my boss wants me to host a product party for her, I compared my interviewer to my dog, and more

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

1. My former manager wants me to host a product party for her

My former supervisor has been extremely helpful as a reference for me numerous times and I feel indebted to her to some degree for that. Perhaps she is aware of that, too.

Apparently she is “starting a business” and wants me to invite my friends/family/whomever to my house and host a “party” for her to build clientele who would be willing to buy overpriced costume jewelry. She says I would get a lot of free jewelry out of it. I quickly picked up that this is one of those pyramid schemes that preys on vulnerable, low-information women. A quick internet search confirmed my suspicions. Furthermore, numerous reviews online confirmed the actual jewelry is garbage; my friend told me she bought a $99 watch from them that broke the first time she wore it.

I told her I will see if I can get any interest from people I know to come to the party and get back to her. Even if I agree to host, I am honestly not sure that I know enough people in my area period (I’m a few hours from immediate family and only have a handful of close friends around), much less with expendable income who would be interested in something like this. What do you think? Should I agree to this and try to get people in? I really don’t like the idea of making people feel pressured to buy things, particularly friends/family.

Noooooo. She’s asking you to do the marketing for her business for her, and to annoy your friends and family in the process, and to help her promote a product that you know is crappy. Under no circumstances. You don’t owe her for being a reference for you; that’s a normal part of what managers do for good employees. (I mean, sure, you owe her normal professional courtesies, like taking her calls and congratulations her on professional successes or whatever, but a good reference does not obligate you to do something that makes you uncomfortable.)

Tell her that you decided it’s not your thing and you’re not interested in hosting. And stand firm if she pushes back.


2. I compared my interviewer with my dog

I went into a interview and everything was going well. There was a assessment test on my abilities and the questions were normal.

On the way out, my interviewer walked me out and made a passing comment on the sunny weather. I replied, “Yeah, it’s really lovely out, nice and sunny with a cool breeze” — normal small talk. But she responded with “I prefer the triple digits.” And that’s when I said, “That’s just like my chihuahua.” I wanted to smack myself as soon as I finished the sentence.

Is this something you would count against a candidate? If so, how should I address this faux pas in my thank-you email, or is this something you pretend never happened on both sides?

It wasn’t the smoothest comment, no. But if you were otherwise the strongest candidate, most people aren’t going to take you out of the running for that, unless the position requires an unusually high degree of professional polish and schmoozing skills. (And even then, she may have just found it funny, who knows.)

I wouldn’t bring it up in the thank-you note; that would be calling more attention to it than you should. We all have awkward moments; try not to dwell on it too much.


3. My top candidate has another offer but we can’t interview until next month

I’m hiring for a an open position and conducted a phone interview with a great candidate (we’d already interviewed him once before in a prior round but didn’t hire him) and told him that in-person interviews would take place after the holidays, with someone in place by early February.

I got a call from the candidate today saying he got an offer from another company and what was our timeline? This candidate is my favorite, but we’re hiring three people and were planning on having in-person interviews with four to five people with the whole team. Any thoughts on how to reply to this candidate?

You have to decide whether you want him enough to expedite things or whether you’re willing to lose him to the other offer. Since you interviewed him previously, you might have a good idea of how strong a fit he is for this role. If you don’t, you could quickly set up an in-person interview with him now (like in the next few days, if possible — which I realize might be tricky given the holidays). If you go that route, ask him what his timeline is for needing to give the other company an answer, so that you know how much time you have to work with.

But if you know that you wouldn’t be willing to make him an offer without interviewing your other candidates first and that’s important enough that you’re willing to risk losing him (which is often, although not always, the right choice), then all you can do is to tell him that he’s currently your top candidate but that you unfortunately can’t expedite your interviewing timeline (and explain why so that he understands — people’s schedules or whatever the reason is), and that you understand if that means he needs to accept the other offer.


4. Coworker doesn’t want anyone to ask questions at meetings so they end faster

One of my coworkers does not want anyone to ask questions at the weekly meeting so that they can “get out of there faster.” Anyone who does ask a question is approached before the next meeting and basically warned not to make the meeting “longer.” Should the manager be told about this?

I’d sure want to know about it if I were your manager. Or you could just ignore the person who’s doing this, or the next time it happens you could reply, “Part of the reason for the meeting is for us to have a chance to ask questions. Please stop pressuring me and others not to use the meeting in the way it’s intended.”

(Of course, make sure that the questions you’re asking are meeting-apprpropriate — meaning that they’re on-topic and things that make sense to discuss in that forum, as opposed to following up on them one-on-one with the relevant person afterwards. If you’re not doing those things — if you’re the person who makes meetings drag out by asking things that genuinely don’t make sense to discuss in that context — then your coworkers are likely to be legitimately annoyed.)


{ 205 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessica*

    LW4, your coworker sounds like a jerk. They remind me of the kids in middle school who’d pout if anybody dared to waste their time by asking the teacher about anything that wasn’t on the test. Presumably being a middle schooler is not your actual job, so this person is acting like a childish, unprofessional clown.
    Also, while Alison is certainly correct that IF you were habitually derailing meetings with inappropriate questions, that would not be great and you should try to stop, do you know whose fault that would also be? Whoever is leading the meeting! Part of the meeting organizer’s job (which many people do badly) is to make sure that the meeting starts on time, ends on time, accomplishes the business it was called for, and is useful and not a waste of everyone’s time. That includes shutting down anyone who’s wasting time and needlessly prolonging things.
    But your questions are probably not irrelevant or inappropriate! If people didn’t need to talk to each other at the meeting, it could be an email.

    1. Rhymetime*

      This letter makes me realize that how meetings are conducted at job, and at my former one, are a barometer for the entire workplace. At my last job, it was hard for me when multiple people would gripe about how our team’s monthly meetings weren’t useful, needed to be run differently, etc. When a couple of us proposed extending the meeting structure by 15 minutes to accommodate the additions people suggested, they said they spent too much time in meetings already. There was an additional standing meeting with another team that had been going on quarterly for two years. When I left they were *still* talking about the format of this meeting being a problem and needing to adjust how it was run yet again. The place was full of competitive, unhappy, complaining people who didn’t trust each other, a big reason I left.

      At the job I started a few months ago, our team meeting is once a week. It’s incredibly productive. Each of us contributes updates that we can all learn from. We rotate the facilitator and notetaking roles, problem-solve together, celebrate each other’s successes, and our conversations strengthen our team. And that’s exactly the kind of positive workplace we have. Instead of dreading the meetings as I did at my last workplace, I look forward to the meetings with my colleagues.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        This letter makes me realize that how meetings are conducted at job, and at my former one, are a barometer for the entire workplace.

        Ugh, absolutely. I worked in a volunteer role under someone who was absolutely fantastic at directing meetings. Razor-sharp accuracy for staying on topic, but also cheerfully and cheerfully steering people back on track.

        Under her leadership everything ran like clockwork. Budget to the penny, everything on time, everyone using the service happy.

    2. Imaginary Friend*

      I took a really interesting class on all things computer many many years ago that was a full semester long. Many of us were adults; I was in my early 30’s and one of the other students was probably in his 60’s. He had some experience in the field and he used to engage the professor with off-topic technology questions, and then as soon as he’d gotten his question answered he would cut the teacher off mid-sentence. It was so annoying!

      The teacher let all this happen week after week (bad classroom management). This guy was eating everyone’s time to ask his pet questions, and sometimes it was actually interesting, but he would “graciously” allow the teacher to return to the actual class topic and not let the rest of us learn. (I finally called him out on it in the moment from the other side of the classroom. Probably would have been better if I’d approached him one-on-one. He said something withering about my youth and femaleness and I did not respond, but I think he did change his behavior some after that.)

  2. Plebeian Aristocracy*

    When I first jumped on, I read the headline as “My dog wants me to host an interviewer party, and more,” and I got super excited. Then I read it again. OP1, I hope that it all worked out well. Being indebted to someone should not put you (or the people you care about) into literal debt. OP2, I have seen more dogs that I really like than people; I hope the interviewer either laughed it off or took it as the compliment it is.

    1. CoveredinBees*

      I’ve had similar experiences with skimming the titles of other posts. While it was a slight disappointment to realize my mistake, it certainly was entertaining.

  3. louise*

    2. Oh dear. Apparently I’m the awkward one…I thought that was a cute response to the interviewer’s remark and totally something I’d say, ha!

    1. Allonge*

      For what it’s worth, comparing this particular attribute of a person to that of a dog is a lot closer to ok than comparing anything to do with intelligence or activities… people and animals both have temperature preferences, it’s fine.

      It’s not the most elegant moment, but for me, a negative reaction beyond ‘ok then’ is also an overreaction.

      Unless you are applying for Smooth Operator TM.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think what makes it an interesting letter is just that: it’s not elegant. It’s not obviously terrible (though if you did just okay and the interviewer hates chihuahuas….) and some people would find it normal. I would find it a little weird (and I have and like dogs) though tone and the last hour of interview would certainly color that.

