boss gives us pop quizzes, random drug tests during quarantine, and more

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

1. My boss gives us pop quizzes on our cross-training

My boss, Cersei, is a brand-new manager, and my coworker (Jon) and I are her guinea pigs for learning how to manage. Jon and I handle different aspects of the same type of work. Cersei wants us to cross-train in each other’s areas, which is great! We already have basic knowledge of each other’s areas of expertise, and it would be good to be better at it.

But Cersei’s method of ensuring we get cross-trained is a little wonky, in my experience. She wants to give us pop quizzes on each other’s areas, while leaving us to handle the actual work of cross-training on our own. This is only my third office-type job, but I have significant retail/food service experience before this, and to me, the pop quiz idea comes off as punitive and ineffective. I would expect actual training to be involved somewhere, some kind of structured teaching of the information, rather than this approach of “handle it yourselves and I’ll randomly quiz you to see if you did it right.” Neither Jon nor I have experience training other people, so we don’t really know how to go about training each other aside from the basic things we’ve already gone over. Is this a normal way to go about cross-training? Am I somehow wrong to expect more structure or intentionality out of this process? How can I approach Cersei about my concerns without sounding combative or obstructive?

An alarming amount of workplace “training” happens without any real structure or method, and people without any training in training others are asked to train people all the time. The belief is often that if you know how to do task X, you can show someone else how to do task X. And frankly, a lot of the time that’s true! You might not do it in the most efficient or ideal way, but most of the time people muddle through.

But that doesn’t mean Cercei is handling this well. If she wants to be involved to the point of giving you pop quizzes, she should also be involved earlier on — talking with each of you about what to train the other in, and how thoroughly, and what having done it successfully will look like. For example, if you’re showing Jon how to send email newsletters, do you just need to show him the basic mechanics of creating and sending a newsletter in the CRM software, or do you also need to equip him to troubleshoot, create new design templates, follow your boss’s content preferences, and know the best days of the week to send them out? There’s a huge range of stuff that she could mean by cross-training.

Since the current system isn’t working, why not tell Cersei that you and Jon feel you’ve reached the limits of your training abilities and need some help? At a minimum, sitting down together to create a more comprehensive list of what each person needs to learn should help.

From there, I don’t think the quizzes are punitive per se, although that depends on exactly what she’s doing. Written tests would be weird, but informal “how would you handle X?” conversations can be a decent way to suss out what’s been learned and what spots might need more attention. But she’s got to put in the work to support the process on the front-end first.

(You also probably need all this stuff documented, since someone who learns something in July and doesn’t use it until November is going to need something written down to consult.)

2. I have to go take a random drug test during quarantine

I guess this is less of a question than just blowing off steam. I work as a third party contractor for a government agency. It’s one of those situations where my paycheck comes from the contracting company, but I work at the agency location and honestly see my contracting “supervisor” maybe twice a year.

I got an email this morning from the contracting company’s HR telling me that I was selected for a random drug screening and that I have until 3:00 tomorrow to go to a lab location to complete the screen. I haven’t left my house since mid March except for walks, our office is currently closed. I’ll have to use public transportation to get to the nearest lab. It seems crazy to me that random testing wasn’t suspended during a global pandemic. I politely but firmly pushed back to both my “supervisor” at the contracting company and directly with HR. The response from both was basically “random screenings are policy, wear a mask.” Can I get a reality check? I’m not the crazy one, right?

(Yes, I am planning on doing the screen tomorrow. I do not want to be fired).

You are not the crazy one. Drug testing already violates your privacy (what you do in the privacy of your own home on your own time isn’t any of their business to begin with — unless you are in a safety-sensitive position, in which case they should be using far more effective performance testing anyway, which would check if you’re impaired for any reason, not just finding drug use from a week ago) and your company particularly sucks for demanding that you risk your health for this performative concern about safety in the middle of a pandemic, while not finding any ways to make it safer for you (provide safer transportation? send someone to you? etc.).

Performance testing = computer-assisted tests that measure things like hand-eye coordination and response time, designed to catch multiple types of impairment (including legal ones, like sleepiness or alcohol). Used by NASA on astronauts and test pilots, and in other cases where safety matters more than drug testing theater.

3. Can you interview with a second company when an employer flies you out to interview?

I’ve got a question for you about something my boyfriend did when job searching. About two years ago, we were getting ready to move 12 hours away so I could start grad school. He scheduled an interview with one company in our new location and they offered to pay for flights, hotel, and rental car. Since he was going to be in the area, he scheduled another interview for the time he was going to be in town.

Well, both companies offered him a job, but Company A — who paid for travel — had a ridiculously bad offer. The pay was well below market rate and the benefits and the hours were bad as well. Company B paid significantly more and offered better benefits. It was really a no brainer who to go with. He waited a bit after thinking it over — company A’s name carries weight — and ultimately went with Company B. Company A seemed upset that he didn’t accept the offer. (If I remember correctly, my boyfriend tried to negotiate with them and it still didn’t compare to Company B.) They flat out asked if he interviewed for another position while there for their interview and seemed quite upset that he did. Was he wrong for scheduling more than one interview on this trip and having company A pay for travel when he didn’t ultimately go with them?

It’s not uncommon for people to try to line up more than one interview on a trip to a city they hope to move to, even when one of the companies is paying the travel expenses. As long as his interview with Company B didn’t add any expenses for Company A, he didn’t do anything wrong. My answer would be different if he’d tacked on an extra day for the interview at A’s expense, or if he was less available to A during his trip because of B’s demands on his time, but it doesn’t sound like that happened.

That said, in general it’s wise to be discreet when you do this. Companies understandably don’t want to feel like they’re facilitating some other employer’s interview schedule, so typically you’d keep it to yourself if you were scheduling multiple interviews during a trip they were paying for. But unless the company that flew you out books up all your time while you’re there, you’re free to go to a movie, have dinner with a local friend, or, yes, meet with other employers.

It sounds like Company A was just taken aback that your boyfriend turned down their offer and was looking for an explanation other than their below-market pay and benefits.

4. My manager told me I don’t seem passionate about my work anymore

My company performed their mid-year performance reviews as scheduled over the last month. We’re all remote during the pandemic and as far as I know, my company is doing alright and no one has been laid off. My mental health has been really suffering due to the endless global situations, a death in the family, and a general predisposition to depression and anxiety.

During these past few months, the responsibilities of my role have been expanded and I have more to do. I have been staying on top of this new work on top of my existing workload. During my performance review, my manager told me he was impressed with how I handled these new tasks but that he wasn’t seeing my passion for the work anymore. In all honesty, I don’t think I have ever been passionate about my work. I think what he’s responding to is that I’ve been going through a hard time lately. I asked for concrete examples I could work on. He said he didn’t have any, but still reflected this lack of passion in one of the scores on my review.

I’m feeling extremely frustrated and demoralized. It literally is taking all of my energy right now to do my work every day, leaving very little left for me to take care of myself after 5. I don’t have the energy to fake enthusiasm on top of that, and I don’t think that’s an appropriate ask during a pandemic. Am I overreacting? I feel like I should just be thankful to have a job that isn’t disrupted by everything going on, but I’m genuinely pretty hurt.

Nah, that’s messed up. He should come up with concrete examples of how this is affecting your work or it doesn’t belong on a review. To be clear, I’m not saying hard-to-define things never belong on a review; they often do. I’m saying that managers need to do the work of figuring out what the impact really is and articulating that.

It might be worth going back to him and saying, “I’ve thought a lot about your feedback in my review. I think what you’re seeing is my response to the stress of the pandemic, plus a death in the family and some medical issues I’m dealing with. I don’t think that belongs in my review, particularly in light of the good work I’ve continued to do and especially if there aren’t specific impacts on my work, and I’d like to ask you to reconsider including it in my scores.”

Read updates to this letter here and here.

5. How to professionally answer work calls on a personal cell

I was hoping you could help clarify a professional way to answer your personal cell phone while teleworking during the pandemic. I generally just answer with “hello” but I’ve noticed a lot of coworkers will answer with a variation of “This is Fergus.” I don’t realy like answering my phone with my name, especially with unknown numbers, because I don’t want to provide them details to try to sell me stuff or scam me. Is “Hello” unprofessional? Should I suck it up since my personal phone is being used in a business capacity at the moment? How do I answer my phone?

“This is Fergus” is generally considered more professional than “hello.” Even though this is your personal phone, if it’s the main number you’re using for work calls right now, during work hours I’d answer it as if you’re getting a work call (especially if some of those calls are from clients and not just coworkers). But if you want, you could set up a Google voice number for work calls and set it to ring to your home phone, but adjust your settings to alert you when a call is coming in on that number.

That said (and I know people will disagree with me on this), I’m not convinced that people who want to scam you or sell you things will gain a significant advantage by knowing your name — you’re still going to figure out what they’re doing quickly and can cut off the call (assuming you have a reasonable amount of savviness, which I imagine you do).

{ 499 comments… read them below }

  1. Cary*

    My husband works as a mental health nurse and part of his job was urine tox screening. He tested himself after a poopy seed muffin an lo and behold it was positive for heroin. I honestly would not trust any employer administered test.

    1. Nurse Zoey*

      I just want to say thank you, I can’t stop laughing about a poopy seed muffin. I could be deliriously tired or it may just be that genuinely funny, either way it made my night!

        1. KRM*

          They testes positive for heroin for I think 24 hours after consuming poppy seed bread or bagels. It’s definitely possible.

    2. Zombeyonce*

      My uncle would read this and immediately post to all his Facebook friends that there’s a new trend where the youth are lacing muffins with heroin and what is the world coming to and he bets they’re snorting weed too.

      He’s also the kind of person that believes utterly in the infallibility of drug tests and would base employment decisions on them, so we definitely need to get rid of them because there are many people like him out there that haven’t retired yet.

      1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        Huffing the H. Popping poppy. Riding the horse. Smack. We wore onions on our belts, which was the style back then.

      2. Jennifer Juniper*

        My sympathies, Zombeyonce. I hope you’re not obligated to be Facebook friends with him!

    3. gsa*

      The last time I had to piss in cup, my now Manager mentioned CBD oil would make me test positive for THC. I told him I was good to go, that I would lay off the poppyseed bagels in the meantime… :-)

    4. MassMatt*

      I’ve read that the tests have an alarming % of false positives, and that the drug likely to stay in your system longest is marijuana, arguably the least dangerous and now legal in many states.

      I don’t get the mania for drug testing. I can see you don’t want the surgeon or airline pilot under the influence, but drug testing retail employees seems dumb. Wal Mart is evidently the largest work drug tester—WTH, why is it important that the people stocking shelves have not been high the past 30 days?

      Drug war nonsense.

      1. Jules of the River*

        I’m sure the main reason for testing is drug war paranoia but in the handful of times it’s come up for me I’ve always been in a situation where I worried they were testing for more than they told me (i.e. a situation with a huge amount of out of town fieldwork, where pregnant or ill employee might be less desirable if they could be screened out).

        1. No Tribble At All*

          Wait, the drug testing company could apply a pregnancy test or something? And tell your employer? Is that legal??

          1. SheLooksFamiliar*

            Please don’t fan these flames. A testing lab doesn’t do themselves any good if they test for things the employer has not contracted them to do. They screen for specific substances, and report evidence at or above certain levels. They are not screening for general health, chronic conditions, or pregnancy. And yes, it would be illegal to do it.

          2. Detective Amy Santiago*

            No, absolutely not.

            When I was responsible for administering drug tests, we had a form that employees had to sign that outlined exactly what we were testing for and why we were testing (we staffed a lot of positions that involved using heavy machinery).

            1. SassyRam*

              That doesn’t stop some employers though. I once had to take a pre-employment drug screen for a contract job and I was due to start my period within the next day or two. Sure enough after I provide my sample and the nurse does the dipstick to see if the specific gravity is normal, the blood strip on the stick comes up as positive. The doctor came back and was demanding that I come back another day to be sure that the blood wasn’t from kidney problems. I refused because 1) I had already had my pre-employment physical and was cleared to work and whether or not I had kidney problems was not a factor in my ability to do my job and 2) As a person who works within the field of the organizations that test these drug screens I know that the presence of blood is not considered a contaminated specimen.

              I stood my ground saying that they shouldn’t even be looking at that particular strip as it is not relevant to a drug screen. Doctor said he refused to send out my sample. I informed my employer about the issue and said that I would be more than willingly to take a drug screen at another facility that same day but suddenly I lost the contract because I had a “pre-existing medical condition that was a liability” due to my “kidney failure”

              1. JSPA*

                They were de-facto discriminating against you for having a functional uterus; seems like that’d be a winning lawsuit?

                1. SassyRam*

                  Unfortunately I was too young, naive, and broke to consider that option. I’m extremely lucky that I was able to get a new job lined up very quickly but it is a scenario that always sticks with me because I couldn’t believe that the doctor and occupational health facility were being that stubborn about something that wasn’t even related to the test the orders were for.

        2. Observer*

          That would be wildly illegal on the part of the lab.

          Also this would actually be hard or impossible to do and almost impossible to hide.

        3. Liane*

          Yes it’s partly “drug war paranoia” in many cases but I suspect a bigger reason is MONEY. Worker’s Compensation and company insurance often either mandate things like drug screen programs or offer lower rates if company has them. Just like the way far too many US companies offer significantly lower health insurance premiums to employees who some useless/invasive/silly “Wellness” program.

          1. GreenDoor*

            It’s the stereotype that “drugs are bad” therefore if one “does drugs” they, too are bad. And you don’t want bad people working for you. Nevermind all of the non-drug substances that can result in a positive test….or all the people who are fully capable of indulging their vices and waking up perfectly fine for work the next day…or the increasing support for legalizing marijuana and a better understanding of the racial disproportionality in drug offense incarcerations…etc. Nope. Gotta operate by those 1981 standards….

            1. Public safety fan*

              or all the people who are fully capable of indulging their vices and waking up perfectly fine for work the next day…

              Do you want someone who “indulged their vices” the night before driving that big rig next to you?

      2. Jack Be Nimble*

        I think it could make a certain amount of sense for people working with heavy machinery — but as Alison said, whether or you smoked weed in the 30 days before you started is less relevant than whether or not you’re impaired day-to-day.

        1. PeanutButter*

          Personally I would be much more comfortable with a machinery operator who smoked a bowl to wind down at the end of the day vs one who stayed up until 3am playing video games/watching movies/reading AAM/ whatever else and then came in sleep deprived.

            1. Courageous cat*

              Dude, how long do you think one stays high for? They’d be completely sober by the following morning.

      3. Greg*

        We stopped disciplining for marijuana at the beginning of the year, but we still test for it because the 5 drug panel screening costs significantly less than the 4 a la carte tests we would have to order.

        DOT regulations state we still have to test and discipline any of our drivers though.

      4. Katiekaboom*

        It’s because if a worker gets injured on the job – slip and fall, fall off a ladder, gets crushed by a heavy box, gets hit with a forklift – they can claim it was the employees fault for being under the influence and reject any negligence Claims or lawsuits. It’s just a way to save their ass and avoid being held legally liable for injuries.

      5. Gov Employee*

        Legal in many states, but still illegal in the whole country. I’m assuming the LW is a federal contractor. Not saying I agree with the policy, but it is what it is and presumably she knew it when she signed up.

        1. DataGirl*

          I live in a state where pot is legal, but work for a non-profit that receives government funding, so they follow federal law. Hopefully in the next 4-8 years the federal government will catch up with state laws.

        2. Librarian of SHIELD*

          “…presumably she knew it when she signed up…” is not a great attitude to have here.

          There are a lot of things employees know about their jobs before they agree to take them, but that doesn’t make them right or fair. It just means that people with limited options have to take jobs on less than fair terms or go hungry.

          So yeah, OP may have known her company engaged in random drug tests when they took this job. That doesn’t mean they knew they’d be required to risk their life in the middle of a pandemic to participate. OP’s company is not right here, and handwaving it as “they knew it was a requirement when they took the job” is not an excuse.

        3. emmelemm*

          Yeah, companies in states where it’s legal can still screen for it if they so choose.

        4. Koala dreams*

          She might not have known about covid when she signed up, though. Before covid, public transport was the best way to get around in some places, and now people are recommended to avoid it unless absolutely necessary.

        5. Gumby*

          That was my assumption as well. Any number of government contracts include FAR 52.223-6 and companies will fulfill the requirements in various ways. My company takes a light approach to that FAR clause (informing everyone at hire/job offer, signage with the other HR-type posters, reserving the right to require a drug test though I have never known them to do it). Others will take a more heavy-handed approach. Just because something happens to be legal in your state doesn’t mean that it couldn’t tank your whole company.

        6. Gov Contractor Employee*

          This! Drug testing is very common in the federal contractor industry. I work in HR for a federal contractor and we’ve had to decide how long we were going to hold off on scheduling new employees for drug screens. Depending on the state that LW is in, their state may have started opening up, which means that even though there is a pandemic going on, it is still presumably a reasonable thing to ask the LW to complete the drug screen. That said, if the LW is considered high risk for COVID from a health standpoint, I would completely agree that it’s unreasonable to ask them to complete a drug screen at this point. If the issue is with transportation and potential exposure to COVID while on public transportation, then maybe the question comes down to whether the company is obligated to require that drug screen per the contract that LW is working on… On one hand, I agree that it’s not reasonable to expect employees to have signed up for something which is typically safe but not safe considering the current pandemic. On the other hand, it’s not the company’s fault that the employee can only travel via public transportation for presumably personal reasons.

      6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Most people do not get it. I cannot stand it. Hopefully one day at least recreational marijuana will become legal on the federal level, and will therefore come off the drug tests. Given that a test shows the last 30 days of usage, it is ridiculous that people are being tested for it.

        I am also very confused about the reasoning behind OP’s employer’s testing. Every instance of random workplace drug testing that I’ve heard of in my career (as opposed to the drug screen you take as part of your hiring process), has been “we suspect that Fergus has been coming to work high, so we are going to select Fergus for a random drug test”. None of those drug tests that I heard of have ever been really random. But OP has been under lockdown and has not given the employer any reason to suspect drug use. Sounds like a waste of time and money, not to mention unnecessarily endangering OP during a pandemic.

        1. Artemesia*

          I noticed a few years ago that on the questionnaires we are routinely give at the doctor’s office before an exam that the question about drug use was changed. It used to be whether you used drugs, now it is ‘have you used recreational drugs other than marijuana’. This was several years before our state legalized pot. I assume people always lied — I certainly did — and so they adapted it to reality.

        2. Observer*

          That’s actually a good way for a company to get into trouble on a lot of fronts.

          There really are companies who do conduct actual random drug tests, and some of this is required by law.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Ohh this is interesting – I don’t know much about how it is conducted. What kind of trouble? (genuinely interested in learning more.)

            A friend of mine drives a company van for work and gets random drug tests. I can totally see where in this case, they would be required and for a good reason. That said, last time the friend got a random drug test was when friend hit a deer with the company car on the way to work. Apparently, at friend’s work, when you get into an accident, you get the test.

            1. Alexandra Lynch*

              That was how it always was for my ex when he was a truck driver. He drove a semi cross country, and when he was home we had a few friends we socialized with either only in public or at our house, as they felt free to smoke pot when they were home, and we just couldn’t afford for him to have a positive test from a contact high. Were we being overcautious? Maybe. But he never had a test show positive for pot.
              He also avoided poppy seeds until he was working in a different industry.

            2. Double Glazed Bill*

              At least that actually makes sense, was the accident caused by being tweaked out or stoned or drunk, or as sometimes happens you just round a bend and can’t avoid a critter.

              1. SassyRam*

                But the thing is that urine drug tests actually don’t prove that you were impaired at that moment, just that you have used the drug at some point within the past however long it takes to get out of your system. Someone who used pot on one occasion six weeks ago will have the same test result as a person who was actively impaired

            3. Observer*

              It probably was not a random test, and I would be surprised if they called it that.

