unfireable employee is having affair with the boss, dealing with a pushy donor, and more

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

1. Low-performing employee might be having an affair with the company owner

I was hired to oversee the day-to-day operations and strategic planning for a small company. There was a woman who was doing this job before I was hired, but she didn’t do it well. She wasn’t let go after my hiring but was making my job difficult by her poor performance and her interference. I believe that she is or was having an affair with the owner who’s married and who is afraid to allow me to fire her for fear of her telling his wife. Is this totally untenable?

If that is indeed what’s going on, yes. If you haven’t asked the owner point-blank what his concern is about firing her (assuming you’ve already laid out the problems with her work and her lack of improvement after feedback), that would be my next step. But if your suspicions are right, it’s fully untenable (as well as a potential massive legal liability for the company, whether she’s fired or not).

2. Dealing with a pushy donor

My spouse and I run a nonprofit that rescues a variety of animals. Yesterday I had an uncomfortable experience with a donor who has been generous to us financially. He has a few water birds, and I’m familiar with the extravagant set-up he’s built for them. It’s like Versailles for waterfowl. One thing I’ve learned is that since we build all of our habitats from scratch, if someone has experience building something we need, it saves a ton of time and mistakes to get their advice. I’d emailed to ask if he could give me a few ideas sometime about his water feature, as these are very difficult to build and keep clean. His response suggested a call, and before I could reply he’d phoned twice in half a day. During our call he gave me a little information, and when I reflected aloud that our set-up was different than his as we don’t have a natural water source like he does, he began to hem and haw and ultimately told me that he thought that I should give our birds to him and his wife, as they are more prepared to care for them. When I declined in shock, he suggested that I reach out to other sanctuaries in our area, because our birds “need water” (which, as I’d told him clearly, we do provide — my hope was to build a permanent feature that would save us time scrubbing bird poo out of pools daily). After (I thought) I made it clear that we would not be doing this, I moved to end the call with thanks for the little information he did give me, and he reiterated that he and his wife would be willing to “rescue” our birds. I told him that this would not happen and that there are plenty of other fowl that need homes, but he demurred.

I want to clarify that we run a respected sanctuary and that while life doing this is chaotic, all of our residents are thriving, and we’ve had multiple compliments from the vets who come out to us. So, while I have a very clear, short, script for what to say if this man reaches out and wants to take our birds again, I’m at a loss for how to proceed with potential pushy donors in the future. This man clearly needed to be told much more unequivocally that his suggestion was off-base, but I’m unsure of how to walk that line with someone who’s given us money. Frankly, I’m happy to end our relationship and his gifts, but I felt trapped by what we “owe” him for past donations. So, is it acceptable to say, “I appreciate the faith you’ve shown in us with your donations, but we are not in need of your support in other ways?” I’d have said I didn’t need his advice but I had in fact asked for his advice! Should I just make a rule of never tapping the knowledge of donors? Of refusing to answer repeated calls without setting up a meeting on my own terms? I don’t want to offend (which I seem to have managed to do daily in the position mentioned at the start of my letter), but I also don’t want, ever again, to have to defend the quality of our work to any more officious jerkfaces.

It sounds like you might be taking this really personally because the implication was that you weren’t caring for your animals correctly … but I don’t know that taking it so personally and being offended is helpful. What if you instead started from the assumption that he’d misunderstood the situation, and so just corrected him? As in, “Oh my goodness, no — I hope I didn’t give you the impression we weren’t able to provide water. Of course we are! We wouldn’t have rescued them if we couldn’t do that, and we’ve had a lot of positive feedback from vets on our set-up. We’re just thinking about how to build a permanent feature that would save us from scrubbing bird poo out of the pools every day. But there’s certainly no issue with getting them water or caring for them.”

Or an alternate approach: “It sounds like I said something that gave you the impression that we can’t care for these birds, when I was just looking for ways to make our cleaning processes easier. You sound really concerned — can you tell me what I said that alarmed you?”

He still might have an annoying response, but it might clear it up … and if nothing else, you’ll probably feel better for having approached it this way.

When you rely on donors, there will always be some that overstep or misunderstand or have weird ideas (and from what I’ve seen, that’s especially true with animal stuff), and you’ve got to just roll with it without getting terribly offended or upset (easier said than done, of course).

3. How do I ask to be paid for two days that were missing from my first paycheck?

I’m writing you because I realized my employer didn’t pay me for the first two days of work, and I’m not sure how to tactfully address it.

I started at my new company two days before the end of the month. When I got my first paycheck, it was only for the amount of money earned between the 1st and 15th of the month. I didn’t say anything at first, because I was still working to build trust with my peers, reports, and management. I also wanted to give HR the chance to correct the mistake if needed (I’ve had this happen in the past and it would be corrected before I even addressed it.)

Now I’ve been at the company for three months and have developed a great relationship with my boss. However, I still haven’t been paid for those two days. I don’t want to come off as ungrateful (my company has fantastic benefits, and I really admire our leadership) but I was employed and online for those two days and feel that I should be compensated for them.

Do you think this is worth brining to my bosses, or HR’s, attention, or should I just let it go? I’m concerned that I might be seen as greedy or ungrateful, and maybe that fear comes from toxic managers I’ve had in the past, but I still feel awkward about asking for the money to compensate such a short period of time, even though I technically earned it.

Absolutely bring it up! This is money they owe you for your work, they would certainly want to correct the mistake if they were aware of it, and now that you’re past that first paycheck, they’re very unlikely to notice it on their own. You don’t look greedy or ungrateful for wanting money you rightfully earned, and any employer who thought that would be covering themselves in red flags so glaringly bright that all your hair would burn off. (And if I found out one of my employees was hesitating to ask for money they were owed because they feared I’d see them as greedy, I would be mortified and wondering if I’d done something to make them think that!)

Ideally you would have brought it up when the first paycheck was wrong, but you can still bring it up now (and you must!). Just talk to either your boss or HR and say, “I’ve realized that my first paycheck was for April 1-15, but I started on March 30 and haven’t yet been paid for March 30-31. What can I do to get that fixed?” Say it matter-of-factly in the same tone you’d use to say, “I just realized the printer is out of ink” and it will be fine. They’ll probably just add it to your next check, done, problem solved.

(Also, if you are reluctant to ask for money you’re owed, there’s a good chance you’re reluctant to advocate for yourself in other ways that are also perfectly safe. It’s worth reflecting on that and working to re-wire those impulses!)

4. Recruiter aggressively pushed me to interview for a job I didn’t want

Short version of the story is that I applied for a job with a recruiter and asked the company name. After going through several bad reviews on Glassdoor and reading not-so-approving news stories about the company and other forums, I decided to cancel the pending interview. I received calls from the recruiter and the recruiter’s manager asking why I didn’t want to continue on to the interview. The recruiter’s manager kept making counterpoints and arguments as to why the company is “different” now and how big of an opportunity I was missing. After 10 minutes of continuously saying “no, I do not consent” in various forms, the manager said, “Fine. This won’t hurt your standing with us. We’ll continue to look for jobs for you” … and I never heard from them again.

Did I break some unspoken rule of recruiting or was this just a bad experience?

Just a bad experience. You’re never required to do an interview if you’ve already decided you don’t want the job, and you’re well within your rights to decide that based on a company’s reputation (or for no reason at all, for that matter). I don’t consider it a red flag that the recruiter and their manager tried to change your mind once, but then they should have respected your no. It’s not a big loss that they didn’t contact you again; I’d be wary of working with recruiters who give you a really hard sell like that.

5. “What about this job keeps you up at night?”

My office is hiring for a couple new positions, and I’ve been on the interview panel. I wanted to share what I thought was a really excellent question from one of the candidates: “What about this job keeps you up at night?” I think it took us a little bit by surprise, and the candidate managed to get a lot of information out of us. I talked about being pulled in a few different directions; one panelist described an ongoing, thorny political issue we deal with; one panelist discussed the difficulty of working with multiple elected officials; and our HR representative described the pressure she felt during the past year handling Covid & keeping employees safe. That’s all good, valuable information that we wouldn’t necessarily bring up proactively!

I thought it was a great way for the candidate to dig into how our office really works without being overly confrontational or making assumptions at the outset. I love it and am absolutely copying it if/when I job hunt again!

It’s a great question! (I bet if you use it, you’ll run into some interviewers who can’t come up with an answer to it, and that’s okay too. I mention that because I think sometimes people think that if a question stumps an interviewer, it was somehow a bad question and that’s definitely not the case.)

{ 491 comments… read them below }

  1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    OP4, if this was an external recruiter, bear in mind that they may only get paid if you get hired. In that case, they were pushy because they want a chance at the money. They cared more about the pay than about you.

    1. Software Engineer*

      I mean, of course they care more about the money than about this person they barely know! It’s a business relationship and the only reason they’re talking is because of the money involved. I don’t think it’s necessarily a bad thing—you know going in what their incentives are so you can take some of the stuff they say with a grain of salt

      It’s quite short-sighted of them to push people hard on a particular job and burn the bridge when they might have other roles at other company you could be a good fit for! But if they’ve decided they only want pushovers it’s a bullet dodged

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah I don’t think Escapee meant that in a judgmental way — it’s just good for job-seekers to understand that they’re not the recruiter’s clients.

        1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

          Exactly! All recruiters are paid by the hiring companies. Good recruiters still treat candidates well. Bad recruiters see candidates only as a means to a payday. This was a bad recruiter!

    2. JM in England*

      This has been my experience with some recruiters too. If I did interview and not get the job, they would lay into me verbally as if it was entirely my fault.

      1. quill*

        Those ones get blocked. I’ve dealt with enough recruiter shennanigans, I don’t need to drive to another city for a “practice interview” or spend an hour on the phone dissecting my “technique” after I’ve been rejected. Sometimes the problem is not the candidate!

      2. OP4*

        Yeah. That’s just a bad recruiter. I wouldn’t work with anyone that chipped away at my self-worth like that.

    3. Tara*

      I dealt with a very aggressive external recruiter when I was looking to leave me last company. I was made an offer by the company he was putting me towards, but it wasn’t high enough for me to leave my job at the time (and I ended up accepting an offer with another company which was 20% higher than that one!). He shouted at me down the phone, and then got his boss to phone me and try to convince me. When I spoke to his boss about how unimpressed I was with how I was treated by their employee, his calls stopped.

      In my new job, I mentioned this experience to my grandboss when we were talking about recruiters. He was horrified, asked what the company was and has now blacklisted them from recruiting for our (FTSE 30!) company. It felt sweet.

    4. So sleepy*

      There’s so much irony here though, because LW pulled out of the competition because they knew they would turn down the job. So the recruiter wanted them to interview for an accept a position so they could get paid? I totally agree that this is what happened, but it just speaks to how poor the recruiter is at their job if they don’t realize they are most likely to get paid if they keep their clients (employees and employers) happy, even if that means finding a job that’s a better fit.

    5. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I haven’t engaged a retained search firm or agency in years, my sourcing teams have done great work and we don’t need outside help. But when I did, I always asked about their process – sourcing, screening, evaluating, etc. – including how they dealt with candidates during the offer stage. I also asked how they handled candidates who were not interested in the role. I got some lousy responses like, ‘Our job is to fill yours, and we do whatever it takes to turn a no into a yes!’ Um, no. The candidate gets to decide for themselves.

      It’s true that the candidate is not the client. It’s also true that search firms don’t ‘find jobs for people,’ they find people for jobs. But that never makes it okay for the agency to browbeat the candidate, ever.

      1. TechWorker*

        ‘Whatever it takes to turn a no into a yes!’ – why would you want to hire someone who doesn’t want to work for you…?

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          Exactly! Most search firms (seem to) understand this concept. And some just think about closing the deal, nothing else.

    6. Rebecca*

      150%. I took a job through a recruiting firm that was a disaster and when I gave notice I was bullied on a very, very unpleasant phone call. “When I checked in with you on your third day you said everything was fine” “there are a lot worse things than sitting around earning $X an hour” “I’m going to have to talk to my manager” etc etc. Honestly shame on me for going through with it to begin with, there were a number of red flags that I should have heeded. I’m sure not all recruiters are like this but when it comes down to it they are way more concerned about their billings than with your needs and wants.

      1. Observer*

        “I’m going to have to talk to my manager”

        Yeah, that’s an incompetent recruiter. What exactly does he think talking to his manager is going to do? His manager is not YOUR manager!

    7. OP4*

      Oh, yes. I’m well aware that I cut their chances at getting money. That’s part of the reason why I wasn’t sure if what I did was a bad thing or not. I forget from time to time that, to some people, I’m just a means to money, nothing more. That particular recruiter made it clear that, under them, I wasn’t allowed autonomy. I kinda feel like I dodged a bullet.

  2. Observer*

    #3, you say “, but I also don’t want, ever again, to have to defend the quality of our work to any more officious jerkfaces.

    This must be your fist donor facing job. Because you ARE going to have to deal with this. Some of the donors will, in fact, be jerk-faces. Others, not so much. Learning to deal with these folks is going to be extremely important. Alison’s scripts – and general approach are really good.

    It’s good that you are willing to walk a way from a donor as needed, but it seems to me that you are jumping the gun way too quickly here. Also, was he saying that you need to listen to him and / or give him the birds because he had given you money? Or was that something you felt? Because if the latter, you need to dismiss that feeling.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Seconding this and Alison’s advice about how to respond. You asked for a donor’s advice and it sounds like there was a misunderstanding. Alison’s advice is good about clarifying that the birds get good care and referencing that you didn’t mean to imply they weren’t. The key is to do that in an upbeat way. It’s not helpful to be confrontational with donors even when you have difficult interactions with them. This is just one individual rather than a pattern of jerk faces you will have to consistently deal with. It’s not a pattern. Instead, focus on being clear in your communication and your organization’s needs, and thank them for helping you further your mission.

    2. Cora*

      I don’t think he’s pushy or a jerkface. You asked for his help in what sounds like a fairly unstructured way. I would… not do that with donors unless you are able to much more confidently handle whatever happens next.

      1. Allypopx*

        Yeah this is a conversation for when you have an established relationship (personal, with you, not with the organization) and know their quirks and how they behave in casual conversation. Otherwise you need a much clearer and cleaner script *before* the call, not in response to it.

      2. Smithy*

        Absolutely this. While my guess is that the OP is working for a fairly small nonprofit where she and her husband both do the work and manage donors – it’s also part of the benefit of hiring a person to deal specifically with donors. Essentially someone who’s entire job and professional experience is to manage personality quirks, preferences, etc.

        As someone who has one of those jobs, if this is your worst donor – then a) you have a really lovely and kind donor base and b) this likely hurt more due to a lack of experience around this kind of awkward moment and how personally invested you are in the work. It’s not uncommon to have donors who really support part of what you do and are willing to give you money even though they don’t love XYZ. And maybe they even are giving money in hopes to be in a better place to change XYZ. For any given organization and any given donor, how you hold the boundaries around that will vary. Sometimes it means you don’t take the money, but far more often it’s about structuring donations and interactions so that you don’t talk about XYZ unless you are genuinely open to their views.

      3. Meep*

        He didn’t scream jerk or even pushy to me either. OP did scream insecure, though. I bet he was mostly excited for the prospect of new birds as a bird-head and wanted to be helpful, but OP took it as a personal affront.

    3. Forrest*

      Yes, LW2, you need to mentally separate, “my spouse and I” from “the organisation which is looking after waterfowl”. When you speak to that donor, you are not You, personally, looking after animals– you are “the donor facing person from X organisation” whose job is to be a professional donor-facing person who cares deeply about the organisation and the mission but also … doesn’t care that much, because it’s a job and an organisation, not yours and your spouse’s baby. Try and cultivate a hard wall between the you that says, “Oh no, I would like to reassure you that our birds are very well looked after! We keep a close eye on XYZ and engage with ABC to make sure we’re not missing something. Thanks for your concern, though!” and the you that says, “That cheeky @~@&^%!! How dare he!”

      However, you also need to cultivate a wall between the you that feels deep gratitude to your donors, and the you that makes decisions about what’s best for the organisation and the animals you care for. If a donor becomes more trouble than their donations are worth, you absolutely can smile and cut them off! But ideally you want to do that with your cold, “what’s best for the organisation and how we spend our time” hat on, not your, “I’ve never been so insulted!” hat on.

      Genuinely, it might help to sketch out what a larger organisational structure would look like, where these were separate roles, and think about the different skillsets that each role would need and how they would interface with other parts of the organisation. If you want the organisation to thrive, then being able to tackle different roles with different hats on and thinking about different priorities can really help.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      You told us what questions you asked–now think what subtext the donor might have heard. The donor may have assumed the next/hidden question was “…and will you pay for one for us?”
      I suspect that’s the question they were answering.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, I think you’re right. And so rather than help pay for or build one, they suggested taking the birds. I’m rather baffled as to why OP got angry about that, unless they hope to turn the shelter into a zoo rather than a place people can come to adopt pets

        1. quill*

          It sounds like they’re more in wildlife rehab / long term housing of animals than they are a “pet shelter” where they expect animals to come in and out. Domesticated waterfowl are probably longer-term residents than say, a golden retriever at a more general pet shelter, because fewer people want one or are equipped to care for it.

          1. H2*

            Yes, I think this is right. So, the ultimate goal is to help the animals. For sure, if I’m a donor with a sweet setup, and I get this call asking for advice on building something potentially complicated and expensive, I’m going to suggest that the most effective use of funds here is for me to take the birds. Not because I don’t think the non-profit can do it or anything, just because I would assume they could maximize their resources in that way. My guess is that the donor is thinking of the goal—helping the birds—rather than the non-profit.

            I definitely think that the LW here should reframe the conversation in a less personal light. And I wasn’t there! Tone matters, for sure. But I think it’s likely that it wasn’t intended to be a slam.

      2. Let's Just Say*

        Yep. OP knew that she was only asking the donor to share his expertise, but the donor didn’t know that. It’s not a huge leap for him to assume there would be a financial ask coming, so he was offering a different solution that might be more cost-effective while still giving the birds a good home. I understand how the miscommunication hurt OP’s feelings, but I honestly don’t think the donor did anything wrong.

        1. Betteauroan*

          I agree. I think you are taking this way too personally, OP. He was just trying to be helpful and you are defensive as all get out. Be grateful this man offered you advice and a workable solution. I don’t think he was trying to imply you couldn’t take care of the birds or that you were doing anything wrong.

    5. Aquawoman*

      It seems to me that every job involves dealing with blowhards. There are a couple of people at my workplace who feel like they need to explain the most basic things to me. It’s annoying, but I just roll my eyes and move on.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      You’re also going to have to deal with it with people who are technically on your side.

      I once posted a question about handling a specific potentially-hazardous (sharp) artifact to an archivists’ forum. I got a reply from one guy that it must be nice to be so overstaffed and overfunded that we only had to worry about little things like this.

      In fact, we are understaffed and underfunded even by archives standards, but we’re a medical archive so we have an uncommonly high percentage of sharp objects in our collection in the form of needles, scalpels, scarificators, etc. We also have a lot of poisons. It doesn’t make sense to take a doctor’s papers but not his medical bag or surgical kit. Dealing with all this stuff is not something we get to do when we run out of “real” work, not that we will ever run out of “real” work. But there is always somebody who will run off at the mouth before they’ve considered a bigger picture.

    7. Amtelope*

      I would think twice before asking donors for advice, honestly. Donors want to believe that you’re experts and know what you need to know to do your organization’s job. Of course you still have to reach out to people for help sometimes, but it probably shouldn’t be donors, because it undermines their confidence in your organization.

      I also agree with the commenter below that the question the donor heard was probably “how can you help us solve this problem (can you give us money to build what we want?),” and that their answer was “the simplest solution is for these birds to go to a habitat that’s already built, not for (me to fund) you to build a new one.” It’s worth thinking about, even if that’s not the direction you decide to go.

      1. Another Michael*

        This is very insightful – when asking donors for their expertise it should really be connected to an ongoing volunteer experience/something that benefits the donor and their engagement with the organization. (Which, yes, in turn should build their affinity for giving.) This type of technical advice for the benefit of the organization is a little hairy, and if this is a particularly savvy donor it would make sense for him to see descriptions of problems as the beginning of a case for support. That’s doubly true if he’s philanthropically engaged with organization where he has frequent contact with dedicated frontline staff.

    8. Malarkey01*

      I also think there may be a need to reset expectations towards donors. Absolutely never tolerate abuse or harassment and you do need a way to evaluate if a donors value to your organization is offset by their demands on your time/mission. BUT, I sit on two Boards and have occasionally had to deal with people who treat a donor as a customer or employee and get annoyed and label a lot entitled behavior. A donor is literally giving you money in exchange for nothing (other than good will and maybe some tax benefits). They have every right to ensure their funds are used responsibly and to take an interest in the organization. When I get a “how dare they question us” vibe in my organization it’s usually a um they dare because they paid for it response. Don’t take this as a donor has free reign over your org or decisions, but it’s a delicate balance that offsets your need for their continued support and them feeling like their donation gives them some interest.

      I think a lot of non profits take the importance of their mission as such a given that sometimes they look at donors as just doing what they should do and don’t recognize that it’s a gift and does come with some strings.

    9. Artemesia*

      It isn’t clear to me why, if the donor has a better set up for caring for rescued birds, the OP wants to keep them. Isn’t the whole point what is good for the birds?

  3. V*

    OP 5, ask me that in an interview and I’ll tell you I sleep like a baby. Boundaries are golden.

    1. What's in a name?*

      Yeah, I feel the phrasing needs to be tweaked a little. I would feel a bit off if someone I interviewed implied that my job was so burdensome it messed with my sleep*. Maybe “What aspect of this job causes you the most concern currently?”

