we made our new coworker cry, how to open and close emails to colleagues, and more

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

1. My new coworker cried when we gave her feedback

I have a new coworker who started the day before our company went to full-time telecommuting, “Ann.” She’s in a different role, outreach, but our teams work together for certain territories throughout our county. I was pulled in to help with our outreach team, as I had been on that team previously, and it’s something I enjoy. Ann volunteered to be the host of our virtual events, despite never having done any of our in-person events.

While debriefing our first event (several days later), two us us were giving some constructive feedback. Things like, “maybe try to shift your camera, let’s see if X looks better than Y, what if we had blue paper instead of red, do you have a different wall to use for your background” — nothing personal or sensitive. She burst into tears. She proceeded to tell us how hard it is to host and how we didn’t know what it was like, how she has X amount of kids, she doesn’t have air conditioning, so on.

I felt terrible. My bosses were also on the call but I stepped in and apologized and tried to empathize (we all have kids, we’re all doing our best, it’s hot outside, etc.). We got off the call fairly quickly after that. I messaged my boss and told her I was sorry if anything I said was out of line and she assured me that it was okay. Later that afternoon, I messaged Ann and reiterated that I was sorry if anything I said was hurtful and it was not my intention, but I understand impact is more important that intent. She cheerily messaged and said, “Constructive feedback is ALWAYS welcome!”

My husband says that my apology message was too much and is teaching her that her outbursts are okay; I feel like if that were me I would want someone to offer empathy and understanding. What would you have done?

Oh no, poor Ann — I think most of us have felt like melting down at some point in the last month. Of course, you don’t know her well yet so it’s possible this is always her way and she can’t take any feedback at all, but I suspect it’s more likely that she’s just under a ton of stress like everyone else (and dealing with a new job too). Since there’s nothing to suggest otherwise, I’d give her the benefit of the doubt and assume it’s the latter — in which case your apology was kind. I don’t think you need to worry about “teaching her that her outbursts are okay” unless this becomes a pattern.

If it does keep happening, that’s a problem and someone (probably her manager) would need to talk to her about feedback being part of the job. But right now, I’d assume it was a reaction to stress and she’s probably embarrassed.

That said, it’s also worth reflecting on the feedback itself and whether anyone in her shoes might have felt piled on or treated poorly. From the examples you shared, it doesn’t sound like it — but sometimes a team’s culture around how it gives feedback can feel normal to the people in it but jarring to someone new. That’s probably not the case here, but given her reaction, it’s worth making sure.

2. How should I open and close my emails to colleagues?

I spend a lot of time in my job composing and replying to emails, and I generally consider myself to be an effective communicator. However, I always struggle with the greeting and salutation part of the emails. I feel comfortable with very informal communication with close coworkers, or very formal situations such as writing a cover letter for a job application. But do you have any go-to phrases for everyday communication with managers and employees? I tend to stick with no greeting before a recipients name (“Mr. Jones,”) and “Regards” as a closing. Are there better options?

I suspect you might be on the formal side in your preferences, if only because you’re addressing colleagues as Mr./Ms. If that’s standard in your company, so be it — but otherwise using first names for colleagues, even ones you aren’t close to, is fine and normal. In general, you don’t need a high level of formality in business communications anymore (even cover letters!). You don’t want to send emails full of slang and text-speak, but you can and should write conversationally (conversational writing is usually better writing, and I’m saying that as a professional writer).

As for openings, when you’re writing to colleagues internally, “hi Jane,” “hey Jane,” “good morning Jane,” and similar variations are all good. With internal emails, lots of people don’t use a closing at all, or use “Thanks!” or any of a dozen others. (You will find strong opinions on all of them — “best,” “cheers,” “regards,” and all the others — and they are all fine and not worth the debate. Use the one you like.)

Stay gold,
Alison

3. I told my job I wanted to leave, and then COVID happened

I’ve been at my current job as an assistant for almost five years (my first job after college). In February, I was told that two of the three people I support would be leaving, and my boss opened the door for me to say I also wanted to move on. I’ve seen them react really well to people announcing their intention to leave, so I was honest and told them it was time for me to move on, largely because I want to move into a nonprofit (currently I’m in finance). They said they would be sad to see me go but would support me in my search. We had originally discussed me staying until the end of April, and getting a bonus for it.

Now, with COVID, everything is different. We’re all working from home. Of all the positions I’ve applied to, I’ve been rejected or heard nothing, or the position is on hold because the organization is closed. My boss called me the other day to ask about what my timeline is now. I think because they had a candidate in mind to replace me who they either needed to hire or cut loose. We tentatively agreed that I would stay at least until mid-May, but I’m worried about finding a job even in that timeframe. Everyone at my current job thinks the world of me and seem to have the idea that I’m so amazing that I’ll find another position without having to try. Well, I’ve been trying and it hasn’t paid off. I’ve been complimented on my cover letters by interviewers more than once, but I’ve only had a few interviews and nothing has panned out so far. It feels terrible to keep having to revise plans, and it is putting me in exactly the awkward position I didn’t want to be in: still hanging around at my old job when it’s starting to get weird that I’m still there. I know they want to do right by me, but they have their own interests as a business. I just don’t know what to do if I can’t find anything.

Ugh, this is awful timing; you risk being pushed out because they’re likely not willing to stay in limbo forever, but you might not be able to find a job in the next few months, or even longer (especially since you’re looking at nonprofits, many of which are having a terrible time).

Would you be willing to commit to staying for a longer timeline — like until the end of the year? Or even put your job search on hold entirely for now? The easiest way to handle this (and it’s not all that easy) would be to say to your boss, “Given our new circumstances, I don’t think I’ll be finding new work any time soon. I know it’s not realistic for you to stay in limbo, unsure of how long I’ll be here. Given the current situation, would you be willing for us to agree I’ll stay until at least the end of the year? I’m willing to commit not to leave before then, if that would make that easier for us to move forward.”

I realize committing to stay longer is the exact opposite of what you were trying to do — but it might be the only way to undo the earlier conversation and not get pushed out before you’re ready to go.

4. Did my old coworker keep me from getting hired?

I recently had a second interview at my dream company. Everything seemed to be fine and the interviewer told me I was their top candidate. Coming out of the interview, I bumped into Vicky, whoI’d worked with 16 years ago in my first serious job, fresh from college. I was thrilled to see her — she taught me a lot back then and I have fond memories of working with her. We exchanged numbers and that evening I texted her: “It was great seeing you today! I can’t believe you made it to manager at Dream Company! Do you want to grab a coffee sometime and tell me how you did it?” She never replied.

Fast forward four days later, and I get an email from the hiring manager that they’ve decided to go with another candidate because they feel I wouldn’t be the right culture fit. I was only mildly upset — stuff happens, after all — until I connected the outcome of my application with Vicky ghosting me. What if she voiced a negative opinion about me? Back when we worked together, I did report her friend Emma to management for a lack of ethics that resulted in Emma being made redundant. Soon afterwards, I quit too and I never really thought much of it until now. Maybe I lacked diplomacy, but I followed the rules and I put the company first, so I still think I did the right thing.

Right now, I really, really want to call Vicky and ask if she had anything to do with my rejection and if so, is that because of my disagreement with Emma back then. I still think highly of Vicky as a professional and I suspect she might not know the full story, but I don’t know that phone stalking her is the right move or maybe I should just accept that I’ll never get a job at any company where Vicky is working. What do you think I should do?

I can see why you’re wondering about that, but don’t call Vicky to ask if she had anything to do with your rejection! If she didn’t, that will come across extremely strangely — people get rejected for all sorts of reasons — and if she did, that’s not something she needs to answer to you for. She’s allowed to share input on candidates who she’s worked with in the past, and it’s possible she genuinely thinks you weren’t the strongest fit for reasons that have nothing to do with you reporting Emma 16 years ago. But even if she’s unfairly biased against you from that, confronting her isn’t likely to change it. Plus, you’ve already tried to get in touch and she hasn’t responded; you’re unlikely to get the outcome you want by continuing to press her.

There isn’t really anything you can do here other than accept it didn’t work out this time and move on. I’m sorry you didn’t get the job!

5. How do I list a furlough on my resume?

I currently work in marketing for a health care system, and as is the trend these days I’ve been placed on a temporary furlough. My employer made it clear that I am still an employee — I was able to keep my badge and computer, and they are planning to bring me back in a few months. However, I know nothing is guaranteed, so I’m starting my job search.

How do I list my current furloughed status on my resume? Because my employment was not terminated, do I list my position as though it is still ongoing? Do I call out that I am on furlough? Or do I list my position with an end date at the start of my furlough?

Any of those are fine. The big question is what your employer would say if they’re called for a reference or background check; you want what you’re saying to match up with what they’re saying. If they still consider you employed, it’s fine for your resume to list the job as current. But it’s also fine to list it like this:

* Coffee snorkeler, Beverage Oceanarium, June 2017 – present (currently on furlough)

{ 501 comments… read them below }

  1. Caramel & Cheddar*

    “Ann volunteered to be the host of our virtual events, despite never having done any of our in-person events.”

    Maybe it’s a good policy going forward that newbies don’t get to run a virtual event before they’ve watched/attended one to see how you guys do them? That’s not always possible, but since it sounds like she volunteered rather than was assigned to host, being an attendee on this one might have been beneficial as a training exercise (hindsight is 20/20, etc.)

    That said, the stuff she received feedback on seems like run of the mill “still adapting to what video conferencing looks like from home” problems, in which case maybe it’s worth doing a run through beforehand to make sure that everyone’s (not just Ann’s) set-ups are working as expected before the event starts so that you’re not discovering that someone’s wall colour is giving them a greenish tinge right on the middle of a presentation, etc.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        Guidelines, or a pre-event dry run, is ALWAYS a good idea, pandemic or no. I was recently asked to a virtual webinar — we did a number of things over email, then a dry run two weeks before (people did not give their full talks, just outlined what they planned to speak about, and the A/V guy gave us helpful suggestions about troubleshooting, having plain backgrounds, etc), and on the Day Of, the speakers logged in a full 45 min before for a final prep.

        At first I thought both a dry run and a final prep felt like overkill, but in the end I’m glad we did!

        1. irene*

          I suggested this when I was asked about getting logos in the videos. The management staff weren’t really clear on the background thing, so I made some, and then suggested…maybe do a test run before the board tries to meet via video call?

          We did some testing and dry runs, but it really helps to get everyone on the line in the way they plan to – it turns out that we didn’t adequately test for multiple people in one room on individual laptops who don’t want to stay muted. (Or they didn’t really understand the need – and at least one of the cameras was on a small group, etc.)

          Luckily, they had decided to try multiple video conference meetings with internal leadership before bringing the board in, so all was not lost, and we were able to get folks to reconnect via phone to solve the audio/mic feedback problem.

          But DEFINITELY do the testing! especially if you have folks who have never used video conferencing extensively, and who may be unfamiliar with the software chosen. You won’t regret it, and everyone will think you’re smart to suggest it. :)

    1. matcha123*

      This sounds like a good idea.
      If she’s never seen what others have done and has also never hosted her own online event, it would be better to go over what makes a successful event before she hosts the event.
      Heck, even with people with experience it would be a good idea to go over those points before having the person do the meeting. At least in that way when giving feedback she could hear about how see succeeded in areas x, y, and z, and could try p, q, r in the future.

      With that said, she knew she didn’t have AC and she knew she had kids. I think she should have been the one to reach out and give some more context and state her intention to work towards receiving feedback in a better way…
      (I grew up with no AC and lived in a state with hot, muggy summers, so I know it can suck without AC)

      1. Amaranth*

        True, I think maybe she overreached a bit out of an excess of wanting to prove herself. That said, I’m wondering if LW1 and others had previously done virtual events; if so, then this is the kind of information that should have been given to her ahead of time. If its new to everyone, then it shouldn’t have been put on a new employee and those with more experience should have worked with her to make sure everything would work as well as possible and to set some company standards. As C&C suggested above, some trial runs would have been appropriate, of the live or virtual events.

    2. Bambi Anna*

      We recently had a cross business area meeting where we rotate chair / secretary. The area whose turn it was to chair asked someone who had been in the business 2 days to take meeting notes. The minutes for that meeting were just dreadful, felt so sorry for the newbie, I ended up rewriting our entire section for him!

      1. Artemesia*

        When ever I. hear about a ‘him’ who messed up the meeting notes and a ‘her’ who then did them over for him, my spidey senses all tingle. Be sure he is assigned to do them again and doesn’t get off because ‘he just can’t take notes.’

        1. Timothy (TRiG)*

          In this case, he’d been with the company two days. Cutting him a little slack is appropriate.

    3. WellRed*

      I agree with all of this. Could have avoided this from the outset by not having the newby host. And I would also have felt piled on hearing about camera angles and wall choices(!) from all directions. It’s OK not to point out All The Things you think I did wrong.

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        So if 5 things were wrong/could have been done better, you would prefer that I only mention 2 of them so that next time only 3 things are wrong? I get that the criticism could have been overwhelming, but I’d want to know all the things that could have been done better so next it goes more smoothly.

        1. lulu*

          yes! things can always be done better, there’s probably 20 things that could have been done better on this particular call. You pick the top 1 or 2 to mention right away. Then if she offers to host a meeting again, you have a dry run before with her and you try to address the rest, if it’s really important stuff, not just things that matter to you personally, or things that your company has always done this way without clear justification. And you make sure to be understanding on the set-up, because these are weird times, people don’t have a different wall (!) available away from the kids, so that shouldn’t even get mentioned in my opinion.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            We always ask newbies to take notes at meetings… but have someone experienced take notes as well. Then the new person (who could have 20 years of experience, just not in this topic, or be fresh out of college) gets the last few meetings’ minutes as examples and the experienced person’s notes to write out the minutes.
            Learning the art of what’s note-worthy in this kind of meeting with this audience…
            practice makes perfect.

        2. Searching for a New Name*

          I think there’s a difference between things that were done wrong and things that were done okay but could have been improved upon. Part of giving feedback is being able to make the distinction; things that were wrong need to be fixed, but if you drown someone in everything from major structural problems to tiny nitpicks, you’re not giving good feedback.

          1. just a random teacher*

            Even if it’s all things that are wrong, there’s only so much people can absorb at a time. If it’s wildly off, then you have a training or hiring problem, and if it’s acceptably off but could be improved, then you need to pick a few things to focus on at a time as you complete their training.

            If someone turns in a one page paper called “Why Tigers R Awesum!!!” when they were supposed to write a 10 page paper about strategies to increase genetic diversity in captive tiger populations, I am not also going to bother to mention that of the 3 sources they cited, one was in MLA and two were in APA, and it’s important to be consistent in citation style. I’m going to focus on the big picture of “how to tell if you’ve met assignment criteria”, “what kind of language do we use in papers in this class”, and “run spell check” at a maximum, and probably pick a few specific points within each area to address first, with the idea that it’s going to take many rounds of feedback before their assignments look anything like what I’m asking for. (On the other hand, if the main issue is mixed MLA and APA cites in an otherwise acceptable paper, that’d be one of my comments! It’s about picking the 3-5 most useful pieces of feedback for someone to actually improve from rather than every possible piece of feedback on how they could be perfect.)

            In this situation, though, it’s quite probable that Ann could already tell her presentation wasn’t what she’d like for it to have been, and she’s feeling frustrated by her non-optimal working conditions leading to a poor first impression. (I’m particularly feeling the “wall” thing. I did not have video conferences in mind when I set up my occasional-grade-or-plan-from-home space several years ago, and it’s certainly not the best it could be in terms of backgrounds. However, fixing that would involve moving a lot of other spaces around to make a completely different home office space and buying things, such as furniture and wall art, that it is not practical to buy right now. I know a lot about video production and how to do it right, and I’m able to to apply maybe 10% of that knowledge because I don’t have the right space or gear in my home to make professional videos since that wasn’t part of my job until March and hadn’t been for over a decade before this. I know my face would look better with a fill light and where to put it, but none of the lights I happen to own and not need elsewhere would work, and so on.)

      2. boo bot*

        Yes – I didn’t catch that this was post-event until reading the comments. Those are a lot of minor tweaks to her presentation, coming after it’s too late to fix them, and I would be frustrated by getting all the notes after the fact, rather than someone having taken ten minutes to go over what they needed when I could still adjust to the feedback.

        Also, this is just reflective of my being somewhere people tend to have small, shared apartments, but everywhere I’ve lived before now, there literally wasn’t a “different wall” I could switch to for a video call without rearranging all the furniture in my bedroom. For what it’s worth, that’s the comment that would have flipped the “OMG stop” switch for me. (That may be what prompted her bringing up having the kids at home – like, she can’t necessarily host a video call in another room, if this is the only private room with a blank wall in the house.)

        1. Overeducated*

          Yeah, I was wondering if that was the straw that broke the camel’s back as well – I currently have two kids at home in an apartment and there is only one work video appropriate wall in the entire place (both visually and in terms of being able to be closed off from disturbance). I think people giving feedback need to be conscious that we’re not in normal times right now and it’s important not to fault people for things that may be out of their control given current circumstances.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I say we follow the lead of Donna on Parks and Rec and all do our video calls from inside a mirrored walk-in closet lined with colorful shoes. (To be clear: I don’t have a walk-in closet, so for me the podcasters who admit upfront they are recording this in a closet engender “Oooh, a walk-in closet.”)

            1. Warm Weighty Wrists*

              We should follow the lead of Donna on Parks and Rec in so, so many ways.

          2. Artemesia*

            I would think if people are using zoom for these meetings they would use a virtual screen and that takes care of the background issue. I have a bunch of photos on mine that are neutral but scenic e.g. ice on Lake Michigan — looks abstract but attractive and not distracting. And I think there are stock photos of bookcases and such you can use.

            I don’t know if other platforms have this.

            1. mlem*

              My company disabled virtual backgrounds in the corporate policy settings for our work “Zoom” accounts. Apparently someone complained about someone’s virtual background or something, idk.

            2. boo bot*

              I think that’s always a good idea, but the backgrounds don’t work on every device (I can’t use them). If you don’t have a high-powered enough graphics card or a green screen, the virtual background will move around, only cover part of the actual background, or cover parts of your face and body. Which can be amusing, but slightly distracting.

            3. Lyra Silvertongue*

              You have to have a device that can do that though. I don’t have a particularly old Macbook and without a green screen, I can’t use virtual backgrounds. I don’t own a green screen, so I can’t do them. It’s a 2017 Macbook but you need OS 10.14 or higher to be able to use a background with no green screen. Even if I had a newer laptop, there still isn’t anywhere I can sit in my apartment with a laptop with a blank wall behind me.

            4. just a random teacher*

              My school-issued computer is not powerful enough to do virtual backgrounds without a green screen, which it is not practical for me to jury-rig behind me since there’s a regularly-used doorway in the field of view. I have on-camera meetings 3-4 days a week, and I wouldn’t want to have to move a giant, perfectly smooth green screen (that I also do not currently own so would have to make somehow – several sheets of some kind of thin board and spraypaint?) out of the way every day. If I were planning on doing this permanently, I suppose I would get one that retracts into a roll at the ceiling like a projector screen or map when not in use, but those cost over $100 and are backordered for a month, so aren’t practical right now just to keep people from seeing my kitchen through a doorway or notice that the paint color in my workspace does not flatter my skin tone optimally on camera.

          3. Mama Bear*

            This was my thought, too. I hit a wall this morning and I feel some sympathy for Ann who is navigating something new while in the midst of difficult circumstances. I’m actually a little peeved that OP’s spouse took it as coddling instead of empathizing with someone who is having a hard day.

            One of the issues with virtual backgrounds is that they are sometimes worse. We used them this weekend for a friendly gathering and they were very glitchy – people were obscured in whole or in part. That would be even LESS professional than what was described here.

            All that said, I’d move on. Hopefully Ann has a better day and will do better next time.

            1. chi type*

              I hit a wall this morning
              But was it the right wall? Did it have a classy bookcase on it??

        2. Myrin*

          I mean, in that case you (general you) can say that unfortunately, it’s not possible to do this in front of another wall. OP asked a question – “Do you have a different wall to use for your background?” – and it’s reasonable to answer that with “No”.
          But there’s also a generally not insignificant chance that one could indeed use a different wall for a background and so it’s not unreasonable to ask, either.

          1. boo bot*

            Sure, but I wanted to point it out because it feels like one of those things where, if you live somewhere that the houses are bigger and people generally have more space, it might sound implausible that there’s literally only one wall that’s usable as a background in the entire home.

            1. Nita*

              And it kind of feels like an admission of “I’m poor and my home is pathetic”. So it might be hard to calmly explain that there’s no other space to hold the call. I mean, explaining calmly is the professional thing to do, but I can see why it might have seemed like a big thing.

              1. boo bot*

                Yeah, exactly. I’ve worked with people who would absolutely have taken it that way, and that’s why it would have bothered me to be asked – not because there’s anything wrong with the question, but because I couldn’t answer it without feeling like I have to convince people that yes, I really don’t have another wall, and no, it’s not because I’m poor and my home is pathetic… (it’s because I’m financially precarious and my home is cozy!)