              It’s perfectly legal for companies to do drug test in the wake of an accident, in most cases. What is NOT legal is for a company to have a so called random test program that is actually not random. On the one hand, if they are required to have such a program, the lack of real randomness means that they are not in compliance. On the other hand, if someone wants to claim harassment or ubfair treatment of some sort and they get tested (even if they come out clean) by a program like this, it’s going to go poorly for the company. Because the complainant is going to say that the company purposefully chooses who to test, and so they chose complainant to harass them or mistreat them.

            4. Pomona Sprout*

              That’s ridiculous, especially are deer are notorious for causing accidents. If you hit a raccoon or a possum, there’s unlike to be any damage to your vehicle, whereas hitting a deer can easily total a car. They’re also extremely unpredictable and known for suddenly darting out into the road with no notice. (Do I have experience with all of the above? Why, yes, I do!)

          2. HBJ*

            That company is being ridiculous. Testing because you suspect someone is under the influence is absolutely legitimate. I am the administrator for a federally regulated and mandated drug program, and the forms for that are literally sitting in a binder 12 feet from me.

        3. Catosaur*

          Even if it’s federally legal, it could still be prohibited by an employer so I wouldn’t expect the testing to entirely disappear. I’ve had surprise breathalyzer tests for a couple contract jobs (and I think also when I was wrapping up some technicalities to work for the local school system).

        4. PeanutButter*

          “Every instance of random workplace drug testing that I’ve heard of in my career (as opposed to the drug screen you take as part of your hiring process), has been “we suspect that Fergus has been coming to work high, so we are going to select Fergus for a random drug test”. ”

          For me it was “PeanutButter is the only employee we know can pass a drug test (this was before marijuana was decriminalized in my State) so we’re going to get our quota from her whenever we can.”

          I PEED IN SO. MANY. CUPS.

          The kicker? This was for a night audit job at a budget hotel. It was ridiculous.

          1. Jennifer Juniper*

            I would freak out if I got singled out for drug tests! I would wonder if I were being punished for not fitting in, being too liberal, being too emotional, etc.

        5. HBJ*

          Being tested because you seem like to could be under the influence is not a “random” drug test. You are being tested for a specific reason – acting loopy with red dilated eyes or what not. There are drug programs that operate that way – only screening for cause. But there are others that have two components – testing because of a suspicion along with testing randomly. With random tests, it’s truly random. X% of employees will be randomly pulled per quarter to go take a drug test for no reason other than getting the proverbial short straw. However, you can theoretically go a long time while never getting pulled for a random, or you could get pulled a couple quarters in a row. I was subject to pre-employment and random drug testing at a prior job. I worked there for two years, meaning my name could have been pulled 8 times, and I only ever had the pre-employment. But, I had coworkers who were pulled.

        6. Gov Contractor Employee*

          May or may not be relevant here, but I have friends who work for the federal government who are subject to actually completely random drug tests. So it is possible.

      7. mgguy*

        If you read up a bit on drug testing, you’ll find that there are two common ones that employers use-the “5 panel” and the “10 Panel.” 5 panel is the big nasties(cocaine, heroine, PCP, THC, and amphetamines). A 10 panel adds a bunch of others, including things like benzos, barbituates, and some other things that are prescribed. There are also variations between those, and some that do more than 10. Of course, it’s worth mentioning that cocaine, heroine, and amphetamines can all be legally prescribed(amphetamines are even reasonably common for ADD/ADHD). BTW, these can all be done on hair, urine, and blood but urine is most common because blood is invasive and has a short window of detection, while hair has such a long window of detection that it’s difficult to prove active use/impairment at the time(and is also super expensive). Urine is simple and non-invasive to collect, limits the detection window to usually a couple of days(drug specific), and is inexpensive.

        In any case, all the panel tests can also be ordered with confirmation and without confirmation. A test without confirmation is essentially an aminoassay(not unlike a pregnancy test) that will give a visual confirmation for the drugs specified and their metabolites. It’s fast and cheap to do(sometimes even on-site), but also incredibly prone to false positives-even things like acetaminophen can pop for THC in an aminoassay.

        “Confirmation” involves sending it off to a lab for further analysis, usually by GC-MS. A false positive by GC-MS is very, very unlikely. That’s especially true using methods like negative chemical ionization(NCI) with selective ion monitoring. For certain “tricky” compounds you can also use a triple quadrupole mass spectrometer, which set up right can be even more selective in identifying a certain compound(in this case the drug itself or a metabolite). I don’t want to diverge too much(GC-MS is a pet topic of mine, enough that while on furlough from work I’ve nearly finished a textbook on GC and GC-MS targeted at advanced undergrad/entry grad level and educated end users), but done properly a false positive is nearly impossible using this method. If a particular compound does show as positive in NCI and there’s enough of it, there are ways to further verify that it’s present(electron ionization with full scan), but presence of a know negative ion for the compound at the correct retention time(the latter which should be checked at least daily by a standard) is incredibly difficult to argue as a false positive. I don’t work in any kind of regulatory lab or anything like that, but have worked with known positive samples(benzos and THC for everything I’ve done, and known positives using purchased standards of the compounds and metabolites) and if I don’t have everything just right sometimes I have issues even seeing the compounds of interest.

        In any case, after a confirmed positive(however it’s confirmed) a doctor is supposed to look at it, then(confidentially) contact you for an explanation. If you test/confirm positive for amphetamines and tell the review officer “I have a prescription for Aderall-here it is/confirm it with my doctor” they’ll come back and report a negative unless it’s a job where amphetamines WOULD actually cause a specific problem.

        That’s the long and short of it, and TBH if I had the option I would most likely refuse a urine screen w/o confirmation because it has such a high rate of false positives.

        1. Harvey 6-3.5*

          I think you mean “immuno-assay” not “amino-assay.” Also, as with everything, Mass-Spec. depends on matches, so if there is something else that will also match (as in the poppy seed bagel situation), it can give a false positive if the test isn’t calibrated properly.

          1. mgguy*

            Sorry, you’re right on that. immunoassay(out of my realm).

            Still, though, RT+NCI(or even EI) in GC-MS will reliably distinguish between morphine-the major opiate in poppy seeds-and heroine. Without hunting up NCI mass spectra, your MS tuning would need to be way off for m/z 285 and m/z 365 to not register differently(see EI MS for each at and not to mention that, again, they would have different RTs.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            And (unless it’s a DOT test) this usually excuses a non-negative. IF you have a prescription they see it as any other prescribed substance that pops.

        2. TTDH*

          When you publish your textbook, can you come back and tell us about it in one of the open threads? My grad school work was in that field and I’m always looking for resources to recommend to new grad students from that lab who reach out to me.

          1. mgguy*

            Sure. Not sure if it will ever be published, but my intent(after editing) is to be freely distributed. Basically the idea came about because most classes teach you theory, while instrument manuals and experience teaches you practical use. Unfortunately too, I’ve found that a lot of the PIs and such who know theory really well have no idea what to do if you put them in front of one, while the lab techs and even service engineers can make it give you a certain result but don’t always know WHY it works. There are plenty of exceptions-Graham Cooks up at Purdue comes to mind(who is a genuinely great guy I’ve been fortunate to meet and talk with on several occasions) but they are the exception rather than the rule.

            My intent in the text I’m writing is to meld the “this is how it works” aspect with “this is how you make it happen” side. It may get ripped to shreds once I go through an initial round of reviews, but I’ve enjoyed putting it to work. A lot of it came about because I got REALLY frustrated at my soon-to-be-former employer in teaching an advanced analytical/separations class where I didn’t have a good text that covered all of that.

      8. Wired Wolf*

        Agreed. My team has joked that we’d need to be high to understand a lot of the stupid decisions management makes…then again understanding the stupid means that we’ll question it and they don’t want that.

      9. AKchic*

        Insurance liabilities.

        If a customer or a worker gets hurt on site, the insurance people will be there and if the worker is impaired in any way and the impaired employee could have limited the liability in any way by *not* being impaired (or, if there is a chance that the employee could be blamed because there is a substance in the employee’s system), then, to maximize profits and limit liability, the company will want to reduce that risk. It’s a numbers game. That’s all.

        I’ve been denied jobs because I come up positive on drug testing because of my doctor-prescribed medications. Even with a doctor explaining that these are long-term medications and I am not impaired in any way and they do not affect my desk work at all, and no, they will not be changing these medications; I am denied employment because “we aren’t going to risk it. A drug is a drug is a drug.”

      10. Quill*

        Wanna guess how many hours of a minimum wage walmart employee’s pay a drug screen for them costs?

    5. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I had to get one done years ago but the testing centre took one look at the long list of meds I’m on and basically said “all we’re going to be able to confirm is that you’re not drunk. Everything else is going to have false positives”

      Employer at the time was…unhappy because they weren’t aware of how many medications I was on.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        1) It’s none of their business
        and more importantly 2) how did the company even find out about your prescription list??

        When we have a non-negative it’s handled by the MRO who reviews (and is independent of our company) and if they determine it’s legitimate (prescription, poppyseeds, whatever) we just get notice that it was a false negative. We never know what they actually tested positive for or what proof justification excuses the non-negative.

        1. Quill*

          Sounds like that testing center had either an unreasonably broad disclosure permission that had to be signed, or was not operating with any sort of medical confidentiality.

    6. zukoforpresident*

      Yep, there’s been more than one infant removed from its mother due to this. I think they were all eventually reunited, but still.

    7. Not a Girl Boss*

      I had a nightmare time with drug testing last round. I was dehydrated and, erm, could not produce a sample. Then they scared the living nights out of me by telling me I had an hour to produce a sample or it would be a “presumed positive” and I couldn’t leave the property during that hour blah blah. So, I chugged a LOT of water and was able to produce.

      The next day I packed up my entire family and began a horrible cross country move for the new job (making everything extra awful, they had offered me the job 3 months ahead of time but waited until the week before I was supposed to start to do the background check and drug test).
      I did this move while deathly ill. The amount of cough syrup I drank to make it through the drive was truly impressive. In the middle of this move, somewhere in Nowhere USA, I get a call that my urine was too diluted, and that I have 24 hours to retest or they’re pulling my offer. I had to get off the highway and go find a testing center.
      And the whole time I was so afraid that the cough syrup would mess with my results and I’d get to my destination only to find out I didn’t have a job. By some miracle, it was all fine in the end.

      I’ve never felt like such a criminal in my life as the way all those test center and HR people treated me when I was just a young woman trying to qualify for a job, who had neglected her water intake. It was awful.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        That is just horrible. Honestly based on how they treated you over a standard drug test, you might have dodged a bullet with this company.

        1. Not a Girl Boss*

          Eh, it wasn’t the company (and I eventually did pass and go work for them). Like OP, it was a government-adjacent company that had contract requirements to administer drug tests. The problem was the third party HR company they hired to handle it, plus the actual testing center treating me like I was some kind of common criminal.

          1. Pizzaboi*

            And honestly, we shouldn’t treat drug users like this either. No one deserves to be treated like this. Is it completely without dignity. I’m sorry you went through this.

      2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        My worst wasn’t nearly as bad as that, but I first had to take a drug test when I signed up at a temp agency. They provided temps to Mega Big Legacy Entertainment Company, which required a drug test. I was sent to a testing center in the very nice suburb where MBLEC is located, and where I lived at the time. To put it mildly, the center treated me like they were checking me into central jail. I passed and got multiple assignments from the agency, but coincidentally was never called about a job at MBLEC.

        Big difference from current job in finance, which also requires a drug test. The people at the center were very professional, respectful, and polite and explained how it all worked and the time frame for the employer to receive the results.

    8. Quill*

      Hasn’t that been a pretty well known thing since, oh, whenever seinfeld originally aired?

    9. Indy Dem*

      I’ve been on both ends of this – During my brief attendance at US Naval Academy, they would randomly screen throughout the year. (FYI – we called it the whiz quiz). Never thought it was an issue.

      15 years later worked in a mental health agency, and the substance abuse program did random screenings (court ordered) and the clinicians who ran it were all female, so if one of the male patients requested it be observed by a male clinician, they had to ask me to observe it. Sadly it actually wasn’t the worse part of that job, but definitely in the top 10 worse parts.

    10. Ermmm*

      Step one: no more poopy seed muffins

      Step two: re-take test after abstaining from poopy seed muffins for 2 weeks

  2. Diahann Carroll*

    No advice for OP #2, just sympathy and commiseration. I haven’t left my apartment since mid-February other than to go into my building’s lobby to get mail/packages and essential items that can’t be mailed to me from my mother’s trunk; however, one of my fillings decided that now was the perfect time to crack (haven’t even had this thing for 10 years, grrr), so now I have to go to the dentist today.

    I’m petrified, no matter what precautions they claim to be taking. Ugh, stay safe, OP, and I hope we both remain virus free.

    1. Zombeyonce*

      At minimum, the company should pay for a large vehicle rideshare or taxi so OP can ride all the way in the back to keep adequate physical distance from the driver so they don’t have to take public transit (if rideshares/taxis are available in their city). They should also verify that the testing site is has COVID-19 safety protocols in place to keep people being tested safe. There are a lot of ways to make this much safer for people and if they insist on doing urine tests, they can certainly cover safety precautions as well.

      OP (or anyone in this situation), please push back if it’s not too late and ask for these things.

      1. Artemesia*

        taxis are really risky. You ride in an enclosed box where the driver has been breathing all day and cabbies usually are economically stressed and are likely to drive sick if they are able to do so. Quite a few of the early cases were taxi related; drivers got it from cruise passengers and then passed it on to later passengers. I think I would feel safer riding a bus with mask on than taking a cab — although like most of you I have avoided both during this pandemic. Making someone go to a distant testing site now is pretty abusive.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          They can keep all the windows open and it’s practically like riding in open air, and it’s much better than public transport where you can be sitting next to all sorts of people including those most exposed such as health workers.

        2. Annony*

          Considering that many of the riders on public transportation are also economically stressed and likely to go to work using public transportation even if they are sick, I would think a taxi is probably safer than public transportation. Not safe, just safer than the alternative. I agree that doing drug testing right now is awful, especially since their office is closed.

        3. Zombeyonce*

          I can’t imagine that bus drivers and public transit riders are any less economically stressed than taxi drivers. And if you’re able to get a large vehicle like I suggested, you can guarantee a pretty decent distance from the only other person in the vehicle, unlike in a bus or train. You’d also have control of almost all the windows, unlike on public transit where not just a single driver, but hundreds.thousands of people have been breathing all day.

        4. Rusty Shackelford*

          You’re exposed to fewer people in a taxi. And taxi drivers are no more likely to feel compelled to work while sick than bus drivers or bus passengers.

        5. Llama face!*

          It may be different where you live but in my city the taxi drivers have all put a wall of plastic film between the front and back of the vehicle with a little flap in it to stick the debit machine through for payment. And I have asked that my cab driver be masked when I order the ride and they have all complied with that so far (I also wear a mask). So risk-wise my taxi experience has been much better than the buses where almost nobody is masked, you can’t sit far enough apart, and the air just circulates germs around.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I had to leave my car overnight for maintenance a couple of months ago. The auto shop manager drove me home and then also came and picked me up when it was done, about a 20-minute drive one way in a closed vehicle. I wore a mask. He did not. I was and am fine, but the next two weeks after that were a bit nerve-wracking.

            1. Frank Doyle*

              Did you ask him and he refused, or did you feel self conscious about asking? I’m not sure what I would have done in that situation.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I’ve had to go get shots twice and was freaked out both times. I dread the dentist. I nearly got a jury duty notice and was about to shit my pants about THAT. Really, nobody should be demanding anyone leave their home right now.

      1. Happy Lurker*

        I also just received jury duty notice for October – Yikes!
        I do have some good news though, both of my college age adult children were also called this year for May and August dates. They were both cancelled. I am hoping mine will be as well.

      2. Artemesia*

        My husband has to get a shot in his eye every six weeks and we could not skip that — the office goes to elaborate lengths to keep people safe, but it is scary. I wait in the car in the parking garage because they also don’t allow companions.

        1. Lucien Nova*

          My sympathies to your husband, Artemesia. I’m in the same boat right now – monthly Avastin shots for choroidal neovascularization – and I also am rather leery even though the clinic I go to is very, very good about social distancing, making everyone wear masks, cleaning everything very thoroughly between patients, the like. I have an appointment coming up next week actually and hopefully they’ll tell me I can drop back down to shots as needed…

    3. gsa*

      Without knowing the terms of the contract that OP2 accepted, I find it difficult to have an opinion.

      1. TechWorker*

        I don’t? Just because it’s in a contract doesn’t mean that an employer can insist it’s always reasonable. I’m pretty sure mine lists the place of work as the office, that doesn’t then imply that wfh during the pandemic is impossible because ‘it’s in the contract’

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Even “contractors” don’t necessarily have an actual contract in the US, do they? The agency & customer will have one.
        I could be wrong for general, but I did once have a temp assignment at an oddball place that called me a contractor.

        1. doreen*

          Yes, usually “government contractor” means that the government agency and a company have a contract , not that an individual has a contract. For example a government agency may have a contract with a security company rather than directly hiring security guards.

      3. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        Especially as a contractor for the government. Like it or not, the federal government operates on 1960s standards for drug abuse and many positions require passing drug tests (even random ones) as a condition of employment and/or to maintain a clearance. It’s not as cut and dry here as many people as suspecting—in fact it might be cut and dry but only in a way they don’t like.

        1. Former Fed*

          I used to manage contracts for my Federal office – the contractor almost certainly has a drug testing requirement in the original contract, and cannot change that without a formal contract modification. Failing to do so could prevent them from getting future contracts, which they are not going to risk for OP. And many things that are now legal at the State level, are still illegal on the Federal level and the Feds expected their employees and contractors to follow Federal law. (Doesn’t mean it doesn’t suck for OP).

        2. merp*

          I mean, people can understand the reasons and the lack of flexibility and still think it’s bonkers. The situation has changed, whatever the contract said wasn’t planning on this. The OP themselves said they were going to go, just that they wanted a reality check on their feeling that it was absurd.

          1. UKDancer*

            Quite, obviously the OP has said she’ll do it but she’s entirely in her rights to think it’s ridiculous. It’s particularly silly to make people do it now while we’re under lockdown when the OP is patently not going anywhere or operating heavy machinery. It just seems completely unnecessary and exposing the OP to greater risk.

            Personally I think unless someone is doing something in an industrial setting or driving a plane or public service vehicle it seems unnecessary. I work in an office so there’s no way anyone would justify drug testing. My friend who works on the Tube has regular drug testing because of the work he does.

            In the UK I think it’s very much something that’s only done if it’s really necessary and would be the exception rather than the rule.

            1. mgguy*

              I got an order for one back at the end of March for a job I’m starting in August(after accepting but before the formal offer). When they sent me the lab order, I was told it expired in 30 days, but given the current situation they were willing to issue a new one if I couldn’t get it done in 30 days. I did call around and find a lab that was willing to do it and got it done within a few days, but I was glad that the new employer was willing to work with me if I couldn’t get it done. Of course, I’m in a bit of a different situation than the OP since I’m not reliant on public transportation.

            2. wrong all the time*

              My industry is flying – and we have safety sensitive office people who also fall under the drug testing program – believe me you don’t want only the people driving the plane to be tested – there are other decision making positions that you also want to fall under those guidelines – even if they are now just working from home. Of course we are all essential and have been working the entire time – so none of us would have an issue getting pulled for random and needing to go get it done – the alternative (refusal) is immediate dismissal – and no the FAA is not going to grant an exemption for this (they have issued exemptions for some other parts of the regulations we fall under).

