interviewer said I rubbed half the team the wrong way, cake drama, 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. Employer offered me a job, but said I rubbed half the team the wrong way

I was recently told by email that I would be receiving a verbal offer, followed by a written offer. During the verbal offer call, the hiring manager volunteered interview feedback both critical and positive. The critical feedback was that half (!) the team who interviewed me were rubbed the wrong way by my “edge.” I thanked her for her candor and she said, “We can work on that one.” I expressed concern about whether this feedback would handicap me before I’ve even started to work for them.

I’m a bit perplexed about how to proceed. This information gives me some serious pause — regarding leadership style and office culture, namely. My expectation would be that this would be an opportune time to “white lie” to the candidate and express the team’s (albeit, democratically) enthusiasm for extending a job offer. I don’t know how this feedback benefits my work performance before I have even accepted an offer.

Yeah, that should give you serious pause, because it’s a sign that this place might not be a comfortable fit for you. And remember, the goal isn’t just to get a job offer; it’s to end up working somewhere where you’ll excel and be happy. I’m curious about how aligned you felt with their culture before that phone call; did these feel like your people, or were you already getting the sense that it might not be a perfect match?

In any case, as for what to do now … I wouldn’t take the job without getting a much better understanding of what the concern is and what “we can work on that one” means.

(Also, be grateful for employers who don’t indulge in “white lies” in the hiring stage; you want to know what you might be getting into. It’s the ones who sugarcoat who cause the real problems.)


2. Cake drama

I work for a technical company, and my location, we have around 150 employees that sit in this office. All of the employees are comprised of different teams, and there are two teams that sit near each other. I sit on one of these teams, and a tradition we have started is buying a cake for an employee when it’s their birthday. There is really no rhyme or reason to this — if it’s someone’s birthday, a few of us will pool our money together and get a cake, and everyone in the area sort of joins in on the celebration. We’ve been doing this for about a year now, and I particularly am a big fan of this tradition.

In February, a new employee was hired that has made the workplace less than enjoyable for some workers. I keep her at arm’s length, and don’t have much interaction with her other than the occasional “hello” or “how are things at work” small talk. Last week, a coworker and I decided to buy a birthday cake for a fellow employee. When I went into the kitchen to get a knife, the new employee looked at me and said, “It was MY TURN to buy that cake” in a very rude manner. I brushed it off and I told her it was no big deal and to grab a slice if she wanted one. Later that day, I realized she had de-friended me on Facebook and updated her status to “feeling left out.” My assumption is she probably will not be speaking to me anymore.

A lot of coworkers have told me that she did me a favor by de-friending me, but this particular employee has been notorious for making people miserable at their jobs if she doesn’t like them. I don’t think I have anything to worry about since I have been here longer than her and don’t even work on her team, but should I be worried about how she will talk about me to others in the workplace? Is my reputation ruined?

You will now be known as the Cake Interloper and will be shunned.

No, I do not in fact think that your reputation will be ruined because you stepped up to buy someone a birthday cake. And it doesn’t sound like she’s likely to be someone with high credibility with others in your office.

I don’t know what made her think it was “her turn” since it sounds like there’s no formal system, but if there’s any chance that you did step on her toes after she already put time or money into arranging a cake, you should apologize for that and let her know you didn’t realize she was already planning on it and that generally there hasn’t been a formal system.

Beyond that, though, let her do what she’s going to do. If she doesn’t treat you professionally in the future, that’s a legit work issue that you’d need to address — but if she’s just pouting on Facebook, leave her to it.


3. My boss left the company but still emails me daily

My boss left our company almost 3 weeks ago. Since then, he has been emailing me almost every day. We were on friendly terms from start to finish, though towards the end (unbeknownst to him) I found his presence extremely irritating. Our company experienced some serious problems that jeopardized everyone’s jobs, got some people laid off, and majorly set our branch of the company back. Unfortunately, everyone in our small office recognized that he had everything to do with it. Though we all liked him as a person, his failings as a leader were glaring (long story short). Happy to bid him adieu, I am now haunted by near daily communication with him — friendly letters, general questions, inquiries about how this or that played out here, pictures of his plants, hey look he got a dog, etc etc. I’m not the only one he emails, either. For example, he asked me today if another coworker went on this other interview, and sent a separate email to that coworker asking him directly.

This is my first full-time job out of school and I know that he valued me very much, so I’m anticipating having him as one of my top references in the future. Am I obligated to respond to all these emails to keep the relationship friendly? I wrote back a nice response to one of his first “what’s up” emails, and since then have been giving short but friendly responses to only some. If I start ignoring all of them, am I damaging our relationship? If I keep answering, will they never end? I know it’s only been three weeks; he could be having a hard time adjusting and the emails could eventually dry up on their own. I would like to ignore all of them starting now, but I also don’t want to spoil a reference or be flat-out rude.

I think the only person you’re obligated to respond to daily social emails from is your significant other, and even then I’m not sure it’s really obligatory. So no, you do not need to enter into an intense pen pal relationship with this guy. I’d ignore the work-related questions (not his prerogative anymore — and not in his best interest to stay emotionally involved like that anyway) and reply the rest at a rate of one response per every three he sends (or once a week, whichever you prefer), as long as his rate is this frequent. And your responses don’t have to be long, either; “cute dog!” and “glad you’re doing well — too swamped to write much!” will suffice.

It sounds like he’s having a hard time accepting things have changed, but I think these will trail off pretty soon.


4. Is it wrong to fake enthusiasm during an interview?

I’m considering leaving my current job and have been sending out job applications to get a feel for what is out there. I just had an interview and I think I did well and may get an offer. However, I’m not sure if I want to accept the job. It’s not because the job post misrepresented the actual job, it’s just that I’ve changed my mind on what I want in my next job. I came to to this realization before the interview, but went ahead with the interview just in case it changed my mind (it didn’t).

During the interview, I was asked twice if it sounded like the kind of role that I would be interested in, and both times I responded with an enthusiastic “yes.” I was generally quite warm and enthusiastic through the whole interview.

Was it okay to fake enthusiasm or should I have been more honest in the interview? Was there a better way of handling this? I’m still not ready to say that I absolutely wouldn’t accept a job offer, but I’m leaning heavily towards a no.

If it was a big company or through a recruiter, I may not feel as bad, but it’s a small company with the owner conducting the interviews, so everything feels a bit more personal here.

As an interviewer, I always want people to be honest with me about their enthusiasm level, because it helps me figure out if I want to hire them for the job or not.

But as someone who advises job candidates, I will tell you that if you don’t appear enthusiastic about a job, it’s likely to take you out of the running.

What you did was fine. While you’re still in the process of figuring out if you want the job or not, it’s fine to default to a generally enthusiastic stance. That’s just smart to do, so that you’re not taken out of the running.

