offered a promotion. And they were offered. In our industry at the time you did not ask

      I think this is a really interesting point about the charge of ageism. If someone is passed over for promotion because they still working on the assumptions that held when they entered the workforce, is that a failure of the organisation to ensure they’re aware of the change of criteria and culture or evidence that the individual hasn’t grasped and engaged with the change of culture? To me, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to say that if you haven’t stayed on board with that kind of cultural change–even if it was implicit rather than explicit–it’s reasonable to hold that against you in considering you for a management role because understanding and communicating that kind of culture to your team is part of the job. But I could also see the argument that that’s an intrinsic bias against people who have been in the workforce longer.

      (Of course, not all promotions would be to a management role where that kind of thing is important, but the more senior you get, the more likely it is to be a part of the job.)

      1. Washi*

        This discussion has been interesting to me because I would not have associated a hesitation to ask about promotions with age! When I first started working, I definitely did not realize that if I wanted to move up, my best bet would be to actually ask about it and do some digging on my own to figure out how to make that happen. It’s actually only reading AAM that has helped me see the necessity of that.

        I think in general, all managers would be well-served by checking in with their reports on their goals and how they would like to develop professionally. Being aware of the culture around promotions without it being explicit is not the same thing as feeling confident enough to put yourself forward as wanting to move up, and I think privilege plays a big role in how ready people are to do the latter.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          This discussion has been interesting to me because I would not have associated a hesitation to ask about promotions with age! When I first started working, I definitely did not realize that if I wanted to move up, my best bet would be to actually ask about it and do some digging on my own to figure out how to make that happen.

          Same. I thought if you just worked hard and did really good work, then naturally, you would move up in your company. How wrong and naive I was, lol.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        The forum my former coworker set up did have a lot of threads about how things were different in the old days of the industry and how they’ve changed and quite often these became lively debates about whose ‘fault’ it was that some people hadn’t moved with the times as it were.

        Mostly it became professional information sharing and discussions of 70s prog rock for some reason.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        The HR in my next firm essentially fired me for daring to be in a serious car crash that damaged my spine. Every day since then I’ve wished I could have stayed at that other firm with the great HR.

  22. Lilo*

    I work with people in their probationary period. And lord, no, LW2, don’t do that. He hit all his goals, he is perfectly fine to be confident, it’s not cocky.

    Even in a probationary period you need to communicate goals clearly. I have repeatedly reassured people they were doing fine and this was just a formality. When we had to let someone go in the probationary period, we had repeated meetings to try to right the ship and made it very clear what goals needed to be met and by when.

    The probationary period is not a “surprise! You get to keep your job” or “surprise! Leave now!” and shouldn’t be treated that way, even jokingly. Please don’t try to take a high performer down a peg like that again.

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      “The probationary period is not a “surprise! You get to keep your job” or “surprise! Leave now!” and shouldn’t be treated that way, even jokingly.”

      That’s news to me! Two of the companies where I worked had a formal three-month probationary period. At the first company, I was there for less than two months when my supervisor said that I was doing such a good job that I was no longer on probation, so I got to keep my job. And he told TPTB that I got to keep my job. And I was surprised, because it was less than three months after I started there.

      At the second company, I was there for less than two months, and everything seemed to be going great. An executive even complimented me on what a great worker I was. However, a co-worker got angry and jealous, and she told the branch manager that if he didn’t fire me, she would quit, so he fired me. It was definitely a case of “surprise! Leave now!” I don’t know how else to describe it. Oh yes, the employee handbook said that anyone fired during their probationary period was ineligible for rehire by any of their branch offices. And in a matter of hours, I was not covered by health insurance, and I was ineligible for COBRA, since I hadn’t been at the company long enough. So that was definitely a surprise. Even though Alison says that firing should not come as a surprise, I was definitely surprised.

  23. beenthere*

    Someone who’s been in a job 23 years — and I’ve been there — and who isn’t getting promoted has probably fallen into the work equivalent of the “friend zone.” (Some people call it the “slave zone,” as this person often gets made promises of promotions, raises, and showered with perfunctory praise – “You’re so awesome! What would I do without you!” – but never gets those promises fulfilled and often is asked to take on more and more duties.) You are seen as a piece of office equipment, not as a promotable person. You may be a valued piece of office equipment, but you’re still viewed as a handy object and not as a potential promotion.

