Ask a Manager speed round

It’s the Ask a Manager speed round! Until 4 pm ET today, I’ll be answering as many questions as I can live, in the comment section below.

How to ask questions: Submit a comment below with your question. This quick format is best suited to questions that don’t require lengthy, nuanced answers. Questions won’t appear until they’re answered.

How to stay anonymous: Pick a user name (not your real name!) for the “user name” box.

How to comment: You can comment as normal, by replying below. Comments won’t appear until approved due to the moderation function necessary to set this up.

Update: The speed round is now closed! You can read it below.

{ 1,344 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hello! A few items as we get started on the first-ever AAM speed round:

    * I’m going to be releasing questions as I answer them. So when you submit a question, you won’t see it immediately appear but it’ll be in the queue.

    * If you submitted a question yesterday, there’s no need to submit it again.

    * I won’t be able to get to everything — there have already been a LOT of questions. Apologies if I don’t get to yours. I may save some unused questions for future “short answer” posts.

    * I’m going to try to get through as many as I can, so these will be short answers.

    * Refresh the page to see new questions/answers.

    1. JB*

      Adding this up here so it doesn’t interfere with questions. I love that you are doing this; although I do wish the new questions were at the top. It’s lot of refreshing and then scrolling to the bottom. This may help some:
      * Several ways to refresh, like just hit ENTER on the URL line. But F5 key is easy.
      * Depending on browser END key likely moves directly to bottom of screen.

      1. Anonymousaurus Rex*

        This is helpful. I’m also seeing the site slowing down. Seems like others are also refreshing a lot. I love that Alison is doing this, but I really hope the site can handle it!

        1. Zelda*

          I tried to visit te site about an hour and a quarter into the speed round, and it took long enough to load that I gave up. Clearly a popular endeavor, but Alison may need upgraded server/bandwidth/technical-thingy for it to keep up! : D

    2. catwhisperer*

      How will you be sharing the answers to the previously submitted questions? Will those be in the comment section too?

        1. catwhisperer*

          Wow! Thanks so much for taking the time to do this – very excited to read through all the questions and responses.

        2. acmx*

          I was surprised you had a submission form the day before because I thought you’d be flooded with questions! :)

  2. Coldfeet*

    I started a new job this year and a few weeks in, my boss told me it’s known among staff and some of our clients that our CEO is an alcoholic. I am essentially pretending like I don’t know this information, because what else would I do with it. I don’t have a lot of interaction with our CEO, so it hasn’t been an issue for me so far. Is this the right approach?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. Not really your business unless it affects your job in some way, and so far it doesn’t seem like that’s the case. If your boss ever brings it up again, you could ask if it has ever affected things at work, but otherwise I’d leave it alone.

    2. Tech Writer*

      Maybe your boss told you that so you wouldn’t be caught off guard hearing it from client or coworker? The only thing I would do with that info is to think now about the best way to respond if anyone ever mentions it.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        This was my thought. At a previous job about a month in a customer made a joke about the owner’s drug use and I was caught more than a little off guard. It turned out to be true, he kept it in check and it didn’t affect his job, but it was a bit of an open secret that he liked to party pretty hard in the off hours. I barely knew the man at that point, though, so I had no idea how to respond.

        I wouldn’t let it color your experience with the CEO unnecessarily, but at least you won’t be surprised if anyone says anything. Feel free to be blandly noncommittal about any comments. It’s always best not to be the one caught upping the ante on those kinds of jokes.

    3. M*

      I think you have an opportunity here. Without ever mentioning your CEO’s condition, you and others can foster an environment that is sober-friendly. Don’t suggest or plan every social event at a bar. Make sure every meal that includes alcohol also includes non-alcoholic options. Avoid terms like “addicted” for something unrelated to substance abuse disorders; don’t say “I’m addicted to M&Ms!” when you mean “I love M&Ms!” Privately, in your own thoughts, frame your CEO’s alcoholism as a treatable health condition that he is probably aware of and may actively be working on. Understand that alcoholism and substance abuse disorders are lifetime health conditions that are common, manageable, and don’t deserve stigma or judgement. And remember that we are still in a pandemic that has worsened every kind of mental health issue, including these conditions.

      1. Wine Not Whine*

        GREAT ANSWER! Other folks may well appreciate those moves too (pregnant, religious abstention, health reasons, etc) but not otherwise want to make a big deal out of it. This is a chance to create a more comfortable environment for everyone.

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        I agree! I’d just take your excellent suggestions one step further: Don’t plan ANY work-related social events at a bar! There are plenty of enjoyable venues that aren’t alcohol-focused…and you’ve only to read AAM to see the disastrous results of employees (not all of whom have diagnosed Alcohol Use Disorder) go hog-wild on the booze. And there are plenty of delicious non-alcoholic beverages, so it should be possible for even those who are well able to drink moderately to find something they like (and they should be able to skip the alcohol for one meal!)

    4. Cj*

      An active alcoholic, or a recovering alcoholic? Same answer either way, but which it is might affect how the company operates.

      1. Coldfeet*

        Oh, good point, I should have clarified. Actively abusing alcohol and sometimes seems incoherent in meetings.

        1. JSPA*

          If boss is a figurehead, the information means, “this is useful context for what you may experience.” If the boss is integral to the function of the business, it means, “…and have an exit plan lined up, as there’s only so much those of us in the lower ranks can do, to hold it all together.”

          It also probably paradoxically cuts down on gossip, if everyone knows the score, and knows this is an acknowledged thing.

    5. Free Meerkats*

      The only time I’ve gotten this head’s up was when I mentioned to my then boss that I was planning to make a whiskey cake for the potluck. She then told me the plant manager was in recovery and to let him know in advance. Instead, I changed plans and brought brownies.

    6. All BS*

      It’s a use disorder/alcohol and it’s a health condition under the ADA and none of your business. If this condition affects your job directly, go to your boss or HR.

    7. Not So NewReader*

      My family member worked for a well-known company in the east, whose CEO was a functioning alcoholic.
      It never became an issue. Sometimes family member would work late and the CEO would come down to visit. They had some great conversations. But family member said that he never saw the CEO sober.

      You may never have an issue.
      Or if you do have a problem you already got the heads up and you can better decide what you want to do for a given problem.

      It’s good that the boss mentioned it to you. This means you can reopen that conversation later if you ever need to reopen it.

  3. Mr. Random Guy*

    My company helped with my moving expenses, then when I resigned expected full reimbursement (including having me pay the difference out of pocket if my landlord retained any of the security deposit). Is that a reasonable thing for them to ask and how do companies normally handle it when they help with relocation?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Did you sign an agreement that you would pay them back if you left before X amount of time? If so, that’s likely legally binding (and those contracts are very common). But if there wasn’t any formal agreement like that and they’re asking for repayment anyway, you can politely decline with, “That wasn’t something we’d agreed to and I’m not in a position to do that.” They have no claim on recovering those funds if they didn’t have the foresight to get an agreement about it earlier.

      1. Mr. Random Guy*

        Thank you for answering my question. There was no formal agreement, or any mention whatsoever of this expectation before I said I was leaving. Since I’m newer to the workforce, I wasn’t sure if paying back moving expenses was just a common thing I happened to be unaware of. To clarify another point, I left after two years, but the company also did this with an employee who’d been there longer, so tenure wasn’t the issue.

        1. Artemesia*

          Oh they can really go fly a kite. Even when there is a payback requirement, it is usually not more than 2 years in. I’d use Alison’s bland language here and then ignore any future requests. You never owe money not agreed to.

          1. Your Local Password Resetter*

            Indeed. Most of those payback clauses are there so the company has a guarantee for their investment. Not to claw it back years after the fact.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yup, one year is common and two stretches it. WITH AN AGREEMENT. I agree with Alison and everyone else.

        3. JSPA*

          They can always ask in hopes that you’re naive enough to do it…and you can let them know, in a polite way, to go pound salt.

      2. items*

        FYI, moving expense reimbursements are seen as taxable income by the IRS, and taxed at quite a high rate! So if you pay back the reimbursements, you will end up losing money.

        1. Jess*

          I mean, OP should not pay it back. But to clarify – as taxable income, it should be taxed at the same rate as any other income (as in, any W-2 wages) you receive. If it wasn’t, something wonky happened (or perhaps it was simply that inclusion of expenses pushes someone into the next bracket). 2nd, if you have to repay the money, you’ll want to amend your taxes from the year you claimed it as income and, if the company included it in the W-2 for that year, have them issue a corrected one. Because it should have been treated as a loan and not income. But OP shouldn’t pay it back.

          1. knitcrazybooknut*

            Any relocation lump sum payment is taxed at the supplemental tax rate, which is approximately 25%. (This is in the US, and I don’t believe anything has changed recently.) These taxes should be withheld by the employer.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      How long did you stay at the job because that makes a difference too. I’ve worked for several companies that offered relo (not to me but I’m in accounting so I see the transactions) and usually it requires you to stay for a minimum of 6 months to a year to not have to pay it back.

    3. EngineerMom*

      The handful of times I’ve been hired into a company that covered moving expenses, the repayment terms were in the contract I signed when I was hired. All of them basically said “if you leave the company for any reason within 1 year of your start date, you will be expected to repay a prorated amount of the moving expenses within 2 weeks of your last day.”

      So for example, if I received $20,000 in moving expenses and left after 6 months, I would be expected to repay $10,000 within 2 weeks of my last day.

    4. Mover*

      The two times I’ve got moving expenses paid by an employer, it was explicitly pro-rated over 2 years.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I think since the OP’s work paid the security deposit as part of the relocation costs they expect to get the full deposit back, even if OP’s landlord keeps some. For example if the security deposit is $500 but the landlord keeps $100 OP would have to pay the $100 and give the $400 from the security deposit.

        1. Lady Heather*

          I get that – I’m wondering why OP is questioning it. If OP breaks a door in her apartment leading to the landlord deducting that from the deposit, why would you expect the employer pay for that door?

          1. Amtelope*

            If there’s a contract saying the employee has to repay the money they received to relocate, it probably specifies a monetary amount, and it’s irrelevant whether the employee got their security deposit back. If there’s no contract, the employer shouldn’t be asking for this money.

          2. HA2*

            I think there’s a difference in assumptions – I certainly wouldn’t assume that just because the landlord kept some of the security deposit means there was an actual reason for them to do so. I generally think of the security deposit as a move in fee- you pay it, don’t expect to ever get any of it back, feel fortunate if some of it is refunded when you move out, but not much you can do if it’s not.

            1. Jam Today*

              Your landlord is legally obligated to pay back your security deposit. You can absolutely sue your landlord if they withhold it, and get back your deposit plus damages for the delay (in my state its 3x the deposit).

              1. Artemesia*

                Abuse of security deposits is so common that this is a problem. You can’t win by ‘suing’ over a few hundred dollars usually and of course if you are moving out of state you can’t sue (practically speaking). Many landlords just steal the money. My favorite was the time as a young penniless grad student I was charged for a broken lamp. It was my lamp not the landlords. (and cheap and it had stopped working so I put it out with the trash)

                later I made a big show of a walk through and photos with current newspaper yadda yadda and did better.

                1. Frauke*

                  Huh, this is kind of shocking! I’ve heard of (and experienced) landlords having to be reminded a bunch of times, or being petty about “damages”, but outright stealing is egregious.

                  Then again, I’m not in the US. Typical deposits are three months rent here, so it’s more likely thousands than hundreds of dollars, and worth fighting to get back.

            2. Ash*

              Omg! I am so sorry that you have been having that experience. No one should ever take it for granted that the security deposit will not be returned to you. Almost everyone’s should be! In most states, the landlord is supposed to give you an itemized list of any deductions for damage or anything else. You can challenge those deductions in court. Always good to take photos and video at the final walk-through. In some states, if it’s found that the landlord unjustly withheld your deposit, you can be repaid double or even triple the cost of the deposit. It’s so important for renters to know their rights!

              1. Not So NewReader*

                In NYS if a LL has more than x number (I have forgotten) apartments, then I believe the security is paid back with accrued interest.

              2. AcademiaNut*

                It’s often a practicality thing – sure, it’s illegal, sure you can sue your landlord, but suing someone takes time and effort and money and knowledge, and is difficult to do if you’ve left the area. The kind of landlords who pull this stuff tend to be the ones who are renting cheaper, poorly maintained places in the first place (plus an assortment of people who are renting out basement suites and think it’s reasonable confiscate your deposit for normal wear and tear on the place). They’re renting to people who don’t have the resources to pursue legal action – they can’t afford to hire legal help, can’t easily take time off work for court dates, are physically leaving the area. So I can totally understand regarding getting a deposit back as an unexpected bonus rather than something to be expected.

                1. ceiswyn*

                  Yeah, I had landlords pull that on me as standard when I was a student and then young worker.

                  After the first time, I just never paid my final month’s rent, so the total was right even if the details weren’t. One landlord tried to get round that by requiring twelve postdated cheques in advance, which was illegal. Apparently he didn’t know that you could cancel a cheque…

              3. tiasp*

                I’m actually helping a friend with a security deposit issue right now. Our province has lots of information on the government website if you search landlord and tenants. And there’s a dedicated board that deals with disputes.

              4. TardyTardis*

                Good luck with that. My daughter, as a college student, never expected her deposit back. College students are fair game in most college towns that way.

          3. Mily*

            The OP isn’t expecting their employer to pay for a door, they are surprised that their employer is trying to claw back previous compensation.

      2. whatchamacallit*

        It may be a lease thing – if they are breaking their lease early after relocating, their lease my stipulate they forfeit the deposit or there are lease transfer fees and those are being deducted. It was pretty common in one of the cities I lived in for leases to have clauses that said you would have to pay lease change fees that were easily as high as $2000 if you broke your lease (yes, even if you found someone to take it over so the landlord wasn’t losing any money to a vacancy.) I don’t think that changes anything around the clawback terms here though if the employer paid the security deposit expenses for OP.

    5. SchuylerSeestra*

      It’s not uncommon for companies to have some sort of policy around relocation funds repayment if a employee voluntary leaves after a certain time. Usually around a year, though I’ve seen up to 2 years. My last place it was 75% after 3 months, 50% after 6 months, 25% after a year.

    6. Crispy Pork*

      My husband paid for relocation on the condition he sign an agreement to repay all if he left within 1 yr, 50% if between 1 and 2 years. In your case you had no agreement so it’s not fair to surprise you with this much later. There is no way they can reinforce this either. You might as well bill them for sprinkling their building with good luck dust.

  4. Alldogsarepuppies*

    Help me win an argument. My (romantic) partner just became a recruiter as I began my job search. He thinks it’s okay for him to submit my resume for jobs as long as I have the qualifications the client is looking for. I say that is obviously a bad idea because it will lead to my candidacy being taken less seriously if it were known and by sneaky if not. Who is right?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, you should have a separation there. He shouldn’t be involved in pitching you as a candidate; it’ll reflect a little oddly on you both.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I agree with Alison but I wonder if the partner was open about their relationship from the beginning if that would be ok. Especially if OP has a specific skills set that is uncommon. Could they says something like “This candidate is my partner but I want to put her into the candidate pool because of their skills in x, y, z.

      1. meyer lemon*

        Probably similar issues to managing a romantic partner or acting as a reference–it really throws your sense of objectivity (and professional norms) into question.

      2. Allonge*

        The thing about conflict of interest is that the appearance of it – that someone might think there is inappropriate connections being used – is just as bad as a real one. In this case, every hiring manager is going to think ‘no kidding you think Alldogsarepuppies is great, you are involved’! It puts a question mark where should be none.

      3. The Cosmic Avenger*

        Right, and optics aren’t just an abstract; fair or not, some clients might think that Alldogsarepuppies’ partner had better matches that they didn’t forward them to the client in order to give Alldogsarepuppies a better shot at the job. The partner shouldn’t put themselves, their company, or more importantly, their client, in the position of having to wonder, it’s unprofessional.

    2. Ama*

      My employer hired a candidate who turned out to be not great for a variety of reasons and then he let it slip that he was good buddies with the recruiter who recommended him to us (a fact which was not disclosed to anyone involved in the hiring process). That was pretty much the last straw for him (he was fired less than a month later) and I don’t believe my employer will ever be using that recruiting firm again (I’m not privy to whether we pursued any refunds for their services, but I’m sure we looked into it).

      Not to say that you wouldn’t be a better employee than our guy but it can really tarnish things if it comes out your partner submitted you and didn’t disclose your relationship.

      1. Alldogsarepuppies*

        Yep, that was my argument. That if we are upfront, I will not be seen as a qualified candidate, but a woman who needs her boyfriend to find her a job. If we aren’t up front it will inevitably come out and we will look sneaky and that he was trying to pull one over on them.

        1. Reluctant Manager*

          Does your life partner work with business partners? Maybe that’s an intermediate step–and the business partner could share the commission?

    3. HM MM*

      I think it depends – is he an internal or external recruiter? If he’s internal, then I’d say no. If he’s external I think there may be more flexibility.

      I’d recommend that your partner ask around at his office – maybe start with peers and asking casually to gauge the temperature. It might be a hard “no absolutely not”. Or maybe the consensus is he can’t submit your resume for roles he’s working on, but his colleagues could submit you for roles they’re working on. My experience with external recruiters is that when they’re presenting candidates to the client it’s more along the lines of “here are folks I found who meet your requirements, who would you like to meet” and less a personal/individual endorsement. Basically external recruiters are (often, though not always) sourcing candidates, not necessarily recommending them, so the personal relationship may be less of a factor in that situation.

    4. Hil*

      Maybe once he has a few work friends he could give your resume to one of them and make it clear there’s no pressure what so ever but here it is if they are a match for anything you’re trying to fill.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        This was my thought. In the event he finds her dream job that she is perfectly qualified during the course of his daily work then he could let her know about the posting and put her in contact with a colleague. That would probably be the best way to go about it.

  5. Dittany*

    I’m a Jew in a majority-Christian workplace. Generally this isn’t a big deal, but about a month ago one of my coworkers decided to start Learning About My Fascinating Culture, and now peppers me with questions during Every. Single. Interaction. She means well, and I don’t mind answering the odd question here and there, but this is driving me nuts. I’ve tried changing the subject and suggesting various other places where she can learn more, but with every new conversation we go back to enthusiastic Q & A sessions. What’s a good script for getting her to dial it back?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      “I’m all talked out on this subject. Let’s talk about other stuff.”

      And then if she tries again the next day: “You’re kind to take an interest, but I don’t want to talk about religion at work this much! Thanks for understanding.” (If she is someone who will take “this much” as meaning “but one question a day is okay,” then change that to a more blanket statement: “I’ve realized I’d rather not talk about religion at work.”)

      1. Phil*

        I was having a coffee in the cafe in The British Museum when a couple of Jehovah Witnesses sat down opposite me and started their pitch. I countered with the truth, “No thanks, I’m Jewish.” Well, it seemed they had never met a Jew and I spent the next half hour trying to explain my religion to them. It was sort of fun, giving them a bit of their own medicine.

        1. facepalm*

          My old rabbi had a story about that, that some evangelists had come to his door and tried to discuss religion to him even after he explained he was a rabbi. He agreed to give them 30 minutes of his time as long as they reciprocated, but he got to go first. They left.

    2. OyHiOh*

      “That would be a great question to look up on jewfaq dot org!” (Real site, good info for people who’ve never encountered My Facinating Culture.) I’d just keep repeating over and over again.

      1. CaviaPorcellus*

        That or My Jewish Learning. Or Chabad’s website. Or literally any free online resource that is not your Token Jewish Coworker.

        1. Wintermute*

          I really like chabad’s site, but it is from a very specific perspective. They do, however, do an amazing job of pointing out in their “what to expect” series and some others the difference between community customs and where their own specific custom varies from the more widespread community.

          I really, really like their series going over every single mitzvah and all the law associated for people that want a really deep dive, as well as their “what to expect” series.

          1. Bryce*

            Yeah Chabad’s interesting because they’re our only really proselytizing group and have some specific approaches on top of that so some things can feel off-putting, but once you get past that they have some great resources because of it.