        It’s a good example of the quandary “Do I make a thing of this and apologize in the follow-up? Or do I let it drop?”

        1. Observer*

          That’s the thing here. No matter where it falls with the interviewer, Allison’s advice is good – just don’t mention it again.

        2. TootsNYC*

          It’s a good example of the quandary “Do I make a thing of this and apologize in the follow-up? Or do I let it drop?”

          At times like this I think of my favorite koan of Mrs. Cosmopolite:
          “It won’t get better if you pick at it.”

    2. PollyQ*

      Yeah, I think a lot of interviewers would find it funny & charming. Not all of them, I suppose, but it’s such a small thing either way, only a real stuffed-shirt stick-in-the-mud could get genuinely offended by it.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It’s something pet lovers understand. A friend of mine has taken a huge interest in my dog. Over the years we have commented about something the other has done, “just like the dog”. It comes from a place of warmth and we both laugh.

        I’d suggest to OP that maybe you were just feeling very comfortable with this person and this comment slid right out. If you had said it to a good friend or family member it would be nbd because they would know how much you care about your pet and assume the level of caring transfers to them too.

        Even if the interviewer does not have pets, I am sure people around her do have pets so she sees that you are probably talking about a little being that you care about very much and no disrespect was ever intended.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Decent interviewers know that sometimes we don’t always say the perfect thing in interviews. As slip ups go, this is pretty mild. Decent interviewers will chuckle. If someone does hold it against you, well you have more data about this company. After all, do you want to work at the place where humor is not allowed?

    3. Lab Boss*

      It wouldn’t make me think negatively of a candidate- but assuming I ended up hiring them and once they had a chance to get settled in, I would definitely ask if there were any other pets I needed to be aware of :D

    4. Emily*

      I could see it being awkward depending on the delivery and conversational rapport prior to that (people don’t always like to be compared to animals, and chihuahuas in particular don’t have the most elegant image). I would probably just find it funny, though! I don’t think I’d hold it against someone unless they were already giving me weird or bad vibes.

    5. korangeen*

      Yeah, I saw nothing wrong with it. The LW didn’t even say “you’re like my chihuahua,” they said “that’s like my chihuahua.” Personally I think the more unusual thing to say is that you prefer triple digit temperatures. I dunno.

      1. londonedit*

        I was expecting it to be something like ‘Oh wow, your hair looks exactly like my dog’s ears!’, which I could see not going down particularly well, but a comment about your dog also enjoying hot weather? That’s much more like general small talk, I think.

        1. Anonny*

          Depends on which dog’s ear you’re talking about. Seen that picture of the springer spaniel whose ears were described by their owner as ‘perfect picture to show your hairdresser if you want beachy waves and caramel highlights’? :p

    6. Former Retail Lifer*

      I’m completely fine with being compared to a dog. I love dogs so it would be a compliment.

    7. alienor*

      I’d probably have joked back that the chihuahua and I should meet, so I must be the awkward one too, haha.

  4. jm*

    i empathize with lw 4’s coworker. meetings can be interminable, especially when someone brings up a point that spirals into a whole thing. like, ugh, i have a coworker who uses our team meetings to talk about case specific things that only need to be discussed in private with the supervisor. HOWEVER. i would never dream of saying anything to her. that’s rude and completely over the line.

    1. WS*

      Yes, the person to speak to about that is the person who is running the meeting, not the person raising the question. The person raising the question is always going to think it’s appropriate and necessary, even if they’re totally wrong! But the person running the meeting can say, “Wakeen, I think that’s something you should take to Fergus after the meeting. Does anyone have any other questions?”

      1. Allonge*

        Yes! The whole point of having a meeting instead of an email is to have discussion and clarify things – no questions is a weird expectation for a meeting, even if it makes them longer.

        Efficient chairing is not a weird expectation. But you cannot backseat-chair by scaring people into not asking questions.

      2. doreen*

        The problem is when it’s a different type of question – where it’s not so much inappropriate in the context but the question should be unnecessary in context. When I was in training to be a law enforcement officer nearly 30 years , there were a couple of people guaranteed to ask a question five or ten minutes before we were due to leave. It was almost never a sensible question – I remember one was questioning why we would be sent to treatment if we ever showed up for work and tested positive for alcohol but would be fired if we tested positive for illegal drugs. They instructors really couldn’t just not answer the question or tell her they would answer her privately after class – but I’m not sure why the person couldn’t figure out that “law enforcement” plus “illegal drug use” equals “fired”.

        1. ecnaseener*

          But that sounds like it had a 5-second answer: “Because we’re law enforcement, we have a zero-tolerance policy for illegal behavior.” If the answer or resulting discussion took long enough that you were annoyed, that’s the instructors’ fault.

          1. doreen*

            It took a little longer than five seconds – but we were annoyed not because of this one question but because one of a small group of people asked something like this before every break, before leaving for lunch, before leaving for the day.

          2. 1,000 Snails in a Lady Skin*

            I imagine the issue is not just that it should be a 5-second answer, but it’s a dumb question! Those are the really annoying ones — when it seems like it should be common sense or was already answered clearly beforehand.

      3. anonymous73*

        This. If people in the meeting are being allowed to ramble on about things outside of the scope of the meeting, that’s on the one calling the meeting to say “let’s take that offline” or “let’s get back to XX topic” and stop wasting everyone’s time.

        1. Jackalope*

          I’m suddenly reminded of meetings with a former employer of mine. We were working for a nonprofit that was scattered geographically, so once a month we would have an all-staff mtg that would last a whole day. Each team would share some stories from their location, we’d problem-solve issues together, and we’d eat together and hang out for awhile. (I know some of you are absolutely shuddering at the idea of an all-day mtg but I mostly remember them with fondness so I think they were more than just this.) The problem with having so much time was that sometimes people would go off on a tangent and we couldn’t pull it back. I remember once when my team was having an issue with a lock on a cabinet. It was a serious issue, and one that needed to be resolved, it not by EVERYONE. But the PTB couldn’t let it go! We spent at least half an hour discussing that lock, and even I was bored and frustrated by the end, to say nothing of everyone not on my team. Looking back, I should have said something about how we could discuss the issue later without everyone, but my bosses wanted to figure it out then and there, and I was still too cowed by authority to contradict them at the time. THIRTY MINUTES, people.

      4. Jay*

        Yup. Just did this in a meeting I was facilitating this morning. I HATE badly run meetings, which is one reason I often end up running them.

    2. Koalafied*

      Yeah, I can recall being frustrated when a meeting was scheduled for 4-5p and didn’t start taking questions until 4:55, and I’m sitting there wondering how anyone’s question can possibly be worth staying late to hear the answer and may have even been mentally chanting, “Burst into flames! Burst into flames!” while staring down the asker.

      But the larger failures there were 1) not booking enough time for the meeting and 2) doing so with the 4pm slot. Thankfully it was a one-off meeting. Had it been a regular one I wouldn’t be going around chiding my colleagues for asking wisdoms, I’d be going straight to the meeting owner saying this meeting needs to be held at another time and/or kept on schedule better.

    3. Lacey*

      Yeah, I do hate when meetings get derailed, but that’s a thing to talk to whoever’s running the meeting about. It’s up to them to say, “Let’s get back on topic”

    4. Observer*

      HOWEVER. i would never dream of saying anything to her. that’s rude and completely over the line.

      This is why my empathy here is low. In a case where someone is actually derailing a meeting or using the time inappropriately, the person to talk to is the meeting leader. And then you stick to the actual problem, which is not “questions” but “questions that don’t apply to the group.”

      I may also be reading too much into this, but the OP says that the CW is “warning” people which has the implication of yet another layer of over stepping here. On top of the fact that it doesn’t sound like people are asking inappropriate questions.

    5. alienor*

      I have to admit my patience with question-askers is limited. If it’s something that’s relevant, thoughtful, or hasn’t been addressed yet, ask away! If it’s a question that was clearly just asked for the sake of having something to say/looking engaged/playing devil’s advocate, I start fantasizing about a hidden alligator pit opening up under the person’s chair. Then there are the people who ask questions that were already covered more than once, but they weren’t paying attention–pretty sure those are the grown-up versions of the kids who didn’t listen in class when the teacher was explaining the assignment, causing us all to stay after the bell rang because s/he had to go over it again, gah.

      1. Gumby*

        If it’s a question that was clearly just asked for the sake of having something to say/looking engaged/playing devil’s advocate

        Gaaahhhhh! This type of annoying question is probably the one I hate the most. In the before-times there used to be a gauntlet of them every year at volunteer usher training. And, for some reason, these always came out to play on the safety presentation which was inevitably right before lunch. “What if there is an earthquake, an active shooter, *and* a fire at the same time and the sound system goes out so no one can make announcements? What do we do then?” (Pinch yourself because you are probably having a nightmare if that combination of things is happening at the same exact time. Seriously people.)