        3. Two Dog Night*

          OP said Ann volunteered to host events, plural, and this was a debriefing session after the first one. Mentioning relatively minor things that could be improved in the future sessions seems totally normal to me.

        4. Raea*

          Yup. That was the comment that stood out to me as well. I’m assuming this event is with external stakeholders since they are clearly being held to an aesthetic standard that would otherwise seem out of touch in the current situation. Even so though, I suspect most people (certainly myself) are working from home in less than ideal circumstances, and it does seem a little tone deaf to talk about wall backgrounds when everyone is just trying to do their best.

          Right now, internal or external, my standard for video calls is that if there isn’t a naked toddler or spouse wandering around in the background, we are in good shape. It’s a very different bar than usual.

      3. Annony*

        I also wonder if she got positive feedback before the pile on. Since this was her first time hosting the event, she probably needed to hear something like “Overall, I think that went really well! Good job, Ann!” before going into the things that could be improved for next time. Someone who has done it many times probably doesn’t need that because they already know that it went well. If people jump in with the tweaks first, it can feel like too much very quickly.

        If it didn’t go well, then acknowledge the effort and that the circumstances are less than ideal right now and focus exclusively on the big things that need to be changed, not stuff like the wall in the background.

        1. M. from P.*

          That’s what occurred to me as well! Did she also get feedback on what went well, and how she handled the meeting in general? If not, the suggestions might have come across as nit-picky or like she cannot get anything right. I’d wonder about the general tone of the conversation here.

        2. Skeptical Employee*

          Exactly this. I can imagine the barrage of suggestions being really awful if it wasn’t combined with an appropriate level of positive, actively supportive feedback. It sounds like Ann pulled off something really difficult under extremely stressful circumstances, and may have very reasonably felt like the larger accomplishment was getting lost in an avalanche of small critiques.

      4. TootsNYC*

        yeah, having THAT many people chime in with THAT many suggestion would really feel like dogpiling. Especially when I’m new.

    4. Alex*

      I think feedback delivered via Zoom or WebEx can also be piled on because people do not have as many social cues on taking pauses or waiting between people speaking. I can see criticism being faster and seeming harsher due to the communication medium.

      1. Kes*

        And because she’s just started, and is trying to get her bearings and establish herself in the new company – getting a lot of critical feedback, even if it’s really fairly minor things, on the first thing she does there might be making her feel that it didn’t go well and she’s not doing as well as she hoped. With additional stress on top of that, I could see how it could get to her. Given the general situation and with her later positive reaction, I wouldn’t read too much into it at this point beyond that she’s probably under a lot of stress.

        1. jenkins*

          Yes – and it’s very daunting starting a new job from home. When you’re physically in the same space as your coworkers you get a much quicker, clearer sense of whether what you’re doing is in line with company norms and expectations. People are there if questions arise throughout the day, and you get a face-to-face response that’s (hopefully) warm and communicative – much more reassuring than working remotely. So she’s probably feeling unsure already, tried to get stuck in with hosting the online event, hoped she’d done a decent job and then got criticism that she maybe wasn’t expecting (I know I don’t have multiple nice walls that I can Zoom in front of). Her response wasn’t good and I’m a bit concerned that she didn’t address that more specifically after the face, but I think she deserves the benefit of the doubt this once.

    5. Chili*

      Yeah, I think I’m the future having dry runs would definitely be beneficial.
      And I don’t want to normalize crying at work or condone breakdowns, but being new to a job is generally pretty stressful for the first couple months. With everything going on in the world on top of that, I can see how someone could have a really bad reaction to a perceived pile-on of even minor criticism. I know my friend had a mini breakdown (privately and after the fact) when someone asked her if she had anywhere quieter to go to take this meeting. She has two young children and a dog who she is caring for by herself every day while her husband works at the hospital— she did not have anywhere quieter to go but definitely wishes she did!
      It’s possible Ann really does not take feedback well and this will be a recurring issue, but for now I would file it under “COVID sucks” and hope it doesn’t happen again.

    6. OP1*

      Hi all! I’m the poster from the first question! I wanted to jump in and clarify a few things. We did do two run throughs and at that time things looked okay. The day of the event we were having a heat wave, and honestly, I think that messed her up. She’s new to the role however has been a volunteer for several years so I think her insistence that she do the first event came from a slight “I know my stuff, I can do this!” attitude as she was kind of defensive during our run throughs as well.

      I do appreciate Alison’s nudge to do some reflecting on our feedback and I do think one of my co-workers can come off quite harsh. I try to do a compliment sandwich in feedback and it didn’t seem to work well.

      I hosted the virtual event we had on Saturday and it went smoothly. I’m very curious what her reaction will be today because I do sense a lot of territorial behaviors about the events in general from her.

      I hope I don’t sound like a jerk! I truly try to be as empathetic and kind as possible.

      1. Bonky*

        Compliment sandwiches (or, as I was first exposed to them on a course more than a decade ago, sh!t sandwiches) have been thoroughly deprecated since I was introduced to them – if you google “sh!t sandwich management” you’ll find a million articles explaining why they’re not a great idea. (TL;DR: people tend to totally ignore the good feedback, and find it feels really disingenuous.) There are soft ways to give negative feedback; it’s worth exploring some of the literature on managing and providing feedback to equip yourself for another occasion.

        I’m really lucky in that my employer makes sure we all do some exec education every year; I find management psychology really helpful, and it’s good to be able to stay on top of what’s considered best practice.

        1. OP1*

          I’ll look into this! We are offered different professional development courses and I’ve been recommended to take something to learn about “managing up” which seems like it could have benefited me in this case.

        2. Aquawoman*

          I think the problem with “compliment sandwiches” is when they’re used as part of a strategy for delivering negative feedback. I think a debrief legitimately should include both things that went well and things that could be better.

        3. Artemesia*

          In a debriefing you can have a structure that acknowledges the positive as well as provides constructive criticism. e.g. What worked well — we want to do it this way again. What needs to be tweaked for next time. If you use a template each time then there is an expectation of negative feedback i.e. constructive criticism and it seems less artificial that the class S Sandwich.

      2. LGC*

        You’re not a jerk! I think Ann just had frayed nerves. (And okay, some people in the comments – myself included, although this is the first time I’m weighing in on your letter – can come off as harsh themselves.) Honestly, it sounds like she was under a lot of pressure and then when she heard your feedback, she kind of cracked.

        With the compliment sandwich…I used to do that myself, and then I realized that 1) people know what a compliment sandwich is and 2) it can obscure the meaning of what I’m trying to get across. So now I try to just go into feedback, myself. (And I find it amusing that I’m giving you feedback on your question about feedback going wrong.) What I’ve personally found is that how feedback is received is largely based on tone and word choice – you need to be clear both about what’s wrong and how serious it is that it’s wrong.

        1. Artemesia*

          The problem with the S Sandwich is that a fair number of people will cling to the positive and miss the negative and the rest will dismiss the positive as condescension.

      3. Oof*

        I work at a non-profit, and in our history, the volunteers that were hired did not work out. I think part of it is the feeling that they knew us – but they knew our public face, and not the nuts and bolts of how we make things run. I think there was a bit of culture shock there, in transitioning from expectations and communication methods with volunteers to how we work with staff. We’re not ogres! But it is a difference. That may be playing into your situation a bit. Once it was one of our favorite and most valued volunteers, which was sad.

        1. OP1*

          Oof – we’re also a non-profit and nationally known (we’re one of 121 councils connected to our large overarching council). I think there’s definitely a learning curve when it comes to volunteers being hired and I’m always wary of it. It’s always interesting when volunteers do get a glimpse of the actual day to day processes, they often seem to think it runs by itself without real people behind the scenes.

      4. nellie*

        You don’t sound like a jerk, but…a few negative feelings about this employee have come up in your comments that were not in the original letter. I’m kind of getting the impression you don’t think she was a great hire in general, that it’s not just about the one event. And if you and your tight-knit colleagues all feel the same way about her, she’s probably picking up on this, consciously or not. Making her emotions run high, which is not helping her performance…and so on.

      5. Skeptical Employee*

        You don’t sound like a jerk, but you do sound like you might be drastically underestimating how difficult it is to start a new job while working from home in the midst of a global pandemic! And your descriptions make me think there may not have been as much positive feedback as the situation warranted, especially if a substantial amount of the positive feedback was being used to sandwich criticism.

    7. RC Rascal*

      Hosting WebEx events gives me an anxiety like nothing else I do professionally. I’ve had too much go wrong, despite the best preparation. Finally, I started scheduling IT to stand by the first 15 minutes of the event. It was the only way to have a good event.

      If someone were to have given me feedback after one of this “if it can go wrong, it will” adventures, I might have had a meltdown too. I feel for Ann.

      1. Lauren*

        Same – I thought it was just me! I can handle other things without a problem, but WebEx events make me anxious in a way I’ve nev r experienced. Having IT on standby has worked for me too, and luckily, they are quite kind about it!

    8. Holy Moley*

      This. Give her a mentor and friend and yes co-worker to help and aide her. It will also allow the team to get to know Amy better through this person: “Oh, Amy was so great! This was HER idea!”

      This is part of being kind, too. Don’t put a stumbling block – no partnership – before the blind – in this case, a new co-worker. Geez.

      1. OP1*

        OP1 here – she does have all of those resources. We assign “buddies” during the hiring phases where they can ask a colleague about things, etc. We work as a tight knit team so this wasn’t a case of her going in blind. We all worked on the development and implementation of this event.

    1. Zephyrine*

      On the one hand, I 100% agree. On the other hand, visibility would be pretty terrible.

      1. MistOrMister*

        Probably no worse than being in the depths of the ocean, perhaps? As long as it was filtered properly. Trying the snorkle with lots of grounds in the water would make for murky going though….

        I hope there would also be some otter companionship during coffee snorkle outings.

        1. Jemima Bond*

          I assume the otter farms we are all starting during lockdown have the primary purpose of specialist training for the livestock in swimming through all types of beverage. The less sharp-eyed would presumably be drafted to green tea surfing.

        2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

          I dunno. Otters are amazingly cute, but I feel like otters on a caffeine high are a bit of a scary idea.

          1. Phony Genius*

            They do bite. Biting is often part of their “playing.” Caffeinated otters biting is not something I want to experience.

    2. Beth*

      In retirement, I will be hiring coffee snorkelers for the otter village I plan on founding.

  2. staceyizme*

    There’s a whole lot of “she volunteered”, “she had no experience”, “let’s see if blue background instead of red” or “a different camera angle” before getting to the bit about her reaction. It’s not always true that the person who reacts is correct about their assessment when difficulties arise. That said, the complaints cited seem very minor unless you’re recording sessions for later consumption. There’s a little bit of a mean girl vibe here. Maybe the “feedback” was a recitation of things that could be done better and lacked any mention of gratitude for her efforts or kudos for whatever went well? I hope I’m just wrong. But “new to hosting” and pressures of teleworking during Covid-19 would be expected to elicit some grace, mutual forbearance and a split between “well done” and “change this” categories of feedback. Definitely worth checking out.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I just read the letter over twice and didn’t see anything that would indicate “mean girls.” The feedback offered seems pretty reasonable, not excessively nitpicky (certainly not anything we could tell was nitpicky without having the context the LW has that we don’t).

      1. Amy*

        IDK. Perhaps there’s some context missing on these virtual events, but the feedback to a new employee trying to host a new virtual event, in the midst of this mess, seems to be things like “your wall isn’t the right background – find a better looking place in your house” and “the paper color is wrong and that’s super important right now.” That does seem a bit “mean girl” – both personal, assuming there are available options for backdrops at home, and nit-picky, focusing on what sounds like really small items – especially as part of a laundry list of similar complaints from all sides for a new employee.

        1. Nela*

          Not every wall is well suited for hosting a video event and it’s ok to ask if there are alternatives. The rest of the questions seem fine to me. As I think Alison was pointing out above, I love how commenters assume they know better than the OP what matters and doesn’t matter for their projects. Give people some benefit of the doubt, they know their own situations better than you do.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, that was exactly my point. And now that the OP has weighed in with additional details, once again we see that (unsurprisingly) the LW knows her own situation better than commenters. That’s why the commenting rules ask that we give people the benefit of the doubt.

            1. M. from P.*

              It’s true that we want to give people the benefit of the doubt but one of the things I value about this column (and your overall approach) is that you encourage letter writers to look at the situation from the perspective of the other person and ask themselves if there might not be some additional angle they had not considered.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                The issue is when people leap to a uncharitable interpretation and assume it’s fact and don’t allow for the possibility that they’re wrong. This is a perfect illustration of why I ask people not to do that. This LW was very gracious about it but it can be quite frustrating for people to find 300 comments assuming they did something they didn’t do.

                1. Phony Genius*

                  I think the title “We Made Our New Coworker Cry” may have accidentally biased some readers before they even read the letter. By itself it makes the “we” sound like bad people.

        2. fhqwhgads*

          I think it entirely depends on tone. If the point of the meeting and the tone of the feedback was breezy or brainstormy, none of the things OP listed were pile-onish, because none of them were criticisms. Just “ok we think this other stuff will be better for next time”, without the implication that those things were bad this time. On the other hand, if they were presented as actual noteworthy flaws (actively bad rather than just could be better), then it’s hella nitpicky.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            As noted upthread, the distinction between brainstormy and pile-onny is probably a lot harder to discern on Zoom, since our visual cues are postage stamp size. I’ll add that perceived tone has a lot to do with your shared background with someone–since employee is new, it’s a lot harder for her to judge how out of the norm the amount/tone/etc of the feedback is for this group.

            1. fhqwhgads*

              Personally I think it’s not harder to discern on Zoom because the cues I’m talking about are audio not facial. But I recognize others may need both. That said it sounds like this was a discussion between 4 people total? OP, the person in question and two others? So unless her monitor’s tiny, I doubt they’d really be all that too small to see.

        3. NerdyKris*

          It’s also extremely likely that the LW was just using those as examples, to avoid giving identifying details.

          1. Washi*

            That’s what I assumed! Mainly because of the blue paper vs. red….I can’t imagine what paper is for in a virtual meeting. Is Ann making posters and flipping through them on camera like on Love Actually?

            I thought the point that the criticism was all about general logistics/style, not stuff like “you came off really rudely in response to that VP.” I can see how Ann might have gotten overwhelmed in these stressful times, but I also feel like we need to take OP at her word that the feedback was worth giving.

        4. Grapey*

          I would think that someone who volunteers to host a meeting as a new employee would be open to hearing about those small things, in fact doing it to LEARN the small things. I got zero mean girls vibes myself.

      2. Lady Jay*

        Eh, it seems a little nitpicking to me! I assumed they meant a virtual background, and not everyone’s computer can display one effectively, for one thing, and unless the color of the paper affected visibility, it doesn’t matter.

        It seems as though the new employee volunteered to do so something collegial and kind, and imstead got a bunch of feedback from at least 2 people at once, maybe more, about how she needed to do it better.

        It’s understandable that she cried.

        1. snowglobe*

          I also assumed that “choose a different background” meant a virtual background. Like maybe she had some photo background that was out of place at a business meeting.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I assumed so too, and frankly, I really hope the feedback was about a virtual background. Otherwise, it would sound like “can you get a better house to host from next time?”, which would be just a little bit… off.

        2. MsM*

          Agreed. I’ve been on enough Zoom events at this point where people are impressed that we have a virtual background with our logo, I find it hard to believe external audiences care that much about red versus blue. And asking a parent who probably spent most of their prep time just trying to make sure the kids would stay out of the way if they have somewhere else to film does come across as slightly tone-deaf. Not burst-into-tears nasty, but tone-deaf nonetheless.

          1. Observer*

            It’s hard to tell if these were actual comments or generic sounding ones that the OP made up to avoid too much identifying information.

            But whether people “care” about a color is not the only possible reason why it might actually be worth addressing. A lot really depends on what else was showing up on the screen, and if there were other issues at play.

      3. Lara*

        Huh. Alison, I’m very curious about the advice that this kind of feedback is okay vs the previous advice given to the letter writer who was told not to ask his employee to not wear a hoodie. I would lean towards the opposite and think it’s okay to ask someone to wear slightly less casual clothes while on Zoom, but you can’t really change someone’s wall color. What’s okay to expect vs do we need to let go of during this crazy time?

        1. Putting the "pro" in "procrastinate"*

          Keep in mind that this was a virtual event of which the employee was host — not an ordinary staff meeting. While I think OP’s team missed a step here by not checking the relevant folks’ setup beforehand, if they *had* done so, requesting a particular type of background would have been completely appropriate, as is making that request for the next event. I don’t think it’s okay to criticize someone’s messy sofa or Disney posters or whatever else you see in one’s background for a regular meeting with the team, but for hosting a virtual event where you are representing the company? It’s definitely okay.

        2. Washi*

          You can’t demand someone change their wall color, but I think it’s totally fine to at least ask if they are able to do the call in another place because the wall/lighting makes them difficult to see. For some people that would be an easy fix, and if the person only has one location available to do the meeting, they can say that. I think it just has to be more “let’s problem solve to figure out how to make sure you are visible.”

          1. Indigo a la mode*

            Oh yeah. The number of people I’ve seen totally backlit by the window they’re sitting in front of…it’s hard to look at. Zoom’s virtual background feature is REALLY well done and you can pick anything you want, so it’s easy to get a tidy “wall” or whatever you like behind you that keeps your home private. I prefer my video loop of four huge pelicans grooming themselves, but ymmv.

            1. A*

              Unfortunately the background override isn’t always an option. Some companies have it turned off for various reasons.

          2. Artemesia*

            So was it a wall or was it a virtual background in red or blue? I would think the organization might have a virtual background with logo that they use for such events and that anyone who has an unsuitable home space would use a virtual background of some sort anyway.

            1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

              You need a strong computer and relatively uncluttered background space that is of different color than you/your clothes for it to work well.

        3. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          The hoodie employee didn’t have a crying meltdown about it. (Also, could probably be expected to be in possession of appropriate office attire, versus “suddenly my bedroom is an office and I have to take down my 10,000 BC poster”.)

        4. SomebodyElse*

          I think the main difference is that a hoodie in a team meeting is a pretty minor thing. A background in a large hosted webinar event can really be a problem if it’s distracting, inappropriate (no indication that it was in the OP’s case), or make it visually hard to see the presenter.

          It would be unreasonable to expect someone to paint their wall, but maybe not as much to temporarily hang a neutral colored cloth, hang the back side of a poster, or any number of things that can cheaply and temporarily adjust the background that the audience sees.

    2. Jimming*

      Yeah, it might have made a difference for one person to give her that feedback vs the group, but to be getting it from all directions could have been overwhelming right now. I don’t get the “mean girl” vibe but I can see how it would be overwhelming right now and being 1-month new.

      That said, I agree with Alison’s advice. I think it was emphatic to reach out 1:1 and it sounds like the new employee is open to feedback, just had a tough day.

      1. CL Cox*

        It wasn’t from all directions. According to OP, there were two of them giving feedback.

      2. Uranus Wars*

        I keep reading the comments and wondering if some of the stress and reaction of the host was because the feedback came AFTER the live event. If part of it was frustration in “I could have made changes if someone had told me before…AND now I look like an ass…AND I have kids…AND I have no A/C…AND…meltdown ensues.

    3. 867-5309*

      I wondered the tenor of the comments also. If it was along the lines of, “You’d look against a different background” or “Shift your camera so she show up better,” then I can see how several comments to that end would feel overwhelming and possibly personal. That could be the case even if the team didn’t mean them that way.

    4. alienor*

      I feel like it’d have gone over better if it were presented as “now that we’ve done one of these virtual events, let’s start putting together a list of best practices for anyone else who might run one in the future,” rather than “here’s everything you did wrong, Ann.”

      1. Mockingjay*

        Yes, wait a day and do a lessons learned.

        I have found is that immediate responses tend to focus on minutiae, whereas waiting a day or two returns the focus to the big items that really need to be addressed.

    5. Teapot Tía*

      Even if it wasn’t “mean girls” – if everyone on the team (and the letter didn’t say how many people that was) felt the need to chime in with suggestions/corrections, that might’ve felt overwhelming especially to a newbie.

        1. At least 4*

          IT also says, “My bosses were on the call” so that assumes there’s at least two more people; it might have seemed like 4 against 1. That said, I don’t agree with the commenter that it was “mean girls” but it could have been more pressure than the OP intended there to be.

          1. Jill*

            This is what struck me as over-stressful about the situation. Only 2 people were criticizing her but in front of her 2 new bosses, on something she’s never done before, effectively in-person over a background when she’s got kids occupying other rooms in her house and no AC. So it felt over-stressful to her and she reacted, but as long as her bosses aren’t mad about it it’s normal that everyone has moments right now!

    6. Fish Microwaver*

      I don’t think the feedback was mean or nitpicky. It sounds like Ann was a bit fragile and overwhelmed. Hosting can be stressful at first and having kids/family/roommates/partner around can add to that. She was probably just having a bad day.

