employee cursed at a coworker over politics, boss has weaponized her personality test, and more

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

1. Employee cursed at a coworker over politics

I’m an HR manager (department of one – me). One of the VPs of my company related the following event to me: In a meeting of eight managers and project managers, one project manager, Tom, said he’d voted in the past election to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour so that everyone would be paid a living wage. The overwhelming majority of my state voted the same way. Another manager, Bruce, turned to Tom and asked, “Are you f’ing stupid?” (He didn’t abbreviate it like I have here.) At that point, the VP shut down the conversation and the meeting resumed. The VP told me about it a few days later and I related it to my manager, who’s the CEO. The CEO said that Bruce can be quite political, but she felt it was Tom’s fault for saying that he voted for the measure to begin with.

I’d have agreed with the CEO, except that what Bruce said in response is completely unacceptable. Tom relies on Bruce’s product to get his projects completed, and I don’t want him to feel he needs to walk on eggshells around Bruce for any reason. Many times, though, I feel like I’m “only” HR, and that if my own supervisor won’t back me up on something like this, I have no choice but to remain quiet. However, I don’t want Bruce to think that speaking to people the way he did is acceptable.

This is all compounded by the fact that Bruce’s employees are the lowest skilled, least compensated of the whole company, and in six years they will be making $15 per hour – which may be why he’s stressed. His team may leave and work somewhere else for the same pay. (They’re paid at above market rate right now, so he has a solid team that’s been there for many years.)

What do I do? If I’d been at the meeting, I could have shut down political talk immediately and Bruce’s response wouldn’t have happened. But now that it did, do I have any standing to address it if my CEO doesn’t feel like it’s important?

It’s true that there are lots of good reasons not to talk about politics at work. But you shouldn’t have a blanket rule shutting down political talk at work because that’s a stance in itself — a stance in favor of the status quo — and besides, who decides what’s political and what isn’t, particularly when “political issues” can be as fundamental as people’s right to safely exist? And why isn’t what people are paid a relevant issue in a workplace?

But even if you feel Tom shouldn’t have made his original remark, it pales in comparison to how Bruce responded. “He started it!” isn’t a good argument here; Tom didn’t curse at anyone or insult them. Bruce is far more out of line than Tom was (if Tom was even out of line at all, which I’m not sure he was).

Ideally Bruce’s manager would tell Bruce he can’t talk to colleagues that way, period. And if Bruce’s manager isn’t doing that, ideally you would push him to. It’s a little more complicated now that the CEO has told you she blames Tom, but you could go back to her and point out that Bruce’s comment was unacceptable regardless of what he was responding to, that you can’t have a team where people tell colleagues they’re “f’ing stupid,” and that you feel strongly that message needs to be relayed to Bruce.

Beyond that, it sounds like you and your CEO need to get better aligned about what kind of culture you’re both striving for, what conduct is and isn’t okay, and what role you’re empowered to play in creating/maintaining that culture. If you have significantly different visions on any of those things and can’t come to a shared understanding, you’re in for a lot of frustration.

2. My boss has weaponized her personality test results

My employer recently had everyone above a certain level take the Clifton Strengths Finder assessments and the results were shared publicly. I love this type of activity and found my own results informative, but my supervisor talks about her results in a way I find demeaning.

Her number one strength is “maximizer,” which describes someone who isn’t satisfied with average and strives for greatness. I realize that’s a valuable strength, but she seems to have turned it into a weapon. “Let me just maximize that” comes out of her mouth at least daily. It has exaggerated some micromanagement tendencies. It’s hard not to feel like my work is never good enough for her even though I get excellent performance reviews. How do I address this with her? My strengths include empathy and intellection, so perhaps I’m feeling and thinking too much about this!

If your boss were just saying “Let me just maximize that” all the time, I would tell you to sit back and enjoy the entertainment because that is kind of hilarious. But if she’s giving you the sense that your work isn’t good enough but she — the striving-for-greatness maximizer — will swoop in and fix it, and especially if she’s micromanaging you, those are real problems.

Here’s some advice on dealing with a micromanager, which I recommend for you. But it also might be worth saying to her directly, “I always welcome input on how to strengthen my work, but hearing so often that you’re going to maximize it for me is making me question your assessment of my work overall — it sounds like my work always needs fixing. If that’s not actually your assessment of it, is there different language we could use?”

(I want to be clear that I think it’s okay, and sometimes necessary, for a manager to push people to make decent work even better. What’s obnoxious here is that she’s presenting herself as the person who will do that — because she’s a special maximizer! — rather than working with you collaboratively to strengthen it, if in fact that’s needed.)

Read an update to this letter here.

3. What’s my obligation to help the person who replaced me?

I left an environment that wasn’t a good fit for me at the end of September and started a new job soon afterwards. Prior to leaving my position, I did what I could to make the transition smooth in my 2.5-week notice period.

Today I received an email at my new work email from the person they recently hired to replace me saying: “I have heard so many great things about you and all the great work that you did in this role. I was hoping to schedule some time with you to pick your brain, learn more about the everyday functions of this role and get your lessons learned and overall advice for success in this role. Please let me know what works for your schedule and I will be sure to make myself available. Thank you in advance. Talk soon.”

I have a lot of mixed emotions around this because I really don’t like some of the people I used to work with, but I also work in a small, niche industry in a moderately sized urban area. My paths will likely eventually cross with this person. I just feel somewhat angry or irritated by this because clearly someone I used to work with told her to contact me or suggested it and I feel it is somewhat inappropriate. How should I best handle this?

You’re under no obligation to provide unpaid training work for your old employer! Ever, but especially three months after you left (a point by which most people have made a mental break with the old job and don’t benefit from getting sucked back in). If you’re willing to answer a quick question or two, that’s a kindness, but you certainly don’t need to do anything more than that.

I would respond with this: “Hi Jane, thanks for the kind words. My schedule is really crammed right now so I’m not able to meet, but I did leave behind documentation on X and Y that hopefully should help (or perhaps, “I found X and Y to be good resources when I was learning the job”). I’m sorry I can’t offer anything further — my new job is keeping me busy. Best of luck in the role!”

If you want, you could include a sentence like, “If you’ve got one or two specific things you’re wondering about that I might be able to answer quickly, feel free to shoot them over in an email and I’ll see what I can do.” But you really don’t even need to offer that.

I know you’re worried about eventually running into this person in a small field, but a response like this isn’t rude! There’s no expectation that you’ll be available to help train your replacement months after you moved on.

Read an update to this letter here.

4. Should I tell my boss a competitor tried to poach me?

I am about 10 years into my career in a consulting field and work as part of a highly specialized team with a very in-demand skillset. My team has very few competitors, but my company as a whole is in a pretty common field. Competing firms often want to diversify into the area my team works in, but it’s a tough market to break into because winning projects is highly reliant on having relevant experience — and almost no other firms outside of mine have this.

All of this means that I often get approached by other firms who are looking for someone with my experience in order for them to bid on these projects. I usually accept a casual phone call (or pre-Covid, drinks or coffee), but I love my job and my company and have no real interest in leaving. My pay is competitive (I’ve checked), I am moving up in the company, and I like the culture, flexible hours, and the people I work with. I am open to hearing about opportunities but it would have to be a truly one-in-a-million opportunity to convince me to leave.

Here’s where it gets tricky though — often during these conversations, the person I’m talking to will reveal that they want to expand their practice to compete directly with my team. To me this would be helpful knowledge for my boss (who runs our division) to have, but there’s no way I can tell her without also revealing that they tried to poach me. I don’t want to make my boss feel like I am about to leave, or trying to negotiate something extra by telling her this. I would only want her to know in case the knowledge might affect decisions she makes. Should I tell her? Would you want to know?

There are two possible scenarios here: One is that your boss is already well aware that other firms are trying to compete with your team and telling her about your conversation(s) wouldn’t give her new information. The other is that she’s aware of it in a general sense but knowing specifics about exactly who’s interested and what they’re trying to do would be helpful. If you judge that it’s the second situation, then yes, I’d tell her.

You can just matter-of-factly say something like, “I thought I should let you know X Firm contacted me about a team they’re trying to build for a Y project. I told them I’m happy here, but I thought you’d be interested to know _____ (fill in with specifics about what you learned).” Use the same tone you’d use if you were relaying some interesting piece of industry info you’d learned at a conference.

Of course, whenever an employee lets it drop that another employer is trying to recruit her, a good manager will pick up on that (even if it’s not the point of the story) — not necessarily to think “this person is trying to finagle a raise from me,” but as data that the person is in-demand and has options. Your boss is probably already aware of that (she presumably has the same info about your work being in-demand as you do) but it’s still interesting to get more data points as confirmation. But it doesn’t hurt you for her to be aware people are trying to recruit you! And using the kind of language above makes it clear your emphasis is on “here’s what I learned,” not “you’d better try to hold on to me.” (If she concludes “I’d better try to hold on to her” on her own, so be it. It’s not going to sound like you’re hitting her over the head with it.)

5. Should I write my cover letter in another language to demonstrate my language skills?

I am a middle-aged white woman who speaks Spanish (fluently 20 years ago, passably now) who has been studying a difficult Asian language for nine years. There is a job opening that asks for fluency in this language. I can communicate and read/write in this language but I speak at a high school level at best and write at an elementary school level. This year I plan to take (Covid permitting) the test that would prove I can understand well enough to attend university in this country.

I would not necessarily call myself fluent, but I also know women can tend to under-evaluate our meeting of job standards.

Would it be appropriate to write my cover letter in the target language? It would show care the limits and extent of my communication ability. How do I know what their standard for fluency is? I am definitely not a native speaker.

Don’t write your cover letter in the other language. It’s very possible, if not likely, that the person reading your cover letter doesn’t read in that language.

Instead, put the language on your resume with a note about your level of fluency level. You could use the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale or the American Councils of Teachers of Foreign Language (ACTFL) to categorize your proficiency. (And of course, employers will give you their own tests when they want to assess language ability.)

{ 463 comments… read them below }

  1. Kisses*

    I hate to think of what those employees of the first post are paid. If they’ll be paid $15 in 6 years, just what is he paying them now? And why wouldn’t just cost of living raises have brought it up past that by then? If he’s so worried he can’t survive without underpaying his people..
    On a side note I’ve never made more than $10/hr and I’ve been working since 2001.

    1. Software Engineer*

      If he’s in a division where many employees are low paid and now have to slowly get raises for the $15 minimum wage, and he’s worried that with the new law other companies will start paying more sooner then the answer isn’t to swear at peers but to talk with Leadership about whether the pay should be adjusted. ‘The market rate for our people is moving and we will lose the great team we have if we don’t keep up’ sounds like a problem for the leadership team to address

      It’s not Bruce’s company so it’s not just his problem, the company needs to decide what it can afford and whether the work is still worth doing at that cost. If you can’t stay in business unless you’re employees are paid beans then the business isn’t one that should survive

      1. Ash*

        “If you can’t stay in business unless you’re employees are paid beans then the business isn’t one that should survive.” THIS. Either figure out how to pay your employees a living wage, or do the work yourself. All profits can go directly in your pocket.

      2. Crivens!*

        Seriously, thank you. And no, small businesses don’t get an excuse on this. Pay people a living wage or go under with absolutely no sympathy from me.

      3. Joan Rivers*

        It’s one thing to support or not support a POLICY that has direct connection to your business.
        It’s a different thing to insult someone w/profanity.

        Tom wasn’t wrong to say he supports an idea. He was wrong to say he “voted” for it.
        Don’t talk about voting or going to rallies or being political, talk about policies or ideas that are relevant.

        Don’t attack someone, ever, verbally. Bruce should be disciplined for this. What might he say to a client he disagrees with?

        1. Clorinda*

          Why is it wrong for him to say how he voted? Voting is normal. Voting one way or another on a ballot initiative are both normal options.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            Talking about voting or candidates or politics is different from talking about policies or ideas and how they relate to your company.

            If you talk about how you voted instead of the policy you voted for then you’re bringing up politics at work.

            Lots of things are “normal” — sex / childbirth / constipation — but that doesn’t mean you have to bring it up at a work meeting. It’s “normal” to swear too but that doesn’t mean it’s right to curse at a coworker over a policy disagreement.

            Most voting is for a political candidate, not just a ballot initiative —
            you’re trying to drag candidates into this — keep to the policy and don’t talk about the politics.

        2. Let's Just Say*

          The difference between politics and policy feels pretty meaningless in this context. (How is “I support the $15 minimum wage” better than “I voted for the $15 minimum wage”?) Also, I completely disagree that no one should talking about voting or rallies or political ideas at work; it smacks of privilege. For many people – POC, trans people, undocumented people – their very existence is politicized.

          1. Joan Rivers*

            In a meeting, as opposed to a casual conversation, discussing how you voted is as inappropriate as discussing religion. It’s not what you’re there for. And I don’t believe you can’t grasp the difference between discussing a “policy” as opposed to a “political point.”

            I’m distinguishing a meeting from a private talk between people who know each other.
            There can be something in between those two where someone’s overheard.

            But in a meeting, I think it “smacks of privilege” to think that YOUR “issue” gives you the right to do whatever you want. Jobs and workplaces have rules and norms for a reason.

      4. Some dude*

        I am generally for increasing the minimum wage, but can we not act like it is trivial for a company to absorb a 50% increase in their labor costs? (i.e. from $10 – $15). I see this attitude so much in my area, and I think it underestimates how narrow the margins for many small businesses that have minimum wage employees are.

        1. Smirkette*

          But that’s an issue for the business. If they haven’t been paying attention to inflation, then that’s on them. Their employees’ landlords, grocers, etc. sure haven’t frozen their fees.

          1. DireRaven*

            Yep, and then it becomes “my cost of living is going up, so I can’t afford to pay my employees any more and maintain the same standard of living as to which I am accustomed…”

    2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      I realise that Bruce is a jerk regardless, and that this is a sideline, but I feel as though I am missing something.

      “in six years they will be making $15 per hour” – I actually didn’t understand this part of the post at all. Why would this happen in 6 years? Not in the US so I don’t have any context.

      Also, why would Bruce be worrying about something that may happen in 6 years?

      “His team may leave and work somewhere else for the same pay. (They’re paid at above market rate right now, so he has a solid team that’s been there for many years.)” – if the company pays above market rate, would the new minimum wage change that?

      1. with a comma after dearest*

        American here – this reads to me like the minimum wage in the OP’s state WAS raised to $15 in the recent election (“the overwhelming majority of my state voted the same way.”)

        These laws often change the minimum wage at a set year in the future, or gradually increase a dollar per year until the level is reached, to give businesses a time to adjust.

        1. Jennifer*

          That’s what I thought as well. If that’s the case, it’s really sad because I don’t think $15/hour is going to even be a living wage in 6 years. It’s barely one in some places now.

          1. Ana Gram*

            This is such a good point. I don’t think enough people understand the difference between minimum wage and living wage. The living wage in my area is $17/hour currently. $15/hour in 6 years is not at all helpful to people here.

            1. boop the first*

              This is why so many people are exasperated over the indignant responses from people already making $15/hour who just want to feel like they’re “better” than others. I don’t think our minimum wage has reached $15 quite yet, but our poverty line has been over $20/hour for at least a decade now. Working class peers calling themselves middle class. Accept reality or fight reality, but fighting any effort to make things better is just nailing their own feet to the ground.

          2. DavidPL*

            In some places (like Silicone Valley or San Francisco), $15/has is not a living wage. In other places in California, 200 miles away, $12/hr is very comfortable for a 40+ hours a week + reasonable benefits job.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              I live in a relatively low cost part of central CA. Where in CA is $12/hr “very comfortable”? It seems to me in even the poorest rural areas, that’s maybe enough to pay rent on the cheapest shared place available and buy food. Maybe a very cheap car. Forget health insurance. Forget education. Forget travel. Forget savings.

              Minimum wage in CA just went up to $14/hr as of Jan. 1 2021.

            2. TardyTardis*

              I know those parts of California, and the rents are too darn high there, too. And those $12 an hour jobs almost never have benefits. They are mostly Dances With MediCal in those small towns.

            3. Salymander*

              Even in rural California, $12 is in no way a comfortable salary. Housing in all of California is very expensive. Rural California is still a big draw for tourism in many places, which jacks up the rents. Also, even in areas with little tourism, folks are commuting such long distances that the rural areas are full of people driving hours and hours every day to work. So again, rents are high. And even in the most isolated/least touristy parts of California, the lack of affordable housing is a problem because the housing is built in places it will make money. I have lived in California all my life, and I love it here, but it is a really expensive place to live.

        2. Team Tom*

          I looked it up – Florida had a ballot measure in 2020 to raise the minimum wage to $15. Minimum wage in the state is currently $8.56 but goes up to $10 this September, then an additional $1 each year until 2026.

          1. Kittymommy*

            Floridian here. And yes the measure overwhelming passed and the schedule is small increments every year until 2026. Truthfully I don’t think it would have passed if there hasn’t been this timetable.

        3. I'm just here for the cats*

          I took it to mean that the company gives raises each year, but the employees won’t get to $15/per hour until they have worked at the company for 6 years. Like, let’s say starting wage is $9 for new employees. For every 1 year worked the employee can get up to $1/hour raise. So in 6 years, the pay is going to be $15. But if they change the minimum wage to $15 then new employees would be paid the same amount as longtime employees, unless bruce bumps up their wage too. SO $15 base pay +$1/year for 6 year =$21/hour.

      2. with a comma after dearest*

        Also, I personally support raising the minimum wage, but the counter-argument / Bruce’s fear goes like this:

        Say minimum wage is currently $10. Bruce’s company pays $12 and the rest of the local companies pay $10, so all the good employees want to work at Bruce’s company.

        But in 6 years, they’ll all be paying $15 (because Bruce’s company is unlikely to be able to pay $17) and thus they won’t be the most desirable place to work anymore – they won’t stand out from the others and people may leave.

        1. SaeniaKite*

          That’s really on Bruce though. If all it would take for his employees to leave is the *same* money that suggests he’s relying on paying just above market rate and not making sure the job is fulfilling in other ways! The counter argument to the counter argument is that if everyone is paying $15 the companies with the best culture will be the ones to ‘stand out’

          1. doreen*

            Maybe- or maybe there’s something about the job itself or the location and the culture (or anything Bruce can change) has little to do with it. Where I live , minimum wage was was raised to $15 for fast food workers before it was raised for other workers. It was supposed to ( and as far as I know did) put pressure on other near-minimum wage employers , as employees generally prefer to work in retail if the pay is similar, but would have deserted Target if McDonald’s paid $5/hr more.

            * I don’t fully remember/understand the details, but the entity that raised it only had authority over food service wages.

        2. Jam Today*

          Certain types seem to really get their noses out of joint when that free market sword starts cutting the *other* way. “I’d rather bag groceries” is a pretty major indictment of a company that has enough money to have a management team of the size that was in a single meeting as referenced above.