    6. TootsNYC*

      Hmmm. I might think I could say to a colleague, “Lots of your questions seem like one-on-ones. They take up time for people who don’t need to hear that info–maybe you could ask for a meeting, instead of discussing the whole thing?”

      But I’d want to do it respectfully.

  5. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    I guess my thought on #4 is that if there are NO questions or discussion at all… then why can’t this meeting be an email? However, in a productive, useful meeting questions and discussion are a much more integral part of the process.

    1. Eden*

      My thoughts exactly! If there weren’t any questions there shouldn’t be a meeting at all. Which may suit the coworker just fine, to be fair, and is always something to consider, but a blanket “no questions in meetings” rule is silly.

    2. Roscoe*

      I mean, I get what you are saying. But at my job, our department has a standing meeting. We almost never cancel it, but sometimes they are extremely short because its just updates. My manager wants to give the option for discussion, but its not always necessary (or people would just rather get out of the meeting). So I don’t necessarily think questions are necessary for a meeting.

    3. anonymous73*

      Sometimes meetings are informational and to make sure everyone is on the same page. It is possible to have one without any questions or discussion (which means it should be shorter than anticipated). When you have more than 2 or 3 people on an email chain, it’s not getting anything accomplished when you’re going back and forth all day trying to determine what needs to be done. I’d rather get everyone on the phone or in a room for 30 minutes and figure it out, than waste my time with emails that just make things more confusing and frustrating.

      It’s like sending a text vs making a phone call. If it’s a quick question or message, send me a text. But if you have to text a novel to explain or ask, pick up the phone and call me.

    4. Nanani*

      Yessss this.
      A meetign with no discussion or questions is not a meeting, it’s a presentation. Why does it have to be held live instead of sending out an email?
      And if it really is necessary to have a presentation, why does it happen that often?

      There might be a good reason but a lot of the time, it’s a symptom of meeting for meeting’s sake.

    5. Rooner Spocks*

      #1 I actually quibble with Alison’s reference to ‘her business’ – it’s not hers, she runs someone else’s business for them, funnels money upwards and in return is allowed to keep a bit. It’s pretty much the same model as some footsoldier doing the collections from mom and pop shops in New Jersey. It might keep him earning to let him believe he’s Tony Soprano, but he’s really not.

  6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: one of the things I noticed on FB during the last 2 years was the increasing amount of ‘come to my virtual party to experience the best in skincare/jewellery/supplements etc’ invitations that were invariably backed up by ‘I need my business to succeed, I’m in need of the money, you need to help friends’ statements or the classic ‘host a party for me, you’ll get free stuff and help a friend at the same time’

    These always, always I reject. But when it’s someone who’s opinion matters to you it can feel difficult to do it. I mean, yeah, I would want to help Xs new business so they can pay their bills. But only if it’s a legitimate business, not a pyramid scheme they’ve fallen into.

    I will say don’t try to over justify your no. A lot of these schemes train people to argue you into agreement. ‘Not my thing’ , ‘no thank you’ etc doesn’t leave much wiggle room.

    1. Frauke*

      I think “say no to anything involving a pyramid scheme/MLM” is a good blanket rule to follow, at least when justifying actions to oneself.
      Whether giving that openly as a reason is a good idea depends – if it means getting sucked into an argument why *this* isn’t a pyramid scheme at all that will lead nowhere, just give whatever excuse will likely work.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Agreed. I do feel genuinely sorry for various friends of mine who’ve been fooled into thinking that selling random stuff to people is somehow gonna cure all their money worries but I have evidence in the high court against a firm running a Ponzi scheme. I know pyramid scams when I see them.

        1. Fascinated by MLMs*

          I’m so interested to know in what capacity you gave evidence! Did you work for them? Were you involved in the investigation? Were you victimized?

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            It’s a long story but the short version is it was a tiny firm, I was their IT, after being physically threatened by a few clients I got suspicious. Looked into things, was horrified, contacted a lawyer, ended up giving testimony and dodging the press…

            1. Fascinated by MLMs*

              Sorry for prying, but I’m just super interested in MLMs. I’m also Canadian so my understanding of British law is limited, but I thought the High Court was a civil court – did you sue them?? Or were you testifying in a suit brought by the victims?

    2. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      I attended a virtual party. The organizer did a good job, in that not too many FB posts, not overselling her product and only PMing once asking for orders. I did it because it was Epicure and ppl in my Buy Nothing group get all excited when Epicure stuff is given away. And I was curious.

      Curious no more. While I know ppl placed orders, I found it very pricey. I did not order and this person did not pester me afterward. I was most grateful!

      When a different FB friend hosted a virtual Pampered Chef party, I declined (again, there was SO much excitement from her other friends).

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Lol – the only MLM party I was ever invited to was a Pampered Chef party. I went not knowing what it was, and didn’t buy anything. As I was leaving the person collecting orders asked why I wasn’t buying anything, and I told them “I’m 18, living in a dorm, and don’t have a kitchen. What am I going to use baking stuff for?”

      2. londonedit*

        In the UK there have been a few sort of not-totally-awful ‘party’/MLM type things that have been going for decades and are actually seen as vaguely acceptable – Ann Summers is one, they do have actual shops (or did? Not sure if Covid/the general decline of the British high street did for them) but they also have ‘agents’ who do parties. Ann Summers sell ‘sexy’ underwear and vanilla sex toys (fluffy handcuffs, vibrators etc) so it was a thing a while back for people to book an Ann Summers party for a hen do. There would inevitably be games involving fake penises, and the hen party would inevitably club together to buy some sort of tacky underwear for the bride as a joke. I’ve been to one hen weekend where there was an Ann Summers party as part of the whole thing and it was supremely tacky but you didn’t feel like the Ann Summers agent was part of a toxic MLM. There are also a few actual reputable brands, like The Body Shop and Neal’s Yard Remedies, who use the MLM/party thing where people sign up as ‘agents’ and buy a load of stock that they then try to get people to host parties in order to flog. Those I think I wouldn’t mind as much because a) I do actually buy things from those brands and b) again they’re a bit more reputable, it’s not tat that people are forced to spend hundreds of pounds on with the promise of becoming a ‘Diamond Leader’ and getting a free Mercedes and a trip to a conference in the Caribbean.

        1. TiffIf*

          There are MLMs where I actually like the product–Pampered Chef is one where I like some of the products themselves–but I will never ever attend or host a party. I just buy direct from the website.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Tupperware was like that for me, for a while.
            My kid’s daycare did a fundraiser (now that I think about it, that was a little sketchy, but. I didn’t think of it then), and I sent out emails to everyone and put up a sign in the apartment building:
            Tupperware Without a Party.

            I actually sold a remarkable amount of Tupperware that way.

        2. BubbleTea*

          In some ways the reputable brands with bricks and mortar shops make me MORE cross. They’re already set up to hire staff and store products. Why are they outsourcing the work and the storage to “self-employed” contractors who are usually vulnerable in some way and who can ill afford the level of loss a large company loses in the margins of their accounts.

    3. Mockingjay*

      OP1 doesn’t owe her former manager anything. Providing references is a professional business norm. Most employees earn that reference long before they leave. You don’t pay extra later on for a reference, such as helping get her new “business” started.

      A simple, “Thanks, but I’m not interested” is all that’s needed.

    4. Holey Hobby*

      I am grateful every day that I finally kicked the Facebook habit. I’ve been clean for over a year now, and it has been amazing in every way. Among the many benefits for my mental health and happiness, I count not getting hassled by HS friends who have been scammed into an MLM and are now trying to make themselves less financially screwed by financially screwing their own friends and family.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        There’s been a significant cull on my friends list in the last 2 years (finding out the friend you thought was smart is actually a rabid antivaxxer…yuk) and pretty much everything I post is locked and cat pictures, or photos of my geek sewing.

        Political stuff, buying or selling, I stay away from.

      2. Pikachu*

        I was totally that weird goth girl in high school. I spent more money in Hot Topic than I’m willing to admit.

        The BEST perk of being the weird goth girl in high school is that nobody hits you up 15 years later to join their MLM

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Am the weird goth IT lass and…can you tell me the secret? People still want me to join their mlm!

          (Corporate Goth I call it. And I’m getting close to 50)

    5. Artemesia*

      I learned long ago that the best response to something you absolutely won’t or don’t want to do is ‘no’ — immediately and clearly. I haven’t been invited to a sales party in years after attending a couple ‘out of obligation’ and loathing every minute. I resent people who try to guilt friends into giving them money for junk like this. So I started saying ‘oh I never do sales parties’ — at first people would say ‘oh you don’t have to buy anything, it will be a fun party’ to which I would say ‘oh I hope you enjoy it, but I just never do sales parties.’