        2. This name thing is hard*

          I would counsel against Chabad’s site. Yes, there is a lot of information there, but from a very specific perspective (male-centric, boys/men wear kippot, read Torah, are bound by mitzvot, girls/women don’t/aren’t – and that’s not even getting into separation of the sexes, the fact that women have to guard against “stimulating” men in their dress, and even by not being allowed to sing within earshot of a man), which does not reflect the diversity of the Jewish community.

          1. ShanShan*

            I once described the Chabadniks as “missionaries for other Jews.” That is, they’re pretty active recruiters, but instead of recruiting people to convert to Judaism, they’re trying to recruit people who are already Jewish to become more religious.

          2. CaviaPorcellus*

            You’re literally describing tenets of Hasidic Judaism, and Chabad is Hasidic. What you’re describing are pretty standard Hasidic (and, in some cases, just generic Orthodox) interpretations of halacha.

            That said, I’m halachic egalitarian (ie, I’m a woman who counts in a minyan, reads Torah, own a kippah, etc.) and I use them as reference pretty frequently.

            1. This name thing is hard*

              You’re absolutely right that what I describe is Chassidic/Standard Orthodox and that Chabad is Chassidic. When you use their site you go in with a filter you have developed over time which allows you to parse the content into your egalitarian halachah perspective.

              The question (and hence the recommendation in the comment I replied to) was about a non-Jew’s curiosity about Judaism. They, by definition, would not have a similar filter. Because of this, I would recommend against any site that gives a solely Orthodox perspective, without acknowledging the diversity of Jewish perspectives beyond Orthodoxy. Chabad happens to be rather visible in that regard, and the site mentioned in the comment that I was replying to.

              1. This name thing is hard*

                I just realized that you are the author of the comment I originally replied to. I blame it being nearly 1am.

            2. AnotherJew*

              This is called Kiruv (bringing closer) and is literally Chabad’s mission… to kiruv other Jews, bring them back to the mitzvot, Torah, etc.

          3. Freeatlast*

            Not just specific in terms of male-centric etc., but in the fact that Chabad follows lots of practices which are Chabad specific and that other Jewish groups, including Orthodox Jews do not follow. Many of Chabad’s practices are chumrot (the plural of chumrah), a practice that exceeds Jewish law. In other words, if Jewish law requires x, the Chabad practice will require x + 1 (or 2 or 3 or 4) just to be extra stringent. And they won’t explain to people that they’re doing it that way to be extra stringent. So the people that they’re educating, who are usually Jews who have little Jewish knowledge, will believe that those stringencies are required.

    3. animaniactoo*

      “I don’t mind talking about this once in a while, and I appreciate that you’re interested in learning. But when it’s the subject of almost every conversation we have, it feels sort of like you’re seeing me as a museum or zoo exhibit. I’m sure that’s not your intent! But it’s just how I end up feeling. Would you mind working with me to talk about other stuff and not have this always be the focus of our conversations?”

    4. EPLawyer*

      Oh goodness, Hannukah Balls. You just know this is coming.

      Although to be fair, I have a friend that I run questions by about Jewish culture. But I CHECKED to make sure it is okay. I also keep my questions to a minimum. At Purim, he was tickled pink I went to learn what it was about on my own. Then we discussed what a bad ass Esther was.

      1. ThatOnePlease*

        Oh no Hannukah Balls LOL. I appreciate it when people show an interest in Jewish practice, because there tend to be a lot of misconceptions (or just invisibility) around our observances – but of course, in moderation, and in a respectful way. OP’s coworker sounds like they are coming on way too strong and see Judaism as a curiosity rather than a faith tradition that’s equally as valid as their own.

        1. Dittany*

          Yeah, I was happy to answer questions at first, but her, uh… enthusiasm got to be off-putting after awhile. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t MEAN to act like she views me as a semi-sentient museum exhibit rather than a person with interests other than My Strange And Exotic Culture!!!!!!!!! but that’s how it’s coming across.

      2. UKDancer*

        Esther was awesome. Definitely one of my favourite books of the old testament and a nice change from all the male dominated bits I had to do at Sunday school. Also I had a colleague (in the before times) who made the best Hamantaschen and used to bring them in to work.

      3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

        I laughed out loud at your opening. Hannukah Balls. Such an epic letter. I kind of love that you repurposed it as a very-situation-specific new swear.

    5. Gina*

      This happened to me a lot too, and I just used the Mad Men line “Im Jewish but I feel weird being treated like an expert here.”

    6. ecnaseener*

      You might be past this sort of subtle shut-down, but with most questions about Judaism you can pretty easily (and truthfully) just say there’s no singular answer. “Do Jews believe in heaven and hell? Hah, that’s been debated from every direction for millennia!”

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Five Jews, ten answers. That’s what I usually say. I also do a lot of, “It’s really complicated.” And also, “yes, I study the Talmud. It’s a bunch of guys arguing across centuries, it’s pretty great.”

    7. LabTechNoMore*

      Had his happen twice (Muslim here). First one was just leading up to proselytizing, second was pushing me out.

    8. tamarack and fireweed*

      I think I might in this situation apply the friendship-preserving [*] hedging preface of leading with “Listen, I need to say something, which is the kind of thing that sometimes lands badly – and I don’t want it to because I appreciate you. Still, there’s something I want to bring up and hope you don’t take it badly…”

      (I’m sensitive to this also because my spouse, who’s much more introverted than myself, is Jewish, and *I* might be in the situation of objectifying them as my own personal dispenser of Jewish insight if I’m not careful. As such: you should absolutely push back!)

      [*] I know this is not a friendship situation. But the hedging preface has that function in general.

    9. MentalEngineer*

      Make stuff up. I can’t understate how entertaining it is. For bonus points, make up different stuff for each person who catches the question bug so they’ll confuse each other if they ever compare notes.

  6. Workingmom*

    Coworkers always ask to see new baby pics but don’t want to send these over work email or chat or anything Facebook or Google (and since COVID, can’t just show them your phone), coz who knows who’ll see them. What’s a good way to address?

    1. Dreamer*

      Could you show pics via Zoom? As in during a Zoom/Skype call, put your phone to the camera? (I agree with your worries Btw)

    2. TechWriter*

      I’ve shown some pictures over a screenshare in Zoom 1:1’s with my boss (we have a friendly relationship, and she’s mentioned in a very low-key way that she loves baby pictures, but absolutely never pressures me to share. I don’t do it too often, because I don’t want that to be what defines me at work, but do on bigger occasions, like her recent birthday.) You might be more comfortable with that, if you have calls with a somewhat social component to them.

      It’s still a 3rd party app and I guess someone could screenshot or something, but they wouldn’t have the source file or whatever. (I have similar but not as stringent concerns as you; I have also included the occasional photo in work email/Slack, but I don’t put anything on social media like Facebook.)

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, that’s what I did. For some odd reason I had no problems sending a few baby pics to my boss and a few coworkers when I was at home on maternity leave (from my private email), but I’m not on any social media now and I wasn’t then, and I was very firm with my friends that I didn’t want any pics of him to show up on their social media either. The only social media app I use is Whatsapp, and I really can’t switch because all of my friends use it, as much as I hate the fact that it’s owned by FB.

    3. Brett*

      You can show them the pictures physically over a live meeting with recording turned off (depends on your standard meeting software).
      i.e. literally hold up your phone to the camera to show them.
      (Or, depending on your comfort, assuming you are working from home, you could even introduce them to your baby over the video conference.)

      1. Bazinga*

        I was also thinking some sort of zoom meeting or FaceTime with your coworkers. Unless you would be worried about that too?

    4. Rachel in NYC*

      My office created a zoom channel just for this kind of thing. or maybe it was for pet photos.

      I have neither a pet nor child. so I’m not involved. I’m on the food channel.

      1. RosyGlasses*

        Reading comprehension fail – I totally read your comment as “I am neither a pet nor child”… which led to an instant question of what pets are using slack nowadays. LOL

          1. Flora*

            Best possible reply.

            (also, my cat is pretty sure he’s a valid part of the meeting whenever there is one. Other cats in other people’s meeting spaces seem to hold similar opinions)

        1. CatsOnAKeyboard*

          Mine are definitely using slack …
          they’re known to launch themselves onto my keyboard and enter in gibberish! And my coworkers will just say ‘Hi, [cat names]”

    5. BabyCarrot*

      You could do a screen share on Teams or Zoom to show them if the session is not recorded.

      1. Anne of Green Gables*

        We have a staff-only chat (webex teams) and some have shared pictures there. You can also go to a past post of your own and delete.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          Problem with that is that someone can download the picture or screenshot the picture and then they are still out on the internet. Best bet is during a non recorded zoom or teams meeting hold the phone up to the camera. Or use Alison’s advice

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Yeah, I guess it depends how risk averse you are about distribution. In a screen share someone would have to make a screenshot and upload, which requires quite some intentional energy. In Slack you still would have to download and share outside Slack, plus, I think you can set channels not to archive messages forever. So they are to me somewhere in the middle. FB/Insta etc are of course a lot harder to lock down.

            In our organization, photos in email are not uncommon – again, someone would have to download and post them to distribute them which isn’t a huge amount of risk.

  7. ProducerNYC*

    If I get a form rejection from a job, and then it gets posted again a week or two later, should I re-apply? I’m not sure if I should be taking a hint and moving on, or if perhaps the candidate they went with turned it down or otherwise didn’t work out after all. Thanks!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, don’t reapply that quickly. If you see the job reposted again a few months later — like, say, four or five — at that point you could consider throwing your hat back in the ring; in that case, enough time has passed that maybe they’ve tweaked what they’re looking for or will be willing to take another look at your. But if it’s just be a few weeks, that rejection is brand new and it wouldn’t make sense to apply again.

      1. ProducerNYC*

        Thank you!!! I can’t believe you answered my question! I’m in the midst of a long job search, and your advice and site has been such a beacon of hope and helpful guidance. Thank you, Alison!

        1. Hil*

          Just wanted to say I am too and it can be so rough emotionally, keep your head up and try not to even question these weird rejection/repost kind of circumstances… you never ever know what’s going on behind the scenes. We will get there :)

          1. ProducerNYC*

            Thank you!! I have been keeping a spreadsheet of all the jobs I apply to, and I’m wondering if that’s making the anxiety WORSE! It’s a sea of “no answers” with a few rejections sprinkled in for fun. I did have a Zoom interview today, and while I’m not 100 percent sure about the company, it did wonders to my mood. I was starting to feel invisible. Best of luck to you out there, Hil!!

      2. Cakeparty*

        Curious if this is still the same with government/public agency jobs. They usually have pretty rigid hiring processes. Might it be worth it to reapply since maybe they sent the rejection then the candidate dropped out but then they have restart the search all over or something like that?

      3. Harried HR*

        Sometimes the Job Post has expired without finding the right candidate so it needs to be Reposted for more candidates to apply

  8. Anonymeece*

    I’m a manager of mostly PT people and am expecting my first (and only) kid in July. A coworker is throwing me a work baby shower (common at my work) and asked who I wanted to invite.

    I don’t want my employees to feel pressured to come and certainly not to buy a gift, but if I don’t invite them, I’m worried they’ll feel snubbed. There’s also a distinct disgruntlement in our overall work culture where part-timers often feel excluded and like second-class citizens compared to full-timers. I work very hard not to make them feel that way within my department, but I’m worried that even if I say “No gifts necessary”, the power dynamics will make things awkward.

    Do I invite my employees or no?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Don’t do it! Showers are inherently requests for gifts, and it’s an abuse of power (even if you don’t intend it that way) if your employees end up in a position where they feel any pressure to give you gifts. Honestly, I’d be wary of doing a work shower at all, but if you’re going to, there are steps you can take to ensure it’s 100% not about gifts — like ask people to bring a piece of advice about parenthood or babies, or a favorite easy recipe, or anything else that gives them something to provide that they don’t need to purchase.

      1. AnonPi*

        Maybe say if they want to contribute, donate to your favorite charity instead of gifts? Or pick a charity/non-profit that benefits kids like St. Judes?

        1. Anne of Green Gables*

          We’ve also done a book shower, where gifts were books and several people gave previously used books, you could take it a step further and ask for favorite book recommendations for babies/kids without having to actually purchase the titles. (Though I do work at a library so that would not be weird in my workplace)

          1. a thought*

            My expectation of work showers is that they are inherently no gifts, or perhaps only gifts down (from a manager but not from employees) and that the “shower” part is that the COMPANY itself may provide a gift. This is how it has worked at both places I have worked at, there was absolutely 0 expectation of co-worker or employee gifts and it wasn’t done. So I think there’s also a *your workplace culture* element to this.

            1. Jackalope*

              Yeah, when I had a wedding shower at my job it was all of my co-workers plus my fiancé who were invited but the only gift I got was a gift certificate from our two head bosses who went in on it together (and for a small, reasonable for work amount).

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          that’s still putting financial pressure on part-time (therefore poorly paid) workers.

          1. Anonymeece*

            I just wanted to comment because this has been bugging me. I’m not at all saying my company is great (it’s not) and CERTAINLY not saying, “But they can afford it!”, but the assumption that part-time = poorly paid isn’t accurate.

            I started part-time at $7.25/hr flipping burgers, then thought I had it made when I scored a student job making $13/hr. 5 years ago, I was working part-time at a library for $10/hr.

            My part-timers are not in retail or fast food, which I agree is underpaid. Mine start at $15.50/hr and many make $23.25/hr. Granted, they don’t work as many hours, but due to the nature of the job, most of my PTers don’t want full-time jobs; most are retired and the job is a way to keep busy or just a little padding.

            That’s not to say they all are, but the assumption that part-time automatically means underpaid is, in my view, not accurate.

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        I wouldn’t do it? Usually any work related showers are for employees of the company, so it’s weird that the coworker is asking who you want to come (like are they wanting your parents and SO parents etc) Being that you are in a place where you have subordinates I don’t think its a good idea to have a “baby shower” where gifts are given. You could have a celebration typ of thing but make sure that the Coworker and your employees know that there should not be any gifts or money given. A card signed by everyone is ok.

          1. Artemesia*

            Not only is the gift thing problematic in the workplace and especially with a manager, but you can’t have ‘invitations’ in which some in the workplace are invited and others are not. The department can throw a party but you can’t invite Sheila and Eunice and Carl and not Susan and Jack because you don’t think they would be interested. NEVER ever.

      3. Anonymeece*

        Thank you for answering my question!

        To clarify some things below:

        – In the past, my office has thrown baby showers before, and gifts were not required, but often people did bring gifts (book sets, hand-crocheted blankets, etc). Others just came to drink the punch and eat the food and enjoy the company. We are mostly back to working at the office, but I have been exempted due to my condition and am working from home. This would be a virtual baby shower. My idea was going to be to create individual snack packs for everyone with pre-packaged, safe foods, and drop them off at work so people could enjoy them while we do more or less just a “social hour” where we talk on Zoom.

        – I did not ask for a baby shower, but my department is very close (most of us have worked together for well over 5 years and many of us started together) and my coworker wanted to throw one for me. Another coworker had her baby in November, and we did a virtual baby shower and many of us dropped gifts off at her porch and she left out individually wrapped cellophane cookies for people to take.

        – For the person who said they work in a library: So do I! :)

        – My coworker was asking who I wanted to invite outside of the department. That is, no colleagues would be excluded, but if there was anyone from another department who I wanted to include. Parents/outside friends/etc. absolutely not.

        (Sorry if this is a duplicate! It keeps saying it’s posted, but when I refresh, I don’t see it.)

        1. Jyn'Leeviyah the Red*

          Could you maybe ask the coworker who wants to put it on to bill it as a “baby sprinkle,” instead? There can be a cake and people can go in together to buy diapers and wipes. We have taken to doing this at my school, and it’s super helpful particularly for those who are an integral part of our community, but don’t usually have a lot of disposable income! (Plus then you get diapers and wipes!)

        2. Birdie*

          If you want to do anything, I think a better idea would be to remove the “shower” part of it entirely. If you use the term “shower” or even “sprinkle,” many people are going to assume there’s an expectation of gifts, even if it’s unspoken. I would frame it just as a social hour celebrating you and explicitly say no gifts, from anyone. (I’m sure some people would still want to send you something, and I think that’s fine if it’s done separately from the social activity/work.)

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Only been to one work shower that felt comfortable. The “guest of honor” took it upon herself to plan it herself – invited the whole company – and none of us knew it was a shower till we got there. The meeting invite read “Excuse for Cake.”

        She had a mini slideshow that she presented after everyone had cake, that told us:
        1) I’m pregnant
        2) I will not be telling anybody the gender till “Noodle” arrives
        3) touch me at your own risk (my belly isn’t a good luck charm or genie lamp)
        4) the only presents I will accept are advice/stories (and showed a picture of a living room lost to the massive amounts of hand-me-downs from their families)

        A good time was had by all – and after it all the owner insisted on paying her back for the cake from the office “Event Shower Budget.”

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          That sounds great! Well done to your colleague for establishing boundaries around touching, presents etc.

      5. Tilly*

        My coworkers offered to throw me a shower, but I insisted no shower. I think everyone was relieved, honestly.

    2. A Poster Has No Name*

      How does your employer usually handle baby showers? Are you in-person at your office? At my work, when we’re in person, anyway, the person organizing the shower puts out a card & envelope on their desk (or a nearby empty desk or office), and people can sign the card and/or donate a few bucks if they want, but it’s all anonymous and no pressure. Then the organizer gets stuff with whatever funds are in there and it’s from everyone.

      If there’s a way you can work with the coworker to do something like that, so you can include the PT people in the party aspect of it without feeling pressured to buy a gift or whatever, that seems like a good compromise.

    3. ???*

      I think you can do it. If your coworker just brings a cake to work, and you invite everyone for cake that day at lunch, so no One even has time to buy you a gift or organize a money card. So you can have the party without worrying about people feeling obligated to get you a gift.

      1. Ashley*

        I do think a cake where your employees are invited if no one is giving you gifts would work, but I wouldn’t disclose the what for in advanced to keep the gift giving pressure off. It would be awkward if anyone is giving you gifts with the cake though.

      2. Sparrow*

        I think this is a better idea, but I imagine it would only work if everyone (or everyone besides OP, at least), is in the office to be enticed by the cake.

    4. Formerly Ella Vader*

      What about asking your co-worker to host a celebration for you and the baby after the baby is born, with no presents, just a chance to see the baby.

      1. 10Isee*

        A sip n see! I liked it better than a baby shower because everybody’s attention was on the baby, not me.

    5. Edi*

      At my shower, the organisers asked all employees for a small voluntary contribution (something like 5 euro). They used that to buy cake, a gift baskets and a gift card.

      1. wanda*

        At my former job, they had a baby shower where they told us in advance we would be decorating alphabet cubes for the baby. There were plain wooden blocks and sharpies. It was clear there were no other gifts expected.

  9. Princess Deviant*

    Do you think people who’ve been brought up in unhealthy family environments are destined to repeat the toxic patterns in the workplace e.g. person with a critical and distant parent works for a hands-off critical boss? And how does one break the pattern of that in one’s job?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think when you grow up in a situation that teaches you unhealthy dynamics and thought patterns, you are very, very likely to repeat those in all your important relationships as an adult, including work, until/unless you do the hard work (often with the help of therapy) of unraveling those patterns, seeing where they come from (which can help drain them of their power), and learning new ways of relating to yourself and the world.

      The way we’re wired like this is pretty tragic, I think: when we’re in hard situations as kids, we often learn ways of coping that actually do help us survive — those behaviors/thought patterns can protect us at that point. But then when we grow up and become adults, the behaviors/thought patterns that served us as kids in difficult family situations stop serving us once we’re out of those situations… but we’re still wired to use them, even though they’re not helpful anymore and are often actively harmful. So you have to very deliberately unwire those and rewire something healthier. It’s hard! It makes a huge difference when you do it though.

      As for how … therapy is the most straightforward way I know of.

      1. Poor and Formerly Dysfunctional*

        If you can’t afford therapy, support groups (even online ones) can be less focused but still offer useful validation of your feelings and then help with strategies to help break those patterns.

        1. Princess Deviant*

          Yes it was a great answer! So helpful, but also kind, which sums up Alison and her blog I think.

      2. Princess Deviant*

        Thanks for answering my question. This is my thinking on it too but it has taken me years to realise that and break free of some of the learned patterns to make new ones! Hard work indeed.

