employer asked if we should use force to protect traditional values, working with a coworker who drops balls, and more

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

1. Job application asked if we should use force to protect traditional values

I took this online assessment for a right below C-level manager position three weeks ago and I’m still thinking about this question. I’m stunned that it was asked. I’m guessing it skirts the legal line, although is there a legal line about political beliefs? Are questions like this reasonable and should they be expected as part of the interview process?

Application question reads, "Our traditional values are disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve them." Strongly agree/agree/mildly agree/disagree/strongly disagree

Application question reads, “Our traditional values are disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve them.” Strongly agree/agree/mildly agree/disagree/strongly disagree

I wish I had taken pics of the other questions which were just as off putting: do you agree millennials need to just work and stop complaining and should universities teach more life-skills and fewer humanities classes? These questions were interspersed with the usual “I would rather x than Y” type questions. It was all normal until it went off the rails.

I guess there are non-nefarious reasons to ask these types of questions, I just can’t think of them. So, is this legal, or is it just to be used as a flashing red sign to run far and fast from this company?

It’s legal in most of the U.S. There are a couple of jurisdictions here that prohibit discriminating against candidates based on political beliefs, but most don’t. But it’s certainly not reasonable — unless the job is for an insurrectionist, in which case I guess it’s right on target.

The company is at least doing candidates the favor of letting them know right up-front what they’re like.

But nah, it’s not something you should expect to encounter, any more than having to make dinner for 20 employees and perform a choreographed dance routine, ranking whether torturing a person is worse than prostitution, or any of the myriad other ridiculous things outlier interviewers have dreamt up.

2. I don’t want to work on projects with a coworker who drops balls

I have a junior colleague who is always super-keen to collaborate on projects with me, and we have worked on a bunch of stuff together.

However, over the past few years (not only during the pandemic), she has asked to work on projects I am running and then not followed through. I have explained this messes up my timelines, and I have advised that she shouldn’t keep saying she wants to be involved in far more projects than she can clearly handle, and that she must prioritize.

She won’t let go of projects, even when she is not doing any work on them, so that all of her work falls to me but in a non-scheduled or systematic way. Usually she does a little work at the end, when I have become completely stressed or burned out, and then claims it as “our” project.

Most recently, after she didn’t respond to any emails or notices about a project she was very insistent about working on, I just ran it on my own. It was great! It was a huge project, everything was done in an orderly fashion, I wasn’t shattered at the end of it, and it was a smash hit. Just as I was feeling happy and quite proud, she realized she had missed the whole thing and started calling and emailing about how she felt she had been sidelined and wanted to stay a part of the project, and basically claiming a right of ownership over something she had no involvement in — which she insinuated was somehow my fault.

I do not want to work with this woman any more! But we work in the same field, at the same institution (I’m quite senior, she is very junior), and I need a very warm and friendly way to extract myself from any future collaborations because she will always work in my field. What can I do? We used to be so friendly, but I really do not like her at all any more.

It’s more than reasonable to decline to work on projects with her in the future. The next time she asks, say, “We’ve run into issues before when you weren’t able to finish your pieces of the work, so I don’t think it makes sense / I want to handle this one on my own / it’s not a risk I can take.” Or, if you can say it credibly, even just, “I’ve got it covered, but thanks.” But really — you’ve already talked to her about messing up your timelines by taking on more than she can handle, so this shouldn’t come as a shock to her.

3. Asking for a week off as a new hire

I don’t know how to ask my manager for some days off — or if I can at all, not having completed my probation yet.

I started a new job less than two months ago. It is my first time in a big company and first time in this role, and I am basically the last arrived and the most inexperienced. I would like to ask my manager if it is possible for me to take a week off next month (so barely three months into the job) without giving too much explanation about the reason.

On the one hand, I still am in my probation period, which lasts six months, and I have a previous working experience where time off during probation was not seen well. On the other hand, the reason is quite important. Not extremely urgent (I am an expat and need to go to my home country to get some paperwork sorted that the embassy cannot help with), but in a global pandemic, traveling in summer is a lot easier than waiting until October. But I don’t want my personal problems to be reflected on my work life, so I would rather not share this information.

Can I ask for a week off? If so, how? Will it be seen badly? I don’t know what company policy is in these cases.

It doesn’t generally look great to ask for a week off when you’ll barely be three months into the job — unless you have a compelling need for it, which you do (or unless you negotiated it when you were accepting the offer). So you’re better off sharing the reason you need the time. You don’t need to give details about exactly what the paperwork is, but saying there’s something you need to handle in-person in your home country will look better than asking for the week off so early on without explanation.

4. Employer sent me flowers the day after my interview

I recently completed an all-day virtual series of interviews for an academic posting. I sent a thank-you letter the next day. The next next day, I received a lovely plant arrangement from the selection committee.

What does this mean? Top candidate, consolation prize, caring selection committee chair, new HR policy for virtual interviews? And do I need to send a thank-you or acknowledgement for the flowers?

P.S. The note read, “Thank you very much for spending a virtual day with us. We look forward to sharing the results with you soon.” It was signed from the university (not the selection committee specifically).

Academia is its own thing and I can’t speak to what they might have dreamed up in their strange enclave, but answering this without an academia-specific slant: I would assume they’re sending plants or flowers to all their candidates, and that it doesn’t indicate anything more than “thanks for giving us a day of your time.” It’s just a nice gesture. Don’t read anything into it re: your chances.

If you haven’t already sent a post-interview follow-up note, you could include a mention of the plant in that. If you already have, you don’t really need to send anything more (but a very brief “thanks so much for the beautiful plant — what a lovely touch on top of an already great experience” email wouldn’t go amiss either).

5. Asking for lots of meet-and-greets as a new hire

I just started a new job. So far the onboarding has been mostly self-driven and not particularly well organized. I’ve had one 30-minute call with my new manager. She hasn’t really had a direct report (there is an intern and a contractor who report to her but that’s it) so she doesn’t seem familiar with the processes either. She showed me an org chart of the department as a whole and asked that I set up meet-and-greets with basically as many people as possible.

While she did send a quick intro email to the department announcing my start, I still just feel incredibly awkward cold-emailing all these people to ask for 30 minutes of time to say hi. Do you have any suggestions on how to word these emails? Or even just what to include in a subject line?

It’s really normal to do this, so don’t feel weird! And you can specifically say your manager asked you to. But I wouldn’t ask for 30 minutes unless she specifically told you to — that’s a long time for this sort of meeting.

You could just say, “Ophelia suggested I ask if you’d have time for a quick meeting to help me get to know the department and its work better. Would you have time for a short 10- or 15-minute conversation in the next week or two?” And for a subject line, you could write “quick meeting” or even “Ophelia suggested we meet.”

{ 662 comments… read them below }

  1. JI*

    Re L5:
    We do that at my company. It’s not awkward, people expect it. I had a 30m meeting with our intern on Friday. It was fine.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      Agree. Also, LW, if your department has Outlook (or whatever) set up so you can see everyone’s calendars, I’d consider just picking a likely looking time and scheduling a 10-15 min block, with Alison’s wording in the invite. If you’re unsure if that’ll come across as presumptuous you can check with your manager about company culture on this, but where I’m from this would be considered good form because it takes the effort of comparing calendars away from the busier person and makes the process as convenient as possible for them.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this! We also have an office culture of calendars are open – just send an invite, and it’s much better than a ‘when would it be convenient – ok but I cannot do it then” back and forth.

        Do ask your manager (or a team admin) before about the culture and maybe announce to all (mailing list, meeting) that this will be happening so it rings a bell when your invite comes.

        1. sacados*

          Agree with the caveat that it can be very office culture-dependent. But my office culture is the same — typically I’ve been just booking the meeting during an open slot, give a brief explanation in the description (Hi, this is sacados, I recently joined in the X department with Lucy and wanted to set up a 1:1….”), and then also include a bit about “please feel free to move this event if it’s not a convenient time.
          And then the person (often more senior than me) can prioritize accordingly and often will just go in and reschedule the meeting if they need to bump it in favor of something more urgent, etc.
          Or sometimes might reach out briefly on slack first, but other than that it’s basically the same process.

      2. Simply the best*

        Definitely check with your manager about company called her before doing this. That would be super presumptuous in my office and probably a lot of people would just decline the meeting.

        1. Susan Calvin*

          Even if having these introductory meetings in the first place was understood to be the Done Thing? Curious!

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Yes. The senior person gets to set the time or tells the junior to do so based on her (senior’s) shared calendar.
            In my company some people would come anyway, but it would look weird to not ask.

            1. Susan Calvin*

              I get where that’s coming from, but I guess it comes down to if an outlook invite is read as “be here at this time” or as “based on your calendar, I’d like to suggest this time and place” – for me, sending an invite is very much still “asking” (rather than, say, ambushing someone in their office), just with some of the legwork already done. Kind of how it’s more polite/respectful of your manager’s time to already have a rough proposal prepared when you pitch a project, rather than looping them in at the “scribble on a napkin” phase.

              1. JB*

                I can see how it would work this way, but in my office (like Seeking’s) it’s very much the senior person who schedules things in Outlook and it does function as ‘be at this place at this time’ rather than a request. (We have had a problem with a neighboring department head spamming us with unnecessary meeting requests to ‘resolve’ an issue that belongs to her department that she just WANTS to be our problem – we don’t even decline those, we forward them to our supervisor so that she can have the other department head cancel them.)

              2. Elenna*

                Yeah, my office works the same as Susan’s – the person asking for the meeting sends a calendar invite (regardless of level) based on where the free time is on the other person’s calendar, and then the other person is free to decline or suggest a different time.

              3. Anononon*

                Presumably, the other commenters know how their own offices would reach such an Outlook invite. This isn’t like the letter where the OP didn’t want use Outlook invites in the manner you discuss, even through the general office culture was to do so. In some offices (such as mine as well), the general office culture would see such invites as presumptuous.

                1. Susan Calvin*

                  I hope I’m not coming across like I’m disputing that? Because I’m not, clearly there IS such thing as different (office) cultures and some pretty wildly varying yardsticks for politeness – I’m not trying to be combative, just illuminating how my little corner of the working world operates and why. Which is what most people come here to talk about, presumably.

              4. Koalafied*

                Yeah, as a senior person this would drive me bonkers. I’m way too busy and get far too many emails to double the number of emails associated with meetings just so I can spend precious time forever writing emails that say, “Sure, my calendar is up to date, so grab some time whenever we’re both free.” 98% of the time that’s going to be my response and will save everyone involved a lot of precious time, and for the 2% of the time I actually don’t think the meeting should be happening at all, I’m just as capable of hitting Decline and writing “I’m not sure it makes sense for us to meet about this,” in the message area as I would be of responding to an email to say “I’m not sure it makes sense for us to meet about this.” There’s a reason Outlook has these RSVP options and calls it an “invitation,” not an “order:” to save us all the time of manually doing tasks that can easily be automated.

            2. onco fonco*

              Yeah, in my experience the expectation would be for me to ask first. Then the senior person would either suggest a time or tell me to put something in their calendar – that’s when I’d go pick a time and send the invite, but not before.

      3. Simply the best*

        Definitely check with your manager about company called her before doing this. That would be super presumptuous in my office and probably a lot of people would just decline the meeting.

      4. Leigh Steele*

        Agree! We are currently all working remotely and our new hire, “Annette,” set up 15 minute video calls with our group members to introduce herself. It wasn’t awkward and was nice to have a face to put with the name on the email and voice on the Teams call.

      5. Jules the 3rd*

        Same here, Fortune 500 international tech co. I usually get at least one ‘new to the team!’ meeting each quarter, as I work with multiple teams and am seen as a good general background person. Ugh, we’ve had our finance person two years now, it’s probably time for a new one. Sigh.

      6. Yorick*

        If your company culture is one where it’ll seem presumptuous, you can mention in the request email that if they’re willing to meet with you then you’ll check their calendar and find a time they’re free

    2. Virginia Plain*

      Yes in my world is is also pretty common although it’s something one’s manager would set up, as it’s part of their/our jobs to make sure the new person knows something of how the agency works. I can understand you feeling a bit awkward cold-calling (maybe it’s because your manager doesn’t normally have to do this) but it amounts to the same thing. People often contact me saying, oh Virginia I have a new starter, could you give them 15 mins on the Pedigree Otter team’s work? And I say yes or I phone Tangerina my most experienced otter handler and say, there’s a newbie in the Stoat section, can you do your thing? It’s completely normal.
      Also you have human ego and others’ professional pride to help you – people mostly like hearing, “tell me about what you do”.

      1. UKDancer*

        I’d agree it’s very normal. I’m head of llama feeding and I had my counterpart in goat feeding email to say they’d got a new goat handler and could I find a slot to explain my work to them. I delegated it to one of the llama handlers in my team who is going to talk them through it.

        Not only does it ensure the new person understands the overlaps between the llama and the goat team, it also gives them another contact and means they have another friendly face in the company going forward.

      2. NotRealAnonForThis*

        That was my thought (based on my experience as an Intern-Herder at my previous job). As an intern herder, I actually had the (limited to being in charge of the interns) seniority to request one on ones for my interns that I wouldn’t dream of scheduling for the remainder of my 9 to 5. But that was just it: I requested it, not the interns!

        “Tell me about what you do and how you do it” is the best thing that I ever learned from an intern. So simple a statement, but it works!

    3. Allonge*

      Yes! Maybe one thing to consider is to ask for meetings with smaller teams if such a thing exists instead of one person at a time (so, for teapot handle painters, teapot handle attachers etc.)? If you can get 3-4 people in the same 30 minute meeting, it’s a win-win time-wise and explaining who does what also makes more sense in some cases.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I would’t do this – it’s more efficient for you, but less efficient for them (30 mins instead of 10-15). But think about what order you set up the meetings – I start at the bottom of the org chart, so with higher people I can say I’ve already spoken to their reports George, Harris and Montgomery about their roles, so would like them to talk about the bigger picture and they don’t need to cover the basics of the team’s role.

        1. Allonge*

          It’s not necessarily less efficient for them – if I have the whole team (I am thinking of 3-4 people, not 20) for 30 minutes, they know what has been said already and can make sure the new person has a full picture instead of going ok, but Paul talked about this? and can you ask Kieshia about that? And they can easily follow up with important points if someone misses something.

          That said, it’s probably better to ask in any case. Also I am in a super collaborative environment, so that probably has an impact too – no processes are handled by one person and nobody is responsible for a whole area on their own.

          1. Koalafied*

            Yeah it definitely depends. In my office the more removed you are from the role the more you batch up the meet-n-greets. So someone you’ll be working very closely with on a daily basis you’d do a 1-to-1, but like, a team for whom you will occasionally interact in a particular/standardized way, you’d just meet with them as a group. You wouldn’t even necessarily make the meeting longer as a result – the idea being that your interactions with each member of the group are 90% the same, you only really need to understand the broad strokes of what their team does, and who should be your point of contact for different types of requests handled by their team. Particularly for someone who is brand new and doesn’t understand their own job well enough yet to appreciate the finer distinctions and is likely to forget a lot of it because that’s just how brains work.

            I’m also at a very large org where it’s impractical to expect people to have a really nuanced understanding of the 20+ different roles in a department other than their own, especially as job duties evolve and get shuffled around over time. If someone outside the department brings you something that isn’t in your purview, you just redirect it to the person in your department who it should have gone to, with a note that “Going forward, Fergus is your contact for X type of request.”

            (I also hate to say it, because I hate how many meetings are part of my office’s culture, and it’s a minor thing – but the efficiency thing does come into play on the other side when you’ve taken a different 20 minutes out of each team member’s day and now if their team needs to have an internal meeting, you’ve left them less time when they’re all free.)

          2. Yorick*

            Yes, if someone outside my unit asked for a meeting, I’d rather have one with my entire small team. That way I’d know I wasn’t going over the same stuff somebody else told them.

    4. John Smith*

      This has only just started where I work. Previously, new starters were taken round the building and introduced to managers like some kind of prize horse in a show being showed off to punters. I can’t tell you how awkward it was, especially after the third time (yes, I was introduced to people 3 times even when I explained I had already been shown round before).

      I don’t see what’s wrong with an email to all (either from new starter or preferably the manager) with a friendly invite to say hello when passing by (sans pandemic).

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        They do a walk around like that where I work. It is really nice, kind of a low stakes way of meeting most of the office and the person introducing us includes info about how our teams connect (or don’t).

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          We do this, too, and it’s helpful so my first contact with the new head-of-something in IT is not calling them with a hair-on-fire emergency.

        2. Yorick*

          I didn’t get a walk around but I’ve seen other people do it. It’s pretty weird though because they didn’t get much of an explanation of what I do, or even what my team does. They just saw me and saw where I sit.

      2. Zephy*

        At OldJob, I was walked around *and* my photo was shared with all staff in advance of my start so people recognized me as I was being introduced to them. (They took photos upon hire for the org chart that was posted on the wall outside HR; they’d send that photo around to all staff with a message like “please welcome Zephy, our newest llama herder,” and if it was a manager and not a new rank-and-file pleb they included a blurb about their professional history.) It was unsettling for sure, but also not the most egregious thing about that company culture.

      3. Daisy*

        But I think what’s being talked about here is a touch more than just saying hello – it’s to understand what different people do and how the different parts of the organisation fit together.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          Yup– I did this when I started my current job. I work in a large organization and have to work with several departments. My boss gave me a list of people to talk to; he made some initial introductions, but it was much more involved than just saying hello.

    5. Juniper*

      At every company I’ve worked at, an admin or the new employee’s manager sets these up. Ideally, we provide them with their intro plan a week or two before they start so they can plan around their meeting schedule and have some information on the person they’re meeting with. Is this not the norm?

      1. Perfectly Particular*

        Sounds like your company has great on-boarding! I have worked at a place like that, but where I am now, it’s every man for himself. My last manager didn’t even give me a list of people to meet with, she gave me a key name, and after I met with that person, I added a few more, etc.

        1. Juniper*

          That sounds so stressful! I actually think our on-boarding process could be improved further, so its discouraging to hear that at a lot of companies they don’t even do the bare minimum.

      2. Zephy*

        What an amazingly organized system!

        I thought OldJob had it together when they developed a 10/30/60/90-day training rubric, basically lists of tasks a new hire should be able to complete correctly with no or minimal help after X number of days on the job, with the idea that they should be 100% up to speed and able to do the job they were hired to do more or less independently by the end of their 90-day probation. It gave a framework to both the new person and the person training them, which was incredibly helpful. I wish they’d had it in place when I started – they had me start in a whole other department for my first 2-3 shifts before I even got to meet the team I would be working on. (The other department was the call center, and it was a decent crash course in the general hierarchy and flow of operations, but I could probably have gleaned the same information with a few 10-15 minute chats on my first day…!)

        1. Juniper*

          Oh, I really like that! I don’t know that it’s something we could implement in the same format, but having a training rubric is a great idea.

          1. Zephy*

            Yeah. The 10-day rubric was ultra-basic stuff like check phone messages*, look up records in our database software, pull end-of-day reports, count down the cash drawer. From there it built into answering phone messages, creating records, processing financial transactions, conducting client meetings, reconciling reports – doing all of that with less and less help and scaffolding over time, very much an “I do, we do, you do” format (day 1-10 I do/you watch, day 10-30 I do/you help, day 30-60 you do/I help, day 60-90 you do/I watch). There was also an animal-handling component which was less strictly time-based, since that just takes practice and depends on the animals as well as the staffer, but the general expectation was that by 90 days you knew enough to know whether to ask for help with that piece of it.

            (*in our specific case we generally didn’t answer the department phone–didn’t have anyone who had time to sit by the phone all day in case it rang–but we had a policy of pulling messages about every two hours and returning calls, and the responsibility for that rotated daily among the staff. A brand new person might not be able to answer questions from callers, but they can certainly be taught how to pull messages off the phone and take them to someone else.)

        1. Juniper*

          Agreed! It lays the groundwork for how the new employee perceives the company, the level of overall organization, and the systems they rely on to keep you safe and able to do your job effectively.

      3. WantonSeedStitch*

        We have something similar at my workplace, but we haven’t always been so lucky! Things were very different when I was hired way back when, and our onboarding has only gotten as good as it is within the past year or so. I feel like people being hired now are really lucky. Then again, back when I was hired, every time we hired someone new in my office, we had a welcome breakfast with pastries and coffee just for our office. Now we just do a reception quarterly with all the new people and everyone in the whole building present, which is very crowded and probably a bit overwhelming for the newbies! (Haven’t actually had one of these since COVID started, obviously.)

        1. Juniper*

          A welcome breakfast is a fantastic idea. Of course COVID has really messed with these types of get-togethers, but it’s an easy, low-stakes way to introduce and welcome the new person.

      4. Koalafied*

        Probably not the norm, but a good way to go about it. When I bring a new employee on board I schedule their m&gs ahead of time, along with blocks of time for when I’ll be training them on a task, and blocks of time when I’ll give them some time to read things (employee handbook, policy documents, depending on the role things like a style guide or examples of previous work of the type they’ll be creating, etc). It’s been 9 years since I started a new role but I still acutely remember how exhausting it is for the first week just because there’s so much new information to take in, and as an introvert I also am very aware of how draining it can be for some people to have back-to-back-to-back meetings, all with new people, in a single day.

        By planning out the first 3-5 days of onboarding ahead of time, I can make sure I’m giving them a good balance of meetings vs trainings vs reading time each of their first few days instead of marathoning through just one type of activity all day long – and it also helps me to plan ahead for when I’ll be actively engaged in a training session, when I might need to be available if the reading prompts a question for me, and when my new employee is extremely unlikely to need me because they’ll be in a meeting with others. In the 1-2 weeks before their start date I’m better able to assess how much bandwidth I’ll have for my own work and can make sure I don’t end up booked in meetings and completely unavailable to the new hire for large chunks of the day their first week.

        That said, even within my own org I see plenty of onboardings that are much more fly by the seat of the manager’s pants – none of what I do is a standard company policy.

        1. Juniper*

          This is a really good point — when a role is training-heavy (as opposed to more on-the-job learning) the first few weeks and even months can be exhausting for both the new employee and manager. Seems like you go a step beyond by making a conscious effort to plan your own schedule accordingly. I don’t think many managers keep this in mind.

    6. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. It’s not strange at all. I wish new hires at my company, and others I’ve been at, would do much more of this. At least for key players the new hire will be working with/talking to from time to time.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        Meant to say that obviously the person’s manager would suggest a list of people since a new hire isn’t going to know everyone they should be meeting with.

    7. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, where I work it’s completely normal to basically give new hires a complete tour of all the departments (in this case that amounts to about 40 people. It wouldn’t be doable at a bigger organization).

    8. ThatGirl*

      I started a new job in January and had a zillion virtual meet & greets the first few weeks – and now I’m doing them with my team for new hires and interns!

    9. Lacey*

      I’ve never worked anywhere that expected it, but in all but one of those companies there was a super thorough process for new hires to be introduced to the company.

    10. Smithy*

      It’s not awkward and really common – however the one thing I’d flag is that it might be worth emailing your manager to ask how long these meetings are typically scheduled for. I’ve worked at places where these types of meetings were often scheduled for an hour as well as 30 minutes. If anything 10-15 would be seen as oddly short.

      This is clearly going to vary based on how many people there are and what’s the norm at any given workplace – but that’s the only reason why I mention asking the manager.

    11. Jubilance*

      Yeah this is super standard at my company. We call them Get To Know You meetings, so putting that or GTKY in the meeting invite is a signal and folks are good with it. Also 30mins is extremely standard at my company, anything less than that would be looked at weird.

    12. GraceRN*

      Chiming in to say that’s a fairly common thing, and a suggestion: there’s no need to psych yourself out by thinking of it as “cold-calling.” It’s really not. It’s not like you’re approaching potential clients you don’t know to solicit their business. In this case, you’re requesting a meeting for an already established work-related purpose, which is to get to know your team members so that future collaborations might go more smoothly.

    13. NYC Taxi*

      #5: As a manager of a large dept I’m genuinely thrilled when people put meetings on my calendar because with so many things going on it would be easy for me to forget about setting up a meet and greet with a new person. If I need to change the time, no big deal.

