I was told I could bring my dog to work but now I can’t, companies that don’t check references, and more

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

1. I was told I could bring my dog to work but now I can’t

I recently accepted a placement through a large, multinational staffing agency to work on a temp-to-perm basis at a small nonprofit where a few other employees, including the organization’s president, bring their dogs to work sometimes. During the interview with my supervisor before being offered the placement, she mentioned that I would be allowed to bring my dog into the office if I wanted. This was a big selling point for me, partly because my partner regularly travels during the day for his job.

After almost a month at this placement with no contact from either of the recruiters I worked with, I got a call from one to check in. He mentioned that my supervisor had said that I had brought my dog in a few times (which was the first he’d heard of it), but that as a contract employee of Multinational Corporation, I wasn’t allowed to do that because it opened them up to legal liability if my dog hurt someone or got hurt (or something, it’s unclear). When I asked him where this was stipulated in the contract I signed, he said it wasn’t because “it’s so uncommon” and “they didn’t know.” I explained that I felt misled and might have made a different decision about taking the placement if I had known that what I saw as one of the main perks of the job wasn’t allowed during the contract period. Short of terminating the placement, what is their recourse if I violate this rule that I didn’t explicitly agree to ahead of time? If they did terminate the contract, would the nonprofit then be allowed to hire me directly if they wanted to?

Yeah, “you can’t bring your dog to the client’s office” isn’t something that you’d normally find in a contract even if it’s their policy … but they can all have sorts of policies that aren’t included in the contract. The contract binds them (and you) to what is included there, but doesn’t preclude them from also having additional, separate rules you’ll be held to.

So unfortunately, you don’t really have much recourse. You can back out of the placement if you want to, but the organization almost certainly has a clause in their contract with the staffing firm saying they can’t hire you directly for X months afterwards (usually six months or longer is standard).

At this point I think you’ve got to decide if you want the job knowing that you can’t bring your dog in while you’re on a temp contract or if you’d rather look for something else.

2. Coworkers are annoyed that I don’t recognize them behind their masks

I’ve worked for my company for many years but recently started working in a city where there is a small office with about 20 employees who I haven’t been acquainted with before. I usually work remotely, but I come in for office events and team-building activities.

Everyone is very nice, but the problem is this — I don’t have the greatest memory, made worse by a medication I have to take, and it is difficult for me to recognize people I’ve briefly met once months ago or remember their names. Add in the fact that they are wearing masks, and I am constantly re-introducing myself or have a blank expression on my face when someone comes up to me.

The past month or so, no less than five people have said to me “Yeah, we’ve met before…..” and sounded pretty annoyed that I didn’t remember them. It’s clear they are offended, and I’m afraid I am insulting them or getting a reputation for either being spacy or rude.

How should I handle this? What can I say when someone masked comes up to me that I may have met before but I don’t remember?

What is up with your easily affronted coworkers? It can be hard to recognize people in masks who you don’t see often because, you know, THERE IS A MASK COVERING MUCH OF THEIR FACE.

Anyway, try just cheerfully citing the masks: “Oh, of course! I’m terrible at remembering faces when we’re all masked!” … “Carla! I’m used to seeing your face on Zoom without the mask. Good to see you!” … etc.

But your coworkers are being weird.

3. Is it a red flag if a company doesn’t check references?

I recently received a job offer from an employer who did not request references. Is this a red flag to not accept the offer, since working somewhere where they don’t check references could yield a lot of questionable coworkers?

For context, it’s possible that I was “checked out” via established contacts. These are two government agencies that I recently heard a second line supervisor remark that “we lose a lot of people to,” so it’s possible that folks know each other and check informally.

It’s really common for government agencies not to check references. Background checks, yes — but references aren’t always part of their highly regimented hiring processes.

If it weren’t a government agency, it’s still probably not a huge red flag. I believe strongly in checking references and have avoided some hiring disasters that way, as have many other people, but some places don’t do them or don’t do them consistently (sometimes because they’ve approached them so perfunctorily in the past that they weren’t that useful). It could indicate that they’re not especially rigorous about hiring … but neither are a ton of companies that do check references. With any company, references or not, I’d say to lean most on making sure you’ve really explored the company and the manager and know that it’s a place you do want to work, including doing your own behind-the-scenes reference-checking when you can.

4. Am I arriving too early to virtual meetings?

Your recent question about how long to wait on remote calls sparked a question about the other end of the spectrum — is it ever too early to log onto a virtual meeting?