      3. Family dynamics book reader*

        I am reading a wonderful book at the moment by psychotherapist Philippa Perry called ‘The Book You Wish Your Parents Had Read’. It’s aimed at parents trying to avoid repeating damaging patterns with their own kids that they absorbed as kids themselves, but I am not a parent and it is still truly eye opening. It has helped me gain some clarity about quite a lot regarding my childhood and how I can do some rewiring now i am an adult.

      4. Jyn'Leeviyah the Red*

        Awesome answer. The other thing that’s helped me quite a bit (aside from therapy) is the updated version of Taming Your Gremlin. It’s actually really helpful and the techniques are working!

      5. Zev*

        There is a wonderful website that provides lots and lots of resources to help recover from toxic families/relationships. The site is at outofthefog dot website (YES, I know, it sounds like a fake web address. I promise it’s not). The site is specifically geared toward helping family members / loved ones of people who suffer from personality disorders. But there’s a LOT of applicable information and GREAT advice no matter the specific psychologies of the folks involved, presented in a non-stigmatizing way on all fronts.

        For example, that is the site where I learned about “Medium Chill” – a strategy for managing relationships where you may not want to go full No Contact (though they have advice for that as well) but also don’t want to be completely open/available/emotionally invested.

      6. Ms_Meercat*

        Thank you for the wonderful answer. Princess Deviant, for me personally (and this totally may not work for everyone and depends on each situation), I got a ton of help in a 12-step program for friends/relatives of alcoholics (Al-Anon, there’s also ACA specifically for adult children); I know for some people the spiritual aspect can be too much, but I kind of ignored that for the first few months I went because the meetings were helping me so much, and then going forward found a version that worked for me.
        Also, while she doesn’t specifically deal with this, I did find Brene Browns books so immensely helpful. And Captain Awkwards blog deals a lot with unhealthy relationship patterns, setting boundaries etc., so I read that and Ask A Manager pretty much in tandem for my own development.

        There is a metaphor I found really helpful for me: We grow up in an desert environment, so our coping mechanisms to find water (= love) are learned for that environment; we search hard, put a lot of effort in, dig up the ground and destroy it in the process etc etc, just to find water. But actually, we don’t live in a desert, we live in a rain forest, and our coping mechanisms don’t actually work in the rain forest. Instead, they often do a lot of damage. So we need to unlearn a lot of those mechanisms, and learn new ones.

        In general, for me the way to learn to have healthy relationships in and out of the workplace was all in small steps; it was about slowly learning new habits (first being aware if there was an unhealthy pattern after I already “did the thing”, then maybe realise it a bit earlier, than slowly every once in a while being able to avoid falling into said pattern, then avoiding it regularly, until it stopped becoming one and only pops up every once in a while now).
        Good luck on your journey!

        1. Princess Deviant*

          Al-Anon isn’t for me (I have been) but I have found lots of good advice and food for thought in the literature available for ACA. Thank you for your comment :-)

        2. Princess Deviant*

          Oh , and I wanted to say that I loved your description of slowly unlearning unhelpful patterns! It is definitely a process – no quick fixes here – but that it is wonderful to know that the brain is so plastic and it can be done!

      7. OceanDiva*

        +1 million. It took a work coach telling me this for the light bulb to go off, but now it’s just so obvious to me! And I can see it now all the time, how my personal upbringing colors my work interactions. Eye-opening.

    2. E.N.*

      This one, and Allison’s response, hit me hard as a person who grew up with one extremely critical (abusive) parent and another completely hands-off parent. First, yes therapy. Definitely definitely therapy. Secondly, I do want to point out that it’s not necessarily a 1:1– being raised by someone critical and hands off does not necessarily equal critical and hands off. Instead it may be that you are too eager to please, constantly saying yes to avoid negative feedback. Or that you’re so worried of being hyper critical that you overcorrect and become too permissive. Or you don’t handle failure well because your brain is wired to expect that failure means some form of legitimate danger to your mental/emotional well-being when as an adult it often means you should apologize, correct, and move on and all will be well.

      Again, though, the way to fix it is therapy.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yes. Or that your upbringing has convinced you that the only thing keeping you from being lazy, selfish and unkind is letting your Inner Critic feed you a steady stream of worry, anxiety and criticism.

        Most of us are inherently curious and caring. You don’t need to berate yourself to success.

        1. Bird bird*

          Agreed! I recently saw the quote “If being hard on yourself worked, it would have worked by now” and it hit me right in my emotions.

      2. Smithy*

        I think it’s also worth flagging here that because some of those responses can be so hardwired, that when we’re in periods of higher stress (i.e. COVID, a bad boss, person illness or one in the family, etc.) – that’s often when we’re most likely to return to poor coping mechanisms.

        Not to say that those dynamics somehow permanently “break” us, but that being mindful of when a therapy refresh or booster could help.

    3. Anon4This*

      I have a little different take on this one – I have one abusive parent and one who was so overly critical of me as a child that they regret it now. Honestly, every work situation is a walk in the park now. I don’t live with that boss. I can get a new job and get away from that boss. And I get paid to do put up with them and do my job. All better than my home situation growing up, and no one professionally has ever managed to destroy my emotional well-being as much as my parents. I don’t LOVE my boss nor do I expect unconditional love from them – I did my parents, and they fell pretty short.

      I have also found that I’m just not interested in putting up with people’s crap very much anymore. I tend to tune out the people at work who remind me of my parents and focus in on the work. Honestly, Bob from Accounting telling me that I’m not bright enough to tie my own shoes means nothing to me at this point. Bob is just some guy who happens to work in the same place.

      Therapy also helps a lot, even if it’s not affecting your work situation.

    4. MsClaw*

      I don’t think anyone’s destined to it, but it certainly can inform how you act. I had a very unhealthy relationship with a previous job and boss that prompted me to seek therapy (to be clear, nothing about this relationship was sexual or romantic). One of the things that came out of it was my therapist saying I would probably have never put up with my boss the way I did if not for my history with my father. I wasn’t repeating the *same* pattern, but it did absolutely influence my idea of acceptable behavior.

      1. Artemesia*

        I had one boss who was just totally hostile towards me (I had been acting, and he was the permanent director choice and on the search committee I had supported another candidate — so maybe part of it). One day after a meeting when he had openly slagged me for a stupid idea (which he adopted two weeks later) one of my senior colleagues said ‘Wow you must remind him of his ex-wife or something — that was amazingly out of line.’

    5. Crispy Pork*

      I work with a woman who has no boundaries and throws tantrums over the pettiest issue or some bizarre misunderstanding on her part. I’ve wondered what kind of parents she had but presume they can’t have been wonderful folks who valued kindness and respect.

      If therapy isn’t possible due to expenses, there are many excellent books out there on the topic of toxic parents. It is absolutely possible to break the cycle but often requires hard work and ability to acknowledge your own ingrained toxic beliefs.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Seconding books and adding- keep reading AAM.
        Think of it this way, step one is to identify what doesn’t work or fit.
        Step two is to figure out what TO DO. And for that you have Alison here.

        1. Princess Deviant*

          Absolutely! I have learned loads from reading this blog and the responses. I get a lot of comfort from reading a letter and thinking about my response to it, then reading what Alison has written and seeing that our reactions are similar. I think to myself that my instincts are, on the whole, very healthy.

    6. lemon*

      Great advice already offered. Just wanted to add that Don’t Bring it To Work by Sylvia Lafair is a good read on this exact topic.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Both are correct, which is why your battle has been years-long! But “pant leg” is easier to say. Thank you for recognizing my expertise in this area.

        1. JB (not in Houston)*

          Hit submit too soon–Probably because, thanks to a linguistic phenomenon whose name I can’t remember, I move the “t” sound from the end of the word “pant” and add it to the start of the next word, so it’s pronounced more like “pansleg,” which avoids the hard stop of the “t” at the end of pant.

            1. Quell*

              Any time you move from an “n” to an “s” (also long as the “s” is pronounced with the tongue tip up, pointed towards the alveolar ridge but not not touching it, as opposed to being pronounced in a variety of other “non-standard” ways) you will move through an unaspirated “t” position. This is hy the words “chance” and “chants” rhyme, for example.

          1. IndustriousLabRat*

            Ha! Nor have I but now that you mention it, I’ve always found that I say singular = Pants Leg, and plural = Pant Legs. Maybe because Pants Legs would feel like a grammatical redundancy? I’m no linguist, though! What a funny bit of language we’ve stumbled into here.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            In British English we say trousers not pants (pants being what men wear under their trousers), and the leg parts are definitely trouser legs.

            (warning pedantic EFL teacher alert)
            In fact the first word is an adjective to describe the type of leg. In English adjectives are invariable (unlike the romance languages, there’s never with an s to describe plural nouns, no e to describe female nouns except for blond/e which remains true to its French origin) so trouser or pant stays in the singular even though there are two legs.

      1. Bazinga*

        Or we can go with what my then-4 year old niece called them and go with “knee sleeves”.

        1. NotMyRealName*

          I very much like this. I will propose the adoption of this term to go along with the rest of the ridiculous vocabulary that we’ve developed in the last 30 years.

        2. Clisby*

          When my son was about that age, he referred to “long-sleeved pants.” My husband still calls them that.

        3. Again With Feeling*

          Knee sleeves! Perfect. In a similar vein, my then-3 year old called a tank top an “unsleeve shirt.”

      2. RedinSC*

        when do you actually say Pant Leg?

        You’ve got a cat hair on your pant leg? No! You’re covered in cat hair….

        I am trying to think of a time I ever said this!

        1. Euphony*

          My sister once accidentally referred to a garment as a gownless evening strap. We all knew exactly what she meant but she’s never lived that one down!

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Google Ngram Viewer shows that “pants leg” was more common from the beginning of time (which for this purpose means 1800), then “pant leg” surged forward, becoming between three and four times more frequent. The tipping point was 1985. I have no explanation for any of this.

      1. Compounding and plurals, oh my*

        I’m guessing some influential prescriptivist or other made a pronouncement around that time…

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          This is an entirely reasonable guess, but prescriptivist nonsense is a hobby interest of mine. I don’t recall coming across this one. I will have to check my collection of prescriptivist nonsense: research project!

          1. Compounds and plurals, oh my*

            Also, I’m surprised that that’s the direction it went (as I noted re: my parents’ use of “Yankee game”, which made me think of that version as the old-timey one).

      2. Jojojo*

        That’s interesting – and probably regional. I’m not in the US and have never heard “pant leg” – although I rarely hear “pants” either – that is underwear. Trouser leg definitely not trousers leg.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Yeah, we Americans hardly ever use the word trousers, for some odd reason. We know what it means and will recognize it if someone else uses it, but we just…don’t use it ourselves. Somewhere along the line, pants became the default term for that item of clothing and doesn’t usually have the underwear connotation over here.

          When I was growing up, slacks was a popular term, especially for trousers worn by women/girls, but that one has pretty much fallen into disuse. It’s weird; when women rarely wore trousers, we called them slacks, but as they became more and more universally worn by females, the term pants took over. I have no idea why.

          This stuff fascinates me, in case you can’t tell! :-D

        2. Hrodvitnir*

          Yes, I feel like I may have heard “pant leg” now that I think about it, but it would never occur to me to say anything but “pants leg”.

          /from NZ, use pants and trousers interchangeably, pants is never underwear. I have definitely read the word “pants” too often now.

      3. Barbara Eyiuche*

        The traditional way is right. The usurper is gaining ground because more and more people have access to media now, as creators – Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and so on. Standard grammar and spelling are obviously not a barrier to use of these platforms, so more and more of what we see and hear is nonstandard English.

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

            I wonder if AP style made a difference in 1985 — I have no idea if AP has a preference for this one — but once it becomes the norm in news/media, it does tend to proliferate quickly.

        1. Reluctant Manager*

          Dost thou say thee or you? I’m a prescriptivist, but grammar has changed a lot since the Canterbury Tales.

      1. Compounding and plurals, oh my*

        Ah, but “pants” is a plurale tantum, so there’s no such thing as “a pant”…(not referring to the clothing, anyway)

        1. NotFashionable*

          In the fashion industry, singular “pant” and even “jean” are often heard. As in “He’s designed a beautifully tailored pant here,” or “This is a wonderful fabric for a jean.” It’s been around for years, but apparently is not (thankfully) widespread as yet. I imagine anyone who calls a pair of pants “a pant” would say “pant leg” as well.

          1. Blue Eagle*

            But there’s your answer right there. If it is a “pair of pants” then it is a pant leg. Otherwise a pair of pants would be two pants, similar to a pair of apples would be two apples.

            1. Emily*

              Why is it pair of panties (for two leg openings, I guess), but not pair of bras (for two cups)?

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          For what it’s worth, in the middle ages the two legs were made separately and tied on, so you could technically get caught with your “pant” down. And all that would show would be your knee.

      2. TootsNYC*

        it’s a leg in a pair of pants.
        So pants leg. No?

        (I also find it easier to have that “s” ease the transition from the hard “t” to the “l”)

    3. Compounding and plurals, oh my*

      This reminds me of how on Seinfeld, they’re always talking about going to “the Knick game”, which to me sounds extremely weird and to my parents is apparently normal. (Them: “What else would it be? ‘Knicks game’? But that would be absurd!” Me: “…”)

        1. Compounding and plurals, oh my*

          My parents apparently do! It’s wild. (Not Red Sock, though…guess that’s a bridge too far)

        2. Phony Genius*

          I go to Met games. Yankee games are also a thing around here. I have occasionally heard “Red Sok game,” but I have no idea how to spell the singular of the variant “Sox” (assumed spelling above).

        3. Bee*

          I would absolutely never have thought of this, but now that you mention it, I have DEFINITELY heard people say “the Yankee game”!

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            And I have heard people say Cub game, Cub hat., etc. (I live near Chicago), but “White Sox” is always plural, afaik. No idea about the Bulls, the Bears, or the Blackhawks, lol!

        4. Twenty Points for the Copier*

          No, we definitely went to the Yankee game as a kid. Not sure about the Mets – would have to ask the in-laws, but given that I mentally finished that sentence with “who are Met fans” I would say that probably works, too.

        5. Ginny Weasley*

          An old boyfriend and I used to fight about this! I (and my whole family) always said “Packer game” but he INSISTED it was Packers game.

      1. Artemesia*

        actually this is one of the circumstances where an apostrophe is appropriate i.e. Knick’s game. Either Knicks or Knick’s works. ‘Knick’? Odd.

      1. BatmanDan*

        I agree. It’s most assuredly possessive. So, of course, it’s “the Knicks’ game” or “the Knick’s game,” pronounced the same and therefore ambiguous.

    4. pandop*

      I would say pant leg, and pants – because trouser leg and trousers is the same pattern.

  10. Pamanda*

    How much weight should I give a “bad” resume – I’m not the hiring manager, but on the interviewing committee. The experience this candidate has is pretty impressive, but the resume has poor grammar and stylistic choices. For example, there’s a sentence at the top of the resume, sort of like a mission statement, and every word is capitalized. Like a book title. Something similar to: An Awesome First-Class Llama Handler with a Proven Track Record of Grooming Llamas to Increase Profit and Maintain Customers. And then another paragraph about the awesomeness of the candidate (with questionable capitalization). And then a list of key skills. It’s a lot.

    The role has a fairly significant communication component, but it would be primarily internal communication, so maybe this type of weirdness is not something to get hung up on? On the other hand I do. not. like. it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This should be 100% dependent on how much written communication the person will need to do in the role — and internal communication counts too, just in a different way than external. That said, some people just make really weird choices with their resumes, so if the person is otherwise strong, I’d give them a writing exercise (something short and similar to what they’d need to produce on the job) and see how that goes.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        Also, maybe their college career center made them do it? Mine wouldn’t approve resumes until we complied with some specific and sometimes idiosyncratic formatting choices (though nothing this weird!).

        1. PollyQ*

          Can you say more about “approving” resumes? Under what circumstances would it matter what the career center though?

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            You needed to have a resume approved and on file with the school to apply for jobs through the school (i.e. any jobs that were recruiting on the school’s portal).

            Besides that, the feedback that one rogue career center person gives you might be internalized, such that you might keep doing the weird thing after graduating, if you weren’t exposed to other opinions in the meantime.

        2. B.*

          Just popping in to say I work in a college career centre and we would never ever in a million years advise a student to do any of this.

          1. Anon Student Advisor*

            I’m currently seeing a lot of students using third-person present tense verbs on their resume, like “prepares food for customers” and “closes out cash register at end of shift.” It’s weird (to me, at least) and I’m convinced it came from one weird college career advisor somewhere and now has run rampant in the wild.

      2. Rachel*

        Maybe someone with more experience than me can weigh in but I’ve seen this a lot on Black people’s social media, like giving your message a title.
        I don’t disagree with the idea of giving a writing exercise but I think I’d want to make sure that I’m not subconsciously penalising people for not writing “white enough”.

    2. learn and lunch*

      FWIW, I’ve gotten told in the past to do that, and it was called an objective sentence or something like that. So that may be a poor stylistic choice, but it’s one that some folks have been told to do. And the skills list, definitely been told to do that. I used to have both on my resume and only took them off maybe 4-5 years ago.

        1. Pamanda*

          Exactly – if it was just an objective statement I would have written it off as bad advice.

        2. Kate*

          Remember when it was a fad to write everything entirely in lowercase letters?

          I thought I would lose my mind.

        3. Glitsy Gus*

          Honestly, that is quirky enough that I bet someone DID tell the person to do that. I bet someone told them it would “stand out.”

      1. The New Wanderer*

        I was also advised to have a summary statement and a list of top skills, and I think these by themselves aren’t necessarily problematic unless you can’t back them up within the resume content or they look like a replacement for substantive experience. I think it’s more useful for applying to jobs where HR might not know much about the role (very common in my line of work) but has the job description and keywords and can more easily see how my experience matches up. If you’re in a commonly understood role or one with more general experience criteria, it’s probably unnecessary.

        But wow, the Capitals On Every Word is just tragic. I see that a lot in people’s LinkedIn headlines.

      2. What’s behind curtain number three*

        I remember the objective sentence. How to write “I want this job” but using 25 words instead of four.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is exactly why I loathe them – not that I’d use it to disqualify an otherwise strong candidate – but I think I’ve read maybe one or two in the thousands of resumes I’ve seen over the years that were worth their space on the page.

          I feel similarly about summaries on resumes of anyone with less than 10 years of experience. Summaries are the TL;DR of resumes – if your resume isn’t long, I don’t need a short form.

        2. Science Educator*

          I think we can broaden our view of the objective statement. Objectives can convey more than “I want this job”. Why are you in this career?

          My objective is “to make the world a better place by building scientifically literate communities”. I don’t know if this is a waste of space or comes across as weird, but I like including it.

        3. STEM*

          I think there is value to a well-written objective statement, the problem is that we aren’t teaching how to write them well.

          Mine is “to make the world a better place by building science-literate communities” (I’m in STEM education). It shows why I’m applying for this position and ties together the threads of my career. I honestly don’t know if it helps or if it’s just weird and awkward, but I like it.

      3. The cat came back....*

        Oh no.. skills lists are not a thing anymore? I still have one on mine. I’m a computer programmer and I have a list of all the different languages I know, databases I’ve used etc.

        Should that come off?

        1. Kat Em*

          I think that kind of skill list is fine. It’s the “Team player, great communication skills, excellent problem-solving” lists that are hella questionable.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              That’s the kind of quality that you need to prove rather than talk about. Like, you don’t say you’re honest, you practise honesty. Nothing like saying “I’m honest” to make people wonder whether you’re lying through your teeth!
              So for a CV (resume) you need to show that you produced X with your team and were solely responsible for achieving Y.

          1. Pamanda*

            I think the skill list would be totally if it was new information. If it’s just a repeat of what’s in your previous summary paragraph, skip at least one of those. I don’t have time to read duplicative info.

        2. What’s behind curtain number three*

          Oh no, keep those. We want to know which programming languages you know. They mean skills like customer service, being organized, and working well with others. Those are less important and should be highlighted in the resume if they’re relevant.