That said, you don’t want to fake enthusiasm across the board. If you know for sure that you don’t want to do X or Y and that you wouldn’t take a job that focused heavily on those, you’d be shooting yourself in the foot if you faked enthusiasm about those; that’s a recipe for ending up in a job you’re not going to be happy in. But seeming generally interested in the job itself, while you’re still in the process of figuring out if you really want it? That’s just savvy interviewing.


{ 193 comments… read them below }

  1. e271828*

    1. Why would anyone want to work in a place where they already know a lot of their coworkers dislike them?

    2. If this person actually thought it was “their turn” to buy a cake, there would have been two cakes for the birthday person, right?

    1. Xantar*

      Maybe they just wanted to ensure that a proper baked good was purchased and not just some cheap ass cake!

      (Sorry. I couldn’t resist.)

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I’m glad I’m not the only one who thought it might have been a cheap ass cake.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Maybe it was going to be cheap ass rolls, jammed together in a pan and frosted to look like a birthday cake.

          1. Selina Luna*

            I have to admit, I would kind of love that. I love cake, but the rolls would be kind of hilarious.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Not sure about the original cheap-ass rolls, but I can assure you that King’s Hawaiian Rolls do taste great with Pillsbury vanilla frosting.
            (It was lock-down. I had no cake. I had frosting. It was serendipity!)

      2. LunaLena*

        Cake Interloper. Usurper Cranberries. Cheap-Ass Rolls. I feel like these would all make great band names. The first two would obviously be cover bands for Cake and the Cramberries.

    2. Heidi*

      I was wondering about that. Maybe in the days leading up to the birthday, the coworker heard OP saying that the cake was ordered or something. Of course, if that were the case, they could have declared cake-buying dibs before OP actually bought it. This is like the sequel to cheap ass rolls.

      1. EPLawyer*

        It is not a coincidence that Alison posted these in successive days. Both are people being ridiculous over nothing. And yes, if it was HER TURN well where was the cake then?

        BTW, THANK YOU to everyone who wished me luck on my appellate argument yesterday. I didn’t see the comments until afterwards but they were appreciated anyway.

    3. B*

      It sucks, but a lot of people aren’t in the position to turn down any job. Alison always talks about how interviewing is a two-way street and the job seeker needs to be scrutinizing the job to make sure it is best for them. But at the same time, so many people just can’t afford to turn down an offer even if they know they are walking into a hellmouth.

      1. Kate R*

        I think there is an intrinsic “ideally” in all of Alison’s answers. Obviously she can’t comment for every life scenario that people are encountering. Sometimes people might have to accept a position that might be a nightmare because of finances or whatever, but other people might have other offers or current employment that allows them to be more choosy, so getting a reality check on whether they should be concerned about something can be really helpful. Even in this case, she didn’t tell the person not to take the job, but advised them to get clarification on what exactly that feedback meant and what correcting it meant. Something like “your communication style is more brusque than they are used to” is probably more easily changed than “they just didn’t like your personality.” So even if this person HAD to take the job because they needed the money, it helps them prepare for what they’ll be walking into.

          1. pancakes*

            Clairvoyant spite, knowing that someone else was going to bring a cake? If they knew that for sure without asking there was no reason to be spiteful.

    4. Anonym*

      For #1, I kept thinking, “Sure I’ll go out with you, but here are the things I intend to fix about you.” It’s a big ol’ red flag in either scenario.

      1. delta-cat*

        Reminds me of a lifeguarding job I had in college.

        First day of training, the senior guard running the training announces to us all that he’d been at our tryouts, and “if it were up to me, most of you wouldn’t have been hired.”

        I should have run.

    5. kt*

      My question, though — how do we know that it’s true that a lot of coworkers dislike them?

      It feels like a poop-stirring thing to say (“well, we’ll hire you, but *just so you know*, most people already hate you!”). Anyone who says things like that — I will immediately take a watchful attitude. Sometimes they’re just no-filter people. Sometimes they’re in it for the drama. To me, the red flag isn’t the one the person is waving — it’s that they’re waving a flag at a very weird time.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Could be that there are some very grumpy people there and half not being rubbed up the wrong way was the best they could do…

    6. Enna*

      Not quite the same, but when we relocated across country for my husband’s job I interviewed with the same company during an interview event. They were just building a new location and they had many candidates interviewing with many people for several jobs over the course of a few days. I didn’t even know for sure what specific job I was interviewing for. (Engineer, but undefined what area)

      When my future boss called to offer me the job he sounded like it was the last thing he wanted to do. “I was told I have to offer you this job so I guess I will…”. I almost said no because he sounded like he hated me.

      Turns out he was a pretty great boss and we got along great, but he was not on that particular interview trip and thought I was being offered the job solely as a trailing spouse AND the person sent to interview on his behalf was someone he had only met once.

    1. Cait*

      I think this should also be a good example of why coworkers shouldn’t be friends on social media to begin with. It blurs the line between professional and personal relationships.

      1. Kate*

        YES YES YES

        If you choose to use social media make yourself 100% private and do not “friend” people at work.

  2. ENFP in Texas*

    Drama like the stuff in #2 is part of the reason I don’t Friend anyone that I work with (if we don’t talk outside of the office we’re not “friends”, we’re “work colleagues”).

    1. DozensOfUs*

      This. I’m friends on social media with exactly two coworkers. One who is my neighbor and one who is a member of my church. Anyone else is a work colleague and nothing more.

  3. Budgie Buddy*

    For OP 2, this coworker may just be disgruntled in general, but it’s also worth looking at whether anyone else is also feeling left out of the informal birthday cake buying. Does everyone know the leftover cake is up for grabs? Is anyone on the outskirts of your friend circle regularly left out of cake gifting because everyone forgot when their birthday was or assumed someone else would handle the purchase?

    This situation seems like it could devolve into one of those cases where friendships and offices don’t mix well. (Also friending coworkers on Facebook is a Nope from me.)

    1. bamcheeks*

      Also friending coworkers on Facebook is a Nope from me

      “She’s defriended me from Facebook but I still know what she posted” really felt like a blast from the past! I feel like 2016 we have *on the whole* got more savvy about not mixing social media and work.

    2. anonymous73*

      This is why we can’t have nice things. It sounds like a very informal process of cake enjoyment, and this new person is making it personal. These are the people who ruin perfectly acceptable fun perks for everyone. Why did she assume it was “her turn”? It sounds like she didn’t discuss it with anyone, and then got offended when someone else got the cake.

    3. RagingADHD*

      That’s taking on way too much emotional labor over some occasional, spontaneous carbohydrates.

      Disgruntled coworker isn’t even on LWs team, so there’s no reason to go polling 150 people to make sure nobody in the office feels left out.

      LW is not a manager, this is not an official work recognition, and it sounds like they go out and buy the cakes the same day-there’s no real planning.

      If other teams want to do cake, they can start doing it anytime they want.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Okay, now THAT is my retirement band name: Spontaneous Carbohydrates.
        Working title for first album? Spontaneous Combustion.