      * Although I am posting that at half after midnight because wedding planning (especially a future in-law) is stressing my out.

      1. Not Up At Night*

        I echo this – Maybe it’s industry specific (or geographic location specific), but I know it wouldn’t be very well received in mine. I can just see some of the interviewers I know shooting back with a snarky remark. It seems to imply that jobs at my organization are so stressful, or the place is poorly run, that it’s a given that employees are wide wake with worries at night. Or, that the interviewers are incompetent at their jobs and they stay up at night worrying about making mistakes at work.
        If the candidate wants to know more about what challenges the interviewers/organization are commonly facing, they should just ask exactly that.
        Maybe something like “Could you talk about what are the challenges you commonly face in your role, and if I were hired, how might I be supporting you/collaborating with you on these challenges?”

        1. Ess in Tee*

          Yes! You’ve perfectly spelled out what bugs me about the question! The spirit of it is good, but the wording puts my shoulders up around my ears.

          1. quill*

            The ideal answer is “nothing” though I guess in some fields (Medicine? Social work?) that’s not possible based on the fact that there is never enough help.

            The real answer for me, in many jobs, has been “everything, I have an anxiety disorder.”

            1. Shad*

              Anxiety and a brain that does not recognize time when it comes to “hey did you do XYZ? (Even when I still have a month to do XYZ)” make for some illogical answers to what keeps you up.
              I try to keep solid boundaries, but my brain can’t quite grasp that there are set hours for “did I get the personnel file on Smith yet? Do I need to follow up on that today?” (90% of the time, we’re fine if we don’t get the personnel file at all, let alone in the first week after we open the case).

            2. fhqwhgads*

              Yeah. I didn’t ask this question, and probably wouldn’t have thought to, but one of the major differences between my last job and my current one (even though much of what I do is the same) is that work issues NEVER interrupt my sleep anymore. Not in the sense of I’m so stressed I can’t help having stress dreams about it, not in the sense that I have puzzles so difficult I can’t stop thinking about them even when I sleep. Both of those things were true at old job. Now, when I’m done at the end of the day, I don’t think about work again until I sit down back at my desk. It’s very possible that’s the answer the asker was hoping for.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          Yeah, I don’t think everyone worries about things. I generally don’t. But even if many do, I don’t think it’s good to normalise this negative feeling. I would ask ‘what work issues do you have to/end up mulling over?’.

        3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          To me, it read like a slightly more polite version of “What really sucks about working here?” Not a good thing to ask interviewers, no matter how it’s worded.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I think it’s a great question to ask. I’ve been asked this when my company was going through a split, or expansion, or acquiring new business. All these things impacted what my team was doing, and I needed to plan for and manage things differently.

              This question is not an invitation to vent about traffic or things like that. It’s about what the interviewer is giving a lot of attention to, because it matters. As a candidate, I’d want to know about that, too.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I disagree – the things that keep you up at night aren’t necessarily the suckiest things, they’re the things that you’re most concerned about.

            To illustrate the difference: I’d say the suckiest thing that’s happened at my job is getting unfairly yelled at by a jerk. When that happens it really bugs me and I might think about it for the rest of the day, but it doesn’t keep me up at night. The things that occasionally keep me up at night are much less sucky, like complex projects running behind schedule. Two different questions.

              1. ecnaseener*

                Sure, but that’s the answer I would give if asked. Being kept up at night is a specific type of stress, and if you’re invoking that idiom it’s to get at that specific type.

              2. wanda*

                Not really; it’s a different kind of stress. In my faculty job teaching x-ology, the suckiest stuff is dealing with overly nitpicky bureaucracy and mounds of paperwork. But what keeps me up at night is worrying whether I am serving my students and whether I am doing the best I can at facilitating their growth as critical thinkers, x-ologists, and people. That’s an existential worry, but it’s not “the suckiest thing” because it’s what drives me to be better at teaching x-ology.

          2. Allypopx*

            My last set of interviews I could feel the stress even from my screening interview, and called it out after a couple rounds. “Everyone seems really stressed, which I can understand to some extent due to [xyz I had learned so far]. Can you tell me a little bit about how this impacts the culture, and maybe share some things you really like about working here?”

            Got the job. Can’t say it’s always bad to ask – you should know what you’re getting into.

            1. Allypopx*

              Oh that made more sense in my head I should add I had asked earlier what challenges the organization was facing and what the major stressors were, and then followed up in this interview to ask how that was impacting culture/people.

          3. Mimi*

            Oh, I have absolutely asked, “What’s the worst part about working here?/your job?” (usually to people in equivalent positions, not managers). If the worst part is a person, you won’t always get a fully honest answer, but “filing all the required paperwork” or “crawling behind the ductwork to empty the goo trap” or “getting yelled at by grumpy customers,” can tell you a good bit about both the duties of the job and your prospective coworkers. Those worst bits are also things that people may be looking to offload onto a new person, so you REALLY want to know what they are. Much better to ask in advance and decide that you would/wouldn’t be willing to do that than to discover a month and a half in that you’re not okay with it.

            Maybe some employers would be turned off by such a question, but it my experience, more see it as you fully engaging and getting a good sense of the duties of the job.

            1. Not Up At Night*

              I am not a fan of the question in OP5 but I don’t have a problem with this question here. For me, the difference is: there is nothing implied. Even if everything about working here is good, if I were to rank every aspect of it, there is always a relative “worst” part that I can speak to.

          4. ThatGirl*

            I actually think it is, although how you word it is important. I usually say something like “what do you see as the biggest challenges of this job/facing this team/in this position” – and I pair that with asking for positives too.

            1. Jessica*

              I hate this business-speak of framing every negative as a “challenge.” I guess one can argue that every negative aspect of anything presents the “challenge” of how to deal with it, but I’d do better at either side of this interaction if we just spoke clearly and said what we meant and didn’t hide behind this business jargon where we can’t admit anything is actually bad.
              There are plenty of aspects of jobs that might be the worst because they’re actually unpleasant in some way, but don’t present any particular challenge. They are what they are, the goo trap behind the ductwork has to be cleaned out every Thursday, but there’s nothing you can do to change the situation and it’s not particularly “challenging” to deal with it.

              1. KHB*

                Yes, and it’s made even worse by how “challenge” also get used so often to refer to tasks that are interesting and fun. People who talk about how they want “challenging work” don’t usually mean that they want to challenge their intestinal fortitude by cleaning out the goo trap, for example.

                If a candidate asked me about the challenges involved in my work, I’d probably assume that she meant the fun kind. If you want to know what sucks about my job, you need to find a better way of saying what you mean.

          5. Observer*

            To me, it read like a slightly more polite version of “What really sucks about working here?”

            Not at all- the things that do or would keep me up at night are not the most annoying things or the things that drive me the craziest. The things that keep me up at night are things like “How do I keep people from falling victim to phishing attacks” and “Do we have the systems resilience to weather another flood in our main site” (Mostly, yes. But it would still be hard.) etc.

        4. BethDH*

          In my area, assuming the candidate kept a pretty casual tone, “what keeps you up at night?” would be fine.
          I’m in academic-adjacent cultural heritage. These tend to be very team-oriented, some-overlap-between-roles jobs where your headaches are likely to be my headaches. Also the frequent weekend/evening activities being just part of the deal means we’re more explicit about discussing work-life balance.
          It would matter when in the interview they ask. I think this would be fine to ask when you’re talking about strategies/ projects for the next year+, or maybe about what things would make a person stand out in the role, but not early when you’re just talking about the basics.

        5. Marketer in MN*

          I’m in Marketing and I’ve used this question or something similar (“what would you change about your role/org”) many times. The informal nature of it is what makes it effective. When I ask this, it’s never personal – I’m trying to get a view behind the corporate talking points. I don’t expect someone to air the company’s dirty laundry, but I would like to learn more about the day to day challenges faced in the role or the org. For me if one person dodges the question or gets defensive it’s a reflection of that individual, if everyone does, it can be a reflection about the culture. But in my experience, most people give thoughtful answers that flesh out the role and org in a bit more detail which helps me as candidate make the best decision possible.

          1. Allonge*

            I like what would you change about he job a lot more than either what sucks about it or what keeps you up at night. It’s much more neutral, and allows people to think about it where they could shut down with hte others.

          2. Kes*

            Yeah this is what I typically ask (what would you change), right after I ask what’s your favourite part of working here, as a counterpart, to get a sense of challenges or difficult aspects of working there that I should be prepared for.
            Personally I think this works better than “What keeps you up at night?” because when I think about what keeps me up at night, plenty of that is next things I need to do or project concerns, that wouldn’t be particularly relevant to anyone interviewing.

        6. KHB*

          Maybe something like “Could you talk about what are the challenges you commonly face in your role, and if I were hired, how might I be supporting you/collaborating with you on these challenges?”

          That’s a reasonable question too, but it’s also a sanitized question that’s likely to evoke a sanitized answer.

          It’s also not getting at exactly the same thing as the original question in Q5. “What about this job keeps you up at night?” means, specifically, what challenges do you face in this role that are so stressful that you carry the stress over into your off-hours and your personal life? Which is also a very reasonable thing for a candidate to want to know, and maybe they’re willing to risk putting off some interviewers in order to get it. It’s a question, I think, for a candidate with options – who’s fully internalized that interviewing is a two-way street, and who’s more concerned about finding a job that’s a good fit than about getting a job offer by any means necessary.

          1. Allypopx*

            Agreed. And it’s a stronger, more direct question – one sort of designed to catch the interviewers off guard so they answer candidly. Which is great! I’d be impressed as an interviewer.

            I also work in nonprofits and would be hard pressed to find a colleague who isn’t kept up at night by something work related, so maybe the wording isn’t so egregious to me.

            1. Humble schoolmarm*

              I think the appropriateness of this question really would vary considerably by field. It would be really useful in teaching, for example, because there are some stressors that just come with the territory (too much pressure, too little time) and others that are definite red flags (micromanagement, principal who plays favourites, entitled parents) and are really important to know before moving ahead with a position.

              1. Birdie*

                Agreed that the field matters. My field is really into work/life balance – I’ve worked for several organizations in multiple regions of the country, and it was always expected that you would not take the work home with you. If someone asked this question in an interview, they would look out of touch and I would wonder how much they actually understood about the field. Even if they just meant it metaphorically, it would be an odd way to ask the question.

            2. Extreme but plausible risks*

              For folks whose responsibilities include risk management (think finance) the question is definitely in scope, though hopefully a bit more rhetorical than literal.

          2. Hurricane Wakeen*

            OP5 here, and you’re dead on. This was a candidate with 20+ years of relevant experience, applying for a near-entry level job. Other candidates were fresh out of college or looking to transfer skills from a different sector.

            The commenter below is also right that the question caught us off guard. I was closest to him & ended up answering first, and I definitely felt off kilter answering it and suspect the others did too. To some degree I think that’s the genius of the question, because it got a kneejerk reaction out of all of us.

            1. Indigo a la mode*

              I think seniority plays a big part in how this question comes off. I can see it looking awfully white-knighty or inappropriate from a young upstart, but if we’re talking someone who’s coming in with a lot of experience at a higher level, it just reads as executive presence to me.

          3. boo bot*

            Yeah, I think it’s interesting, because that phrasing captures something very specific and clear that’s not easy to capture in a different way – and I think that’s borne out in the variety of answers the candidate got, ranging from political issues to personal concern about safety measures. On the other hand, I would feel uncomfortable asking something that aims so directly at people’s personal lives.

            Personally I talk a LOT, so if I were to ask this question I’d probably do it by phrasing it a few different ways at once, something like: “What some of your biggest challenges, what keeps you up at night, or what preoccupies a lot of your thinking when you’re at work?” So people can just pick a version they prefer and answer that. I get that approach might not come naturally to anyone who doesn’t just turn their mouth on and off like a faucet though.

        7. ecnaseener*

          I disagree – the wording wouldn’t insult me. I try my best to keep work-life boundaries (and my bosses support that!) but I’m not a robot, I can’t turn work-brain off like a switch.

          If you’re never kept awake at night by work thoughts, this question your chance to tell the candidate how important work-life balance is to your team and reassure them that it’s not a job where they should expect the stress to follow them home!

          1. KHB*

            Yeah, exactly. We’re big on work-life balance too, but just because you can switch your work computer off at 5:00 doesn’t mean you can also switch off that part of your brain.

            If somebody asked me this question in an interview, I’d probably be caught off guard, but I’d probably also answer honestly, and literally. Because sometimes I do lie awake worrying about work stuff, and if that’s something the candidate wants to know about, then they should know about it.

            I’d advise candidates, though, to use questions like this sparingly. If you really want to know the answer, then ask the question, but if you’re asking questions willy-nilly that cut straight to your interviewers’ personal insecurities, you may get yourself marked as an uncomfortable person to work with.

        8. jenny20*

          also, the concerns that your interview has – either as a hiring manager or as a more senior person in the organization might have very different responsibilities (and hence concerns) as compared to the role that is being filled. Part of what keeps me up at night as a supervisor might be to maintain a good environment for the people working for me. It might not be super relevant for the position in question.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, I agree that this question would be more appropriate to ask of a peer in a similar role.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I imagine a lot of this would be in the rapport / delivery. It’s not really different from asking about what’s causing concern, but I think the jokiness of the question is a little disarming and maybe prompts answers you wouldn’t otherwise get.

        That said, I think it’s kind of a familiar question and canidates probably should only use it if they have a really good feel for the room.

        1. BethDH*

          Agreed on both points! If you’re in an interview with good rapport, it’s a way to ask what the current priorities look like, which is often very different from the official strategic goals.
          Actually I wonder if this question might be most useful for those first week meetings when you’re trying to get up to speed quickly.

      3. Meep*

        My first thought was that it would make me realized all the screwed-up things at my company. Then again, the company I work for is massively screwed up (think violating labor laws and falsely billing clients) and I am trying to leave now before I report them and get tangled up with that.

      4. Koalafied*

        Yeah, I’m trying to imagine how I would handle it in a real interview, if I would have the wherewithall to mentally translate that into something like, “What vexes you the most/what are the big picture problems you’re currently working on?” or if I would have interpreted it as a question trying to probe our stability/work-life balance, or something else entirely. I’m really not sure.

        Mainly I really don’t think anyone should be losing sleep over a job, period. But I’ve also been with my org long enough that I don’t have anything to prove and it’s much easier for me to build that emotional firewall than newer staff. Even if I completely agree that something sucks or is insulting or unfair or whatever…I usually know what, if anything I can do about it in my position, and once I’ve exhausted any options I had, I decide if I can live with whatever it is, and if I can, I wash my hands of it.

        Sometimes I worry that to the kind of person who stays up worrying about their job, someone who can say, “Yeah, this is terrible. Oh well, it’s 5 PM, see you tomorrow!” and stop thinking about it reads as lacking passion for our mission or not caring about doing my job well. So as I tried to formulate a substantive answer to the question about big challenges at this job, it would be inextricably linked to all those ideas about work-life balance swimming in my head, which could end up coloring my answer.

    2. Simone*

      If I were the candidate and got that response it would tell me A LOT. i.e your company allows for boundaries and I want to work there! I don’t think every question is designed as a gotcha.

      1. Allypopx*

        Right. Not a gotcha, but certainly informative regardless of the response. Do the interviewers look puzzled, or do you get the “wooooof where do I start” sigh? If it’s a panel, do people in different positions answer with different levels of stress indicators? Is it a “I’m concerned for our mission” or “I’m worried about the board meeting” kind of answer? Even “boundaries are golden”, as you say, says a lot!

        It’s a great question.

      2. KHB*

        Huh. I thought V might have been referring to the “boundary” between interviewer and interviewee – i.e., “As far as I’m willing to tell you, I sleep like a baby, because anything else is none of your business.”

        And if I got THAT answer, it would tell me a lot too, but in a different direction.

      1. Tara*

        I would disagree, it’s just a phrase. They might as well be asking what your biggest concerns are. This is the title of a board paper our IT lead delivers every year. No one’s asking about his divorce, or is expecting him to actually be up at night thinking about these things.

        1. BRR*

          Yes exactly. It’s just a phrase. A candidate is (very likely) not asking what literally keeps you up at night or implying that you just be losing sleep over your job.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Oh haha I was definitely taking it literally and if I was asked it I’d answer literally! (As I wrote in a different comment, the things that occasionally literally keep me awake are different from the things I might vent about during the day, or the things I would name as the worst aspects of the job.)

            1. CoffeePlease*

              I think it works well figuratively and literally and can work as both at once. I wonder if whether we take it literally or not relates to whether thoughts about our jobs really disturb our sleep or not! I also wonder how much this depends on industry / workplace and how much on the individual. I’m in higher Ed and almost everyone is literally kept awake by work frequently. People have a lot of passion for research and / or students, work-life-balance is suspect in the industry (however much we talk about wellness), and the temperament of the individuals who end up in most parts of higher ed is probably likely to stay focused on work much of the time. I think it’s a somewhat risky question for faculty interviewees, who should already know. They could perhaps learn about the details of the institution or department (are people thinking about research or students? Are they thinking about budgets? But again, they might be expected to already know anything this question would elicit ). I think this question would help staff new to higher ed work but can’t speak to how it would be received.

          2. JB*

            I think there may be a dialect difference. I definitely would interpret it literally because I’ve never heard anyone use that phrase figuratively! (And I’m honestly not really sure how to interpret it in a figurative way – what delineates a concern that figuratively ‘keeps me up at night’ from one that doesn’t?)

            1. Observer*

              For instance, I have to waste an enormous amount of time fulfilling inane government requirements. That annoys me to no end, but I don’t lose sleep over it and I can’t see myself ever losing sleep over it, even though there are days where I’ve been ready to go on a 10 minute rant about the problem.

              The things that might keep me up don’t actually provoke rants. Like worrying if we’ve got sufficient resiliency to survive our building getting flooded again (we’re having some bad storms right now), how do I keep our sensitive data safe, etc.

        2. londonedit*

          I agree with Tara, it’s just a turn of phrase. It’s not literal – no one is asking what you literally lie awake at night thinking about. To me, ‘what keeps you up at night about this job’ would roughly translate to ‘what are the issues at the heart of what you’re trying to achieve’ or ‘what do you come to work every day trying to achieve’. Someone else mentioned ‘what gets you up in the morning’ – that doesn’t mean ‘my alarm clock’, in an interview context it would mean ‘what is it about the mission or the purpose you’re working towards that makes you want to come to work every day?’. So, in my industry, if I asked a potential boss ‘what keeps you up at night about this job?’ I’d expect them to say something like ‘Making sure we publish books that get to the heart of what people want to read’ or ‘Trying to give every author the time and space to write the best book they possibly can, while also trying to balance the competing needs of schedules and budgets’. Do those things *literally* keep people up at night? Probably not. But to me, the question means ‘What is the most important part of the job you’re doing; the one thing that you worry about failing to achieve’.

          1. Allonge*

            The thing is, the part of the job that literally keeps me up at night as a manager is how I am handling individuals who report to me – am I being fair, etc. Which I may or may not want to discuss in an interview, as these are always specific cases of people you may never know.

            So at least for me the actual qustion you are asking (your last sentence) would work so much better.

            1. Yorick*

              But if you answered it literally, the candidate would know that you put a lot of thought and effort into those aspects of managing, which would be good information.

              1. Allonge*

                IF I did – that’s a big if. Most likely I would ask them to specify what they mean. Just on this page there are at least five people saying it obviously means X or Y, with not a lot of overlap.

                I suppose if you take it on he meta level and say, this is a question that most likely allows the interviewee to find out some random bits of info about the job that otherwise they would not, then it works, it’s a good one for that. As a question for specific things, not really.

                1. Koalafied*

                  Yeah, I don’t think it’s a great question – there are IMO better ones that get at the same thing with less potential for baggage being attached to the phrasing – but it’s far from a terrible one, and I suspect how good/not good/bad it is will vary a lot by field/region/etc.

                  In fields where people really do literally frequently lose sleep over problems at work, or feel like there’s an expectation that they should be losing sleep if they really cared/were committed to success – nonprofits, education, high pressure law, I’m sure others – the phrase is more than just a colloquialism. It’s bringing all of the field-specific baggage around overwork and dysfunctional expectations of emotional labor into the conversation. And if that’s something you want to bring into the conversation, that’s fine – you just want to be aware enough of your field and local norms to know what kind of answer the question will trigger.

          2. rural academic*

            I would interpret the question literally, which means it also feels overly personal to me — I don’t actually care to get into my personal anxieties with an interviewee I may or may not ever see again.

          3. PT*

            I worked somewhere where our first staff person came in at 5 am. If there were any problems, you’d get woken up at 4 am (the person calling in sick) or 5 am (the person is there but something is really wrong and they need help.)

            So literally, if you were in charge you’d wake up at 4 or 5 am in a cold sweat and check your phone to make sure everything was OK.

          4. Emilia Bedelia*

            Frankly, this is not at all how I’d interpret it. I’d answer this question with the most unusual, unpredictable, pressing concerns that I don’t understand – my day to day responsibilities and core job don’t keep me up at night, and it’d be a red flag for me if someone was so invested into the basics of their job, they were losing sleep about it.
            I think that’s the problem with the question – it can mean many things to different people, so it may not actually get the answer the interviewee is looking for.

      2. meyer lemon*

        Actually, I like it because it’s assertive. It’s not that unusual for interviewers to ask really invasive, personal questions (“What was the worst moment in your life?”; “What is your greatest personal failure?”) and I don’t think this is anywhere near that realm. It’s clearly information that benefits the candidate to know, and if the candour of it throws interviewers off their stride a bit, so be it. I think the power dynamics of an interview could stand to be challenged, and this is really pretty mild as far as that goes.

