updates: the public speaking, the LinkedIn tagger, and more

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

1. Is it okay for my employees to say they’re “just not cut out for public speaking”?

I appreciated the healthy debate around this topic in the comments! Once I spelled out my expectations more clearly than I had in the post (that my teammates would discuss their own work for 2-3 minutes each at a departmental meeting) it was interesting to note that many commenters still thought that this might be too much to ask of someone who doesn’t like speaking to groups. While I’m not sure I agree, I believe that the crux of my team issues hinged on something that comes up on this website often, which is that it’s sometimes hard to recognize a dysfunctional workplace until you leave. While both of these employees were somewhat challenging to work with, the associate director in particular remains one of the most difficult, hardheaded, irrational, and just plain unlikable people I have ever encountered, either professionally or personally. Their tenure with the team (that pre-dated my own) and their good work on very specific tasks that nobody else knew how to do made them an especially tough case to manage.

I didn’t realize how strongly I felt about them until I accepted a new job offer, and practically floated out of the room when I realized I’d never have to interact with them again. I’ve been at my new job for a little under a year, and my inherited team of five at a place with good hiring and management practices and high expectations of staff has been an absolute joy to coach and manage. Thank you for the advice, Alison, both on this post and on a daily basis!

Note from Alison: This was an interesting one, because some additional details came out in the comments that really changed the advice. Initially it had sounded like you wanted to push your two employees to do pretty significant public speaking — entire presentations, etc. But then in the comment section you clarified that you were only asking them to speak a few sentences (with a few slides) at any given meeting, which is a much different thing, and very reasonable to expect them to do. I’m glad you’re out of there and in a better place now!

2. How wary should I be of a job that was re-opened after only nine months? (#5 at the link)

I never heard back about this job, but some LinkedIn stalking showed that the original person has remained in the position, and the job posting was taken down. I’d have thought they changed their mind when the pandemic happened, but the job was posted 5 months into the pandemic. Who knows! Maybe the person changed their mind once the pandemic was sticking around for the foreseeable future, or something else changed that as an outside applicant I couldn’t know.

Regardless, after doing some professional introspection, I realized I love working from home and want to continue to do it primarily going forward. I broached the issue with my current office (identifying that I have been more productive while working from home, have had excellent reviews and feedback, and been more engaged), and was told for various reasons it would likely not be tenable. Further, even our prepandemic occasional work from home privilege may not be allowed anymore either.

Given this, I’ve started to look for positions in my field that are fully or primarily remote (and are intending to stay that way). I have a few applications out- there is not a big hurry since we’re at home until at least Summer 2021, and hiring is frozen in many places.

3. Should my resume include a part-time job outside my field? (#4 at the link)

Due to Covid, I haven’t been actively pursuing any part time positions, or traveling, as I’m sure is the same with most people. I’ve spent my time updating my resume and truly considering what type of position I want to pursue in the future, both while abroad and when returning stateside, including volunteering. And for fun, I’ve started some crafting projects!

I’ve been enjoying my time off from working in the interim and am extremely grateful my spouse is able to support both of us during this time.

I’d like to thank you and the readers for providing solid advice that taking a couple years off is not necessarily detrimental to a career and putting my career stress into perspective. The advice was also a great reminder that part-time work can be worthwhile on a resume, as skills are often transferable regardless of industry. Wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2021!

4. Can I ask someone to stop tagging me on LinkedIn? (#3 at the link)

I took your advice, and it worked…but only for about a month. This lady will not let go. Not only is she tagging me again, she’s now tagging my organization and even replying to our posts as if they are direct messages to her.

If I could be confident that blocking her (as an organization and as an individual) would also prevent her from posting about us, I would block her in a heartbeat. I don’t think that’s a thing, though, and given her current approach to what is and what is not acceptable to post online, I don’t want to risk creating and then turning my back on a volatile situation.

I report her posts that blatantly violate LinkedIn’s spam policies, but am otherwise stuck.

{ 45 comments… read them below }

  1. Salad Daisy*

    #1 I was always reticent about public speaking, even at a meeting of less than a dozen people, if I did not know them all personally. A few years ago I had a manager who understood this was something I wanted to get beyond, and he would purposely call on me during meetings to make a presentation, even using a whiteboard! (Scary) Thanks to him I am much more comfortable speaking in front of a group. That’s a good example of good managing, as long as the person being managed is on board with it, as I was.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      The school were I got my BA had a speech class as a requirement of graduation. Looking back, I realize what a great idea that was.

      When I was a freshman in high school, I took an acting class. I’ll never be an actor, but it did help me learn how to get up in front of an audience. Still an introvert, but I can fake it.