          1. TardyTardis*

            I worked at a tax place that paid Oregon minimum wage, but had enough of a bonus structure to make it worthwhile for all the work you had to do to work there. But in North Carolina, they only pay $8 something an hour, and you still have to qualify as a tax preparer. I’d end up working some place where I could take home the extra chicken rather than go through the extra trouble to learn taxes. (I said that to the manager outright, her face pretty much agreed with me, even though I’m sure it was company policy not to say it out loud).

        3. Cat Tree*

          Meh, I have very little sympathy for them. If they wanted to recruit a top CEO, they’d scrounge up a few hundred thousand dollars a year if they needed to. If they can find a way to pay competitive wages to the highest earners, they can find a way to do it for the lowest paid. It’s the cost of doing business, and it’s someone’s job to figure out how to pay b that $17/hr if that’s what it takes.

          1. Whatever*

            Yes, exactly this. If a company isn’t solvent enough to pay it’s lowest earners a livable wage, then it’s not a successful company. My son works for national pizza chain and we’re in a state doing a step-increase to minimum wage. Every year he gets a raise to whatever amount above minimum he was previously making. So if he’s at $.80 above minimum wage this year he’ll still be at $.80 above the new minimum next year (or more if he gets another raise). It’s really not that hard.

          2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Yea they just need to suck it up. The low paid workers are also contributing to the wealth as well

          3. MassMatt*

            This. Why is it that raising minimum wages is a scourge of socialism that will drive companies to bankruptcy yet when it comes to CEO pay it’s all “well, you have to pay to get good people”?

            CEO and executive compensation as a multiple of what lowest paid employees earn has been skyrocketing for years, why is this not an inflationary boogeyman?

            1. Sacred Ground*

              “You get what you pay for” is a universally-understood principle except when it comes to paying for labor. I wonder why that is?

        4. JB*

          People probably will leave, yes.

          The simple fact is that, if a company can’t afford to pay a competitive *livable* wage (and are unable to offer other competitive benefits) then they can’t afford employee retention at that level of employment.

          A lot of companies in underpaid regions of the US are benefiting from paying a ‘competitive/above market’ wage that still isn’t enough to live on. That doesn’t make them the good guys.

          1. Ash*

            And not only that, the taxpayer picks up the tab of the difference between what a person is paid and what they actually need to live, in the form of SNAP, Section 8, welfare, etc. Those entitlements are crucial to a social safety net, but the safety net should be for the benefit of people, not for corporations to figure out how to continue paying poverty wages.

              1. boop the first*

                And then the only place they can spend those food stamps is at the Walmart, so Walmart not only has government pay their employees’ wages for them, they also get to take that money out of the employees’ pocket. Good for them, I guess.

            1. Sasha*

              Corporate welfare. We have this a lot in the UK, where multinational companies pay their staff a pittance, and the government tops it up to a living wage.

              Why are my taxes subsidising Amazon’s wage bill? Why are my UK taxes being spent on increasing Jeff Bezos’ profits, when they could be spent on schools and hospitals in my own country?

              Somehow it is painted as unthinkable Communism to object to that…

            2. Sacred Ground*

              I just read that in my former home city of Las Vegas, Amazon has now surpassed Walmart as the employer with the most employees on public assistance. Between the two of them, it’s a huge percentage of the number of people in the city who need help because their full-time employers don’t pay them enough.

              And of course, they’re both hugely profitable and expanding. So why are we subsidizing their labor costs?

        5. Little Swan*

          It’s funny because this is a legitimate concern, and if the company can’t generate the revenue to pay the $17 they won’t be able to employ all those people. It’s an argument to consider when raising the minimum wage, especially rapidly. Doing it over six years makes it less impactful due to inflation, which is probably why the measure passed. If it had been overnight, it would have probably had a more significant effect on businesses (in a time that is already heavily stacked against all but the largest of them).

          1. Some dude*

            It’s still doubling labor costs over six years, which is no small thing.

            I personally think there need to be anti-automation efforts along with minimum wage efforts. It’s not that helpful to have a $15/hr wage if companies then just automate the functions the low-wage employees used to do.

            My concern about minimum wage laws is unintended consequences. Do companies suck it up and pay their employees $15 an hour, or do they reduce their employees’ hours to keep their labor costs down? These increases also tend to hit industries that are already floundering, like retail, which could lead to more store closures and net less jobs.

            1. Sacred Ground*

              Or do they delay the next stock buyback or dividend checks to shareholders for another year?

              Companies with profits have choices what they do with them. They can keep every penny and put nothing back to the people who earn their revenues or they could accept a marginally lower return to shareholders and pay higher wages. I know from decades of observation that most of corporate America will do anything, try anything, say anything other than that.

            2. Self Employed*

              I don’t see the point of insisting that humans do jobs that robots can do. Especially if it’s work that’s really hard on people’s bodies so a career in that field tends to mean you go on disability sooner or later AND have chronic pain. (I’m thinking of assembly lines and picking orders in warehouses.)

              This is why we need to start looking forward to guaranteed minimum income. If our economy moves towards having fewer jobs than people, making people play musical chairs to survive or working jobs that will break them anyway doesn’t make sense.

              We already have large segments of the population who effectively live in a dystopian nightmare–even pre-pandemic.

        6. PT*

          We had a problem like this at my last job, which was in a high COL region going through minimum wage raises. Our workers in roles that had no prerequisite skills started at min.wage and got raises as they gained seniority and more responsibility. Our workers in roles that had prerequisite skills started at minimum wage + 25% and got raises as they gained seniority and more responsibility.

          But as minimum wage went up, it compressed wages. It caught the pure entry-level people with no prerequisite skills up to the people with prerequisite skills and then it caught them up to the supervisors with prerequisite skills and responsibilities and seniority. It got to the point that we struggled to hire because the entry level people said “this is too much responsibility for minimum wage, I can get a slack off job for less” and we also ended up with a bunch of bitter and angry skilled/senior/supervisory staff because the pay raises they’d worked for got erased in one fell swoop. It was a big mess to untangle, and they hadn’t sorted it out before I left myself.

          We all agreed that most people were underpaid for the work they were doing and for the region they were living, but raising everyone’s wages in step with each other and in line with the budget, without passing on so much of the cost to our customers that they stopped coming and we lost revenue, was a very tricky high wire act to pull off. We were a nonprofit that offered financial aid to our customers, so we also had to balance that as our prices went up the demand for financial aid also went up.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I had to laugh at the “…in six years!” part because were you really planning to stagnate wages that long? that’s a long time! and honestly, $15 isn’t enough now, it definitely won’t be a living wage in 6 years!

      1. Empress Matilda*

        Also I’m confused about how they won’t be making $15 for another six years, but they’re still paid over market now. Sounds like an industry problem, if everybody is that far below the line!

        1. Quill*

          I mean, I live in an area where minimum wage is the federal minimum wage, and I still get ads for jobs that are listed at $13/hr as “needs 2 years experience”

          I can only imagine that if this business is paying $13 and everyone else is paying $10, and minimum wage is $8, it’s not an uncommon situation for an exploitative industry that’s still “better than mcdonalds”

      2. Parenthesis Dude*

        If the minimum wage doesn’t increase, then there’s no reason to pay those workers more. That’s why the fight for $15 is so important. If workers got just a mandated 3% raise each year, then even if they started at $10 an hour when they were 18 years old, they’d be at $20 when they’re 42 years old. If that was the case, there would be less interest in a $15 minimum wage.

        1. Quill*

          The other thing that needs working on is the disabled minimum wage and the tipped minimum wage, however, which are both putting that starting floor ludicrously far below a living wage.

          Raising the minimum wage and tagging it to inflation are the bare minimum of financial reform that we need in the US.

          1. SentientAmoeba*

            This! And especially with a number of places shut down or working limited hours, anyone making server wages is getting less than $100 in hourly wages for a 40 hour workweek and with fewer customers coming in (if they are even open for in person dining), they are losing a ton of income in tips. We need to do away with the tip economy and make it a bonus, not the base of their pay.

    4. CatPerson*

      COLA raises are not universal. probably more common in union environments. I’ve nver worked for a non-union company that had them.

      1. Ellenaria*

        I got them at a nonprofit and at a private company (NYC-based), neither unionized. However, the private company had some big unions as clients, so they had both ethical and business reasons to aim for an image as a good employer, I expect.

      2. MassMatt*

        We are in this mess because the original minimum wage was not indexed to inflation or COLA.

        People earning the federal minimum wage now are earning 17% less than 10 years ago.

        If the original federal minimum wage had simply kept up with inflation, full-time minimum wage workers would be making over $48,000 per year today.

      3. Le Sigh*

        My dad was a public educator for years and could easily go 5-10 years without any kind of raise, including COL. It was a state antagonistic to unions and teachers were often the first targets for cuts.

    5. tink*

      The companies I’ve worked for that have had supervisor+ level rage about federal minimum wage raises were also companies that gave no COL raises, barely gave merit raises, and constantly hiked the price of their high-deductible, awful coverage health insurance plans. They were also paying about $8-15/hr even for people that had been there for years.

    6. Kelly*

      I was a temp in 2015 and was offered a permanent position $13/hr. I counter-offered (because that’s what I always read in career books) and asked for $15/hr, and the HR manager might as well have laughed in my face. What I *really* wanted to do was submit an immediate resignation right then and there, but at the time the best option for me was to swallow my pride and stick it out until something better came along. The worst part is I would later find out that while my manager was being told there was no money in the budget for our department (90-95% people of color), some 20-something-year-old Ivy League kid sitting in the executive suite was told to let the CEO know whenever he needed a new noise-canceling headphone.

      I’m lucky that I managed to get better-paying jobs fairly quickly, but as someone who’s relatively privileged to begin with, I always refer to my experience at that company as the moment my bubble was popped. This shouldn’t even be a political debate. A lot of “essential workers” make minimum wage, and $15/hr will mean nothing in 5 years. What kind of person can spend any time with an underpaid employee, claim to appreciate their work, then turn around and maintain they don’t deserve the financial ability to pay for housing and healthcare?

      1. Quill*

        It will be better for the people currently making the lowest minimum wage, but probably wash out wherever states have minimum wages higher than about $10 per hour unless we do a LOT of other things.

      2. pope suburban*

        Same thing happened to me. Came on as a temp for a grand total of $12/hour in a high CoL area, where baseline market rate for my role was $15, and that was for fewer years’ experience than I had. My old boss all but laughed at me too, and implied I didn’t have skills, and so I should be grateful for the $12. Quelle choc, he was making sure he and his favorites could all get paid very well by putting the burden on the backs of the hardest-working employees. He liked to make the “small business” excuse, but seriously, if ANY business can’t afford to pay employees a living wage, it ought to fail. For all I know it has since I left; there wasn’t much holding it together last I knew.

  2. WorkerB*

    Regarding number 4, great question I’ve been wondering lately. I left a job several months ago and found out through an old coworker that they’re about to announce my replacement. I did not leave on the best of terms– my boss was a bully and tried to undermine me on every project. I came very close to filing a lawsuit once or twice. That said, I had a good rep there and the position was sort of high profile in our sector. I wouldn’t be surprised if I did get an email from my replacement. Honestly, after the way I had been treated, I wouldn’t want to help out other than to wish him or her good luck, because they’re going to need it working for my old boss. I don’t know how anyone could be expected to help out a replacement after being pushed out by a bully.

    1. Artemesia*

      It is easy to get sucked in. A breezy ‘just so busy with new job and don’t have time’ is a LOT better than being wheedled into getting sucked back in. Hesitation and then giving in and then having to extricate yourself is more likely to create reputational problem than simply not being able to work the old job when you have the new one. You are more likely to create awkwardness by doing this than by ‘not having time what with the pressures of the new job.’

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Yes. I got the feeling new emp. wants to “dish” about personalities, etc., and that’s always tempting, since OP is no longer there. If things were great she wouldn’t be asking months later.

        And if they indulged themselves it could come back to bite OP later, possibly. It might help new emp. to have more context about people, but it does nothing for OP except such energy. And you never know when you might work w/someone in the future, so be careful what you say. You’re not always “done” when you’re done at a place.

    2. WorkerB*

      Oops, I meant #3. And I do wonder if management at my old place would tell the new person NOT to contact me knowing that we have a little bit of bad blood.

    3. MK*

      Eh, I don’t know how often this happens; it has never happened to me, though I work for the same organization and just changed departments. Not all new hires struggle with the job and/or think a talk with their predecessor will help.

    4. Millicent*

      Just say cheerfully, “sure! Happy to help. My contract rate is” and say a number that is your old rate doubled (to cover self employment taxes), plus a “stupid tax” for dealing with them again.

    5. memyselfandi*

      My guess is that after 3 months the replacement has figured out that the workplace has problems and wants to sound out her predecessor to get some confirmation.

      1. Shark Whisperer*

        I agree with this. This happened to me. I was fired from a job a couple years ago. It was definitely on me that I got fired, but it was not a good fit. Part of the issue is that they never hired well for the position. They focused on one particular skill set that was a very small part of the job and ignored the skill set that was really necessary. A couple months after my replacement was hired, she emailed me (she did not know I had been fired.) She wanted to meet for coffee and talk about the position. Turns out she was really struggling in the job and wanted advice from someone who had been there before.

      2. mlem*

        I admit my sense of curiosity would probably have me taking one short (virtual) meeting/call to see if that’s really what’s going on. Walk you through the work step-by-step? No. Listen and determine if something is just-you or really-that-bad? Possibly.

        If LW3 isn’t getting that vibe or wouldn’t always wonder, then absolutely walk away like an action hero.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        This was my thought. The replacement has now been there long enough to suss out the toxicity and wants to know if that’s why OP#3 left. I seriously doubt it’s for specific questions regarding policies and procedures. It’s more, “Does this bull**** end? How did you find ways to work around it? What were your strategies for lasting as long as you did? Should I bail now or is it worth it to stick out the full year before moving on?”

      4. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        That was my first thought. Also my second, my third, and well, pretty much my only thought.

    6. Venus*

      In these cases I almost wonder if the new person wants confirmation from an ‘outsider’ that the workplace is toxic. Is the request to discuss old work just an excuse?

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Yeah, it can take a while to get the lay of the land and once you do, you’re invested in the job and want to make it work. It can be an entire dept. that’s toxic to the rest.

        But OP gets nothing out of this.

      2. Let's Just Say*

        This happened to me and I did meet with my replacement because I was curious, and I felt bad for them. It ended up being really cathartic because they were having allll the same problems that I had, and it confirmed that OldJob was toxic and it wasn’t just me (OldJob was notorious for labelling people troublemakers and trying to make you think you were the problem if you raised any concerns). My replacement ended up leaving for a better job soon after we talked!

    7. MassMatt*

      Weird that it’s taken them this long to get going with hiring, and at this point it doesn’t seem that likely someone would contact you. But someone does, maybe consider the replacement is not the person you have bad blood with? This is someone you never met, likely dealing with the same toxic issues you did. Don’t get sucked back in, but maybe just answering some questions would be a courtesy.

  3. Naomi*

    #5: Even if you knew the cover letter was going to be read by someone who understands the language in question, I still don’t think it would be a good idea, because it would probably lower the quality of the writing. If you’re uncertain whether to describe yourself as fluent, I doubt you could write as good a cover letter in that language as in a language you speak natively. If they need to know your exact level of proficiency, they can probe into it during the interview process.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah – Even if the reader does understand the language, I don’t think a cover letter written at an elementary school level is what the OP would want to go for. Presumably they are bringing something other than just language skills to the job and talking about the nuance of what makes you good for the job seems like it would be hard to get across at that writing level. Not to knock OP’s language skills…they’re definitely better than mine!

    2. a sound engineer*

      In my experience, when a job lists fluent they really do mean native, bilingual or very close to. Jobs I’ve seen that aren’t as picky or don’t require as a high of a level usually just say “Speaks X language” or something like that. Not sure if this is an actual thing or just the way the jobs I’ve applied to have turned out though.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        My experience is that this would depend on the industry — for example, I work in a field where I’ve seen people request fluency when what they really mean is a fluent *speaker* — someone who can speak to clinets in their native language — but the role doesn’t actually require someone who has native profiencieny in reading/writing.

        So I think it’s worth applying, but always best to be as straightforward about your abilities as possible.

        1. Washi*

          Yeah same in my field – fluent mainly refers to speaking ability. I’m a pretty poor writer in my second language but held a position listed as “bilingual” with no issues (and initially was hesitant to apply but am glad I did!)

          Fluent basically has no meaning to me anymore, since I’ve heard it used to describe anything from “can navigate a grocery store” to “indistinguishable from native speaker.” I would just apply to the job and let them decide if your language proficiency is good enough.

        2. Smithy*

          This is my recommendation. I worked as a fundraiser in a country/office that had two primary languages of which I was not professionally functional in either.

          However, my external facing work was entirely in English, and the organization I worked for had enough other English capacity (production of content in English, English speaking/writing capacity of staff, etc.) where my deficits weren’t a deal breaker. On the job application it listed the languages that had a native capacity demand (English) and others that were preferred but not required.

          Other similar organizations had a very different read on the level of proficiency required in the local languages. Now it meant that on local job market, even while my other skills were recognized, I just was never going to be as in demand. But it was only by being really immersed in that specific professional world where the various needs of language skills (reading, writing, speaking, copy editing, translation, etc.) would be known.

          All of this to say – do not rule yourself out. The company (hopefully) has far more insight on exactly where those language needs exist and that’ll come out during the interview process. But by being honest “I’m able to have a conversation, but could not translate a meeting or conversation into English as it was happening” – you’ll help them clarify what they’re really looking for.

        3. Elenna*

          Yes – especially since, for an “Asian language” (I’m thinking something like Chinese, where the writing is based on symbols, I’m blanking on what that kind of writing is called) someone’s speaking/understanding ability can be quite different from their reading/writing ability. E.g. I can understand everyday Chinese fine, most of the time, and I can often get my basic point across while talking even if my grammar is awful. But I’m 99% illiterate in Chinese (I can read/write less than 15 words probably).

      2. Engineer Mom*

        Hi. OP. The role main point of the role would be managing engineering changes/ and working on design and manufacturing issues. It would require travel to the other country 25% and communication to plants but most of the engineering would be handled in the US with English speaking colleagues. If they really need native speaking it’s probably best to not apply. Thank you.

          1. Jackalope*

            Yes, this. Different levels of fluency are needed at different jobs, and the employer knows what they need. At the worst, they will choose not to hire you if you don’t match what they’re looking for. And as a data point, my current job is mostly in my primary language but when I started I didn’t know what half the terms meant since I wasn’t familiar with the field. I’ve learned them in my native language by working here just as I’ve learned them in my other languages.

          2. Sleepy*

            Yes, apply. I frequently hire speakers of other languages in my job and I honestly only need them to be good enough to complete the tasks; other qualities are equally important, including interest in the work itself and ability to take feedback. I’ve had all sorts of people apply, ranging from those whose language is native level but have literally none of the other qualifications, to those whose language skills really are terrible and just couldn’t do the job. I specify the minimum ACTFL level I’m looking for, but people often aren’t that aware of their own level. Also, I frequently hire for languages I don’t speak and leave the language assessment to someone else, so definitely write the cover letter in English. If it’s for a language I speak, I usually do part of the interview itself in that language.