I typically hit “Join Meeting” as soon as my calendar notification pops it up, almost always 15 minutes before the meeting. I then continue whatever I’m doing until the meeting actually starts. I prefer this so I’m not sitting there watching the clock with “is it time to join” and it gives me a chance to casually chat with colleagues who also join early while still respecting everyone’s meeting time. However, a couple circumstances have made me question if this is as harmless as I originally thought:

1. A couple times on a conference type call where people were giving presentations, the organizers would be in the call organizing and I would feel super awkward. I would drop out and rejoin, which also felt silly.

2. My company’s software has somewhat recently started notifying everyone when the first person has joined the meeting. In general, meetings start more on time with this but I have noticed a few times that interns will join right after me (when they would before wait until the meeting time). I’m totally happy to wait for the meeting time and don’t expect people to join just because I do. I’m fairly new to leadership but doing more of it and when I’m meeting with people lower in the hierarchy, I don’t mean to pressure them to join early.

Yeah, don’t join 15 minutes early, for both of the reasons you said — you might make someone deal with you earlier than they were prepared to, and it can make more junior staff feel like they’re supposed to follow your example.

Most calendar programs will let you customize how your reminders work though. I have mine set to alert me 10 minutes before a meeting (my advance warning that I need to start wrapping up whatever I’m doing) and again one minute before (so I know now is the time to actually call in). That might prevent you from feeling like you have to keep tracking the time after the first reminder.

5. My previous toxic job wants my help

About six months ago, I left a job in the education sector. The workplace was toxic and it was clear I would be miserable as long as I was there. For example, I attempted to offer feedback and suggestions based on what clients shared with me, and I was met with a response reminding me of my place in the hierarchy — in other words, unless I was in upper leadership, this was outside of my job duties.

When I submitted my resignation in June, I included a lot of documentation of my work, past projects, and outlines/scheduling to help the new person get situated. Just a few hours after emailing my resignation, my email and all accounts were disabled; this happened at night on a Monday (outside of normal work hours for our IT department when they could have waited a little longer and disabled it Tuesday morning).

Needless to say, I don’t feel like my previous employer was particularly gracious when I left. It was clear we didn’t really get along well, and back in June, I shrugged and joined a great new workplace. Things have been great! I’m respected and engaged and feel like I’m really appreciated for my skills.

Recently, I was contacted by my former boss asking me to complete work for a client. The client is one I have had a good relationship with for a few years. The time commitment to do this is probably just a few hours, but honestly, I don’t want to do any work for this toxic place. It feels like they burned the bridge when I left.

Is it okay not to respond to my former boss at all? It feels a little rude but I’m not sure I can respond in a way that is honest without being disrespectful. The message she sent was not a “Can you do this?” but “What is your email so X can ask you to do this?” Obviously, I don’t want to air a lot of dirty laundry to the client, so I’d rather not interact with either at all. Is it a mistake to ghost my old boss? Could this hurt me in a reference down the road?

You can ignore the message if you want to. That wouldn’t hurt you reference-wise with a reasonable manager (who is likely to assume you just missed the message or were busy and it fell through the cracks) but is this a reasonable manager?

That said, it sounds like you mainly don’t want to respond because you can’t think of a way to do it without being disrespectful or airing dirty laundry. But none of that is necessary! You can simply say, “My schedule is really overbooked right now and I can’t take anything else on, but best of luck with it!” and leave it at that. That’s the option I’d advocate.

{ 493 comments… read them below }

  1. Waving not Drowning (not Drowning not Waving)*

    OP2 – I feel for you! Another person here who has trouble with faces and names, and masks make it so much worse.

    But, for the love of all that you hold dear, please, do not do what I did in a previous job – working in a medical practice located in a hospital, we saw both inpatients (dressed in gowns/pj’s), and outpatients – normal street clothes. I had an elderly gentleman come to my reception desk, as an outpatient. I asked his name, and he laughed, saying didn’t I remember him, Mr xxx from last week when he was an inpatient – I looked at him with a big smile, and the words I said still haunt me 20+ years later – “oh, sorry!!! I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on”. Cue hysterical laughter from my fellow Receptionist, elderly gentleman and his son. I took an early tea break……

    1. SwiftSunrise*

      Heh – my dad used to officiate at my swim meets in high school, and he would always joke that he had a hard time recognizing my teammates when they were dry and fully dressed!