    14. MapleHill*

      Totally agree! I think this has a lot to do with the company culture. We are very people & team oriented, so getting to know people and build relationships is encouraged. We have new TM’s do this, although usually the manager provides a list of people across different departments some of whom may be important contacts for your job. You might ask your manager if people will be expecting this- is this common at your company or something just she does? And you can email people about setting up a meeting and then ask if you can send them a calendar invite at an open time (not everyone keeps their calendar updated). If we haven’t already discussed a time, I just include a note in the invite that says “if this time doesn’t work, please feel free to propose a new time.” They can do that either as a message to you or via the Outlook calendar. I think sending a 30 minute invite is fine. It could take less time, but better that than running over time.

      The purpose of the meetings (here at least) is to understand what their roles entail because that’s handy to know, how their role might connect with yours and also build some rapport, maybe find something in common personally or professionally.

    15. Student*

      OP, think about it in terms of introducing yourself to your new colleagues, and a chance to start figuring out what you can offer them and what they can do for you. Make a (short!) pitch about yourself, your role, your skills, interesting bits of background. Ask the colleague about what they do, about their own background. Ask about how they have interacted with your role in the past. If you see some ground to work together, ask about the issues, problems, etc. that you may be able to help them with. If they mainly provide services to your department, ask them how you can be a good customer and not a PITA customer.

  2. tra la la*

    #4; That is… not normal for academia and if I got flowers after an interview I’d be wondering what it meant too!

    Do you know anyone at the school who isn’t involved with the search that you could ask?

    1. Aggretsuko*

      Flowers isn’t normal for anybody when most of us can’t even get a call back after an interview.

      But that said, it’s from the committee? Not like, one lonely horny dude? Maybe not QUITE as bad….

      1. tra la la*

        Well, Alison’s caveat was that she couldn’t speak for academia. Maybe if it were for something high up like provost…? But not at all common for a faculty-level job.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Alison is always a little extra-grumpy about weird stuff in academia. As someone who’s gone back and forth between academia and the private industry I tend to see it a bit differently in that academia has its own style of dysfunctions different from the private industry, largely due to incentives and rules, and there are other sectors that are similarly different (in the US: federal jobs, military, K-12 education for starters). If you’re used to the patterns of dysfunction in the private industry then academia looks really weird, which is understandable.

          This said, in the institution that employs me there’s also been a push towards being extra nice around COVID-related special situations. I would interpret it as the provost’s office, or maybe the chancellor’s, deciding to make a gesture that basically means “we know that academic job searching is stressful, and COVID makes it extra ridiculous – so this is not how this would ideally run, and we can’t really do anything about it, but at least please know that we know”.

          But I wouldn’t see this as all that academia specific – my partner’s employer (a startup headquartered in SF) has done tons of extra wellness days, FedExing schwag to various employees etc etc. They wouldn’t do it around hiring probably because they have a lot of permanent remote employees (including my partner), so remote interviewing is normal for them. But they make a lot of small gestures that try to signal “we see your extra stress and try to be responsive to it”.

          1. BubbleTea*

            I don’t think Alison is grumpy about academia, I think she is baffled and sometimes mildly amused by how different it is from other fields. She’s being honest that she hasn’t got any experience in that area and that years of running this site have shown that there are field-specific factors in play sometimes. Engineering seems to be another.

            1. AGD*

              Academia is bizarre. One of the big reasons why I read this site is that my career gives me a really poor view of workplace norms outside postsecondary campuses.

              1. ampersand*

                Ditto. Academia is its own thing, and I’ve never heard of flowers after an interview. Who has the budget for that even?!

                1. Anastasia*

                  Keep in mind, usually for a search, they’re flying candidates in, paying for hotel, taking them out to dinner, etc. With virtual interviews, none of that is happening, so ‘send flowers’ is cheap by comparison.

            2. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Yeah, I’m not sure what’s coming across as grumpy. Academia is quite different and also outside my expertise, so I’m caveating my advice with that acknowledgement. Otherwise I just couldn’t answer letters about academia at all (which is an option, of course, but I thought this one was particularly interesting).

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                Sorry about the word choice! I didn’t mean it really negatively – my smile didn’t come though the commenting feature. I do think that you tend to have little patience with the absurdities of academia. And I don’t think you’re wrong at all, it’s just that I’ve traveled around so much and mostly felt as an outsider in *any* work environment that I don’t feel much different about capitalism in general.

                FWIW, your advice is super helpful for academia workers as well.

          2. Tedious Cat*

            Trust me, Alison is actually not that grumpy about academia. Take it from someone who actually *is* that grumpy about academia.

            1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

              If anything, she’s overly optimistic!
              Someone who worked in higher ed Admin for seven years, mostly loved it,and still hopes to never ever go back.

              1. Uranus Wars*

                This is where I am on it! The over optimism as well as the desire to never return. I spent about a dozen years in enrollment services and learned a lot; like you mostly loved it. And I have definitely turned down any inkling of recruitment back into it.

            2. madge*

              Haha, this was going to be my comment, nearly verbatim.

              To the LW’s point, there was one department I was in ages ago that sent flowers after interviews for certain positions (Arts & Sciences professors, not Provosts, VCs, etc.). They were a bit odd anyway, though…

            3. Junior Assistant Peon*

              I’ve been to grad school. Academia is a twisted, sadistic, toxic environment. The worst companies I’ve worked for were great by comparison.

        2. Pam Poovey*

          I have a relative who is in higher admin in academia (think dean and provost level) and afaik he’s never received flowers after an interview. Maybe something as a welcome when he started the job, but not that early in the process.

      2. Aunt Bee’s Pickles*

        The flower sending is just odd. The only possible rationale I can think of would be if LW was maybe interviewing with a department like botany or horticulture or something else plant related. Even then, its weird.

        1. quill*

          Maybe plant care is part of the job duties?

          I mean. One of the departments at my college was passing a copralite around when I was still in undergrad. Colleges get weird.

        2. ErinWV*

          My guess: interviews usually have a large budget (for travel, accommodations, dinner with the committee, etc.) which did not get spent due to the whole thing happening virtually.

          But it’s the end of the fiscal year (at least it is at my institution, which runs July-June) and they want to make sure they spend up their budget. Hence, beautiful floral arrangements for (probably) all the candidates.

      3. KayDeeAye*

        Eh, it definitely sounds very unusual to me, but coming from a committee, it actually sounds – dare I say it – kind of nice. And it’s a plant – it’s not like it’s a bouquet of roses with a card saying “Will you be my Valentine?”

    2. Retired Prof*

      Second this. Our hiring budget is very tight and I can’t imagine spending money on flowers. Plus…it’s weird. Did you get any weird vibes from the search committee chair? Because that’s probably who ordered the flowers.

      1. Pippa K*

        Yeah, I also can’t imagine being allowed to spend money on anything like this! Maybe it’s just one oddball’s well-intentioned new idea, though. Alison’s right that we’re a “strange enclave,” but this sounds weird even for us.

        1. Zootopia*

          Maybe I’ve worked at my university too long because this doesn’t even register on my radar as weird. My last department would spend a fortune wining and dining the candidates that make it to the all-day marathon interview/campus visit stage. I assumed the all-day zoom was replacing this step and the flower arrangement is because they can’t take the candidate out for a $400 lunch or any of the other wooing activities. Yes, it’s a private university.

          1. Pippa K*

            I work for a private university too, but we would be absolutely flogged if we spent anything like hundreds on a lunch. (The athletic department could get away with it, though!) And individual gifts for job candidates, as opposed to a guest speaker or someone being hosted like that, is just not something I’ve ever heard of in academia. I hope it doesn’t become a practice – there’s little benefit and a lot of ways it could go wrong.

            1. tra la la*

              Same here. As far as I’m concerned the onsite is about seeing the area, the university, the workplace, and meeting the people — not about being wined and dined. Flowers don’t really make up for missing that.

            2. Yorick*

              They don’t always spend hundreds on lunch, but they DO spend some money on lunches and dinners. So the flowers are replacing that aspect, especially since they probably have some money in their hiring budget that doesn’t get spent on a bunch of Zoom interviews.

          2. mskyle*

            Yeah, this was my thought too! Sure flowers are unusual, but when I’ve interviewed for professional positions at universities I’ve always gotten at least a nice lunch and often dinner too if I had to travel to the interview (not $400 on *my* meal, but certainly hundreds of dollars between my meal and the meals of the people dining with me). I remember at my last academic interview (admittedly 10 years ago) I was taken out for a nice dinner with two of the people on the search committee and I’m sure the bill came to a couple of hundred dollars (and the person paying was only allowed to leave a 15% tip per university policy, so it’s not like this place was particularly generous – a private university, but a small one with no endowment to speak of). They also put me up for the night and paid for my transport to and from the university.

            I remember similar treatment when I interviewed at a (large, well-funded) public university – certainly they paid for my flights, a full day of meals, my hotel, and transport to and from the airport.

            So while I’ve never heard of sending a flower arrangement to a job candidate, it doesn’t strike me as all that weird in this context!

            1. Your Weird Uncle*

              Agree wholly with this. I work at a public university, not terribly well-funded and under tight budget restrictions, but when it comes to faculty candidates, almost anything goes. If the department searching has enough available in their alumni discretionary funds, they get a lot of leeway. Again, nothing I’ve experienced in my roles, but I could see it happening.

              1. Coyote Tango*

                Yeah my first thought was that this must be a faculty candidate. We can really roll out the red carpet for them and recently hiring is extra difficult because the real estate market here is beyond nuts and people don’t want to risk leaving places they’re already at where they may have seniority if more serious cuts are going to be made.

          3. metadata minion*

            From my academic background, it’s weird, but in a “wow, they’re kind of extra at this place” way, not a “WTF is this??” way, especially if it’s for a higher-level and/or very niche position.

            Given the budget problems nearly every university has due to the pandemic this is edging into WTF territory, but on the other hand budget streams are weird and if they normally budget to fly people in from all over they may actually have some extra money to send candidates flowers.

          4. Esmeralda*

            Wining and dining is typical, because depts are given a budget for that and they want to spend it. Also, for places that are not known as foodie-towns or cultural-meccas or young professionals will not feel stifled places, showing off the best on offer really can be helpful.

            Last hire I chaired that had money for travel etc, I made sure we spent extra money to put candidates in the boutique hotel right next to campus and on a fairly lively street, as opposed to the cheaper hotel two miles away in the middle of a suburban housing development where you could walk to exactly nothing besides houses. Because I wanted people to *want* to accept an offer. And we went to an excellent place for dinner (within walking distance of the hotel) and a fun tasty place for lunch (also within walking distance of the hotel).

            If you’re not Big Name Number One dept, it helps to splash out a little money on things like this.

          5. Anon.*

            I wonder if there is a budget for courting candidates? I don’t know academia, but I do know government, where there is a “use it or lose it” mentality towards budget items.

            1. Nesprin*

              Academia does tend to have rollover for wining and dining funds. The biggest thing is a failed faculty search is literally hundreds of professor hours between hiring committees, interviews, etc. Having your top three who you fly out fall thru is like failing to spend out your budget in government.

          6. PT*

            This was my thought. My husband did the academic job market and his flights alone were so expensive because we were living on the West Coast at the time and all the schools hiring were back East, I could see a search committee saying “Well we saved so much money on flights, hotels, breakfasts, lunches, and dinners, let’s just send everyone a plant.”

          7. Butterfly Counter*

            I was going to suggest this as well.

            Even public universities fly out the finalists, pay for a hotel and multiple meals as the candidates get to know the department. My guess is that this university is seeing that they’re not spending the money they normally would have on the candidates for the nice things they get when they come out and decided to throw in a different kind of perk in sending the flowers.

        2. Oxford Comma*

          At my university, we have sometimes have to fight to be able to take out a candidate who is in from out of town to dinner the night before. There is no way we would be allowed to send floral arrangements. Also, it would be profoundly weird for us to do so.

          1. tra la la*

            Money is so tight at my state university that I can’t imagine them using that savings towards something like flowers. Mileage may vary at a private university I guess.

            1. Anastasia*

              I feel like if they’re hiring THIS year, in particular, their budget isn’t THAT tight. Or, perhaps, they’re figuring that with the job market like this, they’ll be able to snag higher-tier candidates than usual…

      2. Seal*

        Same here. I work for a public university and suspect sending flowers or any other gifts to candidates might actually be illegal or at least very much against university policy.

        1. Esmeralda*

          If your dept has unrestricted funds, then they might have that money. That’s what we use for things like lunch for the staff (back when we could eat together). Or it might be approved in their hiring budget. But it’s definitely weird.

          1. AES*

            SOBBING at the thought of an unrestricted budget. I had to get approval for every single purchase this year, including for stuff like paper for the copiers. The thought of sending flowers to job candidates…whooo. (Underfunded state university for context.)

      3. tamarack and fireweed*

        Well the university would normally at least house the candidate and pay for travel plus a few meals. So my guess is that someone said “given that we’re not spending money on flying in the finalists can we do something nice for them?”. I wouldn’t read the tea leaves over it.

        1. Well...*

          This was my thought exactly. I recently interviewed and it was 12 and half hours from start to finish. Taking out small meal breaks, it was easily over 10 hours on Zoom. Super gruelling. Also I was in a different time zone so I was going well into time I should have been sleeping. I think they just feel bad that it’s not a real campus visit and are expressing it in a weird way.

        2. Mallory Janis Ian*

          That’s what it sounds like to me. Not to do with hiring, but I know that we’ve made some extra expenditures in my university department, that we normally wouldn’t do, because we have so much extra money this year from not using any of our catering and travel budgets. That money is forfeited and returned to the college at the end of the fiscal year, so my department head has been spending it on: pre-paying for any conferences and travel that will happen after the fiscal year-end; stocking up on meeting snacks and beverages; getting new monitors, keyboards, iPads, etc. for some faculty who need it; having our glass offices frosted with opaque privacy film; buying new chair mats for all the offices; getting an ice-maker and a beverage cooler; etc.

      4. Weekend Please*

        If I had to guess, they have a specific budget for hiring and aren’t spending any of it this year because everything is virtual. They may have a system where if they don’t spend the budget they get less next year so they came up with an idea to still spend some of the money to protect their future hiring budget. It’s weird but I have seen that type of thing happen.

        1. Later Gator*

          Yep! This is true for my academic dept. Also, my boss asked us, in a wave of hiring last month, how we can make people feel welcomed/part of the team from the interview–this is 100% something she would do.

          1. Waitingtohear*

            Letter-writer here. This is what I keep going back to. I know the department is one of real kindness. But that’s not necessarily true of the university as a whole.

          2. Mallory Janis Ian*

            I could see my department head doing something like this if we were hiring and not able to bring people to campus. When I was hired, he had flowers delivered to me at my desk on my first day of work; he did the same when we hired another staff member later. He also sends flowers to members of the main office staff for our birthdays and on administrative professionals day. He makes sure we make a care package of snacks and beverages for our work study student during finals time each semester (which we do by buying snacks for a “meeting” and then packaging some of them into a gift bag. He’s always thinking of ways to make a kind gesture within the plausibly-allowable university rules.

        2. Violet Fox*

          This wouldn’t shock me. We have to redo a lot of our department budget due to covid, but we were lucky enough that we could move money around within the department. It turns out that travel academic budgets are *a lot* of money.

      5. HigherEdAdminista*

        I am wondering if meals out are a traditional part of their hiring practice and this is something they are doing to replace that. Where I work, faculty in the department and the interview committee take all the finalist candidates out to lunch or dinner after their interviews as a way to get to know them more, and have them get to know their potential colleagues. Perhaps this department feels they need to do something to replace this in terms of showcasing that they are a nice place to work? Or perhaps they have a certain budget for the interview process, and if they don’t spend it they will lose it and get less next time when they will actually need it (a very common issue), so they are doing this?

      6. Waitingtohear*

        Letter-writer here. Search committee chair is a friend (small specialized area).
        And this is for a faculty position at a publicly-funded university.

        1. Oy with the poodles*

          I’m at a public university and currently chairing a search. We try very hard to treat our candidates well and we definitely wracked our brains trying to mimic what we do face-to-face. I could see us sending plants to those who interviewed. I would interpret it as a “nice thing” from the university, at least in terms of intent. Good luck with the job search!

        2. Nancy*

          Your friend probably bought and paid for it herself because she knows you. That would be my assumption if I were in your situation. Or the department had extra funds they needed to use (budgets can and do get cut if not all money allocated isn’t used).

          Good luck in your faculty search.

      7. academicchick*

        I cannot imagine an academic budget allowing for that nor can I imagine any of the busy busybodies in academia being that thoughtful. It’s all about content and no frills typically.

    3. T*

      LW#1 This question is very similar (almost identical) to some national polling questions realeased.withjn the past month or so. I this it is very likely the employer is trying to rule OUT insurrectionists or extremists in general.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        No idea if they’re looking for employees who agree, or want to avoid them, but both are entirely plausible.

        And both would have me walking way from the interview immediately.

        1. Foof*

          The big question; did lw answer no, and did they still get a callback? I was wondering if this was some strange weed out survey as well.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        I’d be tempted to answer oh Hell, yes! to all of the questions in that vein just to score an interview. I want to see the squirrels behind the screen.

      3. Dana*

        Yeah, Alison and the writer both sounded like they were assuming the employer was looking for people who would answer “yes,” but that sounds implausible to me. It seems more likely that these questions are intended to discover whether you’re the sort of unhinged loon who is at a higher risk of engaging in some sort of workplace violence.
        That said, given how offputting it obviously is, it’s not a good approach.

      4. Tasha*

        I agree with this comment! They don’t want crazy people working for them, they aren’t trying to find people who are sympathetic to insurrection.

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          Or else they DO want them, which is a lot worse! I’d LOVE a follow-up to this one, and wonder what a quick check of Glassdoor would reveal about the company. At any rate, those don’t sound like good, professional questions and I’d have crossed that company off my list of potential employers, too!

        2. Elliott*

          Yeah, I also got the sense that they’re probably trying to weed out people who have extreme views or who might have negative attitudes about people they’d be working with.

          When companies do support beliefs similar to those, I think they usually soften them a bit. “Millennials should stop complaining!” is a lot more…on the nose than something like “Our society doesn’t value work ethic like it used to,” or what have you.

      5. wee beastie*

        Omg. My reaction was what the actual F?! These are such leading questions. It is ugly and I immediately feel defensive plates planting on my shoulders reading just this one question.

      6. Cloudyday*

        I just googled “hospitality score” that was in the screenshot and it looks like it’s some kind of company that makes screening tools for hiring that include personality tests. I suspect the purpose of the questions is to weed out people with extreme views or antisocial personality traits and that agreeing probably wouldn’t have been seen as a positive. It’s kind of weird and creepy to ask those kinds of questions but on the other hand I can think of a few former colleagues I would have liked to see weeded out by this sort of test!

    4. another_scientist*

      I could totally see how the thinking goes from ‘ugh these virtual interviews are really no match for bringing the candidate in for a proper visit and buying them dinner’ (as is the norm), via ‘we should at least send them a little something as a gesture of acknowledgement that this interview mode is out of the ordinary’ and then between sensibly skipping University branded swag, not knowing food or drink restrictions, finally landing on everyone likes flowers.

      1. Dizzy_Belle*

        I 100% agree with another_scientist; it sounds like something they’ve come up with as a nice touch to substitute for the more personal interactions they usually have with candidates, that probably include at least one lunch and one dinner, as well as hotel expenses etc. Looking at it cynically perhaps they’re trying to make sure they spend money on these interviews so that some administrator doesn’t say, hey, these virtual interviews saved us so much money, let’s do all our interviews virtually from now on.

      2. Some Of The Time*

        That’s my thought, I’d love to know who the company is (or maybe a clue). I have a hard time thinking even a right-wing organization would phrase questions differently.

    5. Artemesia*

      This is really weird and even more so in academia where there is no money for this sort of thing — if someone’s relative dies, co-workers have to pony up if flowers will be sent. So you have stumbled into something just odd; I would not interpret it in any way but ‘this place sends people a plant when they interview.’ Maybe the chairman of the board is a florist.

        1. Artemesia*

          True but the money in my experience is not unrestricted e.g. if we interviewed a local candidate we couldn’t buy them a fancier dinner because we didn’t have to buy a plane ticket — all the ridiculous restrictions remained. People are probably right though in that someone go this approved as a COVID thing — we can’t wine and dine, so we will do this.

      1. Coyote Tango*

        It probably varies tremendously by department. At our public university, our department was able to do things like this and we sent small “gift baskets” to our faculty candidates that had a couple of small pieces of university swag, a gift card to DoorDash for a virtual lunch, and a portfolio about life around here.

    6. Violet Fox*

      It’s not something we typically do where I work, at least as far as I know. The one of the only times we really give flowers are when someone finishes their PhD, and it’s part of the general celebration, along with things like cake and Prosecco, and before the dinner usually. These days it’s one of the main things until celebrations can be more of a thing again.

      That said, all of this can vary a lot from institution to institution.

    7. DieTrying*

      Nth-ing this. As an academic who has worked at some of the more munificent private universities, I’ve never come across such a gesture. I’d feel seriously weirded out by it — even though I love plants! Consider perhaps reaching out to a mentor about it, but I think it’s safe to assume that it’s terra incognita even for academics :)

    8. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I’m picturing someone telling a new admin “send the standard thank you”–but the only thank yous they’d been walked through yet were for a high-visibility conference presenter or visiting dignitary.

      1. LifeBeforeCorona*

        When I worked for an Old Workplace we had a strict hierarchy of how much money could be spent on gifts for visitors. Heads of delegations got $200 and lunch in the C-suite dining room. Next level folks got $100 and lunch in a decent restaurant. It went down incrementally with the support staff being treated to either a catered lunch or the cafeteria depending on numbers. I loved looking for unique souvenirs that stayed under budget and didn’t look tacky. Maple syrup or maple candy/cookies was always a good choice because we lived in the maple syrup region and I knew where I could find the good inexpensive stuff.

    9. feeling old*

      I’m not in academia but I have a friend who is. It’s been a number of years since she was looking for a new job but I remember being amused and impressed by her description of the process. She is a professor in a niche field and known world wide as an expert in the field. She had universities world wide trying to woo her. I don’t remember her talking about flowers but I’m pretty sure she got a fruit basket.

    10. Jack Straw*

      It depends on your reason to reach out to the search committee. Unless you have another offer waiting and you need to know where you stand at Plant University to make the decision, you’re just being nosey/curious–neither of which will help your candidacy.

      I absolutely get the dire curiosity as to why and how and what does it all mean! but if there isn’t really a reason do ask, don’t.

    11. Prof. Kat*

      Another academic chiming in to say this is bizarre! I’ve applied to, worked at, and been on search committees at two different schools (both state universities; one large, one small), and I’ve never heard of this kind of thing happening. I was even on a dean search committee in grad school, the type where they hired an outside headhunting firm and the interviews were held in an airport hotel, and I’m pretty sure those candidates didn’t get flowers, either. Go figure.

    12. iliketoknit*

      I agree it’s not normal for a lot of the run-of-the-mill academic faculty/staff positions, but I could see it happening for top administrators (the kind of positions where outside recruiting companies get involved).

      1. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I could see it for a faculty position where the candidate was a superstar grad student / postdoc with great publications, and has potential to be a famous bigshot bringing in lots of funding.

    13. Student*

      Former academic here – not normal! I would consider it a yellow flag.

      May be a new admin assistant who has too much time on their hands or weird priorities, which is… mostly harmless.

      If you are a woman, it may be a signal that you’re going to see some sexist BS.

      It could be that somebody on the committee has the hots for you and has already decided to marry you in their head (I have experienced this; I ran the other way). That’s uncommon, but not good; you’re going to need to find a strategy to work around your would-be knight in shining armor for as long as you work there.

      More common, but far worse: or the committee is awkwardly overdoing their sales pitch to women by doing “things women like” because they are desperate to recruit women to get their diversity stats up. It’s normally a good thing to recruit women to improve your institution’s diversity when needed, but going way weird or way overboard are a sign of desperation. The desperation is coming because they’ve either: gotten a very bad rep that they know they now need to overcome; they can’t retain any women they recruit due to horrible work conditions; or they are on some quota from somebody they have to obey, but they resent this and are going to make sure you know it every day of this job. I’ve experienced this too, though not in the exact form of flower arrangements – unusual signing bonuses based only on gender, aggressive recruitment that tries to appeal to (often ham-handed) “women things” instead of attempting to appeal to me as a person or professional.