    Office equipment is purchased once and never repaired or really cared for, unless it totally breaks. Office equipment is not invested in.

    The only way out of your problem is to gather up your courage and leave. First you’re going to have to do the hard work of asking yourself why you didn’t understand your situation for so long, and figure out what your fears of leaving really are, and then figure out a plan of action.

    I did this after 25 years at one company, some years ago, and I will never go back to being treated like equipment. Recently I successfully negotiated for a higher salary at a new job. You can do it too.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I also left a company after about 10 years of becoming equipment. During my notice period there was a lot of “what am I going to do without you?” This was after years of being told there were no promotions to be had, but then being told someone junior to me was getting promoted. It made no sense, since we had been told for years there wasn’t another position. Boss basically created a position to keep junior happy, and in doing so, lost senior furniture workhorse.

      Fun coda to the tale: junior has burned out spectacularly, can’t keep up with the work demanded, and can’t manage without bullying (they’ve lost their entire team twice in 3 years). I am a lot happier in my new situation and while I don’t wish specific harm on my old company, the struggle is sort of satisfying to observe from afar.

      1. irene adler.*

        Delta Delta and beenthere:
        Yep! I’m over 25 years of being “office equipment”. Trying to get out. Yeah, there’s lots of complements on how I take care of business. BUT! No promotions whatsoever. Watched others get promoted though.
        I’ve even asked about a title change (supervisor to manager) given I manage the entire dept. They just laughed, “Oh, honey. Don’t worry, we all think of you as a manager!”.
        Yeah, thanks.
        And Delta Delta, thank you for that story.

  24. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

    LW#1, I’m sorry. It sucks to not get the opportunities you want and feel you would be suited for.

    May I ask, why is it that you haven’t been promoted before this? Have you actively sought promotions? If so, what has been the response?

  25. Hiring Mgr*

    I would say at this point you need to fire Chris, just to show the rest of the staff never to take anything for granted and to keep them on their toes. /s

    Seriously, it sounds like you were both just joking around. Next time you see Chris maybe say something quickly to him about he’s doing great and you were just kidding, but don’t worry about it too much

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      A boss who tells me they were just kidding – I’ll accept that and keep them at arms length, never quite trust them. A boss who apologizes – I will follow them wherever they lead. An apology is a powerful sign of strength in a leader that a ‘j/k’ can never be.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It takes confidence to apologize. A person has to know that body parts will not immediately fall off. Am shaking my head, I don’t know how many sad bosses I have had who were totally convinced that an apology was a sign of weakness. Meanwhile people are laughing at the boss behind their back and saying, “Boss thinks they will break in two if they utter anything close to a regret.”

  26. Arctic*

    LW 2: I could totally mistakenly make that kind of joke. So, I get it. But probationary period isn’t a reality show. No one should be on the edge of their seat wondering if they’ll make it.

    The expectation should be this is a permanent job and not making it through would be the exception.

    LW 1: Honestly, I think sometimes employers take the people they trust and rely on for granted. And I would not just assume the new person is so much more qualified.

  27. hbc*

    LW2: Just apologize. Don’t make a big deal about it, but say you realized retroactively that the joke wasn’t a good one. It would help to point out that you wouldn’t have made it if he wasn’t on such a great track. Chris will probably say that he understood it was a joke, no need to apologize, but even if that isn’t due to his relief, it’s more important that you establish yourself as a boss who defaults to watching out for employees.

    And then be that boss, which means no “facade” to reinforce some notion that this is still a trial by fire. Tell him when he’s doing a good job, tell him when he needs to improve, and show him that he can come to you with mistakes because you own up to your own.

