I disabled my coworker’s caps-lock key, employee calls me his “manageress,” and more

I’m on vacation today. Here are some past letters that I’m making new again, rather than leaving them to wilt in the archives.

1. I was fired after disabling my coworker’s caps-lock key

I just finished my sophomore year of college. For the summer, I got a three-month internship at a company that does work in the field I am getting my degree in and want to work in after I graduate. This was my second job, after the internship somewhere else I had last summer. I was hoping to get some good experience like last summer.

I was paired with the same person for two-thirds of the work I was doing. She has lots of skills, but I noticed when she types she uses the caps-lock key each time she needed to make a capital letter instead of using the shift key. She is only five years older than me, and she is very good with technology and computers. I didn’t understand why she would type this way, because even though she does type fast and efficiently, using the caps-lock key would slow her down. I mentioned it to her and even showed her, and she said she had no idea but she would keep on using the caps-lock key.

I thought she just needed to see how efficient it was so when I was using her computer I disabled the caps-lock key. She was very upset when she found out that it didn’t work and I explained what I did and why she should give the shift key a chance. She complained to the manager, and even though I was just trying to make things more efficient, the manager sided with her and I was let go a month into my internship. HR sided with her too when I went to them. I’m confused because I was only trying to help and make things more efficient. Did I really do something wrong or did the company overreact?

You overstepped. You interfered with someone’s workflow, which you didn’t have any right to do. This isn’t a perfect analogy, but it’s similar to if you decided that her filing system was inefficient and completely reorganized her files without her permission; it’s not yours to do and it would undoubtedly mess up her workflow.

You can’t mess with people’s computer, files, etc., even if you’re just trying to help. It’s presumptuous and it’s overstepping.

Firing you was an extreme response, but it’s possible they’d had other concerns and this was a final straw kind of thing.


2. Employee keeps referring to me as his “manageress”

I was recently promoted from a four person team and became the head of that team, replacing a male manager who departed.

I have no complaints, except that one person consistently refers to me in emails to others as his “manageress” instead of his “manager” – e.g. “I’ve copied my manageress into this email”.

Even with that person, I have no complaints about his performance, which makes me think I should just let it drop, but I wanted to ask if you think that’s the right thing to do and also if it’s normal to refer to female managers as “manageresses”?

No, it’s not normal. I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and assume he’s doing it because he thinks it’s funny, but you should tell him to stop because your gender doesn’t need to be such a focus of how he identifies you at work. Also, it’s like the problem with saying “male nurse” or “woman cop”; he’s saying that he thinks that men are the default for managers.

I’d say this: “Hey, Bob, I know that’s meant to be funny, but please cut it out; I don’t want that kind of focus on gender on our team.”

(I’m picturing this guy as the “hello, m’lady” guy from this Amy Schumer sketch.)


3. Bringing a camera to a job interview

I’m going to interview with a company in the gaming industry next week in their headquarters. Their headquarters are a monument to nerd-ism, and I’d love to bring a camera and take some pictures! Do you think it would look good if a candidate says: “Can I take a picture of this 5 feet tall statue of a game character?” Or I ask for a picture with one of my interviewers, who works as a game designer on a title that sold 25 million copies the same day it was released?

I’m so excited about this opportunity, and I don’t want to ruin it because of a silly mistake.

Don’t do it. You’ll look like you’re there as a fan rather than a serious candidate. Plus, they’re making time to talk with you as a job candidate, not as a fan who wants to take pictures. While some people might not be put off by it, enough will that it’s too much of a risk. (Read this for a longer explanation of a similar situation.)


4. What to say to a job applicant who plagiarized a cover letter

Since you posted the question about the stolen cover letter on May 5, I’ve received that same cover letter, too. There are a few tweaks, but it’s nearly identical.

I’d like to let the candidate know her plagiarism was discovered. She applied through our applicant tracking system, so we haven’t been in contact before. I’m comfortable giving candidates feedback, but I can’t figure out how to contact a stranger for the sole purpose of telling her she effed up. Email? Phone? What’s a way to phrase it that’s direct, but not overly punitive or condescending?

As an additional note, she’s completely unqualified for the position she applied to. Even with a perfect cover letter, I’d reject her.

I’m glad you’re going to say something; this pisses me off.

In the past when I’ve had similar situations, I’ve sent an email saying something like: “This cover letter appears to be pulled from (URL). Can you shed any light?”

I include that last sentence because (a) I find it fascinating to see what people say, and (b) I believe, perhaps overly optimistically, that  being made uncomfortable in that specific way decreases the chances they’ll do it again … but even if not, it’s reasonable for them to have to deal with the awkwardness of it.


5. Recruiter wants me to run jobs by her before I apply

I began working with a staffing agency in the past few weeks. I’m still at my current job until next week, but am moving mid-June and the recruiter has been talking to me about possible opportunities that would start in that timeframe. They do creative staffing–web, editing, graphic design.

I’ve read your previous posts on recruiters, and this lady seems like a respectable one, or at least one who won’t jerk me around. She’s been respectful of my time, has asked more probing questions about my experience to give her clients a better idea of my skills, and she mentioned that they get payment directly from the client, instead of a percentage of what my rates are, so the pay range I’d given was what I’d actually be paid. I haven’t done any interviews or jobs yet, obviously, but so far it’s been a good experience.

My question is this: She has mentioned that if I see a job I want to apply to, I should run it by her so she can see if she has a contact at the company. That makes sense, but I also suspect it’s a way for her to get more clients. Should I actually do this, or will it hurt my chances if it’s someone she hasn’t worked with and she approaches them out of the blue?

Yesterday, I had a former coworker contact me about a job his company is hiring for. I ran it by her as asked, but I’m worried that if she approaches them, they’d find it odd, especially since my coworker knows that I’d heard about the job directly and not through the agency.

Nooooo, don’t do that! If that company isn’t working with her already (and they’re probably not), then she’ll be using your interest as a way to try to win their business. If they’re not interested in working with a staffing firm (and they’re probably not, which is why they’re advertising on their own), then she may now “own” your candidacy and they won’t consider you (even if you later apply on your own) because they don’t want to pay a staffing firm fee.

Don’t think of a recruiter as being like your agent; they don’t need to manage every contact for you. She’s one part of your job search, but not the whole thing.


{ 520 comments… read them below }

  1. AcademiaNut*

    I’ve come to realize, after reading a number of letters like #1 (junior person is fired for a screw-up that isn’t necessarily fire-worthy) that the reason they get fired is probably not the initial issue, but rather for digging their heels in when called on it.

    If their reaction is to understand and acknowledge what they did wrong, apologize, and promise not to do it again, then that’s someone who is inexperienced and messed up, but can learn and improve. Someone who doubles down and insists that it wasn’t that big a deal, or they were actually right and therefore justified in their overstepping, or gets mad at the person who reported them, is much more likely to be more trouble that they’re worth.

    I’m thinking of examples like the corporate trick-or-treater, or the person who leaked embargoed information to their friend (who happened to be a reporter), the dress-code interns, or the junior person who snuck their way into a senior industry conference.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That, and I think in a lot of other cases it’s just a final straw and they’d already had growing concerns about the person before whatever was in the letter.

        1. Tara*

          This was amazing. A government employee who leaked information to the media and couldn’t see why it wasn’t ok.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            True, but at the same time I can *totally* see why an inexperienced, over-confident newbie doesn’t see it right away.

            “But Cathy isn’t ‘the media’! Sure, she’s a journalist, but she reports on rock bands – why would she be interested in the announcement about the authorization for the new school complex? I talked to her because she’s my friend, and she didn’t betray the friendship and leak the information!”

            I guess after a few decades in the workforce we lose touch with youthful hybris. After all it doesn’t stay youthful hybris – either (hopefully in most cases) people get a clue and learn professional norms, or it turns into mid-level professional hybris, which is more tactical and less chaotic.

            1. Mike*

              That’s kind of a good point. Should journalists just not be friends with anybody? (Maybe just not in government.)

              1. pancakes*

                Eh? The problem in this scenario is not that the journalist has friends; it’s that the letter writer shared information she was not authorized to share.

                1. Artemesia*

                  This. The second person to hear ‘secret’ information doesn’t have the same sense of needing to keep it quiet as the first should have and the third person — well no real constraints at all. True whether it is juicy personal gossip or a government info leak. Once you let it out, it is like water, it seeps everywhere. And information overheard does as well.

                  I once heard something damning about a department in my organization that was undercutting my department while I had lunch with my son and someone who was engineering this betrayal was having lunch next to me. (It involved diverting a bequest to our small impoverished program to the already well financed medical school at our university; the widow was assured she could re-direct money her late husband had willed to us.).

                2. Olivia Mansfield (formerly Mallory Janis Ian)*

                  @Artemesia: Did you say anything about the attempted diversion of the bequest? Did the other department end up getting it instead of yours?

              2. Sir Nose d'Voidoffunk*

                Speaking as an ex-journalist, many of them work nights and weekends and don’t make enough money for a real social life, so it takes care of itself sometimes.

              3. NerdyKris*

                They can have friends, it’s just on the person under an NDA not to discuss confidential things with them. Doctors can still have friends even though they can’t discuss details about their patients. Lawyers can have friends even though they can’t discuss their clients. The issue is the information being shared, not being friends with a journalist.

                1. NerdyKris*

                  But also journalists are friends with the people they cover all the time, and will typically respect requests to keep information off the record if agreed to ahead of time, because the alternative is that they lose access to that person and make their jobs more difficult.

              4. JB*

                No, the point is that you shouldn’t share embargoed information with anyone, whether or not they’re your friend.

                1. Artemesia*

                  And the average person shouldn’t be expected to understand the nuances of ‘off the record’. For one thing, it doesn’t really stop someone from digging for sources other than you once they know; they wouldn’t have known to dig without the leak. AND ‘off the record’ needs to be engaged BEFORE you spill the tea not after. ‘oh that was off the record’ AFTER you speak may well not get you the protection. I got seriously burned one time by being a naive doofus about journalistic ethics. They identified me unmistakably without actually naming me.

                2. Beany*

                  @Artemisia (can’t reply since we seem to have hit the nesting limit): it reminds me of movie plots where a Roman Catholic priest witnesses a murder and the murderer *then* visits the priest for Confession, under the impression that the Seal of the Confessional somehow means the priest can’t tell the police everything he *already* knew.

              5. what am I, a farmer?*

                I’m a journalist in DC who has friends working in areas that I cover, and it’s honestly, usually, fine if you have a friendship with high levels of trust and healthy boundaries (which is to say a good friendship). Our friendship is a friendship, not a source relationship. What they tell me stays in confidence with me. Of course I’m sure there’s stuff they DON’T tell me and I’m fine with that, and if they say something that I would find interesting professionally if it were said in another context, I just forget about it — it’s not a dereliction of professional duty to do that.

                Even in DC people don’t talk about work THAT much. It’s surprisingly a pretty giant non-issue!

                1. what am I, a farmer?*

                  Also, if my friend had a juicy secret that was being extremely closely guarded from the media I would prefer they NOT tell me about it. That just puts us both in a weird and bad position at work. If you handle confidential info and have a friend who’s a reporter, if they’re your friend, they don’t want to hear it. (If they constantly are asking you about it, they’re not a friend, they’re working you.)

            2. Omnivalent*

              Though that letter was less about youthful hubris and more about someone being indignant and blaming everyone else for their own behavior.

            3. The OTHER Other*

              Really any mature adult should understand what “confidential” means, and in any case most employers have extensive disclosures about what it means and what the consequences for breaching it are. “Confidential” does not mean you share it with someone you made a pinky swear with not to tell. Why would the person you tell have any better judgment or respect for confidentiality than you are demonstrating by breaking the confidence in the first place? I’m sure every drop of gossip gets a “this is a secret, promise you won’t tell anyone about it!” preamble, which is then promptly ignored.

              LW made a terrible mistake sharing it (with a journalist! On Slack!), was dumb to then also tell someone what she did, and now still does not seem to get it. I hope she grows up, this is the kind of stuff people grow out of when they leave middle school.

          2. Nodramalama*

            Oh my God I am a governmental employee and sharing privileged information with outside sources is literally against the law, let alone with a journalist.

          3. ThatGirl*

            The best/worst part is she shot herself in the foot by confessing it to a coworker.

            I’m not excusing sharing confidential/embargoed information, mind you! But if she had told ONLY her friend, and her friend didn’t tell anyone, nobody would be the wiser. Confessing to her coworker is what really got her in trouble.

            1. Smithy*

              That was the part of the story that killed me.

              I’m not saying there aren’t jobs with super top secret levels of secrecy, but lots of jobs have many levels of confidentiality that also include understood means of releasing that information. Either formally in the sense of identifying details being redacted or priests/counselors confiding in their own priests/counselors. Or informally, where if someone goes home and shares information with a family member or friend that is trusted to not share that information and then doesn’t…….goodness knows that happens in the homes of how many lawyers/medical professions every day.

              Being mindful that many of us work around work under a range of confidentiality umbrellas and have work arounds to commiserate or celebrate – the day a junior colleague confides that they shared confidential information. Particularly uniquely confidential information. The assumption is not “youthful exuberance” but – “do we need to do damage control”?? Because again, versions of this happen all the time. But the hope is that its done with the sophistication of either enough redaction or to someone who can truly keep the secret. And if you don’t trust yourself on that front, how am I supposed to trust you.

              1. Artemesia*

                I still remember the gossip of doctor’s wives in our neighborhood when I was a child over 60 years ago. I can remember specific embarrassing details about the illness of a teen girl in the neighborhood (and the filthy state of her bra) as these women gossiped about information about their doctor husband’s patients. It has left me deeply cynical about privacy and what one can expect. This was of course before HIPAA — but was egregious even then.

              2. ThatGirl*

                My husband is a counselor at a university, and he will sometimes share things about the students he sees, if it’s particularly interesting, troubling, etc – but even though these are people I will almost certainly NEVER meet, and I would NEVER share any of this info with others, he’s very careful to maintain their anonymity.

          4. Darsynia*

            I’m always fascinated by this! My aunt and uncle both worked in the Pentagon until retirement, and once the decades of NDA wore off and when it came up randomly in conversation (as in, she didn’t bring it up!), my aunt mentioned being one of the secretaries who transcribed the Watergate Tapes. We never knew, and this was long after she would have been clear to say something! She was exactly the kind of personality who would be given that task, because she didn’t find it anywhere near as interesting as we did. It was just one of her job duties, ho hum!

            With that in mind, it makes a lot of sense that violations of the mundane confidential stuff ends up as a firing offense, because the higher up you go, the more you’re entrusted with.

            1. The OTHER Other*

              Transcribing those tapes would have been interesting both for the illegal content and for the was it revealed the way Nixon and co. talked and swore like cheap mobsters–racist and anti-semitic slurs, etc. Yikes.

              People often try to defend it by saying “well, they thought they were speaking confidentially” but Nixon installed those devices in order to record everything for posterity, he has no one but himself to blame.

              1. Heffalump*

                “The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.”

                –Thomas Babington Macaulay

          5. LizM*

            Also, it’s generally very hard to fire a government employee unless they’re still in their probationary period. For a government employee to get fired on the spot, it’s for a VERY SERIOUS THING.

        2. Florp*

          Woof. I am constantly telling my kids that one the best adult life skills they can develop is learning when to keep your mouth shut. There’s an acronym they learned called T.H.I.N.K, as in, “is what you’re about to say:
          It’s tough to help young people learn to judge the Necessary part, especially when it comes to secrets. As in, it might be important and necessary to tell your mom you’re worried about your friend’s drug use even if the friend asked you not to, but it’s not necessary to tell everyone how much our house cost. It’s definitely not necessary to tell a random person confidential (government!) work information. You can’t “untell” something, and you can’t control anyone’s mouth except your own. I wish we had an update to that letter–I wonder if the OP learned from the experience?

      1. KateM*

        Plus, an intern is there (among other things) to learn workplace norms. Them doubling down like that essentially means refusing to do their job.

          1. Threeve*

            In my experience, the less expertise a person has and the less comfortable they are with technology, the more intense they get about sharing (or imposing) what they do know.

            (An old boss of mine was not terribly computer-literate, but he had learned how to use keyboard shortcuts. It was amusing how frequently he tried to teach or demonstrate them).

          2. Editor*

            The doubling down seems to something some people feel compelled to do. I remember a letter in Ann Landers from many decades ago, where a guy was concerned his new wife was using waaay too much toothpaste. She disagreed, pointing out she used toothpaste like her mother did and it had never been a problem, but he persevered.

            When the mother-in-law came for a visit, he put two strips of waxed paper in the bathroom, squirted out his measured amounts of toothpaste so each woman would have the right amount for each day, and waited for them to admit he was right. Plus, as in the case of the Caps Lock Disabler, there was efficiency!

            It did not go well. The wife and MIL were not amused, and neither was Ann Landers.

            The moral I took from all this is that if you want to double down, be really careful that you’re not dropping two anvils on your foot instead of one.

            1. Heffalump*

              That was Judith “Miss Manners” Martin. The LW had written that his wife applied toothpaste to the brush as if she were putting whipped cream on a sundae, and as the sole support of the household, he felt he the standing to say and do something. After her visit, MIL sent them a case of toothpaste and a nasty note saying she’d stay in a hotel next time. LW said he was only trying to save money so his wife could go to graduate school.

              Miss Manners wrote:

              “What a noble soul you are, out to educate the world. What had you planned to have your wife study in graduate school–obedience? It had not occurred to Miss Manners, but the defintion of a rude host is one who notices how much of his ordinary supplies his guests use and broods about the cost. No, no–it is someone who notices how an older house guest brushes her teeth.”

              1. Editor*

                Thanks! Sorry I had the wrong writer.

                The thing that always struck me as gross, aside from the miserly rudeness, was having the toothpaste sit out and dry up — the texture would be weird, and who wants to brush their teeth with toothpaste that has been gathering random ickiness from the stuff that circulates in bathroom air currents. Yuck.