            3. Elfie*

              UK based also – I work in an office, but for a construction company. We have random drug testing because for some reason we have to have rules that apply across the board. I worked with someone who used to work for one of the rail companies, and apparently that’s standard practice. I think it’s nuts – the most safety critical thing I’m going to encounter is a loose power strip – but it’s the rule. However, I don’t think they’re doing any drug testing while we’re all WFH. That truly is nuts!

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          I’m not sure what point you are trying to make.

          “Like it or not” is basically the whole discussion. And most of us seem to be landing on “not.” The fact that this is how it has been done since the 1960s is not a good reason for it to continue to be done.

          1. RozGrunwald*

            This is the amazing, miraculous thing about the American job market: if the LW really cannot deal with this kind of request, then working for a government contractor is not for her and she should seek employment elsewhere. Part of the beauty of the free market for labor in the United States is that employers set conditions (within the bounds of the law); employees can either accept those conditions and work for that employer, or seek employment with another employer. The contractor does not have a choice about enforcing the drug-testing requirement unless they want to A. get their current contract with the government canceled and B. possibly be debarred from getting further government contracts because they failed to perform on the previous contract. They are doing what they have to do to stay in business and keep paying people. The LW can decide whether she wants to keep working for them and follow the requirement, or if she’d rather work elsewhere. That’s her right.

              1. RozGrunwald*

                I would absolutely love to someday read the story of how federal contractor employee advocacy got the federal government to change requirements in the FAR that have been in there for decades. Truly. I won’t hold my breath.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I mean, this is how change happens. People speak up and push back and public opinion changes over time, and eventually the government catches up. We’re well into the process on this issue (which is moving far faster than it seemed like it would even 15 years ago), and it’s very likely things will look a lot different in the next 10 or 20 years.

            1. A*

              I literally haven’t seen a single comment that says otherwise, so I’m not sure what you are arguing here.

          2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

            I agree with this, don’t get me wrong. My point was more about how in this system it’s pretty black and white and what you signed up for with the contract. It can be stupid (and is, it’s one of the reasons I no longer work in the public sector) but it’s not something that can just be sidestepped around. Even with a pandemic. You accept this type of inflexibility while working for the federal government or as one of its contractors.

            Much like with any job, you need to take these considerations into account while deciding to work for a place.

        4. RozGrunwald*

          Yes, this. I think drug testing in general is mostly pointless and dumb (and agree that what you do on your own time shouldn’t necessarily be your employer’s business), but bottom line, a contractor’s contract can be terminated by the federal agency they’re contracted with if they don’t drug test their employees. It’s written into the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulations) and (almost assuredly) written into the contractor’s contract, and if the LW has a problem with it, she needs to blame the feds, not her employer. If I was the LW’s employer, believe me, I am not going to risk my livelihood or the livelihoods of my other employees because one employee doesn’t want to go get a drug test. I sympathize with the LW (to an extent) but – speaking from my experience as a former employee of a government contractor, the requirements around drug testing should have been thoroughly explained to her when she took the job. The contractor cannot just “suspend” drug testing because of the pandemic because the federal government has not suspended that contracting requirement. The employer is not the bad guy here. If the LW really has a problem with going for the test she can always quit her job and try her luck in the current job market. Part of working for the government, or a contractor, is trading a degree of your privacy for the security of having a job that doesn’t disappear into the ether when the economy shifts downward (like what just happened to millions of Americans). That was explained to me by my employer; if no one explained it to the LW, that’s unfortunate.

        5. Librarian of SHIELD*

          Even if we were all to accept that it’s reasonable for employers to conduct random drug tests, we can still decide it’s completely unreasonable for them to require it during a deadly pandemic when traveling to the test site has the potential of putting the employee’s life at risk. Whatever their standard system for drug testing is, the time period we are currently living in is not standard, and the company should make temporary changes to their standard operating procedure for this. The company’s wrong, full stop. It may be legal for them to require this of the OP, but it’s immoral and they shouldn’t do it.

          1. Observer*

            You are missing the fact that the company may not be legally able to make those changes.

            1. Uranus Wars*

              Yea, the issue is in some regulated industries its not as simple as “we thinks it immoral so we won’t do it”…they can certainly think “this is bonkers, but we’ll get fined/shut down as a result so…here we go”

      4. Artemesia*

        Because they are legally entitled to do this or contractually allowed to do this doesn’t make it any less abusive.

        1. Ophelia*

          I think the challenge is less that they’re allowed or entitled, and more that the overall contract likely mandates that they do it.

          1. HBJ*

            Thiiiiis. If this is federal, you can’t just decide to suspend it for a few months. The options are not drug testing or suspend drug testing. The options are drug testing or closing your business or at least ending all the safety-sensitive positions.

        2. Observer*

          The problem is that they are probably legally REQUIRED to do this. Which IS idiotic, but it’s the reality that the OP is stuck with.

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            But nothing in those requirements says they can’t provide employees with safe transit to and from the testing facility during a deadly pandemic.

            1. Heather*

              That’s a good point, but other comments here are already saying there is no such thing as safe transit.

      5. Caliente*

        Well the contract was probably created and agreed to before a damn pandemic broke out so…

        1. RozGrunwald*

          That doesn’t mean the contractor can renegotiate the conditions of their contract in the middle of their contract term. Most private enterprises wouldn’t agree to something like that. Forget about the federal government.

    4. Susie Q*

      I’ve been to the dentist several times. I wouldn’t be petrified as long as your dentist office is taking appropriate precautions.

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Me too, it was fine and petrified is my default status. Infection control was always a priority in any decent dental office, and now things are just ramped up, with no one in waiting rooms, limited patients, etc. The folks working there are more at risk than the patients.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Your average dentist and their staff should actually be more practiced at this type of infection control than the typical person.

          1. JustaTech*

            The average dentist and staff are more practiced than the average GP’s office because dentists have been dealing with serious infection prevention since the start of the AIDS pandemic, while most GP’s aren’t performing procedures with risk of blood borne pathogens.

            My dentist and his staff were very calm and just bumped up their standard precautions. My GP and her nurse were clearly working on a genuinely new level. (Which they were doing fine, no shade to them at all.)

      2. tangerineRose*

        You might want to call first and ask about their precautions. At my dentist, they had people wait in their cars (if they came in a car) instead of the waiting room, took my temperature before letting me in, encouraged use of hand sanitizer (which I was happy to take). The dentist and dental hyginest wore masks and face shields. I saw the chair I used being sanitized as I was leaving.

        1. Mama Bear*

          I had a similar experience. They wouldn’t let me in until after my own spouse (with an earlier appointment) had left. It was fine.

    5. Mockingjay*

      I don’t want to derail this thread, but want to point out that dental staff are already trained to avoid disease transmission including HIV; for COVID-19 my dentist and his staff added more precautions against spray including new suction tool covers, face shields for staff, spaced out appointments to allow more thorough cleaning of treatment rooms, and so on.

      If anyone ever has questions about going places, please call and ask what precautions are being taken. The places we have to go are for the most part staffed by people who are just as worried as we are and have a reciprocal interest in avoiding exposure from us..

      1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

        Well said. There will be a lot of collateral damage from people postponing preventive care because of the virus.

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        Yeah- my only reason for not going to the dentist is location. I have a dental plan where the best coverage involves my seeing people at a places relatively near my office- which isn’t an option right now since I’m not doing public transit.

        But eventually I’ll give in and either walk to the closest location (2.1 miles one way- totally do able) OR find a place nearby that just more expensive.

      3. JustaTech*

        My dentist (who actually did my cleaning because he’s down a hygienist) warned me that he wouldn’t be able to use the ultrasonic cleaner thingy, and asked how I felt about that. “Fine by me, I really don’t like that thing at all!”
        He laughed, apparently everyone’s said that.

      4. Wired Wolf*

        My dental office (located in a clinic building) is still trying to figure things out because none of their treatment rooms have doors–seems to me they could use rigid screens like salons are using. There have been concerns here about costs for sanitizing and PPE being passed on to patients which insurance would probably not cover.

    6. Liz*

      If it makes you feel any better, the dentist, assistant etc are more at risk than you are, since its you’re “spray” for lack of a better word, that could potentially infect them. I had to go about a month ago, for a “filling emergency” and it wasn’t bad at all. I called upon arrival, they told me to come in, met me in the vestibule, took my temp, had me sign a form that i wasn’t sick etc, watched me wash my hands in the bathroom in hte lobby, and took me in. I was more anxious about the drill (which i always am) than getting sick. Its been a while now, and i’m still healthy. Both the dentist and assistant had gowns, masks, gloves and face shields.

    7. OP 2*

      OP 2 here. Thank you for your commiseration. The deadline for me to complete the test was 3:00 yesterday afternoon, so after exhausting all avenues, I went yesterday. I was complaining via text to my friends, and one with a car who I know has been socially distancing properly offered me a ride (she also reads AAM, so hello!) And luckily the lab was located in a building with a courtyard so I could wait there instead of the tiny waiting room.
      I am still very upset about it, obviously. Random drug testing is such a waste of money, but fine. But read room! Also, on Tuesday my city had the highest rate of infection since May.
      So angry.

      1. Barefoot Librarian*

        OP #2 – that’s wonderful news! I’m so glad that you got a *safe* ride there.

    8. Barefoot Librarian*

      I just realized I’m down to the last set of contact lenses. I haven’t updated my glasses in years because I don’t wear them (vanity I know but the lenses are SO thick for my Rx even with ultrathin poly). I’m have an appointment with my eye doctor but she’s an hour away and I’m dreading it. I sympathize.

      1. Wired Wolf*

        I had an eye exam earlier this week and it went a lot smoother than I was expecting; screening questions in the lobby, I was given a paper mask and asked to wear it rather than my personal one/watched while I changed them before I was allowed up to the department (no big deal). The assistant sanitized my hands before bringing me back. Doc was masked and gloved, I had to keep my purse with me and could only touch the exam chair. Nothing much changed; I need a new pair of glasses because they’re cloudy and a bit scratched up.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Oh man, I got lucky; I had mine right before the shutdown. They mailed my glasses and contacts to me.
        I haven’t worn glasses this much in years, but I’m saving the contacts for working. And glasses are a little bit of eye protection if I’m at the store.

  3. Courtney*

    LW#5, any time I see a call come through from a number I don’t recognise, I answer with ‘hello, Courtney speaking’. I don’t know if this will work for you, but I found it has helped me feel professional but also keeping with it being a personal phone.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      Came here to post exactly this. It’s kind of a blend of the two approaches.

    2. Np*

      I think — and I’m not trying to sound whiny about this — that answering the phone with “This is Jane” or “this is Fergus” works a lot better with Anglo-Saxon names or names with minimal syllables. My full (first) name has many syllables and it’s not a conventional English-language name and there’s always an awkward “sorry, who is this?” etc etc from people who are not familiar with it. And because I could do without the initial awkwardness, I go for a firm but polite “hello”, and take it from there.

      1. Courtney*

        That’s a totally valid point I hadn’t considered with my response, because it’s honestly not something I have had to consider before (learning about privilege I never realised I had here). I think I have probably done that to people who’s names I am unfamiliar with, it’s interesting to hear the other side of it now.

      2. AcademiaNut*

        For me it’s the fact that I can get work calls in two (very different) languages. So I go with “hello” and then work from there. I also have very different legal names in the two languages, so what name I answer to depends on who is phoning.

      3. MayLou*

        I answer unknown numbers with “hello, this is May”. It’s a fairly straightforward English word but people frequently mishear it as a name. Honestly, I see that as an advantage in some ways – a spam caller fishing for my name is likely to mishear it, but someone who is trying to reach me specifically will be primed to hear it correctly.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          My dad’s name is Guy, pronounced just like the English word. But it can also be a French name pronounced “Gee.” If we answered the home phone and the person was looking for “Gee” and then tried to make our very not French last name sound French, we knew this was probably a telemarketer. I’ll have to ask my dad if he ever gets business calls nowadays where people mistakenly assume he’s “Gee.” He works for a German company but primarily deals with the US part of the business so I don’t know how often he has international callers. And his last name is not French at all.

      4. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Wow you’re right. I’d never thought about it this way. I try to answer “Hello, this is (my name)”, but, while I don’t have an Anglo first name, it is an international name that is very common in many cultures. (It is also short, which helps.) On one hand, I’m thinking that an unusual/difficult to pronounce name will weed out both the spammers and the people who called the wrong number. But on the other, as someone who used to have a long, difficult, ethnic last name, I totally get how annoying it is to get a puzzled “what the heck did you just introduce yourself as?”, reaction from the callers, every day, multiple times a day.

      5. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

        If you have a nickname and what to project an annoying “bro” vibe, use that and “go” when you pick up.

        “Cheap Rolls. Go.”

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      If you don’t want a caller to know your name before you know theirs, consider using your department. “Llama Wrangling.” Works best with Alison’s redirected phone # idea, probably.

      1. BethDH*

        The redirected number also might be useful if you’re going to be wfh for a while still and want to push for them to take on more costs. You could track the calls coming to the separate number and use that to argue for them getting you a separate phone.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        Yup! When I was health department and the main line for environmental complaints (including unsafe housing & meth), I answered with (County) Health Department, Environmental – how can I help you?

        1. Libervermis*

          I’m experiencing a version of that as I’ve been calling to get a house issue fixed – the company always answers the phone “This is your friendly neighborhood [Company Name]”. I’ve talked to at least three different people and not one has offered up their name.

      3. Alton*

        This is hard for me because this is something I normally do when I’m in my office, but I don’t feel comfortable answering my personal phone this way if there’s a chance it’s a personal call. Answering with “Hello” or even my name can be confusing for callers who don’t know me but are just trying to reach my department, but saying my department name might be confusing or awkward if it was a call from, say, my doctor’s office.

    4. calonkat*

      Am I the only person who answers my work phone with the name of the company? I get a lot of calls from the public, and that eliminates all the political calls, since I work for government :)

    5. Flabbernabbit*

      On my personal cell, I use Hello. Based on this advice, if I recognize the call as a work call, I’m going to start adding my name. But unfamiliar numbers, no way. I believe it is up to callers to identify themselves first and request the person they wish to speak to. I always do that when calling others, as in… “hello, this is Neville Longbottom in Herbology, am I speaking to Fergus?”

    6. Sunset Maple*

      Bonus for answering unknown calls professionally: it scares off telemarketers.

      I was forwarding my work line to my own phone during quarantine, and answering “Engineering, this is Sunset” made two different 1-800 callers profusely apologize and state (unasked) that they would immediately put me on the Do Not Call list.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Huh. That doesn’t work for me. Maybe because most of the telemarketers who call my work number are spammers calling *because* it’s my work number.

    7. RobotWithHumanHair*

      I’m going to start using this, because after a brief phone interview I had the other day, the COO and/or CEO may be calling me out of the blue as a follow up and I typically don’t answer calls I don’t recognize. The only heads up I kind of have is that the COO’s number will come up from Oregon, but the CEO is local, so I wouldn’t be able to distinguish the latter from a run-of-the-mill spam call.

    8. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Now I have two SIM cards in my phone with different numbers and subtly different ringtones, so my answering the company phone is in full professional manner and the personal one sometimes rather whimsical…
      My pet peeve is nondescript voicemail answering messages – a bland hello or the robovoice rattling of “you reached the mailbox of five five five three one four one…” – I never know if I misdialed, so I will not leave anything remotely confidential on such a mailbox. Record a personal greeting or at least your name, please (on a business phone), please!

  4. ATM*

    Re: #5 I tend not to answer the phone if it’s not a number I recognize. If they leave a message, I’ll call back.

    I feel like I’m still not a “real” adult, though – is that something “real” adults do? Should I start answering the phone every time I can?

    1. ATM*

      Edited to add, when I do answer the phone, I tend to default to “Hello, this is [my full name’s] cellphone, [first name] speaking.” Idk if that’s valid or not, but thats how I do it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        That’s a lot of words! Nothing wrong with it if you like it, but “This is Jane” or “Jane Smith speaking” are also perfectly fine (the latter is more formal). If it’s not a work call, most people just answer with “hello.”

        To your other question: It depends on your job. In some jobs it’s fine to screen your calls/let them go to voicemail. In others you’re expected to answer it regularly, even if not every single time.

        1. ATM*

          That’s good to know. I picked it up as a kid when my parents would have us answer the phone to scare away telemarketers, and I just… kept it? I figured overly formal = more adult, but it’s nice to know that’s not 100% accurate.

          I was thinking more about when job hunting, and I forgot to clarify, I’m sorry! But I’ll keep that in mind if I’m ever in a position where I have to use my personal phone/a work cellphone.

          1. KatK*

            My parents had us say “[Lastname] residence, this is [Firstname]”, which all of their friends found adorable. As an adult I now get why!

            To the original question, I’m about 10 years into my career, I screen all calls (actually just keep my phone silenced most days) and that is completely fine in my professional context. I work in an informal tech environment; I fully agree with Alison that it’s really a “know your office and role” thing. If someone within my company needs me they will Slack or email before calling, if it’s a vendor it’s not going to be urgent enough to need to be a phone call and interrupt what I’m doing. And 90% of my calls are spam anyway.

            1. Alice's Rabbit*

              My parents had us answer the phone the same way. Such-and-such residence, Alice speaking. Many of our friends did the same.

              1. Artemesia*

                My first husband’s father worked for the phone company and taught everyone to answer the phone that way. I hated it when he answered our phone that way — it sounds so dorky and, well, childish to me. But he insisted it was the correct way to answer the phone, until a woman he went to law school with called and when he answered it that way said ‘what are you? Six years old?’ that was the end of that.

                I like the google phone idea where you have a professional response when calls come in on the business line and just hello otherwise.

                1. Jaybeetee*

                  Related, you just reminded me of a time in my teens I was at a friend’s house and when someone called, she said her parents couldn’t come to the phone right now, could she take a message? I had a giggle over it because she was around 17 at that time and like, you’re allowed to say your parents aren’t home.

                2. Kelly L.*

                  My ex also used to do this–he’d answer our phone “Hislast residence, Hisfirst speaking.” I hated it because:

                  (1) We didn’t have the same last name. If someone was calling for me, and they knew me but didn’t know me well enough to have my partner’s name memorized (like my co-workers or something), they would say “oops, wrong number” and hang up! We were not just the Hislast residence.

                  (2) He was giving altogether too much information to telemarketers and scammers. Now they knew they’d reached the person they wanted and how to pronounce the name. When I answered, I’d screen calls by noticing who butchered the name.

                  And it also sounded really stiff to me, but that was in character for him.

              2. Quill*

                My mom definitely trained us to answer that way right before the age of cell phones, and then that fell by the wayside.

                Of course, we also used to let telemarketers listen to my younger brother’s trumpet practice so…

            2. Mel_05*

              My parents had us do the same. Everyone always complimented us on our phone answering skills, which always seemed odd to me.

            3. ThatGirl*

              Yeah, my parents answered the phone, “Hello, Smiths!” and for awhile as a kid if I answered the phone I ran it all together Hellosmiths :)

              But then, my dad was a pastor and active in the community so we got a lot of random calls for him.

              (not our actual last name)

              1. Libervermis*

                Hopefully one the German commenters can confirm or deny this – I was taught in my German classes that answering the phone with just your last name was a good and polite option. So *ring* “Heinz” or *ring* “Patel” or whatever. I’ve only ever talked to offices or people I’m close to on the phone in German, so never experienced that, and it seems so curt (efficient!) to my American ears.

                Then again, “This is Fatima” sounds fine to me and it’s not like that has any more conversational softeners than “Smith”.

                1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

                  Yes, that’s true.
                  A German will usually answer a personal phone or internal call on a company phone just with “Müller” or whatever the last name is. External calls on company phones *may* get something like “Guten Morgen, Müller AG, Sie sprechen mit Helga Schulz” (Good morning, Muller Inc., Helga Schulz speaking).
                  First names are usually reserved for friends and family or close acquaintances, leading to some weirdness – I may address a client as “Frau Meier” in German but “Berta” in an English email within the same hour.