  28. Anonarama*

    OP #2: Think you may want to just consider for a few minutes why you thought “cocky” when new hire made a self-deprecating joke. It sounds to me like you may be a teensy bit jealous of this employee and how quickly he’s come up to speed. Which might be understandable but you definitely want to nip that in the bud if it’s happening. (And also if the new hire is from a group marginalized in your community… you want to make sure a confident worker is not being interpreted by brain worms as “uppity.”) But I could be off-base here – just some food for thought. Anyway, I agree that this one comment by itself is not something to get too worked up over, I’m not trying to pile on.

      1. MissBliss*

        At first I didn’t read it that way, but thinking about it, “Stuck with me” is rather self-deprecating.

      2. Quill*

        “Stuck with me” sounds to me, someone probably much closer to Chris’ age, as a standard self-deprication joke.

        So “aren’t you cocky?” could be read as “Promotion period is unpredictable!” or “Wow, nice self depricating attitude you got there, bro?”

        Either way it’s the kind of joke that leaves your mouth, followed immediately by a facepalm.

        1. pentamom*

          LW didn’t say “Aren’t you cocky”? LW said “Aren’t you confident?” and then later said she didn’t want him to be perceived as cocky (presumably meaning LW did not perceive him that way, either).

          Sometimes these comment threads look like a giant game of telephone. The number of people commenting in response to the non-existent “Aren’t you cocky?” is an example of that.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Adding a confident person would never describe others as being stuck with them. So the joke really did not make a lot of sense to me. It sounded like OP open their mouth and words flew out. Eh, that can happen. I have had it happened. I know the more tired I get the more it is likely to happen, also.

      3. Allypopx*

        I read it as the kind of joke someone might make to gauge someone’s reaction. Slightly self-deprecating, leaves room for either a good natured response or a “we’re thrilled to be stuck with you!” or something like that. Not fishing for compliments, persay, but taking the pulse of the dynamic. Which does make the response a little worse, but still not something I would lose sleep over (though definitely apologize and reiterate how wonderful it is to have him on the team).

      4. Anonarama*

        I guess I can see how it could come off as flippant/a bit presumptuous if the new hire said it a certain way, but I know if I made a joke like that it would be because I had really been worried about my job, was super relieved that I had made it through the probation period, and was actually fishing (a bit) for reassurance from the team. And a lot of high performers are a bit insecure (especially if they’re at the beginning of their career) and that’s what drives them (I think, in my experience).

        1. Anonarama*

          But I guess also what I was trying to say was even if this person was proud of their accomplishments, why should it be upsetting that they are? Were they putting anyone else down? What makes this cocky rather than confident? Why was the OP rubbed the wrong way by a team member learning they were doing well and then sharing that with the team? I think it’s just something to sit with for a few minutes and make sure they aren’t finding themselves getting a bit jealous. And if the answer is no, that’s fine! I just think it’s worth considering to make sure nothing like that is going to get in the way of their working relationship.

          1. Oh So Anon*

            Because you’re supposed to demonstrate that you’re always open to learning; being good at a job’s expectations three months in isn’t a sign of mastery, and someone may not appropriately signal that they understand that. There’s a school of thought that says that people who show pride in their accomplishments aren’t being deferential enough and have an “ego”.

            That’s not always about jealousy; for example, some people from collectivist cultures may struggle to not read self-assertion as a sign of being arrogant.

      5. Rusty Shackelford*

        Replying to myself… “stuck with me,” to me, sounds like a joke that’s masquerading as self-deprecating. But at its heart, it’s saying “I’m staying here, because I’m good at what I do.” I’m not saying it’s bragging, just that it’s not really self-deprecating either.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      This is so off-base. There is nothing in LW’s letter to suggest the merest hint of jealousy. LW didn’t say they thought Chris was cocky; rather, they didn’t want anyone else to think that about him. LW is obviously happy with the progress that Chris has made, and is helping him to set future plans and goals with the organization.

      People need to quit reading their own psychology into these letters.

    2. Anon or not*

      Frankly, I don’t see anything wrong with being a tad cocky, as long as you have the chops to back it up. Sounds like Chris does.