      Instead of a vague ‘I’ll check and see’ type answer, you really need to say straight off ‘oh that is not something I can do.’ or ‘I never do sales parties’. It is a lot easier to have a blanket policy on things like this; it works for drinking or athletics or anything else that is firm ‘no’ for you. Be gracious but be clear from the start. Multi level market types are trained to wear people down who have ‘reasons’ to not participate. I once was at a lake cabin where a MLM group was training people in the next cabin and got to listen to their scripts — they are heavily focused on making friends feel guilty if they don’t participate and they are trained to be relentless. Thus ‘I never do sales parties’ repeated as often as necessary is the only thing that shuts down the pressure.

      And a boss who would do this is all kind of unethical.

    6. Antilles*

      “I will say don’t try to over justify your no. A lot of these schemes train people to argue you into agreement. ‘Not my thing’ , ‘no thank you’ etc doesn’t leave much wiggle room.”
      Bingo. They’re trained to overcome objections – in fact, part of the training actually includes stock responses for the common arguments – if the customer says they’re too busy, tell them it’ll only be a few minutes and it’ll be a party so it’s social interaction too; if the customer says they’re tight on money, counter by telling them how your products are more cost-effective than the competition; etc.
      But if you just say a straightforward “no” and hold to that, there’s nothing to go with.

  7. WoodswomanWrites*

    For #3, I clicked on the link referencing a previous letter, “want him enough to expedite things,” from 2008. The letter had only 6 total comments. Alison, congratulations on how this site has grown and thrived since then!

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      Me too!

      I can see how the lw would be concerned if it was a stuffy workplace/industry, but in most cases, that comment wouldn’t even register.

      1. TootsNYC*

        and if it was a stuffy workplace, or a stuffy person, I think the OP wouldn’t have made that comment, actually.

    2. CoveredinBees*

      Me too! I probably would have responded with questions about the dog, but that’s me.

      I can see why it wasn’t the ideal response, but I don’t think it was particularly bad. Is there a possibility the interview would be upset by it? Maybe. Before reading this blog, I would have said no but wow there is a, uh, wide variety of personalities in workplaces.

  8. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – this is what happens if you decide to drag out the interview process. You’re going to lose good candidates and thus, elongate the process further and you might not get a candidate that’s as good as the ones you passed up on owing to foot-dragging on your part.

    The problem here is = you started an interview cycle that’s going to take at least two months. THAT’S what got you into this dilemma. Your best candidates are not just looking at your place, they’re interviewing in several, or many places, and if you stall and hem and haw (to the candidate, that’s what you’re doing) – and if you’re not able to hire a guy or gal, someone else very well may be able to get your primo applicant. He’s not gonna wait for you if he has a viable offer on the table. Why should he? Especially if the guy’s out of work, or being pressured to leave his current situation.

    He’s not going to reject those other offers while you enjoy your holidays.

    If you can’t expedite an offer to him, then, you should —

    a) express regrets, but explain “this is the way it is”. If he says he’s moving on, then DO apologize for wasting his time. You don’t want to have him leave you with a bad taste in his mouth. One way or another, your paths may cross again in the future and it’s best to leave things on a high note.

    b) perhaps review how you do things. Interview cycles should take 2-3 weeks, and not months. You probably shouldn’t have started the cycle so soon.

    In my 49 year career, I always found that companies that completed the hiring process efficiently, tended to run more efficiently in everything they did.

    1. amoeba*

      I think that very much depends on the company though – in my field, it would be highly unusual to have an interview process take less than a month, and 2-3 are completely the norm. They generally involve a pre-screening plus at least one full day of interviews, with multiple people involved, a presentation for the whole department, flying international candidates in (pre-COVID)…
      So yeah, while that can of course lead to problems when you have more than one option, it’s generally understood that it’s not really possible to speed up spontaneously. (While of course there are still companies that lose candidates because they are much slower than the competition! Have received more than one invitation for an initial interview after more that two months and yeah, that didn’t work out.)

      1. Dust Bunny*

        But then all your competing institutions’ interview processes would also probably take that long, which may or may not be the issue here. Maybe he started interviewing sooner with the other company, but maybe they also have a more streamlined hiring process.

    2. Snow Globe*

      There is a risk of moving too slowly, but there is also a risk of moving too quickly. A 2-3 week interview cycle can mean that you latch on to what seems like the best candidate before you’ve really done your due diligence. Ideally, the process is flexible, allowing for things to speed up if a great candidate materializes early in the process.

    3. BethDH*

      I definitely don’t see anything the OP needs to apologize for, unless they gave the candidate a faster timeline originally. I hope you didn’t intend to shame people for taking vacation. Hiring committees are made up of normal people too, and I definitely wouldn’t want to work somewhere where they sped my hiring through by making their employees work through major holidays.
      Of course, they should communicate about the expected timeline and should have done this from the beginning, and if they’re giving bad estimates about that it’s worth figuring out what’s causing that.

      1. Roscoe*

        I understand what you are saying. I do however think that, maybe its not great to start an interview process if you know you won’t finish it for 2 months due to vacation and stuff. Maybe you just wait until January and move through it quicker.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          This. It’s your vacation, but I still need the job. “Sorry, we can’t find time to interview you because vacation” doesn’t sound all that great to a job candidate and I’d be looking to hire on somewhere that made me more of a priority.

          1. Colette*

            Would you want a job where you weren’t able to take vacation? Because that’s what you’re screening for if you do that. It’s not a personal rejection, it’s just a business priority.

            1. Pescadero*

              No – I want a job where people are able to take a vacation AND the work still gets done while they are on vacation because there is adequate staffing and back up.

        2. Cj*

          That wouldn’t have solved the problem with the current candidate, because he would have accepted the job he has now been offered and not been looking in January, so they still would have missed out on hiring him.

          Since they have already interviewed him, and are hiring three people, I would seriously consider just going ahead and making him an offer now if I were the OP.

          1. TootsNYC*

            Since they have already interviewed him, and are hiring three people, I would seriously consider just going ahead and making him an offer now if I were the OP.

            this was my thought.
            Grab him, and then you only have 2 slots to fill.
            Sometimes you fine a really good “dress” that fits well and is pretty, and there’s no need to run around “trying on more dresses” just to say that you did.
            Especially since you have two more “dresses” that you can do that with.

        3. Esmeralda*

          Not if you’re at a state-supported higher ed institution. Where if you delay, you can lose the funding for the position.

          This is why I am asked to chair search committees pretty often — I move the process along very very expeditiously. And it’s still 2 – 3 months from posting to offer at best.

        4. Venus*

          This was originally published on 23 Dec, so those complaining about timelines are basing it on bad info. If someone sent out invitations to interview on 20-22 Dec in order to schedule for the start of January then I think that is very reasonable and better than contacting everyone at the start of January, and if the process was going to take until early February then that would only be a month or two, not three.

    4. Colette*

      I’ve seen an interview cycle last 2 – 3 weeks … exactly once in my career. It’s very much not the norm in my industry. That does mean that sometimes you lose candidates to other companies, but it also means sometimes you can consider candidates who wouldn’t have been available the one day you posted the job.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        With what I do the “accepting applications” period is typically three weeks (exception being the entry level stuff where we are always soft taking applications). Then there is the week to go thru everything that came in and schedule interviews. And then you probably will have second round interviews (so probably three weeks with interviews). Then there’s the conditional offers and background check process (which typically takes about two weeks – it’s fairly in-depth, and has federal govt tie ins) then there’s the final offer, at which point we’re expecting you to give notice (so at least two to three weeks here). And then it’s getting you a start date that lines up with one of our onboarding workshops (which we tie into the notice period hopefully), and the workshops run once a month.

        Add it all up: 3 + 1 + 3 + 2 + 3= 12 weeks minimum, or three months. Can some industries compress that time period – sure, but not all can. Let’s not just lump everyone together and say that the process should always only last three weeks.

    5. Dona Florinda*

      That’s a little harsh. I don’t see any reason for OP to apologize, unless they misled the candidate about the timeline. But having the candidates interview and even accept offers elsewhere during the hiring process is actually pretty normal. Some companies just have a slower process, for a number of reasons.

    6. LouLou*

      I don’t think you can make a blanket statement that interview cycles should take 2-3 weeks! This is so field specific. I’m much, much more used to 2-3 months and while there are specific things that should go faster, the process overall exists for a good reason. A super short process reads as fly by night to me.

    7. Nanani*

      Eh, this really depends on the field, the role, and the particular companies.

      It’s not a crime to take a few months to hire, though being an outlier in either direction will have pitfalls.

    8. The OTHER other*

      I was going to say something like this. The interview/hiring process is your prospective new employee’s first exposure to how your company works. If the interviews are thrown together at the last minute, or the process takes months longer than other places, they are going to conclude this is how your company is.

      Most people probably prefer to work somewhere that has clear communications and decisions can be made quickly. Places that take months to interview and require the OK of secondary and tertiary people that are hard to reach…. Well, they are sending a signal that getting anything done there will likely take the same hassle.