        1. The OTHER other*

          I completely disagree. Yes, an intern is supposed to learn workplace norms, but also to do work, and not disrupt work from getting done. This intern seems to have a big chip on his shoulder and did NOT seem to learn, at all. I also highly doubt this was the first/only instance LW had of bad behavior, given the tone of the letter and the fact that most workplaces give interns the benefit of the doubt. Note that the LW refers to meeting with HR. That doesn’t happen because of a caps lock.

          You don’t get infinite chances to screw up and act like a know-it-all when confronted just because you’re an intern. It’s weird that this letter shows poor/odd behavior by an intern and your conclusion is that it was the employer’s failure.

          1. KateM*

            Wait, what are you disagreeing with here? I thought that I wrote that intern is refusing to do a part of their job (learning workplace norms).

      2. PollyQ*

        At least theoretically, a summer intern will be gaining more from the experience than the employer will. I can see where the company would decide not to put any more time into someone who caused a problem and seemed unclear why what he’d done was wrong, given that he was going to be gone in a few months anyway.

      3. Katie Porter's Whiteboard*

        In my office, taking an intern is a pretty big time commitment and if I found myself saddled with someone who wasn’t open or able to learn like LW#1, I would be very hesitant to keep them on.

        1. Chelle*

          Me too. And not understanding after explaining or doubling down..that’s not how you accept criticism. Maybe people learn as they get more experienced but after years of management it often doesn’t matter how long a person is a job or how old they are – some people are just the way they are due to personality or something else that doesn’t fit. If you can’t display common sense or the ability to learn when you don’t display it, I honestly don’t need you on my team.

        2. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Same. In taking on an intern, we figured out our department was taking on an increased workload of roughly 15-20% over what we already did. If we’d had an intern who was essentially taking our time and not open to learning/insisting on doing the wrong thing/insisting that the right thing was wrong? Nope. One of us would have been on the phone to the internship coordinator before the week was out.

        3. Effective Immediately*

          Yeah, this. Interns are often actually *more* work. To have someone brand-new to the working world come in with this level of arrogance/presumptuousness?

          Hard pass.

          I’d also hazard a guess that behavior was not only limited to the caps lock situation.

        4. Artemesia*

          I knew an intern who in a Congressman’s office was told not to speak to media — he was not a spokesperson. So when a journalist asked him the Congressman’s position he said ‘no comment.’ ‘No comment’ IS a comment and it got quoted as the congressman’s position. The intern made a serious error but it was truly a naive error; he really didn’t know. And they didn’t fire him although they did rake him over the coals. He learned to say ‘I am not authorized to speak for the Congressman, you will need to talk to X or the Congressman.’ The difference from LW 1. is that in spite of a massive screw up he learned, admitted the error, apologized and changed.

          1. Colin Watson*

            That was also a training error by the people managing the intern, because not everyone can be assumed to know the nuances of journalistic jargon. I hope they trained the next person better.

      4. Annony*

        And it sounds like the person whose keyboard they tampered with was a full employee. My bet is that employee didn’t want to work with them anymore.

    2. ecnaseener*

      And this particular action showed such a rigid mindset…if he’s so committed to the One True Way to use a keyboard and can’t wrap his head around people having their own typing quirks and still doing good work, how can the company expect him to learn anything nuanced? I’m betting this was the final nail in the coffin of “this kid refuses to employ any critical thinking skills and insists on following the same steps in the same order every time”

      1. DivineMissL*

        I can’t imagine watching my co-worker closely enough to be able to tell they were using the Caps Lock key. That’s kind of creepy.

        1. Librarian of SHIELD*

          I had a boss a few years back who used caps lock instead of shift. We would usually sit side by side at her computer during our weekly meetings, and I couldn’t help but notice. But my sole reaction was an internal “huh, weird,” and I never mentioned it to her. She was good at her job and which buttons she pressed to get the correct end result didn’t really matter.

          It’s probably true that using the shift key makes a person a faster typist than using caps lock, but we’re talking fractions of seconds here, and unless you’re in a line of work where typing the highest possible WPM is really important, this just doesn’t matter.

          1. JB*

            And it can be way more trouble to fix than it’s worth, especially if you’re a fast typist.

            I type 100 WPM. I also have some outdated habits (like typing www. when typing a website URL into a URL bar).

            I know the habits are outdated and inefficient, but my fingers move faster than my brain. By the time I’m thinking ‘I don’t need to type that’ the whole URL is in the bar already.

            I can imagine in the coworker’s place here, I would go nuts. Yes, she’ll eventually re-learn to use shift rather than caps lock and will save a bit of time (and probably some hand strain) but it’s not an INTERN’S place to decide she needs to do that!

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Same. I’m a very fast typer and a double-spacer after periods because I learned to type on an actual typewriter (at least it was electric!), and that’s the way we were taught. When people tell me it’s inefficient to include both spaces, well, my fingers do it automatically. It takes me more time to think about it than to do a quick global replace when I’m done for the minority of people in my office who insist on single spacing.

            2. Condoms From a Satchel*

              Yeah, sometimes fixing an ingrained habit is just too much trouble.
              I was doing a task a different way than my boss (using import object to get a pdf object in a word document rather than his use the snipping tool to cut and paste). He saw this and said how do you do that? show me. So I showed him, then he asked me to write out directions how to do it. I reminded him that trying to change the habit was probably going to take a very long time and since he was so used to his way and could do it just as fast as I could my way there really wasn’t a need. He thought for second and then agreed with my very good point and told me to forget writing out the directions.

        2. KateM*

          As OP was an intern, it could be possible they had to sit next to the coworker and watch what she was doing, and that’s how they initially noticed this?

    3. Less Bread More Taxes*

      The only one I’d disagree with you on is the dress code interns. If I remember correctly, the big issue for them was that all the women were required to wear heels. That’s a pretty major thing to require of people. I don’t remember if they were told about this before being hired or not, but even if they were, I commend anyone for (politely) pushing back on that. Having people sign a petition is maybe not the most businessy way to push back, but it’s certainly not aggressive.

      1. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I didn’t remember that as being about heels but the material of the shoes. Leather flats were ok I think? It was a very restrictive dress code, but that is something you have to take to consideration when accepting a job or internship.

        1. quill*

          Overall I have no sympathy for the company (shoes are a major expense when you’re an intern! We’re not even sure if the interns were paid!) but I shudder in horror that the interns kicked up a stink over someone else’s disability accommodation not being fair.

          1. MM M*

            I think the interns didn’t know that the person dressing differently had a disability. They just thought that the person was getting some special treatment for no reason. But still, a petition at a company that has a strict dress code isn’t likely to go over well. They are strict, it’s who they are, they aren’t looking to be a democracy.

      2. Le Sigh*

        Is this the same letter about the interns who pushed back because one employee got to wear sneakers (and it turns out that was related to a disability, and it only spiraled from there)? Or a different one?

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          FABRIC flats instead of leather ones?? Oh, the horror!
          No, they shouldn’t have complained about someone whose disability made it necessary for her to wear more supportive shoes, but that company probably didn’t even consider the difference in cost between leather and fabric shoes. (Affluent people tend to be quite oblivious to the fact that most other people simply. cannot. afford. everything that they themselves can.) Ironically, however, they approached their request very much as Alison herself always advises others to do; by getting together and presenting a group request.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            The persisted after already having asked and been told no once, stated they were being treated unfairly due to one example that they had no context on, and presented a petition on an issue that they had no political capital to pursue. At no point does Alison recommend that people use petitions to have a group discussion at a business. It should have been a learning experience for all of them.

            I’m not insensitive to the obliviousness of affluent people. I was the charity case at my corporate internship and didn’t have a cashmere sweater set and pearls that many of my peers in what an industry friend of mine calls the “nepotism exchange program” back when pantyhose were still required. Nobody made me take my shoes off to check to make sure they were real leather, and my Payless pleathers got me through – not without snide comments from the other interns, but no dress code violations and I was invited back. But, in this case, it does not sound like a case of people who could not afford the dress code but rather privileged people who didn’t feel it should apply to them and were unaccustomed to hearing “no”.

            1. MM M*

              I didn’t realize that the petition was step 2 after getting no on step 1. Wowza that they would have gone to step 2… Now I get why they were fired instead of just being laughed at.

      3. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        I disagree with you that the interns were justified in pushing back on the dress code.

        Employees at any level? Yes, I agree they have standing to push back on a sexist dress code.

        Interns, who are (as AAM put it) very much like guests at the company? No.

        And, if I remember correctly, the intern situation was more ridiculous because they had pushed back before the petition, then they escalated to drafting a petition. So, to your point, they had tried to push back already, were told “no” by their managers, then continued to push.

        1. Artemesia*

          This. It isn’t about pushing back, it is about waging a campaign AFTER being heard and told ‘no.’ This is actually an important work skill at every level; once you are heard on a subject, a proposal, a suggestions and told ‘no’ you need to cool it for a long time about that request unless you are dealing with a legal issue like racial or gender discrimination.

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        There was no requirement women wear heels, they wanted to wear non-leather shoes and to have the option to wear sandals rather than close-toed shoes. The interns had already raised the issue prior to the petition. They were told that the dresscode stood by the supervisors they raised the issue with. After being told “no”, they then launched a petition and pulled the “but so-and-so gets to do it!” that even my middle schoolers know not to pull. Doing multiple rounds on the issue and refusing to take no for an answer cumulatively becomes aggressive no matter how nicely they think they asked.

    4. anonymous73*

      That, or the fact that because they’re an intern or a temp, it’s not as difficult to get rid of them and they’d rather do that then have an unhappy FTE. I was laid off in the early 2000s and worked a handful of temp jobs before I found a full time job. I worked in one open office, with 4 people in each larger area (one in each corner). The woman next to me complained about me typing too loud (it was one of those old keyboards) and “slamming” my stapler on the desk. I was just doing my job. They let me go.

    5. Mannequin*

      I’m still on the side of the dress code intern because not being allowed to wear comfortable shoes & clothing because “dress code” beyond ridiculous.

  2. GoGoLime*


    Another letter with the “I was only trying to help” excuse.

    Did the person ask for help?

    a) No. Do nothing.

    b) Yes. Help them.

    ‘Helping’ when it hasn’t been asked for isn’t helping. It’s interfering under the assumption you know what is best for the other person!

    1. Carly*

      Especially when the productivity gains of switching to the Shift key vs Caps Lock cannot possibly be more than like 30 seconds per day. Just a very weird thing to do

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Yes – for at least two weeks it would slow you down considerably to lean a totally new way to type.

          1. MsSolo (UK)*

            I’ve just got a chromebook for personal computing (mostly browsing) and I hadn’t realised how much I used the Del button before now, when it’s a home button instead. I like being able to delete in both directions! I’ll get used to it in a while, and maybe it’ll change how I type on my work computer as well, or maybe it won’t (I adjust pretty automatically to the different keyboard scales these, days, after all, even touch typing), but right now it’s very irritating!

            1. aaaaAAAAAAAAA!*

              I got an external keyboard and mouse for my chromebook and WOW I didn’t realize how much I missed the caps lock and Del key until I had them back again. If LW1 messed with my keyboard like that I would absolutely lose it

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          This is akin to the impassioned arguments against double spacing after a period. One argument I have seen is that single spacing would save me, the writer, the time wasted on that second space. This is unconvincing. I double space because I am old enough that I learned to type on a typewriter, and the habit is thoroughly ingrained. Another argument I see is that if this is edited by someone else, they will run a global search and replace, removing the double spacing. Oddly enough, this is presented as an argument for why I should change my thoroughly ingrained habit, when actually it is an argument for why double spacing is a harmless quirk.

            1. Thistle Whistle*

              Yup, drives my manager around the bend that I double space. But I was taught that (on a computer) at school so it’s natural to me.

          1. Older Than The Hills*

            I initially learned to type on a manual and had no trouble adapting to the single-space for electronic communications.

            1. female peter gibbons*

              I’ve never used a typewriter, but I was still taught to double space in school. There is so much mocking of it online that I’ve tried to see if I can get rid of the habit. The answer is no. No I cannot. Never. Ever. So who cares?

              1. Autumnheart*

                Everyone who writes copy professionally for consumption on the web.

                If you’re using double spacing in your personal communications, no biggie. But single space after period is standard in both APA and MLA, for web copy. For print, it’s still two.

                1. RB*

                  APA and MLA have both changed to one space in all formats (I think APA finally gave in around 2019), except in instances of “instructor preference.”

                2. Colin Watson*

                  It’s kind of hilarious that it gets focused on in the specific context of web copy, since CSS whitespace rules specify that runs of whitespace characters are collapsed anyway, so it makes no visual difference.

              2. MusicWithRocksIn*

                I was taught this in school as well. I thought it was, like, a solid RULE of the English language. I didn’t realize it was up for debate? It was just how things were. What is life even?

                1. Autumnheart*

                  It was a rule until we started consuming a ton of media on the web! Then it made things weird when used in HTML, for a variety of reasons. So after a decade or so of arguing about it, the general consensus landed on “one space after period” and made it official.

                  As someone who’s been working in the web space since the mid-90s, it’s been interesting to watch the evolution of things we all figured out on the fly, which are turning into best practices and also being tested for usability and accessibility. Or which are being rejected because we have different technologies than we did at the beginning. One example would be the change in design to prioritize viewing on mobile devices (tablets/cell phones) over monitors/laptop screens, because that IS how most people look at something on the web. There’s a whole industry figuring this stuff out and then sharing it out as we learn. It’s a big change from the cowboy days of “steal this code from that Angelfire page and play with it”.

            2. The OTHER other*

              I don’t understand why double spacing after a period is considered obsolete for online/electronic communication and not suitable for relic typewriters.

              Sure, it came to prominence with typewriters, but the reason for it (to provide more space/signifying a pause between sentences, as opposed to a shorter pause between related clauses within a sentence. This is just as much an objective online or on an e-reader as it was in print.

              If these double space scoffers were really serious about “saving space” (?) or being consistent, why not eliminate the spaces between WORDS, andwriteeverythinginonelongstring? It’s eye-killing, is why, which is why we left that behind in the medieval scriptoria.

              1. Editor*

                When I worked at newspapers, I was told to switch to one space (and I did) because electronic fonts often leave a larger space after a period than after a letter. Putting in a second standard space creates a larger gap that is considered distracting and unsightly.

                Most electronic fonts have proportional letter widths, too, unlike mechanical typewriter fonts.

          2. JB*

            Honestly, running a find and replace for double space (assuming you want single spaces) is a good idea anyway, since it’s easy to miss an accidental double-space while proofreading. I suppose in your case you might want to run one to catch any triple spaces.

            I remember there being an issue around double spacing when I was in high school. (This was in the early/mid 00’s.) Teachers would ask for essays to be double spaced.

            What they meant was, they wanted extra space between each line so that they had room to make corrections. But they all assumed students knew this and didn’t explain what it meant, or where to change that in Word’s formatting.

            Students would go home and start writing the essay, notice the ‘double spaced’ requirement in the assignment, and ask their parents what it meant. Parents who had grown up using typewriters.

            One of my classmates who was very invested in her identity as a good student started crying when she got back an essay with marks off because she had double spaced between each word rather than between lines. (Well – she was also a know-it-all, as many of us were at that age, and had just got done telling me and some others in the class that obviously we had done it wrong – that may have contributed to how upset she was.)

          3. RB*

            I think the more applicable and effective argument against two spaces (for things that are going to end up being published) is that every major style guide — and many internal style guides that are based on those major ones — dictates one space after the end of a sentence. Even APA has updated, and they were the last holdout for several decades. So, in many circumstances, it’s not actually a harmless quirk, it’s something that needs to be fixed in order to follow an organization’s guidelines for publications.

            (I am also old, and also learned to type on a typewriter, and have adapted to one space because every entity I write or edit for calls for one space.)

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              I fully expect that when I write for publication, some copy editor will run that global find and replace. Indeed, it probably would be professional malpractice for them not to do this. After all, even someone without my quirk might put some in inadvertently. There is an argument to be made that I should do this myself, but this requires me remembering to do it after the absolute last change, and that copy editor should do it anyway, making the whole thing moot.

              Mostly what gets me about this is how this trivial matter gets elevated to raging issue. See also: Oxford commas.

            2. Serenity*

              Agree. I learned to type on a manual typewriter, so clearly double spacing was ingrained muscle memory for me. When my sister (publishing industry) tried to convince me that single space was now standard, I ignored her. But once it became an issue at work, I retrained myself. It didn’t take long and was not burdensome to do so.

            3. Name Required*

              And to me the best argument for always using two spaces, no matter the font, is that for some people with low vision it’s an accessibility issue. I have two older relatives who have trouble seeing periods at the end of sentences, and so it’s much harder for them to tell when they’re at the end of a sentence. The double space between sentences helps them know when a new sentence begins.

          4. Heffalump*

            Basically, double spacing after a period is for monospaced fonts like Courier. Single spacing is for proportionally spaced fonts. I began working as a typesetter in 1975, so I got with the program early, but I would have gotten with it when PCs became a thing.

      1. Bilateralrope*

        Don’t forget about how long IT spends investigating the faulty caps lock key.

        They aren’t going to start by assuming sabotage.

        1. Marzipan Shepherdess*

          Excellent point! That intern wasted THEIR time too; I’m sure they weren’t amused when they found out that the key had been sabotaged (!). In every company I’ve ever heard of, IT has plenty to do without cleaning up the mess caused by a know-it-all who deliberately causes someone’s keyboard to malfunction. I very much doubt that IT was crying into their coffee cups when that intern was booted out!

      2. Andy*

        I m pretty confident that if you are used to tap caps-lock and have to reorient yourself, there is immediate productivity loss. In the long term, there might be miniscule gain. But in the short term, the other employee will be hitting wrong keys and getting frustrated. Both lead to productivity loss.