  29. M*

    #1 I have a team member who has been at my current organization 20 years and in our department for about 10 years. I arrived a year ago and told team members I wanted to wait a year for promotions to see how the team worked. Many of the team will get promotions and/ or raises except one or two. One employee has done the same job for almost 10 years. They said they wanted to be promoted and the former boss told them they were a “stellar” employee. Even though this person has a manager (I am the head of department and decide all promotions with input from managers according to policy) I have personally trained, coached and spoke to them about their shortcomings. Their manager has them doing the work they make less mistakes on and has given other duties to other team members. They are not excellent at anything unfortunately. I reached out to the former head of department to see if I was missing anything because this employee was adamant the former head said they deserved a big promotion. When I reached her the former head told me that yes she promised it and yes this employee was not a great employee but the boss knew she was leaving so what was the harm in making someone feel good? I told them that the harm was they were not honest and made the employee think their work was great when in fact they make tons of mistakes (major and minor). I can put the employee on a PiP but have been told that they cannot be let go since they have been here so long. So it’s a tough position and I have told the employee that they won’t be promoted or getting more than the usual raise (they get a bit more than fair market for their job). This isn’t the only instance where I see people think they deserve X because they have worked somewhere for years.

    So for everyone please, you don’t deserve a raise or promotion because you have worked somewhere a long time. People deserve it for their skills, accomplishments and because they are the right fit.

    That being said go talk to your manager and express interest and if they are a good manager they will be honest with you about it.

  30. Susana*

    LW1: Alison’s advice is great as always – but one thing that might be happening is that they are very comfortable with where you are – and don’t want to change it. I ran into this at a previous job, where people younger and without my credentials were given opportunities (not promotions, just opportunities) over me. And I had great reviews, etc. – that was the point. They didn’t want the “problem” of replacing me in the job they thought I was doing so well. They actually said to me, “oh, but you’re soooooo valuable in X job.” (I also think this is something they said are to women – trying to tap into our desire to be “helpful” and accommodating instead of furthering our own careers.
    Eventually I left and they declared themselves very very sorry to lose me. But what did they expect?

    I think you need to look elsewhere. You may nit be happy in the job you’re in, but they’re happy with you in it and won’t move you (unless it means it’s the only way to keep you). And why stay somewhere if they only give you a promotion to keep from losing you?

  31. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    OP 3: No.
    The answer to your question is no. No, you can’t hint around in a light joking manner, “Bob, you know you can do this yourself” and have him happily catch on that you no longer want to do his administrative work. He doesn’t want to do it. He’s been having you (and others) do it for so long that he is going to smile politely at “your little joke” and wonder when you are going to get to work and schedule his damn meeting.
    Tell him that when he needs to meet with you and your team he will have to do the scheduling. Thanks.
    Don’t leave it open for discussion, “if you have any questions or need any instruction, let me know.” type stuff.
    Part of moving up is stepping up and standing up. It sucks but you have take your place at the table.

    1. Miss Salty Grits*

      In re: #3, one of the hardest things that I had to learn is that some people are immune to suggestions and niceties. Another hard thing I had to learn is that being direct does not equal being impolite or in the wrong somehow.

      I guarantee OP #3 is female. This line of thinking, that we have to smile and walk people up to a suggestion rather than making a statement, tends to be how women are socialized. Obviously not all women, but it’s a hard habit to break if you’re in it, and it took me a really long time.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        some people are immune to suggestions and niceties

        I completely agree. With some people, you just have to come out and tell them straight up what the deal is.

      2. Jennifer Juniper*

        I’m autistic. That means I’m guaranteed to miss subtle hints – because I can’t process social cues. Direct is best. If someone acts butthurt because you’re direct, that says everything about them and nothing about you.

      3. Hey Karma, Over Here*

        When you state, “I cannot find a good-natured but firm way” you are not realizing, “being direct does not equal being impolite”
        Yes, it would be great if Bob said, “oh, you and I are on the same level now, so I guess we should split this task or do our own.” He will never to that.
        Being direct is being good natured. Good natured doesn’t mean cute, clever or even pleasant to hear. It means not rude. “Bob, you’ll need to schedule meetings with me or my team, I can’t do that for you.” Is not bad natured. It’s blunt. It’s honest. It’s not rude.