    9. RoboDoc*

      Yep. I ended up with my current company after graduate school in no small part because, after firing off a dozen applications, I had interviewed with and gotten an offer from them before other companies had set up an initial interview. So the decision was take this job, or continue interviewing, not even picking between jobs.

    10. marvin the paranoid android*

      I had one hiring process last long enough that in the gap between having me fill out a (long) writing sample and asking me to interview, another company scheduled an interview, interviewed me, did the writing sample, and made me an offer. I kind of wish I had had a chance to interview with the first place, but at that stage I wasn’t able to wait for them.

  9. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – one more thing. I wasn’t emphatic about it enough. If you feel he’s the best candidate – if you can, MAKE THE OFFER. Close the deal. Get ‘er done.

    1. MK*

      How can you know he is the best candidate if you don’t interview the others? Frankly, this sounds like a good way to end up with an impulsive FOMO hire that you might later regret.

      1. Fikly*

        If you use this philosophy, you will never hire anyone, because there is always the possibility of a better candidate. You are not looking for the best hire of every single person out there. You are looking for someone who can do the job well.

        It’s like a relationship. Once you find someone, stop looking for other options.

      2. Roscoe*

        By that logic, you can always keep holding out for “one last applicant that came in”. At some point, you need to just make the decision on the info you have. OP has already interviewed the guy before, so while its possible that someone else comes in that is better, that is almost always the case. At some point, you need to just make a decision.

        1. LouLou*

          Sure, but there’s a reason many workplaces have quotas, like “you must interview three candidates.” Not an unlimited number…but more than one!

        2. Lab Boss*

          It also depends on how recent the interview was and how similar the jobs are. We once had someone leave and replaced them, with the final choice coming down to two very close candidates. A week after we made our choice, another employee with the same entry level job put in her notice- we didn’t even redo interviews, we immediately called our second choice and offered him the position. In that case though there was no reason to think the candidate pool had changed enough in a couple weeks to risk him going elsewhere when we knew he was a good candidate.

      3. anonymous73*

        I had an interview once and was offered the job 5 minutes into my drive home. I worked there for 5 years. Sometimes you just know.

        1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          Sometimes the interviewers “just know.” I applied, got a phone screen and then invited to an in-person interview. This was Spring 2011 and I had been interviewing non-stop since early 2010 while temping and not landing a job.

          So, I was on auto-pilot when I did the interview and left the room feeling, well, not getting that one as their attitude was a touch remote. After I left, they all looked at each other and supposedly said “She’s the one” and offered me the job the next day.

          But from application to final interview was probably 3-4 weeks and that’s on MY end. I can imagine there could have been a few weeks prior to that where they prepped the job description, got the okay to find someone and then rounded up people who had the time to travel and interview.

          1. anonymous73*

            I think you can “just know” as a candidate sometimes too. I just started my current job in August. The interviewer (who is my direct manager) and I had a rapport from the second I “met” her. The conversation was easy and we got along well. I got an offer the next day. Not all of my interviews have gone this way for jobs I’ve gotten and the process is generally much longer, but it does happen.

        2. Cj*

          I started my new job yesterday. I had my interview at 5 on a Wednesday, and had an offer in my email by the time I got home 40 minutes later it was over. Yes, sometimes you just know.

        3. Cj*

          I started my new job yesterday. I had a 40 minute drive home from the interview, and had an e-mail with the offer by the time I got home.

      4. Aquawoman*

        “The best candidate” is a myth that I like to dismantle when I can because it creates/enables bias. There is rarely a true standout “best candidate.” I interview for my org and while there are some standouts, we spend a lot of time trying to decide which 2 people from rank 3-8 we should choose. The last round of interviews I did (for interns), we picked #1 and #2 quickly. Our #1 pick wound up being a very good intern but also wound up not our #1 performer. Our #1 performer was not one of the top two. Part of this is because interviewing involves a slightly different skill set than the actual work.
        When the president said he was aiming for 1/2 women/POC for his cabinet, people trotted out the “best qualified candidate” argument. And the things about there not being a single “best candidate” is even more true at high levels. All the candidates were well-qualified. When the prior president had a predominantly white, male cabinet, no one raised concerns about the “best candidates,” and yet, having an overwhelming majority like that strongly suggests that well-qualified candidates were overlooked because of gender and race.

    2. Trawna*

      I so agree. This candidate interviewed with the company before. They liked him enough to interview him again. The only reason for the long interview process was Christmas holidays? Really?

      I find myself hoping he took his talents elsewhere!

      1. ecnaseener*

        As BethDH said just above, yes, holidays really – the hiring committee is made up of humans who need vacation, really.

        1. Colette*

          Yeah, exactly. Hiring gets delayed for many reasons – a higher priority issue comes in that needs attention from the people doing the hiring, somebody gets sick, an interviewer takes vacation, someone who needs to sign off on the hire is out of office, company priorities change and hiring is put on hold for a week or two, other candidates aren’t immediately available to interview and they want to talk to their top 5 before making a decision ….

        2. Be kind, rewind*

          Exactly. And if I never took vacation in the middle of hiring and onboarding (and, really, being there for your new hires when they start is more important), then I never would have had a chance to take a vacation in 2020!

        3. Elsajeni*

          Not to mention, like… do you, as a candidate, want to interview on Christmas? Even if not on the actual holiday, would you be available if they offered you an interview date on December 26 or 27, or would you feel pressured and irritated that they were asking you to interview at a time when OBVIOUSLY many people are traveling or busy with family obligations? Would you find it a red flag that your potential future manager was at work that day?

        4. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

          My point is/was, this firm should NOT have started the interview cycle two-three months before they were going to make offers. Yes, people take vacations. But the point is being missed here.

          If you set up inefficiencies in your hiring process, stuff like this happens. Wait until everyone’s back, and start the process then, and finish it in a reasonable time frame.

    3. kittymommy*

      I’m actually in the process of going through applications and the holidays are pushing interviews back. Some places have interview parameters they have to follow and just from a logistics standpoint I won’t be able to get interviews completed until after the new year.

      1. londonedit*

        We’re hiring an extra person for my team at the moment, and we’re desperately trying to get everything sorted before Christmas. Most people have to give a month’s notice, so if we want someone to start in January (which we do) then we really have to get a move on. Luckily the process in my industry is quite speedy – we don’t do phone screens or multiple interviews, so the job advert is usually open for two weeks, applications are reviewed fairly quickly, a selection of people are invited for a first interview and then maybe 3-5 of those come back for a second interview and the decision is made within days of those happening. So the whole thing is probably a month.

        1. kittymommy*

          We tend to do our interviews in person unless they do not live locally (and then the second round will definitely be in person). We also have to do interview panels. Not even considering the candidates schedule, I’m navigating a minimum of four calendars for the first round and 6 for the second (this last one is a little abnormal and unique to this particular position). It’s a nightmare.

    4. TootsNYC*

      yeah, I wouldn’t say “if he’s the best”

      I’d say “if you believe he’d do well at the job.”

      The OP has two other slots to fill, so it’s not like this is their only chance to hire anybody.
      But also: You just want someone who’ll do the job well. you can stop whenever you find that person.

      1. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

        A++++ … if you keep looking for the perfect candidate the odds are that you’re not going to find him or her.

  10. Pamela Adams*

    For #3, you are hiring multiple people for this position, and have interviewed this person previously. Make the offer, and continue interviews to find the other hires

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

      The pitfall with this approach though is that since he’d be one of 3 or 4 (doing the ‘same’ position, I infer?), his hiring process compared to theirs would inevitably come up in discussion at some point, and then you’d have someone who’s meant to be equals with the 3-4 other people cast as the “star” hire instead. Resentment / inferiority from that is very difficult to shake off.

      1. Roscoe*

        I don’t know if that is the case. I have multiple people in my same role. Our interview processes were different for a variety of reasons. Timing matters. If you know you want someone in by X date, a process may move a lot quicker than if it doesn’t really matter when they start. External factors also matter. If someone did have another offer, I don’t find it absurd that their process was expedited because of it. I think too many people get their feelings hurt because every detail isn’t the same thing.

      2. Artemesia*

        He interviewed before; they don’t need to interview him again; they are filling several positions. I would think they would be fools to let him go because of an artificial interview timeline. If there were only one position, then perhaps wait — but in the case described, it would be nuts to let him go. Worrying that someone else would be upset that their co-worker didn’t get interviewed again seems like a waste of energy — and so not the point of the interview process.

      3. Tisiphone*

        It’s probably not going to matter that much.

        We have multiple positions open for the same role and we’re doing exactly that. When those doing the hiring find someone, they make an offer. We’ve gotten several staggered “Welcome, So and So!” emails announcing new hires in the last few weeks.

      4. Rusty Shackelford*

        I don’t see why. They had already interviewed him. It’s not like they picked him out and said “we don’t even need to interview this guy.”

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

          They had already interviewed him previously…and rejected him! (I wonder if he’s the star candidate for the OP, but not so much for the hiring committee as a whole..)