        1. EPLawyer*

          Apply. You don’t know that is what they are looking for. A speculation here does not mean a fact for the company you are applying to.

          Women undervalue themselves and they ALSO don’t apply for jobs because they think they don’t qualify. 80/20 rule. Do you meet 80% of the criteria? Give it a shot.

        2. Empress Matilda*

          Wait, definitely don’t let that stop you from applying! As Zephy said, they will assess your language skills against their needs – you might be exactly what they’re looking for, but you won’t know unless you apply.

        3. Hmmm*

          Just apply. You don’t really know what level of fluency is needed for the job until you interview and find out.

          Speaking as someone who lived in a multi-lingual city, it was common to see job descriptions that required fluency in 3 languages because it was standard boilerplate HR requirement. Even though I was only completely fluent in 1/3 languages, I would still get interviews. It was often at the interviews where I realized which language was the priority, and what sort of fluency they were looking for (speaking/listening vs. reading/writing).

          Long story short, don’t count yourself out. You don’t have all the info necessary just from looking at the job description to decide whether you should be eliminated from consideration. Let the employer be the one to decide.

        4. Des*

          Apply! Do not apply in another language.

          Worst case you learn more about this company and the job market.

      3. Cambridge Comma*

        In my experience fluency has meant working fluency even in unprepared situations, so someone able to say negotiate a contract or give a presentation and answer wide-ranging spontaneous questions. There’s a big difference between that and a native-like level or bilingualism. I reached working fluency in my L2 after about 7 years of leaning it but it took another 10 years of living in the country where the language is spoken to reach the stage that people couldn’t tell I wasn’t a native speaker and wouldn’t believe that I hadn’t grown up in the country. (The difference is mostly idioms, cultural knowledge and accent and most work tasks can be done well without these.)

      4. Anna*

        From what I’ve seen, most people use ‘fluent’ to mean ‘wow, this person speaks a language I don’t understand a word of!’ If I saw it in a job posting, I would apply if I had at least the level that I could make conversation in the language and then ask the company about what exactly they expect from me. Because it really can mean anything from ‘can tell customers the price in Spanish and ask if they want a bag’ to ‘can negotiate contracts with Chinese supplier and sing karaoke with their director afterwards’.

      5. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        It depends on job level too. A receptionist won’t need the same fluency as the COO. As an English teacher, I could teach a receptionist everything they needed to know, from scratch, in 20 hours. A COO would typically already know some English, and probably knew the technical terms better than me, but they would need to be able to deal with far more situations, and far more complexity, so they’d need far more lessons.
        OP could always include a sample of their writing, but it would still probably be much better to simply mention it on their CV and expect to be tested at some point. The test would reflect the type of dialogue or writing that they would be expected to produce for their work.

        1. Threeve*

          Wait, what? Are you saying you could teach a receptionist who didn’t know English all the English they would need to do their job in English in a day?

          1. Rebecca1*

            I think that means something more like 4 hours a day of class time for five days, and the receptionist would probably be studying or doing homework on their own as well.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              It was more like a couple of hours a week over ten weeks, so they had time to practise and get their set phrases off pat in between lessons. A 5-day course would probably be too intensive.

              My first receptionist student had never learned English and was very nervous. I taught her just two sentences the first lesson: Hold on please for English-speakers on the phone and Sit down please if they came in.
              Her next lesson, she was quivering with excitement as she told me that a couple of Brits had come in the very next day. She got out her exercise book and laboriously proclaimed “Seet dooon plizz”, then grabbed my arm and stage-whispered in French “and, you know what, it was amazing, they SAT DOWN!!!” It was like magic to her! Sadly she never learned anything else, because those two sentences were all she needed to give her time to find a colleague who spoke French. But I got her colleagues up to a level of competence that everyone was satisfied with.

          2. Self Employed*

            I’m also guessing it means “all the English you need to know for English-speaking callers/visitors at your native language office” not “all the English you need to do your job in an English-speaking office.”

            Basically, scripts for directing phone calls and checking people in for appointments.

    3. EventPlannerGal*

      I agree. I think that you want to introduce your ability at the best level you’ve got – even if you can actually speak and understand the language pretty well, if your cover letter is written at elementary-school level it’s going to be hard to shake the first impression that your skills aren’t that great. Why start the interaction on your weakest footing, writing?

    4. Littorally*


      “Passably” isn’t really something you want to advertise to people who are fluent. “Elementary school level” even less so. And in particular, business language can be very different from standard language competency. So even if you’re fluent in daily conversation, your cover letter is not going to showcase your suitability to use that language professionally.

      1. lailaaaaah*

        Yep. I used to teach CV/resume writing to advanced English Second Language learners, and there was a huge learning curve involved. Definitely don’t go for it unless you’re familiar with business-specific conventions.

    5. Quill*

      LW 5, when a company asks for language fluency there’s often a pretty vast gap in what they want versus whatever you were taught in school.

      My current job required spanish semi-fluency (mostly in being able to read it, speak it, understand it) and the way they tested it was making me have a half hour phone call completely in spanish with a native speaker. Which is great, because my spanish grammar is atrocious! But a cover letter wouldn’t have been suitable at the time, even though I minored in the language, because it doesn’t demonstrate real time communication and comprehension the same way a conversation or a written test would, which is likely what they’re looking for in a bilingual candidate.

    6. lailaaaaah*

      I have literally never interviewed for a language job where the hiring manager could speak that language. Writing a cover letter in it will at best be likely unreadable to them, at worst- if it is a fluent speaker who reads it and your skills are in fact elementary level- could be a serious mark against you. Stick to the language the ad was written in, and you’ll be tested at interview.

  4. Nia*

    If Bruce is such a strong proponent of keeping minimum wage at its current level then I’m sure he wouldn’t mind having his salary adjusted to it. After all if there’s nothing wrong with the current minimum he should be happy with it.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I think Bruce would get along well with my toddler. They both agree: a) that “they started it” is an acceptable justification for most any behaviour and b) that $15 is a mind-boggling amount of money.

      Think of all the M&Ms his employees could buy with that kind of cash!

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      There’s a nasty part of me that thinks he rather enjoys having people working for miserable rates under him, I’m trying to quash it but your remark kind of prompted me to come clean!

  5. ThePear8*

    Re 5: I also speak Spanish and two Asian languages at varying degrees of proficiency! I have a skills section on my resume with a sub-section for languages and just list them there in order of proficiency with a little note in parentheses about my level. So it would look something like:
    English (Native/fluent), Spanish (highly proficient), Chinese (basic)
    Employers take notice and if they want to know more about your ability, they’ll probably bring it up in an interview. Good luck!

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Agreed – and if you’re working towards a recognised qualification or standard, say so.

      English (native speaker)
      Spanish (proficient)
      Korean (CEFR A2, working towards B1)

  6. voyager1*

    LW1: I don’t care if the first guy is a communist, an employee can’t imply another employee is “F’ing Stupid” and expect that relationship to work very well.

    Has anyone apologized to other about this? I am guessing that the CEO just figures this will blow over.

    Words are important and when people get casual with them, relationships degrade especially at work.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yes. And while I agree that politics isn’t ideal work talk — I find it hard to believe that the CEO would be defending Bruce if his outburst was in response to Tom sharing his devotion to the holy Trinity or been a bit too candid about digestive issues, even though most of us also agree that religion and bodily functions aren’t appropriate work topics either.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Generally I’m tolerant of ‘strong language’ and have been known to drop an occasional fbomb at work–but it does NOT get directed at another human. “This f’ing printer” would not even register with me. But I’d be uncomfortable with “are you stupid” even without an f-bomb.
      Bruce needs to learn the line between “that f’ing stupid resolution” and directing the phrase at a co-worker.
      I’m looking forward to reading suggestions from commenters for how to bring it up.

      1. Marny*

        I think it’s worse that he called him stupid than that there was an f-bomb attached. That’s the part that was insulting.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          To me, personally, that’s where I draw the line too. Absolutely foul curse words? Go for it, this is IT I’ve said worse to a recalcitrant IIS box. Ableist or sexist or racist insults? No.

          Swear at the idea, not the person.

          1. londonedit*

            Yep. I have a football refereeing qualification, and in the Laws of the Game one of the straight red card offences is ‘foul and abusive language’. Now, it’s clear to anyone who’s watched a football match without crowd noise recently that in real life, it’s not actually punished all that often. And at Sunday League level, if you were going to send off every player who swore, you’d quickly have to abandon the match. So that’s what I used to say to the teams before kick-off – I’d prefer it if you kept swearing to a minimum, but being realistic, if you want to swear because you’ve mistimed a kick, or because your team-mate’s just done something stupid, fine. But the minute you swear at an opponent, or at me, then you’re off.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              That’s pretty interesting actually, I had no idea about the rules of football. Aside from when the odd occassional news article about someone being sent off for racist remarks comes out.

            2. Jennifer*

              In high school games in my state (sigh, pre-COVID), the standard is if you swear AT ALL the referees can red card you and you’re off. Obviously, this depends a little on the reffing team, but I’ve seen kids get called for something, walk over to the far side of the field (away from everyone) and say “that’s fucking stupid” and get carded by a sharp-eared referee.

              And, obviously, anything more obviously directed at an opponent or referee is immediate expulsion.

          2. JustaTech*

            It’s interesting, and I think a good thing, that saying “well it’s a stupid study” caused far more upset in my group than the billion times someone swore at an instrument.

            Saying “you’re stupid” or “your plan/study/report is stupid” is pretty damaging to your working relationship because, beyond being insulting, you’ve just said you don’t trust the other person to do their job.

          3. Elena Vazquez*

            The F word just isn’t that foul anymore. I hear it everywhere and it’s so overused that it’s lost it’s shock value. Like the word ‘Damn’ used to be.

          4. DesertRose*

            That kind of reminds me of when my kid (now a young adult) was about twelve and I told her I knew she was swearing with her friends when there were no adults around to hear (because I sure did when I was that age!), so I was officially no longer willing to die on the hill of “no cuss words.”

            The line I drew was, I don’t care if you stub your toe and say, “Ow, sh*t!” but do not swear AT me, my parents, your teachers, etc.

            1. Self Employed*

              My landlord is willing to issue lease violations over tenants saying “G*dd****it, my package is missing!” but not for the tenant who stole the package.

        2. Elenna*

          This. If Fergus gets some work done super fast and Jane tells him “you’re f-ing awesome, thanks!” I wouldn’t think it was necessarily a problem, at least not in all workplaces.

          You don’t insult coworkers to their faces. Period.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Yeah, Bruce’s behavior was really extreme, enough to make me suspect there are other issues with this workplace. I’ve had some heated rants directed at me, because of non-standard power dynamics (young, female engineer with the responsibility and authority to make manufacturing decisions that affect mostly older men). I once had a guy freak out and get so mad that he yelled I was too young to know how things really work, plus a bunch of other angry things. But even that ranting and raving guy didn’t call me stupid outright, or swear at me. If I encountered a Bruce and that didn’t get shut down by management, I would probably start looking for a job at a different company.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      He didn’t even *imply* it. Implying would be “anyone who voted for that is f-ing stupid.” He out and out said it, explicitly.

    5. RagingADHD*

      Why should Tom apologize to Bruce? He made a statement about his own vote. That is not offensive, insulting, or any kind of personal wrong.

      I could see where it might be appropiate to apologize to the meeting organizer for derailing the agenda, but he didn’t do anything to Bruce.

      Bruce directly insulted Tom, and should apologize for that, as well as to the organizer.

      1. Seige*

        I don’t think voyager was implying Tom should apologize, just trying to gauge the situation. I agree tom has nothing to apologize form, at least to Bruce.

    6. LGC*

      Yeah, like…look, I’ll admit, I’m firmly in Tom’s camp, but even if I weren’t, Tom’s “offense” (admitting how he voted on a ballot question IN THE OFFICE ONOES) pales in comparison to Bruce’s (profanely insulting a coworker because…he disagrees with their view and (at best) thinks it might be detrimental to the company).

      The fact that the CEO is like, “Well, Bruce was out of line, BUT what Tom did was worse,” is…worrisome. Like, my expectations for a lot of CEOs and frankly, a lot of people in general are so low they’re hovering around the core of the Earth – at this point I’m just surprised that Bruce didn’t say that indentured servitude should be okay and that the minimum wage should be abolished entirely, and that the CEO didn’t politely nod in agreement – but like…CEO, my dude. Imagine if Tom had said a political opinion you’d agreed with and Bruce had replied the same way, would you feel like it’s just politics?

  7. a sound engineer*

    #5 – I speak a few different languages at various proficiencies as well. I promise you that you are not underestimating whether you are fluent or not, but if it helps, I use whether I would be comfortable interviewing in that language as the bar (because that’s one of the things that can follow). I use CEFR levels on my resume or state fluent, high intermediate, etc depending on where the jobs I’m applying to are and what level system they’re used to.

    1. Roeslein*

      Yes, if the language is required for the job they’ll hopefully have someone who speaks that language switch to it during the interview, maybe even the phone screen. If you speak at high school level you’ll definitely do fine! I use CEFR levels as well (the level required for studying is university is usually somewhere around B2/C1, although it varies by country) as they are standard here but I’m not sure how familiar people are with them outside of Europe.

    2. UKDancer*

      I use CEFR as well because I like the fact you can distinguish between listening, reading and writing in a way which is helpful. For example I’d rate my ability to speak and read German higher than my ability to write in it and CEFR lets you differentiate this effectively.

      I don’t know whether this is widely used or understood in the US but if I were applying for a job in a European country I’d use this to assess myself.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I don’t use CEFR on my CV currently because my language qualifications are old, and in particular my speaking skills are rusty.

        So for example I lived in Germany for a while, and nowadays I can (and routinely do) read and process technical documents in German. But I would list my proficiency as “intermediate” because honestly I’d struggle to have a conversation in German about a film I watched, let alone ace a job interview.

        It is frustrating as a linguist to see the variety of interpretations of native /fluent /proficient /intermediate /basic /beginner so the CEFR framework is very useful.

  8. Willis*

    LW#3 – Maybe this is just me being overly sensitive, but I’d also be annoyed that the email didn’t even ask if I’d be willing to meet! It just sort of presumes so, as if this was a required task rather than a favor being asked. It hits me the wrong way. Anyway, I’d change “meet” in Alison’s script to something like “connect” or “talk” so she doesn’t come back asking for a phone conversation instead.

    1. Artemesia*

      yes this jumped out at me too. I firmly believe that she is more likely to not have any professional blowback if she basically brushes off the presumptuous demand as if of course with her new job is too demanding (particularly since 3 mos have passed) she doesn’t have time to do this, especially since she can direct to resources she left behind. I would not even invite email questions and would absolutely not agree to talk.

      No one in an industry is going to think ill of you for not continuing to work for the company you left. But getting involved and then having to extricate yourself may make you more likely to be criticized by your successor. ‘She didn’t have time to help me after she left’ is not something anyone is going to think less of you for.

      The phrasing felt like the person who applies for a job and calls to set up an interview as if it were the applicant’s position to do so. Very presumptuous. Very inappropriate.

    2. allathian*

      Well, a phone conversation would be much better than meeting in person. For me this would apply at any time, but particularly now during the pandemic. But yeah, it struck me that the new employee seemed to take it for granted that the LW would be available. It’s very presumptuous to thank someone in advance for something they haven’t agreed to do.

    3. MK*

      I don’t think this is anything other than possibly awkward phrasing. She says “I was hoping to meet” and the overall tone isn’t demanding.

      1. Anono-me*

        For me, I think it is the ‘Thank you in advance’. line that make the email read as a demand rather than as a request. Although the preceding line asking ‘what time OP can meet’, rather than ‘if OP has time’ doesn’t help.

        1. Workerbee*

          That might be just an unfortunate affectation brought on by how requests or posts are written in social media. Lots of “Thanks in advance!” Or “I just wrote this awesome fact, you’re welcome” out there that bugs the crap out of me, but at the same time I recognize that people don’t always think it through.

        2. an infinite number of monkeys*

          For me it’s the “let me know what works for your schedule.” I get a lot of sales pitches with that exact type of phrasing – not “would you be interested in meeting with me,” but “let me know a time that works for you.”

          Of course, with the sales pitches, it’s easy to say “How about NEVER, does NEVER work?” out loud to my computer screen and then just delete the email. But that phrasing always ticks me off!

    4. Snuck*

      Agree Willis. This is very much how this came across to me too.

      It’s a “gumption” or a “better to ask forgiveness than seek permission” style of approach, it’s assuming the OP will fold, and meet with them. The “I was hoping” is a polite softener… but to end with “ Please let me know what works for your schedule and I will be sure to make myself available. Thank you in advance. Talk soon.” Is to push too far and bring it up sharp. It could be awkward wording, it could be a Pushy Person. It could be a pushy person BEHIND the new person in the role. If they were wanting to keep it soft they’d have said “I’ll make myself available at any time you might be able to chat, and would love to hear from you soon if it’s possible. I understand your new role will be very demanding of you, so would really appreciate your doing me this favour if it is at all possible”. There’s no acknowledgement that the OP doesn’t have to do this, and the moving to short, increasingly demanding sentences shows a pushy nature. (And ack! I can’t even easily script up a polite way to demand a person come back and show me a job they left months and months ago!!!)

      Alison’s response is on point for which ever scenario. A polite “very busy, so sorry, good luck, cheerio” response is all it needs.

      1. Terrysg*

        This request reads as if they are both in the same company, or even in the same department, and it’s part of the OP’s job to train them.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          To me it reads like the former boss has told the new employee to reach out …or the new employee is already seeing the problems that led OP to leave. I wouldn’t be comfortable with thst 2nd conversation even if meeting by chance–too much opportunity for words to get back to former boss and ruin a reference.

          1. H aka LW#3*

            Based on some lurking I think the new person has only been there for less than 2 weeks and I HIGHLY suspect someone I used to work with mentioned that she should reach out to me which pisses me off because if it was an idea from someone else then why didn’t they make intros? The whole thing jsut made me feel irritated but hearing from most of the folks on here… I feel VERY validated in my feelings!

            1. serenity*

              The email also makes it sound (to me, at least) like the new person wants to hear office gossip and your own opinion on how to navigate the job. That’s not “training”. You’re not obligated to share any of it, especially your own personal observations about that workplace – even if it were your replacement for a job you loved.

            2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              LW3, I somehow didn’t see your letter until just now and I swear it drove my blood pressure up – I’m sitting here feeling irritated on your behalf. I have many times in my career had the bad luck of starting at a new place after a key person had left. Or I was the person that left and a replacement was then hired. The expectation was always to assume the person is no longer reachable, pick up the pieces and move on. I have never heard of anyone contacting the person who no longer works at the company. That’s such wild boundary-crashing to me, and I also suspect that someone told her to do it.