          1. Elitist Semicolon*

            Not necessarily less important (especially depending on the nature of the job) but rather that teamwork and customer service aren’t quantifiable/demonstrable in the same way that proficiency in a certain programming language (for example) is, and therefore they come across as subjective self-assessments if the applicant claims them.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          No, please keep those! I am hiring for a position now that requires knowledge of two specific technical thing, and I much prefer hitting the skills list to digging through bullet points on first blush. Your usage is exactly how I’d hope skill lists are used. It’s the kitchen sink list of soft skills that kills me, personally.

        4. AgathaChristieFan*

          For computer jobs, you definitely should list your languages. The automated resume scanners that some companies use scan for programming languages.

        5. Agile Phalanges*

          Skills lists CAN be relevant. I got a resume recently that included things like being able too use a web browser and phone apps (not develop apps, not use a specific app, just…can operate a smart phone). It was an entire page and included a lot of redundancies (saying “browsers” but also listing Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, etc.) and also a couple duplicates (Google Chrome listed twice). Don’t do this. List specific software if it’s either obscure and your knowledge will help you stand out, list required/desired software skills, but don’t list Google Chrome unless you were its inventor or something. I assume anyone over age 2 can use Google Chrome.

          1. Cocojuju*

            I use a skills list in my cv so people can see ‘at a glance’ that I have the broad areas they are looking for. Back up by the job titles and successes etc.
            I find it’s useful cause I have am an expert in marketing but I work for clients who often are not, and won’t necessarily understand that A job title means B and C skills.
            The skills include programs I can use including specific ticketing systems etc, not soft skills. So far it’s really helped me get interviews.

    3. Tech Writer*

      If stylistic choices (including capitalization and some grammar conventions) are important, your organization should have a style guide. I wouldn’t worry about weird style in a resume–as long as the candidate is able to conform to your style guide when writing on behalf of the organization, their style choices when when writing on their own behalf are less relevant.

      1. Wintermute*

        Exactly! it’s also important to be sure you’re not screening out people based on bad advice as opposed to something that may actually be personal.

      2. NQ*

        However, inconsistency is something else. I reviewed a former colleague’s CV lately, and even though I knew he’d been out of work a while and was desperate for a job, his utter lack of regard to consistency of any sort made my first impression that he didn’t give a damn. It looked as though he hadn’t even bothered reading it back over.

    4. M*

      Most of the time I’ve found that people with weird resume choices don’t end up being strong when interviewed, either, but there are exceptions. If the applicant is from a different cultural background from you or from what’s common in your field, I’d put less weight on it, because of the way the unspoken norms of a profession can end up as barriers to diversity.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Maybe that lack of interviewing strength comes from the exact same place as weird resume choices — ie, bad advice or lack of advice, due to lack of access to upper-middle-class professionals growing up?

      2. Pamanda*

        I don’t think diversity was a factor here, the candidate was from the majority culture in my area. And I think that was part of what drove my question – I tend to see weaker candidates when weird stylistic choices or grammar/spelling mistakes are made. But I couldn’t really figure out how much to care about just that. I think Alison’s advice is spot-on. I can see how much of a big deal it is by giving a quick writing exercise.

    5. ProducerNYC*

      I’ve also heard from friends of mine with learning disabilities/reading comprehension struggles that the capitalizing of every word makes it easier to read/understand.

    6. PspspspspspsKitty*

      I would think if you had a phone interview with the person, you can see if the resume is a red flag or not. Some people don’t know how to write resumes because of their background. Unless they had a parent who navigates careers, writing a resume can be very hard for those without privilege. Or it could be many other reasons, like learning disabilities, poor college advice, poor internet advice. Speaking from personal experience, I dealt with all of this. I’m know better now, but I’m glad for the people who took a chance on me anyways.

  11. We Want Shorts*

    My company has relaxed our dress code to allow shorts. What do office-appropriate women’s shorts even look like? As a cutoff jorts type, I’m adrift.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I guess all those years of fashion magazines showing “work shorts” that no one would actually wear to work have finally made an impact?

      I would wait and see what other people show up in. It could be that people wear super casual shorts, or like knee-length things in a businessy fabric (that sounds weird to me but maybe someone else could pull it off?), or don’t change anything at all.

      1. Introverted Type-A Employee*

        In these situations I’ve always opted for a nice Capri pant in slacks fabric. These end just below the knee and pair nicely with casual cotton tops. I finish it off with some jewelry to up the professionalism. Yay for work “shorts!”

          1. MC*

            Thirding. I have a pair of quite long shorts that end just above the knee, but I still only wear capris in the summer.

        1. Wendy Darling*

          As a west-coaster in a very casual industry I’ve never considered those when thinking of shorts because I have them mentally filed under pants! Apparently I think anything below the knee is pants.

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          Yes, I stocked up quite a bit on capris one hot summer and realized that honestly once you’ve got your ankle out–I don’t think there is even that much difference between capris and shorts as far as how comfortable you are in the heat. I will sing of my love for capris as summer-pants all day long!

          That said for women who do prefer actual shorts, I think if the dress code is specifically allowing them then they should allow for normal-length women’s shorts as well. I think it’s hard to draw a line of what exactly is a reasonable length cutoff. I would say for sure that you should probably *not* go with any of those shorts that seem to be popular now where the denim is shorter than the pockets so you can see the pockets hanging out. But I do have some shorts from NY&Company that I think should be acceptable, (though I personally would probably not be comfortable wearing them at work anyway. My thick thighs mean I’m often having to pull them down after walking around a lot and I really don’t want to be pulling down at my pants all the time at work.)

      2. The Original K.*

        I can’t think of a single pair of shorts I currently own that I would wear to an office because all my shorts are what I would consider to be too short – like, I would never wear skirts to work that are the length of my shorts because they’d be minis. I think you’d have to go with knee-length and no frayed edges.

      3. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Bermuda shorts are very much a thing… in Bermuda. Shorts in lightweight wool, with creases and everything. I have never seen men wear them anywhere else.

        I knew a few women who wore “formal shorts” in the mid-00s. Often with hose. I am personally not a fan.

        I imagine khaki shorts of a reasonable length would be ok for a casual office. No pockets showing below the hems.

        1. Artemesia*

          everyone is going to look like they work for Fed Ex or the Post Office in their worsted ‘office shorts’ LOL

        2. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          I know I’ve seen stuff like that, but all I can think of is the female characters’ knee-length shorts and hose combo in the video game Dishonored. Very stylistically appropriately to a slightly-more-gender-equal steampunk Victorian-era Lovecraftian urban fantasy world. Less so to a modern workplace. But I’m sure you could pull it off without that vibe.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yeah. I made myself a pair of khaki shorts in a smart linen fabric that just about reach my knees, after seeing a woman cycling in them, they just seemed ideal for cycling. I put them on and my partner remarked that they were really classy! (and there I was looking all classy heading over to the DIY centre on my bike!)

        1. SD*

          They really need to show those shorts on someone who wears a larger size than 0. I’d choose a sun/summer dress any day over those.

          1. Shorts Advice*

            I wear around 22/24 in pants and I have shorts that aren’t super different from that. They look and feel pretty good, and I’d wear them to work if my workplace specifically said shorts are ok. You want it to be fitted to the leg instead of as loose as in the photo (doesn’t have to be too tight) and a fabric that won’t start to feel loose as you wear it throughout the day.

      4. Red*

        Oh! I wear business casual shorts to work all the time in the summer. I use the same logic I use for my skirts.
        *must reach at least to the tips of my fingers in length when standing straight up
        *must be in good condition (nothing torn or ratty)
        *shouldn’t show anything risque (i.e. no sheer fabrics, no weird slits on the side to the top of the thigh, etc)
        As for the style base it on your office. I’ve worked corporate where all my summer shirts were lightweight wool in very basic colours and I’ve worked rural where I would wear jean shorts or patterned shorts so long as they met my criteria above.

        1. Llama Llama*

          Agree – I wear shorts to work in the summer because I work for a pretty casual non-profit (also because if you don’t want to spring for AC you get employees with shorts on). I follow the same basic rules you do. I have gotten “nice” khaki/chino shorts from I think the gap. I always look for between a 3.5″ and 5″ inseam to ensure a good length but it also helps that I am very short so even shorter shorts will look longer on me.

          Skorts are also a nice option if you want to look slightly more ‘dressed’ but want a little more freedom of mobility, or don’t want your thighs to chafe.

      5. Can't Sit Still*

        I had a pair of beige tweed shorts that ended just above the knee that I paired with a cutwork beige vest and a white top. With pantyhose and nude heels, because it was the 90s. LOL!

        1. Spike*

          I see your tweed and raise you a pair in tan suede. I wore them with hose and Louis heels, also in suede.

      6. IsaBel*

        Totally wait. It won’t be long before shorts are banned again and you don’t want to be the one who causes it. Let that be someone else’s fault.

      7. IsaBel*

        I’d wait. Chances are someone will push the envelope and the dress code will revert back to no shorts. Don’t be the person who causes it.

        1. Persephone Mulberry*

          Go Fug Yourself (the celebrity/fashion blog) always refers to these as “formal shorts” so that what I call them, too. See also: what’s her name from Hart of Dixie.

      8. Amtelope*

        I’ve worn capri pants to the office in the summer. Maybe just take this as permission not to worry about the exact divide between capri pants and long shorts, but I wouldn’t go with something above the knee.

        1. another Hero*

          I wear shorts with tights to work sometimes and evaluate shorts like I would a skirt re: length, material, etc.

      9. WS*

        It’s pretty common in the tropics for men and women – the shorts should be at or just above the knee, made of the same kinds of fabric you’d use for lightweight business trousers or skirts. Black, navy, khaki and beige are popular colours.

      10. Sarah*

        I worked at a start up in an old building, so shorts were kind of mandatory. We tried to stick to Bermuda length, but all the women decided to do a group order of company colored shorts that ended up a bit shorter. I would say, depending on the age range, start with capris and knee length and go from there. We were all in our 20s and basically only hiring fresh out of college. Nowadays, if I found myself needing to be in shorts, I’d probably still only stick to skirts and dresses.

      11. FreakInTheExcelSheets*

        I think I remember owing some Bermuda shorts a long time ago that were in business-pant-type material? I would think something like that would work. For my body type I wouldn’t want to go any shorter as my thighs tend to eat shorts so even if they start with a 5″ inseam they end up riding up all the way every time I sit down (hence why I just don’t wear them anymore unless I’m intentionally wearing short shorts).

      12. Robin Ellacott*

        Those shorts with a paper bag style waist and tie that seem to be everywhere this year would be fine at my office as long as they are hitting on the lower thigh rather than the upper thigh.

        For any gender, khaki style shorts in a similar length would be fine, as would Bermuda-length shorts (though I think a lot of the bright, more Bermuda-y styles of those would look a bit quirky, which is fine here but not in all offices).

        That said, I am the leg equivalent of someone who has a hard time avoiding cleavage – I have very long thighs and a short torso, so regardless of the finger tip rule almost all shorts look too short for work on my body. It shouldn’t, but like most dress code things it somewhat depends on the person’s shape.

      13. XtacyG*

        https://www.reitmans.com/en/bermuda-shorts-the-iconic/434224.html?dwvar_434224_color=Black&cgid=Women_Bottoms#start=1

        These are the exact fabric and cut of their full-length version, which is a nice heavyweight rayon blend I’ve worn as my office attire since transitioning from being a lifeguard in a t-shirt and shorts everyday! The business shorts version is great, I pair them with a lightweight patterned sleeveless top (no spaghetti straps) and nice slides for a polished warm-weather “uniform”. Goes up to at least a US 22.

      14. CommanderBanana*

        I just always think of the outfit Julia Roberts wore in Pretty Woman – the coral-colored linen shorts-suit.

    2. IT Guy*

      Cargo shorts. Company hands them out to everyone so they feel included. Hand sanitizer in one pocket and wipes in the other.

      1. Louise*

        Oh I wish this would catch on more for women as acceptable! Cargo shorts are the absolute best. No need for a purse with all the room of cargo short pockets!

    3. TechWriter*

      I have a pair of bermuda shorts in a stiffer fine-weave cotton kakhi fabric. The pockets/fly/waistband styling is the same as a work pant, but they hit right above my knee and are not cuffed (again, similar hem to work pants). I think of them as my ‘work’ shorts, since they’re a bit dressier. J Crew has some similar ones.

      I would wear them with a short-sleeved button-down blouse or a 3/4 sleeve top. My office was always pretty casual for men (developers in cargo shorts and hoodies), but this was in keeping for non-dev women.

    4. Box of Kittens*

      Can I chime in on this? For office-appropriate shorts, I think the fabric and details matter. I’m envisioning linen, patterned and/or colored chino-like shorts, and stuff like scalloped hems or tie belts. Or even a culotte silhouette. Unless you’re in an office that works with kids or the outdoors, I’d stay away from denim and khaki for work if you want to go with shorts because those look more dressed down. And you’d probably want to err on the side of longer than super short, unless, like Alison said, everyone else is fine with stuff like that. (Jealous of your office, tbh. I love cute shorts.)

      1. TechWriter*

        See here I’m thinking scalloped hems and patterns are too ‘cute’ and thus unprofessional, and that khaki material is more dressed up! Ha! Probably regional/personal/industry differences showing, so Alison’s initial advice is probably on – wait to see what everyone else does! (Unless everyone else is also waiting…)

        1. Box of Kittens*

          Well, I did write this before others’ answers were showing up, and now I feel like maybe what I listed could feel too casual, but I still feel like it’s really dependent on the office/industry. I am in my 20s and work in an office that leans younger so that’s affecting my thoughts too. Which affirms Alison’s advice for sure!

    5. Generic Name*

      I would think a bermuda-length (meaning to the knee) short in khaki or basically any fabric other than denim would work.

    6. Lil*

      Depending on how casual your office is, I would look into the “work shorts” that Alison mentioned, which kind of look like slacks but in shorts version.

      My office is pretty casual (jeans and t shirt is acceptable) so I’ve been wearing jean shorts that are a couple sizes bigger than I need so that they’re longer and looser. Idk if I can post links, but the ones I get are from PacSun with the hems rolled up (so no cut offs or tears) and look perfectly professional when paired with a nicer shirt and shoes. And the larger size means they’re not too tight or a questionable length.

    7. Elizabeth Bennet*

      My mind went straight to khaki shorts to the knee, aka Bermuda shorts, in twill or a stretchy cotton blend.

      1. RosyGlasses*

        OH nooooo – My mom MADE me some (think an abstract pattern with way too much neon pink) in the late 80s /early 90s… that combined with frizzy permed A-line hair, huge glasses, and braces are a sight to behold when I stumble across old photos of me.

      2. The New Wanderer*

        Fashion was trying to make them happen again a few years ago. At least according to some women’s magazines, anyway. I don’t think I ever saw anyone wear them IRL, although in the Pac Northwest we’re not exactly fashion forward.

        I read a really interesting article last year about “ugly fashion” (prairie dresses, culottes, stuff like that) and how they only look pretty on size 0, 5’10” fashion models. Practically speaking, those styles are pretty much designed to prevent people with non-model bodies from wearing them because we look like shinless garbage sacks.

        Back on topic, Bermuda style chino shorts are certainly work appropriate if the dress code allows for shorts.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          I think that’s right – our lovely department assistant, who is tall and thin, rocks culottes and cropped, wide-leg pants and looks great. I’d look like I was wearing a burlap feedsack. I have similar feelings about jumpsuits (and also WHY?? I don’t want to fully disrobe to use the bathroom.).

          1. Buni*

            OT but when onesie pyjamas became a thing we had to immediately ban them at camp for exactly this reason – it’s 3am, you need the bathroom, it’s an outside concrete loo-block, do you really want to have to fully disrobe…?!

          2. I only wear clogs*

            I think this mindset might be generational- I’m the exact Midpoint Millennial (turned 12 in 2000) and there has been a consistent dialogue for the last decade about what different sizes “can wear”. In my slender 20s, I often heard from Gex X or Boomer women who were complimenting me, “Oh god, I wish I were thin enough to wear that!” Or “i remember being young and thin, I’d never be able to wear that now”. Now, I’m 32, a curvier size 8/10 and just shy of 5’4. I wear very high waisted culottes and/or wide leg cropped pants almost every day (like the Madewell Emmet cropped ones if you’re curious, or the Uniqlo silk skirt pants, which are amazing!) and I wear jumpsuits so often that they’re a bit of a personal trademark- I actually got married in a (wide leg!) one. I also wear lots of loose fitting, oversized dresses with boyfriend blazers and I get compliments all the time! It’s not unusual at all for a friend my age or younger who is plus sized to wear a crop top and high waisted culottes or a voluminous dress! I truly think that a lot of the “rules” for supposedly “flattering” styles don’t matter to my generation and I promise you, I look just as stylish as your tall and thin coworker!

      3. offmoon24*

        I bought a pair of faux leather culottes which I wore to work pre-pandemic and I got more compliments on them than anything else I ever wore!

      4. cwhf*

        Oh I did love a culotte. I had this set with rose culottes with a striped shirt that was my power outfit (if a middle school/high schooler can be said to have a power outfit).

      5. If I Remember It, Was I There?*

        Then again there were the 70’s. My roommate worked in an academic office and once wore a beautiful pair of flowing pants over a coordinating bodysuit. She was completely covered and looked stunning. But in her skirts-only office she was sent home to change! So she went back in a denim miniskirt with a t-shirt tucked into it, just to thumb her nose at them.

    8. Damn it, Hardison!*

      I agree with everyone who suggested Bermuda shorts. Old Navy has them in 9 inch inseam, which is more or less just above the knee for average height women. I like their twill shorts, which come in basic colors.

    9. Cat Tree*

      Dressy shorts were kind of in style about 10 years ago. I wore some to my brother’s wedding with a silk blouse, although I never wore them to work. They are knee-length and light gray with a subtle plaid pattern.

      As a rule of thumb, if you could wear a skirt of the same fabric and length the shorts are ok.

    10. I'm just here for the cats*

      If jeans are ok in your office normally then I would say nice jeans shorts but not cargo shorts and No holes or tares. I used to have these nice black “dress shorts” it was a light fabric similar to what you would have for dress pants.

    11. GothicBee*

      I’d think chino/khaki shorts would be fine. But if you’re able to wear jeans to work, I think a pair of nice jean shorts could be fine too (aka, no holes/cutoffs). I’d just err on the side of mid length or longer. I’d also probably stick to darker colors or black as far as jeans go, but to be fair, I’m biased towards an all black wardrobe anyway.

    12. twocents*

      At my work place, length is more important than material. Look for Bermuda shorts. Old Navy occasionally has cheap ones in fancier fabric (read: not jeans) too, if that’s important at your work.

    13. Retail Not Retail*

      This is similar to the bra or not to bra issue – do women have to shave their legs to wear shorts? I don’t at my job but I’m in an outdoor job where we wear shorts to avoid heatstroke.

      1. jolene*

        Shorts and skorts suits for women were highly fashionable in London in the late 80s/early 90s. They were Donna Karan influenced: you usually wore a bodysuit under them and often a lot of Butler and Wilson brooches on the lapels. The skorts were crepe like Karan’s wrap skirts and the shorts were more crisply cut.

    14. LabRat?*

      The technical staff at my work wear cargo shorts. Management thinks scientists are smarter if they dress bad. That said there are some cargo shorts that are actually OK looking. It’s possible I’ve lost perspective.

    15. The Wandering Scout*

      I can recommend culottes – they are getting pretty popular, are extremely comfortable, and the more flowy ones look quite professional and office appropriate. Source: I am wearing a pair now (they end maybe 2 inches above my ankles) and my boss thinks they’re great. And we don’t have shorts as part of our dress code!

    16. Turanga Leela*

      I’m late to the party, but I think the answer here is chino or madras shorts with a not-super-short inseam. Think preppy. Think L.L. Bean or J.Crew (for the aesthetic, not necessarily the shorts themselves).

    17. Luna (the other one)*

      Look up what “Petra shorts Jane the Virgin.” That character can rock some fancy shorts!

      1. canary*

        How did I not know you wrote a book like this?? I’m asking my non-profit to buy this right away.

  12. Arthur Dent*

    I have a new direct report- my first ever!- and he writes his emails with one sentence to a line, double spaces between sentences. Like this:

    “Wakeen.

    Good afternoon.

    It was so good to talk to you yesterday.