      1. Bostonian*

        I just got flashbacks- one of the colleges I went to also had a required speech class, and the professor was… not good. The class was essentially pointless.

        BUT I do think there is some value in structured public speaking classes that people can choose based on what the best fit would be: acting/improv, toast masters, etc. I’ve seen these things work wonders for some of my coworkers!

        1. Lizzo*

          I am also having flashbacks…we could take up to five years of high school-level language (option to start in 8th grade). The French teacher was particularly demanding with her curriculum, and one of the big parts of French 4 was giving a 30 minute presentation–plus Q&A–in front of the class ENTIRELY IN FRENCH. At the time it was absolutely terrifying, but any subsequent presentations I gave seemed incredibly easy because they were in English.

      2. MerBearStare*

        My college did too. I don’t remember much from it, except the guy in my class who did all three required speeches – introductory, informative, and persuasive – on the band Tool (this was 2001).

        I was also a member of Toastmasters at my old job for about a year. Toastmasters not only helped me get more comfortable with public speaking (which I don’t have to do much of), it also helped me with small talk (which I do have to do a lot of). I definitely recommend Toastmasters if you’re not good at either of those things.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Toastmasters helped me with public speaking too. The table topics at Toastmasters (impromptu speaking for a minute or 2) helped a lot when I interviewed for a job.

      3. booksbooksmorebooks*

        Another Arts degree here. We had to do oral exams and were graded on small tutorial speaking time as well – no specific class, but it was definitely built in. Orals were the most terrifying half hour of the semester (the structure of the whole year was a little unique – covered the history of western thought, chronologically, IE for the first oral you could be asked about anything from Mesopotamia to Plato to Al Farabi and you had no idea what on the list of themes they’d ask you to converse about). Excellent practice altogether, now that I’m looking back.

      4. Former B4 Manager*

        I feel like this is a skill everyone should get training in.

        In college I both did an intro to public speaking class as a gen ed just as I knew it would be good for me, and a good chunk of the required “Business Communications” class that all business school students took covered speaking to groups (the other half was constructing clear and concise emails, and other skills I wished more people in general received training in).

        In my old job I became a trainer for a particular computer program, and everyone who became a trainer for anything did an intensive day and a half public speaking course. This one required I think 6 or 7 differenet prepared speaches over that time period, all of which were taped for each participant, and reviewed as a group. Although super uncomfortable to watch yourself presenting, the direct feedback you can get from something like that is invaluable.

        Lastly, around the time I started interviewing for my most recent position, I also signed up for a beginners improv class at a local theater.

        Although I got a job offer based on an interview before the class started, I think the class itself was a lot of fun, and gets you in the mindset of being creative on the spot, and working with what is given to you, which is great for both interviewing and public speaking.

        1. Forrest*

          I used to do training on public speaking and presentations for doctors and I enjoyed it so much. Learned a lot too!

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Maybe not literally everyone, but I agree it’s a good skill to have. Not very many jobs require that someone be comfortable giving a keynote speech to 500 people at a conference, but many, many jobs require that you be comfortable talking to groups of 5-20 people somewhat regularly, and larger groups occasionally – team meetings, department meetings, client meetings, small conferences, etc.

          It’s definitely not impossible to have a successful career without being able to talk to groups, but it would narrow the options pretty considerably in many fields.

      5. Quill*

        I think all my public speaking experiences that were coursework were either related to foreign language study or the time I got dropped in Forensics because I didn’t want to be trapped in study hall and pissed the teacher off by requesting that we not debate scientific fact as if it was an opinion.

      6. Artemesia*

        We had a little one credit freshman year requirement in a program I worked in on public presentation skills. I sometimes taught it and had a little structured tool for organizing remarks. Any of our students could go anywhere and be able to stand on their feet and present a project or idea and we got a lot of feedback from grads at how helpful that as well as the skill focus on writing a variety of professional documents including informational memos and press releases was in their subsequent careers.

        1. mdv*

          Is that tool for organizing remarks something you can share? It sounds like a great tool to have in your pocket!

      7. NW-planner*

        #2 it could just be the first hire wasn’t a good match. My fairly small organization just did that. We don’t have a real HR, so not experienced at hiring. First round we didn’t focus on the right skills and hire couldn’t do it. Reworked job description and hopefully get better fit second round.

    2. Red Boxes and Arrows*

      I graduated with my B.S. in accounting in May 2018 and my M.S. in accounting in May 2019. The majority of the non-math classes from the Junior level on up through grad school required that we give presentations.

      I had been in sales before going back to school so I was used to presenting in conference rooms full of potential customers but, by the time I finished grad school, presentations in front of large groups of people were almost boring.

      And in the year and a half since I graduated, I haven’t given a single presentation once. The closest I’ve gotten is leading meetings full of people I only know by name.