    4. EPLawyer*

      Normally I would be right there with you. But unless the entire office is full of cliques (always a possibility) this person has a reputation of irritating everyone. So its more likely they just decided that the Cheap Ass Cake was the thing to get annoyed about today.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, this person is being beyond ridiculous but I think it is common that these kind of informal things become more complicated as teams/companies grow and I would recommend coming up with a more formal process if possible. Otherwise you are eventually likely to have more grumbling as Bob starts to feel like Jane never pitches in enough but always eats the most cake or Sally’s birthday gets forgotten entirely.

      1. Ally McBeal - the second*

        That’s because Sally was born on Leap Day, so we don’t need to acknowledge her birthday =)

    6. Pennilyn Lot*

      I feel like buying cake for birthdays is a super chill and normal thing and speculating on some weird fringe reasons why it could possibly upset people isn’t the best use of effort.

      1. PT*

        Cake can be cheap, too. There are a TON of cake options from the grocery store, Trader Joe’s, etc that can be had for $5-$7. I know some places go all out and buy the nice two layer bakery cake that’s $25 or more, but a lot of offices are just going to run into the grocery store and get whatever cake/cupcake assortment is marked $5, be happy to have cake, and not split too many hairs over who’s chipping in their dollar because it’s $1 and yum cake.

        1. Anonymous Bosch*

          I think they may have gotten my retirement cake at Costco. It was definitely a place you wouldn’t think of to buy a cake that would be good unless you knew about it. Sort of like being in on a secret.

      2. Budgie Buddy*

        Aaaand Here’s my weekly reminder that there are people in the world who do their socialization 100% by intuition, and that the amount of emotional labor taken on by the average neurodiverse person as a matter of course would snap a neurotypical like a twig.

        Would I do a mental survey of the entire office and the snacking habits of each team over the past few months before bringing in baked goods so as to not accidentally violate any unwritten rules? Yes. Yes I would and I would assume that was “normal.”

        The “No, no one goes through that much effort to avoid accidentally offending someone—literally why???” responses still surprise me, but they shouldn’t at this point.

        Sigh. The burnout is real y’all.

  4. Loulou*

    Maybe I’m interpreting it overly literally, but what the manager said in #1 sounds so extremely tactless that I don’t think I’d like to work with her. Leaving aside the question of whether this was even an appropriate time to give OP feedback like that at all (and I’m not sure it was!), “you rub people the wrong way” is such an unkind and overly personal way to phrase that. I can maybe see the value of something like, “it seems like your communication style is blunter than we tend to be at Company X. Do you think you’ll be able to adapt to our workplace culture?” But this is just setting OP up to feel uneasy in a job they haven’t even started yet!

    1. Yessica Haircut*

      I completely agree. It also seems like a betrayal of the circle of trust of an interview panel. When my employer hires, the panelists are always encouraged to be as frank as possible with any feedback, concerns included. I’ve seen this many times: in the course of an interview debrief, a panelist will express reservations about a candidate based on what they observed in the interview, up to and including a recommendation against hiring them, the candidate will be offered the job, and then that panelist will go on to have a warm and positive working relationship with their new colleague. Sharing unfiltered negative feedback from an interview panel WITH THE CANDIDATE is so mind-bogglingly inappropriate that I agree it’s a major red flag about this manager! There are so many layers: it poisons the well of workplace goodwill, makes the candidate uncomfortable, and creates an environment where people feel unable to speak openly during a hiring process. I’m sure the other people in the interview would be mortified to know she passed their comments to the letter writer!

      1. You get a pen and you get a pen*

        THIS! I had a job where the manager told me after I was hired that of the two final candidates, I was not the overwhelming favorite. Even though this was a long time ago and I’ve since moved on, I STILL wonder which members of that team voted against me!

        1. Selina Luna*

          That manager was the only one who voted against you and decided to stir the pot a bit because they liked someone better.
          That would be my guess, anyways.

    2. bamcheeks*


      I got told in my first job out of college that I was “too brusque”, but my manager couldn’t give me any examples of what he meant. I had moved three hours away from everyone I knew to take that job and felt completely friendless and alone, and I honestly cried myself to sleep about that feedback, because it was so absolutely the opposite of how I thought of myself. Twenty years later and I still kind of want to slap that manager.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree–it’s true that sugar coating problems can be just as bad, but I think OP’s thought that this person was maybe *too* blunt is pretty fair. There a loads of ways to bring up this potential issue without basically saying “half the people here don’t like you.”

    4. Elenna*

      Yes, and “you rub people the wrong way” is not even actionable at all. If it was something like “you’re blunter than we tend to be” (preferably with specific examples), OP could at least consider changing their communication style, but what the heck are they supposed to do about “rub people the wrong way”?

      1. Observer*

        That was pretty much my thought as well.

        The manager seems to think that it is actionable, though, which is kind of worrying in its own way.

      2. Le Sigh*

        Yeah I mean, what are you supposed to do with that info, besides constantly wonder if something you’re doing is bugging people? Is it telling too many jokes? Do you need to soften your requests? Be more direct and stop beating around the bush? Lower your volume? Be less formal? More formal? I don’t mind feedback, but … make it useful!

        1. traffic_spiral*

          This is where I’m at. “You’re hired but FYI, it’d be best if you cut down on the swearing/’that’s what she said’ jokes/constant sports talking/publicly blowing your nose loudly/political talk/whatever?” Sure. Very useful. “Some people don’t like some things about you” is just vague shit-stirring.”

      3. Salad Daisy*

        When I rub my cat the wrong way she does not like it. Maybe you need to rub from head to feet and not the other way.

        Just kidding, this was very tactless. I would not work somewhere where I already knew at least some of the folks were not going to want me there.

      4. PT*

        It’s a red flag for sexism in my experience. “You rub people the wrong way,” usually means, “You don’t perform female communication according to the gender norms we expect as a company.”

        I’ve worked many a place where saying something like, “Fergus do not juggle the llamas, it could break their leg,” would be considered “too blunt and rubbing people the wrong way” for a female boss. The correct way would be to say, “Fergus, please, could you please do me a HUGE favor and not juggle the llamas? I know it’s an inconvenience for you, and you’re just so good at juggling the llamas, but it would really be healthier for the llamas if you didn’t juggle the llamas. Instead you could try juggling the hay pitchforks, that would be SO much better, thank you SO much, you’re the BEST.”

        1. Velawciraptor*


          I’m decent enough at communication to be invited to present at multiple national conferences and to develop productive working relationships with notoriously prickly judges, but I made a man feel bad about sexist microaggressions, so I got marked down on communication skills on my last review. Oh yeah, and this was after I gave a training to upper management ABOUT sexist microaggressions, how they could contribute to a hostile work environment, and HOW TO DEAL WITH THEM.

          It’s astonishing how “speaking/writing/breathing/existing while female” can rub some people the wrong way.