      1. PollyQ*

        I think this is really it. Even if the feedback was too harsh (which isn’t my take), busting out into tears seems like an overreaction.

    7. Observer*

      I totally didn’t get a mean girl vibe.

      I absolutely DO see how it could have been overwhelming, though – that was my first thought, in fact, before reading that she started to cry.

      But on the other hand, clearly some of it was her own fragility. Telling people that they don’t know how hard it is to host and what it’s like? It’s not like no one there has ever hosted before. Her breezy response clearly indicates that she knows it, too.

      That’s the good news – since she clearly understands that the feedback wasn’t meant to be nitpicky and mean, it’s far less likely that she’ll have as much trouble with feedback in the future. On the other hand, it might be worthwhile for the OP to figure out a less overwhelming way of giving necessary feedback. I don’t mean walking on eggshells. But a LOT of us are a bit more fragile than usual and she’s new and adapting.

      1. PNW Dweller*

        I think it seems odd to correct someone in the midst of a meeting. I may not be reading this correctly, but if I were hosting a virtual meeting and, instead of staying on the subject, a couple of people started being nit-picky about some minor things I’d be a little overwhelmed. It would be one thing if the meeting was prep for a client facing meeting and you all were making sure everything was just right, but otherwise it would seem kinder to contact the person later. Especially since she’s new. She doesn’t have any way to know if you are being genuine or if you are being mean. Since she wrote in here I didn’t take OP for being a mean girl, but someone trying to prove herself might feel the rug was pulled out from under her. And she might have been able to figure that out once the moment passed, but in the moment she was incapable of seeing your suggestions for what they were.

        1. LazyBoot*

          OP said this was while debriefing the event. So it seems like it should be fitting to comment on how it went, and suggest improvements

      2. Not So NewReader*

        I have the same read. She knows she over-reacted, she volunteered an put her own self in this spot and now she has regained her sense of proportion and is ready to move on.

        She sounds like she was tired. If the group had more than a couple comments, her first impression might have been “This is a staggering list!” and “They are saying this IN FRONT of the bosses, omg!” . Then she moved to, “Wait. I did all this work and the most important thing you can tell me is that my background needs help? Really?” The comments may have felt superficial next to the content/purpose of the meeting.

    8. Beth*

      I mean, it’s certainly possible that the impact was mean-girl-ish (sheer volume of minor, nitpicky criticism can add up to something nasty, even if it’s all true and minor and given in a friendly tone), but I don’t see anything in LW’s letter that suggests that that’s definitely or even probably the case. It doesn’t sound like it was the intent, for sure, and it doesn’t sound like it was something that LW would have considered unusual or mean in the context of their workplace’s norms at least.

      I would assume that the new coworker was probably very stressed. After all, it was her first time doing this, AND it’s at a new job, AND she’s trying to do it from home in a space that’s probably not designed for webcam friendliness, AND she has kids home, AND there’s a pandemic on. That’s plenty to wear down anyone’s resilience!

      Of course it never hurts to reflect on our own behavior, and in that spirit LW could certainly think about whether their methods for giving feedback need adjusting under these circumstances; maybe minor criticisms can be dropped for now in favor of saving our collective energy for things that have a bigger impact.

      But I would assume here that everyone was trying their best, and the unfortunate result (tears that I’m sure everyone involved felt awkward about) can be blamed on the pandemic and surrounding circumstances rather than anyone doing anything wrong. These things happen. LW was right to apologize, because extending empathy is a good social smoother in an awkward situation like this. LW’s coworker was right to continue to be open to critical feedback, because that is sometimes a necessary work skill. Time to move on and continue to try to be kind to each other in the future.

    9. Batgirl*

      Um, I’m kind of taken aback that a grown professional woman, (assuming that’s even the case), is being called a ‘mean girl’ here. It wasn’t in any way a social situation, it was work and if we think the OP’s tone or delivery needs tweaking, can’t we just say so without high school references or implications about female behaviour? I’m sure it is no more than a figure of speech but let’s not add to the paranoia women in the workplace already have about being too hard to be feminine/too soft to be taken seriously. We also dont know the other colleague’s gender!

      1. Mary Connell*

        Agreed. Not a good look to try to discredit this interaction by framing it in terms of negative stereotypes about female interactions.

        1. TimeCat*

          Or the fact that women are often interpreted negatively when they give any sort of criticism which undermines women in management.

          If anything LW over apologized here.

    10. Laure001*

      I didn’t feel the mean girl vibe but I always try to note my own reaction before reading Allison’s answer, because she is so convincing!
      And my first reaction was that it was nitpicky.
      Too much small stuff. Feedback is wonderful but you have to choose your battles and stick to what’s important. If I hosted a successful event (even in real life) and after its success two of my colleagues begun to list all the tiny unimportant things that didn’t go well I would… Well I would smile and nod and say thank you for the feedback but I would feel like they didn’t know how to prioritise the importance of problems and that they may discourage their future employees.

      But! … if the event was successful. If it was not, or if it was average and should have been better, then it’s different and in that case the feedback was warranted.

      1. An Actual Fennec Fox*

        I think the difference between computer/IRL here is relevant. Doing a presentation where people are in the same room vs. seeing you through a screen means visibility is not the same. What could be nitpicky face to face because everyone can see you might translate into lighting/paper/background color meaning you can’t actually see what’s written, for example.

        That’s where a test run gets in, and it would probably be better to have the feedback come from just one person during the debriefing, but we’re all working a bit outside our depth right now!

      2. Two Dog Night*

        But this was apparently the first in a series of events–there’s nothing wrong with wanting to make the rest of them even better than the first. Having a debriefing session after the first event is totally normal, and it’s appropriate to bring up things that could be improved on. I’m really not getting the criticism of the OP here.

        1. Washi*

          I don’t get it either! Sounds like a pretty normal chain of events. Ann volunteers to start hosting. Ann hosts her first event. A debriefing session is scheduled. As would be expected at someone’s first event, there are some items to improve on, but nothing major.

          I can also see why Ann got overwhelmed and flustered, these are very stressful times, but I don’t see how OP was to blame in any way. She even sent a very gracious message after.

          1. An Actual Fennec Fox*

            Yeah, I think this is one of those things they can all chalk up to the fact that we’re all living in stressful times and emotions are running high, and if it doesn’t become a pattern, let it go!

    11. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Without knowing how things were going before this meeting, it’s really hard to know if this is her first critique of her work or a continuation of what’s been happening since she started.

      I understand the mean girl feeling. I had a job where I had to copy the senior assistant on every email so she could monitor my progress, since I was new to the job. And, as if she had nothing better to do, she jumped on every single one with a minor correction, sometimes within seconds. They were all minor, petty, small corrections and after the 10th one, I was really paranoid about any email I sent. I was hardly a newbie to professional norms. None of these corrections were truly an issue. And later on, I discovered this senior assistant was totally a Mean Girl. She hid it and used it well.

      Since the OP feels conflicted, I would suggest that it’s not truly a mean girl situation but a lot of other things going on, namely new job, strange situation and just a bad day. But I would keep an eye on it. It’s easy for that breezy “Constructive criticism is always good!” to be false when it’s via email. She may have been putting on a brave face.

      1. Important Moi*

        Yes, I agree this is something to be monitored. More than one thing can be true at the same time. Women are often critiqued for their interactions/supervision. Mean girls exist.

    12. Roscoe*

      I kind of got that impression too. Nothing seemed personal, but it can be a lot. Like I’m somewhat new in my role. If my first virtual call I got a lot of “constructive” feedback like this from mulitple people, I could see it feeling like a lot. Even if each person had like 2 comments that individually are fine, if there are like 5 people on there, that is a lot of comments, and it doesn’t sound like a lot of praise was thrown her way either. This may just be how stuff is done there, and that is fine, but I can see how getting that on your first time out would be a lot, even if that isn’t the intention

      1. OP1*

        Hi all, OP1 here! I’m a little taken aback that anyone would consider feedback “mean girl” territory. We were not commenting on her personally, rather the presentation, and what we can do better in the future. We had had run throughs prior to this and things changed between then and the actual event. The tone was much more brainstorming rather than individual criticism. Part of our event requires her to demonstrate a craft and the paper she was using wasn’t showing up on camera so she dropped the virtual background only to reveal her bedroom, with her closet open and overflowing. To me, it wasn’t a huge deal, but it prompted some feedback for going forward. That’s where the different space in the house comes from. If she had said, “hmm, yeah, let me think if I can shift things around so that’s not in frame” that’s one thing. I do truly understand how stressed she is! I have kids, dogs, husband, tiny house, etc and home schooling while working is complicated and difficult so I don’t want to seem like there isn’t empathy on my part.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          You sound entirely reasonable and the feedback made sense, especially for a debriefing! I think other people are reading their own stuff into this one.

          1. Gemma*

            My feeling is that people are giving these events the same weight as if they would have at their own jobs. Hosting a virtual event is a crucial and important part of your job if you’re in an outreach position, but other people see OP as “nitpicky” because at their own jobs, Zoom meetings don’t have the same weight and are typically just means to an end.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          I was with the original folks who thought it was too much and nitpicky but the added “background” info about the purpose of the feedback maked more sense.

          Only note is to say a true “mean person” often always says they’re “just helping” and “just giving feedback”. It’s still cruel and meant to plant seeds of insecurity and self doubt. (Not in your situation but as more details about why some of us had a guard go up and was wondering if Ann was being needlessly smothered in irrelevant data.)

        3. Joielle*

          Ok, these details make it abundantly clear that the feedback was not unreasonable at all. The paper color is extremely relevant in this situation, and it’s not a matter of changing an actual wall, she could literally just close her closet and shove the clutter out of frame.

          Between this and your comment above about how she’s already been territorial about things, I’d be a little concerned.

        4. Madame X*

          My first read of the letter was that you were not nitpicky at all but provided valuable feedback that ranged from constructive criticism to best practices for running meetings according to your own organization’s professional standards. I think it’s a bit ironic that so many of the comments here are overly harsh and nitpicky about how your organization gave feedback to Ann. It it perfectly normal to give constructive feedback on tasks, assignments or presentations right after you have reviewed it.

          Some comments seem to have completely fabricated whole scenarios to make you seem a lot harsher than it sounds you were, which is very unfair. When I first read your letter, I got the impression that you gave Ann relevant feedback and that Ann overreacted. My only concern was that it was not clear to me if Ann had done any practice runs or shadowed another meeting but you (which would have been very odd considering that she is a new employee). However, you clarified upthread that she did have practice.

          I think Alison’s advice is very good and worth putting to practice, but overall you handled the situation as professionally as you could have.

        5. Observer*

          I think that in addition to everything else, the comment about changing the wall may have fed into it a bit. For most of us, the idea of a “virtual wall” obscuring the actual background is not the thing we automatically think of. And under current conditions, asking someone to change their physical space can be a major ask, to the point of possibly being totally unreasonable. Virtual wall? That’s on par with “can you shift your camera”, which is about as reasonable and innocuous as I can think of.

          PS this reminds me oa podcast I was just listening to about AI and how despite all of the advances in AI and the really impressive feats of AI, it’s going to be a loooong time before AI can be on par with humans because AI lacks “common sense” which actually really comes down to the unspoken shared assumptions that underlie our use of language. (Someone here mentioned a similar concept in a comment thread in the last few days, I think.)

    13. RagingADHD*

      Giving practical feedback is not being a “mean girl.” Yeesh.

      The new teammember was insufficiently trained and didn’t have context aboout the expectations of the project. The team lead should have known better than to let her host first, no matter how eager she was.

      She was put in the hotseat before she was ready, and it got to her. Understandable. Not a big deal.

      The rest of the team didn’t take into account her unfamiliarity with the event and the team dynamics of the feedback process. Also understandable and not a big deal.

      Nobody handled this well, but nobody was being deliberately mean. And the new coworker seems to have moved past it just fine.

  3. Heidi*

    For Letter #4, telling someone that you can’t believe they made manager isn’t exactly a compliment. Why is it so hard to believe; do you think she’s deficient in some way? I’m sure the OP didn’t mean it that way, but still. I wouldn’t read too much into the ghosting; people have a lot of stuff going on right now, and as a manager she might be dealing with a lot of unfamiliar responsibilities. I definitely wouldn’t conclude that the incident from 16 years ago was the reason.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      Yes, it would make me think that too. I also thought that this, added to the ‘tell me how you did it’ might have been misunderstood as a request to interfere in the process somehow, and that might be what sunk OP’s chances.

      1. Dan*

        I found the “tell me how you did it” phrasing awkward as well. True answer: Worked hard, applied for an open position, and got lucky.

        The overall ask comes across as seeking an informational interview, which are often bad covers for end runs around the establish job hunting process.

        If this were a person OP had worked with more recently (say five years ago) “let’s have coffee and catch up” might be a natural ask. But if the last contact was closer to 16 years ago, then “let’s have coffee” is probably more awkward than not. I’d probably pass on it, because I would presume you’re going to lean on me a little about trying to get an in. And I can’t do much because 16 years is too long ago for that information to be relevant.

      2. MommyMD*

        I agree. It sounds like ingratiation and maybe a bit of a try to influence someone from the inside. Better off not sending texts like this when job hunting.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Or maybe that’s their default answer when they don’t hire someone, and they told the person they were the top choice. Although that would be kind of silly.

    2. glitter crayon*

      Yes – I think it may have come off a little badly even though it wasn’t intended as such.

    3. Jimming*

      I read that more as she was excited her colleague was a manager at that particular company, more like a coincidence than an insult.

      1. glitter crayon*

        I read it as intended that way, but it may not have been received that way.

        1. Jules the 3rd*

          This is how I read it too – in my head, I kept bouncing back and forth on which word was emphasized – “YOU” or “DREAM”. I was pretty sure OP meant ‘dream’, but ‘you’ was hard to shake.

          This kind of wording has bit me in prior years, so I’ve shifted to trying to state everything positively ([excited / pleased] you’ve made manager) instead of using ‘not’ . If I see ‘not’, then I try to figure out alternate wordings. Instead of ‘that will not work’, it’s ‘that will be a challenge because x, y, z.’

          But that’s just a general principle. In this case, I suspect it was the ‘trying to end run around the process, but I’m busy’ situation rather than a wording issue, or even the issue from 16 years ago.

      2. Foxgloves*

        I think I would have read it that way if not for the fact she said “you MADE” rather than “you ARE”. To me, the former sounds like “wow, can’t believe YOU did this” rather than the latter, which sounds like “Oh my goodness, what a coincidence!”. I agree that the message sent sounds a little snarky, and I wouldn’t have been particularly pleased to receive it from a former colleague….

      3. Observer*

        I think you are right, but it could easily have come off differently. I could totally see it coming off with a sense of “OOH, how did YOU make it so high here? What do I need to know about how to game the system?”

        I don’t think it would have necessarily tanked their chances, but I do think that it would explain the ghosting.

      4. Important Moi*

        Random Real Life Experience.

        There is a somewhat extensive public transportation systems where I live, though I drive to work. Someone once told me they were surprised I knew how to take public transportation. I responded that felt like an insult. The response: (back padel?) they thought that since I was successful enough to drive I would not have to know how to take public transportation. I thought that explanation was malarkey. I never looked at that person the same. I freely admit to having a different perspective as some of the commenters here.

        1. A*

          That is…. such a strange comment to make (not yours, the comment that was made to you). What weird ‘logic’!

        2. JSPA*

          If it’s Los Angeles, it makes perfect sense to me, especially if the person involved is an L.A. native. There’s a long history of weird cultural snobbery (including some reverse snobbery) tied up in transit use. I’ve run into it in some other places, too, but not at that level.

    4. MommyMD*

      I agree. Hi, I can’t believe you turned out to be successful! What a shocker!

      I know OP didn’t mean it this way, but still. Better to say “I’m very impressed with your accomplishments”.

      Also let it go. Nothing to be gained by questioning her. You’ll look weird. Good luck in job hunting.

    5. GammaGirl1908*

      Coming to say this! WOW with the backhanded compliments, if even that.

      Whatever she previously may have thought of you, now she thinks you’re downright ¡shocked! she managed to bumble her way this far, as clearly she’s an incompetent mess. After “I can’t believe you made manager!” … “Tell me how you did it!” didn’t help. I can only imagine what got said in person.

      At a minimum, you need to be quiet, not keep digging the hole.

    6. Erstwhile Lurker*

      Agreed, I think there is a general “lack of diplomacy” throughout that letter, texting and asking her to reveal how she made manager is a bit condescending in my book, the impression that I get from the letter is that she would be above you in the hierarchy if you got the job (or at least influential enough to sway the hiring decision), she isn’t the same peer that you worked alongside 16 years ago.

      I think it’s quite possible that Vicky put a spanner in the works, and to be honest, I might have done exactly the same thing in her shoes. Professional boundaries need to be adhered to and even the fact that she was considering demanding answers in the first place is a huge red flag for me.

    7. MK*

      The wording was unfortunate, but the text itself wasn’t a great idea, in my opinion. Under any circumstances, asking someone you haven’t seen in a decade and a half to get coffee is a toss up, they might like to reconnect and chat, although even then it’s probably not something they will prioritise, but they might also not have time or energy or they might not see the point if you weren’t close in the first place etc. And in this case, it sounds as if the previous interactions weren’t wholy positive; she might not blame the OP for her friend getting fired, but still have a negative recolection of their time together.

      Also, if her being a manager means she would be a lot higher in the hierarchy than the OP, this might have come off as an attempt to ingratiate herself on the OP’s part or to try and use her to get the jon, and even if not, she might not have wanted to set a precedent of socialising with the OP outside of work.

      1. un-pleased*

        And LW saying Vicky “ghosted” them is just a lot. No one owes anyone else a response, but doubly if they haven’t been in touch in years. Functionally, LW and Vicky have no relationship. The throw-away about “phone stalking” her to investigate whether Vicky is responsible is not a good look.

        1. Colette*

          And … did she get Vicky’s cell number from the interview process? If not, is she texting a 16 year old number? Or a phone that’s not a cell? (People keep texting my VOIP home phone, which I get no notifications about.)

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

            The letter says they exchanged numbers when they ran into each other after the interview. Sounds to me like an invitation to connect.

            1. Colette*

              Ah, I missed that. But unless they exchanged cell numbers (i.e. Vicky didn’t give her a VOIP work number), it’s possible she didn’t get the text. I know it’s possible to set up voice over IP to catch texts, but that’s not always done.

              1. MK*

                I didn’t even know what that was, but it’s much more likely that she did get the text and didn’t want respond for some reason (meant to respond but forgot, gave her number out of politeness but doesn’t want to reconnect, has no time for networking, thinks it’s inappropriate to reconnect while the hiring decision was pending, is afraid that the OP will try to get her to influence the hiring decision, doesn’t socialise with coworkers and the OP might have become one, etc).

                1. Jess*

                  Yes, if I gave an interviewee my number, I’d give my office number which doesn’t receive texts. Possible Vicky never got the message, and if she did get it, was offended by the tone.

        2. MsM*

          Yeah, I can see how Vicky might have been turned off by the “always be networking” vibe of the note, and maybe did mention something to the folks in charge of the search if that’s really not how the company does things. But I think LW’s immediate assumption that this must be personal and should be handled via direct confrontation would be a much bigger cultural issue for most companies, and they might want to spend some time thinking through how often that’s been an issue in the past and how to go about unlearning some of those reactions.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I agree with you about memories of the previous interaction. LW clearly admires Vicky but Vicky is not as invested in the professional relationship. We see this all the time on here. Someone thinks they are closer to someone at work than they really are.

        LW — you didn’t get the job. Tell yourself you juuuuust lost out to someone who has amazing beyond belief qualifications. Then move on. I doubt Vicky had anything to do with it. She’s just not that into you. (workwise) Move on.

    8. MistOrMister*

      That was my first thought too, that the particular phrasing there was problematic. Based on the letter, OP really seems to have meant it as a compliment. But, an in-person “wow you made manager!!!” with vocal and,facial cues is one thing. A text to someone who basically is a stranger is something else, and Vicky might have taken umbrage at what was said. Then again, the fact that OP asked if Vicky wanted to meet to discuss moving up makes it seem fairly clear that no insult was meant and that it was just not the best word choice.

      I wouldn’t necessarily assume that Vicky killed OP’s chances. Lack of response to the text is not huge. Some people are horrible with texting. Or possibly she is just too busy. Who knows. If she did cause OP to not get the job, it is probably just as well. If Vicky has a problem with OP, better they don’t work together than OP takes the job and Vivky makes things miserable for her onve she starts.

      1. Secret Squirrel*

        This is where texts/emails fail because you can’t read tone and intention. I would have been offended to receive a message like that from someone I hadn’t seen for 16 years – To me it said Wow, you imposter, how did you manage to trick these people into hiring you as a manager? I can’t believe you you did it. Spill the tea–How did you manipulate them into hiring you? How can I do the same thing – tell me your secrets!