    14. Yorick*

      At one faculty interview several years before COVID, the department gave me a gift bag with a bunch of branded stuff like a mug, pack of post-its, pen, etc. That’s different than sending flowers, but not waaay different.

    15. Anon Y. Mouse*

      I wonder if they’re looking at it as something like “we’d normally spend money on meals with this candidate with an all day interview. Since we’re not doing that with a virtual all day, we decided to do this with that money instead” ?

      I could see that being the logic. Trying to do something nice to make up for not springing for a nice meal(s)

      1. Urban Prof*

        I’m an academic who has chaired several search committees, and I am betting you are exactly right, Anon Y. Mouse.
        I could even see my department doing this if we had been interviewing during the pandemic. We have a substantial budget for hiring, and without the lunches and dinners and hotels and flights for three candidates, we’d be looking for something nice to spend it on that signals to candidates that even though they’re not getting the red-carpet treatment in person, we are really appreciative of the time and effort they’ve put into their application and interview.

    16. Anastasia*

      I don’t think it’s that weird! I’m not an academic myself, but my husband is; after his most recent interview (he got the job, yay! – and it’s tenure-track, too!) they sent him a gift basket. I might think it was strange after an in-person interview, but these were virtual interviews… normally an academic interview, they’ll take you out to dinner, etc., as part of the interview process, so I think during Covid some universities have been sending gifts, as a sort of substitute for that.

  3. SoloKid*

    OP #5
    I’ve been in my role for over a decade and had many new hire orientations! Subjects like “new hire meet and greet” work fine. Most people are happy to meet others and give them their POV of the lay of the land.

    As for “onboarding has been mostly self-driven and not particularly well organized”, this is your chance to shine and create a document of what you find most useful as you get up to speed.

    1. Artemesia*

      This. Give some thought to what you want to know about this place and make real use of the meet and greets. Go in with 3 questions that you hope the person you talk to can answer to better understand the place or whatever, so that when this is done you know some people, have impressed some people and know a bit more about how the organization works.

      1. TootsNYC*

        great advice, both of these.

        Some questions (if you’re the more experienced employee, you should answer these even if the newbie doesn’t ask):
        -how would your role/department and my role/department interact? What would you most need from me?
        -what’s the most valuable thing your role brings to the business? (not as a challenge, but as a way to learn)
        -What the biggest challenge for your role?
        -What’s the biggest project coming up?

        1. Scandinavian Vacationer*

          Also, I found that orientation/meet + greet connections are sometimes better after 6 months or so on the job. Then you have an outline of how the different job functions work (or may not work) together. I’ve also asked for “Part 2” meetings in my first year, to clarify my initial understandings.

  4. Lady Glittersparkles*

    Post #1 – not that I think it’s ok to ask those questions, but does anyone else wonder if they’re trying to weed out people who have insurrectionist- type views? It seems at least possible…

    1. Richard*

      I had the same thought. It’s equally likely that they’re weeding out people who say “Strongly Agree” as those who say “Strongly Disagree.”

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        I love that kind of question because it is never clear what these ”traditional / correct / all-right-thinking-people-naturally-agree” values are. They’re never specified clearly. It’s never ”would you use force to ensure that unwed mothers are made to have their offspring placed for adoption?” (for example). It’s never ”would you INSIST on prayer meetings before the work day commences?”. No… it’s just a given that ”we” all know what these traditional correct values are, don’t we?

        It winds me up endlessly, so I’d 100% self-select out. ”I STRONGLY DISAGREE… I think we join the anarchists and vote to foment insurrection Crusades-style until all decent people are vanquished”.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        I wouldn’t say equally likely. It’s not an appropriate question, so it’s probably more likely to be asked by an employer whose already holds pretty extreme views.

        1. TechWorker*

          Tbh I disagree because the chance the employer wrote the personality quiz themselves is low. They’re often bought in/outsourced and whilst I agree this question is utterly bizarre and would give me pause, the one my workplace uses asks all sort of ‘situational’ questions that are scenarios you’d never expect to be in – they’re pretty hypothetical.

          1. Daisy*

            Yes, I agree. I question the hiring practices of an organisation that uses these, but there’s very little chance they wrote it themselves or are even going to see individual answers. They’ll get a little report saying you’re 50% agreeable, 80% conscientious and 25% problem-solver, or some nonsense like that.

          2. Golden*

            I think you’re spot on here. Occasionally I’ll do online surveys for extra cash, and I’m pretty sure I’ve seen this question, if not something very similar, before.

            I think Daisy is right that it just gets put into a report that researchers (and apparently hiring managers) can use to connect traits. Its probably some third party service the job is using and didn’t look into it too deeply.

            1. boo bot*

              It reminds me of the assessment test Bob Altemeyer uses in the book The Authoritarians, which asks about people’s attitudes toward society and authority (he’s a Canadian professor who studies authoritarianism).

              If that’s what they’re assessing it might be useful information, but I think the benefits of asking are outweighed by how alarming the questions are. (Unless you’re a professor studying authoritarianism.)

            2. Krabby*

              Yep, I just looked up the company listed at the top of the screenshot and it IS a third party service. I highly doubt the company even knows what’s on there.

              1. Hey Nonnie*

                Well, they sure got sold a bill of goods then, because this about guarantees that good quality candidates will be running away from them in droves. Oops.

          3. NoviceManagerGuy*

            Absolutely, this is some gimmick the employer’s recruiting department got sold on.

      3. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Also, “Traditional values” are also very subjective. Where I grew up traditional values meant physical discipline for kids and women stayed home. My friend’s traditional values meant that women went on to higher education like engineers or doctors.

        1. Julianna*

          But traditional values is a buzzword used by the right with a known meaning, it isn’t just referring to a random set of values

          1. fhqwhgads*

            Yeah, that question is basically a dogwhistle for “gays have too many rights nowadays, dontcha think?” It’s gross.

            1. Momma Bear*

              Very. This plus the others that OP alluded to would make me want to end the quiz right then and self-select out.

          2. quill*

            Yeah, in the US it is a dogwhistle for far right traditional values. Not whatever was applicable to your specific ancestors, which in my family in decades past was everybody cooks, everybody cleans, the dog lives outside because it is a walking mud puddle.

          3. Pomegranate*

            In a Canadian context, a lot of the First Nations approaches are termed ‘traditional’, such as ‘traditional knowledge’, ‘traditional ways’, ‘traditional ceremonies’. Though the phrase ‘traditional values’ isn’t a specific one I heard connected to First Nations and indigenous traditions, it was still my first thought when I read the headline. But seeing the question itself, didn’t quite line up to that.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I mean, I would wager a small amount that they would be stumped to explain these “traditional values” in any way that had a clear metric by which you could see they were eroding. And probably there is a special exemption by which all the power players don’t need to embody any of these traditional values because “strength.”

    2. Observer*

      I thought about that, too. But that’s a really risky thing to do – a LOT of the “strongly disagree” people will definitely self-select out, and the most likely ones to do that are the ones who have the most options (ie the ones most likely to be good hires.)

      1. MassMatt*

        Whether they are trying to hire conservative extremists or screen them out, the questions are bizarre, and I have my doubts on “screen them out” because then why questions like “millennials need to stop complaining and get to work”. These questions seem like things your drunk uncle says at Thanksgiving.

        I’m skeptical of personality testing in the workplace generally, but these are nutty. I would stop and cancel my application immediately if I were asked questions like these.

        1. Darren*

          And maybe they are trying to screen out said drunk uncle? What makes it particularly interesting is it’s not clear whether they want people who are agreeing or disagreeing with these sentiments. Given it’s a 3rd party quiz apparently it’s possible the intention is merely to provide an extra (optional) layer of filtering for clients who have been clear they want to weed out intolerance (or include it I suppose).

    3. Virginia Plain*

      I wondered that. I definitely think it’s off putting and weird and may well come back to bite them for the reasons Observer describes, but it does strike me that this may be a bizarre way of trying to ensure they don’t hire far-right bigot etc.

      1. KHB*

        I’m sure they want to weed out people with actual insurrectionist views…but I wonder if they also want to weed out people who will smile along and agree with whatever’s being said just to be “agreeable”? This is a relatively high-level management position they’re hiring for, so it’s very possible that one of the traits they’re looking for is the ability to call out bad ideas when you see them, or to identify when things are hurtling off on the wrong track so you can start getting them back on course.

        Now, is asking deliberately provocative questions from a psychometric test an effective way to do that? I don’t know, maybe, maybe not. But I don’t think we can infer anything about the employer’s views or motivations from the mere fact that they asked the question.

        1. ecnaseener*

          That’s true — I could also see this being a way to check that you’re really answering honestly and not just agreeing with everything phrased positively and disagreeing with everything phrased negatively.

        2. EPLawyer*

          I think its something like this. They figure everyone knows how to answer the usual questions in a way that will get them hired. So they throw some curveballs in order to get some alleged real answers. This will help them see the real person and not just the persona of someone trying to get a job.

          But like most thinking along these lines, it goes horribly wrong. 1. They have no idea WHAT they are doing so they come up with really weird and offputing questions. 2. There are other ways to get past the interview persona by actually talking to people. But they want this stupid questionnaire to do the hard part for them. 3. They will wind up with people willing to answer weird questions for a job which is not what they are looking for. As usual those with any sort of initiative and options will nope right out of there leaving them with a smaller pool of quality candidates than otherwise.

        3. serenity*

          I’m sure they want to weed out people with actual insurrectionist views

          I don’t think we have enough information to claim this. And the screenshot provided here looks awfully similar to another pre-interview screening question that is making the rounds on social media today via some viral-ish tweets that asks respondents if they have ever “been told they are using the wrong bathroom” before. Clearly, targeting trans-identifying individuals.

          If this is the same survey or the same third-party service conducting them, the right-wing culture wars-type questions are telling us something about “weeding out” people, but I’d be more inclined to think the other way.

          1. Catalin*

            and the contextual information (questions about millennials needing to shut up and work and ‘humanities are dumb’ implications) seems to indicate they are looking for indicators that candidates may enjoy wearing red ball caps, portable mosquito torches, and bathroom focused legislation.
            Personally, I’d need a sixth option to select for most of those questions, along the lines of ‘what the flock!?’

            1. Pickled Limes*

              Yeah, when you add in the “millennials want to complain instead of work” and “people should learn REAL stuff in schools, not whatever the heck ‘humanities’ is,” it paints a real picture of what this workplace is likely to be, and it’s not a picture I like very much.

              1. KHB*

                See, I don’t understand why people are drawing these inferences. Why, from the fact that the employer is asking “Do you agree or disagree with this statement?”, do you think it follows that the employer must agree with it themselves?

                1. caps22*

                  Because the question is leading. And if there aren’t questions equally leading towards more mainstream or progressive values, it’s very telling indeed.

    4. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      Seconded. This really could swing either way I guess but… It’s still discrimination I think?

      1. BubbleTea*

        I’m okay with discriminating against violent extremists, to be honest, and it sounds like there’s no law in the US to prevent employers from doing so, but this doesn’t seem like a very effective tool. It is like the screening questions on the Visa waiver application for people travelling to the USA from certain countries. “Have you ever attempted to abduct an Amercian child? Do you intend to attempt to overthrow the government during your visit?” Who is going to say yes to those questions?

        1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          On the SF-86 form used for security clearances one of the questions is, “Have you EVER advocated any acts of terrorism or activities designed to overthrow the U.S. Government by force?” and THEN asks on which dates and for what reasons.

          I actually paused my interview for a moment to bring up just how bizarre and hilarious I found this question. Whoooooo, do I wish that question was still funny.

          1. Cat Lover*

            Yeah, I was going to say… that’s way more relevant and appropriate now (on a security clearance form).

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I’ve had applications for jobs with questions like “Have you ever stolen from your employer?” and I always thought “Well, no, but if I had I’m not dumb enough to tell you I did”.

            1. NoviceManagerGuy*

              At one point a letter writer here noted they were able to filter a lot of applications for a filing clerk position by asking applicants to state whether they were interested in filing or not.

            2. jy3*

              I’ve gotten a similar question. It’s especially insulting when it’s on one of those tests that says “there are no wrong answers”.

          3. Blackcat*

            I mean, they also ask if you have any “sexual deviancy” that could be used to blackmail you. They’re trying to weed out a lot of stuff with those forms.

          4. Pickled Limes*

            I’ve always joked about how my government jobs made me take an oath at new employee orientation that I would not attempt to overthrow the government. This year it doesn’t seem quite so funny.

        2. Tiny Soprano*

          One of the questions on the form when my family visited the US 20 years ago was literally “do you intend to commit an act of terrorism while you are in the USA?” Which tween me thought was a hilarious attempt to weed out the really clueless terrorists.

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            I was told it isn’t to weed out – but to get rid of you more quickly.

            If you were a terrorist, then there are hoops to jump through to deal with you, which takes due process, but “lying on the form” is an immediate, do not pass go, deportation.

            1. UKDancer*

              I heard the same when I went to the US and was laughing at that question on the form. They don’t expect terrorists to admit it, but if someone says no and then commits an act of terrorism they can deal with them more quickly.

              It makes sense when you stop laughing.

              1. Certified Scorpion Trainer*

                “They don’t expect terrorists to admit it”

                there’s occasionally going to be a dim soul or two who will admit to it and then it’ll be like that NSA scene from The Simpsons Movie: “Hey everyone, the government actually found someone it was looking for!”

              2. Bryce*

                Occasionally it actually works, too. You’ve got a whole bunch of stuff to fill out, someone trying to maintain a lie full of half-truths could slip up.

            2. LordGouldianFinch*

              This is it. They can use it later to deport you easily if they want an excuse. And if they want you gone they will use it. They can also use it to revoke citizenship by claiming its a material lie

        3. Caraway*

          I recently had to meet with my company’s external auditor, and one of the questions he asked me, in addition to asking if I was aware of anyone committing fraud, was, “Are you committing fraud?” I said no, and asked if anyone ever said yes – and he said one of his colleagues did get a yes! The person just absolutely broke down and admitted everything. So I guess occasionally those questions work!

      2. Observer*

        It’s still discrimination I think?

        Legally? Nope.

        Morally? Who cares? There is a reason why the Constitution protects the right of free assembly, and part of our protections for free speech is a prohibition on “compelled speech”.

        People have a right to profess whatever views (as long as they don’t get into illegal stuff.) But everyone else has a right to decide that they want nothing to do with people who profess those views.

    5. John Smith*

      I was thinking the same thing. I’ve had questions such as “do you think it’s ok to steal from an employer?” which makes me wonder who on earth they’ve employed in the past to need to ask the question. But insurrection? Good grief!

      1. NerdyKris*

        I always fail those tests, because getting over a 90 means you “lied”. One of my early jobs told me that and the results came straight to the fax machine, so I ran it through with a fake name saying to give the results to me, and sure enough, I scored too high for them to have considered me had I not been referred.

        But also I was terrible at that job for reasons unrelated to the personality test. Namely that when I count by twos I go 2, 4, 6, 10. This is not helpful when counting pills at a pharmacy or money at a bank.

          1. OfficePro*

            You deserve far more attention for this pun than you’ve received. I applaud you for your quippy response, but groan at your terrible pun!

    6. Gingerblue*

      They’re doing a dreadful job of it, if so—I’m in the group they’d want to keep in that case, and I would take this as a red flag and walk away. (Which isn’t to disagree with you at all; I’m just boggled at how clunky this is no matter WHAT they’re hoping to get out of it.)

      1. pancakes*

        Same here. The letter writer said “These questions were interspersed with the usual ‘I would rather x than Y’ type questions,” but I’ve never been asked to complete any sort of questionnaire like this for a job, and wouldn’t think well of a prospective employer that does this. At best they were sold pseudoscience. It seems like a strong indication that the company isn’t good at hiring and doesn’t have a handle on how to get better at it.

    7. Bagpuss*

      I wondered that – it reminded me fo some questions I was asked when I applied for a job that required positive vetting (“Have you ever been a member of an organisation dedicated to the overthrow of the government by non-democratic means?”)

      1. LITJess*

        But I read your question as much more straightforward and neutral, OP’s examples are really loaded with right-wing dog whistles. Whether it’s meant to maintain an atmosphere of goodolboys or weed them out, I don’t know. But I’d take it as a red flag either way and move onto the next place.

      2. PeanutButter*

        *Which* government?

        Bc there’s a big protected class of people that question would eliminate if it’s just any government, in general…

    8. Good Vibes Steve*

      That’s where my mind went – they’re not trying to recruit conservatives, they’re trying to avoid having insurrectionists on staff. Though the millennial question is very off-putting – I’m not sure where they’re going with that. Trying to avoid people who make grand generalizations by making one themselves?

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        My own experience with that was pretty funny (someone making generalizations about Millenials, that is). Said something similar out loud during a meeting with a more heavily Gen-X and Baby Boomer group. The guy in the room who just didn’t give a you know what and had the capital to spare: “Um, aren’t you a Millenial?”. (He wasn’t incorrect, btw. The guy grandstanding was a Millenial.)

    9. Brett*

      Since it is a computer based test, and the company who provides it talks extensively about their use of machine learning, I suspect that it is not only what you answer, but _how fast_ you answer the question that factors into your “hospitality score”. (Since machine learning algorithms often use multiple factors, not just a straight up scoring algorithm.)
      The score apparently reflects you ability to deal with the views of guests, so I am wondering if the idea is not to assess your views, but instead your ability to tolerate other people expressing extreme views. So, snapping to an extreme answer quickly might lower your score.

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

        Interesting – I would answer those type of questions very quickly, not really because I “snap to an extreme answer” quickly but rather because having come across questions like this (in everyday experience, as well as in personality tests etc) I’ve already got my answer to hand without having to think too much about it ‘anew’ (Although perhaps that does say something about me in itself!?), I just see what they are asking quickly and give an answer accordingly.

        The ones like “is it ok to steal from an employer” (mentioned by someone in another comment thread above) would give me a bit more pause though. In general no of course, but if the question is really “is it *ever* ok to steal from an employer” there’s probably a more nuanced answer – which of course a screen with “strongly agree” etc doesn’t really allow for!

        Now that you say that about machine learning and speed of answering etc – you have got me curious about the use of “meta” information in scoring these tests! (as opposed to a more straightforward ‘strongly agrees with statements about preserving tradition’ sort of thing).

      2. ellex42*

        I was dinged on one of these types of tests for answering too fast – in fact, I was accused of not actually reading the question at all. Sorry, I just read quickly. Not sorry to not get that job.

        1. quill*

          I fail these all of the time. Either I read too fast or I never strike the right balance between the “right” answers and “clearly you’re lying by selecting the right answers.”

      3. Dohnut*

        Brett, LW here. I didn’t know about the timed responses component. That might explain this in a non-nefarious way.

    10. NerdyKris*

      I’d still consider that a red flag. It still shows that they’re prying far too much into candidates political views. “Are you an insurrectionist so we can weed you out early” is immediately framing the relationship in an antagonistic way. If you take the other questions the same way, they’re still trying to select out views that have nothing to do with the job, like thinking people need more of a work ethic. Or the baffling idea that paid higher education should be teaching life skills, which would just be a quirk, not something you should be selecting against in a candidate.

      1. JB*

        In case you’re genuinely not aware, that question is also about political extremism. It’s a dogwhistle for ‘do you believe universities are brainwashing students into liberalism with those required humanities classes?’

        1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          Which is actually kinda ironic when “traditional” (pre-1900) university education was all about learning poetry and philosophy and literature for mostly upper class white males. Learning trades (like engineering) is for the working class.

    11. Lacey*

      Yeah, that was what I thought of too. They’re such offensively worded questions that I assumed someone who finds those viewpoints super offensive wrote them.

      1. Speaks Softly But Carries A Big Switch*

        You’d think, except living where I do I can tell you that that’s exactly the language the insurrectionist-supporting types comfortably use on a daily basis with no irony or qualms or even a hint of awareness that said views are extreme and not at all normal language.

    12. Elbe*

      That’s what I thought (hoped) at first, too.

      But the way that the questions are worded seem to be leading people to agree. They could just be leading people to be more upfront about extremist views, but I kind of doubt it. Most people would realize that wording something like that would be filtering OUT the people who disagree.

    13. MHA*

      I’ve seen this question on multiple job assessments for like, nationwide healthcare organizations, as well as for jobs at Walmart etc. when I was working retail pre-college. (I’ve seen it so frequently that I was surprised Alison didn’t seem familiar with it in her response!) Pretty sure they’re ruling OUT extremists, not ruling them in.

    14. Machiamellie*

      If the candidate makes it to the interview and is already turned off by the questions, she can always use her “do you have any questions for us?” to ask about those questions and why they were included.

    15. Jess*

      Yeah, it seems more like a psychological test to weed out the crazies. The OP seems confused about the purpose of the test.

      1. Observer*

        I don’t think the OP is confused at all. There is nothing to indicate one way or another what this is for. And regardless of which reason is the actual case, it’s a huge red flag. These people either are crazy themselves or they are aggressively and offensively incompetent.

        1. hawk*

          what? It’s pretty obvious what this is for, to identify extremists that think force is needed to defend traditional values? I think you’re all reading too much into the language.

      2. quill*

        Most places don’t need this or believe that they need this, and the weirdness of it during the interview is a bug, not a feature.

    16. Aquawoman*

      I thought so, especially since the header says “hospitality score.” A person who thinks you should use force against “nontraditional values” is not going to be hospitable. Also, what workplace is looking for a “yes” in any question about the use of violence?

      1. Aquawoman*

        Will also add, there were 3 options for agreeing and 2 options for disagreeing, which I believe is bad test design no matter what the question is.

      2. Cloudy day*

        If you google hospitality score you’ll see this is made by a company that sells hiring tools that include personality tests. I agree they’re probably trying to weed out people with extreme views or antisocial tendencies.

    17. Jaydee*

      I remember taking surveys like these for retail jobs. The questions included things like “It’s okay to smoke a little pot now and then” (dude, I know this store has a zero-tolerance drug use policy) or “Shoplifting is a victimless crime” (the poster on the back of your bathroom door begs to differ). I’m inclined to think these questions are trying to actively weed out insurrectionists.

    18. nom de plume*

      Funny, I assumed the opposite — that they are recruiting people who DO agree with using force, teaching fewer humanities subjects, etc. That’s because I tend to see the framing of the questions as leading.

      Either way, it’s totally inappropriate, far out from the norm, and I’d say a flashing red flag. Run, OP.

      1. PeanutButter*

        The framing of the questions is leading because they want people to feel comfortable answering “yes”. If it was framed negatively it would tip off people who DO hold those views that they should not answer honestly. The fascists who are quicker on the uptake will still not answer honestly, but these sorts of leading questions do work to get people to self-disclose.

    19. Hey Nonnie*

      The question itself sounds like the immediate precursor to an ethnic-cleansing style civil war. Whatever their intentions, it would alarm me on a level that I would just nope out of finishing that questionnaire. And would warn my network away from that organization. Eek.

      Although I agree that it’s probably exactly the dog whistle it appears to be.

    20. anone*

      Yeah, this question makes sense if you’re familiar with how psychologists create personality/trait tests. The intention is not that the company is endorsing the statement; it’s looking at how the participants themselves respond to the statement (e.g., if you want to know if someone is an extrovert, ask them how much they agree with a bunch of statements that theoretically most extroverts would consistently strongly agree or disagree with, throw in some filler questions to round it out, and reverse-score the oppositely-phrased ones so that high scores = extrovert. Think that but in this case the trait being assessed is “dangerous likelihood of violence in defense of beliefs”) . Tbh I spent years studying and doing this methodology and ultimately I think it’s a questionable approach that is often implemented poorly to create very silly and unhelpful tests, but it’s not alarming to me at all.

    21. Rachelb*

      Those questions look very similar to standard Qs you’d see in social psychology research for something like authoritarianism, traditionalism, etc. I’m about 90% sure I’ve seen the force question in an authoritarianism scale. They’re pretty well-established (have been around for a while; used a lot; good reliability). High scores on certain scales are associated with not-great-team stuff like sexism, resistance to change, etc, as well as what the scale itself measures – high authoritarianism would likely be a red flag in a manager.

      It’s likely to be part of a suite of questions from a collection of those scales, possibly a short-form version where you might get 3-4 questions of a “type” rather than a set of 8-12 etc.