        2. Loulou*

          It could be this, but I’ve definitely been “rubbed the wrong way” by coworkers of all genders. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I say someone rubs me the wrong way I basically just mean that I don’t think they’re a bad person, but there’s something about them I just don’t like (often something I can’t put my finger on).

        3. Seeking Second Childhood*

          It could be right, but it’s not exclusively right. I have used that phrase in private to describe a guy at work who always seemed to be evaluating every female in the office as a prospective date.

    5. Mockingjay*

      “We don’t like you personally, but you have skills and experience we desperately need, so we’ll make you an offer anyway.”

      No thanks.

    6. YetAnotherKate*

      Yes! And I honestly think it’s worse because it’s “half” the team. I would spend all my time trying to figure out which coworkers were in the half that liked me and which were in the half that didn’t. *shudder*

  5. LavaLamp(she/her)*

    To me; edgy is a type of personal style such as undecidable tattoos,piercings, etc. I’m really curious if that was the case in this letter. I also wouldn’t want to work somewhere where I was told that I had offended people without knowing why.

    1. Eliza*

      I know you meant to type “unconcealable tattoos”, but I like the idea of someone getting a tattoo of the Halting Problem.

      More seriously, you’re right that the feedback seems both vague and personal; I’d definitely want to dig for more clarity before thinking about accepting.

      1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

        I didn’t jump to unconcealable so I’m glad you added that; I was thinking something like Two-Face from the comics: on the left are skulls with daggers and dripping blood, and on the right are cute unicorns and rainbows and hearts… they can’t decide.

        1. LavaLamp(she/her)*

          Well; at least this was a funny auto correct. Maybe someday they’ll invent tattoos that shift or change.

      2. Anonymous Bosch*

        Thank you both for the laugh. I misread “undecidable” and only realized it after reading Eliza’s comment.

        That’s when I started laughing.

        Then I made the mistake of looking up “Halting Problem”. As someone with what approaches zero tech or higher math understanding, I decided I’d just laugh some more rather than tear my hair out or run screaming from the room.

    2. TechWorker*

      It can also get used (at least where I am) to refer to particular types of humour. Maybe OP made a couple of jokes that fell flat or something, idk.

      1. Lessie*

        I associate it with edgelord behaviour. And yes, I generally wouldn’t want to work with someone like that.

        1. bamcheeks*

          I don’t know, I can also see how it could be used against someone who is eg. asking questions about diversity or all sorts of other things that might look like disrupting a cosy status quo.

          I think the biggest question for me would be less what the source of the you/them mismatch is, and more whether you perceived it too. If you perceived it, you can make a judgment about whether it’s going to be a significant impediment to you working at the organisation. If it’s come as a total shock, then that sounds like a major red flag to me– I can’t think of anything more undermining than a hiring manager who tells you stuff like that and it’s at odds with your perception. You’d never know where you were.

          1. Threeve*

            Or someone who was relatively candid about why they want to leave their current position. “I want to work somewhere that takes harassment accusations seriously,” or something like that.

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          Yeah, the Office “Bob” is definitely of an edgelord sort. I’d always tied that type of nonsense behavior to someone much younger than he, but it definitely tracks.

    3. urguncle*

      Someone in a work environment called me “edgy” because I had short hair and dressed on the masculine side. If OP is at all “different” than the straight white business ideal in some places, I would be wary that it’s a dog-whistle and drop the job.

      1. Observer*

        See, this is the problem. There is just no way to know. Certainly there is nothing in the letter to indicate that this is a dog whistle. And “edge-lord” type behavior is a real issue.

        So, absent any other behavior, I would not be worrying about dog whistles just yet. I would however worry about a manager that provides unusable feedback that he seems to think is actually actionable.

    4. Anononon*

      I think there’s a difference between being edgy and having an edge. For the second, I would use that to describe someone who’s less warm, slightly too sarcastic, cutting.

      1. alienor*

        Same here. To me, “edgy” is someone’s personal style and/or musical taste, but having an edge is being sharp-tongued or short-tempered. Though I don’t know how either of those traits would manifest in an interview without being deal-breakers for the whole panel.

    5. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yeah, I’m very curious whether the OP knew what they meant when they said that about their “edge” or if they were totally in the dark about it.

    6. Lenora Rose*

      I had a boss who when he tried to describe what was wrong with my communication style, kept having to fall back on “you have an edge”. It seemed to mean something different from “You are edgy”, and ultimately, I felt like what it really meant was “You sometimes talk back if you think something won’t work, or come to us with your own ideas, and we see you as a low-placed cog who should say “yes sir” more.”

      (And yes, I probably did push the bounds of what was appropriate for my job when it came to things like suggesting who take what shifts.)

      1. Purple cat*

        Yes, being “edgy” would refer to a “look” outside the mainstream.
        “Having an edge” refers to communication style – and could include being too blunt, or rude, condescending, or anything else “hard”.

  6. WomEngineer*

    I had an experience similar to #4 right after college. I got to the offer stage but realized it wouldn’t be the best fit for me (in terms of benefits and lack of diversity). Additionally, the things that their young folks liked about the company were not things that I could relate to or agree with.

    1. Snow Globe*

      During my recent job search, I tried to thread the needle: even if I was leaning away from wanting a job, as long as there was some chance that they could make an offer I’d accept, I’d show nothing but friendly enthusiasm. But at the same time, I asked very direct questions about the things that I was most concerned about, like the work-from-home policy, both so I could get clarity on whether I could work for this company and to let them know what my expectations were. I did turn down one offer, but I was able to explain that I got another offer that allowed more WFH flexibility.

    2. Junior Assistant Peon*

      The advice I’ve gotten on situation #4 is to sell yourself like crazy during the interview, and don’t let yourself decide whether or not you want the job until after you leave the building. Sometimes interviewees see yellow flags during the interview, are trying to decide whether or not they still want the job, and their lack of enthusiasm is visible to the interviewer.

      1. College Career Counselor*

        I think that’s good advice. Doubts and reflection on the entire interview experience should be for after and not during. That said, it’s always a challenge when the hiring manager sits you down at the end of your day (or two–I’m in higher ed) of interviews and asks for your impressions and what you’ve learned about the place. And THEN repeatedly asks you if you want the job. “What would it take to get you to drive this job home today!?”

        That’s awkward.

        1. Mimi*

          Ooof. Somebody pressuring me like that would probably get a response like, “I like to take some time to reflect and consider important life decisions before I make them, but if you want me to make a snap decision, by all means keep pushing and I can probably get to ‘no’ today.” (Though the second part only if I did already have some serious doubts.)

        2. Evan Þ*

          That happened to me once, when I was interviewing for a summer internship. It was fine with me – I’d already decided before I started interviewing that I’d either pick that or one other one, and by the end of the day I’d decided to take it if they offered.

          But then, a summer internship’s lower stakes than a job.

      2. WomEngineer*

        Yeah, it’s savvy interviewing to be enthusiastic. But this one had a 3rd party recruiter who pushed back against me saying no, as if they were taking it personally. It was one of those things that felt like a bigger deal than it really was.