    9. TechWorker*

      I totally missed this on first read but you’re so right… It wasn’t ‘I can’t believe you’re a manager here!’ (could be surprise/happiness at the coincidence) but ‘I can’t believe you made it to manager’… I can totally see that read as insult…

      1. Mary Connell*

        Same. And despite the likelihood that it was meant to be friendly, if I’d gotten a text like that, it would have been forwarded to hiring with a recommendation to keep looking.

    10. LGC*

      Now that you mention it…you do have a point. I initially gave LW4 the benefit of the doubt because…well, she told us what she meant, which was that she was impressed that Vicky was so successful. But I could also see a less-charitable reading. And if Vicky said anything bad about LW4, I’d probably put that message over anything that happened with Emma sixteen years ago.

      I read the letter again, and…there are parts where LW4 comes across as a bit overly eager – saying that this was “a second interview at [her] dream company,” possibly the Text Of Doom, the part where she says that she doesn’t “know that phone stalking her is the right move.” (LW4, that voice telling you that is a GOOD voice.) So if that came across, that might be where DreamCo is getting the “not a culture fit” feelings.

    11. Jennifer*

      I didn’t read it that way. She hasn’t seen her in 16 years so I thought it was more in line with when you run into an old high school friend and you say “I can’t believe we’re almost 40!” It’s just another way of saying how quickly time flies. Maybe Vicky took it the wrong way but I think that’s a very uncharitable way of reading the message.

      But the bottom line is the OP probably will never find out why she didn’t get the job beyond just the vague explanation she got from the hiring manager and they need to just move on. It sucks but most people have been through it.

      1. Smithy*

        This is also how I read this. There’s a nostalgic moment of “oh hey, how are you” – but often not necessarily a desire to go any further.

        I would also flag that assuming the OP and Vicky had a generic enough professional relationship 16 years ago as peers – that if Vicky could have said anything so damning to push you out of the running, then that’s a heads up about the organization. Provided the OP can’t think back to anything truly mean or unprofessional when they worked together, 16 years ago being in work cliques, having a work hard/party hard attitude, making new to the workforce errors etc. – I’d been pretty horrified to see someone use that to exclude someone from consideration 16 years later.

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

      Oh gosh. I feel bad for the OP and hope they don’t beat themselves up over this! I could see Vicky taking it the wrong way, but also this is exactly the kind of comment I would inadvertently make too. “Wow! I can’t believe you’re a manager here now / have 2 kids now / have short blonde hair now!” Not that I couldn’t actually believe it… just, 16 years! Wow, time flies!

      I could see a comment like this landing poorly, but I’d also question the judgement of a manager at dream company who took it as outright mal intent – from their relative position of power in the situation – rather than just unfortunate phrasing or nervousness. If they’re that sensitive or lacking in social intelligence, they’re not someone I would want to work with.

      And if it wasn’t that, but she actually was still ticked off about OP reporting her friend (!)… for an ethics violation (!!)… 16 years ago (!!!)… then wow, they’d have dodged a bullet there too.

      In either case OP, Heidi is correct in that there are many other unknowns external to Vicki potentially at play here. Just shake it off and move on.

      1. Jennifer*

        “I could see a comment like this landing poorly, but I’d also question the judgement of a manager at dream company who took it as outright mal intent – from their relative position of power in the situation – rather than just unfortunate phrasing or nervousness. If they’re that sensitive or lacking in social intelligence, they’re not someone I would want to work with.”

        This

        1. Smithy*

          Absolutely this.

          I work for an organization that for some in my sector is a “dream job”. And then once you start working here, even with the good bits, it’s a workplace that has its highs and lows. And sometimes hearing the concept of this being a “dream job” seems naive. But again, to see this whole exchange as such a dooming conversation to take someone out of the running is wild to me.

          16 years is a long time, and a time when someone’s resume and work experience should really be able to sing over a weird hallway exchange or an encounter with a coworker where you weren’t super close. And if it’s not, then the OP is either glossing over some truly significant aspects of their past shared employment (duck club?) or it’s a sign about the current workplace maybe being best avoided.

      2. MK*

        It’s obvious the OP didn’t mean anything negative, and it’s true that anyone might have made a similar comment in person and in a warm tone and it would have been obvious to them too. But when someone you haven’t seen in 16 years, and whom you didn’t know that well/don’t remember too fondly, texts you something a bit off, you are probably not going to analyse their meaning too much. I highly doubt this woman read the worst possible meaning in the OP’s text and is now deathly insulted and her enemy for life; but it’s possible she read a text, made a grimace over the phrasing, though “nevermind” and forgot the whole thing.

    13. Joielle*

      Yep, I thought that too. And “tell me how you did it” – if I were Vicky I’d be thinking “uh, with hard work and good people skills…?” It just really rubbed me the wrong way, like “I can’t believe you succeeded, there must be one! cool! trick!, it can’t just be that you’re smart and capable.” AND THEN, on top of that, “let me, someone you haven’t seen in over a decade, in on your secret.”

      I know none of that was OP’s intention and I hope this doesn’t come off as a harsh criticism. I’m pretty sure all of us have accidentally implied an insult before! I know I have, and it’s horribly awkward. But in this situation, where you haven’t been in touch with the person for a long time, you don’t necessarily get the benefit of the doubt, so you have to choose your words carefully and really think about the message you’re sending. It’s like making a first impression all over again.

    14. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oooohhh, good point, good point. Saying it as someone who, at an old job, has been pulled aside by two separate people on two separate occasions to be told “I can’t believe you were able to have the job you have, being an immigrant, how amazing of you!” Uhh… I came here with the relevant degree and work experience, what’s so amazing?

      Agree with the rest of the comment, too. Oddly, something similar did happen to me two years ago. I got an interview with a large company close to my home, and was then told that one of the interviewers would be Spartacus, whom I’d worked with in my first job in the US, when I was in an entry level position, 20 years ago. I got overexcited, sent Spartacus a LinkedIn invite, and replied to the corporate recruiter saying that I’d worked with Spartacus 20 years ago, was glad to hear he was doing well, and was looking forward to talking to him again. Within 30 minutes, Spartacus backed out of the interview citing scheduling issues, and sent a replacement. I did not get a call back after my interview, that I thought had gone well. Not gonna lie, I still occasionally wonder if I hadn’t acquired some kind of a terrible reputation at my first job; to the point where, when Spartacus found out it was me he was going to be interviewing, he went “oh god, no, not her, anyone but her, and take me off that interview because I don’t want to see her again.” Well, whatever it was, I was on the fence about Spartacus’ current company anyway (due to it having terrible Glassdoor reviews), and really hope that, whatever my indiscretions had been at that job 20+ years ago, that they won’t come back to haunt me again. It is what it is at this point.

    15. Jess*

      Yes, that’s what I thought too. If I were Vicky I would not want to have to hear that kind of thing regularly from a new colleague even if it’s meant well.

    16. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I had a guy once try to “gush” over my success and it came across as patronizing and insincere AF.

      But reality was it was because they weren’t a strong worker and it was over compensating trying to “dig” out my secret for success. When you cannot teach initiative, natural leadership and risk taking verses risk avoidance.

    17. JSPA*

      That was my reaction, too; not that Vicky couldn’t get past what happened 16 years ago, but that the OP didn’t make the pretty basic mental jump that would allow her to treat it as…well…totally normal, that someone she knew 16 years ago would have, in the interim, become a manager.

      If Vicky had even a slight lingering sense that OP tends towards very channeled / “things in their boxes and boxes in their place” thinking from the old incident, this might well have triggered a legit feeling that OP wasn’t a great fit for the job.

      That’s not to say this is a correct, full assessment of OP, and I’m not intending it as such. It’s an example, not a conclusion.

      Furthermore, just as adults can regress into their childhood roles when returning home, adults can also channel their younger selves, when dealing with people from their past. So OP could be primed to deal a certain way with Vicky, as well as Vicky being primed to see OP in a particular context.

      But a reaction doesn’t have to be complete, to be useful. Vicky’s allowed to have a Vicky response, and presumably her manager(s) are filtering that response through what they know of Vicky.

      Heck, Vicky might just have felt tired, contemplating spending time with someone from her past who expects to presume on the connection and pump her for information. That was…a pretty forceful request (eh, more of a demand) for mentorship. Depending on personality, I can see someone going to the hiring committee to ask them if the second choice might be very nearly as good, on that basis alone.

  4. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

    #2: I usually start my emails with “Hi Jane,” and close with “Thanks,” “Cheers,” or “Best,” etc. It works for me. Most of my colleagues do the same.

    I had one co-worker at ex-job (Self-Appointed Hall Monitor) who started ALL of her emails with “Dear Jane,” no matter how casual the email was. That came across as…odd. I mean, the email would be one sentence long and she would start with “Dear…” Our company/office culture wasn’t that formal at all.

    1. Sally Forth*

      LOL! I just wrote about an ED with a similar style and even used the word “odd” to describe it.

    2. WoodswomanWrites*

      I work at an informal place where a lot of people have worked together for many years. Everyone opens with “Hi Mergatroyd.” The sign-off is everything from “Thanks” to “Best” to “Cheers” or just the person’s name with no previous wording at all. Sometimes we add things like “Have a good week” on a Monday or “Have a good weekend” on a Friday, or if it’s something people will want to hear about. As long as you’re not adding, “Have a lousy week,” people should be fine with whatever you use.

    3. glitter crayon*

      On the flip side nothing at all – just ‘Jane’ as the opener – would seem passive aggressive I think.

      1. PollyQ*

        IDTS. I’ve written & received plenty of emails that started that way, especially if it’s with people I talked with emailed on a regular basis.

      2. Chocolate Teapot*

        Some of my external correspondents start their emails “Chocolate Teapot”, and it always makes me feel annoyed. Haven’t you got time to type “Dear”?

        1. PollyQ*

          I’m sure they do, but they (like me) probably feel that it’s too formal for something that’s more like a conversation than an old-fashioned paper correspondence.

        2. Corporate Goth*

          I…don’t call my work colleagues “dear.” Ever. It just sends a wrong message of mild intimacy that I find inappropriate at work, although that’s perhaps old-fashioned of me.

          However, based on the comments below, I’ll start using something more than just a name when talking to work colleagues in the UK!

          1. Eukomos*

            It’s not being used as a form of address when it’s in a letter heading, it’s a traditional salutation. Very different usage than when you use “dear” instead of a person’s name to address them.

        3. Jules the 3rd*

          US South, with midwestern parents here: Using just someone’s name feels like an accusation. If it’s an informal conversation, I’ve just skipped the salutation entirely a few times, but only with the 2 – 3 people I’m really close to. Everyone else, it’s ‘Hi / Hello Jane’.

          1. Clisby*

            I would never address a work colleague as “Dear.” That just sounds strange. At least, in the US South, where I live, and in the US midwest, where I worked for 9 years.

            I would expect some version of “Hi”, “Clisby”, “Hi, Clisby”, “Hey Clisby” as an opener, and “Thanks” as an ender.

            I would not get all bent out shape if someone wrote, “Hey, do you know when the TPS report will be done?” Nothing at all rude about that.

        4. Clisby*

          At work? That seems really strange to me. (Born and raised in the US South, lived there except for about 9 years, and those 9 years were in Ohio.) NOBODY expected to be addressed as “Dear”. (Just in case there are regional differences.)

          My 2nd career (computer programming) sometimes involved corresponding with a partner organization in Germany, but I think they normally started emails with “Hello, Clisby”, and ended them with “Regards”. A lot of us got into the habit of “Regards” because of our German sort-of-colleagues. Nobody called me “Dear.”

          1. Macedon*

            Hard same. Major tone shift — but also in the UK, and we still inject the obligatory “I hope you’re well” platitude when we start an email chain…

          2. Jemima Bond*

            And me. If I see an email starting simply “Jemima,” I’m expecting disagreement; I’m thinking that person has a problem with something I’ve said or done. If from a senior it sounds scolding; if from a peer or junior colleague I’m anticipating an “I think you’ll find…” vibe! Hi, hello, good morning/afternoon, etc., all take that sense away. No greeting at all is better!
            Fwiw when signing off, I often use many thanks as the chances are it’s appropriate. I also like regards for a generic salutation if there’s really nothing to thank them for.

            If I put “kind regards“ this probably means I don’t know why you are asking me this and I hate you…definitely british…

          3. londonedit*

            It seems rude to me, too (also Brit). To me, it comes across as weirdly cold and adversarial for some reason – like the person is about to tell you that something you’ve done is entirely unacceptable and unprofessional.

            Most of my email correspondence with colleagues, or with people I work with regularly, starts off with ‘Hi [name]’ and ends with ‘Best wishes’, ‘Thanks’, ‘Speak soon’ or some variant of that. If I’ve never been in contact with someone before, and they’re outside the company, I’ll kick off with ‘Dear’ and then follow their lead on when to switch to ‘Hi’.

          4. Indigo a la mode*

            I’m in California and my experience is that when I open an email beginning with just “Indigo,” I feel I’m about to be reprimanded. To be fair, 90% of those come from the same person (who tends to have a bit of a “Talking To” vibe), so maybe he’s ruined it f or me for everyone else. I agree – how hard is it to add “hi”?

        1. Batty Twerp*

          I think it depends on the pattern of other emails. (Plus – also a Brit here!)
          For example, if I start every email “Hi Jane – Thanks”, “Hi Alison – Kind regards”, “Hi Charlie – Best wishes”, etc., and then “Julie – Regards”, guess who is not my favourite person in that list.

          I also work with someone who writes every email “Batty – Kind regards” and it took a while of seeing other emails from him (as part of longer chains), that it was his email style and nothing personal.

        2. Quiet Liberal*

          Maybe it’s not passive aggressive, but it feels rude to me, too. Especially, when the person usually starts out with hi or good morning. I’ve always assumed they were just having a crappy week when they start out with my name, or worse just launch into the question with no greeting. Still seems rude.

        3. highbury house*

          Thank you for the call back to ‘stay gold’. I continue to love that and try to work it in whenever I feel I can.

          In my office, we tend to use initials in emails to our coworkers, and sign off with same. So: To: Alfred Pennyworth, From: Bruce Wayne… AP, may I please have the new batarang prototype by 3? BW. It’s pithy, doesn’t need further saluation, and looks (to my eye) friendly but not smarmy.

        4. Pennalynn Lott*

          I just scanned my Inbox for emails received over the past few weeks. I’m working on a company-wide project so I’m corresponding with people in lots of different departments in lots of different parts of the country.

          I have zero “Dear Pennalynn,”s.
          Several “Hi Pennalynn,”s.
          Multiple “Pennalynn,”s.
          And plenty of “[ ]”, where they just say the thing they want to say without any greeting.

          As for closing lines… It’s everything from “Thanks” (when there’s nothing to thank me for), “Kind regards” (from the one manager who uses that phrasing), “Best”, “Cheers”, and nothing but their signature block.

          And I have literally never paid attention to any of them. The only email greeting that stands out is the over-worked Director who replied back with the male version of my name (think: “Hi Penrod, here’s the TPS report for Q1.” My manager and I laughed about it, with him saying, “Oh, I like it. Total power move on her part!”)

      3. Jennifer Juniper*

        I’d think I was in trouble! That sounds like the e-mail version of Mom going “Firstname Middlename Lastname!”

      4. Bark*

        I don’t think it’s passive aggressive, but I do think it can come off as unfriendly or harsh. 99% of professional emails I’ve ever received have started with Hi or Dear, so the ones that don’t definitely stand out and make me wonder if the person is mad at me or something.

        I’m American, btw. I don’t think this is a US/UK thing.

        1. Amy Sly*

          And meaning absolutely no offense to Allison, but I wonder if this is more of a regional thing too. Unless it was the third or fourth email I’d sent someone that day, I’d be sure to include a “Hi” or “Hey.” Anything else just sounds dictatorial. Of course, I’m a product of both Southern manners and Midwestern niceness.

          1. MCL*

            Same. Midwesterner born and raised. My name with no salutation usually puts me on guard. At my big Midwest university, hi, hey, hello, good morning, etc are commonly used.

            1. Environmental Compliance*

              Same. Also born/raised Midwesterner. Starting an email chain with just my name? I am cautious. Most everyone says Hello/hi/good [time of day]/hey/etc. Even the regulators I work with use some sort of “hi” marker. The especially formal ones used “dear”.

              Just starting with “EC” makes me feel like the sender is being short with me. I can’t justify *why*, but the feeling is definitely there. Now that I think about it, just starting with my name seems more…. curt? than just starting with a sentence. Like you’re taking the time to type my name, so it’s not like you’re just being straightforward & to the point like just stating the sentence/question, but you’re not taking the extra 2 seconds to put in “Hi”, so it feels more deliberate for some reason.

              1. Captain Kirk*

                Pacific Northwest here; it also sounds abrupt to my ears at least in email. In IM, it seems fine, though. Go figure.

        2. Kes*

          I have to agree, just the name comes across as a little overly direct like you’re about to give some orders. Having ‘Hi’ or ‘Hey’ as a softener helps (in my work environment, ‘Dear’ would come across as a bit overly formal in most cases).

      5. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        When someone opens with just my name without “Hi…,” “Hey…,” etc. (but not “Dear…”), I often think they aren’t happy with me, unless I know they open all of their emails that way with everyone.

      6. Perfectly Particular*

        Maybe even just aggressive! My heart always stops a bit when I get an email that just starts with my name – like is the person too pissed off to even bother with saying hello?

        I start all emails with Hi if I am initiating them, and often no greeting if it is a quick response. I might use Hello if it is someone outside the business that I don’t know and I don’t want to confuse them with over-familiarity.

      7. Gatomon*

        Yes, I don’t think I’ve ever received a positive or neutral email that started with just “Gatomon,” it’s always been someone taking me to task. It gets my hackles up.

      8. Observer*

        Why not skip the opener? Or use something less formal like “Hi!” Or “Hi Jane.”

    4. T2*

      When I first started, I walked in to my bosses’ office one day when he was really upset at someone. So tal there than tell them off, he wrote a very very polite email and read it to me to see what i thought. He ended it with “Regards.” I thought it is impressive that he kept his cool with someone who I also thought was an utter moron.

      Then he tells me, “if you ever get an email that says “regards” from me, know that what I really mean is “ @&$* you to the moon and back with a thousand horse *%€#s.” (He was a former marine and could swear in ways that could cause wounded pirates to blush, but he was never mean about it.).

      I found that to be passively aggressively hilarious. 25 years later and it is still in my arsenal.

      1. Catherine*

        My favorite passive-aggressive signoff is “with all due respect.” I never use it without an unspoken which is exactly none on the end.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        This reminds me of the meme floating around with the hierarchy of seemingly polite sign-offs and what they mean. My favorite is the one — “Truly yours,“ or whatever — that means “I will end you, and you won’t know it was me”

        Ah, here we go: https://twentytwowords.com/people-are-sharing-the-most-petty-passive-aggressive-phrases-they-use-in-work-emails-and-they-are-all-too-familiar/

        It’s “Warm regards” of which I was thinking. Note to self.

        1. Tidewater 4-1009*

          Well, all this is new to me. I’ve always taken “kind regards” and “warm regards” at face value. I use them to mean exactly what they say.
          I’ve been ending my cover letters with “warm regards”. I better stop before someone thinks I’m passive-aggressive! :o

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            My manager, who I worked with 2 years ago at an internship in a different company, and who is now my manager at a new company for both of us, uses “Kind regards,” in his signature block. So it’s on every single email he writes, even when he’s just sending back a quick thanks. I should send him the link! :-D

        2. Tidewater 4-1009*

          I do agree that just “Regards” is cooler and more distant and formal.

      3. Becky C*

        Where I work signing off an email with just “regards” is definitely seen as a sign that person has majorly pissed you off and you are expressing contempt. “With all due respect” is much the same

      4. Kes*

        I normally end with Thanks, Kes. In situations where I feel thanks in not warranted, I have occasionally removed it and ended with just my name.

      5. RecoveringSWO*

        “if you ever get an email that says “regards” from me, know that what I really mean is “ @&$* you to the moon and back with a thousand horse *%€#s.” (He was a former marine”

        I was wondering if the military style manual would get referenced! When e-mailing someone of a higher rank, you are to sign off with “Very Respectfully (V/r)” and if you are e-mailing a subordinate you sign off with “Regards (r,)” Sometimes an out of place “R” is a passive aggressive move. I don’t miss that sort of micromanaging instructions!

    5. Betty*

      I must admit that when I worked in an office, I started all emails with “Dear X” and signed off with just my name, and continued to do it in my freelance career. I do know it’s a bit odd! But somehow all the alternatives felt weird to me, and people did chalk it up to “Oh, that’s just Betty” as I was always friendly in person – I just have a formal turn of phrase in email.

    6. Allonge*

      Honestly, especially as someone whose first language is not English*, this always seems so weird to me. Reading so much into a normal salutation I mean.

      Yes, people need to look at their organisational culture and follow it. But if someone starts with Dear, is that really such a huge thing, worth noting? The first name or not distinction I get. Everything else seems such a small distinction.

      *Why is non-native speaker relevant? Because – if you study English as I did – you have a class or ten on How You Write a Letter/Email in English Properly. And what I learnt was start with Dear. So for quite a while that was what I did in all cases, and it still looks like the neutral option in a way. I do understand it’s on the formal end, but it’s still not Your Excellency etc.