          2. BethDH*

            Most people do answer their phones more while job hunting but a decent employer will know that you can’t get to the phone all the time, especially if you’re already employed.
            This is a good reason to use a google voice number though! If you only put it on application forms or resumes you’ll know what kind of tone you need to answer.
            As for what to actually say while job searching, I’ve gone with “Hello, this is [first name]” using the name I put on my resume (not nickname, but no last name) and I’ve never found that anyone seems startled or to think that’s inappropriate. Of course, I don’t work a particularly formal field.
            To the person’s point above who found it difficult to use this form because their name was less common, I think in the job search world this can actually help. They presumably have your resume with written name in front of them and you can help them associate that with the pronunciation without getting into the awkward “do I correct an interviewer?” stress.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yes — hearing someone pronounce their own name when they answer can be very helpful. It’s not necessary, but it’s often useful.

            2. Sunset Maple*

              Also note that LinkedIn has just added the ability to record a ten-second audio clip where you pronounce your own name on your profile. It’s only available on the iOs/Android mobile app, not on desktop yet.

          3. MCMonkeyBean*

            That makes sense–I think that type of greeting was more common with family landlines where you may reach a different person than the one you were calling for. It’s not so necessary now though with personal cell phones where you’re the only person that would be expected to answer it :)

        2. gsa*

          I know who’s calling I answer appropriately, if not, Some versión of, “This is gsa”…

          1. Leslie Nope*

            On my work landline, you have to go through the automated system and dial my extension to get me directly. I usually answer and say, “Hello, this is Leslie” either way, out of consideration for the caller. If it’s one of my coworkers or my boss calling, then I’ll be more casual and just say, “Hello?”

            One day, my boss called and paused for a moment…then asked me if that’s how I always answer the phone. His name doesn’t come up on the landline’s caller I.D., just his cell phone number, so it confused him that I knew he was the one calling. I laughed and told him I’ve dialed his number enough times to know it by heart, so I knew it was him. I think he was kind of embarrassed. Apparently he forgot that people still memorize phone numbers in this day and age. We had a good laugh about it.

        3. Courtney*

          Your comment about it being a lot of words reminded me of a man I used to work with who would answer the phone with ‘Good morning/afternoon, you’ve reached [Company Name], this is Bob speaking, how may I help you?’ while everyone else at the company would say ‘Good morning/afternoon, [Company Name], Jane speaking’. I always thought he used too many words in the greeting, it took him so long to answer a call!

          1. WellRed*

            I think lots of retail places are guilty of the over long greeting: “hello, Borders, where the gift wrapping is always free. This is WellRed, how may I help you?”

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Some local shops used to do the same thing, including mentions of Summer Blowout Sales! and the like. I’m pretty laid back but I got a little twitchy waiting for the poor soul to finish their greeting.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                I especially get twitchy because I’ll often have heard everything in the spiel except the important bit I needed to hear, and I’ll end up saying something stupid like “what was that about the sale? it’s happening this summer?” or “sorry I didn’t catch the price for the gift wrapping?”
                It doesn’t help that the more they say it, the quicker they garble it, and the less you understand.

            2. Janice*

              Oh, the days eons ago when I covered reception occasionally at my terrible customer service job: “It’s a great day at First American Real Estate Information Services! How may I direct your call?” BLEAH.

              1. Libervermis*

                My bank has started answering their customer service line with their slogan! And every time I get transferred to someone, they do the same thing. At one point I’d heard “Thank you for calling Llama Bank, where you’re never just one of the herd. This is Ana, how may I assist you” at least a half dozen times. I wanted to tell them not to bother, but I’m sure they’re scored on it.

          2. Turquoisecow*

            My old retail company wanted us to switch from “Thank you for calling (town name)(store name), how can I help you?” to “Thank you for calling your (store name) of (town name), how can I assist you?” Some people also would put their name in there before how can I assist you.

            It was ridiculous and people often interrupted me before I was done, so when the manager wasn’t standing nearby I went back to the original script. Same idea, fewer words.

            1. Kelly L.*

              I had a job once where our organization had a two-word name, our department had a five-word name, and I was theoretically supposed to also say my name and something friendly in there. So it would come out “Thank you for calling Blergley School Department of Stuff and Things, this is Kelly L., how can I help you?” I could barely get through it without tripping over my tongue or having to stop to breathe! I eventually dropped my name as the least important part and condensed the rest, ending up with something like “Blergley Department of Stuff and Things, how can I help you?”

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            When I was suing someone and had to call my attorney’s office, by the time the receptionist got through “Good afternoon, thank you for calling the law offices of Baggins, Gamgee, Brandybuck, and Took, this is Sarah Jane speaking, how may I help you today,” I would forget what I wanted to say.

          4. Deejay*

            In an old employer of mine, the Managing Director insisted we all answer the phone with “Full-five-long-words-company-name, Myname speaking, how may I help?”

            Callers would complain “I’m paying the bill here, cut it short!”

            He did have some odd hangups(ba-dum-tish!) about phones. He had a fanatical hatred of cellphones and completely banned their use in the company headquarters. This was very inconvenient in the room I worked in because we had one landline for four people. He didn’t care. The ban was absolute. One time he was in a meeting with some customers whose business he very much wanted. One of them had their phone ring causing him to scream at them to turn it off. I don’t know if he got their business. I do know that a few months after I was laid off from that employer he was sacked by the parent company.

      2. Gaia*

        On the rare occasion I answer my phone and u don’t know who it is, I answer with a (often mildly irritated) “hello?” They have to prove they’re legitimate before they get my name lol

          1. Lady Heather*

            The most common way to answer the phone in France is with “allo” (hi), “oui” (yes) or a combination.

            It is up to the caller to identify themselves first. For several reasons. You may not want to speak to them or have them know who you are. And presumably they know approximately who they are calling; you do not know who is calling you. (Unless number ID.)

              1. Alice's Rabbit*

                The Japanese phone greeting is “moshi moshi!” It’s supposed to be a sound that supernatural creatures can’t make, so it proves the speaker is truly human. Old superstition, but it’s still commonly used today.

                1. Em*

                  After many years of living in Mexico, I will still answer the phone with “bueno?” if I’m distracted. And if the phone wakes me up from a dead sleep, there’s still a 50% chance I’ll blurt out “XXX County 9-1-1. What is the address of the emergency?” :P

                2. TacticalDeskJob*

                  I lived in Japan for a time and I had no idea this was the source of moshi moshi! Thanks for sharing, I miss that place.

                3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                  aw, I always just thought it was a cute thing between my housemate and her mom and grandma (who immigrated from Okinawa when her mom was wee)!

                4. Artemesia*

                  It would be helpful if we had such a custom; I’d like to know if the caller is truly human.

                5. Catherine*

                  What an interesting variation! My father told me when I was little is that ghosts only say “moshi” once, so you have to say it twice to prove you’re human. The phrase itself just means “I have something to say” but it’s gone through some sound changes over time.

              2. foolofgrace*

                It’s said that when Alexander Graham Bell was deciding how someone should answer the phone, he wanted them to say “Ahoy”.

                1. Jaybeetee*

                  The Simpsons Did It! This is why they have Mr. Burns say “Ahoy-hoy” when he answers the phone. It’s a dig at his age, implying he was around when the telephone was invented.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Is it the same at work? Because in the US the answer style is different for a business.

            2. Anne Elliot*

              When I was a kid, the one Italian restaurant in our small town would answer the phone by bellowing “Angelo’s!” So it’s a family joke that if anyone in our immediate family (sibs and parents) calls, you answer with a robust “Angelo’s!” Once I thought my dad was calling but it was some unrelated stranger, so the conversation started with “Angelo’s!” ” . . . Uh, is Anne there?” I think the guy thought I had a second job at a pizzeria.

              I answer my personal cell phone with “Hello” (or, obviously, Angelo’s); I answer my work cell by saying “This is Anne.”

              1. The Rural Juror*

                My dad used to answer the phone and say “Pizza Hut, takeout or delivery?” if it was one of his friends calling. He thought that was just the funniest thing to say. Ah, dad jokes.

        1. Lovely Day in the Pandemic*

          Me too! I’m collecting data for TCPA enforcement so violators of my do not call registration will have to pay me fines.

        2. Uranus Wars*

          When my dad would get phone calls (way before cell phones were common) I could hear him say “You called me, shouldn’t YOU know who this is?” after whoever it was presumably said “who is this?” after his hello. Cracked. Me. Up.

          And I still use it now and then.

      3. Quinalla*

        At a few places I’ve worked, they like us to answer like this “Hello, [Company Name], this is [First Name]”

        I now answer my cell phone or work phone with “Hello, this is [First Name], unless I’m sure it is a spam call, then I usually just go with a terse “Hello?!” But yeah, I go by a nickname, so when folks ask for my full name, that is a dead giveaway it is a spam call. The do no call list does cut those down a lot though!

    2. Zombeyonce*

      It really depends on your job. Is your phone number given out to people that might be calling you throughout the day? If so, you should probably be answering the phone unless your boss says you can screen calls. If not, let them go to voicemail.

      1. ATM*

        It shouldn’t be. I work in a call center, and have a work phone/skype. I was thinking more about when job searching, etc. My apologies for not being clear!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Nah, you don’t need to answer it then, if you don’t feel like it. That said, be aware that if you’re job searching, sometimes an employer will call, not reach you, and never call back because they move on to other applicants instead. (That is a crappy way to hire but some places do that, especially if you’re dealing with call center type jobs.)

          1. ATM*

            That is really good to know, thank you! I’m currently in a call center, but I hope to transition out of it at some point – I’ve had to change plans because [waves at everything], but that will be really good to know in the future!

            1. Le Sigh*

              Yeah, job hunting is the one time I relax my screening standards a bit. I don’t panic if I miss the call but I do pick up even if I don’t recognize the number.

              Otherwise, I almost never pick up unless it’s someone I recognize.

            2. Voicemail*

              Alison taught me this: A phone call is not a summons.

              I don’t have a work cell phone, so I’m referring to my personal job. This does not apply to job hunting season.

              If I recognize the number and I’m free, I’ll pick up. Otherwise, voicemail.

              If I don’t recognize the phone number, or if it is a blocked caller ID number, voicemail all day, everyday. I’ll get to it later.

              1. Researchalatorlady*

                There’s a great quote in a book I can’t find at the moment that goes something like “My home and life is not open to any fool with a dime.” (I have a lot of old books.)

    3. Observer*

      On a personal phone? It depends on who you deal with. On a work phone? Generally, yes, you need to answer the phone.

      1. ATM*

        Yeah, on my personal – I meant when job hunting and what not, I’m sorry, I forgot to clarify. When I’m working, I have my work phone, skype/teams and my work email, so no one should have to reach out to me personally, I don’t think.

        1. Observer*

          For that, the big potential issue is, as Alison pointed out, that employers might not leave a message or call back.

    4. Diahann Carroll*

      I’m a real adult who does exactly this. People can leave a message, and I’ll call back at my earliest convenience.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Yep, I let it go to voicemail all the time. I’ll call right back if someone is asking me for something that will take 5 minutes, but if it’s a task or conversation that will take longer then I need to make some time for it.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah I think everyone else I know my age (early 30s) does this, as do I. I never answer the phone from an unknown number unless I’m actually expecting a specific call.

        I’m always baffled when my parents answer the phone when it’s from some unknown number and then don’t hang up right away when it’s some kind of sales pitch. It’s not like they get scammed, but I just don’t know why they would waste their own time in that way. If someone has any business actually calling you, they will leave a voicemail.

        1. Philosophia*

          Those of us of a certain age—even more so our parents—were taught it was courteous to give cold-callers at least an initial hearing. After due consideration, I broke the habit in adulthood, but it took practice.

          1. Artemesia*

            This is one of the reason that the elderly are so often scammed. Scammers rely on guilt and shame and politeness to push vulnerable people into costly commitments. The combination of politeness and somewhat diminished cognitive ability is disastrous.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Oh yikes, I am no spring chicken and have never heard of this (thankfully)! Even if the thinking was somehow that we want to help the cold-caller out, aren’t we wasting their time if we keep them on the phone without intending to buy anything? I was taught to politely say no and then hang up.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I don’t do this, but most of the people I know do. I promise they are all real adults, so no worries, you’re all doing it right!

      3. juliebulie*

        Same. I get a half dozen garbage calls per day. If I don’t know who it is, then letting it ring is the default.

      4. RobotWithHumanHair*

        I’m definitely the same way. I actually appreciated the way someone initially contacted me for a job that I applied for. She texted me first, identified herself and asked if I’d be free to talk on the phone for a bit. That took a LOT of the screening anxiety out of the process.

    5. Gaia*

      I am a real adult and I absolutely do not answer the phone if I don’t recognize the number. Even when job searching, I let it go to voicemail. I get way too many scam calls to answer unsolicited calls.

      1. Gaia*

        Also I often don’t answer even if I do recognize the number. Count me among the adults that doesn’t always want to talk. I will stare at my ringing phone, waiting for it to stop so I can text back.

        1. allathian*

          I don’t wait for my phone to stop ringing, if I don’t want to answer, I refuse the call, then text if the number is in my contacts.

          1. Matilda Jefferies*

            Sometimes I let it ring through because I don’t want the caller to know I’ve rejected the call! What a complicated world we’ve built for ourselves, with all these rules about answering the phone.

        2. Kylie (like Minogue, not Jenner)*

          Gaia….I don’t want to freak you out, but I think we might be the same person

      2. allathian*

        Me too. Although I will put the hiring manager’s phone number in my contacts, if it’s available. I filled an application recently and it had the phone number. I suppose they may have wanted applicants to call before applying, but I found out about the job so late that I didn’t. But at least I had my professional voice on when they called and I have an interview scheduled next week. :)

      3. MusicWithRocksIn*

        This is my problem. I don’t want to change my number because I’ve had it for over fifteen years, but I am on so many scam call lists. You can’t even block numbers anymore because they use those things that fake what number is calling. Probably I get one legit call from a number I don’t recognize out of every ten scam calls.

        1. Nea*

          I set up my personal cell phone so it won’t ring if the number isn’t in my contacts. If they leave a message I will deal appropriately at my leisure.

          For work, I answer with the phone’s extension, something I thought was common but no one else seems to have mentioned. Just pick it up and say, in a polite, professional tone “1111” and wait for them to say something.

        2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          Some cell phone carriers have an optional service to match calls against a spam/scam list, with the options of blocking those calls or displaying “scam likely” instead of a phone number. I know T-Mobile has that–I’m a T-Mobile customer–and I’m not sure which other carriers.

          It doesn’t catch everything, but it does help. I never answer those–if it’s a real call they can leave a message. (The car warranty things leave incoherent voicemail, which I delete.)

          1. Teapot Tía*

            Verizon has a call filter, too. I also use an app called Hiya, which has a neighbor scam ID option. IIRC, the free version just tells you onscreen that it’s likely to be a scam, & the paid version blocks those calls.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I don’t pick up unless I recognize the number and this is with a landline. I’m 59. My 80 something friend was getting herself pretty upset by all the scam phone calls. (She had other stuff running in the background which made the phone calls even more of an issue.) In my area, I’d estimate that at least 75% of the calls are spammers. (Why even have a phone, really.) My friend finally agreed just to answer the phone when she knew the number or saw person’s name on the ID.
        I just tell people to start to leave a message. If I am home I will call them right back. My landline does announce who is calling. I never thought I would enjoy having that feature but I do.

        1. Artemesia*

          I never answer the phone unless I know the number. I assume that if it is important they will leave a message or text. If I were job searching I would answer all calls — but otherwise? Nah.

    6. Terrysg*

      At the moment people working from home who have to use their own phone, usually use the prefix that makes their number come up as ‘private number’ on other phones. For that reason I’m answering phone calls from unknown numbers at the moment.

      1. allathian*

        That’s a fair point.
        That said, I’m in northern Europe. I literally don’t know anyone who even has a landline anymore. My parents got rid of theirs in the early 00s and my in-laws about ten years ago. Most people expect to be issued a work phone by their employer, if they are expected to answer calls from customers. Some people use their work phones for private calls as well. It could be a dual SIM phone with two separate numbers on the same device. My husband’s employer is very generous, they pay for all his personal calls as well as his work calls, including when he’s traveling abroad. We tend to stay in the EU when we travel, though, and his phone plan includes unlimited calls in the EU.

    7. Asenath*

      Well, I’ve been an adult a long time. I don’t know if I have it all down yet, but I certainly don’t bother to answer my home phone if I don’t recognize the number. I let them leave a message, just like you. At work, I answered all calls because that was part of my job, and I usually said “Llama Grooming Office, Asenath speaking” – unless I knew from call display that the caller was one of the co-workers I spoke to almost daily. If it was, I’d say “Hi Jane, how are things going?”.

      Working at home – a google number is the best bet, since you can answer each number appropriately. Otherwise, i think I’d go with just “Hello” until I figure out if it is a personal call, work call or scammer.

    8. LW4*

      I normally don’t answer the phone if I don’t recognize the number either, but since I’m using it for work calls I feel more obligated to answer during the day. I don’t really have clients so most of the calls are internal, but I just moved to a new department so I don’t have all my coworkers’ numbers yet.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        That definitely makes it seem more reasonable to answer numbers you don’t know. But, at the same time, wouldn’t those coworkers leave a short voicemail saying, “Hey, So-and-So here, just have a quick question” so you can call them right back? I guess it depends on the culture of your office…

        I think you still have the right to screen phone numbers you don’t know, even if it’s during working hours.

    9. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I think of the ringing phone as a suggestion, not a summons. And you’re fine — the person calling has no idea if you are indisposed or screening your calls (unless they also screen calls, in which case they aren’t judging you!).

      And yes, I do this on both my personal phone and my work phone. If I’m heads down trying to parse out contractual language, I’m not going to interrupt my train of thought to answer the phone unless it’s someone I’m expecting to call me (normal and expected in both my office and profession).

    10. Person from the Resume*

      If you are using your cell phone as your work number and if you can expect work calls from people not in your phone’s contacts, I think you have to answer and not screen. I assume that your job requires you to answer calls/talk to people from work or clients on your phone.

      That is why I have a land line. I did not want to have to answer calls from unknown numbers on my cell phone during work hours just in case, and I didn’t want to get work phone calls on my personal phone. I only answer the landline during work hours and let it go to voice mail just like a phone in the office the rest of the time. Jokes on me, though, that number clearly got sold to many telemarketers and I get so many non-work calls on it I now dread answering it.

      A google voice number transferred to your cell phone is an option too. Even in just the last 4 years, the number of phone calls I get for work has dropped drastically. We all can direct message and “skype” through our computers, and I do that unless the person on the other end has a slow connection and prefers the actual phone for voice quality.

      But it is also better for my own bad habits to be able to put my cell phone (i.e. distraction/procrastination device) in other room or on my worst days locked in my car on the carport.

    11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      My work calls now go to my cell, with no way for me to tell if it’s a work or a personal call. I answer most of the calls I get. The main reason being that my mom is 83 and has me listed as her primary contact everywhere, and a call can be from one of her doctors or caseworkers, and might be an emergency (so I cannot take my chances with just letting it roll into voice mail). I already had that experience with my dad. His cancer got worse and all of a sudden I was getting calls from multiple unknown numbers all day, with all of these calls being important and urgent. Second reason (and I don’t know of anyone else who does it, but it works for me….) if this is a spam call, I hang up, block the number, and never hear from that number again. I used to have a phone app that was really good at screening, but it stopped supporting Android. Got a different app (youmail), but it’s not doing as good a job identifying a caller as my old app used to, so I’m pretty much on my own again with flagging spammers.