        It was a generic new grad position too, and I wasn’t particularly specialized in their field. My guess is the recruiter was after their commission or diversity points.

        1. Mimi*

          I’m always confused by people who get pushy when given a firm no. Like, I have already made my decision. Showing that you can’t respect a boundary is not going to change my mind (even if the person is not actually affiliated with the company).

          “Is there anything that would change your answer?” sure. But not getting offended or refusing to take no as an answer.

  7. ed123*

    #1 OP answered in the original comments
    Background, FWIW:
    I work in a technical field. Feedback was unrelated to appearance, gender, etc.
    Also, the employer is undergoing a little –> big company transition & I’m unequivocally playing on the big company team.

    I had a follow-up conversation with an employee on my interview panel for clarification; the feedback had primarily to do with questions about ‘hand-holding’ skills. My take using the Blanchard Situational model, my experience is in S3/S4 with a D3/D4 team while they may need more S1/S2 skills during their transition.

    Thank you all for the comments!

    1. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

      In case anyone’s wondering what on earth an S3/S4 is, the Blanchard Situational model is a model of leadership styles that goes on two axes – low to high supporting behaviour and low to high directing behaviour.

      The OP is saying that their experience is more in delegating and supporting a team with high skills and commitment (i.e. less directing their behaviour). The hiring team is saying that they may need more ‘hands on’ coaching and directing skills during their transition.

      1. ed123*

        Thank you! The response really didn’t totally help me understand. But this explains it. “Rubbed the wrong way” is a very weird way to phraise something that is quite easy to explain.

        1. Hello, I'd like to report my boss*

          I agree, ‘rubbed the wrong way’ sounds so adversarial. It’s simply a different set of skills and experiences!

        2. Anon for this*

          That makes a great deal of sense, and I can definitely see where some people might be hesitant about that sort of thing. I’m currently working for a boss who appreciates that we’re a team of high performers and can do what needs to be done with some direction from him, and the person he was hoping to take over from him is so much the opposite of him that I’ll be in the middle of handling an emergency and have him coming in and saying “okay, start with step one” when I’m already on step five and didn’t need to be told to start the process is incredibly aggravating. I can see where people who need to be told “start with step one” would not like working for my boss.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Hm, that doesn’t really connect to “rubbing people the wrong way” — that’s a personality thing. Either the first interviewer wildly misinterpreted legitimate “their style isn’t what we need” feedback as a personality clash, or this second interviewer just didn’t want to talk about the personality clash and pretended it was just the style thing.

      Thanks for copying this over!

      1. kittymommy*

        I’m wondering if was more about them assuming how the LW’s interpersonal skills within the established dynamic of the group would be a clash. Still personality adjacent but would definitely affect any work situations.

        1. Filosofickle*

          This was my thought. I can make a connection between not ‘hand holding’ and ‘rubbing people the wrong way’ and even ‘edgy’ (where that means ‘having an edge’) — all that together indicate to me she was perceived as not warm / supportive / people-y enough for their culture. When someone invokes hand holding to mean support, I bristle, and I’m someone who hates managing others and expects everyone to be self-sufficient! It sounds abrasive and even condescending to my ears.

      2. RagingADHD*

        I’m not familiar with the model, but on the face of it, it’s not surprising that a team that needs lots of support might not have the self-awareness to see it as a technique or style that can be adjusted, but as an inherent personality trait.

        Teams that are highly self aware and able to advocate for their own needs are going to tend to need less handholding precisely because of that self-awareness.

        1. Imaginary Friend*

          This is what I was thinking. The LW seems very comfortable with the Blanchard Situational model and might know it so well that they don’t entirely realize that other folks don’t have it thoroughly internalized. If they had addressed their style differences explicitely the interview panel might have been able to see the value of this way of understanding things, rather than just feeling vaguely put off by LW’s “style”.

    3. Myrin*

      This might just have to do with my not being a native English speaker but I don’t understand at all how that relates to “edge”. Seems like a weird way describe that situation.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I can make a case for edge meaning having an edge, being sharp around the edges — that usually implies being a little less personable / warm, could be a little more blunt or sarcastic. (Weird how blunt = sharp, that’s an interesting twist of English.)

        On the other hand, it could been a poor or imprecise word choice! It could be that simple.

    4. Sea Anemone*

      Feedback was unrelated to appearance, gender, etc.

      the feedback had primarily to do with questions about ‘hand-holding’ skills.

      Feedback doesn’t have to directly mention appearance or gender for it to be rooted in gender or appearance. Almost nobody is going to, “We’re sorry, half the team is rubbed the wrong way by the fact that you are a woman/black.” However, half the team might say, “We’re sorry, you do/don’t across as sufficiently hand-holding” to a man/woman when they would not say it to a woman/man.

  8. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – they were right to tell you. They are giving you full information with which you can make an informed decision – they didn’t blindside you.

    1. Despachito*

      You are right, it is good to know that; however, I still find it weird to offer the position to a person who “rubbed half the team the wrong way” AND tell them that.

      I’d consider it more logical not to offer the position at all if this is the case (half the team is a lot of people and if they do not feel comfortable it can be a serious issue). What can you achieve by basically telling the person “we want to hire you despite 50% of us think you suck”?

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Hmm… I think if had not got the job offer, absolutely right.

        I didn’t see anything about people thinking they suck! Rubbing someone up the wrong way is very mild, and definitely not sucking. If they thought they would actually have issue, then wouldn’t have got the offer.

        It was a check on culture fit as far as I can see.

    2. SheLooksFamiliar*

      I agree they didn’t blindside OP, but I don’t think the employer offered ‘full information. ‘Rubbing half the team the wrong way’ is subjective and meaningless without an actual example or explanation.

      Maybe the OP was confident and assured in the interview, but that could come across as abrasive and arrogant to the interviewers who lacked confidence and assurance. Maybe the OP had experience those interviewers didn’t have, and they felt insecure.

      Whatever the reasons, I don’t know that I’d have taken the role and hoped for the best.

      1. Akcipitrokulo*

        Yup. I’d have asked for more detail. If it was anything that was interview nerves, that’s something I’d be ok with. But all depends on more details of what they thought was annoying.

  9. Former Hominid*

    The comment section in 2014 with regards to letter one was shocking. Pretty much the first thing I thought upon reading that letter was “I wonder if the writer is female or another visibly identifiable marginalized person and the ‘edge’ was being assertive and the half the team that didn’t like that were being consciously/unconsciously biased” and it looks like back in 2014 that was some folks idle thought too- but in the old days that was heavily pushed back against and ridiculed as “making it all about gender” wow. I’m glad norms on this blog have changed re:sexism in the workplace

    1. Tali*

      I mean, sometimes speculating on possible sexism, racism, ableism, or other bigotry involved can shed light on a situation and provide new insight or new actions for the letter writer. Sometimes it just feels like speculation so that commenters can curve the topic into what they want to write about.

