I’ve been offered a job I’m not qualified for, a potential client who can’t use email, and more

It’s four answers to four questions, plus an update. Here we go…

1. I’ve been offered a job I’m not qualified for

I applied to a job related to my field, but technically in a new industry (healthcare). The job is general, not health-specific. The recruiter called me and told me she moved my application to a different role. When I saw the job description I laughed — I was in almost no way qualified! They wanted a Ph.D + 10 years (I have a masters and some related and applicable, but not direct experience). Fast forward through multiple rounds of interviews, including with the CEO, and I’m offered the job!

I’m flabbergasted and honestly very intimidated to accept. While I’m grateful for the potential I see, I don’t think I would be successful in this job. Because I thought I’d never get it, I was up-front about what I haven’t done before. I can’t reconcile what they wanted with what they’d get in me, and I fear I wouldn’t meet their expectations. I obviously don’t want to miss out on a great opportunity, but I definitely fear failing in this role because I’m such a non-match for the qualifications and never would have applied without the HR person doing it for me. Is it my responsibility to see that it isn’t a great job for my background and save us all the potential hassle, or is that on them and I should just take it and if I fail, get fired later?

Both of you are responsible for assessing the fit. Employers are usually better positioned to vet whether a candidate will succeed in the job, but you should be assessing that too through any hiring process. Sometimes employers are bad at hiring or overly optimistic about a particular candidate or not thorough enough, and since you’re the one who will suffer most if they’re wrong, you should be very deliberate about doing your own evaluation to make sure you think it’s a role you’ll succeed in and be happy in.

Since you’re not convinced, talk to them! Tell them you see a gap between the job description and your own experience, and ask them to talk to you about why they concluded you’re the right fit and what they think you’ll need to do to bridge that gap. Pay attention not just to their direct answers, but also to things like: Do they seem to have done rigorous thinking on this, or are they being cavalier? Are they dismissive of your concerns or taking them seriously? Do their answers make sense to you, or do they seem rooted in an excess of optimism?

They might have good reason for their faith in you. Or they might not. Ultimately you’ve got to decide if you think this is a job you’ll succeed in, and you should ask whatever questions you need in order to determine that. Whatever you do, don’t take a job just because it’s offered to you; you’ve got to do your own assessment right back and use your own judgment to decide if it’s right for you.

Related: I’m afraid I’m about to be offered a job I won’t be good at

2. Am I an ableist jerk if I don’t call a potential client?

I’m in an industry where we do not automatically take on potential clients (PCs) who reach out to us — we have an intensive vetting process where our company reviews the PC’s material and determines whether or not we want to take on the project. Our industry is set up so that we deal with hundreds of PCs a year, and our company will take on perhaps 50 a year.

I received a pretty generic email inquiry from a PC that will require many more details for our company to assess the project, and I replied to the PC with a quick rundown of what we would need. I then received an auto-response stating that the PC is dealing with post-concussive symptoms and limiting screen time, and to please call rather than email.

This inquiry (like most we receive) is not time-sensitive, so part of me thinks, “I’ve sent PC all the details I need, they can respond to me via email whenever they can.” I’m phone-avoidant in general, and in particular for this stage of discussions with PCs. Email makes it easier to have all the information available for future reference, and it also allows me to be very clear and consistent in my messaging to PCs — basically, just because we respond to your inquiry and have follow-up conversations doesn’t mean we will take you on as a client! I have a difficult time doing that on the phone.

However, I don’t want to be an ableist jerk! I don’t know whether dealing with post-concussion symptoms is a disability (googling makes it seem like it can be in some cases), but regardless PC is dealing with medical issues that make my preferred mode of communication difficult, and I want to do what is right, not just avoid being a jerk. Do you think I should break my no-phone-calls rule for this situation? Can you suggest any other ways of thinking about it?

Yes, you should call. It’s fine to prefer operating through email when it works, but you’ve got to be willing to set aside your preferences (and discomfort) and get on the phone when the situation requires it — and this situation requires it. If she has a serious concussion, she might need to avoid screens for weeks or months; it’s not necessarily a matter of, “Well, she can email later this week.” This is a brain injury, and she’s trying to avoid worsening her symptoms! Call her.

Since you’re concerned your messaging about the client selection process might not be as clear on the phone as it is in email, start the conversation by explaining it. But don’t look for a way to avoid the fairly straightforward medical accommodation this person needs.

3. I’m accountant earning the same as our receptionist

I am a degree qualified accountant, having graduated from university with my bachelors in 2020. I am just found out that I am only earning $42 a week more than the receptionist in our firm (love the receptionist and not saying she shouldn’t be paid well – but she’s not degree qualified and didn’t have to go to university to get her job).

Do you think I have the right to be upset that I am earning so little when I had to go to university for three years? Feeling very taken advantage of here.

While it’s true that on average people with degrees earn more than people without them, at the individual level salaries often have no correlation to whether or not you had to go to college to do the job. They’re about the market rate for the work, which is frequently based on all sorts of things other than degrees.

The question is whether you’re being paid fairly for the market, your experience, and your contributions. If you are, then the receptionist’s pay is irrelevant. If you’re not, the receptionist’s pay is still irrelevant, but it sounds like you’d have a case for a raise (based on factors totally separate from what she earns). Either way, you need to evaluate your salary within the context of your job, not what someone makes in a totally different role.

4. Employee’s clinking spoon is setting off my misophonia

I have self-diagnosed misophonia, but only for one thing: the sound of a utensil clinking against a glass or ceramic dish or cup in an otherwise silent room. It sends me up a wall. My body tenses, and I cannot focus on anything else.

I’m a manager. I’m very relaxed about a lot of things and try to deal with issues in more of a humanist way than a corporate one.

There are three of us in this room and my coworker has taken to bringing a bowl in with what appears to be tuna around 3 pm everyday. It’s the worst part of my day, though it only lasts about 15 minutes. It’s cold so it doesn’t smell, but she clinks that spoon around scraping the sides, getting more on the spoon, etc.

At home, my wife is sensitive to this and she’ll use plastic bowls or spoons so that there’s no clink if she’s eating during an otherwise quiet moment.

We do not have rules about food at desks, but I find myself thinking we might need them, and then I remember I really dislike places that have a ton of silly rules like that. This employee is otherwise really great, hardly ever an issue. I do not want to be a jerk or a petty manager who nitpicks their employees and I am very much dreading having this conversation, I’d be helpful if you could help me find the right words.

You can address this without making rules or even exercising any managerial authority at all! Just talk to her the way you would a peer. For example: “I know this sounds odd, but the sound of a spoon clinking against a bowl has always driven me out of my skin! I realize this is my issue, not yours, and most people aren’t generally bothered by it. But would you mind terribly using a plastic spoon instead? I’d be glad to bring some in!”

Otherwise: Headphones. Or plan to leave the room to do something else for that 15 minutes each day.

5. Stay-at-home parent returning to work

I wanted to give you an update on a situation I wrote to you about a couple years ago. (Note: This was unpublished.) I was a stay-at-home parent who was interested in re-entering the workforce, but I was facing some issues because (a) it had been so long since I had worked outside the home and (b) my only references were from a role I’d held many years before and the environment (and my former colleagues) were a toxic bunch. I hate to use the word toxic as it seems so overused, but since the environment was one where sexual harassment ran rampant with no recourse, I can’t think of any other word to use. I had anonymous notes left for me describing my anatomy and once was told by a colleague that he had violent sexual fantasies about me, which HR did nothing about. Yes. It was that bad. I certainly wasn’t going to reach out to anyone at that former place of employment and had to figure out how to reintegrate into the corporate environment without any work history.

Since I didn’t have an extremely pressing timeline, I started by volunteering. Once COVID-19 hit, I volunteered with several organizations on a virtual basis as well. I was extremely proactive and made a point to connect with people, even if only via phone conversations or emails, so that they knew who I was and how I could help them. I took on various projects, assisted some of the higher-ups, and networked (virtually) like my life depended on it. I then used this to build references and find people who could write letters of recommendation for me. After this, I applied to graduate school and entered into a program that requires a practicum and internship, which often translates into a job following graduation. I also used LinkedIn quite a bit to network, offered help to connections, and established myself as a reliable person you could count on for high-quality, efficient work, even short-term projects. It took 1-2 years to accomplish all this, but I did it (using a lot of the advice I’ve read from your column and your helpful commentariat, though you weren’t able to address my situation specifically), and am now feeling much more confident about what my future looks like. I haven’t even finished my graduate program, but two separate companies have expressed an interest in hiring me upon graduation!

{ 556 comments… read them below }

  1. Prof*

    Maybe the manager with misophonia can take their break when the coworker eats.

    I don’t and won’t use plastic utensils (sustainability beliefs/reasons) and I’d not love to have to say no to an ask from my boss….

    1. Tara*

      I feel like a plastic bowl would be an easier sell. Non disposable and doesn’t have the mouth feel problem that I think would make lots of people also far prefer sticking with a metal spoon.

      1. Former Child*

        3 pm is the perfect time for a coffee break.
        Also, it’s fine to ask someone not to eat at their desk.
        Unless you take your coffee break in the break room and she eats there.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          It’s fine to make a blanket rule about no eating at your desk, but you can’t single out one person for that rule.

    2. Insomniac*

      I had a plastic spoon at work that I would just wash and reuse! Could be another option?

          1. Artemesia*

            you can use the ones that don’t indefinitely — just wash and reuse — heck we put our plastic soup spoons through the dishwasher (we have an annual soup party and so don’t have enough metal spoons — we have been re’using the sturdy plastic soup spoons for years)

        1. WellRed*

          Probably not a lot if direct sunlight shining on the tuna eater. I do like the bowl idea. Or, OP take a walk or something.

          1. I don't comment*

            What does this mean? “Probably not a lot if [sic] direct sunlight shining on the tuna eater.”

            1. OhNo*

              Unless their entire office is actually a bunch of computers in the middle of a field, the chance that the person will be sitting in direct sunlight while snacking is pretty low.

        2. Snow Globe*

          If they are made from corn and break down in sunlight, then they are sustainable, no?

          1. Jenny20*

            I would think the energy costs to make and deliver disposable cutlery still makes them not a super choice, as compared with re-useable options.

            1. Admininja*

              They’re reusable. They’re made from corn plastic & break down readily when disposed, but they’re sturdy & dishwasher safe.

          2. Annony*

            Not necessarily. Many compostable plastics do not break down well in landfills. So they could be sustainable if disposed of certain ways but not if they are simply thrown into the trash.

      1. quill*

        The plastic spoon that gets washed and reused is definitely another option: that’s usually what I bring for yogurt, etc.

      2. JustaTech*

        The boss could even give one to the bowl-clinker – I have a hiking spoon-fork-knife that I use for lunch that I have had for a decade. Plastic doesn’t have to mean disposable.

    3. BubbleTea*

      I have a single set of sturdy plastic cutlery (spoon and fork) which I wash and reuse. It is very handy to keep in my bag for situations where I’m eating out of the house unexpectedly. You can use plastic in an environmentally responsible way!

      1. July*

        This might be a good investment on LW’s part. If possible they can buy a set for the other coworker too just to eliminate any issues on favoritism or othering one of them.

        1. Ferret*

          I would be weirded out if my boss bought me a special wooden bowl and bamboo utensils. Like a lot.

          Maybe this is a flaw on my part but I don’t know. Just would make me really uncomfortable.

          1. RagingADHD*

            It’s not a flaw on your part. It’s an odd thing to do, especially out of the blue with no prior conversation.

            If the boss wanted to talk to all the employees about the sound issue, and then stock the kitchen with a few sets of plastic and bamboo for everyone to use, that would be less wierd.

            Though if a bamboo bowl gets used for tuna repeatedly, it will soon become the dedicated tuna bowl. The smell isn’t going to come out with handwashing.

          2. Yorick*

            Even if they told you it’s because they are bothered by the sound of metal spoons on metal bowls? I might feel like it was odd but I’d appreciate they came up with a solution and paid for it themselves.

          3. Eukomos*

            Buying it for the other coworker would solve that, I had a boss distribute bamboo utensils to the whole office at a previous job as part of a sustainability initiative. If OP did it and added “and please use them instead of metal spoons because I have this thing about spoon clinking, so you’d be doing me a huge favor” the employees would probably be fine with it.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        I keep something very similar to this at my desk. They work great!

        Especially if the coworker is a little uncomfortable due to the disposable factor, this could be a good compromise if OP were willing to make the investment.

      3. Lora*

        Seconded – I have something like this that I got from a travel store which is just one set of cutlery in a little box, complete with chopsticks. It lives in my work backpack.

      4. PiperWhite*

        Wooden or bamboo spoon and/or bowl. I got mine at my local food co-op. I try to never use plastic

    4. Unkempt Flatware*

      An adult sized cutlery set with rubber-ish coatings that babies have? I won’t use plastic either. LW would be kind to procure these if employee is willing.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Or she can put on headphones, shut her door, go for a walk, etc. for those 15 minutes. If my manager came to me with “adult sized cutlery set with rubber-ish coatings that babies have” and said she wanted me to eat with those now, I’d be like you’ve GOT to be effing kidding me…

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          Totally agree.

          I have what I guess is misophonia as well. Loud crunching or other eating noises can send me into a tearful, frustrated rage. But I know with 100% certainty that this is MY problem to deal with. When situations arise where people are making eating noises that set me off, I leave the situation or listen to something via headphones for the duration.

          Don’t make someone else find the solution to your problem, especially if you manage them. Be a grown-up.

          1. SeluciaMD*

            I think this is the key for me: “Don’t make someone else find the solution to your problem.”

            LW, I have a coworker with severe misophonia and for the most part, she’s just had to adjust HER behavior to make working in an office with a bunch of other people livable. She’s asked for a few small concessions but largely, she figures out how to manage her symptoms/issues without asking others to do it for her. This is a problem with solutions on your end and I think you ought to try those first.

            That being said, I don’t think I’d be particularly weirded out if someone asked me to use a plastic spoon or bowl instead of metal and ceramic, particularly if they asked kindly and – as Alison often recommends – in a way that indicates “I know this is my weird thing but it would be a real kindness if you wouldn’t mind.” And that’s not really a big ask.

            But in general, I think the default for most things like this should be to find your own solution before asking others to change their behavior.

            1. Artemesia*

              Also make sure the person you are asking is not someone who enjoys annoying people; there are people who would start scraping a bowl on the hour if they were asked not to do it for 15 minutes.

            2. BabyElephantWalk*

              Also though the boss/employee relationship may make many people feel like they cannot say no to this request, so it’s loaded.

        2. Pennilyn Lot*

          Yeah it seems like an overstep to me. I would hate it if my boss came to me and basically said that me eating a normal thing in a normal way was driving them crazy and they were basically tracking me doing it. I do feel like it’s on the LW to at least try and find ways to deal with this themselves (walk, headphones) rather than immediately put the responsibility on their employee, especially since LW is a manager.

          1. Yorick*

            I’d rather know that something I was doing was bothering someone, even if what I was doing was a normal and ok thing to do.

            1. PT*

              No, because this is an abuse of the boss’s power. The boss starts doing tiny things like this and it will quickly alienate working relationships. “She tried to control the kind of bowl I ate out of.”

              1. MicroManagered*

                Exactly. Imagine how that person’s AAM letter would go: “My boss brought me rubber-coated silverware and a bamboo bowl and insisted I eat out of those because she said the sound of metal silverware touching plates activates her self-diagnosed misphonia”…. There’d be 400 comments saying “run!”

              2. Overit*

                Exactly. Our manager has “quirks” which we all must bend over backwards to handle. She refuses to handle her issues herself — at work, only, because she tells us how she handles them outside of the office. But since at work she is the boss, she passes her problems on to us.

                One of them is she loses her mind if she hears a cell phone beep even at the softest setting — she YELLS across the room, in front of clients. And you will get a write-up in our personnel file. We cannot even have our phones on vibrate. We are also not allowed to have personal calls on our work phones. I have had negative repercussions from this edict because I missed critical phone calls from my doctor. These rules cause considerable resentment and unwillingness to go above and beyond.

                If I had been told about this rule — and all the other rules — when I interviewed, I would have never taken this job.

              3. Sparrow*

                Yeah. I had a manager with a discomfort for clustered circles/dots (I’m guessing it was trypophobia although they never called it that or framed it in a phobia/mental health context). They always commented, usually jokingly, when someone wore dotted patterns to work, but it felt like an overstep for me to need to think about my manager’s pattern preferences when choosing my outfit for the day.

                1. Willis*

                  I just happened to be shopping for a polka dotted wallet yesterday and now have ads directly below your post with lots of polka dotted stuff. It feels like this site is mocking your ex-manager.

        3. BabyElephantWalk*

          Yep. This is a situation of removing yourself from the situation. It doesn’t warrant a conversation with the employee.

        4. JB*

          Honestly, very true. I have misophonia related to chewing noises. It would never occur to me that the solution would be to stop coworkers from snacking quietly at their desks, when it bothers me and me alone.

          I got noise-cancelling earbuds. Someone starts snacking, I put them in. Problem solved.

          I feel like ‘I must fix this issue by altering someone else’s behavior’ is some kind of misguided instinct that comes with being a manager. This isn’t a performance issue; fix it the way you would if you weren’t in charge of that person.

          1. so many questions*

            I was thinking it might get stinky with tuna. I think it feels porous too.

      1. LTL*

        Just came here to point out that I don’t use bamboo products for religious reasons. I realize that’s a rare thing but YMMV

            1. littledoctor*

              I can’t imagine it would be that, I was raised Hindu for several years and never heard of such a thing. I thought I was reasonably knowledgeable about “Eastern” religions, so I’m truly very curious about what this could be. I’m reasonably confident it isn’t Buddhism, but I don’t know what it is.

    5. kittymommy*

      One of my best friends is allergic to plastic so this would be a no go for her as well. She has to bring her own utensils when we eat out just in case.

      On a side note there are re-useable plastic utensils that one can get. I got a set from Old Navy eons ago to keep at my des. The handles separate from the head and can form chopsticks, knife, fork and a spoon.

      1. Artemesia*

        ordinary heavy duty disposable spoons are washable even in the dishwasher and can be used for a long time.

    6. Crivens!*

      Honestly, the LW could also just realize that asking people to change what or how they eat to accommodate your self-diagnosis might not be okay. I understand misophonia can be awful and even painful but how and what people eat is very personal, and sometimes you can’t control the world around you to be comfortable at all times.

      When I was in my worst PTSD I would have preferred not to be around men, especially groups of them, but that’s not a choice I get to reasonably make. So I dealt with it.

      1. Polite Officemate*

        Honestly, I think it’s a little rude to loudly eat tuna of all things in a small room with your coworkers. I’d be grossed out and annoyed. It’s up there with cooking stinky fish in the microwave. If you’re going to be loudly eating smelly food (cold tuna stinks too) do it in private.

        And plastic utensils can be washed and will not immediately break down when sun touches them. Come on.

        1. Crivens!*

          And if the coworker just doesn’t want to use plastic utensils?

          Not gonna get into what foods are and aren’t “smelly” because that usually veers right into anglocentrism.

          1. quill*

            If it has a flavor, it is a food that you can smell, and someone, somewhere, will have their nose upset by it.

            But I don’t think the manager would be out of line to suggest not eating in the workspace as a blanket rule!

            1. Calliope*

              Never having a snack at your desk when you’re not in a client facing position is actually pretty restrictive.

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          The LW has said that the smell is not an issue (so lets take them at their word), and they’re not “loudly eating” it, there just happens to be a sound that naturally occurs when you use utensils on a bowl. Ultimately I don’t think it matters or changes the situation for the boss (the employee could be eating cereal out of a bowl and the result would still be the same for the LW).

          I agree with the original poster of this thread that I’d be hesitant to ask an employee to use plastic utensils when there is a level of moral objection to it from some. Maybe the employee would be fine with it, but if it’s something they’re against it puts them in a tough spot from the boss. And personally, I find washing and reusing plastic utensils to be gross. Don’t know why, can’t explain it any more than the LW can explain why the sound puts them on edge.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Yah, I’m sensitive to smells. Tuna would give me a migraine!

          I used to sit next to a coworker who was even more sensitive to smells than I am, and a large portion of my work meal prep went into thinking up non-smelly dishes, shopping for them, making and packaging them. I was paying my children’s college bills at the time and was the only income provider for our family of three, so going out for lunch wasn’t an option. Frankly, it can be done, healthily and on a limited budget. I came to see it as a new fun challenge, kind of a game I played to see if I could come up with more work-friendly lunches.

        4. NYC Taxi*

          I’m not using plastic utensils or bowls. I find them disgusting and wasteful. It’s a gross overstepping and policing of a coworker’s behavior to even make that request. OP can wear noise cancelling headphones.

          1. JustaTech*

            I’m confused why so many people are going from “plastic” to “disposable”? I have plastic bowls that have lasted for going on 15 years, and a plastic fork-spoon combo that’s almost as old. Like, I 100% understand not wanting to use disposable cutlery and flatware! I don’t want to use it either if I have a choice.
            But if my boss asked me to switch spoons for a specific reason, gave me the spoon, *and* we had a decent working relationship, I think that would be fine?
            If the boss were a power-tripping jerk, then yes it would be a problem, but for the most part the power-tripping jerks don’t write in to ask the most polite way to address an issue.

            1. allathian*

              Yeah, plastic isn’t the same as disposable. Some plastic utensils are even made out of recycled plastic.

              That said, I do think that the LW should try noise canceling headphones before asking the employee to change their utensils.

              1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                I found that mind-boggling too. Hopefully the commenters that stated “plastic=disposable” use their tupperware, plastic mixing bowls, and plastic spatulas/serving utensils more than once? That said, I agree with the rest of your comment.

        5. Mockingdragon*

          It doesn’t sound like they’re eating *objectively* loudly, just that the incidental noise is especially bothersome to the OP.

          1. Annony*

            Yeah, I think that part is really important. If they were eating particularly loudly or often then I would lean towards saying something. But spending 15 minutes eating in a normal way is really reasonable. I think it makes more sense for the LW to take a short break at that time unless there is a reason that that cannot happen.

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yeah, I don’t really understand why people are so reluctant to change their own behavior – something they can control! – and instead search for ways to change other people’s behavior. It’s 15 minutes out of your day – put on headphones and some music, take a break, there are multiple easy options.

      3. Emilia Bedelia*

        I think it’s fair for them to raise the question, once, nicely, and be open to other options if the other person is opposed. What if eating with a plastic spoon is no big deal at all and the coworker is happy to oblige? It’s a 2 minute conversation. If the answer is “I know this sounds odd, but I really hate eating with plastic so I can’t do that” then OP can figure something else out, but for 90% of people this would not be a big deal at all.

            1. JustaTech*

              Is there a way the boss could address the power dynamic? Say something like “This is a personal request, not a professional one, and I completely understand if you don’t want to change your spoon/bowl.” (And then actually *be* OK if the person doesn’t change their spoon/bowl.)

              Or would that make it weirder?

              1. Tali*

                The problem is that saying no is risky, you have to trust that the boss can separate personal and professional. The risk is low if you’ve seen the boss handle it in the past, but if not the risk is high. OP would have to demonstrate that it’s OK to tell them no.

                Honestly I think it’s much easier to just modify OP’s own behavior, since the coworker has such regular eating habits.

      4. Hi there*

        I agree. I have sensory processing disorder, of which misophonia is a HUGE component. I think it’s fine to ask my family to alter certain behaviors to accommodate my SPD, but I would never do that at work. I would just use headphones or find other ways to make things more manageable for me. Asking a coworker to use different silverware would be an absolute last resort when every possible other alternative had failed.

      5. Librarian1*

        Yes, this. I’m sure misophonia is frustrating, but it’s super frustrating to be asked to stop doing something completely normal because someone else is bothered by it.