    To follow up on our conversation, please send me the TPS reports.”

    It drives me bananas. I like to pretend I’m reading free verse to contain my irritation, but is this some new norm I’m unaware of because I’m Old, or is this as unprofessional as it seems to me? I know there’s a texting divide like this (I’m a full paragraphs person there too but I can cope better with this there), but is it making its way to email now too?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Eh, I’d try to let it go unless he’s writing like that to people outside the company. It’s not a new norm and I don’t see aanything unprofessional about it; he’s just a slightly odd writer who’s enamored of line breaks.

      1. FlyingAce*

        My old boss would start writing an email, reach the end of the Outlook window, then hit Enter and start a new line (as if it were a typewriter). His emails would come out like this:

        As discussed in our meeting yesterday, we need to
        Start tracking the time it takes to groom each llama
        And compare it to the time it takes to groom each
        Alpaca

        … and so on. Of course, not everyone uses the same window width when reading emails, so his messages would always look wonky.

        1. learn and lunch*

          This is a relic of the very old mail clients that wouldn’t wrap lines. We had to add breaks at certain character widths or else everyone’s screen would have horizontal scroll and you’d have to chase to the end of the line.

            1. OyHiOh*

              I would expect someone who was an adult in the late 80’s to mid 90’s might have encountered email software that didn’t have line wrapping. I remember running into a bit of that in high school but by the time I graduated (mid 90’s), email software no longer acted like a typewriter. A mid 30’s boss doing this is just . . . . . idiosyncratic.

              1. Worldwalker*

                I was an adult in the late 80’s to mid 90’s, and unlike most people, sending email. I don’t remember any email client (going back to DARPAnet days) that behaved that way.

                1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                  It was definitely a thing in some of the early ones – I remember receiving messages in the 2003/2007 versions of outlook which had entire pages of text in a single run on line. I think it was because text wrapping was actually an option that could be turned on and off, at that point, in a lot of programs, and many websites weren’t configured to support it.

                  Could I name which mail clients did it? No. But I can assure it was real (and some of those mail clients are still in use, because I still get messages that run off the screen from members of the public).

                2. EchoGirl*

                  I don’t remember it for email specifically, but I do have vague memories of seeing something like that a handful of times on webpages — either exactly what’s described, or one where the line did break eventually but in such a way that it was wider than the page. I used to just select-all and copy it into a Notepad or Word document so I could read it without having to scroll around.

                3. AcademiaNut*

                  I’ve been using email since 1991, and I have definitely encountered this, enough that I had to break myself of the habit later. I was working mostly on Unix/Linux systems, but started with VAX/VT100 terminals. I don’t remember the names of the email programs themselves, but some of the earliest were terminal rather than graphical based.

            2. learn and lunch*

              Mid-30s would do it, if they were early adopters. I’m that age and I know about this because I had one of those for the first few years I did email. I’m not even sure right now when I stopped. Hotmail and gmail wouldn’t scroll the page, but you might be mailing mailgroups that would scroll the page if people were viewing it on the mailgroup site.

              1. learn and lunch*

                Turns out that I’ve never actually stopped, since I have gmail set to text mode and that gives me line breaks about every 75 characters or so.

          1. Starbuck*

            Annoyingly, my Gmail does this sometimes! Seemingly randomly, it will give me extra wide paragraphs off the screen that I have to side-scroll to read. Changing my window size, full-screening it, or other simple fixes don’t seem to solve it. I’m assuming it’s someone using a funky old email client that formats that way for some reason.

            1. Nanani*

              I have seen this happen with picture attachments. If your settings have pictures appear at the bottom rather than needing to be clicked through, then a wide picture will make the width of the whole email window that wide and the word wrap will match.

          2. HBJ*

            Funny, I thought the opposite. He’s someone used to typing on a smartphone. Because the screen is so narrow, it takes way less text to visually “look” like a big paragraph. I definitely do more frequent line breaks when typing emails on my phone.

            1. sb51*

              Yeah, on my small phone screen I looked at the original comment and said “that looks normal??”

        2. Pippa K*

          This is just to say

          I have groomed
          the llamas
          that were in
          the paddock

          and which
          you were probably
          comparing
          with the alpacas

          Forgive me
          they were adorable
          so fuzzy
          and so warm

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            OMG, I can’t stop laughing! This is lovely and beautiful and just… everything!

          2. alianne*

            I want this on a poster. I am not kidding. Would you be okay if I made myself a print of this?

            I really love alpacas.

          3. Zelda*

            Are you already familiar with Making Light? It’s nominally the blog of some science fiction editors, but there’s a generally literate and erudite crowd over there, and the Williams poem is practically a mascot– it gets parodied for almost every occasion. This is fabulous!

          4. Sharpie*

            For some reason this reminds me of that time in WWII, when the Royal Navy submitted a repair docket for a Dutch ship, written entirely in verse.

            Link to follow… Hopefully it won’t get eaten (otherwise do a search for the ‘Soemba docket’ and the magic of Google should make it appear…

      2. Emi*

        I do this. I’m an in house designer (mostly) and if I don’t separate every point and question, most of them won’t get answered! Like, only the first or last question will be addressed.

        This is what I’ve come to after years of sending repeated followup emails, and it’s the only thing that works when asking detail-type questions of busy big-picture people.

        1. Elizabeth Bennet*

          OMG, YES. Unless I end the paragraph with The Question, 9/10 times it remains ignored.

        2. Luke G*

          Agreed! The further I climb and the more I have to e-mail higher-up, very busy people, the more my emails have mutated from “here is a pleasant paragraph-form normal e-mail” to “information point-observation-question-line break,” lather rinse repeat.

        3. Alianora*

          My workaround for that is numbered lists. Like I will literally write,

          “Hi name,
          I have some questions for you:
          1. Question
          2. Question
          3. Question
          Thanks,
          Alianora”

          I like it stylistically better than having a lot of new paragraphs, and it seems to be pretty effective.

        4. Betty (the other Betty)*

          Maybe it’s a designer thing, because I do it too.

          Big breaks between sentences seem to increase the chances of each sentence being read.
          ————-
          Lines between big thoughts or separate questions make each question more likely to be answered.

          I still only ask a limited number of questions per email. It makes it easier when I send a question like “Do you prefer the red or the green?” and get an answer like “Yes.”

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            My former toxic boss always did that. My pedantic colleague would simply submit the question again and he’d get annoyed because he’d already answered it. I would simply assume that he didn’t read any further than the word “red”, because he could never listen to the end of an oral question either.

        5. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Ha. This is why I do it, as well. I learned that I had to visually separate each and every separate point onto a separate line, or people would respond only to the first point and then quit.

          1. SparkyMcdragon*

            Accurate the only way to get busy people to read to the end is line breaks. Numbered lists hlget responded to inline without absorbing wider context in the body of the line. One True Format To Rule Them All. ALL HAIL LINE BREAKS!

        6. Robin Ellacott*

          Same! I have a senior colleague with a short attention span and he only ever responds to the last line in each paragraph. So to him at least I do this or use bullets.

      3. Nessun*

        My boss does this! It rather drives me buggy too, but I’ve realized it’s because he’s often looking at things on his phone, so breaking them out makes it easier for him to read, when he reviews an email before sending.

      4. Kat*

        I’ve seen this among adult ESL students, which makes me think it might be a carryover from writing conventions in a different language, if your boss’ first language is not English?

      5. IceCreamEmperor*

        But… those ARE complete paragraphs? They’re just all one sentence long. They’re even relatively distinct thoughts, and so could reasonably belong in distinct paragraphs? I can’t tell if the OP just made up an example and accidentally produced coherent paragraphs, but if that’s an actual example my bet is on ‘this was composed on a very narrow screen,’ as others have mentioned.

    2. JillianNicola*

      It might not be how he actually formats it, but how the email service presents it to you. I use MS Outlook at work, and I don’t double space – but when I go back through email threads I notice that all the previous messages are double spaced. So it might not even be something he’s doing, just a quirk with the technology.

      1. Princess Deviant*

        Yes to this^

        OP, but I also leave a line between each sentence. It’s much easier to read on the screen that way, especially if you have communication difficulties (I do work with disabled people, including communication disabled people so it’s kind of ingrained now).

      2. Nitpicker*

        I currently have this issue at work and it’s really annoying me. I want to figure it out but have no idea what to look up or where to start. Also, it changes the font I use, which is very weird as well.

    3. Lizy*

      Oh my GAAAWWWDDDD my coworker does ALL CAPS SO SHE’S YELLING ALL THE TIME and my boss puts a space between commas and periods , so everything has extra spaces . I know he does it because he’s sending a lot of stuff from his iPhone , but still .

      I’m no help, but yeah – it annoys the bananapants off of me.

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        and I thought it was annoying that my supervisor corrected my using a comma after an “and” yesterday. I’d argue that the comma was a grammatical option but I’d used “and” similarly without a comma sentence before so…yeah, whatever.

        1. Anononon*

          Do you mean you wrote something like this: “and, “? I’m not sure if that would ever be grammatically correct. Any comma would always go before the “and.” Either, “I like dogs, cats, and fish” (Oxford comma) or “Today, I walked my dog, and I fed my cat.”

          1. Rachel in NYC*

            no “, and”

            He wanted just “and” It look fine to me either way but our deal is he does grammar and I do spelling and you end up with somewhat decent English between his Masters in Science and my JD.

          2. CFrance*

            “I walk my dog and, if it makes him feel better, I treat him too.” It is now considered too much punctuation to write, “I walk my dog, and, if it makes him feel better, I treat him too.”

          3. Crackerjack*

            Wouldn’t you do “and,” for emphasis or for a subordinate clause? The comma denotes a pause or shift in emphasis if the sentence were read out doesn’t it? I am sure I have written “and, furthermore, blah blah blah” in many an essay and it certainly FEELS right. And similarly “I get the bus and, if it’s on time, walk the rest of the way.”

          4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            You clearly never had Mrs Boendermaker as an English teacher. She told us never to use a comma before and. Even today, I will religiously get rid of every single one. I don’t even dare put one before “etc.” (the “et” being Latin for “and”).

    4. retired*

      Person who edits/writes for a living. His way is easier to read. He may have worked with people who have low reading levels or were non English speaking.

      1. Chilipepper*

        I realize I am the odd ball here but I find single spacing easier to read. I tend to look at the white space and not the letters. I am also distracted by the white space when someone uses 2 spaces after a period.

        But like others, I find people don’t read most of an email anyway so double spacing every damn line is the only thing that halfway works.

        1. Nightengale*

          I find single spacing much easier to read as well. My eyes jump around too much with double spaced text. When I was in high school and had to read my short stories aloud in class, I had to print out two copies, one for the teacher double spaced to hand in and one single spaced I could actually read. All that wasted paper. . . At least now most of my reading is on a screen. The first thing I do when I open a new Word document is convert to single spaced.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          People very rarely read to the end of an email! This caused a big problem at my former workplace, with a translator who didn’t read the crucial last sentence in an order “please only translate the paragraphs highlighted in yellow” (which changed the wordcount from 10,000 down to about 63).

          The boss had a sense of humour and she instructed all project managers to end their emails to subcontractors with “if you’ve read this far, congratulations. Please call to claim a bottle of champagne”. Only two out several hundred emails yielded a phone call.
          I may have had trouble believing that I could get a bottle of champagne just with a phone call, but had I seen that message, I would at least have written back with a “what’s this, is it April fool’s or what?”

      2. ceiswyn*

        Speaking as someone with a high reading level, his way is SO much harder to read. It repeatedly stops me in my tracks.

        It’s like trying to make driving easier by putting stop signs every fifty yards.

    5. Blazer205*

      Is he sending on a phone or other device? I’ve had some emails come through in similar odd formatting that was sent from a phone.

      1. TootsNYC*

        or if he’s sending on a small-screen device or keeps his mail window narrow, his lines may be wrapping and a sentence might look like a paragraph. Which would lead him to add a line space.

    6. Ferret*

      I do this, not always once per sentence though.

      I think it’s easier for people to digest in a busy workplace than long paragraphs.

      I mean, I’m doing it now involuntarily. I have never heard a problem with it though and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen others do it too.

    7. Jean Marie*

      Lean into the poetry idea if it really bothers you. Imagine the string quartet backing the recital of one of Dave Gorman’s ‘found poems’

      (He would fimd terrible/ridiculous comments in internet comments sections and recite them formally in his comedy show)

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        +1 Not going to lie, that’s exactly where my head went when I read it, so I was tickled to read that OP was using verse as a coping mechanism. When people send me crappy emails, I often do the same thing in my head.

        And I’ll take free verse emails over blocks and blocks of text!

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

      Probably had bad experiences with people who don’t read beyond 5 words in an email and wants to both convey polite pleasantries and also not bury what he’s really writing about. I have clients that just seem to prefer to have everything in bullet points so they can go down the list and answer them in a reply.

    9. Archaeopteryx*

      I would have a hard time not reading it in a poetry voice too!

      This is just to say

      I have eaten the plums that were in the breakroom…

    10. Occ524*

      Yea, I agree with the commenters. The double spacing is almost certainly the email program but this is absolutely the better way to write and definitely “a thing.” People really struggle to read blocks of text.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I am that offender who double spaces. And I like getting emails using that same style. It’s just so much easier for me to read. I have to handle a lot of stuff in a very short time frame. Extra spacing is actually a relief from what I am dealing with most of the time.

      2. Point Taken, Not Bullets*

        I base it on the response I get. Prefer the ease and momentum of a narrative, but if internal sentences get ignored I switch to more spacing or bullet points for that recipient.

    11. MsMaryMary*

      I used to work with a VP who never learned how to type (or really use a computer much at all) and went straight to emailing on his phone or ipad. His punctation and spacing were atrocious, so I just pretended it was poetry.

    12. animaniactoo*

      fwiw, this looked to me like a variation on the way my godmother writes. She has what looks like an odd written style to the rest of the world – except that for her, as someone who is extremely dyslexic, it is what works for her eye to be able to scan and not be tripped up.

    13. Tech Writer II*

      As a tech writer, I don’t hate it. It’s often preferable to err on the side of too many line breaks.

    14. RagingADHD*

      I try to make sure I have at least 2 full sentences before a line break, but long paragraphs onscreen make my brain and eyes tired, so I avoid them.

      I need blank space.

    15. Arthur Dent*

      So, I can confirm it is not the email program but is intentional. I just received an email from him with single line breaks for each sentence, instead of double.

      I have to say I’m surprised at so many people indicating this is how they do it, or prefer this way to read things. I don’t use big blocks of text, but I do feel like sometimes you need more than one sentence to complete a point. He does this internally and externally, but I see enough folks saying let it go that I will, indeed, let it go. Cue the spoken word narrator in my head…

      1. Again With Feeling*

        It would annoy me, but I don’t think it’s unprofessional, just a very specific stylistic choice.

    16. SnowWhiteClaw*

      I work with several people who do not speak English as their native language. Others who *do* speak English have very poor reading comprehension. I use WAY more line break than I normally would but it seems to help!

    17. my brain hurts*

      Anecdata: since my head injury, I find shorter paragraphs and more spacing significantly easier to read, (yes, even after vision therapy) so I tend to write that way as well.

    18. Esmeralda*

      unlike the horrifically long and dense paragraphs some people send me (academia: where the words mound up like kudzu), this is refreshing. I can read every point clearly. If I have to reread it for some reason, I will have no trouble finding the sentence I need.

      As long as the messages are fairly short, I’d count my blessings!

    19. Entry Level Fury*

      Oh my goodness, I promise you most of the time this develops because young people are so used to emailing managers and having them only respond to the very last point in the paragraph!! Every boss I’ve ever had responds far better to emails formatted like this. If you want this to stop, then you and others need to read your whole paragraph emails!! Infuriating to be the entry level person making very little money working long hours and having your boss only reply to half your message. Please get over this!

      1. Arthur Dent*

        I already indicated that I will let it go, but for what it’s worth, I read everything everyone sends me, especially if it’s someone who might need something from me. I get as annoyed as you are when people don’t answer all my questions and lean hard on bulleted and numbered lists. This practice is still going to drive me nuts, but I won’t say anything to him about changing it.

  13. Michonne*

    How do I manage someone who doesn’t want to be promoted or move up? One of my employees has worked here for 12 years. His job is one where he starts at 9, has one 30 minute break per the law and leaves at 5. There is no evenings/weekends/overtime and he can’t access work/email/voice-mail outside of the office. There are no special projects or certifications or education updates for his role. It’s not a fast changing job. He is a great employee. His work is well above average, he shows up on time, doesn’t cause drama, gets along with everyone and isn’t unpleasant at all. He resigned from his previous job (same role at another company) because they promoted him against his will and he didn’t want the job. I have no idea to manage him when he doesn’t want to move up, and wants to stay in the same role until he retires 20/25 years from now. At his annual review I don’t even know what to say because his work is so good and he has no problems. Thanks Alison!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This ties in well with the post just before this one today — the letter from the person with no career ambitions. Your job as a manager doesn’t need to be to help people move up if they don’t want that; it can be to simply make sure expectations are clear, goals are met, problems are solved, feedback is given, good is work is rewarded … all stuff that applies to him.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Gotta ask: Did this question come in yesterday? If it came in just now, I suspect parody. If earlier, the stars have aligned!

        1. Cj*

          This is just to on point to not be parody, IMO. Still an excellent answer from Alison, though.

      2. azvlr*

        What I’m hearing is this employee excels at his role, and otherwise keeps sensible boundaries between work-life balance, yet he is essentially being punished for this.

        If you keep this person happy in his job, you have the potential for a very loyal employee who will also set the tone for newer employees. Deep AND healthy roots is rare in an organization these days.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          It doesn’t sound precisely as if he’s getting punished for it, only that the manager doesn’t have any idea how to manage him because all of her usual patterns are based around an employee who actually wants to move up. If she were angry with him for putting her in that position, or asking for ways to push him into moving up anyhow, then he would be getting punished for it, but that’s not what I saw — just “umm… what do I do with this guy? I’m confused.”

      3. phred*

        I like my job, and I’m good at it. When my junior co-worker (in age and time at the job) was promoted to manager, I was thrilled–they’re very good at that kind of thing and I’m terrible at it. I have no chance of promotion, but I don’t want to be promoted to something I can’t do. I have plenty of opportunities to learn more, which is what I really care about, and I plan to stay at my job until I’m too old and tired and sick to do it any more (next Tuesday, I think).

    2. Ama*

      My recommendation if he’s good at his role and wants to stay at your company for years, is to just make sure that he’s regularly writing up his institutional knowledge (any processes he’s in charge of, any guidelines he develops for handling tricky situations, etc.). I’ve worked with some great employees who were happy doing the same thing for decades, and highly valued for their skills — but I’ve also seen the massive knowledge gap that happens when those great employees retire and it turns out none of the little things they always took care of were written down anywhere.

      1. Ellie*

        ooo very much this! If he’s not doing this already, it’s a good “growth” thing that you can talk about without talking about promotion.

    3. CaviaPorcellus*

      Agreed with Ama – Also, make sure he’s attending any refresher trainings for updated processes. Institutional knowledge is great and should be documented, but the flipside to that is, institutional knowledge from 10 years ago is not as valuable as institutional knowledge that grows and changes with the field.

    4. Mockingdragon*

      As an employee like that, I’d say advocate for whatever increase in compensation your organization allows (if they won’t go higher on salary, maybe you can get them a better desk/office or more PTO). Otherwise, leave him alone. Maybe there’s just not much managing you need him to do. Check in on the review, see if there’s anything he thinks he needs, and then chat for 20 minutes or get half the meeting time back.

    5. BlueBelle*

      The other thing you can do is challenge them to stay current in their industry and field. Staying current is important. A lot of people want to do it the way it has always been done, but you have to stay up on the trends and trajectory of the industry or you will be laid off.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      Why is this a problem?
      Not everyone want to be ambitious, they just like doing their job. They should not be punished.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        The question is what does OP say to him on his reviews.

        “Nice job. See ya next year.”
        That really doesn’t cut it.

        OP, I had a boss who used review time to cover anything new that is coming up- this could be policies, regs, practices, compliance, you name it.
        You can ask if he has any concerns to discuss or if he has any recommendations he’d like to make.