      1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

        Self-Appointed Hall Monitor’s native language was English, so this wasn’t a case of not knowing the nuances of that. She was odd in a lot of ways and starting all of her emails with “Dear…” when everyone else used “Hi Jane,” “Hey Jane,” etc. was out of touch. For example, “Dear Jane, Can you give me a hand with the TPS report? Sincerely, Self-Appointed Hall Monitor” or “Dear Jane, What is your vote for pizza toppings for the upcoming meeting? Sincerely, Self-Appointed Hall Monitor”

        1. Allonge*

          I get that, and I agree people should be paying attention to the overall culture.

          It’s just that to me it feels almost as weird that people notice this stuff at all. Unless it’s wildly out of norm for a salutation, I never thought about it for more than a second. Maybe I would notice stay gold? But Hi versus Dear versus Allonge? Nah. And unless I am totally weird in this, there are others like me who just don’t care either, and use whatever they use.

          1. CM*

            Haha, I was thinking, “Is ‘Allonge’ a common greeting? Maybe in France?” until I noticed your username.

            I’m a lawyer and write a lot of emails for different purposes, some friendly, some not. If it’s a friendly email, I start with “Hi ” or in a reply I usually skip the greeting and signoff altogether. If I’m starting with the person’s name, no salutation, that’s when I mean business. I only use “Dear” when I’m writing a business letter, not an email.

          2. KRM*

            We contract with a company that makes our stuff in Lithuania, and there’s definitley a language issue because they start their emails to us with “Hello Dears”. I have never said anything because I assume it’s just a translation thing, but every time I’m like “wait, what? Dears?” Now it’s just funny, but the first time it was a little jarring (until I remembered their manufacturing is not in this country).

      2. Amy Sly*

        Well, for the record, even native English speakers were taught for generations to start letters with “Dear,” and I think most people would do something similar for emails to people you don’t know. (Well, I tend to drop it and go straight to “Mr./Ms.”) Email just hasn’t been around long enough for a true consensus on how to start emails to coworkers.

        As for this, “Everything else seems such a small distinction,” I’m reminded of one of my sister’s anecdotes from her speech pathology master’s degree work. She was working with a Japanese student to explain that in the sentence “I will pay you $20 next week,” you can emphasize each word and get a different implied meaning to a native speaker by doing so.

        1. Allonge*

          Heh.

          I don’t usually mind using various ways to get my message across.

          Now that I think about it, to me the salutations in an email are more like the “how are you – fine thanks” type of communication than the parts carrying actual meaning. It’s weird to start (especially a first) email without some acknowledgement of the other, but to me it usually ends there.

          Actually it makes sense that if people think of it as bits of conversation carrying specific meaning beyond [start message to other human] and [end message to other human], they would scrutinise the words used more.

      3. Koala dreams*

        Yes, I’m also a non-native speaker, and like you was taught Dear etc as the standard greetings in letters or e-mail. It is very fascinating to see the difference in opinion from native speakers. Too formal, too intimate, too old fashioned, odd. Sometimes it’s easier knowing less…

        1. Washi*

          I tend to err on the side of more formal in my second language anyway. I don’t have as good a sense of the nuances of casual-yet-professional as a native speaker, so I figure I’d rather seem a little stiff than overly familiar anyway.

          I do actually find that the norms of email are growing more and more solidified, but since they differ in some ways from a traditional business letter, it’s easy to second guess yourself when you see someone adhering to the older style.

    7. schnauzerfan*

      I don’t believe I’ve ever, in 30+ years of work emails, started a work email with “Dear” or a salutation of any kind. To friends yes, Hi Jane, etc. but on our engineering campus memo format was well established for campus communications before email and it continues to this day. All of the important pieces are already in the email. No need for a greeting, just launch straight into the meat of the item.

      TO: Waukeen Smith, w.smith@camus.edu
      FROM: Furgus Fitzgerald, f.fitzgerald@campus.edu
      DATE: June 14, 2020

      SUBJECT: 8AM classes
      Once again you scheduled me for a run of ….

  5. Sally Forth*

    OP2- I worked in a place where the ED had very peculiar and old-fashioned ideas about email greetings and sign-offs. I thought it was just her but after a couple days I was taken aside and told we were all expected to adhere to her stylebook of communication standards, right down to punctuation. So, my internal “Hi Susie:” was changed to “Good morning, Susie,” and external was always “Dear Susie,” followed by a sign-off of “Sincerely,”. It made us look odd and out of step.

    1. WS*

      I worked in a place where the parent company was in another (and non-English-speaking) country, one where there are strict and specific rules about correspondence of all kinds. That’s fine, but they also put out a style manual for English and French emails that had to be adhered to – and it was a very formal style. So I’d get an email from someone outside the company that ran along the lines of “Hi [name], just checking on [thing], thanks!” and have to reply with full salutations and sign-off.

    2. They Don’t Make Sunday*

      Yeesh, that’s the kind of thing I’d want to know before the offer stage so I could self-select out (at least, in a normal, nondisintegrating world). Were there other instances of overreach while you worked there?

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        You’d decline to pursue a job because of requirements about email formality?

        1. They Don’t Make Sunday*

          Yes. Not in this economy, but in the before time. I’d certainly accept “you must use X level of formality,” with room for personal preference; there are plenty of opening and closing phrases to choose from even if the bar is Very Formal. It’s the ED’s idea that there’s only one correct way to open and close an internal/external email that gets me. It’s too micromanagey. I wouldn’t tell someone else not to work there over this; I just know myself and would not want to feel a tiny burst of rage 30 times day, every time I drafted an email. Mine is a low BS tolerance and it certainly limits the jobs and sectors I can stomach working in!

        1. AutolycusinExile*

          They really don’t, though, is the problem. It’s sort of like those ‘writing advice’ blog posts that tell inexperienced writers to use every synonym under the sun in place of the word “said” – whispered, mentioned, and postulated all fit into the same place in a “she said” sentence grammatically, but they have drastically different connotations. Just because the literal definition is the same doesn’t mean the social implications of the words are. “‘Sure,’ she muttered” and “‘Sure,’ she said” are communicating two very different tones.

          Similarly, an email that begins “Dear [name]” is extremely formal. It adds unnecessary distance which, while not inherently insulting, sets up the interaction to potentially feel more stiff, impersonal, or uncaring, depending on how things progress. Of course, that might not always be the way it ends up, but it increases the risk of future tone misinterpretations – something that is easy to do in written communication and best avoided! Most people want to minimize the potential for friction between themselves and their contacts as much as possible, and a style guide which forces them to give up any friendliness or personality in their written communication… doesn’t give your room to do that. It’s a precautionary measure, to be sure, and isn’t necessary 100% of the time, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a valuable tool.

          1. Myrin*

            I think you might be misreading glitter crayon as responding to Sally Forth as saying “Hi Susie” means the same as “Dear Susie” when she actually responded to allathian that “out of step” and “out of touch” mean the same thing (which I don’t think they 100% do but it’s close enough that you could conceivably use either or in many situation, and I actually even think “out of step” fits Sally’s example better).

            1. AutolycusinExile*

              You’re right, I totally did! Sorry about that, glitter crayon. Serves me right for trying to think too hard this early in the morning. Ignore me!

  6. Nita*

    Did the feedback for #1 really include “do you have a different wall”? I can totally see how that would make one cry.

    And I agree with Alison that maybe this was just the last drop in a terrible, no good, very bad day, and that there’s nothing wrong with showing some compassion and letting it go, unless it becomes a pattern. Just last Friday, I had a very toddler tantrum when my husband (nicely) suggested that the essay I’d just helped the second-grader with may need reworking. We’d just spent a good half an hour on it, and were feeling like winners when it seemed like the kid has done what the teacher expects without losing focus or melting down. The tantrum was not like me at all, but now I have a very good idea how Ann might have felt. Maybe she put a lot of effort into the event – oh, for that matter, even into little things like being in a sort of office-like space, being presentable, and not being interrupted in the middle of the event – only to be hit with “change this, change that.” I don’t know how crucial the changes really were. If they weren’t crucial, maybe all she needed to hear in the moment was “Everything worked, good job!” and the critiques could have come a bit later.

    1. Allonge*

      Eh, all that may be possible, but still: if I am in a videoconference and the wall behing me makes me look like I am in a zombie apocalypse/naked orgy scene, or it’s too [whatever] to allow people to look at me without getting a headache, it’s something I would expect people to share with me in a post-the-fact eval thing.

      I fully understand that the reaction may not be the most professional ever, because we are where we are. But it’s something to say all the same.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Yeah, I did a family online meeting this weekend and one of the family members kept “disappearing” into his wallpaper pattern! It was the oddest thing. But in a professional context it would definitely be something you’d want to avoid happening again.

        1. Free Meerkats*

          In a recent MS Teams meeting, the presenter had “Blur Background” on and Teams decided that he was background and the Mariners batting helmet that was behind him was the focus. So we had a batting helmet in clear focus and the presenter blurred.

    2. Jennifer Juniper*

      I hope Ann wasn’t expected to say, “Thank you for taking the time to give me your feedback. I apologize for (having the wall the wrong color, etc.) I appreciate your correction and will (make sure to hang a blue cloth on the wall) in the future.”

      That’s how I try to handle any and all criticism. However, I’m a compulsive apologizer.

      1. Allonge*

        For the record, what I am visualising is not even criticism as such. There is nothing wrong with the wall colour, it jsut shows up weird on camera. If there is a post-meeting specifically to evaluate the meeting, and the worst people can say is your wall colour does not work well wiht the tech, that is a pretty strong endorsement of the whole meeting! You did great! Try sitting somewhere else next time so you don’t look like you are being eaten by the wall.

        It’s just that right now everything can feel a thousand times worse. Which is why Alison gave the advice she gave.

      2. RagingADHD*

        I’d expect her to say something like, “I’m not sure if I can set up anywhere else. Let me think about what I could change.”

        Because that’s a reasonable answer when colleagues are trying to problem-solve with you.

        Getting overwhelmed is understandable in the circumstances. Getting in a snit is not, because that’s what your response sounds like – total snark.

        1. Jennifer Juniper*

          I apologize. RagingADHD, for upsetting you. I always make sure to thank people when I am criticized and apologize for making mistakes. Then I state what I did wrong and what I will do to fix it.

          How should I improve my wording of my apologies? I am not snarking at you. I want to make sure I apologize properly.

          1. Allonge*

            May I suggest that you start with not equating criticism (especially constructive criticism) with having made a mistake? This is life, not a school test wiht only one correct answer. People can suggest improvements without implying that you made a mistake. It can be better does not mean you did it wrong, or you are bad at this, or it’s your fault.

            People can also propose things that they think would be improvements that may not be possible for various reasons. People very often are wrong about all kinds of things. You get to be right too! You get to say: interesting idea, but it’s not really feasible. No apology necessary, obviously.

            Even in cases when you make a mistake, it’s not always necessary to do the full apology routine. Some mistakes are way too small for this. It’s not a bad idea to think about apologising, but sometimes you can say oops, thanks for catching that, without going full mea culpa.

    3. Jdc*

      Wait, why would a different wall make someone cry? I truly don’t get it. I get she was overwhelmed but Covid or not she is new and she needs to be proving herself not breaking down over the color of a wall.

      1. No Tribble At All*

        Re: “get a different wall”, presumably she has a desk set up somewhere, so getting a different wall would mean rearranging furniture. I can see how the color of the wall would be frustrating to hear about because the first fixes that come to mind are time-consuming. I hope they don’t expect her to paint! (Ann, if you’re here, you could hang a bedsheet from something as a different backdrop maybe?) (which would still be a lot of effort to set up). So unless the color of the wall really truly affected the presentation, it sounds like a trivial request that will be a lot of work for her. That’s frustrating to hear.

        On the other hand, if she was using her laptop and idk sitting in front of a bright window so she was super backlit, that’s useful feedback.

        1. Angelinha*

          But it’s not a mandate! It’s coworkers brainstorming about ways to make the setup better. It’s totally fine to ask, do you have another wall you could use? Not everyone can move and that’s fine! But plenty of people can move from their guest bedroom to their dining room, or dining room to home office, or whatever. They’re just asking.

      2. Liz*

        I’m picturing a scenario where she possibly spent a long period of time beforehand trying to find a location where she had adequate sound proofing, lighting, lack of traffic noise, removed family photographs from the wall, moved furniture, etc etc (all with limited space, because how many of us actually have suitably plain presentation spaces in our own homes?) only to effectively be told “no, we don’t like that spot. Do it all again somewhere different.” (If she’s working from a desk top, it’s an even bigger ask.)

        From the sound of it, OP is being very reflective and understanding, so kudos for that. I launched the first of our online sessions on Friday, and honestly, I got glowing praise from manager and peers for just organising the event and roping in half a dozen participants! Anybody requesting I move my office setup to a different room would have also been met with tears, I think. In times such as this, when staff are probably stressed and anxious and coping with all sorts of life issues, nerves will be frayed and expectations need to be lowered.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          Heck, I come up against this just re physical therapy exercises. First lean against a blank wall with no art hung on it nor furniture placed against it? I need a different house for that. (Not even necessarily bigger–when we lived in a smaller apartment we had a wall between two doors where I had a big mirror for dance and exercise. Our new house was twice as large but had no wall appropriate for the mirror.)

      3. Nita*

        Because she can’t leave the house and go to the office or a coffee shop to hold the meeting. And maybe this is the only place where she can close a door and work uninterrupted. So the other feedback may be something Ann can control, but asking for a different wall… possibly something that’s pretty much out of her control.

        1. Joielle*

          Yeah, it’s *possibly* out of her control, but that doesn’t make it an unreasonable question to ask. If that’s the only wall that works, she can say “It’s actually the only wall that works with my office setup, but would it help if I turned on more lights?” or whatever. You can’t avoid giving relevant feedback just because there’s a chance that it might not be possible to change.

          Taking feedback gracefully – and not personally – is one of the most important workplace skills. I’d give her a pass on this incident because everyone’s under stress right now, but Ann is the one who handled this poorly, not the OP.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            +1 to this. I get feeling overwhelmed- I can’t imagine starting a new job in the middle of this – but if there was no alternate place, stating that and brainstorming ways to make the place she had better would have been more graceful – and more productive.

      4. Koala dreams*

        Because it’s very difficult to get a different wall in your home, especially now when many stores are closed. If she’s renting, she might not be allowed to paint the wall or change wallpaper, even if she could get to a store and buy the supplies.

        I don’t know if I would cry, but I would feel that the feedback was pointless, since I rent and don’t decide the wall colour. If I didn’t know my co-workers well, I might wonder if it was meant as a criticism of my taste in apartments, or based on a disdain for people who rent instead of own their home.

        It sounds like this person recovered quickly and later choose a more positive view of the criticism, but it does feels like a weird thing to give feedback on.

        1. KRM*

          But if what they were doing came off poorly or hard to see because of the background, it’s not irrelavent feedback. Yes, this is why they should have done a dry run, but it’s all in the past now, so they have to figure out how to work with what they have. If the wall impacted people’s ability to see what was going on (visual aids didn’t pop, etc), then a solution must be found, even if the wall itself can’t be changed.

    4. Jdc*

      But it was a follow up meeting to address these. The meetings are done soon after so points aren’t forgotten. It’s standard and saying the wall color makes the video difficult is in no way insulting. No one expected her to paint her house with this event in mind, just perhaps use a different color next time.

      1. Carlie*

        Even something like that isn’t simple now, though. Get a different color how? Posterboard? Craft stores are closed. Fabric? Same, and there’s a run on fabrics online due to mask making, and then how do you hang it without damaging walls? Virtual background? If your graphics card isn’t great you need a green screen, and I’ve been looking for an affordable one for two months but they all sold out by early March. Just the brain power involved in trying to figure out how to do it is overwhelming.

        If she can’t meet the criteria, she just needs to be assured that it was nice to volunteer but it’s not her job, and someone else will take over hosting. She probably feels very stuck.

        1. Allonge*

          At this point we are all guessing on how this was phrased, but I can see both what you have in mind and also a version where she was told that the wallpaper behind her had some really weird covergence with the camera, which resulted in people not being able to focus on what she was saying. And to avoid this, would it be possible for her to sit somewhere else in the future? No judgment, no istructions to repaint her apartment, just an innocent question that people normally answer with “actually, yes/no” without any problem.

          Is it good practice to consider these days that people might be more high strung? Yes. Shoudl that mean that nothing is said about something that would be an improvement and may be quite easy to do? Not in my opinion.

        2. UKDancer*

          I had assumed the reference to getting a different wall was a reference to a virtual background. When we video conference especially externally a lot of people use a virtual background from the selection available on Zoom or Teams. Some of them work better than others and some are more appropriate for work situations than others.

          Obviously you can’t be expected to change your actual physical walls.

          1. Observer*

            Not all bedsheets are flat. And not all bedsheets make an appropriate background for a meeting.

            And that’s on top of the issue of how do you hang a bedsheet without damaging the walls? It’s not always so easy.

            1. TimeCat*

              Masking tape. That’s what we did for our DIY recordings in college. Sure nitpick away but there are 100% options and LW wasn’t being unreasonable here.

              1. Observer*

                Not true. Seriously.

                Lots of people don’t have stuff like that in the house, and getting these kinds of supplies right now is not necessarily so easy. And most tape that will hold up bedsheets that are a bit on the heavier side will generally damage painted walls.

                And again, that’s on top of the assumption that she’s actually got the appropriate sheets.

                I get that the wall may be a reasonable thing to discuss. But it is simply not true that there are “100% options” right now.

            2. J*

              This suggestion is always so weird to me. It’s a sheet. Even if it’s ironed, it looks like a sheet. How is that professional? (Also, my sheets mostly have flowers on them.) (And I have no masking tape. Or painters tape. There’s a pandemic on, you know.)

              1. Allonge*

                It’s more professional than a messy kitchen or the unsorted laundry it can cover. No one is talking about painting the wall Pantone 134 instead of 135. Sheets can effectively hide larger messes.

            3. Koala dreams*

              You hang it on a clothes line. That’s the easy part. To iron the sheet to make it flat, that’s the impossible thing.
              /Joking

        3. Joielle*

          That’s why you ask whether it’s possible, though. Maybe the entire apartment is painted a horrible shade of yellow, so there really is no other option. But maybe the office has an accent wall of horrible yellow and if Ann rotated her chair 90 degrees it would be a white background, and she just didn’t realize how the yellow shows up on a webcam. You can’t shy away from giving useful feedback just because it *might* not be possible to change. Because it also might be easy to change!

          As long as the feedback was given politely, the OP was not in the wrong here. I’d be inclined to give Ann a pass on this because nobody’s at their best during a pandemic, but the OP should not feel bad.

      2. Liz*

        I’m just struggling to imagine a scenario where the colour of the walls is in any way a relevant point. All I can picture is a scenario where the speaker had highly detailed, fiddly wallpaper that messed up the camera? I think perhaps that might warrant asking the speaker to consider using a different room if possible, but I’d acknowledge that it might be a bit of an ask because you don’t know what somebody’s office/home layout is like.

        1. Myrin*

          Oh, I can easily imagine that! I did a video chat with a friend recently and the light hit her in such a weird way that the shadowed part of her face blended very strangely into the wall behind her (the wall is white with a grey tint and my friend is very light-skinned). It probably would’ve been less noticeable if she had a webcam of higher quality but as it stood, the left side of her face and the wall on that side were kind of a blurred mess.

          1. Washi*

            Yes, I can imagine asking someone if they have a different wall to use for this reason! Or if there’s a way to adjust lighting, etc to mitigate the problem. I think the issue is probably that the OP’s coworkers were asking stuff like this and were open to hearing “no, actually this is the only wall I can use” and Ann maybe heard “you have to change your wall and buy a new lamp, no is not an acceptable answer.”

            Taking OP’s word for how things were phrased and how she immediately sent an apologetic email afterward, I’m guessing that these were not intended as demands, but Ann might have (understandably) heard them as such, under the pressures of starting a new job in a pandemic.

            1. Liz*

              Agreed, I suspect multiple points of well meaning and constructive criticism just mounted up. I have been in OP’s situation before can totally see how a few enthusiastic “oh and could you try….” statements can translate into an endless list of demands when someone isn’t in a good place emotionally, and the answer is going to have to be “no, no I can’t” and you don’t quite feel comfortable saying that.

    5. Jennifer*

      Yeah, if she’s with kids that may be the only spot in the house where she can run a meeting. That had to feel pretty frustrating.

      1. OP1*

        OP1 here! We certainly weren’t asking her to paint her house. We had had run throughs prior to this and things changed between then and the actual event. The tone was much more brainstorming rather than individual criticism. Part of our event requires her to demonstrate a craft and the paper (why we asked if maybe a different color would be better – our job does provide these things and we ship them directly to our homes) she was using wasn’t showing up on camera so she dropped the virtual background only to reveal her bedroom, with her closet open and overflowing. To me, it wasn’t a huge deal, but it prompted some feedback for going forward. That’s where the different space in the house comes from. If she had said, “hmm, yeah, let me think if I can shift things around so that’s not in frame” that’s one thing. I do truly understand how stressed she is! I have kids, dogs, husband, tiny house, etc and home schooling while working is complicated and difficult so I don’t want to seem like there isn’t empathy on my part. To add, her kids were actually part of the event as well. They’re geared toward kids and she offered hers to demonstrate some parts of our event.