  5. Hadespuppy*

    I’m going to throw on the rosiest of rose coloured glasses and say that maybe the employer in the first question is trying rather hamfistedly to weed *out* applicants who might agree with those statements? Kind of like the companies who put strangely specific should-be-a-given-for-an adult-human-living-in-society requirements in their job ads because of one bad experience.

    1. Old and Don't Care*

      Yeah. I was thinking it was similar to an “It’s totally okay to steal office supplies because everyone does it” question. But odd and disconcerting in any event.

    2. FiveWheels*

      My rose colored glasses are that it’s a standard question in a (probably not very scientific) personality test.

      There were similar ones in my UK Civil service entrance exam. It looks neutral to me – gets a point on some scale or other.

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

        It is – “hospitality score” (top of the pic) is apparently one of those personality test type things that get sold to companies although I’ve no idea what they might be looking for!

      2. anonymath*

        From the US viewpoint, it’s about a very specific set of views that coded a certain way. They’re all code words, which is why it looks innocuous from the UK and from the US I’m trying to figure out if they’re trying to recruit for or screen out extremists.

    3. Water Dragon*

      But what circumstances led them to putting a totally weird question on what should be a standard personality screening? Were they inundated with extremists so bad that they decided they needed this question? If they were inundated, is putting a screening question like this the best way to get the results they want? Without alienating most normal people?

      Even if they’re trying to weed *out* applicants, it still shows they are really weird.

      1. Pibble*

        It’s a standard question on certain personality scales. When I was doing surveys for extra money, I got that exact question multiple times.

  6. PollyQ*

    #1 — I suppose it’s possible that the questions are designed to weed out insurrectionists and other extremists, rather than select them. Very strange, off-putting, and yes, a big red flag, regardless.

    1. Pippa K*

      This comment seemed to get eaten when I tried to post it, so apologies if it turns up twice. As T pointed out above, the screening question is very similar to a question from a survey deployed in the United States a few months ago. (Link to NPR report in reply, for moderation). The finding that got a lot of attention was that a majority of one party’s supporters agreed with the statement “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”

      I don’t know why a company is using this question as a screening tool in hiring, but people do a lot of half-assed stuff with survey tools that don’t tell them what they think they do (this makes social scientists sigh heavily). As others have speculated, maybe they’re trying (awkwardly) to weed out insurrectionists, but seriously how many insurrectionists have the hired that this is a problem they need to solve at the screening stage?

        1. Salad Daisy*

          I followed that link and it linked to the results of the actual survey. Very eye-opening. Thanks!

      1. Cranky lady*

        This gives a very different spin on the question and puts it in the category of “HR doesn’t know what they are doing” rather than “this company hires right-wing militants”. Still a red flag.

      2. ACon*

        Came here to say this, less effectively. It’s a survey question meant to measure a characteristic of a population, and supposed to be asked anonymously (or at least confidentially) and somebody cribbed it for the wrong purpose.

      3. ellex42*

        Questions like this are why I despise surveys. There are actually 2 different concepts in the question with which a person could agree or disagree: one is “Our traditional values are disappearing” and the second is “force may be necessary to preserve [our traditional values]”. In this case, disagreement with the first would necessarily follow with disagreement with the second, but someone could agree with the first and disagree with the second.

        This one isn’t so bad (strictly in terms of language and sentence structure, the question itself is horrifying in its implications), but I’ve had to take “surveys” for jobs and been stuck trying to figure out what I’m actually being asked and how I indicate that I think the question itself is inappropriate, or incorrectly worded.

        I sincerely hope this is an attempt to weed out people with…shall we say, poor judgement? And not an attempt to recruit like-minded people to a business whose corporate culture resembles a political cult.

        1. Pippa K*

          The original question is slightly better than the version in OP1’s hiring screening but it is structurally somewhat double-barrelled, as you point out. But in this case, the second part about using force wouldn’t be a likely preference for people who don’t agree with the first part, so the agreement responses shouldn’t be too affected, I think. Again, though, this wasn’t designed to be some sort of personality screening in the workplace!

          There are definitely good and bad opinion surveys out there, and a lot of surveys used in marketing, for particular campaigns or causes, etc aren’t really designed to collect information but to make a point or elicit agreement. It annoys me that bad surveys undermine people’s willingness to participate in good surveys – I sometimes teach a bit of “spotting bad survey design” to my political science students just to help counter this. (As much as I can – I’m not a survey methodologist, but lots of social scientists have some training in this.)

          1. Shad*

            Somehow I ended up on some call list for those surveys to get support on the opposite side of the spectrum from my actual views (like, the questions are being *clearly framed* with the expectation that being told this carefully framed so we aren’t making allegations of fact claim would make me like the politician under discussion less, and…the claim would make me like the politician more level of disagreement).
            When I have the time, I like to go ahead and go through them to mess with the results.

        2. PeanutButter*

          You could also “agree” with both, and still not think it’s a good thing! I “agree” that (some) traditional values (bigotry, sexism, etc) are slowly but surely going away…and that if someone wanted to regress society back to those “traditional values” they’d probably have to use force.

  7. Old and Don't Care*

    Yeah. I was thinking it was similar to an “It’s totally okay to steal office supplies because everyone does it” question. But odd and disconcerting in any event.

    1. Catherine*

      Yeah, the “our” has an inherent assumption of shared values that doesn’t work for me. When I lived in America I was a second-gen immigrant. I’m also queer. I think my values and the ones implied in the survey are probably pretty dramatically different.

    2. Case of the Mondays*

      I hate those questions because I am very technical and want the definition of everything. We can’t answer it if everyone isn’t on the same page about what it means. Does it means taking printer ink home for your home computer? Yeah, that’s probably stealing. Does it mean realizing that you somehow amassed 30 binder clip, 10 highlighters and 15 pens (pre-pandemic) just from traveling to and from work things and doing some work at home? That’s different than just taking pens home for your kids to use at school.

      Given the way I view these questions different from most, I suspect those questionnaires are very difficult for neuro-divergent people.

      An another good example, I have asthma. During COVID, I went to the pulmonologist since I was flaring. The lady at the door asked the COVID screening questions. As to cough/shortness of breath I answered “I’m here for my asthma so I do have those but it is not out of the ordinary for me.” She looked stunned for a second and said, you know, I’ve been outside this office for hours, and you are the first person to say that. Given that I’m working pulmonology today, I should have received a lot more answers like that. Everyone else though knew what she meant and just said no.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I had to take a personality test for a retail job, and one of the questions (out of many) that I thought was kinda good was “would you steal a pen (or some other small cheap item, I don’t remember exact item) to save a persons life?” I think the question is measuring trustworthiness, but rather than your willingness to steal it is actually testing your truthfulness. I think the assumption is that everyone would or should be willing to steal a pen to save someone’s life, but they want to know if people would answer the question honestly. Some people might say no, because they think in applying for a retail job stealing is always seen as a bad thing by the employer and are willing to lie to try and get the job. I answered yes, and I did end up getting the job.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          My mind immediately went to an old story of a doctor performing an emergency tracheotomy in a restaurant with a pen to save a dying choking patron when the usual treatments failed.

      2. Lenora Rose*

        One of the better Covid Screening tests I saw included caveats for “abnormal or recently increasing” or “without a known origin” for those symptoms that are also associated with allergies or asthma or the like. I wish I had taken notes because it was more nicely phrased than my examples but accounted for exactly the situation you describe.

      3. LC*

        Fellow ND here, and that makes so much sense! I have the exact same reactions to those types of questions. I need more information about what exactly they mean by a term, or if it’s specific to a context, or if it’s a “in general, so ignoring any extreme situations” etc etc before I really feel confident in answering.

        And same with the COVID screenings. I’m always like, well yes, I do have shortness of breath and some body/muscle aches but no more than normal. I know what they mean, and I answer the question they’re trying to ask (rather than the literal question they’re asking) but I never feel good about it. A small thing I actually really appreciate about my new employer, in the health screening they have everyone fill out if they go into the office at all, they add “that you cannot attribute to another health condition” to the end of the questions.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I have the same problem eating out with a severe food intolerance to gluten. It comes from my Crohn’s Disease, not celiac. Nonetheless, I still have to avoid cross contamination, but I won’t die from it. I used to go into a whole explanation if the server asked if I had celiac. Finally, someone told me that when they ask that, they are asking if it is medical or preference. If preference, they just use a GF roll. If medical, they change gloves, use clean equipment, etc. When they ask if it is an allergy, I internally cringe because even Celiac is not technically an allergy although having the food has extreme negative effects. I usually now say yes, but I won’t die from it, I’ll just get really sick. If I make it sound to scary and they think anaphylactic, they may refuse to serve me and I don’t want that to happen either.

          It would be so much easier for my brain if they just asked “medical or dietary preference” or “do you need to avoid cross contamination?” I know they don’t ask the latter because they can’t guarantee zero CC.

          The way my brain works makes me a great lawyer though because I can find any loophole.

        2. PeanutButter*

          Hmmm, I have always had this reaction to these sorts of questions. I am never sure if I should “factually agree” (as I said upthread, I agree that traditional values are disappearing…but I think that’s a good thing!) or “semantically agree” (should I put agree if I think the overall concept communicated by the question is positive.)

          I was diagnosed with ADHD last year as an adult.

  8. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    If I saw #1 on an application, I would assume the correct answer was “disagree” or “strongly disagree”. I’d think they were trying to screen out insurrectionists, not recruit them! But I’m only looking at a small bit of the whole, so maybe the intent was clearer in context. Very peculiar either way. Even if I’m correct, they’d only be screening out stupidly honest insurrectionists, which doesn’t seem like a terribly large group of applicants.

    The millennials question could also be conceivably a way to screen out people who despise The Youth, but I don’t see how college education has any relevance at all. Why should a company care what their employees think about life-skills classes in college?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      “Our traditional values are disappearing so fast that force may be necessary to preserve them.”

      I’m VERY concerned with the way the first part is worded that they are in favor and want to know if you’ll support them or join them.

      1. Catherine*

        Yeah, the “our” has an inherent assumption of shared values that doesn’t work for me. When I lived in America I was a second-gen immigrant. I’m also queer. I think my values and the ones implied in the survey are probably pretty dramatically different.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Yes, this. There’s this thing called an implicature – the wording presumes that whatever your answer, you DO agree that there is something properly referred to as “our traditional values”.

          Now of course if you don’t (like I wouldn’t), you’d still answer “disagree”. But “disagree” could mean “our traditional values are pretty fine and need no intervention” or “our traditional values are sadly disappearing, but I am a pacifist, so no, thanks” or “there’s no such thing as ‘our shared traditional values’ that we all agree to preserve – indeed, what you call traditional values I call violent oppression”. So you’d get very little mileage out of a “disagree” answer. If you want people to “disagree” this is a terrible question – only if you want to select people that “agree” would it make sense to ask this.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Many people don’t think through the logic of a question like you just did. I’ve written surveys and had to significant rewrite the questions provided. (Oh the arguments I had with a senior manager who had no background in statistics, discrete mathematics, or formal logic.)

            1. Student*

              Yes, but… the person who wrote the question is the one who assumed “of course WE all share these traditional values”… that assumption tells you everything you need to know about the survey person’s intent.

              I’d argue that the crew who wants to find a perfectly innocent justification for this question being part of a company’s hiring practice are falling head-first into the paradox of tolerance. Being infinitely tolerant of the intolerant means that the tolerant will ultimately lose; the tolerant must have some firm, underlying boundaries based in their own values about what they are actually willing to tolerate.

          2. AGD*

            This is exactly how I interpreted it. There’s no way of saying that you disagree with the first part. That’s the point at which I would have bailed.

          3. Nightengalesknd*

            I once got a political phone survey

            “are you for or against putting up unsightly wind turbines in [local body of water]?”

            I was for the wind turbines
            I did not believe they were unsightly.
            But I would have to admit they were unsightly to have my opinion as “pro turbine” registered

            Of course, I didn’t get anywhere trying to explain this to the poor person at the other end of the phone line who did not have anything to do with creating the survey.

            1. tamarack and fireweed*

              One thing I learned about after moving to the US was the concept of a push poll.

              One canonical example for this kind of implicature is from formal logic. In one of Bertrand Russell’s philosophy books there’s this example: How would you negate (logically) the sentence “The current king of France has red hair”. If you go with the naive answer (“The current king of France does not have red hair.”) you run into the problem that there should be an excluded middle: Either statement A is true or statement not-A is true — but here both are false as France does not currently have a king.

              The solution is that there is a hidden statement inside each statement that the objects about which the affirmations are made do exist: “The current king of France has red hair” is equivalent to “France currently has a king, and this person’s hair is red”, so its negation becomes “France currently has no king, or the hair of its current king is not red,” which is a true statement.

          4. Kelly L.*

            I’ve told this one before, but I had a pre-employment survey once with the question “My personality doesn’t change much when I use drugs.” No matter which way you answered it, it implied you use drugs! If you answer no, it might mean you don’t think your personality changes on drugs, or it might mean you don’t use them.

        2. John Smith*

          Unless they’re using it as a way to catch out people who would agree. I’d certainly ask in interview what they meant by that phrase.

          They may be thinking “Oh, you agreed to that question, so you are a sexist misogynistic homophobic racist knuckle dragger. Thanks but no thanks. (Or worse, “welcome on board”)”.

          Or they may be thinking of the good things in the US Constitution, like freedom, justice etc (I’m not including the guns bit – sorry but I think it’s just plain silly).

          It’s not a very good question to ask.

          1. pbnj*

            It’s also poorly worded. You can interpret it as asking if you believe force should be used to preserve “traditional” values, or you could read it as “traditional” values are disappearing and I don’t see how they could be preserved unless force is used.

        3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I can’t speak to this company’s thinking…but the questions sound like they were copied from a psychometrics test for research (not something that should be used for hiring, IMO). In that case the phrasing would be intentional: essentially trying to get at whether test-takers automatically align themselves with the ‘authority’ administering the test or if they’re more critical of authority.

          In a psychometric assessment like that, the test-givers wouldn’t necessarily have specific values in mind.

          1. Golden*

            Right. I do surveys online for extra cash, many of which seem to be psychology projects at universities, and this question is quite common. (As are questions about a scenario in which your coworker leaves their smelly workout clothes on top of the radiator in your small office every day, lol)

          2. Observer*

            This is the kind of stuff that give psychometrics such a bad name. Because of the way the question is structured and the specifics of the question, it’s really not going to provide meaningful information about how critical of authority the test taker is. The only way you MIGHT get some reasonably solid information is if the test also had a lot of loaded questions that are the opposite of this. If the person has a pattern of answering yes to both sets of questions, you know that this person clearly is someone who obeys authority without any thought.

          3. Nephron*

            I would agree with this. I have taken a couple online research surveys and there have been a number about politics, political leanings, and how you justify/have no patience for/possibly de-humanize the political group you don’t agree with versus the groups you do agree with. A lot of questions about BLM being justified given the situation they find themselves in or a bunch of extremists that are making the situation worse by not talking calmly, and the exact same phrasing for the Jan 6th, or anti-mask protests.

            It is not meant for interviews, but it is probably phrased in a way to not make someone defensive and likely to lie.

          4. jy3*

            Yeah, that was my first thought. It sounded a lot like a question from Altemeyer’s RWA scale.

        4. Worldwalker*

          My most recent immigrant ancestor was a great-grandmother, and I’m straight. But I suspect my values align a lot more closely with yours than with the “traditional” ones they’re talking about. That’s usually a code phrase for a system that includes a racial/sexual hierarchy that places white men at the top, unquestioning obedience to social superiors that approaches the fuehrerprinzip, and a socially stratified permissibility of greed — greed is good if you’re on top, unacceptable if not.

          Incidentally, when you ask someone who espouses “traditional values” what those values are, they don’t generally reply with actual values, like “love, hope, and charity” — they list a series of rules. “Live like this, say that”, whatever. Not values at all.

          Also, I’m one of the people who would flee because of that question: it’s less about what the “right” answer is than because they found it appropriate to ask it at all.

      2. Green great dragon*

        This wording makes sense if it’s taken from a survey as others have suggested. The ‘agree/disagree’ applies to the whole statement, not just whether force is necessary. What it’s doing in an application process I have no idea.

      3. meyer lemon*

        There is definitely a slant to the way it’s phrased, although it’s kind of hard to know whether it was written in sincerity or to trap applicants into thinking they’re dealing with a like-minded organization. But if it was intended as an elaborate trap and they thought it through to this extent, presumably they would have also realized that this phrasing would be designed to turn off the group of people that they actually wanted to hire. Or maybe they just pulled it from some free quiz generator and didn’t actually read any of the questions. I’d be curious to see how their candidate pool ended up.

      4. quill*

        “Our” has me noping out as a queer woman. None of what you might assume is “ours” culturally is very appealing to me here!

    2. Polly Hedron*

      I would just answer the stupid questions with “strongly disagree” and, if they regarded that as the wrong answer, let them screen me out.

  9. Xenia*

    #3: While I totally respect OP’s desire to keep their private business private, from a new employee, “I need a week off because I have to take care of important paperwork that can’t be done at my embassy” would get a very different response from me as a manager than “I need a week off and I can’t say why”.

    #1: This is bonkers; my best guess is either that the company is really not somewhere you’d want to work ever or a higher up wanted a personality quiz and HR or whoever picked one that looked good without actually reading the questions. Which would not necessarily be better. Also I apparently missed that 2018 one so thanks to Alison for linking something else equally whackadoodle

    1. Artemesia*

      And ‘family paperwork’ is still vague enough to protect privacy if the issues is finalizing the divorce or finalizing the inheritance or something similar you don’t want to share.

      1. Amaranth*

        My concern is ‘paperwork problems’ might sound like code for the possibility LW3 is not planning to actually come back without a bit of reassurance. If it isn’t extremely urgent I’d recommend telling their manager that they need to travel to their home country to wrap up a few things before the end of summer and want to confirm dates that won’t conflict with any major commitments at work.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Reassurance is good, but this paperwork could easily be part of the transition to working in this country. My church had a pastor from Germany. Germany has established churches, which literally means their clergy are employees of the state. The first few years he stayed on the German clergy roster. When he decided to make the move permanent and began the naturalization process, this included a trip back to Germany to sort out his status there. This was a special case, but I can see there being lots of special cases.

        2. Smithy*

          Since the OP is asking for a week off and not permission to work from their home country for a few weeks, that kind of reassurance wouldn’t be as relevant to me.

          There are just so many kinds of paperwork issues around inheritance, general banking, taxes, land or home ownership, etc. that really can just be resolved by going into a local bank, post office, government building. And if the issue is so great that someone wouldn’t come back, that’s something that might happen regardless of whether or not this person is granted a week’s vacation.

          Now if the request was “please let me work outside the country for a month while I wrap up some paperwork” – that’s a dynamic that would make me far more nervous about needing to be extended and what that might mean for work, onboarding, employee labor laws, etc.

          1. Blackcat*

            Right, if I heard “paperwork that can only be dealt with in person in my home country” I’d honestly assume someone died and it’s estate stuff. I definitely wouldn’t pry nor be concerned. A multi-week trip would raise more red flags.

    2. EPLawyer*

      I second this for #3. Your boss needs certain information to make a decision on whether to give you the time off or not. If you don’t supply some information, the boss may assume you just want a week off, which is probably frowned on in your probation period. Give your boss a reason to say YES not NO. You can do that without spilling your entire personal life to your boss.

      1. Threeve*

        And do it ASAP–at many companies, a month actually isn’t a whole lot of advance notice for a full week off.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Re LW#3, yes, in just the past few weeks we onboarded someone who mentioned in their negotiations that they would need to skip town for a couple of weeks during their probationary period, for “haven’t seen elderly and ailing family for 18 months” reasons. Between the pandemic, vaccine schedules, international travel restrictions, and a few other issues, it was going to be awkward to plan around. But everyone was very reasonable about it. Almost everybody I know has been putting off an important obligation because the pandemic has prevented travel. Employers and co-workers will probably understand and be accommodating. (If not, well, I guess you will learn something important about that workplace and you can govern yourself accordingly.)

    4. Emilia Bedelia*

      Also, based on my experience with navigating difficult government paperwork, I would not be likely to think negatively of the person for having “personal problems” – most reasonable people will understand that the government is complicated and requires a lot of jumping through hoops, and that it’s not necessarily something you can handle quickly in a convenient manner. Transferring a driver’s license between 2 neighboring states took me 4 visits to the DMV – immigration/international documentation sounds like an even more complex process. It sounds like OP is afraid this will reflect poorly on them, but I don’t think that is the case.

    5. Machiamellie*

      Agreed. And the LW has told us clearly why without going into detail, so she can just use the same verbiage with her manager.

      I accepted a job offer and then, while still waiting to start, my surgery that had been in the works for many months was cleared by insurance and the OR was booked for a week after I started my new job. Obviously not ideal. But my managers were rock stars and said “we’ll make it work” and somehow it all worked out. I was back after a week off and everything went smoothly. Managers are used to things like this happening (although I’m making sure to not ask for time off for quite a while to demonstrate this was a fluke).

    6. magic dave*

      I dunno, unless it’s going to cause a ton of inconvenience (ie you want a week off starting tomorrow) why is why someone needs time off anyone’s business?

      1. AnonRonRon*

        Because it will reflect poorly on the LW to ask for a week off when she’s three months into a new job. So it’s in her best interests to provide at least some context, both for her own reputation with her manager, and because it makes it more likely that the manager will approve the time off.

    7. Agile Phalanges*

      Also, be cognizant of what a “favor” you’re asking (or really, how unusual the request is) and try your best not to miss any other time during your probationary period. I had a less-urgent request (and only for a few days, not a whole week) come up early in my current job (where I’m still only a couple months in), and I asked for the time off while explaining that I knew it was unusual and I wouldn’t normally ask, and would totally understand if they said no, blah blah blah, but then I also haven’t asked for any other days off, and when I’ve had to miss time for doctors appointments, I’ve made up those hours within the same week (even though I’m salary exempt and don’t strictly need to). I hope this will show I’m a dedicated employee and not a flake, and by the time I ask for my next series of days off, I’ll have proven that I’m committed to working, just a human who takes a little time off here and there.

    8. quill*

      I think “paperwork for government purposes” or “family paperwork” is vague enough that it’s not necessarily personal business though?

      Just like when you say you were under the weather it covers all sorts of diseases.

  10. Liv*

    L#3: This is one thing I find completely wild about work culture in the US. I’ve never encountered anywhere in the UK where it would reflect badly taking holiday days 3 months into a job, even if you’re on your probation. You get holiday days as part of your contract, you’re entitled to use them whenever you want/need. I get maybe not requesting days if like 2 weeks in (although here when you accept a job if you e already got holiday planner, generally employers are happy to let you have those days if you let them know before you start), but 3 months in you should h e proved you’re not a flake. I will never understand why the US is so anti-holiday days. It’s ridiculous.

    1. WS*

      Same in Australia, three months in you’ve earned a week’s leave, so it’s not weird to take it.

    2. Boadicea*

      I was about to comment the same! I would also never ever have done this when I was in grad school in the US. But they extend this ridiculousness to actual workplaces? Do they even know their employees are adults with families, lives, and/or stuff to do? Are they just completely unable to plan effectively for a coworker being away for a very short time? The very fact it would even cross a manager’s mind to be negative about it is a huge red flag to me, as despite residual trauma from the US (not even joking, lol) it wouldn’t cross mine.

      1. JB*

        ‘Do they even know that their employees are adults?’ – honestly, no, junior employees are pretty much never treated as ‘real’ adults in USA office culture. If you’re not managing someone, you’re treated like a kid trying to get out of school any time you ask to use your PTO.

        1. Bucky Barnes*

          That’s not always true. I’ve never been a manager, and with one or two exceptions, I’ve been treated with respect when I take PTO.

        2. Felwinter*

          I’ve never experienced that, and I’m forever on the bottom of the office org chart. I can’t take off any day I want every time due to coverage issues and work flow, but that’s not the same as being treated as a child.

        3. DataSci*

          This is absolutely untrue anywhere I’ve ever worked. There are very senior ICs with 10+ years of experience (like me – I’m very good at data science. I’m not good at people management. My talents would be wasted, and I’d be miserable, if I was “promoted” to management), and we’re treated like adults.

    3. allathian*

      It is ridiculous, but the attitude to time off is one of the big differences in business culture between US and Western European/Commonwealth countries.