      1. bamcheeks*

        I’ve always known this as a completely standard joke that you’re practically obliged to make to anyone you know from swimming, but I said it to one of the mums from baby swimming when I rand into her at baby-something-else, and she looked so horrified.

      2. Attention Dior*

        Definitely when I worked with the little kids this was a problem, because their parents would send them out onto the deck with caps and goggles fully on and ready to go. Without hair or full face it is really hard to tell people apart!

      3. Coenobita*

        My dad was an OB/GYN for decades in my smallish hometown and delivered lots babies. If he ran into a patient and their kid around town, he liked to tell the kid “the last time I saw you, you were naked!” (He didn’t do this to, like, teenagers. But the preschool set thought it was hilarious.)

        He is also pretty bad with names/faces, which combined with his profession means that he’s absolutely perfected the generic “oh hello it’s great to see you!” + wait and hope that this random person in the hardware store introduces herself. I suspect that he sometimes brought me or my brother with him on errands as a buffer, so he could introduce us to people and they’d say their names.

        1. Carol the happy elf*

          Yeah, my gynecologist once said “Your face is not the part of you I focus on ….”
          A new oncologist commented “I had no idea you had hair these days!”

          And the worst yet, from the Colonoscopy Guy to my shocked husband: “I don’t remember your name, but your polyp was shaped like a valentine, and reminded me to order chocolates for all my staff!”

      4. Gumby*

        Gymnastics too. There are gymnasts who I would recognize from the way they do certain skills when I am across the room and have no way of seeing their faces. (That particular lean before doing a back handspring on the beam? Totally C.J. As an aside, she graduated in 2010 but I would still recognize her distinctive start.) But put them two feet in front of me and in jeans and a t-shirt with their hair down and I’m all “oh, she looks vaguely familiar…”

    2. tamarack & fireweed*


      I’m not good with faces at the best of times. Last month I went to a scientific conference for the first time in two years. At a particularly well-attended session (of many many with varying in-person and virtual attendees) I sat down in a chair behind my PI just as a video greeting of some dignitary was playing), and after I whispered a “Hi” she turned and introduced me to a man next to me “[Tamarack], I don’t think you’ve met Nick [=very common abbreviated male English given name] yet. Nick, this is Tamarack. I whispered “Nice to meet you! Jim … ,” expecting him to supply a last name and affiliation.

      Well… turned out that it was the same Jim I’ve been in bi-weekly small (6 people) team meeting with for the last 6 months. We were wearing masks and had never met in person. Also, he (and I) were dressed up somewhat from our Zoom personas. But I was embarrassed.

      1. tamarack & fireweed*

        Sorry, I was changing the first name in the middle of writing Jim = Nick. Just pick one for the story above.

      2. bamcheeks*

        I am quite new in my job and haven’t met everyone in the wider department yet, and I started chatting to someone as we were on our way in to a big departmental meeting, wearing masks. We got separated on the way in, and then I came upstairs to where the actual meeting was taking place and everyone had sat down and taken their masks off, and I realised there were three different women in their mid-twenties with long blonde hair and black and white ditsy-print dresses and I had no idea which was the one I’d been talking to!

          1. Yvette*

            There is a company online who will take a picture of your face and silk screen the bottom half of it onto a mask

            1. Yvette*

              Just google “masks with your face on it” and a whole bunch will pop up. A lot less than you would think. One of them even has the bottom of your face with a pulled down mask under the chin.

      3. Attention Dior*

        When I meet brokers at events, I always say “nice to see you” incase I’ve already met them before but it also applies to someone new that I’ve never met, its still nice to see them.

      4. PeanutButter*

        A bunch of us started at our lab during the initial shut down. The first time we were able to meet in person our department secretary made up little “Zoom frames” with our names on them as they had appeared in Zoom meetings to hold up to our faces included in our info packets, to help people recognize us. Obviously it wasn’t serious but I thought it was a cute way to remind everyone to extend grace to people who were probably not going to recognize them!

      5. Reluctant Mezzo*

        My husband (retired teacher) will sometimes be greeted by students from nearly 40 years ago. His stock reply, ‘You’ve changed!’

    3. Matt*

      This condition even has a name: Prosopagnosia.

      It took me ages to remember even those coworkers of my team not sharing my office, and this was long before masks. I also don’t remember the neighbors in my apartment. I heavily rely on hairstyle, beards and glasses, and if someone changes something of that, they will be a new person for me.