          1. Roscoe*

            I mean, it was a different role. I’ve totally had a job once where I interviewed for a role, didn’t get it, then they called me back for a different role that I got. Frankly, after seeing who they did hire, she was a far better fit for it, and I was a far better fit for the role I ended up in. He could’ve been “fine” for that role, and someone else was great, but OP feel she will be “great” in this one. No sense in waiting around

    2. T*

      Hr Rep here. Entry level jobs are filling in 24 hours now. I booked candidates to interview a week out bc the mgr was away and I lost my top choice to another position and 2 more didn’t show. My final 2 choices weren’t qualified so we’re still in the weeds. Managers need to accept that if you don’t make time for interviews, you’ll never have your time open up.

      1. Anon for this*

        I wish this would happen for me in my job hunting : /

        Granted, in my field, people do several different things at the same time, and I’m at a company now with a workload that skews very, very heavily towards one of those things. That may be affecting my ability to search, people see that I haven’t been doing the other things and think it means I’m not familiar with it when the answer is no, I’m familiar with it, but the workload here is vastly different for reasons that are beyond our control.

      2. Lab Boss*

        I’m going to play Sherlock Holmes and say by your use of “in the weeds” that you’ve been a server before, or at least in some food service role? I love people with that experience, as it often means you’ve got an instinct for efficiency and cutting through the BS :D

          1. Lab Boss*

            Apparently it’s not! I’d only ever heard it used in the context of a night at a restaurant going to hell, or by my friends who are veterans of that environment and picked it up there.

  11. Turingtested*

    LW #4: At my company we have a minor problem with people asking questions that are actually thinly veiled criticisms or have been answered in the course of the meeting. My suspicion is that the questioners want to justify their presence by participating even if it’s low value.

    Obviously the solution isn’t to ban questions, and I’m not sure how one can say “if you ask a question it had better not be a time waster.” I just wonder if your coworker has legitimate frustrations that are poorly expressed.

  12. Lucious*

    #4 can be either totally legitimate or crossing some boundaries. If meetings are run on-topic and the organizer sticks to the agenda , the abrupt “request” is uncalled for.

    If , however, meetings are group train wrecks leading with items better covered in an email that devolve into a weekend story sharing session for high rank attendees – or are off topic, lengthy monologue sessions by ego-centric leadership – asking questions really is counterproductive. In that case the coworkers behavior is situationally appropriate, since everyone else’s goal is to understandably get out of those productivity sinks as fast as possible.

    Moral of the story: time is money. Hold meetings when you need to, and for the love of all religions keep them on topic. When Director Jim Monologue gets the mic, get things back on track.

    1. WellRed*

      So true! Our meetings aren’t train wrecks but they could be much tighter. We don’t need so and so rambling on about nothing, or the bookkeeper asking individuals about invoices or marketing reading off his literal to do list. Ugh!

    2. the cat's ass*

      yep, this. There’s always that one person in meetings who just derails things; we would have (pre-pandemic) meetings and go down the agenda, and one long term guy looked at EVERY subject heading as something that needed a rebuttal or his .02 and he alone would drag out meetings by and extra 20-30 minutes, landing us all square in the middle of rush hour traffic. He was universally disliked for this among other things, but I also blamed our CEO, who let it happen every.single.time. All our meetings are on Zoom now and yay! talky guy decided to retire at the beginning of the pandemic.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I have that person – but she does it because she’s convinced she knows more than anybody else. Fortunately our training facilitator is really good at shutting down “Derailing Debbie” by saying I’ll make a note of your question, if we haven’t covered it by the end of training I’ll answer it then.

        Derailing Debbie does this because she’s convinced she would be the lead – but isn’t. And meeting/trainings come out of our production time. She wants them to go as long as possible.

        1. the cat's ass*

          yeah, talky guy had been there forever and had a lot of institutional knowledge, but also a fair amount of resentment that he was not treated as the god he thought he was. Like Derailing Debbie, he lacked sufficient self-awareness to choose his battles.
          A few of us actually made up a fake drinking game, where you took a drink (from your water bottle, we were at work) every time he opened his mouth. Most of us admitted that if it had been actual alcohol, we’d all be hospitalized or dead. He was also a champion interrupter, and i earned his enmity once when he interrupted me and i interrupted him back, saying, “I wasn’t finished, Talky.” ooooo. Coulda heard a pin drop. SO glad he’s gone.

    3. Mockingjay*

      I have a weekly meeting in a half hour. The project lead who runs it is a terrible facilitator and monopolizes the entire hour. I will console myself by referring to him as “Director Jim Monologue” forevermore. Thank you for that! *cries while laughing*

  13. Ri*

    The manager in letter 1 is almost certainly in an mlm. Also a lot of offices have policies about using your coworkers to promote other projects/business interests unconnected with work.

    1. anonymous73*

      They no longer work together so company policy isn’t an issue here. I would still say no though. OP doesn’t owe her anything other than professional courtesy for the references.

  14. Sanchito*

    I just want to say that I’ve never seen “low-information” used as an adjective for a person, but I’m here for it.

    1. Lab Boss*

      I’ve only seen it in the context of “low-information voters” who cast ballots based on their general gut feeling of things they are pretty sure they heard on the news or saw online or something, rather than digging in and finding out all the facts. That tracks pretty well with the kind of people who can be victimized by an MLM.

  15. Xarcady*

    #4. I have been in more than one workplace where some people saw meetings as their big chance with the higher-ups. They needed to make their mark with them at that very meeting—it might be their last chance! Or at least that’s how I interpreted their questions.

    They asked questions just to ask a question and show they were paying attention. And it is possible to obsequiously ask a question.

    Their questions sometimes had almost nothing to do with the subject of the meeting; they were just a way to get noticed.

    And with poor meeting management and higher-ups who loved the sound of their own voices, meetings that should have been half and hour dragged on for 2-3 hours. I only wish I was exaggerating.

    1. Roscoe*

      Yep. I too have seen way too many people use questions as a way to just gain attention. And the thing is, almost everyone knows that is what is happening. If the coworker in #4 sees that enough, I get where they are coming from

    2. Silver*

      Similar thing during lockdown- have had clearly lonely colleagues drag out meetings ridiculously because they liked being on calls. So frustrating. I hate being on camera and couldn’t stand having to sit through meandering inane non question questions as a substitution for someone’s social life

      1. After 33 years ...*

        In a particular grad school seminar long ago, we received one point for each question or comment. If you then added an “ok” or “um” to the speaker’s answer, you received another point.
        However, only questions asked before the “official’ end of class counted for points.

  16. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

    Jeez Alison, way to add more letters I want updates to in the middle of update season!!

    LW2, if you still read AAM, what happened? If I were the interviewer I would have thought the chihuahua comment was hilarious, but I can see how others might be annoyed or put off.

  17. Roscoe*

    #4 Unfortunately I don’t think people who needlessly drag on meetings have the self awareness to know they are doing it, but everyone else does see it and is annoyed by them. While I don’t love just commanding people not to ask questions, I’ve been in enough meetings that go on and on, and then someone (or multiple people) ask questions that aren’t really relevant for the group, that I understand where coworker is coming from. From the outside though, its hard to know the type of people we are dealing with. What I would say is ask questions if you like, but it doesn’t hurt to ask yourself first if EVERYONE needs to be there for the answer.

    1. anonymous73*

      That’s not up to the one asking the question though…it’s up to the one running the meeting. If the subject of the question isn’t relevant to the topic of the meeting, or needs to be taken offline with a smaller group, the the one in charge needs to stop it in the moment and move on. The one demanding that everyone stop asking questions is completely out of line.

      1. Roscoe*

        We are talking about adults here. Its not hard to know that certain questions don’t need to be asked in a group setting and add nothing. Sure, there are some that are questionable, but I think MANY of us have been in meetings where it was clear to everyone but the questioner, that this wasn’t a group question to be asked. So yeah, it is up to the one asking the question to use some discretion. Worst case scenario, you err on the side of caution and get your answer a bit later via slack or email

        1. Imaginary Friend*

          Right. Maybe my question actually is useful for the whole group to hear. In that case, the meeting leader can bring the info up at the next meeting. They can even give me credit for bringing it to their attention.

          I have done technical training where the classes were a single session. They had to follow an agenda (cover all the topics) and have good time management (end on time or a little early). Both of those things are the responsibility of the trainer, who is automatically the “meeting leader”. Doing that job has made me so much better in regular meetings, both as a participant and as a facilitator. The hardest thing for many people running meetings is that we have to allow ourselves to “be rude”, because running a meeting well *will* have you cutting people off when they’re talking too long or otherwise being poor participants. (Even just deferring questions until later in the meeting – commonly done in training classes – is such a good tool.)

        2. anonymous73*

          Just because a person is an adult doesn’t automatically make them aware of what’s appropriate to ask and what’s not (we see that every day here). Bottom line is the one in charge of a meeting needs to take charge IN the meeting, and stop allowing people to take over with unrelated or off topic questions.