      6. So long and thanks for all the fish*

        I strongly disagree with this. So long as the LW is polite and takes on costs herself rather than asking the employee to do it, this is a totally reasonable request. Would you want to be driving your boss up the wall (or making her leave the room for a set period) without realizing it, every day, when a solution might be as easy as a plastic or bamboo bowl or spoon? I don’t think it’s particularly fair to the employee to not talk to her. The LW could even just give her the choice- “It’s not your fault, but the sound of the spoon on your bowl really bothers me. Would you mind using a plastic or bamboo bowl or spoon? I’d be happy to get one for you if you’re willing.” It gives the employee the option to choose what would be most comfortable, and if nothing else at least lets her know. Unless they already have a strained relationship, I don’t think this would be taken badly.

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          The problem with this is the power imbalance. This isn’t a coworker. It’s her boss.

          I don’t use disposable utensils because they’re wasteful. I don’t use bamboo because doing so gives me hives. Same with the reusable plastic utensils (it’s an allergy to an additive that is derived from coconut, which is now in EVERYTHING/rant). If my boss came to me and asked me to change how I eat my food, because she’s annoyed 15 minutes a day (because of her issue)… I’d be unable to comply. So even though there are competing medical issues, I’d now be seen as uncooperative, or stubborn, or a number of other unflattering descriptors. OP should get some headphones and call it a day.

        2. Lunita*

          But why would they do that instead of changing their own behavior, like using headphones for a bit, or taking a break? While the request-if nicely worded-doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me, it seems better for LW to first try altering their own behavior. And the power imbalance does change the dynamic because the employee will likely feel compelled to comply.

    7. WhatFloatsYourGoats*

      Tupperware is reuseable plastic, not disposable. There are still eco-friendly plastic options. They have an on-the-go cutlery set available.

      1. Lunita*

        Tupperware is a better option but just because the plastic isn’t single-use doesn’t make it eco-friendly.

        1. allathian*

          Probably not, but steel isn’t eco-friendly either. Granted, you get hundreds of years of use out of steel cutlery and a few decades at best out of plastic.

    8. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

      I avoid plastic like the plague. But bamboo or wood would be ok. If I could find them and they weren’t expensive I wouldn’t mind getting them. But, that’s manager expecting coworker to solve manager’s problem. It seems like a white noise machine on the managers desk turned on when she sees coworker sitting down with the bowl would be easier. I get it we all have that one noise we hate. For me it was Whiney Coworker’s Voice. I just stuck on headphones every time she went on a self pity jag.

    9. Momma Bear*

      I can’t stand scraping of utensils, either, and have had to occasionally walk away from family meals. Just talk to the officemate like an adult or leave the room for 15 minutes a day or both.

    10. Lirael*

      I often really enjoy comments here, but sometimes things go off the rails very weirdly. I think a lot of this thread really misses the mark in a “not everyone can eat sandwiches” way. Of course LW should be thinking about the power dynamics, and if the employee balks, then LW should back off, but I don’t think it’s unreasonable to ask once! I would vastly prefer to know if I was inadvertently doing something easily changeable that set a coworker’s, and especially my manager’s, teeth on edge, even if it’s not objectively that reasonable.

      1. ThatGirl*

        Here’s the thing, though – if the LW can change their behavior to easily fix this problem, why should they bother their report? This isn’t something unavoidable (like, their coworker sits around whistling all day). Change yourself first, THEN ask someone else to accommodate you.

          1. Lana Kane*

            Because we don’t know if the employee would mind – it’s an assumption that she would. It’s not egregious to suggest talking to her, and letting OP decide if she wants to go that route. I’m one of those people who would not have any problem with my boss asking me for this favor.

            1. so many questions*

              But why even ask someone else to change their behavior when the LW can easily change their own? Isn’t that being oddly self-centered? Why would the LW mind changing their own behavior?

            2. allathian*

              Yes, but given the power imbalance, the employee would likely feel obligated to comply with their manager’s request, even if they didn’t like it.

              If the LW was the report writing in about their misophonia being triggered by their manager’s eating, everyone would be telling them to get a pair of noise canceling headphones.

      2. AutolycusinExile*

        This. And if you’re that concerned about the power dynamic, all you have to do is follow up the request with “If that’s not a good option for you, I’ll probably start taking a quick break while you eat – it’s no trouble either way, but I don’t want you to think I’m avoiding you! Just trying to figure out the best way to save my ears” or something similar. As long as both people are even moderately reasonable this is a totally normal exchange, even with a manager-employee power dynamic. It’s reasonable for the employee to decline, but it’s also completely reasonable for OP to ask once, politely, especially if she can donate an office bowl/utensil to use instead.

        1. Lunita*

          I still feel like the person would feel compelled to alter their behavior since it’s the manager asking, regardless of how nicely it’s put.

    11. Dahlia*

      You can just get like… not-single use plastics.

      I don’t throw out my plastic spatula every time I use it.

  2. Julie*

    Letter Writer #3 left out an important detail, which is how much experience the receptionist has. It wouldn’t surprise me at all to learn that an experienced receptionist was earning the same as a baby accountant. She’s likely a better receptionist than LW is an accountant, due to having been one for longer and learned the ins and outs of the role. Of course, if she’s also relatively new, it doesn’t explain the pay discrepancy, but then all of Alison’s other advice applies. ;-)

    1. Smishy*

      Yeah, LW3 graduated one year ago. They might want to just sit on this question of who is getting paid fairly until they get some more experience under their belt.

      1. The Accountant*

        I graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in accounting in 2016. My first job barely paid above minimum wage in my state (I left and made much more a year later) so it doesn’t surprise me that an entry-level accounting job has somewhat low pay for the LW. Experience does matter in this field, and unless she’s a CPA she’s not likely to make tons of money early in her career.

        1. Van Wilder*

          I had a friend who was an executive assistant at a well-known bank in NYC, with only a few years’ experience. She was once at a party where she met a Junior Banker Bro, who happened to work at her company. Through the course of conversation, it came out that she made more money than he did and he was PISSED. He made a show of not talking to her for the rest of the party.

          I always loved that story.

          1. Staff Are Valuable*

            First year associates always get mad when they find out what I make as an experienced legal secretary. What they fail to understand is that I am far more productive, have a lot of practical law knowledge gleaned from experience, and I can be trusted to talk to clients. Newly graduated associates are effectively a drain on the firm for the first year at a minimum because while law school is very expensive, it doesn’t concentrate much on the practical aspects of most modern lawyering. You learn that on the job. Paying a lot of money for a degree doesn’t make you automatically valuable, it just gets you a foot in the door.

            1. SeluciaMD*

              Seconding this. Back when I used to work in law, when the partner I worked for moved her practice to a new firm, the HR department actually pushed to classify me as a Legal Secretary/Paralegal because while I did paralegal work, I also handled some key administrative tasks related to managing her niche practice and they could actually offer me a higher salary by classifying part of my job as a legal secretary.

              All the Legal Secretaries I worked with over the years were SO BRILLIANT at their jobs. They were worth every freaking penny they made, and then some. In our practice, the main legal secretary who worked for our partner was a huge reason she was so effective and made so much money for the firm.

              So I agree with others here, OP3 – there are A LOT of reasons that a receptionist or administrative person (particularly one with a lot of experience or a strong skill set) might make more money than you. And deserve it!

            2. SuperDiva*

              Agreed. An experienced legal secretary is worth their weight in gold, whereas first-year associates are a dime a dozen. (And if you’re in BigLaw, even a prestigious law school doesn’t make you stand out that much as a newly-admitted attorney.)

            3. whingedrinking*

              Yeeeup. This isn’t quite the same thing, but it’s close: my partner basically organizes a team of freelancers to work collectively on a creative project. He does a lot of the creative stuff as well, but everything that isn’t writing or artwork is on him.
              One of his freelancers, however, seems to be under the impression that this is a “~*FREELANCER*~ (and partner)” production and gives off a vibe that his unbridled genius is essential to the project. In fact, if he were hit by a bus, the project would likely be delayed for a couple weeks while Partner looked for a replacement. Whereas if Partner was the one under the public transit vehicle, that would be the end of the story unless one of the other team members stepped up. Certainly Freelancer wouldn’t take on the less fun and glamourous aspects of getting the damn thing made.
              So yeah, I’m sure that OP is a capable and dedicated employee. But new graduates are going to have trouble arguing that they are uniquely vital to an operation compared to someone who knows the day-to-day operations of the organization and has kept them running smoothly for years.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Also, a receptionist may have all kinds of side duties the LW doesn’t know about and be performing some level of Executive Assistant role for the higher ups. I do think it boils down to experience.

    2. Observer*

      It’s also worth noting that a lot of receptionists do a lot of behind the scenes work, and some of that is quite important and / or skilled.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        My location’s “receptionist” is an efficient senior administrator who also runs the mailroom for a 500-person facility. She trains & supervises staff in both areas. She’s backup for the security staff who manage badges for staff & visitors.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, the receptionists at all the jobs I’ve had that had receptionists had serious skills and institutional knowledge. Can we give up this stereotype that receptionists just sit around and redirect phone calls all day?

        1. Hi there*

          Same here. I’m a lawyer, and at my firm, our legal secretaries take shifts at the reception desk. This LW might call them receptionists. But in reality, they are all highly-skilled professionals without which the organization would not run. I have 10 years of experience as a lawyer, and honestly, I’d be *upset* if I found out that my secretary made less than me. She’s been here for 35 years and her institutional knowledge and connections are incredibly important to the functioning of our office.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Exactly – in a small company, “receptionist” might mean anything up to and including “executive admin assistant”.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Also, I am a (pretty good imo) software dev who, at one point in my life, had to work as an admin assistant/office manager. It was the only job I’ve ever had that I was objectively really bad at. It requires a lot of attention to detail, people skills etc and I was dropping the balls left and right. It is not an easy job.

      4. Lacey*


        And the OP would probably know if this were the case, but sometimes the “receptionist” is actually the office manager.

        1. Nicki Name*

          They wouldn’t even necessarily know at this point. When I was fresh out of college, I wasn’t really aware that there even was such a thing as an office manager until I got curious about how the regular expected office events (like the Halloween costume contest and potluck) were organized.

        2. a-m-a-n-d-a*

          Yep. In my role as an office manager, I can’t even count how many of my colleagues referred to me as a receptionist, because of where my desk was. Nope. There’s nothing wrong with that title, administrative work is skilled work. BUT I’m a manager. People don’t usually take the time to differentiate the positions.

          1. ...*

            And sometimes titles mean very little. At my company titles are used to rationalize pay rate, which is very different from all the other companies I have worked for. A person could have the title of receptionist but have the duties of an office manager, and a supervisor might not actually supervise anyone. CEOs might be just sitting around signing documents blindly.

      5. MassMatt*

        This. And the new accountant may not know everything that receptionist is doing.

        I’m curious how LW knows her pay anyhow. Compensation is usually confidential.

        But at any rate, LW is too focused on degrees and “degree qualified”. Companies pay for skills and the overall value you bring, not degrees.

          1. generic_username*

            This. I used to see payroll in my position as accountant at my previous job. I never spoke about what I saw with anyone else, but I certainly could have written a letter like this one while I was there

        1. Observer*

          I’m curious how LW knows her pay anyhow. Compensation is usually confidential.

          Not always. And it’s not legal for an employer to forbid discussion of pay.

          In any case, as you say, the focus on degrees and “degree qualified’ is not going to do them any good.

    3. Candy*

      Yeah, I just looked it up and the average pay scale for an accountant is between $39k – $76k and $28k – $43k for a receptionist. So depending on where they each are at in their seniority it’s not strange that the receptionist is making more right now and the accountant will one day surpass them.

      But none of that matters because there’s no point in comparing two completely different jobs. It’s like asking if an accountant should be paid more or less than a lion tamer. How would you even make that calculation? There’s no correlation there.

      OP should instead be looking at what other recently graduated accountants in their city are making and negotiate based on that.

      1. UShoe*

        “it’s not strange that the receptionist is making more right now”

        The receptionist isn’t even making more, OP is bothered they they’re ONLY making $2k a year more than the receptionist ($42 a week). On an entry-level salary. Compared to a (presumably) experienced receptionist. I think OP seriously needs to check themselves on this one, people should be paid equivalent to the market and their value – this company is already showing that they ‘value’ your newly-graduated, inexperienced self more than their receptionist, isn’t that enough?

        That’s even taking on that the OP is correct that they’re a receptionist and not an office manager or administrator who also mans the phones – both roles with significant responsibility and commensurately better paid.

        1. RJ*

          Agreed. Receptionists are undervalued in general. Maybe this company recognizes their value whether it’s market rate or not.

        2. Slipping The Leash*

          Plus, depending on your industry, a gifted receptionist can have a HUGE impact on the business. We are a small firm that gets business almost entirely by referral, and for many many years we had a receptionist whose duties were to answer the phones, greet the occasional in-person visitor, water the plants, checking the fax machines, occasional travel arrangements…sounds like fairly light stuff. But as our CEO once told me over drinks, she was our secret weapon. She kept in her head a detailed list of what level of importance to our firm various contacts had, and had the temperament to make every single person who called us feel like she was vastly pleased to hear from them. I don’t know what she was paid, but was enough that she was able to retire in her early 50’s. She deserved every penny.

          1. TardyTardis*

            We had one who had the secret phone number to talk an actual person at AT&T when their accounts receivable screwed up payments (again).

      2. Observer*

        How would you even make that calculation? There’s no correlation there.

        That’s a key thing that the OP is missing. The seem to assume that University education is the primary driver of what pay scales should look like and that’s just not the case.

        1. generic_username*

          Yeah, unfortunately we’re fed a line that more education = more income. It simply isn’t true, and I think that normally leads to a wakeup call for recent grads (particularly those in fields that typically boast higher salaries, like law and accounting, when those higher salaries go to people with more experience or more prestigious degrees). OP should see how her income stacks up to other first-year accountants and move on if she’s unhappy/feels under-valued, but this isn’t about the receptionist.

          1. whingedrinking*

            I mean, I know people with PhDs and I wouldn’t trust some of them to look after my cat for a weekend. Of course education is valuable, but it doesn’t directly correlate to employable skills.

    4. July*

      ‘baby accountant’ made me chuckle and wanted to comment on this.

      This is also where most college graduates might get iffy about is that sometimes experience or skill means more than a diploma on some jobs.

      Maybe the company has been burned by inept receptionists before and is willing to pay top dollars for a decent one.

      1. Non non*

        It’s supply and demand. In my experience, it’s much easier to find a good accountant than a good receptionist. A good receptionist is gold and worth every penny.

        1. Yvette*

          This, so much this. Being a support person (receptionist/secretary/admin/assistant ), especially at a large firm is demanding, stressful, and aggravating. Unless decently compensated, after a while, anyone really good, intelligent and hard working, may come to the conclusion that there are other jobs just as demanding, stressful, and aggravating that will pay them better and off they go.

          1. Anon for this*

            Not only that, but after a while, other departments within the firm with open positions will be aware that the support person is intelligent and hard working, which will heavily bias them in favor of the support person if the support person applies to said open positions.

            1. Six Degrees of Separation*

              Yes, this is exactly what happened at our office. The admin for our former VP/our team is now in a much higher position on another team.

            2. rachel in nyc*

              a law firm I worked at basically used our receptionist position as a way to see whether someone who didn’t have the resume to be an admin could work as an admin. Most people didn’t stay in that position more than a year, if they were any good.

            3. Indigo a la mode*

              Absolutely. In the five years I’ve been at this office, at least four receptionists have been hired away by managers around the company. It’s basically a growth track position because they’re so essential and they get to work with leaders all over the business.

              1. Galadriel's Garden*

                That is *exactly* how I leveraged my administrative assistant roles – sitting in important meetings to take notes, understanding processes by being the one to document them (then being able to make suggestions when the occasion called for it), getting a sense of all the key players on a project by scheduling the meetings and being able to make small talk with them before a call started or on an email chain setting something up, generally having my name out there as a “go-to” person, etc. I was able to transition into an operations specialist role, then associate, then manager role, by getting my foot in the door at the right place as an admin (after having some years of admin experience beforehand). I graduated into the recession with an English degree, so leveraging what I could where I could was the only way to get anywhere professionally.

          2. Bee Eye Ill*

            Totally agreed. Most exec. assistants I’ve worked with knew more about what was going on in their department than the actual director did. And it is NOT an easy job.

        2. MassMatt*

          I’ve worked in a place where the admin left and it was hard to find a good replacement. Things noticeably started to deteriorate, and quickly. More so than when upper executives or key salespeople left.

      2. Anon for this*

        We just hired someone with none of the required skills for the position, simply because in the last several years we’ve had a revolving door of people come in, get annoyed that we’re also responsible for “menial” tasks, and leave. New person is a former receptionist, and when they applied we finally all sat down together and said look, they’ve got to have the patience to deal with the “menial” tasks, and we can teach every other skill. Receptionists have massive depths of patience and personal skills. That was far, far more important to us than any “hard” skills one might acquire from college or a class. And happily… we were right! Former receptionist is rapidly acquiring the skills needed to do well in this job. Hard skills are easy to teach. Soft skills are not.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          So very true about teaching hard versus soft skills. I can teach anyone to how to do any specific circulation task – if their personality is such that they are going to get snarky or frustrated when all someone says is “I’m looking to check out the book with the blue cover”… they are going to be a huge problem for me, because I have to teach them how to be tolerant and compassionate and interested in another person, and those are skills that can take a lifetime to develop.

      3. AthenaC*

        Yup. Not that the college degree is worthless – it does put you on a track to make more in the future. So even though a receptionist may make more than a baby accountant today, the more meaningful comparison is “the most $ the receptionist will ever make” vs. “the most $ a CPA will ever make.” I bet you that an experienced CPA will make far more than the receptionist.

    5. Gammagirl1908*

      Coming to say this too. LW3 may need to adjust their expectations about who gets paid what in a lot of cases. If that receptionist has been there for 20 years, and you’ve been there for two months, she frankly should earn WAY more than you.

      The relative challenge of training for your job doesn’t mean you should outearn everyone and anyone whose job required less training, and that is especially true if they are very experienced, while you are new at the job, new to the workforce, and fresh out of school. Likewise, because a job did not require as much training to get the job doesn’t mean you should stay at the bottom of the salary totem pole forever. You should get raises and advances the longer you stay and the better you are at your job, just like anyone. The top salary for an admin will not match the top salary for an executive, but the top salary for an admin is certainly reasonably above the salary for a brand new accountant.

      Your salary should be in line with others who have similar training and experience to you, not necessarily ahead of everyone whose position you think is beneath you.

      Also, be very careful about being condescending about the earnings (and respect) given to admin staff. Good admins generally rule and run the office and deserve every bit of compensation and appreciation.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        Thanks for saying this. I am in administrative role with a college degree. I make pretty good money. She has likely been there for years and has worked her way up to the salary she deserves.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        I invite anyone who snarks on admin staff to go ahead and do that job themselves.

        Yeah, I thought so.

        Didn’t need a college degree =/= easy and mindless.

        1. have we met?*

          Right? I had a very uncharitable response to this LW’s attitude.

          Which is why I don’t write an advice column. :)

        2. PT*

          I’d also invite them to go back in time 10-15 years. How many of us were degree in hand working jobs that required a degree on paper but didn’t need a degree?

          I was working a job that “required a degree” because that location required it but didn’t require a degree because many other locations hired 16-18 year olds. A quarter of my coworkers had graduate degrees at that point. It was absurd.

      3. Hi there*

        “Good admins generally rule and run the office and deserve every bit of compensation and appreciation.”

        This is common at some law firms and legal organizations. A good legal secretary or admin is absolutely indispensable, and they should be paid accordingly. I’d be horrified and sad if I learned that my secretary made less than me. Just because I went to law school doesn’t mean my skills are worth more.

        This OP has a lot to learn.

      4. Observer*

        Also, be very careful about being condescending about the earnings (and respect) given to admin staff. Good admins generally rule and run the office and deserve every bit of compensation and appreciation.

        Very much this. And if you want a purely self interested reason for this, keep in mind that a good admin who is on your side can make your life MUCH easier. If they don’t like you? Given how many balls most of these positions are keeping in the air, a good “receptionist” can make your life very, very difficult without ever being the least bit unprofessional.

        1. The Rat-Catcher*

          So much this. Most good admins are consistently performing top-notch. If someone condescends to them, they can always give “average”/”meets expectations” performance instead.

        2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          I know at at least one company I worked at before getting into the library field, an admin/assistant expressing concerns about you to their boss was just about the surest way for you to get fired. Bosses knew they saw you at your best – the admins saw all your work, and they knew how many times you had redone that report before the boss saw it. If the admin said “I’m worried about person X’s understanding of topic Y…”

          Well, smart managers will take a lot closer look at you then.

    6. TheSüperflüoüsUmlaüt*

      ^^ What Julie said. I worked with a senior receptionist once, and she de facto ran the firm. She has so much institutional knowledge, as the ‘face’ of the firm the clients all knew and loved her, and she was queen of problem-solving – no weird ask too hard, no question beyond her investigative powers. They really, really missed her when she had to leave (due to illness).

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Yes, I know of several receptionists and PAs who pretty much ran their companies/departments. Plus, it is quite possible to be an assistant with a university degree.

        1. EmKay*

          Hello, hi, assistant with a double bachelor’s degree and 15 years of experience :)

          I am **definitely** paid more than a just out of school accountant.

          1. JJ Bittenbinder*

            I am **definitely** paid more than a just out of school accountant.

            I’m very glad to hear that! Ugh…that sounds sarcastic, but I really mean it. Being paid fairly for ANY type of work (skilled, semi-skilled or the so-called ‘unskilled’) is really important to a functioning society that values all contributions, and we should be paying for the job. Sometimes that means paying for the years and money it took to get a degree; many times it does not. (This is why it’s really important to help job seekers avoid the trap of thinking “This job requires an Associates Degree and I have a BA/higher. Surely I should get paid more!” No, not on the face of it you should not.)

          2. Hi there*

            Yeah, even though I have a law degree and 10 years of experience, I’d be very upset if I learned that my secretary — who has 30+ years of experience and a vast array of important connections and institutional knowledge — earns less money than me. I’ve always assumed she makes more. I mean, I sat in class and got yelled at for three years by a bunch of grouchy old men. That shouldn’t translate into anything more, money-wise, than…sitting in class for three years.

        2. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          The minimum requirement at my office to be the executive assistant to the president/de facto receptionist is a bachelor degree with dual language fluency. It is most definitely not an entry-level job, and even more the soft skills needed to be a good assistant or receptionist are worth their weight in gold.

      2. LifeBeforeCorona*

        Our receptionist was also a gatekeeper in a good way. A quiet word that today is not a good day to approach the boss about a raise or a heads up that they were free for 15 minutes right now if they had questions about a project. They were also a good source of the unwritten office culture rules.

    7. Engineer Woman*

      Yep, I came here to say this. OP is a fresh grad and I could definitely see a seasoned receptionist or admin assistant earning more – perhaps even significantly more – than a fresh university graduate. Now, if the receptionist is only a year out of high school (secondary school) and OP makes only $42 more per week, then I agree something seems amiss.

    8. MK*

      It’s fairly common for new grads to earn less than people they theoretically outrank, in part because when you are new you are still being trained and aren’t performing at a top level. Also common for lower level jobs to pay better out of the gate (especially true for union jobs) but to have a much lower ceiling.

      The main issue I see is the OP’s focus on how much a degree should translate to higher pay. That’s statistically true, but there are many very well paying jobs that don’t require degrees.

      1. Gammagirl1908*

        This too. A) LW seems to be assuming the receptionist has no degree, which is not a safe assumption, and B) LW is in for a real shock next time they need a plumber.