    2. Aspiring Chicken Lady*


      I’m a nice person, I often know how to do technical stuff, and I’m happy to help out. But after a demo twice, they’re on their own.

      Bob, you’ll have to do that yourself. I’ve got my own work to do. Figure it out.

  32. Jh*

    Sorry about this… But did you ever show you were interested in a promotion? The fact you’ve had the same role for so long indicates that you haven’t advocated for yourself.

    At my last job I had a colleague who was there for 15 years, me for 3… He got upset and started questioning why I was getting certain opportunities. I told him it was because… I asked! He didn’t advocate for himself and was very negative. He was part of the furniture and didn’t show any potential. He was smart but he just never tried.

    1. Allypopx*

      It really is easy for people to become “part of the furniture”. I had an employee who I was told didn’t want to be given more responsibility and would get anxious if I talked to her about it. Found out eventually – NOPE! She’d just had a bad manager, and when given proper coaching and guidance became a great asset at a higher level. I was livid. Definitely learned a lesson about collecting my own information on people.

  33. logicbutton*

    #4 If the main issue is that the picture was clearly taken in the bathroom, I can understand feeling put off. But there isn’t any reason to be put off by selfies generally. The only real difference between a well-composed selfie and a headshot is where the photographer is, and it’s probably more recognizable than a backlit picture of someone in sunglasses and a biking helmet from thirty feet away.

    1. Certaintroublemaker*

      Ha ha! I have had to work with that exact photo. Thanks, distinguished professor, this will look great in the event program…

  34. Czhorat*

    For #4 – I’m surprised. Any real professional firm I’ve worked for, from 100 to 500+ people – had some official procedure for taking profile pictures. They’d send a photographer, send you to one, or at the very least vet your picture and apply it to your profile. It feels very casual for a 10,000 person firm to just let anyone upload whatever picture they choose.

    1. leukothea*

      In my last time at a government agency of more than 10,000 staff, we could upload any picture as our internal profile picture. For quite awhile I had a photo that looked like a basketball.

  35. Jennifer Juniper*

    #2: Please apologize to Chris. NOW. And give him a Visa gift card or something as a way to say sorry. And re-evaluate your sense of humor.

    1. Matilda Jefferies*

      I think that’s overdoing it, tbh. It sounds to me like it was just a bit of lighthearted banter that went too far. An apology is not a bad idea, but I think a gift card would be too much for this situation. And for the OP to re-evaluate their sense of humour – they already know they made a mistake, and they already feel bad about it. I don’t think it’s going to happen again.

      1. Jedi Squirrel*

        Agreed. Good lord, if people had to give someone a gift card every time they made a mistake, I’d never have to work again. People are human, they make mistakes. You apologize and move on.

    2. Joielle*

      Yeah, this is too much. It was at most a slightly ill-considered joke, not that big of a deal in the scheme of things. A casual apology is plenty.

  36. Matilda Jefferies*

    #3, I don’t know the dynamics in your office, but anywhere I’ve worked it has been perfectly normal to just say “my calendar is up to date, so go ahead and set something up.”

    You say you’re having a hard time finding a good-natured but firm way of saying it. But just based on the info in your letter, I think you’re overthinking it! If you’re super annoyed about this issue, or super annoyed with Bob in general, that might be colouring your perception of what to say about the meeting invites. If this is truly the only problem, then it should be pretty easy to solve with the scripts Alison suggested. Good luck!

    1. Jenn*

      Exactly – in my office saying “my calendar is up to date” basically means “I’m not scheduling this meeting, you should do it”. It’s a really useful phrase!

    2. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      OP is concerned that s/he doesn’t have authority to change the dynamic. But if OP is in the same position as Bob, and Bob has the authority to ask, so does OP.
      Of course, Bob is used to saying, “I need a meeting” and poof a meeting happens. He might not like it. He might never have thought about it. If he does refuse to do it and he does not give or get what he needs from OP’s department, that ultimately has to be on him.