    3. Virginia Plain*

      I think that’s as useful an answer as any to be honest. My response would be to explain how as a member of the taskforce against meanness to kittens it is important to leave my job at the office door and not brood in my off hours over how some people don’t pet the fluffy kitties or give them treats – for the benefit of my mental health. Then I’d take the opportunity to mention our EAP and role-specific regular psych chats that the company provides, to monitor welfare and check for burnout or even ptsd.

      1. BRR*

        I’m worried This is going to sound snarky in text and I really don’t mean it that way so I apologize but would you actually answer a candidate this way? As a candidate I wouldn’t consider this a great answer. I would much prefer to hear what’s actually concerning and would be a little turned off at an employer who avoided the question. I’d also probably be turned off if an interviewer didn’t understand it was just a phrase and would be worried there might be possible communication issues between me and the employer if I worked there.

        1. Lunch Ghost*

          I don’t think it’s avoiding the question, because the answer you’re looking for about the most upsetting/concerning part of the job– facing head-on the issues that the task force deals with– is nested in there.

        2. Yorick*

          Agreed, this wouldn’t be a good answer. The first part about the company encouraging a healthy work-life balance would be good, but I’d then want you to pivot to a work-related issue that you wrestle with during your working time. The question isn’t literally about the interviewers’ sleep or worry or whatever, it’s about things going on at work that are challenging or concerning.

        3. Yorick*

          Also, you’re right in that I definitely wouldn’t want to work for someone who would refer me to EAP and psych if I used a colloquialism

        4. Koalafied*

          No, I’d say this is on point. I’m also in nonprofits and I’m pretty sure my answer would also involve more of me getting up on a soapbox about how people shouldn’t be kept up at night by their jobs. Because it’s A Thing in our field that people either learn how to stop letting the job affect them emotionally, or they wash out of the field by the time they’re 35. Depending on whether I’d be managing this person or what I know about the person who will be managing the role, I would absolutely consider it to be more valuable to use this opportunity to shed some light on what the expectations around that are going to be in the role they’re interviewing for, than to talk about some aspect of my job that vexes me but that may be completely unrelated to anything the applicant will be dealing with.

      2. Fierce Jindo*

        I would find that response—invoking the EAP—to be bizarre. I think you can say you leave work at work without pathologizing those who sometimes ruminate on it at home.

        1. No Tribble At All*

          I think Virginia Plain probably works on a task force for a much less pleasant problem than insufficient snuggles for kittens. In that case, mentioning how the org deals with legitimately distressing problems while protecting the mental health of their employees would be helpful!

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          I disagree. If you’re in a field that is high stakes or high emotion where burnout is a problem, proactively talking about the various tools your company has to help employees deal with the inevitable stress of the job is a fantastic answer.

          1. Yorick*

            Telling the candidate about the EAP might be good – but only if they then answered the question about a work-related issue that is challenging or concerning

    4. Cranky lady*

      I’m heard this question from a candidate and it was said in such an upbeat tone that no one took it the wrong way. Having said that, the field I am in does keep everyone up thinking about lots of ideas/plans/worries.

    5. CM*

      The negative responses to the phrasing are interesting… never occurred to me someone would take this phrase literally. At my company, for years “keep-awakes” was a buzzword (like “What are your keep-awakes about this project?”) and only stopped being one when we grew internationally, at which point we also gave up baseball metaphors and other American-centric phrasing. For me, “what keeps you awake at night” is different than “what’s stressful / challenging about your job” — plenty of routine things are stressful or challenging, but I’d answer the keep-awake question with either a big-picture problem that seems intractable, or an emergency that pops up occasionally.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        In my volunteer work, I once had a problem that did keep me awake all night. The next morning I decided, right I’m going to solve this today or resign. I solved it (had to call someone instead of just email them, all I did was say the same things again but hearing me say it must have been more reassuring than reading my email). And I vowed never to let it keep me awake again, because volunteer work has to be pleasant and rewarding, not a source of stress.

        At paid work, I learned to change mindset from “Mum” to “worker” and back to “Mum” during my commute and even had trouble trying to remember what was on my to-do list until I got to work and saw what I’d written the night before.

    6. Pool Lounger*

      Yeah, at former jobs either nothing kept me up at night, or the thing that did would be tough to talk about in an interview, especially if it was an interview that multiple coworkers were conducting.

    7. LTL*

      Yeah I didn’t like it either though I can see what some commentators are saying about it working if you can pull off a joking tone. Personally, I’ve used “whats one thing you would change about your job/department?” but I haven’t gotten a “thats an excellent question” reaction described in the letter.

    8. RagingADHD*

      Yeah, I’d soften it to, maybe “If there’s anything about this job that keeps you up at night, what would it be?”

      I’m not looking to work anywhere that major stress and worries are an expected part of the role. And if management is super-stressed, I want to know going in whether it’s about the industry in general, about the company’s stability, or if they are overly concerned about the team delivering good work (which could reveal poor management).

      The HR person being worried about Covid safety makes perfect sense in context. But if there were huge safety concerns in a normal year, that’s a red flag.

    9. Lora*

      Reading through all the comments on this subject – seems like the majority of people saying “this is a terrible question, I would answer it literally as ‘what are your personal sleeping habits’ and my first language IS English thanks” are in academia, whereas the majority of people who are responding, “no, this is a perfectly cromulent question, it’s just a way of saying what is your biggest challenge or what is the most important thing you struggle with” are industry folks.

      We’ve seen other academia / industry divides before – this one strikes me as really odd for some reason though. Of all the weirdness I’ve seen in academia, this is definitely one of the odder ones, given its laser-like focus on exact phrasing.

      1. Let's Just Say*

        Agreed. “What’s keeping you up at night?” or “I won’t lose any sleep over it” are extremely common idioms. The candidate is not actually inquiring into your personal sleep habits, and that’s obvious if you think about how strange a literal answer would be. “I take an Ambien before bed, so, nothing!” That’s a weird overshare, and it obviously doesn’t answer the question. The insistence of interpreting this question literally, as if figures of speech don’t exist, is really odd. Makes it an even more useful question, though, because if I asked this and my interviewer acted very taken-aback, offended, or was concerned and talked about the EAP in response, that would be a yellow flag that there’s a communication/culture misfit.

        1. Koalafied*

          I don’t think it’s actually that odd – in a context where an idiom can commonly be literally true, there’s going to naturally be more confusion around whether or not to take it literally.

          If I write code for a living and I tell my coworker, “I stepped in some sh*t today,” they’re obviously going to recognize it as a figure of speech. If I muck out horse stalls for a living and say the same thing to a fellow stable hand, it’s reasonable for them to assume, or at least wonder if, what I’m saying is I literally stepped in horse manure.

          1. allathian*

            As someone who’s mucked out the occasional stable during riding camps as a teen, for a stable hand to step in muck is such a normal part of the job that it’s not even worth mentioning.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Huh! Well, I can be one data point: I’m in academia and I do sometimes lose sleep over work, usually when there’s a student issue I can’t solve. Administrative hassles are whatever, but when I can’t help a student, it makes me feel horrible. And I haven’t heard “keep-awake” as a buzzword as mentioned upthread.

    10. Emilia Bedelia*

      Agree – I don’t think it’s entirely clear what they are asking for.

      I’ve asked before “What are the biggest challenges for this position?” or “What are some common things that people struggle with in this role?” and I think those more clearly get to the point of the question. I see this as almost the opposite of the “what separates good from great” question.

    11. COra*

      Exactly. Nothing about work keeps me up at night. Nothing at work even annoys me that much, and it sounds like I’m in a similar role to the panelists. Work is just not an emotional thing.

      I do think you can ask specifically about problems. I’ve had good success asking “What was a major change your company had to make in the past year, and how did you handle that?”

    12. Firecat*

      Yeah I would flatly say – I’m not kept up at night. Is there something specific you are trying to learn about the role or culture with that question?

      I assume the OPs real question is something like – what about this role is the most challenging and stressful?

      Keeping you up at night is such an odd thing to assume about others. Not everyone has anxiety at that level.

  4. Observer*

    #3- I’m concerned that I might be seen as greedy or ungrateful, and maybe that fear comes from toxic managers I’ve had in the past, but I still feel awkward about asking for the money to compensate such a short period of time, even though I technically earned it.

    No “maybe” about it – your concern is ABSOLUTELY the result of toxic messages, most probably from toxic managers.

    Keep this in mind. YOU *EARNED* THAT MONEY. I would put that in red if this site allowed that kind of formatting. Not “technically”, but in actual fact and legal obligation.

    Please keep in mind that they are LEGALLY REQUIRED to pay this money. Paying you what they OWE you is not just a favor they are doing you.

    1. John Smith*

      It may not be toxic messages from managers though. It could just be that the LW is not very assertive or has low self esteem, or is very self reliant and doesn’t like asking for help (or for anything else). Or maybe the way the LW has come across to someone in the past in asking for something has seemed negative or hostile and was rebuked. We don’t know.

      But I think it’s well established by Alison that the LW should have absolutely nothing to fear in asking for what is owed to them, and if anything negative does come from such a request and assuming the request was as Alison describes, then we can say the employer’s a toxic sludge ball.

      1. Adam*

        I think this also could be a cultural thing. Lots of cultures have taboos of varying strength about talking about money directly, and while I’ve never seen them apply to correcting a pay mistake, the letter writer may not realize that.

      2. NotJane*

        Except that OP specifically mentioned that as a possibility:

        “…maybe that fear comes from toxic managers I’ve had in the past…”

    2. Lionheart26*

      I don’t know….. I could see myself doing this, and I don’t have any toxic payment history to blame it on. When I was less experienced and confident in the workplace, I probably would have decided it was easier to just forego 2 days of pay and remain grateful I HAD a well paid job and a good working relationship with the office. I mean 30 days pay is less than 32, but its a lot more than the 0 I’d have if I were still unemployed.

      1. Observer*

        and I don’t have any toxic payment history to blame it on.

        The issue is not necessarily toxic payment, but toxic messages in general. The problem here is not just that the OP didn’t ask for the pay that they worked for, but that they are afraid of looking “greedy” or “ungrateful”. That makes no sense unless they have worked in environments with the kind of toxic messaging that tells people to swallow abuse because “you should be GRATEFUL to have a job! Any job!” or messages like that. Even if the problems are not around payroll. Or if they have been in other environments where any attempt to fix a problem gt similar types of responses.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I don’t agree. You can absolutely absorb the message that you should shrink to accomodate other’s percieved needs early on in life, even before you start working.

          1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

            Good point. I know I certainly did that for a long time, without even realizing it, not just at work but in multiple areas of my life.

            But it definitely did stem from receiving toxic messages. It’s just that my toxic parents were the source of those messages rather than some toxic boss!

        1. Observer*

          Yes, me too. No one should have to feel like they have “earn” their pay a SECOND time.

      2. Artemesia*

        This kind of mindset is often the collision of being raised as a compliant girl who MUST please others AND a toxic workplace. And this kind of mindset gets people to stay in a terrible job because they need to be loyal, or ‘they need me’, or ‘the place would fall apart if I left.’ It is really important as an employee to act in ways that are in your personal interest. You of course, make sure you get paid the money you are owed, but you also ask for raises, have boundaries on your time and how you are treated, and you move on when it is in your interest to do so. None of this requires being anything but a pleasant person to work with.

        1. LW Never Said They Were A Girl*

          Where does LW say they identify as female? Let’s please refrain from assuming anyone’s sex or gender.

    3. Not Up At Night*

      This. OP, maybe think about it this way: paying employees is a business transaction. Its not personal. You’re not Oliver Twist asking “Please sir I want some more.” Normally run businesses actually want to pay employees the right amount, but errors do happen from time to time. It’s normal to give a heads-up to payroll about it so they know to rectify it. BTW if you were paid too much in error, you should speak up too just as if you were paid too little.

      1. pleaset cheap rolls*

        All true, but it’s probably deeper than just this transaction. The OP must learn to assert themselves and speak up. IN LIFE.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Please keep in mind that they are LEGALLY REQUIRED to pay this money.

      Exactly this. It’s unhelpful for you to allow your office to accrue debt without realizing it. If anything, you’re doing them a kindness by politely alerting them to the error.

      A reasonable company will respond effectively, and if they’re unreasonable? Best to find out early so you know what you’re dealing with.

    5. Virginia Plain*

      I think worrying about asking the company for money owed is basically making a problem where it’s likely none exists (no criticism implied; most of us have been there!). It’s a mistake and it’s easy to see how it was made, and they haven’t noticed so you politely point out this mistake and it will likely soon be solved.
      The only reason to be scared to ask is if a) they have some bananacrackers philosophy that you work there out of the goodness of your heart and the wages are a bonus so you are greedy to want all your pay – unlikely, b) they are purposefully withholding your pay for their own nefarious reasons – also unlikely.
      Basically, in the absence of other evidence, mistakes are more common than outright malice.

      1. KRM*

        And they WANT to fix any errors! If they get audited, the auditors can pull it up and say “Hmmm, you haven’t paid OP3 for these first two days, why is that?” and it gets more complicated. If OP just says “I just noticed that I wasn’t paid for my first two days” they can fix it! I’m sure it was just an oversight by payroll, since it was two days at the end of a period. Just be very matter of fact and they’ll be happy you caught the error and not an outside person!

        1. JJ*

          Agreed! Usually when I point out an invoice wasn’t paid or some other clerical error, my clients jump to fix it. Good employers want to keep you happy just as much as you want to keep them happy, and paying you correctly is a big part of that.

    6. ecnaseener*

      #3 reminds me of my younger self, when I worked part time for a nonprofit in college. I was supposed to be reimbursed for some expenses, and I misplaced the reimbursement check…and was too embarrassed to ask them to cut another check. Eventually the owner was like hey my books aren’t balanced, why haven’t you cashed this check??

      Part of this was because they’re a nonprofit and I “didn’t like taking money from them,” but part was definitely just a general social conditioning not to demand money. I don’t remember any experiences in earlier jobs that would explain it – tbh as a Jew you just become hyper-sensitive to being perceived as greedy.

      1. Observer*

        tbh as a Jew you just become hyper-sensitive to being perceived as greedy.

        Talk about toxic messaging!

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      I’m sitting on an unpaid bill and would like to thank you and Alison for your words, I shall email that client now!

    8. JJ*

      Don’t fret about this, OP! If your employer is decent they’ll be like “oh whoops, let me double check and get this resolved for you” totally no big deal. If your employer is better than decent, they’ll also add in something about how it’s important to them that you be paid correctly and on time.

      It’s hard to point out when your employer makes an error like this, but like Alison said, “printer is out of ink” tone is all you need here. It’s just a standard clerical error you’re all working together to fix. If it helps, maybe pretend you’re advocating for someone else, like maybe a vendor whose invoice was paid two days short.

  5. Kella*

    For OP2: I run a weekly social dance (or did prepandemic) that is totally supported by volunteers and donations from the community. It happens quite a lot that people give me unsolicited advice about how to better run my event. It’s really easy to take this personally because 9 times out of 10, I have far more event-organizing experience than they do and they’re framing it as if they’re offering expertise as opposed to customer feedback. It’s annoying.

    If I think the advice they’re offering is in good faith, I might gently use language like Alison suggested to correct them or make a joke about why I can’t do the thing they’re suggesting. If they keep pushing, then my go-to phrase is, “Thanks for the input. I’ll keep that in mind.” Most people read into this answer whatever they want to hear and they drop the subject.

    1. Former Child*

      Yes, thank them and keep it in mind. If they press you more you can always say you’ll consult w/an expert. That’s what I would do w/the donor if he pressed more here. Say you’ll consult with the experts about his SPECIFIC idea.

      But has the donor not SEEN the place he’s donating to? Why didn’t he know how it’s set up and notice what she’s talking about?


      In general, if someone’s pushy I like saying I’ll ask an expert source. That can back them off while also making them feel heard. Then you can tell them it’s all OK. But be sure you do check w/an expert about their point, clarify what they’re saying.

  6. Double A*

    I’m curious what the legal liability would be in letter 1. It definitely sounds like a bad situation that at best is a total drain on the company and at worst could blow up in everyone’s faces, but what is the legal issue? Sexual harassment?

    There are all sorts of power dynamic issues with an affair with the owner, and I’m not defending it in any way, I’m just curious what the actual legal implications are.

    1. PollyQ*

      Could be a sexual harassment case in 3 ways that I can see:

      1. Owner has made it clear to employee that her job is dependent on her being in a relationship with him, aka “quid pro quo.”
      2. If employee ends the relationship and owner retaliates in any way, from changing her assignments or demoting her, up to firing her.
      3. If another employee feels that she’s been pushed aside in favor of the employee due to 1st employee’s relationship. There have been cases where a 3rd party who didn’t get the same perks as an affair partner has won a suit, even if the affair partner had no complaints.

      In some cases, there are stricter regulatory “conflict of interest” type rules, although it doesn’t sound like this is an issue for LW.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        These, or if the employee feels pressured even subtly to continue the relationship (or to have entered into it in the first place); it doesn’t have to be an explicit quid pro quo to still be an issue.

        1. AcademiaNut*

          I’m curious about how #3 works, because that sounds like SOP for a lot of family businesses, where the owner of their business hires their spouse (someone they are in a sexual relationship with) and gives them preferential treatment.

          1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

            A spouse or parter existing before the work relationship is a different power dynamic, though if they are making out/doing other things in front of people they could in theory create a hostile environment meeting the definition, however in those cases just going home and having a relationship doesn’t meet the criteria. There are other challenges with family businesses and nepotism, but that doesn’t generally meet the scenarios listed above.

          2. hbc*

            Not too familiar with the legal side, but I think the practical approach is to consider whether there could reasonably be pressure to do things that are not allowed to be considered as part of your job. While there often is favoritism of spouses and relatives, it’s pretty unreasonable to think that the spouse is getting ahead simply because of the (presumed) sex rather than the familial relationship, and it’s not illegal to prefer family members.

            I mean, I suppose you could argue that family members are favored which means there’s pressure for you to date and subsequently marry one of them so you become family, but it’s a pretty big stretch.

      2. Ann Perkins*

        1 and 2, definitely. It’s even worse when it’s a low performer. IANAL (former paralegal though and work in regulatory) but I’m in the same position as OP 1 and and have considered legal action based on 3, but the case law I’ve read indicates courts won’t find in favor of a plaintiff in favoritism cases because it’s equally disadvantageous to everyone else, not just one gender.

        1. Former Child*

          I wonder if a company, say, HR, has ever hired a private investigator for a case like this?

          If it’s the owner of a small business probably not, but he’s just an executive, maybe that can happen.

  7. Not Up At Night*

    #5: Personally I wouldn’t love being asked this. I know it’s not meant to be taken literally, it still carries a load of presumption that anything about this job would stress me out so much that I would lie awake worrying. If they asked me that, I will tell them that my job is fast paced and has new challenges everyday, that’s why I love this job but it doesn’t make me up at night. Maybe a different phrasing would work better: “In your role, what are some of the challenges you commonly have to deal with?”

    1. John Smith*

      I would so love to answer that question (in either form) and watch the interviewee grab their stuff and dash out
      of the room.

    2. PollyQ*

      Yes, I like your rewording much better. It doesn’t seem like to much to ask to have a job that doesn’t cause you to miss sleep due to overwhelming stress.

    3. Czhorat*

      I wouldn’t take “what keeps you up at night” that literally; it’s a common enough shorthand for “that which brings the most concern”.

      At is always the case, how to ask depends on you. My style might lead more to the OP’s suggestion, while others might want to be less dramatic. So long as it’s reasonably professional there are few rules.

      1. Forrest*

        Yeah, it’s very clearly a figure of speech for me. And there are also people saying that it suggests that working there is stressful, but for me “the stuff that I don’t have an immediate answer to and that I’m having to figure out” is the exciting part of the job. It’s the bit where you’re doing creative thinking and coming up with solutions and learning stuff! Having a job without that would be very, very dull.

        1. The Other Dawn*

          Same here. I wouldn’t take it literally. It’s a figure of speech. Depending who you ask, the answer might be, “the ever-changing regulations” or “the speed at which people find ways to try and beat the safeguards in place.”

          1. Sacred Ground*

            Except it’s a figure of speech that means “something that causes you *excessive* stress and anxiety” and it’s presuming that there IS something about your job that causes *excessive* stress such that it interferes with your life outside of work.

        2. Yorick*

          This is true – some people will talk about stressful parts of the job while others will talk about more intellectual/creative challenges that they think about a lot

    4. Jackalope*

      One of the great perks about my job is that I don’t take anything home at night. I’m not allowed to do that literally due to regulations, and we’re encouraged not to do that metaphorically either; once we’re done for the day we’re done and they don’t want us stewing over it. I won’t say that I’ve never thought about work at night after I’m off but it’s not the norm in any way.

        1. Myrin*

          It is, but it also doesn’t seem to be the answer to what the candidate actually meant by that question; it’s the literal answer, whereas the question seems to have been intended as a hyperbolic/metaphorical inquiry about challenges faced during work hours.
          I feel like that’s what’s tripping people up about it, and I’m actually a little surprised everyone on the OP’s panel seems to have understood it exactly as it was meant (or maybe it does carry a different undertone in English; my language has a similar expression, too, but it’s meant much more literally or at least regarding stuff way more severe than challenges/normal problems).

          1. Eliza*

            I think how literally people are taking it may also be industry-dependent. Some industries attract intense personalities who will stay up at night thinking about their work even when the workload is reasonable (I’m thinking of creative fields here); other industries have the kind of high, personal stakes that it’s hard not to take home with you (healthcare, sometimes education).