      Does OP being female/visibly marginalized offer new insight or actions for the letter writer here?

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yes, if the interview team was being bigoted vs just not clicking with OP, that would arguably affect the advice for OP.

          1. ecnaseener*

            Because professionals can develop a good working relationship even through personality clashes, as long as they respect each other. If this is a bigotry thing and the team doesn’t respect people of OP’s [race/gender/disability/etc] and only treats them well when they act deferentially, there’s no winning their respect.

            1. Colette*

              That’s not advice.

              If half the team doesn’t like her before she starts the job, it doesn’t really matter whether it’s because they’re sexist, or racist, or they don’t like her voice. It’s not a good idea for her to take the job.

              1. Mimi*

                Well, it really depends on why they don’t like her. If my coworkers think I’m too blunt, or don’t like my sense of humor, I can change that (if I decide to). If my coworkers don’t like me because I’m a woman and this is a man’s job, that is solidly GTFO territory. (Yes, maybe I could take that job and change their opinions of women. And maybe I would burn myself out and wind up underpaid and several rungs lower on the hierarchy than my work product deserved. Or both. It’s not something I feel like chancing my career on.)

                1. Colette*

                  Why would you take a job where you were starting with your coworkers not liking you? (I mean, yeah, sometimes you have no choice, but it’s highly unlikely to end well.) It’s not going to be a job you can do well if you’re constantly walking on eggshells trying to be someone you’re not.

                2. PT*

                  No, because if your coworkers have formed any sort of “in group” and decided you’re “out group” even if it’s for something really petty and stupid and their “in group” and “out group” is defined the way a group of 5th graders would define their in and out groups, you are never going to get out of the out group.

                  I’ve worked in those environments. It’s literally not worth sitting around and lobbying the In Group to accept you and let you do your job properly because you were working there a month before someone told you On Wednesdays We Wear Pink and now you’re in the Out Group, even though you now Wear Pink On Wednesdays but they’re mocking you for being a poser and impeding your job at every step because they don’t like you.

              2. ecnaseener*

                Sorry, I thought the advice implication was clear but what I meant was: If you think they respect you fine but just don’t click with your personality, consider taking the job because that can improve. If you think they’re never going to respect you because of something you can’t (or shouldn’t have to) change, don’t take the job.

              3. Seeking Second Childhood*

                It does matter why. For example it might be something as simple as half of the employees making assumptions based on OP’s interview outfit. That might make for a bad first impression, but it’s easily changed if OP wants to.
                (Someone on those chat has already copied over OP’s explanation from the original chat, but the side comment seemed worth addressing.)

          2. Observer*

            If the team is being bigoted, then the OP should not take the job if they can afford to turn it down.

            If it’s a matter of the OP’s behavior, the OP can decide if / how to change their behavior to work better with the team.

            Which is to say, that yes, the issue is actually germane.

            1. Skyblue*

              Yes, but the OP has no way of knowing that, so I don’t think it changes things in terms of advice. There are a lot of letters where being omniscient would help, but people have to work with the information they have.

              1. Observer*

                I agree with that. What I was saying is that if we knew that information, it would be relevant.

                But since, as you say, we don’t have that information it’s hard to know what to make of it.

    2. Xavier Desmond*

      While I broadly agree with your point, the comment section here does tend to assign gender to OPs with little to no evidence so they are able to attribute the issue at hand to sexism.

      1. IndustriousLabRat*

        I’ve noticed, though, that the comment section is also actually pretty quick to self-correct on that assumption, especially in the last couple years, which is refreshing!

      2. kittymommy*

        Yeah, I know I always read almost every letter with a female in my head as that’s my default perspective.

      3. Myrin*

        I mean, I personally – and I know at least a few other commenters do the same thing, as it is something that Alison started and many, especially long-time, commenters followed suit – always refer to OPs as “she” (unless otherwise stated, of course) but that doesn’t mean I actually assume they’re female.

        1. I should really pick a name*

          I think Alison specifically refers to managers as “she” if the gender hasn’t been specified.

          1. Myrin*

            She does! Or more like, people-of-unspecified-gender-in-positions-of-power in general, which on AAM is mostly managers. The convention spilled over into everyone of unnamed gender, though, OPs more often than not.

            1. Filosofickle*

              I’ve always perceived this AAM preference as being a double edged sword: One one hand, it’s wonderful to shift our default assumptions and reframe “boss” as “not always a man”. On the other hand, because so many LWs are writing about horrible bosses, it attributes more than the statistical share of awfulness to female bosses! And I already hear so many biases (unfair IMO) about them.

              1. Seeking Second Childhood*

                By the same token a lot of letters are about awful co-workers, and the boss is the person OP is advised to contact to fix the problem. In which case she will be the “good guy” in an update letter later.

              2. pancakes*

                To the extent people are reading letters or commentary about individual people as reflecting on everyone who happens to share that individual’s gender, those are people with a pretty serious commitment to bigotry, whether intentional or not. The remedy to that isn’t scrupulously splitting up pronouns evenly; it’s discouraging bigotry.

    3. Less shocked*

      ed123 has reposted the reply from the OP back then below, where they said that it wasn’t about gender, but something about ‘hand-holding’.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        Feedback was unrelated to appearance, gender, etc.

        the feedback had primarily to do with questions about ‘hand-holding’ skills.

        Feedback doesn’t have to directly mention appearance or gender for it to be rooted in gender or appearance. Almost nobody is going to, “We’re sorry, half the team is rubbed the wrong way by the fact that you are a woman/black.” However, half the team might say, “We’re sorry, you do/don’t across as sufficiently hand-holding” to a man/woman when they would not say it to a woman/man.

    4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      OP 1 could have been a marginalized person. Or quite possibly they could have a straight white male. Actually, straight and white are more probable-that’s what majority means after all, that there are more of them. (Female is actually the majority in the US by an itty-bitty margin though.)

      So it would be equally as valuable for OP to consider that maybe he’s a Chad and the team don’t like him because he’s unlikable. Or maybe the whole team are Chads and unfairly dislike OP because she’s black and lesbian, who knows.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Or maybe nobody’s a Chad, but LW is more direct and plainspoken, on a team where half the people use very soft, indirect language and get ruffled when they hear bald opinions without a bunch of qualifiers.

        The manager also sounds very plainspoken, so it’s possible they hired LW over those objections because they consider them unimportant matters that are easy to adjust.

  10. Asenath*

    Enthusiasm – many years ago, during my longest period of un- and under-employment, I went for advice to a place that tried to help job-seekers. I filled out all their forms, and met with a counsellor who commented that I hadn’t expressed a lot of enthusiasm for working with lots of people, like most clients did. She told me that was a good thing for much the same reasons Alison gives all these years later – if I didn’t want a job that involved dealing with lots of different people all the time, it was important for me to know that. And I most definitely did not want that kind of job; I wanted a nice quiet back office job. So I needed to be a bit more selective in the kind of jobs I was applying for, and then I could, if I got an interview, be genuinely enthusiastic about organizing processes or sitting at a computer carrying them out or whatever it was.