      1. Waving not Drowning (not Drowning not Waving)*

        I’ve done an online Prosopagnosia test, but, the results were inconclusive. I have struggled with it over the years – but once I get to know someone well, I can mostly remember who they are and where I know them from. Its hard if I see someone outside of where I’d normally see them, and I’d struggle to remember how I knew them – were they my bank teller?, a mum from school? a childs teacher?

        Funnily enough I could tell one set of identical twins apart only because I worked closely with one, and didn’t meet her sister until some years later, so I could actually tell the small difference between them.
        Thats the first time I have ever been able to do that with any identical twins I’ve met.

        I was petrified when I was pregnant with twins that they would be identical, and that I wouldn’t be able to tell them apart. I was mightily relieved that I had fraternal B/G twins – although I do have to look at the clothing on some of their baby photos to tell the difference – there is a very strong genetic resemblance with all of my children, poor husbands gene’s don’t get much of a look in!

        1. Wendy Darling*

          I joke that I’m not face-blind but I’m face-nearsighted. I’m like… below average at recognizing faces and I have a really hard time recognizing people’s faces based on photos. Video is a little better but still not great. Add in masks and I have no idea who any of my coworkers are IRL unless they have extremely distinctive hair.

          1. Cold Fish*

            Also with you. Not on the spectrum but I find it very difficult to look directly at people without feeling like I’m staring at them. I always joke that I would make a terrible eye witness. Unless there is something SUPER distinctive about them I wouldn’t recognize anyone. And those police sketches…. side by side with their photos I still don’t see a resemblance 98% of the time.

            1. Bryce*

              I had the cops ask me to ID some people (neighbors who ghosted their apartment) and I honestly couldn’t. The guy was surprised I couldn’t match two grainy black and white drivers license copies to people I’d passed on the stairs a few times. Can “normal” people do that? Did he assume I’d take a larger interest in a couple of college women living next door?

        2. allathian*

          Yes, that struggle to remember how I know someone who seems familiar to me happens to me, too.

        3. President Porpoise*

          I am also pretty face blind. If someone changes their hair style/color, or dresses up, I have an incredibly hard time recognizing them. Not even – huh, how do I know them, but they don’t even look familiar. I build an expected image in my mind that correlates to the person I met, and that’s what I go with (and awkwardly, sometimes my brain gets it very wrong). Once I really spend a lot of time with someone, I can usually do OK, but it’s a real, serious struggle for me. It doesn’t help that I’m also bad with names. It’s like walking through a city where you know nobody literally all the time.

          Honestly – the way I deal with this casually is I introduce myself as slightly face blind, and let people know that I may not recognize them next time I see them and it’s not their fault. It feels odd to do that in a professional context though. Zoom meetings have been an absolute godsend because everyone’s names are displayed on screen.

        4. PeanutButter*

          For me I have a VERY hard time translating a picture of a person to the actual person, or the person to a picture. I think I must rely on things like way of walking/hand motions/voice than most people. I really hope I never have to pick anyone out of a photo lineup because I would be SOL. I had a bit of an easier time going from recognizing people on the screen to IRL because of the movements/voice, but still struggled a bit.

        5. Wisteria*

          I’m not sure what you mean by inconclusive. Faceblindness is not a yes/no thing. There is a continuum of ability to recognize faces, with the very, very bad being diagnosed with prosoprognsia and the very very good being called super recognizers.

          I usually just say I have a hard time recognizing faces.

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Inconclusive, I would assume, means that the online test would’ve required more information to confirm whether or not Waving Not Drowning needed clinical help for facial recognition. When I was diagnosed, you had to be at a certain threshold of facial recognition problems to be diagnosed with prosopagnosia or you had to exhibit specific issues. For example, even though I scored ~35% on the facial recognition test (thereby being above the diagnostic criteria, which was about 20-25% if I recall correctly) I can’t recognize my own face, which qualified me for the diagnosis.