    3. Angelinha*

      Also, Bob will learn pretty quickly that he has to schedule the meetings if OP just doesn’t take the initiative to do it and therefore the meeting doesn’t happen!

  37. CubeFarmer*

    Question 1: talk to your manager. I’d be upset, too.

    Question 2: apologize immediately. As a new employee, I once put in a vacation request to take time off for a family wedding, and got told, “Well, I’ll THINK about it.” by my grand-boss. I was still figuring out how things worked in this office, and PTO requests seemed particularly fraught. I know the statement was a joke, but it felt really crappy, especially when combined with the power imbalance.

  38. Observer*

    #2 –
    Honestly, I didn’t want anyone to think that I was giving Chris an automatic pass, or that he was being cocky about his probation.

    Why would you think that? You say that he has gelled well with the team and that he’s met all of his goals with time to spare. Why would anyone think that being positive about this is an “automatic pass”? And why would you think that everyone would think he’s being cocky?

    is it okay to be open about the fact that they’re going to pass their probation? Or should I be keeping up a bit of a façade to ensure the process is seen as a genuine professional trial and not just a hand-wave?

    Allison (and others) have made the point that probation really shouldn’t be about a “professional trial”. But even there were some reason why it would be that, your question still does not make sense. A “genuine” professional trial should be about seeing if a person can meet the demands of the position in the real world. You don’t do that by hiding things, keeping people guessing and pretending. You do that by being open, transparent and giving accurate feedback, both good and bad, as the occasion warrants.

    You NEED your reports to take your feedback seriously, especially when it’s less than positive. But if you refuse to give positive feedback or provide negative feedback “just because” or to keep someone from “getting cocky” or that “keeps them working hard” you will find that people are not going to take your critiques on board.

    Pictures this:

    You’ve spoke to Lou a couple of times about some performance issues. You pull them into a meeting with HR and they ask “OP has spoken to you about this issue a few times. What’s going on? What will it take for you to improve your performance?” And Lou answers “Oh, I had no idea that this really was an issue. OP has a tendency to dish out criticism regardless of our performance because it’s supposed to keep us on our toes. How was I supposed to know that this was different?”

    That’s not far fetched. People tend to tune out feedback from managers who are hyper-critical, even when the feedback is real. If people realize that it just a facade? Forget it. Your credibility is going to be totally shot.

    1. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Same question. What is probation about?
      They have the position. It should be the candidates to lose, not the company’s to give at this point.
      It should just be about training someone to do the job and finding if they can keep up, they are in. I am having trouble understanding how a person who comes with the qualifications and experience should feel like they are “earning” or “winning” the position.

    2. Oh So Anon*

      Yup. It’s important to treat your direct reports like adults and give them the opportunity to own both their successes *and* their failures. There’s no reason to expect that an employee will come to the conclusion that the things they do well completely compensate for areas where they need improvement.

      Similarly, people are going to feel good about getting positive feedback, and feel not-so-great about negative feedback. There are professional ways to express both of those reactions, and if you’re going to provide feedback you need to be comfortable with professional reactions and not extrapolate problematic assumptions from them.

      Although, ngl, keeping people guessing does have a way of getting the best out of people who tend to be hard on themselves.

  39. nnn*

    Was the guy in #4 required/encouraged to provide a photo? If so, I’m imagining this is the photo he had available.

    Getting professional headshots or getting someone else to take your photo is time-consuming. At a minimum, you need to arrange a mutually-convenient time and go to a place and get your clothes and hair and makeup looking good. If you’re filling out the new employee form and it tells you to attach a photo, it’s far more efficient to spend half an hour trying to contort yourself into a selfie you don’t hate.

    If your organization doesn’t want employees to use selfies, don’t require/encourage photos, and/or provide a photographer who will take professional headshots.

    1. Joielle*

      I think a selfie would be fine, but like… wearing a shirt and not in the bathroom. A reasonably well-lit selfie outside, or on the couch, or just in front of a blank wall would work.

  40. Iris Eyes*

    For #4 and any others out there trying to put together a decently professional head shot from home, I found the blog at photofeeler to be quite helpful. And for people who live for A/B testing or just like to have some reassurance that it is a decent photo they have a way to get real people feedback on how you are coming across.