  11. Kathleen*

    If only some people get cakes and others do not it can generate hard feelings and poor working relationships. If I understand the letter writer your team and an adjacent team get cakes. The left-over cake ends up in the break room. Thus everyone else knows there is birthday cake but not the source or reason behind the cake except they did not get a cake. Bad karma for the workplace. When the rules are not clear feelings get hurt. The new employee made a friendly overture and was rejected. She was embarrassed and pulled away. Establish a Sunshine Committee. Everyone can contribute dues. Either everyone gets cake or no one gets cake.

    1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

      “If only some people get cakes and others do not it can generate hard feelings and poor working relationships.”

      I’m not seeing anything in LW2’s account indicating anyone is left out of *receiving* cake; the drama was because NewCoworker was miffed at not being able to *purchase* the cake.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Sorry, when did she make a friendly overture? All I see in the letter was that she WANTED to buy a cake, not that she actually DID it or offered to do it. If she had, I’m sure her cake would’ve been accepted!

      1. Skyblue*

        Agree – it seemed the opposite of friendly. Friendly would have been saying, “Hey, I’d like to get involved with the cake thing next time.” Not griping and pouting when a plan she had that no one else knew about didn’t work out.

    3. I should really pick a name*

      It sounds like everyone gets cake.
      The coworker’s complaint is that they didn’t get to BUY the cake (which seems very odd to me)

    4. Colette*

      I agree that the situation as the OP described it can easily end up with someone being left out. That being said, the coworker was out of line – the first anyone heard that she wanted to buy the cake was when the cake was already there, so getting upset about it was a little ridiculous.

    5. pancakes*

      It seems like it would be pretty clear from context (leftover cake in the break room) that “the source or reason behind the cake” was . . . someone’s birthday.

      The coworker’s behavior seems the opposite of a friendly overture. If she truly thought it was her turn to buy a cake, why didn’t she talk to the letter writer about it in advance rather than accuse her of stepping on her toes (and being weirdly intense about it) while the cake was being served?

      If whoever supplies cake has to bring enough for the entire floor or entire company per the rules of your Sunshine Committee, bringing in cake becomes much more expensive and complex to arrange. Picking up a single cake isn’t a big deal compared to picking up half a dozen or whatnot.

    6. anonymous73*

      There is nothing in the letter to indicate that the new person made any type of friendly overture. She made an assumption without discussing it with her team, and then got offended because her assumption was wrong. Sorry but nope. This is how fun things get ruined.

    7. LifeBeforeCorona*

      I really like the way my current workplace handles birthday cake. At the end of the month, a large sheet cake appears in the breakroom and everyone is invited to have a slice. The birthday people’s names are noted (if they choose to be acknowledged) and everyone has a piece.

    8. RagingADHD*

      If the Coworker’s “friendly overtures” include snapping rudely at people, it’s no wonder she hasn’t succeeded in making friends.

      Would you consider someone talking to you that way to be a friendly overture? The LW, who was there, certainly didn’t. I wouldn’t either.

    9. Budgie Buddy*

      “When the rules are not clear feelings get hurt. ” — This.

      I’m also getting the feeling that The Cake is not really about the cake. For some reason the coworker is generally disliked, and the cake is just the most recent skirmish. I am getting a whiff of “cool kids table” vibe from OP’s team, but That’s Just My Opinion. It’s possible the rest of the teams are all just as tight with each other and do fun activities like bringing cake and donuts, and new coworker is just a buzz kill looking for any grievance.

      1. anonymous73*

        Actually, feelings get hurt when people take things personally that have nothing to do with them at all. If new girl wasn’t sure about the logistics of the cake stuff, she could have asked. That’s what normal, rational people do. They don’t get butt hurt when they’ve made assumptions without full knowledge and then their assumptions are proven to be false.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      That’s a lesson I have drawn from AaM: Never mess with the expected flow of carbohydrates.

    2. RC Rascal*

      Work cake drama is an affliction that cuts across industry, space, & time.

      Just think: we can send a man to the moon but we can’t fix work cake drama.

  12. ATX*

    For Cake OP, seems like the new person didn’t know how things worked. I don’t see how any apology is warranted, if anything she should be the one to apologize for making a huge deal over nothing.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I don’t think it would be a “I have wronged you” apology, more of a “Oh no, you already ordered a cake too?! I’m sorry, if I had known you were doing that I wouldn’t have ordered this one!” As in, expressing regret for harm that happened even if it wasn’t your fault.

      1. ATX*

        Perhaps we’re missing that part of the story, but even if she had, there would have been more cake! More cake is always a good idea.

        1. RagingADHD*

          Yes, this would have gone entirely differently if the story were “ha, ha, I thought it was my turn, look at all this cake!”

        2. Generic Elf*

          You would think more cake is better, but there was a similar situation at a place where I used to work, where we had an informal cake-buying once a month for the birthdays in that month. Generally speaking, the informal (but not enforced) rule was that the people who had birthdays the month before pitched in to get the cake for the following month’s birthdays. It worked for the most part because it was a small team and at the time everyone was highly compensated (sans myself and one other person, who were the equivalent of clerks). There was one co-worker who said she couldn’t afford to get a cake for the next person, which was fair, because she was probably the lowest paid of the group besides myself. Everyone was totally fine with not holding us to that rule, and started to chip in. The co-worker who’s turn it was insisted she get the cake anyway. Because we shared the same birthday month, and it was also technically my turn to provide for the cake, I decided to grab an additional cake. Two cakes? Great, right?


          For reasons I still to this day do not understand, this co-worker absolutely lost her *mind* when she found out I was being an additional cake. As in, screaming in the office and throwing stuff (I was told). My boss called me while at the grocery store and told me to not bring it. I returned the cake.

          Nobody had fun at the ‘party’ that month.

    2. ThatGirl*

      My take is that she wanted the *credit* for the cake. I don’t think an apology is necessary, but the OP kind of nicely explaining “this is pretty ad-hoc, but feel free to get the next one” would be an option.

  13. Corpse Grinder Guy*

    #1 sounds like the manager didn’t want to make an offer to the letter writer and was overruled, so now is trying to undermine the offer process.

    1. EPLawyer*

      That;s what I thought too. I mean WHY say something that vague and follow up with “but we can work on that.” The manager was trying to get OP to not take the job.

  14. Anononon*

    Now I’m just lamenting the old times (and really well before COVID), my department would do cake once a month for all of the birthdays in that month, and a coworker used to get the BEST cakes each time. There was this one cannoli cake…omg.

    (Those cakes were relatively expense, so several of us higher on the hierarchy/salary scale would essentially pay her back. Totally worth it.)

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Tell us more about the cannoli cake, it sounds decadent, delicious, and worth a fistfight in the breakroom, (just kidding)

        1. Jackalope*

          I had to go look that up, since I was imagining a cake with the cannoli *pasta*, and that didn’t sound nearly as appetizing!