        1. Dasein9*

          Can confirm. The keyboard I bought for wfh has a small shift key and 18 months in, it’s still annoying the heck out of me.

      3. M*

        I once had a laptop whose backspace key died, and was stubborn enough to keep using it for a good 3-4 months after that. It took me weeks of focused effort after getting a new one to retrain myself to reach for backspace, instead of “left arrow then delete”, and that was from a base of textbook-trained touchtyping for years before then! Messing with people’s muscle memory is not a productivity booster!

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I’ve noticed the difference in my typing skills using my office keyboard after over a year on a laptop. Everything is in a slightly different place.

      4. Liz*

        Yes! My boss has been known to do similar things, but more along the lines of HIS way of doing something is “better” than the way I choose to do them. When the end results will be identical. I finally (nicely) asked him WHY it mattered how something was done, as long as it gone done, and in the timeframe it needed to be done in. He really didn’t have an answer and has backed off trying to force his way on me.

        But the LW? I would have been furious if someone disabled something that worked for me, and simply bothered them.

        1. LKW*

          So true. I’ll offer up a “hey did you know that you can use to make that easier?” and then I’m done. I’ve showed you what’s possible.

      5. NerdyKris*

        It’s like whenever I see one of those articles about how amazing Dvorak keyboards are and how much faster I can type, but all I think is that unless I’m transcribing something, which I don’t do for work or all that often, the real speed limiter is thinking about what I’m writing, not the keyboard. I went to college for computer programming, nobody is writing code at 120wpm.

    2. jojo*

      I docut and paste via control C And control V. Another person I work with uses the menu bar for the same thing. I asked them why they did it that way and showed them how I did it. Then I left the subject alone. Which to use is up to them. Guestion and demonstrate, then assume they are an adult and can do it how they choose. Do not force them to use your method.

      1. TimesChange*

        Yes — I don’t mind a shortcut tip shared in a friendly manner. Sometimes I have been doing things the hard way and would love an easier way. Sometimes I like the way I’m doing it.

    3. Storm in a teacup*

      Exactly this. I think doubly so when you are the junior coworker or if you are a male and correcting a woman on something that quite frankly was none of your business in the first place.
      If a male intern was mansplaining how to capitalise letters to me and then didn’t understand why this was an issue I would be aggrieved too. Additionally if this was a pattern in their behaviour or if there were other concerns, I can see why the intern was let go.

    4. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I’m thinking of the old joke about the Boy Scout who showed up at a Scout meeting, sporting a black eye and split lip. His fellow Scouts asked ‘What happened?’ He said, ‘I was trying to help an old lady across a busy street.’ They asked, ‘Did you get hit by a bus?’ He replied, ‘Nah, she didn’t want to go.’

    5. Anonymous Hippo*

      Exactly. If you helping could also be described as sabotage (he DISABLED part of her workstation) you have definitely gone off the rails.

    6. MusicWithRocksIn*

      The whole thing is just so, so condescending. I keep trying to figure out if it would be ok for a parent to do this to their child to teach them to type properly, and I’m conflicted there. Maybe for a younger kid, but even doing it to a middle schooler seems overbearing and controlling.

    7. AnonInCanada*

      This. I personally have CAPS LOCK disabled on my work keyboard (and only mine) since I have this habit of accidentally hitting it and then not noticing I JUST TYPED A WHOLE PARAGRAPH IN ALL CAPS! So I did the registry hack to move CAPS LOCK to SCROLL LOCK (like what’s that key really for, anyway?) so I don’t have that problem with accidentally hitting it. But I’d never do that to a co-worker’s machine, for my perception of “their own good” or otherwise!

      1. Irish girl*

        I use the Caps lock in documents so i need that enabled. I cant imagine someone doing that to me and not understanding why its wrong. Its such a harmless thing she was doing.

        1. AnonInCanada*

          And that’s why I’d never do this on anyone else’s machine. You work your way, I work mine. And if I really need to type in all caps, I can reach over to the Scroll Lock key.

    8. Sled Dog Mama*

      My 7 year old uses this excuse all the time and she gets the same answer I would give this intern. Helping does involve doing what you think is going to get things done faster it involves doing what I KNOW will get things done faster because you are learning.

    9. Worldwalker*

      The classic trope of the Boy Scout dragging the little old lady kicking and screaming across the wrong street.

    10. EmmaPoet*

      OP1 is what Carolyn Hax so aptly refers to as “helpy.” It’s performative helpfulness that nobody asked for and which frequently causes more problems.

  3. CW*

    #1 – You may mean well, but you shouldn’t be touching someone else’s computer. Like Alison said, it is overstepping. I wouldn’t be happy if someone touched my computer without my permission either; in fact, it is one of the reasons why I always lock my computer if I need to step away and why I don’t save any passwords on there.

    1. allathian*

      I work for the government, although not in the US. It’s generally very hard to fire people, even poor performance isn’t enough; it has to be poor performance with little chance of improvement even with retraining.

      Leaving a computer unlocked so others can access it can in some cases be a fireable offense. Accessing someone else’s computer with their login/password without a very good reason is also strictly prohibited, it’s basically only permitted for IT employees with admin access who need to test something with user access.

      It has to be said, though, that in an emergency it’s possible to log onto someone else’s computer with your own smartcard/login. This will set up your profile on the other computer, and it’ll probably take a while.

    2. PollyQ*

      A commenter in the original post pointed out that a common way to disable the caps lock key is to go into the Windows registry and start futzing with the settings, which is an extremely risky maneuver if you don’t know exactly what you’re doing. Bad judgment all the way down.

      1. Heffalump*

        If your coworker wants to do something in a way that you think is “wrong,” that’s their prerogative.

        I do computer-aided drafting. Much, but not all, of the text on an engineering drawing is all caps, and my caps lock key gets a workout. If someone disabled my caps lock key, I’d be very annoyed on practical grounds, aside from the presumption.

        The only way I’ll ever lay a hand on the Windows registry is if someone from the helpdesk is walking me through it.

        1. Retro*

          If your coworker wants to do something in a way that you think is “wrong,” that’s their prerogative.

          Unless they’re using Excel as a database, in which case they deserve whatever you can throw at them.

          1. TechWorker*


            But even then, complaining to them, and potentially their manager depending on context/risk etc would be the right course of action. You don’t go ahead and delete excel off their computer :D

          2. FD*

            No, no…unless they’re using Excel to make printable forms that should be done in Word because ‘you can make lines easier that way’. THEN they deserve whatever you can throw at them.

            1. Isisxotic*

              Yesterday I watched someone create an agenda in Excel by adding text boxes to each cell then typing in the text box. Oof.

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                One of my grad school instructors sent out the template he wanted us to use for a 25 page research paper.

                It was a PowerPoint document.

                1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

                  I just died a little inside. And to think that I grump when I see people create databases in Excel that should be in Access. At least they are both for data management!

                2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  Well, in fairness the professor maybe he thought putting it in PowerPoint would make it harder to plagiarize? I’ve known a few college profs in their time to try and make things harder to rip off based on past experiences with students cheating.

                3. The OTHER other*

                  That’s funny, especially since if he limits you to 25 slides, less you use some minuscule font, that means maybe 8-10 or so actual pages of text.

            2. mdv*

              In my mind, Excel is a much better choice for a printable form than Word, but I prefer InDesign over both of them. This is definitely not an area where I would ever stop anyone from their preferred method, compared to the caps lock key.

      2. John Smith*

        A colleague did exactly this years ago as a prank (he was a computer whizz and knew exactly what he was doing). He reassigned all the characters on the keyboard of his line manager who saw the joke and let him off (characters were changed back). He’d also play other pranks like coding lots of daft but humourous messages in a database for our team. IT saw what he did and after getting an absolute bollocking he was successful in applying for an IT role on condition he would never play such pranks again, but he couldn’t help himself and shortly got fired.

        I think firing in the OPs case was a little harsh unless there were other problems.

        1. HA2HA2*

          The firing was probably also for the doubling down.

          When you get called into your boss’s office and are told “This is entirely unacceptable”, the reaction has to be “I will never do this or anything like it again”. It cannot be “Actually, I’m right, and I’d do it again.” That gets you fired.

          1. Aquawoman*

            I also suspect that his 2d explanation, after he disabled the caps lock, involved a refusal to put her keyboard back the way it was.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Yep. He didn’t correct it when the coworker asked him to, doubled down with her, with the manager AND HR. Basically 3 experienced coworkers told the intern that they did something wrong and the intern said, “Nope! You are all wrong and I am right”. I’d fire the intern over this too. Internships are supposed to be learning experiences and this person has no interest in learning

              1. The OTHER other*

                It reminds me of the LW who was just graduating from college and complaining “no one will hire me to be their IDEA man!”.

                You are an intern. Be polite, do every task assigned to the best of your ability and without complaint, listen, show you can learn, and don’t think your role is to try to fix your coworkers.

        2. Bamcheeks*

          I had a friend who worked in tech setting where you were supposed to lock your computer every time you stepped away, and they specifically encouraged pranks like turning people’s keyboards into Japanese or turning the monitor upside-down if they forgot to lock. Everyone learned to lock very quickly!

          (I also used to work with Computer Security students, and I ALWAYS pointed out to them when they logged themselves into email in a meeting with me and then left me in their room with their email still logged in!)

          1. KateM*

            I once noticed that a colleague had stayed logged in into their gmail in a classroom computer. I sent them an e-mail from their own account pointing out it’s not a good idea, and then logged them out.

          2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            I seem to recall our favorite thing to do when someone left their computer unlocked was to change their wallpaper – preferably to something as pink and kawaii as possible. (Some people would keep the new background afterwords, but they wouldn’t leave their computer unlocked again.)

            1. John Smith*

              We do this, but the wall paper is a screenshot of the wallpaper. We have to give the game up when the victim starts calling IT because their mouse cursor won’t move!

              1. JustaTech*

                My spouse worked at a startup where the “punishment” for not locking your computer was a Bieber-ing. Sometimes it was a post to the company chat “I love Bieber!” or maybe changing the background.

                There was one guy who just couldn’t learn to lock his computer so they started having it play Justin Bieber songs really loud every time he didn’t lock it. I’m not sure he ever learned.

                1. Gumby*

                  Perhaps he legitimately did like Justin Bieber? Or was inured due to having a family member who was a fan? Might have been more effective with another artist or musical genre…

          3. Sleepless*

            The overnight shift at my job used to go around occasionally and see who had left things open like Facebook or their Amazon page (workstations, not people’s individual desks). One person got a 55 gallon drum of sex lube added to their Amazon cart. Somebody else got a lengthy search for male-stripper underwear so that suggested ads popped up on all her stuff. My Facebook photo got changed to a meme that was a pun on my distinctive last name, and I liked it so much I kept it for a couple of months. After a panicked moment of wondering if I’d been futzing around on Facebook basically in my sleep.

          4. Anon for this*

            We had an auditor who was specifically auditing whether people did this leave their laptop unlocked.

            In a room full of people who were providing documents proving that workstations are never left unattended, and their assistant. Who made an exasperated noise upon noticing the laptop was unlocked.

            When they came back the laptop’s monitor was rotated 90 degrees then flipped 180 degrees, and everyone was staring at them with identical innocent expressions.

          5. QCAnalystofDoom*

            Those pranks would realllly not fly at our office.

            There are certain programs, queries, and certain user tests that can take between two hours and all day to run or cannot be paused/saved/or stopped but done end to end. A few you have to learn to take the fastest bathroom breaks in the world, but on any of those tests, we cannot lock and have to set the computer so it won’t go to screensaver after x minutes of inactivity because anything happens, you either a.) have to start over and hope you can get done at a reasonable time, or b.) start over the next day because it’s too late to start again. And side note: these are breathtakingly boring already at one run, so the thought of doing it again….

            I am trying to imagine my manager’s reaction if anyone screwed with an unlocked computer, especially if we’re in an aging environment and just–honestly, I can’t.

            1. quill*

              Databases that take so long to start up that the best way to load them is to close everything else and then go get a snack are not a thing of the past!

            2. Anon for this*

              Different responses for different setups. We deal with confidential information, in locations where there’s a high amount of non employees walking through our areas. For any processes that need to be left running for hours, we have people who are paid to be sitting, at the workstation, making sure it’s not left unattended. Boring? Absolutely. They’re allowed to read a book, or study for continuing education credits for free, while they’re doing it. But the cost of paying them to babysit processes that can’t left unattended is less than the fees we’d be hit with if someone got into an unattended workstation. In this setup, messing with people who leave workstations unattended is highly encouraged (if you must leave it unlocked, lock your office door) to encourage behavior that will help us avoid a fine.

              1. QCAnalystofDoom*

                That makes sense.

                It’s not encouraged–in general, everyone locks from sheer habit–but a realistic assessment of the situation when those tests have to be run; we’re state employees so we have to take a thirty minute lunch and we cannot use each other’s computers, even on this level. Everyone in the building but maybe the vendor’s admins upstairs have the same database access so we can all see the same confidential information(outside very specific short term access to live data like Databroker or SSA, which is terrifying for everyone for the entire two hours we have to do test with it); the differences are in shell access, secure ftp, and write/execute permissions as it’s frighteningly easy to destroy everything very very quickly, even potentially production (I know Linux, I run an Ubuntu server at home from command line, I love it. I had shell access for four weeks to run some very common scripts. I lived in fear from the moment I opened putty until I logged out; it was like being released from prison).

                Any prank like that, there’d be a lot of very serious questions why I was on X’s computer and what I was doing there even if there was no test running to justify an unlock. What we cannot do–ever–is share our personal work computers, even if the other person is completely logged out or even recently promoted/fired/retired; in the last three, no one can even turn it on until it’s been wiped and reimaged. Which this being the state, can admittedly take some time, but a few times, they actually took the computer entirely and brought in a new one when we got a new hire. No idea the criteria for that one, though.

            3. Artemesia*

              reminds me of the time 50 years ago when I was working late as a grad student and noticed the phones making odd noises and so picked one up and then hung it up when it was just making a squealing noise. The next morning the head of the research institute was having a cow because someone had aborted an overnight fax run or some such and the important documents had not reached the funding agency. I of course had ‘no idea’ how such a thing could have happened and no one had any idea I had been there that evening and I very much learned my lesson on not ever messing with anything I didn’t understand.

        3. Nea*

          I’m on Team Fire, personally, because the intern created extremely unnecessary drama for zero gain.

          Even if intern apologized profusely, it remains that they physically prevented a good worker from doing their job in the way that had worked for them and the business, badly upsetting said good worker. That’s a huge problem.

          The worse problem isn’t that the intern didn’t immediately and profusely apologize. The worse problem is that what the intern felt was so necessary to “teach” was something that made absolutely zero difference in output. Literally made no difference at all!

          I’d be more than happy to fire the intern out of a cannon if that’s what it took to mollify my worker.

        4. Richard Hershberger*

          The low tech version of this is to pull up two keys from the board and switch them. A touch typist probably wouldn’t even notice, but this can really throw off a hunt-and-peck typist. The “M” and “N” keys are good candidates for this.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Which is another reason our user accounts are so locked down here. If you need/want something editing in the system files then you need someone from IT with higher level access.

        Users can’t install software on their machines (technically…although people find ways around it and don’t realise it’s really easy to spot when they’ve done it) only we can.

        One of the suggestions we got from the business was if we gave users the ability to edit the registry/install stuff etc we’d have fewer problems because the end users would research the fault and fix it themselves.

        A) the thought of some thousand employees all editing the registry on their boxes is almost enough to get me smoking again and

        B) you better believe we watched the machine of this person who wanted this implemented. Was an amusing afternoon seeing him try to install a computer game over and over…

        1. quill*

          Lol. My favorite IT runs are always “Hey, lab needs X software. It’s for making charts of Y experiment. Here’s the link, my research, and my manager’s signature, all I need from you is to remote in and put in the admin password.”

        2. Caboose*

          Sometimes I wish there was like, a quiz IT could give people to determine what level of permissions you get. I’m in software development now, so by necessity I have to be able to do all kinds of stuff on my machine, but it drove me crazy when I worked in retail operations and had to jump through a million hoops to like…install Google Chrome. I had a ton of time sensitive reports to run every morning, no way in hell was I doing that with IE.
          (Actually, installing Chrome is the only thing I’ve ever gotten in serious trouble for in school…)

          1. mdv*

            I often wonder if there is a secret test for this where I work, and if it includes how many times I’ve broken something and known how to fix it but didn’t have the right access. I happen to have full admin permissions on my own work computer, but my boss and most of my coworkers do not.

      4. Mongrel*

        The registry isn’t as terrifying as it’s made out to be and for a lot of simple tasks (such as disabling Caps Lock) there are plenty of sites that allow you to download the relevant file to run on your own PC and they’re readable as text files if you suspect nefarious intentions.

        1. Andy*

          It is not terrifying, but if you accidently edit the wrong one and your computer randomly malfunctions as a result, it can be quite time consuming to figure out what you have done.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            This is where I land. I’m a reasonably computer savvy person and I’ve edited the registry before, but I am not comfortable enough with it to swear I won’t do something wrong, and definitely not comfortable enough that I’d be confident fixing something I messed up by accident.

            1. Mongrel*

              I wouldn’t wade in their just to poke at stuff for sure, but if there’s a set of instructions from a reputable site, or the same set of instructions are on multiple sites, and the key looks about right.
              Just remember to backup (export) the key and very little is irrepairable.

        2. TechWorker*

          ‘Readable as text files if you suspect nefarious intentions’ – I have a programming background, albeit all Linux, I’ve never touched windows and would absolutely not trust myself to be able to review some random windows script was doing ‘same’ things, without a lot of time and googling at any rate… I don’t think it’s the case that a file being readable as text makes it easier for the average employee to be able to determine it’s safety.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Good point. I mean technically some of my SQL stuff is ‘just’ text but running it without knowing exactly what it’s trying to do and how to roll it back if it all goes wrong is….inadvisable.