        1. No Tribble At All*

          Thanks for the clarification! This explains the feedback on color of paper vs color of (virtual) background.

        2. Liz*

          Ahh, this makes much more sense on all sides. I can see how you’re going to need a clear screen but I also imagine Ann was feeling quite vulnerable in that moment as well (in a “my life is chaos and now my colleagues know!” sort of way).

          I think the point you raised in another thread is also highly relevant: you said that she puts a lot of effort into coming across as capable and doing everything for herself, so I think negative feedback of any sort is probably a blow to her. This may be something she needs to work on so she can accept and ask for help, as well as feeling less overwhelmed when things don’t go 100% smoothly. Unfortunately, that’s going to be on her and her supervisor. It sounds like you responded kindly and with understanding, which is all you can be expected to do under the circumstances.

  7. Saelind*

    I feel you, OP3. Today I formally cancelled my resignation. I didn’t have another job lined up yet, but I was willing to risk it … before COVID, that is. I’m grateful that my boss was very understanding, but I really wish I didn’t have to.

    Fingers crossed for us!

    1. MistOrMister*

      I am really unhappy about some aspects of my current position. I was moved against my will to another department that needed help (same job, different set of people). I have voiced my frustrations to my supervisor and requested a different assignment, but they LOVE me where I am because I’m dealing with someone difficult who has no complaints about me. I am at the point of wanting to tell them, you reassign me or I’m quitting!! But, I can’t do that at this point given I might not be able to find another job, and it is a horrible feeling. At least OP seems to get along well with everyone at their workplace. Hopefully things will work out for us all!!

    2. urban teacher*

      I am doing the same. And I so wanted to quit teaching! Oh well, at least I have a skill people want.

  8. allathian*

    Yeah. Besides, it’s the teacher’s job to correct the kid’s writing, not the parents! If parents are expected to monitor their kids work at that level when they’re in remote school, no wonder they melt down…
    And both parents checking the schoolwork of a kid? No wonder you had a tantrum. From now on, let your husband work with the kid so both of you don’t have to.

    Back on topic, I would like to know how the team set expectations for the host? I mean, video settings and such need to be checked before an event, especially when there’s a new person hosting. Had Ann attended one of the outreach events before hosting one herself? Sounds like she went into this completely blind and without much support from the rest of you.
    Do you usually ask for feedback from attendees? If so, what did they say?
    I suspect that Ann won’t be volunteering for much in future…

    1. Perfectly Particular*

      Totally off-topic, but right now, in our school district, and presumably others, the kids are getting little to no feedback from the teachers. All grading had been changed to pass/fail, and as long as an assignment is turned in with some amount of effort put into it, it is a pass. The parents have to be the ones to hold our kids to some sort of standard, or they will have significant backslide. Mine are older though, with less time to make up for any losses.

    2. Observer*

      Of course parents are doing a ton of monitoring now. Lots do way too much monitoring even in normal times, and it’s not even always their fault. But now, it simply cannot be helped.

      Teaching this way can be a lot of extra work for the teachers, especially ones who have not done this before, because you have to re-do a lot of materials. Depending on what tools the teachers have, they may also not be ABLE to have enough interaction with the kids to make the actual classes work as well if there is no parental assistance. And on top of that a lot of teachers have to limit the length of their classes because the kids are on shared devices which means that you need to keep classes shorter to allow for some rotation.

  9. HA2*

    I love Alison’s suggested writing for OP#5. Basically it conveys that you’re still “employed” (no need for you to explain any gaps, no need to explain why you left) while at the same time conveying the reason you’re looking for a job (the furlough!).

  10. Dan*

    #3

    It’s true that some companies are still doing some hiring right now, but unless you have no other choice, I’d plan on staying put for *at least* six months. Since you’re a strong performer, management will likely want to keep you around as long as you’re willing to stay.

    What you *can’t* do is drag out your separation “revisiting” things every few months or so. I think you can just tell your boss that you’re happy to stay put until things settle down, and you’ll revisit your plans down the road. If you tell them you’re planning on staying for at least six months, they’ll likely just forget about your plans to leave until you turn in your resignation.

    1. Viette*

      I agree with this. What management wants is probably the same thing you want: to not have to deal with uncertainty about whether you’ll be employed there. I think Dan and Alison are right — it’s not what you wanted, but you’ll get the best results from just committing to staying for a fixed length of time (the end of the year, etc) and meaning it.

    2. OP3*

      unfortunately….. i now have a last day. they decided to make an offer to someone they interviewed before the pandemic, so I’m out by June 12. they’re reaching out to people they know to see if they can help me find something, but the clock is ticking.

      1. Batgirl*

        Oof. However, despite some pretty natural anxiety meantime there’s no reason to think you won’t end up pulling off the existing plan. I think you said a lot of the positions are simply paused? Things have to get restarted sometime. It’s also much more understandable to have a bit of an employment gap right now. Fingers crossed

      2. EPLawyer*

        You might need to expand your search. I know you want to go into non-profits but that is a hard field to bust into at the best of times. Right now when donations are drying up, non-profits are struggling. They simply aren’t hiring. So you might have to defer that dream for a bit and concentrate on the field you are in,

        I feel for you. I wanted to do non-profit work out of law school. I graduated in May 2008. In June 2009, I officially opened my solo practice. I wasn’t even getting interviews.

        1. TimeCat*

          Yeah it’s a really bad time for those. You need to look for whatever at this point.

        2. Malarkey01*

          Not to pile on and be a downer, but I work with several nonprofits and they are all at the point of laying off long term employees (15 year + veterans). In these particular non profit segments laying off long term staff is akin to cutting off family (a dysfunctional view but that’s for other topics) just pointing out that in my large city the non profits are in full out panic/fire fighting mode.

          My advise to LW is to take what you can now and try to make a move later.

        3. OP3*

          yeah, i think you’re right. all of this has been pretty rough to hear, not that it wasn’t on my mind already. it’s not the fault of any of you, but it’s been tough over the last few days and weeks to not feel like i blew up my life and have nothing to show for it. i have a good relationship with the recruiter who got me this job; i’m going to reach out to her to tell her to broaden the search.

          1. Malarkey01*

            Hang in there! I don’t know if it helps, but lots of people are in similar boats and even though your plans are changed/delayed for now it doesn’t mean that the door is always shut. Can’t wait to read your update about landing your dream job in the future!!

          2. Reba*

            Good luck, OP3! This has got to be so stressful. I hope it helps a little that we are all rooting for you.

      3. Dan*

        I’m so sorry to hear that.

        Side note, and I realize this doesn’t help *you* right now. I’ve reading this site for most of my working career, I’ve come to the conclusion that giving more than two weeks notice should never be recommended advice. I realize “never” is a strong word. But in all of the years I’ve read this site, I’m pretty sure I’ve never come across a story where the long notice was *more advantageous to the employee* than the typical two weeks.

        I’m not saying OP’s situation comes up all of the time, but it comes up enough such that it’s a real concern. I’m not saying long notice is always harmful. But the long notice doesn’t give the employee any long-term advantage over the two week notice. (What I’m trying to say here is giving just two-weeks notice is never a detriment, best I can tell.)

      4. RB*

        I’m in the exact same position: put in my notice, someone got hired, I no longer have the option of staying, and I was looking to change fields. I have no advice at all, but thought you might like to know you aren’t the only one in this position right now!

  11. Dan*

    #4

    This is an interesting one, TBH. I work in a niche field where eventually everybody knows each other. My first job out of grad school was with a smaller org that started having business troubles. Many of us ended up working for a much larger employer doing similar work. I’ve had conversations about the strength of various peoples’ candidacies, and there’s a few who I in good faith recommended they shouldn’t make the cut. When I told management who the weak hires were, my statements were based on experiences within the last 2-3 years.

    If I were recommending a “no hire” on someone I last worked with 16 years ago, one of two things are true. 1) Your screwup was so colossal that you cannot possibly live it down. (Think the Jet Blue flight attendant who popped the emergency exit slide, grabbed a beer, went for a run, and made national headlines.) 2) I know people who have worked with you more recently, and I’ve checked up on you. If things haven’t changed, I’d say so.

    If this was merely about an error in judgement 16 years ago, or a “agree to disagree” kind of thing, I’d probably just demur and not say anything.

    There are a couple of things to keep in mind. First, informal reference checks are a thing. You’ll never know who asked/said what about whom. Second, you aren’t entitled to the “real” reasons for a rejection.

    1. Anonymouse*

      it reminded me of the story of the woman who thought she was passed over for a job because she once bullied the company’s star employee, only for it to definitely become true in the end after a nasty outburst at her in a restaurant during another hiring process a year or two later.

      Only difference I can see here is that unless we aren’t being told something, then Vicky has definitely overstepped the mark if she is responsible.

      I wouldn’t even consider saying that so and so was a bad fit based on my last first hand information being 16 years ago unless it was something monumental

      1. No Name*

        I think it is actually a pretty big leap that it is Vicky’s fault at all. There are so many letters on here where people believe they are the front runner for a job only to get a rejection. Even if they were sincere that you were number one, a person interviewed after you may have had that extra qualification or experience that edged you out of number one spot. I completely understand the temptation to call and ask her about it but don’t. If she didn’t say anything, she will think you are toxic and if she did, it will only confirm her view. You can not win this. It is better to assume you got edged out by someone else in the interview process than go down the rabbit hole of obsessing over what Vicky may or may not have said.

        1. WS*

          I agree, but it’s human nature to focus on what you see, and all OP can see of the process is Vicky not returning her message! Better to let it go.

        2. Anonymouse*

          Of course, it is more likely that something else happened, I just thought that the parallels between the two stories were interesting. In both, the OP wonders whether a former acquaintance was responsible, only in the other story, it was almost certainly the case and not only that, went on to do it a second time (albeit on that occasion it was less a “maybe” and more of a “definitely, and what else were we expecting in that circumstance)

          1. No Name*

            I have to admit, my brain went to that letter too. Hopefully the OP is more self aware and not keen on self sabotage :)

            1. Anonymouse*

              I think what struck me in that letter was how my perception changed. After the initial letter, I was sympathetic to the OP because it could have been read that the rockstar perceived the behaviour to be bullying when it was perhaps less overt than that (I’m aware that the OP did start digging herself a hole in the comments on this), and effectively sabotaged her chances over that. However, by the time the second letter came in the only way it could have been any clearer that rockstar torpedoed OP’s chances (the second time) would have been if she’s sneered “you’ll never work in this town again!” direct to her face.

              Still no clarity on the first time, but I think it’s not a stretch to say the rockstar was responsible there.

              I remember thinking that the better avenue for that OP (and indeed this one here) is that if you’re intent on working for that employer, to work yourself into a position elsewhere where you end up having direct contact with the company. In the other letter’s case that would have allowed the OP to naturally ingraciate themselves with the company to a point where the rockstar could say nothing, lest come off as unprofessional herself.

      2. Roscoe*

        “Only difference I can see here is that unless we aren’t being told something, then Vicky has definitely overstepped the mark if she is responsible.”

        Did she? I think its hard to say overstepped without knowing what was said if she said something at all. If someone asked her and she said “I worked with her 16 years ago, I don’t really have much to say, she may not be my first choice, but its up to you”. That to me isn’t overstepping. There are people I worked with 15+ years ago who, if asked, I may not reccommend, but it doesn’t mean i’d say anything bad.

        1. Anonymouse*

          Depends whether Vicky knows what OP did was justified or not. If she knows and used it as a means to “get justice”, then yes, it would be out of order.

          Of course, I’m making the serious assumption that Vicky was the reason OP failed to get the job, but if I were an employer and found out that one of my reports sabotaged a potential hire just to settle a feud I’d be pissed

      3. Colette*

        I have people I worked with years ago who, if they were applying to work with me now, I’d definitely recommend we pass. Some things don’t expire – and being mean and condescending is one of them. I disagree that there is a statute of limitations on giving feedback about someone. Now, if it’s just “they weren’t the best teapot painter” or “they took a lot of breaks” I’d be more inclined to give that as feedback with a guide to informing how we interview them, but if you were difficult to get along with or stole from people or something, it’s valid info forever.

        1. Alternative Person*

          Yeah, this is where I land. Some people get better once they’ve grown up a bit and worked in a few different places, others do stuff that’s so egregious that I would be tempted to regale the hiring manager with the whole sorry tale complete with citations, appendicies and corroborating witnesses.

        2. RC Rascal*

          I agree that some things don’t expire. Especially things that involve character, interpersonal skills, and general self awareness. In that case I would be inclined to say that, “Jane used to have a tendency to make awkward comments. Of course, she may have changed in that time. ” However, if I share that feedback and today’s interviewer feels that tendency remains, it may still be relevant. Especially if the job in question is one where it is very important the successful candidate does not put their foot in their mouth.

        3. Dan*

          My wording was a bit general, I admit that. I wrote it with “first job out of college” in mind. First job = lots of mistakes, still learning/maturing, and 15 years = long time ago. The “thing” would have to be pretty major if I’m essentially going to blacklist them “forever.”

          That said, I work with a lot of mid-career and senior people. and at this point in life, they are who they are. I do keep a short list of people who I refuse to work with if I have a choice, my boss knows this, and he’s fine with it.

        4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Now that I think of it, there are people that I worked with 16+ years ago that I wouldn’t recommend to my employer, or wouldn’t want to work with, today. But that’s because their workplace conduct back then was so jaw-droppingly awful, I don’t want to take any chances on working with them today because they might be that person still. And it is really only a handful of people over the years.

          As an aside, I once read an interview in a local newspaper, with a man who used to be CEO/owner of a short-lived company that a dozen of my friends had worked for in 2000-early 2001. He blew through all of the investors’ money, literally just giving it away to his fellow “upper management” friends and himself; hired my friends for the lowest pay, had them work mandatory 60-hour weeks, but due to there being no real leadership, was still not able to deliver or sell his product; ran the company into the ground in a little over a year, stopped paying his employees about 6-8 months in (I guess they still kept coming in for internet access that they used to look for new jobs, and maybe he’d gotten them on a health insurance plan somehow? plus they kept hoping that he’d give them their back pay, which he never did). Found an interview with him online 15 years later and he was complaining that his reputation from the old job kept following him around and impacting his new business. Dude, that’s how reputations work. You make people work for you without pay for several months, it’s going to keep coming back to you for the rest of your life. So this is to illustrate – THIS is the kind of workplace conduct that I would still blackball people for 16 years later. It has to be something really out of the ordinary.

    2. Batgirl*

      I don’t think it’s likely but it’s possible. If this persons good friend ended up losing her job, going through a period of hardship and gave a half version about OP’s reporting her being totally unethical and made up.. I could see that making a lasting impression. It could become a “I don’t think I could work with her, actually” even years later. They aren’t going to bug an on-board superstar for an unknown element.

      1. Jennifer*

        Yes, the OP admits that she may have lacked diplomacy so maybe it was a minor error on Emma’s part that led to a long period of unemployment. That would stick out in my mind too.

      2. Joielle*

        And it wouldn’t even need to be as strong as “I don’t think I could work with her.” If the hiring manager had a few good candidates and asked Vicky what she thought of the OP and Vicky just said “I haven’t worked with her in a long time, but she wasn’t my favorite back then. She was kind of hard to get along with. But I have no idea what she’s like now.” – that’s quite mild but could easily result in the hiring manager going with someone else.

        Every time I’ve hired someone, you get to a point where there are two or three good candidates who would all probably be great hires, and you have to pick someone. Any information (good or bad) can have an outsize impact at that point.

        1. Kes*

          This is what I’m thinking, and also – they did have some interaction. If Vicky found OP pushy before, for example, and then OP still came across as pushy in their interactions now, Vicky might be justified in calling that out, especially if asked.
          However, it’s also totally possible OP was passed over for other reasons. Either way, I don’t think there’s much benefit from asking Vicky

      3. RC Rascal*

        Ethics investigations, especially those that end in termination, are a big deal to those involved. It doesn’t go away, even after many years. While the Emma situation is ancient history to the OP, it may have left Vicky with the impression that the OP is a troublemaker, especially since OP admits she lacked diplomacy.

        Showing up all these years later and gushing over Vicky could come off as tone deaf, especially if OP has a predisposition towards tone deafness in general.

      4. Starbuck*

        What I was wondering also was how Vicki would know that OP reported Emma for an ethics violation? I would assume that a report like that would be made confidentially, so unless it was a scenario where it would have been obvious to Emma that only OP could have known about the issue and made the report (very possible) – for Vicki to know OP would have been talking about to people other than the contact for reporting?

    3. Steveo*

      I don’t necessarily think your colossal screw-up concept is right. There are plenty of people I’ve worked with over the years that I don’t want to work with again. People do not change fundamentally – their work ethic, how the interact at the office, etc. If I found someone difficult to worth with 16 years ago, why would I take a chance now? And even in that case, a non-recommendation (rather than a no-hire) might be enough to tip the scales here.

      1. Mary*

        >>People do not change fundamentally – their work ethic, how the interact at the office

        I disagree, actually–I think those are the things that can change quite significantly early on in your career.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          Yes, especially since the old job was her first serious job out of college. You learn a lot in your first job.

      2. Observer*

        I’m with Mary. Some things are not likely to change. But work ethic and how someone interacts in the office are HIGHLY likely to change from a first job out of school to 16 years later. That first job is often a major learning experience.

        Now, if someone called me out of the blue to ask about someone I worked with 16 years ago, that would be different. Because that would tell me that someone doesn’t have any more recent references, and I’d be wondering why.

        1. Erstwhile Lurker*

          I agree, people can change vast amounts since their first jobs, but Vicky wouldn’t have seen any changes take place. The only thing that she has to work with is a potentially negative interaction with her friend losing her job 16 years ago, and now a text that could be perceived as being pushy and unprofessional.

          1. Dan*

            Thinking about steveo’s “non-recommendation”, there’s some nuance here that matters a lot. If current manager was asked about OP through the normal course of the background check/”asking around” process, manger could just say, “I worked with OP a long time ago at their first job out of college. I’d need to touch bases with someone who has more recent interaction.” That may or may not sink a hire.

            But if manager isn’t part of the hiring process, manager would have to volunteer that prior relationship. If one volunteers the same wording (or something like it) that I mentioned above, *that* will come across much more negatively. Because manager’s other option is to say nothing and let the process play out.

    4. Malarkey01*

      There are people I worked with 16 years ago that I found unpleasant enough that I’d be hard pressed to want to work with again. That might not be the LW’S situation but it would not take an emergency slide exit for me to steer clear of some former coworkers/supervisors/subordinates.

      I also wonder, and it’s speculation, but the way LW describes the former complaint as being in alignment with company policies as justification and that the person was made redundant and not outright fired, maybe this was mishandled. I still remember the woman who got someone fired in my office unfairly 20 years ago and don’t have a good impression of her, so maybe LW doesn’t quite see that clearly.

      1. RC Rascal*

        This. Anyone who has ever watched one of these in action never forgets the instigator(s). They also don’t ever trust them again.

        Speaking as someone who has watched one of these in action.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yeah, if Emma and Vicky’s version of events is that OP “went on a witch hunt” and “screwed Emma over” with a “trivial technicality”, Vicky may feel that she never wants to work with OP again. She may have told the hiring manager that, too.

  12. glitter crayon*

    #1 I’m going to go against the grain of the comments so far (which seem to be along the lines of ‘poor Ann, she must have felt picked on / piled on) and say her response is a bit concerning. Not the crying, but saying you don’t know how hard it is – which is quite defensive and immature.

    I would watch out for that, because if it’s how she routinely handles things that’s not reasonable. Hopefully it isn’t though.

    1. PollyQ*

      +1. When you do something for the first time, it’s not surprising that there’d be multiple corrections. Unless the situation was far more extreme than LW describes, Ann’s reaction was really not great. I think the only good excuse for it is the whole COVID/WFH situation we’re all dealing with right now.

      1. Kes*

        I think that’s true in general (although, if it went well overall, I would be sure to make that clear as well before starting in on critiques) and to be honest my reaction is different because of the current situation. Crying in response to feedback is not a great reaction, and is definitely something to be wary of as a pattern. However at this point it has happened once, during a stressful time, and Ann indicated an openness to feedback in general, so it sounds to me like she just couldn’t take it in the moment as a straw that broke the camel’s back stress-wise, and I would wait to see how she handles things in the future before judging too harshly.

    2. Viette*

      I agree. I’m a little thrown by the letter not including anything about Ann herself acknowledging that crying through (what honestly sounds like pretty bland, practical) feedback was unusual and awkward. Everyone hopped all over the situation and apologized and then the OP messaged her — and got back a sunny, “constructive feedback is ALWAYS welcome!”