              Also, it is almost February. If I left a job in September, started a new one, had to ramp up on learning the new one… I’d have hardly any memory of what my old job entailed by February. Certainly would not remember enough to train a replacement!

            3. Snuck*

              I don’t read it as the new person wanting dirt on people in the office, or the ‘low down’ – it could be (was this a really toxic workplace?), but it could also be a mix of immaturity and pressure? It’s possible that the person they’ve hired to replace you isn’t actually skilled in the work to be done (four months is a BIG gap! Did they get desperate and put any hot bod in the seat?), that the tips and supporting documentation you left behind is out of date or has not been given to the new staff member, or that the new staff member is professionally so immature that they don’t realise they can’t actually ask all of this and finally, possibly the new staff member is ‘winging it’ on their skillset too?

              If we look at this from the other perspective “Help! My new staff reached out to my old staff and asked them how to do the job four months after they left?!!”… then it would be “train your new staff properly and support them as this is a sign they are feeling like they haven’t had that. Find their documentation for them and check it’s correct, and watch them closely for whether they have the professional skill set to stay in the role”.

              If it’s possible that this is a professionally immature reach out then you might want to go a little easier on them in the first reply “Hi Jane, I’m sorry, I’ve very busy in my new role, and it’s very unexpected to hear from you. As you know I left Widgets R Us four months ago, so you are best to take your queries to Supervisor Jen. Good luck with your new role.” … if they reach out again then I’d forward the email request to Supervisor Jen AND Supervisor Jen’s manager “Hi Jen and Manager, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure why New Employee is contacting me again. I’ve already indicated that I really cannot train her in her new role as I moved on quite some months ago. I thought you’d like to know this was happening. Regards, me”

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          Right. It’s very much “politely requesting what we both know you’re supposed to do for me.”

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        With your soft wording, I’d be all “of course, would next Tuesday work for you?”, but the wording OP cited, I’d be “sorry mate I’m outta there” but then I’d try to do something like Alison suggested if I didn’t just ghost them.

        1. Snuck*

          Yep. They haven’t grovelled enough LOL. There’s no serious attempt to recognise that they are asking for something out of the ordinary, and that the OP is going to be put out by this. I don’t think people should beg for stuff all the time, but this one requires a little humility and gentle diplomacy.

          I wonder if the new person has a background in a highly competitive sales environment? Cars? Real estate?

    5. Jennifer Strange*

      It reminds me of a former work friend. She and I both jumped ship from a less-than-stellar situation around the same time, and she (kindly) agreed to meet with the person who was stepping into her former supervisor’s role (the role my friend had been doing in addition to her own for seven months by the time she left) just to fill him in on some basics about the organization. About 6-7 months later, when my friend’s previous position had been filled, this guy emailed my friend and basically said “Hey, I’m going to be out of town for a week or so, so I wanted to put [your replacement] in touch with you in case he has any questions while I’m out.” She sent me and another work friend a screenshot of it and we all laughed (and gasped) at his audacity.

      1. Snuck*

        Ahahahah. After she finished laughing did she shoot back a “my schedule is very busy, but I could manage an on call consulting availability, shall we say $40/hr with a minimum three hour per call?”

    6. H aka LW#3*

      Thank you! I was very annoyed when I got this email and told my husband who said the same thing and then I thought I might be overreacting or wrong which is why I wrote in. I feel so much better now!

      1. Malarkey01*

        You are under zero obligation to spend any more time on this job, especially if you don’t want to. That being said, it can be invaluable- especially in less functional workplaces- to have an hour chat with the previous job holder where you ask those sort of non-documented training things like “Bob procrastinates, I would stop by his office before 3 to get that form you need every Wednesday” or “don’t schedule team meetings for 1 or no one will stay alert” or whatever. The phrasing made it sound less like how do you fill out the quarterly report and how did you make this work??

        Not your responsibility at all, but if your super annoyed and it makes you feel less annoyed I wouldn’t assume bad intent, just someone trying to figure out wtf is up with your formerly crappy workplace.

      2. boop the first*

        The part that I struggled with was just how much the email was asking for:
        Pick your brain, learn the functions, get your lessons learned, AND advice on top of all that? It makes it sound like she wants OP to write an autobiographical novel. That’s a lot! That’s a $200 masterclass at the very least.

        1. Willis*

          Yes – it’s a lot! And a lot of things that someone training the replacement should be answering. Day-to-day job functions? It’s not like a couple specific questions that only someone doing the job would know. Kind of sounds like this is just OP’s former co-workers being lazy…

    7. meyer lemon*

      I noticed this as well. I wouldn’t necessarily place the blame on the new employee, because it’s possible that someone at the company told them to go to the OP with any questions, and the new employee may not realize the full context. I would be annoyed at whoever it is who wants to pass the buck on training and won’t even make the request themselves.

    8. RagingADHD*

      I think you’re overlooking the sentence, “I was hoping to schedule a time with you.”

      That is very clearly a request, not a demand. You don’t hope for things that you expect, or believe the other person owes you.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        The main point to me is that OP gets nothing out of this. If new emp. just wants to vent or ask questions about toxic issues, that may help HER feel better. She may just want some support.

        But it’s one-sided, and could backfire on OP if she confides any negative info. and then new emp. quotes her later. New emp.’s loyalty and paycheck are tied to her job, and OP does not want to get caught in the crossfire should new emp. quote her. Or misquote her.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        On one hand, I’m willing to bet money it’s the polite version of saying “hey, you owe me a meeting”. “I was hoping to” is just some office-space verbiage that comes attached to a demand to make it sound more polished.

        On the other hand, this wording gives OP a perfect opening to be like, Oh well, you hoped for the unrealistic thing to happen, sadly it cannot happen, you can stop hoping now. (Don’t use this exact script, OP.)

    9. Sparkles McFadden*

      I agree. Though basically polite, the wording is geared towards pushing someone into a favor by using language suggesting that this is something LW is required to do. A polite email reply of “I am just soooo busy” should suffice.

      I’m the kind of dope who would flesh that out more just to be a little helpful in case anyone in the industry were to see my reply, because you just never know. (“You can find all of my procedures in these written documents….”) That also means I get to block the person’s email address because I’ve done all I am willing to do.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        That also means I get to block the person’s email address because I’ve done all I am willing to do.

        Yes, yes that’s a very important part of handling this request :)

  9. BadApple*

    Is the CEFR (Common European Framework for Reference for Languages, A1, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2) ever used or understood in the states? It was a big deal when I lived in Europe because it was well-regulated/tested for European languages.

    1. Annon*

      I really like the CEFR because of how clearly it describes what exactly it means to have a B2 as opposed to C1 etceteta, across five areas. (Reading, listening, writing, spoken interaction, spoken production.) I don’t think any of the US language proficiency scales are as clear.

    2. Cormorannt*

      I wouldn’t say it’s commonly used or understood, but that’s because it’s less common in general to get official certifications in other languages. When I took French classes at the Alliance Francaise, they used the CEFR framework for course levels and also offered certification tests.

      1. Cormorannt*

        To add: I’m in the US. I hold a certification in French and when I put it on my resume, I use the CEFR level like this: French, professional proficiency – Certified Level C1 (advanced), Test de Conaissance du Francais (TCF)
        I feel like that gives American employers a sufficient amount of information. French isn’t in super high demand in my field anyway, so I’ve never had an employer as for more details about my language abilities.

  10. L6orac6*

    No you’re not being too sensitive. The person didn’t ask, just told they were going to meet up and thanked them in advance! Kind of rude! If the other person had said it would be nice to meet up and if you’re available, I would appreciate it. But the person just assumed it was going to happen.

  11. Language Lover*

    LW #1, I’d maybe go back to your CEO and push back on her conclusion that it was Tom’s fault for “talking politics.”

    It was a ballot measure but overall, these types of measures usually end up being supported by about 60% of voters in both “red” and “blue” states. In other words, sometimes in the runup to an election, it might seem like there’s a divide along party lines but in reality, there’s more bipartisan support amongst the people than many other issues. It wouldn’t really occur to me to think of this is a hot button political issue I should stay away from at work any more than I would about a vote to make a plot of land a state park.

    But even if it were, there are ways Bruce could have handled it that didn’t involve cursing at a coworker.

    “I disagree about the measure passing because of X, Y and Z”
    “Could we not discuss politics at work? Thank you.”
    “I’m worried about the impact the measure will have on my department. I’m going to need to talk to the supervisors so we can see what incentives we can offer our employees to stick around.”

    Cursing at a coworker and calling him stupid isn’t appropriate. It’s a weirdly personal reaction. It’s the way to lose any moral high ground

    1. TBagpuss*

      I agree. I think the CEO is way off – she’s effectively saying that it’s acceptable t swear and use abusive language to and about a co-worker. Short of really drastic situations (responding to an assault in progress, for instance) it’s totally inappropriate and unacceptable *whatever* the other person has said.

      Maybe approach the CEO along those lines – that while Tom could have handled it better by not raising a political issue, there was no justification at all for Bruce to respond with verbal abuse, and it is appropriate to address that with him and to make clear that he needs to find appropriate ways to respond if he disagrees with someone else’s comments.

      1. Joan Rivers*

        I’d never talk about how I VOTED but would discuss a POLICY that was relevant to my work.

        And I’d never use profanity toward someone over policy.

    2. boo bot*

      Yeah, it’s not really a partisan issue when it comes down to who votes for it.

      I also feel like saying “you can’t discuss politics at work and by the way laws about your wages are politics” skirts the line of telling people they can’t talk about their working conditions, which is illegal. Maybe it’s off-topic for this particular meeting, but it’s a really bad idea to start giving workers the idea that you’re banning discussions of labor laws.

      1. Malarkey01*

        This and I feel we’ve become so hyper-partisan here that everything is becoming “politics”. On an extended family zoom I suggested we adopt a family for the holidays, especially since COVID had hurt the economy. Someone said they’d prefer to stay away from politics… a charitable donation to those struggling was political.

  12. Katz*

    #3: That email from the new hire should be considered to have gone to the spam folder. No response needed.
    If you do feel the need for some response, did your previous job have any sort of confidentiality agreement in place? If so, the new hire may be violating that as you are likely no longer subject to one.
    Sheesh on the cheekiness of the new hire.

    1. Sara*

      I’m wondering how the new hire got the LWs new email address! Maybe I missed something on the first read. Seems weird that new hire thinks it’s okay to contact the LW at her new job.

  13. A Genuine Scientician*

    For number 5, I admit that I am a little confused. You have studied this language for 9 years, you currently write at an elementary school level in this language, but you plan to take a test this year to demonstrate that you know the language well enough to attend a university in that language? That seems….quite optimistic about a very rapid improvement in writing ability, relative to your previous trajectory.

    For that reason, I would urge you to get a third party evaluation of your abilities in the language in question, rather than a self-assessment, before trying to put it on your CV or in your cover letter. It’s legitimately difficult to assess our own abilities in a particular language, and the fairly ambitious optimism in your statements gives me a bit of a pause here. Or perhaps you are underestimating your current abilities. Either way, a trained, neutral 3rd party could be of quite a bit of use in figuring out what your abilities with the language are, in a way that might be significantly more valuable to potential hiring managers than a self-assessment.

    1. Roeslein*

      OP doesn’t say which country that is and the level required to attend university varies a lot. Many years ago I passed the exam required to attend a Russian university and it was a high B1 (officially, more like a B2 level in reality), whereas in Germany it is C1, so this doesn’t seem odd to me! To the OP, it’s a little odd to use elementary school as an analogy for this – you can’t really compare an child’s writing abilities (they are fluent in the language, but might not spell correctly or know how to structure texts, etc.) with an adult language learner’ experience. I think CEFR levels would be more useful to describe your level.

      1. Washi*

        Yeah, it doesn’t really mean anything to compare yourself to an elementary schooler. I don’t remember the word for toad in my second language, which is something a child would probably know, but I can explain my political views in a coherent way, which an average 5 year old cannot do. I can understand a high level lecture on political science, but sometimes I get confused by fairy tale nonsense words (like higgledy piggledy.) Better to use CEFR or something similar if you want to convey your proficiency!

    2. TechWorker*

      Any hiring manager that blindly trusts a self-assessment rather than looking for evidence or asking questions in interview to draw their conclusions only has themselves to blame.. I don’t really understand why a ‘third party evaluation’ would be better than a standardised exam but maybe that’s what you meant!

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      LW does plan to be tested, but wants to apply for an open position now before that test is scheduled.
      Is it easy to find a test in Europe if its not scheduled through a current school? Do they happen more than once a semester?
      I’m in the US– I first learned about CEFR here a couple of years ago and couldn’t find anywhere to take it.

      1. Filicophyta*

        CEFR isn’t a test you can take. It’s a description of abilities and applies to any language. Many courses, textbooks and tests in various languages align themselves to CEFR levels but there is no test called that.

      2. Engineer Mom*

        OP. Two years ago I easily passed HSK 3 test which is embarrassingly easy and not really something to brag about. It only requires reading and writing 600 Chinese characters and some basic grammatical structures. I would take HSK 4 this year which is 1,200 characters and a much broader rage of grammar, being able to read a newspaper and attend university. But it would still not be considered fluent. Currently testing near me is on hold due to covid. I only attend class two hours a week (have for the last 5 years) but I exclusively watch TV in Mandarin Chinese. That said at regular speed I miss a lot of content with Mandarin subtitles on and will have to check the English subtitles to understand.

      3. anonymous 5*

        If you’re studying language through a specific language institute (e.g. Goethe/Alliance Francaise/I think it’s Cervantes for Spanish?) they will offer certification exam opportunities. I assume if you’re learning a language through a university department, they will at least know how to go about taking the appropriate certification exam.
        My local Goethe-Institut offers exams quarterly; at least some of the branches in Germany offer them monthly. So it might be easier to schedule an exam once you’re already in Europe, but that might not help the OP. I have met people who were already employed at German companies but taking courses/exams because it would help them advance further, but obviously they had already somehow showed at least the proficiency necessary to be hired.

        1. BusyBee*

          Exactly! I did the exam through the Goethe Institute while I was in Germany. Very smooth and professional process. I believe you can also take the exam in NY in the states, but as you mention, locations and scheduling are more limited.

    4. Roci*

      I was a bit confused as well, but usually with Asian character-based languages (namely, Chinese and Japanese), learning to read and write is a slog through thousands of characters, so it’s perfectly understandable to have a higher speaking/listening level than reading/writing level, especially handwriting level.

  14. Annon*

    OP2, how interesting! Barry Schwartz’ “The Paradox of Choice” – excellent read, very informative but not too hard to get through – actually makes a case for satisficers being more effective/efficient than maximizes, as well as being happier over all.

    I recommend the book; Schwartz has also done a TED talk if that interests anyone, though I’m not sure if that goes specifically into maximizers and satisficers.

    (Note that a satisficer – who strives for ‘good enough’, rather than ‘the best’ – can still have high standards. If something is important, it can be that only flawless is good enough. But if something isn’t as important, you shouldn’t waste too much time on perfecting it.)

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Also ‘maximizer’ or ‘perfectionist’ defines somebody who feels compelled to try and achieve perfection — not necessarily someone who’s uniquely capable of doing that.

      Just because someone has perfectionist tendencies it doesn’t follow that they’re suddenly the best at judging what steps are necessary to achieve the best version of a project.

    2. Cat Tree*

      Overworking is actually a type of waste in manufacturing. If you add bells and whistles to this gadget, is the customer more likely to but it, willing to pay more for it, or just generally more satisfied with the product? If not, it’s a waste of time and resources to add those bells and whistles.

      And “customer” doesn’t have to be quite so literal. If you’re writing a report for another department, will they care if you “maximize” the formatting, or do they just need the data to get their job done? If you’re creating a shared spreadsheet for your department, does this “maximizing” make it easier to use for you or others? If not, why spend the time on it?

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I was just having a conversation with someone about this! There’s apparently something called the IKEA effect, where people tend to over-value products that they themselves have worked on.

        An example given was a woman who had designed and carefully customized her house, which then caused her to over-estimate how much people were willing to pay for it when she later put it on the market. That woman was so aware of every night she spent comparing paint swatches and debating tiles.

        It’s easy to see how she could feel that personalized effort increased the value….but it doesn’t, especially if those tiles and colors don’t appeal to most buyers. There’s nothing about effort that inherently adds value.

        1. anonymous 5*

          totally derailing here, but the term “IKEA effect” is one that I hadn’t heard and am now enjoying a great laugh over. I have definitely known people who, well, fell completely in on that effect, especially on their fully-customized (and very, well, particular taste) homes. They were genuinely shocked and disappointed that their fancy paint jobs etc actually hadn’t raised the value of their home by ~25% in the couple of years that they lived there.

        2. Cat Tree*

          That makes sense. I read that when boxed cake mixes were first invited, you only had to add water and bake. But they didn’t sell well. So the recipe was changed to require addition of fresh eggs, and sales took off. The act of cracking an egg made the final cake seem better to the cook.

          Personally, I wish some were available the original way. I live alone and I don’t always want to commit to a dozen eggs (although I can always commit to an entire cake). They have started making single serve mixes that only require water and I love those.

          1. meyer lemon*

            Side note, but I think most boxed cake mixes can still be made without eggs. The addition of the egg was more of a marketing scheme than anything. To counteract dryness, you could add some boxed pudding mix to the cake mix.

          2. Gumby*

            One of my nephews gifted me a mug and a huge glass jar of mug cake mix for Christmas. It’s the same “just add water” thing and has been lovely. I think the mix is merely 2 boxed cake mixes – on in the desired flavor and one for angel food cake. I have been enjoying the occasional mug of cake all month and have barely made a dent in the jar. If I were making it myself I might mess with the proportions a touch but it’s quite serviceable and less expensive than the individual pouches.

        3. Annon*

          And the other side of that coin, what Barry Schwartz talks about:
          A satisficer and a maximizer both set out to buy a winter coat.
          The satisficer goes to one store, tries on a few things, goes to another store, finds something they like, buy it, and go home. 1 okay coat – it’s warm enough, it’s not too expensive, it fits well enough. The fit is comfortable but not perfect because they don’t fit neatly into S M L XL boxes, the pocket they’d like to put your phone in is too small for their phone but it does fit their car keys and they can fit your phone in the other pocket, so it’s all good.
          1 okay coat divided by 2 stores of effort equals 1 satisfactory purchase.

          The maximizer goes to 15 stores, finds something they maybe like at every third store, goes back to those stores to compare, and finally ends up with one coat that’s warm enough, not too expensive, fits well enough, the pocket they want to put their phone in fits their phone. It fits them rather well, not perfectly, but certainly better than one of the other 15 stores’ worth of coats.
          1 good coat divided by 15 stores of effort does not equal 1 satisfactory purchase.

          The maximizer, in his better-fitting coat with perfect pocket is less happy with their coat than the satisficer with his lesser-fitting coat with difficult pocket.