        1. Heffalump*

          A friend of mine once said that if you’re not prepared to maintain your car yourself, then you have no standing to look down your nose at auto mechanics.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            To paraphrase Ralph Waldo Emerson, for every person I meet, there is something that they are far better at than I am. I was 20 when I learned that quote, and it served me well in life. For the love of dog, even the useless PM my current job once had, who did nothing, increased everyone’s workload with senseless busywork, did not understand our business no matter how many times people tried to explain it, and was eventually the first to get laid off, was a damn talented event planner. She organized a few teambuilding activities in the department (which everyone normally hates) and everyone had a fantastic time every time. Really hope she is now a professional event planner. FTR, I could barely plan my own children’s birthday parties. This is a skill I most certainly do not have.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          It’s not whether the receptionist *has* a degree, but whether they *need* a degree. There is a (not completely illogical) assumption that jobs which require more training should pay more than jobs which require less training. Unfortunately, it runs right up against the law of supply and demand. If a really good receptionist is hard to find, and there are a ton of baby accountants out there, then naturally a good receptionist should be worth more.

          1. anonymath*

            Well, I’d also caution to be careful against conflating a degree and training. Having taught at a university for years and then going to industry, these things are quite different. My company runs a number of training programs since what we do is not taught at colleges or universities.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I agree that “degree” does not encompass everything included in “training.” But this particular post was about a degree. It sounds like your company hires people and then trains them, which is not the same thing as a job that requires you to have a degree or certification or other training before you can be hired.

              1. serenity*

                This post was about a fresh-out-of-school accountant assuming that someone in an administrative role, who likely has years more experience than him, is by nature of her role worthy of less pay.

      2. RetailEscapee*

        I have a BS from a state university which I earned almost entirely online, and I am in a support role at a tech retailer primarily filling out forms. My partner is a PhD with an MBA and is both a tenured professor AND director of the university’s graduate program in their field of knowledge.
        3 guesses which of us makes more money.
        We have been sold a bill of goods re: education and people are burying themselves in loans, when having a degree at this point is not necessarily a ticket to the highest pay or even finding a specific job.

    9. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

      This was my thought. I’m an experienced people manager (with no degree) at a pretty big firm and I know that I earn around the same as entry level trainee lawyers. Assuming LW only started at their role less than 2 years ago, this is very normal.

      1. ROUS*

        Yes! I have a masters degree in a technical field and I earn the average for my field because I only have 3 years experience. Our admin earns something within shouting distance of my salary, because she’s been there for 30 years and knows everything, and everyone. She makes it look easy, but it definitely isn’t.

    10. Ludo*

      I agree, it’s very presumptuous to be comparing a seasoned employees salary to your own when you just joined the work force (I’m assuming the reception isn’t also new here obviously)

    11. M2*

      Agree! Also, if the receptionist has been there for years they will have received raises and maybe they should even be making more, who knows! The other thing is many companies pay a good salary for a good receptionist.

      I also find it a bit funny the thought “because I have a university degree (who says the receptionist does or does not) I deserve more money.” A family member of mine dropped out of college and started working in Tech. They are a top executive and mega multi -multi millionaire. They are also excellent at their job. They didn’t finish college but worked hard.

      1. EmKay*

        To be fair, the “because I have a university degree I deserve more” attitude has been force-fed to us for the past twenty years at least, by parents and schools, so can we really be surprised?

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          This. I did go to college (and grad school) and I’m glad I did, because I feel it was the right choice for me. But I also feel like there are plenty of people out there who would be better off going to trade school, or even forgoing any sort of education/formal training and simply entering the workforce to gain experience (maybe they’ll go back to school at a later date, maybe not!)

          And it’s not about how “smart” they are, or how “skilled” they are; it’s just about whether they really need to go to college. Want to be a doctor/lawyer/teacher? 100% go to college! Not sure exactly what you want yet? Maybe look around at entry level jobs and see if anything really speaks to you/fits your strengths. It’s okay to not have it all figured out the second you graduate high school (hell, it took me a while to even figure out what I wanted to do with my Bachelors degree!) but college is not going to be some magic answer, and I wish that we as a society would stop acting like it is. There is nothing wrong with not having a college degree.

          1. Tupac Coachella*

            Same-I knew pretty early that the types of jobs that I would both enjoy and be good at would require college. Not everyone has the skill or disposition to be a plumber or a welder. I get annoyed when people act like anyone who gets a bachelors or higher is a chump who doesn’t realize that being an electrician is an option (and you do not want someone with my default information processing strategies and manual dexterity rewiring your house). Does that mean that my master’s degree trumps their 18 month technical certificate and apprenticeship in value? No way. We both decided what we were willing to put up with to start a career path we felt like we could succeed in.

        2. ThatGirl*

          My husband is definitely very underpaid, but he has a BA, an MA, a professional license and makes roughly half of what I do with my BA alone. In an ideal world, he’d make what I do – but that doesn’t mean I don’t deserve my pay.

        3. Observer*

          To be fair, the “because I have a university degree I deserve more” attitude has been force-fed to us for the past twenty years at least, by parents and schools, so can we really be surprised?

          Yes, but the OP is not a child. And anyone who has not been living under a rock should know by the point that they are in their career job for over a year, that degrees do not necessarily = high pay, ESPECIALLY at the beginning of the career ladder.

          And, regardless, whether it’s surprising that the OP thinks this or not doesn’t really matter. What matters is that they are harboring an incorrect belief and it’s a belief that could cause them problems. So it’s to their benefit to re-calibrate their expectations.

          1. Sacred Ground*

            What bothers me isn’t that OP is dissatisfied with her entry-level accountant pay. She’s dissatisfied that it isn’t significantly higher than someone else who is doing a completely different job.

            You want to compare your pay to others? Fine, but compare apples to apples. Are you fairly paid compared to other entry-level accountants? That’s a fair question. Are you fairly paid compared to someone doing a completely different job? That’s a meaningless question.

    12. Junior Assistant Peon*

      In a lot of fields, the universities pump out way more new grads than companies can absorb, so entry-level salaries are peanuts. In my field, chemistry, a 60-year-old lab technician with a high school diploma and 40 years experience is often better at hands-on work than a PhD, and paid better than a junior scientist with a B.S.

      I worked for a company where we didn’t have a receptionist, but we had a woman who started as some kind of low-level office assistant and retired many years later with a weird mix of high-level responsibilities that could not be replaced by one or two new hires. This is a common thing at small companies, and your receptionist might be doing things beyond phone-answering.

    13. twocents*

      Exactly where my mind went. LW effectively has no experience, and the receptionist could have years of experience.

      It’s not at all true that, just because role A requires a degree, it will always make more money than role B.

    14. Sawbonz, MD*

      I’m a resident surgeon who makes just under 60K a year. I did four years of college, four years of medical school and I am just starting year three of my residency. My sister is an RN with a four year degree and three years of work experience who, including overtime, made 110K last year.

      It’s not always the amount of education one has that determines ones pay. The market has determined that an experienced nurse is worth more than a surgeon who can’t yet practice medicine without oversight from her attending. In other words, she’s worth more than I am at this time!

      1. HannahS*

        Also a resident doc, same thing. All of the other professionals I work with (nurses, social workers, administrators, ward clerks, PT/OT, etc) make more than I do. Someone above made the point that a lot of jobs, especially union jobs, have higher pay out of the gate, but have lower ceilings–that’s true. A ward clerk theoretically starts her career years before I do with higher pay, but the eventual ceiling on my earnings is about 3x higher than hers. I’ve treated carpenters who make about the same wage as me while working fewer hours. That’s not actually a problem. If you feel that you aren’t duly compensated (and last year I made less than minimum wage, so I hear you), then THAT’s the problem. A competent administrator is valuable to an organization and is paid accordingly.

          1. Sawbonz, MD*

            Thank you! I can’t speak for HannahS, but nothing knocks you off your high horse faster than being a medical resident! We’re slightly lower in the hierarchy than the gum one steps in walking to the Metro station :)

            1. HannahS*

              Lol yes, this is true.
              And to be honest, part of what makes my job tolerable is knowing that once residency and fellowship are over, my earning potential is really, really high. I can’t say that I don’t resent my salary (seriously, we’re exempt from labour law and I do literally make less than minimum wage), but I’m mad at the government, not the ward clerks.

      2. Heffalump*

        I do computer-aided drafting, for which I have a 2-year degree. I’ve been in this line of work for 23 years. I make ~90% of what you do; I have to say I’m surprised! Of course, I assume that you’ll make much more 10 or 20 years from now.

    15. Mockingjay*

      Receptionists often have ‘hidden’ duties, especially experienced ones. When they aren’t answering phones or greeting visitors, they are probably calling vendors, arranging travel for the boss, processing claims, forwarding emails and correspondence to the correct person (an art form in itself). In small companies, they can double as HR, payroll, and any number of other roles.

      Do as Alison says and determine whether you are paid fairly for your role. What your receptionist does and earns is not relevant.

    16. Hi there*

      Yeah, I have to admit that I chuckled at that letter. My secretary does a lot of reception-type work, but she is a highly skilled professional who is absolutely indispensable to our organization. I am an attorney with 10 years of experience, and I would honestly not be surprised (or the least bit resentful) to learn that she makes more than me.

    17. Sedna*

      Just chiming in with all the other folks here. I work in a research group at a fancy university, and almost every employee has a post-graduate degree. Our administrative professionals are worth their weight in gold and keep the entire place running. They manage budgets, supply lines, incredibly complex meeting arrangements, and questions from a zillion collaborators, and they do it all while remaining consummate professionals – even in the craziest of circumstances. Our many expensive grants and important research would absolutely fall down around our ears without the admin staff. So yes, they are paid according to their value and experience – which is often more than a brand-new hire would be, even with a degree.

    18. Robin Ellacott*

      Agreed! We give annual raises and once they are capped in the salary range for that position, annual COL increases. It’s very possible that someone with years of (VALUABLE) experience here would make more than a newbie in a position that has a higher starting wage and cap, even if there were academic qualifications involved for the newbie. Experience is a legitimate qualification too.

      Reception and similar roles aren’t always easy jobs to fill well, and there’s often a lot of institutional knowledge in those position, too. It makes sense to reward longevity. I’d urge OP not to worry unless they are underpaid themselves, as Alison says, and know they will catch up over time.

      1. Selena*

        In my country every company with more than a few dozen employees has ‘salary ladders’ within a ‘salary house’: each open position gets assigned to one of those ladders, with the idea being that you start at step 1 and progress a step each year. After 10-15 years you end at the top of your ladder and only get COL each year.

        Jobs that require a degree or experience or other qualifications (or are deemed harder to fill) get assigned to a ladder with a higher start-pay and higher end-pay, but there is obviously quit some overlap between ladders.

        An issue with this is that those yearly raises would also be used on jobs where there is barely any skill-building and seniority doesn’t make you better (or at least not twice as valuable as a junior employee).
        These were the first jobs that companies started to outsource: hiring that labor by the hour instead of giving out long-term contracts.
        It also means a lot of these employees had gotten used to a certain standard of living, lose their job in a reoganisation, and can only get a new job at starting-salary (they tend to conclude it’s because of age-discrimation, but that’s often not the case)

    19. Selena*

      I guess it’s possible he left it out because they are both fresh starts without experience. In that case it’s definitely a bit weird the receptionist earns the same.
      It’s possible that OP is a first-generation student who got taken advantage of, while the receptionist ‘knew how to play the game’.

      (I am a first generation student, and it does irk me when i find out i earn less than colleagues who are the embodiment of ‘carry yourself with the confidence of a mediocre white guy’)

      If the receptionist instead has 20 years of experience than OP sounds like an entitled idiot: a degree typically gives you a higher starting-salary, but a degree-less person with skills and experience will often earn more than that starter pay.

  3. Observer*

    #3 – Allison is right. Evaluate your salary in the context of your field. If, in that context, and that context ONLY you find yourself underpaid, then either talk to your employer or start job hunting. But whatever you do, do NOT bring up the receptionist’s salary. Best case, it won’t help you. Worst case, it’s going to seriously hurt your standing.

    One REALLY important thing for you to keep in mind, both now and in the long term, is that degrees are only one, often small, part of what makes someone valuable to a team. Without knowing what the receptionist actually does and how well she does it, you really have absolutely no context for how valuable she is. If, for instance, she has a “magic touch” with difficult but high value clients, she could be worth as much as the biggest “rain-maker” in the place. If she’s the one who has managed every major internal project in the office for the last 10 years, she’s probably seen as worth her weight in gold by the people who are in charge. etc.

    I can’t tell if you are in the US or not. If you are, it sounds like you are not a CPA. It’s really possible that your three years of university without solid accounting experience is just not all that valuable to your employer (or to other employers) right now. Now, if you are good at your job that should change. But for now, employers are not going to calculate your salary based on the time you spent in university, but in the value you bring to the business.

    1. Roller*

      In the UK you need 3 years experience and usually some additional exams after uni, and grads straight from uni usually start low (often very low) but gain value very quickly once they prove they can pass their remaining exams. Part of the deal is getting that 3 years experience. I expect the OP will out earn the receptionist by a lot pretty quickly!

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        I think that’s why, in the kindest way possible, I think the OP needs to get some perspective. They sound pretty put out that at a very very early stage of their career they aren’t earning significantly more than the receptionist – and they are still out-earning her, just not by much – but that is unlikely to be the case for long. The salary range for an accountant maxes out at a LOT higher than that of a receptionist; OP just isn’t earning at that level because they haven’t actually got to that level yet career-wise. Once you take that into account I think it comes across as short-sighted and even a bit churlish to frame the issue as a comparison with the receptionist, who is unlikely to earn as much as the OP potentially could in future despite doing a stressful, demanding, thankless job. It’s a bad look, OP, so just focus on gaining some experience that would justify a significantly higher salary.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          Yes. I’m sympathetic to OP, because when I went through school a lot of the ‘motivation’ to students was really pitched around: “you’re working hard now so you can have more later, not like those [burger-flippers/secretaries/janitor/insert-your-choice-of-unprestigeious-profession-here]”.

          You’re a kid, and grown-ups are telling you this. Repeatedly! Of course you internalise it. But you’ve got to work on unlearning it because it is based in perceptions of value, not actual value. At the end of the day, most companies will let go of accountants and lawyers before they let go of janitors. A degree, in-and-of-itself doesn’t bring any value to the company.

          When you see those discrepancies between how the world is working and how you were TOLD the world worked, try to respond with curiosity before indignation.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            It’s easy to adopt the current mindset that those burger-flippers, cleaners, cooks, clerks don’t deserve the $15-hour living wage because they don’t have any formal education or the job is so easy. It’s an elitist mindset that many schools push. Work hard, get a degree and you will never flip a burger again.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Some years ago, during a big downturn in the oil industry, there was a joke going around about how you found a geologist in Denver: You held up your hand and called out “Waiter!”

              We seriously need to lose this whole idea of some jobs as more prestigious, and hence inherently higher-paid, than others. The sole criteria should be how much value the person brings to the company and how difficult they would be to replace. And by those criteria, an experienced receptionist is worth more, not less, than a newbie accountant who could be replaced by any of the zillion-and-one virtually interchangeable newbie accountants churned out by the schools this year.

              1. Greg*

                I think one of the main reasons we are so short on skilled labor (CDLs, licensed plumbers, electricians, etc) is precisely because of that elitist mentality. Millennials were continually told, “If you don’t go to college you’re worthless.” Many people who should have gone to a trade school or an apprenticeship instead went to college even if it wasn’t the proper path for them. Fortunately that seems to be shifting, but too little too late for the short term.

                1. not niche*

                  Just said below – I’m a millennial who was raised in a skilled labor family business and while the family business was always a point of pride, not in any way shamed or labeled “worthless,” the end goal for us was ALWAYS college. I think it’s very natural for parents to want their kids to do even ‘better’ than they did, and for a while, college was ‘better.’ I feel real envy for the success and fun the family business enjoyed at it’s peak, though! Sure seems to beat my desk grind even if I enjoy secure insurance & benefits.

              2. Dust Bunny*

                My dad was a geologist in Denver during that downturn. He survived basically by retraining himself completely into a computer modeler. (His Ph.D. is in glacial geology, which approximately nobody is using right now.)

              3. James*

                The geologists and drillers switched to environmental remediation and soil/groundwater sampling. Same skillset, in fact half the time we’re looking for the same stuff!

                Agreed about the elitism thing. My view has always been that there’s just work that needs done. Someone has to negotiate with clients, someone has to pull the samples, someone has to do the accounting to make sure we don’t go broke, someone has to maintain the equipment so we can do the job, etc. Everything relies on everything else. It’s something I’ve had a real hard time teaching newbies: Even the routine sampling is critical. The boring stuff is the foundation for everything else we do, and if you screw that up it’s a nightmare for YEARS. Going back to the receptionist thing, our receptionist is the one that orders our field notebooks and pens. If she gets the wrong ones the notes are illegible and we have to throw out data, which can cost us millions. It’s the whole “for want of a nail a shoe was lost” thing–the big things are built out of the little things.

              4. Jennifer Strange*

                Some years ago, during a big downturn in the oil industry, there was a joke going around about how you found a geologist in Denver: You held up your hand and called out “Waiter!”

                Huh, that’s interesting. I wonder if that’s why on South Park Stan’s dad is a geologist in the first few seasons (and then ends up having to find other jobs).

              5. COBugGirl*

                Hi from Denver! I know multiple geologists, including family members. Exactly 0 of them are using their geology degrees…I can’t say much, because an accountant doesn’t need a biology degree (me!), but it’s a family joke at this point. I’m a bit jealous, because geologists get to go on the cool field trips…I still haven’t seen an active volcano.

                I’ve also found that accountants who learn from school and jump in rather than from the bottom up tend to have gaps. I fully admit I have gaps (I’m self-taught), but I haven’t had to undo issues caused by my knowledge gaps…just others who force numbers to work rather than actually fixing the issue.

          2. Grey Coder*

            Oh yeah, I’ve done a lot of graduate recruitment and there is a gap between what they’ve been told (“your degree will make you super valuable to employers”) and reality. Often the degree is just the starting point that makes learning to do the real work possible, even when there’s not a formal post-degree progression structure like accounting exams.

          3. not niche*

            Ha, I was raised in a family who was not college educated but ran a business centered around a niche manual labor skill. They really, really encouraged the next generation to all go to college and do “better” than them – very typical fare, of course you want to see your kids succeed. Well, I’m mid-career with two degrees and still haven’t even approached their success, which at its peak drew international business from loyal clients, because again, niche manual labor skill vs. my (almost literally!) dime a dozen education.

          4. RagingADHD*

            That type of “motivation” is also a course in remedial classism.

            If OP3 really wants some sticker shock, they should look into what a plumber makes. Or an apartment building superintendent.

            Degree does not necessarily equal more pay, and neither degree nor pay is a measure of absolute value to society or personal worth.

      2. Observer*

        In the UK you need 3 years experience and usually some additional exams after uni, and grads straight from uni usually start low (often very low) but gain value very quickly once they prove they can pass their remaining exams.

        Yes, that sounds very similar to the CPA credential in the US. Freshly minted CPAs don’t make enormous salaries right out the gate. But they DO make significantly more than new accounting majors. Mostly for the reason that you mention.

    2. Boof*

      I’m also curious if the accountant knows the receptionist didn’t attend college as a fact, or is just guessing because “receptionist”. Many receptionists require or have a college degree as well, it’s usually preferred by employers.

      1. Tiny Soprano*

        When I was working as a receptionist I had a Masters degree. Hell in two months I will have three university degrees, and I’ll need another one before I can actually get a decent job again (career switches are fun. Thanks plague for ruining the opera industry…) Honestly when I was behind that desk I had more hours clocked up at uni than half the junior engineers…

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          I was going to school and working as a baker. While scaling buns I used to entertain my co-workers by describing the plots of Charles Dickens novels especially the debtors’ prison and how innocent people went to jail because they couldn’t pay their bills.

        2. starsaphire*

          Oh, Tiny, I sympathize! My partner is in a similar situation, and it’s making him really depressed. *hugs*

          I really miss hearing Puccini rumbling through the air vents while he gets ready for rehearsal…

      2. londonedit*

        Yes, I started as a receptionist and had a degree. It was a classic foot-in-the-door route into publishing back in the day.

    3. Bean-counting*

      Came here to say this. I see a lot of people in accounting like LW3 complaining that after earning a degree they are not immediately paid more than school leaver trainees who are part qualified in their professional exams or clerical staff.

      A fresh out of uni new hire (12months) is of little use to me when it comes to getting the job done, they need on the job training, they need to sit some professional exams, they need to learn to speak with clients. I wouldn’t expect to pay them more than someone without a degree who actually knows how to do the job.

      Accounting is one industry where having a degree is pretty meaningless in terms of pay and progression, and I say that as someone with an accountancy degree. Sit back, look at your professional qualifications (CPA ect) and learn how to work efficiently and the pay and progress will come naturally.

      Also don’t p*ss off your admin support, come busy season you’ll be broken without them.

    4. anonymath*

      Yep. I work with people in a range of positions, many coming out of PhD programs. A conversation that I often have: sure you can train a neural net. Can you do anything useful?

      That’s overly snarky, but I want to make sure that the folks I’m mentoring as they go into the working world from a full-time PhD program understand that the knowledge about the specifics of their new jobs often comes from people with experience rather than degrees. I work in a field that is very blue collar but being transformed by data science and machine learning (think warehouses, supply chain, etc). My company will not be successful if we are snobs who think a PhD in math or stats will “transform transportation” without paying attention to how transportation actually works. The details of the actual jobs matter. The things folks in warehouses do to save time or save their health; the things dispatchers do to make their day better; what truckers log and don’t log and what kinds of treatment they want at warehouses. I’m no expert on these things but part of my success so far is that I listen to people who know what’s up and do my darnedest to serve the people who do the work. Understand and respect the expertise of others, regardless of educational status/titles.

  4. MsRoboto*

    #3 – I want to know HOW you know how much the receptionist makes. Is it because you are entrusted with that information in your role as an accountant? I would be consider this a serious issue.

    1. Observer*

      Why is this an issue? Given that employers are actually not allowed to prevent people from discussing salary, there is no real reason to assume that the OP found this information by abusing their access to financial information.

      1. Not Australian*

        Agreed, but as we don’t have any information either way it’s a valid question.

        1. Observer*

          I don’t see why it’s relevant. And there is simply no valid reason to assume that it’s an “issue” much less a “serious issue”.

    2. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      It’s not an abuse of privileged information if she saw the number and is now just having some thoughts about it, especially if it turns out that she really is being underpaid.

      1. SuperDiva*

        Yeah, it seems really unreasonable to say that LW is not allowed to have feelings about coworkers’ pay. I wouldn’t recommend bringing up the receptionist’s salary in their own salary negotiation, but that’s true regardless of how they found out about it.

    3. MK*

      I can only see it as an issue if the OP had to snoop to find this information out. If she came across it naturally as part of doing her job, it’s not.

        1. JustaTech*

          Or the receptionist could have straight up told the OP! Sometimes people do that, or it comes up in conversation.

    4. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “Is it because you are entrusted with that information in your role as an accountant? I would be consider this a serious issue.”

      You’ve got it backwards: it’s literally not a serious issue if they are entrusted with that for work.

      Now, if they use this info in salary negotiations or share it, yes that’s an issue.

  5. Observer*

    #4 – I get that you have a real problem. But the idea that you are going to make a rule banning food at desks to accommodate your issue is a bit . . . much. Honestly, if anyone realizes what you’ve done (if you would do that) it would really feel like an abuse of power. Which is to say, don’t do it.

    Listen to Allison.