      This is a situation where I think the vast majority of us would say something like, “thanks for the feedback, I know I didn’t handle it well in the moment.” Ann’s response comes across as maybe even passive-aggressive (is she saying that *wasn’t* constructive feedback? why is she pretending that some mild sobbing and light flipping out is within the realm of normal reactions here?), and certainly the whole thing does give me pause.

      1. RecentAAMfan*

        Agree.
        “Sorry for the meltdown! The constructive feedback is appreciated “ would have been more appropriate.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Honestly, I get the impression Ann just wants to pretend the whole thing never happened or that it wasn’t as awkward as it was. Which may not be the best reaction, but I can’t entirely fault her for it. Nobody in the situation comes out 100% perfect in my book.

        IMO the best thing to do now would just be to move forward without trying to apologize or discuss it further. Best case scenario, it was one awful unfortunate outburst that won’t happen again, so continuing to dwell on it will just make you feel more awkward about working with Ann or giving her feedback in the future. Worst case scenario, she does this every time someone says anything critical… but at that point it’ll be a pattern, not a single instance, and you can talk about it more broadly then.

        1. Blueberry*

          Yes, this. I was just thinking that I thought Ann’s “constructive feedback is always welcome!” was an attempt to paper over her first response and/or to imply “the previous response of crying isn’t what I mean to be like, THIS is what I mean to be like”.

    3. Myrin*

      Yeah, I have to agree with that.

      I think a debriefing after the fact is the perfect time to voice little criticisms (and really, many of these were more tips than actual criticism) like that after someone’s first hosting, but I can understand how it might feel like a pile-on to someone new to a company and with two bosses in the background as well, even if they were technically just some reasonable remarks by two peers.

      I also don’t think the crying is a huge deal in what sounds like a stressful time for her. Not ideal, but we’ve read and heard enough over the years of bodies’ physiological responses that one needn’t make a big judgment call about it.

      However, I think the fact that she immediately went on the defensive and didn’t in any way acknowledge her crying other than trying to justify it is not ideal. That could be indicative of someone not being able to deal well with feedback which is anything other than positive (and, more than really anything else in this letter, her reply to OP’s email reinforces my feelings here – in my experience, people who say that “constructive feedback is ALWAYS welcome”, especially after just having not dealt with constructive feedback all that well, are usually those who can’t deal with criticism at all; that, of course, might just be anecdotal bias on my part. However, the reply would’ve been the perfect opportunity to acknowledge her outburst retroactively, but she still didn’t do that, which makes me wonder if she simply doesn’t view it as a big deal).

      However, that’s all speculation and I might of course be totally wrong. She might just have had a tremendously awful day/week/month. I agree with Alison that no matter your personal feelings, giving her the benfit of the doubt in this instance is the correct choice. If my musings above are correct, that will reveal itself soon enough, and you – or a boss – can deal with that then; if not, then all the better.

      1. No Name*

        I agree with Myrin. I find it less worrying that Ann had a moment than the fact she didn’t acknowledge her complete over reaction to innocuous feedback.

        Although perhaps I am being uncharitable because we have an admin who is very defensive. You ask her to fix her mistake (no one is upset or in trouble) and out come all the reasons why it isn’t her fault and the Tone. I don’t think it is bad you apologised; a reasonable person would really appreciate you smoothing things over. But our particular admin would view your apology as accepting you were in the wrong and she is justified. Hopefully Ann is a reasonable person. If not, polite but firm professionalism has been my method of dealing with Ms. Defensive.

    4. WellRed*

      Oh I totally agree. I think the feedback could have maybe been more thoughtful, but yeah, Ann comes off a bit immaturely. Overall, I think OP handled it right in the end and maybe Ann is mortified and will not melt down again. Or maybe she will.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Eh, anyone can have a bad day. It’s pretty clear that she took on too much and it was too soon. It almost sounds like a boss could have had a private conversation with her about the whole thing.

      “My husband says that my apology message was too much and is teaching her that her outbursts are okay; I feel like if that were me I would want someone to offer empathy and understanding. What would you have done?”

      I think this is harsh with only one instance of an outburst happening. I’d give her a free pass because next time it might be ME who needs her to give ME a free pass. Yes, I would have apologized.

      To me the rule of three kicks in here. If I see something three times, that sends up a yellow flag. So the second time I saw this upset, I think I want a short chat with her along the lines of, “How do you think we can handle this better from now on?” People can be surprising with what they think of to say. She may actually have some good/usable suggestions. More often that not this should end the trend here.
      IF this happens a third time, then yes, stop apologizing, it’s a problem and a closer look is needed.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Or as they say in the military: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, and three times is enemy action.

      2. Susie Q*

        Agree. Ann had one bad day and now “OMG watch Ann, she could be terrible”. These commenters are really nitpicking her words. Especially since OP is recounting Ann’s words and we’ve all learned that never quite captures the truth.

    6. Jdc*

      I agree. I get people being overwhelmed right now but she still is new and still has to be proving herself. First task and she proved to me that I’d avoid giving her more tasks to simply avoid that. None of this feedback sounds like anything to get upset over especially when the whole point of the meeting was to do just this. I don’t think LW needed to apologize the second time, I’m even not sure the first as she did nothing wrong. I think that took responsibility off of Anne’s lap. If this happened again I don’t think I’d keep her around.

      1. Susie Q*

        Literally one bad moment and you’re thinking about potentially firing her?

        I’m glad I don’t work for you.

    7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      This seems a bit extreme. I’m not on the “poor Ann” bandwagon, but I also don’t think her reaction was necessarily defensive and immature. Have you never had a day where everything has gone wrong and you lose it over something so minor and insignificant that you feel like you’re losing your mind? It happens. Now if I were Ann I would have apologized after the feedback session and explained why it happened. But maybe she’s embarrassed or thinks that will make it all worse. Regardless, I don’t think that OP handled the feedback session poorly, and I also don’t think they should feel guilty about anything. They just need to keep an eye on how she handles things in the future to see if this the beginning of a pattern and handle it accordingly.

    8. Joielle*

      Yeah, I thought this too. I totally get involuntary crying, but the defensiveness is concerning. Even if she had cooled down after the meeting and sent an email to the group apologizing for the outburst, that would have been better. But if she didn’t acknowledge it at all….. like you said, hopefully this isn’t her usual MO, but I’d be keeping a close eye out for other yellow/orange flags.

      1. OP1*

        Hi all! OP1 here. I think part of my frustration, which I didn’t include, was that her overall attitude isn’t very welcoming to feedback. She has a kind of “I’ve got this” vibe wherein she doesn’t seem to agree with us on things to include in our presentation. She was a volunteer for years for our organization so I think she may be coasting on that knowledge rather than learning the business side of things. I am definitely an emotional person and have had outbursts similar to this (not during feedback, but during moments of frustration, etc). I have always followed up with my team and apologized and tried to explain a little more about the situation rather than just moving on and pretending it didn’t happen. Different people obviously have different ways of coping, though, and I understand that.

        1. Observer*

          That’s a much bigger issue than the crying, I think – assuming it doesn’t happen again.

          You can, and should if you have standing, push back on resistance to feedback. And if she does say something like “you have no idea how hard it is”, you could point out that although no one is in her particular situation, most of the staff are dealing with the same kinds of issues that she seems to be having.

          1. Carlie*

            Oh yes -that changes my perspective on it completely. I was picturing her as a fresh hire, worried about making mistakes, and trying to cover her crying outburst as one of those “let’s all pretend that didn’t happen so I’m not as embarrassed about it” scenarios. Long time person resistant to feedback is a very different thing indeed.

            And I think in this particular case the easiest solution is to take her off of hosting duty. She volunteered but couldn’t meet the physical parameters of it, no big deal, it will just go to someone else instead.

        2. Joielle*

          Oh boy. I’ve been in a very similar situation and it was really tough! It’s so hard to manage someone as a volunteer, with the role and standards that entails, and then transition them to an employee, with a completely different set of responsibilities and expectations. If she’s used to a certain amount of leniency and deference that (rightfully) comes with being the most experienced volunteer, she’s probably not realizing that things are different now, as the least experienced employee.

          Hopefully things get better as time passes, but I think there may need to be a come-to-Jesus talk at some point. The whole relationship between her and the organization needs a reset. It’s awkward. I’m sorry.

    9. RagingADHD*

      I agree it’s out of place under normal circumstances. I think in the current times everybody should get one free pass on a minor meltdown when dealing with a new, relatively high pressure situation.

  13. PollyQ*

    Re #3, I think the unfortunate moral here is: never, ever give notice until you have a new job lined up (or can live without income for an undetermined amount of time). Too many things can go wrong — a health crisis for you or your family, change in management, industry downturn, global pandemic. You just can’t know with enough certainty that, say, 3 months is enough time to find a new job and start getting that new paycheck.

    I would recommend LW put the job search on hold right now, and tell her employers that she’s changed her mind and is planning to stick around for the foreseeable future. I hope they’re OK with that, and that in the longer term, she’s able to move on successfully.

    1. OP3*

      Thanks for the response Alison and everyone. This probably would have been the thing to do, except …. i now have a last day. they decided to make an offer to someone they interviewed before the pandemic, so I’m out by June 12. they’re reaching out to people they know to see if they can help me find something, but the clock is ticking.

      1. Carlie*

        I’m sorry. Given th iui s, though, would you be eligible for unemployment? It’s no longer you quitting, you’re being told to leave.

        1. OP3*

          Honestly, I have no idea, but I don’t think so. I’ll be okay on money for a little while, but I really need health insurance (can’t get it through my partner because we’re not married yet) and I’m generally anxious about being able to find a job that doesn’t make me feel like it’s making the world worse. I had an interview on Friday, which is promising, but the salary was way too low for me to move forward. (I’m willing, able, and expecting to take a pay cut, but I can’t work for nothing.) But if that’s what it takes, I may have to accept something low and supplement with savings for a while. I don’t know. My brain is all over the place right now.

          1. leah*

            I’m sure different companies will have different policies, but if he hasn’t already (& you were just going off of the idea you couldn’t be added because you aren’t married), he might want to look into it! In 2016 the company I worked for closed and we could only keep our benefits through x date. It was expensive, but my boyfriend was able to add me to his insurance from October of that year through January 2017 when I found a job.

    2. quirkypants*

      I don’t agree that you should never give notice without a new job lined up but you do need to have a high tolerance for risk of you do.

      Its also going to vary widely based on your role, the economy, your family situation (do you financially support any dependents), where you live, and more.

      As a Canadian, I’m also fortunate that my access to most healthcare is not tied to employment. I realize this is drastically different for most Americans. It’s an amazing perk, though, of state provided medical care.

      1. Batgirl*

        So does the UK and I still don’t think I would do this. I understand OP is clearly highly employable and that this was therefore quite doable, but still, I wouldn’t. It’s not that I’m averse to taking a risk, I just don’t understand what the benefit of the risk to yourself is. It gives the employer more notice but why should anyone shoulder a risk for the benefit of those with greater power? In this case though, their help with a job search could really pay off. I can’t see any of my former employers doing that.

    3. NotAPirate*

      I think I disagree with that moral. If you are leaving on good terms and it’s something like the OP’s situation, where you are switching fields, there’s no way to do what you want to do in current role it might make sense to utilize your current coworkers and boss while job hunting. Also it’s a lot easier and less stressful to take quick phone calls to schedule interviews, take time off for interviews if other people know what’s going on. Maybe your boss knows someone in nonprofit who needs a new finance guy, that sort of networking is valuable. Academia is another industry where that beneficial arrangement of being open about job search might be happening as well.

  14. Confused*

    We’re not allowed to use “Good morning/afternoon” because someone might read it at a different time of the day and get confused.

    1. Scc@rlettNZ*

      I just rolled my eyes so hard they are in danger of falling out of my head.

    2. Zephyrine*

      Wow, whoever made that rule must have an exceptionally low opinion of humanity’s intelligence.

        1. Environmental Compliance*

          Ah, but then you risk having false assessments of how soon we can schedule Project X to be completed, and then you run into needing even more Time Turner shenanigans because it was scheduled for a too-quick completion, and then you start running into yourself trying to complete projects, and if I were to run into myself too many times it’s probably because I got confused of which version of myself was doing what when. I mean, it’s hard enough remembering if I already made lunch the night before and well crap now I have two lunches.

          Probably easier to just clone people or get androids. Less weirdness in the timelines.

    3. Pennyworth*

      You’ve just reminded me of a site I used to visit years ago which had contributors from all around the world. Their chosen form of greeting was Good MAEN – for Morning Afternoon Evening & Night.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        I can’t tell if I find that brilliant or obnoxious. Possibly after more coffee…

    4. Annie Moose*

      Thank you (or rather, thank your employer) for the laugh this Monday morning–err, I mean at the time I am writing this, which for me is Monday morning, but may not be Monday morning any longer when you read this. I would not want to confuse you.

  15. Scc@rlettNZ*

    #2 – I’m so pleased I had swallowed my wine before I got to Alison’s sign off or else I would have spat it all over my phone.

  16. Lena Clare*

    Alison you’re so funny!

    A colleague and I now always sign off our messages to each other with ‘stay gold’ after reading it here.

    I’ve learnt many things from this blog

  17. Jennifer Juniper*

    Coffee snorkeler – LOL! Thank you, Alison! You’ve just described 99% of the people in DC!

    1. JN*

      Q4 – it’s possible that the ghosting and the rejection were connected, but the other way round. If Vicky knew that the company were probably not going to go with the LW for the job, she might have felt it made no sense to go for coffee since the LW’s invitation sounds pretty explicitly like “give me advice to help me get this job”. Ghosting is still a bit odd but she might have assumed that when you received the rejection that would close the loop.

  18. JN*

    Q4 – it’s possible that the ghosting and the rejection were connected, but the other way round. If Vicky knew that the company were probably not going to go with the LW for the job, she might have felt it made no sense to go for coffee since the LW’s invitation sounds pretty explicitly like “give me advice to help me get this job”. Ghosting is still a bit odd but she might have assumed that when you received the rejection that would close the loop.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s what I think. I didn’t love the OP’s text, but I think it’s far more likely that Vicky knew it was a no and chose not to respond.

    2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      It’s also possible that Vicky has a policy much like my own – once a candidate has started in our hiring process, I don’t contact them outside of official channels. (Since I’m the technical expert, not the hiring manager, I don’t contact them much inside official channels either.) I don’t even accept LinkedIn requests until our hiring process is over – I wait until we’ve hired and then accept. The intent behind this is to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest – if I’m explicitly not contacting anyone outside official channels, then it makes it much harder to claim that I excessively favored (or dis-favored) one candidate over another for non-business reasons.

      (Obviously, this wouldn’t work with someone I’m currently friends with. But with a co-worker from 16 years ago who I haven’t been in contact with since, it would work fine.)

      1. juliebulie*

        Agree. Could be Vicky was waiting to see if OP got hired before contacting her again.

        And I definitely wouldn’t assume that Vicky was the reason OP wasn’t hired. There are too many other possible factors outside of OP’s knowledge.

  19. MistOrMister*

    Am I allowed to start signing my emails “stay frosty”? I currently default to “thanks” and really dont care personally for best, sincerely, etc. But stay frosty I could get behind. Probably a hard no to “what’s crackalackin’?” as an opener though right?

    1. Lena Clare*

      Do you remember the Budweiser adverts, with the frog that said “whatsuuuuuppp?” I was teaching at the time, and the kids kept asking me how to say it in Spanish. For weeks I got greeted with “?Qué paaaaaaassssssssaaaa?” ! Still at least they were speaking some Spanish.
      Anyway, I am thinking whataassssupppppp could be a good opener.

      1. Lena Clare*

        Oh wait, I am getting my ads mixed up lol. The guys said whasssssuuuup and the frogs were something different. Quarantine brain.

          1. SweetestCin*

            I swear half my class in HS got disciplinary measures over this tee-shirt. (giggles) We weren’t supposed to wear anything alcohol related because (US of A here) we were underage.

          2. EPLawyer*

            Slight aside, my stepsister right around the time of this ad, got 3 frogs. She named them Bud, Wise and Er. Unfortunately 2 died. She was left with Er.

    2. Estrella the Starfish*

      Personally, I would be overjoyed to receive an email with that opener and closer. It is possible that your boss may not be though.

  20. Jemima Bond*

    LW #4; I think it’s probably less likely that Vicky did your legs in some way than that they just had a stronger candidate that they picked, whatever she said or didn’t say. Don’t run away with the idea that Vicky must hate you and you can never apply there again; it’s less likely than the alternatives.
    And let’s face it, what would you gain by knowing? If she bad mouthed you all round the C suite, what are you going to do; they won’t change their minds. And if she said nothing or said something nice, asking if she spoke poorly of you is just going to ensure the neutral/nice response won’t happen next time because asking will give a bad impression.
    Chin up, assume that Vicky said how great you were but the other candidate has a Nobel prize and is sponsored by a doughnut bakery, and move on.

    1. Blueberry*

      Well said. LW#4, I’d wonder this too if I were you, but then I would remind myself what I’m about to tell you: these are the few pieces of the whole picture that you have. You have no information about the other candidates, Vicki’s life in the last 16 years and how much time/energy she might have now, the other people making the decision besides those you met, and so on. With those other pieces of the picture it would probably look VERY different, right? So do your best to stop chewing yourself up about this and keep on with your jobhunt. *cheers you on*

    2. Anonymouse*

      If OP4 knew, it would make things worse. Just look at how the writer in that letter a while back who didn’t get a job because she bullied/neglected their rockstar in her youth. If she wasn’t sure that rockstar was responsible at the start, she sure as hell was by the end.

  21. LGC*

    LW4: I wouldn’t even be sure if she remembers Emma! You worked with her during the first Bush administration! Men were making even more regrettable hair choices than they are now, and they didn’t have the excuse of barber shops being closed! Britney was still with Justin! Britney went out in public with Justin in matching Texas tuxedos!

    Not only that: does Vicky even have any hiring power for that position? Because to be honest, if she’d said to the hiring manager Fergus, “I worked with LW4 back when you had frosted tips (and…you know, hair) and she got my friend fired,” that would sound pretty weak. There is a connection, but it’s…pretty tenuous. And I know this sounds cheap, but if they’re going to hold something you did almost half your life ago against you (and it’s not a serious crime that directly affects your job), then they probably weren’t your dream job.

      1. Lizzy May*

        That’s because Justin doesn’t let people forget. But it is truly strange when you realize how long ago those days were at this point. I still feel like that just happened.

      2. LGC*

        …I mean, so do I, so that makes two of us.

        (And to go a bit far afield, I think I had the time slightly off – by 2004 I think she was with Kevin, and I think she had her kids in like 2005 and 2006 and then she had her breakdown in 2007? Regardless, the fact that I’m even referencing this general time period means it’s pretty irrelevant at this point!)

  22. Insurance Company Person*

    #2 Be careful with “hey” as a greeting; this depends on your company’s culture and your industry. I’ve had bosses who were really against it and considered it unprofessional or rude. I usually only use “hey” if the other person has emailed me with a “hey” first. This tracks closely with age but not exactly.

  23. East Coast Girl*

    Alison – thank you thank you thank you for the “stay gold” sign off. It’s 8:15am on the east coast and already setting up to be a long work week, but you made my day with that. :-)

    1. Kate Daniels*

      +1. But… isn’t it 7:15 am on the ET? ;-) It’s going to be a looooong week!

      1. East Coast Girl*

        Ha! I’m bad on Monday mornings but not that bad (yet). I’m in the Atlantic Standard Time zone so it was, indeed, 8:15 from where I was posting.

        Though you’re talking to the woman who once fell asleep fully dressed, woke up to a howling cat, panicked thinking it was the next (work) morning, and fed the cat breakfast before realizing it was eleven at night. My grasp of time isn’t always the greatest…

        1. Kate Daniels*

          That was probably the best day ever for your cat! Mine always tries to trick me into thinking I forgot to feed her. ONE TIME it worked. And she will never forget how she was successful that ONE TIME.

    2. Academic Library Manager still*

      Another thank you for “stay gold” sign off. I was having a said crappy day. I actually had a chuckle.

  24. Kate Daniels*

    #4: You might not have been the last candidate to be interviewed. So perhaps at that point in time, you were the top candidate, but then the next candidate ended up being an even better fit. I would not look to blame someone else for why you didn’t get the job.

    1. JM in England*

      Agreed. Having the best candidate appear at the 11th hour is not unheard of.

  25. OP3*

    Meant to post this as its own comment:

    Thanks for the response Alison and everyone. This probably would have been the thing to do, except …. i now have a last day. they decided to make an offer to someone they interviewed before the pandemic, so I’m out by June 12. they’re reaching out to people they know to see if they can help me find something, but the clock is ticking.

    1. LGC*

      Oh no! Wishing you the best of luck in finding a new position! Would you be able to find temporary work if needed?

      1. OP3*

        I have a chronic illness, so I really need health insurance. I think my fiancé’s employer only covers spouses and children, so that won’t help either. I don’t want to take another job I hate in finance, but I will if it comes to that (this industry is doing juuuuuust fine right now, which makes me nauseous). I just feel so defeated.