      That said, I have a feeling that if the LW had known about the necessity of visiting their home country at the offer stage and if they had mentioned it then, it would’ve been less likely to have been an issue. It’s not clear from the letter whether they knew it or not, though.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        To be fair, there’s also some field-to-field differences – I’m in one of the countries where it probably would’ve been perfectly fine, but I didn’t take any days off (besides maybe the odd bridge day) in the 6 months probation of my first post-uni job, because my spouse, who’s in a more traditional trade, was scandalized by the very notion…

      2. I should really pick a name*

        Not all commonwealth countries.
        I’m in Canada. We’re better off than the states in terms of mandated time off, but still closer to them than European countries.
        A week off in the first three months with no explanation (that wasn’t arranged during the offer) would be frowned upon at most companies, and might not be approved.

        1. allathian*

          I thought that might be the case. I actually considered posting something like “AFAIK Canada is somewhere in between the two” but then I thought that might be too derailing. But thanks for confirming my impression.

          To be fair, I’m in Finland and a week off with no explanation that early on would probably cause some employers to question the employee’s commitment to the job even here, but earned PTO is earned PTO and the employee has the right to take it, unless there’s a genuine business need that makes that particular time extra inconvenient. Employers don’t get to judge whether someone’s reason to go on vacation is “valid” or not, as long as they have earned the PTO in the first place. Here we start earning PTO from the first day on the job, by law, and it’s illegal to require an employee to work a full year before taking any paid time off, AFAIK a common occurrence in the US.

          1. Dutch*

            “work a full year before taking any paid time off, AFAIK a common occurrence in the US.”

            I’m in the US and I’ve never heard of that. Certainly not a “common occurrence”

            1. ecnaseener*

              Yeah, not a year. Three months is pretty common as the length of time before PTO can be used

            2. Kate 2*

              I’ve worked in the US for my entire career, 13 years so far, and interviewed for a lot of jobs. Only 1 has NOT required that you wait a year before using your leave time. Actually, every job I’ve worked, you don’t actually get any leave time before 1 year. For context I worked retail, manufacturing, and office jobs. So a decent range of fields.

              1. Observer*

                Your experience (outside of retail, which is another whole beast) is a bit of an outlier, I would say.

                1. doreen*

                  I’m not sure if it’s exactly an outlier , although it certainly isn’t the most common method – but there is a method of vacation accrual where employees don’t earn a specified number of hours/days per pay period/month that are credited to them immediately. They receive their entire year’s vacation allotment on a given date – that might be their own anniversary date or a single date ( such as Jan 1) for the entire company. With that method, you wouldn’t have actually earned any PTO before that date – and if it’s your anniversary date, you would have worked an entire year before being use the time.

                2. jj*

                  I’m used to it being the opposite – you get the entire year up front when you start if it’s based on anniversary, or if it’s the same date for everyone they you get a pro rate based on when you start that year, and then re up with everyone else the next year

              2. quill*

                In my experience that’s been the difference between direct hire and being on contract.

                Direct hire: you have sick days / leave days after 90 days on the job but they may not be enough to cover a full week yet.

                Contract: no paid days ever aside from sometimes a couple national holidays a year.

            3. RussianInTexas*

              It is in my company. Your paid time off does not kick in until a full year of employment. Your holidays pay does not kick in until 6 months of employment.

        2. Colette*

          Yeah, when I started my first post-university job, I couldn’t officially take vacation for 6 months (but my manager let me take a week to go back for convocation).

    4. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      What country are you in, #3? I’m an American expat in Germany and just told them flat out I’ve not been home in three years and have booked flights. By law they have to give me holiday even in my probation time (also six months). It’s just expected here, regardless of probationary status.

      1. MK*

        That wouldn’t fly in most jobs. Yes, they have to give you the legal number of days off, in many cases within a specific time period, but they don’t get to take off when you want. And newer employees usually come last in the selection.

        1. discontinuity*

          “That wouldn’t fly in most jobs.” That’s true in the States, but not in Germany. All the places I’ve worked would be totally fine with taking time during the probation period. If you started in the second half of the year they’re legally obligated to allow it. You also get 21 days of leave as a legal minimum every year so if you don’t take any during your probation, you could end up needing to take a very long block afterwards which is harder to cover for. There are toxic places where this would be a problem but they’re the exception, not the rule.

          Giving a reason would help but keeping it vague should also be ok.

          1. Moo*

            I think also especially over the summer – like if you start a job in May/June it might even be expected that you’d be taking time off over the summer, even if you end up pre-taking your leave entitlement (I’m not in Germany but another EU country). You might not be able to take a really long holiday, but I don’t think a week would raise an eyebrow.

          2. MK*

            I wasn’t talking about taking leave during the probation, but whenever you want. In my experience the new person takes whatever days are left after everyone else makes their choice (unless coverage isn’t an issue at all).

          3. Myrin*

            I’m pretty sure MK isn’t talking about that but rather about simply deciding that you’re gonna be out at [time], period (den Chef vor vollendete Tatsachen zu stellen, sozusagen), and as a newbie at that.

          4. GiantPanda*

            Also in Germany.

            In my team you would get the days off and still raise eyebrows. Fixing dates and booking flights before the vacation request is granted is a Bad Idea (TM), even more so in the summer when everybody wants time off.
            We need to sort-of-cover for each other (no more than half the team away at the same time) and that means talking to your coworkers first. People who don’t do that and put pressure on everybody else definitely earn some silent curses, even when we can make the vacation possible (and so far we could always make it work).

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Here in France, if you’ve booked your tickets, then you’ll mostly be allowed to take the time off. Normally you have to work for a year at your new workplace to build up enough leave, so during your first year you either take unpaid leave or it gets taken out of your allowance for the next year.

          With minimum five weeks paid leave, most people will have a week in the spring and at Christmas, and a few weeks in the summer, so it’d be hard to ever start a job without having some kind of break planned in the next few months, unless you leave booking to the last minute.

    5. G.A.*

      Thank you for your reply, Liv (OP here). I actually work in the UK, but it is my first time here, so I am not 100% sure how things work yet.

      1. Forrest*

        I think you’ll probably be absolutely fine, then! (Am also in the UK— there are probably small sectors/cultures where this would be frowned on, but it be absolutely OK everywhere I’ve worked.) Even if it’s a place that likes you to accrue leave rather than giving you an allowance in one go, a week after three months is a totally normal amount of annual leave.

      2. Well...*

        I’m an expat in the UK right now too! In my experience paperwork at embassies is a pretty respected reason to take time off, and nobody asks questions because bureaucracy is a super boring conversation topic. Basically all my coworkers are international though, so it might vary from place to place.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          And we all know ex-pats’ lives have suddenly become more complicated with Brexit too.

      3. Alex*

        Unless you are from one of the very small number of countries on the green list 1 week is not going be sufficient to return home deal with whatever you need to deal with return and then quarantine for the required 10 days after arriving back in the UK. Employers in the UK do not normally have an issue with leave during probation (as long as you are not undergoing lengthy group training that is on a fixed schedule) but suggesting that a week would be sufficient time off for a trip abroad at the current time would show a major lapse in judgement.

        1. UKDancer*

          I think it depends on the job. If the OP is doing a job that can be done mainly remotely then it would be fine to quarantine on return and work from home if they went to an amber list country or quarantine in a hotel and work from there if it’s a red list country. One of my colleagues had to go home to an orange list country for personal reasons. On her return she quarantined at home and continued to work. We didn’t notice any difference from normal because we’re all working from home anyway.

          1. Ann Non*

            But the UK is on many countries’s blacklists so LW would have to quarantine for several days upon arriving in home country?

            1. UKDancer*

              I think OP would definitely have to check as it may be a relevant factor although not everywhere has the same lists. For example I don’t have to quarantine when I go to France if I am vaccinated and have a negative PCR test. I do have to quarantine on return because France is on the UK orange list.

            2. MCMonkeybean*

              To be honest I’m not following their logic as to why it would be easier to travel in the summer than later in October because of the pandemic–I would think there is a chance (fingers crossed) that restrictions might be lessened by October but I am not in the UK so maybe they’re seeing very different things than I am.

              1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                I would say simply because covid doesn’t take hold as easily when everyone’s living outdoors. Cases did fall dramatically last summer, only to creep back up in the autumn.

        2. Well...*

          This is assuming a lot. I quarantined and didn’t take any time off– in fact I started my contract from in quarantine. Many people can wfh with no problem. Also I’m not sure the 10-day quarantine will still be in place in the UK in a few months, and the green list might expand significantly by then, or there might be built-in exceptions for vaccinated people. This goes both ways, for the UK quarantine or for whatever happens with LW visits home.

      4. Amey*

        Oh, if you’re in the UK, I think this is a totally different matter! A week off in your first 3 months is probably fine in most industries although I would personally still include the ‘important reason’ thing. You’re accruing leave in your first year and we get a fair amount so it needs to be spaced out across the year. However, if your job is in person, we’re still in restrictions on international travel in the UK and you’ll likely need to quarantine in some form on your return (depending on the country you’re going to but it’s most for the time being) and the way our rules keep changing, as a manager I would probably be more concerned about you getting stuck abroad or having to be out of the office for a long period after your return. I get the sense that the culture and expectations around this (and the rules) are very different in particularly the US at the moment then they are here, so I’d be very aware of that. My family are in the US and I’m likely to miss my sister’s wedding in August because travel restrictions are still so uncertain.

      5. Bagpuss*

        I am in the UK.

        Taking time off in your first three months would not be at all unusual or unreasonable here – assuming you are full time, you ill have accrued a weeks worth of holiday entitlement buy the end of the 3rd month anyway. (possibly more, but statutory min,. would be 28 days if you are full time, so 7 days accrued by the end of month 3, although you may have had to se some for the My bank holidays.

        However, there is nothing at all wrong with asking for time off during your probation period, and you may well find that your employer is happy for you to take it now as a lot of people have a lot of holiday time saved yup, as arrangements were made to allow statutory leave to be rolled over from last year, and of course everyone who was furloughed continued to build up allowances, so having someone take some tf their time now, so they will be available to cover when others take theirs, can look quite appealing.

        Do however factor in requirements for quarantine (bearing in mind these may change) and look into whether it may be possible for you to work remotely on your return if you do have to quarantine.

      6. Akcipitrokulo*

        Oh, you’re fine!

        I’d still mention “need to do some red tape” but that’s me!

        (Standard “uk unions are awesome, look up on tuc website!” advice ;) )

      7. TechWorker*

        Another U.K. commenter coming in to say that in this case Alison’s advice is pretty US centric (which is fair, that’s where most writers are coming from!). I think you could give the reason but I’d expect you to have no problem at all booking the week off, especially if you can be flexible with the exact week (Eg, request it now and before booking flights!). Agree with others that you’ll have to work out how to handle quarantine though.

        1. Zilo*

          “in this case Alison’s advice is pretty US centric”

          ALL of her advice is US centric because she’s writing for an American audience. Obviously there’s no way to stop foreigners from reading the website, but the advice isn’t intended for anyone who isn’t American and its weird that people complain about that. If I went to a British website and started complaining that it was UK centric, I would be told to GTFO, but Americans are constantly accused of being US centric on our own effing websites.

          1. EmKay*

            Her advice is US centric because she is herself a US citizen. The Internet, capital i, is international. I’ve been reading for years and not once have I ever seen her say “I write only for Americans”.

            So, y’know, take it easy, eh? “US centric” is not an insult, so there’s no need to get, ah, testy.

            1. Zilo*

              The internet is international in the sense that its accessible worldwide, but let’s not pretend that every website on the internet is or should be equally used by or representative of all countries. Just like every other form of media, most websites have a target audience that is not the entire world and I’ve seen Alison mention many times that she can’t give advice about workplace norms in any country other than the US.

          2. TechWorker*

            I’m not sure where you decided I was complaining…? This is such a bizarrely over the top reaction to the non controversial statement that in some cases workplace norms differ between countries…? I literally qualified it by saying I think it’s totally fair for the advice to be US centric…

          3. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yep, all of my advice is U.S.-centric. I can’t speak to *any* conventions outside the U.S. on anything. Everything is we talk about here is culturally specific and I am an American writing about American norms.

            1. TechWorker*

              For the record I really didn’t mean to start this debate!

              All the advice is US centric (which I think is totally reasonable and never meant to imply otherwise), but in many many cases it’s applicable in lots of other places too because it’s just common sense and/or work cultures are similar. In this one particular case I do think there’s quite a difference, which is the only reason I pointed it out.

              I was not at any point intending US centric as a negative. Sigh. Or accusing anyone of anything?!! I’m still so confused by the reaction to this.

          4. MK*

            The advice is US-centric because that’s where Alison’s experience comes from, and therefore the advice. Everyone understands that. That’s why most commenters clarify when their experience is from outside the US.

            Is ti actually intended for a US audience? I am pretty sure Alison has published letters from people who state they aren’t from the US or working there, presumably because she thinks her advice applies and the letter would be of general interest.

            Also, being told to GTFO (hopefully more kindly) would be better than having people silently resent it when someone mentions their non-US perspective, or give snide replies. As far as I remember, comments from foreigners aren’t discouraged, as long as they don’t turn into pile-ons about how much US healthcare and vacation policies suck (which does seem to happen regularly, unfortunately). If these comments are unwelcome altogether, it should be added the site rules.

            1. Wellington*

              Comment from Europeans about vacation and healthcare almost always do lead to pile-ons though. AAM is not going to tell any group of commenters to stop commenting or make a rule to that effect. That would be bad for business. But she has said numerous times (including today) that she finds these kind of comments exhausting. Also, several American commenters in this very thread have said that these comments are annoying, frustrating, condescending, etc. And this isn’t the first time I’ve seen Americans push back like this. Why isn’t that enough for the Europeans to just respect that request, especially since it is often the same Europeans making the same comments every time the topic comes up.

      8. Tara*

        Oh my god, in the UK you should definitely just tell your manager that you need to take the time off to deal with some things in your home country. You can caveat it by saying that you appreciate it’s potentially inconvenient taking holiday early into the role (but this is a politeness thing, people would be pretty rude to think it about only a week of leave), but ask now and have the conversation with the presumption that the leave is being approved.

    6. John Smith*

      Agreed. My previous manager spent most of his probation on leave, which we now guess was to hide how incompetent he was and avoid being found out and dismissed easily for it.

      Taking leave is certainly easier in the public sector than the private sector in my experience. In the private sector, I’ve been interrogated on leave as though it was using up my managers personal finances. Public sector: don’t even need to ask – it just gets booked!

    7. Less Bread More Taxes*

      I think this also varies by employer unfortunately. I’ve worked in the US, Ireland, and France. I actually dealt with more resistance to taking holidays in Ireland than anywhere else. I agree that generally in Europe there is an understanding that your holidays are part of your compensation, so denying holidays would be just like denying someone a paycheck. But there are also bad apples everywhere, and I’ve certainly dealt with European managers who can and will deny someone holidays for months just because.

    8. Marion Ravenwood*

      Also in the UK, and I took a half day’s leave a week and a half into my current job (it was my birthday and I had tickets for the Harry Potter play). I did offer to cancel them and reschedule because I didn’t want to look bad, but my manager was like, “no, of course not, go and enjoy it!” So I think a week’s leave after three months here is perfectly reasonable.

    9. Juniper*

      Same, Scandinavia here. The only thing to be aware of for us is that we shouldn’t necessarily expect to be paid for that week (weird vacation pay laws and all). But otherwise, totally fine to take a week of 3 months in.

    10. BubbleTea*

      I recently learned that at my organisation (in the UK) we are not meant to take time off in our first three months, which is our probation period. I hadn’t known that! And I did take a week off during my 3rd month, with no issues. So it isn’t universally true. I think the fact we have more leave available overall might be a factor though, employers actively want it to be more spread out over the year.

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

        I hope they make an exception if you start towards the end of the holiday year, or allow it to be rolled over – otherwise you’d have accrued about 6 days leave that you would lose!

        1. Bagpuss*

          They would not lawfully be able to have a situation where you could not use your statutory entitlement.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          If you had accrued leave and were not allowed to take the time off, you might be paid a wage in lieu of the leave (so you’d get double pay while working for that amount of time, in that you’re already being paid for working).
          In France it’s just not possible to be paid in lieu of taking leave, so the extra time just adds up and when your contract comes to an end, you get all that paid leave in one go, before officially becoming unemployed or before officially retiring. The employer can refuse to let you take leave during your notice period, but then they have to pay for your leave on top of that as well.

    11. Anonymous Mouse*

      I was going to say, I wouldn’t say, on my first day, that I need Friday off or something, but I’m barely three months into my current position and have taken just shy of a week off already (although I’ve been in the company for over 4 years so things are different).

      Difference in US working culture and the UK’s working culture, I guess (I know a guy who worked in the UK for a US company and they said that the amount of times they had to say “no, you can’t do that!” to them because they couldn’t get it through their heads that the rules are different here was astounding)

      1. UKDancer*

        Agreed. I wouldn’t ask for it on the first day of the job but in my UK company there’s no problem taking some leave while in your first 3 months. I’d probably personally not take a week because that’s the time period while I’m still getting up to speed. But I wouldn’t feel inhibited about asking for it.

      2. londonedit*

        I agree – ideally when you’re agreeing start dates and whatnot after you’re offered the job, you’d say then if you had any holiday already booked in the next few months, but obviously that’s not always possible and in my (UK) experience it’s never been a problem taking holiday while still in a probation period. I have worked for companies where the employee handbook technically says you shouldn’t take leave during the first three months, but in practice that’s never been enforced – it’s another one of those things where the vast majority of line managers would be happy to approve it (as long as you’re not turning up and immediately asking for a week off during the company’s busiest time, or whatever). Especially if you’re starting a job in the summer, employers will expect people to already have holidays booked.

    12. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Also in the UK. Time off in the first three months will depend a little on industry and company, I think.

      That said: OP’s reasons sound good and I think it’s unlikely to be a problem at most orgs in the US or the UK.

    13. Good Vibes Steve*

      Same here in mainland Europe – I would not bat an eye at someone asking for a week off during the summer even 2 months after starting. It seems like a perfectly normal thing to do!

    14. Caroline*

      hmm, I’m not so sure about that. In my experience, taking time off during your probationary period is discouraged unless you have a good reason, so I don’t think its THAT different than the US.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I think you might need to explain that you’ve already booked your flight, or that it’s to see your dying grandmother, but in Europe we do generally consider it necessary for employees to take time off and we know most people want to do that in the summer when the weather makes fun an easier thing to be had.

      1. lucty*

        These Europeans will never pass on an opportunity to rant about US work practices though. You would think they would get bored of it after a while, but nope, they have to tell us how baffled they are every. single. time. vacation gets mentioned in a letter.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I’m sorry you feel that way. Since OP is in the UK, it is actually relevant, otherwise I would be holding my piece having .

          And it’s also not the same Europeans saying it each time. For every European that pipes up, there’s probably several of us saying “OK let’s not pile on here, it’s upsetting for the US workers”, so please don’t generalise about “these Europeans”.

          And honestly, I would be delighted to see workers in the US getting better rights. I’m actually rather frustrated that US workers don’t react by saying “wow you get that much leave? We should lobby for that over here” rather than “stop bragging will you!”
          FWIW US employers will say that it drives prices up, but I believe the average cost of a burger at a well-known chain is about 6 cents more in Europe than in the US. And you don’t get unlimited soda in the meal plan, but that’s not a bad thing.

          1. Dutch*

            You are misrepresenting why American object to these kind of comments. It’s not because the comments are upsetting or because it’s seen as bragging. It’s because we already KNOW that you get more leave than us and plenty of us ARE lobbying for improvements. We don’t need to be reminded of it every time a letter writer writes in about taking leave. Commenters like yours suggesting that we are just blindly unaware of the problem are incredibly condescending and totally unnecessary.

            1. pancakes*

              You are speaking for yourself and a like-minded contingent, not for all Americans. Some of us don’t see any harm in being reminded, and/or don’t take it as a personal slight.

          2. Lynn Whitehat*

            OK, this is exactly what commenters in the US get frustrated by. Lots of us *are* working for better working conditions. It’s slow going because there are powerful entrenched forces pushing the other way. Not because we never heard of things being otherwise, or because unlimited soda is our foremost concern.

        2. Crivens!*

          To be fair, American work culture is complete garbage. I’m American and I’m baffled and angry every time I think about it. I appreciate knowing that people in other countries see and understand how bad it gets here.

    15. Nancy*

      Yes, Americans are aware that people in other countries think this way because this is stated whenever vacations come up as a question.

      OP3: I have asked for vacation during probational periods several times without a problem. Let them know it it something that cannot wait. Most people are understanding.

    16. Sacred Ground*

      “You get holiday days as part of your contract…”

      I’m sorry, part of your what? What is this “contract” of which you speak and what does it have to do with employment?

    17. Save the Hellbender*

      I also think 6 months is an unusually long time to not get to take any vacation, so I hope OP’s probation isn’t no PTO.

    18. magic dave*

      yeah america’s culture re: time off is utterly bonkers, especially considering how big the country is. how are you ever meant to visit anyone anywhere?

    19. fhqwhgads*

      I’m in the US, and while I understand the LW having concern about using leave during probation – just because you’re new and don’t want to make a bad impression, so that seems a reasonable fear in general – my knee-jerk reaction was, assuming this letter came in recently and they’re in the US, it’s summer. Any reasonable employer that blinks at someone wanting a week off in summer kinda sucks. Like, if they suddenly wanted a week off their second week of employment, that’d be weird to not have mentioned during the hiring process. But three months in? When three months in is the middle of the summer? I wouldn’t bat an eye.

      That said my various employers in the past decade all have not done vacation accrual. Rather you have your full allotment for the year available to you January 1. If this person accrues vacation and wouldn’t have enough to cover the whole week by the point they needed to use it, I could see that being an issue, but that’s separate from the “3 months in” aspect of the question.

    20. bluephone*

      Wow, people outside the U.S. are surprised/ignorant of U.S. work conventions around paid leave, at-will employment, etc? Countries that aren’t the U.S. do work stuff differently??? EVERY country that isn’t the U.S. is a platonic ideal of worker rights, 6-digit salaries for entry-level staff, paid 24-month leave for a hangnail, etc? I had no idea, this is all totally new information!

      US employer conventions surrounding paid leave are not the issue with this letter.

    21. ElleKay*

      I think the biggest concern here is that LW is *in their probationary period* That’s what makes this a difficult situation; usually somewhere with that length of probation period is because it’s a high stress/difficult organization where a lot is riding on you & they want to be able to let you go fairly easily if you’re not a good fit.
      In many other US jobs it isn’t a big deal to take a vacation but if you’re *explicitly* in some kind of probationary status then it’s not a good look.

      Also (from the opposite POV) many US employers have you start accruing vacation time but you can’t actually use it until you’ve been there 6 months or a year. So there’s the question of if LW is even qualified for (paid) vacation time yet. (If the request is for unpaid time then this isn’t nearly as complicated)

  11. staceyizme*

    LW2- It surely seems like you could decline to work with her based on the fact that she’s unreliable and she’s a junior colleague. Maybe just a candid offer to debrief the next most prior attempted collaboration would emphasize the point that her mismanagement of commitments that she’s made to date has some consequences. Beyond that, how is she even still able to rumble on in her disorganized/ chaotic fashion? Hasn’t her supervisor noticed her lack of productivity and let her know that it’s unacceptable? If you have any authority over her at all, it’s incumbent upon you to be clear and firm about her issues. Otherwise, she’ll go on wreaking havoc across your organization. If it isn’t your problem because you don’t manage her in any sense, then have you “forwarded” concerns about her prior missteps to whoever is managing her? It seems like you’d want to speak up, at least at some point.

    1. Office sweater lady*

      I think the LW should slough this person off as quickly as possible before they become destructive to the LWs career in some way. It’s bad enough that the junior colleague is disorganized, but to complain and try to take credit where she’s done nothing, especially to a senior colleague, seems totally out to lunch and I worry about what this person might do in the future. I think the senior colleague should continue to politely decline any further collaboration of any kind, and become a slower to answer this person’s emails. If asked, she could say her priorities have shifted to other research avenues that the LW finds more fruitful, which would be true but still reasonably polite to maintain the surface level collegiality it seems the LW is hoping to continue with the junior colleague.