      When I worked in the office, I admit I did not answer calls to my work phone from an unknown number with no caller ID. Reason being that recruiters had somehow figured out a way to cold call me and my coworkers on our work phones.

    12. Generic Name*

      If you don’t use your phone for work, there’s nothing wrong with not answering unknown numbers. If you do use it for work, and can expect calls from people who aren’t in your contact list, I think it makes good sense to answer unknown numbers. I get calls from clients etc on my phone, so I answer every time. I also am a parent, and I get calls from the school, doctors offices, etc. so for me it’s important to answer the phone.

    13. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “Re: #5 I tend not to answer the phone if it’s not a number I recognize. ”

      Would you do this if in #5’s situation, where some of the calls are for work?

      1. juliebulie*

        I’m not who you asked, but if a coworker decides to call me at home rather than use IM or email then probably. If the call is coming from an exchange that I think could be one of my coworkers, I’ll take it, but it’s almost always a robot. I still use an answering machine (not voicemail) on my landline, so I can hear them if they leave a message, and then I’ll pick up.

        If I were getting a lot more work-related calls from people I don’t know well (as opposed to the handful of people in my department) I would have to adjust this, but right now, yeah, I don’t mind screening my calls on an answering machine.

        The other thing is, about half of the garbage calls I get are spoofed as local calls, and I mean they are from my exact exchange. (I’ve gotten calls from my own phone number, lol.) There is virtually no one with a local number that would be calling me, so I know not to answer those. I really wish they would make it impossible to spoof numbers, but that’s a rant for another day.

    14. Jaybeetee*

      *Checks driver’s license* God help us, I’m an adult too (what other yahoos are they letting in?)

      I typically don’t answer unknown numbers on my personal phone nowadays, unless I’m expecting a call that may or may not come up with the name. When I answer for friends and family, it’s usually just some variation of “hey” or “hi”. On occasions when I was being called for a job, I’d go with either “hello” or “hello, (First Name) speaking.”

      For my work phone, unfortunately I do have to answer, which stinks because 90% of the time it’s a bot call of some kind (not sure how they have that number, I never give it out), the vast majority of my work communications are over email. But I answer the bots with, “Hello, (First name) speaking.”

      Back in the bad old call centre days, I remember those ridiculous greetings you had to use. “Thank you for calling (Longass Business Name), this is (First Name), how can I help you today?” I don’t know why no one can come up with call centres scripts that let the caller know they’ve reached an actual person.

      “Such-and-such residence, (First Name) speaking” reminds me of how I imagine people answered phones in the 1950s.

    15. Environmental Compliance*

      Work cell phone – I answer with a “This is EC.” This phone always gets answered.

      Personal, though? If it’s not a number I know or is in my phonebook, I don’t answer. Didn’t hurt me while job-searching – reasonable people would assume that I was likely at my existing job and couldn’t answer the phone that moment. I think at one point for my new(ish) job, I recognized the HR person’s number and did answer, and they were surprised to not get a voicemail, lol – sounded like it was pretty common for them to have people not immediately answer.

    16. Phony Genius*

      I ignore any call where the Caller ID just says the name of the city and state, with no person’s name, nor company name. Every single time I have answered those, they are scam calls. If there is ever an exception to that, they can leave a message, and I’ll call back. This applies to both my personal phone and work phone.

  5. Ping*

    Just one side note on drug testing and government agencies. If you’ve read Falcon and the Snowman then you’ll know that drug usage was part of the security breach.

    So yes, the government is leery about recreational drug use even when it doesn’t involve safety.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*


      Illegal activity of any kind sets you up for being blackmailed by adversaries.

      The company should have paid for a cab to get OP to the lab.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Yeah, even though I generally agree with the drug testing stance there are valid reasons to want to know (when I got a clearance for a past job, the security officer told me “we don’t care what you did, just who you did it with”).

      OP, any chance you could call your gov’t supervisor and ask them to push back for you? It may carry more weight to your company coming from them. And if that doesn’t work, I second what others have suggested: call an uber or taxi and expense it.

      1. Artemesia*

        Uber and taxi drivers are very much under economic pressure and likely to drive while sick — it is the worst transport choice in an epidemic.

        This is also the problem with day care and school — parents desperate to get to work are likely to give the kid a little tylenol and drop them at school when they ‘just have a little fever and aren’t really sick’ — minor issue usually, big deal in an epidemic. There is at least one day care incident I have read of recently where a parent did exactly that because ‘they needed to work’ and infected the entire day care.

        1. Malarkey01*

          I agree that cabs and uber aren’t ideal, but I’d take exposure to one person over exposure to 30 in a bus. Everyone’s assessment is different but I don’t think it’s the worst of public options.

        2. fposte*

          People riding the bus are also often under economic pressure and likely to have to travel while sick, though, and you’re going to be exposed to them longer (and vice versa). With an Uber or cab you can sit six feet away by being in the back on the passenger side and then you can open your window.

        3. New Jack Karyn*

          Lyft has all its drivers wearing masks, and riders are also required to do so, as well as sit in the back seat. Roll down the windows, and the risk is really minimal.

    3. AndersonDarling*

      Yep, I’m 99% sure that the contract company has a contract with the government that states they will perform random drug screen on their employees and submit the results. It’s what you have to do to work for the government. There would be no exceptions for a global pandemic, working from home, or anything else. It’s the government.
      So it’s nothing personal. If the company doesn’t comply then they open themselves up to voiding their government contract.

    4. ian*

      Wasn’t the government employee in the Falcon and the Snowman story not the one using or selling drugs though? I don’t see how the government drug testing “the Falcon” would have shown that he had a drug dealer friend who he was selling secrets through. If anything, it shows the limits of what drug testing can show you – a negative drug test there wouldn’t have proved that there wasn’t anything unsavory involving drugs going on.

    5. New Jack Karyn*

      This is the same reasoning they used for not hiring gay people–being ‘open to blackmail’. Well, if being gay–or smoking weed–was seen as benign (which both are), then you can’t be blackmailed for it. Making it a cause to lose your job was a big part of /why/ people might have been ‘open to blackmail’.

  6. bunniferous*

    Re #5, I use my personal phone as a business phone as well. I always answer “Hello, this is (Bunny)”….as for scammers, etc, I do pay a couple of bucks a month for caller id and it catches a certain percentage of scam calls. In my business I have to answer numbers I do not know all the time but honestly it is not that big a deal. If your carrier offers caller ID it is worth every penny.

    1. The Rural Juror*

      I had that feature for a while, then most of the spam calls started getting through anyway, which was really frustrating because I was getting like 5 a day! I have a phone number from the state where I used to live, but I use call-forwarding from my work phone to my cell. No one at work really needs to have my personal number. It’s been pretty easy to catch which ones are spam calls because they’re coming from phone numbers with my old area code, so it didn’t make sense to pay for the service anymore.

      1. bunniferous*

        I live in a military town so it is really common for local people to have out of state area codes, so that would not help me much. Sorry to hear your caller id did not work as well as mine did….

  7. Gaia*

    The only time drug testing should be done is when it is directly relevant to your job. For example, if you are an addiction counselor, you probably shouldn’t be recreationally using drugs. Otherwise, I agree with Alison on the use of performance testing (only when your job involves safety).

    1. Jaxom of Ruth*

      US law requires random drug testing programs in some safety sensitive positions. This is true for transportation companies (air, marine, rail, etc). There is even a required percentage of the company. Failure to take the test is assumed positive, which will get one fired and probably a loss of the credential that allows someone to work. Most of these people can’t work from home, so it doesn’t have the same affects of having to break quarantine.

      My job enforces these regulations on our portion of the industry. This includes the company and the individuals involved. Everyone involved has signed paperwork that informs them that they are subject to random drug testing, as well as pre-employment, performance, and post-incident as well.

      1. BikeLover*

        I like your user name, Jason!

        I am a government employee (active duty military) and our civilian contractors have to abide by the same zero tolerance drug policy that we do. If my contract employee was using this time (they are working shorter, “alternative “ hours) to do illegal drugs, I want to know about it.

          1. HR GovCon Guru**

            Well do you really want someone operating a tank, monitoring boilers and chillers that maintain critical computer systems, or security officers whose job it is protect critical government properties and employees under the influence and therefore put people and our country at risk? These are just a small list of those whose positions keep people and our country safe from those who want to do harm.

            And lets not even talk about those in the intel community who are monitoring satellites and ground footage. If they are under the influence then were basically giving enemy fire an opportunity to bomb bases, etc.

            So for someone commanding civilian contractors as well as those directly working for the DOD and Feds, you DO want to know.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Nope, I sure don’t want someone doing anything with safety implications while they’re impaired, and that’s why I want performance testing, which measures all sorts of impairment (including from cold medicine or fatigue). I don’t care if someone smoked a joint two weeks ago. I care about whether they’re impaired by anything right now while they’re at work.

            2. Gaia*

              Absolutely not. But I also don’t want them doing these things on less than sufficient sleep or while taking legally prescribed medication that impairs them. Why treat their recreational use different?

              1. HR GovCon Guru**

                Well its harder to determine lack of sleep since that isn’t objective. So a manager really needs to be cognizant of the signs and address them as they come up. But unfortunately, like other management issues, often times managers don’t want to address this as well, for the same reasons. Which is always a comforting thought when you’re talking about national security.

                As far as legally prescribed drugs, when you go in for a random drug screen, you are supposed to disclose if you are on ANY drugs so that when the screening comes back they can determine if it is something that needs to be addressed. And often times for prescribed drugs (painkillers, etc) the employee is required by contract to provide their script to the Dr only. If they don’t, it could be deemed a positive drug screening in which case we have to handle according to company policy and contract requirements.

                Typically in these positions when someone is on a prescribed controlled substance, it falls under the ADA, in which case we have the interactive dialogue. But unfortunately, depending on the position and level of importance to National Security, they are not able to perform that work. In some positions in Intelligence in particular you can’t have certain conditions that may impair you , and if i could tell you what those jobs entailed – you would want them to not be under any type of impairment.

                So while drug screening doesn’t weed out (no pun intended) those who fall asleep, for example, it does weed out those who choose to risk their jobs by taking drugs.

                And recreational use is problematic based on the time between taking said drugs and then going to work and monitoring satellite images of enemy fire nearby American military bases, etc as an example. So someone does a drug a few hours before going into work puts everyone at risk – themselves included. And lets not forget – drugs are still illegal under federal law . Ad even if it weren’t – The government still has the right to override their laws when the greater good comes into play.

                It should be noted that a lot of government contractors possess security clearances – and if they pop hot, they have to report that to their FSO and in most cases their clearances – or at the very least – their SCI’s – will be suspended. Or in certain positions, all together revoked. People who posses those clearances need to understand that – and typically do. I have had more than one conversation with a cleared employee – they need to understand the responsibility of holding a clearance. Not to mention the value of said clearance. The government doesn’t give those away as much as they used to. So they are highly valuable and those who hold them understand that.

              2. HR GovCon Guru**

                Well you can’t determine the proximity of taking said drugs recreationally and them going into work and performing their jobs. Plus, lets not forget – the drugs we are talking about in most cases are illegal under federal law.

                And with regards to those that aren’t illegal, but controlled, due to the positions they hold, and often times s a cleared employee, they are under obligation to report those drugs when taking a drug screen. And as part of the drug screen, they are required to share the prescription with the nurse practitioner administering the drug screen. And if they pop hot, then I have to have an interactive dialogue with them per ADA.

                But unfortunately in some cases, their conditions exclude them from many jobs in national security. Its just the nature of the job and is called a BFOQ – Bona Fide Occupational Qualification. There are many BFOQs – not just the need to not be on drugs while working.

                As for sleeping on duty – since there isn’t an objective way in most cases to prove sleeping on duty (expect in cases where it is filmed – which is often the case), you as a manager need to recognize the signs of such and manage as necessary. If the customer finds out it almost always results in a removal from the contract.

                It should also be noted that those who have security clearances who take drugs recreationally and are caught in most cases lose their security clearances. Cleared employees (especially those with polygraph clearances) typically make substantially more money than those who don’t, so the smart ones understand the ramifications of getting caught. You can appeal through the agency, but rarely do they reverse their decision.

                I am not against recreational drug use, but I do support certain jobs requiring that you don’t – ESPECIALLY positions under National Security and other jobs protecting people in general. And I do question those that think that no job should limit someone’s ability to take drugs recreationally.

          2. RagingADHD*

            Because it’s illegal and they work for the government?

            You want to change the law, fine. Lobby, vote, get it changed.

            But I think it makes sense to have government employees accountable for violating laws and participating in a violent underground economy. And as long as drugs are illegal, there is violence somewhere in the supply chain.

            Public corruption hurts all of us, and when there’s illegal activity and hidden payments going on in someone’s life, that’s a huge open door to corruption.

    2. HR GovCon Guru*

      This is actually not true – if its in the case of being a contractor or worker for a federal or state government job – they are allowed to drug test you for sitting at a desk all day. it doesn’t mean that they will, but typically government contractors working on facilities, driving, Intelligence jobs, and many others are routinely drug tested.

      1. Anononon*

        I read Gaia’s “should be done” as in “in a perfect world, drug testing would only be done when…”. Not times now that it’s currently legal to do.

      2. Gaia*

        No, it is true. It is what should happen. Just because we allow ridiculous policies and laws about drug use doesn’t mean we should.

        1. HR GovCon Guru**

          Ok – well I don’t want our troops – not to mentions civilians to die because someone was monitoring satellite images while high on drugs. I also don’t want drivers in cars to die because commercial drivers were high on anything. Maybe I am selfish.

          1. Max's Manager*

            That’s preposterous. There’s a difference between being high in the moment and drugs showing up days later in your urine.

            Just because someone does drugs does not mean they do them while working.

    3. Detective Amy Santiago*

      I work in healthcare and anyone who has access to pharmaceuticals in the course of their position needs to be drug tested.

      1. Altair*

        This is why the Pyxis and other drug dispensing appliances are so great. I had no access to the medication at all when I worked in healthcare, which kept me above suspicion.

      2. New Jack Karyn*

        What’s the ‘catch rate’ on these tests? Are they effective at doing what employers want?

  8. Heidi*

    So about these quizzes. Are they just verbal, “What did you learn about X?” questions? Or is Cersei writing quiz questions that you turn in for a grade? What happens if you fail the quiz? Do you get remedial training? I’m imagining OP and Jon with Number 2 pencils being watched by a proctor so they don’t cheat.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah, interesting. I was picturing something less formal — like Cersei just asking questions face-to-face, not anything written. If it’s written, it’s definitely stranger.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        I’ve delivered workplace training (I’ve got the certification), and the only time I’ve ever given a written “quiz” was a pre-course assessment to make sure similar needs were grouped together for the appropriate training session (e.g. for Excel, don’t put the people who need to learn Index-Match and macros with people who don’t know how to sort a list or do a Sum – yes, I’ve had both sets of people, it’s two different training experiences).
        The idea of doing a pop quiz for two people is a bit strange. I’ve done verbal pop quizzes when I’ve had 6+ ‘students’ because it’s a quick way to make sure everyone’s on the same page before moving on to the next section, but it’s not pass/fail. And I’m more than happy if one of the other ‘students’ wants to chip in with explaining the answer.
        With cross-training (and I was initially picturing exercise equipment!) pop quizzes are especially unnecessary as it should be a more ongoing process where the knowledge is consolidated by having person B do person A’s task and addressing any shortfall.

    2. Myrin*

      Oh my, I didn’t even think these quizzes could be verbal – my mind immediately jumped to a written test! I gotta say, while still strange and ineffective, the situation wouldn’t be quite as ludicrous if it were a face-to-face thing compared to what I had in mind!

      1. Rexish*

        I was thinking written pop-quiz like we had about irregular verbs in school. But then my mind got to verbal “hey, wanna show me how you do this?” type thing and it got less bad in my mind :D

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Optimistically, I pictured verbal quizzes with discussion included.
      I had a boss do this with me. We’d be working together on Mindless Task and he would start asking questions about material I had covered. (Granted, we had videos to watch, so there was some uniformity to the training….. if you could stay awake. They would put things in the middle of the video that you had to respond to, they must have know their videos were like Nyquil.)
      The boss did a good job with the questions. If I got it right he would expand on interesting surrounding info. If I got it wrong, no big deal, he would just explain a good way to remember the correct answer. Then he’d move on to the next question. As long as person was trying to work along on learning the material it was not anything to be concerned about.

      If OP’s boss is genuinely concerned about OP’s success this should turn into a non-issue. However we don’t know what the boss plans to do if the quizzes don’t go well.

    4. snowglobe*

      I don’t see anything weird about quizzing someone after training (written or verbal), if just to ensure the information is understood, and to help determine if additional training is needed. But in order to develop a quiz, you need to identify what things the person should have learned, so why not use that on the front end to determine what things should be included in training? If Cersei is going to test for knowledge of A,B,C, then Cersei needs to tell them that they should cover A,B,C in training.

    5. OP1*

      Yeah, I wasn’t particularly clear on what the quiz entails, I was just more put-off by the fact that it was being implemented without any kind of structure. The “quiz” itself is more like “Put together an email newsletter with the following information, and then when you’re done, we’ll compare it to the one that actually went out with that information six months ago and see how you did.” I get it, we’re doing this to make sure we can cover for each other when one of us isn’t in. But we also have all of our processes written out and documented, so even if someone is suddenly out, we have that to fall back on. If it were verbally asking questions about the process or even a written quiz, I’d be a bit less weirded out – that’s a good way to gauge how much I know!

        1. OP1*

          If she knew we’d gone over how to put together email newsletters, I’d agree! But she doesn’t. She’s not involved in the process of training whatsoever, and doesn’t tell us what we’ll be quizzed on until she assigns the quiz. And we’re not allowed to ask the person who usually handles it for help. She could very well assign a quiz on something we haven’t gone over at all.

          1. Archaeopteryx*

            Yeah, if she knows what she’s going to ask you in the quizzes, then she should be telling you guys what to train each other in specifically and when.

            When we precept new hires at my job, we have a multipage document with a checklist of all the different little angles and aspects of how to do your own job that you check off that you passed on to the other person. That way you don’t just let them watch you for a day or two and be like, I guess you’ve got it now! Because you might not remember to articulate some things that you do so often they’re totally rote to you, or things that only come up once in a blue moon and aren’t of the first things you remember to teach someone.

          2. Washi*

            But let’s say you haven’t gone over email newsletters. Do you have to do the task immediately right in front of her, or can you take some time to learn what needs to happen, work on it, and bring it back to her? If it’s the former, that’s definitely odd and potentially a big waste of time! If it’s the latter, it’s possible she’s just figuring that if you haven’t gone over that yet, now is your chance to do so and put it into practice at the same time.

            1. Malarkey01*

              If it’s the case you haven’t been trained on it yet, just say we haven’t gotten to talking about email newsletter formats yet. It seems like you are bristling under the lack of structure, but that’s honestly normal and will increase as you move up in an organization. It has been years since I had a manager that could perform the technical parts of my job and I can’t train someone on a lot of the reports and templates my assistants put together.

              Work examples are great assessments since they show you understand the technical basics as well as the nuances that go into the work.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              Or could you even just say, oh Fergus hasn’t gone over that with me yet. Could you quiz us on llama grooming accessories, because he explained that to me just the day after your last quiz?

          3. Heidi*

            Okay, so this is not great. Ideally, they tell you what you need to know, give you a reasonable amount of time to learn it and access to the materials you need to learn it, then ask questions that address applicable knowledge. There is no reason to arbitrarily test knowledge you will be able to look up in a real-life situation.

        2. Tomato Frog*

          It might be effective as learning assessment, but that’s a lot of time to ask someone to spend on something that isn’t actually a work product. I’m really against school-type assignments in the workplace, it does not make me feel like a trusted colleague.