        This is a guy who does not want to be promoted. So your job is to make sure he keeps the job he does have. What does he need to know to keep this job he has?

        1. MCMonkeybean*

          I don’t understand why reviews would be an issue? The bulk of all my reviews is a detailed look at what I accomplished the year before. Then there is usually a bit about what I could improve on. All of that would still be reasonable content for his annual reviews.

    7. NotAnotherManager!*

      You say, “Thank you for all your good work, and let me know if there are any professional development opportunities you’d like in the future.”

      Honestly, having someone who shows up, does good work, and is a good team member is not a bad problem to have. The biggest problem I’ve run into with these folks are that the work changes and they don’t keep up (sounds like this is not an issue for what you do) or they plateau out on compensation. Other than that, you have a solid employee who’s not leaving shortly for a new opportunity in a year or two!

    8. Happy*

      It sounds like everything is great and the way to manage him is to let him continue to be great and for you to spend your energy solving actual problems or making improvements elsewhere.

      I don’t understand the “how do I manage him” question. What do you think “managing” means? Why would it be hard to manage someone who is doing his job well and is perfectly happy with his situation? (honestly – I’m not trying to be snarky…it almost sounds like you think that managing someone demands promoting them eventually)

    9. LearnedTheHardWay*

      One of the reasons my husband’s unit can’t keep their highly technical enlisted troops is because of the Air Force’s ASININE policy of up or out. In other words, if you have an E-4 (highest rank junior enlisted) who LOVES to get into the muck of a technical issue and has ZERO desire to become an E-5 (lowest rank of the sergeants) because they have ZERO desire to learn how to manage others, then they end up with a bad reputation because they don’t want to move (same with E-6 – they have 10+ years of technical knowledge and E-7 is considered Senior Enlisted, which is basically a unit’s equivalent of upper management). They’re trying to solve this problem within the pipeline now, but it’s been a major issue of the enlisted field. All of this to say, if they’re content and do great work, then reward them for that great work in every way you can. Have they been wanting to go to a conference that covers their field? Or is there some other travel you can pay for that they’d enjoy? Can you give them more PTO? Not everyone needs to be in management!!

    10. münchner kindl*

      Have you read The Peter Principle? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_principle

      Basically, if the only reward an organsiation has for good work is promotion, then inevitably you promote people out of their competence into incompetence – and there they stay because going back is not allowed.

      Good that your employee recognizes his own limitations and doesn’t want to be promoted.

      The solution is to offer other rewards instead, and be thankful that you get to keep an employee doing steady, reliable, good work.

    11. Yorick*

      Think about how he can grow and develop in his current role. That doesn’t always have to be about moving up.

    12. learnedthehardway*

      While your employee doesn’t want to move up, it’s important that he stay current with technologies and developments in his functional area. So, make sure that you enable him to work indefinitely in his preferred role, by setting performance expectations that he learn or adopt the new technologies that will affect his function.

      Eg. in my field, the role I do has changed significantly because of technology, and companies have variously tried to outsource pieces to overseas workforces (with limited success), make it digital / online (which actually generated more work for people who could adapt), and now are looking at artificial intelligence options (some of which have been implemented, but I think most companies are going to find that the payoff is not as good as they hope). Thankfully, human intelligence is still important in my field, but staying on top of technologies is critical. This is one of the reasons I am working with a firm that is building an AI product – to stay current in my field.

    13. Oska*

      This is me, except no one expects me to move up, fortunately. (I’ve been offered some changes to my role, but I’ve declined and, frankly, my managers have expected it because they know I prefer not to have a client-facing role.) My employer is happy to have someone who actually stays in this position, as everyone before me has used it to get into the company and then up. As long as his job needs to be done, and he does it well, why try to force him out and get an unknown in to take over?

  14. First time asking*

    My company’s name has changed twice. Do I just list the most recent name on a resume? If not, how do I list the 3 different company names on a resume?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You can do it like this:
      CurrentName (formerly OldName and OlderName)

      Or, if the name changed after you left:
      OldName (formerly OlderName and currently CurrentName)

    2. What About Schools?*

      Related, what about when schools change their name? The school where I got my masters added a person’s name. (I assume a donor who is known in the field or something?) So when I got my degree it was the Beverage University School of Teapot Studies, but now it’s the Beverage University Twinings School of Teapot Studies. Which goes on my resume?

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I think you would put what is on your diploma but maybe make a side note like what alsion said above. so

        Beverage University, School of Teapot Studies (now known as Beverage university twinnings School of Teapot Studies)
        But I’m curios if the “School of teapot studies” is needed? Is that what shows up on your diploma or is it just Beverage university? My college was

        Saint Univeristy but there was different “schools” such as Darcy school of Education and Lacy school of Busienss and Puck school of nursing. They have may have been on the diploma but the school was Sain University.

        1. What About Schools?*

          The school in question is allegedly highly ranked / highly regarded in the field, so we were told to include it on our resumes. (Granted I graduated quite awhile ago and don’t work in that specific field anymore…)

      2. Raven*

        Was it a CUNY school, by any chance? Because if so, I think I know the school you’re referring to :)

      3. Jeanette*

        This happened to the school where I got my master’s after I graduated, and I just leave off the person’s name. I feel like the most important thing is for people hiring for teapot designers know I went to the School of Teapot Design, and the extra words just make it a little trickier to tell that when skimming. Probably less important if it’s no longer your field, though.

      4. Nancy Hammond*

        I started my master’s at the Relatively Affordable Commuter School. I finished at the Pretentiously Renamed Expensive School. I have the Pretentiously Renamed Expensive School on my resume. I’d probably still do that even if they had changed the name after I graduated.

    3. KAT*

      I’m glad you asked this question. My former company changed names four times, and was acquired by another company after I left so I have been at a loss as to how to list that mess.

    4. Deborah*

      I’ve done the same thing but for whatever reasons I also put in the dates; “Executive Llama Coach at Hayville National Llamas (formerly known as Municipal Integrated Llamas, 2015-2018, formerly known as Camelid Central 2010-2015)”.

      1. 2horseygirls*

        I have listed the company as it was known when I worked for it, then how it is known currently.

        Smith and Jones Engineering 2010-2016 (acquired by ABC, LLC in 2018)

  15. Limitedly Unlimited*

    I’m salary exempt and my work has never had flexible PTO as an option (just specific paid holidays) but seeing that I never take off they recently told my I have Unlimited PTO… Unless something crazy were to happen and I needed more than a week off (the example they gave was for if I needed surgery or something like that). Is this legal? To say I have unlimited PTO unless there’s a medical emergency and then they would dock my pay for not coming to work? If it helps I also am at the bare minimum pay requirement for salary exempt.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      What on earth? You have unlimited PTO but you really don’t? Or are they saying you have unlimited PTO but can only take it in one-week increments? Either way, this policy sounds really badly thought out. (Any policy that includes “unless something crazy were to happen” is probably always going to be suspect.) It’s legal, it’s just really unclear. But they’d also need to comply with federal laws like FMLA, ADA, and others that could require them to accommodate longer periods of time off.

      1. Larina*

        My current company provides unlimited PTO for vacation/general time off purposes, but only allows a limited amount of sick days before you have to take short term disability. Last year I had a medical emergency, and I was so mad about this, because it seems so unfair. Why give unlimited time off but not let me use it for sick time?

        1. Alanna*

          I’ve dealt with this before, and the reason was that there has to be some kind of limit on sick days for there to even be a short term disability policy in place – there can’t be totally unlimited sick days. That said, they can give you a way better sick day policy than that – my current job just tells us not to worry about our sick days, and if we’re ever out for an extended period, then we’ll work together to figure out if we need short term disability or FMLA.

    2. A person*

      This is so illogical that I wonder if it was phrased in a confusing way (speaking as someone who struggles to verbally describe details in a way that makes sense to others).

      Maybe it’s truly unlimited PTO, but they want you to apply for short-term disability and FMLA if there is a medical issue lasting longer than a week?

      On the other hand, we all know from this blog that “unlimited PTO” usually means “unlimited, if you ever find the time to use it, and if you use it we will judge you”

      1. Rachel in NYC*

        This sounds like my friend’s office’s version of ‘unlimited vacation.’ I still don’t get how it works but it’s definitely some version of- you can take all the vacation you want but first you have to do all your work. Somehow? or at least bill a minimum number of hours.

        It makes no sense to me…

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      Could they mean for normal PTO requests you have unlimited PTO that can be taken in up to one week increments but for anything longer term, such as surgery or parental leave, you would need to go through FMLA or another program and apply for short-term disability for payment?

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        That’s what I would think. I have unlimited PTO. I can take as much time as I want, but I am expected to discuss long-term absences with my team. As in, I will probably take two consecutive weeks next year and while I don’t need permission, I do need to discuss coverage with my manager.

        Now, this includes sick time, but if I have a planned extended absence for medical reasons, short-term disability kicks in. Parental leave is also covered differently. This makes more sense when you start to think about job protection– under the policy, I could theoretically take 6 weeks off, but my work isn’t getting done or they decide they don’t need me and they can let me go.

    4. Qwerty*

      How this has worked at some of my jobs is that short term disability insurance kicks in after a week. So even though we had unlimited sick time, when I needed 4weeks to recover from a medical issue I received the first week at full salary as sick time but the remaining 3 weeks were paid according to our short term disability policy.

    5. Lady Heather*

      Can it be that they want to avoid having a huge PTO bank to pay out when you leave?

      1. Bluesboy*

        Exactly my thought. If you have twenty days a year, taken 8, after 10 years you have 120 days built up. That’s a big cost to the company. So they call it unlimited, you don’t build it up, still take 8 days and they have nothing to pay you.

        Unless of course, you actually need to take your time off, in which case they will suddenly start counting it again. Strikes me as a little dodgy (unless, as some have suggested, in an event like that they would just switch it into a different category so you’re still covered, just under another name).

    6. MK*

      Eh, my interpretation is that you have unlimited PTO, but can only take one week at a time. For longer absences, they will dock your pay. Sounds like unclear communication to me, they most likely meant they don’t need you to count your days off, as long as you aren’t off work for long periods of time.

      1. Limitedly Unlimited*

        For better context, we’re a very small business. But I was verbatim told ” You have unlimited PTO unless you were to abuse it or if you had a medical emergency and needed an extended period of time off.” They gave zero parameters on what “abusing it” was and for a medical example they gave surgery (I had surgery earlier this year and came back after four days since at the time I did not have any sick days and needed the money.) I’ve been salary exempt for almost two years now with zero sick days, and have luckily not needed them up until very recently.

    7. JSPA*

      They may want you to use FMLA for longer, major things (where it applies), and have expressed that badly?

      Or they may not want you to take three months of leave, and then phone in your resignation.

    8. 40 Years in the Nonprofit Trenches*

      Vacation benefits should be specified and documented in the employee manual, which you should have access to (i.e. have signed that you have read it). I’d want to revisit this policy in its official written form because it sounds cray.

  16. Clover*

    I went on a date with a coworker. We don’t interact that much, at work. I thought it went well. I really liked him. He’s ghosted me, though. I’m really embarrassed. Nothing bad happened on our date, I guess he’s just not interested, but I’m embarrassed. What do I do? Our work doesn’t really cross that much so I don’t see him often. (as in, he’s one of our teapot delivery drivers, and I design teapots).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      He should be embarrassed, not you! He’s the one who behaved poorly and apparently doesn’t have the social graces required to treat people maturely, even people he works with and thus knows he’ll see again at some point. Don’t be embarrassed — think of him with pity as he tries to navigate life this way. (I know that’s easier said than done, but truly, you do not want to date someone who is this cloddish.) (But I’m also sorry because I know it sucks.)

    2. twocents*

      Just mentally relegate him back to “distant acquaintance I’m on ‘head nod of greeting’ terms with.”

      It’s the sort of problem that time will solve for you.

      1. Managing to Get By*

        We accidentally hired someone a couple of years ago who did this on purpose. He’d seek out young women in other departments, act really interested and build them up, go on one date then ghost them. It was like a hobby, and he found it very entertaining. He was immature enough to not realize that discussing this hobby in an open office plan didn’t reflect well on him. He also made awful sexist remarks to coworkers and made a mess of every task he was given so didn’t make it through the probationary period. I got a “creepy” vibe from him in the interview process but a couple of others (male) on the interview committee really liked him and he was so young I thought maybe my creep-o-meter wasn’t calibrated for people less than half my age. Next time I’ll speak up if I get that creepy feeling regardless of whether others like the person.

  17. TiredCoach*

    Assuming we’re taking all your other advice on good communication and coaching, what’s a reasonable amount of time to work with someone whose skills are not up to par before letting them go? This is someone who means well but is just not good at the fundamentals of their job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If it’s clear that the person cannot do what’s needed in their role — and you have given them clear warnings, clear feedback, and an opportunity to then put that feedback into action — it’s better not to let it drag out. Think weeks, not months once you’ve done all of those things.

    2. Anonononononymous*

      Please tell me you’re my big boss. (I need my new-ish supervisor to be gone.)

    3. Been There*

      I have one of these that I’m about to let go. Honestly, I let it go on far too long, which has made this process worse, not better.

    4. TechWorker*

      If ‘letting someone go’ is not something you’ve had to do before also worth checking whether your company has any corporate policies. (In a similar case recently where I work the person in question luckily decided to quit anyway, but there was an HR policy of giving a formal warning before termination. So they would have done two 6 week PIPs..)

      1. Bob*

        Yikes, three months with an underperformer is a long time! I read a survey of managers that reported their biggest mistake was keeping people on too long, and that virtually all knew within two weeks that someone wasn’t going to work out.

        1. Gan Ainm*

          Wow I’ll have to see if I can find that, sounds interesting. I can definitely see that being the case with one of my low performers, in the first day (I inherited him) I already had doubts, but HR has said we’re not allowed to let him go. Our HR is extremely risk averse.

  18. USIntern123*

    I’m currently interning at a small company and am coming towards the end of my contract. There’s a very high chance that, at the end, I’ll be offered a permanent role (that’s been the company’s intention from the start) but that hasn’t actually happened yet.

    Should I still be applying for other roles?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! There’s no guarantee that you’ll be offered the job — and even if you are, there might be something about the offer you don’t like (like the salary, or a change in boss to someone who’s a nightmare, or so forth). Until you have a firm offer that you’ve accepted, proceed as if you don’t/won’t — meaning keep actively applying for other jobs. (I think sometimes people resist that advice because it’s so much easier if you don’t need to conduct a search — but you’ll be in a much stronger position if you have options.)

      1. USIntern123*

        Thanks Alison! Have been applying but feeling guilty about it as I love the people I work with and don’t want to let them down (and have had some judgemental comments about ‘jumping ship’) so it’s really reassuring to know that I’m doing the right thing!

        1. learn and lunch*

          Just remember, until they hire you for a permanent position, you don’t have a job after the end date. You’re not jumping ship, you don’t have a job!

          (And even if you do have an offer, it’s not a bad thing to go somewhere else if you want. But it’s really absurd if they’re guilting you and you don’t have a job after X date unless you look for one.)

          1. USIntern123*

            That’s a really great way of thinking about it, thank you! They’ve not guilted me as they don’t know I’m looking!

        2. TootsNYC*

          Time to stop telling them anything at all about your job hunt. They’ve been friendly, etc., but even as a student or intern, it’s best not to share job-hunt info with people who are at your current employer.

          1. USIntern123*

            Sorry, I realise that was unclear! I definitely don’t talk about applying for other roles with people I work with – those comments were from people like family friends!

            1. learnedthehardway*

              Sometimes family and friends (particularly from parents’ generations) have a very unrealistic idea about what the working world is all about.

              If any of them criticizes your job search, it’s probably because they figure that you have a job for life and/or that you’re so amazing that any company would be foolish to let you get away.

              Just tell them you’re hedging your bets, just in case a job offer doesn’t materialize. They should understand that.

      2. it_guy*

        I did a contract for hire gig and they planned on converting me to full time. Three days before my contract ended, they had me start the process of applying and talking to HR. The last day of my contract they walked me out the door with no explanation.

        So don’t stop looking until you have an offer letter in hand.

  19. Mommy Shark*

    I was hired 2 months ago and was not told I would be a manager (I was told it was supervisory), and certainly not a manger of people who work the night and weekend shift. Is it inappropriate to ask for a raise during my 90 day review? If I had known these factors of the job I would have negotiated a higher salary.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. The job has turned into something different than the one you were hired for. That’s one of the only — maybe the only — situations where it makes sense to ask for a raise that quickly.

      1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Could this just be different assumptions about the words ‘supervisory’ and ‘manager’?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh, I’m going too fast and totally missed that — my apologies! Yeah, those are the same thing. So I’d want more details about what you were told vs. what the reality is before giving an answer.

          1. Mommy Shark*

            It was briefly mentioned I would oversee a team in a shift supervisor capacity – not that I would have hiring and firing requirements, would be “on call” for my employees each weekend, and would be doing all of the HR things that come with having a team.

        2. miro*

          I was wondering the same. I didn’t realize there was a distinction between the two (and maybe there really isn’t?)

          1. KHB*

            I’ve sometimes heard “supervisor” to mean someone who’s responsible for overseeing day-to-day work, and “manager” to mean someone with hiring/firing authority, but I’m not sure if that’s what’s meant here.

            1. Mommy Shark*

              that’s exactly what it meant here. Think shift supervisor vs someone whos approving time sheets, hiring and firing, doing exit interviews, etc

              1. singlemaltgirl*

                did you not get a job description with your offer letter? i’m just used to always having a job description with an offer and if there isn’t one, i refer back to the job posting and ask that it be appended to the offer so we’re both on the same page about what i’m agreeing to in terms of scope of the job.

                like others, i think supervisory and manager are the same unless the job description outlines something different.

              2. Delia*

                Where I work, our supervisors are in charge of hiring/firing. They have a team of people assigned to them and they report to a manager. The manager is there for big picture things, but doesn’t have any entry level employees reporting to them – they only have supervisors as direct reports.

                The part I would think is worth negotiating over is the night/weekend hours. Where I work, supervisors work the same hours as their employees. I can’t quite tell if that is the case here? (How do you supervise/manager if you don’t work with them?) but if you were hired with an understanding of working normal business hours and you’re not, you should be entitled to higher pay.

            2. Yes, another manager*

              It must vary a lot by industry. In my industry, supervisors do have time sheet approval, hiring/firing responsibility, development/training, and other HR responsibilities as well as overseeing day to day work. It may be just a lack of clarity of expectations, but not that the job actually changes.

          2. Paris Geller*

            I think it just depends on the industry/company. My boyfriend is a supervisor–he is responsible for everything getting done when he’s on the clock, but when he clocks out, things are no longer his problem. He assists with training new employees, making sure the next shift knows what’s going on, etc., but he doesn’t hire or manage people. For his workplace, the distinction is more like: supervisor–overseeing the work; manager–overseeing the people doing the work.

          3. I'm just here for the cats*

            So it sounds like it might be a place where there are shifts..so supervisor is often used for as the person who is in charge when all the other bosses go home. In my experience shift supervisor (or shift manager which is why it can get confusing) was in charge to make sure tills were counted, take care of customer complaints (sorry that coupon expired last week) everything was kept clean and sticked, and that the high school kids actually did their job and didn’t just mess around with their friends. They had no say in who worked when, hiring or firing or anything else. Basically its the adultier adult.

        3. A Simple Narwhal*

          I’d be interested to learn more too. My title has Manager in it, but I don’t manage people (Think Teapot Manager – I manage the teapots, not people), but you would think such an important aspect of the job would have come up in the interview.

          1. a thought*

            I agree – it seems possible that something went really wrong in the interview process.

            I wouldn’t be surprised if the company believed that saying “shift supervisor” did convey that it would include hiring/firing/troubleshooting etc on the shift.

            So I think that a request for a raise might be difficult (where the company says this was always the job) but I think it’s worth a shot, even if it means they say no and the OP chooses to perhaps move on over it.