            1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

              Agreed – I think this is really highlighting different industry experience. I work in a field a little like your second category and we often deal with patients who are in very difficult situations. Talking about managing the personal impact of the work is a matter of course.

              An interviewer who balked at this question, in my industry, would be a major red flag (you don’t want to work at an org that doesn’t acknoweledge the personal toll of the work, for a number of reasons).

              On the other hand, this would also be a slightly odd question, because the answer is likely to be obvious.

              1. Washi*

                Yeah, I’m a social worker and have worked in nonprofits for most of my career and this question would generally be pretty well understood!

            2. PT*

              I was in a safety-oriented field that no one took seriously. So basically I’d be like, “We must make sure the llamas have their llama pox vaccinations on time, or they will get sick and die.” And people would like, “Nah llama pox isn’t a real disease and vaccines are expensive, I’m not approving that PO.”

              Then I’d be like, “OK the llamas cannot be out on the field during a thunderstorm, they and their riders might get struck by lightning, it is unsafe,” and I’d get back, “Canceling llama riding lessons is too expensive, you can only cancel it if there is a downpour.”

              Then I’d be like, “Our llama trainers must be certified by the American Llama Association,” and I’d get back, “Oh but we’re shorthanded so let’s just send anyone who applies to a class with Diane, she’ll sign off on their cert even if they don’t pass all the skills, that way we’ll be able to have them work ASAP.”

              Meanwhile if a llama got llamapox or a rider got struck by lightning or someone got injured because the llama trainer had a fake certification we could get sued to oblivion and I could lose my house. That stuff kept me up at night.

            3. meyer lemon*

              You might be right about that. I work in a creative industry and definitely that kind of phrasing wouldn’t be out of line here. Maybe in an industry that is less “passion-driven” and has more professional boundaries, it would sound weirder. But clearly it was effective in the environment the LW works in–if anyone thinks this would be weird in their own industry, that might be sign not to use it.

          2. hbc*

            I’d find it troublesome if my interviewer (or interviewee) took every question so literally. “What keeps you up at night?” should not be answered by “Nothing” or “My teething baby” or “Insomnia.” From context, it’s clear that the person wants to know about the biggest work headaches*. “I personally think one of the best things about this job is that I’m able to leave it at the office, but the most intractable problem I’ve got is […].”

            *I realized after I typed it that I still used a bodily health term to describe work issues, which shows how common it is to use these types of descriptors. You don’t have to literally have your head hurt to answer the spirit of question.

            1. Patty Mayonnaise*

              I actually like the phrasing of “what gives you a work headache?” better because it’s more general.
              I interpret “what keeps you up at night?” as “what stresses you out so much about the job that you are taking it home with you” which in my industry would have fairly obvious answers. The “work headache” idea includes both things you are worried about during work hours and out of work hours which to me makes it more valuable (though the “up at night” phrasing works better if you DO want to know about stressors people take home with them)

            2. Jackalope*

              I hear what you are saying. At the same time, one of my prior jobs (nonprofit working overseas) we literally took our work home with us. I would have the people I worked with (clients) staying at my house for the weekend, or dropping by until 11:00 or midnight (culturally appropriate there), and when I wasn’t with them the type of job still ate up all of my mental energy. (One of my good friends from in the US once noted in concern, “Jackalope, I just asked you how you’re doing and you spent the next few minutes telling me about the well being of your clients but nothing about you. I don’t think this is healthy.”)

              So for me personally, when I started my current job and one of our trainers said in week one that there are three overall expectations for us – come to work (including punctuality, etc.), do our job (correctly and we’ll), and go home to live our lives – I almost cried. I’m still here over a decade later, in part because of that statement. So maybe I’m taking this too literally, but that’s some of the information I would want to know about a job – do they expect me to have a normal life outside of work, or IS life my work?

          3. Observer*

            ; it’s the literal answer, whereas the question seems to have been intended as a hyperbolic/metaphorical inquiry about challenges faced during work hours.

            Yes, but it also speaks to the attitude of the organization / the speaker to leaving the office in the office. I would follow up that answer with a question getting at how this happens. Is this a case of “I may have challenges but I do not and will not think about them once I leave the office for the day”? Or is it “Fortunately, I don’t face any issues that deeply concern me”?

          4. Emilia Bedelia*

            I think there’s a lot of ways to interpret it even without taking the question literally – the issues that really concern me the most (the “can’t sleep at night”s) are things like a project going off the rails, a mistake that I made, a big audit the next day, etc.
            If someone asked me about what the biggest issues/concerns about my job in general though, I’d have a lot more to say about overwhelming bureaucracy and understaffing/too many things going on at once. If you asked me what my core motivation is, or the biggest concern for my job as a whole, I’d say patient safety and compliance.

            Maybe one of those answers is what the candidate is actually looking for, but how am I to know? I’m in an industry that values clear and concise communication and and this question would not be a great example of that.

    5. tra la la*

      I don’t love it either and I wouldn’t ask it (or respond well to being asked it) because it carries a lot of implications about living only for your work etc. Asking about challenges in the role makes more sense to me, because it doesn’t carry that extra weight of implying that people are or should be mentally taking their work home with them.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Sorry, I don’t see those implications at all. It sounds like you have excellent mental discipline to be able to just shut your work-brain off when you’re done for the day, and you can’t fathom a middle ground between that and “living only for your work.” There is a vast middle ground there!

        1. tra la la*

          I don’t have that kind of discipline at all, and I work in a field that is currently struggling with an emphasis on “living only for work.” Different disciplines, different responses, and guess what, I get to have my opinion and you get to have yours!

    6. Cora*

      I much prefer “What do you expect to be the biggest initial challenges for the person in this role?” It has got me some really good insight before now.

      1. Susan Calvin*

        That’s a very good question too, but doesn’t quite get at the same thing I’d think. Knowing that there is a lot of institutional knowledge to absorb about our history with a client, or that the software we need has a steep learning curve are very different from knowing that my manager is concerned about the strategic direction of our client portfolio, or that she struggles to balance management tasks with project work (which would both be valuable to know, even if they’re not problems that directly concern me)

        1. Forrest*

          Yes, definitely– and knowing what the biggest challenges facing your *manager* or even their manager is much more about the strategic picture than the operational one.

      2. Perfectly Particular*

        I don’t think it hits the heart of the question at all though… challenges often include the day to day work and maybe some political things, but “what keeps you up at night” can be so much bigger than that. I work in medical (not healthcare) and through the years, this answer may have varied from thinking about a specific doctor or patient, the future of our global company/my job if the elderly owner passed, what the new EU regulations would mean for our business, or a technical challenge that the team hadn’t been able to solve. I think it’s a great question, and I would be happy to answer it if asked. Current answer… How is our new product going to be received in the field, what’s my next project, who will I report to, and how will I work with them to get promoted?

    7. Bagpuss*

      Yes, I feel that the phrasing is a bit odd, and will be off putting to a lot of employers.

      It’s good it worked in the LW’s case but more generally, I think phrasing it as what the biggest challenges in the role are, and/or what challenges the company has faced and how they overcame them would be more professional ways to answer the question.

      I think even if the question wasn’t intended literally it does reinforce unhealthy attitudes and lack of boundaries and balance between work and life – which as an employer would concern me as to whether this person was coming from somewhere that they’d burnt out, and if I were an employee and got a bunch of answers like that might worry me that I would be going into a very high stress environment.

      I’d be interested to know if the LW’s organization offered this candidate the role, and whether they accepted if she did!

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        It’s good it worked in the LW’s case but more generally, I think phrasing it as what the biggest challenges in the role are, and/or what challenges the company has faced and how they overcame them would be more professional ways to answer the question.

        I agree that those are more professional, but they’re also pretty route and tend to get pretty cut-and-dried answers.

        I don’t think OP’s question would fly in every setting (although that might be a feature, not a bug) but I actually think there is some merit to asking tougher questions and not just sticking to the script every once in a awhile. To me the departure from ‘interview-jargon’ is likely part of the point.

        1. Washi*

          I think you’ve summed up what I like about the question. I’m a social worker and my answer to something like “biggest challenge in the role” would be centered around having to learn about the organization’s process and community resources while balancing a full caseload. Whereas what keeps me up at night is that our agency is currently understaffed and I don’t think our clients are getting the best possible care at the moment. That’s negative enough that I wouldn’t bring it up proactively, but it’s good information and I might let it out in an unguarded moment when asked the right question!

          1. EPLawyer*

            Yeah challenges during the day are one thing, things you bring home at night, even mentally are another. The latter is really good information to know, especially if you are looking for a decent work life balance. If I know that the job is likely to cause a lot of mental stress because everyone is worried about getting the biggest client happy who is a PITA and always moving the goalposts, I need to know that when interviewing. I don’t need to know that the biggest challenge is figuring out the arcane case management system, that’s just learning curve. I need to know the CULTURE. And what keeps people up at night tells a lot about culture.

      2. Spencer Hastings*

        Hmm, I don’t know — I like to keep a separation between work and life, and I’m encouraged by my manager to disconnect from work when I’m not working, but I feel like it’s inevitable that thoughts related to work issues do at least come to mind outside of work hours (and, let’s face it, vice versa).

    8. Panny Fack*

      That’s a safer way to phrase it for sure, but much less impactful. The original may be overstepping but there’s a reason why the letter writer was so moved by it as to submit it here as a standout question. It intentionally eschews safe corporate/HR phrasing.

    9. Felicia*

      I didn’t even consider that it shouldn’t be taken literally so I probably would have been confused amd just answered literally that I don’t think much about work outside work other than maybe the occasional passing thought during waking hours and although there can be some stress nothing is so big that it intrudes into my personal time. I’d never want a job that kept me up at night I love sleep

      1. ecnaseener*

        And that’s a valuable answer about the stress levels of this job! If candidate wants general info about your biggest concerns, they can follow up with that question.

      2. Sigrid*

        That’s my biggest problem with it. It never occurred to me that it shouldn’t be taken literally until I started reading the comments from people saying “this is obviously a metaphor”. It’s not actually obvious! I would not have answered the question the OP was actually asking, which is the problem with using metaphors.

        1. rural academic*

          Yeah, it’s not “obviously a metaphor” to me, at all; I also have colleagues who talk about how the problems of higher ed keep them up at night in very literal ways (almost as if they are priding themselves on how much they worry), so I respond negatively to the idea that work worries should be (?) causing me insomnia.

          1. tra la la*

            I’m in higher ed and this is where I am too. It’s not a great question for my field, especially because so much work in higher ed is individual (“worried about my tenure file” etc.)

            But I really don’t understand why people have decided this has to be some universally wonderful question and why people are taking disagreement so personally. It’s not a question I’d ask; there are variations that feel less personal/intrusive that I would ask.

            1. rural academic*

              Yeah, likewise.

              I honestly don’t think there’s any one question that is universally applicable to all interviews across all fields of work. People interviewing for jobs need to know their context, their field, the kinds of roles they are applying for, and base their questions on that.

    10. Observer*

      If they asked me that, I will tell them that my job is fast paced and has new challenges everyday, that’s why I love this job but it doesn’t make me up at night.

      Do you not think that this is valuable information for a job seeker?

      Maybe a different phrasing would work better: “In your role, what are some of the challenges you commonly have to deal with?”

      Different question. And different impact.

      1. Not Up At Night*

        Do you not think that this is valuable information for a job seeker?

        Yes I do think that, and I understand perfectly the intent of the question. That’s exactly why I would answer it this way, as opposed to “Oh I take a melatonin at night and I sleep very well,” which would likely not provide useful information to the candidate.
        However, just because I am able to make the correct inference from the question and provide a deliberate, useful answer still doesn’t mean I think it’s a good question.

    11. CoffeePlease*

      Yea, it’s a figure of speech. But also it’s normal in some industries to have work-related thoughts during “off hours,” which is part of what this question gets at. Someone could try something like: What stays on your mind about work when you’re not working ? The “what keeps you up at night phrasing is smoother,” but the comments make it clear that some find it off-putting.

      1. Fierce Jindo*

        Your suggested rewrite is the only one I’ve seen that is actually asking the same question.

    12. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      I agree. This is a question I ask clients all the time. It really gets to the heart kf challenges and emerging risks. This is such a common question in auditing/risk & control I have never encountered anyone misunderstanding.

  8. Greg*

    #4 recruiters don’t work to get you a job. They work to make a sale. Do not worry about offended them. Just worry about getting an opertunity you want.

    1. NerdyKris*

      That’s not a great way to approach it. Recruiters talk to each other, if you torpedo your relationship with one, you might not be able to get offers from others. I’ve seen the same thing happen to startups, where they got fired by every staffing agency for being difficult.
      You also don’t want to offend a recruiter you’re currently working with, because they’ll just stop working with you.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        Recruiters talk to each other and they do know which ones are the assholes amongst them.

        1. allathian*

          Yeah. I don’t think getting blacklisted by the recruiters that only care about closing the sale rather than ensuring a good fit for both the employer and the employee is necessarily a bad thing.

        2. OP4*

          That was my concern after this encounter. Luckily, I haven’t had a problem with other recruiters after the fact. The worst they could really say was that I was professional in my absolute disregard for their client.

  9. NoDumbBlonde*

    #2 – When he said the birds “need water,” is it possible he meant they will thrive with a natural water source but perhaps not fare so well in an artificial habitat? That’s how I read the “need water” comment. Surely he knows you have plumbing, but perhaps there was more nuance behind the comment than what it sounded like, especially if he’s got a lot of experience with the species. In that context, could it be possible that his offer to take the birds was genuinely intended to help you save money and effort by not building something that might not work very well? In that sense, his offer to care for the birds could be viewed as an in-kind rather than a financial donation. Any decision has to be about the welfare of the animals, not about your hurt feelings.

    1. Mid*

      That was my thought as well. If he has a natural pond on his property, that’ll likely need less work than an artificial one. Obviously we don’t know his tone or exact wording, so it could have come across far differently, but I would have interpreted it as “I have the infrastructure, don’t reinvent the wheel.”

      1. Former Child*

        Yes. And isn’t the point of “rescuing” animals to find them the best home?
        It says “my spouse and I rescue animals” so LW may feel more ownership of them than a larger charity would.
        Do they rescue them to keep them, even if a donor has a better space? Not sure here.
        They need to examine their purpose, maybe.
        LW may feel that he’d be taking away at least some of their “work.”
        There aren’t enough specifics to let us know.

    2. MsSolo (UK)*

      I think also people aren’t very good at saying “you can’t”. As in “how can we change our set up so we don’t have to clean poo out of the artificial ponds every day” might well be a “you can’t” answer, but because the donor didn’t want to say that, they’ve tried to answer the different question of “what can we do because we don’t want to clean poo every day” and provided the answer of “give the birds to us because I’ve reinterpreted your question to mean you want to skimp on the basics of bird care”.

      Ultimately, the donor is able to provide a better quality of habitat with less work than the LW – that’s not LW’s fault; donor has a natural water source, LW does not. The LW has other demands on their time running a whole sanctuary, rather than just the waterfowl, so if there is no ‘more efficient’ permanent structure they can build, it is going to have an impact on the whole sanctuary – presumably it’s sustainable for now, but LW obviously has an eye for the future when they’re looking for efficiencies they can build in, and if they can’t reduce the time spent cleaning it may limit how many waterfowl they can take on (in which case maintaining the good relationship with the donor so they can potentially pass on birds they can’t look after would be good).

      1. Susan Calvin*

        Yes, this.

        I know nothing of birds, but I used to be very active and well connected in the regional reptile scene, and have worked some fairly ambitious habitats. If the animal rescue near me, which keeps some snakes and geckos iirc, asked me for tips about building something for their new dwarf chameleons, I’d also tell them to call one of the 5 people I know who have already remodeled their basements to accomodate these extremely finicky little bastards. Walking the rescue folks through sinking enormous amounts of money into this very specialized setup would… not be my first step.

      2. twocents*

        Agreed. It’s not a personal offense to admit that someone else knows how to care for these birds better. No one expects two people to know how to care for all the things. Quite frankly, I don’t know a single reputable animal rescue that doesn’t work with others. Even if you have the space, if there’s a sanctuary that specializes in taking care of these birds, it’s not a personal failing to send the birds there instead of trying to make a less-than-ideal setup work.

      3. EPLawyer*

        but this guy is not a rescuer. He OWNS birds and he wants to add to his collection. So the rescue organzatin can’t just give him the birds because he is the biggest donor.

        I would go with the most charitable interpretation that there was a miscommunication somewhere, but that doesn’t mean they should give the birds to the guy just because he has the better set up. The guy is not another rescue organization.

        1. Susan Calvin*

          Based on you name I’ll defer to your knowledge about legal ramification of this, but depending on how this rescue operates (do they just… keep the animals? Nurse them back to health and adopt them out? Try to place them with zoos? Release them into the wild?) I wouldn’t necessarily assume he was trying to take ownership of the birds – just offer to take care of them for whatever duration, which he might well see as a valid form of volunteer work. Which doesn’t *seem* outrageous to me?

          1. a clockwork lemon*

            Depending on the organization’s setup they probably can “give” him the birds–animal sanctuaries generally are set up for an animal’s lifetime care, and most animal rescues aren’t interested in the optics of accepting donations and advice from someone whose philosophy is wildly contrary to their own. Plenty of rescues have “forever foster” models of some sort, especially if they’re dealing with bigger animals who have longer lifespans or need specialized care/facilities like many barnyard animals do.

            I’ll be honest, if I was a donor and I got a call from an animal org I support often enough that they feel comfortable calling me for this type of advice then told me that they’re trying to figure out how to recreate a natural water feature because maintenance of the water tanks was too much of a hassle, my first thought would be “give me the birds” and not “this is an excellent use of your limited time and resources.”

            1. Smithy*

              I think it can be all to easy to forget that in the “mission based” universe, there are a lot of people who have similar philosophies but disagree on the best way to get there. The reality with donors is that there is an inevitable power disparity, and therefore it’s pretty usual for interactions to be more loaded.

              The OP was reaching out to a donor for advice – so it’s not unusual for a donor to feel more entitled to reach out on their own schedule and preferences. It’s not that all donors are like this, and not that it’s not possible to balance donor relationships that can also include more collaborative partnerships or volunteer dynamics that are more respectful. But it’s also hardly outside the norm.

              1. Former Child*

                OP says “spouse and I” run an animal rescue. So we don’t know how big or small it is or their purpose. The more I think about it the more it seems like OP might be lucky if the donor has a better, more natural space. But OP’s livelihood is tied up in this, apparently.

                It’s not clear if the purpose is to be a shelter forever
                to find homes to adopt the rescued animals.

                But nonprofits can be self-perpetuating. Admin costs can be a big chunk of the budget, and that can include salary. We don’t know here.

                It’s possible the donor was trying to gently hint that a natural setting would be better.

        2. Smithy*

          I have zero experience in animal rescue – either done by private individuals or ngos – but I did used to work for a legal nonprofit as a fundraiser.

          A few of our donors had their own legal teams that handled similar legal cases to what our organization did. For those donors, our organization was always really careful in how we interacted with them around legal strategy or cases, because while we both supported the same general mission the details of how that should be done could really vary (ie quality of life for waterfowl with a natural water source vs an artificial one).

          The way my organization chose to approach those donors was to always have them fund projects that were adjacent to their legal interests but had zero overlap with their actual practice. In the case of the OP, it would be like engaging with this donor largely around a type/breed of bird that he doesn’t also rescue/foster/own.

      4. hbc*

        100% agreed.

        And even if he’s completely wrong (i.e., you *can* build an efficient pool setup that’s equivalent to his pond-with-water-feature-and-cleansing-stream), he’s allowed to have that opinion/blind spot and state it when asked. Now it’s up to OP to figure out if they need to get another opinion, determine a process for adopting out waterfowl to other rescues or vetted partners that’s compatible with their mission, or resign themselves to daily poop scraping.

    3. MeowMixers*

      This is my thought too. I don’t understand why LW would keep the birds with artificial pools when there is much better and less stressful places to use. Espcially when she knows the person can take the birds off of her hands.

      1. Former Child*

        If this is a FT job for OP and spouse, they have a financial interest in this. I hope they can do what’s best for the birds.

  10. MeowMixers*

    #2 I have a dear friend who works with strays and wildlife and I have majored in Environmental Science with multiple wildlife classes. It seems like there is always some kind of smear campaign going on against her that is unjustified. I know this example is extreme, but in all the years I’ve known her, people get really crazy about animals in not-so-good ways. Everyone believes they are doing the right thing and are passionate (and rude) about it. I don’t think it’s out of hand for someone to offer to take the birds into a more natural environment. I don’t understand why the reaction is to cut him off because of his suggestions. Is it really important for you to keep those water birds in your sanctuary? I know many non-profits who transfer animals to increase adaptability or to put them in a better environment. This also lessens situations like these.

    It’ll help to reframe the situation in mind though. If you are offending people on a daily basis, then it’s time to take a step back and figure out why. Is it a communication thing on your part? Is it the community you handle? Is it reminding you of something in your past? Are you assuming something? Alison’s scripts are great to follow too.

    1. Mid*

      I had three weird lectures about my animal care recently. One said I was abusing my pets by not feeding them vegan food (I have two snakes, a spider, and a cat, aka all obligate carnivores.) Another said I was terrible for not giving my 3 year old cat kitten food still. And a third said I was a terrible reptile keeper because I manually turn on and off my daylight lamps instead of having timers.

      All this to say, people have very strong opinions about animal care, regardless of how good your own care is. Don’t take it personally. If you’re getting the same specific complaint multiple times, that’s one thing. If everyone says “oh your birds have cancer because of the nuclear waste filled food,” you should listen. But if it’s just random opinions with no medical backing, feel free to mute.