    1. Mockingjay*

      Yes. Before asking the employee to switch utensils, try modifying your reaction first with the suggested options: headphones, leave and take a break yourself, etc. If that doesn’t work, then you can ask your employee about using a quieter utensil.

      Keep in mind that as a manager, there’s a power dynamic to even the smallest request. I can see employee thinking, “well, I can’t eat or drink at my desk anymore at all; who knows what else might irritate the boss.”
      I’m not disputing the discomfort your condition causes you. But try looking for accommodations focused on what you can do to adapt or avoid first.

    2. Actual Vampire*

      I have self-diagnosed misophonia with a similar trigger to the LW. I personally have found it very freeing to accept that this is 100% a me problem. The more I focus on the sound, the source of the sound, the behavior of the person making the sound, the more it drives me insane. What works for me is to remind myself that the sound is not the problem – my brain is the problem- so I can either walk away or put on headphones or I can just sit here and experience this discomfort for a few seconds. Fixing The Sound is not my problem, not an avenue of action, and not something I should spend a single second thinking about.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      We had that rule in an old job. We’d just moved into a new office building that the owner had custom-built, and had his interior-designer wife design, and first thing he did was ban all food and drink at our desks. It was an extremely inconvenient and restrictive rule. (And today, I wouldn’t have survived without being able to at least have a water bottle at my desk. Honestly, not being able to stay hydrated during my work day would be a deal breaker. It’s a health issue.) Everyone was sneaking in snacks and stealthily eating them from under their desks anyway.

    4. not niche*

      I’m really surprised Alison recommended asking them to spend money on something new before suggesting leaving or using headphones. The power dynamic is there between managers and managees(?) even with something this small! And this is 100% a LW problem, not a LW’s coworker’s problem.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I don’t see this as an abuse of power. LW feels awkward singling out one specific employee since they know the problem is on their end. It’s extremely common for people to want a blanket rule rather than have an awkward conversation with a specific person. This comes up all the time in letters here and in the comments. In fact, I’ve seen plenty of commenters think that you’re actually not *allowed* to make requests if there’s no specific rule in the employee handbook. I think it’s also sometimes a misguided sense of fairness. But I’m not getting the power trip vibe from this particular letter.

      1. Pennilyn Lot*

        Yes but context matters. This rule of no eating in the office would be to facilitate a very specific personal preference on the part of the LW and has nothing to do with a work issue. If LW makes a blanket rule based on this preference, they are making their problem everybody else’s responsibility, and using their position as manager to implement a rule that is 100% about their personal preferences.

        1. quill*

          I mean, it depends on if it’s a reasonable accomodation.

          Is there a nearby lunch location? Are people eating at their desks because there’s too much to do / a working lunch lets them go home on time?

          If you can easily pop out to the break room without having to be “off” then asking nobody to eat in the workspace could be entirely reasonable.

          1. SuperDiva*

            But self-diagnosed misophonia is not ADA-protected, so there’s no “reasonable accommodation” standard at play. LW should not make a blanket rule that inconveniences their staff in order to avoid 1) leaving their office for 15 minutes, or putting on headphones, or 2) having a direct conversation and offering an alternative utensil to the tuna-eater.

          2. Pennilyn Lot*

            This isn’t what a “reasonable accommodation” is though? LW is not dealing with a diagnosed medical issue but something much closer to a personal pet peeve. I’m no expert but I’m also pretty sure that a reasonable accommodation is something that you come to an agreement with your employer about to make sure it suits everybody involved, not something that you decide to give yourself with no input from anyone else. I’m not sure what your other points have to do with this specific situation. The issue is not people eating at their desk, it’s that LW has a strong and very specific personal preference.

            1. Actual Vampire*

              A reasonable accommodation is also something that enables you to perform the functions of your job and/or to enjoy the same benefits and privileges as able-bodied employees. It is not something that allows you to pass off your discomfort to someone else so you won’t have to deal with 15 minutes of inconvenience.

      2. Observer*

        All of this is true. But it doesn’t make it ok. The OP has an issue. imposing a serious inconvenience on people to remediate their issue, just because they have the power to do so is an abuse of power. The fact that they are doing this because they don’t want to take minor measures like walking out for 15 minutes (something they do have the power to do) or getting headphones, or because they do not want to have an uncomfortable conversation makes it worse, not better.

        I’m not accusing the OP of being on a power trip. That doesn’t make this idea any better. Intent is not magic here.

      1. Clisby*

        I immediately flashed to the Thanksgiving turkey giveaway disaster aftermath where Jennifer is taking a call from an irate listener. In her most Jennifer-like voice, she says, “LOTS of turkeys don’t make it through Thanksgiving!”

  6. Felis alwayshungryis*

    #1 – is there any way they vastly overestimated the requirements for the role and realised they were looking for a unicorn? I’ve written many, many job ads and generally the qualifications are ‘in an ideal world’ but they’re much more concerned with culture fit (skills and experience can be acquired!). If it’s not a situation where quals are regulated by profession, it’s often something they know they’ll probably compromise on.

    Imposter syndrome is a bitch – but I think a chat with the hiring managers would definitely give you an insight into their thinking. (And congrats on the offer – even if you don’t end up taking it, it still sounds like an achievement.)

    1. Rollerskate Kate*

      I think you’re also focusing a lot on the criteria for the job. You haven’t said if you can do the duties involved in carrying out the role. That’s what matters!

      1. BethDH*

        Yes, I am going through something similar now where we’re trying to describe a job role. The people excelling in the role have vastly different skill sets, and none of them were hired specifically for that role (so there’s no existing description).

        The first job description draft was a mile long and totally unreasonable, because everyone just put in the skills they had that they found most important for doing the job. If that had been the final version, no one would have been qualified.

        Luckily that was just a starting point, but it’s important that we started that approach because we were interested in people who had taken less common paths to the role and wanted the job to show up if they searched any skills from their own past that were on the list, knowing they’d be unlikely to search for the job title itself.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Ha! At one job, the company wanted to add a junior position in my role. So my boss asked me to write up a list of what I did. I thought it was a starting point. He tried to use it verbatim as the job description. I had to explain that no candidates would qualify that way. I have decades of experience and special training on systems and processes. He was hiring for entry-level: degree + a year or two of general experience.

          Sometimes I wonder how anyone gets hired when the majority of job postings are terrible and inaccurate.

    2. Longtime Lurker*

      Agree – they may have gone into this looking for a unicorn and be very happy with a highly skilled llama.

      Or…they may really want a unicorn, but you can’t hire one if they don’t apply. Llama > vacant for more months, while they go through recruitment and interviewing for a whole ‘nother cycle. Other people that have picked up the pieces for the last few months might have to keep them, as you fill what you can. No way to tell unless you ask!

    3. Daisy*

      I really don’t understand how this hasn’t come up over the course of ‘multiple rounds of interviews’ where she ‘was up-front about what I haven’t done before’. And then what did the interviewers say when she said what she hadn’t done before? Is she sure they didn’t say anything about what they were looking for and what was/wasn’t necessary?

      1. Forrest*

        I think it probably has, but

        a) despite having discussed it in person, LW keeps going back to the written job advert and seeing the gap between what’s on paper and what they’ve done, and because it’s on paper it seems more real / authoritative than what was said, and/or
        b) LW wasn’t doing the “interviews are a two-way process” thing, actively asking their own questions and seeking to get clarity during the process, or was doing that but since they thought it was a long shot and they’d never really get an offer, didn’t do that as proactively as they could have.

        1. Daisy*

          I don’t know how proactive she’d need to be though, when she says it came up in the interviews? She said she hadn’t done something – ‘I’ve done email marketing before, but not in a healthcare field’, or whatever it is – and the interviewers said… what? Presumably they didn’t just nod silently every time? It’s strange that she apparently has hours of actual contact with them available to reflect on, but she only mentions the ad and the initial recruiter contact.

    4. kelmarander*

      HR person here… many a manager has approached me with some arbitrary notion of what a candidate absolutely MUST have to qualify for a job, only to discover that they have way overshot the target on what’s truly required to succeed in the position.

      Unless there’s a legal reason for a specific degree and a specific number of years of experience (an MD or professional engineer), I will encourage managers to think about the types of experiences a candidate might have instead of “just” the degree. If the need for a Ph.D. is truly required, it will come out in the “degree” of experience someone has doing research, innovating in the field, or publishing under peer review. By being non-negotiable on a degree, you could well be screening out people who may have a lesser degree but make up for it with some stellar experience.

      Also, years of experience is another potentially arbitrary requirement. Who says 9 years and 11 months is inadequate but 10 years and 1 month isn’t? Again, I try to get my hiring manager to think about what accomplishments someone with 10 years under their belt may have and screen for that instead. Or even better, where is the ideal candidate in the career path for the profession? Oftentimes quantity of experience fails to hold a candle to quality of it.

      All that said—a good hiring process isn’t (often) going to be beholden to an arbitrary cut-off like a set number of years’ experience or a very specific degree. It’s going to allow some wiggle room to open possibilities for people with backgrounds we haven’t thought of yet.

      My advice is to look at the duties (not degree) and ask yourself, after a normal ramp-up period, do I think I can pull most of these off? If not, then it makes sense to ask the manager or recruiter about expectations of your performance. But don’t take too much stock in the potentially random quals listed in the job description if they’ve obviously not been interpreted as sacrosanct by the employer.

      1. HiringSometimes*

        I’ve been pushed by HR to include degree requirements that far, far outstripped what I knew would make for success in the role. As in, I have people in that role now without those degree or experience requirements and I’m promoting them, which is why we need a new Llama Wrassler, and now you’re saying they need 10 years Wrassling experience?

        Basically, those requirements could have been added by all sorts of people, and what’s important is that the people evaluating your performance and supporting your success see that you have the actual skills they need. It may not be a problem with you, it may be a mis fit with the published job requirements. Sometimes words are wrong.

      2. Spreadsheet Enthusiast*

        Wow do I wish you worked with our HR!

        Not only do all the considerations you mentioned make sense for finding a the right pool of candidates, but they’re also great for improving equitable hiring practices. Lots of people end up with different professional backgrounds because of the opportunities afforded to them.

        I’ve worked in many biology labs and the real requirements for most entry level positions are excellent fine motor skills (lots of careful work with expensive materials), able to perform simple mental math (doubling volumes on the fly), and reading comprehension (recognizing that ethyl alcohol is different from isopropyl alcohol). But most of the job postings coming out of these places require a specific degree like microbiology and 3+ years of experience.

        Similarly I’ve seen plenty of PhDs and MDs with *very* specific subject matter expertise around some technique but without the statistical knowledge needed to analyze the data properly or the project management skills to supervise a team properly. Lots of people just assume that these degrees mean complete professional knowledge.

    5. Khatul Madame*

      PhD may have been included to weed out casual applicants – those that apply to every job with a 5% overlap with their background.
      LW1, if you are so unsure that you are qualified for the job, you lose nothing if you reach out to the hiring team and specifically talk through the mismatches between the job description and your background, and why you have been chosen against the candidates (assuming there were any) who checked more boxes . You should have done this in the interviews, but it seems that you were focused on “interviewing while suffering from imposter syndrome” and did not register the messaging on how your qualifications DO align with the job.
      Having this additional conversation may also address other posters’ concerns that this could be a job from he!! and the company is content to have a barely qualified person in the position. These concerns are valid, even if I have a more optimistic view of your situation.
      Please report back!

    6. Ferret*

      Yeah, I am in no way qualified for my job according to the specifications on the job ad. It’s off by A LOT. But I’ve been doing great in my role.

      It seems like the LW has been upfront about what experience she is lacking. I wouldn’t bring it up again personally. I would just go for it. We grow when we are challenged. (Obviously it would be way different if she had somehow misrepresented her experience.)

    7. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

      I was coming here to say this. It’s possible that the ad consisted of someone’s wishlist, and they knew they were never really going to find that person. So don’t sell yourself short! Do talk to them. On the other hand, if they just want to fill that seat with somebody until they find the right person, and they expect you to fail, that’s another story.

      1. Heffalump*

        Some of the ads I see, I think, “Hey guys–God doesn’t need to work a day job!”

    8. Aerin*

      Degree inflation is definitely a thing! Look at all the job postings that require a bachelor’s degree when the job in no way requires any sort of college education, or the listings that require 5 years’ experience with a software that has only existed for 2. It’s entirely possible that they list Ph.D + 10 years because that’s what the last person had, or because that’s the HR boilerplate for all jobs at that level regardless of the actual work being done. If the degree is the only sticking point and you think you can handle the actual job duties, honestly you’re fine.

    9. Momma Bear*

      Often job posts are a wish list and once you get the candidates in front of you, you start to think about what you really want/need and what you can do without. Did someone want a Ph.D. at one point? Probably. Did maybe they realize after meeting you that you are awesome with your degree + experience? Seems so. Certainly ask questions but don’t let Imposter Syndrome keep you down from a genuine opportunity.

      This makes me think of the trap that many women fall into – men will apply for a job that’s a reach and women tend to apply for jobs that are exactly in their wheelhouse. You reached. They liked you. Take it as a compliment.

    10. turquoisecow*

      I was thinking maybe they weren’t finding too many candidates who fit the unicorn description and realized in the course of talking to them and OP that maybe the degree requirement was a little higher than it needed to be. Experience is always a flexible thing since some people learn more after five years than others after 20, depending on the place they work and the person they are.

      Definitely OP should talk to the employer, but I wouldn’t assume they’re being completely stupid about offering them the position.

  7. user423789*

    “1. I’ve been offered a job I’m not qualified for”:

    Last time I was offered a position for which I wasn’t totally qualified, I discovered after accepting that the company had huge difficulties finding somebody for it. And there were clear reasons why they had those problems! The position resulted to include 2 very different components, which are never combined at other companies and for which they should have hired 2 people both because of different profiles needed but also the workload involved. When I started to interview for other positions every other company asked me about this aspect since it was so strange.

    And I reported to 2 people with completely different visions of my role. Also, given how strange the role of my unit was, I had massive problems recruiting people for my team. A ot of candidates decided they didn’t want to go this way.

    I quit after less than a year and when I think back I regret not quitting immediately after I discovered what the situation was. I lost so many nights over the situation.

    After I quit, finding someone to fill my position took the company more than 6 months, although the salary was increased even more.

    The bottomline is: Do find out why you are offered this job.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      The position resulted to include 2 very different components, which are never combined at other companies and for which they should have hired 2 people both because of different profiles needed but also the workload involved.

      I’ve been there, too. I was once recruited for a job with a starting salary of $240M. It was more money than I ever imagined making, FIRE money. Once I got past the second round of interviews, though, I withdrew from consideration. It turns out that the job was a 3-FTE position, each FTE requiring senior-level expertise with a different platform, all of which compete with each other. (Think Apple vs. Google vs. Microsoft). Even if they’d coaxed either of the two-headed left-handed purple squirrels that would be qualified out of retirement, there would still be the issue of producing 24-hours of output per day.

      When I pointed this out, I was told they were trying to save money by avoiding recruitment of three $120M employees.

      It was also a 12M+ contract role without benefits. I have no idea if they ever filled it, or ended up splitting it into the 3 roles it actually was.

      1. Ferret*

        What? $240,000,000?

        What job pays that? I am confused. I didn’t know W2 jobs went that high.

            1. Allypopx*

              K = Kilo = thousand, M = Mil = Million when you’re talking about money. The US doesn’t use the metric system for much but as you can see from the confusion here that’s a pretty standard notation.

              1. Allypopx*

                (I say US because you mentioned Alex Rodriguez and because this is metric notation which would be out of place in a lot of US discussions. If you’re not in the US this is just standard notation anyway)

              2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I guess the URL got eaten in moderation.

                Search your favorite engine (e.g. Google) for “m mille k thousand.”

                In short, your critique is not the sole correct and let’s leave it here as we’re way off subject needlessly.

                1. user423789*

                  I can confirm. I’m not myself a native speaker but in the huge American company I work for “k” isn’t used at all. It’s always “m”. I was confused when I started.

                2. Lalaroo*

                  This is interesting, because when I search it (from within the US) the first page of results is 100% full of people saying to use “k” for 1,000s and “m” for millions. I feel like you might not be in the US, and if so, that’s an interesting additional difference. We can’t really prove to each other because even the evidence we turn up is personalized to us and is likely to support our pre-existing perspective.

                3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  My education took me through architecture/drafting and finance. M and MM are used there much more commonly than in IT/Computers. I think k and m gained traction in part from the rise of IT over the past 70 years. Case is significant, too, as 4m is 4MM, not 4M, but I’ve witnessed typing weaken that attention to detail.

                  It’s also residue of cultural snobbery, where Hellenophelia reduces the Latin culture to a pale imitation of the Greek–cf. Zeus supplanting Júpiter, Aphrodite supplanting Venus, Athena supplanting Minerva, etc. As recently as the 1980s, this wasn’t the zeitgeist.

                  The trend has been cyclical in the past; both Greek and Latin have both risen and fallen before.

        1. user423789*

          IT, I suppose.

          And judging by the example, probably Cloud technologies ;) But ERP systems would fit too.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            IT yes, but nothing nearly so vogue as Cloud. It was almost as mundane as vi vs. emacs vs. nano.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                Certainly. =) :wq!

                I’d name the three, but they’d be meaningless names to sane folk. I guess Word (.docx) vs. Wordperfect (.doc) vs. LibreOffice (.odp) would be a decent comparison; you could have tens of thousands of documents each in Word and Wordperfect format that needed transliterated into LibreOffice, if each couldn’t save in or open the others’ formats and the transliteration needed done manually and all three platforms were to have different best practices.

  8. Stitching Away*

    #2 – I’ve had two concussions in the last three years. I was under very strict orders to not look at screens, for months.

    You’ve likely misundersood the autoreply – chances are they’re not even reading any emails, and the autoreply is a signal that if you want a response to an email you’ve sent, or want them to know the information contained in the email, you need to call. It could very well be unclearly worded because a person with a concussion wrote it.

    Not only did looking at screens make me feel severely ill for hours on end, all of my providers made it clear that screen time was not only prolonging the post-concussive syndrome, but risking permanent brain damage. It was entirely unpredictable how long the restrictions would last, because you simply can’t tell until you start to improve.

    1. Admininja*

      I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this. I have a close friend still recovering from a TBI, & it’s a rough road for sure. This letter raises a question for me that maybe you can address: why would the PC reach out by email if they can’t read the response or continue in that medium? Or why not address that in their inquiry? I appreciate the meet-them approach, but as a member of the Invisible Disability Club, I think it’s asking too much to expect accommodation without helping other people along by modeling our needs. It’s confusing to receive an email from someone who then tells you they can’t email- the medium distorts the message. Do you have any insight into that from a TBI-sufferer perspective?

      1. Ana Gram*

        They might have used voice to text or dictated it to someone who wrote it. The OP’s company might not have a phone number available. Or maybe it was just a ton of info that would’ve been too much for an initial phone call.

        It’s pretty easy to imagine how they started with email even though they couldn’t continue in that format, in my opinion.

      2. BethDH*

        I bet the company has a web form for initial contact. That’s common in the situation OP describes, where they’re screening people out actively.
        I think OP should call the person, at least once. If necessary, that call could include a discussion of how to accommodate the person and what variations might make it easier. For example, recording the calls so OP can return to the record for notes, or noting that a specific phase really does need an electronic form filled out and seeing whether the person can get help with that.

      3. Pocket Mouse*

        “It’s confusing to receive an email from someone who then tells you they can’t email- the medium distorts the message.”

        Since the contact can’t check emails at the moment, it sounds like an email autoreply is the only way to ensure the information is conveyed to someone who would otherwise expect a tailored emailed reply. The autoreply told OP exactly what they needed to know to move forward.

        1. MCMonkeyBean*

          I think they are referring not to the auto-reply, but to the initial inquiry that OP was responding to which came through email in the first place.

          But as others have pointed out they may have dictated the email either using software or another person who was able to type it for them. I think it’s reasonable to be a little surprised/confused at responding to an email and then getting another email saying they can’t use email–but there are certainly reasons it could make sense so I definitely agree that OP should give them a call and just let them know up front that they are looking for more details on the inquiry but that it doesn’t yet mean they are agreeing to take them on.

      4. Suz*

        And if it wasn’t an auto-reply, they may be allowed a limited amount of screen time. One of my friends has post-concussive syndrome. Her doctors say she can 10 hours a week of screen time now that its’ been 4 years since her accident. So she can do some things by email but has to be selective about which things so she doesn’t overdo it.

      5. Never Boring*

        I am going on 2 years recovering from a TBI. In the beginning, it literally made me dizzy and nauseated to watch words scrolling on a screen, or to turn my head from reading a paper document to my monitor. I am much better now, but I still need screen time breaks and just got an ADA accommodation for it. Too much consecutive screen time is murder on my cognitive endurance and concentration. Even a few minutes of doing something that doesn’t require looking at a screen in between screen-based tasks is helpful. For me, anyway, it’s cumulative. It doesn’t mean I can’t have any screen time at all, but I probably pushed it too hard in the beginning and have drastically prolonged my recovery.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      When they were trying to find out what caused my epileptic fits, there was a suspicion that it was related to computer monitors as 2 of the grand mal seizures I’d had were in front of the PC. So I was, for a while, told not to look at electronic screens. I absolutely loathe phone calls so had to rely on voice to text for a while but had to get on the phone a lot more when the software often couldn’t cope with normal out of work accent (outside of work – rural Wiltshire. Inside work – darn near RP).

      I’m lucky that they ruled out visual factors eventually. (Flashing lights only trigger a small minority of epileptics) and now I only have to avoid repeating noises like alarms.

      If I got an email asking someone to phone them because they couldn’t look at screens due to medical reasons I’d be well sympathetic and phone them. And, again, I hate talking on the phone.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        Same here. I loathe how my voice sounds on the phone (I was teased about my voice regularly as a child. I have no idea why. The parochial elementary I attended employed some seriously $hitty human beings as teachers, as they participated frequently though.) and I rely heavily on email for documentation. And if I see something as easy as this? I’m picking up the phone, and will either ask if I may record as I live in the states and I think I have to have permission first, and at a minimum will document notes and make sure that the person on the other end can either read them, or have someone on their end of the phone read them aloud so that they may verify their understanding of the conversation.

        Talk to text can’t handle my Midwestern USA accent either.

    3. MusicWithRocksIn*

      I know this tech is not often used these days, but if the OP really need certain things in writing (and I’ve worked a lot of things where I really need to have facts and figures in writing from the client) then call them, and then ask them to fax you over the information you need – even if it’s just (clearly) handwritten and then faxed, at least you will have a written record and not just what you said on the phone vs. what they said on the phone. Even if they don’t have a Fax there are still plenty of copy stores that have them.

    4. CowWhisperer*

      I had post-concussion syndrome 5 years ago after a serious car accident.

      My ability to talk reasonably fluently returned much faster than my ability to work on screens. Using a screen made me nauseated with severe headaches for several hours or the rest of the day for the first two months after the accident. My rate of speech was markedly slow for a few months longer – but talking didn’t leave me sweating, dry heaving and/or huddled in a darkened room praying for sleep to come to reset my brain and stop the headache.

      I could also write by hand – albeit with my standard wonky handwriting- much earlier than I could type.

      I think the OP’s gut is in the right place for identifying ableism: If a person says “Hey, I need this accommodation that is readily available and easily used by many people due to a disability preventing me from using the other common option”, replying “Eh, I refuse your accommodation because the accommodation takes mild effort on my part” is diving head-first into ableism.

    5. Hummer on the Hill*

      I’m a big fan of written communication because verbal leads to a bunch of “but what I thought you said was….” If the PC cannot look at screens for health reasons, then how about taking the old-fashioned route and write her a letter that clearly lays out what the application requirements are? That way, the PC will have something to refer back to as she gathers info and recovers from her injury.