            I don’t go near the Linux boxes at work (thankfully they’re not my jurisdiction – they run the Oracle systems) for the same reason you don’t go near the Windows boxes – I’ve simply no idea what ‘good’ and ‘bad’ looks like on them.

          2. Mongrel*

            They’re not really a script, just a path name and a value. Sometimes the value is more obscure thanks to hex but often it’s a binary flag or a word\number but the path name is normally obvious;

      5. FD*

        It’s not that bad if you’re following instructions and don’t deviate from them (I always remove Cortana from my Windows 10 machines, and that requires a registry edit). That said, you DEFINITELY shouldn’t be doing it on a work computer without authorization or unless you’re the official IT person trying to fix a bug.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Frankly I’d go so far as to say that if you’re not IT you’ve got no business tinkering with the registry. Well, okay, if you are at a tiny firm with no IT department then…do it but only after you have read up thoroughly and backed up everything.

          Backups! Always. Have. A. Backup.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Oh fair enough, that’s actually how I learnt most of my skills in IT in the first place (keeping an old Windows 3.1 and later Windows 95 box working).

      6. Beth*

        As the IT person at my firm, if an intern went into ANY computer and started editing the registry, I would want to set them on fire. I am the ONLY person at my firm that I would trust to do that. I don’t even want anyone else knowing how to access the registry.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Newcomers to the IT department that I run have to prove their knowledge before I even let *them* have an administrative account. I do find it funny though when I get help desk tickets from users with some excuse as to why they should have godlike systems access.

          Usually boils down to ‘I have an engineering degree’.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Snerk, I’m the in-house IT admin for my office and I don’t even have full admin access to our systems. We outsource to an IT firm for most things and they hold that access under lock and key. I’d love to see a newcomer try to go around me and try to convince them that they deserve full admin permissions.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I’ll have to strip out a lot of identification information but I can post some of the best ‘justifications’ on the Open Post later. One of them was ‘I need to install a keygen app so I can get photoshop for my kids to use’

              It took 4 hours before I could reply back in a professional manner. By which point the call had been shared around every IT department in the firm for amusement :)

              1. quill*

                Oh lol. I need these anecdotes, actually well told ones that don’t require you to be in an IT department to get the punchline are rare!

          2. QCAnalystofDoom*

            All of testing has a combination of full admin access and root level lockouts that can only be changed when hardwired directly at the office by someone from tech support. This has created the weirdest patchwork of permissions; we can edit the registry and install programs and libraries from the internet (though no one would do that without getting permission) but cannot customize the Start Menu, open Microsoft Store, or update any program on our computer outside scheduled batches or getting an alert Please Run This Update Now.

            I do get this drives tech support crazy, but the alternative was a nightmare.

            The original idea–keep us at limited admin and add permissions as needed–failed spectacularly (I don’t know all the details, but a big one was Oracle, there was something with JAWS, and for certain tests for Android, I would need the entire IDE and packages to verify logs, some Python interactions, SOAP and REST access, OPCON and batching jobs…there were a lot and it happened again every time we got an update or added a new program). Every one required IT coming down and staring at our machines like ‘why are you doing this to us?’ before logging in and working out what permissions were needed this time. They eventually took the “They’re All Adult Professionals Please God So When All Else Fails, Reimage” state of being, since everyone generally saved to network drive, not hard drive, so in theory, they could just log in and reinstall everything directly from command line and be done.

            It’s never actually come to that. But as a user who does play around with very advanced settings on my personal laptop, it’s incredibly stressing.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              Used to work at a place that had the most all time convuluted Active Directory implementation solely because of people doing jobs like yourself who really couldn’t be expected to spend half their day getting IT to authorise something. Speaking from the IT department perspective we don’t like getting those calls regularly either!

    3. Teapot Repair Technician*

      I’m not sure they did “mean well.”

      I suspect they enjoy pushing people’s buttons and jumped at the chance to do so when they thought they could get away with it.

      1. Retro*

        I agree. It feels like a “Gotcha!” not an attempt to be helpful. Moreso because there’s not actually a problem.

      2. hbc*

        Oh, I have no doubt that they meant well. Lots of people genuinely mean well in their heart of hearts when they do awful, boundary-stepping things.

    4. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I’m left-handed and had a left-handed mouse. I also had my desk set up for left-handed orientation. The number of times co-workers changed my mouse to right-handed or moved things because it was more convenient for them still raises my hackles.

      1. Jackalope*

        On the other hand (heh), as another leftie, I get a bit of amusement when my left-handed mouse throws IT off when working on my computer. I don’t leave it there; I always tell them once I realize what the problem is (which happens more and more quickly since it’s the one thing that always throws them off). But no one EVER suspects a left-handed mouse, and none of them ever figure out what the issue is. And I’m so used to it (and so rarely have IT on my computer – maybe every few months) that I don’t think to warn them.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Arggg, don’t touch other people’s hardware! Or alter the settings on my chair.

        Sometimes I do have to go to the desk of someone with e.g. a left handed setup to fix an issue but I’ll make darn sure to do nothing more than just move the mouse over. The buttons being the other way around? Eh, I use a trackball at my desk, I can cope with altered button order. And yeah, I put it back on the left after.

        A far greater temptation for me is seeing cool toys on your desk. God help you if it’s a rubix cube… :p

      3. TimesChange*

        I switched to left hand mousing to help my right shoulder/wrist. It has the added bonus for fending off my male coworkers who declare, “Just let me drive. Ugh, is this mouse left handed? Nevermind.”

      4. Autumnheart*

        I’m a leftie who made a conscious decision to learn how to use a mouse with my right hand, specifically because of the annoyingness of having to change the settings all the time. (My first several years of computer use was on public machines in labs.) The most interesting side effect of that is that I draw with my left hand if I’m using a pencil or pen, and with my right hand if I’m using a mouse…but I can’t do the reverse. Although these days I use my fingers and a trackpad.

      5. Heffalump*

        I’m a lefty and put my mouse to the left of the keyboard, but I’ve never felt a need to swap the mouse buttons.

    5. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yeah, I had a visceral reaction to #1 because I don’t want anyone touching my computer at all without my permission (or, in the case of IT, letting me know). Don’t change my colors, don’t change my background, don’t move my icons around, don’t change my folder views, nothing. It’s set up the way that works best for me.

      And an INTERN telling me how to do my job “more efficiently” by changing my typing methodology? Oh, honey, no. You’re here to learn, not critique.

  4. Lurker*

    Re #1

    I think it’s interesting that the LW insists that switching to using shift to type capitals would be more efficient. How much is this person typing that it would make a marked difference? If using caps lock is how they type, it would probably slow them down (at least initially) to relearn. I worked with someone who typed just with her index fingers; it bothered me to watch her, but in terms of speed, she was fine – I’d guess 40 wpm? Insisting she switched to using QWERTY would have been ridiculous.

    1. Hazel*

      I have wondered how people pick up the Caps Lock instead of Shift habit. I’ve only seen someone do this once, and I wondered how they got started with it. Maybe only able to type with one hand because of an injury and just got used to it?

      1. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        I used to do it because of being taught I “had” to use the shift for the opposite hand then the one used for the letter I’m typing with. (y’known if you are pressing “I” you should use the shift on your left hand). But mostly now I just use it if I’m writing Canadian postal codes (1A1Z2Z) Or other things with a lot of caps in a row. And mostly I use the same shift as the button I need. I also have a bad habit of caps-ing random letters while typing especially I’s at the beginning of words. Or holding the shift down for just a little to long so it would become BEfore.

        1. Dark Macadamia*

          I… could not tell you which shift key I use for any given letter. I feel like I need to take a video of myself typing now!

          1. Helenteds*

            I had to try to type for a second to figure out which shift key I use. I realized that I use left shift exclusively, I apparently never touch right shift, no matter which side of the keyboard I am typing on.

            1. Purple Cat*

              I had to “practice” too to figure out what I do.
              Exclusively left shift key. I tried it and my right pinky does NOT want to reach over to hit the shift key.

              1. Cj*

                I think it probably depends on if you learned to type on a computer keyboard or on a typewriter. I learned on a typewriter many decades ago, and I didn’t realize there was a shift key on the right until I just looked.

                1. ecnaseener*

                  That can’t be it, I learned on a computer keyboard (specifically I learned from a Lion King typing game) and I only use left shift.

                2. ErinWV*

                  You may be right about that. I just checked, and I am a 100% left shift user, and I learned to type on an ancient electric typewriter.

                3. Two Dog Night*

                  I learned on a typewriter, and I’ve always used both shift keys–typewriters have always had a shift key on each side. And on a manual typewriter I think it would have been really hard to use the shift key and press a letter key with the same hand.

                4. Elenna*

                  I mentioned this below but apparently I’m the opposite, I’m (almost?) exclusively a right shift user. It’s hard to tell what I do when not thinking about it, but I think I only use left shift for the 6 and 7 number keys.
                  Actually, even then, I just did some testing and I think if the previous key was a left-hand key I shift/twist my whole right forearm and wrist to press right shift and ^ (above the 6) at the same time. But if the previous key was a right-hand key I’ll use left shift and just move my hand up to hit the 6/^ button.
                  Although for the “6/^” I typed above I used right shift even though / is on the right side of my keyboard, maybe because / is right next to right shift anyways??

                  In any case the point is I use right shift a lot more and I have no idea why. I learned on a PC with one of those typing games for little kids, for what that’s worth.

                5. Mannequin*

                  I learned on a typewriter too, but I do much don’t use it that I just had to get up, go in the other room, and make sure my keyboard actually has one.

            2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

              I do the same. So much so that I had to really think to realise that there is in fact another Shift key on the right, as usually my brain just kind of blurs it out as irrelevant input.

            3. Anonymous Hippo*

              Same. I was told that you use the opposite one, but I was never able to make that work for me so I just gave up early on and stick with the left only.

            4. Gothic Bee*

              I touch type and the only time I use the right shift key is if I’m typing A, Q, Z, or !, but even then I will sometimes just shift my hand so that I can hit the left shift key with my pinky and hit the letter key with my ring finger.

            5. LC*

              Another left shift exclusively typer here.

              Usually I just forget the right one exists, but I’ve recently started using two test databases named QA1 and QA3 and my god that’s obnoxious to type. Shift + Q is no problem, shift + A is no problem (same with shift + W or Z or X), it’s just the two of them together . I think it might be easier with the right shift if I was 100% comfortable using it in general, but trying now just results in me staring at the keyboard, willing the right finger to move and the wrong finger to stop moving.

          2. ThatGirl*

            I just typed a few things to check and it turns out I only use the right shift key. Interesting. I don’t remember if I was taught that way or just picked it up somewhere. I’m also realizing I don’t use my right pinky for the L key, I shift my fingers over and hit it with my index or middle finger every time.

              1. ThatGirl*

                Apparently not! It’s not something I think about, but when I DO, I realize I move my whole hand over, so my ring finger ends up on or near the semicolon/colon key and my index/middle fingers are near K and L.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  I learned to type by muscle memory long before I was taught typing in school, so I have a few quirks like that too (I think I only really use the first two fingers on my right hand. I use three fingers on my left but no pinky unless it’s to shift). Drove my typing teachers NUTS because I was fast and accurate but “incorrect”.

          3. Elenna*

            I tried typing a bunch of stuff to figure it out but now I’m self-conscious and can’t figure out exactly what I do usually. Seems like I mostly use right shift, though. The exception is if I’m typing something for which I need to shift the position of my right hand significantly (e.g. the symbols that are above the 6 and 7 keys). Then I’ll use left shift. As far as I can tell I even use right shift for Y, even though it’s a bit of a stretch for my small hands.

            For what it’s worth I touch type reasonably quickly on a QWERTY keyboard, and I learned touch typing probably around 2003-2006 on a PC.

            Also I basically never use caps lock even when it would probably be easier. When typing “QWERTY” I automatically started holding right shift at the start, and then I stretched my hand to press both Y and right shift with my right hand at the same time.

      2. sunglass*

        I’ve always done it. No idea why, it’s just what I picked up when I was teaching myself to type as a kid and I see no reason to change it. I type almost 100 WPM and changing to the shift key would slow me down a lot as I don’t have that muscle memory. It’s a different way of achieving the exact same result.

        1. Stitch*

          I type funny because of some problems with my left hand and I also type over 100 WPM. When I’m typing the limiting factor on speed isn’t my typing speed it’s thinking and formulating sentences. Unless you’re a stenographer or doing captions your typing form can’t matter that much.

      3. Lady Meyneth*

        For me, it started at a job where I needed to produce engineering drawings for manufacture. Those babies are 80% written in caps, so it was obviously more efficient to turn caps lock on and off as needed. I got used to it, my brain started going straight to “if it’s caps, go to caps lock”, and I never broke out of that habit.

      4. kittymommy*

        I’ve never even heard of this habit until this letter. It took me a moment to figure out what they were talking about. It does seem less efficient (and more annoying) but it’s not my keyboard.

        1. Lady Meyneth*

          Actually, I found it’s more efficient for me. Depends a lot on what kinds of things you type, but if you deal with a lot of abbreviations, it’s kinda liberating to just press the caps lock and be free to move the rest of your hand without a shift anchor. Maybe that’s just my weirdness showing lol, but I when I used shift more regularly, I rarely turned on caps lock unless it was a full sentence in caps, and abbreviations used to be so annoying.

          1. Hazel*

            I agree! My company name is in all caps, and I’m much less tense & annoyed now when I type the name because I just turn on Caps Lock first. I have to admit, my original thinking was that it would make my typing take longer, but that’s not the case. When I was trying to hold down the Shift key and type letters in both sides of the keyboard, I almost always made a mistake, which I then had to correct.

            BTW, in my initial comment upthread, I was referring to using Caps Lock for ONE capital letter, but I’m seeing from the comments that it’s not unusual.

            My dad made me take typing two summers in high school, and I’m glad he did. When I was changing careers and trying to figure out what I was going to do next, I supported myself as an admin assistant, and being able to type fast and accurately made that possible. Although I do have a close friend who types quite fast and accurately with two index fingers. So maybe it doesn’t matter, and I’m just a typing snob. But I would never tell anyone else how to type, even if I were silently judging them.

      5. Quinalla*

        I dunno, but my daughter does this (she’s 11) and since she is learning typing right now we are definitely pointing out that hey, if you are just capitalizing one letter, then shift is better for what you are doing.

        As far as using the shift on your opposite hand, I am very slap dash about that myself. I sometimes use same hand, sometimes not. Some of that is because I am also a gamer I use left-shift+same-hand-key a lot for various game keyboard commands. I also cross home row a lot too which drives my husband batty when he watches me type. He’s uses a natural keyboard so types much more “correctly” than me. I had a summer class on typing, so I use all my fingers and generally get the letters with the “correct” fingers, but numbers, shift, etc. I most taught myself as we didn’t really get to that so I do things weirdly. I think also since I learned to play piano, I am more apt to reach further than some might be on a keyboard cause sometimes you reach pretty damn far when playing on a piano and you do cross over hand sometimes too so for me my typing is efficient, but not always “correct” :)

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Same, I raaaaaaaarely use right shift. I hadn’t thought about it before but that’s almost certainly gamer training.

        2. Richard Hershberger*

          Shift on opposite hand: I think this dates back to typewriters, especially manual typewriters. You needed to put some force behind the keystroke, and ideally about the same force for every one. Trying to do this while also pressing the shift key with the same hand could be problematic. Also, some keys use the pinky finger, which obviously you can’t do while it is pressing the shift key. This is still true in theory on a modern keyboard, but I suspect a lot of people make idiosyncratic adaptations to classic touch typing technique.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            Back when I was learning to type on a 60’s era typewriter (thank you dad!) I did use the opposite hand for shift because of the needed pressure on the typewriter keys. I relearned on a computer in college, now I honestly couldn’t tell you which shift key I use.

          2. Trillian*

            My first typewriter was an old Underwood manual that could have besieged small castles. The shift key, particularly on the left, was too heavy for me to push though its entire range of motion with a pinky alone, and the letter keys needed to travel at least an inch and land with some force to get a dark, uniform letter. I was not going to be able to pin the shift key and get the range with my size 6 hands. I’m still an opposite-finger shifter, and have to be discriminating in compact keyboards and avoid the ones that have the up arrow beside right shift. Always hit the space bar with the right thumb, though, unless I have injured it.

        3. Colin Watson*

          Also trained in piano, and self-taught typist on 1980s micros; I give not a single solitary damn for home row rules and the like. Since I already type faster than most of my colleagues and my typing speed isn’t a limiting factor for anything, the chances of me ever going to the effort of retraining for some idea of “correctness” are pretty much nil.

      6. Saraquill*

        I did the Caps Lock thing when I was nine, we were using the computer lab, and no one taught us to type. The teacher was mad at us, saying Shift was the one true way.

    2. WS*

      My mum first learned to use a computer in her 40s when she went back to university. She is a fast two finger and one thumb typist so why interfere?

    3. Your local password resetter*

      It can’t make all that much of a difference. You’re hitting buttons in the same area either way, just hitting one twice instead of holding one down.

    4. foolofgrace*

      I’d like to see the LW pick apart the Kinesis keyboard I had to use due to carpal tunnel, url in reply.

      1. foolofgrace*

        I guess I can’t paste it in and have it work, sorry. But you should see this Kinesis keyboard, once I got used to it I was faster than my 96 wpm on a regular keyboard.

        1. Mimmy*

          Links usually go into moderation, then Alison releases it once she sees it. But if she’s on vacation this week, I’m not sure how often she’s monitoring the site if at all.

        2. OrigCassandra*

          Kinesis fistbump! And nobody would enjoy typing on mine because I have some… unusual key remaps. (Mostly aimed at taking stress off my left pinky finger. Left shift got remapped to a thumb key.)

    5. Emi*

      I think it’s weird that people are so obsessed with the typing speed of anyone who’s not literally a typist or a transcriber or something like that. As long as you type as fast as you compose, further improvements will not benefit you at all.