          1. MCMonkeyBean*

            I took it to mean they were having her prepare and actual work product and then checking it over before they sent it out, but even if not I have on many occasions tried to recreate the prior period version of a file to make sure I understand how to do it correctly. I think that’s a reasonable way to review how a knowledge transfer is going and much more efficient than just asking random questions.

        3. LQ*

          I agree. This is active work that is a check to see if you understand what needs to be done. This is the kind of knowledge transfer check that is appropriate and recommended in adult learning. This is a good learning and assessment tool.

          1. Paulina*

            It’s a good assessment tool, but she also should be providing some basic information about the priorities of the various tasks to cross-train on. Without that, you’re just getting negative feedback early on, based solely on a difference in training order. It’s frustrating and not helpful.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, count me in the “nothing wrong here” camp. It’s not great if she’s not taking feedback on what she’s asking or scolding you for not being prepared–if you say “Oh, we haven’t covered that yet,” does she get stern or something? Does she not take into account if it’s a bad time?

        Otherwise, she’s probably just having the sudden thought “Huh, wonder if OP knows how to do that” and following up. If your newsletter is way off, then you don’t “fail” the test, she just knows you guys have more work to do there.

        And if she doesn’t do this, it will probably be a real-life pop quiz when your coworker is out sick and you have to create the live content.

    6. juliebulie*

      For me, that is exactly what I imagine when someone says “pop quiz.” And they will count for 25% of your grade!

  9. Enough*

    #3 My son did this although it did require a 2 hr trip for the second interview. And the second company traveled 2 hrs also to meet in the middle at their suggestion instead of a 4 hour trip for my son. Interviewed first company on a Friday and then Saturday morning drove to the other interview held over lunch and then drove back to fly home. Offered both jobs and took the second one. Has now been there 8 years and doing quite well. The first interviewer never knew about the other interview but was put out because he spent money to bring my son in for the interview and then he didn’t take the job. That just cemented the my son’s opinion that the first job was not a good fit for him.

  10. Kiitemso*

    #1 made me suddenly terrified, like “Am I guilty of this?”. I have a colleague and because when she got hired, my boss was busy (now she’s not our boss anymore but still busy) so I trained her. We went over things quite slowly and she could always ask if anything confused her. Sometimes I would ask, “Do you remember how to pull up our Caffeine Data?” and she might answer like, “Actually I don’t think that’s come up, so no.” and we will then revise it. It’s not a pop quiz so much as making sure there’s all these tiny tasks we have to do or remember how to do in case it comes up but it may not come up in weeks or months. Or I’ll ask like, “Do you remember who is in charge of Tea Bag Acquisitions?” because knowing our organization and its roles is important to our job. But it wasn’t to “catch her” for not knowing, it was to see what we needed to go over again so the information stuck better.

    I wish I had got some sort of training on how to do training, but basically it was all circumstantial because my work allows that flexibility to train others – though I have got good feedback on it from the people I’ve trained, even saying they learned more from my method of slow, steady and tons of revision than from my former boss’ method (apparently they thought she taught in a way that was too fast and very unorganized).

    How I handled cross-training was to basically go over the basics, then delegate a task to colleague and see how she does it, then correct if anything is wrong before submitting it, move onto the next thing. Basically learning by example, she can take notes, there are written instructions but it can be easier just to do it 5 times then to keep re-reading the instructions.

    1. Thistle Whistle*

      UK based here. Every single place I’ve worked has used peer training (including multinationals) and I’ve peer trained others at almost all as well.
      Its just how the world works. None of us have been trained in training, its just something you learn as you go (and some people are never any good at it). But sometimes you learn more from the bad trainers as you have to ask more questions to get the information you need.

      Formal training has been only occasionally available and usually only covers certain parts of the job (often specific systems training). In my experience formal training doesn’t give you the in depth knowledge that being taught by a colleague gives you.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        I’ve done train the trainer training, but that was as part of an outside gig early in my life when I thought my career would go in a completely different direction. A lot of the skills I found to be quite transferable, so I’ve done peer training in and around doing my day job, but with a background in how it’s supposed to go if done formally.

        For one company, formal training consisted of a specific trainer and 6 trainees going first through the basics, and then actually doing the job, but in a controlled safe environment. Training started on the employee’s Day 2 and lasted between 4 weeks and 3 months depending on the role (all entry level, but some required more detailed knowledge of the bespoke system).

        Worst negative feedback I got (and I get plenty)? When the company moved our pre-setup meeting room used for group training to one on the fourth floor on the same day that the Sales Team got their new radio and Sales Bell on the fourth floor. And even then, the feedback acknowledged that it was completely outside of my control, and we’d had to abandon the session after the second 50k sale was Ding Ding’d. If your company doesn’t take training seriously, it doesn’t matter if it’s formal or peer.

      2. TechWorker*


        We do have the very initial training done by people specifically chosen to be ‘good at it’ but even that’s just ‘a good technical understanding plus friendly/helpful’.

        On the other hand all of our central training is videos + online pop quiz… so I don’t find the idea of a written quiz as weird as some others seem to.

        1. allathian*

          I’ve done a course on GDPR as online training with a quiz at the end, so it’s not a big deal for me either. Although given the choice, I’d skip the video and just read the script, because trying to focus on a video to the point of actually learning something is exhausting for me and I’m a fast reader, so if I can read the script it takes much less time. It would feel very strange to do a quiz following hands-on training of some type, though.

          1. Philosophia*

            Don’t get me started on the demand that we all “learn” by watching movies and the utter refusal also to accommodate people who learn by reading.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              You are not alone! I hate videos. Corporate videos are always kinda too slick, or falsely bubbly and “fun” with excruciating jokes, or boring, with a person droning on and on through an introduction just looking at the camera standing against a boring plain screen, and I’m like “OK just tell me the important bits!” (I can make better jokes myself thank you!)

              1. Peter*

                Fortunately a lot of our animated voiceover videos also have subtitles, which means that I can learn 25% more in 50% of the time for the competition law compliance.

      3. Sharon*

        I’m in the USA and have been in the role of subject matter expert (consultant) who trained people at client companies who would then go on to train their peers. What I noticed was that it quickly became a game of “telephone”. I would teach X, they would later teach their peers X minus some critical details, or X with bizarre unrelated stuff added in.

        I also noticed that because those people I trained had their normal full-time jobs to do, by the time they got around to training their peers, months had generally passed. So much of what I trained was forgotten. Sometimes their company would pay to have us come out and do another training session (and again, only a few people who were expected to then train their peers).

    2. OP1*

      OP here – if only that were what Cersei wanted us to do! Learning by doing the job is something I’m used to from food service/retail because that’s just how training is done. Cersei is leaving us to train however we see fit, and then randomly deciding it’s time for a quiz with no knowledge of what we’ve gone over. And the “quiz” is “here’s the info for how the thing was done x months ago, do it, and we’ll compare your results to the real ones from back then”. What you’re describing is structured and makes sense to me, because the person doing the training is the person testing the knowledge. That’s not what Cersei is doing with us.

      1. Malarkey01*

        It’s Cersei checking in to see how you execute tasks. That’s really normal in peer to peer training to make sure both the person learning is absorbing the info and the person training is doing it in a manner acceptable to a supervisor. You’ve move to a different line of work where they aren’t standard repeatable tasks and turnover is lower- there’s not going to be a training course because they might only train 1 or 2 people in 5 years on this work.

        1. OP1*

          I agree that it’s normal for the person doing the training to do something like that, but Cersei doesn’t have anything to do with the training and doesn’t know if we’ve gone over what she’s asking us to do. Is that still normal? I’d say not, but I’m interested in your take.

          1. Malarkey01*

            As the supervisor she wants to see if you can produce work that meets expectations- she really is managing the process. As the supervisor she wants to see where you are along the learning curve and if Jon’s training is sufficient (she can’t manage his training of you just based on him saying yeah she gets it).

            It sounds like maybe there’s some expectation mismatches and also maybe you’re misreading her assessments. If you haven’t covered something yet and just say “oh we haven’t gotten there yet”, what’s her reaction? I would assume it’s either completely normal and not a big deal let me know when you’ve done it, OR if she’s surprised or not happy it would mean that your expectations are mismatched and it’s a great time to say “can we all sit down and get clear on what you want us to prioritize or focus on first”.

            I know my first office job after serving I was overwhelmed and read a lot into my managers actions. I wasn’t as used to the personal initiative and self guided learning and working and it does take some getting used to. It could also be that your manager is weird and approaching it badly but when that happens it helps to not think of it as a failed pop quiz but more of a “Im confused how do you want us to handle this”.

            Just my two cents

  11. Pepper Potts*

    I just wanted to add that my sister had to do a drug screen when she was offered a job. She’s one of those people who drinks water alllllllll day long, and because of that, she failed her drug test. Apparently the test flags it because people who are using substances will often drink a great deal of water to try to give a clean sample. My sister tried to retake the drug test, but the employer was being incredibly strict and refused. (Happy ending though: she found a job shortly after and we all learned a lesson about drinking water before a drug test, eeeek!)

    1. Retail not Retail*

      My sister stupidly went to the bathroom before leaving for the test and it was one of the most invasive any of us have ever taken – a testing employee was in there with her.

      They told her to come back after drinking something but nothing too light colored or it wouldn’t be accepted.

    2. Mel_05*

      Oh wow. I’ve never had to do a drug screen, I didn’t realize that could be an issue
      I’d definitely have to reduce my water intake.

    3. Kesnit*

      That’s insane.

      I’ve had to be drug tested for multiple jobs. I also have a problem with peeing in a cup. I literally have to pee so bad it hurts in order to be able to provide a sample. The only way I can do this is to chug water and wait until the pain starts. I have never had a test rejected for being too dilute.

      1. juliebulie*

        Same. I can pee like a champ 99% of the time, but I cannot do it easily if someone is waiting, so I need to take a big drink a little while before.

        And I also have to ask for a “hat”. Somehow my stream will elude the cup no matter what I do.

        But my pee tests are medical, not drug testing. So nobody cares if my sample is dilute.

    4. Delta Delta*

      I work with people who frequently get drug tested. Had a situation once where a client of mine had what was considered a “failure” because it was too dilute. A little sleuthing revealed that he worked for a paving company running the steamroller. If he didn’t drink a gallon (or more) of water a day he’d get very dehydrated because of the heat from the job. He called in tears – he wasn’t trying to cheat a drug test, he was just trying to do his job and not pass out. It all worked out in the end, so that’s a good thing.

    5. Third or Nothing!*

      Whoa. I never knew that! I would also fail for over-hydration. I haven’t had to do a drug test in years, but my husband works in the aerospace industry and is subject to random drug testing. Going to tell him this today as a heads-up just in case it ever happens to him too!

    6. Helen J*

      Wow, I never knew that was a thing! (Too much water for a drug test) Everyone where I work at drinks a lot of water everyday, probably more than a gallon per person for our 8 hour workday. I wonder if we got selected for a random drug test if we would get flagged? I’ve worked here for 18 years and have never actually had anyone selected for a random drug test. The paperwork would come to me and I would have to set-up the appointment. I wouldn’t see the results but along with my other duties, I’m the “HR contact” at work, although I have no actual HR experience (my official title is Administrative Assistant). Our HR works from a corporate office across town and they would get the results.

    7. kittymommy*

      Oh yeah too much water can definitely flag as dilute. In my last job I used to be the one responsible for pulling the people in for randoms (this was mandated by union contract or DOT) and then our RN or ARNP actually collected the sample and with the road guys it was occasionally an issue. Generally, the only times it was an actual issue is if they were in for a post accident screening, not necessarily the randoms.

    8. MCMonkeyBean*

      That’s very ridiculous. I only learned that overhydration could be a problem recently and I was really worried because I specifically drank a lot before my test to make sure I would be… uh… ready to take it lol.

      But my understanding is that it is not a “failing” result, it’s just inconclusive. They absolutely should have let her re-take the test. That’s a terribly policy on their part!

  12. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    OP4: Alison’s script is perfect. I would be so upset with a manager who deducted points for perkiness. It would make sense if you’re in a customer facing position like service or tourism, but without concrete examples, how can you be docked and expected to improve? Even if he did provide examples, this is a time of providing great leeway to employees. I can’t imagine most readers here are feeling very passionate about anything and are all clinging to the raft of top-buns, leggings, Zoloft, and Netflix like myself. Just keep swimming, we’re all in this together. And if you’re half as overwhelmed at keeping it together like the rest of us, therapy is a great place to get the picture back in focus. The Talkspace app is a godsend and is usually cheaper than most therapists (you can communicate daily with a licensed therapist through the app through just writing/audio or video depending on your plan). You don’t have to be “passionate” right now but you deserve to float a little easier.

    1. Retail not Retail*

      In customer service you can still be the wrong kind of perky and lord help you if you’re not perky when there are no customers.

      Our reviews are supposed to be this month but since we’re not getting raises with them, I wonder if my boss won’t do them. If he says anything about passion and perkiness, I’ll probably lose my mind. First you deny us raises (for a valid reason but still), then you hold reviews in July? Dude, you’re lucky I’m still upright by the end of the day. (Orange air quality alerts this week.)

      1. Malty*

        Ours are coming up but since we don’t get raises or anything from them and we’ve been closed the last few months my plan is to just nod through them.

        LW 4 I really feel for you. Your manager sucks. This would be uncool in regular times let alone now

      2. Helen J*

        I can fake perky on the phone, but I can’t in person. I’m fortunate to have moved to a position where I don’t see customers face to face regularly.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        My friend had to do her annual review about a month into lockdown. She had a moody teen who needed supervision doing her schoolwork, and a toddler needing constant supervision, and was WFH. She was asked about how she saw herself progressing in the company, at which point she burst into tears and said if she got covid she would probably die, having pretty bad asthma plus another complication, so she couldn’t see any further than trying to stay alive for her children’s sake.
        She resigned shortly afterwards.

    2. Sara without an H*

      I want to nominate “passion” and “passionate” for the AAM Lexicon of Shame, right up there with “team player,” and “we’re a family.”

      1. OP4*

        I’m wondering if some of his focus on passion is well-meant—he’s overall a good manager and we have a good relationship, which is part of what surprised me about this. In the past, I’ve really been enthusiastic about taking on more work/responsibilities, whereas right now I’m focused on getting everything done. This doesn’t mean that I’ve pushed back on anything new, just that I’m not seeking it out. The most generous interpretation is that he doesn’t want me to get bored, but it’s still frustrating to have it reflected in one of the scores. I feel like I’ve done excellent work for long enough that I deserve some slack during a crisis, especially when the work itself hasn’t suffered.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          OP, you should cut yourself some slack. Holding it together right now is hard for most people and it sounds like you’ve had an especially tough time. You’re right that your boss should be cutting you slack too and not commenting on your current lack of passion; a sensitive boss would realize that it’s rough for you right now and wouldn’t worry too much as long as you’re getting the work done. His response wasn’t great, I gotta say. Give yourself a break if you can and try not to worry too much about being extra-passionate right now, just do what you need to do to make it through.

        2. Marie*

          “In the past, I’ve really been enthusiastic about taking on more work/responsibilities, whereas right now I’m focused on getting everything done. ”

          I think this is really insightful, and would be a great thing to bring back to your boss. Before, you had bandwidth AND mental energy to take on new tasks with enthusiasm. Now, between your increased workload and the mental stresses of lockdown/personal events, you’re laser focused on keeping up with what’s already on your plate and making sure that the quality of your work doesn’t slip. That’s a good thing! And your boss should understand that.

        3. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

          OP4, maybe ask directly if your manager is worried about you getting bored? I just watched an episode of M*A*S*H..season 11, episode 1, where Major Houlihan is faced with an inspection of her nurses. In the end she just has to accept that her rating of “satisfactory” is going to be acceptable to her, even if it’s not perfect. I struggle sometimes with worrying that I’m not seen as “good enough” in a role, but maybe if you look at your evaluation as a whole perhaps to your manager you are more than good enough, and need to let the “lack of passion” slide, especially if he’s not offering any ideas of improvement.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Might your boss feel like he can’t possibly give you an all-round great review, like there has to be room for improvement somewhere? (thinking of the case I read about a while back where a referee felt that they had to make both positive and negative remarks, so it didn’t look too glowing)

        5. alanna of trebond*

          This is frustrating because it seems like it came from a good place on his part, but incorporating it into the scores and formal feedback was just the worst possible way to approach it.

          If someone I managed seemed like they’d gone from enthusiastic about the job to just checking boxes to get through the day, I’d want to check in to find out if they were bored or burned out or if it’s just, you know, the GLOBAL PANDEMIC UPENDING EVERYONE’S LIVES, even if the work was still satisfactory. But starting with the observation (“You seem less passionate”) rather than curiosity (“How are you feeling overall about your work right now?”) isn’t the right move, putting it in writing makes it worse, and adjusting the score on it… yikes.

          I second Alison’s response on going back to him.

    3. Khatul Madame*

      There is no excuse for a top-bun on a person of any gender. Un-perky I can take, but please do not make me look at top-buns.

    4. LT*

      I agree 100%! You should definitely push back! Frankly, unless you’re a Disney princess there’s no reason ‘passion’ should be a factor. There’s a difference between dedicated and passionate. Passionate is what they want you to act like so they can ding you for not putting in long hours and acting appreciative enough for just having a job in this pandemic. GRRRR. It’s a job, not (necessarily) a heart’s dearest wish!!! Best of luck to you, and good luck pushing back!

  13. Firstname Lastname*

    On the topic of answering the phone… I always answer my personal phone with “Good morning/afternoon/evening, Firstname Lastname speaking”. As I write and think about that, I think it flows better because both my first and last names are single syllables.

    Over the years, I’ve noticed that scammers and other unwelcome callers almost always reply with “Can I speak to Mr Lastname?” – presumably because they’re not paying any attention until they get a green light on their dashboard to start their script…

    My wife takes a different approach, and won’t answer her phone to an unrecognised number. From that I’ve learned the saddening fact that very few legitimate businesses know how to leave a clear and informative voicemail message. I sometimes wonder if this is data protection gone bad!

    1. Katefish*

      You’re on to something–in addition to ineptitude, if the call could even conceivably have anything to do with consumer credit, the FDCPA case law requires leaving a vague message or no message at all, depending on the part of the country.

    2. Kelly L.*

      Having worked briefly in a call center (worst job ever), sometimes you don’t even connect until after the other person has answered. The system is still on the last call, and then switches you over to the new one in medias res. So they might not have even heard you!

      1. The Rural Juror*

        Oh yeah, if I hear that pause before someone greets you, I’m hanging up. It’s a dead giveaway.

    3. Usually calm*

      I say, in a cheerful voice, “Hello, who’s calling, please?” I try to sound like I’m looking forward to the call, so it doesn’t feel rude.

  14. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP5 – if it’s an unknown number, and they are likely to be for work, then woukd it work for you to answer “Good morning/afternoon, (CompanyName)!”?

  15. Sans*

    #4- I hate the expectation of being passionate about your work! I’m okay with what I do, sometimes I even like it, and I try hard to go a good job. But it’s work. There’s a reason I’m being paid. It’s because I wouldn’t choose to sit at a desk for 40 hours a week otherwise. This expectation of passion is bs. I can do a very good job and have a good attitude, even without passion.

    1. Doctor Schmoctor*

      Same. I never understood the passion thing. I’ll show up on time, do my work to the expected standard and finish it on time.
      I don’t care about the company, I care about my paycheck.

    2. Titta*

      Yes! I am passionate about a lot of things, but my work is not one of them. Plus there is a reason I have not tried to turn my passion (art) into a career: I want to keep being passionate about it!

      1. LT*

        ^^This^^!! I like making & decorating cakes, and I think I’m pretty good at it! (For an amateur) Every time someone says ‘ this is beautiful, you should do this for a living!’ all I can think is how much I would eventually hate it, and how much better I’d need to be to make any money. Nobody needs that kind of stress!