  20. LucasMcFly*

    If a staff member and manager get into a heated debate, leading to the staff member storming out (bringing his things) and shouting curse words, and the manager shouting after him to turn in his keys and badge, has that staff member resigned, or has he been fired?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just based on what’s here, I’d say he was fired — it sounds like he walked off the job but didn’t quit, and the manager fired him (“turn in your keys and badge”). But depending on what else was said in the conversation, it’s possible that assessment is wrong. For the purpose of something like collecting unemployment, it probably won’t make a difference — walking off the job while shouting curse words is the kind of thing most states will deny unemployment for (but it could depend on details I don’t have, like what led to this).

      1. ecnaseener*

        The mutual understanding might have been there, but if the employee didn’t say anything out loud to the effect of “I quit” / “I won’t work here anymore” / “I’m not coming back” etc, he didn’t technically quit.
        Saying “f*** you, this place is a s***-hole” …much as it may sound like something you’d only say if you’re quitting, it isn’t quitting ;)

  21. Hello, we're a cult*

    Applying for an internal role that’s open to internal only in another department. Can I flat out ask if they already have someone in mind?

    1. twocents*

      At my company, even if the answer is yes, there’s no way they’d tell you. Too much risk of it turning into an HR case. If you have a friend in the department, you’d be better off asking them what’s up with the new role.

  22. DocVonMittens*

    My boss did a google search of my name and found information about someone with my same full name (who also looks a lot like me). This person was in the news talking about their recovery from a serious drug addiction. This person isn’t me but my boss thinks it is and brought it up in a show of support (basically saying how they still trusted me and were proud of my progress).

    How do I address this? In the moment I panicked and just sort of stuttered but he followed up with “Don’t worry, we never need to discuss this again.” But I WANT to discuss this as this person isn’t me. How do I clear this up?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Just go back to him now and say, “I was too rattled in the moment to respond the way I should have, but that person isn’t me! If it were me, I’d appreciate how kind you were about it — but it’s someone who just has my same name!”

    2. Dragon_Dreamer*

      That new commercial about “we googled your presence online” just squicks me out for *exactly* this reason! How does the supposed “hiring manager” even know if they’re even googling the right person! I can’t find video, but it’s an ad for a “service” to remove your online presence.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I found another person with my exact same first and last names (even the weird spelling). Rather than a veggie hippie peacing out in Paris, she’s a barbecue-loving member of the Texan Obama haters society. That’s how I realised why I kept getting added on FB by military guys and others with the US flag. I quickly added some Gandhi quotes to my profile to make it clear that it wasn’t this other woman!

  23. Lemming22*

    Does it make you seem young to refer to your significant other as “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” at work? I am specifically thinking of relationships that are new-ish so “partner” feels like it carries too much weight – significant other feels weirdly stiff. Any other suggested terms?

      1. Hannah*

        So glad to hear you say this.

        My first role out of college I was chatting about life with a client (financial services) and mentioned going to a new restaurant with my boyfriend. Boss chastised me after the fact (he was also in the meeting) about bringing up “just a boyfriend” because “it’s a reminder of how young you are” and “no one with grey hair will ever take you seriously”.

        I was embarrassed by this “snafu” for yearrrrs until I left and realize this among many other things be said to me were his own, dated, controlling preferences.

        1. Yorick*

          They wouldn’t have said that to a young man (or even an old man) who mentioned his girlfriend!

        2. MCMonkeybean*

          That’s ridiculous, there are people of all ages that have “boyfriends” or “girlfriends!” I was raised by my dad after my parents split and anyone he dated was always referred to as a girlfriend until he got remarried in his 50s.

          It’s also ridiculous because while I think it can be good advice to try not to make yourself come off as too young and inexperienced at work, I think it is highly unreasonable for a boss to *chastise* you for reminding people that you are young.

      2. Lemming22*

        Thanks! I will probably use boyfriend. I appreciate some of the other suggestions too, including things that are less gendered (maybe datefriend)! Its a weird balance in my situation – on the one hand, we have only been dating for about 5 months so I wouldn’t feel comfortable placing a ton of weight on it or implying this is a forever person when I just don’t know yet. On the other hand, we are doing things like going on overnight trips together that I may speak about so I also don’t want it to seem like a random fling. I am probably just overthinking it honestly.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I’ve always liked “Sweetheart,” and it’s gender-noncommittal.

      1. StlBlues*

        I could see people having wildly different reactions to “sweetheart,” but I personally would be squeamish about it. It makes it more…. emotional, maybe? than I’d like a coworker to be in a work setting. I can only speak for myself, but to my ears it’s along the same line as if someone referred to their “lover.” Ick!

        1. Again With Feeling*

          I had a colleague who referred to her husband as “my sweetie.” I really liked her but that always icked me out. Even outside of work, I would never refer to my partner by a pet name or term of endearment, so this type of stuff really makes me cringe.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I respect your feelings.

            It may be a regional thing; locally, sweetheart is as benign of a term of endearment as I can imagine.

            1. JB (not in Houston)*

              I don’t think Again With Feeling is objecting to her colleague addressing her husband as sweetie, it’s her using it in place of his name or the word husband or partner. I have to admit that I would also find it kind of uncomfortable (not sure why exactly) if a coworker always used that term to refer to a spouse. “My sweetie and I went to that new escape room restaurant across the street last night.” “My sweetie also collects paper clips.” “It’s hard to cook for my sweetie because doesn’t eat damp food.” It just sounds weird to me! I don’t know if it’s too casual or would feel like I’m being treated like we have a closer relationship than we do or what it is that would bother me, but it would.

              1. Loosey Goosey*

                Yes exactly! And I wasn’t clear in my comment – I might call my husband “sweetheart” directly, but I would never refer to him as “my sweetheart” in conversation with other people. It feels too mushy-gushy, especially for a work relationship. Also LOL at damp food! That sounds unappetizing, I don’t blame the sweetie for not eating it.

                1. Spencer Hastings*

                  Yeah, there are some words that sound fine as a form of address but sound really weird otherwise, to my ear. I’ve been noticing this with “kiddo” lately:

                  “Nice job, kiddo!” — OK

                  “I have three kiddos” — uh, what?

                2. Seeking Second Childhood*

                  Dunno….personally I like American turkey stuffing, Chinese steamed buns, and soup in a boule.

              2. Lacey*

                Yeah. I would feel weird too. Maybe it just seems too cutesy and affectionate for work? I would also be icked out if someone referred to their spouse as hubby or wifey or any number of nickname-y things so… I’m just an all purpose grump.

              3. Anon For This*

                Huh. I’m in a poly relationship, and my wife uses “sweetie” to refer to all her partners, regardless of gender. It works well, including when pluralized; I didn’t realize it would have pet-name connotations for people.

              4. Mimi*

                In the area/subcultures I’m in, “sweetie” is another gender-neutral term like “partner” and not something that I would bat an eye about. I’ve had coworkers talk about their sweeties; it’s very normal to me. I think some queer people are adopting it as a replacement for girlfriend/boyfriend — a relationship that might not be as serious as partner (though might be). Perhaps especially folks who are polyam but not super open about it at work, and don’t want to explain that today “sweetie” is Kay and not Michele.

            2. TechWorker*

              ‘Sweetheart’ – I don’t love it but also common local to me and doesn’t mean much

              ‘My sweetheart’ – sounds a bit like how you’d start an earnest love letter

              Idk why they come off so differently.. but they do to me!

          2. Artemesia*

            I call my husband sweetie, sometimes even in public, but would NEVER refer to him that way in third person and certainly not at work. It really seems in appropriate to me — ‘partner’ just seems so serviceable.

        2. Liz*

          Same, to me it sounds archaic and saccharine, like something out of a ww2 movie. “So Timmy went of to war, but he wrote his sweetheart every day.” In my region, the only time you hear anyone use this is as a term of endearment towards very young children.

      2. Luke G*

        See also, “lover” (or perhaps I should say “lovah,”) delivered a la Will Ferrel in SNL.

    2. animaniactoo*

      fwiw – I’ve been in the comments of advice columns where people have been debating that for over a decade now. Nobody I’ve seen has ever found better terms. It’s just whatever makes the most sense to define the relationship at the moment. When you’re in your mid-30s referring to someone you’ve been dating for 3 months as your boyfriend, you might feel kind of awkward about it, but it seems to be widely accepted and not looked at as anything other than the useful term of the moment.

      1. Cookies For Breakfast*

        I’m not a native English speaker, and in my language, we have a word that makes perfect sense regardless of age and relationship length. The intensity of the debate in the English-speaking world surprised me.

        I tried out “partner” for a while, but kept getting hints that my colleagues found it weird when I said it (for what reason, I don’t know – someone took it as far as speculating on my sexual orientation, which, UGH and what the hell?).

        Most people my age (older millennial) use “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” and I now use it without thinking twice, even though in my language it’s more common for younger people. But I’ve wondered whether I just care less because it’s my “borrowed” language!

        1. joriley*

          Yeah, partner really varies. I’m in a largely young, quite liberal workplace and no one bats an eye at “partner”–in fact, many of my colleagues use it as well–but in more conservative and older groups it implies a same-sex relationship. That was the case in my previous department (at the same employer!) where people poked fun at the one straight guy who referred to his “partner.” (They’d been together for like 10 years, what else what he going to call her?)

          1. Ashley*

            I really try to go gender neutral with things like partner or spouse to try to prevent people (in my very old school industry) from still thinking the word partner is code for not being straight.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            I’ve always said partner. It really doesn’t bother me in the least that people might speculate about my orientation. If it’s weird to them, they’re the ones with the problem, not me.

        2. Onomatopoetic*

          In English I tend to go with “partner”, exactly because it’s not gendered. My partner is not cis, and feels uncomfortable with gendered terms, and I like normalizing the term. And also boyfriend/girlfriend sounds like teenagers to me, I’m decidedly middle aged. But we have been together for quite a while, so it’s not an answer for this question. If significant other sounds stiff, how about just SO?

        3. Everdene*

          I’m an older millennial and I used ‘a boy I’m kissing’ transitioning to boyfriend mainly with a bit of partner until I got comfortable with husband (bypassed fiance altogether and still sometimes say partner). I did struggle to know what to say as I worried boyfriend made me sound young or the relationship not serious (we were together over a decade before getting married) but when I was younger partner definitely implied same sex relationship rather than serious relationship. I had to deliberately recalibrate my brain to neutralise this. However after doing that I also felt sometimes saying partner sounded like I was trying to appear more adult. The whole thing is a minefield.

          What I have found interesting is how people respond differently to boyfriend/partner/husband even though from my perspective the relationship is exactly the same.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I hope you didn’t say “a boy I’m kissing” to coworkers though. I don’t want my coworkers to mention kissing, ew.

        4. JSPA*

          Pre marriage equality, “partner” was a signal that the person in question is a de-facto spouse, but in a same-sex relationship, such that marriage was not an option. Some unmarried (or for that matter, married) straight people picked it up as a badge of support and equality for same-sex couples (a.k.a. “not flaunting one’s marriage privilege”), but that was more so in certain regions and in urban areas.

          As a holdover, in areas where “partner” almost guaranteed used to mean “same sex quasi-spouse” (or where people are not getting married because of restrictions of their own faith, or whatever), it’s still taken as a signal of one’s orientatation or the relative genders of the people involved.

          In other areas, where all gender combinations used it even pre-marriage equality, it still has the more general meaning of, “serious significant other, probably not actually married.” But married people who started using “partner” before marriage equality, and people who just don’t like the whole ‘defining someone relative to my role” (or don’t like the gender binary of husband / wife, if one or more of them are not binary), and people who just like the companionable sound of “partner,” may also use “partner,” for a married or unmarried partner/partnership.

          1. theonceandfuturegrantwriter*

            My boss used to refer to split the difference and say “my wife and partner, Mary” when he was referring to his spouse. I always thought that was kind of sweet.

        5. münchner kindl*

          I think it’s not just English language, but the different cultural norm in US versus other countries: there seems to be still a much stronger expectation that once you’ve settled down and become a real adult, you’ll do the proper thing and marry – and then it’s spouse or partner, not girlfriend/boyfriend.
          So that what gives off the impression of being young, I think.

          Whereas in my country, nobody cares if people are married because they’re older than mid-20s – many people just live together. (And the phrase “making a honest women” doesn’t exist in my language).

          1. allathian*

            Yup. I’m in Finland, and more than 50 percent of first-born kids are born to unmarried parents. Some marry later, others don’t.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            yeah, “living in sin” is another expression there’s no equivalent to in French for me in France.

      2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        There was a weird attempt in the ‘70s to make POSSLQ (pronounced, I think, “poss-ul-cue”) a word for a cohabiting boyfriend/girlfriend. It stood for Person of Opposite Sex Sharing Living Quarters. Aside from being heteronormative as heck, it’s a ridiculous word and I’m glad it’s dead.

    3. Chainsaw Bear*

      “Master” has proven to a big hit on AAM before, especially if you let your coworkers know you’d prefer they also use it.

      1. It's the little things*

        I had a fabulous spit take coffee moment after reading your comment, thanks for the laugh :)

      2. Ms_Meercat*

        the moment when you burst out laughing, and then are a little proud that you’ve been here for long enough to actually get an inside joke for once :)

    4. HelloHello*

      I feel like most people I know who are in their mid-twenties+ go from “the person I’m seeing” to “partner” with no midpoint at boyfriend or girlfriend. Not to say there’s anything particularly wrong with the terms boyfriend/girlfriend, but if you’re looking for alternatives that’s what I hear the most often.

      1. SparkleConsultant*

        I find it interesting that straight folks have started using “partner” for their significant others. I’m a femme gay woman and have found it useful to use the term “partner” in situations like networking where outing myself gradually gives strangers time to react appropriately if needed. I find it funny and a little tone deaf when people who know me refer to their “partner” to me and their BF/GF to others.

        1. WS*

          It’s become super common here in Australia for partners of any gender in any configuration to be called “partner”, to the extent that newspapers need to specify “business partner” when there’s no romantic involvement. Most people under 40 use it, regardless of if they’re legally married, and some people over 40. In my case, I’m a lesbian in a same-sex long-term relationship, but I think it’s great that it’s become non-specific.

        2. BigTenProfessor*

          I find “significant other” works just fine, or I use his name and just assume that people can pick up on the fact that he’s my SO. If I say, “Fergus and I are going to visit his parents this weekend,” everyone assumes Fergus is my partner/spouse/whatever without me explicitly saying that.

          1. LitNerd*

            I had a friend who used “Sig-o” as an abbreviation for “Significant Other,” and I thought that one worked pretty well as a gender neutral term.

        3. theonceandfuturegrantwriter*

          It’s funny how people change their language to match the perceived expectations of the person they’re talking to. I’ve also seen millennials (of various sexual orientations) use the term ‘partner’ in more left-leaning circles and ‘boyfriend/girlfriend’ in more conservative circles when they’re talking about the same relationship.

    5. nnn*

      In general, I think it’s better in the workplace to go with terminology that’s unobtrusive and forgettable, which I think “boyfriend”, “girlfriend” and “partner” are, but some of the other suggestions in the thread aren’t so much.

      Also, if you’re concerned about seeming young from the point of view that it might make co-workers think you’re immature, I think erring on the side of commitment is more likely to come across as mature (and some audiences will see being diligent about not implying commitment as a sign of immaturity.) In other words, depending on the specific culture, it might be strategic to say “partner” even if you aren’t actually at that level of commitment.

      Another alternative for some types of conversations is “date”, e.g. if you’re talking about something that happened while you were out together. “Everything was delicious, except the waiter spilled a bowl of soup on my date’s head!”

      Another other alternative for some types of conversations is just to say “we”. “We can’t wait until this pandemic is over so we can go to restaurants again, even with the risk of waiters spilling soup on our heads.”

  24. Linked out*

    I work for a company which supplies technology and services to companies nationwide. When I have an engagement with clients, how do I ask to follow them on LinkedIn or other sites? Do I ask? Just send a request which seems odd to me? I know my stuff, but this type of connection throws me. BTW, my employer is big on doing this, but I can’t get anyone to give me a sample script. Thanks!!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You don’t need much — you can just send the connection request through LinkedIn with a message like, “Would love to connect on here and stay in touch” or something similarly short.

    2. Lisa B*

      Agreed, no need to overthink it! Very very common. I do this a lot and my LinkedIn request usually says something like “Great talking with you today! I’d like to connect to stay in touch.”

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        It’s also good to give some kind of clue as to where and when you met – you can also look in the messages when you don’t remember who someone is (problem with getting old and having lots of connections going back years)

    3. Pamanda*

      I will add that you should definitely add a note – even if I know someone’s name, if they don’t include a note I might not accept their request. I don’t like LinkedIn Collectors.

    4. Gan Ainm*

      Fwiw I probably wouldn’t accept that kind of request unless we worked together for years and I felt I could speak to your work and vice versa. My linkedin is my network of colleagues, mba classmates, etc, not my employer’s sales tool. People use it in a lot of different ways so YMMV, but don’t be surprised if some of your recipients look at it similarly. I dont begrudge a sales person or recruiter for using it that way at all, I just probably wouldn’t accept.

  25. azvlr*

    I’m salaried, and have the flexibility to manage my own tasks as long as I meet deadlines. I get distracted during the work day and will pause my work to check the prices on plane fares to Tahiti or whether something I ordered has been received. I do meet my deadlines, but I’m rarely early. I know you advise not put in extra time unless an emergency, but I feel I have to compensate by working later than my normal quitting time. I can’t help but wonder though, am I normal that I don’t focus solely on work while at work?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Most people take breaks throughout the day. My questions would be how often you’re taking them, for how long, and how you’re performing overall. You’re not missing deadlines, but are you doing a sort of okay-but-not-great job, or are you performing really well? If the former, I’d see if anything changes when you focus more during the day. If the latter, it seems like whatever you’re doing is just fine. (But also, if we’re talking about something like 5-10 minutes a handful of times a day, that is not a big deal in most jobs.)

    2. lb*

      I find this to be super normal – brains need breaks! If you’re spending like an hour plus doing this that might be a problem, but 5 or 1o minutes thinking about something else between tasks probably helps (by keeping you fresh
      thinking clearly) more than it hurts. Especially now that we’re remote too, a lot of time that we’d spend grabbing coffee & chatting with a co-worker in the kitchen (a super normal thing to do that no reasonable manager would be angry about!) are probably redirected to online activities (checking social media, reading AAM, chatting about goofy things on Slack…)

      1. SongbirdT*

        Currently reading this thread on a work brain break. And my time is up, so back to trying to wrestle this technology into working the way I need it to!

      2. EH*

        This! My work mentor started me logging my time (rounded to the nearest 5) ages ago, and I still do it. Any time I change tasks, I note the time and what I was doing. At the end of the day I tag everything with a handful of categories (writing, graphics work, meetings, personal time, lunch, etc) and add it all up, then divide to get a percentage. It gives me a really clear look at how much I’m working and how much I’m not. He told me that anything over about 50% is good. We’re in a brain-intensive field (tech writing), though – and the appropriate percentage shifts by job, I’d bet.

    3. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

      Agreed – brains need breaks. However, do keep an eye on it. In the office, I only look at Facebook on my phone but since we’ve been home, it’s been up all day and this week I feel like I haven’t been putting in my best effort so it’s gone for now. Really take a look at how much time you’re spending b/c it can easily go to the place where you’re not performing well. Speaking from experience!

    4. NJAnonymous*

      Brains totally need breaks!

      But also jumping in to say that when planning operating models, or resource planning, or anything that involves understanding how much capacity people have in their roles, the industry standard (at a corporate level, anyway), is that 20% of an employee’s time will be lost to things like water cooler talk, getting up and walking around the office, having random chats (work related or not), or otherwise taking a brain break! Basically it’s built in assumed dead time. This may not hold true for some industries, obviously, but in my consulting career that has always been standard.

    5. Raida*

      I’d say that you should track your breaks and see if you’re comfortable with the amount of time you’re spending distracted so you *know* if it’s excessive, and try combining them with walking around/stretching, it’s good for your body.

      Also – are you just going “puh-puh-puh I’m bored I wonder about a holiday” or are you checking personal email, seeing one from a travel agency and then it’s “ooh tahiti!”