      1. learnedthehardway*

        Agreeing with you. I think the OP should have a word with their own manager to the effect that they want it on the record that – having worked with the junior employee on projects – they are serving notice that they will not do that voluntarily again, and why.

        It sounds like the junior employee is perfectly happy to take credit for projects to which they did not contribute, and I’d want to head off at the pass any potential shenanigans they might get up to once they realize that the OP knows what they’re up to. People like that are liable to be tricksy in more than one respect.

        1. identifying remarks removed*

          Yes – for the latest project I’d write a summary of how the junior employee requested to be involved, what they were asked to do and the reality of their lack of response/work done and how that affected the LW’s own work schedule. Maybe if the junior employee is given hard facts about the reality of their lack of follow through it might get through to them. Failing that it’s solid proof if LW refuses to work with the junior employee again and she complains she’s not being given growth opportunities.

          1. LW 2*

            LW 2 here! Yes, I thought my junior colleague would be much easier to get rid of, and would realise she wasn’t contributing much except adding a whole bunch of extra emails and stress for me, as I waited for her to respond/action things she said she’s do. But no! She was extremely defensive, full of excuses, and seems to think she’s doing a lot. These projects are not part of her core work, and I have told her she needs to focus on that. They are high-profile career building projects instead. She pretty much suggested I was hogging the credit for my own work, which threw me.

            1. Snuck*

              Academia is an odd place apparently (I’ve not worked in it, but am commenting based on my observations of friends and other places who do). I can understand not wanting to completely shoot down this junior colleague – in a few years she could become more like a peer (although never as senior as you I presume), and she might be involved in something you want a piece of too. So you need to tread gently.

              You’ve already had the conversations with her about her contributions, so now you are free to lie I feel. Politely, diplomatically, but lie lie lie! Say “Oh, I am sorry, I didn’t realise you were interested in this project and I have already filled the roles / staff I need” and “ I am already talking to others about that, but I hear Fergus is doing something that might interest you – have a chat to him about his egg hatching project!” And “I really need to mentor some other junior staff there is some pressure on me to do this and I cannot play favourites”. Talk to whomever has influence to force you to take this junior on, ahead of her getting wind of it, and say “This is my plan for resourcing, I’m keen to find people with X, Y and Z skills, and plan to take graduate students and post grad students. Ideally I’ll find someone without this experience to mentor, and I plan to work with A B and C, but all new people aside from that” and then when she sticks her hand up you can say “I’ve already solidified the recruitment plan and sorry there just isn’t a space for your skills right now, we’ve got that role filled.”

              She’s riding on your coat tails, she’s miffed she’s been caught doing it, and she will just move onto the next person she can get some name mentions on papers with … if you can hold out for a little while. People like this exist in every project management role in the world :) The person who makes sure they complete the presentation pack but do none of the data analysis or collection. Either that, or firmly put her in an admin role, where she won’t get author rights to the paper, and make sure she knows that before she signs on – watch her scurry off fast.

              1. Juniper*

                I can’t help but feel like lying will bite OP in the butt. I’m all for fudging the truth a little when dealing with nuanced interpersonal dynamics, but trying to address a concrete, protracted issue by aggressively lying seems shortsighted. What happens when the parameters upon which the successful lie depends are resolved? Or become moot? I worry that either way, OP will at some point be forced to confront the issue, and it will be much harder to defend her position after months or years of deflecting.

                1. pancakes*

                  I agree. These particular lies could easily seem implausible in context, too – “I already have the staff I need” a day after the project is announced and while everyone else is throwing their hat in the ring, for example.

              2. Forrest*

                I’m trying to work out where the bit about academia comes from— am I missing another comment from LW2 somewhere?

            2. Juniper*

              This sounds so frustrating! I guess my question is, what are you afraid will happen if you decline to continue to work with her? It seems like you hold all the cards here, but is there more to the organization structure/management than you’ve indicated in the letter that makes you hesitate?

            3. identifying remarks removed*

              Wow! That’s takes a special brand of self promotion coupled with lack of self awareness. In that case I’d be inclined to get even more specific with documenting her lack of contribution and problems with her performance to your/her supervisors. If she’s saying that to your face I can only imagine she’s repeating that lie to other people in the org.

            4. Foof*

              She sounds like the “academic you were warned about” ie someone who is mercenary about climbing the ladder by taking credit for work they’ve mostly fobbed off on other people. Given their reaction I would remain polite and warm/breezy but utterly refuse to work with them again and i wouldn’t steer others to them either without evidence they’ve changed.

            5. Mockingjay*

              I think you need to use very short sentences with strong wording. Repeat frequently. “Junior, the/my project is nearly complete and I do not require [your] assistance at this point, thank you.”

              Blunt? Yep. But unambiguous and hard to argue with. Honestly, I would ignore her first email requests altogether. “Sorry, didn’t see/get your email. I’ve got all the staff and resources I need set up and we’re nearly done. Thanks anyway.” Remember JADE – Don’t Justify, Argue, Defend, Explain. She’s a junior colleague, not the boss.

              She needs to build her own credentials, not misappropriate yours.

            6. EPLawyer*

              You are letting her irrational response influence how to respond. You are hoping if you just find the right words she will understand she is the problem. You can’t reason with the unreasonable. You will never find the right words. All you can do is minimize contact. Find someone else to collaborate with. Or just flat out say that you are handling this one on your own and she is free to do her own project if she wishes. But stop trying to reason with her.

            7. Falling Diphthong*

              She pretty much suggested I was hogging the credit for my own work, which threw me.

              I’m going to guess that she is manipulative, and that this has to date worked for her before as a way to point to things “she” accomplished. People who are good at manipulation are not always diabolical masterminds rubbing their hands together and executing an elaborate scheme–in my experience they are often rather sad people desperate to not experience natural consequences and so trying to make other people feel bad for being so mean.

            8. Khatul Madame*

              You are senior staff, so act like one.
              If it’s easier for you to complete all work by yourself – give yourself permission to do so.
              You could also use project assignments as currency in your interactions with peers – basically if you MUST include Person A in your project/article, make sure Person A’s sponsor returns the favor somehow. Not that I endorse quid pro quo so much, but everybody does it, and besides, this way you’ll at least get some benefit. Now pain in the neck from the junior employee is all you get.

              BTW, acting like senior staff includes ignoring inappropriate guilt trips from the junior employee. Seriously, the nerve.

            9. LCH*

              I’d probably just keep repeating that I need collaborators who are proven to be more responsive and timely with their work. She can’t prove that. Just keep repeating it. You’d be happy to work with her once she has shown this on someone else’s project. I agree that you seem to hold all the cards. Not sure how she could damage you?

            10. Nesprin*

              I worked with a version of your coworker- she was friendly, responsive and objectively terrible at anything that wasn’t sending emails and unfortunately management thought she was the cats pajamas. It was exhausting- if we worked together and she did nothing, she got the bulk of the shared credit. If I told her to work on defined subunit of project X, she’d complain that I wasn’t sufficiently helping her, or that I’d sidelined her. If I refused to work with her, management labeled me difficult to work with. Now I’m not blaming all this on coworker- management absolutely was more than half of the problem, but this turned into an exhausting and demoralizing experience for me.

              If I were you, I’d document carefully your history with her and explain her pattern of behavior to whatever bits of shared management you have.

            11. Nea*

              Hopefully you can just shove off Jr with a combination of “focus on your core work” and “your communication problems have hindered previous efforts; I cannot work in that manner.”

              But if not, it seems to me that you might be able to get Jr to sink herself via her own habit of not reading emails. In your shoes, if I absolutely HAD to involve her, I’d start adding this line to all communications: “If I do not hear back from you in (x) days, I will take that as your acknowledgement that you must focus on other areas at this time and are withdrawing from the project.” (I’d bury that well down on the first email. Where it might easily be missed.)

              And then when she complains she was sidelined, well – you put the terms and conditions right there in writing. If she didn’t follow up in time, then she was the one who took herself off the team, not you.

            12. Observer*

              She pretty much suggested I was hogging the credit for my own work, which threw me.

              That makes perfect sense. To be honest, my first thought was that she only jumped on to these projects because she wanted to garner some credit. And then got annoyed that she can’t get the credit without doing some work. Her accusation just confirms that.

              Not that it’s something you need to bring up with your manager. But if she’s that blatant about it, people will see it and you’ll be fine refusing to work with her.

            13. meyer lemon*

              Wow. I’m sorry you’re in this situation, but it is kind of mind-blowing to me that there are people out there with this kind of chutzpah. She’s a very junior employee and you are a senior one; these prestige projects are outside the scope of her job; she’s bombed them on multiple occasions and is essentially a liability; and still she gets defensive and rude when you politely try to extract yourself from her involvement. Meanwhile, I would have a hard time working up the courage to ask to be put on a project once. Sigh.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Hasn’t her supervisor noticed her lack of productivity and let her know that it’s unacceptable?

      Since LW’s projects aren’t this person’s core work, I’d guess she’s getting her core work done fine. Her supervisor obv should still talk to her about honoring commitments etc, but there might not be anything wrong with her overall productivity levels.

    3. Aron*

      This. Her/your manager should be involved at this point, IMO. I would consider cc’ing the boss on any future email correspondence with this person, particularly when collaborative projects are being discussed.

      OP – I’m also a little baffled that a very senior person feels the need to kowtow to a very junior person because of the industry. She’s not your supervisor, she won’t (shouldn’t) be a reference for you, and she won’t be the one verifying employment, but she’s taking credit for your work and then complains about/to you when you complete an independent project, which could absolutely have severe, negative consequences for you in the future. I think you’re treading carefully but you’re treading the wrong way.

  12. renalta*

    Have you let the hire ups know about this issue? Your colleague knows she is not pulling her weight. She is looking to beef up her “performance” and make herself look good at the company at your expense.

    1. Copper Penny*

      4, to me this sounds like a use it or lose it budget and they are coming up with ways to spend their money, so they will continue to get it next year

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

      This was my thought as well – she’s using these projects to bolster up her resume and that’s why she was miffed at being left out of the most recent one. I’m not sure how to handle this in academia compared to in a ‘commercial company’, though.

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

        …Well, I was assuming it was in academia although I don’t think it was explicitly stated, hmm.

        1. Esmeralda*

          If academia (faculty or not, doesn’t matter), talk to Junior’s supervisor. Academia is not different from anywhere else in this respect — people have supervisors/bosses and those bosses may not know exactly what all their reports are up to. Because Junior may be putting these things on her c.v., which can help her in promotion and tenure. Cut this one off now.

          1. Aron*

            I’ve found it can actually be easier to cut this person off from projects in academia, as brusque personalities and territoriality are the norm, especially when tenured profs are working with junior non-tenured faculty. (I can’t tell if OP is an academia or not. I suspected from some wording in the letter but an update from OP suggests it’s not.)

          2. Yorick*

            If academia, and if OP and the more junior person are both faculty, there probably isn’t really a supervisor to talk to. The department chair does some paperwork like a supervisor would, but they often don’t do any real supervising, and each person just manages their own work.

  13. Mary*

    LW2: Where is your/her boss in all this? Is she even meeting the basic requirements for her position? Does everyone tend to “baby” her? I’m sorry. That situation sounds infuriating.

    I’m also kicking myself because I wish I had said Alison’s script two weeks ago when my boss wanted me to do a knowledge share with a coworker who is junior to me, yet extremely disrespectful to me. Guess I’ll have a script for next time.

    1. Mannheim Steamroller*

      My guess is that Junior IS meeting the basic requirements of her own job — by doing minimal or zero work for the special projects.

  14. Bartimaeus*

    Oh hey, #1 is copied from the authoritarianism test. I’m pretty sure.

    It’s a personality test designed to identify people who are prone to authoritarian leading and following beliefs.

    1. Xenia*

      I was wondering if someone had just copy pasted a personality test without reading the questions carefully.

    2. Lalaroo*

      Yes, exactly. I was coming to say that I’ve seen that question multiple times before in various personality tests, so I don’t think it necessarily is a statement that says anything in particular about the company’s views, especially not that they are interested in insurrectionists in particular. It’s more likely to be part of the test they purchased from a vendor rather than something they came up with as a shibboleth.

      1. Pippa K*

        I wonder if you might be thinking of the old authoritarian personality tests like the “F Scale”? They had questions on a similar theme, but not exactly this one, which appears to be a rewording of a question first used (as far as I can tell) in a political opinion survey in early 2000 – so not even intended as a personality-type test. Anyway, the authoritarian personality tests are considered somewhat dubious by a lot of scholars, so it’s unfortunate if they’re still marketed to companies as a useful hiring tool. (I know this isn’t really the point of OP’s question, but I find it interesting!)

        1. Cj*

          In the early 2000s an insurrectionist question might have not seemed so scary. Five months after an actual insurrection yeah, it’s pretty scary.

          1. RVA Cat*

            Yeah, it’s scary as hell.
            Plus at least one of the insurgents was a CEO, another flew in on a private jet, and many of them own(ed) businesses. It’s possible the job is open because they were an insurgent, or more likely a blowhard supporter who alienated everyone else.

              1. Anon for This*

                I know, right?
                My disgrace of a state senator spoke at the rally but her security made her leave before the attack on the Capitol. She did a livestream from her car praising the insurgents but providing an alibi for the actual violence.
                She was censured by the legislature and stripped of her committee appointments, but somehow did not lose her post and had the audacity to try to run for governor.
                What a time to be alive…

          2. Pippa K*

            Sorry, typo – early 2020 is the first use I can find of the real survey question this was apparently cribbed from. But anyway, repurposing political opinion survey questions for hiring screenings is not a great idea – as the comments here show, people will find it confusing at best and make all kinds of unintended inferences about the company.

        2. Junior Assistant Peon*

          That’s my guess – probably lazy and clueless HR drones copy-pasting rather than a deliberate attempt to screen candidates for political views. I used to work for a company that briefly flirted with personality tests. Our HR manager at the time was well-meaning but incompetent.

    3. nnn*

      That might explain why the wording is so . . . odd. I found it frightening that someone would think of that question for an employment screening, and I wouldn’t feel safe working for someone who even thought of it.

    4. Forrest*

      Yes, that’s what I thought of too— they look to me like exactly the kind of questions used to scale “authoritarianism” as a personality trait, rather than specifically looking for how you answer that individual question, but it does seem a bit weird to be using that as part of a recruitment or promotion process.

    5. FiveWheels*

      Yep, exactly my thoughts. Pretty sure this is just a standard personality test. That may well be entirely useless in terms of hiring, but I doubt anyone will even see the individual answers.

    6. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Yeah – I was not thrown by the phrasing of the question, which is something I’ve seen used before in research settings. Shouldn’t be used for hiring though!

      There’s still plenty of debate to have about their validity in research settings.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Yeah, I think I would consider this an orange flag–it could be a sign that they are looking for weird things in their candidates but I think it’s more likely that they just purchased a test without thinking about really tailoring it for what they want (which is not great either). If other things about the job look good I would continue on in the process and ask about the odd questions during the interview.

  15. Aava*

    Maybe it’s just me, but that would be a HUGE red flag for me. I got such a strong “NOPE” gut-reaction even from readint this, I can’t imagine being able to continue with them. At least from my perspective, that would be so out of the norm I would question their intentions and not come to pretty conclusions…

    1. tamarack and fireweed*

      SRSLY? It’s a university. If you are applying for a permanent job with a university and get to the last round in what is usually a highly competitive process there’s a lot more input you get from your 2-3 days of non-stop “on campus” interviewing, two presentations, meetings with various administrators etc. than from an impersonal institutional gesture.

      1. Juniper*

        Yeah, that was a weird take. I actually thought they were referring to the first letter, and it was only the context of your comment that made me realize they were talking about the flower letter.

      1. EmKay*

        Okay, so DON’T send rat poison, got it! Ugh, maybe this is why no one answers my follow-up calls *scribbles notes*

    2. Susan Calvin*

      I’m begging you to elaborate on that, because I’m trying to follow that train of thought and… the worst I can come up with is “these people are likely to have celebratory cake lunches given half a plausible occasion” or “they’re kind of overenthusiastic and awkward”

      (as long as they didn’t send it to OP’s current place of employment, in which case YIKES. ABORT.)

      1. Jenny20*

        Not Aava but I’m guessing she is concerned that the interviewer might have had inappropriate romantic intent?

        1. pancakes*

          That still wouldn’t make much sense because the card was signed by the university, not a lone interviewer.

    3. Perfectly Particular*

      That is a strong reaction to some plants! I would actually find this to be amazing – interviewing is so stressful, and a tiny acknowledgement of that would be lovely. Assuming the interview didn’t indicate other red flags, like “we will expect you to occasionally work weekends for a month at a time, but there will be donuts – yay!“

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      My reaction was along the lines “Oh, how nice.”
      Were I emotionally invested in the success of the application, I would be with OP in parsing whether it meant I was a finalist, and eventually conclude that those citing “Dept Bdgt: Line Item: Flowers” closing out before 6/30 is the likely explanation.

      My 8 pound cat would be going: “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya…” but that’s her thing wherever the flowers come from.

    5. twocents*

      Idk, I immediately thought “they’re coming up on the end of their fiscal year and have money left in the budget.” It’s a nice gesture ton probably try to at least simulate some of the hospitality they would have offered on campus.

      1. Aron*

        Or they have a somewhat overzealous admin.

        I chaired a few academic search committees back in the day, and I would have been a hard “no” on sending flowers, but I also wouldn’t back out of a position because a committee sent me flowers (especially if it was an actual, full-blown search for faculty or administrative faculty, as another poster mentioned). The more I think about it, I think it actually is a somewhat nice gesture especially if the time commitment was high… but then I also start to wonder if they sent flowers to the men (if any) who interviewed.

    6. Yorick*

      This is a bizarre reaction. Even in normal times, I could imagine a university (or any workplace, really) sending or giving flowers to each candidate. It would be unusual, but not super weird. Flowers/plants are a very common “nice gesture.”

      But in a normal interview, they do some wining and dining of candidates. That’s not happening during fully-remote interview during COVID. So it seems super normal for them to send the candidates a gift of some sort during COVID.

  16. Talula Does The Hula From Hawaii*

    LW1: Are they seeking insurrectionists or attempting to not hire them?

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      He’s not planning on using this exact question – but my parent’s vet is looking for two vet techs and a receptionist- because the three of them skipped work to drive up and join that rally. My dad said apparently two of the three have actually been charged, he was very shocked – that wasn’t the impression they had given him over the past several years.

  17. Disabled trans lesbian*

    LW1: on searching for “Hospitality score” I got a result from a company that apparently sells these questionnaires to “improve hiring”.
    I personally am extremely disturbed that a company would apparently use these extreme right-wing talking points without immediate criticism and condemnation, even if the intent is to weed out right-wing extremists, because if they’re willing to repeat and utilize these dogwhistles, what else are they uncritically repeating?
    You don’t just lob a hand grenade at me and pretend you didn’t lob said hand grenade, even if it doesn’t explode.

    1. Chalk Dusted Photocopy*

      If you don’t couch it in language that they agree with, though, they won’t let on that they agree.

      That language is aimed only at the people who would “Strongly Agree” when they think the test is written and reviewed by someone on their side.

      1. Disabled trans lesbian*

        Maybe, even probably. The thing is though, without such context, this question is a massive red flag to me. I guess if it was a company I considered safe to do so, I might consider contacting the hiring manager to ask them what’s up with those questions. Absent a very good explanation I would drop the company, so these questions are likely to weed me out as well.

        1. Troutwaxer*

          The problem is that our politics in the U.S. are so effed up that we no longer have the connection to normality necessary to see that this kind of question is horrific, whacked-up BS. If a question like this shows up in my interview process I’m noping that company so hard so hard their grandchildren will break down crying at the mere thought of an automated hiring test.

  18. Amaranth*

    LW#2, I’m not sure why you feel obligated to have a warm and friendly response. Fortunately, you are senior, so all that should be needed is a *professional* response. No false regret, no need to be overly conciliatory which opens the door for debate. Just politely tell her ‘on past projects you’ve shown difficulty meeting deadlines and I won’t need your help this time.’

    1. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Yes, I agree. She needs a firm and professional response, not a warm and friendly one. If you are quite senior to her, you probably will always be quite senior to her no matter how far she rises in the ranks (though how far she could possibly rise is pretty hard to fathom, given her attitude and work ethic). So you do not need to mince words to make her feel better; if anything, she *should* feel badly about what she has done and is doing. Maybe check with your own supervisor first to make sure what you are doing is kosher at your company/org, but otherwise I don’t think *you* should feel at all bad about reading the riot act to this person (in a professional manner, of course!).

  19. G.A.*

    Hi allthian, thank you for your answer.
    I got the job offer in March and back then I myself did not know I would need time off to visit my home country. I found out in May

    1. Workerbee*

      Then include that in what you tell your employer. You just found out that now you need to fill out essential paperwork that must be done in your country.

      What would help is if you can try to come up with work solutions—such as, you intend to do X and Y remotely, or will check in with your manager, etc.—dependent on how things go once you are actually in the midst of the paperwork, of course.

    2. Sara without an H*

      While I can respect an employee’s desire for privacy, sometimes controlled doses of candor are called for. Explain to your manager that you had no advance warning that this trip would be necessary and maybe throw in a few comments about inflexible bureaucracy. If your manager is at all reasonable, that should be enough.

      I also like Workerbee’s suggestion that you prepare in advance a few things you could do to help cover during your absence: remote work, regular check-ins, etc. This makes it clear that you’re not really asking for a “holiday,” just time to cover some unavoidable personal business, and that you want to minimize the disruption at work.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I agree – make sure your manager knows you just found out, and that you’ve already tried the Embassy as well. It makes it easier to get to yes, and shows that you tried every avenue locally first.

    4. NK*

      Unless you think your employer will take “need to sort out expat paperwork” poorly, I suggest you tell them upfront.

      A coworker of mine had to travel home for a similar reason, in his first six months working with us, and ran into red tape and was unable to return for over a month. My employer jumped through hoops to help expedite his return, and to arrange for him to work remotely during that time.

      Maybe management would have reacted just the same if they hadn’t known why he was taking time off, but I’m pretty sure they reacted faster because of the advance warning.

  20. Lilli*

    “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”

    You can’t even really agree or disagree with a question like this because someone who disagrees could mean
    a) No, the traditional American way of life is not disappearing fast but if it was we may use force to save it.
    b) No, the traditional American way of life is in fact disappearing fast, but we shouldn’t use force to save it.

    Also, what exactly is “the traditional American way of life”? I mean at first glance it seems obvious that this is something very conservative. But you could interpret it in a different way. Haven’t values like equality (that actually extends to ALL people not only old white men) and democracy become part of the traditional way of life by now? Isn’t it the case that the American way of life has always been greatly shaped by immigrants? What about black American traditions? Isn’t global warming threatening the way of life as we know it (aka ‘the traditional way of life’)?

    And what exactly is force? If you mean ‘individuals should own guns and shoot people who disagree with them’ that’s bad, but I guess it’s necessary to make laws enforceable so that for example racial discrimination or homophobia (which threaten the American way of life) will stop? Or to end global warming?

    1. ecnaseener*

      Yeah, this is multiple opinions disguised as one, so it’s only really useful if respondents wholeheartedly agree with the whole thing. It’s bad survey design 101 (like, I learned about it in my high-school psych class, how do so many professionally-designed surveys mess it up)

      1. Shad*

        Because those professional surveys are often being designed to prove a point, not to gather accurate information. When you’re trying to prove a point, bad survey design that predictably elicits the desired response is “doing it right”.

    2. JB*

      That’s how dogwhistles work. They’re supposed to be somewhat nonsensical to people who don’t already agree. Just like how it doesn’t make logical sense to use ‘urban’ as a synonym for ‘black’ or ‘alternative lifestyle’ as a synonym for ‘queer’. It’s part of the function of the dogwhistle.

      A community leader says, ‘we need to be concerned about all these alternative lifestyles that are becoming more common these days’. People who agree are familiar with this language; they hear and understand ‘we need to treat queer people with suspicion and hostility because they are getting too bold’, and they join the cause. People who aren’t part of the secret club hear that and go, ‘what does that mean? Which alternative lifestyles? That word can refer to a lot of different things…’ and they mostly drift away (keeping extremists isolated and keeping the movement pure) but don’t necessarily raise any red flags because they don’t know what’s being said.