    2. Silver*

      Exactly! No one else on this six person call needs to be subject to you explaining your weird IT problems to the job leader. He’s not in IT either, he doesn’t know why you’re locked out of your email. Just call tech support on your own time!!

    3. Mockingjay*

      I like your suggestion Roscoe. In a perfect world, meeting facilitators would keep things on track. In the real world, that happens infrequently. If the moderator isn’t going to moderate, then I feel it’s okay for participants have to do what they can to keep the flow. (Obviously this is contingent on a lot of factors such as hierarchy or company culture, but in a standing team meeting, this kind of thing happens naturally. We’ve all steered our coworkers back on track.)

    4. Observer*

      From the outside though, its hard to know the type of people we are dealing with.

      The thing is though, that this person is not asking people to stop derailing the meetings. And he is demanding this from anyone who asks a question, not just a few people. That indicates that the issue is not people who are actually being inappropriate.

      1. Roscoe*

        We still don’t know that. Depending on the situation, I can see there being a lot of people who are wasting time like that.

        I’ve been the “elder statesman” in a department before with a bunch of new hires. And they love to do that type of thing. Now, I’m in no way saying demanding everyone not ask questions is the best way to go about this, but that also doesn’t mean that all of these people aren’t asking pointless questions either.

  18. MissDisplaced*

    “That’s just like my chihuahua.”
    Any pet lover would get that comment. I would never hold something like that against a candidate.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      I’m fairly sure I got my current job in large part by telling stories about my cat. The supervisors were die-hard cat ladies and, yes, I was generally qualified, but I’m pretty certain it was the cat stories that won them over.

  19. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    LW4 – I know I have a tendency to ask “too many questions”, and this is partly a learning style and partly autism.

    On one occasion I asked a question at the end of a training session, and there was an audible groan from others in the room. So the trainer didn’t answer, and we packed up and left. I didn’t ask questions again on that course, and I still don’t know the answer to that question, even though the issue I was asking about comes up several times a year.

    Separately, I used to attend a lecture series which was elective for undergrads but compulsory for masters candidates, who otherwise had very little face time with faculty. They would derail with questions like, “How is [topic at hand] relevant to [individual’s thesis topic]?” and the professor would say, “It isn’t really, but…” and go off on that interesting tangent for ten minutes, which meant he failed to cover all the lecture material in the allotted time and undergraduates stopped attending.

    All of which is to say, if someone is asking too many questions, it’s up to whoever is leading the meeting to manage the questions – are they on topic? are they timely? are they relevant to the entire group, or at least a quorum? It’s not difficult to say, “I think that’s only going to matter to Team Spout, so let’s pick that up in our huddle this afternoon,” or “We’ll get on to that in the next session,” or “We’re not here to discuss glaze suppliers.” If there’s a repeat offender, speak to them to discuss expectations on both sides. Is the right information being given to the right people at the right time more generally?

    It matters to everybody, and whether everyone is acting in good faith or not, the buck stops with the “host”.

  20. Mim*

    I have also accidentally made a dog comparison — in my case with a higher up (though not my supervisor or grand-boss or anything), not in an interview situation. It kind of just popped out, and was said completely in a favorable, positive way. But it wasn’t until it came out of my mouth that I realized how awkward and weird it also sounded, and I always had trouble reading this other person, so to this day I don’t know if her reaction was amusement or not. As you can imagine, with a higher up who I was never able to get a good read on, I was often nervous around her, meaning ridiculous stuff like what I said was more likely to pop out. That was not the only time I possibly stuck my foot in my mouth around her, though I’ll never know for sure because she is a complete enigma to me. And she no longer works here, so no future chances to do it again. But also no future chances to make things right, if they need to be made right?

    Ugh, I’m blushing just thinking about the whole mess. Or maybe not a mess. WHO KNOWS?!

  21. anonymous73*

    #4 – this is not a situation you take directly to your manager. This is something you respond to, in the moment. “If a question needs to be asked, I’m going to ask it. You need to stop telling people to stop asking questions.” If you tell co-worker to stop the behavior and they continue, THEN you take it to your manager.

    The purpose of most meetings is to make sure everyone is on the same page/understands what’s going on/provide relevant information, so questions are needed. If people are heading down a rabbit hole with questions that are irrelevant, then it’s up to the meeting organizer to put a stop to them, not for people to stop asking questions.

    1. Colette*

      I disagree. I would mention this to my manager if I thought the coworker was doing the same thing to others who might avoid asking relevant questions because of it. I can tell him no; an intern probably won’t.

      1. anonymous73*

        This isn’t a serious enough issue to take directly to a manager. Some things need to be worked out between colleagues before escalation.

    1. Anononon*

      Me too! I probably would have replied how my mostly black dog loves to sunbath on concrete pavers in 90+ degrees heat.

      1. JelloStapler*

        Yes! My tricolor (back is all black) loves sitting in the sun on those days. We say he is “recharging”. ;)

  22. Pikachu*

    #1 – Multi-level marketing alert! Do not get involved.

    Sometimes I wonder if there should be a multi-level marketing roundup post. That kind of garbage is not acceptable in any real workplace, but their business model actively encourages people to manipulate their friends and family. They seek out vulnerable individuals on social media (new moms are a huge target, as are the covid-unemployed) and try to rope them in promising thousands in monthly income that never materializes.

    They are also specifically trained to NOT mention the name of their business in early interactions. It is by design and part of the pitch. “DM me!” Don’t.

    1. EPLawyer*

      They are also designed to market to low income folks. After watching LuLaRich, I listened to The Dream podcast. The first season was on MLMs. One “Christian” MLM specifically said to hit up low income folks because they are using to giving away their entire paycheck anyway so it might as well go to you.

      I have a friend who heavily got into this. Like quit her job heavily. Go to the conventions heavy. Always was doing the Facebook posts about how flexible her life is with this MLM, and also pushing “deals” (translation, I didn’t sell enough this month and I have to keep my gold painted barbie doll status). Fast forward a couple years, she is back at work and we hear nary a peep about this “fantastic” business anymore.

      You are not “Boss Babe” God I hate that term. Or even a business owner. You aren’t even a 100% commission employee. If you were an employee, you could just give your two weeks notice and walk. These companies make it really hard for you to quit. BUT, if you violate any of their terms, like perhaps mentioning you aren’t fabulously wealthy, and raising concerns about quality of the product, they will drop you like a hot potato. “Your ” business can be gone overnight.

      OP1, the only answer to this is a firm “no, that is not something I can do.” Don’t give reasons why. Just no. Consider finding another reference if the person keeps pressuring you.

  23. Jennifer*

    Dogs are splendid, perfect and endlessly loving individuals – so anyone who takes offense is a stick-in-the-mud weirdo jerk and would probably have zero sense of humour. I don’t even know how that could be construed as anything other than a cute comment.

    1. Sporty Yoda*

      This! I probably would have gone into a side story about my parent’s dog who was happy as a clam just lying outside in triple digit weather (I brought it up so now I have to tell the story: he would go out, take a nap on the patio, and then come back inside when he was done. Everything was always done out of his own volition, but we were always terrified people would think we were abusing him. Nope, just a weirdo. He would also wait until my mother’s pear tree had rotten fruit before eating it… but the dog getting drunk is a different story for a different day). When I read “compared to my dog,” I was expecting something MUCH worse; “I have a pet/family member who’s the same way” is small talk.

    2. Squidhead*

      I mean, I don’t really even like dogs (sorry, definitely a weirdo here!) and I thought it was funny and endearing.

  24. Sporty Yoda*

    So… I’ve been #4s coworker. Sort of; I’m not so bold as to ask people to not ask questions, but one of the places I worked at would routinely have 2+hr meetings up to 3x a week, and sometimes not at the most convenient times (Saturdays, 4-6pm on a Friday, 6am-8am). I’m thankful that the culture of the company was that we could speak up and ask questions, but there’s a massive difference between someone asking for clarification on something that was brought up (Phyllis, did you say you used a 15 or 50% solution) and a “conceptual” question being asked to a new intern (Stanley, you started this week, this is likely your first work experience, and you’re not directly involved on this project: why do we use a 15% solution)… when we then go over the conceptual question and the leader optionally monologues how we need to be better at understanding concepts (yayyy academia). It was incredibly frustrating (to me at least), because I typically had other things to do (sometimes work, sometimes going home and watching Call the Midwife; planning self-care is still plans), and it did feel like some questions were a waste of time; I wished someone would have had the guts to speak up and clarify what could be a 1-on-1 meeting, or even better, an email. Unfortunately, there’s really not enough detail in the letter to tell if this was a coworker issue or a cultural issue; some meetings just suck and there’s not much you can do.

  25. thestik*

    That first letter reads so differently now given the rise of anti-MLM activism and the recent troubles faced by jewelry MLM Paparazzi.