  5. Artemesia*

    I feel for the person who may have tanked their chance for a job by involving a predatory ‘recruiter’.

    1. linger*

      Actually it turned out okay in the end. The OP followed up in the original comment thread: the recruiter admitted she didn’t have any contacts at that company, and recommended OP apply directly herself.

    2. SillyLittlePittyPat!*

      Back in the ‘good ole days’, whenever I filled out an application at a recruiters; they always asked where I had already applied, and I always told them, this is the first place I’ve applied!
      It just seemed wrong to give them that leg up.

      1. Kade Bronson*

        Working with recruiters is common in my industry, especially for folks in mid- to late-career, and it’s always been a process where we discuss what I’m looking for, they tell me about some options, I tell them which of those I’m interested in, and then they submit me to those places. They want to know where I’ve already applied because if they submit me to one of those places, they don’t get paid (because the actual lead came from somewhere else).

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          They want to know where I’ve already applied because if they submit me to one of those places, they don’t get paid (because the actual lead came from somewhere else).

          I’ve also run into places where they’ll toss both applications if they identify that you’ve applied directly and via a recruiter.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      The part I don’t understand is why the recruiter would “own” that candidate with that company. The company has no contract with that recruiter. I suppose they could decide to enter into a contract, with that candidate retroactively included, but that seems unlikely, and if it were to happen would it be a problem? Or is the contract between the recruiter and the LW? If so, that isn’t the company’s problem.

  6. Dark Macadamia*

    Alison is choosing really fantastic reruns for these vacation posts! They’re almost all letters that I’d forgotten about and it’s fun to be mind-boggled all over again.


    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I hope everyone likes this, because I think it’s what I’m going to do for the daily short answer posts in December (all other posts that month will be updates, per holy tradition). I’ve realized I could do it this way instead of cramming to write ~70 short answers before I go on vacation that month!

      1. linger*

        For the reposts, it might be useful to include links to updates/ in-thread comments from OPs if there were any that significantly advanced the story.

      2. august*

        Well, I like it! I’ve only started visiting the site last year and these throwbacks are quite the read. Though I’ve dived into the archives but one can only read so much. And I’m sure it’s not only me but when I read through old posts, commenting after several years seems like a moot point but these refreshers give opportunity to still learn and converse about them.

      3. Dark Macadamia*

        Definitely! I’ve read most of the older posts that interested me but didn’t start commenting until the past year or so. Like august said it’s nice to have an opportunity to discuss them now.

        1. Sara D, in Edinburgh*

          I’m also enjoying them this year as a break from the Covid questions. It’s relaxing to have a window into a time when we were all in offices getting annoyed with people in person!

      4. Harper the Other One*

        Adding my voice to those who love it! It’s really fun to see and think about these posts again.

      5. EPLawyer*

        I’m good with this. But try not to make them all Eyebrow Raising posts in one set. Because my forehead doesn’t need that much of a work out. Kthanx.

      6. SarahKay*

        I love it. I often use the “Show me a random post” button when I’ve got 15 minutes to kill, but having you bring up all the fantastic and mind-boggling ones is even better. Enjoy your vacation – now and at Christmas!

  7. Chc34*

    I thought #1 was going to be about a coworker who only typed using caps lock all the time, which would still have been entirely inappropriate, but at least I would have been like “okay, I get it”

    1. sacados*

      omg SAME.

      “My coworker has a terrible habit of sending every single email in all caps so it sounds like they’re shouting all the time; when called on it, they insist that it’s the best way to get their point across” … or something along those lines.
      That I would understand!

      1. emmelemm*

        Pretty sure people have actually written in with that very scenario and asked if they could at least complain to the person or gently explain that they need to stop it. (Without changing their Caps Lock Key.)

        No, I don’t have a link.

    2. GraceC*

      There’s one like that linked in the “you may also like” section, and even then their main concern was that she was typing in ALL CAPS in emails to clients – I think her coworkers would absolutely have appreciated her capslock being disabled, though!

    3. Mimi*

      Me too. It would still have been a total overstep, but if a coworkers sent me emails in all caps on the regular it would drive me up the wall.

      1. Miss Muffet*

        i initially thought this was why the person did it (just from the headline) but since he just did it because he was annoyed at how she typed – nothing that actually impacted him or ANYONE ELSE – it was a vast overstep

    4. Not really a Waitress*

      I worked in Manufacturing in a professional support role, and I had several managers who just left their caps lock on. Can anyone else HEAR the yelling when they get an all caps email? I know why they did it, and I know it wasn’t intentional, but It still made me cringe every time.

    5. Not Your Sweetheart*

      I expected that from the title, too. It may not be appropriate, but I probably would cheer anyone who disabled the caps lock key in that situation.

    6. Mannequin*

      I actually totally get why it would be annoying to watch someone make use capslock instead of shift- they’re doing it wrong and inefficiently- but I also know its 100% none of my business so they can type wrong & inefficiently all they want.

  8. Pamela Adams*

    I wish that intern would come fool with my keyboard; I have a tendency to hit capslock unaware (curse you, letter A), and only notice halfway down the sentence.

    1. PollyQ*

      Do you have a Windows machine? If so, you can turn on a sound effect that lets you know when you’ve hit the Caps Lock, with a different tone depending on whether you’re turning it on or off. You can also do it for Num Lock

      Settings > Ease of Access > Keyboard > Toggle Keys

      1. FD*

        Oho! That would be useful! I like to keep NumLock on all the time–I use my number pad a lot–but my ergenomic keyboard has it in a place where I hit it by accident all the time.

    2. Mongrel*

      There are easy to find instructions online, just search for “Disabling Caps Lock Registry”, most will have a set of instructions that point to a registry key and a small downloadable file that, when used, will overwrite the key for you.
      You can check it’s doing what it says by opening the file in Notepad where it will have the same path followed by a big block of, mostly, zeroes which should match the manual instructions.

    3. Oska*

      In MS Office programs at least, you can highlight text and hit Shift+F3 to toggle ALL CAPS / all lower-case / First Letters Capitalised. Unfortunately the function doesn’t cycle through “capitalise only first letter in the sentence”, but that’s quicker to fix manually than to re-type the whole sentence/text.

    4. AcademiaNut*

      On the newer Macs with some international keyboards. pressing the caps lock quickly does caps lock, and pressing it more firmly toggles language input between Roman and other characters (like Chinese or Japanese input). It’s a great feature, but occasionally you end up with random Chinese text or random caps.

    5. I take tea*

      I do this too. I don’t want to disable it, because I need it sometimes, but it would be nice if one could change it into a Ctrl+ instead.

    6. Sandra Dee*

      I purposely disabled by caps lock when my left hand was in a cast 2 years ago and I kept typing in all caps. I never turned it back on. To each their own. Don’t mess with someone else’s productivity, unless specifically asked.

  9. many bells down*

    #4 my experience with plagiarists has been that 99% of them double down and deny it. They’ll claim they’re the original author and that someone else stole it, or that it’s their pseudonym, or anything but the truth.

    I remember a writing contest where numerous people submitted the SAME plagiarized entry (literally the second result if you searched for a poem on the specific topic) and ALL OF THEM claimed to be the original author that had put it on the internet. One of them would have been all of 3 years old at the time.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      A teacher friend of mine once had a student suggest that perhaps the commenter on Yahoo Answers had plagiarized HIM :)

      1. quill*

        *Undignified wheezing noises* at least in my day it was plausible that it hadn’t been on the internet since before the student plaigarist was born!

  10. John Smith*

    #2 I still here manageress occasionally, usually in places like coffee shops and most often by the person holding that position.

    I still here landlady instead of landlord (I use that term myself for mine). I used to get male nurse a LOT back when I was training for nursing, and it’s continued as a joke (“what, a male nurse?”), though less often now.

    The “W” from WPC (woman police constable) disappeared long ago, but nannies (child carers) are still advertised for without specifying a sex for the role. The Duke (not Duchess) of Lancaster is The Queen.

    I think there’s probably quite a few areas where the sex of a person is still referred to or confused!

    1. UKgreen*

      Yes – I’m bemused by Alison’s response here that the person using ‘manageress’ is somehow doing to it as a joke or to be ‘funny’, or in some way a sleight on his manager’s ability to do her job as a woman. Actually, if he’s over about 50, he probably thinks he’s being respectful!

      My mother, who is in her 60s and recently retired, would have been quite offended to be called ‘the manager’, because as a woman she was ‘the manageress’. I have friends in their 40s who would probably use ‘manager’ and ‘manageress’ without thinking. Let’s not assume people are being disresepctful – it’s just use of language changing over time, and so a gentle ‘hey, Bob, we actually tend to just say ‘manager’ these days’ is probably enough.

      1. PollyQ*

        I think this is one of those US/UK differences. I’m a 54-year-old American, and I’ve never in my life heard “manageress” before this letter, including in older books or movies.

        1. Mongrel*

          Even in the UK I’ve never heard anyone referred to as Manageress or wanting to be referred to as such.
          It sounds very much like a Hyacinth Bucket sort of thing.

        2. Who Am I*

          Rush Limbaugh used to say this sort of thing all the time. He always sounded smarmy when he did and I don’t think it was meant to be respectful at all. (Someone I knew and liked recommended Rush to me in the early 1990s so I listened for awhile. I found him appalling and it made me question my friends’ judgment. Rush also pushed my views further to the left making me consider myself more of a liberal than a conservative in many areas, so there’s that.)

        3. Bagpuss*

          I’m in the UK and I can’t think of a time when I’ve heard it in relay life. it would definitely come over as very dated and unless it was coming from someone old enough that it was plausibly a slip of tongue , I’d tend to assume that it was either intended as a joke or that it was someone with a not-to-subtle issue with women in positions of authority .

          I think there are still some gendered titles which are more common – I do still hear Actress, and postman/woman (maybe because postperson sounds weird, and postal worker covers a wider range of jobs than just putting the post through people’s doors)

          1. Hazel*

            Mail carrier (or post carrier) works pretty well. But I agree that sometimes it’s hard to come up with non-gendered job titles that don’t sound odd at first.

            1. Starbuck*

              “Fisher” was a fun one for me, because where I live it’s more commonly used to refer to the animal, and not enough people are using it instead of ‘fisherman’ yet that my brain doesn’t always supply the correct context right away. But it’s good to have these more useful words available.

          2. Colin Watson*

            As a naïve kid in English class (in Northern Ireland) I once wrote “poetess” in an essay; I think I was trying to be hypercorrect. The burn from my teacher was visible from space. Never again.

        4. Gothic Bee*

          Yeah, I’m in the US and if I heard someone say “manageress” I’d assume it was a joke because I’ve never heard someone say that in my life. I wasn’t even aware it was a real word.

        5. Mannequin*

          Another 54 year old American here and same. And I grew up watching reruns of old movies on syndicated TV.

      2. AJHall*

        I disagree; to me as a woman pushing 60 “manageress” carries a twee sense of the Mrs Slocums about it (and I note that the examples of modern use given do seem to come from retail contexts.) If the direct report is doing it innocently, asking him nicely to stop shouldn’t be an issue, just a question of modern language in a modern workplace. If it’s really part of a subtle campaign to undermine OP’s authority, he’ll have to change his tactics and may do something more overt which will make it clear what he’s up to.

      3. Bamcheeks*

        Good heavens, I am 42 and have never heard of anyone saying “manageress” outside of Victoria Wood sketches. If Bob truly thinks “manageress” is a polite and respectful term, he has led a very sheltered existence and I would be on the lookout for other examples of discomfort with the 21st century.

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          “…discomfort with the 21st century.”
          And there’s the laugh I needed this morning! Excellent turn of phrase.

      4. londonedit*

        My mum (in her early 70s) knows that terms like ‘manageress’ are out of date but she still sometimes slips and uses them, because back when she was working (in the 1970s) it was seen as the respectful way of referring to someone.

          1. London Calling*

            In the mid 70s I worked in a government department that dealt with national insurance contributions (I’m in the UK). We used to get files from other offices and I recall a couple of them that referred to women as clerkesses – which IIRC was a Scottish term. To add to that the women were called Jamesina and Andrewina.

      5. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think in the 21st century, apart from enclaves, female professional labels that are derived from a more widespread label that by now isn’t felt as gendered, are widely considered disparaging especially the ones ending in -ess.

        There are some exceptions, but for me manageress feels a lot closer to poetess and authoress than to abbess or waitress.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          (PS: I see further downthread reports that in some African countries manageress is the norm, and not agreeing for gender is felt to be sexist – I can believe that, especially under the influence of gendered languages. For example in French, you have to say “patronne” as “patron” is inherently masculine. So I’ll narrow down my sweeping statement to the unilingual English Western post-industrial world.)

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I see further downthread reports that in some African countries manageress is the norm, and not agreeing for gender is felt to be sexist

            Manageress felt made-up to me, too, and inventing a new word isn’t going to be respectful. I’m not surprised to see it be real, but I wasn’t expecting it. I’ll use comedienne, waitress, editrix, executrix, lioness, etc, until asked not to, because I recognize them as real words and my upbringing and foreign-language education taught me that it’s respectful to use them, but I draw the line at inventing new words.

              1. Simply the best*

                Yeah, if somebody use that word in real life I would imagine 1. I wouldn’t know what they were saying and 2. Once I did figure it out, I would assume that they were time traveling from a 1930s movie.

              2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I don’t quite see how “editrix” is less made-up than “manageress”?

                One I recognize and the other I didn’t. Something about “Manageress” as a word just seems off–like maybe a redundant suffix (manage + er + ess). But the Internet would seem to suggest it’s just an obscure word I’ve never come across.

                1. EventPlannerGal*

                  Right, I see. It’s just that you seemed to be saying that you recognise words like “editrix” as “real words” and not “made up” ones, so I was a little confused as it’s doing the exact same thing as “manageress” – root + feminine suffix. They’re both equally made up, it’s just that one is sort of pseudo-Latin. If anything it seems like more of a stretch than “manageress” as the -ess suffix is quite well-known (waitress, actress) whereas the -trix suffix isn’t really used in English – honestly the only commonly used one I can think of is dominatrix.

                  (This isn’t me arguing for “manageress” btw, I think it’s very silly! Language is so interesting.)

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  They’re both equally made up, it’s just that one is sort of pseudo-Latin.

                  You’re right; all words are just made up. Vocabularies are very personal things when we get down to them.

                  Pseudo-Latin does irritate me. Maybe that’s what I’m picking up on.

            1. Autumnheart*

              I’ve never heard “editrix” and I would side-eye someone who used it. And I work with several editors, most of whom are female. They’re editors.

              And instead of ‘waitress”, consider using “server”.

              1. Heffalump*

                I normally call a female bartender a barmaid, but I occasionally say “bartendress,” tongue in cheek.

      6. Simply the best*

        There are plenty of gendered words people still use. Manageress just isn’t one of them (I’m using speech to text and my phone doesn’t know that word. I had to edit it from manager ass). I’ve literally never heard that word other than in this letter, so to me that sounds like something this person is making up to be purposefully gendered as opposed to using a regular gendered word that is a part of common speech.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I’m not sure why, but “landlady” sounds normal to me, while “manageress” sounds ridiculous. “Male nurse”: Among my vices is watching old episodes of What’s My Line from the 1950s and 60s. They loved contestants who ran counter to expectations. Often this was a woman in a traditionally male occupation. The particular favorite was a “woman barber.” This apparently was so wild that they had one on every couple of years. I believe they did have a male nurse on at one point.

      My understanding is that The Queen is the Duke of Normandy for purposes of the Channel Islands, though obviously not for the rest of Normandy.

      1. London Calling*

        The Queen as Duke of Normandy was married to the Lord High Admiral (Prince Philip). She’s also the Duke of Lancaster.

        Manageress sounds normal to me, although very dated. I’ve always liked aviatrix – it sounds much more daring than aviator.

    3. Berta*

      Yes, I work as a QM and refer to myself as the quartermistress, not the quartermaster (despite the fact that I am married. I suppose quartermadam would be more accurate). I call my mail carrier the postlady (because she is).

      I do see the problem with referring to occupation *in general* with male terms, but when you are talking about a specific person it’s not really an insult when it’s accurate. In many languages gender identification is built in – there is no “neutral” noun for occupations. You are either der Postbote (male) or die Postbotin (female). Calling someone the wrong one would be exceptionally confusing.

      1. Starbuck*

        But there will always be people who are neither… it’s a shame more languages haven’t developed the flexibility to accommodate that.

  11. Tara*

    Oh, #5. You already had a contact there. You didn’t need her to check if she had one, and your contact wouldn’t appreciate you randomly coming via a recruiter.

    She was trying to make money out of you, not help you.

  12. Elizabeth the Ginger*

    The only way the guy in #2 gets a pass from me is if he has just started learning English and his native language genders all professions. Like in Italian where a male farmer is “il contadino” and a female farmer is “la contadina”. Even so, he doesn’t get a pass to keep doing it; someone should tell him that’s not how the word “manager” works in English. (I also assume that being a non-native speaker isn’t the issue or the OP would have said that was the case.)

    1. SM*

      It is definitely a cultural thing. In some parts of Africa, referring to “manageress” (or “managerette”), “lawyeress”, “pilotess”, etc.. is considered the normal and respectful way to do things. In fact, NOT using those terms is considered sexist and unappreciative of women’s rights in the work place.

      1. Femme d'Afrique*

        This is fascinating and I’ve never come across it! What countries do this?

        In my country what really gets me is the term “Lady Justice” to refer to female judges, as though the default for a Supreme/Appellate Court judge is male.

        1. SM*

          It’s the norm in West Africa in particular.
          Ghana, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone for example. Less so in Southern or Eastern Africa.

          1. BelleMorte*

            Reading The no 1 lady detective agency series set in Botswana, I got the impression throughout the series that using “lady” descriptive is actually a sign of pride. Women rarely achieve roles like that (and others) in the area and when they are doing the typically not female role for that area they say they are a “lady” whatever with a huge sense of pride, so it’s very locality-based. I found it an interesting perspective.