    My typical method of disseminating this helpful information is just as you see here. If there’s an article on the intranet trying to get people to put up profile pics. Or if it otherwise comes up in conversation, as they have good advice for dating, business, and general social photos.

  41. rageismycaffeine*

    OP2 – I had a boss make a similar comment about my probationary period once. In front of other people. It stung horribly and I have never forgotten it – and the people who witnessed it were also uncomfortable and a little shocked she would make a comment like that in front of her team. I agree with Alison – please apologize to Chris so he’s not haunted by it.

  42. Observer*

    #4 – Why are you even asking about this? It’s an internal posting and it has nothing to do with you or your department.

    I am sure you don’t mean it this way, but this really could some off as policing what other people, who you have nothing to do with, wear and how they present themselves. And, depending on your company culture that could wind up doing you a lot of harm. And I don’t see any benefit to the company or even this guy.

    1. LW #4*

      I don’t want to police someone’s behavior, but it felt very uncomfortable to see a full on bathroom (shower, sink, toilet) in the background. This particular email went to over 30,000 people. In addition, it’s not just an internal system, it’s external too (which I forgot to mention). Every time we use our conference software this photo will pop up and it’s attached to outlook, so every time they send an email that photo goes with it. But they’re new and might not know that yet. I was more trying to give a heads up since it seemed clear this is their first job rather than police someone’s behavior. That’s why I was asking. I decided not to do anything and will let them figure it out.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        He’s not naked, he’s just standing in a bathroom? This is something most people won’t even register beyond the fact that it’s a bathroom. It may be a little out of the norm or perhaps slightly uncouth, but really, this is not a problem. Even if it is his first job, which you don’t even know for sure. You don’t know him. This is not your circus!

  43. AvonLady Barksdale*

    OP 4, I completely get why the photo is noticeable to you, but this is absolutely a situation where you quietly judge (maaaaybe laugh about it with your friends) and keep right on moving. This is not your problem. People will always do things that you may not agree with and most of the time they are not your business. Don’t waste your time worrying about individuals you’ve never even met and probably won’t ever speak to.

  44. Philosophia*

    “Probationary periods aren’t intended to make people feel like ‘well, maybe we’ll keep you and maybe we don’t’ “? Well, perhaps that is true of some employers.

  45. foolofgrace*

    OP1: Maybe you’re being kept in your current position because the company really relies on you there, and possibly they think they might have a hard time filling your role, so they just keep you there. It’s easier for them.

  46. HONK*

    Ahh I just wanted to say I love the expression “we are the same vintage” to talk about someone in a similar age group. I’ll be stealing that like it’s the keys to the garden!

  47. Anon for this*

    Not to derail, but the 23 years letter is making me feel good about wanting to move on after 8 years (which already feels overdue)….

  48. Donkey Hotey*

    #4 – I’m amused that everyone’s options seem to be only “selfie” or “professional photographer.”
    Best photo I’ve ever had taken of me was when I handed a friend my phone and said “I need a headshot.” Click. Done. And seriously, I used that thing for five years until my beard greyed out.

    1. Joielle*

      Even a selfie could work if you use a decent background and lighting! I have a selfie as my LinkedIn photo, I took it in my old office in front of a bookshelf full of matching volumes of caselaw and I’m wearing a suit. It’s obviously not a professional headshot, but I think it’s unobjectionable.

  49. Sockit2me*

    OP3: It is odd to assume that the fact that you and Bob are “the same vintage and experience level in our profession” means he knows how to use Outlook’s calendar invite function. I know how to do it, but tons of people of my vintage and experience level in my profession do not know how. Should he learn? For sure. But it’s highly likely that the explanation here is he has no idea how to use the calendar invite function, or knows how to do it but not how to see who is available. I know this is likely because it is incredibly common. So common that it’s hard to imagine that this is not the explanation.

    1. Allonge*

      Oh, it is a possibility, but not an excuse. We are not born with this knowledge, sure. Google works for everyone though, and in a pinch any random admin assistant will show you how to send an invite if you ask. If you want to go overboard, ask for a training on Outlook.