          With every extra store the maximizer visited, their expectations have risen – surely fifteen stores must have one perfect coat for them – and with the additional effort, that coat needs to be extremely awesome before their effort has paid off.
          Satisficers are happier with their purchases and their decisions (and their life) than maximizers, because they put in less effort and even with a smaller pay-off they have a better ROI on their time and energy.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Is there a word for the would-be maximizer who ends up never buying a coat because they can’t find the perfect one, and maybe it will show up in stores next year? Asking for a friend. A cold friend.

            1. Reba*

              I’m definitely not a maximizer in general in life, but I think of myself as an agonizer when it comes to stuff like this!

            2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              I am this, but for pants. I am seeking the perfect pair of pants, and when I find it I will buy at least a hundred pairs and stockpile them. Every 3-5 years I find an acceptable pair of pants and buy 10 to tide me over until the True Pants appear. (I don’t think I’m actually picky about that many things pants-wise, but I am extremely picky about one or two things that are difficult to find as well as being a shape that is not always the one pants designers have in mind.)

            3. Annon*

              Might be choice paralysis.

              According to Schwartz, the likelihood of a decision being made decreases with the amount of options available – one statistic he cited was where companies that offer more pension plans have less people take part in any pension plan.

          2. Librarian of SHIELD*

            I wouldn’t consider myself a maximizer, but you’ve just described every time I’ve ever attempted to buy a new handbag.

        4. Ermintrude*

          I watched a show about people buying and renovating houses, and one house-flipper like that was adamant to put in all these different ideas, including tiles depicting pebbles over the bathroom floor; it was a lot. Were we watching the same show?

    3. NotBatman*

      I’m a psychometrician and former HR engagement analyst, and just wanted to weigh in to mention that the Clifton Strengths Finder is… not great in terms of convergent and predictive validity. It can be nice in terms of providing areas for people to work on, and it’s certainly a lot less judgmental in the way its results are phrased than a lot of other personality measures, but it’s also not that accurate and a little artificial in how it cuts up its categories. Whether that’s a conversation you want to broach with your boss or not is probably a matter of your judgment (and how obnoxious she is about her own results), but do not assume that your own results are a sign you should ignore your own emotions, or even that your results are a perfect measure of your personality.

      1. Self Employed*

        I attended an online workshop that I did not understand was supposed to be evaluating work skills–I thought it was about how to provide disability accommodations. They had us do something I believe was the Clifton Strengths Finder beforehand, which I wondered about, but thought they wanted us to understand that everyone has strengths and weaknesses.

        Instead, the presenter went through everyone’s profile in front of the group and told us what kinds of jobs we should have based on her assumptions of the scores. For example, my disability affects my executive functioning so on whatever “planning” kinds of questions I answered “no, I don’t make plans”. So she gushed about how great I am at thinking on my feet and what a rare skill that was and named all these jobs I would ABSOLUTELY HATE. I am not good at thinking on my feet either–and I would end up having stress nightmares at the jobs she was listing because they were all about making high-impact decisions on the fly. Then everyone started complimenting me about all these things I absolutely hate.

        We went in a breakout room and the “my best skill is empathy” person told me I need to accept my skills. I said that I have known I suck at these things since school and my skills are actually in other areas. Her response was that “Back when YOU were in school, women were supposed to get married and not work. That’s why they lied to you, so you wouldn’t want to have a career!”

        I am GenX. Women having careers has been a thing as long as I can remember (albeit with glass ceilings). Yes, I am not coloring my gray hair during the pandemic, but I sure did not grow up in the 1960s!

    4. Archaeopteryx*

      As annoying as this situation would be, actually saying “let me maximize that” is so charmingly dorky as to hopefully take the sting out of her continually questioning your work! I would have a difficult time not snickering.

  15. TiredMama*

    Tough spot for LW3. Everything Allison says is right and proper, but I think the person asking is going to see a response like that as rude. I would add to Allison’s response that you don’t really have answers to those questions. It wasnt the right fit for you, hopefully it is for them.

    1. Myrin*

      I have to think that someone who would view Alison’s suggested language as rude isn’t starting from a reasonable point to begin with – unless you expect everyone you interact with to be a doormat who does exactly what you want them to, I don’t see what could possible be construed as rude here.

      1. Mae Fuller*

        Agreed. The only thing anyone could possibly object to is that the OP isn’t giving them exactly what they want, and that’s not rude, it’s just something that happens.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          that made me snigger! however, people can be very rude without realising that they themselves are rude too! (usually entitlement skews this)

          1. H aka LW#3*

            It was so funny when I got this email I was kind of taken aback and I talked to my husband about it who was like “I am kind of irritated for you”. But I felt guilty for feeling this way because I am in a female-dominated profession where self-sacrafice and making yourself super available is seen as an asset. This entire thread and Alison’s response has made me feel so validated in not scheduling a zoom. I think I am going to go with a short email.

  16. cncx*

    Re OP 5, i have lived and worked in countries where there is an expectation of knowing one or more foreign languages and job ads for the same job can be posted in one to three languages, and the common advice is to put your cover letter and cv in the language the job ad you are replying to is in. Otherwise, you state in your cv your official level according to test scores and mention it in the cover letter according to the job ad.
    I also strongly suggest when covid makes it possible to take the official test- i’m bilingual in French and it’s amazing how HR people stopped telling me they rejected me for jobs because my French wasn’t good enough when my CV had a big C2 on it. It did a lot for my self-esteem.

  17. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. From my own experience, I write the cover letter in the language of the job advert, unless there is a specific instruction not to.

  18. Filicophyta*

    OP #5 The short answer is, write your cover letter in the language the job ad was in.

    As Alison mentioned, the person receiving the cover letter may not be able to read it. I was sorting the first round of applicants for a position in an Asian country. Based on the job description, the job we were hiring for involved writing in English and English was clearly the working language in our department. I received a detailed cover and resume written as you described, in the language of the country where we were based. His level of the language was far above mine. I could read enough to know he was actually a first-language English speaker but not to evaluate his resume. Of course, I could have asked a native speaking colleague (and they would be involved in interviews) but we were so busy and had so many good resumes we didn’t go further with him. Was that unfair? Maybe, but it also felt like he was trying to show off.

    In addition to the tests Alison mentioned, some Asian languages have specific metrics for measuring ability, for example JLPT and HSK for Japanese and Chinese respectively. If your language is one of these, your target company may be more familiar and comfortable with these level descriptors.

    Common European Framework Reference for Languages (CEFR), although called ‘European’ is also well known by people who hire internationally. It is very practical in its descriptors.

    1. Engineer Mom*

      I have passed HSK3 and my plans to take HSK 4 are on hold due to covid. I would expect to pass. However fluency could mean HSK 5 or 6 which I would definitely fail

  19. WS*

    Level of fluency can be useful information! I’ve twice got a job that asked for someone fluent in two languages (my native language and one I speak at high but definitely not fluent level) and then once they really looked at the candidates, realised that they didn’t actually need someone bilingual, they needed fluency in one and ability to read instructions in the other.

  20. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    LW#2 made me picture her boss saying, “Would you like to Supersize that?!” to literally everything. :D That’s some level of obnoxious!

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Yeah, it’s kind of like the people that brag about whatever some personality test says they are. Like “I’m an ESTP (or whatever)!” or “I’m an empath!” etc., like it’s a badge of honor. And then they torture everyone around them with it. LOL!

      1. Joan Rivers*

        Being an empath isn’t bragging, it’s a condition. It’s how you’re wired and you’re wired to pick up on stuff others may not. It’s information. So is “ESTP” etc.

        You can learn something about someone if you care to. You don’t have to assume they’re “bragging” so much as sharing, just as you undoubtedly mention things to people.

        What you don’t know is what that empath may be picking up on from you.

        1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

          There are people who are empaths and who take Myers-Briggs and truly have those traits. At the same time, there are other people who indeed brag about it (whether they truly are or not- I believe a lot of people who brag about being empaths aren’t really empaths) and make sure they get in nearly every conversation or social media post. The people who brag about it are the people I was talking about in my comment above.

          1. Self Employed*

            I know people like that. Such as the woman (who is a job coach) who tried to empathize with GenX me by saying she understands that people as old as I am were taught that women were supposed to get married and not work.

            Telling someone in their 50s that you know they are over 75 is not empathic.

    2. MechanicalPencil*

      That was my exact first thought. I had to go back and re-read because I couldn’t get that out of my head. And then my brain turned it into some sort of weird/terrible superhero, the Supersizer.

      It’s been a long week.

    3. Mallory Janis Ian*

      It would be funny if OP2 let that phrase slip to their boss, and then continually have trouble remembering the right word: Is this report okay to submit, or did you want to Supersize it first? about everything.

  21. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP3 (helping your replacement): why not meet with her and treat it as a networking / contact-generating opportunity? You never know if your paths will cross in the future – maybe there is some mutually beneficial gain to be had from this.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      If someone emailed me and said she had a couple questions, that’s something I’d consider; I like being helpful. But OP says the woman wants to pick her brain, get advice, etc., which tells me OP would be signing on for way more. That’s not something I’d consider unless I’d left on good terms, was feeling like I wanted to help, and thought she might be a good connection have. And I’d need to have the time to accommodate it, of course. OP can do it if she think it would be a good connection or wants to help the woman, but she doesn’t have to. In this case it sounds like she shouldn’t and would be opening the door to being asked for more “pick your brain” sessions or follow-up emails with more questions.

    2. BRR*

      That is an optimistic take on it but it sounds like the new hire is basically asking for training. This type of broad conversation just isn’t really a thing. Sometimes we have to get our own feel for a position and the LW doesn’t really have to worry about blowback over this

    3. Heather*

      I completely agree – I’m a little surprised that so many people seem to think this was rude or pushy. Seems like an easy way to make a potentially useful industry contact to me. I would however make sure to set boundaries on the commitment – indicate right off the bat how much time you’re able and willing to spend. Just a half-hour call could be very useful for the new person.

  22. Hazel*

    RE: #2 I’ve taken the Strengths Finder assessment, as part of a 6 week class (18 class hours in total) in which we talked about what the various descriptions meant and how there are ways in which your strengths help you and ways in which they hurt you. I think the best use of those sorts of assessments is to talk about and analyze the results. It seems that often managers will decide on their own what the results mean about themselves and about their employees, and that’s not fair to the employees.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Yes, I think too many managers form their own interpretations of the results of these tests and sometimes even make stupid decisions about their employees based on some personality test. I don’t have much faith in these tests. For one thing, your results are often based on your frame of mind at the time you take the test, what is going on in your life at that time, and what mood you’re in that day. Some people may get consistent results but others may not. Also, some people are scared into giving answers based on what they think they need to answer to get a result that will help them keep their job. Also, if several members of a team get a similar result but one person gets a different result, that person may be treated as an outlier and on their way to being pushed out even if they otherwise get along and work well with the team. These tests also claim to be “scientific” but be careful about what that actually means. The test may have simply been created for whoever sells it to make money. I hate to see someone getting passed over for a promotion, pigeonholed, or even let go because some personality test told their manager what to think.

    2. Josie*

      Letter writer 2 here. In all fairness to my boss, there has been some significant teach-back around the results of the test. A consultant was hired to go more in-depth on the strengths for everyone at my boss’s level. (That’s filtering down to the rest of us soon.) I’m sort of dreading diving into my own strengths because I’m afraid I’m going to get summed up in one or two words as well. My results were actually fairly accurate for me, but I like to think I’m a little more complex than that.

    3. Frances*

      Agreed! These assessments are useful to understand how people work but shouldn’t be used to judge people. Also the point you make about how your strengths can sometimes hurt you in certain situations should not be overlooked.

    4. Shhhh*

      I had to take the Strengths Finder assessment in grad school (it wasn’t really used for anything except an assignment in the course that accompanied our internships) and it struck me that my strengths as determined by the assessment can also easily become my weaknesses.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Bingo! Two sides of the same coin, same characteristics can be good or bad, useful or not, depending on the context, or “fit”. People are often made to feel badly about being argumentative, or stubborn, but in certain environments and occupations, these traits are beneficial! This is why it is almost impossible to be content doing work that doesn’t speak to your strengths as you know them to be.

    5. Inigo Montoya*

      Our organization uses CliftonStrengths. This boss needs to re-read her materials – she should know that Clifton focuses on the value of each individual’s strengths. It’s not meant to be a club for knocking others down.

    6. Professional Buzzfeed Quiz*

      My ex boss made us take those tests annually and then would use them against us. Even the most positive assessments would be turned around back on us if we were not one of her favorites. For example, having strengths such as being able to think on your feet and mitigate situations as they arise turns into being unable to plan ahead of time, and vice versa.

      She is a Bad Manager for so many reasons.

      These things are weaponized in the wrong hands, and I have found these (very expensive) tests to be a scam.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I had a boss that was really embarrassed by her number one strength (Significance) and didn’t want anyone to know about it. I didn’t think anyone else saw anything wrong with it, and I thought it was a good trait to have, but she said that all her life, people had given her a hard time and said that she was mannish for showing that she wanted to be important and significant for her accomplishments.

      2. Self Employed*

        This is what I thought the letter would be about, not “my boss is gloating about her assessment.”

        My mother, who was also Autistic, kept getting passed over for jobs in the 1950s-60s because she would “fail” the personality tests. So I have a reason to be suspicious of them.

  23. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

    LW3, it sounds as though your recently-appointed replacement has had very little proper training, and is scrabbling to find someone who can provide the support and guidance that she ought to be getting from her employer. But that definitely isn’t your problem.

    If she *really* needs to talk to someone who left in September to “learn more about the everyday functions of this role”, that’s an indictment of the employer. If I found myself in that situation as a new employee it would be a HUGE red flag, and I would definitely be searching for a new job.

    1. WellRed*

      Yes. I think a lot of comments are being a bit hard on the person who reached out ( the nerve! Gumption! Cheekiness!). OP says themself it was a bad fit so I’m wondering if the newbie is struggling to navigate an environment that’s not great overall and maybe not offering training. It does not sound like they want help with process x and procedure y.

      1. Olive Hornby*

        Yes, this was exactly my read: this person is struggling and needs confirmation that the issue is the job and not them. But it’s hard to say that in an email to a stranger!

  24. Ermintrude*

    Maximiser Boss: ‘Let me maximise that for you!’
    Me: ‘Sure, no worries! I’ll go grab a cup of coffee if that’s okay.’
    *comes back and watches Boss maximise whilst sipping cuppa*

    1. Threeve*

      Add “maximize” to every single request!
      “I’m not sure if I should give this vendor another week to give us an estimate or not. Have you worked with them before? How would you maximize that?”
      “Could you email me a high-resolution maximized version of this logo?”
      “Can you maximize approval of this reimbursement form?”
      “My hands are full, would you mind maximizing that door for me? Thanks!”

  25. Juniper*

    Is “Please let me know what works for your schedule” a generally accepted way of requesting a meeting in the U.S.? I haven’t worked there in over 10 years, but come across variations of this (when would be a good time to meet? let’s set something up at your convenience, etc.) in cold emails I get from Americans. I immediately chafe at these since I find it presumptuous for a stranger who is trying to sell me a product or service (I’m peripherally in procurement) to assume I have either the inclination or availability to meet with them. I usually politely decline, but find that I’m more apt to actually respond in the positive if they avoid this wording. But if this is the norm then I may have to readjust my expectations, something I’m happy to do even if the wording will probably always irk me.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      It’s not uncommon — I wouldn’t necessarily consider it rude or pushy (although it can be).

      I’m not fond of it in cold emails, but it’s standard enough that I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from it if the email was otherwise acceptable.

      1. Juniper*

        Thanks for the reply! Yes, in general the emails are perfectly polite, though they sometimes come on a little strong. I live in Scandinavia now, where being overly assertive can work against you and there’s a culture of not being pushy or bold. I’ve really had to work to tampen down my American-ness, so perhaps I’ve been more successful than I’ve realized if this bugs me!

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I know exactly what you mean! I’m half-American/half-Swedish, and whenever I visit my family in Sweden it feels as though I’ve become more aggressive and emotive – just by virtue of comparison. (And like, 100x louder.)

          1. Juniper*

            Half-American/half-Norwegian here, too funny! And yes, sometimes it can be embarrassing when my group of American friends and I go out to eat, we really are that much louder!

        2. UKDancer*

          It’s hilarious, I do an online dance class and we have a couple of Americans join it now and they are much more vocal than the Brits, French and Finnish participants in terms of asking questions and saying how they feel. The rest of us don’t tend to say anything when the teacher asks if we’re alright, just showing a thumbs up. The Americans chime in with what they think of the music and the sequence.

          It’s interesting to see the contrast. I wonder myself if they think we’re all too quiet. I mean both approaches are fine but it’s just interesting to see the difference.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            It is really interesting! There are aspects of my personality that feel….fixed, for lack of a better word. But then when I switch cultures, I realise they are relative.

            I live in the UK now, for example, and I feel like I’m extroverted here. In the US, I felt average at most, actually tending towards introverted.

            I have noticed I’m way more likely to chime up in classes than my UK classmates. Sometimes I try to resist that impulse, but it feels so rude to me. On the other hand, my Swedish family has told me that they experience Americans as insincere, which I completely understand, since Swedish culture is much less gushy than American culture.

            BTW- given your username, if you know any London-based dance classes (for amateurs with no talent), I would be so grateful for any recommendations. I did a salsa one I liked, but they closed, and then a hip-hop one that I was not so keen on. I’m hoping to find another.

            1. UKDancer*

              I think you should chime up as much as you like as long as you don’t think you’re stopping others.

              I can always recommend dance classes because I love them. Obviously everything is virtual at the moment given the lockdown. If you look at the website for Pineapple Dance studio you can see they run a lot of different classes including I think salsa. There’s a really great Bollywood class with a lady called Nileeka a few times per week which is great fun and requires no previous experience. They also do charleston / lindy type classes which I’ve been meaning to try.

              I would also recommend for Bellydance either Fleur Estelle (who has a website that’s easy to find) or Lana Celeste Dance (on facebook and Instagram). Both do beginners classes.

              If you have someone to dance with I can recommend either Tango Movement or Tango Academy for tango (both have websites). I wouldn’t do tango classes online without a partner myself but if you feel like it, go for it.

              Hope some of this is helpful.

              1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

                This is wonderful — thank you so much! Enjoy dancing though lockdown, hopefully it ends sooner rather than later.

            2. alienor*

              I’m very reserved by US standards–one of those people who constantly get asked “Why are you so quiet?” Whenever I visit the UK or talk to British friends, though, I feel like I’m shouting at the top of my lungs. It’s wild!

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            “The rest of us don’t tend to say anything when the teacher asks if we’re alright, just showing a thumbs up. The Americans chime in with what they think of the music and the sequence.”