        2. Bagpuss*

          Interesting – are male judges simply referred to as ‘Justice’?
          (I’m in the UK and we have in for the most senior judges, but it goes both ways – you have ‘Lord Justice Smith’ or ‘Lady Justice Smith’, so it’s a title, not that you have Justices and lady Justices. (less senior Judges would simply be ‘Judge Smith’ regardless of their gender, although in court we do use ‘Sir’ or ‘Ma’am’ (or M’Lord / M’Lady, depending on which court you are in) when actually addressing a Judge directly.

          1. AJHall*

            Mr/Mrs Justice Smith or Smith J. when writing, assuming they’re a high court judge.
            His Honour Judge Smith/Her Honour Judge Smith if their a deputy high court judge.

          2. Femme d'Afrique*

            Male judges are simply “Justice,” yes (we obviously don’t have “Lords,” lol). That’s what makes it so grating.

        3. Sled Dog Mama*

          This is reminding me of the mascot of a nearby high school where I grew up (not my school). Their mascot was the Stallions and their girls teams were called…..if you said Lady Stallions you get one internet point. This always baffled me I mean why would pick something that the name of it explicitly states the gender as a mascot for a co-ed school baffles me.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            My school district does something similar and similarly baffling. One female athlete competing is a lioness, but a group are lady lions.

    2. Empress Ki*

      Yes I am French and I would have used words like this when I started to learn English. For instance, doctor and doctoress.

  13. Not Australian*

    With computers, there is generally more than one way to do *anything*, and it’s a question of finding out what is most comfortable for the individual and sticking with that. I remember being heavily criticised at one job for using a drop-down menu for a function instead of learning the CTRL+(whatever it was) command, but it was genuinely quicker for me and I refused to clutter my brain memorising useless codes that were already on their way out at the time. If you can prove that it doesn’t affect your productivity it shouldn’t matter to anyone else what approach you take to completing a straightforward task – especially where muscle memory is involved!

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Heck, I work IT and don’t always use keyboard shortcuts. Sometimes the menu clicks are easier.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Heck, I work IT and don’t always use keyboard shortcuts. Sometimes the menu clicks are easier.

        And when the keyboard shortcuts are changed for no good reason, you’re stuck, where you can still find the thing in the menu if it’s just renamed and/or moved within its menu.

        But I still use most of the keyboard shortcuts I can.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I wrote&deleted a rant about software developers that don’t test their Alt-key drop-downs to make sure that of custom list doesn’t make users pull up that totally different menu. Software that changes the alt key drop downs between releases. And my current favorite, database interfaces with no keyboard commands and no undo for people with ano erratic mouse.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        It’s the same frustration I get switching between games in the same series and finding out they’ve mapped all the buttons differently and I can’t change them. I honestly didn’t want to fireball my entire team!

        1. quill*

          I just can’t play games that don’t have accessability settings anymore. I used to do fine with civ, crusader kings type things… and now I can’t find half the game because my kingdom for a CENTRALIZED MENU with CLEAR INSTRUCTIONS and a TUTORIAL.

          Not to mention all the games that presumably came with paper instructions like “press R for resource menu” and don’t have those anymore when you download the remastered / updated versions.

        2. MsSolo (UK)*

          Assassin’s Creed seems to change the eagle jump every game on the PS4, for no reason! It’s very hard to switch between games and remember which is running and which is shooting.

          1. quill*

            I already have no hand / eye coordination for screens, which prevented me from playing the games to begin with, but that sounds extra frustrating.

    3. Sleepless*

      I’m all about some drop-down menus instead of keyboard commands. I have a coworker who does almost everything on our software differently than I do. Watching her input something is like watching somebody use a whole different software. But it works for her.

    4. Architect*

      I still shudder when I think about how I probably caused my coworker to lose points on his review after his manager basically pushed me to say he needed to use keyboard shortcuts rather than menus/toolbars in AutoCAD. Because our office had a very strong tradition of keyboard shortcuts. I tried to explain both worked, but I was too junior at the point to really press that as long as he was getting the work done, it didn’t matter how he accessed the command.

  14. Kate, short for Bob*

    #3 reminds me of an ex who went for a sysadmin role with a Formula 1 marque. The interview never recovered from him asking the interviewer if people were allowed to sit in the race car display in their reception.

    Prestigious places and people need people who can pretend to be unfazed for at least the interview process…

    1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      Absolute clanger!

      No famous people at my current job but about 10 years ago I was busy fixing a machine for a pretty senior high up person in a large firm and when someone walked in, said hi, asked what I was doing I was polite of course but not really all that distracted from what I was doing.

      Wasn’t until I was on my way back to my office that I realised that the casual visitor was quite a major UK TV star, one I really would’ve loved to talk to!

      I think there’s a certain amount of myopia needed in IT where you’re more focused on the job than the face/celebrity goings on.

      1. Amira*

        Y’know I bet that made their day though! Bit of normal conversation, no pressure at all to be “on”…

        Alternatively they got to be highly amused.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Not saying who it is, but given the persona he tends to have in public he’s a pretty nice guy so likely he didn’t feel slighted. What really gets me is that I had/have a massive crush on him but apparently hk-local-machine errors override my baser emotions.

        2. Bagpuss*

          I imagine it must be quite a relief to have someone treat them normally rather than going all fanboy/fangirl, at least for celebs who are not too self-important.

          (Slightly different scenario to Keymaster’s as it wasn’t work related, but I once had a very pleasant conversation with a very famous writer at a convention where they were GoH – I had not read anything they’d written or seen any of the blockbusting tv show based on their work, I just happened to be a friend of a friend. The subject of their work didn’t come up at all.
          And as we were in a semi-public area, there was a constant stream of people wandering past and being very good and not interrupting, as it wasn’t a public event, but also clearly being very, very envious. I suspect that a lot of people went away trying to figure out who I was, as all the other people around the table were VIPs )

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I suspect that normal interactions are actually quite normal. Even someone who is genuinely famous, and not merely “internet famous,” is still only known to a fraction of the total population. My knowledge of Hollywood celebrities is about thirty years out of date. The younger batch? I have no idea who they are. Add to this meeting out of context. If I were to meet George Clooney out of context, my likely reaction would be to tell my wife afterwards that I saw this guy who looked just like George Clooney, lucky devil!

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Lol – I had my own accidental run-in with the rich and famous in college at 19. For reference, I am in the USA, so the Football I’m referring to is American Football. Oh, and this was 20ish years ago when most of us wore watches instead of carrying cell phones.

        So I was a sophomore in college and the battery in my watch died overnight. There was a clock in my dorm room, so I made my morning classes on time, but as I was crossing the green space I was trying to decide if I had enough time to run to my dorm room before work or not and asked a guy who was wearing a watch if he could tell me what time it was. He fired off with a really grouchy and grumpy response, and another guy in the crowd with him told him to shut it and gave me the time. Then told his buddy that you know watch batteries are known to die occasionally, be a human.
        Later found out the two guys were the starting and back up QB’s for the newer expansion team now in my college’s town (they’d been in town two years at that point). The starter was the guy who mouthed off – he fell off the radar when he retired, the backup became a starter and after retirement went into coaching, and is now an offensive coordinator. Even among celebs the good guys do eventually come out on top.

      3. Richard Hershberger*

        I grew up in southern California. It was entirely possible to find yourself eating lunch next to someone famous. Two ironclad principles applied: Don’t act like a tourist, and let the guy eat his lunch. If you absolutely must say something, the correct formula is “I enjoy your work.”

      4. BritChick*

        I work in entertainment so around well known actors a lot, but in my old day job (non industry related) our patrons were Kate Middleton and David Attenborough.

        One of those people reduced everyone to squealing fans. The other, um, didn’t.

    2. AY*

      That is hilarious. I, too, would get a bit starry eyed if I got to interview with a Mercedes or RBR F1 team! And if I caught sight of Lewis Hamilton, I do not think I would be able to contain the inner fangirl.

      And this is why I work in state government.

    3. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Oh how times change. When I read this my only thought was ‘Why don’t you have a camera on your phone? Just be discrete’ but then I saw 2013 and went ‘Oh’. Not that every single person has a camera phone now, but a whole lot less people these days worry about taking a camera along with them anywhere. But really either you get the job, and can take a photo there at any time, or you don’t get the job and have the semi-depressing photo of that time you interviewed at the really cool place and didn’t get the job (possibly because you took an awkward photo at your interview).

    4. Maseca*

      My SO works at a place that has a lot of superfans. Think project management in the admin office of Disneyworld, for example. People LOVE Disneyworld and are SO envious. Obviously SO’s job comes with a lot of perks that, say, my job at a not-famous place does not match, and they’re aware of that… young relatives aren’t lining up to ask me about copyediting… but at the end of the day it’s still a job, with the same frustrations and meetings-that-should’ve-been-emails and clueless coworkers/bosses and neverending weeks etc. etc. etc. You can get the Sunday Scaries even if your job is tasting ice cream or reviewing cruise lines or testing out new trampoline parks. And going into an interview assuming you can be a fan first, employee second is a recipe for disappointment all around.

  15. Seeking Second Childhood*

    The hand pain I’ve had since an incident earlier in the year gives me a new perspective — I can easily imagine a time when I can’t use my right pinky to capitalize a letter on the left side of the keyboard.

    1. WS*

      Yes, I have arthritis in both hands, worst immobility (though not worst pain) in the left pinky finger. I have to slow down when it’s bad so that I’m not typing “a” two or three letters later than I should be! And I’ve already trained myself to use the right shift key all the time.

    2. JustaTech*

      I had a coworker who had limited mobility in one hand, so she used a different typing method. The only reason I know that she used caps lock was that when you are typing in your windows password it warns you if you have caps lock on, and she was typing her password while connected to a projector.

      Someone said something (“hey, your caps lock is on” “I know”) exactly once and then it never even registered again.

  16. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    #4, plagiarism:

    I think sometimes people think “example” means something closer to “template”. So, in this instance, they took the exemplar and changed all the personal details, and thought that meant they’d created an acceptably original document. If LW challenged them, they might think “hold on, I spent ages on that, and it was from a publicly available template – what’s her beef?”

    When I moved from Job A to Job B, I would have loved to be able to take with me some materials that I had laboriously created as part of Job A. But unfortunately they were no longer mine to use. I jotted down the absolute bare bones (think “introduction, $topic1, $topic2, $topic3, contact details, Q&A”) and laboriously recreated the materials from a blank page. That’s what LW4’s candidate should have done – but I suppose my definition of “skeleton” and theirs will be too different!

    The general public understanding of intellectual property in general, and copyright in particular, is woeful. I guess we shouldn’t be surprised.

    1. pancakes*

      Maybe, but if that is what they think, they’re wrong.

      I don’t think people need to have much of an understanding of intellectual property to understand that plagiarism is wrong, either. Copying someone else’s work and presenting it as one’s own is an ethical problem even when it’s not legally actionable.

      1. Bamcheeks*

        This doesn’t apply in many workplaces, though. I’m not being hired for my originality, I’m being hired for knowing what works, and if that means using a template I or another colleague created ten years ago, that’s not an ethical violation. If it was creative work, sure, but an awful lot of work isn’t creative in that way.

        1. pancakes*

          I didn’t mean to suggest that every instance of re-using or revising a template is plagiarism or is unethical, and don’t believe I did!

          1. pancakes*

            To clarify further, I think we’re taking about two different things here. The first paragraph of General von Klinkerhoffen’s paragraph, in my reading, is about the sort of person who thinks plagiarizing a cover letter is on par with revising a template, and therefore not plagiarism if they change some of the content. That is what I was responding to.

            1. Anon for this*

              Yeah, I hate writing cover letters because while I have good technical writing skills, the concept of “introduce yourself and say why you would be good at this job” leaves me staring at the screen, eyes glazed over. It would be nice if there was a generic template I could just slot achievements into, when I try to come up with generic introductory/enthusiastic sentences myself they always feel overly bragging. I would be good at this job because I’ve been doing this job for years already and your company pays more. Anything more than that seems… weird.

    2. AndersonDarling*

      I was wondering if the original cover letter was somewhat generic and it would make sense for someone to run a search, find the letter, and use it as a template. But in this case, the original is really personal and uses a unique voice so I have to lean toward plagiarism.
      I recently had to look up how to write an introductory biography and I found some plain sentences that I ended up using as a template. It was simply ” [Name] has been working in [business] field for the past [number] years…” with no original voice or personality. If something is that boring, then it leans into generic rather than plagiarism.

      1. pancakes*

        A template is a format. “Plain sentences” are not a template. If you want to copy them, use quotation marks or a block quote. Whether you regard the content as boring or not is not a guide to whether it’s acceptable to copy it.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          Totally disagree. I work in academia, and there are *hundreds* of papers I’ve read that have basically the same abstract, introductory paragraphs, and conclusions. These are the “plain” sentences that AndersonDarling is taking about, and it’s not plagiarism to stick to the tried and true format.

          Same thing goes for coverletters. Even though here at AAM we often discuss spicing them up, the reality is that the vast majority of coverletter advice and examples follow the same format, especially for the first paragraph. There are only so many ways to say “I am delighted to submit my application to Teapots Inc”, and we really shouldn’t consider it plagiarism if the person can’t come up with wording that hasn’t already been done thousands of times before.

          1. pancakes*

            I can’t tell whether we actually disagree or not – my objection was not and is not to sticking to “a tried and true format” but to copying sentences. These aren’t the same activity. I was a supervising editor of my law school’s law review and am very, very familiar with tried-and-true formatting. I don’t think it is helpful to suggest that formatting and sentence-level content are indistinguishable, or one and the same, and am surprised to see multiple people seemingly doing so.

      2. ErinWV*

        Noooo, that’s not how plagiarism works. Doesn’t matter how boring or unoriginal the sentence is. Write your own.

        1. KateM*

          When I wrote my cover letter, I did check the suggestions in an AAM article about how to start, and I think it’s possible I took one of the suggested sentence starts word-for-word. Is that plagiarism?

      3. Washi*

        I think the cover letter thing was almost certainly plagiarism but I definitely see your point regarding certain conventions of writing. Like if you just start your cover letter with the sentence “I am writing to apply for the position of….”, that alone is not plagiarism IMO unless the rest of the cover letter is similarly lifted from a single online example.

        I’ve done something similar for recommendation letters where I needed to look up the “fluff” that opens and closes one. But I didn’t just take sentences from one example but read a bunch of samples and then wrote my own. So it’s not just copied from one template, but there are probably similar sentences to 5-6 different online templates I’ve found (and again, stuff like “I wholeheartedly recommend X for Y” or “please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns” ).

        I’ve never considered this plagiarism but I’m curious now if doing that is more of a problem than I realize?

  17. Moi*

    I wonder if there is a cultural misunderstanding with LW2. My take is that he is meaning to be respectful but is missing the context. I have students who call me “miss “ instead of my name. When I asked them to use my name they felt that miss is more respectful. That’s not my impression but I know they mean well! LW2 may simply be missing the cultural context of the word, “ manageress”

    1. Empress Ki*

      It reminds me when one of my acquaintances insisted her child calls me auntie instead of my first name ! She thought it was disrespectful for a child to call an adult by their first name. It was in her culture. I had to insist that respect is calling people how they want to be called.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I was 29 when I came to the US. My cousin and their family were already here. Cousin’s daughters were in their teens. It was our first time living in the same city and being at family events all together. I come to the older daughter’s 18th birthday party and she proceeds to call me Auntie (name). Made me feel like a dinosaur. They stopped the moment I asked them to (which was at the same party, as soon as I picked my jaw off the floor). But I agree, this is cultural, I bet they thought they *had* to call me that.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I am Auntie Bagpuss to some of my friends’ children. It feels odd to me (not least because I’ve always called all my own aunts and uncles by their first names, so didn’t necessarily expect to be ‘Auntie’ even to my own niblings)

        I would be perfectly happy for them to simply call me ‘Bagpuss’, but in context it’s a compliment (for these individuals, it’s not ‘all adults must have a title’, it’s more ‘ you’re an honorary member of the family’ ) and I’m happy to go with the flow.

        If it was someone insisting because it’s ‘respectful’ and all adults have to be addressed like that I would see it differently and would probably insist on either ‘Bagpuss’ or Ms Lastname’ on the basis that it isn’t respectful to call someone something they don’t wish to be called.

    2. Bamcheeks*

      She might be, but it’s still a legit thing to raise with the colleague? If the workplace is operating outside the norms of mainstream American office culture, then it’s useful to hear what the colleague thinks it means and decide whether that’s something LW is comfortable with. If the office is mainstream American but this particular colleague has only recently joined that environment, then “this doesn’t sound respectful” is useful information they need to know.

      And if they have been in a mainstream American office for years and somehow managed not to notice that it doesn’t sound particular respectful, then it may be worth LW looking at whether they’ve missed out on any other norms and cultural context.

    3. Reba*

      I know that in some parts of the US (idk, Boston?) people really don’t take kindly to “ma’am” — it suggests that the speaker reads them as old (the horror!!) or that it is an ironic, non-respectful term of respect. I always feel that’s an overreaction. At the other extreme, where I’m from all people are addressed as “honey”!

      I do get it though — feminine-presenting people experience sexist ageism. And it is problematic that feminine honorifics have age- or marriage- based differences while masculine ones are neutral.

      IMO the situation where it really makes sense to push back against ma’am and miss/mrs. is when other people are getting their professional or achieved honorific–“That’s right, Doctor” “Yes, your honor”–and women of similar status are getting plain old ma’am.

      1. Reba*

        To be clear, I would really bristle at “manageress”! I would not like to be called an “editrix”! I think because these are so rare it my context they would read as pretty ostentatious; that is, they stand out a lot more than “waitress” or “actress.” On the whole I think English speakers moving towards non-gendered work titles is good! Mail carrier, flight attended, server etc. etc.