      In other words: there is no way, no how that Bob cannot figure out within 5 minutes how to do this. It is his job to do so, and expecting others to do it forever is not a good look for him. I would argue that someone who cannot make it happen is not suited for working in an office environment.

    2. Angelinha*

      It sounds like they are in an office job where they regularly use email, so I think it’s safe to assume they all know how to use their email calendar.

  50. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    #3: I’ve shown my boss at least 5 times now (at their request) how to use Outlook to schedule meetings or conference calls & they still cannot do it on their own. Some people just cannot learn these things. They’ll nod & say “Oh I see” when I’m showing them but the next day they’ll call me back in, “how did that calendar thing work again?” Thank dog for chocolate, it’s all that saves me some days.

    1. Observer*

      That’s not the OP’s problem though. It’s your job to help your boss, so if they can’t figure out how to do this, it does reasonably fall to you. But NOT to your boss’ peer.

    2. Close Bracket*

      That’s called strategic incompetence, and yes, thank dog for chocolate, bc you can’t fight that in your boss.

    3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Some people just cannot learn these things.

      To echo @Close Bracket, some people just CHOOSE NOT TO learn these things.

      …now where did I put my chocolate stash?

  51. TJ Byrde*

    LW#2, I was about a year and a half into a job I was really good at. High performer, respected by peers, excellent attendance, good attitude, given extra responsibilities, etc. My manager, who honestly was not great to begin with, made an off-the-cuff comment about how she could fire me if I didn’t do this one arbitrary thing she wanted me to do. I started scheduling interviews that night and accepted an offer within about a month. When I gave notice she was shocked and said she was joking and that it wasn’t that serious but job security, not to mention the pride I take in my very hard work and performance, aren’t that funny to me. If Chris were writing this letter, I would tell him to run.

    1. Just Another Manic Millie*

      I would tell him to run, too. At one of my jobs, the owner regularly shouted that no one ever did anything, and he was tempted to shut down the company, and then we could spend all day long sitting in the coffee shop. I don’t know if he was joking. FWIW our building did not have a coffee shop.

      The company did not use a payroll service. The office manager typed out our paychecks and paystubs. We were paid twice a month. She told me that every time she gave the paychecks to the owner to sign, he would throw them on the floor, saying that he wouldn’t sign them, because no one ever did anything. The checks would stay on the floor until she picked them up and gave them to him. Then he would throw them on the floor again. This would go on over and over until she had to beg him to sign the checks. Maybe he was joking. Or maybe the office manager was joking. I don’t know.

    2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      Based on the letter, your situation was very different. There doesn’t seem to be a pattern of behavior from OP/Chris’ manager (as you had to endure, which sucks). This sounds like a one-off, poor joke.

      1. TJ Byrde*

        I mean she wasn’t a great manager for many reasons but she seemed to like me and I tolerated her until that day. That was the first and thankfully last time she ever got to threaten my job. I didn’t want to work for someone who would abuse their power like that and guess what, luckily I didn’t have to!

  52. Oh So Anon*

    LW#2: Is Chris an entry-level employee? Does he have significantly less tenure than other people in similar positions? Is he a lot younger than them? I’m just wondering if there are any reasons that stand out as making him potentially seem cocky for being confident about having met his probationary goals.

  53. Elm*

    Something I’ve found in long-term employees being passed up for promotion is that they are TOO good where they are for their bosses to let them move up. They would have to try to find a new person to fill the spot of someone who is doing things flawlessly already, and it is simply EASIER for the boss to let the long-timer not advance their career than it is to think about their needs.

    It sounds horrible, but I know plenty of people who saw themselves in this position and purposefully start doing worse at it, only to get promoted as a result. Wouldn’t it be nice if hard work and dedication were rewarded rather than penalized for the convenience of others?

  54. Leela*

    OP 5 – I think you could truthfully say “in my experience, colleagues don’t connect over someone that I don’t have actual work experience with because the field is so competitive unfortunately!” And I think your instinct here is definitely correct

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