      1. hawk*

        I think you’re looking too deep into it, it’s just to flag people that put strongly agree, who would not admit to that if it was in more negative tones.

  21. Grestan*

    LW1 – a lot depends on the rest of the questions in the test. Some psychometric tests have ‘calibrating’ questions which may look wacky. If done properly they are less interested in the answer to the individual question and more interested in how you answer all the questions. Over the whole test these build up a profile score for different ‘traits’ and you just get more points for each trait the further away from the midline you are. It’s concerning it wasn’t explained as such though and if they are just trying to do this sort of testing by making it up as they go along it’s a pretty worthless test.as others have said, they may be trying to exclude people who give a strong response to the question in one way or the other.

    1. Harper the Other One*

      I learned about calibrating questions when doing parent questionnaires for my daughter’s assessments – one of the statements was “my child never does anything wrong, like an angel.” I commented after the fact to the psychologist that the “angel” phrasing seemed odd, and she explained the concept to me! I find that sort of thing fascinating.

  22. Jennifer Juniper*

    LW1: Run, run, run, far, far, far, away!!!

    This company sounds like it’s run by Q-Anon loonies.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        No, the “our traditional values” shows which side of the fence they’re on.

        1. ecnaseener*

          No, it doesn’t. This isn’t an interview question where an actual employee of the company is asking about agreement with the company’s values, it’s a personality test almost certainly written by a survey company.

          1. pancakes*

            The company will have chosen the survey company. If, when questioned, the company says it didn’t bother to review the survey before putting it into use, that’s a big, flashing caution sign in itself.

      2. Loredena Frisealach*

        Maybe, but it sounds way too much like filtering *for* them to me! Enough so that if it wouldn’t get me identified I’d be tempted to name and shame them in the LWs position.

        1. pancakes*

          Same. People making this argument are overlooking the question about universities teaching the humanities, which is additional context also pointing toward a far right mindset.

      3. quill*

        If they’re having such a problem with QAnon loonies that they need to do this, I wish them godspeed and will NOT be spending any time with them until they get that taken care of.

  23. L*

    OP #3: In my experience, expats are generally given a fair bit of leeway in terms of taking longer holidays, since everyone understands it’s not easy to just pop back to one’s home country. You’ll likely have a much easier time getting the week off if you explain your reasons.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      In my experience, you do have to speak up and explain every single time. I worked for ten years at one firm and every single year I had to point out that since it took me six hours to get to my parents’ place, I couldn’t work a full day on Christmas Eve then spend Christmas with my parents.

      1. Tara*

        My parents live in a city to which trains from where I work don’t run on Christmas Eve. It’s not that far, but it’s further than the commuter towns most of the other people at work’s families live in. They all get a half day from going into work on Christmas Eve, but I have to use a full day’s holiday or I can’t go home! With Covid/WFH getting more permissible, it wasn’t a problem last year and I’m hoping it isn’t in those to come.

  24. a drive-by commenter*

    I’m not sure why you have to be so nice to her. She should be the one worried about *you* always going to work in the same field and what that’s going to do for *her* reputation and relationships in the field, not the other way around. Yet instead of apologizing for her bad behavior, she keeps demanding to work on your projects again!

    I feel like you should just lay it all out for her. “You’ve asked to collaborate with me on X projects in the past, on Y of them you turned in a smaller portion of work than agreed on, and did it at the last minute, and on Z of them you basically didn’t do anything at all. Every time you do this it leads to a lot of last minute work and extra stress for me. I’ve talked to you about it in the past and given you a lot of second chances, but you have continued with the same behavior. I am no longer interested in collaborating with you.”

    If she gets mad and starts trashtalking you to your coworkers, so what? You’ve been there longer, you actually do your work, and you have plenty of evidence about what actually happened. Nobody’s going to take her side on this; she’ll just be digging herself deeper into the hole.

    1. Khatul Madame*

      Yes, except the script in the 2nd paragraph should be in an email with the Junior’s boss in the CC line.

    2. Aron*

      I’d want to have that conversation with the boss in the room, or, at the least, after having had a meeting with my boss to explain the situation and greenlight the plan. I can see this junior person being the type who complains about being attacked and lodges a complaint about OP with HR, and then OP is having to scramble to document, explain, justify, etc. Always stay ahead of the situation.

    3. Lenora Rose*

      This, but also I agree with Khatul Madame and Aron: Document everything you can. Make sure managers are CCd where possible. Because she sounds like the sort to try and lodge an HR complaint if there’s no paper trail or witnesses.

    4. SentientAmoeba*

      I was curious about why LW, who is the senior person in this dynamic, is so worried about a junior person, ONly thing I can think is either LW is a passive person by nature and struggles with saying no or this junior person has some kind of outsize influence. I lean towards the former since I think LW would have mentioned the latter.

  25. Siv*

    The whole point of this question is to weed people out of the position. It’s actually very responsible to include it so that you can uncover the unethical beliefs. In fact I have heard of this question being used before to survey Americans more broadly.

    1. Observer*

      Even in a general survey context, this is a terrible question. Some of the reasons have been covered already.

      Also, you have no idea whether they are screening in or screening out. But in any case, the use of this question is not in the least bit responsible. Because it’s not going to do its job of “uncovering unethical beliefs”. Any company that thinks so is going to be spectacularly bad at actually screening for unethical beliefs.

      1. Siv*

        LOL why is it a terrible survey question? How else are you going to uncover if someone would support an insurrection?

        And don’t bother telling me to read other comments. I’ll happily read any replies but won’t be directed to comb through tens or hundreds of other comments lol

        1. Observer*

          It’s a terrible question because a lot of people are not answer honestly. Either they will never admit that they are insurrectionists. Or they will answer in the way it’s obviously intended to be answered. It’s also a terrible question because it’s structure and the way it’s worded mean that someone could honestly give a “good” answer while holding very unethical beliefs.

          If you can’t be bothered to read the extensive discussion that’s already here, I’m not going to waste my time on expanding on that. Tacking on an LOL makes it worse, not better.

  26. Slinky*

    #4: I’m in academia and do a lot of hiring, so I’m well equipped to say this is weird! We don’t generally send flowers to candidates at all. I’d chock this up to the selection committee decided to do something weird and not read anything further into it than that.

  27. Cats and Bats Rule*

    Agree! We are currently all working remotely and our new hire, “Annette,” set up 15 minute video calls with our group members to introduce herself. It wasn’t awkward and was nice to have a face to put with the name on the email and voice on the Teams call.

  28. Tuckerman*

    #4. My take- The academic FY ends June 30th. Everyone’s in spend down mode because spending less this year means you might get less next year. With COVID, there were few to no in person events. There is likely leftover funds in the “florist” or event planning budget line. So they asked, how do we spend this money so we get it next year? And they decided to send all candidates flowers even though that makes no sense.
    10 years in higher ed

    1. MCL*

      Ah yes, the FY spend-down. Possible! I am at a prestigious state university and I could mayyyybe see this for a high profile hire. But not normally.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I remember helping my programming teacher build ~25 white-label Pentium era computers with the same logic. I learned a lot about school administration politics, baseline budgeting, and cost-benefit analysis from it. And enjoyed myself.

      Your logic sounds very similar to his.

      1. A Person*

        I’m currently working for a company that is moving away from “white-label” and using “private-label” instead. I approve of this and suggest it to you. (Their move from “whitelist” to “allowlist” was more confusing to me, but I figured it out quickly enough. And there are other changes too.)

  29. Kate*

    LW 5: This is totally normal! Often the people you’re setting up time with appreciate it too. Having a new person reach out to meet was hugely helpful because it let me understand what their role would be, what they were going to be working on, and just get to know a colleague. It’s exciting to meet new people when they join!

  30. Workerbee*

    #2 Colleague sounds enabled from school or other jobs. Claiming ownership on something she never actually worked on, having the gall to blame you for —what, exactly? Her not reading or responding to emails and calls and not doing the work?? —and seeming to think that just because she put her name down on something, that alone means she gets to share in the glory—-yeah, either severely immature or severely enabled in some way by other people. Ugh.

    #5 I always appreciated the companies / managers who took more of a leadership role in getting a new hire settled. I have had meet n greets set up for me and was even given directions on where said person or conference room was located. I would do the same for any of my new hires—including a real building tour, taking in restrooms and the not-obvious door to the walking trail, garage parking quirks, which lunch spots are fast vs slow, etc. The first week is hard enough without having to wander around looking and feeling lost.

    But, you have an org chart and the emails of people, and excellent advice already given. Perhaps you may find yourself redesigning the new hire process as you progress in the company!

    1. EPLawyer*

      GAH, the number of building tours that DO NOT INCLUDE THE BATHROOM LOCATION is amazing. I learned during my temping days, always ask where the bathroom is. Because most places won’t tell you up front. Not maliciously, they just don’t think of it because they know where the bathroom is, it doesn’t register that someone else might not. Guess what I do when showing someone around a new place?

      1. Good Vibes Steve*

        I’ve included it in my top 3 survival tips when welcoming a new person:
        – where is the bathroom
        – where is the coffee machine
        – how can you contact IT

        1. Sled dog mama*

          Yep, I include these, along with how to work the coffee machine should you take the last cup.

    2. Jennifer*

      I actually prefer being able to schedule the meetings myself. When I started a job earlier I had nearly a day full of meet and greet zoom meetings. It was a lot, at least for my introverted self. I’d rather spread them out over a week or two. Plus everyone asks how you like the company, what suggestions you have for improvements, how you’re settling into the job, all questions I couldn’t really answer because I was still training.

  31. SaffyTaffy*

    #1 my former employer used to ask in an assessment “if you could choose to remove a state from the United States, which would you remove and why?”
    The only right answer is “none of them,” but asking it in a neutral-to-positive way gets racists to let their guard down.

    1. Charlotte*

      Oh boy, I don’t like that: I don’t assume job interview questions are tricks or traps as a rule, and I wouldn’t want to like, refuse to answer by saying “none,” so I can imagine giving a response like “well, x state has a lot of different industries in its economy, it would probably be successful as its own country…”

      1. boo bot*

        Yeah, I hate trick questions. I feel like people who use them tend to make a lot of assumptions about what they measure, and they’re not always right.

        For instance, I think in an interview, “if you could choose one” is more likely to be heard as, “you have to choose one,” meaning it would give me a negative impression of the interviewer more than anything else. If I got the “right” answer, it would be because the question made me decide I don’t want the job, so I’m being honest because I don’t care about the outcome.

    2. Macaroni Penguin*

      I’d remove Hawaii, because I have duel citizenship with Canada. And Canada deserves their own tropical island. Is what I’d want to say.

      1. Tali*

        Considering how many native Hawaiians feel about how the former country became a state, this is a valid answer. Maybe replace it with Puerto Rico?

    3. Tierrainney*

      I’d probably think like Bugs Bunny and say Florida, because since it sticks out, it would be easiest to saw off the continent.

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        It was decent most of the time and excellent in a few ways. We worked with people on a spectrum from unfortunate to really disadvantaged, and I liked how often I’d meet someone who had a rough life and was having trouble finding a place in the world, but they’d have a spark of genuine curiosity and intelligence. I liked figuring out what kind of job might suit their intelligence, whatever form it took. And I liked that we would work with, you know, felons or whatever, but if a well-dressed person with a nice resume wrote “I’d get rid of New York and California because they’re full of gangs and drugs” we would just politely end the assessment. That kind of thing happened more than you might think. “I’d get rid of all the sanctuary cities that are dragging down our economy.” Sometimes we’d get a “I guess X because nobody lives there,” which I don’t think counted against the applicant. Just the overt responses.

    4. El l*

      Yeah, so – in an interview, the interviewer has some power over the interviewee, and one angle to this is making the interviewee answer hypothetical questions. They have the ability to say, “Don’t worry about practicality, just answer the question.” And you the interviewee have to take them at their word.

      I think this kind of question abuses that trust.

    5. Lunch Ghost*

      I can’t even figure out what the racist answer to that question would be. (Unless there’s no specific wrong answer, it’s just any answer that brings race into it.)

      1. Shad*

        The wrong answer comes in the “why” part. Any reason that’s racially charged or brings in dog whistles. Even answers based on political disagreement may be a negative mark because they suggest that the person might prefer to avoid or punish people for holding opposing opinions, where those may not be an option in a job.

    6. FrivYeti*

      God, what a terrible trick question.

      The standard rule in an interview for answering questions is that you never refuse to engage with the premise. It makes you look like you don’t know what you’re doing. If someone asks “if you could choose to remove a state, which and why” and you say “I don’t know, I like them all” I would assume that’s a failure to answer the question and pretty likely disqualifying.

      I would also probably assume that it’s a question that is meant to throw me off my guard to see how I handle completely nonsensical situations, and be a little bit annoyed, but I’m kind of used to interviewers trying to screen out any form of social awkwardness instead of just trying to get employees who are good at their jobs, so I’d answer it anyway. Possibly with follow-up questions, if the interviewer had seemed reasonable (are we folding their populations into other states? Granting them independence? Vanishing them retroactively from existence?)

      1. SaffyTaffy*

        I think that was how I answered the question myself, was like, “I’d need to know what’s happening to the state and if there’s a vote, but each state brings something unique and valuable to our country.” The more I think about it now the more I remember individual responses.

    7. Lenora Rose*

      “If you could…” needs to be followed by “Would you?” before “Which one and why?” if you don’t want it to look like a trap. And even then, it’s a weird question that, except for extremists, it won’t filter much of use.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          I meant so it didn’t come across as a “trap”, and indicated to the person being asked that “I’d keep them all” is an option. It’s easy for a nervous person to assume they HAVE to pick one. Admittedly, nerves wouldn’t cause one to reveal prejudices (just like nobody is “only racist when they’re drunk”, nobody will come up with a bigoted answer just because they feel like they are utterly required to pick one.) But someone whose actual response would be “really, I don’t want any to go” might still feel obliged to come up with something. And does “Um, Hawai’i was possibly the most illegal land-grab out of all the shameless land-grabs, so maybe give it back to the Hawai’ians.” tell you more or less about the person than “I can’t pick”?

  32. Matthias*

    LW1: I am also highly skeptical about the “do you agree millennials need to just work and stop complaining” question that has been asked.

    Just.. what? What is it that they are trying to learn here? Do they think you might be a good employee if you “agree”, or do they want you to disagree?

    This is so inflammatory and vaguely formulated you could twist an answer into anything

    1. Katefish*

      Also… at this point, millennials have been “just working” for 20 odd years or so…

      1. Antilles*

        Millennials are also the largest single generation in the labor force, at over a third of the participants int he labor force. Adding in the post-Millennial Gen Z who are starting to enter the workforce and you’re looking at over 40% of your employees. And those proportions will continue to grow given how the Baby Boomer generation is entering retirement age.
        If you wave off the concerns of almost half your employees/candidates/etc as “just work and stop complaining”, you’re probably a really ineffective manager.

    2. AGD*

      I don’t even use the term ‘millennials’ anymore. It seems to mean ‘current 21-year-olds that we are inexorably convinced are almost all sickeningly lazy’, which doesn’t correspond either to a generation or to reality. I’d call myself Generation Y if anything.

      1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Some definitions:

        Millennial – someone younger than me (who I disagree with)
        Boomer – someone older than me (who I disagree with)

        One of those slackers from Gen-X

  33. Falling Diphthong*

    OP1, if I squint I can see these questions arising out of the fact that people love working in offices surrounded by people who think exactly like themselves. So you can infer it’s going to be a sea of “Young people these days–they’re destroying toast!” and “Next insurrection, we’re not just sending in poopers!” while remaining seated and waving a mug of decaf coffee in a vaguely revolutionary manner.

    1. Anonymous Hippo*

      I read it is opposite as they are trying to weed out people with obnoxious views.

  34. Esmeralda*

    OP 4: Even for academia this is weird. NOBODY sends gifts, flowers, plants…

    For one thing, where the HE// are they getting the money for this? Unless it’s a private institution awash in cash.

    Alison is right – if you got a plant, everyone likely got a plant.

    I mean, take it as a sign that they have money?

    1. Ray Gillette*

      My first thought was they had extra cash in the “interviewing” budget that was originally allocated to flying out interviewees and are trying to find other ways to spend it so it doesn’t get cut for next year.

      1. Panhandlerann*

        We would never have been allowed to use any of our recruiting budget in such a way at my state institution.

  35. Jennifer*

    #1 I wonder if they are trying to weed out the “insurrectionist” types. Still not the best way to go about it.

  36. Lunchtime caller*

    When I’ve seen situations like LW2, it’s usually because the junior person is new enough to not even understand the full scope of these projects but just experienced enough to know they exist and THINK they know it all. So you ask her to do X and Y while you handle 1-12, but she doesn’t even know the meetings for most of those things exist, or how much work is involved in the tasks etc because she’s never done them. So in her mind she’s done “everything important” aka everything she understands for the project and a senior person is taking advantage of her. Total BS!! But I see it often at that perfect junction of ambitious but clueless.

  37. Charlotte*

    I agree with everyone saying that I’ve seen that exact “traditional values” question verbatim in personality tests before and I don’t think it’s indicative of anything beyond the company happening to be using that particular test.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’d say it’s indicative either of their “values” or of the fact that they didn’t take a look at the test before using it, which shows at the very least a rather breezy attitude to hiring, if not total lunacy.

    2. Observer*

      I don’t think it’s indicative of anything beyond the company happening to be using that particular test.

      Which is itself indicative of some real problems.

  38. Jennifer*

    #5 This is one of the few things that I think work better in the office than from home. I do get why you feel awkward. But just think of it as the equivalent of stopping by someone’s desk (or bumping into them in the kitchen), saying hi, exchanging a few pleasantries after introducing yourselves, getting a brief summary of what they do at the company, and moving on. It doesn’t need to be 30 minutes, as Alison said. 10-15 minutes or less may be enough.

  39. employment lawyah*

    1. Job application asked if we should use force to protect traditional values
    Totally fine. And perfectly legal in the US. They are screening for people who they think won’t be a good fit. Obviously the US is full of people with hugely variable political views–we see lots of threads talking about politics in the workplace. Some companies want to select for that, which they are entitled to do.

    Also, you don’t know (from the question) whether they are looking for yes answers or no answers.

    2. I don’t want to work on projects with a coworker who drops balls
    Just say no. If she won’t take the message, you can always involve her supervisor: Based on your description, it isn’t clear this person should stay employed there anyway, and you may benefit if she is replaced w/ someone more competent.

    3. Asking for a week off as a new hire
    Actually, I WOULD actually be clear about the reason: “At some point in the next few months, I’m going to have to travel back to XXX in order to handle some paperwork that can’t be done remotely, and I wanted to involve you in planning.

    It will only take 1 week in the summer, when flights are cheaper as well. It will probably take 2 weeks in the fall, since it’s busier, and is also more expensive.

    I know it hasn’t been long since I started, so I’m more than happy to wait a few months. However, I wanted to bring it up in case you would prefer to avoid my taking that time off in the fall. If you’re neutral, I have a slight preference to go sooner since it’s shorter and cheaper, but I’m happy to wait until fall if need be. Either way, I wanted to involve you in the choice.”

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      1, They’re looking for “yes” answers, clue being the pronoun in “our traditional values”.

      1. Pibble*

        It’s a standard question on certain personality scales, not written by or specifically chosen by the office – seriously, go on one of those surveys for money site and you’ll answer that question verbatim over and over again. They phrase it that way so the people who agree with the dog whistle will feel validated enough to openly agree (and also it’s not meant to be used by an office, but a research setting where “our” refers to society as a whole).

    2. Observer*

      Totally fine. And perfectly legal in the US

      Just because it’s legal does not mean that it’s “fine”.

      They are screening for people who they think won’t be a good fit.

      Obviously. The question is whether this particular value (ie using force to maintain “traditional” values) is one that should be so much part of the workplace that anyone who doesn’t agree would be out of place. Personally, I think I would avoid doing business with a business in which this was the case.

  40. Mannheim Steamroller*


    I’m guessing that your junior colleague was one of those stereotypical “college group project slacker” types who would let one student do all the work and then demand a full share of the credit.

  41. Gretchen Wiener*

    I thought #1 might be to screen for applicants who ARE like this. It looks like hospitality and they don’t need employees going buckwild on people. I’m not sure what the rest of the test is like, but this is kind of a basic psychological test where they ask you all kind of questions seeing what you think.

  42. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    I kinda disagree with Alison (in part) and the LW on this one. I think being vague “something I need to handle in person” is going to create more curiosity and seem weirder than something like “have to do immigration paperwork” which is boring and not likely to have follow up questions. Same with the question the other day about a colonoscopy – colonoscopies are routine and common so saying you have one scheduled shouldn’t cause anyone to blink. Saying a vague “medical procedure” is going to make your employer more curious and more wondering if it’s something to be concerned about.

    No one owes their employer their personal or health business but sometimes being straightforward just makes things simpler and less weird than being vague and cagey. For myself, I’ve gotten very comfortable saying “I’m taking a pump break” this year.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      I disagree with the medical procedure analogy and was going to say basically the opposite–that I would understand if they wanted to be vague about something more personal like a medical procedure, but assuming their employer already knows they are from a different country I am not really following why they would need to be so secretive about having to take care of some paperwork.

      1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

        Oh, not all medical procedures. I specifically think colonoscopies are NBD because it’s a screening test everyone over a certain age gets (like a mammogram) so it’s not really disclosing anything except that you are a human with a colon. I wouldn’t share specifics about medical procedures that weren’t in the everyone-gets-this category either probably.

        1. Katie*

          It discloses more than you’re a human with a colon: it also discloses that you’re over 50. Like you say, it’s a test everyone over a certain age gets. That age being 50.

          (The nerd in me enjoyed typing colon, colon.)

    2. I should really pick a name*

      Have you had employers who had a problem with vagueness?

      My time off requests usually take the form of “I’d like to take day X to day Y off” and there’s never been a problem with that at any of my jobs.

      1. JustaTech*

        I think that because LW3 is so new, it’s important that they acknowledge that this is a bit of an unusual request, and offer the reason (ie, not for fun, for vital paperwork). LW is showing 1) that they understand workplaces norms (for their workplace) and that they’re trying to be proactive (taking 1 week in the summer rather than 2 weeks in the fall), both of which show commitment to work, which is important when you are new.

    3. Tali*

      I disagree, the point is that the paperwork has to be handled in person. Most immigration paperwork can be done at the embassy/country of residence (because by definition “immigration” refers to paperwork submitted to the country of residence). A company familiar with employing immigrants would ask MORE questions for that reason, because they may need to do some paperwork as OP’s visa sponsor, etc.

  43. RussianInTexas*

    Letter #1: I can see both extreme ends of the political spectrum doing this, and would discriminate based on the opposite answers.
    Whichever it is, run away fast and far!

  44. Jennifer*

    #3 I think giving some sort of explanation is better than not saying anything. A family wedding, a vacation that has been scheduled and paid for, a medical procedure that took a long time to schedule, etc. You don’t have to give a long explanation of the medical procedure but just letting them know that it’s something that either can’t be rescheduled or would be a huge headache to reschedule is a good idea.

  45. twocents*

    Re #5: This is totally normal. And as the new person to the org, it makes sense that you’re reaching out, not your busy senior coworkers. I almost guarantee you that your email won’t be a cold contact; they know you’re supposed to contact them. I’ve had instances in the past where I had to report back to Ophelia that their new hire didn’t reach out; it won’t reflect well on you to ignore the instruction.

    The only other thing is I don’t like Alison’s second suggestion of a subject of “Ophelia suggested we meet.” I think you could put that in the email, but it’s a weird subject to name-drop your manager immediately. “Meet & greet request” would be fine. Tbh, I’d actually prefer you just schedule something on my calendar since my response would just be “my calendar’s up to date, pick a time” but that preference can be org- specific.

  46. Shadowette*

    OP #1: I’m a little late to this party but I’ve seen this question before. It was part of a personality/conflict training given by my office. It was one question of, like, 50 that were intended to categorize. I think it may have shown stubbornness and/or willness to change.

  47. BlueBelle*

    #4, the post interview plant. I wonder if it is something silly like they have a certain budget they spend on recruiting and interviewing, and if they don’t use that money up it will be lost. So instead of spending it on travel, lunch, refreshments, etc with everything being virtual, they are sending everyone a plant.