    3. Cat Tree*

      I’m glad you had a good manager who helped you. I think it’s a really common thing to be uncomfortable with, especially if there are some higher ups in the meeting. The turning point for me was when I realized that everyone wants me to be successful, including those higher ups. It can still be intimidating, but I know that VP isn’t sitting there looking for my flaws or trying to view me in the worst possible light. But I think I only developed this perspective by being on the other side of it, with newer employees getting flustered with me (and others) in the meeting.

  2. Jean*

    “People who have an intractable mental block about social media etiquette” posts are in my top 5 favorite topics on this site. What is with these people? WEIRDOS!

    1. It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, It’s SuperAnon*

      In this particular case it sounds like a flavor of gumption sprinkled with a lack of boundaries. Makes for great advice blog reading!

      1. Jean*

        Yep, this has gumption written all over it. “I know she asked me to stop doing this, but maybe, just maybe, this time it will get me the job.”

        1. fhqwhgads*

          I donno. The replying to public posts as if they were directed to her suggests to me “doesn’t know how any of this works AT ALL”.

          1. JB*

            My bet would be if she’s tagging/interacting with them often enough, LinkedIn has started sending her notifications when they post that may appear as if these posts are in fact messages directed at her. LinkedIn is one of those apps that pulls cheap tricks in the name of engagement, and not everyone is savvy enough to understand what’s going on.

  3. Alex Beamish*

    #1 I run a local user group for one of the web programming languages, and I encourage all attendees (two dozen or so) to put together a presentation on something for one of our weekly meetings. The bar is low — we’re just interested in having a little technical discussion after some information sharing. No one makes fun of anyone’s presentation, and it’s very informal.
    In my field (software development), it’s a great idea to get some practice giving this sort of presentation, either at a local user group or at a conference. I’m also on a program advisory council at a local college, and I strongly and passionately advocate for communication skills like writing and giving presentations. A brilliant developer can be limited by poor communications skills, so those are important skills to develop and rehearse.
    Finally, these presentation skills help you with your self-confidence, and that’s a great thing to have when you are exploring employment opportunities. Consider choosing between two people with roughly equivalent technical skills, but where one is comfortable discussing technical topics, while the other is a little tongue-tied. Easy choice.

    1. virago*

      By encouraging members of the user group to make a presentation in a low-pressure environment, you’re doing them a real solid. Someone who’s well versed in a subject can be held back if they can’t make clear what they know to other people.

      My father, a now-retired mechanical engineer, went to a Catholic high school that required students to take debate for credit. The impact on self-confidence that you point out is a real thing! Dad has said that having to construct and defend an argument in front of learned and somewhat terrifying priests was good preparation for defending his decisions as chief engineer of a naval destroyer at age 22. And Dad traveled a lot in his engineering career because he communicated well enough to be the “face” of the company.

  4. Elizabeth West*

    Ugh, the LinkedIn one would annoy me to no end. I’m pretty sure you can just block them without them being notified, but of course they’d probably figure out you did it when they can’t go to your profile or stop seeing your content. You can also report them to the site for harassment. I’m not sure how conscientiously they police it, however.

    Also, #2 at that same link, Can I report my husband’s coworker to their HR department (the coworker had become obsessed with the husband and was basically stalking him) did we ever get an update about that one? I forgot about it and read it like 0_0

    1. Van Wilder*

      yeah I re-read that also and want an update. Hopefully OP moved on but ex also faced consequences. That would be the best of both worlds.

  5. Lizzo*

    #4: I manage my company’s social media, and we have blocked people from our company page before. I would document all of her messages with screenshots, as well as your request to her to stop tagging you and the company. Then just block her. If she escalates it from there, you have proof of her behavior as well as your request for her to stop, which makes it clear that she’s out of line.

    1. job hunting 101*

      Sadly, what she is doing is considered job hunting 101. I would never do it, but basically you are supposed to “stalk” the hiring manager, comment on posts from the company. So that when a job opens, this hiring manager will remember this person and offer them the job. It is considered a part of the “hidden job market.”

  6. Scout Finch*

    My university had speech as a requirement for any degree. I hated it. I was older than any other classmate by 15+ years. I resented being required to put my 250 lb self in front of essential strangers to talk about stuff about which none of them cared.

    However, there was a freshman soccer player who had the BEST speech (topic was something like an admired person & how they changed your life). He got up & started talking about how “when they killed you, I didn’t know how to feel” – went on about spending afternoons & Saturdays together throughout his childhood. How the person affected the young man’s life. It was a great speech. Turns out, he was talking about Superman & how DC Comics killed him off in 1993. I should have caught it when he spoke about the pajamas that reminded him of his hero.