            I’m an American, and my natural tendency is to give a more quiet, low-key response such as just showing a thumbs up or whatever, but then I feel like other people see me as being withholding and not as forthcoming as I should be. I feel like I’m expected to dig a little deeper to show a more outward or vocal enthusiasm so that I’m not being stingy to others who are expecting a reaction from me.

      2. Koalafied*

        This, in context I know it’s just one those those things they tell naive young sales trainees in seminars – don’t ask them whether they can meet because that makes it too easy to say no, ask them when they can meet so there’s more friction involved if they want to decline the meeting. It’s psychologically manipulative but frankly a lot of sales and marketing walks a fine line when it comes to psychological manipulation. This particular tactic is just so so commonly employed, that I don’t think, “salesperson x is being manipulative” as much “salesperson x is using a boilerplate, probably because they’re either new to sales or not very good at it.”

    2. anonymous 5*

      I’m not in procurement, so I have the luxury of just not responding at all, but I get cold emails from textbook sales reps all the time. Pretty much all of them include some variant of, “please email me back with your schedule so we can set up a meeting.” Granted, that’s a bit of a step up from their previous habit of dropping by our offices uninvited. I became reasonably proficient at saying no, this isn’t a good time for me–even if it was during my open office hours. But either way: it is definitely presumptuous, and I don’t blame you for chafing at them!

      1. Juniper*

        Dropping by uninvited?! *Shudder* It seems like at some point someone wrote an industry-wide memo that declared this approach to be the gold-standard sales pitch. And it just… goes against everything I feel I know about human behavior and persuasion. Glad I’m not the only one who finds it off-putting!

        1. SnappinTerrapin*

          Ironically, a few minutes after I read this, a salesperson showed up at my workplace, with no appointment, but the names of a couple of people that he would like to know whether they were available.

          Is anyone surprised they aren’t?

    3. EnfysNest*

      I typically word it as “Is there a time that you would be available…” rather than “When would you be available…”, to leave it open for them to say they’re not available at all. To me, the “When” version does feel slightly manipulative in that it forces the person responding to fully contradict the requestor, instead of indicating that they understand it might not be possible. There are probably many people who use the “When” version innocently, but I think there are also a lot who would use it intentionally in hopes of increasing their chances to get what they want.

    4. Esmeralda*

      Yes, completely typical and taken as polite. These are standard phrasings.

      If no time is convenient, then you respond as Alison has suggested.

    5. Anonym*

      I think it depends on how reasonable the request itself is. I work in finance in the US, and it’s borderline pushy, depending. It’s a demand, not a request, because it skirts the part where the recipient wants to have the meeting at all.

      If it’s an extremely reasonable request, it’s not a problem. I had a new colleague ask me something similar recently. She’s replacing someone I worked on several projects with on a different team, so we will definitely work together at some point, therefore it’s not obnoxious. The work dictates that we need to connect. We can skip the question of whether in favor of when.

      Cold emails asking for something you have no reason to provide are at the other end of the spectrum. That’s pushy and not likely to be received well. I don’t owe them anything, so acting like “of course you will definitely meet with me, it’s only a matter of deciding when” does not land well. The request in question falls further to this side. Not exactly a cold sales call, but still presuming or trying to box the OP into feeling too awkward to say no when she has every right to say no.

    6. I should really pick a name*

      It sounds normal to me if it comes from someone I have an established relationship with.
      From a random stranger out of the blue, it sounds pushy.

    7. James*

      I’ve typically seen it used when the person has no reasonable expectation of knowing your schedule. Like, if a contractor has to have a meeting with me. Both the contractor and I have varied schedules, including travel, and we don’t have access to one another’s calendar, so it makes sense to ask about schedule when setting up a meeting.

      Internally what usually happens is that the person setting up the meeting finds a time that works with everyone’s online schedule and books it without asking. Annoying, but it’s one of those normal annoyances that comes with working for a large company.

    8. Malarkey01*

      Speaking for myself, as a woman, the past five years I have been highly attuned to how many times women will soften phrases in comparison to men and there has been growing discussion of this in many workplaces. I think this phrasing has become a lot more common as we’ve seen it as more proactive and clearly action based. The “please” is meant to soften it while also making clear what my “ask is”.

  26. Lena Clare*

    Sometimes I just read the title of the letter only and know that answer is going to be ‘no!’

    Should I write my cover letter in another language to demonstrate my language skills?


  27. Ro*

    5- I speak Japanese I find if employers want written evidence pre interview they ask. Often I write everything in English and then during the interview a random panel member will suddenly switch to Japanese and whether I can answer or not indicates my fluency level to them.

    So be prepared for an interviewer to suddenly switch language on you. They won’t necessarily but it happens.

  28. jessie j*

    I have a different take on letter #3. Is it possible that the new hire is struggling with the same things that made the letter writer leave the job? They may want to check in with the letter writer to see if they had similar issues at the company. Sometimes a person may need verifying if they see red flags early on.

    1. Mainly Lurking (UK)*

      Oh, new hire is DEFINITELY struggling with the same kind of things that made LW3 leave. As I mentioned in my comment, if new hire has to go outside the organisation to “learn more about the everyday functions of this role” that’s a HUGE red flag.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah, she can’t put it in writing but would like to see if OP felt the same way about her manager, she’s maybe being gaslighted and wants a reality check.
          If it’s that, I’d be inclined to at least have a quick phone conversation just to say “no there’s nothing you can do right for this person, you should perhaps get out asap”

      1. H aka LW#3*

        This might be the case. I don’t think my former director/manager should be managing people in the role I had because she doesn’t have the training or credentials and just doesn’t get it. She thinks she does but she doesn’t. This office also seems to hire many “friends” of my director’s favorite in our dept and I think some issues stem from that. I wrote a long post below of some other dynamics happening as well.

    2. WellRed*

      I posted above but I agree with this. They may be looking for a life preserver ( uh not quite the right analogy). Doesn’t mean OP needs to take this on but it would be an kindness to frame it that way in their mind.

    3. LadyByTheLake*

      I was coming here to say this very thing! I read this as the new person realizing that the people at OldJob are difficult and wanting to reach out to LW to see if the people really are difficult or if it is just a problem that NewPerson has or if LW had the same issues with them and if she has any tips to deal with them. I did not find either the tone or the request presumptuous in any way. In fact, as drafted, it screams “these people are difficult and crazy, is it just me?” Which of course, no one can put into an email. If it was actually a reach out about the nuts and bolts of doing the job, it would have been more specific and would have come earlier.

    4. Anonym*

      I do wonder if she’s feeling desperate and that’s why she’s reaching out, especially months in. And if that is the case, she may not want to indicate that on company email. Overall, who knows, but this is a plausible scenario.

      If I were OP, I’d probably take the meeting out of sheer curiosity and the possibility of validating that a BS work environment is indeed BS. (But I totally understand wanting nothing to do with the place!)

      1. H aka LW#3*

        LW#3… so based on my lurking I am pretty sure she just started within the last 2 weeks. It took them a bit to get the ball rolling it seems on hiring my replacement. That is also why I am a little annoyed. Be resourceful and figure things out on your own. I did that. I was the first person to ever be in this role and had a supervisor without my same training, education or credentials… Not saying I want it to be tough for her but….

        1. RecoveringSWO*

          I had the same take as jessie j, but I think the 2 week tenure means it’s more likely that your old job threw your contact info at the new hire for training. If I was a new hire and wanted to reach out for advice on navigating a potentially toxic workplace, I’d probably wait a little longer to try different strategies with boss/coworkers before reaching out for tips. So yeah, I think your instinct and annoyance is well placed.

        2. LadyByTheLake*

          Well that definitely changes things! If she’s only been there two weeks then yeah, I think they might have told her to contact you for training. Heck, they might have even said you’d agreed to it or something. If it were months I would think it is an “am I crazy or are they?” call.

        3. Anonym*

          Ahh! Changes likelihood perhaps, but not your problem either way. Best of luck to her, and you in being rid of this place!

    5. designbot*

      YEP. That was my read, that the person didn’t want to talk about resources or processes, but needed an, “Am I crazy or is this place crazy-making?” type check.
      Sending the response Alison suggests would read to me as, “I am unwilling to talk or listen to venting on this topic. I got out of there and you probably should too.”

  29. Birch*

    Oh hey, #2, this exact thing happened to me but with a different personality test. My (former) boss called a meeting where they patronizingly explained their own results as if they were giving a university lecture (“introversion means you prefer spending time alone, can be seen as shy”) and then went around the room guessing at each of our results (didn’t even bother asking us to take the test ourselves..) and speculating as to how their guess explained what problems (in Boss’s opinion) we have at work. It was exactly as flabbergasting as it sounds, especially since Boss was extremely wrong every time but had already shown themself an unsafe person to disagree with. Their result was similar to this “maximizer,” things like a person who has no patience for talking about ideas but just wants bottom line deliverables, doesn’t communicate because they take for granted that people know what they mean but also has no patience for mistakes. They literally presented the test’s “weaknesses” section as their own personal strengths.

    My advice for this is to show this person a bunch of literature about how personality tests at work are discriminatory and refuse to engage in the conversation. For a more soft approach, use the scripts along the lines of “I’m so glad you get a lot of value out of that test! I don’t relate to these types, so they aren’t useful to me, and I’m concerned that they can lead to boiling down complex humans into categories. Can you explain a bit more specifically what you mean when you want to maximize my work?” And I’m sorry you have to deal with this. (and p.s. “maximize” is especially annoying because it means to make larger or greater–not everything SHOULD be maximized, but rather, many processes should be optimized. Or maybe the interpretation from the test was that boss is a person who makes everything bigger, but that’s not always a strength. Boss doesn’t seem to understand how to interpret their results. I hate it when people use buzzwords that aren’t even the right word for the concept they’re trying to convey!)

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I am always concerned when managers ask us to take tests like this. It seems like there are just looking for something else to evaluate their employees on, even if it’s not really related to our actual work or interactions.

      1. Birch*

        Yes, and bad managers will use the results of their own tests to justify their bad management habits, and the results of employees’ tests to criticise them. It is the rare manager who will take the result to reflect a working style rather than a crystallized feature, and modify their own management relationship to respect the employee’s working style, which is the only sensible way to use these tests. Still, it would be easier just to ask your team members outright what their working style is! Don’t even get me started about how unethical it is for a person in power with no training in the topic to apply a problematic research field to a work situation.

      2. Anon for this one*

        I had a manager who made us take this kind of test solely to browbeat us into coddling one of her pet employees. “See, Jane is turquoise! That means she needs complete autonomy in her decision-making and unswerving devotion from her coworkers!”

        1. higheredrefugee*

          Nope, just means it is her PREFERENCE, and as such, rely on auxiliary or tertiary skills when working with others (sigh).

        2. SnappinTerrapin*

          Oops. I read “turquoise” as “tortoise” and thought about making some demands from my peers.

      3. You can't handle my classification!*

        My experience was at a prior job where they had us take the Myers-Briggs and swear up and down that it wouldn’t be used to classify us.

        Reader, you can see this coming…at the next all employee/all day workshop, they had a HRish person come in and have the groups stand together in different parts of the room. Except my table. However it came about, the table was composed of people that remembered their promise and refused to move.

        The presenter just thought we had forgotten what we were, but we said that we were not gonna be classified. The big boss came over to question our rebellion, while the presenter proceeded to explain what the test’s results meant for each group, pointing to each group in turn.

        This was before all of the questions about that particular test, but at least my little group felt ill served by being lied to about the use of the results. Thus ended my interest in taking any of these tests or participating in “anonymous” surveys.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I hate personality tests. Years ago when I started taking them I learned to tailor my answers to what the particular job required. A front-facing position dealing with the public? Of course, I get my energy from other people! An analytic job requiring hard numbers with backup proof? Of course, I love attention to details! A tendency to overthink every possible situation when the solution is obvious? Of course, that’s me!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m that annoying geek who looks at the site code/tries multiple iterations and tries to fit the answers to whatever outcome I want that day too! I’m an introvert, talks to anyone, hates social engagement, driven, lazy…etc. depending on the day.

        For extra fun I put my star sign into the tests because I don’t fit mine at all.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          OMG just remembering a woman who tried to guess my star sign, she got it after 11 tries – eleven, yes. The minute I said “yes” she screamed I KNEW IT and started listing the qualities for that sign. Some of them do fit, but I pointed out that I had learned those qualities from my parents who were both a completely different star sign which didn’t correspond to their personalities at all (they were Leo, but total introverts).

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            One manager was convinced that she could guess with perfect clarity my star sign and myers-briggs profile. She accused me of lying when I told her she was wrong on both counts!

            1. Coffee Bean*

              I really dislike dealing with people who have the “I have you all figured out” attitude while not really knowing you. It’s arrogant and condescending.

      2. Cat Tree*

        There’s a reason that some people refer to personality tests as “corporate astrology”. I took one at work recently, and I made a good faith effort to answer the questions sincerely. I landed in a weird split of two opposite categories, neither of which being the one I identified with most based on the description. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    3. Josie*

      Birch, flabbergasting is a great word for what you describe. That’s far worse than what I’m dealing with!

    4. Elenna*

      “introversion means you prefer spending time alone, can be seen as shy”

      …that’s… not even true? There are plenty of introverts who enjoy spending time with others and don’t seem shy at all! It just means that spending time with others, especially groups, makes you tired instead of energizing you.

      Not that your boss’s actions would be reasonable even if they were right. But it’s just hilarious that they did all this without even understanding their own results properly :P

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yes, I’m an introvert but I need to see other people. I notice hermit tendencies in myself and have to push myself, but I do enjoy the company of others – just as guests for dinner rather than big parties.

      2. higheredrefugee*

        What’s so sad about using MBTI rather than some of the others is that people misuse it so often. I’m certified to administer the MBTI, but I constantly remind everyone this is a TOOL that may help you think about your communication, conflict, management and leisure preferences, and that your culture, upbringing, education, etc. will also affect your actual decisions and behaviors as well. Generally, your type preference doesn’t change, but as you age, one generally becomes more comfortable leaning into their auxiliary and tertiary preferences, as well as less rigid in deploying their preferences. MBTI has lots more social science research behind it than most tests, but social science is still not perfectly predictable either, especially in considering family norms and educational norms.

        1. Self Employed*

          The main gripe I have about the MBTI is that the categories are set up so that characteristics where *most* people are fairly close to the midpoint are divided into the extremes. When they used it in school, people were encouraged to lean into their type if it was something the test-givers thought was positive; if it was something like introversion they saw as negative, they told us we had to change.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah those people need to read Quiet by Susan Cain. Extroverts can’t do my job because it involves sitting at a desk talking to nobody and getting on with it by yourself and thinking hard and long about intricate nuance. I had an extrovert intern once and it was impossible to get anything done because she kept asking questions of me instead of google.

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      I always would cringe when my boss would have a “team building day” centered around the latest and greatest personality tests. Your scripted responses are a good way to go on this.

  30. LifeBeforeCorona*

    The “Are you f**king stupid” line is very inappropriate and Bruce needs to be reprimanded. The political component is irrelevant. Tom could have said that he prefers gas station coffee to the Green Woman brand. No one should be casually cursing at a co-worker.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am with you both on this one. Never, under any circumstances make remarks about a person’s intelligence. Totally not acceptable between peers, in my opinion.

        I also question Bruce’s ability to advocate for his people. My group got an across the board raise at one point for a reason that is a long story. My reaction was, “Great start! When can they get MORE?” (They were paid peanuts.) It was up to management to figure out where the money is coming from and how to keep everyone employed. It was up to me to make sure we were working at our most productive each day. I did my part there, as productivity was through the roof and management was super aware of that. I tossed the rest on to management to do their part.
        Bruce needs to stand up for his people. People will leave just because they know Bruce is not in their corner.
        When I asked for more for my people, management agreed to doing something on an annual basis. (They were NOT doing this before I asked.)

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I have a real bugbear about insults regarding intelligence as too often they’ve been thrown at people like me for having mental illness (see: ‘crazy’, ‘moron’ etc) so it kinda puts my back up.

          If I’m gonna insult the Exchange server I’ll call it a (expletive) rotten piece of offal.

      2. EnfysNest*

        Yeah, if someone called their coworker a “f-ing genius” as a compliment (in a genuine, non-sarcastic way) when agreeing with them, that would likely at most be a minor reprimand to watch their language during meetings. But if the LW’s situation was exactly the same except that the phrasing had been “you’re freaking stupid” as an attack instead of using the actual curse word, that’s still incredibly egregious and unacceptable at work.

  31. A.N. O'Nyme*

    OP 5, considering you describe your writing level as elementary school I definitely wouldn’t try writing a cover letter in the language you’re studying. Even if you mention the difference in the level for your other skill, it may influence the interviewers to think your other skills are actually below what they need (if that makes sense?). Perhaps you could mention your intent on taking the test? If the company is looking for someone speaking that language they will most likely know what these tests mean (or, at the very least, be able to do a quick Google search on it).

  32. Mich*

    For #4, is there a potential ethical issue for the manager? I just did a training at work that emphasized the company would not obtain or act on non-public info about its competitors. (The policies we were being trained on were based on compliance with various laws and ethical guidelines; I’m not sure on the basis for the non-public info one. It could also be related to being a publicly-traded company, which I’m not sure applies here?)

    1. OP#4*

      OP #4 here – interesting question! I hadn’t thought about that. My company is privately held so any rules specific to publicly traded companies wouldn’t necessarily apply, but I also think that this knowledge wouldn’t really be a surprise to my manager – she is generally aware that our competitors are interested in entering this space, she just might not be aware of which ones are actively pursuing it and how.

  33. Chilipepper*

    For #4 – maybe the workplace fit is also not great for the new person in the role and she needs advice about that? Would that change Alisons advice?

  34. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP5: different in that we’re talking about computer languages but I once had a guy send in a program for his application for a job that requires proficiency in a certain coding language. If you compiled and ran his code it produced an absolutely fantastic CV and examples of code he’d designed.

    To me, I got it. To our HR person doing the first pass of applications (looking for general fit) it looked like a virus or hacking attempt. Offering to show your competence in a language with examples (like qualifications, or how long you’ve spent using the language) is more preferable.

    (We didn’t hire that guy in the end, but it was because he really, really didn’t do well in interview. Great coder but no interpersonal skills)

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      That’s kinda cute. He was probably far too shy to do well in interviews and thought this original format would offset that. I wish he’d got the job!

      1. SnappinTerrapin*

        Now, this is a level of gumption I admire, even though I would have had the same question as the HR screener.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          It was really good code too. Unfortunately he just didn’t pass on the ‘soft skills’.

          (Once had a DBA who I hadn’t hired who refused to talk, email, interact with anyone else in the office at all. He’d literally turn away if you tried to approach him. I’ll gladly take someone with less tech skills who can actually interact with people…)

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        If he’d answered any of the questions in the interview he may well have done! But I can’t do much with someone who just mumbled and looked at the floor the entire time.