    6. Momma Bear*

      Exactly. A friend got into a car accident and struggled with computers/screens for the better part of a year. I urge OP to reconsider this attitude. It’s not rude of the person asking. They need a very simple accommodation. Send them the emails as a +1 but don’t be above calling someone for a very legit reason.

    7. Pickled Limes*

      I have a relative who is dealing with post concussion symptoms right now, and one of the primary factors they’ve been dealing with is visual processing. If you tell them something, they understand and follow along quite well, but written information, particularly electronic, is still really hard for them to process and understand. Occupational therapy for situations like this can take some time, so there’s no real way to know when this potential client could go back to “normal” levels of email communication.

      I’d definitely encourage OP2 to call the potential client and talk through the situation to see if there’s any set of accommodations that could work. You may find out that a workable solution here would be difficult or onerous, or you may find out that it’s much easier than you’re currently assuming it will be. But there’s no way to know until you reach out and ask questions, and it would absolutely be ableist to assume it won’t work without at least asking.

    8. Anonymous.*

      What about writing a letter and mailing it, or using a fax machine (I know there are still a few around)? That way, the LW can document that the same clear messaging is used for all potential clients, and the concussed person doesn’t have to look at a screen …

  9. Viette*

    Re: #2 – Thank you for the response directing the OP to call. The auto-reply straight up says, please call me. Don’t counter, “please make this simple accommodation for medical reasons,” with “well, *not* making the accommodation would be easier for me, so no I will not.”

    If OP was the boss and they didn’t want to take this person on as a client because they donn’t ever want to call anyone, then yes, they can rule out anyone who has post-concussion syndrome or any other reason that email is not workable. It doesn’t sound like OP is in a position in this organization to issue that kind of blanket rejection, though, so the accommodation should be made.

    1. StrikingFalcon*

      Even if OP was a manager, a business having a policy of refusing to take clients with a specific medical condition could very easily reach the bar of disability discrimination, especially since the reason to not take this client is just “I don’t like talking on the phone” (and not, say, a safety concern). Even if the potential client doesn’t have a disability by the legal definition, in cases of personal preference vs. medical condition, medical condition is *always* more important. This client isn’t choosing to have post-concussive syndrome, they are just trying to deal with it as best they can. OP needs to call them. They can document or record the call as needed.

      1. Observer*

        Even if OP was a manager, a business having a policy of refusing to take clients with a specific medical condition could very easily reach the bar of disability discrimination

        Yeah, this sounds like classic ADA territory.

    2. Let's be fair to everybody*

      LW2 doesn’t want to discriminate against people for medical reasons; after all, they wrote in about it and sound sincere. Email makes it easier to have all the information available for future reference, and it also allows LW2 to be very clear and consistent in messaging to potential clients. These are sound reasons, not just irrational or arbitrary discrimination, for using email instead of the phone.

  10. Eye roll*

    LW#2 – I don’t want to run afoul of commenting rules, and I appreciate that they reached out for advice, but I have to say that this letter can be best summed up as, “My employer is very selective with our clients, so can I just screen out clients with a need for medical accommodation if that accommodation bugs me?” I think the fact that this is even a question someone is comfortable asking really says something about how disability and medical problems are treated in society. The client is trying to avoid further injury to their brain, and the LW trying to avoid making a phone call because they just don’t like it, and somehow they think those two things make it a close call and they needed advice. I just can’t even.

    1. Pennyworth*

      My hackles were raised when I read that the reason she didn’t want to call was phone avoidance. In my world an accommodation for an injury trumps a personal preference.

      1. Blue Eagle*

        You are missing the point. It is not just a one-time conversation over the phone. The OP would have to conduct ALL business over the phone.

        Many people prefer email to phone conversations because there can be misunderstandings or incomplete information in phone conversations. When you use email (or any other written communication) then there is more clarity between the parties of exactly what is expected.

        Perhaps OP could consider having the initial connection by phone and everything else could be by snail mail?

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I don’t think that’s missing the point. Phone avoidance is real, but when you’re in a client-oriented business, your phone avoidance takes a backseat to client need and even preference.

          I have two clients who will only talk to me on the phone. I am not a fan of the phone and I certain prefer to have the record email provides, but I do it. I write everything down, I take notes, I repeat things back and confirm them. It’s part of how I earn their business and therefore my money.

          I am in client services. I dislike phone calls. That’s on me, not my business, and I have to overcome it if I want to be successful and respected.

          1. Beany*

            Not liking to use the phone for business may just be a personal preference that should be trumped by reasonable accommodation of a client, customer, or colleague. But clarity and paper trails are *necessary*, so I’m not sure how to judge the reasonableness of the accommodation here.

            1. Observer*

              Except that there are ways to get that paper trail.

              It is going to mean that the PC is going to need to be a bit flexible – eg agreeing to recording conversations so that it’s possible to go back and make sure that the notes someone takes were accurate.

              But step one is accepting that “I don’t like this” is not a reasonable response to a potential client who says “I CANNOT do that”.

        2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          It’s the lack of paper trail on the phone that would give me pause.

          I frequently will have a phone call with a coworker and then do nothing until they follow up with written instructions via email (I’m up front about this; no one’s getting ambushed by that modus operandi). I’ve been too much time underneath a bus to accept unaccompanied verbal instructions from anyone below C-suite level.

          That said, it’s a medical accommodation. In this situation, I’d simply find a new paper trail (starting with trying for recorded calls) and place the calls. And I dislike the phone like Keymaster of Gozer does.

          1. Beany*

            I agree that recording the phone calls would be good. But that would require both infrastructure (what hardware/software is being used to do this recording, and where is the recording being stored) and legal cover (i.e. acknowledgement of & consent to the recording each time). Which is a big hassle.

            1. Observer*

              No it’s not.

              Most business phone systems allow phone recording. And just about every smart phone in existence lets you record calls with literally a click or two. So does every single conference software – which the other person can call into with a regular phone so they don’t need to look at a screen. And making sure that they know and agree to the recording is a no-brainer. Once you’ve had the discussion all you need to do is start recording and then say “This is to confirm that we are recording this call for record keeping purposes.” or verbiage to that effect.

              If the OP has access to email, they have access to the infrastructure they need. And the “hassle” of a few clicks + a 10 second statement at the beginning of the conversation is a joke compared to the medical issue that OP is being asked to accommodate.

          2. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Paper trail can be so very important. I have plenty of clients that would love to give me all their orders over the phone, because then they can blame me for any mistakes. It used to be that after every phone conversation I would type everything up and email it to them ‘to confirm’ but eventually I grew enough of a backbone to tell them that *they* needed to email me their order and detailed specs, because taking orders with numbers like 1.089 over the phone was dumb.

            I mentioned above, but it would not be out of line for the OP to call them, but also ask for them to fax over a (clearly) handwritten version of what he wanted by email, so he has a record from the customer of what they are looking for. It would be a pain for both of them, but for me it would be worth it to have a record.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              Yup. Time to dig out the fax machine. Calls for two-way communication, then fax (or postal mail) for important records.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I have to admit I’m a little jealous that you two thought of facsimiles before I did. Well played!

          3. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

            I’d solve the lack of paper trail with emails. Let Poor Concussed Client know verbally that you will summarize everything in an email that they (or others) can read when able. Then send a As Per Our Discussion on Date Regarding Subject email out to them. Verbal communication for Concussions convenience and written communication for LWs.

            1. Calliope*

              Yeah, exactly. Just write a summary of the conversation when you’re done. If the paper trail is necessary. It isn’t always. Y’all realize this is how business was done before email, right?

          4. Observer*

            That said, it’s a medical accommodation. In this situation, I’d simply find a new paper trail (starting with trying for recorded calls) and place the calls.


        3. James*

          There’s also a paper trail with email. Phone conversations can be forgotten or ignored, and when you say “We discussed this on X date” they can say “No, we didn’t” and you don’t have a lot of options. With email you can say “Yes, we did, here’s the email chain where we discussed it and you agreed to it.” Ultimately it protects both sides–you can’t assume I’m a saint any more than I can assume you are, after all.

          In my line of work someone telling me they wanted to conduct all business over the phone would be a huge red flag. Being willing to put things in writing is a litmus test in my industry, a way to confirm that you’re not trying to get away with something you know is wrong (happens more than you’d think). Someone unwilling to put things in writing would be a huge risk to the company in terms of potential liability. (Again, this works both ways.) There may be reasons–I can sympathize with folks who can’t look at computer screens, I’ve had enough migraines at work to know that sometimes it’s physical torture to do so!–but I can see wanting to ask for advice if someone made such a request.

          Snail mail is a potential option, depending on the specifics of the business. I’ve seen folks use curriers as well. Or, if it’s not too far, show up in person with the necessary paperwork. That way you’ve made reasonable accommodations and both parties are protected.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            “they can say “No, we didn’t” and you don’t have a lot of options”

            “I’m looking at the meeting summary which I sent to you by postal mail (or fax) the day after that conversation. Did you not receive it?”

            1. James*

              For certain types of meetings, sure. But do you make detailed notes of every phone call you have with a client or subcontractor? And mail out minutes for every one of them? My main client would have me removed from the job if I tried that. You have added expenses, you have added delays, you have added things you need to track (it’ll all need to be sent certified mail so that you know they got a copy, for example, otherwise we’re back at “No, you didn’t”), etc.

              I mean if it needs to be done it needs to be done. It’s just going to triple or quadruple the amount of time spent on one client. At that point it’s legitimate to ask if the client is worth working with, especially in a situation where you’ve more potential clients than you can handle. It’s not the medical condition, it’s a financial question. This is a major reason why people refuse to work with my company–we have a lot of paperwork and are a pain to work with.

              And I’ll admit that maybe I’m making a bigger deal about this than it needs to be. My industry is notorious for having clients and contractors try to get away with stuff. Maybe a phone call really is all that’s needed in the OP’s case.

              1. Roscoe*

                This was my thought. Depending on how much extra work this turns out to be, it seems very valid to decide that one client isn’t worth it, especially when you have more potential clients than you can work with. You can’t charge them more, but if it is 3 times the amount of work, I think its fair to just decide that this one client is going to be entirely too much time for the amount they’d be paying

                That said, I do think OP should at least be willing to have the first conversation over the phone to figure it out

              2. Momma Bear*

                I’d look for ways to record a call if it came to that, and send the person the recording. We used to record client meetings via our laptops when the client(s) were on the speakerphone.

              3. pleaset cheap rolls*

                ” But do you make detailed notes of every phone call you have with a client or subcontractor?

                Detailed notes is not the same as meeting summary.

                “mail out minutes ”

                Minutes are not a meeting summary.

                A meeting summary it typically decision/action points or key pieces of news. In some environments this is done all the time and clients actually expect it.

                “My main client would have me removed from the job if I tried that.”
                I didn’t suggest minutes, but whatever.

          2. Actual Vampire*

            The client isn’t saying they don’t want to put things in writing! They are just saying they cannot use screens and therefore need to communicate by phone. There’s nothing stopping the LW from sending emails to summarize phone calls or taking notes for herself.

            If the client was blind, would you or LW refuse to do business with them because they can’t read written materials? I hope not.

            1. James*

              Since my last paragraph provided three methods for reasonable accommodations for this disability, I would say the answer is likely “No” on my part.

          3. Observer*

            In my line of work someone telling me they wanted to conduct all business over the phone would be a huge red flag. Being willing to put things in writing is a litmus test in my industry, a way to confirm that you’re not trying to get away with something you know is wrong

            So you’re saying that in your industry anyone with a must be considered as a suspect and they can no longer take advantage of your services? Or you actually accept the fact that you need to find a way to work around the problem?

            Because there ARE ways to work around the problem. Keep in mind, the PC is not saying “I don’t want anything in writing”. They are saying “I cannot read a screen.” So find another way to create a record.

            but I can see wanting to ask for advice if someone made such a request.

            In your case, you at least have a reason to ask. But the OP says clearly that their major issue is primarily “I’m phone-avoidant in general”, and then adds on the *convenience* factors. I think that that’s why people are pushing back so hard. “How do I make this work?” is a reasonable question. “Can I not accommodate someone because I don’t like it and it’s mildly inconvenient”, not so much.”

            1. Observer*

              To be clear, my first question is basically rhetorical. I’m trying to make the point that even when there is a genuine issue, stopping there winds up creating a major problem. I realized that this might not be so obvious, so I wanted to clarify.

            2. James*

              “Or you actually accept the fact that you need to find a way to work around the problem?”

              I gave not one but three methods for addressing this potential issue. Make of that what you will.

              “But the OP says clearly that their major issue is primarily “I’m phone-avoidant in general”, and then adds on the *convenience* factors.”

              You forgot a few things. First, this is an initial contact, to which they sent a routine response, which was bounced back. In any reasonably well-run company there would be more than one person capable of handling this, and arrangements would have been made on the client’s end. Second, they reject over half their clients anyway. Those two issues matter here. They aren’t deal breakers at all, but they are things that make this less than a straight-forward issue, and thus justify asking for advice.

              1. Calliope*

                Why are you assuming this is a business they’re dealing with? I got the impression that the OP is more like something like a service provider that works with individuals.

              2. Observer*

                In any reasonably well-run company there would be more than one person capable of handling this, and arrangements would have been made on the client’s end

                Responses that require fan-fic don’t really work. There is absolutely nothing to indicate that this contact came from a client.

                Second, they reject over half their clients anyway.

                Which is utterly irrelevant. They need to be rejecting clients for *non-discriminatory* reasons. Not because “I can’t be bothered to make MINOR adjustments for the PC. And, to be clear, the adjustments that so far seem to be necessary ARE minor.

                The thing with your responses is that you are totally cherry picking to create a narrative that doesn’t exist. And not just in the pieces you are taking (making up) from the OP. But your response here ignores what I explicitly said about the line you quoted. I find that interesting.

        4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          When I started out in my first sales job, my manager gave me golden advice: communicate to the customer the way the customer wants you to communicate. After all, they are paying your salary. And then came the kicker: communicate the way I (the manager) want you to communicate to me, since I manage 10 of you.

          OP2, you may now be in a job where you believe you can dictate communications preferences, but that is unlikely to be the case for your entire career. That doesn’t even account for the fact that your customer has chosen to communicate by phone because she has a medical impairment. You will do better by learning to communicate in multiple ways…and by learning to accommodate customers who have medical limitations (which will make you non-ableist).

          1. KRM*

            And certainly if you need things written/a paper trail, you can ask the client how they’d like to handle that aspect, if you speak to them and then end up accepting their business. It’s not insurmountable. It’s basic sense.

        5. Actual Vampire*

          I wouldn’t assume that LW will have to do all business on the phone going forward. She and the client may work out a different solution that would be more convenient long-term (such as having someone email on the client’s behalf, or communicating through postal mail). All the client is asking for right now is one phone call, which is not a big ask at all.

        6. Observer*

          You are missing the point. It is not just a one-time conversation over the phone. The OP would have to conduct ALL business over the phone.

          That’s not necessarily true. Because as others have pointed out, it’s possible that there might be other work arounds if everything else is otherwise suitable.

          But even if that were true, how does that change the advice? “I don’t like X’ simply is not on the same planet as “I cannot medically use X-alternative.” And “X-alternative is more convenient than X, so I’m going to insist on X-alternative” is, at best a lousy response to “I cannot do X-alternative because of significant medical issues.”

          It’s also, in the US at least, probably illegal.

          Perhaps OP could consider having the initial connection by phone and everything else could be by snail mail?

          See? A workaround.

          1. Calliope*

            We don’t even know what the business is. For all we know, if they get taken on as a client everything else will be in person.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I agree, and I say this as someone who for many years had an almost phobia-level dislike of talking to people on the phone. I completely understand the LW’s concerns about documenting conversations, but they could easily write notes immediately after the call if necessary. (Plus, unless this is an entirely new industry, people surely found a way to document conversations before email was invented.)

      Concussions and their after-effects can be really unpleasant, so if after reading Alison’s response you’re not willing to make this one small accommodation, then 1) yes, you are being a jerk and 2) you should probably pass this potential client to someone who won’t cause them potential discomfort for their own convenience.

      1. twocents*

        I know for me, I’ve found it easier to write notes in advance. If I know that my teapot company is going to need information on sizes, the type of glaze that used, and colors, I could type all those notes in advance. make sure I talk about them, and then I just have to add in a bullet here and there to address one-off things that come up. There are lots of ways that this letter writer can make things easier for herself.

    3. Simply the best*

      But that’s not what was asked. OP said more than once “I don’t want to be an ablest jerk” and “I want to do the right thing.” She recognized that even if this isn’t a disability, this is still a medical issue that would need accommodation and recognized that her preferred mode of communication was no longer ideal.

      She states real reasons why she uses email at this stage in the process (consistent messaging, a written record easily accessible in one place, a clear message that this is information gathering not an acceptance of a new client). The question she asked Allison is which is the right thing: 1) since this is not a time sensitive thing, allowing the potential client to recover from their concussion and reap the benefit of email or 2) call now and potentially negate the benefit of email.

      Nowhere in the question did she suggest she wanted to screen out this potential client because dealing with her disability bugged her.

      1. Cordelia*

        But all of these things could be done by phone, just with a bit more care about the clarity of the messaging. OP can take notes during the meeting and have the caller confirm they are an accurate record. And re the timing – ask the potential client. Would they prefer to wait until their concussion has resolved? Presumably not, as they are making contact now…

        1. Worldwalker*

          Or the OP could use *gasp* snail mail. It seems from the description that what they do is not time-sensitive, so maybe print out what is needed and send it off, and wait for a reply? (possibly by fax, if both ends still have fax machines)

          “It has to be my way and only my way” is not a good look.

        2. T*

          Yes! I don’t want to be That Person but people were able to keep track of communications and present a clear message before email existed. Developing the skills to do that without email when you get clients who can’t use it (or won’t but are too important to blow off) is useful.

          1. traffic_spiral*

            1. Snail mail only leaves the recipient a paper trail – not the sender.

            2. People “managed” to communicate when we had to handwrite our letters with ink quills and send them via pony express. That doesn’t mean it’s a reasonable ask in a modern setting.

            1. LibJess*

              Except the client isn’t asking for pony express, she’s asking for a phone call. Which is still a completely normal part of modern business practices and a totally reasonable accomodation for someone who can’t look at screens due to a head injury?

              OP, if you’re in a client facing job, you will need to meet the client where they’re at. So consider this an opportunity to strengthen your phone skills because you will likely need them again down the road with another client. Plenty of other commenters have given actionable advice on how to make the call go easier for you and how to document what is discussed.

              Not sure I’ve seen it mentioned yet, but when you’re taking notes on a phone call feel free to name it! Don’t let it be an awkward silence, just say “I’m taking notes, please give me a moment.” And then when you’re done, move onto the next topic of discussion.

              1. quill*

                Also having notes to start with is great! Draft that email, OP, and use it as an agenda for your phone call.

                And also, for the love of dogs, make the call from an INDOOR quiet space (no cars!), and be sure you’re not rushed. Post-concussive is not the kindest to auditory processing either.

            2. Pennilyn Lot*

              I feel like some of you are really, really digging your heels in about a pretty easy accommodation for somebody who is clearly communicating their disability. Sometimes you have to work with people’s limitations and they will be different to your standard way of operating. You don’t need to come up with a million hypothetical reasons why that would never ever work.

            3. Pickled Limes*

              “1. Snail mail only leaves the recipient a paper trail – not the sender.”

              I’m sorry, but this is one of the most ridiculous excuses I’ve ever seen.

              You don’t have to hand write all your communication to send it through the post office. Type the letter in a word processor. Save a copy to keep for your records and print a copy to mail to the client. Use certified mail so that you will be notified when the recipient signs for the letter, and add a note to your copy so you’ll have a record of it.

              Boom. Done. Nobody is asking the OP to be Ben Franklin writing calligraphy with a feather quill, sending a servant to hand deliver the message. Using this as an excuse not to take on a disabled client is cartoon villain levels of ableist.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        But who knows how long it will be until they can use screens again, or how buried the reply might be in their inbox by that time? Even if it’s not time-sensitive I think it would be better to call them. I mean, right now they presumably don’t even know that they’ve received a reply – if OP calls to just notify them that the reply has been sent then perhaps someone else could pick up on it and provide the details OP is looking for by email. Or OP could explain what they’ve explained in this letter and ask them if they’d rather wait to have the discussion by email. There are a lot of options! I’m glad that they at least asked the question but I do feel that in the “decent behaviour” stakes, making one (1) phone call in order to accommodate the needs of someone with a brain injury is, like…. bare minimum.

        1. Forrest*

          I had a friend who had a traumatic brain injury a couple of years ago, and it took her months to recover. But before that, I would have heard “concussion” and thought, “watch out for dizziness, slurring, etc for 48 hours or so”. I would definitely have read the message as, “call if it’s time-sensitive, I’m probably not going to be able to read email until next week at the earliest”.

      3. ecnaseener*

        Thank you. It really rubs me the wrong way to see someone write in for advice, very clearly concerned with not being a jerk and just needing an outside perspective from someone more experienced, and be criticized just for asking. It is *good* that the LW asked for advice instead of just throwing ethics out the window and going with their first choice.

        1. Kyubey*

          I agree, isn’t that the point of asking for advice? Sometimes these comments pile on people for being unsure or not knowing what the right thing to do is and it seems unfair. At least she asked instead of thinking, “I don’t like phone calls, so I’m going to disregard this potential client”. Some people do this. I applaud her not doing this and asking first if her instincts were correct.

      4. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Fair point. I would say then that if it’s imperative that a written record exists of a conversation/agreement there’s always the thing we do here in IT – record the call and if it’s needed for review you get someone to transcribe it.

      5. Observer*

        I don’t necessarily think that the OP is a terrible person. But they really do need to think about why this is something that they even needed to really ask about.

        Because She states real reasons why she uses email at this stage in the process (consistent messaging, a written record easily accessible in one place, a clear message that this is information gathering not an acceptance of a new client) isn’t really the case. These all read as justifications for I’m phone-avoidant in general which is what the OP leads with. And especially given that all of the other issues can be accommodated fairly simply, it really does not come off well. At all.

    4. CurrentlyBill*

      I’m not sure if Allison or LW2 wrote the headline: “Am I an ableist jerk if I don’t call a potential client?”

      In this case, the answer is Yes.

      If you’re concerned about documentation, call from Teams or Skype or another tool that let’s you call phone numbers, ask the client for permission to record the call, and then record it.

    5. Merle Grey*

      I can’t fathom why calling this potential client is such an issue. If documentation is so important, sending it using good old-fashioned paper via snail mail seems like the simplest and kindest thing to do. Perhaps the potential client can even get the documentation by email, if they know they can manage enough screen time to print it out themselves. It’s not LW’s job to determine if something is a disability,

      1. fhqwhgads*

        It sounds like where the OP is coming from is at least partially “there’s an 80% chance we won’t end up working with this client anyway, but to get to the point of knowing that will take 4x more effort than usual, do I hafta?” Obviously I made up the specific numbers but given the way they framed how many PCs vs actuals as in play, I don’t think I’m in a different ballpark. I’m also not saying that the answer to that question isn’t “yes, you do hafta”. But I don’t think this standpoint is as cut and dry and “I don’t want to accommodate, am I an asshole?” I do think the other factors – which are not onerous enough to change the answer in this particular scenario – matter. OP seems to be weighing those other factors more than they should be, which is why it’s good they asked. This scenario doesn’t meet the bar for “it’s ok to decide this is unlikely to work out” but there could have been one where it would.

      2. EchoGirl*

        I don’t want to speculate too much, but it seems possible that OP’s phone avoidance is more than just a simple preference; some people, myself included, do actually find talking on the phone difficult.

        I’m not saying this to say that OP shouldn’t accommodate the client or anything, they should, I’m just saying that there may be more to why OP is uncomfortable with the idea than just being rigid or a simple preference.