        1. Jennifer*

          Sorry if this is too personal but – can you elope? I know a few people who were engaged who moved up their wedding recently because they lost their job and needed healthcare. Desperate times. I hate to think of people with chronic illnesses and no health insurance.

        2. Elizabeth Proctor*

          You probably have considered this, but I’d encourage you to think about getting legally married now if you are already engaged so you can go on fiance’s health insurance. Doesn’t mean you can’t have a “wedding” down the road to celebrate with family and friends.

          1. OP3*

            Believe me, I’ve considered it. But I don’t even know if the … place where you get marriage licenses is open. Or if it would entail hoofing it into Manhattan. But I may need to look into it more.

            1. Bark*

              You said that you think that your fiancé’s employer only covers spouses and children, but you should look into that to make sure. Many insurance plans do allow non-married partners to join.

              1. OP3*

                Yeah, I’ll need to check, because my current company allows non-married partners, but my company is significantly smaller than his, and much nimbler in a lot of ways. Also, even if they do cover it, there’s additional tax liability because the federal government doesn’t recognize non-married partners. He was on my insurance for a little while, which is how I know.

            2. Call me St. Vincent*

              Google NYC Project Cupid! Online marriages in NYC starting in the next week or two :)

              1. Phony Genius*

                Yes, but this program may require one or both parties to be residents of New York. They have not yet worked out those details.

              2. Elspeth Mcgillicuddy*

                I don’t know if that is adorable or a freaky sign of the turbulent times we live in.

                However, if you want a unforgettable wedding, webcam is certainly going to be more memorable than a church or rented ballroom.

            3. Generic Name*

              I recently looked into this for my own situation and happily discovered my state is doing online/by mail marriage licenses. It’s a new option that wasn’t available before Coronavirus. Since you can self-solemnize in my state, people can get married when they need to. I encourage to check out your jurisdictions website section on marriage licenses. Done assume you’re out of luck!

        3. Kes*

          Yeah… there’s nothing wrong with wanting to go into nonprofits, but at the moment I would focus on getting a job that can provide for your needs, and then revisiting your original plan once things are a little more settled.
          The only other thing I would add to that, is that there’s a wide range of finance – maybe look into some more legit organizations that are providing important and helpful services to the customers (Vanguard is one that comes to mind)

        4. Clisby*

          So .. why not get married? That was the immediate reason I and my husband married. Our infant’s daycare fell through, I really wanted to go back to my job, my husband was kind of fed up with his job and had started job-hunting, so he quit to stay home with our daughter so I could go back to work. I said, “If you’re going to do this, we should get married so you can get on my insurance.” So we did. Easy and cheap. (I like going to relatives’ lovely weddings, but thought of doing something like that for myself just makes me want to go out to the churchyard and dig my own grave.)

  26. Patricia*

    Can we done something about the obnoxious huge ads when using this site on a cell phone? They are terrible.

    1. CastIrony*

      Yeah, I had a huge video ad pop up in the middle of my phone screen! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!

  27. Batgirl*

    OP4, I wouldnt put too much stock in her ghosting you. She may not have had the spoons for a mentoring thing with someone she knew ling ago. You’re only former co-workers after all, and she might have intended to come back with something but it slipped her mind.
    That said, if you ever do want to apply somewhere she’s working, send her the message (“What’s the company like? I’m applying etc”) before you put a lot of work and interviews in. If she is going to scupper you, find out sooner rather than later. No harm in trying though.

  28. LGC*

    LW2: So I went through my own e-mails, and I…vary a lot, but I have patterns.

    My organization is first-name basis with everyone (and hilariously, sometimes “Mr./Ms. Firstname”). So since we’re pretty informal, I’ll greet our admin with “Hi Ms. Catelyn” (everyone calls her Ms. Catelyn), for example. The one person who goes by his last name gets a “Mr. Snow.” With external customers that I don’t work with regularly, I’ll start with “Good morning Ms. Targaryen,” and then in further communications I’ll move to the more informal “Good morning Dany,” or “Hi Dany.” I tend to use time-of-day with more time-sensitive emails.

    Closing, I tend to use “Best regards” as a default, “Thanks!” if it’s a request, or “Have a wonderful day/evening/weekend (and please stay safe)” to signify that I’m not going to send any more messages to the recipient about this until the next business day.

    1. Amy Sly*

      (and hilariously, sometimes “Mr./Ms. Firstname”)

      This is how I was taught to refer to adults when I was a kid, and while I’m no longer in contact with most of them, that’s how they are stuck in my memory.

      1. Quill*

        I’m a teacher’s daughter, but a lot of the teachers I know personally are stuck somewhere in gen X or elder millennial while I’m a junior millennial and my mom is a junior boomer, so it was very funny to discover, when I met up with my mom and some colleagues and their daughters for appetizers in the before times, to hop from addressing “Mrs Smith” who taught while I was still in school, to “Annie” who is like eight years older than me.

        Even better is when you get “Sarah” who is in her 40’s and just started teaching, but “Mrs Green” is only six years older than me but started teaching when I was a high school senior. Then you find one of the teachers’ daughters two years younger than me addressing everyone as “mrs name” despite the fact that we’re all out eating onion rings and drinking wine.

        1. Amy Sly*

          One of my favorite things about leaving the Midwest for the South is that I’ve stopped getting the “Don’t call me ‘Sir’! I’m not that old!” routine. Being an adult and being treated with the respect due to adults is not a curse to be avoided.

          1. Clisby*

            No, but for southerners (like me) who remember well that no black man would be called “Sir” by white people – I’d just rather abandon that.

            My midwestern husband thought it was really strange to be called “Sir”, and I (the southerner) didn’t like it either, so we didn’t raise our children to call anyone “Ma’am” or “Sir”. “Mr.” and “Mrs.” are plenty.

            1. Amy Sly*

              And I’m young enough at 36 — and my parents’ circle was egalitarian enough — that one of the black couples at church were Mr. Jim and Ms. Alice the same way one of the white couples were Mr. Jim and Ms. Kathy.

              I just got irritated in the Midwest with the “Mr. So-and-So is my father” line. Doubly so when not-Mr. So-and-So was old enough to be my father.

              1. Quill*

                Once you get into second generation teachers and kids aren’t too clear on mrs vs. ms vs. miss things get hilarious.

                You don’t get Mrs. Llamawrangler and Miss Llamawrangler when the second graders all have their minds blown by the very idea that an adult, and an adult that is older but not a grandparent / retiree, could be mother and daughter. You get endless “did you know you have the same name as Mrs. Llamawrangler?” “Yes, she’s my mom.”

        2. Sled Dog Mama*

          This is just like the slightly awkward situation I had in college where my department chair was married to the choir director at my church.
          I always addressed department chair as Dr Glow but his wife insisted on being addressed as Rachel by all her adult choir members. This led to a few awkward choir parties at their house and one awkward department reception.
          I’ve been out of college almost 15 years and I still address them this way when I have reason to go back, and it cracks everyone up.

        3. mgguy*

          Southerner here too, and for ladies of any age I default to the generally accepted as polite “Miss first name” as a sign of respect. Sir and Ma’am are my default for pretty much anyone, both when I don’t know them and also to show respect/deference. That goes both up and down the “food chain” so to speak.

          I’m changing jobs and moving solidly to the midwest in August, and I’m sure little things like sir/ma’am will no doubt be an adjustment either for me or my co-workers.

      2. Sleepless*

        When I was a kid in the rural south, that was how we addressed our friends’ parents and so forth, but not teachers/strangers etc.

        The only time I hear it these days is the rare time I answer a call by a real lowlife phone scammer (“Helllllo, Meeez Sleeeeplessss!” Click.)

      3. LGC*

        …I feel like I started a whole new discussion!

        It does feel a bit weird to me because – you know – it does feel a little childish, but I just realized…in our case, we actually run a HS transition program for the school district, and some of our employees stayed after graduating. So in some ways, we do get actual children! I came in as an adult, so I was not quite expecting that.

        I’ve had kids/young adults drop the “Mr. LGC” on me. It was the first step on my path to realizing that I myself was one of the Olds (my latest was actually getting on TikTok and ruining it for the youths).

  29. Bookworm*

    #1: I agree with Alison. Treat this as a one-off: maybe she was just having a really bad moment and the feedback was too much and that’s not unusual right now. Perhaps a little more handholding might be good for someone who you can’t see in person might be helpful.

    That said, it could also be something more. Based on what you wrote it really doesn’t seem like there was anything that was over the top, but it might be a good idea to get some feedback from her as to whether maybe things needed to be framed differently.

    Good luck!

  30. Jennifer*

    #1 I understand why Ann felt overwhelmed. I think maybe feedback should have been consolidated into one email or done on private call or video meeting. The information wasn’t a big deal, but multiple people giving you negative feedback at once over zoom, in addition to starting a new job and taking care of kids in a hot house with no AC has to be a lot. Just something to keep in mind going forward when you have to give her or anyone else feedback.

  31. Steveo*

    LW#3 – ouch. I wouldn’t recommend being so open in the future, at least wait until you know that you have something else lined up.

  32. mgguy*

    Re: #2

    I know my situation isn’t necessarily normal, but I’m at a big university and frequently communicate/reach out to people with whom I don’t have any pre-established relationship. Usually, to establish initial communication, I use title-last name(i.e. Dr. Smith, Dean Jones, etc), write my email, and then sign it with “Thank you, MG Guy.” After that is my full signature with my name, position, contact info, etc.

    Once communication has been established, I let their response guide how I address further communication. Almost always, I get a response signed first name, and then address all other correspondence that way.

    Of course, after 10 years and a masters degree here(before becoming full time staff) I’m on first name terms with MOST faculty. At least one, however, gets snippy over lesser staff addressing him as anything other than “Dr. xxx” or “Professor xxx.” Of course, he’s also a perpetual thorn in my side for a lot of reasons, and I think everyone is going to be happy when he retires(if he ever does).

    1. Sara without an H*

      I second this — it’s a good, safe system, which I could see working in any large firm.

      And yes — academics can be persnickety about being addressed as “Doctor” or “Professor.” Every campus has at least one.

      1. mgguy*

        I’d go so far as to say that there’s probably one in every department.

        Also, one thing I have noticed after rubbing elbows with Nobel laureates and the like is that often the most accomplished are the most humble, and some of the least accomplished can be very picky about titles.

        When I was in graduate school, I hosted two campus visits for Nobel Laureates as president of our graduate student organization. “Hosting” in this case basically meant being their personal chaffeur, travel agent, coordinator, entertainer, etc. as well as escort to the Kentucky Derby. The two I hosted were Robert Curl(96) and Martin Chalfie(2008). That was in two back-to-back years. Both established pretty bluntly before arriving that they were “Bob” and “Marty” respectively-no “Dr.” no “Professor” etc.

  33. Radiant Peach*

    Piggypacking off of #2: how would you formally address someone you don’t necessarily know and whose title/gender you don’t want to assume? I work in a very international field and often encounter names that I’ve never seen before or names I can’t easily recognize as “male” or “female”. I’ve been using Dear Firstname Lastname (i.e. Dear Li Wei Chen) but I’ve been told it looks awkward and robotic not to add a title.

    1. Bark*

      I don’t see anything wrong with Dear Firstname Lastname. I really don’t think you need a title, especially if you risk misgendering a person.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Honestly I don’t even add a greeting. I just start with the person’s first name. If I don’t know them at all, I put their full first name (as opposed to a nickname), and then make a note to modify it if they sign off with a shortened form of that name. Unless you work in an industry where formal greetings are expected, I don’t think anything more is needed.

      1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

        First name also helps to catch the target recipient’s eye, especially if they receive a ton of emails. Since some people receive tons of emails and browse through them quickly to catch what matters, having their name in the first line stands out a little bit more.

    3. Asenath*

      I generally don’t put a name or a title in an email unless I’m being formal or writing one person and copying another – I don’t really think of email as being formal enough to format like a letter. But sometimes it is necessary to be a bit formal. If I can’t get the appropriate title somehow, I’d use “Dear Name:”, hope that the name I have been given is correct, and that it’s in the order preferred by the recipient. But formality standards vary a LOT internationally, so in the case of something from a distant office, I might put more effort into finding out what communication standards they use, and if it is really essential to find out the title and use it.

    4. LGC*

      Honestly, I wouldn’t use the name at all. I think it reads robotically because it looks like a form letter – like “Dear RADIANT PEACH, We have a special limited-time offer only for you!” I’ve found that people will often reply with how they prefer to be addressed.

      But that might not be your experience!

    5. Hillary*

      I try to find the appropriate salutation – that can be asking a coworker, looking for a picture of them online, or checking their linkedin. Sometimes I’ll talk to someone who’s studied the language and ask which one’s the personal name and if it’s gendered. If I’m emailing Japan I’m going to start with Dear Mr. or Ms. Familyname, then switch to Dear Personalname-san once I get to know them. But for China or Europe I’ll start with Dear Personalname, once I know them I switch to Hey or Hi Personalname. In the US I go straight to Hi Personalname.

      If your org has culture standards (we have English as our primary language and our leaders model less formal style worldwide) or a consistent address book it helps tremendously.

  34. Falling Diphthong*

    I see “Coffee Snorkeler, Beverage Oceanarium” as the next “Wow, llama grooming pays that much? And they’re cute and fluffy! I am definitely looking into transfe–what, it’s just a metaphor?”

  35. Phony Genius*

    Although I don’t drink coffee, I do hope to visit the Beverage Oceanarium once it reopens. I’m sure their non-coffee exhibits are quite good.

  36. ashie*

    OP1, your husband sounds like kind of a jerk. Does he refuse to acknowledge or take responsibility for your feelings too?

    1. OP1*

      OP1 here! Oh gosh, I really hope he doesn’t come off that way! No, he’s truly a saint. I think his comment was more because he had heard stories of her being cavalier about feedback in the past. I was kind of shocked at his response, tbh! But it did make me wonder if I had bungled this in some way.

  37. Aria*

    For 1, it seems like a combination of this being a bad time for everyone, and that I could easily see comments like “do you have a different wall” coming off as very personal since they are her brand new coworkers commenting on her house.

    I would be sensitive to this and maybe put out general guidelines for video calls, but in general I’m ignoring everyone’s backgrounds and that they’re in the house and the sound of their dog or kids or whatever – they can’t control any of that really and they’re unexpectedly at home, I can’t expect it to be set up for work.

  38. Yikes.*

    #4
    If she ghosted you on your original text, reaching out to her to accuse her of being the reason you didn’t get the job won’t accomplish anything but guarantee that she’ll do it again in the future if she holds that power. Also, I have to say that if I was really on the fence about an old coworker and then got a text that said “I can’t believe you made it to manager…,” that would turn me off pretty quickly. You can’t hear tone of voice in a text and that comes off as “you don’t deserve this.” to me. “I’m so impressed that…” or “I’d love to hear more about your career path up to manager…” so maybe give that diplomacy a little more thought…

  39. Koala dreams*

    #4 The most likely explanation is that the company found another candidate they liked better. Often there are several great candidates, but the company can only hire one of them. Right now there are probably a couple of other people sitting at home, wondering why they didn’t get the job even though the interview went so well and they got compliments about their resume/skills/attitude/whatever.

    That might be little consolation to you, but try to not take it personally.

  40. Lancelottie*

    LW1, was the debriefing meeting intended as just feedback for Ann, or was it an opportunity for the company to discuss what did and didn’t work in order to put procedures in place for the next virtual event? If it was just to give Ann feedback, it might be kinder next time to give only the most relevant suggestions and to do so over email. If it was more of a planning session, maybe leadership could be more explicit about explaining that and making sure that Ann knows this is about learning together, not evaluating her performance.

    1. OP1*

      OP1 here! This was a team meeting to discuss how to tweak things going forward. It was a brainstorming session more than anything and we only had that one event to go on. Our department is very collaborative so it would have been much more awkward to address those things one on one, if that makes sense. There will only be two “hosts” so this was a way to make sure things were working well. I’m the other host, I had my event on Saturday and it was helpful to know the things that worked for her and didn’t work.

      1. No Name*

        This actually makes her defensiveness even more absurd. If she went in knowing that the purpose of the meeting was to suggest improvements and then gets defensive because people are suggesting improvements, it does not bode well frankly. Having read your additional comments, I am beginning to think your husband’s advice was spot on.

  41. soon to be former fed really*

    Starting an email with “Dear” seems ridiculously formal to me, I never do that. Emails are not formal written correspondence. I’ve been in the workforce 42 years. I generally pay no mind to the salutation, if there is one, but I may notice if my name is spelled incorrectly. I focus on the message content. Then again, I’m very mission focused and some folks would say not concerned enough with the softer side of things.

  42. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    I don’t drink coffee, but I have decided that my next dream job is Wine Snorkeler.

  43. Gemma*

    #1: I totally disagree that the comments sound nitpicky, which is what some people are saying in the thread. Everyone seems to be looking at it through the lens of their own jobs, where virtual meetings and presentations are ancillary. But for someone in outreach, this is likely an extremely important function of the job and feedback that would otherwise be “nitpicky” when given to someone like a law firm associate hosting an internal meeting would be standard and normal for this function.

    I would also say that Ann’s reactions are unprofessional. I understand crying and being stressed, especially right now. What I don’t think is okay is to receive feedback and then accuse the people of giving it to you of “not knowing what it’s like” and providing a laundry list of excuses. I also find it unprofessional to act as if the reaction never happened at all. Even something like “Thank you, I was under a lot of stress that day, but constructive feedback is always welcome” would be less deflective and less bizarre.

    I think that you’re going to see a trend of Ann overreacting and then having a bunch of reasons why, then trying to pretend like nothing happened. I worked with someone very similar and this is how she always acted-outbursts and “you” statements like “you don’t know what it’s like/how long I worked on this/how hard it is to catch typos” followed by overly-cheerful “let’s sweep it under the rug and pretend it never happened” as soon as criticism was backpedaled.

    1. OP1*

      Thank you! This was an outward facing presentation to gain more membership – not just some team presentation internally. I don’t think everyone understood that part. We do need to make sure we align ourselves as the “expert” in our field and the background truly does matter in this case!

  44. CoffeeScuba*

    Dear Oceanarium Director,

    I would like to apply for the coffee snorkeler position that has recently opened in your department. Though beverage snorkeling is new to me, I have prior experience and certification in scuba diving, including one time when someone spilled their orange juice in the practice pool, which I handled very well. I am also no stranger to cold coffee conditions, as I am very familiar with cold brew as my beverage of choice. I am more than willing to handle other jobs as well, should the green tea pool or apple juice tanks ever be in need of assistance.

    Attached you will find my resume, detailing my qualifications, and the contact information of my previous manager at Starbucks Lifeguards.

    Thank you for your consideration.

  45. suprisedcanuk*

    To LW4
    It’s possible that you weren’t hired because of your past ethics complaint. I don’t think we have enough information to know if Vicky is out of line. We don’t know anything about the ethics complaint. She might not want to work with someone who got her friend fired, especially if it was over something minor. If it was something serious then she’s out of line. On the ghosting some people have hard saying no when you ask for their number so they give it to you and don’t respond.

  46. Harvey JobGetter*

    OP1: I’d suggest looking more carefully at the “pilling on” issue than Alison is suggesting. None of the individual comments seems problematic or unnecessary, which is what we normally mean by pilling on. Fair enough. But when you have a lot of suggestions — and it seems you did — you need to consider skipping over some of them the first time around, especially with somebody who is new to the role. It strikes me that the color of the paper probably falls into this category (i.e., a comment worth making, but maybe not worth making NOW) and I take it you also didn’t list all of your comments.

    I also think you might reconsider having somebody brand new fill this role, especially in this context.

    1. Observer*

      If you read the OP’s comments, the color of the paper was actually quite important, as it was an important part of the presentation and it was not showing up on the video.

      Yes, it sounds like a lot, but on the other hand, it’s pretty clear that these were all things that matter in terms of what they were trying to do. To not mention them means that they would likely happen again, and that’s a problem.

  47. GilaMonster*

    OP4: If someone told me they couldn’t believe I’d had a successful career and wanted to ask me how I managed it, I wouldn’t be having coffee with them, and wouldn’t be enthusiastically referring them for a job at my workplace. Can you see how your wording in your text could be problematic?

  48. OP4*

    Hi, thank you everyone for your comments. I can see how my text could have been misread. I’ve been thinking that actually what bothers me most is that Vicky, whom I admire, might have a negative opinion of me, rather than not getting the job. Of course we don’t know that she thinks of me at all – as some of you have mentionned she probably just forgot to reply the text of was mildly bothered by the wording and decided not to reply.
    I appreciate your comments on how I could improve the wording in my texts. I’ll be more careful in the future.

  49. Princess Deviant*

    Could we please have a list of excellent jobs from this website, and some other made up or real ones?
    – coffee snorkeler
    – lampshade trimmer
    – llama groomer
    – teapot production/ designer
    – cat food flavour developer
    – button matcher

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