          1. CoveredinBees*

            The pasta is called cannelloni, but my brain likes to switch them around too. Add in cannellini beans and it’s a culinary mess.

            1. Anononon*

              :) When I was in Italy, I had to learn that getting a pepperoni pizza meant a pizza with green bell peppers. Very confusing.

              (And of course, ordering a latte would mean you’d get a glass of milk.)

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Tell us more about the cannoli cake, it sounds decadent, delicious, and worth a fistfight in the breakroom, (just kidding)


  15. Sara*

    If they said that your “edge” rubbed people the wrong way, I think they’re going to want you to be significantly quieter or subdued or something if you join, and frankly I don’t think that’s going to work. Are they going to watch and see if you do “work on it”?

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      In exactly aligning circumstances, I could see where the potential employer’s “your edge rubbed people the wrong way” coincides with some friends’ “your edge is rubbing people the wrong way” and the OP would decide that they should tune it down. 27 isn’t 22, or the small town is more buttoned up–there are contexts where OP changing to better fit into the social context would be a normal thing a rational person might decide to do.

      Lots of contexts where it’s just a bad sign about this office, nothing fancier, and OP should turn down the offer.

      Cheap-ass cake and cheap-ass rolls, after all, should tone down their edges.

      1. Colette*

        Yeah, if it were feedback the OP was getting from multiple sources, she could decide to change. But in this case, it sounds like it was just a bad fit.

  16. CoveredinBees*

    I feel for you, OP4. In general I’m more reserved and from a cultural background that is generally less effusive than where I live now. I feel like I have to crank my enthusiasm to ludicrous speed so employers know I’m interested. My ability to be enthusiastic/emotive isn’t part of my work, so I don’t have to fake it once I’m there but it makes interviews tricky. I worry that I overcorrect and show more enthusiasm than needed for some things.

  17. BlueBelle*

    If someone told me I “rubbed them the wrong way” and that was half the team, I wouldn’t accept the job if I didn’t have to. It clearly shows that I am not the right fit for their team and it won’t work out well for me in the end. Once I stopped thinking about a job interview as them picking me and changed my thoughts to are they right for me, I always was much happier. I was able to weed through the companies, managers, and teams that would cause me stress.

    1. Generic Name*

      I agree. I feel like the hiring manager was basically telling OP that they would be starting a new job already in a PIP. I can’t see how that would end in anything other than the OP changing jobs within a year.

  18. MsChanandlerBong*

    “Also, be grateful for employers who don’t indulge in “white lies” in the hiring stage; you want to know what you might be getting into. It’s the ones who sugarcoat who cause the real problems.”

    This really resonated with me. I have been trying to convince my boss of this forever. They promise the sun, the moon, and the stars to everyone they interview, and they do not offer a realistic preview of what it will actually be like to do the job. As a result, we’ve had multiple (at least four in the past two years) people quit after one to three weeks of working for us because the job is nothing like they’ve been led to believe. We literally had someone quit via Slack in the middle of the day. Didn’t finish out the day, didn’t give a week’s notice…just said “I can’t do this” and left. I keep trying to tell them that the goal isn’t to trick people into accepting an offer; it’s to find someone who is comfortable doing the job and fits our culture. That has not been happening.

    1. Generic Elf*

      It sounds like it’s not just white lies – there might be a real need for a critical review of the culture.

  19. holiday survivor*

    #1 – What rubs me the wrong way is ‘we can work on that one’. Work on what? Eradicating my personality?? I think not.

  20. Lady Blerd*

    About letter 4: we recently ran two interviews to renew two contractors’ employment with our agency. One was well liked by his colleagues, the other was the type to complain and gripe about the organization. The former failed the interview because he assumed we’d rubberstamp his renewal, the latter played the game and was rehired. This is now my go to example when I tell people to never assume they will pass an interview no matter how well liked they may be by the organization.

  21. Elizabeth West*

    That last one bugs me. How do you even define enthusiasm? Expressing interest? Or should I act like a teenager swooning over (admittedly adorable) Harry Styles? I mean, it’s a business transaction — I do your work, you pay me. It’s not supposed to be fun.

  22. Sleet Feet*

    #1 Be grateful they spoke up.

    I was once hired on a team where about half of them didn’t want to hire me. The manager ignored them and hired me anyway. During my interviews I noticed that one person didn’t gel, but it turns out she was a ringleader of sorts so either the other half hid their dislike well or they were neutral on me and she turned them. They made my year on their team miserable. My first week the ringleader cornered me in a conference room alone just to tell me that no one on the team wanted me there. She knew I had moved across the country to work there. I felt brutally alone and unsafe bringing it up since I couldn’t afford to lose the job in a new city. It only got worse from there.

  23. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    #3 – some people have a hard time “letting go” of their former life. I can assure you – having retired twice, myself, if you’re not mentally and spirtually ready to go / hang it up, you sometimes find yourself reaching back.

    The WEIRDEST – this was back in the 1970s. I was working the third shift (12:30-8:30 am). A telephone on the other side of the room, which was only used as a backup/contingency network service, began ringing at 6 am. So to stop it from ringing, I march over to pick it up. Long story short – it was our retired data center director (around 16-19 months before) asking if the field network was up and running. My answer was “we don’t start that up until 7:30, it’s only 6 right now and we have other things going on…” OK. We were, shocked, figured that something is wrong there.

    We learned around 18 months after that, the retired director had passed away from a “long illness”… not much was known then but it was likely Alzeimer’s….

    1. Torschlusspanik*

      I’ve been in a similar situation. I was hired to be a billing manager, because the long time manager was stepping down after 30 years. He trained me for a month, we had a big party, and then he left. And then two weeks later, he started dropping by the office, “just to check on things.” We started taking turns taking him to lunch, and then sending him on his way. And he started showing up earlier and earlier in the day. And spending 3-4 hours on site. Finally, the CFO had to tell him that he was no longer an employee and that he could come by once a month for lunch, but that was it. He had no idea what to do with himself once he didn’t have a 40 hour a week job. I worked there for about 18 months, before moving on. The long time manager reapplied for the job when it was posted, but the CFO wouldn’t rehire him- we had made so many changes to the process and the CFO thought the old manager would want to go back to “the way things were.”

  24. Candi*

    #2 -it’s been my experience people like that coworker who claim “it was my turn, why did you do that?” and such in such a snitty way have a heavy overlap with people who “forget” or “didn’t have the money” or “thought that was tomorrow”. So on going ahead and buying the cake, in my opinion you’re fine.

    On the coworker themself, I’d recommend documenting just in case they try to get you in trouble. But I’m paranoid due to previous toxic workplaces.

  25. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    re #3 – also, it’s not unknown for people in high places, having been ousted from their executive position, to deny that they no longer have that position, set up an office and website and still act like the executive they used to be.

    If you haven’t been following the news lately…

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