        1. Tired of Covid-and People*

          I feel sorry for this person, and hope they get help with practice interviewing. It’s unfortunate, but interviewing is not something done every day and some people just suck at high-stakes interaction like this.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            If he’d asked for feedback I’d have gladly steered him toward….well this site and a few others! I find interaction with people in any format a challenge due to various mental stuff but I can’t train someone else to be more confident.

  35. Sooda Nym*

    OP1 – I’m not saying I’d actually do this, but I’d be really tempted to ask my boss for a list of things I could say that would merit being called effing stupid by a coworker, just so that I could avoid saying those things in the future. And maybe a list of things that I could say where the co-worker calling me effing stupid would actually be in the wrong and they would get reprimanded.

    I mean, if we are going to say it’s okay to call a co-worker stupid, but only in certain contexts, then we better have a really clear idea of what those contexts are.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      My son did something like this: he’d started primary school, we live in a bit of a rough area and he was picking up some bad language in the playground. I told him off for using the words he came out with. At one point he asked me to make a list of all the words he wasn’t allowed to use. I then realised that the poor kid had no idea they were swear words, and from then on, I simply explained to him “no you can’t use that word at home” rather than telling him off.

  36. SummerBee*

    #3, you could reply with “Here is my rate sheet for consulting hours. Send me an estimate of the number of hours you think you need, and I can draw up a contract for us.”

    I did this once when I was in an academic position and someone came in wanting “some comments on” – actually close editing of – a book manuscript. I found out the University had a standard rate sheet for faculty consulting, and once I presented it to the writer, he disappeared!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      No, that’s a big overreaction for one email. Sure, the woman does seem like she wants something more than just asking a couple questions, but if she’s contacting the OP three months after OP left, she’s likely struggling a lot. Otherwise she probably would have said, “Hey, I realize you’ve been gone three months, but would you happen to remember where X is located?” OP isn’t required to help her, of course. But all she has to do is just reply that she’s too busy with her new job and, if she’s open to it, ask the woman if there’s a question or two she can answer via email.

    2. H aka LW#3*

      Hi! LW#3 here! I joke with my husband about this sometimes becaause I get contacted a lot by “peers” about different issues and problem solving and I typically don’t mind but none of them work for my former employer so it is a bit different if that makes sense and many of them I know through a coalition group that meets monthly so we have that connection. I should start charging lol!

  37. Jennifer*

    “and besides, who decides what’s political and what isn’t, particularly when “political issues” can be as fundamental as people’s right to safely exist? And why isn’t what people are paid a relevant issue in a workplace?”

    Yes! Thank you, Alison! This is why I disagree with the “no politics at work EVER” people. EVERY topic is political now. People get shut down for talking about racism and other forms of discrimination because they’re “being political.” They aren’t being political. They are trying to discuss something that affects their daily lives.

    If Bruce disagreed, he could have found a much kinder way of putting it. We all work with people we sometimes disagree with and have to find a way to peacefully coexist.

    1. Kiki*

      Yeah, I really appreciated this from Alison. As a person whose parents’ marriage would have been considered “political” for a time and whose ability to attend college was also once considered “political,” the idea of just ignoring politics to keep the peace inherently doesn’t work for me. It’s smart to avoid the minutiae of politics at work (X politician is in a spat with Y politician over mustard brands), but politics affect how we live and work. Just ignoring that inherently privileges those with, well, privilege.

      1. Jennifer*

        Exactly. It’s a privilege to be able to put your fingers in your ears, go to your corner and not pretend not to notice it.

  38. Quinalla*

    For #4, I do occasionally bring up to my boss that recruiters calling me or this person really keeps trying to hire me away. It is good for your boss to know you are in demand and as long as you aren’t going “So you better give me a raise!” or something like that, it’s all good. I usually mention it with other information so they know who is trying to expand in our area, etc. as yeah that is good info to have.

    1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      I’ve mentioned to my boss occasionally that a recruiter from a big name tech company has reached out to me. (Multiple companies, actually. Ones you’ve heard of, and probably use.) But these conversations with my boss always happen well after I’ve turned the recruiters down (or ignored them), and usually in the context of my boss thanking me for my work on a major project. (This gets reflected in my annual reviews, have no fear!) It’s a way for me to say “I’m in demand, I know I’m in demand, but I choose to continue working here and not at Big Name Tech Company,” and my boss knows that’s what I’m saying.

      Now, in my case the recruiters are from companies making software targeting a completely different audience, so this doesn’t give my boss any information about demand for my company’s services, or what our competitors might be doing. But it does provide information about demand for my role in general, which is potentially valuable (especially if we’re hiring).

    2. OP#4*

      That’s really great to know! I’ve never known how to bring it up without it sounding like I wanted a counteroffer or something.

  39. Cat Tree*

    LW #4: I really wish “poaching” would stop being used in a business context. There is no such thing as poaching. Employment is a business transaction for both sides, and no company has more “right” to a specific employee than another company.

    Those other companies simply tried to recruit LW4, nothing shady or unethical about it. And in this particular case, the current employer had kept their qualified employee by doing all the right things (competitive pay, a path for career advancement, good working environment) so those recruitment efforts have ultimately been unsuccessful. But even in this best case scenario, the term “poaching” still gets used in a way to imply that someone was doing something bad.

    1. OP#4*

      Excellent point! As I was writing the letter I could hear Alison’s voice in my head saying exactly that – and I guess part of the subtext of my question was whether this would even be useful information my manager to have, because it’s not like it would be reasonable for her to turn around and try to stop them from “stealing” other people on my team (in quotes because “steal” implies ownership rather than a business relationship). All she can do is create the right environment (pay, culture, advancement, etc.) and hope they stay.

    2. Ray Gillette*

      I understand the logic and can’t say you’re wrong because trying to offer someone a better deal than what they’re getting currently isn’t wrong or unethical. At the same time, the concept of trying to recruit someone who is isn’t currently looking for new opportunities (especially when there’s an existing pool of qualified candidates who are unemployed or underemployed, though that may not apply to this LW) is specific enough that it makes sense to have a word for it.

  40. Carrie T*

    #3 – I disagree with Alison’s and other commenters’ negative sentiments here. I don’t see the new hire’s request as “training” at all – just as networking with a dash of mentoring. She is asking for advice on general approaches for success in the role, which is a reasonable think to ask of her predecessor. It seems like the new hire is struggling with some of the challenges of the role, and keeps hearing how awesome OP #3 was. I would feel pretty demoralized if I started a new position and the previous person in the role wouldn’t even give me the time of day. :-/

    1. Koalafied*

      It wouldn’t be anything personal against you, though. It may not be formal training, but the request is for someone who extricated herself from a toxic workplace to momentarily wade back into it purely for her replacement’s benefit. It’s a big ask for emotional labor and energy, and there’s nothing in it for the LW to get in return. She doesn’t work there anymore and she left for a reason. Plus, starting a new job is exhausting all on its own. If your predecessor, who is a perfect stranger to you, decides they don’t want to invest time in or mentally revisit a job they were happy to leave behind, that’s no reason for you to feel demoralized because it’s not about you.

    2. The Spinning Arrow*

      I’m not sure I agree that it’s a reasonable thing to expect if the predecessor has already moved on from the company. One could certainly ask but they aren’t entitled to a response – it would be perfectly natural for OP3 to be genuinely too busy getting up to speed in their new position, and a polite response saying so isn’t something to be demoralized about IMO. If the new hire is struggling with the position, they need to take it up with their boss to figure out how to proceed; it’s not OP3’s responsibility to help as long as they provided as much documentation as they could before leaving (which it sounds like they did.)

      1. Carrie T*

        The OP is still in the same “small niche industry”, though, and she stated that she will surely cross paths with the new hire in the future. It’s normal to have a 30-min coffee with others in your industry to connect and discuss roles. While the OP is not obligated to help the new hire out, it seems like a very normal courtesy to provide the new hire with some advice.

        1. Heather*

          +1 I’m in a small nice industry in a midsize town, and everybody kind of knows everyone. Spending a half hour on the phone with this person could pay huge dividends for OP in terms of getting a reputation for being helpful and diplomatic.

    3. Mockingjay*

      It’s the responsibility of the company to train new employees and ensure they succeed, not ex-employees.

      I was asked once to help my replacement and couldn’t. The issue wasn’t that I didn’t want someone in my field to succeed, but that the person who was hired didn’t have sufficient experience and skills for the job. Not my replacement’s fault; the company underestimated the level of skill and training required for my role (one of the reasons I left) and hired a very junior person. But no amount of coaching I provided could adequately substitute for years on the job.

      Getting new employees up to speed takes time. Companies need to factor that into their hiring and training processes, not rely on former employees to fill in gaps.

      1. Carrie T*

        I don’t see it as training, but moreso networking. The new hire’s email reads to me like they are seeking broad perspective on the job and what it takes to succeed. If I were the OP, I’d offer a 30-minute call to provide some overarching advice on the role. And then be done with it.

        1. Mockingjay*

          What jumped out at me is that the New Hire’s email asks: “learn more about the everyday functions of this role.” That seems a flag that 1) ExCompany is not instructing the new hire on basic daily duties or providing clear (if any) feedback, or 2), New Hire may not be a good fit and is not picking up on things. (OP 3 mentioned that a fit mismatch was why they left, so maybe ExCompany is bad at hiring.) While OP 3 may be kind enough to respond, one phone call can’t fix problems like these.

    4. BRR*

      Demoralized is a pretty strong reaction for how incredibly common it is to never touch base with your predecessor. In most situations, the person will presumably have new things they need to focus on and it’s not their job once they leave (and are no longer getting paid) to ensure their successor gets up to speed. That’s what a notice period is for.

      Now, I wouldn’t ghost the person. But it’s a really big and broad ask of the LW. The new employee should be getting this information from their manager/whoever is in charge of training them and will just have to discover some of these things on their own.

    5. EPLawyer*

      If OP were still at the company — even in a different role, reaching out to her would not be a problem. But she is no longer an employee of the company. She has NO obligation to make sure her successor suceeds in the role. That doesn’t mean she is a cruel heartless person who wants to see people fail. It means she has her own life and her own responsibilities UNRELATED to that company anymore. her duty is to her current company, not her old one.

      Quite frankly, I can’t think of a job where I got hired after someone had left where I had ANY contact with my predecessor. Trained while the person was there? Sure. Once no longer part of the company — never.

    6. Kimmy Schmidt*

      Networking, mentoring, and training all take time and effort. The LW is not obligated to provide free labor for her old company or this new employee.

    7. I should really pick a name*

      If the previous person in the role isn’t at the company anymore, having any level access to them is not something that you should be expecting.

    8. Grapey*

      It’s not LW 3’s job to boost morale. If someone in the previous position won’t give you the time of day, that means you need to ask more pointed questions beyond “let me pick your brain”. In my experience that phrasing always comes from people that are completely lost on the subject.

      If it was at a tech conference and you wanted to ask about the technology/language or something in abstract terms away from the daily reality at JobX, that’s one thing. But not answering “how do specific job?” is a failure of management, not LW3.

      This is coming from someone that has sort of been treated like LW3 where I get told I’m so great – it’s because I’ve spent time building relationships. My role is llama groomer, but I’ve been at Llama Tenders for so long that I know bits and pieces of every department that interacts with mine. I suppose I could send off a single email reply like “build relationships with billing, the shampoo vendors, the floor cleaners, and the front desk receptionists AND learn some of their job functions and how the software they use every day operates.” I doubt that would be very moralizing, but it would be the truth.

      1. H aka LW#3*

        I think this it. Right here. I worked there for 6 years but only 2 in that role but my history and relationships (some that I still have with people I worked with in other orgs and companies and even within the one I left) are what made me “good” at what I did and what I do. But that takes time and isn’t really something she can “pick my brain about”. She has to meet with other people and observe them and check in and get their input.

  41. Workerbee*

    #3, I’m wondering if it was a more toxic environment than not that you left. Your replacement may have been shunted off to you for help because nobody there has bothered to step in, or they burned your documentation, or whatever. I wholeheartedly agree with sending back the I Am Just Too Busy script.

    Somewhat relatedly, an ex colleague reached out to me at my new job for help in her own new job, because now she was doing what I used to do! Despite not having heard from her for years, at first I thought, sure, I can give a few suggestions and point her toward resources, so I did. Then she came back with wanting a video call and to run all her ideas past me and to clarify the already-clear statements I’d made.

    My energy drained just thinking of this snowball. So I said that unfortunately I was unable to consult with her due to NewJob (I used the word ‘consult’ deliberately, for had I wanted to continue, I’d have set up an agreement), but that the ideas she already shared sound great, etc.

    Haven’t heard from her since. Not even an “Okay, thanks for your input.” It’s rather amusing.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        When people have asked me for my ‘insider information’ about a job I’ve left I’ve generally gone back and gently informed them that while I can maybe assist with some specific queries (“there’s two computer systems for logging results: which is the one most people use?”) I can’t provide a run down of the corporate culture.

        I’ll give a few tips regarding software, or specific systems that I wish I’d known ‘one neat trick’ for, or some of my ideas for coming up with secure and easy to remember passwords that also fit the data protection policy and make it easier to set a new one every 30 days.

        A comparison a coworker of mine made was people you’ve decided to turn down for a date; it’s one thing to give a quick ‘here’s one little thing that just doesn’t suit me’ and quite another to give a ‘here’s a complete rundown of everything about your personailty/looks etc. you’d have to change in order for me to give you a chance’. (Think it’s called ’emotional labour’ or something?)

  42. Mockingjay*

    OP 2, your work output and your relationship with your boss were quite satisfactory before taking this assessment.

    I would offer a slight twist on Alison’s advice; don’t make it about you, make it about process. When she says “Let me maximize that,” press her for details. “So should we adjust the teapot spout attachment process? We have an SOP, does it need to be updated?” See how she responds – does she provide concrete next steps or does she duck it? Repeat as needed. Often micromanagers want to be heard and this kind of response acknowledges that need while focusing on improving work and not ‘fixing’ your personality.

  43. The Spinning Arrow*

    I feel for you, OP2! My org recently made everyone take the Predictive Index (PI) test, and now all I hear is, “Oh, well I’m a Venturer so that’s why I’m like that,” or, “What PI are you? … Yeah, that makes sense why you’re reacting this way then,” and it drives me BATTY. I’m a complex individual, not a ‘Controller’ or ‘Operator’ or whatever-the-heck. Sorry for the mini-rant, just wanted to express that OP2 isn’t alone!

    1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      Can you pick a word that isn’t one of their possible descriptive words and use it as your result? “Since I’ve a Provocateur, I feel we should…” “As is so typical for a Hagiographer like me, it seems to me that our next step should be…” Seems like a good chance to rummage through the OED, pick something you find personally amusing, and see how long it takes before someone calls you on it.

      (I hate personality tests. My mother was a big fan of them when I was growing up and spent much of my teen years trying to use them as a method of advice for me.)

  44. bananab*

    “Let me maximize that” based on being ordained a maximizer by a personality test is a classic Peggy Hill move.

  45. Jennifer*

    #3 I really like Alison’s response. Scheduling some time to pick my brain a’int happening, but one or two questions over email is fine. Also let her know about any training materials left behind or who she can go to in the future that still works with the company.

  46. Sara without an H*

    Hi, OP#1 — While most of the comments upstream focus on the impropriety of swearing directly at a colleague, I’d like to expand on another issue Alison raised at the end of her response: how does the CEO view the role of HR in this company?

    You said you feel that you’re “only HR.” That’s a yellow flag, at least. Does your CEO see your role as processing paperwork and payroll and that’s it? You really need some clarification of your responsibility and authority at this company and then decide whether it’s a role you want to keep long term.

    1. BRR*

      I’m not sure the situation in letter 1 is an HR situation though. We see a lot on here people talking about going to HR or HR getting involved when it’s really a management issue. I could see it making more sense for Bruce’s manager to let him know that wasn’t ok or for someone to ensure the business process remains smooth.

  47. Lauren*

    My gut reaction to someone who wants to “shut down any political talk” is that it is a workplace that is committed to maintaining the racist and patriarchal status quo that we are all living under.

    Everything is political. Not allowing “politics” is a very simple way to tell your employees that nothing will ever change. Which some people will be relieved by. It means that they’ll never have to be held accountable for micro/macro aggressions against people historically underrepresented in the workplace, or, even better, they’ll never have to work with someone who doesn’t look like them, because this is a company absolutely committed to not examining who is in power and why, and how they might diversify their workplace, and whose values include shutting down any conversation about how to improve the circumstances of your lowest paid employees.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      “Everything is political”, though, doesn’t mean that everything is equally political, or equally likely to set off vehement reactions. It’s entirely possible for a workplace to be committed to making sure everyone is paid fairly without literally bringing Republican/Democrat/conservative/liberal/etc. into it. And someone who was aggressively anti-abortion would be shut down here, not because of politics but because we’re a medical school library it’s our job to provide scientific and medical information, and that includes fact-based information on abortion.

    2. cabbagepants*

      I wish this were the case; to me, it implies that the people who would be most vocal would be speaking in favor of progress. In my workplace, though, “no politics at work” is the reason people have been banned from loudly complaining that “Pride Week” tramples on their Constitutional right to freedom of religion. And in my husband’s workplace where politics are allowed, it’s all conservative Christians complaining about masks and a stolen election.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Had the….rather fraught conversation with a member of staff that Covid isn’t political and so I wasn’t going to ban any mention of it in the office because he saw it as a political matter he was against.

        The line for me is when people start with ‘I vote for party x because’ or any and all mentions of qanon and other ‘theories’. That stuff….save it for out of work.

  48. Adjuncts Anonymous*

    OP #2: If your boss is spending all her time micromanaging you and redoing your work, she isn’t maximizing the use of her time at all. Probably she doesn’t communicate what she needs at the beginning. Whether you want to point that out to her is up to you.

      1. cabbagepants*

        Ah this idiomatic expression. I am so fond of it but it does not seem to be widely known and it’s hard to describe what it means!

  49. cabbagepants*

    Remember, gang, if you can’t afford to pay your employees a living wage, then you can’t afford employees.

  50. H aka LW#3*

    Thank you for your response to my letter, Alison! I definitely feel better getting this advice and think I will likely send a very short and polite email at the end of the day. I shared pretty much the full email that was sent minus the new employee telling me their name and that they have my former role. The subject of the email was “Can we meet?”

    I definitely agree with some of the comments. The director at my former job was hired a year into me having my former role and I was invited to interview her with my colleages. She definitely knew someone at the organization as I believe she was the only one hired and was given the job. This is part of where the problem stems. I didn’t think she was a good fit to be the director or my supervisor. I am the only person in my former dept with the credentials and training to fufill my role so my director was really not that helpful. She also played favorites. COVID-19 also brought out a lot of issues in the workplace or at least brought them front and center. The same week I gave my notice, one of my colleagues who had been there less than a year left without notice because our dept refused to be flexible with her regarding her child care situation with her infant during the pandemic. Honestly, it made me feel solidified in my decision to leave. I spent 2 years in this dpeartment but 6 years at the organization as a whole.