      2. After 33 years ...*

        Here, as a senior citizen male, I am frequently addressed as “honey”, “my love”, “dearie”, “me old trout”, and similar terms by grocery check-out clerks of various ages and genders. If my partner and I go through the checkout together, one of us might get called “honey” and the other “my love”.
        In professional contexts (e.g. with university students), I insist on gender-neutral identifiers and honourifics.

      3. Le Sigh*

        The one that has always raised an eyebrow with me is calling older women “young lady.” I had an office manager who did that to women 50+ and it always seemed really off-putting to me. I’m positive the office manager didn’t mean it this way, but it always felt a little … infantalizing? It’s what you call your 10 yo kid, not a grown woman. I’m not crazy about ma’am, honey, etc., but most of the time, water off my back, I don’t really care. If someone ever starts calling me young lady, I think I will have to address that. I just can’t.

        1. lysine*

          Ick, that office manager shouldn’t call even younger women “young lady”. That gives off really weird and unprofessional connotations to me.

        2. London Calling*

          Yes, the ‘young lady’ one to 50+ women comes over as condescending and faux complimentary at the same time. I know I’m not young, don’t try and kid me that you think I am with your pat on the head.

        3. Editor*

          Calling an older person “young lady” or “young man” or calling someone “x years young” is a tell. The speaker is uncomfortable with age or the appearance of age.

          It’s not something folks should do, any more than they should gush over someone’s weight loss.

  18. Hi from more innocent times (2016)*

    Oof, that Amy Schumer sketch from 2016 (link in #2) doesn’t play the same way now, after all those MRA/incel killings. When the friend disappears outside to get talked to, I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.

    Hopefully the OP’s employee was just making a lame joke and wasn’t actually a full-on m’lady type.

  19. Stitch*

    Lw1 is a big old jerk and also couldn’t fathom that the caps lock thing might have been to cover one a hand issue. I have tendinitis in my left hand dating from an injury I got when I was 16. When it’s flaring up it can actually be painful to hit multiple keys at the same time with one hand. I have learned adaptive typing to prevent flare-up as well.

    1. Bagpuss*

      LW1 is a jerk regardless.

      How someone else types or carries out their work is none of the LW’s business, unless she becomes their manager and their way is causing a genuine issue, it doesn’t matter whether the victim has a specifc reason for doing things their way or not.

  20. SillyLittlePittyPat!*

    Back in the ‘good ole days’, whenever I filled out an application at a recruiters; they always asked where I had already applied, and I always told them, this is the first place I’ve applied!
    It just seemed wrong to give them that leg up.

    1. pancakes*

      Asking where you’ve applied isn’t quite the same as asking you to only apply through them, though, and getting an answer to the former isn’t inherently a leg up for the recruiter in a nefarious sense. It can benefit you as a candidate for the recruiter to have a fuller sense of what you’re interested in, and to avoid duplicating work you’ve already done yourself.

  21. Not just the Mrs*

    OP #1 part of being an adult is letting annoying things go. Everyone has coworkers that do things inefficiently, or in a way you think is completely wrong. For instance, my coworker, when inputting data sets in a single cell in Excel, will add their numbers on a calculator. It’s ridiculously inefficient, defeats the purpose of using Excel, and causes many more errors and wasted time when you can’t see exactly where your mistake is. There is nothing I can do about it. They just like doing things their own way. I’m not going to steal her calculator so she sees the error of her ways. All I can do it be as efficient as possible myself (and maybe laugh about a smidge at home). Your managers will eventually see the difference in output. The fact that you doubled down on “I was just trying to help” is more likely why you got fired, not the overstepping. You definitely need to do some growing up.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, focusing on efficiency is a good way to be a jerk.

      First of all, what is efficient for you is not necessarily the same as what is efficient for someone else whose body doesn’t work the same way (due to illness, injury, or just because their hands are a different size).

      Skill is another issue – some people can touch type, some can’t. Some prefer keyboard shortcuts, some like menus; some like icons, some don’t.

      If the coworker were doing data entry as her only job, her manager might suggest she try using the shift key. But in many jobs, using an extra half-second isn’t what is limiting the amount of work someone can do – and even if it were, an intern doesn’t have the standing to suggest she change.

      1. Delta Delta*

        This. I can type some ridiculous number of words per minute (and I press hard so it’s loud). If someone came in and futzed with my keyboard to make me more “efficient” I’d probably be hamstrung in my ability to work at my normal efficiency.

      2. Liz*

        or how they process things! In my job, I need to look up filings made with a specific agency on a daily basis. When I get my search results, I filter by proceeding, because I can scroll through, skip the ones that aren’t relevant, and focus on those that are. My brain prefers that to just looking at the list, however it comes up, because there’s no back and forth “proceeding 1, yes, proceeding 2, no, oh wait, there’s another proceeding 1” its just easier for me to have everything grouped together before I look at it.

      3. Jamie Starr*

        Sometimes optimal efficiency is not the goal. Maybe it’s better to be slightly less efficient but more accurate. Or sometimes you have to do extra work that is certainly *inefficient* but it is required to be done that way by the law, or funder, or whomever.

        LW1 reminds me of an intern I dealt with once. I was in charge of the NFP’s audit. Intern was in the development department. I gave her a list of donor contributions and asked her to make photocopies of the back up for each gift on the list. She asked me “wouldn’t it be easier to scan them?” I explained, that no, I needed photocopies. She said, “But people my age are used to scanning, wouldn’t that be easier?” I was like, “I need you to do it the way I’ve asked because x, y, z.” This was probably my 9th or 10th audit. I knew why I wanted them as photocopies, even though, yes, it is more paper! The photocopies were just part of a multi-step process, and scans would have made the other steps more inefficient. And really, making a copy took the exact same amount of time as scanning – it was the same machine, just pressing a different button – so not sure why she insisted scanning was easier/faster.

      4. JustaTech*

        Exactly this. Part of my job is training people to do a long and complex lab process that must be done a very specific way. When I train folks I tell them “at this step, this is what you are going to do this is *why* you’re doing it this way”. Once we’ve covered the absolutely-mandated bits, I’ll add something like “I find it easier on my hands to hold the container from the bottom, but that is a strictly personal preference thing”.

        There are times when something must be done only one way. For everything else, let it go. People are not identical.

    2. Reba*

      I am reminded of the Keanu quote that was a meme for a minute: “I’m at that stage in my life where I stay out of discussions. If you say 1+1=5 — you’re right, have fun.”

  22. kiri*

    As someone who does a lot of work with college students in a computer lab (university library) – they are anecdotally MORE likely to use caps lock for capital letters instead of shift. (I suspect because they don’t necessarily get typing instruction?)

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      I wonder if the increased prevalence of on-screen/’soft’ keyboards, such as those on many smartphones or tablets, has an effect on this.
      From my experience touch screens tend to be very geared toward a single point of contact, so combinations such as Shift+letter aren’t really viable.

      While I will almost always default to Shift for capitalisation on my PC, on my devices if I want a capital letter then I need to tap the caps icon.
      If someone is more accustomed to that movement as default, they may carry that habit over when typing on standard keyboards.

    2. Threeve*

      And phones and tablets don’t have shift keys, and that’s what they’re used to typing on. I’ve noticed it too.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Wait, what? I currently have three tablets and four phones in front of me (long story) of different sizes and vintages (all Apple though) and all of them have shift keys. (And so does my Kindle. In fact, the Kindle has a shift key and no caps lock. Heh.)

        1. GraceC*

          My phone keyboard (a Google Pixel) has a dual-purpose shift-capslock button – one tap to use shift and capitalise Only The Next Letter, two taps to SET IT TO CAPSLOCK. The third tap brings it back down to lowercase.

          If you’re used to quickly hitting a key on the left to capitalise a single letter rather than holding it down, that translates better to capslock when transferring your typing skills, I’d say.

    3. KittyCardigans*

      I work with high schoolers who have almost all had typing instruction, but who used iPads in middle school (we use laptops at the high school level). They display a lot of typing quirks, including the caps lock thing and quite a bit of speedy hunt-and-pecking! I think most of them learned to use keyboards on tablets quite young, and their typing instruction has often not totally overridden what they did as a child.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        I notice this among my university students as well, one of several typing styles reflecting evolving device technology.

    4. TechWriter*

      I’m not sure. I definitely remember using the capslock method for a long time and the shift key being something of a revelation to me (though I can’t pinpoint when I started using it.)

      I learned to type in elementary school computer class in the early-t0-mid 90’s using All the Right Type. We had to spend the first ten minutes of class on it before moving on to actually fun stuff. I don’t thjink it actually showed my how to use shift though; I think it must have been a teacher or possibly even my dad. (I don’ t know how truly effective the program was; I only really got fast at typing in middle school when I discovered the Neopets message boards. Ha!)

      There might be something to the “learning to type on a phone/tablet via swiping where use of shift is more difficult/less likely” but it can’t all be that. I wonder if capslock is taught first and shift introduced later, but by the time that ‘lesson’ comes around, most students are good enough that they either don’t take the lesson, or are too used to capslock to bother.

      1. linger*

        Also worth noting that the key labels on a computer don’t help the absolute beginner who’s never seen a typewriter. If you want capitals, it is less intuitive to press “Shift” than to press “Caps”. (On a typewriter, the mechanism involved was much more obvious, as the capslock literally locked the keyboard onto a different level.)

  23. YetAnotherAnalyst*

    Re: LW3 – I currently work in the gaming industry; our headquarters are a monument to nerdism. Taking pictures in the headquarters has gotten folks fired before. We’re really aware of our social media presence and really aware of the potential for leaks. Don’t ask to take pictures, and definitely don’t take pictures *without* asking.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I was thinking about this. If someone is interviewing for a job in a secretive or sensitive place – like software development or the Pentagon, or something, that no, photos would be a terrible idea. On the other hand, I suppose if the job was in a museum and a person wanted to take a photo of the outside because it’s an example of beautiful architecture, that might be okay?

      I also notice this question is from long enough ago that someone might not reasonably had a phone with a camera. I wonder if the answer would be any different now.

      1. Aquawoman*

        I don’t know for sure about the Pentagon but I do know there are federal workplaces where people aren’t allowed to have cell phones at all.

      2. pancakes*

        I don’t think the prevalence of phone cameras changes anything here. Better for the museum candidate to return and take photos on a personal visit rather than an interview visit, for the same reason Alison gave in her answer: You want to present yourself as a serious candidate rather than a fan.

        1. pancakes*

          (Or, better yet, get the personal visit out of the way before the interview visit. Familiarity with the museum and its programming could be an asset during the interview. Emphasizing you’ve never been there before, probably not.).

      3. Anna*

        I used to work in an office that was in a beautiful building AND had a great view. People wouldn’t have minded if interviewees took pictures in the lobby or while waiting to be called in, but would probably be annoyed if it was while they were with other people or if it slowed down the proceedings in any way.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          That’s a good point. If there’s a piece of artwork or something very interesting on the way out, when you might be having a more informal conversation, it would make sense to ask if you could stop to snap a photo. I don’t think it would look bad to show an interest in their facility in that case. But to slow down more formal proceedings would look bad! Plus, they might think it’s odd if someone brings a camera for that specific purpose, as opposed to snapping a photo on their phone quickly.

    2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      I’m picturing like a Sonic the Hedgehog statue in the lobby, not like pictures of secret strategy meetings…

      1. Fushi*

        You’re underestimating how seriously the video game industry takes secrecy. In a logical world, sure, who cares about a picture of the statue or whatever. In reality a lot of places would not authorize you taking a picture of that because they can’t review/approve the picture before you potentially put it on social media. I also work for a game company and I only take pictures of office stuff if we have explicit permission to photograph. Pictures of some stuff that’s not really “secret” can’t even be shared internally.

    3. Maria*

      I also work in the gaming industry and at my former company we were fine with folks wanting to take a photo with a big display, because it was in a safe space where we didn’t have any anything else, certainly nothing secret. (Think an empty room with a 15-foot statue.) I always thought it was cute/sweet. NB: Possibly this is not the impression you want to give if you’re not entry level.

      We can definitely agree on “don’t take pictures without asking”. And folks who do risk asking could also risk looking that slight bit less professional. But let’s face it, this industry relies on folks being “passionate” and often likes to hire enthusiasts. (Which is a different problem altogether.)

  24. Delta Delta*

    #1 – This reminds me of my first job in a little retail store where I was basically never actually taught anything. I figured out on my own how to count the drawer down to $100 every night using some sort of odd system where I did the change first starting with the pennies, but it always worked and there was always enough change in the drawer to get the morning started and always ended up with the least possible amount of change in the deposit. And I could do it in under a minute. I later got another job where I got legit yelled at for doing it this way because apparently the proper way is a different way. I didn’t see it as enough of a problem to fight over, but it also made me realize (at the tender age of 18 or 19 or whatever) that there are often lots of ways of doing something and if something works it isn’t really worth it to mess with it. Or fight over it.

    1. Ellen Ripley*

      How odd. What way did they want you to do it? That’s the way that I’ve always done it, and I can’t imagine how you’d start with the bills and not end up having to go back and adjust the change at the end…

      1. Delta Delta*

        I don’t remember exactly what it was but it involved doing the bills first and then the change at the end and I couldn’t really get my head around how it worked.

  25. cncx*

    i use a specific keyboard layout that works with the specific constellation of three languages i routinely type in, and someone just “decided to be helpful” one day and switched out my physical keyboard with an american one because I’m american. (inb4 “but you can change it in the computer settings)
    Whatever speed i would get from typing on the keyboard i learned to type on 40 years ago would be lost when i would need to type accents in French and German

  26. I take tea*

    Muscle memory is a funny thing. You can relearn, of course, but is it worth it? I love the colleague, who told us how to switch the Ctrl and Fn key on our new laptops. For some reason Lenovo had decided to have them the other way round to how they normally are and it created sufficient frustration to make someone come up with a plug in.

  27. Stitch*

    I have to say, it’s also dumb to plagiarize a cover letter because tone and context matters. While I understand why that model cover letter may be great for the original LW’s industry, my field is a bit more formal and that tone would probably be seen as off-putting and too casual.

  28. Sean*

    I love this format for your vacation posts, Alison – keep it up for December and get yourself a real break!

  29. Nea*

    I’m old enough to have had it drilled into muscle memory to put two spaces after the end of a sentence. I get that times have changed, this is a hill some people are willing to die on etc, but y’know?

    You can have me typing 200 words a minute on the work I’m doing and then take 3 more seconds to type CTRL:h spacespace, tab, space, Replace All – or you can have me overthinking every keystroke until that’s all I think about… and then I’m going to end up typing those two spaces somewhere ANYWAY because I’ve been doing it longer than any intern has been alive.

    I hope that over time LW#1 learned the lesson that the most efficient way to do something is the way the competent person does it. Regardless of how that looks in the doing.

    1. Mental Lentil*

      I routinely replace two spaces with a single space when I am editing other people’s writing. And that’s my reflex, before I even look at it: just do a replace all. It’s easier for me to do that all the time than to train other people to not put two spaces. (I know, because I had to retrain myself to do it, and it was freaking hard! I was constantly backspacing over that second space.)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        I routinely replace two spaces with a single space when I am editing other people’s writing.


            1. quill*

              It’s not a fad, it’s a reality of the transfer from typewriters (no way to program extra end space) to computers (does it manually.)

              The double space confuses e-readers and archiving programs, among MANY other character search functions in various programs, so there’s good reason to be removing the extra character for searchability, even if it doesn’t really matter when you personally type it, given that you can get word to remove it for you.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Not a fad, an update to the AP style guide. Microsoft highlights double spaces as incorrect if it’s a fully updated version. Doubt it’s going back.

            3. Student*

              It’s proper typesetting, not a fad. In typesetting, there are rules for how much space you put between things to make them easier to read. The double-space thing has a specific origin and reason, and it began with how printing presses and then typewriters (and then, very early computer word processors) worked to display fonts. People made wide use of monospaced-fonts, where all the letters are the same width, when there was early automation of printing and writing, because it was the easiest solution at the time.

              It’s been getting phased out gradually since the 1940s – 1950s, actually. That’s when the first commercially-available typewriters were able to implement proportional spacing, which eliminated the need for the double-space rule based on the premise of monospaced fonts. Obviously, such typewriters were not widely available at the time; also, different parts of the printing/word processing industries adopted the change gradually rather than all at once.

              Modern word processors are able to adjust sentence spacing to an appropriate amount based on the actual font you are using. They are putting in the proper spacing after a period automatically for you, and the amount of space needed varies by the properties of the font you use. They are doing the “right thing” and trying to make it easier on you.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          It’s the standard for online publications & extra spaces can confuse screen reading software, so it’s an accessibility issue.

          Technically, only serif fonts should get the two spaces, and that’s to accommodate the serifs for typesetting. Sans serif fonts only ever take one space.

        2. Mental Lentil*

          US based here. When we learned typing on a typewriter, it was always two spaces after a period/full stop. The reason we were given is that all the typewriter fonts were mono-spaced, so this made it easier to see where the end of the sentence was.

          When we started typing on computers with non-monospaced fonts, we were told that two spaces were no longer necessary, as the kerning of the font would take care of this.

          The current MLA standard (as an English major, I roll with MLA) states “Leave only one space after periods or other punctuation marks (unless otherwise prompted by your instructor)” but it doesn’t say why. Also, MS Word started highlighting two spaces after a period as an error sometime in 2020.

          1. quill*

            Oh, Microsoft word was deleting duplicate spaces on my college computer, so it’s been part of the package since at least 2010 At least, I don’t THINK I had to set that up manually in my spellcheck / autocorrect… though I’m sure I knew how, since I walked other people whose chemistry papers were being mangled by spellcheck how to monkey with their settings.