  7. JSPA*

    #4, I know someone who truly believes that every prompt to review an item she’s bought is an actual person asking for her opinion, and that it would be rude, not to do it. (She also writes back to, say, Amazon, thanking them for their concern.)

    In a world of “takes all kinds” people, unless there are threats or attacks, it’s generally safest and easiest to assume that letting people be obviously themselves says all that’s necessary, to anyone who’s paying attention.

    Find some word combination that will send her linked-in posts / tags (and only those) to your spam box. Ditto for the company’s spam box, if you have that level of access. Then she can be clueless and tedious on her own time, without grinding on your nerves. Also consider making her a “do not hire,” if you have already done so, as she’s not only unaware of norms, but actively willing to ignore a clear directive.

    1. Filosofickle*

      Like when you’re looking at Amazon Q&As on a product and see a Q like “Does this fit X?” and someone has taken the time to unhelpfully answer “I’m sorry, I don’t know.” Cracks me up every time.

      1. Urt*

        That’s because Amazon unhelpfully sends you an email that sounds like you personally have been asked that question and are called upon to help.

        I was very “wtf why are you -random person- asking me” the first time I got such a message from Amazon (and promptly turned off the notifications).

        1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

          As someone who asked questions about a production, I was very thankful to the few who answered.
          and when a product I returned got a question I could answer I did (I returned it because I thought it was compatible with an input method but it wasn’t. But it was compatiblewith the one that the other person wantedto use it for)

      2. Ray Gillette*

        I love those! My other favorite is “I bought the Large and it fit me perfectly.” Uh… good for you, buddy, but I don’t know what you look like!

        1. Artemesia*

          there are some sites where people report — I am 145 pounds and 5’6″ and the Medium was perfect — and those are helpful. Oddly they are sometimes cut rate sites. I bought some 70s knit bell bottom flares for a theme party on one of those junk sites — and bought a smaller size than I might otherwise have done because of the detailed size reviews and it did in fact fit perfectly. (and now if I ever am invited to another 70s party, I am all set)

      3. Artemesia*

        Me too. I often answer those questions, but am always amazed at the number of ‘I haven’t really used it so don’t know’ responses.

      4. Snow Globe*

        Those “I don’t know” responses, ugh! Why answer the question if you don’t know?

        “What shade of blue is this, dark blue or light blue?” “I don’t know, I bought it in red.” This makes me irrationally annoyed.

        1. JB*

          It’s because Amazon presents the question in an intentionally confusing way to pressure people into responding – it appears as if it’s a direct message that the person has sent to you personally.

          So for people less familiar with tricks employed by sites like this, they think they’re just being polite by not ignoring the message and letting the person know to ask elsewhere.

    2. Generic Name*

      I often get a twinge of guilt when I ignore a website’s request to review a product I bought or take a survey, or whatever. It’s because I’m a very conscientious people pleaser who is afraid to Let People Down.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      It baffles me how many people respond to those requests for reviews or answers when they have nothing helpful to say! Sometimes it’s amusing, but it’s so prevalent that it’s not uncommon for me to be looking into a product and like 80% of the answers are something like “I don’t know, I bought it for a friend” and it gets pretty frustrating when it drowns out the actually helpful information.

      1. Guacamole Bob*

        I remember this from putting together my baby registry when I was pregnant. So many “I bought this as a gift and I know they’ll love it!” type reviews on baby products. Not helpful.

        1. MsSolo*

          I do quite enjoy the “I bought this as a gift, they haven’t sent me a thank you note, one star” ones, which are equally unhelpful but are such an insight into someone’s world!

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            Oh my goodness I don’t think I’ve stumbled across that yet, that’s hilarious (and unfortunate for the people selling the product).

  8. Linkedin is my thing*

    #4 You can turn off the ability to be tagged in other people’s LinkedIn posts.

    Go to Settings & Privacy -> Visibility -> ‘Mentioned by others’

    As a side note, I’d strongly recommend anyone to go through these settings and turn them all off, since they include standard read receipts and allowing others to see you’re online at that moment.

    Also, in the setting ‘Who can see your connections’ Always turn this off as well. It’s in your and your network’s best interest to have a smidge of privacy there to avoid both poaching of your network/talent, but also to avoid potential scammers who link with the people in your network specifically in order to create a feeling of trust (‘Oh we have so many mutual connections, they must be trustworthy!’)

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      I know there are some people who would need to turn off the ability to see connections… but isn’t that the main point of LinkedIn? If everyone turned that function off then what would even be the point of the site?

    2. Alex*

      I just went through my LinkedIn settings and holy moly are there are a lot of things I wouldn’t want strangers seeing. Thanks for the prompt!

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