      1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

        This is the kind of situation where it can help to channel one’s inner steel magnolia and simply say, “Well, bless your heart” with no further elaboration. People don’t know what to with that, and you can segue into a change of subject while they’re trying to come up with a response. :-)

      2. Susan Calvin*

        As a forgetful and generally time-blind reptile keeper, the notion of not having light/heat automated vaguely terrifies me, but that really is more about me than you… although I’m curious, is there a particular reason you do it like this?

        1. Stella70*

          Chiming in….I have a Russian tortoise. I also have three different timers, but my paranoia doesn’t trust any of them. Manually turning lights on/off each day allows me to say good morning and good night to Callahan, something his earless head may or may not hear. :)

      3. Pretzelgirl*

        People do get weirdly judgmental about animals and their care. I was friends with people who were obsessed about the type and brand of dog food they fed their dogs. At that time in my life, my husband and I weren’t making a ton of money. Although we made enough to get by and have a dog. They were all very judgmental of the fact that we didn’t feed our dog, a crazy expensive brand of food. It was really frustrating bc we loved (still do) our dog very much. We take really good care of our pets. We just couldn’t drop $70 on a bag of dog food at the time.

        1. Observer*

          I’m not a pet person, but occasionally pet food overlaps other things I’m interested in. And it turns out that your friends were just flat out wrong about price being synonymous with quality. It’s not. At all.

          1. emmelemm*

            A vet I had a while back who was fairly young (meaning, went through veterinary school recently and had the most up-to-date information, presumably) told me that expensive foods are fine, but that Purina and the other “grocery store” brands are huge companies that actually put a fair amount of money into R&D and testing and such and they really do come up with the formulas for what combination of protein-fat-nutrients is best and make their food to match that, so it’s not terrible to feed your dog grocery store food. At all. (Although obviously some dogs have allergies and other such and blah blah blah they should have a special diet, but for the average dog, they do just fine.)

      4. Lora*

        Right there with you. I’ve been accused by various and sundry people of not taking proper care of my pets because:

        -I have automatic litter boxes that take care of cleaning up the cat messes instead of the regular kind you have to scoop
        -I feed the dogs Purina kibble instead of home-cooked organic meals containing only raw (preferably wild-caught) meat and ground bone and vegetables
        -The pets are vaccinated (grrrr don’t get me started on that one)
        -I have any pets, at all, because domestication is evil and an imposition on their autonomy. I shared an office with this person and was not allowed to have a fishtank in my office, because confining goldfish to a 10-gallon tank is disrespectful of…yeah, I tuned out and smiled and nodded.
        -I have only an 80×80 foot section of my backyard fenced for the dogs to run around in, not the entire 2 acres. Additionally, my dogs (herding/working breed) get their exercise by herding livestock, not by going to the dog park – which, last three times I tried, they got ear mites from other dogs, climbed the dog park fence and led me on a half-mile chase through traffic and people’s backyards. A dog rescue told me that one.

        People got a lot of opinions. If the veterinarians are telling you the animals are healthy, just smile and nod.

        1. Observer*

          Additionally, my dogs (herding/working breed) get their exercise by herding livestock, not by going to the dog park – . . . snip . . . A dog rescue told me that one.

          A dog rescue told you that a herder breed should not be allowed to actually herd livestock? What else about dogs are they woefully ignorant about?

          1. UKDancer*

            You wonder don’t you. Herding breeds like to herd and if they don’t get to do so with livestock they start herding other things, e.g. shopping trolleys and small children. One of my acquaintances has a farm in Yorkshire and uses border collies as sheep dogs. The last thing you want is for them to get bored because they get into all sorts of mischief. My acquaintance cares for their dogs a lot but the dogs have a specific job to do on the farm.

            It really annoys me when people get dogs because they look nice without thinking about what the specific breed is like and the sort of things that breed might want to do. Like the irritating way people get huskies without realising that all that breed wants to do is run.

          2. Lora*

            Yup. Later found out from a lady in a multi-state breed rescue organization (as opposed to the local one who told me that), the person running the local one was known to be a bit of a hoarder and only her close friends were considered good enough to adopt a dog from her.

            Anyway, back on topic – sometimes people who seem like they SHOULD know what they are talking about… definitely do not. Or they have their own “I just want to hug all of them, but I can’t hug every cat!” thing going on like the eHarmony cat lady.

          3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            It could be a concern of wrong size livestock for the dogs to herd in a generic sense, not the herding/doing what they were originally bred to do. Unfortunately rescues frequently see the very worst and/or people getting dogs based on looks not lifestyles and sometimes speak to what they’ve seen instead of the specifics of a case. In specifics I prefer to go with what your veterinarian says and not someone unfamiliar with your specific case.

        2. Bluephone*

          Oh god, dog shelters’ obsessions with every single potential dog adopter having at least 5 acres and a Fort Knox style fence. Don’t get me started on that.

      5. emmelemm*

        A vegan snake… now that’s a new one on me! (Which is to say, whoever was bugging you about that is nuts. NUTS.)

      6. Artemesia*

        As someone who has tried to adopt kittens from rescue organizations and instead turned to the local pound when it became clear that their ‘research’ was like an FBI investigation or an adoption review for a child and their general attitude was hostile to people actually wanting to take and care for the cats, I think it is important to look in the mirror occasionally when being an animal advocate.

    2. Blackcat*

      Yeah. My mom worked at a wildlife rescue that kept a bobcat in a relatively small enclosure with an armchair (multiple over the years). Lots of people complained, but this animal had been *raised as a pet in a home* and got super anxious if it was in a large or open space. It really wanted to sleep in arm chairs, because that was all it knew.

      Treating it as a proper wild cat wasn’t appropriate. They tried phased introductions to more “natural” habitats multiple times and the cat would do things like refuse to eat if they took the chair away.

      Despite all of that, every 6 months or so there’d be some huge outrage over the “mistreatment” of the cat.

      People just have very, very strong opinions about animal care and take absolutist stances towards what’s right. I think it goes with the territory of animal rescue.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Unfortunately this happens all too often when people think they are doing the right thing by rescuing the baby wild animal. Then they raise it as a pet, and it has no clue how to be wild. I’ve heard plenty of stories like that – and it’s a big moving reason why wildlife rehabilitation requires licensing and credentials to do.

    1. Mid*

      I think its more shorthand for “what issues/conflicts/challenges does this work have?” rather than literally expecting people to lose sleep over a position.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yes. Sigh.

        I’ve concluded there’s no question I can endorse here that people won’t criticize, even when multiple panels of interviewers love it in the real world (unless it’s bland to the point of not being particularly good).

        1. Cnasd*

          I can think of a dozen examples off the top of my head when a lot of people liked something and it still wasn’t a good idea. The fact that some people were happy with this question doesn’t mean it’s actually a good question. In the legal field, for example, this question would come across very oddly.

          Alison, you seem to be reacting quite oddly to me simply saying that the question is bad. I’m a little confused (and I don’t mean that in a passive aggressive way; I’m genuinely very confused by your reaction).

          1. Naan Bread*

            Its much more a question about big picture issues a business is combating than the daily minutia of someone’s sleep schedule, so while it is understandable to first read it as a personal question, that’s not what it actually means in practical use. It’s like an idiom, don’t take it literally.

            1. Your Local Password Resetter*

              That actually varies a lot depending on the job. For some it can absolutely be taken literally. Someone mentioned social work above as a career that actually does keep people up at night.

              Thats one of the reasons people seem to bounce off this question: the implications vary wildly, and its very easy to read it as something inappropriate.

              1. Washi*

                I think I am the social worker you are referring to and I wasn’t referring to my profession as something that will literally keep you up at night! I set pretty good boundaries and work a roughly 40 hour week so I am not actually losing sleep over my job. However, it’s pretty well understood that you don’t do this work to get rich, so the metaphor of “losing sleep” over something will be pretty well understood.

              2. Non non*

                And there is variance among individuals working in a career. I was married to a social worker who never lost a minute of sleep thinking about what happened at work, although to me much of it sounded horrific. I have never known someone who would fall asleep so quickly after having their head hit the pillow.

              3. Yorick*

                If I took it literally and thought, “nothing at all from work keeps me awake at night,” I could definitely still think of an answer that worries me or causes a lot of mental concern during the work day. It’s silly that people are acting like they couldn’t possibly answer the question because they sleep well.

          2. Cant remember my old name*

            I think Alison’s point is that “good”, as it relates to interview questions and quite a few other things, is subjective.

          3. L.H. Puttgrass*

            In law, “what keeps you up at night?” is often “our insanely high billable hours requirement.” I can see where that question might not work as well in industries with notoriously long hours.

            1. EPLawyer*

              It’s definitely a know your industry type question. In some fields, its so obvious that you would seem weird to ask it. Like law, which is known for insane hours. Other fields, it would help to learn the culture of that office.

              Like all interview questions, you prepare and think about which ones fit best for the situation. Not take a rote list of questions off an internet site (even a good one like AAM) and blindly ask them.

              1. a clockwork lemon*

                Even in law it’s a pretty helpful question. If the stuff that keeps you up at night is normal-for-the-industry levels of stress and anxiety about workload, that’s one thing.

                If someone asked me in my current lawyer job what keeps me up at night, I’d tell them honestly that it’s the amount of time I spend manually filtering a single database of corporate activities that are subject to particular regulation. If someone asked me what the most challenging part of my job is, I’d tell them it’s parsing contradictory and nonsensical non-binding guidance the IRS puts out re: bitcoin.

                They’re different questions with different answers, and even in litigation world at firms with high billable targets, cultures vary widely from office to office.

            2. Delta Delta*

              Or “Mr. Client may have misinterpreted what I said and now he’s held without bond” or “oh schnikes is that appeal deadline tomorrow or was it last week” or any number of other problems that get heaped upon we law-people. But I also think that’s a fair question and those would be fair answers; not every lawyer is cut out for every kind of work, and it’s helpful to know that going in as opposed to finding a position more suited to that person’s interests or abilities.

            3. H2*

              I had a similar response in that it’s something that is just a thing that happens in my job, and I think that’s valuable too. I’m in academia, and I would say that the occasional academic integrity violation is what would keep me up at night. I would clarify that I’m very well supported by my university and I don’t think it happens any more often than would be expected. That seems like the kind of answer that isn’t quite what the question is looking for, but if I got that answer I would be reassured that there isn’t anything particular to this university that is a red flag. Just regular, to-be-expected stressors.

          4. anonymath*

            It’s partly because your comments do veer into “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory. No question is perfect for all interviews, interviewers, industries. That’s fine. I’ve gotten a question like this and it was great. Do I literally stay up at night thinking about this thing? No. Do I want the person hired into this role to think about it? Yes. At night? No. I am an excessively literal person and I caught on that this is a figure of speech and is a far more vivid way to ask a question than the bland and anodyne alternatives.

        2. Annie J*

          I think though that there is a difference, questions about the job itself, no matter how creatively worded are perfectly acceptable, but when they fire in to personal territory such as the interviewers sleeping or eating habits, there is a problem.

            1. Siv*

              Yes this
              That’s my private time that I don’t want to ponder about at work nor share with a stranger

              Ask me what my favourite thing is about working at the company instead

              1. Ferret*

                You are taking very common colloquial phrases very literally then. None of these phrases should be a problem in normal conversation.

                If someone told you their new car cost an arm and a leg would you accuse them of faking being an amputee?

                1. Siv*

                  Agreed but an interview is not a normal conversation. This is not my friend. I think the larger issue is that the interviewee is asking these details about the interviewers jobs instead of more general questions about the company or specific questions about the job they’re being considered for.

                2. Pool Lounger*

                  If you look at all the comments about this question, about half of people are taking it literally, half metaphorically (and the metaphorical side is still using it to mean something not too different from the literal meaning, it seems). So I’d probably not use the question because there’s a chance the interviewer would take it literally. If you think it’d work with your audience, go for it. But if it’s not your interview style, don’t.

                3. Allonge*

                  I think the issue here is that there are plenty of people who wake up at 3 am with a work related thought (or phonecall!), whereas not a whole lot of car-purchase transactions take place wiht body parts (I hope!). It’s easy to take it literally because it’s such a common thing to experience.

            2. L.H. Puttgrass*

              In the context of a job interview, I’d assume that “What gets you up in the morning?” is just a way of asking what really excites me about the job.

          1. Czhorat*

            This is probably a detail, but I can’t imagine taking this so literally as to think it’s about my sleeping habits.

            Some of these comments feel like they’re cosplaying as a literal-minded robot or space alien from a bad sci-fi story.

            1. doreen*

              I agree. There’s a comment below from someone who says their industry focuses on precise wording ,and although they get the intent of the question but the wording is problematic. Funny thing is that if I were to answer a question about what keeps me up at night, deciding how to word a memo or email would be on the list.

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                ” their industry focuses on precise wording……the wording is problematic”

                In speech in a meeting like that? I find that hard to believe. I could certainly see it in sworn testimony or perhaps in some type of inter-cultural communication where non-US-native-English speakers might be confused.

                1. Observer*

                  I do seem to recall someone who wrote a letter where the whole “precise speech” thing was being taken to a ridiculous extreme. So it does happen. But that’s good information for someone to have anyway.

                  I’ll link in my reply.

            2. Insert Clever Name Here*

              “What keeps me up at night, Dave? The need to make a better paperclip and the knowledge that to do so would be to eliminate humanity.”

            3. Hurricane Wakeen*

              OP5 here. To be fair, I’m a woman with young kids and the senior guy in the room commented to me after the interview that he expected me to respond with “my kids.” (Please imagine my internal resentful side-eye in response.)

              1. Observer*

                He said WHAT?!

                Is this guy a sexist jerk in general, or was he just having a brain freeze moment? Because that’s absolutely out of line.

          2. Felis alwayshungryis*

            I think ‘what keeps you awake at night’ is enough of a colloquial cliche (in English, at least) that it doesn’t really have the connotations of veering into personal territory. Something like ‘What about this job makes you sweat’ or ‘what about this job makes it hard to get out of the shower in the morning’ would be in that territory, however.

            1. identifying remarks removed*

              That’s funny (haha, not sarcastic) – when I read the phrase “what keeps you awake at night” my first thought was they were asking “what about this job makes you break out in a cold sweat”. And English is my first language.

              1. Humble schoolmarm*

                That’s so interesting! For me, those questions have completely different answers. “What makes me break out in a cold sweat” is finding a message from Notoriously Difficult Parent in my email. It’s not a pleasant experience, but everyone up to the superintendent knows that Notoriously Difficult Parent is notoriously difficult, so it isn’t worth lying awake over.
                On the other hand, “What keeps me up at night” would be something like “What’s a solution that we haven’t yet tried to get Fergus back on track in class.” because it’s a longstanding, confounding problem and the solution might be applicable to a number of other students that are having a hard time.
                PS. Neither of these give me actual insomnia, but they do cause stress.

                1. Observer*

                  And no one means EITHER of these things literally.

                  What makes me break out in a cold sweat? The news that the current Mayor or Governor is going to overhaul some set of regulations I need to deal with to make the “simpler”, “more accountable” or “more responsive”. But that’s a figurative cold sweat. If you are actually talking about a real physical cold sweat that answer would be “Nothing that I can remember”. But if I said that people would consider me passive aggressive, because they would know that I chose to respond to the literal words being said to me, rather than the actual question being asked.

          3. Yorick*

            It says “what ABOUT THIS JOB keeps you up at night?” This is not a personal question.

        3. Czhorat*

          For me the issue is an odd focus on the exact wording, rather than the spirit of the question. All of these would, in the wild, be tweaked to the style of the person asking and the flow of the conversation.

          I also think that the picking at this one is weird. If I asked someone what kept them up at night and they said “I take melatonin and sleep the sleep of the just” I’d find their response weirdly combative. It’s clear what the question means – any normal interviewer would answer that rather than playing semantic games.

          I think we sometimes forget that both parties in a job interview typically have the same goal.

          1. tra la la*

            The point is that there are better ways to frame this question to get the information you want that don’t imply that you eat/sleep/breathe your job. Sure it’s shorthand, but if I’m looking for better work/life balance (I’m in higher ed, trying to get that balance is important and hard) I’m going to find that annoying.

            1. Siv*

              Yes! I’m in higher Ed too and wfh so am always trying to be aware of work life balance.

              1. H2*

                Eh, I’m in higher Ed, too, and I’m all about work/life balance, but there are definitely occasions where I’ll ponder a problem on off hours. How can I tweak tomorrow’s lab so the students will get more out of it? I wonder if I can get Steve to go to a math tutor? How can I subtly make sure Steve doesn’t sit next to Jane for the next test? How do I best frame my request for equipment costs for summer research?

                I think the point for me, from my particular answers, would be that these are normal job-related problems. I’m not worrying about whether my chair will support me, or whether my colleague will grab my ass or the department is about to fold or whatever. The question is just sussing out whether issues are normal or not. And if your answer is “nothing at all, I find it easy to leave work at work” then that tells me what I need to know!

            2. hbc*

              I strongly believe in work/life balance and am very stress-resistant, but would not take issue with this question at all. Lots and lots of people will occasionally have a work issue that worries them when everything has quieted down for the day.

            3. meyer lemon*

              But it makes a difference that this question is coming from the person being interviewed. If you are the interviewer, you have enough power in the situation to ask the person to clarify or rephrase without any trouble.

              I also think it’s a bit of a leap to guess that the question is assuming anything about you as an individual. If your answer is that you’ve established decent work/life balance despite X challenges of the position, that seems within the spirit of the question too.

          2. Cnasd*

            But that’s the thing…it’s not clear. Are they talking about basic challenges or truly bad parts of the job? And are they implying that people lay awake at night worrying? As I said, in the legal industry this question likely wouldn’t be looked at kindly.

            1. Katefish*

              I’m a lawyer in a largely flat fee practice and can see this being a useful interview question, so YMMV on this not being a good question in law – I thought it was good.

              1. pleaset cheap rolls*

                @Cnasd – sometimes questions not being very clear helps – the interpretation of the question provides useful information.

                “As I said, in the legal industry this question likely wouldn’t be looked at kindly.” In speech in a meeting? Really? This is not a deposition. It’s not asking someone to draft a contract.

              2. Def anon*

                Same here (attorney, flat fee structure firm). I really like this question because there are things I deal with that literally keep me up sometimes despite overall liking my job.

          3. Not Up At Night*

            How people word their questions actually can matter quite a bit. Some questions just don’t land on people as well as others.
            My industry often has a focus on using precise wording in our questions. We actually spend time at work considering the lines of questioning we might use with our clients/colleagues. It may seem weird to you but it may just be something you’re not used to.
            I perfectly understand what the candidate is OP5 was trying to get at but at the same time I still think it’s problematic.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              “We actually spend time at work considering the lines of questioning we might use with our clients/colleagues. It may seem weird to you but it may just be something you’re not used to.”

              I can’t help but wonder what industry that is and what situations are you that precise? Or do you try to be that precise all the time?

          4. JB*

            It really isn’t clear.

            You can claim all you want that this is a ‘common colloquial phrase’ but it really is not, at least not anywhere that I’ve ever lived. People are interpreting it literally because it’s usually used…literally.

        4. Bagpuss*

          I think there are valid points about why this specific question might not be ‘great’.

          I don’t doubt that there are circumstances where it could work well and get good results, but equally there are reasons why it may not be the ideal way to get the sort of information you are looking for, and reasons why it would not be beneficial to a candidate to ask it in those terms, and that flagging those up is not criticism for the sack of picking holes, but more words of caution.

        5. Oui oui*

          Yeah, I don’t get all the hate for this question that an employer wrote in to say worked effectively in that situation. I think some readers of this column may dismiss anything that they personally don’t like.

        6. Sigrid*

          The problem with using idioms is that not everyone you interact with will realize that’s what you’re using. Until I read the comment section I had no idea what the OP was trying to ask; asking me that in an interview would have just produced confusion. (And yes, I’m a native English speaker.) The various responses of “using an idiom will get you a more honest answer” I find baffling.

          1. Observer*

            Are you seriously suggesting that people never use idioms? If someone actually tried that, they would either be unintelligible or come off as pretentious and possibly as not knowing the language well.

        7. meyer lemon*

          I wonder if the best questions are often the ones that don’t work for everyone. It sounds like this question worked exactly as intended in the LW’s case, but there is a likely a different industry or personality mix where it would really not go over well. For anyone who reads this and thinks “That wouldn’t work for me/my industry,” you are probably right! Maybe there is a better question for you. Personally, I like this one.

      2. MassChick*

        I agree it is shorthand and that’s my concern. A figure of speech or idiomatic speech may be interpreted differently by different people, particularly by those whose primary language is not English (and even by some English speakers!).

        I still like the question. And different interpretations may also end up being useful – as long as the person asking is prepared for that possibility.

    2. Batgirl*

      I think that’s very industry dependent. I work with children, and while I’m pretty good at leaving work at work, there are unavoidably issues affecting their future which can stay with me while I’m falling asleep or which are the first thing I think of when waking up in the morning. None of the people I work with would blink at this question and it would lead to a really great discussion.

      1. Smithy*

        As someone in nonprofit fundraising – I think how an interviewer would react to a question like this would be very telling. Because there are certainly places where the concerns are as worrisome as “making payroll” – but also it’s insightful to know if the thoughts are heavily internal or external. Are they strategy and thinking forward? Or is it more about navigating bureaucracy?