          2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            US based here. When we learned typing on a typewriter, it was always two spaces after a period/full stop. The reason we were given is that all the typewriter fonts were mono-spaced, so this made it easier to see where the end of the sentence was.

            I was taught that, too, and that the double-space after sentence-terminating punctuation improved readability (which I find true as well). The serif/sans-serif wrinkle I had never heard before today. Are there any advantages to the single-space other than saving a keystroke?

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Quill responded to your last comment with a detailed explanation of benefits. It’s also much more than a single keystroke over time, and the readability isn’t an issue with digital fonts and their autospacing.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I don’t see any advantages; just an unsupported assertion that readability will be taken care of automagically by digital fonts and that search algorithms can be poorly written.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  If you don’t see the ereader functionality as an advantage you need to seriously read up on accessibility.

                2. quill*

                  “Poorly written” algorithms are a hell of a reach given that the search algorithm is searching for exact character matches, and you wouldn’t want to immediately discount duplicates… or the beef that you have with single spaces in typed documents will become a bef.

                  It’s a lot more programming work to only remove double spaces, especially when the convention has been “don’t add an extra” for nearly two decades, and also especially when the people most likely to use databases before that also had programming reasons to never add extra characters.

                  We adapt to the tools that we use and their technical limitations.

                3. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  @Quill a programmer friend of mine has a pet peeve where the word “simply” sets her off. “I simply want the program to…” when that simply might in fact be hours and hours of work. It’s a lot to ask a computer to simply learn something new when it takes you decades to change your own spacing conventions, and your brain is theoretically much better at nuance.

                4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  String Output = Input;

                  while (Output.contains(” “)) { Output.replace(” “, ” “); }

                  return Output;

                  Some algorithms are hard, but this isn’t one of them. In some languages, I may have to write my own Contains() and/or Replace() method, but this is hardly either’s only use.

                  If you don’t see the ereader functionality as an advantage you need to seriously read up on accessibility.

                  I program professionally for PDF/A output that’s intended for ADA use as a speaking PDF and have never received that feedback from people using them that way. Could you provide a link or two where I can read more? Or are you speaking of tablets like Kindle or Nook, in which case how to spaces mess with them?

                  When I search, I get studies showing the double-space improves comprehension, judgmental opinion that anyone who doesn’t use a single space is living in the past, etc.

                5. I take tea*

                  My personal reaction to double space is that it hinders my reading, because it disturbes the flow. I much prefer the current way. But that’s of course my preference.

                6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I know I’m using double-spaces after the terminating punctuation; that’s one of those things that’s so ingrained as to be subconscious. But looking at my post, Alison’s host seems to be consolidating them down to one. I can’t help but laugh!

                  I’m agreeable to one space being acceptable and even preferred. I’m mostly bothered by the perception that two spaces are wrong.

          3. Starbuck*

            Having learned to type on a computer keyboard, I don’t even remember a rule about spacing at the end of sentences being mentioned either way – because at this point it wouldn’t occur to anyone learning how to type that you’d need to to anything special or different there! So yeah, it’s not a fad, lol.

      2. Nea*

        I tried to unlearn it once, but wasn’t worth the effort when undoing it in a replace all is so easy.

        Which is why I don’t think LW#1 was fired for doubling down. That was a major contributing factor, but LW#1 had a solution in search of a problem, considering that either way of typing wouldn’t make a difference to the business at the end of the day.

  30. HigherEdAdminista*

    When I read the headline for the first one, I was imagining that the employee disabled the caps lock key because the person sent only all caps, screaming emails and the LW was about to snap. However, disabling it because the person prefers it to the shift key is wild!

    I am imagining LW was raised in an environment or got it into their heads in some way that there is a right way to do things and not doing it that way, even if it is a small action, leads to some kind of dire consequences. When I was first starting out as an adult, I often I had to manage my emotions around these kind of topics as I was used to going through the world expecting life-ruining consequences for making different choices. I mostly constrained this behavior to myself, but not entirely, and it is something that (rightly so) rubs people the wrong way. I hope LW has since learned there is more than one way to skin a potato and it is okay if people do it differently than you do!

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I think this is really wise and a hard lesson for a lot of people. I definitely had to learn it with some things – for me it was more that I knew it in some things, but had to learn to apply it to other things. Life has been so much better since I did!

      Though I will die on the Oxford comma hill.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        My husband is a literature major/english teachers who HATES the oxford comma and it’s probably the biggest fight we have lol

      2. Editor*

        When I went through elementary and high school (before the 1970s), my English teachers had very strict rules about style, such as when to spell out numbers and using the Oxford comma only in an ambiguous series. And those teachers, looking back now, were very rigid. Then I went to college and had to deal with MLA and APA and also learned about language change in linguistics classes.

        It would really have been helpful for me to learn in junior high or high school that there were different style standards and that the “right” way was not handed down from the Mount in the form of English textbooks. I think I would have been less rigid about language, and maybe that would have shown me that there was not always only one way. As it was, I had a teacher who was horrified to learn that I had done my homework at my grandparents’ and looked up my vocabulary words in Webster’s controversial unabridged edition (the third). I was pretty upset that she would think my family would let me use a “bad” book.

  31. Mental Lentil*

    Late to the party, but this bit:

    I include that last sentence because (a) I find it fascinating to see what people say,

    I’m also curious as to what people have said when called out on it. (I’m imagining everything from very indignant indignation to a potential SNL sketch.)

  32. KK*

    For LW #1….this reminds me of the coworker I had at fmr ToxicJob that literally worked side by side with me in the cube farm who got SO riled up to see me in Excel and using the right click function to Format Cells instead of using it at the task bar. She constantly told me I was doing it wrong and that I needed to learn it and use it from the task bar. My document, my work, my business. I can’t tell you how much time she lost on the job eyeballing my work. The last straw was when she saw me use the right click function, got up from her chair and proclaims “I’m telling you for the last time, that’s not how I want you using Excel”, right in front of our shared manager. She was moved to another cube by the end of the week.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      Wow. Just wow. I will give the manager some credit for moving her, though, and not asking you to “accommodate” coworker, since it bothered her so much.

    2. Eldritch Office Worker*

      At that point I’d be doing it as much as possible just to infuriate her (Yes I am petty and immature at times)

    3. A Kate*

      Wow. Personally, I will always prefer a method that involves right clicks or keyboard shortcuts in lieu of moving a cursor to another place on the screen, clicking into the right tab on the ribbon, finding the thing you need, and clicking it, but I guess I’m just “inefficient.”

    4. Bagpuss*

      Wow. (Snarky Bagpuss would have been so tempted to reply “I’m so glad that this is the last time, I’ve been hoping that you would work out that how I do my job it not your concern”, or something to that effect.

      I’m glad your manager moved her

  33. awesome3*

    #3 is so specific to 2013… now all job candidates carry cameras in their pockets and might be able to sneak in a picture of the statue on their way out. (or just wait until they are hired to do that)

  34. WizardofLoneliness*

    Letter 1 reminds me of when a co-worker pointed out to my manager that I type in a somewhat non-standard way. It’s nothing crazy, my hands just become somewhat slanted on the keyboard while I type. I would have never realized it was something people even notice about me. It was such an asinine thing for her to point out, that to this day I still wonder what she was trying to prove.

    Luckily I had an awesome manager at the time who quickly retorted, ‘I don’t care how she types as long as she’s getting her work done’. That co-worker parted ways with the company within the year. The moral of the story is at work (and life) it’s always best to stay in your own lane!

    1. Shan*

      I type with one hand! I’m not sure how it started, but I can’t remember a time when I didn’t. I’m actually surprisingly efficient at it – I mean, I’m not going to win any speed awards, but I averaged about 65 wpm the last time I tested myself, and I made it through three rounds of university, I’ve written as a hobby for decades, and I work an office job. It drives some people absolutely nuts. But at this point, it’s not going to change, so anyone who keeps bringing it up gets my patented eff-off face.

  35. Not really a Waitress*

    I never took a typing class. My parents met when they were business teachers at a high school (back when they did punch cards and shorthand) and moved on to bigger and better. They would not allow any of us to take business/typing. (yet ironically, did not like we didn’t sit properly in front of keyboard) So I have been typing my own method every since. I took a typing test for a job once (speed and accuracy) and the administrator was amazed by my speed and accuracy. Best score she had ever seen. My kids are fascinated that I can talk to them while typing and not looking at key board. Christopher Sholes would roll over in his grave if he saw my method. But it is extremely effective. If it ain’t really broke, don’t fix it.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Same. Though the typing while talking and not looking apparently creeps some people out lol. Or so I’ve been told.

  36. Pierre*

    #1 could also be an accessibility issue for the coworker. For some persons it’s hard to hold two keys simultaneously so it’s easier for them to go with the Caps Lock.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      #1 could also be an accessibility issue for the coworker. For some persons it’s hard to hold two keys simultaneously so it’s easier for them to go with the Caps Lock.

      And with Sticky Keys enabled, the Shift key basically becomes a one-character Caps Lock. I literally cannot imagine caring how the person next to me accomplishes their capitalization.

  37. Ray Gillette*

    Since Letter 3 is 8 years old, is it okay to speculate that the LW was interviewing at Blizzard? Talk about a workplace losing its luster…

    Also, even without checking the date, it’s one of those examples that shows how quickly technology has changed. Today, I’m pretty sure it would be a total non-issue to take out your phone for a quick selfie with a statue on the company campus (though asking to take a picture with someone who’s working would probably still be a no go). Especially when interviewing at a company that has historically made a point of wanting the people they hire to be fans of their product.

    1. Gothic Bee*

      I don’t know, I feel like the advice stands. It would be a bit much to take out your phone and start snapping photos unless you can be really discrete (probably not so much if you’re taking selfies in the lobby). I would err on the side of not doing it because it’s definitely not going to help you in any way, even if it might not hurt. And if you did take photos, I’d definitely avoid posting them on social media or anything, at least for a while afterwards.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        My thought is that if they’re interested in photographing something that’s located in a public or semi-public space (which would be the case if this is the company I think it is – the most famous statue is in the middle of an open courtyard), it would be easy enough to take a couple of quick shots on the way out after the interview without disturbing anyone. Back in 2013, even something as simple as that would have required planning since phone cameras weren’t great. But agreed that taking pictures of or with people, or in a location where people are actively working, would be a no go.

    2. Caboose*

      I had the same thought! I know lots of gaming companies have nerdy memorabilia, but Blizzard is the one that comes to mind when I think of actual statues.

  38. Elm*

    I’ve seen the caps lock thing, and the person I know who used it typed about 70 wpm. It drove me bonkers to watch for some reason, but I was 16 and everything drives you bonkers at 16. It’s not an efficiency thing, just a preference for some!

    For me, I had a bad shoulder injury that rendered my pinky and ring fingers only semi-functional for a time. Because of this, I had to type differently than usual for a few months.

    I LOOKED fine. No one knew those fingers weren’t working right unless I said something. I don’t think I used the caps thing, but I can see how it would have been beneficial because I wouldn’t have had to stretch my hand in a way I couldn’t. It actually probably would have made me type faster if I’d done it in the circumstances.

    You don’t know why people do the things they do. Personal preference. Invisible disability/injury. Just gotta let some things go.

  39. quill*

    Capslock person is annoying me on a non-professional level. The first time I learned to type was the same year I broke my little finger: consequently I couldn’t use the shift key. The good news is that because they taught us in elementary school I didn’t actually retain the habit so when I had to take typing all over again in middle school, with ten working fingers, I learned properly. People type the way their fingers allow them to!

  40. Mimmy*

    I’m a keyboarding instructor (with blind and visually impaired adults in a Voc Rehab program) so Letter #1 has me twitching a bit. I’m expected to teach proper typing methods, and I’ve had a few students who use the Caps Lock instead of the Shift key. I always explain why the proper method of using opposite shifts is more efficient. I’ve also seen many who use the left shift only; some don’t realize there’s a right shift.

    Most of my students are open-minded but once they leave my class, I wouldn’t be surprised if some go back to old habits. I get it… if a student can type fast and accurate using their own methods, I don’t want to waste their time teaching them a method they are likely never going to use.

    It’s fine that the OP suggested the more efficient method, I understand feeling annoyed when you see someone using improper typing methods. However, disabling the coworker’s Caps Lock key was a big overreach. If this were a current letter, I would tell the OP to accept that this is the method she’s comfortable with and move on.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      As an aside, when did the word “keyboarding” enter the language, and “typing” drop out? I’m not complaining about it. I am genuinely curious. About five years back I was at Back to School night where my kid’s teacher mentioned instructing in “keyboarding.” She was probably in her mid-twenties. I didn’t know the word, so I asked her if that was what we used to call “typing.” She was befuddled. She had never heard the word.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        As an aside, when did the word “keyboarding” enter the language, and “typing” drop out?

        Keying, as in “rekeying a passage of text,” has been around and I’ve heard it many times over at least 30 years. Until your post, I’d only heard “Keyboarding” on Frets-of-Fire, an F/L/OSS Guitar Hero clone, and it referred to turning the keyboard over to play as a guitar hybrid.

      2. Alexander Graham Yell*

        So I googled it and the reasoning makes sense, but this is the first time I’ve seen it called keyboarding and it’s kind of blowing my mind a little. (The change in name reflects the change in tool – we are no longer using typewriters anymore, we’re using keyboards.)

      3. Starbuck*

        When did “keyboarding” enter the language? For me, that time is still in the future I guess! I still see and use typing way more often than “keyboarding” (which to me brings to mind playing notes on an electric piano keyboard, not typing).

        Weird! Must be a regional thing.

      4. Editor*

        My children were taking keyboarding classes in the 1990s, I think. Perhaps the word is more common in educational jargon, but I’ve used it for years.

        The Wictionary entry cites a quote from 1977. Link to follow.

    2. Nom*

      I am a Youth and i only use the left shift button, never the right. I just started typing that way and never stopped.

  41. ENFP in Texas*

    I am all about the keyboard shortcuts, or the right-click popup menus, and sometimes I find myself grinding my teeth watching someone else navigate during a Webex meeting because they are using the top menu. But the menu is how THEY want to do it, so that’s their choice.

    If I see someone who is doing unnecessary steps, I’ll say something and ask why they’re doing it that way (usually happens when dealing with Excel formulas or sorting), and offer to show them another way, but beyond that it’s up to them if they want to implement it or not.

    1. I take tea*

      I love when people teach me keyboard shortcuts and easier ways of doing things. But the keyword here is offer alternatives and then let go!

  42. Meep*

    LW#1 really gets me. Imagine being so much of a control freak that you obsess over how someone else types and double down on. Makes me feel better about my control-freak self, honestly

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Right? “You think I’M overbearing – well just be glad I don’t….” is a takeaway from way too many letters haha

    2. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, I cannot imagine even noticing this. I couldn’t tell you a thing about how any of my officemates types.

  43. Mitford*

    #1, I used to have a coworker who greatly abused semi-colon in his writing (he used it for everything), which I then had to edit. I used to joke, a lot, about disabling that key on his keyboard, but I never would have done it.

  44. Blue Eagle*

    The comment above about someone changing the key tops made me laugh because someone just out of college did that to my computer once. And they were so surprised when I didn’t even notice it for a full week – – – – – because I learned to touch type on an IBM selectric in junior high (argh! does that show my age) so I never look at the keys.
    One other thing is that because I learned on a typewriter I hold down the left shift when capitalizing letters with the right hand and hold down the right shift when capitalizing letters with the left hand. I hope they never remove the right shift from laptop keyboards.

  45. Ann O'Nemity*

    I saw the headline for #1 and was hoping for a petty revenge story in which the OP disabled the caps lock of a coworker who overused capital letters and essentially shouted in emails and IMs. That would still be inappropriate, but at least it would be a little more understandable (and amusing).

  46. Meg Danger*

    Yikes! I’m a caps-lock capitalizer, and am surprised by the number of people who have feelings/opinions about it. I don’t remember ever “deciding” to do it this way. If I had to guess it was probably because I had much smaller hands when I started learning to type (elementary school)/I was working hard to keep my hands on home row so as not to lose finger placement? Regardless of reason, I do it now and have no intention of re-training. Does anyone else hate the little bumps on the F and J keys (also the 5 key on the key pad)? They make my skin crawl, so I learned to type by striking the top of those keys to avoid the tactile inconsistency.

    1. PollyQ*

      Interesting thought about hand size — I learned to touch-type when I was 12, but I was big for my age and already had adult-sized hands. I love having physically distinctive F & J keys, since I’m often typing with the monitor’s light being my only source. If I recall correctly, IBM Selectric typewriters distinguished their F & J keys with slightly deeper indents, so I wonder if that would’ve worked better for you.

  47. Bandit*

    I use caps lock in the same way lol. The computer I had in college had a broken left shift, so I just adapted to using the caps lock button. I can’t unlearn that now, no matter what keyboard I’m on.

    Why anyone would even pay attention to whether or not I’m hitting shift or caps lock is beyond me. And, to then think you are better than someone else because of how you type is baffling!

  48. Coffee Cup*

    Disabling the caps lock key and the reaction afterwards really cannot be explained by a lack of professional experience. That behavior isn’t acceptable anywhere in any context! If you have friends or parents at all you know not to do that!

  49. LilPinkSock*

    LW #4, would there be a genuine reason for asking the candidate to explain themselves, or would it be just to embarrass them? I found a plagiarized cover letter recently from a candidate for a role that involved good writing—we told him we knew his writing was not his own, he was disqualified from the position, and that was that. No need to go further, since any explanation wouldn’t have changed our decision at all.

  50. Nom*

    Unrelated to the letter but I have been using Rebecca Z’s cover letter as inspiration for my own by mimicking the types of examples I use (but of course making it about me and my work) and keeping my cover letters more conversational. I’ve gotten mixed feedback from friends who help me review but the results speak for themselves in the form of interview invitations i get.

  51. Jennifer Juniper*

    Yikes! LW1 sounds like a total control freak. I wonder how they treat their romantic partner, family, and friends.

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