    1. MCMonkeybean*

      I think that is a very plausible explanation. And with the card being signed from the university rather than a more personal note I would definitely assume they sent one to a bunch of candidates if not all of them.

      It’s so easy to get swept up in what things mean during the hiring process and I definitely understand the impulse to hope this is a good sign but I would try not to get too excited about it and just enjoy the pretty plant until you hear more from them.

    2. Smithy*

      This hits….I’ve been on teams where there was extra money at the end of the year or on certain budget lines – and the stuff where money will be spent can look very odd in a vacuum. In one case, everyone on the team had their TSA Pre-Check paid for on a different team they started buying subscriptions to just about every online publication that might possibly be connected to our work.

      A few years later when someone asks “hey – are we renewing our subscription to The Atlantic” – I can’t imagine that’ll be seen as worth repeating. But at the time, it made a lot of sense.

    3. Rainy*

      Super common in academia to lose any budget you don’t spend. If their fiscal year is up at the end of this month (ours is) I could see any number of weird things just to avoid losing that recruiting budget. Recruiting budget is pretty hard to come by right now anyway–all money in higher ed is hard to come by right now–so nobody wants to lose even a cent if they don’t have to.

  48. Erin*

    Was the first letter writer taking a cosmo quiz or a skills assessment for a job?! This is just so utterly strange, and it would change my perspective on this company, as well as my desire to join it.

    The questions are inappropriate, and they aren’t relevant to your professional skills & accomplishments. Asking about preserving traditional values? Playing into generational stereotypes? Those are huge red flags telling me that I don’t want to be associated with this org.

  49. ResuMAYDAY*

    Keep in mind that *asking* the questions is not discrimination. What if you strongly agree to the use of force question and strongly disagree about the millennial question…and then are offered the job? They have not discriminated against you.
    That goes off the rails if you are NOT offered the job for actual reasons (lack of skills/education/etc). Then it becomes easy (and logical) for the candidate to point to those questions as the reason you weren’t considered, which is why it’s really stupid for employers to ask these questions, but merely asking them is not a discriminatory act.

    1. Jess*

      They wouldn’t have a case though. Political orientations, opinions and generational viewpoints aren’t protected classes in the U.S.

      1. ResuMAYDAY*

        That’s right. The millennial question could be a gray area because of reverse ageism, but I’m not an employment lawyer.

          1. ResuMAYDAY*

            True, true! Excellent point. But now I’m hearing chatter about reverse ageism and am wondering if that will be the next big HR topic. We’ll see.

      2. anon4329*

        What’s so frustrating is “traditional values” is code for discriminatory beliefs. Likely the way people respond will break down along protected classes: a larger % of POC, queer, disabled, etc., people will disagree compared to those in dominant groups.

        I know I’d bail as soon as I saw this question because I’d take it as a sign of an unsafe work environment for “someone like me.” Even if the company is trying to promote inclusion and exclude insurrectionists, it could ironically backfire when they lose candidates who recognize this language as a dog whistle targeted at them.

        1. AGD*

          This is how I would have reacted. I don’t care why a question like that is present; having it in there for any reason shows that the organization at best didn’t quite think through how to be inclusive.

  50. sdfsd*

    #2 – I had a coworker just like this. I had ~8 years seniority on her in our field (she was new), and she was actually about 8 years older than me in age. She would push and weasel her way onto projects if she even smelled an ounce of potential success. Then she would proceed to do nothing, but try to take over leadership and delegate all the action items out to other people. She kept getting put on my projects (suck up to upper management), and then would completely derail the timeline and cause frustration or argument among us. My manager was quick to see what was happening, we discussed it, and my manager supported removing her from my projects. Unfortunately, I left the company in part due to her. It was exhausting to be around a bully. As far as I’ve heard, she decided to take leave for mental health for a few months and has yet to come back.

  51. Nanani*

    #2 – This is work, not a social gathering, AND you’re the one with relative power due to seniority.
    Tell her no. Tell her why (nicely) and explain what the problem is. Don’t expect her to take hints. Explain (kindly) what the problems have been.

    Maybe in the future if there is a thing she would be perfect for, perhaps a project that uses her strong suits more, proactively seek her out for that part. Maybe impart more structure if you end up working together anyway.

    But for now, since it sounds like you have the final word and can say no easily, just do that. Say no. It’s that easy.

  52. caseykay68*

    Just to chime in on #1 – It is a personality type quiz, not job abilities, and reading their website the results likely put people in buckets and an answer of strongly agree here (along with other answers on similarly placed questions) likely identify the candidate and “problematic” in some way (I don’t know what the actual results are on this test). Questions like this also make sure the respondent is paying attention vs. just clicking “agree” or “strongly agree” on everything.

  53. Nanani*

    #1 sounds like a great way to weed out anyone with a different cultural background than the writer, and definitely weed out neurodivergent people who have difficulty guessing secret correct answers based on invisible cues that you’re supposed to “just know”

    Dodge the bullet, LW1.

  54. MissDisplaced*

    #5: Yes, this is fairly normal for you to arrange your own introductory calls. I think my manager only arranged 1 or 2 initially, but then sent me a list of people I should reach out to to schedule a short 10-15 minute call with who were in other departments. It was a large organization and it took a while!

  55. Them Boots*

    OP1: “Well, I do think the Spanish Inquisition went overboard. Why do you ask?….” RUN!!!!!

  56. Heidi*

    For Letter #4, I could totally see this happening where one person thinks, “I want to do something nice since you’re not able to see us in-person. I like flowers, I bet the applicants will too!” They probably never expected it to cause this much confusion. One time we were interviewing a group of prospective students, and our division chief decided that it would be nice to get away from the more formal business interview suits (which people in the department never wear), so he wrote, “Dress is business casual” on the invites. This paradoxically caused a total panic because the applicants didn’t know what that meant (one of them asked if it would count against them if they did wear a suit). I would thank them for the flowers and not read anything into it.

  57. Cori*

    LW #3. I was somewhat in your position back in 2018. I started with my company in late May and in September had to fly to the UK to help my mother who was recently widowed and was moving to Scotland to live with my brother. All my family live either in the UK or South Africa so it is never a case of just taking a day off, it is always 2-3 weeks. Not sure about your org, or your work, but would it be possible to offer to continue doing work once you reach your destination? In 2018 my boss organised for me to work 4 hours a day once I arrived in the UK. Then in 2019 I had to fly to South Africa on extremely short notice – same thing (of course by then I had built up some goodwill with my company). Offering a solution for work hours might go a long way in them accepting that you have to fly out. As Alison said, you don’t have to give a detailed reason for flying but I think COVID has put a spanner in the works for many international people living here in the USA and reasonable employers will be understanding.

  58. E*

    The 4th letter irritates me, as someone who just graduated from college with $20k in debt. Nice to know my tuition goes towards plants for interviewees.

    1. JustaTech*

      Chances are good that the money usually, or at least in the past, went toward a travel budget for bringing candidates to the school to interview. A travel budget (especially one that pre-pays travel rather than reimbursing) is important for getting a greater diversity of candidates, and not just the people who come from money and can afford travel expenses.

      If the school choses to not do in-person interviews in the future then the sensible thing to do would be to re-allocate the money, but since people are almost always moving for academic jobs, they need to see not only if they want the job but if they like where they will be living (and possibly if there are jobs for their partner and school for any kids).

    2. unpleased*

      I am sure they chose something nice with the $o.025 you contributed. I know it’s common to complain about these sorts of things, but the amount of money any single student would be contributing to this at a typical state institution is…functionally nothing….by the time the physical plant and salaries across campus get their share.

  59. Name (Required)*

    Am I the only one that read this headline as “Use THE FORCE” and expected a wierd Star Wars question for #1?

    Decidedly that question went a very different direction than expected.

  60. PNWDan*

    Alison, please stop prefacing responses about academia with phrases like “academia is weird.” Academia is not some monolith, and different institutions operate differently. When someone asks a question about a workplace issue, please just address the issue. If you think academia is “just weird” and you want to help change that, the best thing a work-advice column can do is to normalize what a good work environment is without qualifying it by saying “well, this *is* academia.”

    There are issues unique to academia. There are also issues unique to auto sales, or IT, or law, or any other industry. I’ve been following your blog for nearly a decade, and the longer I read it, the more I realize that in many ways academia really isn’t that unusual. Or rather, the more I realize *everything* is unusual. Bad bosses, bad HR, abuses of power, weird interviewers, these are all things that cross industries. The advice you give for dealing with these issues is excellent regardless of which industry the letter writer is working in.

    Of everything you’ve addressed on this blog, I think the only thing that has ever been more or less unique to academia is the use of recommendation letters.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m going to continue to caveat it because commenters have been telling me for years that my normal advice doesn’t apply to academia, pretty much across the board, and when I haven’t caveated it I’ve been soundly scolded for it.

      1. PNWDan*

        I appreciate you being transparent about your reasoning. It’s unfortunate that you get scolded about it.

        Could I request you consider more neutral language? Perhaps something that conveys “academia often differently than other offices, so your mileage may vary, but here’s what I would suggest if I knew you weren’t in an academic setting.”

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Sorry, no. I don’t feel neutral about it. I think academia is weird and profoundly dysfunctional in many ways (take a look at #3 here, for example) and I’m going to call that out just as I do other offices where that’s the case.

          1. Pippa K*

            Here to agree with this. My non-academic spouse is also frequently taken aback by some of the things academics see as routine. (I just got a big new job responsibility that is a bit of a professional plum and will raise my workload by 25%. Do I get a raise or promotion? Do I heck. I’m supposed to do it for the intellectual pleasure, the benefit to the institution, and the professional stature. And I will. That’s how we roll.)

            1. Firecat*

              I mean, this is common in the private sector too. More work same pay keeps the CEOs shareholders at bay.

              The only difference is private sector expects you to do it because “team player” and “family”.

          2. tra la la*

            Hey Alison, academic here: the caveats are fine and make sense. But it’s not cool to call an entire industry “weird” just because you don’t have as much expertise in it, and I don’t understand why “different” — which is a much more neutral word — is such a problem for you as v. “weird,” which means you are kind of insulting a segment of your readers who chose to work in higher ed and plan to continue to do so.

            Also, I’ve noticed that calling academia “weird” seems to lead people to post a lot of academia-bashing, which isn’t that helpful for those of us in academia seeking help with our workplace situations. There is advice out there for academics suggesting that we learn to treat our work like 9-5 jobs, and having an academic question here lead to academic-bashing is difficult for those of us trying to learn how to do that.

            1. Academic*

              Agree. There’s a lot wrong with corporate work too, and a lot that’s positive about working in academia! It’s disingenuous to say academia is dysfunctional and corporate work isn’t, just because corporate is what you see as “normal.”

              For example, I love my job security (tenure), benefits, culture of continuous learning, and emphasis on service and teaching rather than generating money.

            2. Brent*

              I agree. Banking, big law, IT are other large industries which are dysfunctional, too, but they do not get the weird tag nor the bashing in the comment section. Although, to be fair, Alison’s caveat is fine. The commenters full-on bashing isn’t.

          3. AGD*

            I’d be in favour of retaining the overt heads-up about academic weirdness, for two reasons.

            1. Academia in general is out of step with the rest of the world with respect to a number of things (styles of CVs, schedules, recommendation letters, interviews, networking, accomplishments). People with Ph.D.s who want to go into industry often need specific coaching on how to rethink things so as to market themselves to employers, for instance. Above all, though, I think the major divergence is with respect to consequences for bad behaviour. It’s rare for someone not to get tenure, and at most institutions, it’s nearly impossible to fire someone who does have tenure. I could point to cases of someone found to be legally responsible for assault, and retained with full pay (and sometimes a vacation, i.e. paid time off). And yet hiring is done quickly and people who grab power usually hang onto it whether that’s a good idea or not. Your department chair is a bigot? Tough. Odds are nothing will be done.

            2. Academia has a massive superiority complex based on totally specious elitism. (Basically: thank heavens we aren’t like the corporate world. Nooooo, we care about the mind, not just using up your life. We get to advance human knowledge. If only all those cogs in the machine over there knew what was good for them. How saaaaaaad.) The people who cling to this illusion the most fervently are (often the super-privileged and) the ones who have seen the least of the rest of the world, and they give loud bad advice to undergraduates about job searching.

            1. Academic*

              I think those are a lot of incorrect assumptions, maybe based on having met a couple of academic people that you personally hate? But there are awful people with terrible opinions/attitudes in every sector of work.

              1. tra la la*

                Agreed. I’ve worked with some truly awful people in nonprofits. Academia likes to see itself as special and unique, but dismissing an entire sector as “weird” and bashing it like that doesn’t do anything to change that culture.

                Academia seems to be the only sector that it’s ok for people on this blog to trash as a whole.

                1. Rain*

                  I’d also say that this is dismissing a lot of people who work in academia! Yes, faculty and lectures are stuff are in their own world, but a lot of stuff on here is very applicable to me, a person who works on the staff side of things. I love working in higher ed and it’s not great to be seen as exclusively weird and mysterious because someone isn’t familiar with our realm. We’re not a monolith!

              2. AGD*

                I should have specified that I’m an academic myself, and that I love it! I dislike very, very few of the people I’ve met in my career. But it has massive idiosyncrasies relative to the ways of dealing with problems that I see suggested on this blog.

                1. tra la la*

                  I have worked both as a professor and as support staff (current role); I’ve also worked in nonprofits that were far more screwed up than my teaching jobs were (and my teaching jobs were pretty messed up). For me I don’t see it as “idiosyncratic” so much as just, it is what it is, and I think it’s really easy for academics to buy into the belief that nonacademic jobs are all somehow “normal” and academia is irredeemably “weird.” I bought that line myself when I left, and have found that to be not at all the case.

                  I think there’s advice here that can be useful to academics, and I’ve learned a lot here, but I also think there’s advice here that just, isn’t. And in a space like this which already leans pretty heavily towards white-collar office work, I’m not crazy about how characterizing academia as “weird” and “profoundly dysfunctional” opens the door to academic-bashing. Which happens a fair amount here.

                  Academics talking amongst themselves about weirdness is one thing, but being called weird/dysfunctional by people who really don’t know much about realities in the field makes this feel like an uncomfortable environment (I know, not gonna say “hostile”).

            2. A Person*

              > It’s rare for someone not to get tenure

              I think that this is no longer so true as it once was.

          4. 10.25*

            Academia is as weird and as profoundly dysfunctional in the same way all jobs and organisations are at heart – there is no one magical place that runs perfectly, whether that’s academia, retail, IT, engineering, non profits….you name it, you’ll have some level of strangeness (either within the industry or within the specific organisation/department) and dysfunction.
            I feel you are doing your readers a dis-service by continuing to describe one specific industry (which many of your readers are in) in a negative way.

      2. Snark No More!*

        I agree with you Alison. I worked in corporate for almost 40 years. The past 2.5 years in academia and I am still shaking my head at how different the environment and processes are.

      3. Pippa K*

        For what it’s worth, I think the caveat is appropriate where you use it. Not because all aspects of academia differ from all aspects of other fields, or because all academic jobs are alike, but because academia generally is different in some ways that matter in terms of workplaces rules and norms, especially for faculty members. For example, high autonomy over core jobs functions: my “supervisor” (department chair) is not my boss in that he can’t tell me how to teach my subject or what to research. Dress codes, clocking in, PTO, etc don’t exist or work differently for us. But we also have lower ability to change employers. Our hiring practices are largely unique to academia too – national searches, 2-day interviewing, etc.

        I’ve learned a great deal from Alison’s advice here. A lot of it doesn’t apply to academia but is still interesting, and I’ve also learned, helpfully, about norms and rules that *can* apply to my workplace. Wouldn’t change her approach at all.

    2. Case in point*

      I (academic-adjacent) and a few academics in my family read through these comments last night and had a good laugh about the fact that being called “weird” is being interpreted by so many academics as “bashing,” but that’s academia for you! I’ve seen Alison amused and bemused by it, but never any more grumpy or impatient with it than any other industry.

      I hate the anti-intellectual forces in US culture as much as anybody, but honestly, academic oversensitivity to being called “weird” (a word so many academics are proud to embrace–exactly what drew so many of us in the first place!) is merely highlighing one of the ways that the industry is, well, weird. C’mon, y’all. It’s this sort of thing that makes people write us off.

  61. Anon (and on and on)*

    LW5, I help onboard new employees at my organization, and I recommend they come to those introductory 1:1s armed with some questions. That way, it will feel more substantive than just to “say hi,” as you said. Here’s some I like:
    -Tell me about your roll. What are your priorities? What are you currently working on?
    -Does my roll interact with yours? What will you need from me in order to be successful?
    -Is there anything else you think someone in my roll should know?

  62. Lobsterman*

    LW1: my temptation to go full insurrectionist and see where that took me would be overwhelming.

  63. Panhandlerann*

    As someone who spent years in academia, I’m frankly amazed at the sending of flowers to an interviewee. I’ve never seen that. It must not have been a state institution because state monies couldn’t, I don’t think, have been expended for such a thing!

  64. Junebug*

    #1 actually made sense to me. Considering 40% of republicans agree with those statements, a company who’s aware of that and has vulnerable employees to protect, maybe even had to fire someone for discrimination and/or making the workplace unsafe, may consider it worth losing some candidates to screen out that large minority. The statements are carefully worded to make people who agree feel comfortable admitting it and also flag people who would enable them by “going along to get along”. They also pretty much guarantee the topic will come up in interviews. Is this the best way to go about it? No. But it’s not totally crazy. To any baffled international posters, this is the nature of American politics today.

  65. AnonPi*

    And here I thought being asked if I was a communist on an application a few years ago was bizarre.

    1. S. Ninja*

      I STILL get asked every year on a form I have to re-sign if I have “ever been part of any organization that seeks to subvert Western civilization”.

    2. hawk*

      Right that’s the point. They realized noone is ticking ‘yes’ to “Are you a racist?” “Are you a fascist?”, but by putting the wording in vaguely positive terms they can see who is ticking strongly agree, and flag it for review.

  66. A Person*

    LW #5: Do the short meetings! My additional suggestion is that you keep them short, and end them early. So, send the meeting request and ask for 20 minutes. And then at the *15 minute* mark, notice the time and start saying your thank-yous and leave their desk by about the 17 minute point. Result: they will all start their acquaintanceship of you being impressed with your thoughtfulness in not overstaying your welcome. (And if you’re really enjoying a conversation and it seems like they are too, say so, and offer to continue it over coffee later in the week, but still leave before your 20 minutes are up.) Remember: they’re being generous with their time, so you get to show that you aren’t taking it for granted.

  67. Madame Curator*

    LW1 – I have taken this very same aptitude test for a local government job (Canadian). I remember being shocked at some of the questions it was asking at the time. Knowing more about the hiring process from the other end I can tell you that in my context, the employer has all job descriptions rated by an outside company who decide what “traits” make a person a good match for the position and then test finalists to see where they fall.

    My boss shared the results with me at one point and the competencies the test identified are actually fairly close to what I would say my skills are, oddly enough. Take the question itself with a grain of salt.

  68. nom de plume*

    I really like and appreciate AAM, but the anti-academic snark gets old (“dreamed up in their strange enclave”). Academic hiring practices are no worse than those outside of the field; just different, but the volume of criticism the milieu elicits among commentators (and, sometimes, Alison) who may not be that familiar with the field gets wearing after awhile.

    I began my career in academia, as faculty, and to me, it’s other hiring practices that I find aberrant. Worth considering.

    1. tra la la*

      Same here re hiring practices. To me a full-day interview seems reasonable because I really do want to see the location, meet and talk with as many people as I can, and demonstrate that I can teach.

      Agree that the anti-academic snark is wearing.

      1. nom de plume*

        Thanks. It’s especially aggrieving because the bashing comes from people who don’t even know the system! It’s so easy to cast aspersions without knowing, and there’s never any correcting of it.

        And honestly, Alison, this comment surprises me — it’s rude and unnecessary, and unless you’d describe another industry that way, it’s hard to see why you would academia. Not understanding its codes ≠ “academia is weird and makes no sense and sucks.” Also, I’m sure anyone familiar with academic practices would be more than happy to write a post explaining academia.

        But yeah, tired of it.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I describe nonprofits as weird all the time and I worked in them for years. I also think law is weird in many ways. Small businesses, big time. Probably some other fields too if I stopped to think about it.

          1. unpleased*

            It helps, though, if you have some actual experience in said arena with which to ground your judgment.

            1. Nera*

              Lots of us in academia have in the past asked AAM to do exactly what she did in this column–to note that academia is its own weird beast with its own weird rules. I think I might even have been one of those people making that request in the past. I approve of how she handled it. Academia is weird as hell.

              1. AGD*

                I’m with Nera. I’ve learned so much from this blog about workplace rights and mistreatment that academia was eager never to teach me.

    2. pancakes*

      Yes. I have friends who were in academia before law school and some have returned to it. Some, too, who never left it. It doesn’t seem especially weird to me. The number of people here who comment on having to take personality tests and surveys like the one in question 1, on the other hand, is staggeringly weird to me! Likewise the number of people who seem to take their branded personality type to heart. Before I started reading this site I thought the disreputability of these tests was more widely known than it seems to be.

      1. nom de plume*

        Alison’s take on this is just so wrong, and her response so defensive and rude, I just can’t get over it. Which norm is she taking as the standard by which an industry she knows nothing about, by her own admission, is “weird”?

        Alison, academia has been under increasing attack for years now. Think about whose work you do when you disparage it for no reason other than your admitted limited knowledge of it.

  69. Pam Poovey*

    #3 — it seems like a reasonable boss would be ok with it if you said “I have to go to my country to take care of some visa/immigration issues that can’t be done from here” especially if you were somewhat available remotely. It’s non-specific enough that you’re not really sharing much about your personal problems but doesn’t inspire the same level of concern that “I must go for secret reasons” would.

  70. Aron*

    For OP #5’s letter – IDK. There has to be some happy medium between being dragged around a company or multiple buildings meeting random people on Day 1, which usually results in very little long-term recognition or learning, and being a brand new employee told to email a bunch of strangers to set up time to meet. I’ve usually been busy enough in my roles that I don’t necessarily care to meet every new hire (…sorry… nor do I usually remember them… I’ve worked mostly high turnover places, so maybe that’s why), and I’ve found the most value, as a new employee, in meeting coworkers in the natural progression of my work, rather than artificial meetings or rapid department walk-throughs. If my role required me to understand the exact needs of my coworkers (e.g., being a Company Designer assigned to the Department of Teapot Accessories), that’s a different story, but then I’d definitely prefer a real meeting with that department as a whole versus trying to be the new person setting up individual Zooms with random people who are probably busy and have very different perspectives, on top of all the office politics.

  71. Anonymous Today*

    OP #1: I’d be willing to bet that the company is trying to weed out right wing nutters. This is a high level job. This is someone who could get the company sued (discriminates against people who are “different”) or might be one of the faces of the company. And if this person showed up on TV storming the Capitol, for example, the company’s name would be dragged through the mud.

    Why would anyone think it’s illegal?

    Similarly, a judge just ruled that group of health care workers at a hospital in Texas have no case against their employer, a hospital, for telling them that if they want to continue to work there they have to get vaccinated against Covid. The judge found the part of their argument comparing them to Holocaust victims used in medical experiments especially offensive.

    Where do people get the idea that if you hold offensive or dangerous beliefs that you are still entitled to be hired or that your employer must continue to employ you?

  72. Alice*

    LW4 – I wonder if they normally have a budget for finalist candidates to travel to them, and they are trying to spend some of the money in that “bucket” so that it doesn’t get taken away?
    I’d say, unusual, pleasant, not meaningful in terms of telling whether you are a front runner or not.
    Good luck!

  73. Generic Elf*

    For what it’s worth, I have never in my professional life ever heard of doing what was described by L5. Interesting that it’s commonplace.

  74. helpdesk*

    #1: at my old work we had a psychometric test that had a few doozies like ‘are you disgusted by mixed race couples’ or something like that. One explanation was it was an intelligence test – if someone is super racist but smart enough to pretend not to be, that’s one thing, but if they are terrible and don’t care who knows, that’s going to be a difficult staff member. But mostly it confused and enraged potential staff so idk if it was such a great idea. I also hated it because it asked people if they’d ever seen a counsellor since the age of 12 and red flagged them if they had.

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