        I will also say that for a fundraising team – a lot of my work is around interpretation and subtext. And if a response was around the job offering a wonderful work/life balance and asking about their sleep patterns was inappropriate, I would be very worried. For my field, that’s a level of concrete thinking that would be a red flag.

    3. Lollygagger*

      That’s not true across the board though. I mean, it might not be a great question in your industry, which might take it very literally, but in both my previous industry and current industry (which are completely unrelated to each other) this is actually a very standard question to ask and to discuss. As in, standard to the point that it wouldn’t necessarily be impressive to ask, more like expected. Like many things in job interviewing and searching, it seems like know your audience / industry is the best approach.

    4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I work in a field which deals with a lot of difficult topics, and discussions about how difficult it can be to leave the stress of work behind is standard for interviews.

  11. WS*

    1. I think you know the answer to this one already, regardless of an affair or otherwise. For whatever reason, this employee will be kept on forever, making your life difficult. It might be worth a single “Let’s plan to improve or fire this employee” attempt, but if that gets stonewalled, it’s time to go.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I was going to say something similar.

      Regardless of reason, if you cannot fire this person, you cannot do the job you were hired to do. You are in a no win situation. You are supposed to run the day to day operations but may not be able to fire someone who gets in the way of the good running of the company. Guess who will be blamed if things don’t run well?

      Again, regardless of the reason, take this as a sign of how the place is run as a whole. Then decide if you want to stick with it and start job hunting.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        In a larger organization someone like this can be pigeonholed somewhere that they can’t do any harm. At that point they are an expense bringing no benefit to the company, but if the owner wants to accept this expense then so be it. It sounds in this case like the company might be too small to have any place out of the way to park the dead weight, and not enough slop in the budget to afford it.

        1. Sara without an H*

          If an organization has enough unfireable employees, the pigeonhole can be turned into a “turkey farm” by putting them all in the same unit. I once took a job managing a unit that had turned into the organization’s Botany Bay. It was…not fun.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            Was your department expected to produce useful work, or was it understood that your job was a nanny, keeping the toddlers from destroying the property?

    2. Sara without an H*

      This. OP#1, you can try having the conversation that Alison describes, and the results could be illuminating, but if what you suspect is true, you need to start looking for another job.

      Oh, and when you have that conversation with the owner, be very careful not to imply the existence of a sexual relationship with the problem employee. The owner will deny it and resent you for suggesting it.

  12. Get That $$*

    #3: please heed Alison’s advice and get that money you’re owed! I had to do it too and admittedly it felt a little weird, like am I being petty to ask for this money? But I went through HR. When I received a response from them, it turned out HR/payroll was outsourced any ways which resulted in relieving all concerns about being seen as petty; these workers don’t care! They’re just doing their jobs.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Lest this reinforce anyone’s worries that it could have been seen as petty if HR weren’t outsourced, I want to reiterate that it would not. If any employer took issue with someone asking to be paid for days they worked and which were clearly just overlooked in a clerical error, or thought it was petty, that company would be in the bottom 0.5% of garbage dump employers. It’s just not a thing anyone should ever worry about.

      1. SarahKay*

        For what it’s worth, as someone who has input into ensuring people are paid properly, I would actually be grateful that the OP had asked since:
        a) Something went wrong in our systems and no-one noticed it so far! Which, experience tells me, is the sort of thing an auditor might find – and then we’re in a world of pain. If OP#3 has flagged it we can figure out what went wrong, fix it, check back for past instances and fix them, and generally clear everything up.
        b) I feel strongly that people should be paid correctly for the work they do. You work, we pay you; that’s the deal.

        1. SarahKay*

          All of which is to say if I were the person you told, OP#3, I would say thank you, apologise for the error, fix it, and then probably thank you again for letting me know.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I agree. The only way I can see this not going well for LW is if she were to decide to be the biggest jerk she could imagine being during the process.

    2. sacados*

      Yup, very similar thing happened to me, too. I had been hired as a contractor (on paper employed by a payroll company) and was transitioning to a FTE at my company. Also going from getting paid weekly to biweekly. And my first week as an FTE happened to be in the middle of the two-week pay period and also a holiday week where we’d had a Monday holiday.
      So probably due to that combination of factors, I noticed that my first paycheck was for the first full two-week period I’d worked, but that first 4 days was missing. And I actually didn’t notice it until a couple of months later when I was checking my paystubs online.
      I did have to follow up several times and it actually took a few more months before I got that pay (they were not super on-the-ball when it came to payroll stuff… haha) but other than that it was a total non-issue.

  13. Andy*

    #L5 A company where multiple people involved in hiring have so much stress that they cant sleep sounds like a place to avoid. It is red flag in my opinions. I understand the question is meant to be about stress in general, but phrasing really want me to respond “I sleep well” because that is actually true.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Ok, I’ve been on the side of taking the question literally, but I think you’re taking it too far. Sometimes work keeps me up at night – like for an hour on occasion! Not the whole night! Is that what has everyone up in arms, they’re interpreting “keeps you up at night” as referring to the entire night?

    2. CM*

      My hypothesis from reading all these comments is that “what keeps you up at night” is a common phrase to Americans — who don’t take it literally, but interpret it as “what’s a big thing you worry about in this job” — and not to anybody else. Or maybe it’s even more regional than that. It would not occur to me that this question is about my sleeping habits or stress level, but I could see how it would come across as weirdly personal if this isn’t a familiar phrase to you!

      1. londonedit*

        British here, and I don’t interpret ‘what keeps you up at night?’ literally. To me, it means ‘what are your biggest worries’ or ‘what’s the one thing that’s most important to you’.

      2. Andy*

        I never seen “keeps me up at night” in the context of slight worry, little bit stress or positive excitement. Every time I have seen it, it meant “a lot of stress” or “large stress”.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          Right, which will tell you a lot about the company and its culture. It’s a great question to ask.

      3. meyer lemon*

        I’m Canadian and I would interpret it to mean, “Which parts of this job worry you enough that you have a hard time letting go of them, or even enough that they disrupt your non-work life?” And I would assume anything from “I actually find this job very low-stress” to “My department is massively understaffed, I’m 6 months behind and I never have a day off” would be a reasonable answer. I’m finding the responses quite interesting.

        1. Rach*

          This is how I interpreted it and I find it a good question. And as long as other questions are mostly conventional, I don’t think it hurts to ask it.

    3. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      This is a super common question in risk and control. It doesn’t mean literally. It is to elicit the areas I’d emerging risk, or areas that require improvement, or challenges. I talk with executives and board members using this all the time. It has nothing to do with work life balance. I bet the candidate has a risk and control environment and the interviewers do not. This is super common in large banks/internal audit/corporations. Super super common.

    4. JustaTech*

      I feel like what the question is trying to get at is “what are some long-term stressors/challenges in this position”.

      If someone asked me what sucks most about my job I would say “the occasional 16 hour days”. But those don’t keep me up at night; when they’re done they’re done.

      If someone asked me what about my job kept me up at night I’d say “not much, except that one time when X was not working and we could not figure out a root cause.”

      (Personally I’d also find the “nothing” answers to be a useful data point that folks have decent work-life separation.)

    5. Gumby*

      If I were to take it literally, my response would be about the sometimes weird dreams I can get when I spend too much time in Excel in any given day. Where I try to live my whole life driven by Excel formulas, etc. And then have to go back and edit if an important step, like food or hygiene, is skipped. Or the commute is not optimized and would be so much easier if the cell next to me were empty so I could bypass the cell in front of me… My brain does weird things when I don’t switch up tasks enough.

  14. Caroline Bowman*

    Re asking for money that’s owed, I have had a very similar experience, where I worked a 5 hour day (as opposed to the usual 8). Predictably and entirely in error, payroll had me down as ”half day”… and paid me as such. The first month, because I started part-way through the month, I didn’t quite catch on, but then the second month it was obvious and I tied myself in such knots over how to raise the matter!

    I needn’t have. Our payroll person was absolutely mortified and paid me the outstanding amount within 24 hours and all was fine and dandy after that, and this was by no means a terribly well-run or nice-to-work-for company in a general sense.

    Just email payroll or whoever is applicable and point it out neutrally. They’ll remedy it immediately, probably with apologies.

  15. Naan Bread*

    “What about this job keeps you up at night?”
    This sparked a memory! I was casually interpreting for my company (boss is good at English so I only occasionally had to step in) with a rep from our international business group for a “tell us what you’re up to” meeting, and the rep asked this at the end to try and get us to open up (I think) but the language barrier means the idiom didn’t work so I had to step in. Ended up being more of a English teaching moment than a ice-breaker for us lol

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      But it still did a lot of what the asker wanted – it started an active conversation, and also unintentionally gave a mini-lesson to the person who asked the question about stopping to think about idiom usage with non-native language speakers (which I think would probably apply regardless of the language being spoken).

      1. Naan Bread*

        While it kept us talking, it caused a break in the conversation because it switched tracks quite roughly. My side wasn’t able to provide the business answers the rep was looking for, so I’m not sure it was a win. I do hope it was a learning moment, though!

  16. Shira*

    Alison, you often focus on actionable advice to LWs – what would be your advice to LW1?
    I admit that I found the letter itself kind of odd in that it didn’t ask for practical advice – and this doesn’t even seem like a gray-area situation where an outsider’s perspective would offer new insight. It’s pretty straightforwardly bad.
    Should LW definitely plan to leave the job? Is that what was meant by “untenable” (and it just went over my head)?

    1. Lance*

      Alison’s advice is right in there: to talk to the owner, if OP hasn’t already, on the basis of this co-worker’s disruptions and poor performance that are making things harder for OP.

  17. Siv*

    Op2- call other animal specialists, not donors. Maybe a donor expects you to know your stuff 100% and would get worried that you were seeking their advice. This seems like the best strategy.

  18. Siv*

    Op5- Maybe I’m missing something but I don’t understand the dynamics of this question. I think interviews should be about the job op wants not the jobs of everyone else. Also asking me to share something about my private thoughts in my own bed seems strange. I would find this question off-putting for these reasons. From a lowly front line employee. (But I suspect others might as well.)

    1. Ferret*

      Knowing the concerns of your manager and the rest of the department is extremely relevant to may positions and is absolutely a good question to try and figure out the dynamics and issues in the office.

      Are you a native English speaker? Because saying that a very common turn of phrase is “asking me to share something about my private thoughts in my own bed” is a very, very extreme reaction that is not justified by the normal meaning of the figure of speech.

      But the fact that you refer to a potential interviewee as a “lowly front line employee” who shouldn’t ever dare to question you says a lot about your potential attitude as a manager, which I suppose is also useful information for someone trying to figure out if they want to work with you.

      1. Batgirl*

        +1, to your second paragraph. It’s a really common idiom and I’m surprised by the confusion. It’s understood to mean “what’s a point of worry” or “do you take stress home with you”. Anyone who reeled off the literal stream of consciousness would be missing the mark.

        1. Allypopx*

          Not everyone who reads this blog is from the same culture, which I wonder if that’s where some of the disconnect is coming from. I don’t think anyone I know would take this question as overly personal.

        2. LTL*

          It’s an idiom that I always read as quite serious. If someone says something keeps them up at night, I don’t necessarily think they’re literally losing sleep, but I tend to imagine that it’s a point of some distress. I would hope no part of a job bothers anyone so badly.

          Given the comments, I think it’s fair to say that reactions vary wildly so be mindful when you use it.

      2. Sooda Nym*

        I think Siv is saying that he/she is a front line employee, not calling someone else “lowly.” ( i.e. the “from” sentence is a sign off.) It’s interesting to me that both the wording and the subject matter of the “lose sleep at night” question can be interpreted in so many different ways.

      3. Siv*

        Hello Ferret- Yes I am a native English speaker

        Sooda is correct – I was saying that I’m currently a front line employee and don’t make hiring decisions so they can take my feedback with a grain of salt.

        Just not a fan of a stranger asking me the question that way. It’s a bit too informal for an interview. And since so many people don’t like it it sounds like it’s not the best question to use.

        Furthermore I don’t see how asking the HR person what is difficult about their job is at all relevant. And op May learn more about their own manager’s stress after they’re hired. It seems like over-stepping to ask about that.

        I think I see it as respect for authority. Even having worked with my boss for five years I don’t ask her what stresses her out.

        Instead asking what they like most about the company is a good question. One time I asked that and one of the employees couldn’t answer the question. It was a flag- but everything else about the company was good and it turned out just to be the employee’s attitude.

        1. Susan Calvin*

          And that’s where we get into the distinction of “good” interview questions in the sense of making the interviewer like me, versus in the sense of giving me valuable insight about the team I would be joining.

          Because let me tell you, if I had to work for a manager who’d feel disrespected(!?) by me asking about what’s on the forefront of their mind, I’d run the other way. And that’s not even getting into wanting a peek into what management roles in this org look like from the perspective of someone who ideally might want to stay long enough to grow within the company!

          1. Lily*

            I always ask “what’s the one thing here that doesn’t work as it should and is annoying everyone” and it always provided good information (and never kicked me out of the process).

        2. anonymath*

          That’s a useful discussion, actually. I want to hire people who can proactively and creatively approach problems on the horizon — so if my employee understands that I’m worried about presenting our work to a division that has been skeptical in the past, and that employee can leverage their understanding of people in that division to make contacts with the right folks to convince, or show them graphs that hit on what they care about, or make a process that addresses their pain points & makes their job easier, that person is a star employee.

          I have a few employees who do fairly literally just what they’re asked, and I value their contributions but will not promote them. The people I will promote are those who look for the problem behind the problem, as we’re in a field where folks will say “Solve problem X” but when you look deeper it’s actually problems Y and Z that create problem X.

          Last, the people interviewing with me are interviewing with *me*, not an HR person. We do technical work, and so a person who asks this type of question (“what keeps you up at night?”) is showing more business/interpersonal savvy than many applicants, which is attractive. And no, I don’t usually think about these things at night, it’s a figure of speech.

        3. Allypopx*

          “It’s a bit too informal for an interview. ”

          I disagree that it would be informal for a general interview, but aside from that my STRONG preference is for a slightly informal dialogue with a candidate. I’m going to be working with this person, I want to get a feel for them. I’m generally pushing for answers that will be more personal – a question is even better.

          1. Allypopx*

            (When I say personal I don’t mean “tell me your childhood trauma” I mean “I’d like to know answers to questions you haven’t rehearsed – like what book you read recently or how you unwind”)

            1. Andy*

              > like what book you read recently or how you unwind

              Not fan of these questions either. They always throw me off-loop, when I am in official professional context, it is clumsy to switch. And then having to come up with book that will not hit peoples biases or even remember what it was that I read the last.

              Hobby is a bit more predictable, I usually have one prepared that sounds good and wont make me look odd either way (neither too feminine as I look for technical position, nor too masculine so that I dont look odd, nor involves kids so that people dont think I am too much mom for position).

                1. CM*

                  I’m with Andy here! I really dislike personal questions during an interview because what books I read, how I unwind, what hobbies I do, etc. are all things that someone else may judge me for and have absolutely nothing to do with the job. As a nonwhite nonstraight woman in corporate white male-dominated settings, there is a very good chance my answers to these questions may be actively offputting to the person interviewing me — in fact, I’ve experienced this more than once. If you want to go off script, just try a more casual tone, or share a work-related story and ask how they would react, or ask a more lighthearted but work-related question.

              1. LC*

                I agree, those kinds of questions stress me out. It’s almost certain that if I’m asked that, I will completely blank on every book I’ve ever read in my life (ahhh the joys of my ADHD brain’s memory issues /s). If by some miracle I remember one, it’s almost certain that it’ll be one I don’t want to say. (I’m not really thrilled about telling my interviewer that I’m rereading the Hunger Games for eighth time because I have a really difficult time reading new books these days, thanks again ADHD).

                Same with all of those types of questions. I will either forget every single possible response, or forget most of them and only remember one that I wouldn’t be thrilled to talk about in an interview. I also worry it color their perception of me in a way that’s not at all work-related.

                I honestly have no issue lying on these types of questions. Not in any sort of malicious or deceitful way, I wouldn’t try to use it to suck up to them, or present myself in a false light. But I will literally grasp at the first idea that comes to me that I feel is a vaguely acceptable answer that maybe isn’t true but isn’t completely out of character for me.

            2. Observer*

              I mean “I’d like to know answers to questions you haven’t rehearsed – like what book you read recently or how you unwind”

              That’s a total non-sequitur. You can have unscripted questions that don’t go into personal territory. And in a lot if situations, you are better off sticking with the non-personal stuff.

            3. allathian*

              Ugh, just no. I will share stuff about my private life if and when I’m comfortable enough around someone to do so. I’m not “out” at work as a sci-fi and action movie geek to most of my coworkers, for example.

        4. Ferret*

          Then it seems like we have very different perspectives on work and the kind of organisation we want to work for. What you see as “respect for authority” I see as rigidly hierarchical to an unhealthy degree. My managers are not some kind of mysterious higher being or the only ones who have access to the Sacred Truth of Work. We are colleagues who are ultimately working with the same goals, they happen to be working at a more strategic level, with more experience, and potentially different information and perspective.

          “op May learn more about their own manager’s stress after they’re hired”

          But if that problem is a dealbreaker or would significantly impact the kind of judgements that go into taking a new job “after they’re hired” is far too late!

        5. Lily Rowan*

          Ah — it’s not a good question for the HR person. It’s a good question for the hiring manager and/or other people close to the role.

    2. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My manager just did interviews for a position on my team, which supports several other business units in the company. The position will work VERY closely with those business units’ leaders, so they were included in the interview panel. This question would have been an excellent one for interviewees to ask, even though not a single person on the panel does the job being filled because the successful candidate (who will not be peers with the business unit leaders) actually *will* need to know and help those leaders with the things that are causing them stress/that they are mulling over/that they aren’t sure how to resolve.

      But if you don’t like the question, that’s fine, don’t ask it when you’re interviewing.

      For everyone who thinks this question is a gross overstep into your personal life, I’d encourage you to read all the comments that are *not* reading it that way and consider that there’s a different interpretation for it and maybe don’t assume that a person who asks this in an interview with you is a boundary crosser. And for everyone who doesn’t have a problem with this question (me included), read all the comments from the people who see it as a gross overstep and consider that there’s a different interpretation for it and use that information — along with all the other scenario specific indicators that have been discussed — when determining if you ask it in your next interview.

    3. Unfettered scientist*

      I think the reaction I have to the question comes from the implication that the candidate thinks it’s normal to take your work home with you. I’ve interviewed candidates before and if someone asked this I’d worry about how adding them might affect the culture of the team.

      1. JustaTech*

        Which would provide useful information for you about hiring that person, as would their reaction when everyone says “Oh, not much, we have great work-life balance here so I don’t take my worries home”.

        If they look relieved or interested or anything else that indicates that this is what they want, then that’s probably good for your team. If they look surprised or like they don’t believe you, then that’s a different piece of information.

  19. Retail Not Retail*

    Op3 – This happened to me twice at my current job, and I had ZERO qualms chasing them down. The first time was that I wasn’t clocked in until 2 hours into my first day, so 2 hours were missing because my manager said he’d catch it but didn’t. (You had to expect it would be done manually when our work day starts before the clock person. Ugh.) Hour shortages also happened in retail land because they took a few days to enroll us in the system.

    The second time was this February when we weren’t clocking in because we weren’t working full days – shorted me the dang week! They were lucky my tax refund had already come in. Anyway – 2 hours or 40 hours, it’s your time and your money, get it.

    1. Retail Not Retail*

      Er we weren’t working full days but we were promised full days due to things beyond our control.

  20. Annie J*

    Another reason why I don’t think it’s particularly good question is that it is very likely that the person hiring you will have the same job role or responsibilities as you will have when you join the company, so asking the question May give you a truthful, but ultimately misleading, answer.

    1. Ferret*

      I am confused by this. How exactly would someone having the same job that you are applying for mean that their response would be misleading?

      I am also confused by the idea that the person hiring you will have the same job role – I would think it is far more likely their role would be as your manager. Sure, there might well be significant overlap and the overall goal might be the same but I would have thought it was standard to be interviewed by someone at least one step up on the org chart

    2. Forrest*

      >>t is very likely that the person hiring you will have the same job role or responsibilities as you will have when you join the company

      I think there may be a missing “not” here, and you mean it’s not a helpful question because the problems that the hiring panel are working on may not be the same as the ones you’ll be working on? I agree when you’ve got someone on the panel who is quite deliberately outside the department that you’ll be working in (eg. the HR person or someone who is there as an external representative), but otherwise, I think the point of the question is that it gives you an insight into the bigger problems outside the immediate scope of the role. It’s about knowing where your manager’s attention is right now, which can give you a really good look into what’s going on in the team or department more widely and what the strategic challenges are likely to be.

      1. Annie J*

        Yes, there was a not missing.
        what I mean is that, for example, if you’re applying for a customer service roll and the interviewers are from different parts of the business like the financial or human resources sides of the company, the things that concern them and worry them will not necessarily be things that you as a customer service advisor will be expected to be concerned about

        1. ceiswyn*

          But if what’s worrying them is something like understaffing or funding, then that is definitely something you would want to know.

    3. ecnaseener*

      Worth noting that this was a panel interview – probably not entirely managers! In my experience panel interviews often include at least one person in a similar position to the open one.

  21. Forrest*

    I feel like there are three kinds of response to LW5, which I find really interesting:

    1. Industries where stress is not widely considered to be part of the job, and “what keeps you up at night” is understood metaphorically as a question about “what are the unsolved questions you’re working on right now”
    2. Industries where stress is part of the job, widely acknowledged as such, and discussing how you personally manage stress and minimise its impact on the rest of life is part of the industry culture
    3. Industries where stress is part of the job, but managing it is seen as a bit more of a local problem so discussing how stress impacts on your home life is seen as more of a personal failure of boundaries or evidence of a bad organisational culture

    I’m in 1, and it strikes me as a really good and interesting question.