    6. Khatul Madame*

      I suggest making the initial phone call and see if the potential client would be open to using email + text-to-speech app in their future interactions. This will accommodate the client’s medical situation while creating the record/paper trail the LW needs.

    7. TyphoidMary*


      It’s also given me pause at how we all phrase things when we’re ostensibly trying to be a better person (myself included!) We’re still asking a question about *us*: Am *I* being an ableist jerk?

      What if we all challenged ourselves to de-center ourselves when asking these questions? Less “Am I a jerk?” and more “Will this person be denied an opportunity based on a medical condition?” Suddenly it’s less about our images of ourselves as “good people” (a meaningless goal we all nevertheless want to achieve) and more about how our behaviors impact material realities for others.

    8. theletter*

      I think, many times, people know what the right course of action is, but they just need the right push. The fact that LW#2 describes the wrong course as as that of an ableist jerk shows that they know it’s wrong. I think we’ve all had moments in our lives where we’ve had to ask ourselves: “Do I have enough goodness in me for this task?” and really had to overcome some discomfort to do the right thing.

      I think a big part of the phone avoidance is the horror of rejecting someone in a live conversation. With the organization’s process of selecting PCs, they’ve probably developed a system and a culture that is defensive of its system, and doesn’t provide the initial welcoming atmosphere that one might expect from a business. LW#2 will have to learn how to reject people in person (we all have to at some point) but I can see their lack of enthusiasm for the task. Very few people actively enjoy rejecting someone, it goes against our nature.

    9. Delphine*

      “The client is trying to avoid further injury to their brain, and the LW trying to avoid making a phone call because they just don’t like it, and somehow they think those two things make it a close call and they needed advice.”

      No, the LW generally avoids phone calls but is trying to do the right thing in this situation and has written in asking for advice. If you appreciate that they reached out, don’t make it seem like reaching out is a problem.

      We want people to be comfortable asking questions.

      1. Eye roll*

        No. If the question is something like, “I prefer wining and dining prospective clients at home because restaurants stress me out, but it’s not wheelchair accessible. Can I decline all clients with a wheelchair?,” I want people to not think that is ever an ok thing to consider. Asking is great, but that means they still had serious doubt about the need to not discriminate. Which is just not ok in general. It really says something is wrong with society when there’s real doubt about including those with medical needs, especially when weighing against when is basically a preference.

    10. Reasonable*

      LW2 isn’t seeking validation to discriminate against certain potential clients. Email makes it easier to have all the information available for future reference, and it also allows clear and consistent in my messaging that can be documented. These are good reasons to refrain from phone calls. It’s not merely about convenience or an arbitrary preference.

  11. Regatta*

    I recently was successfully treated for my misophonia. I saw an occupational therapist every other week for about three months and it worked wonders. My misophonia was causing a lot of problems in my life, and it’s really nice to not be so beholden to it.

    1. Warmond*

      That sounds amazing – I never even thought there was a possibility to treat this! May I please ask what kind of therapy they did to help with the misophonia so that I can look into it? What parts did you find most effective?

    2. Dwight Schrute*

      Oh I’m curious too! My misophonia isn’t severe but it’s still enough that it impacts my well being

    3. Anonymouse*

      Wow! Might I ask what therapy you did? I have severe misophonia and it would be GREAT to go to a concert or a ballgame or even church without constantly looking for an exit just in case someone chewing gum sits next to or behind me.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I’ve never had misophonia but I think I’ve heard that one of the treatments is exposure therapy.

    4. Butter Makes Things Better*

      Fwiw, Transcendental Meditation really helped me with my misophonia (which in addition to misery from other people’s chewing or repetitive noises (bouncing balls, clicking pens) includes a related inability to watch repetitive bodily movements too), mainly because of a phrase one of the teachers suggested when meditating during, say, construction work outside (I live in a noisy city): “I am noise neutral.” It was meant to help during the meditation session itself, but it had the completely unforeseen benefit of calming my reactions to my husband eating or shuffling coins over and over while he works.

      TM is a pricey, so that’s not ideal, but maybe using another meditation method to meditate on “I am noise neutral” would be just as effective?

  12. Tussy*

    OP5! That’s so awesome that you’ve worked so hard and actively to get where you are and to escape from that horrible job.

    Sending you all my good vibes for the future!

  13. Dark Macadamia*

    LW 5, thank you so much for this update. I’m a SAHM and had planned to return to work last year right as the pandemic began so I’ve really been struggling (it will likely be at least another year before I can actually get a job for various reasons). It’s so encouraging and inspiring to hear about your success.

    1. Amy Stuart*

      OP5 here! Yeah, it was a bit of a struggle, but I’m really pleased with how things are progressing and am hopeful my experience will be helpful to other people getting back into the workforce after a lengthy period away.

  14. Annie J*

    At lw 2:
    I am concerned that you considered not calling at all, I appreciate that it is inconvenient for you but I imagined this is how most ableism works, not by the person being deliberately cruel or thoughtless but rather by small decisions like yours.
    Also, think of it this way, if the situation was reversed, if you preferred telephone calls but someone told you that they would prefer an email response because they were hard of hearing, how that would change your decision.

    1. BelleMorte*

      I have had SO many people refuse to email me when they know I am completely deaf. Just because they feel that emails are impersonal or that they would take too much time to write out.

      The fact that they are even considering not calling is abelist.

  15. Rollerskate Kate*

    #3 I’m curious about your thought process. Is it the cost of going to university that’s bothering you (ie the return on investment for your university fees) or the difference in education level (you thought graduates would or should be paid more)?

    Part of the issue is that you’re comparing two different professions. Some professions require a degree to do them, but they don’t necessarily pay more. A degree doesn’t guarantee you a higher salary, but it might get you into a profession you wanted to work in rather than one you don’t. Lots of non-graduate jobs pay well but would not necessarily be a good fit! And money in doesn’t equal money out I’m afraid.

    I also wondered what you think receptionists do. Most do not only sit and greet people. Many are also the office manager or executive assistant. In my last workplace the receptionists also ran the facilities department and kept the place running in myriad ways. Often they are the one person whose absence would be most felt when they are not at work, if they don’t have cover.

    You say you feel taken advantage of. Why? Did someone tell you getting a degree would mean you always earn more eg teachers or family? Or did you assume? It just doesn’t work like that. There are some jobs you would not be able to do which don’t require a degree and are better paid. And some you would be able to do that don’t require a degree. Did you need a degree to get paid more? No. But it will affect what jobs and careers are open to you to an extent.

    Does it bother you in general that people without degrees can earn more, or only that this is happening in your company? I suspect it’s the latter, and I urge you to think about what you’re saying. You’re saying that as a graduate and a baby accountant you feel taken advantage of because the receptionist earns more. Chances are she’s more experienced and has skills they need – they’d be taking advantage of HER if they paid her less just because some other people have degrees.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Taken literally, the OP is saying that a brand-new accountant (who has essentially used the university as a vocational school to begin with) should be paid more than a company’s top salesman, who brings in millions of dollars worth of contracts a year, because that salesman doesn’t have a degree.

      And as someone said above, just wait until you need a plumber! All the university degrees in the world are unimportant in the face of a plogged toilet.

      1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        To the vocational school point, the other problem with this is that OP somehow doesn’t recognize that getting a professional designation in accounting almost always have a work experience requirement in addition to a degree. They’re not that much different from a journeyman plumber at a vocational school – not fully qualified for their trade without work experience.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          I have a Master’s in Accountancy (and am a CPA) and I 100% viewed that program as “trade school for business”.

          My BA in Communications from a liberal arts college? Much more of a squishy *~*academia*~* type thing that’s hard to pinpoint the ways that education improved my ability to think/reason/be an informed citizen of the world. But my MS? Trade school, no question. Which is also my opinion of most business type degrees from traditional universities.

  16. Susan from HR*


    So there can be any number of reasons why your employer pays you and the receptionist the same amount. The salary decisions could reflect sound business practices and be normal for the industry (in which case you shouldn’t be upset), be abnormal but innocent (eg, receptionist gave a kidney to the CEO—in which case you shouldn’t be upset if your salary is normal), or be discriminatory (in which case you have every right to feel upset).

    For what it’s worth, I have a professional degree and I’ve worked at places where I was lower paid than some admin staff because of seniority (totally normal) and at a place where I was paid less than the admin because of a quid pro quo between them and the boss (abnormal and discriminatory).

    Ultimately, as someone who has been there, if your salary leaves you wondering if you’re being taken advantage of and you can’t shake the feeling…then you will need a new job regardless because you are feeling taken advantage of. Once mistrust creeps into the employment relationship, it’s hard to get rid of it, and it poisons things. Also, sometimes I think dissatisfaction with compensation masks unhappiness with other parts of the job. I know for me, my unhappiness at the quid pro quo org was actually much deeper than my paycheck (the place was painful to be in for many reasons) and the best thing I ever did was leave. After I left that place, I initially went to a place that actually paid me less than quid pro quo org (although my salary was in line with the salaries for other people in my role). Despite that, I was happy there because I finally had a job that allowed me to have dignity and sanity. I recognize now that money was secondary to the real issue—the way I was being treated. Best of luck to you in deciding how to move forward.

  17. Susan from HR*


    Unless you suspect your employee is trying to send you to the Sunken Place, it is not reasonable to try to control their choice of utensils. I feel like next month there will be a letter titled “my manager makes me eat with a plastic spoon.”

    1. Mami21*

      Agree. It’s 15 minutes, put some headphones on. Or seek an actual diagnosis and treatment.

      1. Cat Tree*

        I don’t think an effective treatment had been found yet for misophonia, since it’s a relatively new diagnosis. In any case, your comment comes very close to “just get over it” for a medical condition.

        1. not a doctor*

          Actually, they’re essentially suggesting an accommodation for the OP. The sound triggers her; she can block it.

        2. Mami21*

          I have misophonia, and forcing others to change their perfectly normal eating habits is not a way to handle it, especially when it’s a small, regular, easily managed occurrence such as the OP is experiencing.

    2. ecnaseener*

      It is possible to make a request without forcing anything. Even as a boss.

      There’s nothing wrong with Alison’s script. If the employee says “sorry but non-metal spoons and non-ceramic bowls bug me” then LW needs to accept that.

      1. Susan from HR*

        Anything is possible, but the manager-subordinate relationship always has a coercive dynamic. I think a good boss should recognize that dynamic and avoid putting their employees into awkward spots with unreasonable requests.

        There are some employees who would feel uncomfortable “just saying no” to this request, which is both low stakes (it’s just a spoon) and incredibly controlling (boss wants to tell employees what spoons they can use and how to use them??)

        1. Just Another Zebra*

          And if they saw “no, I can’t for XYZ reasons”, will OP perceive them as difficult? I would think that’d be worse, instead of being Jane who uses the metal spoon, she’s now Jane who wouldn’t just do this one simple thing for me like it’s just a spoon, and uses the metal spoon. I think OP should try to solve this one on her own first.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      A request where you make it clear that it’s your problem, not theirs, is not controlling someone’s choice of utensils.

    4. CheeryO*

      Yeah, this is definitely a situation that calls for headphones or a brief stroll around the building. Any request that comes from you as a boss automatically carries weight and power, so it’s a bit odd to say that you can make the request without exercising managerial authority.

    5. Janice*

      It would be perfectly reasonable for a manager to tell an employee not to eat stinky loud food (who the hell eats cold tuna in an enclosed office with other people as a snack? Gross) in a small shared space with other workers. Most people would be incredibly put off and grossed out by someone doing this.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Except the LW specifically states that it doesn’t smell, so it would be disingenuous to then claim that it does to get rid of a separate problem.

      2. Colette*

        People are allowed to eat food – and the food she is eating is not a problem for the OP.

      3. Susan from HR*

        Cool story time: I don’t like ketchup for no real reason. I think it’s gross (don’t @ me, I know it’s a very unpopular opinion). Watching someone eat ketchup makes me feel like gagging sometimes. I have never even considered trying to stop anyone from eating it around me. My weird reaction is for me to manage.

        1. Polly Math*

          I worked with a woman once who had a thing about guacamole. We went out to a Mexican restaurant as part of a work thing, and she had the misfortune to be sat next to me. I ordered a plate with guacamole on it (not knowing about her peculiarity) and she actually erected a menu-wall between us so she wouldn’t have to look at it.

      4. I'm just here for the cats*

        They are not complaining about the smell. The sound of the bowl and spoon is what is causing the OP’s problems. I think you are fixated in the tuna. It’s the sound of the metal spoon on the dish. I think that the OP should just try and do something else for the 15 minutes.

      5. Actual Vampire*

        Most people? Excuse me? It would never in a million years occur to me to complain about someone eating tuna. It’s a standard lunch food. Even if it wasn’t- I wouldn’t complain about a coworker’s food choices unless they were eating a raw possum they found dead on the road or something.

    6. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I guess I’m self-diagnosing misophonia too, because certain mouth sounds send me into a rage. Tongue clicking, lip-smacking, noisy eating and the like just make me a different person. If it’s something I hear in passing, or it’s at dinner with someone I’ll only see that one time, I can usually manage my reaction.

      When you’re having this issue on a regular, daily basis I think it’s worth having a discussion…but not with the person making the sounds. Maybe it’s time to see a professional to get a firm diagnosis, and also treatment. Your self-diagnoses may be correct, but a professional can offer treatment options.

    7. Cat Tree*

      The LW can politely *request* this rather than *making* the employee do it. Honestly if a coworker requested this of me, I wouldn’t think it was some huge burden or onerous request. Even if I couldn’t or wouldn’t make the switch, I wouldn’t think they’re a horrible monster for asking about it.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        Honestly if a coworker requested this of me, I wouldn’t think it was some huge burden or onerous request

        Except in this case it’s not a coworker, it’s your boss. There is a different power dynamic at play.

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          Sorry, I just realized I misread the original letter. Please disregard this comment!

  18. Taranti*

    If your concern is that you want to make sure you get across all the information and you’re worried an unstructured phone call could be derailed, could you record the long, important, detailed bits, then just give a very quick phone call directing the PC to the recording? It might be helpful for the PC for future reference as well, if there’s a lot to be prepared.

    (That said – I used to be quite phone avoidant too, though, and honestly at some point you just need to push through it.)

    1. tg*

      I wonder if a document could be sent to the PC summarising the information that has been discussed? I’m assuming that the PC would be able to read a paper page even if screens are a no-no, but I don’t know if this is true. I find that the act of writing information makes it much more concrete for me, and I don’t know if LW2 or their company has been burned by people who don’t give all the information for a project in the beginning, or who change their minds part way through.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        Or after talking with the PC on the phone send the typical email with the information but put it in a word document that could be printed. Heck with my home printer i can set up an email address and send pdf’s to the printer and it will print. If the PC has something like this (HP print/scanner nothing too fancy) maybe they could share the email and it could be printed for them. Or send it to someone who could print it for the PC.

        I kind of think that the OP is just using this as an excuse becuase they don’t feel comfortabe talking on the phone. Believe me I’ve been there when I first started working in call centers. Even today, where I don’t work at call center but do have some phone work, I feel weird about calling.

  19. Forrest*

    LW1, it’s not uncommon for an employer to shoot for “a candidate who can dock all of this stuff with little oversight” and find that person doesn’t exist, and instead look for “someone with the right attitude who has the potential to learn it”. But if that’s what’s happening, you need to do two things;

    1. What training and support are they going to offer you? Which of their expectations for the first year will they de-prioritise whilst you learn the role? How long do they expect it to take you to get up to speed? Can they specific about the training courses / qualifications / mentorship you’ll be offered to get there, and their timetable for that?

    2. Do you WANT that? Is this a direction you hoped your career would go in eventually, or a totally unforeseen opportunity? If it’s unforeseen, are you motivated by it? If you’re expected to do a lot of learning and studying in this role, are you excited about that?

    The flip side to turning down a mega opportunity because you don’t feel ready is being flattered / stunned into taking it without checking in with yourself about whether it’s what you actually want. As well as doing due diligence with the company, do some due diligence on yourself and whether the new skills and knowledge you’ll get from this role are ones you actually want.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Excellent post.

      I was once hired as a programmer despite knowing nothing about the programming language. I’d made it clear in the interview that I was surprised they called me in based on my CV and even more surprised when they offered me the job. Their reasoning was that while I didn’t have that knowledge *yet* my CV and interview showed a real ability to learn fast.

      I was paid less than the other programmers and trained up on the language on the job.

      (It’s unfortunate that I turned out to be a rotten development programmer. Give me a long deadline and I’ll mess things up. Give me a dead system and a ‘fix it NOW’ and I shine. So, I didn’t stay a programmer for long)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I was once hired as a programmer despite knowing nothing about the programming language. I’d made it clear in the interview that I was surprised they called me in based on my CV and even more surprised when they offered me the job. Their reasoning was that while I didn’t have that knowledge *yet* my CV and interview showed a real ability to learn fast.

        I want to work in your economy, Keymaster…

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          That was, to be fair, a LONG time ago. As in ‘I watched 9/11 on the news in the office’.

  20. LDN Layabout*

    Aside from a few exceptions, degrees get you through the door. That’s it. They are not an instant upgrade of what you ‘deserve’ vs. someone without a degree.

    And accounting? Is not one of those exceptions. While my friend has a degree, it’s in French and Drama, she has an industry qualification and experience that her current firm cared about much more than an accounting qualification (they’re in niche industry investing) and they’re now supporting her in getting her official accounting qualifications.

  21. animorph*

    LW4 – I genuinely have so much sympathy for you. When I was pregnant, that sound triggered both misophonia and morning sickness (really not a good combination). I haven’t been back to the office since (WFH) so I have no idea if it’s still a trigger for me, but I really don’t want to find out. I’m sorry, I have no solutions, but I completely understand where you’re coming from.

  22. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP3: when I’d got all my degrees, professional qualifications and such and started working as a virologist my initial pay was barely enough to live on. Experience counted for a lot more than I’d ever been told at university – I didn’t even make enough to start paying back my student loans till many years after.

    Then I had to change careers (long story) and ended up in IT and yeah, for a while I was really annoyed that me, with my letters after my name and all that was earning the least out of anyone there.

    It was hard, and I sympathise, to realise all over again that a) university had lied to me – I was never going to make big money straight out the gate just because I had qualifications and b) once again, the experience counted for a hell of a lot.

    Not saying my qualifications are worthless, they’re not. Them plus my years of experience have got me some good pay. But I should have in both cases looked up what the general pay for new starters in my particular career was – not the average pay for people in that career in general.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      Whenever anyone says degrees guarantee more money, I always want to take them to meet some postdocs…

      1. Lora*

        Or some adjuncts teaching at three different schools, and still qualifying for food stamps after a PhD…

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Oh mate, yeah. Part of the reason I left virology (there were a LOT of reasons) was because I was never going to make a decent amount of cash even if I got all the way to running the lab.

        Now I run an IT department without any IT qualifications. The reason I don’t have even a GCSE in computer science is that I was told at school that girls can’t do any science well apart from biology. I got an intake of new computer science grads one year who were a bit surprised that they were not making what I was.

        1. Lora*

          I hear you. Once upon a time I was a microbiologist, and I worked on environmental remediation and control of BSL-3 bugs; thinking I would make more money doing novel antibiotic discovery for MRSA and Cdiff and such (based on the admittedly stupid idea that simply because something is desperately *needed* it will be *paid for*), I decided to go back to grad school so I could work in drug discovery. Managed to get hired by a Big Pharma who did in fact have a decent size natural products department with previous novel work on cyclic peptides…then the Mergers and Acquisitions happened, everywhere at once, the entire department of previously about 50 people got shrunk down to 5…then 3…then one, and that guy quit to work on something else for the competition.

          And that was when I decided to go back to school for engineering instead. Steady work, pay is good, it’s boring but you rarely get laid off – only outsourced, and you often make more money contracting than you would as a direct hire. More opportunities to work in other boring departments like quality, operations and planning type of stuff.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I worked on herpesviruses but was trained on operating in a BSL-3 lab – and…yeah the IT work tends to be steadier than the microbiology stuff.

      3. UKDancer*

        Definitely. My plumber earns way more than I do and he has no degrees at all. A good plumber can earn a lot of money in London and he’s a good plumber. I will never earn anything like the amount he makes. But then I don’t have to spend my day looking into peoples’ toilets. I get to sit at a desk and go to meetings which suits me a lot better.

        1. Worldwalker*

          And nobody gets you out of bed at 5am on a Sunday morning to deal with their plumbing crisis. That counts for a lot.

    2. Forrest*

      What qualifications mostly do is not guarantee you a minimum salary, but take away the ceiling. Without a degree or equivalent qualifications, it’s fairly common for people to reach the top level they can earn after 10-12 years in work– so if you left school at 16-18, and do well, you get to your late twenties and find it’s going to be hard to get any further without a degree. If you have a degree or comparable vocational qualifications, you tend to have more opportunities to keep getting promoted, or move sideways into related work (eg. from doing the front-line job to teaching, assessing or managing it)– that doesn’t mean everyone *wants* to do those things, but there’s more opportunity if you do.

      This is not by any means a hard rule– there are plenty of sectors where everyone is degree-qualified, but the salaries are low , and some where degrees/trade qualifications are rare but there is still either a well-defined career ladder to follow, and plenty of individual people who do very well despite a lack of formal qualifications. As a *general* rule, however, it’d probably be more accurate to tell young people that qualifications remove the ceiling rather than guarantee a floor.

    3. londonedit*

      Yeah, when I was at uni 20-odd years ago the line was ‘graduate salaries start at £25k’. And maybe they did if you got yourself on to a graduate scheme with one of the big finance or accounting companies, but I was doing an English degree and had absolutely no desire to work in finance or accounting or any of those big-ticket careers where the actual money was. So I started on £14k a year in London. I still make the least money of any of my friends and I’m nearly 40, but I enjoy my job, I can just about pay the rent, and it does actually make use of my skills and qualifications.

      1. Forrest*

        The “average graduate salaries” are produced by the Institute of Student Employers, formerly the Association of Graduate Recruiters, who survey the top ~100 graduate schemes each year and declare the mean to be the “average”, which then gets reported uncritically in the mainstream media. It drives me batty because it gives a lot of students and graduates a totally unrealistic idea of what they “should” be earning and you have people who’ve got onto really great jobs with amazing potential but they feel like they’ve failed because they’re earning less than what Morgan Stanley pays.

      2. LDN Layabout*

        It hasn’t improved much in some sectors since then to be honest. My friends starting out in media in London were on 18k and the ones doing public affairs/PR were about the same starting salary-wise. Tough few years until you build experience (or just go into a different sector)

      3. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I remember the shock of my first paying full time job being £10.5k/year out of university in 1999. I’d been told it would be at least twice that.

        1. londonedit*

          I think our record in 2003 was someone who started on £9k working with a major national newspaper.

          1. Forrest*

            In contrast, I started at a university in 2001 on £17k, which is almost exactly what our grad interns get paid now. :’-(

      4. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I have a question for the folks speaking in £ here :)

        Graduate scheme – is that roughly an internship? A quick look on the Goog makes me think so, but its not a term I’m familiar with.

        1. Forrest*

          I explain this about 10 times a day. :)

          A graduate scheme means a structured training scheme aimed at graduates. Because of equality legislation, they’re overwhelmingly open to people at any stage after their degree– you can apply to a graduate scheme 15 years after you finished your degree if you want, or after a Masters or a PhD — but targeted at people in the first few years after graduation. They typically last between 1-3 years, and most will be training you up to join the company/organisation at a particular level afterwards. Some include specific qualifications (eg. Chartered Accountancy, a Chartered Institute of Personal Development qualification.) Others are more general but will, say, train you up to a certain level with the expectation that you’ll take on a certain role at the end– make a certain grade of the Civil Service, become an area manager for a supermarket chain, run your own branch of a car hire company, or work as a software consultant.