    3. Mel_05*

      Yes. You can certainly expected to have a pleasant attitude, but passion just isn’t going to come into for many jobs.

      Even at a job I love, I’m going to have tasks that just don’t involve passion at all.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. There are parts of my job I enjoy and feel enthusiastic about and things that I do at work that make me happy (seeing a project successfully come to fruition or a member of staff really developing and progressing). But there are also things I don’t like doing and do them because I have to do.

        I think expecting passion for the job is unrealistic given that, in common with most people, I work to pay the bills. If I’m pleasant and professional that should be sufficient.

        Expecting “passion” reminds me of things like Wallmart making everyone cheer at the start of the day which to my (British) perspective is very weird.

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Agreed. I work with a woman who is insanely happy about the work she is doing, and gets ridiculously excited about what I consider mundane things. I like what I’m doing, and I work hard to do a good job, but if I hit the lottery tomorrow, I’d be out so quick your head would spin.

      1. JanetM*

        ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss wrote: “if I hit the lottery tomorrow, I’d be out so quick your head would spin.”

        I used to think that, but honestly, at this point I’d want to stay on the job for a few more years and retire. I really do enjoy what I’m doing, and at my university, there are some nice benefits to staying for 30 years; I’ve been here 26.

    5. allathian*

      Yeah, passion and perkiness are huge red flags to me! Especially in these times, I just don’t have the emotional bandwidth to be either passionate or perky at work. Luckily there’s no expectation of either at my job. Pleasant and professional should be enough.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Some people have different energy levels, it’s true. But some people do tend to subconsciously project their stress verbally, even though they don’t actually say or do anything bad. It’s kind of like “hearing the eye roll” even though you can’t see the person. Things like pauses, sighs, deep breaths, or very just flat speech. Think Alan Rickman style of speaking.

      But if that’s what the manager means, he needs to SAY that, and preferably in the moment, or have examples of when he hears it.

      1. Washi*

        Yes, and even then, I think you’d need to really spell out the impact. Like “collaboration is important in this role, and when you are monosyllabic in responses to questions, it makes other people hesitant to approach you” or “typically I would expect to see more initiative on X and Y, what’s up with that?”

        And I can’t imagine bringing stuff like that up without at least a brief “is everything ok?” If your normally great employee consistently seems down, I think I would want to non-confrontationally check in about what might be going on rather than start with “the passion is gone.”

    7. Archaeopteryx*

      Plus it’s pretty messed up not to expect that passion/enthusiasm will ebb and flow. We are all collectively stressed out and mildly traumatized by being in the middle of a pandemic – even if passion is something the company explicitly values, expecting the exact same amount of it all the time to be the same amount of palpable is basically requiring your employees to put vaseline on their teeth like a Miss America contestant and smile and tapdance for them.

  16. Titta*

    On the training quizzes:
    I have once been asked to train my replacement after being on the job for 2 MONTHS. (I was transferred to a different location) So, yes, I was bad at it. And I feel terribly sorry for my replacement. And she ended up leaving after three months…

    But yes, I can only second Alison’s advice. Talk to Cersei and name the things than everyone needs to learn. I had to do this my self. My manager told me to train them: “on the culture and how does someone in your role contribute to the team”. I had to tell them, kindly, that “I am sorry, I can’t do that.” I could barely give her a list of my duties and people they can ask questions, but that was it…

    1. Titta*

      And to clarify myself: I told my manager kindly, what I was and was not able to teach my replacement.

  17. Helvetica*

    About scam/sale phone calls – when I started at my government job, the number that came with my work phone kept getting inundated with salespeople calling and it was driving me crazy. I usually answer unknown numbers just “Hi, this is FirstName speaking” and that launched them into a tirade. But I then started answering with “FirstName LastName, Government Agency” because in my country, it is actually illegal to do sales calls on work numbers. And that put the onus on the salesperson to drop the call, which they always immediately did. YMMV, and I don’t know if that’s something that’d work in the US but this tactic worked for me. It also suits my work calls, even if it is a bit on the overly formal side but totally fine in the government.

    1. Solana*

      Oh, that would have been nice. When I worked in retail, we had this auto glass place that kept calling.
      Me- Hello, (Mumble) Books, how can I help you?
      AG- Hi, do you need your windshield replaced?
      Me (“Again?”)- Sir, this is a business number.
      AG- Do you have a company car that needs a windshield replaced?
      Me- Sir, we’re a bookstore.
      AG- Oh. Do any of your coworkers need their windshield replaced?
      Me-….sir, we’re not allowed to conduct personal business on company time. Please stop calling.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      I believe in the US telemarketers aren’t supposed to call business numbers. While I don’t answer unknown numbers 99% of the time (I commented above about that), when my company is in emergency mode during weather events I answer every call due to my emergency role. I’ve answered scammers/telemarketers a few times doing that and as soon as I realize it’s not someone contacting me re: emergency, I sternly tell them “this is a business phone, remove this number from your list” and hang up.

      1. LT*

        HA!! I get those calls all the time on my work phone. If it wasn’t that scam that was in chinese (I swear I was getting them two or three times a week for awhile), it’s some robo-call about my car warranty expiring (on my 15 year old car… right…).

    3. New Job So Much Better*

      We are working from home, and hubs and I have started answering our land line with the name of his bank employer… “XXX Bank, Fraud Division, this call is being recorded.” Doesn’t do much but it’s fun.

      1. Helen J*

        I do a version of that! We have a land line but only because it was part of our cable package and got us a lower monthly fee. We do not give that number out to anyone. So I know if I get a call on that line, it is either a scam, telemarketer or they are looking for the person who previously had that number. I usually go with “County Morgue, how may help you?” or “Smith Funeral Home”. They always just hang up.

        Funny side story: My husband got one of those calls about having a warrant out for him, do this to prevent getting arrested-blah, blah. He said, verbatim, “I tell you what. Meet me at the Sheriff’s Department and if there is a warrant out for me, I’ll turn myself in”. Haven’t had that call since.

  18. cncx*

    RE OP5, ever since the pandemic started and our company shifted to WFH, my coworkers just think they can call my cell WHENEVER. It is normal for me to get calls at 630 am or as late as 9pm these days and after about six weeks of it, i just turned my ringer off outside of 8 to 8 and it is set to ring if someone calls more than twice. so how i answer the phone depends on their level of audacity. business hours it’s hi this is cncx, 630am you get a frustrated “hi” or “what”…wfh does NOT mean we’re all just sitting by our computers all the time.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      A few years ago my company switched all of us over to Skype phone numbers. It was not a seamless transition, but it has paid off this year. I can’t imagine all these work calls coming in on my personal phone.

    2. Anononon*

      I’m using my personal phone for work right now, and fortunately I’m mostly/only calling attorneys (so I don’t mind them having my number as much as pro se individuals). However, I just had to email this one attorney yesterday that if he needs to reach me, please just email me. Don’t email, call, leave a voicemail, and text me all before 9 am.

  19. A person*

    #5: “But if you want, you could set up a Google voice number for work calls and set it to ring to your home phone, but adjust your settings to alert you when a call is coming in on that number.”

    This works GREAT! Makes it easy to tell which calls are coming from work and I can answer accordingly. Also I can set DND during non work hours and no work calls will ring through.

  20. D'Euly*

    “…where safety matters more than drug testing theater.”

    Ahh, I love a good Alison-burn in the morning.

    1. Dagny*

      I like Alison, but it’s a self-burn. She doesn’t know how these contracts work. Often, the government (state or federal) requires that their contractors maintain a drug-free workplace and flow down that requirement to subcontractors. By accepting the subcontract, the LW agreed to abide by the drug-free policy implemented by the prime.

      Now you’re all thinking, “Okay, sure, we understand that, but why does the contracting company have to be sticklers?” Answer is that they have no choice. If the policy they have in place says that every year, they randomly drug-test 10% of employees or subcontractors, and choose those people by a certain system, the prime contractor HAS to follow that process. If they do not, it is a compliance failure that would come up during an audit and can subject the company to fines, penalties, and possibly loss of future contracts.

        1. Annie Moose*

          Not really–her answer currently says the LW’s company sucks and is violating her privacy, when it’s clearly not the company’s choice. If it’s a condition of the government contract, then her company either has to do it or lose the contract.

          1. Dagny*


            That affects the OP’s options. Pushing back on taking the test isn’t one of them. Best suggestion I have is to ask them if they will pay for the Uber and travel time.

          2. Pescadero*

            The company chose to engage in a contract that required invading their employees privacy.

            1. Dagny*

              Bull. Employees of government contractors are aware of the requirements of being a government contractor. Their subcontractors are aware of this.

              If you’ve never worked in this area, maybe it’s surprising, but please look at all of the people in this field who are writing on this thread. Even the LW thinks there’s no choice.

              The answer is: the company has no choice; send them an expense report for the Uber. If you don’t feel comfortable taking an Uber, get a friend to drive you or borrow a car.

              1. Pescadero*

                I don’t disagree that folks know. It’s still a choice.

                Employees choose to work for a company that requires this. Companies choose to take contracts which require this.

      1. Colette*

        Sure, but they could handle it differently (arrange transportation or send someone to the OP instead of requiring her to travel, for example) since we are in the middle of a pandemic.

        1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*


          I would be astonished if the government contract said “there must be random drug testing, and the employer cannot provide or pay for travel to and from the testing site.”

          If they think there’s any chance that the people being (randomly or not) selected for testing might be impaired, they shouldn’t be pressuring them to drive anywhere.

          I am not a lawyer, and the company may have no legal liability for a hypothetical car crash involving someone who was driving to a required drug test, but the requirement would still be ethical. If you think someone might be impaired, by illegal drugs, legal ones (alcohol, Benadryl, or prescribed anti-depressants), or sleep deprivation, you shouldn’t tell them to drive.

          LW is worried about their safety on public transportation, which is reasonable; not everyone lives in places with good enough public transit for them to get from home to a random testing site. (This isn’t “not all sandwiches”–I have good public transit, and there are still significant numbers of things I can’t get to that way.)

          1. Le Sigh*

            I live in a place with pretty good (by U.S. standards) public transit (though it has many glaring gaps). I much prefer taking it to driving my car. Do you know what I 100% am not doing right now, because I don’t have to? Take public transit. Some people in my city have to take it to get to work and/or survive. I am not going to make it any more crowded for them or put myself at risk by taking a bus or subway right now when I do not have to.

          2. Dagny*

            They do not drug test because they suspect impairment; they drug test because they are legally required to.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              That’s the problem. It’s ridiculous that they are required to. Who cares if someone smoked weed last week? Or even did a line on a Saturday night, 36 hours before they were back on the clock?

                1. New Jack Karyn*

                  It’s. Ridiculous. That. They’re. Required. To.

                  I don’t know what you think I don’t understand about this.

      2. Annie Moose*

        Hard agree. I also work for a third-party contractor for government, and while the contract I’m on doesn’t require drug testing, some do–and there is zero pushback. You can dislike it, you can complain about it, you can explain all the reasons why you don’t want to do it… but if you want to keep your job, you have to do it. Your company has no wiggle room on this.

        1. Le Sigh*

          I generally have huge issues with the over-abundance of drug testing in the U.S. in general for jobs that truly do not require it, but I realize your practical point. I also think even if they have no leeway with the drug testing part, there is a pandemic. So what can they, as a company, do to keep their employees as safe as possible while still meeting that requirement? It’s not entirely clear from the letter but it also sounds like the company isn’t doing anything to help with that issue and is fine with LW taking public transit — which they have every right to be concerned about. I have to imagine there are some immuno-compromised employees (or those with housemates/family who are) among this company who would be putting themselves at serious risk under this approach.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Exactly. They could provide safer transportation or they could even send someone to her (the way some companies will do if you’re applying for, say, disability insurance).

        2. LQ*

          If you want to argue about this contact your congress people. They are much more effective for pushback than saying to your company, “Hey, I think you should go out of business because I don’t want to do this.”

            1. LQ*

              There are people saying that the employer shouldn’t have taken the contract. For a lot of companies who contract with the federal government that is their only source of income. Not taking those federal contracts would mean that employer wouldn’t exist. If the employer stops taking those contracts they go out of business. Going to your congresspeople is the right way to go. Both for federal contract work and more broadly to speak out against unnecessary, ineffective, expensive, and wasteful testing like this.

              1. Le Sigh*

                Sure, but I also don’t think LW is saying or implying any of this about their company. LW has a serious practical problem; they’re not saying their company shouldn’t have signed the contract nor that they shouldn’t exist. They’re pointing out circumstances have wildly changed and what the company is asking of them comes at potentially deadly cost to them — and that’s not exaggerating it.

                Now, I don’t know HR’s exact response to LW, but it doesn’t sound like they’re doing anything to help LW do this as safely as possible and that feels cold. They’re asking them to meet this obligation and take on all of the risk. That’s not what any of us signed up for (including the company!) — so yeah, I think it’s on all of us, including this company, to figure out how to adjust to this world and the new safety needs, not just tell LW to suck it up.

          1. Le Sigh*

            This isn’t “I don’t want to do this so screw your business, damn the man!” This is, “there is a deadly pandemic that is quickly ticking upward in communities across the country, people are dying in droves in some places. I need leeway — either to skip the test OR, if that can’t happen, help doing that safely.”

            LW and others signed these contracts before the pandemic. Circumstances have changed wildly and everyday things that were once safe no longer are. Contacting your congresspeople is fine for long-term policy change, but if, practically speaking, the company can’t change their rules because government, then, practically speaking, they need to solve the immediate issue of how to do this as safely as possible.

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

    OP4: Has your manager showed any signs of being tone deaf before? I’d be super angry if my manager said anything remotely similar, doesn’t he know there’s something that starts with “pan” and ends with “demic” going on right now? Maybe he is a negationist or believes it’s a conspiracy. Yuck.

  22. FedAnon*

    OP2, I feel your pain. I recently got a promotion and they REQUIRED a drug test for it even though our agency drug testing location was down. The local lead official (the same one who shut down the drug testing facility) could have waived the drug test requirement but didn’t. On top of that, most drug testing facilities in my state had switched to only doing COVID testing so I had to drive over an hour each way to get to the nearest facility that would actually drug test. It was extremely annoying.

  23. Dagny*

    LW2: Hard disagree with Alison here. This may be a legal requirement that the company cannot get out of. I was required to be drug-screened before returning from maternity leave, and yes, this was during the pandemic.

    Many types of government contractors are required to have a drug-free workplace policy and have a means of checking it. This is compliance function that the company itself might not be able to waive.

    1. Susie Q*

      Agreed. This is very common in the vast majority of contracts with the federal government. If you refuse to comply, the company could fire you as opposed to being in violation of a contract with the government.

    2. Dilly*

      Yes this. The company could lose their government contract if they don’t follow the terms that government put in the agreement.

    3. Dagny*

      The relevant federal clause is FAR 52.223-6. Private companies, sure, Alison is right – this is probably not a great thing to do. Federal government contractors (and I presume, many states) – company has no choice. They have to have a policy and maintain compliance with it.

      1. RozGrunwald*

        Big ups for being able to quote the specific clause in the FAR!

        I sometimes forget that the world I live in – which is entirely governed by the FAR, and also the conditions in the contract the company I worked for signed with the government – is not everyone’s world. This thread has been a good reminder. No one I work with relishes going for their drug test but it’s just such a part of our employment landscape, it kind of recedes into the background. I forget that for other people drug-testing is super-weird and invasive.

    4. Checkert*

      Cosign this. It can suck and still be required all at the same time. I’m also a govt contractor and there’s innumerable things we roll our eyes about but you still must do them. I’m sorry that the situation is occurring during a time that puts you at a higher risk.

    5. RadManCF*

      I’d like to add that the sort of testing that Alison describes would backfire horribly in certain safety sensitive positions, like truck drivers and train crews. Because these sorts of employees are often not in contact with supervisors except for a brief period at the beginning of a shift, employees who are so inclined would likely just wait until they are on the road to start using. This has been an issue in the past; a prominent example is the 1987 Maryland train crash, where a Conrail crew was going down the line (the Northeast Corridor, to be precise), smoking a joint. They reacted too late to a stop signal, and brought the train to a stop a great distance beyond the signal, right in the path of an oncoming passenger train which was moving at 100+ miles per hour. At the time, train crews were subjected to testing only if management suspected drug use, with the result that personnel who wanted to use drugs while working would wait to start using them until after they had gotten underway. The current scheme of random testing provides a much greater disincentive to drug use while on duty, and the characterization of it as “drug screening theatre” is IMO, very ill-informed.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        That was over thirty years ago, and there were several safety features that had been disabled. There was a similar crash in Canada the year before, and drugs were not involved. There are a lot more safety features in trains now–including how passenger cars are designed–as well as cameras that would record if someone was using while on the job.

        1. RadManCF*

          As I recall, the only safety feature that was disabled was a horn that would sound anytime the train passed a signal other than clear. The brakeman was also responsible for calling out signal indications as they were observed, which he failed to do. It is true that the accident would have been prevented if Automatic Train Stop had been installed, but it was not, and it was not required (on the Northeast Corridor, it is now). The NTSB stated that while safety devices were disabled, and that ATS would have prevented the accident, Bottom line was that drugs were the probable cause of the accident. There’s a concept in risk management called “defense in depth” which basically means that there should be several safeguards that have to be defeated in order for an accident to happen. In this context, random drug testing is one such safeguard, while ATS is another.

          1. RadManCF*

            I’ll add that in railroading, technologies like ATS, Automatic Train Control (ATC), and cab signaling aren’t safety panaceas, because they are all dependent upon Centralized Traffic Control (CTC, the system that controls the signals you see along the right-of-way. Some signals are automatic, and keep a safe distance between trains, while some are controlled manually by the dispatcher, and control what paths the trains take). Can’t stop a train after going through a non clear signal if there isn’t a signal in the first place. It’s not uncommon for a rail line to not have signals; CTC is bloody expensive (the signals themselves, detector circuits on the tracks, motors on the switches, consoles for the dispatchers, tens of thousands of miles of cabling) and many lines don’t have enough traffic to justify it. These lines have generally used radio communication to authorize train movements. Positive Train Control (PTC) shows some promise, but this system (these systems really) is (are) new and unproven, means different things in different implementations, and in some cases is GPS dependent, in which case it’s no good in tunnels. Furthermore, the PTC implementations that have proven the most reliable thus far are the ones using track circuits for train detection. Bottom line is that technology is just one piece of the safety puzzle, and one that can’t always be counted on.

      2. Dagny*

        There are also discrimination issues involved in only drug-testing people who you “suspect” may be using drugs. Random drug tests are non-discriminatory; subjective drug tests are open to tremendous abuse. Take yesterday’s letter-writer who manages a pregnant employee. Ron the awful owner could send Jane in for drug tests constantly because she’s “fatigued” or otherwise acting like she’s on drugs. That eats up her day and is time away from work that she has to make up later or time she’s not spending on her work.

        1. HBJ*

          For the record, this is illegal. Not saying that means it never happens, but it is illegal and exposes the company to legal risk. I would certainly expect that constantly sending someone for reasonable cause drug tests that are never positive would raise some flags.

          At least for federally-regulated drug programs, there is supposed to be documentation, which is then to be kept, for why there’s reasonable cause for a test. Additionally, post-employment drug testing is required to be paid, so she should not have to make up the time.

  24. Susie Q*

    Yep. When you contract or work for the government, you should operate under the assumption that you could be asked for a drug test at any point. It’s part of the “privilege” that comes with doing work for the government.

  25. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #1 – yes the pop quizzes on your manager’s part are odd, and I think you need to each have a conversation with them about expectations, but it’s not the manager’s job to do the actual cross training. Your manager should know what each of you do in your roles, but they are not involved in the day to day aspects of it and shouldn’t be the one doing the cross training. I would recommend documenting the things you do – this may help in knowing what things to teach your colleague. And perform some of each other’s tasks while you’re both in the office so you can ask questions if they come up. The point of cross training is to be able to do that person’s job if they’re out or they leave – so just teaching them the basics is probably not enough.