      IF it’s the latter – give yourself times of the day for social media, email, etc. And close the tabs when it’s not that time of day.
      Do not keep facebook or instagram or twitter or reddit up on the screen/just one tab away. They, more than your personal email, are designed to suck you in and keep you on the site. So do not have them visible, check them just on your phone, keep it in break time – and if you feel your break was wasted on facebook then you can decide how you want to spend your leisure time.
      I get distracted easily so I’ve not opened these sites other than specific searches on my work laptop for well over a year

  26. Claire*

    What do you do if your boss praises you publicly, but you don’t want it? I appreciate that he appreciates my work and accomplishments but him talking about it during meetings really makes me uncomfortable and embarrassed. I’m not sure how to tactfully say that and not sound ungrateful of the support. Thank you!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This isn’t the answer you’re looking for, but I think you should work on getting comfortable with public praise! If you do good work, it’s going to happen (if you’re working at a decent company with a decent boss) … and your boss has an interest herself in letting people know her team is doing good work and in not coming across as a boss who never recognizes that.

      All that said, if I managed someone who hated public praise, I’d want to make sure I was recognizing their work in a way they were more comfortable with. But big-picture-wise, I think it’s better for your career long-term to figure out why it bothers you and see if you can find a way to be okay with it.

      1. Robin Ellacott*

        I cringe too (inside only, after years of practice) at praise but it’s part of most decent workplaces. I have publicly praised people very deliberately as a boss, especially people who don’t put themselves forward or whose colleagues don’t seem to know how integral they are. Your boss may be sending a message.

        My assistant is a quiet, calm, introverted woman who could probably run this company single-handedly if she wanted to, but would never seek recognition or want to take on a more managerial role. I have seen newer staff treat her as kind of junior, and I want people to know she actually has a lot of earned respect and a ton of authority, even while she never flaunts it.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Your boss may have their own reasons for public praise; you are not the only audience for their comments.
      They may be wanting other employees to see him publicly supporting their team; they may be wanting other managers or executives to see this as well.
      They may be arguing for more compensation, etc., and therefore trying to establish that their team is high quality; these public statements may help with that.

      I once didn’t send around a “we hired the freelancer, he’s now full-time” email because the employee didn’t want it. My boss told me to send it because he was getting queries about whether we were going to fill that slot, and he pointed out that people needed to know the person’s greater authority.

      1. WoodswomanWrites*

        I second this. Our department head made a point of publicly praising the accomplishments of a couple staff members when the CEO happened to join our team meeting. This was because previously the CEO had grumbled–incorrectly–that these individuals weren’t strong contributors. This was an important way for the department head to highlight the accomplishments of those team members whose work the CEO wasn’t previously aware of.

    3. Lady Heather*

      Book recommendation: “Nice girls don’t get the corner office” by Dr Lois Frankel.

    4. kt*

      Yeah, as a manager I feel that if I’m not accurately crediting my employees for their accomplishments I’m not accounting for the work they do (and thus the money we spend on their salaries), and I can’t make the case for more resource. If I never mention Claire’s work, then either she’s dead weight who can be cut from the team, or she needs more work on her plate and I can’t hire a new person. It’s about you but not really about you, you know?

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with Alison there is really no escaping this one, you can “cure” this boss but you will have to start over with the next one.

      I’d suggest figuring out what you will do when it happens.
      Sometimes we can just say thank you and that is enough.
      Other times we don’t need to say anything. maybe give a soft smile and a head nod.
      And there are times where it is totally appropriate to say, “And I like to mention [cohort’s name] big contribution.”

      I can see part of your discomfort could come from each situation being slightly different. If the boss/cohort continues talking you really don’t need to say or do anything. For me, that is my first question to myself, does speaker look like they will just continue speaking? If yes, then no worries. If no, then less is more. Say less than what you “think” you “should” say.

      1. singlemaltgirl*

        this one’s a bug a boo for me. my board praises stuff every meeting with me especially in our handling of covid. and the first thing i will say is that it’s not just me – a team effort and how much my team has risen to the challenge. it’s become a bit of a running joke that i can never just accept the praise w/o identifying how my team made something happen.

        @LadyHeather – thanks for the book recommendation. that’s another bug a boo for me. i coach women all the time in not seeing their worth, in negotiating just as hard as the men, and advocating for themselves. but praise is one of those things….or maybe just the public praise, is something i don’t know how to graciously accept like i’d like to. it always feels off. and i can’t just take it for myself – i want to acknowledge my team who make me look good. but then i see other colleagues (usually men) who seem to have no struggle or issue with accepting public praise as their due. anyway, book is on my reading list! thx.

  27. Fake Name*

    Does it send a bad sign to try to negotiate for more vacation days during the hiring process? I don’t need health insurance from my employer (spouse is a government worker), but I would like to have more time off to match my spouse’s. Is it reasonable to try to trade that or is it a sign that I am looking to not be in the office?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, people negotiate for more vacation days. It is a thing. Employers know people enjoy time off, they will not be shocked as long as you’re not asking for, like, months off per year.

      1. Esmeralda*

        But don’t turn down health insurance. Your spouse’s insurance may not cover everything. Your spouse may lose their job/insurance. Your spouse may become your ex-spouse, or may pass away. Unless you have to pay a ton for your own employer-sponsored insurance, it’s wise to take it.

          1. I'm just here for the cats*

            Yes, if husband looses job it will qualify as a life event and they would be able to sign up. It might depend on the state but from my experience from working for the state, it is cheaper and covers the same as my past jobs.

            1. EH*

              Yep. I just switched my partner and myself to my company’s insurance when he was laid off (I was on his plan when I started at this company).

          2. Reluctant Manager*

            Which is why a lot of companies won’t give you 1:1 pay/benefits trade–because of youn have to go on their insurance, they’re not going to claw back your salary.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          Any of those things are a life event that would let one sign onto one’s employer’s insurance options outside of open enrollment.

        2. Beth*

          I get my health coverage through my spouse, who works for the county and has MUCH better coverage than anything I’ve ever had in the private sector.

          When I started at my current job, at a VERY small company (7 people), I brought up the fact that I would not need to be on their plan. I had a pretty good understanding of how much it would have cost the company to include me, and I was able to negotiate a modest salary bump on the strength of it!

          We did agree, at the time, that if something happened and I had to be added to the company plan, my salary would be adjusted to reflect the change. It hasn’t happened (and is unlikely to do so), and over the years since I started here, every raise I’ve had has been based on a salary that included that initial bump.

      2. Employee of the Bearimy*

        Plus it’s usually much easier to give extra PTO instead of more money, so employers are happy to get it as a request.

        1. Reluctant Manager*

          I’ve had the opposite experience: everyone accrued PTO on the same schedule, so even though we were very crunched, we found an extra $2k in salary to counter.

    2. Crispy Pork*

      If an employer balks at your attempt to negotiate vacation days I would take it as a red flag! Unless you were suggesting something outlandish like eight months paid vacation a year.

      1. Manager B*

        If they are giving bare minimum yes, But my company is very generous (Canada) we give the base 2 weeks, plus paid time off at xmas 1+ week, plus 5 paid PTO days, which is almost 4 weeks off a year.

        We don’t mind getting asked during the negotiations, but the answer is always « Sorry but the company is already very generous on this front, and there is no wiggle room to add more paid time, but we do allow an additional unpaid week »

        1. Blueberry Spice Pancake*

          That’s not that generous even for the US (and I thought Canada was better than the US for PTO) depending on the industry, especially for people who belong to non-Christian religions who have to spend their PTO for their religious holidays while Christians have their holidays built in.

    3. Quinalla*

      Very reasonable thing to ask for, but not as a tradeoff. My employer wanted to give me 2 weeks when I started, I told them I had 3 weeks now and wanted to get more than that as based on their policy I wasn’t eligible for more PTO until I’d been there 10 0years, so I was going to be at this level for a while!

    4. Ally McBeal*

      I recently had an interview where, when I asked how many vacation days were standard, the HR rep asked what I’d like. I responded that I had 20 at my current job, to which she casually replied “oh 15 is standard but I’d be happy to give you 20 if we move forward.” Super normal at a “normal” company, although I suspect my request wouldn’t have gone over well if I’d been interviewing at a start-up.

  28. Yellow?*

    I just realized I spent a whole internal Zoom call in a hoodie with my old company’s logo on it!! Kill me, it’s not a competitor or even in the same field, but I still feel stupid. Should I say something? No one else seemed to notice.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You don’t need to say anything! They’re not a competitor so it’s really unlikely to be A Thing at all.

      Even if it did seem a little off, (a) there’s a good chance no one saw it that clearly anyway and (b) saying something would probably make it weirder. Let it go and do not worry!

    2. HugsAreNotTolerated*

      If I stopped using all the clothing/gear from my previous swag-heavy company I’d have to go buy a bunch of stuff. As long as it’s not a competitor and wearing a hoodie on a call isn’t out of step with your company norms, I’d bet that you’re probably the only one even thinking about it!

    3. Jester*

      I continued to use a mug every day with the logo from one company after I moved to a new job. The branding is very recognizable and it’s a great mug! The only person who noticed was the HR manager who hired me. My own boss didn’t even notice. I don’t think anyone would care if even that did notice since I’m assuming it’s not a secret where you used to work. I’d agree you’re totally fine!

    4. Alanna*

      I work in a field where many of us have worked for a competitor at one point, and most of us have swag from competitors. Nobody cares! I wouldn’t wear a competitor’s shirt to an event, but day to day, sure. I think you’d be a in a pretty toxic company if someone cared that you were wearing another company’s shirt. unless you work for a clothing manufacturer who supplies you shirts, you’re always wearing some other company’s shirts!

    5. Also on a work break*

      Based on the amount of attention people pay during a typical Zoom call, no one probably noticed!

    6. Dog Coordinator*

      My favorite oversized house hoodie is from my last job! I would also keep the same one at my office for my current job (in the before times when I went to an office…). Unless they’re direct competitors and/or have a contentious relationship, it’s just fine.

    7. Toni*

      I just bought a bunch of embroidered patches with my college logo, and sewed them over the company logo on some pretty great jackets from previous employers.

      So for the cost of a $3 patch I now have a “Florida Gators” North Face jacket.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Brilliant use of patches… I might go looking for a sf show patch to convert a piece of corporate swag!

    8. West Coast Reader*

      Honestly, someone might think it’s just a free swag hoodie you got from a random company that you have no association with.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think it should be welcomed and encouraged but not required. The problem with requiring it is that if someone is grappling with their identity or simply isn’t out yet, you could end up making them choose between (a) outing themselves when they’d rather not or (b) declaring pronouns that they’re not particularly comfortable with. Welcome it, encourage it, but don’t require it.

      1. LiberryPie*

        Besides the situations Alison mentioned, there are some people who feel strongly about not identifying with any pronoun, even a non-gendered one, so I do not think it should be required. A friendly acquaintance of mine explained it really well (I thought). She said that being asked to provide a pronoun feels to her like someone asked everyone to go around and say their name and favorite sports team. She doesn’t care about sports, so she might pick the Red Sox just to have something to say. And then forever after, people would see her and say “Oh right, you’re that Red Sox fan!” She doesn’t care what pronouns people use for her, but being asked to claim one as HER pronoun doesn’t sit well. I don’t know how common that feeling is, but the explanation made a lot of sense to me so I like to share it.

        1. elizelizeliz*

          It’s interesting, though, how many times you used the pronouns she/her to describe your acquaintance. As someone who uses multiple pronouns, i get not feeling super attached to an individual one–but i would say that it seems like people already might be saying “Oh right, you’re that Red Sox fan!” despite not id’ing strongly with one.

          1. sacados*

            Although in this case it would be more along the lines of– everyone has mentally categorized you as a Red Sox fan because you’re from Boston, and you’re just content to let people assume that because you don’t particularly care.

          2. ecnaseener*

            If someone specifically says “all pronouns are fine, I truly don’t care,” that means…all pronouns are fine. She/her included. It’s not a secret code for “I prefer neutral pronouns but I won’t put up a fuss.”

          3. Worldwalker*

            What I don’t get — seriously: Pronouns are usually given as, say, “she/her”. Why? Has anyone in the history of ever used “she/him”? Doesn’t “she” automatically lead to “her”, “hers”, etc? Why just two out of the full collection? Why “they/them” and not “they/them/their/theirs”? One would make sense. All would make sense. Two and only two bewilders me, grammatically speaking.

            1. ecnaseener*

              I very often see it with all three, eg “she/her/hers”
              Just one with no context or label is confusing, looks like it could be a typo or something. “She/her” is enough to make it clear what you’re doing but still quick and easy to type or say.
              “She-series” is also used if you prefer that.

              1. Reluctant Manager*

                I just heard “she series” and get relieved of the burden of wanting to put she/him/theirs as my pronouns.

            2. Crocheted familiar*

              It’s a shorthand for pronoun sets that’s just grown out of pronoun declarations. It went from, for example, ‘they/them/theirs’ to ‘they/them’, and the continuation of the pronoun set is just assumed to be implied by the pronouns that are given. Generally when it’s just one set of pronouns given, it’s easier to write ‘she/her’ than ‘she/her/hers/herself’ and the continuation is implied. This also makes it easier when two or more sets of pronouns are used, as ‘he/they’ and ‘they/xem’ are easier to write than ‘he/him/his/himself and ‘they/them/theirs/themself’ and ‘they/them/theirs/themself and ‘xe/xem/xyr/xyr self’, and then you’d usually switch between the pronoun sets (even within the same sentence or discussion; it’s fine). If someone wanted specifically ‘she/him/his/herself’, they’d probably write that out, but I, personally, haven’t seen it. It could happen, but you’d probably be told that that’s the specific pronoun structure for that person. If I saw ‘she/him’, I’d assume that the person used both ‘she/her/hers/herself’ AND ‘he/him/his/himself’ pronoun sets, as that follows the general shorthand structure of pronoun declarations.

              1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

                I’ve seen a lot of mixed sets with the gender specific and the neutral, i.e. “he/they” or “he/them,” which potentially varies the structure (using the / to denote alternate options rather than the progress of a series/set) but that also gives you all the specifics you need, if not the nuances. “he/him” tells you “ah, he uses the full he series, probably” whereas “he/they” tells you “ah, he/they is comfortable with the he series or the they series, but not the she series, probably.”

                I haven’t seen anyone with both binary “he/she” but I’d just assume all combos are possible, and remind myself not to make assumptions beyond the person’s comfort with particular pronouns.

            3. kt*

              I can’t justify the full collection you point out, but I’ve definitely seen she/they and he/they indicating a range of preference. I might myself choose she/they because I too chafe at planting my flag in the ground of “she” when I view my gender identity as a useful prison, like being short (it’s how I’m embodied in the world but it’s not, like, a choice).

              1. parsley*

                I’m in a similar basket, although I’m only really open about they pronouns with certain friend groups. I feel like I’m woman adjacent, but I’m not really committed to ‘woman’ as an identity. I saw someone describe it as “I’m a woman in the same way that a rectangle is a square”, which resonated.

                1. NotBatman*

                  Same! I’m more likely to get feminine pronouns in work clothes, more likely to get masculine pronouns in casual clothes, and happily respond no matter what. However, if a moderator or manager asks me to announce a set of pronouns for myself in a professional setting, that’s when I want to crawl under a table and hide.

            4. Zelda*

              I think it largely comes from when there were more neutral pronouns being tried out, and the various cases weren’t well-established yet. I recall seeing sie/hir, ey/em, zie/zir, xe/xir, and Crocheted Familiar reminds me that there was also xe/xem. Once you have the subject and object cases, there’s usually enough of a pattern to infer the possessive, but you see how the object frequently is quite different in form from the subject.

              Now that popular culture seems to have settled on ‘they’ as far-and-away the most common neutral pronoun (as a grammar teacher I hate it; have seen many a paragraph wrecked on the rocks of “can’t tell to whom this pronoun refers,” but in the end people are more important than rules so I’ll deal), the series is really not necessary anymore, but the convention persists.

        2. AnonPi*

          Yeah I’m definitely the type to hate labels too. Because then yeah you become “that person” to whomever wants to know. You’re “the feminist”, “the environmentalist”, “the vegan”, “the queer one”, etc. I don’t like being pinned down as a label.

        3. Glenn*

          I know at least three people in this group. It’s unusual enough that I still tend to fall back on Alison’s explanation, when I’m suggesting that people shouldn’t make pronoun-disclosure mandatory. But I’m definitely also thinking about those friends of mine.

      2. NQ*

        Thank you so much for this, Alison. I’ve always thought requiring pronouns has no good reason to affect cishet people negatively but could easily affect queer people negatively.

        I’m perceived as a woman, and I’m not-not a woman, and I don’t call myself non-binary, but don’t feel married to the gender binary either. I have zero issue with people calling me she/her, but I feel awkward introducing myself as such because in my own mind, I’d be happy with they or even he. However I wouldn’t want to draw attention to it by introducing myself with multiple pronouns either, because I genuinely truly wish the whole gender thing was a non-issue (not possible in my industry).

        1. KHB*

          One possible negative effect (for women, anyway) is stereotype threat: the way being reminded that you’re part of a particular group makes you more likely to conform to the stereotypes of that group (e.g., meekness, lack of confidence, unwillingness to speak up for yourself for women, the opposite of all that for men).

          I’m not up on all the research in this area, and I’m not aware of any studies of how it pertains to pronoun self-reporting in particular. But from my observations in my workplace, it sure seems like there’s something to it, so I’d encourage any employer considering a pronoun policy to at least think about it.

        2. Glenn*

          This sounds _so_ similar to something I’ve heard a friend/acquaintance of mine say, that I’d wonder if you were her, except I’m pretty sure she’d sign this comment with her name if she’d written it.

          (I have another friend who has expressed similar sentiments, and a third who, when possible, prefers to go by no pronoun at all.)

      3. Sutemi*

        There can also be an issue with stereotype threat. I’m a woman in STEM and comfortable with that, but I don’t identify strongly as a woman and don’t want to be reminded that I am female every time I send an email.

        1. mf*

          Agreed. I’m a cis woman but I really don’t care to call that much attention to my gender in work emails.

        2. Gan Ainm*

          This, for the love of god. I’m a woman in an insanely male dominated industry. My name, photo on our email / Skype, my feminine voice on calls, they all give it away. I REALLY don’t need to draw any more attention to being an outlier. I already get assumed to be my male employee’s subordinate, talked over in meetings, assumed to be much younger and less experienced than I am. And that’s at a company that is actually quite inclusive. Why in the world would I want to draw more attention to that? And it’s not like the opposite pronouns would help me, I can’t masculine pronoun my way out of it. Women don’t get to just declare themselves out of this kind of discrimination.

          1. Claire*

            Well, drawing attention to it isn’t really the point. Listing pronouns is to help other people know how to best refer to you. Not everyone with a “feminine” face or voice identifies with the pronouns “she” and “her.”

            1. KHB*

              Yes, we know what the point is. But there are a lot of negative consequences to listing pronouns too. Even if not part of “the point,” they’re still there.

              Anyone who wants to list their pronouns is welcome to do so – but not listing them has to remain an acceptable option, for all the reasons given in this thread.

      4. Lorax*

        I’m so glad this question got asked! This recently came up in my organization, in the context of interviewing. I found out that one of our regular first-round interviewers had been asking for candidates to introduce themselves with their pronouns. She was well intentioned — just trying to make it a more welcoming space for gender non-conforming folks and not accidentally misgender someone by presuming anything about them — but my heart dropped when I heard about this practice, because I myself would hate to be asked to give my pronouns in an interview! I asked her to stop, because it put people on the spot and might make people feel uncomfortable if they were questioning or transitioning, but I wasn’t totally certain of that decision. Glad to hear some agreement on that.

        1. Mad Harry Crewe*

          You were absolutely right. As a genderqueer person who isn’t especially out at work (and ESPECIALLY not during a job interview, thankyouverymuch), this would be a well-intentioned but very bad introduction to a company and would really turn me off working there.

          Also thank you Allison for giving such a good initial answer. Spot on.

        2. Audrey Puffins*

          Some people soften it with “what pronouns shall I use for you today?”, but in an interview situation, surely you’re going to be addressing the candidate as “you” anyway. If I wanted to signify a welcoming environment, I might introduce myself and my pronouns anyway, to signify an awareness with my own example, but then I wouldn’t ask the candidate, I would let them volunteer the information or not. Still not perfect, my introduction might feel like a pressure that I don’t intend, but hey.