          I don’t quite get what an internship is in the US — they don’t seem to be quite as structured as our graduate schemes? But I think they probably play a similar role in the economy.

          1. Lora*

            Internships are definitely not that structured and while in theory are supposed to offer on the job training, it’s not for a managerial or licensure-type role; they are typically done in addition to a full course load of classes for one semester or over a summer and only to add more qualification to someone applying for an entry level role. In other words, you’re going to college, probably working part time either on campus as a work-study job or off campus or both, and also working part-time for a company as an intern, getting paid usually in college credit or with the promise of a good reference rather than with money, and at the end of your degree you will be blessed with the opportunity to be about thismuch more qualified than someone who had not done an internship. Your internship project may be meaningful or you may be the coffee-getter, but it has become a sort of basic prerequisite for entry level jobs in many fields. In some fields or companies it is common for interns who perform well to automatically be considered for any entry level openings, so it’s kind of a foot in the door. It doesn’t count towards any other certification or qualification, it’s just work experience on your CV that is more relevant than say, bagging groceries or lifeguarding a pool, because it’s actually in your field of study.

            You can draw your own conclusions as to what that implies about how colleges prepare students for entry level jobs, minimum qualification inflation of job descriptions generally, and enforcement of a class system that gives preferential treatment to people who can afford to work 20-40 hours/week unpaid while they’re in college.

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              Forrest – I greatly appreciate the explanation, thank you.

              Internships seem to be literally a catch all statement in the USA, I think. The industry in which I started, it WAS a highly structured program by a national accreditation board, towards licensure. As in, you could not be a licensed professional without the internship. The industry I moved to, it truly depends on the company. I’ve seen both “go get coffee” internships and I’ve seen “we’re training you up over the course of the summers while you’re in college and will give you a full time job offer upon graduation internships”.

              The internships I had in my early career hit the full spectrum – paid in college credit and CV bullet points, paid well for work experience during summer breaks when I wasn’t actually taking any classes, actual full time work upon graduation (see part about professional licensure). It really, really, really varies. Heck, I was the supervisors for interns in my department at old-job. They were well paid, and we took care to make sure they had relevant experience as the company was looking to hire them full time upon graduation.

              And as you mention, Lora, some industries sure do seem to enforce a class system and give preference to those who can afford to “work” 20-40 hours a week for no pay. I’m thankful that the industry I started in at least has started to enforce the “yeah, you can’t do that, they’re doing something to the benefit of the employer and must be paid or we won’t count the hours towards licensure”.

            2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

              It doesn’t count towards any other certification or qualification, it’s just work experience on your CV that is more relevant than say, bagging groceries or lifeguarding a pool, because it’s actually in your field of study.

              For students in pre-professional programs like accounting and engineering, internships, even unpaid, very frequently count toward whatever work experience requirement their professional licensing body has. For example, a year’s worth of accounting internship experience earned for degree credit may also get someone like the OP a year closer to their CPA. This is true in most US states and in Canada. As controversial as internships are, they play a slightly different role outside of a liberal arts degree context that shouldn’t be understated.

              1. Lora*

                Am in engineering and the requirement is that you have done engineering work supervised by a PE – and loads of the internships I’ve seen in my field are definitely not that, even when coming from top-tier near-Ivy schools. It’s a Problem, considering how much these programs charge for their degree program.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      Right. Getting a degree isn’t like putting coins in a vending machine; you’re not guaranteed to get X because you put in Y. It hacks me off that so many institutions frame it as though it is, but it’s something that the OP will need to adjust to.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I’m also reminded of it every time I meet up with my sister. Who doesn’t have any degrees but is the head of finance for her firm. The amount of time she spent learning accounting at home and on the job was….staggering.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          (She’s paid WAY more than me. Like seriously I’m never getting that salary)

        2. Bean Counter Extraordinaire*

          Personally, stories like this are both cool, and suuuper frustrating. Though I still feel like it happens more in certain fields than others – I doubt a surgeon just rolled up one day and was like “Hey, I have a degree in French lit. Teach me to do a bypass?”

          It was definitely hammered into me that to do “x” job, you go to college/vocational school to get a degree/certification in “x”, period.

          So while I know LOGICALLY that there’s nothing your sister couldn’t learn about accounting that was secretly ONLY available to me in classes, my inner-rule-follower is still like “NO. Does not work like that.”

          And then I feel annoyed at myself for spending so much money when apparently I didn’t need to *sighs at student loan balance*

          1. Forrest*

            I work in this area and one thing that I fully believe is that it’s not set up to be “fair”, it’s set up to reward pre-existing advantage. There are lots of exceptions, of course, but generally speaking, the less social capital (and straight-up capital-capital) you have, the more you need credentials and previous experience to prove what you can do. People are still much, much more willing to believe that the white guy with the private education who was captain of the sailing club and took a gap year backpacking around Asia has “leadership potential” than the woman whose been teaching kids at her mosque and working in her parents’ shop whilst doing her degree as a commuting student. We have all sorts of systems designed to create equality, but people are way, way more likely to flex them for the people with significant personal and financial privilege.

            1. Lora*

              THIS. Ugh. Even when Biff Worthington the Fourth is demonstrably the most useless lackwit ever to steal oxygen from more deserving humans, “oh let’s give him a chance”.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            To be fair – she’s still a Chartered Accountant – just doesn’t have a degree.

            1. AthenaC*

              In the US, to become a CPA, you have to first be eligible to sit for the CPA exam. And in order to be eligible, you have to have (or be on your way to having) a bachelor’s in accounting AND 150 credit hours.

              So in the US anyway, you absolutely do need a degree for any positions that require someone who is either a CPA or CPA-eligible.

              1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

                Ahh, thanks for that. It’s a bit different to get Chartered anything status in the UK – generally yes you need a degree but there’s also a ‘or equivalent professional qualifications’ clause. I know naff all about accounting (thank gods my husband does the finances) so can’t name them but there were a load of study books and exams she did in her own time.

    5. A Girl Named Fred*

      I think you make some great points re: university/society lying to people. I see a few commenters asking variations of, “What, did you expect going to college to earn you more money?” and the answer to that for a lot of people (especially young people) is yes, absolutely, that’s what they’re told their whole life. Actually getting to the work world and realizing it isn’t true can really shake your worldview, and it takes some mental work to get rid of that conditioning (especially if you’re in the US and took out a fortune in loans to cover college, but I don’t want to derail onto that.)

      Sorry, didn’t mean to go on a rant there! Just wanted to highlight/agree that IMO it’s reasonable for a fresh grad to have this question and commenters (in general, not Keymaster specifically!) should be careful about the “why would you think college would help you earn more” rhetoric.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        Also I do think in *some* fields a degree does matter and is fairly likely to help you earn more/grow farther, and I think accounting is one of those fields.

        So I don’t think they are necessarily wrong to think that having an accounting degree may mean they should be paid more than they are and could find a higher salary elsewhere. But I also think that what the receptionist makes is not sufficient or relevant evidence for whether they are being underpaid as an accountant. They need to do some research around what similar jobs in their area pay.

  23. A fish*

    LW4 – I sympathise deeply. My misophonia is triggered by the same thing, in addition to eating noises. Particularly anything crunchy like fruit. Like you, I work in close proximity to one specific fruit eater who sets me off at the same time each day.

    My solution is a very good quality pair of noise cancelling ear buds. I put them in, turn on something soothing, and make like I’m very focused on a work task during that time to avoid interruption. I think that’s a much better solution than telling someone to eat with plastic cutlery, which I don’t think is reasonable.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s the jaw noises that set me off. Generally I have a headphone in and a long play of e.g. USS Enterprise engine room noise at lunch.

        1. Worldwalker*

          My survival system with two people working from home had been an app called myNoise and a set of noise-cancelling Bluetooth headphones. I can disappear into my own little world of anything from a pond full of frogs to white noise — they’ve got just about everything on the app, with multiple options for each.

          Unfortunately, I can’t use it when I’m home alone because kitten. Noise-cancelling headphones are not good when the noise they cancel might be a feline-initiated astrophic event. (a cat-astrophe)

        2. Keymaster of Gozer*

          NCC-1701-D is the best in my opinion for blocking out the irritating noises. The ‘thrum’ ‘thrum’ bit seems to put a warm blanket muffle over the eating noises.

          1. AthenaC*

            I also enjoy the sounds of the night shift Enterprise D bridge. Not sure why but that in particular works well for me.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Stuck it on the playlist last night and you’re right – it is good.

  24. Skippy*

    LW4: this phrase stood out to me: “self-diagnosed misophonia.”
    I would suggest that you really need to see a doctor about this, especially as it’s clearly causing you quite a bit of distress.

    1. WellRed*

      Why? What would that accomplish? The noise will still bug them only now they’ve shelled out $200 to confirm it bothers them.

      1. Sawbonz, MD*

        Because if LR sees a doctor about it, he or she can take the steps toward receiving proper care for it. Misophonia can be overcome with therapy. Wouldn’t that be better than just going through life avoiding metal utentils?

      2. Cherry Danish*

        Because it’s a first step towards getting treatment. I’m a person with other conditions (not misophonia) so I can tell you the question can never be “how can I control people around me so I’m not affected by X?” which is what the LW is asking.

        You can’t. You absolutely can’t. It’s completely on the LW to manage this, and talking to a doctor is step one.

  25. FashionablyEvil*

    #1–it sounds like you’re putting a lot of stock in the job description. Job descriptions are often poorly written, especially if you have multiple people involved (“ooh, it would be great if they could program our payroll system!” “And train llamas!” “I think it’ll be important for them to have a PhD in teapot design…”)

    What sense did you get from the interview about the day to day responsibilities? Did you like the people you met? Is it an organization that commits to and trains its employees? Those are all much more important than “do I check all the boxes on a job description?”

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I used to obsess about job descriptions (and never apply because I never matched any of them exactly…) until, really recently I admit, it dawned on me that, for all the times I myself was on an interview panel, I’d never even read a job description and would be willing to bet a small amount of money that no one in the room had, either. We knew the team the person would be working on, and the level they were interviewing for, and that was enough for us to make (really accurate, I have to add) assessments on how they’d do in the role. We have not made a bad hire ever in all the interviews that I’ve sat in. For all I know, the job descriptions could’ve said “must be able to give birth to actual baby llamas”, like I said, I never read them.

  26. Batgirl*

    OP2, you’re not going to get better at being on the phone by avoiding it! It’s not just a professional skill, it’s a life skill even if it’s not often needed, don’t wait until a critically urgent moment when email simply won’t do. If you’re concerned about being clear, write out a bullet point script. Practice with someone. Most of us were terrible on the phone at some point, but people’s needs and preferences are different, situations are different. Therefore we need different communication methods. I think you’re doing yourself a disservice if your aversion is possible to practice past.

    1. Sara without an H*

      What Batgirl said. I, too, dislike the telephone, but it’s just something you have to use when appropriate and necessary. My usual strategy is to block out an hour and do them all at once, with the aid of a list of bullet points so that I don’t forget something essential.

      OP#2, since you say you have a lot of complex information to convey, have that information in front of you before you begin the call. A complete script may be too rigid, but do have some talking points laid out so that you can begin the call, then respond to the other persons questions.

      I’ll leave the issue whether your phone avoidance is due to ableism for others to address. Being able to use whatever means of communication is most appropriate under the circumstances is a professional skill that you’ll need going forward.

  27. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

    I may sound a little ranty about LW 3, but that’s because it hits close to home.

    I’m a former executive assistant who now works in a technical field. I’m smart, have high emotional intelligence and customer service skills (kind of important when you deal with other departments on the regular), learn very quickly, have a high attention to detail, have lead teams, am good at finding solutions to problems, have excellent researching skills…and at this point, I feel like I’m writing for my LinkedIn page, so I’ll stop.

    I don’t have a bachelor’s degree. But I’m very good at what I do and am a quick study when it comes to anything new that crosses my path. I know there are specific fields that require specific degrees (like, I really would prefer that any surgeon who treats me have their degree). But there are a whole lot that are way, way more about on-the-job experience and skills like being able to change priorities quickly, stay organized and on top of things, and treat people well while doing it that you don’t learn in a degree program.

    Degrees are great, but we are way too focused on them as a society. I’ve seen job postings many times before that just want any degree, major or concentration is irrelevant. I know that many think that a degree means you must’ve stuck with something or that you’re a hard worker, but…c’mon. I think we all know loads of people who are just good at school and hard work has little to do with it. (I mean, I graduated with my associate’s with a 3.5 GPA — including a ton of classes for science majors — and crammed for nearly every exam, didn’t finish any reading…I’m good at school, but I’m a terrible student once I get bored with a topic, and pretty much relied on my then-undiagnosed ADHD hyperfocusing to get anything done in school.)

    I’m not saying degrees are worthless, but they shouldn’t be the only factor considered when it comes to things like employment and salary for many positions. And things like admin jobs do not often require skills that you get from a degree program. But they are HIGHLY skilled positions. A good admin is a gem and keeping them happy is in everyone’s best interest.

    I don’t think people understand how much admins do and how many specialized skills they use on a daily basis. Just because some don’t have degrees doesn’t mean their job should be considered menial or unskilled and I hate how often admins are treated as a less-than group who don’t deserve fair wages or respect. It’s gross.

    Anyway, Alison’s spot-on: you need to stay in your lane and look at your salary compared to the market and your level of experience. Y’all aren’t even in the same field of work, so the implication of this letter is that you assume you should always be making way more than admins, no matter their time in the job or level of skill. That just comes off as a bit demeaning to admins and really, really entitled on your part.

    I hope you are fairly paid! And if you aren’t, that you’re able to get a pay bump! But that can happen without comparing your salary to someone with a completely different role than you.

    1. Snark No More!*

      I can tell from just this post that you are awesome! I am also a career admin and I work with an incredibly talented set of people with masters degrees, PhD’s and other assorted degrees. Some of whom have no idea how to actually get something done that is very easy for me. That’s why a good admin is worth their weight in gold.

      1. Beautiful, talented, brilliant, powerful musk-ox*

        Working as at EA for the years that I did gave me SUCH an appreciation for admins overall. I cherish ours. They are AMAZING and absolutely keep things running well in so many ways.

    2. A Fish*

      I completely support everything you’re saying. It’s a rare mixture of technical and specialised skills and interpersonal qualities that makes a great EA.

      EAs are often terribly underpaid for the importance of their role. My division lost all three of our EAs quickly after a series of unfortunate events, and before new ones could be found (hard, because really skilled and experienced EAs are rare) and it basically broke the place.

      Apart from all of the complex organisational, strategic and interpersonal aspects that were lost, we found out quickly that no one but the EAs had a clue how to do all the basic things that everyone took for granted. Like order stationery in our highly bureaucratic organisation. It’s only now that we have a new EA that we no longer have to pilfer stationery from the divisions with EAs. Not to mention the difficulty of dealing with an unsupported executive, whose personality quirks became everyone’s problem in a much more meaningful way.

  28. Good Vibes Steve*

    Tangential to number 5: I keep hearing that “toxic” is overused to describe workplaces, but I don’t think it is. I think there really are a lot of workplaces that can be described as such; and an increasing collective consciousness that workers don’t have to accept them as “just the way it is” but can call it out and expect better.

    I’ve seen good and bad workplaces,; and the link between the bad ones and the employees’ health was clear. Overtime, bad workplaces impacted people’s mental well-being, but also led to increased amount of physical illnesses due to the stress put on the person as a whole. It is not dissimilar to the impact toxic food might have on someone – one day or two is not ideal, but recoverable; continuous exposure is extremely damaging. A bad workplace is 5 days a week of exposure to stress, too many hours work, and no respite for the brain; toxic is not a bad word for it.

    I’m curious what others readers here think about this.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I have agree. The balance of power has been weighted so heavily toward the employer for so long, that it’s difficult to see just what is toxic and what is not toxic. I’m rather glad that we’re seeing a bit of a revolt right now. There’s no shortage of workers, just of decent jobs.

    2. SweetestCin*

      I’d have to agree.

      I’ve seen some serious bullpoop with various employers, and toxic absolutely describes a few of them. I’d even venture to state that there are a few toxic traits to the industry I’m in, in general. And yes, those toxic traits do a NUMBER on employees’ health, mental for the most part, in my industry.

      Its changing, but very slowly. I’m in the “middle”, so to speak, as I have the capital now to call out the more senior offenders, and the capital to pass along “this ish is unacceptable” to those more junior to me. Its freaking tiring, but it needs doing. I won’t let the more-senior-than-me continue this ish by showing the more-junior-than-me that these are acceptable things.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      My beef with that phrase is not how frequently it does/does not apply vs how frequently it is used, but rather that it’s incredibly vague. Some people may reserve “toxic” for situations like the Craft Beer boss letter from prepandemic, while others would call any not-that-great workplace “toxic”. It tells me nothing more than saying “really bad”. So personally, I’d love it if it got used less in favor of something that actually conveys informatino.

  29. PrairieEffingDawn*

    LW1- I was in a similar situation back in April. I think it’s important to consider your personal/family/financial situation and how that would be impacted if you took the job and things didn’t work out.

    Just like you, I applied for one role though HR and the hiring manager preferred me for this other, higher-level role that I never would have applied for. I was also very forthcoming about what experience I felt I lacked but was offered the role anyway. It was excellent pay, benefits, title, etc.

    Ultimately I ended up turning down that role due to a family health emergency that has been ongoing since the time of the job offer. I decided that the stress of adjusting to a new job that wasn’t a “sure thing” would be too impactful on my family, among other personal considerations. But if my outside-work life was more stable right now, I probably would have gone for it. If you have a financial safety net and confidence in your ability to find another role if things don’t work out, it might be worth the leap. I really hope we get an update from you!!

  30. Sawbonz, MD*

    Did anyone else think of the movie “Get Out” when they read letter number 4?

  31. James*

    LW#3: Others have mentioned experience. What about hours worked? If she’s coming in early/leaving late to support staff working with people in different time zones she may be working longer hours than you. I see this a lot in my field–the people working for me usually make more per month than I do, because they’re working much longer hours than me due to the nature of our tasks.

    I would also caution against bringing this up to anyone at work. The advice I got when I started in project management was to ignore salary except in so far as it affected my project budgets. It’s privileged information to a certain extent, and it’s a crappy thing to do in general. I was told to say “That’s messed up”, be angry for a moment, then forget the whole thing. And that makes sense. My contract is between me and my employer; what someone else makes isn’t a factor. As Alison said it’s different if you’re significantly under-paid, but as long as your compensation is reasonable it doesn’t matter what anyone else makes.

    For my part, I think it’s a good thing that the receptionist is well-paid. Receptionists deal with the public, and therefore are the face of the company in many cases. On top of that, at least in my company they deal with a bunch of details that would drive me insane, like scheduling offices, making sure the supplies are maintained, and dealing with the impossible requests from a bunch of geologists and engineers. If our receptionist left tomorrow our office would be shut down by Monday. She deserves to be paid more than whatever she is being paid.

    1. Pennilyn Lot*

      Broadly I agree with you but in general people should freely discuss their salaries if they feel like it. Not doing so is clearly advantaging the employer and disadvantaging workers who could use that information to negotiate. LW’s off the mark with their feelings about the receptionist but they should be free to ask and discuss salaries with their peers. Can’t see why that would be a crappy thing to do. Only benefits your employer to act like pay is privileged information.

      1. James*

        “Broadly I agree with you but in general people should freely discuss their salaries if they feel like it.”

        I think we’re talking about two different things. The issue is how the information is obtained.

        If a colleague came up and discussed salary I wouldn’t object to it. It’s your information, if you want to share it that’s up to you. I’ve done so in the past, thanks to some tax issues related to my work travel, for example. It’s flat-out wrong for an employer to say I’m not allowed to discuss something that is my information, and they can’t stop it anyway.

        If I discover someone’s pay rate when looking at their personnel file, billing rate, or something–something I have to do to build projects, and something an accountant would routinely be looking at–that’s different. They’re not giving me that information, I’m obtaining it without their knowledge for specific business purposes. Using it for other purposes is a misuse of that information and a major breach of trust. If I came up to a peer and said “I see you’re over-paid for your position” it would cross a HUGE line. (It would be just as bad to say “You’re under-paid”, but at least that would be understandable.)

        It’s the same as medical information. I can tell you all the medical information I want; it’s my medical information, after all. But if you find it in my files you can’t come to me and say “I have some concerns about your blood pressure.” That would be crossing a line.

    2. Forrest*

      >> I was told to say “That’s messed up”, be angry for a moment, then forget the whole thing. And that makes sense. My contract is between me and my employer; what someone else makes isn’t a factor.

      If there’s something worth being angry about, why only be angry for a moment? I mean, “the receptionist makes more than I do” probably isn’t worth being angry about even briefly. But “my male co-worker makes 25k more than despite similar quals, experience and job titles” is worth being angry about for a lot more than a moment.

      1. James*

        “I mean, “the receptionist makes more than I do” probably isn’t worth being angry about even briefly.”

        I agree with you, but it’s hard to tell how a person will react until they see the data. The person giving me this advice wanted to emphasize proper handling of this information, and how critical it is to my future employment. I’m not the first person he’s trained, and he’s run into people who don’t share our views on pay scales before, and didn’t want to waste his time if I turned out to be like that.

        Also, I’m a field guy, and any field person is going to haver personality conflicts with one or two other field people. It’s inevitable that we think “This person has no idea what they’re doing! How have they not been fired yet?!” That’s because while there are standard operating procedures, there’s also a lot of wiggle room. Seeing someone you think is incompetent make more than you per hour can be aggravating even if it makes perfect sense given how pay scale is determined. Me, I don’t care–my method of dealing with that is to not have them on my jobs.

        “But “my male co-worker makes 25k more than despite similar quals, experience and job titles” is worth being angry about for a lot more than a moment.”

        Agreed. One reason I like the company I work for is that they have very strict rules about pay ranges based on job title, seniority, and competencies. I won’t say it can’t happen here, but it’s really hard for it to happen and becomes obvious VERY quickly (unfortunately we had some folks try this crap a few years back).

  32. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    Coworkers like OP3 really chap my career-admin ass. I’m worth my weight in gold, thanks.

    1. Bean-counting*

      100% – without good admin, the business would collapse. I wouldn’t take this sort of comment to heart as you know your worth and 10+ years into my career, I know I’d have suffered without admin support.

  33. Red Swedish Fish*

    #3 the roles are not comparable, quit trying to compare them and stop putting down the receptionist as a lower worker because of her education. As you grow up and are in the workforce you will come across many people who will make more than you and have higher roles with no degree, and some with very high degrees with very low paying roles.

    Secondly are you a degreed and CPA certified? The degree alone is not enough in accounting to qualify for higher pay. I am in big insurance and if your not a CPA I can use someone with any degree/or some relevant experience to do the accounting role.

    1. blackcatlady*

      Yes! I’ve been scrolling through the comments to find this. Have you passed the CPA exam (it’s very intensive and hard) and become a member of the AICPA? that’s going to make a big difference in your status. Get a few years experience under your belt. And in that time I hope you come to appreciate just how valuable a great front desk person is. If you want to succeed in you job NEVER look down on support staff!

      1. Observer*

        I’d be willing to bet that the answer is no. Because I don’t think that any actual CPA would talk about how they are “degree qualified” and thus *deserving* of better pay, just for that alone.

  34. Out & About*

    OP 3; I agree with Alison, accounting is such a common position as well it should be easy to collect state, if not city, specific salary information to compare to your salary. Admin work is very different from accounting.
    We need to be careful with the experience measure. This was used as an excuse to pay me $15k less than a male coworker whose position was not comparable to my niche field position. Worst part is I was actually underpaid by $30k when I went out to market with my skills. Skills don’t necessarily equal experience.