    1. pancakes*

      Not really. If you click the link to the original 2015 post, many people identified this as MLM (and knew MLM is sleazy and predatory) at the time.

  26. Egmont Apostrophe*

    If you’re interviewing for two jobs, and one is ready to hire, and the other needs another month and to talk to other people because that’s how they do things, take the first job– you’ve just been given an insight into the second company as being slow, indecisive, and bound by its rules. Assuming reasonable equivalence between the positions, you want to work at the place that’s enthusiastic to get you on board right now.

    1. L. Ron Jeremy*

      Or start the job with the quick offer and continue interviewing with the 2nd employer. If you get a better offer, leave the first job and start your new job.

      If it doesn’t work out at new job, continue interviewing until you find a job you’re happy with.

      Seems very common today.

  27. Essess*

    Absolutely tell the manager. This employee is intimidating others to force them not to access business resources when they are available. There is a reason and a need for asking questions at meetings and one worker should not be in control of the access of information for other coworkers or stopping them from asking questions in the appropriate forums.

  28. Meep*

    I appreciate how LW#1 knows it is an MLM and is still considering scamming her friends and family to get on this one person’s good side. It really shows some skewed perspective where it is OK to tick off the horde for the indiviudal.

    1. Liz*

      That’s a little unfair. One of the worst things about MLMs is that not only do they monetize female friendships, but they’re designed to target all the internal sexism we’ve absorbed over the years — MLM leaders seize on our socialized fears of disappointing others, being rude, etc. I am INCREDIBLY anti-MLM and still find myself having the “well I could just show up and not buy anything” conversation with myself.

      1. Tisiphone*

        I loathe MLMs, too.

        The last time I went to one, I wasn’t told it was an MLM party ahead of time. I got there and there was a crowd of strangers, a table set up with items I’d never in a thousand lifetimes use, and to drive home the point that I was so very much not the target audience, I scored zero on the “fun” questionnaire. I was bored out of my skull and couldn’t wait to leave empty-handed. I couldn’t, because the friend who invited me and I carpooled. When I didn’t buy anything, the host pulled out the catalog, paged through it for something maybe I might be able to use and pressured me. I was unemployed then. No money, no interest, but still got the pressure.

      2. Nethwen*

        In my early 20s, a friends asked me to come to a make-up party because if she hosted it for the salesperson, she would get the make-up she needed for free. I didn’t know about MLM, but I did know that I couldn’t afford make-up, but I went to support a friend – both so that she could get her prize and because I figured that more people meant a more fun party.

        At the point where we individually went into another room to place our orders, I didn’t know what to do, so I went in, the salesperson asked what I was interested in, and I responded, “I don’t want to order anything; I just came to support a friend.”

        There was a moment of awkwardness as we each tried to figure out what to do next, then I went back to the “party.” I left feeling like I had done a good thing for a friend and wasn’t at all uncomfortable with not buying anything. It was years later that I learned that the expected protocol is that if you attend, you buy something, even if it’s the cheapest thing.

        1. Nethwen*

          Which isn’t a condemnation on you, Liz. I’m just impressed with myself for being so straightforward when normally I don’t know what to do in social situation and because it actually worked – I said my piece and the salesperson accepted it. That feels like an unexpected victory. I only feel a little embarrassed that I didn’t understand the norms and maybe embarrassed my friend.

      3. Meep*

        As a woman myself, I perfectly understand how MLMs manipulate people using social conditioning and I understand in 2015, this tactic was not well known. However, LW is smart enough to pick up on it and still considers sacrificing the herd for one person. My entire point is that rather than focusing on how her reputation can be hurt among a myriad of different individuals, she is picking one individual because of their skewed perceived value to her in comparison to her mom. That is pretty screwed up either way you slice it.

    2. Pikachu*

      I think the fact that it is her former supervisor is key here. The power dynamics already do not favor her. She used to be able to rely on this person for references, but now she has to figure out whether that professional relationship is becoming transactional in nature and how much it might cost her personally, professionally, and monetarily if she wants to keep things on good terms.

      If she doesn’t host a party, will this affect her ability to get positive references in the future? If it’s someone who has had few jobs/bosses over the years and few references, that’s a big loss.

      The answer is obvious, but the solution is not simple.

      1. EmmaPoet*

        This. It’s not quite so clear-cut as, “Don’t host,” when the asker is someone she’s depending on for a good reference down the line and the OP feels like this could be an issue.

    3. neeko*

      This is an unfair and unhelpful read on someone who is looking for help in a complicated situation. People feel pressured in these sitations regardless of the relationship and this is one with a power imbalance. Good reviews from a manager are almost always important when job seeking. And it’s not uncommon for people to feel indebted to a helpful manager – espcially someone who is early in their career and might not have a ton of people lined up. Good thing they asked for advice.

      1. neeko*

        Not saying that I know that this person was early in their career and it’s honestly always a struggle to make sure you have good/up to date references.

      2. Meep*

        As a woman myself, I perfectly understand how MLMs manipulate people using social conditioning and I understand in 2015, this tactic was not well known. However, LW is smart enough to pick up on it and still considers sacrificing the herd for one person. My entire point is that rather than focusing on how her reputation can be hurt among a myriad of different individuals, she is picking one individual because of their skewed perceived value to her in comparison to her mom. That is pretty screwed up either way you slice it.

        1. neeko*

          And my point is that this is an unhelpful judgement of the LW’s character when they are asking for help in a still somewhat common situation.

  29. PeanutButter*

    Re: Chihuahua comment – any person with a modicum of social grace would understand that it wasn’t intended to be insulting, even if they had personal context that made them feel so. Think about all the times you’ve had someone you don’t really know say something well-meaning and clearly intended in a friendly spirit that just hit a bit wrong because of your personal experiences that they had no way of knowing about. I’m assuming you don’t hold a grudge and judge them for those minor missteps, and I’m sure no one reasonable would take your obviously-friendly remark as an offense.

    1. CBB*

      From reading letters and comments on this website, I’ve learned that most people are quick to take offence at faux pas committed by well-meaning others.

      Or if there’s any doubt as to whether someone is well-meaning, the default assumption is that they’re not.

  30. Renee Remains the Same*

    I would have laughed at the Chihuahua comment and wouldn’t have thought twice about it.

  31. EmmaPoet*

    LW#2, NGL I’d have been delighted, but I am a dog person anyway so I’d have wanted to see a picture of Pup!

  32. Arifault*

    RE #1 –

    That’s an MLM, I’m 99% sure of it and I think I know which one, though I won’t name names.
    OP is on the nose when they say that those kinds of companies prey on the vulnerable – and I know it’s been said many many times but I’ll say it again; most women in those types of ‘businesses’ don’t make enough to break even, and only a small few actually make enough to live off of.

    Frankly I think MLMs are culty. The ones I know of will misuse bible quotes, or use religion as a justification. A major group in my area encourages its… clients? Victims? Boss babes? Sales people? to cut out anyone who criticizes them, and I can think of a few cases in which the company was part of the reason divorce happened.

    Frankly I don’t think they should be allowed in the workplace due to how aggressive marketing can be, and I know there are some letters here showing the downsides of what happens. Heck, I lost a friendly work relationship and a raise because I didn’t want to sign up to sell. It would have cost me nearly a month’s salary to buy in, and who the HECK wants someone who doesn’t even use makeup or skincare to sell those types of products?

    Sorry, sorry, I know I went off topic but I have a genuine distaste for those types of businesses and business models.

    1. Emotional Support Care’n*

      I agree with you. There’s no benefit to an MLM unless you’re just trying to flush money and “friendships” down the toilet without actually using a toilet to do so. My SIL keeps getting involved in them, and as long as she makes money doing it, she will keep doing it. It’s heartbreaking, because she has kind-hearted friends who keep buying from her that keep her afloat, so she actually thinks this new “herbal capsule remedy” works. And of course, she takes these “supplements” too.

  33. Emotional Support Care’n*

    Being compared to someone’s pet is very situational. If I am comparing someone to my pets, it can be good or bad. Loves heat and snuggles? Oh, this is good. Loyal, good listener, great judge of character? Perfect compliments. Food-driven back-talking sasshole who licks windows and steals the covers and my spot on the bed? Not so much…

    And meetings: nothing irritates me more than a meeting that should have been an email. Unless it’s an email that doesn’t get read, so the PTB decide the information is so vital and that enough people will ignore the email that they have to have a meeting about it. Which people will still tune out and ask “clarifying” questions that proved they weren’t paying attention to begin with. It’s a vicious circle. Or the Pontificator who insists on playing Devil’s Advocate and asks random hypotheticals to look for loopholes and to hear himself speak and extend the 30 minute meeting to at least 60-90 minutes just to deal with his voice (and by the end, nobody’s even sure what the original instructions were because they mostly remember the Pontificator’s derailments). (Bonus points if Pontificator was supposed to *lead* the meeting!)

Comments are closed.