    1. OP1*

      We already have everything documented, and if Cersei weren’t the one directly implementing the quizzes herself, I’d agree that she shouldn’t be involved in the cross training at all. But she’s quizzing us with no knowledge whatsoever of what we have and haven’t already gone over, and sometimes no knowledge of the thing she’s quizzing us on. She’s just giving us the information used to do something however many months ago, telling us to do it, and checking what we did against what was done back then. The person who does the function normally has nothing to do with the assessment, it’s all Cersei. So she’s making herself involved, but not telling us what she wants us to go over, what she wants us to be prepared for, or really anything beyond “train each other and I’ll quiz you later”.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      This is where my field falls. I was baffled that Cersei would even know what to quiz OP and Jon on. In my field, most of the managers maybe did the actual hands-on work that they’re managing years ago, with much older and different technologies, and have a very cursory knowledge of what it entails today. Having a manager quiz their reports on their day-to-day work would be a disaster. I agree with all of your recommendations on how to cross-train, especially the one about getting to do each other’s work while the other person is in the office and can help out if you get stuck.

  26. IStealPens*

    #2 – As an HR manager for a well-known Government Contractor with drug testing mandated by contract – unless the Contracting Officer sends a modification (called a contract mod) to the contractor, if the contractor doesn’t comply, they are in violation of the contract and can suffer a lot of ramifications – not jut loss of contract. So your HR requiring a random drug screening – they are simply doing their job per the contract. A LOT of government contracts have drug screen requirements – and most of the ones I support include random drug screens. And trust me when I say – they are effective. At least one random drug screen cycle results in a positive.

    Question – are you still performing work on the contract? If so, this isn’t unreasonable. The agency wants their workers to be drug-free while doing the work. It doesn’t matter where the work is being performed. It also doesn’t matter where you have gone during the pandemic. In fact, I would be more concerned with people being home more often and therefore having more free time to partake.

    So i would take the contract requirements into consideration. In this instance I am in agreement with your HR department.

    1. Pescadero*

      The fact that drug screens find that some people are using drugs doesn’t really mean they’re “effective”.

      1. LQ*

        Effective doesn’t matter if it is governmentally mandated. If you want to talk about effective call your congress person. No seriously. Tell them that this is stupid, ineffective, and putting people actively in harms way. Tell the people who stupidly dictated this mandate without any understanding of effective, useful, economically sensical, or reasonable.

      2. Dagny*

        If you are mandated to have a drug-free workplace and your screen root out drug users, they are effective.

        Please read up on the relevant requirements here. Start with the Drug-Free Workplace Policy of 1988.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Having a workforce free of people who chose to consume drugs in their off hours, in their own home, is in itself an offensive and over-stepping policy. (And yes, I understand the law; I’m talking about what’s right and ethical and effective, not what the law says.) The policy should be about safe workplaces.

          This is like defending alcohol prohibition or book burning simply because “it’s the law”; I don’t know why anyone would.

          1. Dagny*

            Alison, while this is your site and your rules govern, in normal situations, it is wildly inappropriate to call an attorney a Nazi for explaining what the law is.

            Ten hours ago, you were completely unaware of the law and the requirements of government contractors. This was clear by your response, which was to say “your company sucks.” Myself and other people who are knowledgeable about this area brought up the relevant laws, which are different from the private sector. We may not like those laws, we may not have written the laws that way, but government contractors are obligated to keep drug-free workplaces. That’s actually the end of the discussion.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Who has called anyone a Nazi in this discussion? I certainly haven’t, and a search for the word on the page doesn’t bring it up.

              I was not unaware of the law (I’ve written about it here previously … and I live in the DC area, teeming with federal contractors). I did use imprecise wording in my answer, which I fixed when it was pointed out.

              Something being illegal is not the end of the discussion. That’s not how democracy and progress and ethical citizenship work.

  27. Lady Catherine de Bourgh*

    If someone is being hounded by a debt collector, they may not want to give their name and confirm that the phone number is indeed for that person.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      I don’t think that will make much difference, they don’t listen anyway. Answering my phone with “Hello, this is Ray” didn’t stop a debt collector looking for someone named Travis.

  28. Lexi Kate*

    #1 I’m on the fence on if there should be formal training for cross training people in the same area. Are you and Jon entry level? Is there a big learning curve for the job you do (certifications, new systems that you have not run, anything that would require formal training for a department transfer). If either of these are true then yes your boss should have some kind of formal training. If not then no most people should be able to teach a colleague that has the same department their job. In a perfect world where we all get equal and fair pay yes they would set up formal training, the reality is in most jobs someone in the job is training the new guy.

    1. Lexi Kate*

      Also I am a firm believer that any quiz at work should be rewarded with Chocolate or free lunch depending on the length of the quiz. My favorite mentor when I started as Customer Service would ask his employees questions on new things and if you got it right you got a Dove chocolate mini, in sector filled with women the man was a genius.

      1. OP1*

        We’re both entry-level, and the things we’re training on are very involved and complicated. I’m not even looking for formal training, I’m looking for structure – as in, what does Cersei want us to cover? When does she want us to cover it by? She assigns the quizzes without any knowledge of what we have and haven’t gone over, and could very well assign a quiz on something we haven’t touched yet. If she wants to check that we know our stuff, great, but she needs to know what we’ve gone over before she can check if we know it or not.

        1. Lexi Kate*

          Being entry level yes Cersei should be leading the training with at the very least a schedule or list of what she needs you to learn.

        2. Paulina*

          She should be setting priorities for tasks in the cross-training, especially since she clearly has them (at least when she makes up the quiz she does). Expecting entry-level employees to magically know what her priorities are, or to cross-train on everything quickly when you also have jobs to do, is unreasonable and the results are demoralizing. Can you ask her for priorities?

  29. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#4 – Your manager has made a classic management blunder: giving feedback that isn’t actionable. Telling employees to be “passionate” or “professional” (another vague and useless term) doesn’t give the employee anything specific to do or a goal to achieve.

    While you may not want to share a lot of personal information with Boss Clueless, I think Alison’s script is a good way to give just enough information. If he won’t adjust your evaluation, would it help to talk with HR?

    1. OP4*

      I’m going to sit with the advice, but I’m not sure if it’s worth bringing up again with management, and I’m even more hesitant to escalate it… I don’t know if my manager will react well to returning to the conversation. My team, plus my company in general, has been pretty supportive and flexible with Covid. It’s the kind of thing I’m relieved about and thankful for as an employee, but I also think that from management there’s kind of an unspoken assumption that they’ve done/are doing enough for us. I’d be worried about being perceived as “ungrateful” on top of not passionate.

      It definitely has already been helpful for me just to have Alison and commenters affirm that I’m not being over sensitive! I just need to decide if it’s better for me and my mental health to let it go or to raise it and push back.

      1. Sara without an H*

        It’s OK to just let things sit for awhile, especially under our present weird circumstances. Take care of yourself first, and please consider updating us at a later date.

      2. Marie*

        I don’t want to spook you, but my newly ex-coworker received similar feedback on her last annual review. She chose to dispute it by providing documented recent examples of doing her job well in exactly the opposite of the flaws her manager had listed in her review. She showed me the email; it was entirely professional. Management didn’t take it that way — they tacked on the charge of “argumentative” and PIP’d her. Six months later, she was fired.

        From over here, it’s obvious she was done dirty, and it’s changed the way I relate to management and how I’m planning my career with respect to this organization.

        I don’t know your management, but then again, I didn’t expect this from my management either. Speaking up might well not be in your interest, especially given the ongoing recession.

  30. MissDisplaced*

    4. My manager told me I don’t seem passionate about my work anymore

    I really hate that some workplaces seem to expect some ridiculous over-the-top fake passion and enthusiasm to be part of the job “requirements.” I like my work generally, but come on, it IS WORK and like pretty much anyone, of course I’d rather not be working if I was independently wealthy and didn’t have to! And on top of that, it’s expected during a global pandemic when everything is stressful. And I don’t think it belongs as a rating on a job review, unless there is truly a behavioral issue.

    But that being said, I would suggest thinking about your tone while at work. I don’t mean you’re saying anything wrong specifically, but some people do pick up more on things like when they ask you to do something, if you seem to hesitate or sound slightly put out, or sigh more than usual (almost like you can hear the eye rolling if you could see the person)? Tone isn’t always obvious either, you might be inflecting some of this unconsciously, especially if you’ve got a lot on your mind lately. Pay attention to other’s verbal cues, such as if they say things like “everything ok?” or “is that ok?” after you speak. If you do hear that a lot, you might be subconsciously projecting a little too much.

    But your manager really shouldn’t hold it against you on a review if they can’t articulate what they think they’re perceiving in your tone as what they infer as lacking passion.

    1. OP4*

      I appreciate this! I did some soul searching on tone when I got this feedback, and I think it’s more of an absence of positivity than a new source of negativity, if that makes sense. I typically am a pretty upbeat and funny person, and I haven’t been engaging on that level as much. I don’t doubt that people have caught that I’m not as cheerful, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t been unhelpful or unpleasant anywhere… I’ll definitely keep it in mind! I still don’t think “passion” is an appropriate metric, especially in the context of a pandemic, but I don’t want to be the office Debby Downer either.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        It seems like your manager kind of failed you on this front. Instead of saying, “Hey, how have you been? I’ve noticed you’re not as upbeat as usual.” they assumed that you’re not as passionate about your work (?!?!). That’s not a fair assessment of the situation. Everyone is stressed these days and has every right to be.

      2. Kaaaaaren*

        OP4 — It’s idiotic of your boss to try to make this part of your performance review. You are doing all your work PLUS new tasks in a professional manner and you’re not being actively negative, just… less positive and upbeat. MOST people are less positive and upbeat these days, given all that’s going on — it’s normal.

        By your Debbie Downer comment, I’m guessing you’re woman and it looks like your manager is a man. I’d be curious to know if he is tone- and attitude-policing his male reports in this same way.

        1. Marie*

          “Fun” fact, when the women on my team compared notes we realized that we had ALL received some form of “be less emotional” as the primary content of our annual reviews. The one woman who disputed it has since been fired.

          And they wonder why we have a retention problem smh

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      When I read the letter from OP4, it screamed “Burnout” to me.

  31. Grits McGee*

    My coworker (fed gov) had to take not one but TWO drug tests in the past couple weeks that were part of the requirements for a within-office promotion. (The testing company lost chain of custody on the original sample.) The theory going ’round our neck of the woods is that agencies are seeing the writing on the wall vis-à-vis the federal budget deficit, and there’s no faster way to cut costs than the summary dismissal of employees with a positive drug test.

  32. glitter writer*

    I don’t give my name when I answer my personal phone not because of concerns about scams, but because I’ve had phone stalkers before. Also because of that, I never give out my personal number for work reasons. I got a Google Voice line I give out instead, and have printed on my business cards as “cell.”

  33. Person from the Resume*

    For LW#2, I’m not going to argue about the validity or useful of drug tests.

    Note: the phone call came from the company and not the government agency. Maybe because of their contract with the government, the company must randomly test people every month/week and that clause is not suspended at the moment. I mean, the USA has stupidly reopened for business. I don’t know if the drug testing clinic was deemed essential and remained open throughout the pandemic, but it is open for business now apparently.

    If you are the kind of person who thinks drug tests are a good idea, then you might ramp it up during increased work from home because you don’t know what people are doing at home all say. And employees might think drug testing is suspended so this is a chance to “catch” people.

    IDK, I’m guess I’m just saying that this sucks, but it is the prerogative of the bosses under our currently set of laws.

  34. Case of the Mondays*

    On the drug test, you could point out that at the height of the pandemic, even probation departments stopped conducting drug tests.

    Some moved to spit tests instead where they would send you the kit, you would video chat the proctor, unseal the vial, spit in it, and sit and awkwardly wait for the result and then show the result to the proctor on video. Pretty hard to cheat. Less sensitive than pee tests though.

    Source: friends with some POs.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      What do you mean “at the height of the pandemic”? It might have calmed down where you are, but it’s only just starting in some places!

  35. Rachel in NYC*

    I wonder what this says about how OP1’s office does training in general. I love my current job and office. It is really healthy from a general perspective- but when I started it was a disaster from a training perspective. Two people had the job of training me as part of their job but it was PART of their job so they sort of threw it in there (as if there was no plan.) Which meant I had a LOT of free time- at first, I read anything online related to this job I could. Then manuals that were in the office.

    But the reality was the first couple of months, I had a LOT of free time- which turned into a LOT of internet time. Which turned into a LOT of bad habits.

    If they had given me a project to do when I had down time, it would have solved/limited the problem. (I had a previous job do that.)

  36. Lucy Honeychurch*

    Last year I went to a workshop where different leaders discussed drug testing and it does seem the tide is turning for marijuana acceptance, albeit slowly. More companies are getting rid of drug testing altogether and those that are keeping drug testing are eliminating cannabis testing specifically. ”

    It turned into a very good discussion that a cultural shift is taking place, where we need to view marijuana as just as acceptable (obviously for after-hours) similar to having a glass of wine or a beer after work. Many in the room agreed, and I was surprised by the conversation. These were managers from all types of industries.

  37. DarnTheMan*

    OP#5 seconding (thirding?) the recommendation to combine some variation of the two if you feel like saying ‘this is X’ is maybe a too abrupt way to answer the phone. Common practice at my work when we were in office was to answer the phone with “[Company Name], this is DarnTheMan” so now when answering my work phone I usually use “Hi, this is DarnTheMan”

  38. PromotionalKittenBasket*

    One of the reasons I read you is because of things like that link. You’re the best.

  39. Remote HealthWorker*

    #4 If your boss has bristled in a how dare they tell me how to manage way then instead of using Alison’s excellent script most reviews allow you to make a comment when you sign your review.

    I would write something like: “Despite the difficulties of the prior year – a global pandemic, a family death, and more I am proud that I could not only deliver at the same level as last year, but also was able to successfully take on x, y, and z. While my enthusiasm is mentioned as an area to work on, I am admittedly lost without any examples. I look forward to working on improving this once I can be provided with specific
    guidance on what it means”

  40. Orange You Glad*

    #1 – This is how training has always happened where I’ve worked, not the “pop quizzes” but the peer to peer sharing of knowledge. Usually when I need to train a coworker on a task, we sit down and do it together, going step by step through the procedure guide. If you don’t have a procedure guide, make one together while going through the steps. I’ve never had “structured training” except when I’ve paid to attend training sessions on specific software through the software vendors.

    I’m guessing the cross-training is to ensure no hiccups if one of you were ever on an extended absence or leave the company. The other will know the basics of what needs to be done, as well as where to access the instructions.

  41. Emi.*

    LW4, you are not overreacting and as a union steward I would grieve the hell out of it if anyone pulled a stunt like that on one of our members. Your boss needs to articulate an actual performance concern or drop it entirely.

  42. Nanc*

    OP1, does your job have written SOPs (standard operating procedures)? If so, ask your boss to review the table of contents and prioritize the order for training. If not, you may have to come up with a topic list, ask her to prioritize and write SOPs as you train. Perhaps if you’re proactive and give her suggestions she’ll begin to create some structure around the training process. Good luck and let us know how it goes.

    OP5, Are your calls being forwarded from your work extension? If so, does your phone system have an App? Ours does so when my mobile rings I can see it came from my office phone and answer appropriately.
    I will admit when I recognize persistent sales calls I sometimes want to channel my inner Henry Standing Bear and answer “It is a beautiful day at the [my company] and continual soiree.”

  43. Bob*

    LW1: I would follow Alison’s advice but i would point out that pop quizzes are not helping and even hurting your morale. You prefer other effective methods of testing which the three of you could work out, perhaps even job swapping on occasion?
    You don’t have to accept pop quizzes without complaint just because your boss likes them.

  44. Bob*

    LW3: Your BF doesn’t have to tell them he interviewed with the other company while he was in town, he doesn’t even have to tell them which company he went with. And feel free to tell them that their below market wages was the reason he didn’t accept their offer. Don’t get mad or accusatory, just mention it as the explanation as you would any other neutral information you would give. That is if he wishes at all to tell them why he didn’t accept their offer.

  45. Kaaaaaren*

    OP4 — I feel the expectation of “passion” not only doesn’t belong on a performance review, it shouldn’t even be a conversation. People come into work (or log into work, whatever) and if they’re getting their work done and are reliable, have a professional demeanor, and such, why does it matter if they don’t feel or show PASSION? We trade our time and labor for pay, but that doesn’t give managers or employers the right to stage manage people’s emotions.

    1. Pomona Sprout*

      I agree; in fact, #4 made me see red! A performance evaluation is supposed to be an evaluation of the person’s PERFORMANCE, not an evaluation of what emotions they are feeling about the work they are performing.

      As an employer, you get to tell your employees what you want done and how you want them to accomplish it. You get to tell them whether and to what extent they are doing the job the way you want it done and producing the results you want. How they feel about their job or the work they are doing is not your concern unless it has negative impacts on how well they do the work–in which case, you should have no trouble providing tangible examples or clearly specifying what needs to change.

      I think OP#4’s boss is being ridiculous. Unfortunately, in most of the US., bosses can withhold raises and promotions and even fire people for ridiculous reasons (including being unwilling or unable to calibrate and/or fake the emotions they want to see). Yay for at-will employment. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  46. Nikki*

    I’d like to gently push back on the concept that “performance testing” is inherently more equitable than drug testing.

    Yes, safety matters, and performance testing is fair and appropriate for jobs where there is a legitimate safety concern. But for any other position, performance testing is a violation of privacy and using it to judge employees is harmful.

    My reaction time has been terrible since I was a kid. I once did a science experiment involving reaction time, and all it revealed was that my reaction time was significantly slower than all my friends’. Obviously, I’m never going to be a test pilot, and I’m ok with that.

    However, there’s a reason why my reaction time is so bad. I recently learned that I have significant nerve and muscle damage in my hands caused by a genetic disorder. I’m perfectly safe to drive a car or perform any of the normal functions of life, but if you test my reaction time I will be slower than the average person. Simply put: I’m disabled.

    I’m not arguing that I deserve to hold a position where reaction time is a key safety factor. But I don’t want to see performance testing used as a convenient replacement for drug testing in non-safety situations. I don’t believe that’s the argument that Alison or the ACLU is making, but it’s something I’d like to raise nevertheless!

  47. Jennifer Juniper*

    OP4: It sounds like your manager is trying to save a buck to avoid giving you a raise. He could be making up BS reasons to lower your review scores.

    1. OP4*

      I don’t think that’s likely, thankfully. I’m paid quite well and feel comfortable in that regard. That said, there’s a new bonus structure that IS tied to those reviews, which is definitely incentivizing going back to address it…

  48. Tango*

    To the person with the cell phone question:

    Something I learned baack when I used a shared land line in college because limited minutes were a thing on cell phones is to answer with anything other than hello – it breaks robocalling systems expecting the response. In the apartment, we’d answer the the address, in a house we used our names (but unlimited cell plans started to be reasonable by then).

    I still answered my personal phone, and occasionally unexpected calls to my work phone, with “This is NAME.” Robocalls looking to fool you into thinking someone is on the line go silent and I almost never get a second call from those numbers.

    If you’re using a personal phone for work, “Hello” is rather informal to me, but understandable because you don’t know if the call is work related or not.

  49. mazarin*

    OP5- I answer my personal/work phone with ” Hello, [company name] eg, Hello, llama co, how can I help you? Anyone random who calls just gets the company name, anyone who is my friend knows I work there anyway. Saying something longer than ‘ hello’ tends to break robocalls and scripted calls, as above, as well.

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