    For 2, it sounds like it wouldn’t be a great question there, simply because the answers would be too obvious. I mean, if every other head teacher is going to say, “how we continue to meet our low-income students’ needs with funding decreasing year on year” and every child social work manager worries about that one kid, it’s not going to give you very helpful information about the organisation or its strategy.

    And 3 it seems like it’s actively unhelpful and potentially damaging to your candidacy, because it’s effectively asking your interviewers to tell you that the company is bad or that they personally are bad at managing stress.

    1. Susan Calvin*

      Interesting analysis, thank you! Rarely have I been so baffled by the audience reaction on a post, but this seems plausible.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I wonder if the people who are responding negatively have actually had jobs that kept them up at night, so it’s less of a rhetorical question and more of a bad memory.

        Personally, I do occasionally wake up in the middle of the night thinking about work related stuff. It’s not a sign of a bad job in my case – far from it – but a side effect of getting really deep into intellectually challenging work. So my immediate response to the question was “interesting questions in data analysis and the occasional three am realization of potential problems” rather than it being a figure of speech.

        1. Eliza*

          Yeah, I’m kind of the same way; if I care enough about a job to do it well, it is going to literally keep me up at night from time to time second-guessing whether I could have done something better, because that’s the kind of person I am. The idea that it might have been meant metaphorically honestly didn’t occur to me; up until pretty much the day I read the comments to this letter, I assumed that whenever someone said something was keeping them up at night they meant it literally, because that’s how I would mean it. I think it’s less a matter of not understanding English idioms and more a matter of overestimating how anxious the average person is.

          1. Amey*

            Yes, this! I am the same and much of that is a me thing rather than the job thing. I understand the idiom! But I do sometimes think about work at night and the things I think about are generally rerunning difficult conversations or thinking about how I’m going to approach a difficult conversation – if I said this, it would imply that my job involves a lot more difficult conversations than it does, those are just the things that tend to follow me personally home. In the moment as an interviewer, I think I’d struggle to come up with the kind of answer that it sounds like people are looking for.

            One thing I’ve learned from AAM is to think about how I’d answer challenging questions as an interviewer – my interviewees never ask these sort of questions but it’s a useful exercise regardless.

          2. Clisby*

            I tend to agree. If I were on an interview panel and got that question, I’m pretty sure I’d say something like, “Do you mean, literally, what work issues keep me awake at night? Or do you mean what work issues are always at the forefront of my mind?”

        2. Forrest*

          I think that’s the same as me– occasionally I lie awake figuring work stuff out, but for me that’s “productive and interesting thinking time because I’m intellectually engaged in my work” that just falls at a time when I’d rather be asleep, rather than “useless fretting that detracts from my quality of life. But the question wouldn’t offend or upset me, because being intellectually engaged like that is a positive as far as I’m concerned, not a source of stress.

        3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes I have had bosses (not jobs) whose weird and nasty behaviour has had me worrying all night, so yes it’s reminding me of some painful times.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            (the last boss, I had to see a psychiatrist for several months and had several months sick leave and got a doctor’s note to say I couldn’t work there any more. The doctor ended up investigating the entire company because she saw that all the workers were completely stressed out when she went to see the boss and check that my tale of woe was true. I also had to go to the health insurance people to prove that I was genuinely sick, because the boss told them that I was faking it to get sick leave. So yes, very bad memories).

    2. Amey*

      I think this is a really good analysis! I think I fall into group 3 as I would hear the question as ‘What stresses you out about your job?’ The nature of my job is sometimes stressful but a big part of my job is protecting my direct reports from those particular stresses. The pressures that they WILL sometimes experience are acknowledged and directly discussed and screened for in the interview process – the stress that I experience isn’t really that relevant. I feel it’s my job to ensure that others aren’t taking their work home! But I’m coming off a particularly difficult week where I WAS up at night worrying about some very difficult confidential people management issues and I would struggle to answer this question if asked it today!

    3. Patty Mayonnaise*

      Totally seconding this analysis – I’m in group 2 and my criticism was that in my industry (entertainment) the answers are usually obvious (the network is unhappy with the show or it gets bad ratings and everyone loses their jobs) or, because roles are so specific, the people interviewing you have very different things stressing them out than you would have in your role. It wouldn’t be the worst question to ask, but I don’t think it would yield super valuable information.

    4. Agnes*

      At my current level, I’m applying for mid level professor and administrator positions. It would be a good question for administrator, because what’s objectively the biggest challenge may not be the thing they’re most worried about – think, declining state support, which we have an eighth point plan to address, vs. How we’ll keep the medical school open if our clinical partner pulls out, when we have no reasonable option.
      For a professor, it wouldn’t make a lot of sense, because it would either be really generic (will my grant get funded?) Or really personal (I won’t get tenure because my grant wasn’t funded.

    5. SweetestCin*

      May I add a sub-group 4? For whatever reason, really random things tend to float across my subconscious sometime between 1-3 a.m. and sometimes they are work related, and sometimes they actually do roust me to the point where I write it down (yes, this happens enough I keep a note pad on my nightstand, because I will NOT remember this ish in the morning) and go back to sleep. I’d guess at least once a month there’s something very useful to my work on that notepad in the morning, instead of random groceries, or random ideas for artwork/painting, random reminders to call people, and random straight made gibberish.

      I work in an industry that is mostly aligned with number 1, but due to my exact position and the deadlines associated with, I fall into number 2…sort of.

    6. BigHairNoHeart*

      Hey, thank you for writing this. I’ve been so confused by why a lot of other commenters are reacting to this question so negatively, and I think you’re right, it probably has a lot to do with the industry and the underlying assumptions different people have about acceptable stress levels. I’m absolutely in category 1, so if I was asked this question of an interviewee, I wouldn’t bristle the way others might (I’d actually like it quite a bit because it’s thought provoking, and would probably inspire an answer that I wouldn’t otherwise give a candidate). I’ve also seen others say it’s too personal, but I like that aspect of it! If the candidate gets the job, they’re going to be working with these people, and it’s good to know a bit about their thoughts and attitudes towards their work.

    7. Hillary*

      I’m in your second bucket – it’s a question I’ve asked in the past and will use again. It opens up a path of conversation that can tell me a lot about how I would get along with the manager. Even within an industry what someone is thinking about tells you a lot about the individual org and person. For instance a senior person should be focused on strategy – if they’re focused on daily execution they may be understaffed or a micromanager.

      In the teaching example, if a principal/head teacher is most worried about bringing in teachers that makes me wonder about why the school is having trouble with retention. If they answer with funding it can be a good opening to talk about their strategies and if it’s a style that works for you.

    8. Bagpuss*

      I think this is a really interesting way of looking at it and goes a long way to explaining how people are reacting. (Also for me personally, part of why the question feels weird is that my job mostly falls into group 2 and I’d expect a question to be more about how you mange the stress / what resources the employers provide, rather than what causes it (which is mostly fairly obvious!) – so it felt like if you’re group 2 it’s a poorly worded way of asking and in group 3 it’s mildly invasive / inappropriate

    9. Humble schoolmarm*

      This is a good analysis, but I’m not sure that the question is useless for those of us in group 2. Yes, most head teachers will say the same thing, but that means if you hear something different (“the parents can be very… involved…” for example) it may give you some vital information about the culture.

    10. Gray Lady*

      In which case a poor reaction that implies that #3 might be in play is a useful filter for the kind of environment to avoid, unless you actually want that kind of environment. So if you’re seeking that kind of high-stress level, deal with it on your own time kind of job, avoid the question, or word it in a very different way that avoids the implied personal reflection on the responder. If you’re not, you’ll get an encouraging response from #1 and a good picture of the job culture from #2.

      1. Andy*

        I think I work in #3 and did reacted negatively on question. But, the industry culture 3 does not mean there is always large stress. This is part of description:

        > “discussing how stress impacts on your home life is seen as more of a personal failure of boundaries or evidence of a bad organisational culture”

        Big aspect of #3 is that large stress is optional in most situations. It can happen because scheduling is too tight, there is disorganization and chaos, management that pressures people too much – this falls under “bad organisational culture”. It also can happen because you personally cant say no, make too loose estimates, overpromises, cant manage requirements or dont communicate at advance – basically “personal failure of boundaries”.

        But, there is such a thing as better managed organization where the amount of stress is not that large.

        So, if you experienced that large stress and if you currently work in team that is not like that, then you will react negatively (me). Because first, no, while we have issues we don’t have this one and you are forcing me to imply we do. And second, because I know what large stress is. Picking small everyday issue and talking about it as about large one makes me look like someone who cant tell those apart.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, perhaps. But the point is that this question can make sure that people who don’t thrive in high-stress environments don’t end up in one. It’s absolutely okay to risk offending someone you’re interviewing with if that ensures that you don’t end up in an environment you don’t want to be in. This question is only for those who are willing to take that risk, though. People who’re interviewing because they might want to change jobs, rather than because they have to escape a toxic organization or are unemployed.

    11. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      I agree. I am baffled by the lack of understanding the question!

    12. automaticdoor*

      As a person in category 1, I am completely taken aback by the number of people who are taking this literally.

    13. Alleira*

      And don’t forget the last one:

      4. Industries where the interviews are unreasonably literal about an idiomatic question and get offended that you’d ask something using colloquial language at an interview where you might actually need to work with these people.

      FFS, I’m reading some of these responses and shaking my head. I work in a high-stress environment (law and insurance) and if someone asked me that question, my response would be: “Getting sued for bad faith on a claim I never heard anything about, and subsequently discovering that the claims file looks really bad.”

      Does it ACTUALLY keep me up at night? No. Is it something that I think about and noodle on and try to avoid through training, discussion, and reinforcement? YES. Jobs are stressful. Job seekers recognize that stress happens. If a candidate asked me that question, I’d be impressed that they care about the more difficult aspects of the job and are trying to see the position from somewhere other than the rosiest outlook.

  22. insertusername*

    Is it possible your pay period may have included those first two days, and that the last two fall into the new pay cycle??

    I remember getting my first paycheck at my current job and it was so much less than I expected – in my head it was like omg I can’t afford to work here! But it was really just the way the pay cycle had fallen.

    For example, my current pay cycle is July 2-15. I’ll receive that paycheck on July 23. But any hours/time I worked after July 15 won’t be on my July 23 check, they will be on the next one.

    Just ask HR/Payroll what the pay cycle is and to verify that all days were reflected in your pay. It’s just an accounting thing to sort out, it’s not being pushy.

    1. Down to the minute*

      It’s been three months, and LW3 was clear she gave the company time to correct the mistake, and she still hasn’t been paid.

      1. insertusername*

        I missed that part, but was the mistake ever brought to the company’s attention? I’m sure they would have corrected it if they were made aware.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          No, thats why the LW was writing in. They don’t want to seem greedy for asking about those 2 days. But really its not greedy its just normal business.

  23. Mannheim Steamroller*

    OP #4…

    Does Glassdoor have a mechanism for reviewing recruiters? If not, maybe leave a review for the company addressing only the pushy external recruiter.

    1. OP4*

      There’s no real way to report recruiters via Glassdoor. Glassdoor is only for reporting how a particular employer treated you if you worked for them. There really should be some place to report recruiting companies that have bad practices.

  24. CoveredInBees*

    OP2 I agree that, while not knowing the details, it might be that the donor is trying to be genuinely helpful in using their existing infrastructure so you can focus money on other needed areas. Knowing your situation and the donor more than we do, you are the best situated to decide that but I’d consider it. From what I read, it doesn’t seem like this was a judgment on your abilities.

    If there is a strong reason to keep the birds at your sanctuary then approach other experts and just thank the donor for their offer and tell them you have a solution in the works.

    1. Blue Eagle*

      This is how I read the situation. The rescues that I am familiar with try to place their animals with “fur-ever” homes whereever possible to make room for new rescues. Did you consider that the donor was trying to help you out by taking them off your hands rather than sticking you with a potentially unwanted task of developing a new habitat?

      Or were these valuable birds that you wanted to keep yourself for some reason?

      If I was a donor with a setup that could already support these animals, I would have made the offer to take them myself. Perhaps you should take a breath, take a step back and rethink the interaction without being so quick to take offence. Because your proposed solution to not contact donors to ask for their knowledge seems to me like cutting off your nose to spite your face. By the way, why aren’t you considering his offer to take the birds?

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        If this is the case, I wonder if the birds in the rescue are some sort of “wild” bird that the donor couldn’t legally take in (for example the donor may have domestic geese but the rescue has Canadian Geese that are considered wild and have to be at a rescue/sanctuary because of local/state laws). If it’s a case that this rescuer works with a mix of domestic and wild, they can adopt out the domestic but have to keep the wild ones that can’t be rehabilitated and released.

  25. RagingADHD*

    OP3, depending how flat your organization is, you may be able to contact the payroll person directly. I’ve done that before over an apparent discrepancy. In my case, it turned out that I hadn’t clicked the correct toggle button in the timesheet software, so it never went through.

    It’s probably some kind of low-level error that just needs sorting out, not a “complaint”. It’s odd that you’d avoid mentioning it whike teying to “build trust.”

    Knowing that a teammate has your back to catch errors is an important part of building trust!

    1. Allypopx*

      “Knowing that a teammate has your back to catch errors is an important part of building trust”

      +1. OP, you’re building trust both ways. This is a great way to work towards that. Knowing that small, reasonable requests will be handled well will put you more at ease, and help towards relationship building. Getting this taken care of will help your goals, not hurt them.

  26. Out & About*

    OP 5; I had a past supervisor say to me “I wish things kept you up at night.” This was because I had great coping mechanism for stress and anxiety due to OCD treatment. When things went wrong or issues arose I would never obsess or be possessed by it. In that supervisor’s eyes I didn’t care about the job and wasn’t putting “myself” into it.
    I think it’s a great screener question because it isn’t necessarily about how Jane feels stressed about monthly account reporting but the trend of how the company culture expects employees to react. Some companies take pride in having a calm problem solving staff, others will brag about their leadership going bald from stress like a trophy.

    1. Allypopx*

      Yes! Completely agree. It tells you so much more than just the literal facts of the answer.

      1. Out & About*

        The funny thing is she was one of the least toxic people at the company. One of those things where her core was good but she was conditioned in a very toxic environment.

    2. allathian*

      Ouch, that’s awful, and definitely something I’d want to know about and avoid.

  27. Yvette*

    I probably should wait for one of the open free-for-all days, but I have been meaning to say this for a while. I really appreciate the “Read an update to this letter here.” feature. I love the “Surprise Me” option and it is great that when there is a really interesting (OK, juicy) letter from a while back, I no longer have to wonder if there was an update or try to find it by searching “update juicy letter name”.

  28. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I find the leap of logic sort of odd in this question. Employee is not good at the job yet still works there, ergo affair? This is almost like the Underpants Gnomes with the mysterious step 2. While, yes, maybe there’s been something like that, maybe there’s something else going on that OP genuinely doesn’t know. Seems like the smartest step would be to tell the boss the job problems and ask if there’s a reason corrective measures can’t be taken.

    #2 – I feel this one should be chalked up to donor weirdness and move on. One thing I haven’t seen mentioned, but might be worth doing, is to notify someone higher up that Fergus the Fowl Saver has made this comment. If Fergus perseverates in his notion that the sanctuary is unfit for these birds (maybe it is? maybe it isn’t? who can say), he’s going to go over OP’s head to someone higher in the organization or perhaps on the board. If the org’s line is that the birds are fine, then someone with more Ferg-experience ought to be designated to tactfully tell him the plans.

    #5 – I had a job where my answer would be “I have to walk on pins and needles around the management here because you never know what side of them you’ll get or what cockamamie money-making scheme they’ll come up with and you never know if your check will be safe because they keep hiring people for no obvious reason with no ability to pay them.” So, you know, be careful what you wish for.

    1. Allypopx*

      #2- Yes! Who is in charge of stewardship/donor relations? They need to be looped in.

      1. MissBliss*

        From the description of the org the OP provided, I think there’s a fairly good chance there is no one in charge of stewardship or donor relations (or, rather, no one specifically devoted– OP or their spouse likely do some donor work when they have time).

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        It sounds like the LW is in charge. They say My spouse and I run a nonprofit that rescues a variety of animals.” That means there wouldn’t be anyone above her unless the donor called DNR or the Humane Society. But since Vets and such have complimented the sanctuary I think they would be ok.

    2. Anononon*

      Re: your #5 response – that’s exactly what I would wish for! That’s literally the point of the question, to determine what are the bigger stressors of the job.

        1. Anononon*

          I’d be shocked if anyone actually did. But, I was simply responding to Delta Delta’s “be careful what you wish for” when asking this question.

  29. LQ*

    #3 I was a boss in this situation. Someone several months after they started mentioned that there was a day missing. I was LIVID. It took a handful of phone calls and one very senior level person invoked but we got it taken care of quickly. I don’t have time to check, and literally couldn’t because I don’t see their paychecks/stubs, each person’s pay amount. But hearing that someone got shorted on pay is one of the things that will spring every supervisor I know into immediate and very strong action. Every single decent boss and nearly all the shitty ones too will be appalled that this got missed and work to get it corrected as quickly as they can.

    You are not greedy. You are not ungrateful. You DID earn it, not just “technically”. Call your payroll and ask about the status of it. But this is a place to bring in your boss if you need to.

    The chances that this are just an overlooked thing are incredibly high and that folks would be all kinds of horrified/appalled/ashamed if they knew. I hope you feel buoyed enough by the comments here to call payroll or send a message to your boss this morning.

    1. Concertina*

      When I first started at my current job I didn’t get paid for ten weeks because payroll and HR had my address wrong and really didn’t want to just reissue my checks for some reason. My boss, grandboss and great-great grandboss all got involved and I came back for a second season in large part because of how great they were about that sort of thing! No manager worth their salt will treat it like a problem that you’re worried you didn’t get paid.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Okay, I’ve heard stories like this and I’m not being snarky, I genuinely don’t understand. Were you working on a lump-sum contract or have an incredibly long pay period? Why did you keep working for ten weeks under these conditions?

        I have had one employer who was a disorganized sole proprietor, who accidentally let my paycheck bounce. He got one warning. If it happened twice I would have just stopped showing up.

        What motivates people to keep working at a job when they aren’t being paid? If you’re broke and really need a job, working for free isn’t helping anything. And if you are broke and desperately need a job, how could you subsist for that long on nothing?

        Did the corrected paycheck come with interest and penalties for your overdue bills?

  30. R*

    I also don’t like the interview question in #5 and I’m surprised by the number of people defending it so intensely in the comments. I interpret it in the same way some others have, that the environment is so stressful that the job will literally keep you up at night – and that seems very strange to imply as a candidate. I would think maybe you’re fishing for me to say it’s not that bad or to talk about work-life balance? On the flip side, if an interviewer randomly used that phrase during the interview as a casual way to tell me about the challenges of a role, I would absolutely consider it a red flag and would not proceed with the company.

    I just left a role in April that required 60-80 hours, often 6 days a week on site during the entirety of the pandemic (not healthcare, manufacturing) where I frequently received calls, texts and chimes during my off hours that I was expected to reply to. It was an extremely high stress environment that quite literally caused me many, many sleepless nights and gave me literal nightmares due to anxiety. I’m positive that my recent experience is coloring my perception of the question but it is what it is, it’s my honest reaction to it. Also I’m clearly not the only one to think it’s odd or off putting.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      Forrest had an interesting and insightful breakdown of the different responses upthread. Worth a read if you haven’t read it already.

    2. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      I don’t think it is defending it. It is a very common way of discussing emerging risks and process challenges, particularly at executive levels and definitely in risk & control jobs. It doesn’t mean literally staying up at night. It is a way of eliciting top concerns.

      I have worked in public accounting, private companies and now in senior management audit for a very large bank in North America and this is such a common way of taking about risk. It doesn’t reflect on actual sleep at all. Super super common.

  31. Chairman of the Bored*

    For LW3, consider it this way: If you employer accidentally overpayed you for 2 days that you did not work, would they be shy about bringing that up and correcting it? Probably not.

    That being the case, there’s no reason to tiptoe around the opposite problem.

  32. not neurotypical*

    I founded one of the largest animal sanctuaries in my country, and I have over 20 years of experience in the field. In those years, I have seen many well-meaning sanctuary operators fail to take adequate action when alerted to shortfalls in their animal care. Not saying that is what’s happening here, but that might be what’s happening here. Here is what you can do to figure out what to do:

    1. Recognize that, any time anyone with any sort of expertise suggests that animals in your care may be in need of rescue, you have an obligation to take that feedback seriously.

    2. Assess what you know: The use of the word “rescue” by the donor known to have expertise with waterfowl is one data point. The compliments from your vets (who may or may not have specific expertise with waterfowl, whose points of comparison may be the relatively poor care offered to waterfowl within animal agriculture, and who probably are not aware of the higher standards used by sanctuaries) are another data point. Since those data points contradict each other, you need more data.

    3. Download the standards of care for the birds in question from The Open Sanctuary project, the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, or other reputable sources. Ask yourself whether you are meeting those standards of care.

    4. Reach out to other sanctuaries with specific expertise in the care of the animals in question. Share with them photos and a description of your set-up and procedures. Invite them to visit if possible. For example, the friendly people at Carolina Waterfowl Rescue might be willing to offer an opinion.

    5. If these are ducks and geese of the kind who are farmed, join the Global Coalition of Farm Sanctuaries on Facebook. Share photos and a description and ask for feedback.