    It is in my nature to be helpful and to open myself up to peers. I actually got a call last week from a peer outside my org who I have never worked with officially who wanted my feedback and I gladly spoke with her for 10-15 minutes to help her problem solve something. However, I don’t appreciate that the female-dominated profession I am in assumes this is always a 100% given. With the situation last week, I am in a coalition group with this person and we meet monthly as a group. I am not callous towards this new employee. I would just prefer not to dive back in to this role or this dept and dysfunction if that makes sense. Thank you all!

  51. Indy Dem*

    OP #4 My great-grandboss has specifically told our department that if you are recruited to please let her know and any specifics, so she can lobby higher management for better salary and other perks to retain people in our role (we have a successful department, with many competitors building similar, they want our expertise).

    OP#2 No advice, but I will be using the phrase “Let me maximize that” as often as possible “Do you want some more cream in your coffee? Let me maximize that!”

  52. OP1*

    Hi! OP1 here. There was a lot of discussion around the fact that we don’t pay our workers a lot as it is right now. The truth is that the work we do is agriculture-adjacent, and the lowest paid workers are paid above market for the area, the surrounding area being chock-full of farms that pay minimum wage or per piece. The company model and the work we do doesn’t lend itself to pay more at this time because our company is highly dependent on federal and state funds that get disbursed in a veritable trickle. That’s where talk of politics comes in: if the government is dedicated to conservation of natural resources, then my company does well. If it isn’t, then my company suffers. So we talk politics all the time, and we all have differing views, but most of us are pretty liberal because (for the most part) environmental issues are taken more seriously by the Democratic party. And, before anyone says anything, both parties WITHIN THE STATE take environmental issues seriously.

    I have very little doubt that Tom was trying to get a rise out of Bruce. Tom is younger, serious about his work but not serious overall, and likes to push buttons if he can figure out which buttons to push. Bruce is a baby-boomer that doesn’t believe COVID is real, even though he had it – but, because it was mild, he doesn’t seem to think 400K+ people have died from it…? I dunno… So y’all can see where this is going.

    Was Tom wrong for pushing buttons? Yes. Was Bruce wrong for calling Tom stupid? Yes, but with more feeling. Like Alison said, “he started it!” is not an excuse for calling people names unless you’re 4 years old. And, no, I don’t want to stop people speaking their mind on political issues altogether. As a Latinx woman, it’s a disservice to me personally, and to all the employees that I try to advocate for.

    What’s really bizarre is that Bruce is actually a good manager to his team, building on their strengths, training them, and treating them respectfully and with dignity. That’s why what he said to Tom actually came out of left field and I never would have imagined it! All the more reason to shut it down quickly and remind Bruce that he’s better than to call people names.

    1. Nia*

      Someone who thinks the current minimum wage is acceptable is not a good manager. Someone who thinks the current minimum wage is acceptable has no business managing anybody or anything.

      1. WellRed*

        We don’t know that Bruce thinks the current minimum wage is acceptable, though, do we? Also, regardless of what a manager believes, he can only pay what the company agrees to.
        Do I think Bruce behaved terribly? Absolutely, but by painting those we disagree with with one broad brush, both sides remain stuck in opposition.

        1. Nia*

          Calling someone stupid for voting for a minimum wage increase allows you to make some reasonable assumptions about their feelings about minimum wage.
          And by the by there is no both sides to a minimum wage increase. Opposition to an increase is morally repugnant. Those who support it want to keep people in abject poverty forever so they can keep getting richer by exploiting them.

          1. JO*

            What exactly is your definition of exploitation? This are the rates that people are volunteering to exchange their labor for unless you are referring to some type of human trafficking deal (which is still a problem).

            1. Nia*

              Ah yes people are volunteering to work for sub poverty wages. After all if they don’t want to be poor they should just find a job that pays better right. How unintelligent these people must be to have not worked that out on their own. I’m glad you’re here to educate them.

                1. Stephen!*

                  2% of people make minimum wage, but about 40% makes less than 15 dollars an hour. That’s a lot of “stupid” people who do indeed need the government to help them, as companies are gonna fight like hell to keep their wages down.

              1. Self Employed*

                I hate it when people tell people in retail, foodservice, etc. that if they want to be able to afford the rent, they should get a better job or move away. OK, that fixes it for Jane here. But who is going to staff your grocery stores or cook your food if NOBODY in that job makes a living wage? No, it isn’t going to be teenagers in middle class households who are saving money for frat dues, we don’t have enough of them.

            2. Homo neanderthalensis*

              “volunteering” isn’t volunteering if the only alternative to exploitation via low wages is the street. It’s desperation, which is what capitalism thrives on.

    2. Emi*

      I am not defending Bruce at all but I think “Tom likes to push buttons” is a broader problem than it sounds (to me) like you’re treating it as.

    3. Homo neanderthalensis*

      On the one hand a younger guy who’s good at his job but pushes the buttons of a guy who literally believes that a GLOBAL PANDEMIC is a hoax, despite getting the illness himself. Uh yeah you have a Bruce problem, not a Tom problem. If I was working with a Bruce I’d be pretty fed up with him too. I’d take a real close look at his “good manager” status. Maybe start quietly asking for anonymous feedback from his employees, because I wouldn’t be surprised if Bruce is a time bomb, and after he retires a lot of ugly stories are going to come out, since his employees were desperate and couldn’t afford to quit. Which may be why Bruce is so anti raising minimum wage- as soon as other places pay better, folks will speak out. Check his facebook page too- did he support the insurrectionists at the white house? If he’s a hard-core Covid denier… Possible Tom saw that and is on his last rope with the guy, which is why you interpret his frustrations as “pushing buttons.”

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’d find it very difficult to take anything someone says seriously if I knew they were a ‘covid isn’t serious’ person, got to admit.

    5. Errr*

      I’m really wondering how this came up it the first place. I’m envisioning someone stating that the passage of this measure would affect the company and others chimed in. And then Tom piped up to state that he voted for the measure free some expressed frustration that the measure passed. I wonder if Tom was trying to counter the mood that everyone agree. He could have framed it differently though and should have had Bruce react the way that he did.

    6. RM*

      There are definitely people out there who think of certain groups of “other” people as lower than themselves, yet act in this psuedo-respectful, psuedo-helpful manner to help “those people” “better themselves.” Condescending noblesse oblige. They don’t take very kindly to people making more than incremental steps forward. What they really hate are opportunities and higher standard of living achieved or given by someone who is not them.

  53. RagingADHD*

    I’m not sure precisely when lobbing personal insults devoid of debate became normalized as “political speech.” But I sure hope we can un-normalize it.

    1. JO*

      Yes please… People have gotten so nasty to each other. Not that politics in the US had a reputation for being the most civil at any point in history.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        To be fair, it’s not just the US. We had to remind people to not talk about parliment figures at work recently because the UK isn’t doing a heckuva lot better. Lot of strong feelings, and I’d prefer to not have people hurling personal insults in the office (especially since I have strong feelings myself and work really hard to keep them to myself!)

  54. Texan In Exile*

    LW3: I moved to a different group at my company but left for my successor a detailed process manual, my email archives sorted by client name, and fully current paper files for each client, all of which I developed, as there had been almost nothing when I started.

    I met with him several times after he started, showing him what needed to be done.

    For three months, he would call and email with questions. I started asking if he had read the manual. Or looked in the files.

    Nope. He went straight to asking me for the answer.

    I finally called his boss and said she needed to tell him to stop calling me and to RTFM.

  55. Sandra Starrs*

    #2 “Hey boss, just a head’s up. People are starting to make your “let me maximize that for you” into a meme.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      LOL that’ll get her thinking she’s as famous as Bernie! like, she’s maximised her reputation!!

  56. employment lawyah*

    1. Employee cursed at a coworker over politics
    Given that the cursing was not a slur or the sort of insult which is aimed at a protected class; and that it appears to have been a one-time or very rare occurrence (which it sounds like it was;) then I’d leave it to the manager and forget about it unless it happens again.

    “Are you fucking kidding me,” or “are you fucking stupid,” or anything else similar does not usually fall within that must-act-immediately category IMO, given the huge number of things which ARE IN FACT completely unacceptable.

    Also, I don’t know if you were just being polite, but if you would ordinarily say “F-word” even when relating conduct, then possibly this may be an artifact of an unusual sensitivity to bad language?

    2. My boss has weaponized her personality test results
    Well the “shared publicly” is stupid and a bad idea, as you can see. Employers, DO NOT DO THIS. Anyway.

    There may not be much you can do. If it were me, i would start using the words “maximally” and “minimally” all the time: How’s the weather you ask? Maximally cold, but minimally raining. heh.

    OK, probably not a good idea, but you’ll just probably have to suck it up.

    3. What’s my obligation to help the person who replaced me?
    If you work for their competitor: Zero. Don’t get fired trying to help!
    If they were assholes, or if they fired you, or treated you badly, and if you don’t need any references: Zero.
    In normal circumstances: 15 minutes, ONCE. It’s their job to be efficient, not yours. But it’s a reasonable courtesy in my view.
    If you worked there for ages and left on good terms and had a fairly complex job and are feeling kind: 30 minutes or even 45, your call, but by no means more than an hour. Again, only ONCE.

    Everything else: Triple or quadruple your highest currently hourly rate (including OT); impose a four-hour minimum, and tell them they can hire you. Get paid up front.

    No matter what: Keep to data and specifics! Do NOT get into personal stuff, motivations, or personal “why” answers.

    BAD: “here’s how to deal with Bob in shipping” or “here’s how I got through the meetings” or “here’s why I always thought that project was a problem.”

    GOOD: “here’s how to make the document management system talk to the delivery system”; or “you won’t get a notice from the city, but they expect you to file a semi-quarterly report via fax, to the water department, and they’ll get angry if you don’t.”

    4. Should I tell my boss a competitor tried to poach me?
    I would, for the reasons AAM says.

    Before you present, think of your goal as demonstrating loyalty to your organization. You have valuable information which would help them. You were thinking about NOT telling them because they would view you as trying to be sneaky. but you like the company and you want to stay, and you think they should know that…

    5. Should I write my cover letter in another language to demonstrate my language skills?
    Not the cover letter!

    But people lie about fluency just like they lie about everything else. If fluency is a big part of hiring and if you are really that confident in your language skills, I would consider proactively including a short writing sample, or a copy of your cover letter, in a foreign language. One page, max.

    This may apply less to really huge firms, but the goal of doing so would be to make it as easy as possible for someone to say “hey, suitemate, I know you speak ___; how’s this look?”

    Obviously this can backfire if someone else is better, but it is worth doing IMO, given the probable assumptions that “white people can’t usually speak that dialect of Mandarin.”

    1. Self Employed*

      “Stupid” is a slur against people with developmental disabilities, which ARE a protected class.

    2. OP1*

      OP 1 here – no re: the F-ing comment. Alison changed it when putting my letter on her site (which is her right). I’ve worked in construction for many, many years. Bad language is nothing to me and my ears are certainly not virginal in any way. Nevertheless, the cursing is usually reserved for things or situations, rather than people directly – even by the raunchiest of construction workers.

  57. NOK*

    Ugggh LW2 just sent me down a fun memory lane. I worked at a place where a personality/communication-style test was commonplace and holy moly it sucked. You had a bunch of folks using their result to justify bad behavior. “My constant derailing questions are because I’m a ‘thinker!'” “It’s not my fault that I constantly pull a nasty tone with people, it’s just my ‘commander’ instincts coming out.” Garbage.

  58. Data Analyst*

    LW #3 – I was once at a toxic job that I ended up leaving after only three months, and while I was there I noticed that I could access the old seating charts and see who used to work there (and the seating charts were updated weirdly often for such a small office) and I desperately wanted to (but ultimately did not) send a LinkedIn message to some of these people, and I envisioned wording sort of like what you received, but it would have been code for “tell me if it’s really as bad as it seems and whether I should run away screaming?”
    …but I guess even if this is what they’re really after, getting confirmation (or not) from someone who used to be there wouldn’t actually do much, since it’s all relative. And the “let me know when you can meet” is so presumptuous it’s annoying. I guess I’m just commenting because I don’t necessarily see “someone told me to reach out and ask you to train me” as the underlying motivation, but that doesn’t change what the advice should be.

  59. Sled Dog Mama*

    #4, in my profession (and especially as a female) if you’re not getting calls from recruiters trying to poach you it’s a problem. My boss, company owner, regularly gets calls looking to poach him from his own company. So the answer is also industry specific in my industry it’s typical to have recruiters trying to poach you, in others it may not be so typical.

    1. OP#4*

      I have a very niche line of work, but probably get 1-2 serious inquiries and several more “general” recruitment inquiries a year. I usually ignore the general inquiries as it’s very unlikely they have a position I would actually be interested in doing, and so far have turned down all of the specific inquiries as well (obviously, since I’m still at my company).

  60. Elbe*

    Re: Letter #1 – A lot of people (and families/work groups/etc.) have a tendency to blame the “more reasonable” person, as opposed to the person lashing out because it gives them an excuse to avoid dealing with the more explosive person. It’s why there’s so much “That’s just the way he is” or “You shouldn’t have said xyz” or “You should be able to handle it – don’t be so sensitive” in this world.

    Of course, that pretty much guarantees that the problem continues and that OTHER people have to deal with it.

    1. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      Yes, the old “well, what did you do to make them lash out like that” excuse. Hate that.

    1. Nom*

      It’s one of the Clifton Strengths the LW is referring to “People exceptionally talented in the Intellection theme are characterized by their intellectual activity. They are introspective and appreciate intellectual discussions.”

  61. Tuesday*

    “My boss has weaponized her personality test results.” I just had to say that I love this headline so much.

  62. staceyizme*

    The LW who wrote in about her boss weaponizing one of the traits from her Clifton Strengths Finder- it’s REALLY common for people to dive deep into one of these typologies and work to integrate it into their self-concept. If you wince every time she trots out that bit of jargon, you’re going to strain your musculature at least to the same degree that your patience already feels strained. This is a good time to lean into another typology- maybe you can find your own mental avatar to counter the Evil Maximus. Hakuna Matata…? Or whatever works for you. The point is- there’s no reason for you to poke yourself just because she’s trying to play with sharp objects, metaphysically-metaphorically speaking.

  63. whereismyrobot*

    Some colleges are now accepting Duolingo (in addition to a second resource) for fluency in languages. It’s great because it breaks down barriers created by testing.

  64. Heidi*

    We did a strengths finder exercise at my workplace. One of my main issues with it is that without external input, the results can only reflect what you already believe about yourself. So the accuracy of the results will depend a lot on how self-aware you are about your abilities and motivations. I’ve met some people whose “strengths” were not really reflected in their work.

    1. Self Employed*

      Yeah, like the “Empathic” career coach or whatever her title was in my breakout room who thought she could make me feel better about being being misinterpreted by assuming I’m about 20 years older than I really am. NO, GenX women didn’t grow up being told they didn’t need to learn anything because they were just going to get married and not work. GenX is the generation whose mothers were out working.

  65. MrsFillmore*

    Letter writer #2 – you have my sympathy! Almost any strength can be a weakness for a person who lacks self-awareness and skills of introspection. It sounds like this may be the case with your boss.

    This article explains some research on an exaggeration of strengths in the workplace, including with research that used Strengths Finder: https://hbr.org/2013/04/dont-let-your-strengths-become

    “In one study, we compared coworker ratings on the Leadership Versatility Index to leaders’ strengths as identified by the Clifton StrengthsFinder, a questionnaire that managers fill out themselves to identify their natural talent. There was a clear correlation between having talent in certain areas and overdoing behaviors associated with those talents.”

    Now, short of dropping a copy of this article on your boss’ desk, I’m not sure that the article will help you at work. Good luck!

  66. Nom*

    I had a boss who did something very similar to LW#2. We all did the Clifton Strengths and she was the only one who had “strategic” in her top 5. She spent the next 6 months shutting down input from us because we weren’t thinking as “strategically” as her and criticizing her team in front of others for having no strategic thinking skills… which of course wasn’t true. Eventually she left the company.

  67. Amber*

    If Bruce hadn’t sworn at Tom, I’d be 100% on his side. I think anyone who voted for a higher minimum wage are both stupid, and the reason my cost of living is about to skyrocket once more. I’d be sick knowing that someone I have to be around all day, every day willingly contributed to that, and I probably wouldn’t have the best reaction myself if I heard it in the moment like that. (Except I probably wouldn’t have cursed.) Bruce is probably sick over the thought of his cost of living going up, losing good employees that are already paid above market wage once their labor costs balloon even more, and probably worried about the entire company (who pays his bills) going under, all because of people like Tom, who wants skilled pay for unskilled labor. He needs to be disciplined not for his political reaction, but for the way he expressed it in the workplace. HOWEVER-

    I grew up in Southern California, where minimum wage (at the time) was $9.50, while my rent for a living room was $500.00, sharing a 2 bed/2 bath with 4 other people. I was the one who set that price- that’s the lowest I could make it for myself while being fair to everyone else in the house. That didn’t include utilities, transportation, or food. I worked 60 hours a week between two jobs to make that work.

    I moved to East TN where the minimum wage is currently at the federal amount of $7.25. To maintain the same standard of living in the same kind of area as I had in California can be done for less than full-time work. Right now, I live in a nicer area of town with only 1 roommate (50/50 split), and pay around the same amount for my total expenses as I paid in California for a living room with 4 other people, and I can make that at 1 job, as full-time opportunities are plentiful. Very few companies pay at minimum wage. The company that started me at 50 cents above minimum wage and ended at 10 cents above it in California pays over $3 over minimum wage here ($11-12 starting), and offers full time positions from the offset, which was something one had to earn and grovel for over months in California.

    People who have “no sympathy” for small businesses in this situation either have no idea what they are talking about, or want to score points even though they know the cost is going to devastate millions in the long run, and they are the same people who condemn big corporations. It’s hypocrisy at it’s finest.

  68. Lana*

    I slightly disagree with the advice for LW5, only slightly. Instead of a whole cover letter I would include a short statement in that language about your enthusiasm for the position. The equivalent of “This job is a direct match for my skills and I would be very happy to work here!”

    It shows, to me, a level of engagement that others may not. I would also include your proficiency level in your CV as suggested, even better if you have a formal accreditation or assessment you can reference.

  69. Lurker*

    With regards to the language thing: I 100% agree you shouldn’t write your cover letter in the language because it’s extremely likely the hiring manager does not speak that language. I am also a non-latina white Spanish speaker and for a long time I agonized over whether or not I should apply for Spanish-preferred type jobs (is it right for me to apply? Will I as a privileged person take the job from a hispanic/latinx person? What if my language skills aren’t good enough?) I discovered I was not applying for jobs where someone else with lower or no language skills was ultimately hired, so I just mention it on a resume and cover letter with some of my experience and skills with regards t the language (which I’ve found say more than, say, a CEFR score). It’s ultimately up to the hiring manager to decide if they feel you’re a good fit or not, so as long as you’re honest why not apply?

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