  35. The Tin Man*

    #2 – To help consistent messaging and your general phone avoidance, maybe try a script or outline of a script. I have issues with the phone and that has helped me when I know I have certain points I must make or it is a call where exact phrasing is important.

    At the end of the call you can specify to the PC that you will send her an e-mail with a summary of the call for both of your records, which should help you keep track of the interaction for your future reference.

  36. Dr. Tea Blender, PhD*

    OP 1- I have noticed a lot of jobs that don’t technically require a PhD to do the work from a job responsibilities perspective listing it as a required for the role. (I’ve seen this mostly in non-faculty jobs posted by universities, though it could be happening elsewhere, too.) There are a lot of people with PhDs who can’t get into the sorts of jobs they had hoped for in getting their PhD (tenure track university faculty), and even if the pay isn’t great, it’s definitely better than the adjunct poverty struggle, so jobs that don’t require a PhD skillset (some that honestly don’t even require a Master’s degree skillset) are being listed as such. It is possible that this employer has overstated thinking they could get a PhD for these reasons and then found that it hasn’t worked out for them in terms of identifying a candidate, so they’ve taken an interest in you because you are qualified to do the job, even if you don’t have the paper qualifications that they listed.

    I really wish this practice would stop, because it devalues advanced degrees and it shuts people who would be great at jobs out of them

  37. Rebecca1*

    LW1, I once was in a similar situation where I desperately needed a job and they desperately needed an employee, so I worked for them despite my bare-bones qualifications (I had the minimum required by law but no more). They proactively provided me with a huge amount of training to help make up for it, and we muddled through. I would ask if they plan to provide training.

  38. Dwight Schrute*

    LW 4- I also I have misophonia and I think asking your employee to eat with a plastic spoon or bowl is too much. It’s only 15 minutes – plan a walk, listen to a podcast, have something else going on that requires you to leave the room. I’ve been known to pack up and move for a bit when mine is triggered because honestly it’s not anyone else’s problem to solve for me and I would feel silly asking someone to change the way they eat to accommodate me

  39. CatPerson*

    LW2 “You prefer not to”, Bartleby? Sometimes in our jobs we have to do things that we don’t want to.

    1. Observer*


      For anyone not familiar with the reference a link to a Wikipedia entry follows.

  40. Dust Bunny*

    LW2: I hate phones but, yes, that would make you an ableist jerk. Medical issues trump “I really hate phone calls”. If you were hearing impaired and legitimately had that hard a time using a phone you might have a case, but that’s apparently not the situation here, and if I were your employer and found out you had ignored a PC rather than honor the request I’d be pretty mad.

  41. Jennifer Strange*

    LW 3 – Were you happy with your salary before you found out what the receptionist made? I think asking yourself that question (and answering honestly) will help you figure out if you’re underpaid or just have a misguided idea of what makes someone “deserving” of a certain salary.

  42. Darcy*

    LW#2 – regarding phone vs email – I think that this situation has two unique components that go beyond “I don’t like to talk on the phone”.

    The first is the sheer difference in time between the two mediums. Phone calls almost always involve more time over email, particularly if you’re dealing with technical matters that need to be checked and double checked. Over the course of a project, the loss of efficiency gained from having to use the phone over email could be substantial. Is the client willing to pay for the additional hours that would result?

    The second is the fact that the LW is working for a company that can be picky about the clients that they take on. Is the LW’s company willing to take on a client that will require more time (and potentially hand-holding) that may result from not being able to use email?

    The LW shouldn’t blow off the request just because the client is requesting a phone call. She should make the phone call, find out more about the client’s needs, and find what kind of accommodation is needed. (maybe the phone-only requirement isn’t a long term thing). There’s no obligation to make accommodations though, if the LW’s company wouldn’t have taken the client on anyway or if the client isn’t interested in paying for the additional hours required.

    1. LibJess*

      There’s a couple base assumptions here that bear responding to:

      1) “Email is faster than phone calls.”

      Maybe but that is not universally true. Sometimes verbal communication is much faster at getting the answers you need while emails can be put off, require follow-up, or the person also responds to the first sentence then ignores everything else requiring further follow-up. It is not some great axiom that email is the best communication method all the time even if it’s your preferred communication style.

      2) “The second is the fact that the LW is working for a company that can be picky about the clients that they take on. Is the LW’s company willing to take on a client that will require more time (and potentially hand-holding) that may result from not being able to use email?”
      Intentionally or not, you are essentially saying that working around a client’s pretty reasonable accommodation request for their brain trauma makes difficult to work with. It’s a phone call. To accommodate someone with an injury. This along with your closing paragraph read as permission (or possibly even encouragement) to dismiss any potential clients that cause friction – even if that friction is coming from a disability that is easily accommodated. That’s where the ableism OP worries about is coming in and I invite you to reflect on that.

    2. Calliope*

      I think you’re making a lot of assumptions. Phone can often be quicker than email if you have items you need to discuss rather than merely information to be relayed. And there’s no indication the OP bills on the hour or that their company doesn’t have obligations to not discriminate against potential clients with disabilities.

    3. Observer*

      Phone calls almost always involve more time over email,

      That’s just not true. It depends on a LOT of factors. Even when dealing with technical material, and materials that need to be checked. The OP doesn’t give us any way to judge.

      The second is the fact that the LW is working for a company that can be picky about the clients that they take on

      That doesn’t make it ok to choose based on disability. I get that you don’t see any moral imperative to make some minor accommodations for someone with a significant medical issue. But the thing is that it’s actually illegal. TBI / Post-concussion is almost certainly a covered disability. So, the OP’s company cannot refuse to deal with PC just on the basis that they might have to make some accommodations.

      There’s no obligation to make accommodations though, if the LW’s company wouldn’t have taken the client on anyway or if the client isn’t interested in paying for the additional hours required.

      You are only half right. The first half is true – they don’t have to make accommodations if the client would have been a poor fit even without this issue. But paying extra hours is not so simple. A lot would depend on what it would really cost especially in relation to the whole project and what the client would be charged.

  43. GMan*

    LW3, please take some time to reflect on what a degree actually is: a paper that said you completed a set amount of university courses. Having a degree says very little about what you know (as I’m sure you can attest to, not all accountants have the same level of knowledge!) and is only a document that explains what you’ve done in the past.

    A degree is not a guarantee that you are a good worker, or even skilled in your profession. A degree does not invalidate laws of supply and demand, and a degree doesn’t say anything about how you speak to other people, how you organize your work, how much care you show the customers, etc.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Ditto to all of this! +1

      Would like to add that does the OP know for sure that the receptionsit doesnt have a degree, even an associates degree or took some schooling? A lot of admin assistant positions prefer someone with at least an associates degree.

  44. I'm just here for the cats*

    #2 it sounds like you use email to help track your process and to cover yourself if the client says they didn’t know X would happen. Couldn’t you call the person and go through your info, and then email it to them anyways.

  45. EmKay*

    Dear OP #2,

    You wouldn’t ask a wheelchair user to “just take the stairs”, would you?

    Then please show that same consideration to this person’s medical needs.

    Someone who dealt with the aftereffects of a TBI for months

  46. The Dude Abides*

    After reading #3, my first thought went to Donna and Gretchen from Suits. Anyone else get similar vibes?

  47. Pennilyn Lot*

    LW3, you literally just graduated. This is presumably your very first professional role. How long has the receptionist been there? It is honestly a pretty crappy assumption that you, the inexperienced newly qualified Degree Holder, should be earning more than everybody else in your company who does not have a degree, regardless of how experienced they might be or how much more valuable they are to the company than you. Your degree means you have a specialist training accredited by an institution, it doesn’t mean you’re inherently more valuable than staff with experience. Don’t let looking down on people who don’t have a university education become a habit.

  48. Stina*

    In general, comparing one’s wages to any other role besides one’s own (cpa/receptionist, emt/retail clerk) especially in this day of minimum wage debates comes across as elitist. Those “lesser” jobs are often the ones that depend on very advanced soft skills like extreme multi-tasking, being multi-lingual, situational de-escalation, relationship building, etc. in potentially high-stress roles. Yes, even lowly fast-food order takers. Definitely follow AAM’s advice and learn what your local market salary is for your role & experience, seek how negotiation advice here, put the imposter syndrome voice in a box, and go advocate for your true value to the company.

  49. Daisy-dog*

    #3 – I know it can be so, so, so hard to know what others make. But you gotta just ignore it. If you let it take up too make space in your mind, you will never be happy.

  50. Campfire Raccoon*

    As an accountant with lots of experience hiring and training- baby accountants are rough to train up and easy to find. A good receptionist is worth her weight in bitcoin.

    1. searching for a new name*

      I can wholeheartedly agree, in public accounting our admin was the glue of the office. LW please also take into consideration that other people are also paid for their experience, often getting raises yearly for jobs well done. It’s possible this receptionist has been with the company for a long time or is somehow otherwise very qualified or even just really good at the job!

  51. Savaphoong*

    I disagree with the advice on the misophonia question. The problem is really the LW’s to deal with; it’s not the employee’s problem. I’m really annoyed by most eating sounds. My husband doesn’t make any unusual eating sounds, but listening to him eat really annoys me. It would probably cause a big rift in our relationship if I said something about it as often as I want to. I had to realize he isn’t doing anything wrong or even unusual, and that I needed to just suck it up and deal with it. I’m trying to imagine how I would feel if my manager confronted me for making normal eating sounds for a few minutes a day, and I think I would feel singled out and attacked.

    1. Dwight Schrute*

      Yep I would likely feel the same and then chalk it up to my manager having a weird quirk and not accommodate them because I’m not doing anything out of the ordinary by eating with normal utensils

    2. Tobias Funke*

      I have posted something to this effect twice and it has been eaten by the internet lords – I agree. It reminds me of the office where everyone had to line up to ameliorate someone’s OCD. But I don’t understand how controlling the minutiae of others’ existence is a reasonable stance for OP to take when there are so many things in their own control.

      1. Savaphoong*

        Exactly. The whole world isn’t going to adapt to our personal peculiarities, so we have to find a way to adapt to the world.

        As a licensed therapist, I feel confident that any therapist who worked with the LW would focus on helping them find coping strategies that didn’t involve trying to control the behavior of others, especially when there is power imbalance of this kind.

  52. Flora_Psmith*

    The irritating thing about LW 4 is the complete lack of personal accountability.

    LW can’t be bothered to go get an actual diagnosis and treatment plan, or buy headphones, or rearrange their schedule to take a walk at 3pm; but they expect everyone around them (or just the women around them?) to change and adapt so LW doesn’t have to do anything.

    1. Observer*

      (or just the women around them?)

      Could we stop with this garbage? I get, women are often held to different standards. But just making it up does NOTHING to change anything for the better. On the contrary, it reduces credibility. Right now, we have an attitude that seems to be fairly bad on the face of it. Let’s address it.

      Getting up in arms about imaginary sexism diverts the attention from where it needs to be and helps feed the idea that sexism isn’t really real. Because otherwise why are you going after a figment of your imagination. It also diverts time and attention to ACTUAL sexism.

      All in all, not useful if you actually care about how women get treated vs how they should be treated.

      1. Flora_Psmith*

        It’s a question, not a statement.
        The question mark at the end of the sentence indicates that it is a question.

        Maybe the LW simply has a small sample size that is comprised entirely of women.
        It happens.

        Maybe the LW expects the women in their life to solve their problems without putting forth any effort themselves.
        That also happens.

        Thus, it is a question that I do not, nor do I claim to have, the answer to.

  53. Eclecticism is a Virtue*

    LW1, I agree with Alison on her advice, but don’t forget, as is so often the case, the “qualifications” are usually a wish list. They hope for Ph.D and 10 years of experience, but maybe they are willing to accept Masters and 4 years of experience. In fact, one question you can ask them is what a Ph.D brings to the role that a Masters does not bring. That distinction is sometimes more about prestige if the candidate the necessary experience. There is no question a Ph.D is an expert on one area of knowledge, but if the role doesn’t use the specialized knowledge, what is the difference between a Ph.D with no experience and a Masters with 5 years of experience? Many in the workplace would say, “not much” (though of course the specific industry/field and other factors can change that). The employer knows better than any candidate why the Ph.D and 10 years are desired and how they fit into the role, so ask them! (Also, the employer is allowed to change the qualifications. Maybe they thought a Ph.D and 10 years was needed but they saw in your work experience and interviews that you have “enough” qualifications.)

    LW4, I have a coworker with a similar issue, though with chewing gum. Her at-the-time manager would chew gum every day. She spoke up, told her manager that the sound of chewing gum really bothers her, and he stopped. It’s truly that simple. You definitely do not need to make a new rule affecting everyone in the company for this. That would arguably be abusing your authority. What happens to the rule when this employee leaves the company? Now you have a silly rule with no real reason behind it. As Alison suggested, speak up, wear headphones or conveniently take a break / have a meeting at 3pm every day! It’s even on a predictable schedule!

  54. Little Miss Sunshine*

    LW1 You should absolutely explore further before you say no. Don’t self-select out of a potentially great opportunity without asking yourself honestly if you are just afraid (normal) vs truly not a good match.
    LW2 Just pick up the phone.
    LW3 Stating things like this comes across as condescending and entitled. Know your own worth and don’t worry about what someone in a different role is making. I know of many administrative assistants who are 10x more valuable than recent graduates.
    LW4 Bamboo utensils are a great sustainable option if your team member is willing. However, I believe this is your problem, not theirs, and you should try some accommodations of your own (headphones, earbuds with music or white noise, taking a walk) before asking this of anyone.
    LW5 – YAY you!

  55. Cafe au Lait*

    Hey OP#4, I also have misophonia! Plus ADHD so extra loud noises tend to send me into an anxiety spiral. What has helped me the most is ear plugs. My husband bought a set of musicians earplugs; they’re designed for musicians to help themselves hear. I’ve also seen a bunch of ads on Facebook for Calmer earplugs. I think Calmer works the exact same as the earplugs I own.

  56. theletter*

    LW#2 – you might find some support/help from someone who does cold sales calls, or has done that in the past. Good cold callers generally practice together through role playing, and may be able to sit down with you and let you practice on them for this particular situation.

    I did cold calls for a long time, and I hated it passionately. But one thing that got me through was an intense dedication to the idea that maybe the person on the other end would be incredibly fun and nice. I went in with the most optimistic mindset I could muster, and sometimes I was right.

    It may also help to call them to schedule a longer call – a quick ten minute chat to find a time when you two can both dig into the details, and then you both can plan accordingly for that session.

  57. Cheesesteak in Paradise*


    There can be a lot of good reasons not to want to use plastic (environmental concerns, mouthfeel) that people have pointed out. It also tends to absorb odors and flavors in a way metal and glass do not. I would not want to eat tuna with a plastic spoon or bowl because the next time I had cereal, it might taste like tuna flavored Cheerios.

    I think the person with the problem (the manager) needs to change behavior to find a solution, not police other people – be that a walk, headphones, therapy, etc.

  58. Rusty Shackelford*

    #4 is interesting to me because I’ve long had misophonia related to chewing/eating noises, and I just recently noticed that a spoon clacking against a ceramic bowl is starting to bother me almost as much. Did I never notice this because I never worked with a spoon clanker before, or has my new coworker’s daily spoon clanking infected me with a new trigger?

  59. donkeys*

    LW3, don’t fall into the recent-graduate trap of believing that your university education makes you better than people who don’t go to college. Have you ever tried to be a receptionist? What might look simple from the outside is actually very specialized and difficult, especially for someone who chooses to make reception work a long-term career. Receptionists absolutely do need skills and training, and just because those skills don’t always come out of traditional schooling doesn’t mean they’re not important and difficult.

    Besides, you seem to not have learned yet one of the MOST important aspects of working in an office: Do. Not. Piss. Off. The. Support. Staff. In many offices, the support staff have a huge influence on whether or not you have a good experience at work. If you do have a competent, well-paid receptionist, she absolutely knows EVERYTHING that goes on in your company and if she likes you, she’ll share important knowledge with you that will make your day run more smoothly. If you annoy her or if you tell anyone you think she’s overpaid, she has the power to make your life miserable. Keep your mouth shut about her pay and make a case to your boss if you feel you deserve more money based on what *other accountants* make, not completely unrelated professions.

  60. Tree-hugger*

    OP4 has no business demanding that her employee use plastic spoons.
    (1) Microplastic contamination of the human biome is a thing, and we have reason to suspect it can be detrimental to health.
    (2) Overuse of plastic is atrocious for the environment. Plastic is not biodegradable.

    OP4 needs to get used to the fact that cutlery will clink against plates. This is a normal, everyday facet of life, not something that everyone should alter their behavior to accommodate.

  61. AKA*

    LW2: If you get hundreds of PC requests, and only take 50ish a year, sounds like you can choose whichever clients you want, such as those who communicate in the manner you prefer.

    1. Observer*

      Nope. You get to choose on any arbitrary criteria you choose * as long as the effect is not discriminatory. Refusing to accommodate a legitimate medical issue IS discriminatory, even if that’s not what you had in mind.

  62. Always Happy*

    For the 2020 accountant graduate…there are so many questions that I want to ask! With your degree, did you also obtain your CPA? That will make a big difference when it comes to salary. With the receptionist, how many are in the office that she is assisting/helping out with? I hate it when people who are “degreed” look down upon those of us with no degrees but tons of experience!

  63. Weekin' for the Workend*

    NGL – LW3 struck a bit of a raw nerve with me.
    I recently went through a whole dog an pony show with some of jr. brokers in our firm (commercial real estate)- someone had very carelessly printed out a doc showing salaries and didn’t get to the printer fast enough, and several of the up and comers were furious to find out that several members of the admin staff (myself included) made 3x their base pay.
    I have over a decade of experience in this industry, and nearly two decades as an admin. I have EARNED every penny of that salary with the skills and knowledge I’ve build over the years, and frankly, you are here to learn as much from me as some of the seasoned brokers on staff.
    It was rapidly pointed out to them that the salaries in question were earned by very experienced administrators, and that they had the opportunity to earn commission splits on deals they brought in, as opposed to the admin staff. The admins got an apology, but I will have to admit it’s colored my opinions of some of the newbs in the office for the worse.

  64. Prof Space Cadet*

    L.W. #1: I almost didn’t apply for my current job because I assumed I wasn’t qualified. I was surprised to get an interview and frankly stunned to get an offer with a salary about 10% higher than I expected . I had some misgivings about accepting the new role, but the hiring manager (now my boss) seemed to believe that I’d grow into the position and I was frankly desperate to get out of my old job.

    Flash-forward two years: I did in fact grow into my current role. It’s the best job I’ve ever had and my performance evals have all been great. I later learned that they decided to take a chance on me after their top 4 choices all backed out, because I had certain “soft skills” essential for the role that other candidates with better technical qualifications were lacking. And if I had stayed at my Old Job (which I hated to begin with), I would have almost certainly been laid off during the pandemic.

    So I would say to be straightforward about your concerns, but also be open to the possibility that it might work out well.

  65. Not So NewReader*

    OP#2. To me this is an ask your boss question. If the boss says you have to use the phone, then that’s the answer.

    In my arena there are instances where if a person cannot use email/ computer then they will need to hire someone who can do that for them because email and online is pretty much used all day.

    You are asking for another way of thinking about this, so my thought is to defer to what the boss says. With only taking on 50 clients a year it sounds like what your place does is very one-on-one labor intensive. It could very well be that for legit, practical reasons this cannot be handled by phone. Going the opposite way, it could be that your company has indeed worked with folks who cannot use a computer and they require these clients to get other specific things in place in order to conduct business.

    I am kind of concerned that your first thought was to wonder about your phone fear and ableism. I think your first thought should have been to ask the boss what the company expects you to do here.

    If the boss says to use the phone, then the advice above to plan out what you will say before you call is pure gold. I did not have a true phone fear- but when I started working I was afraid I would not have the answers the caller was looking for. This is much easier to handle when dealing with someone in person. So I mapped out a plan of what I would do if I was asked a question I could not answer. (call them back, look in a reference manual, ask a nearby cohort, etc.)
    Here I am 40 years out from that. I still find myself planning my talking points when I return a voice mail call. But now I understand that this is normal and nothing to be ashamed of or embarrassed by. It’s called being competent and professional. And I see other professionals who call me back and open with, “I took a bit to return your call because I had to do a little reading first in order to find the accurate answer for you.”

    Of the two, phone fear or TBI, you probably can find paths through your concern faster than the client will find their path through their TBI. I have used this type of thinking to help myself conquer my own concerns that would suddenly crop up from time to time. Thinking of what the other person is up against vs what I am up against can be powerful motivation to stretch ourselves. You call this person, she wins and YOU win. Both of you win.

  66. A-Nonamus*

    CowWhisperer, I think that’s too harsh on LW #2. It’s not an objection to taking a mild effort. Email makes it easier to have all the information available for future reference, and it also documents the messaging.

  67. stitchinthyme*

    I wonder if the answer to #2 would be different if the LW also had a disability that made using the phone difficult, like hearing loss. What do you do when both people have a disability that makes either solution unworkable?

  68. Generic Elf*

    As sympathetic as I am to something like misophonia, this is something that OP can take action on without involving the employee, as many have already mentioned. It’s not appropriate to ask someone preforming a contextually acceptable behavior (eating food with a spoon) to alter what they are doing when you have the information and likely the tools to mitigate the discomfort for yourself. But I do feel you, I can’t stand it either.

  69. Liu1845*

    For the manager with sound sensitivity, I use metal utensils for my lunch at work so I use plastic containers. I have the same exact issue with sounds. My worst is metal on metal, but metal on glass or ceramic is another that sets my teeth on edge.

  70. Selena*

    My pet theory is that some hiring managers are very susceptible to ‘playing hard to get’. The less interest the candidate shows and the more the candidate doubts the job is a good fit, the more the manager convinces themselves they HAVE TO hire that candidate at any cost. Even pushing aside more qualified candidates under the excuse that this particular candidate ‘is far better teachable’.

    Or it may be that the job-ad were a bunch of nice-to-have’s, and they’ve adjusted their expectations when they realized no candidate was qualified. (But that only makes sense if they haven’t hired much in your field before)

    And finally, if you got this interview through an external recruiter it is possible someone there screwed up your resumee and the company thinks you have lots of hidden talents and greatly undersold yourself in the interview due to nerves.

    It sounds like you are planning to take the job anyway, so i hope it all works out for you. That it turns out the bad fit is not nearly as bad as you believe it to be.

  71. Caboose*

    #2 – I’d encourage you to actually think about what part of phone calls make you so uncomfortable. I spent years thinking that my aversion to phones was some mild form of social anxiety, when it was actually just that I struggle with auditory processing, and it made making phone calls an exercise in misery. My solution is to take basically every call either with a headset on, or in my car. If the call is sufficiently loud, and if I can be moving around freely at the same time, I do worlds better.
    I’m not saying that this is your specific problem, just that it’s worth taking some time to figure out the specific issue so that you can take steps to solve it!

  72. EchoGirl*

    Re: OP#2, I do think it’s worth pointing out that phone avoidance can be more than an issue of preference or annoyance for some people. I can’t speak to whether OP is one of them, but it could explain the level of reluctance.

    This isn’t to say that OP shouldn’t accommodate the client, but there are a lot of comments here to the effect of, “Of course you should call her, it’s extremely concerning that you would even consider not doing so,” and I feel like that only applies if OP’s desire to use email really is just a preference, rather than because talking on the phone really does feel like a big burden to OP. Again, it doesn’t change the way that OP should proceed (IOW, OP should accommodate the client regardless), but it does make it more understandable why OP is struggling with the question instead of seeing the “obvious” answer.

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