    6. Finally, remember that sanctuaries exist for the sake of their nonhuman residents. The waterfowl now in your care have been offered what might be a significantly better home. Provided that they could all go together, so that all-important relationships are not disrupted, you do have an obligation — I think — to consider whether they would be better able to flourish at that other home.

    I know all of this is uncomfortable to think about. Being willing to tolerate such discomfort is, along with grief and stress, one of the emotional burdens of sanctuary work. I wish you well!

    1. Striped Badger*

      This is where my mark is at as well. Industry best practice and shared industry knowledge are worth their weight in gold; so reach out to multiple others whose work you trust and respect.
      Remember, you went to your donor in the first place because he does have knowledge, skills and experience you value. That value didn’t go away because you don’t agree with his response. It means you should sanity-check by getting others, who are unbiased but have the knowledge to review your work.

      It’ll also go a long way to assure the donor if your response is a combination of what Allison first suggested, plus you advising him of the others you’re getting to review your setup (and then a brief follow-up of their result?). Because that shows him that you’ve taken his concerns seriously, even if you didn’t think he understood correctly in the first place.

  33. BlueWolf*

    For #3 – Yes, definitely ask for your money! I realized halfway through my first full year at my company that they had been deducting the wrong amount for health insurance for my spouse. They had essentially been deducting the premium for his coverage twice. I didn’t notice it right away because I didn’t look that closely at my pay stubs. They ended up owing me almost $1,000 by the time I noticed the error. It’s no big deal, it’s money they owe you, and I’m sure it was just an oversight.

  34. Machiamellie*

    #5 – Am I the only one who’s “eesh” about 4 panelists for an interview for an office position? Why so many? I remember being in an interview with 7 people, arranged around me in an arc, feeling like I was on the stand in a murder trial. It’s hella intimidating.

    1. Insert Clever Name Here*

      My company does panel interviews, usually consisting of your manager, a teammate, and (for my department) one or two representatives from the groups you’ll be supporting. The idea is that each of those people can evaluate different aspects of a candidate’s fit that the others might not be positioned to evaluate. While the manager makes the final hiring decision, they are supposed to consider the feedback from the entire panel when making that decision.

    2. Allypopx*

      I’d much rather do that than the five rounds of one-or-two person interviews that seem to be becoming more normal

    3. Paige*

      Depends on the position, honestly. 3-4 is pretty standard for all the office positions I’ve hired for (7 does seem excessive). It’s good to have a mix of people interviewing, because sometimes if you don’t, you risk not asking all the pertinent questions, (not everyone is actually good at knowing what to ask or how to ask it), increasing bias, or not being able to answer all the questions the interviewee has.

      We always have, at a minimum: a supervisor, someone else in the dept the person would work with, and someone from another dept. who would work with them. If there’s specialized knowledge/experience required, we try to pull someone else in who can help us make sure we’re evaluating that correctly.

    4. Anononon*

      My firm does a large panel interview for the second interview for new associates. It’s basically all of the other associates who are available (usually between 7-10), plus maybe some higher-end management. It is pretty intimidating, but the candidates are told about it in advance, and it’s a very low-key interview, just us talking with the candidate to see if we generally like them and for them to ask any questions about the work.

    5. The Prettiest Curse*

      My final interview for my previous job (event & admin support) had (if I remember correctly) 6 panel members. I think they all asked me 2 questions. The position was to support a small team and the entire team had to meet and be okay with the person they hired. It wasn’t too overwhelming because of the limited questions. Everyone was around a circular table, which made it less intimidating. But yeah, having that many people was a bit much.

    6. BRR*

      My personal opinion is four is probably the max a panel should be and is definitely on the larger side (I’m sure there are many people who would consider four too many). I wouldn’t eesh about it though. I also did an interview with 7 (or so) and I was not a fan.

    7. I'm just here for the cats*

      It depends on the company. I work for a university and there was 5 people on the first interview and 3 on the second. this involved people from the department, others that interact with the department and an HR rep.

    8. allathian*

      In my organization it’s standard to have the hiring manager, team lead, and at least one peer on the same team on the panel, usually the person whose job is the most similar to the open position and who’ll be working closely with that person.

      When my former coworker quit, I was involved in hiring her replacement. My then-manager didn’t have a background in my exact job, so I was there partly to ask and answer questions directly related to our working style. All other things being equal, my manager also wanted to hire someone who’d work well with me. So out of our final candidates, she hired the one I liked best. She said that it was obvious from our body language that we’d enjoy working together, and this has turned out to be true. Sure, I’m a professional and would’ve done my best to work with whoever she hired, but if it had been a candidate I didn’t like working with, I would certainly have looked elsewhere by now. I’ve been in my current position for 14 years and my coworker’s been here for 7 years. This isn’t at all unusual in my organization, we’ve had people who’ve retired at 68 having worked for 50 years at the same governmental agency. They were hired as entry-level office workers straight out of high school, and some of them went to school during their career and all of them have switched job descriptions several times, as times and jobs have changed.

  35. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    OP5 If something about a job keeps people awake at night, I’m not taking that job! I need my sleep. I’m not sure why anybody would think that was a good question. If I were the interviewer and I was asked that, I’d say “Nothing, I hope. And if I were to hire you and something did keep you awake at night, I hope you’d come to see me the very next day to talk about it and make sure it never happens again.”

    1. Mental Lentil*

      Your response is a perfect reason for why it is a great question. Besides describing how the company deals with issues, it also gives the company a chance to talk about work/life balance.

      1. allathian*

        Exactly. I think it’s a great question, but only for candidates who are genuinely treating the job interview as a two-way process and are using it to filter out employers that don’t value work-life balance.

  36. Anya Last Nerve*

    OP2, sorry if I’m missing something, but why was it insulting that he offered to take the birds? You are a rescue and he is able to care for them (you must believe so if you were asking for his advice on caring for them) so I’m struggling to see why you not only didn’t jump at his offer to adopt them, but were insulted he offered? Again, I may be missing something but I can’t quite understand.

    1. Nonprofit Jane Doe*

      I agree with this response. OP2, I work in fundraising, and I would use this as an opportunity to ask for more funds. Your donor has, agree with him or not, identified as aspect of your sanctuary that has need (the bird enclosures do not have sufficient water); his solution is to offer a space for the bird with him.

      Your solution should be — you’re right that I do need a better water source (or whatever the real issues is), and I’m so grateful for you offer to take in the birds. Give him a high level overview of why you can’t give him the birds (something about fiscal responsibility to your other donors who are expecting you to actually take care of the animals, not give them away). And in the interest of making sure your sanctuary can meet future needs as more animals come into your care, will the donor consider doubling his yearly contribution/giving $K over three years/or whatever you identify as the ask here in order to outfit the bird sanctuary with x, y, x. Name the space in honor of him for ~10 years.

      1. Beany*

        “the bird enclosures do not have sufficient water”

        That’s the donor’s assessment, and not one LW necessarily agrees with. It may not be as pretty/nice as what the donor has in place, but still serve the actual needs of the birds adequately.

        1. Charlief*

          I don’t understand why a rescue would be content with adequate when they could have great for the birds. Like kennels are adequate for a dog, but aren’t the same as a home with garden/ walks etc… (or a job in the case of working dogs (then kennels plus job may well be preferable to home no job)

    2. Allypopx*

      I assume it was insulting because of the implication they couldn’t care for them or otherwise weren’t caring for them well. That said, if you’re a rescue, and you know someone who could more easily offer high quality care and is willing to take the birds…yeah. Give him the birds.

    3. londonedit*

      I think the OP was offended because they are perfectly capable of caring for the birds and they have a perfectly good setup already in terms of the environment they can offer the animals – what they were looking for was advice on how to make that even better, but what the donor heard was ‘this person cannot look after these birds and I need to save them from being neglected’. Which, if you’ve put your heart and soul into building a rescue centre, could definitely be construed as being a little insulting.

      I wonder whether there’s a disconnect between what the OP’s centre does and what people (here or the donor themselves) think it does – a ‘rescue’ could imply a temporary centre where animals are rehabilitated before they’re released or rehomed, and in that case it would make sense for the donor to offer to rehome the birds. But it could also mean a centre where the birds are already being given a permanent home after they’ve been rescued – what in my country we’d call an animal sanctuary. A place where animals may be initially brought to be rehabilitated, but which then becomes their forever home, with all the necessary things for their care and environment to let them live out their days in peace. If the OP has set up something like the latter, I can see how they would be offended by someone implying that their setup clearly isn’t good enough and that the birds need to be removed and rehomed. But, as Alison said, they still need to separate their emotional ties to the centre from the need to bring in donations and work with the people who support them.

      1. Charlief*

        In that case frankly it seems really sad for the birds that they get a pool etc not a pond. On a behavioural level they get to express all their natural instincts such as foraging in the water etc, and quality of life will be increased. Frankly vets tend to not know about behavioural stuff even for common animals, never mind normally wild animals etc.

  37. Exhausted Trope*

    OP2, while I greatly admire what you’re doing for the animals and the sacrifices you have made, I think your calling a donor “officious jerkface” is way out of line. He’s donated money as well as advice, as much as that advice was unwanted. I work for a non-profit and we’ve fired staff for less.

    1. Amtelope*

      I mean, the OP didn’t call him an officious jerkface to his face, or to another employee of the organization. Some donors ARE officious jerkfaces, and while it’s staff’s job to be polite to them and (depending on the organizational culture) about them when talking about them internally, surely it’s OK to say so in an anonymous forum with no names attached.

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I agree, and sometimes you need to say it to vent too, but you do need to be careful it doesn’t colour further interactions.

  38. not a doctor*

    For those who dislike the question in #5, a question for you:

    My company (which I adore) has a strong emphasis on work/life balance, and I saw myself answering the question with something like, “I can’t think of anything stressful enough to *keep* me awake, but when I’m drifting off, I often catch myself thinking about ways to tackle the exciting but very open-ended project I’m working on.”

    IOW, I read the question as, essentially, “What’s the work-related thing that’s most on your mind when you’re not focusing on a specific task?” I’m not planning to interview any time soon, but out of curiosity, how would you word that take on the question?

    1. MissCoco*

      I’m on the same page as you (I’d respond with the difficult but interesting challenge I’ve been casually brainstorming about in my free time), and I think maybe the way to ask it would be:
      “What aspect of your work are you most preoccupied with right now?”
      Or maybe “Is there a project/aspect of this job you’ve found yourself turning over in your head recently?

      These are sort of different ways to get at that “biggest challenge” question, but it’s a different tone
      I know (and enjoy) the exact feeling you’re describing — work can be fun, or at least interesting, and I will sometimes let myself pursue that interest in my free time, without any impact on my personal life

    2. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

      Yes – it isn’t about actually staying up at night, it is meant to elicit the top emerging risks or concerns, or the highest priority challenge. This is incredibly common in my industry.

  39. Mbarr*

    #3 – ask for your money!

    This happened to me too during my very first “grown up” job. I didn’t get paid for my first week of work. I just assumed I’d get it tacked on at the end, when my contract was over… I was wrong. And I never fought for it. I regret that now.

  40. Hell in a Handbasket*

    I’m confused about the reaction of LW#2. Your interest should be in doing the best you can for the animals, right? Not protecting your own pride? If the donor has a superior (or even equally good) environment for the birds, why would you not take him up on his offer and use your (presumably limited) resources to help other animals? If the donor’s environment is NOT actually as good for whatever reason, you could refuse nicely rather than considering it a mortal insult that he offered.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      The issue is that “best” is highly subjective.

      Besides, why couldn’t the donor use his resources to help other animals?

      The issue is not about what’s best for the animals here, it’s about LW taking offense at something a donor said and potentially losing future donations and how to deal with it going forward.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      Because we don’t know what type of birds except that it is some type of waterfowl which covers both domestic and wild. As far as I know, most states have restrictions on who can ‘own’ wild animals. For example, it is Canadian Geese are federally protected, including from being owned by people. However, if someone is a licensed sanctuary or rehabilitator they can ‘own’ the animal to care for it if it is injured and unable to be released in the wild.

      The donor may have a pond or something that he has for his domestic waterfowl but, unless he is licensed, he would not be able to care for the wild waterfowl.

      There may be other reasons why the LW cannot give him the birds as well.

  41. Agnes McDonald, Girl Detective*

    LW3, the same exact thing happened to me when I started my current job. They’d run payroll already by the time I started and it just got missed. I emailed my HR contact and pointed it out, and they fixed it by the next paycheck. So ask HR, or your boss if you don’t have an HR. It’s not a big deal at all! If it helps you to get over the awkwardness since it’s now been 3 months, you can say you just realized/noticed it. But there’s also no shame in having waited this long, since you were reasonably expecting it to get caught and fixed. Advocate for yourself in these small ways and it does get easier to advocate for yourself over time.

  42. Afraid to use my real fake name*

    IDK why the community here can go so sideways sometimes like with the “what keeps you up at night” question.
    Of course, you have to know your industry and comments like, “that would not work in law because our hours are so long anyway might be helpful.” But why the constant critical comments along the lines of “this question sucks?”

    The OP found it helpful and many here also found it helpful. Can you not just say, that would not be helpful in my industry for x reason?

    I think it would reveal a lot. Either a clear answer about the challenges or a blank stare would be helpful. An answer like, “we hope no one here is kept up at night worrying but the thing we do need to fix/focus on/constantly address is x” could help show the workplace has a good work life balance.

    1. Unfettered scientist*

      Sure. I don’t think that would be helpful in my branch of academia. This might be because it’s very common to have people who take their work home with them and though there isn’t usually overt competition, there is sometimes an implied ‘you must think about this stuff all the time’ that exists and also chafes extra because it runs counter to university-wide messaging of ‘self-care’. If I was interviewing someone who asked me this, I would worry they are someone who thinks work is something you think about at night/in off hours and that their boundaries with work are lax. I would worry that they think it’s normal to be up late worrying about work and might be overly invested (which is a common issue in academia). I would take this more literally because as I said in my type of academia it’s really really common to literally be working all the time or thinking about work all the time. Some people/professors actually think this is how things should work and it’s not an uncommon viewpoint. So it would be a bit of a yellow flag for me as an interviewer.

    2. Koala dreams*

      Actually, I find it helpful to see the different reactions to the question. Especially when people give some background. If you are going to ask an ambiguous question, it’s always better to be prepared for possible reactions.

  43. WantonSeedStitch*

    I think that the question in #5 is great. It’s actually something I like to ask our clients (internal to our organization) as part of meetings, to see if they are facing problems that my team may be able to help solve for them.

  44. Allonge*

    LW5 – I think the question content / intent is good. The phrasing, as can be seen here, may or may not work, and for me that is what makes it a bad question unless you elaborate. Ask the question you want answered, don’t rely on an idiom coming across, especially if the literal take is a real possibility.

  45. BradC*

    OP1, the issues around the alleged affair seems super duper tricky (and are addressed by Alison and other commenters), but I have a few other questions about the former manager: (For simplicity, let’s call the former manager “Jane”, and the company owner “Bob”)

    * Does Jane actually have a specific role in the new organization?
    * Was she held over to “train” you? If so, is that work complete?
    * Was she bumped back down to “team member”? If so, is the competent in that role?
    * Is she WILLING or capable of returning to a “team member” role? Or is she still trying to perform tasks you are now responsible for?

    (These are at least the questions you’d ask in any other normal circumstances.)

    If you search the archives we’ve had other questions about “unfireable” employees (mostly relatives of an executive) and strategies to manage them where they can do the least damage: I know this situation is somewhat different, but might be worth reviewing some of those prior situations.

  46. Nanani*

    “This woman isn’t getting fired, it MUST be because she’s sleeping with the boss and not because she’s competent in some way I don’t know about” <- this is what OP1 sounds like.
    It's a gross misogynistic attitude -regardless- of OP1s own gender and regardless of whether an affair is happening.
    If the boss is sleeping with an employee then that employee is being abused via the unequal power dynamic. It is not ok.

    OP1 your attitude is bad.

  47. I'm just here for the cats*

    Am I the only one who thinks that the donor in #2 was a bit out of bounds. As far as I know, a sanctuary cannot just give a private citizen some of their animals. Especially if the waterfowl they have are protected and are considered wild. He might have waterfowl that are domestic but the birds that the LW have are wild. Many states have requirements that only licensed rehabilitators and sanctuaries can own these animals. For example, federal law states that you cannot own a Canadian goose. But a sanctuary would be able to be licensed to treat and care for a goose that may be injured or unable to be released to the wild.

    Based on the LW’s account it sounded like he wanted to take the birds for his own personal use, even after she explained that they do provide water for the birds and it’s just a different setup. I think he feels like because he has a natural source of water (pond I am guessing) that he is more capable to take care of these animals.

    Now the LW may be taking this a bit personally, but I can understand why.

    1. Smithy*

      Maybe I just work with really wild donors…but my professional read as a fundraiser (but not one in the animal rescue space), this doesn’t seem out of bounds to me. While some donors certainly write checks and go on with their days, there are others that are more involved. Sometimes due to their interest, but often due to the nonprofit’s interest. The desire to have a top donor be a board member or to collaborate with a foundation/corporate donor on xyz – this exists as its seen to be a good way to increase giving and overall commitment to the nonprofit and larger issue.

      Asking a donor for their advice is certainly one way to do that, however that then opens the door for all sorts of advice you don’t want. Sometimes the advice is undesired out of good willed ignorance (i.e. if the animal rescue legally could not place the animals with the private individual) or simply different priorities. A donor asking a question where the answer is “we don’t do that cause its illegal” is something that happens on the regular. Going forward, the OP’s job is essentially to not be thrown by those kinds of moments and find their own approach to handle them in the least confrontational way possible. In my opinion, the ultimate resolution with this donor would be to keep them as a donor and put a firm button on that topic.

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        I agree, unless there are other flags that have happened with this donor I don’t think they need to stop using this person. But maybe the LW needs to put boundaries like we can’t do x because of y. I can see this donor being pushy and wanting things done His way.

    2. Effective Immediately*

      I agree the interaction was out of bounds, but I think a lot of the responses from people who work in development/fundraising are ‘meh’ because donors do *wild* things all the time, to the extent that this doesn’t really register.

      Both things can be true: that OP (being new to working with donors) is having a disproportionate reaction and that nonprofits/fundraisers are someone numb to behavior from donors that might raise serious eyebrows from anyone outside the field.

      What I very much don’t agree with are the comments saying the donor was *right* to make that request. I don’t care how much I donate to a zoo, I would hope they wouldn’t be amenable to sending an animal home with me, no matter how great my set-up is!

  48. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

    “What keeps you up at night?” Is a really common audit question, and one that is routinely asked to our business executives when we check in with them (I work in senior management for a large internal audit group at a bank).

    The question is meant to elicit what challenges your team is facing, or risks around the corner, or things you would like to change. It is a great at to learn from senior management. It isn’t literal and doesn’t imply you don’t have work life balance.

    I would guess the candidate has risk and control experience and the interviewer has not had conversations like that. They are really common in risk and control discussions at larger institutions

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’m in the compliance and risk area of banking and I agree with this explanation.

  49. Moonbeams*

    #2 — I can sympathize. When you love and care for animals and birds, even if you know your setup is vet-approved and 100% healthy for them, it still hurts when someone comments that it’s inadequate or substandard. I’ve unfollowed several Facebook groups because there are always a few vocal people who feel the need to do this. But the waterfowl are what is important here, and it’s great that they have many places to go and people who are willing to help. I would just let the donor’s comments go and try to focus on the positive aspects of your relationship with him. If he believed that you were doing a bad job, then he would not have donated to you. And if he feels that you need more for your “clients”, then he may be willing to help financially with it in the future, and that’s a good thing.

  50. Effective Immediately*

    Nonprofit folks: was anyone else absolutely sure OP2 was going to be about their most presumptuous donor?

    Because I sure did.

    That one barely registered on the, ‘Totally Bonkers Things Donors Think They Get to Dictate’ scale for me.

  51. DadSaidSo*

    # 5 scares the pants off me! I don’t want anything to do with a job that could potentially keep me up at night.

    1. allathian*

      That’s the point of the question. It’s a good one to ask, if you’re a candidate for a job and want to avoid a high-stress environment and can afford to turn down a potential job offer on those grounds.

    2. funkynote*

      Glad to see someone saying this. This screams red flag to me. I like sleeping at night and not thinking about work after work hours.

  52. Marie*

    Re: Missing pay. Story One. At my first job I did not get paid for the first week and I assumed checks were a week behind. Two years later in a casual conversation with my supervisor I mentioned this company practice as a family t. She was horrified but pulled the records. I was quickly issued a check.
    2. Years later at another job my first check was not issued. It was a larger organization. I went to payroll and was told the check would be cut the next month. This was not acceptable to me. I asked to speak to the clerk’s supervisor. The check was cut immediately.

    In both cases the problem was that the first initial of my last name is at the end of the alphabet. In the first case the supervisor did not submit my paperwork since it was a solo entry.she just missed it. In the second the printer ran out of paper. The computer would have registered the check as issued and there would have been real problems getting the check.

  53. Michelle Smith*

    I had to back out of a process after going through 4 or 5 interviews with a company. I got information from a former employee that made it clear to me the opportunity was not going to be a good fit. The recruiter was super disappointed and asked if there was anything she could do to change my mind. When I said no, I never heard from her again. I was terrified she might react like the recruiter here did, but nope. She respected my no.

    I really enjoyed working with her, even though I ultimately had to abruptly stop working with her. I really don’t think it’s appropriate or professional for a recruiter to try and shoehorn in a candidate that doesn’t want the job. It’s completely counterproductive. I honestly think you dodged a bullet.

Comments are closed.