            (also, since it’s MLK week and we’ve got michelle silverthorn on site- has anyone taken the clinical test more recently? because when I took it I’m pretty sure it was all white male faces that I had to memorize. it feels like that test should probably be a little more diverse…)

      2. Asenath*

        I don’t have the problem to the extreme I’d call it a condition, but I am bad at connecting faces and names even without masks or meeting people I only know from online. My usual evasions were not using names at all (can come across as rude, but, I told myself, less rude than coming up with the wrong name) and smiling sunnily at everyone I meet and, if they show any signs of knowing me, greeting them, again without names. This was quite helpful during one job I had in a large place where I often dealt with co-workers by email, and so rarely saw people I interacted with on the job daily, and which was aslo open to the public, so sometimes I saw people there I knew outside work, completely out of context, which REALLY threw me. But there was one consolation; I knew I wasn’t the only person doing that. A very senior person cultivated (or maybe really had) a warm persona, meaning he greeted workers when he saw them in the corridors. But he invariably mis-indentified me, asking me how things were going in Dept. X. I smiled and responded that everything was fine, but actually I was in Dept. Y. I had some sympathy for him, but that’s exactly why I was generally so sunny and vague when greeting people in the corridor.

        1. The OG Sleepless*

          I have prosopagnosia and this is pretty much how I go through life. When you grow up in a small town surrounded by people you’re supposed to know but you can’t recognize them, you get pretty good at faking it.

        2. lunchtime caller*

          I have also bad at recognizing people in an industry built on networking and I agree that building a very warm persona helps with that! I always greet people at events like I’m delighted they were able to attend, and no one ever seems to mind. In fact I think that would take the LW a long way—I think you sort of lose the right to treat people blankly in your office when you know you’re so bad at remembering people. It’s probably the initial coldness before being reminded of their name that is turning them off more so than being forgotten.

          1. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

            I’ve been greeted that way, and it really does work! In my case, the gentleman in question was the pastor at a largish church, and I had met him a few years prior when we were both on the cast of the local Renaissance Festival. Between the two, he met a lot of people. He greeted me with a sincerely warm “Hello, my dear!” and asked a few questions about how I was enjoying the event. (Something hosted by his church, I think.) I am fairly convinced he didn’t remember my name, and may or may not have remembered where he knew me from. But he was so very warm and sincere in his delight to see me that it didn’t matter.

            (This is the long way of saying that having been on the receiving end of that sort of greeting, it really does work!)

      3. anonaccountant*

        Yeah… appearance changes have embarrassed me before. I had a coworker shave his beard into a mustache once and I didn’t recognize him at all until he asked me why I’d been giving him weird looks (oof). I was able to put voice/clothes/context clues together at that point. For 3 days I’d been trying to figure out why this guy was wandering around our office making himself at home, and apparently I don’t have much of a poker face. Luckily, he thought it was funny when I explained (and his toddler also didn’t recognize him with the new ‘stache lol). Now I ask a work friend if I see someone who acts really familiar.

        1. Cold Fish*

          My dad always had a stache until one random day when I was in 5th grade he decided to shave it off. He looked so strange. I remember doing a double take the first time I saw him without it.

        2. anon for this*

          There was a guy I didn’t recognize just sitting there in the middle of our staff meeting. Clearly it was someone normal, because everyone was acting normal, but I was secretly baffled because our company only has about 30 employees with a low turnover rate, and while they don’t all come to every meeting, I do know all of them! Still, I’m aware that my face perception is way below average and that things like this sometimes happen.

          I played it cool and hoped someone would identify Mystery Man by name. Fortunately, he talked a bunch of times, but I couldn’t place him by voice alone. Eventually someone referred to some slightly earlier comments by Trevor, who I had not realized was at the meeting, and I spent the rest of the hour wondering what had happened such that I’d lost my ability to recognize Trevor, who has been here for almost a decade. I eventually asked a very discreet mutual friend from work who has better face perception than I do, and that person thought about it and said that Trevor had lost a lot of weight.

      4. Jaybee*

        I think we should remember that prosopagnosia is a medical condition and shouldn’t be something we are blanket diagnosing people with.

        I do have the condition myself and it is great to raise awareness, because I know I, like many other people with face-blindness, just assumed I was somehow stupider than everyone else because of how it impacts my ability to recognize other people and to remember their names.

        But I want to be very clear that ‘not recognizing someone/not putting names to faces’ is not what prospagnosia is. That is a side-effect of the condition, and I would assume that it could be a side-effect one would see with other conditions as well, or even just normal variations in people’s memory.

        Prosopagnosia, or face-blindness, is quite literally as the name describes. It’s a scramble or disconnect in the very complex part of our brain that is wired to see and interpret human faces. Mine is relatively mild, because I can see faces in 2D depictions (like photographs). When I look at a person’s face IRL, I see only one feature of their face at a time. The rest is literally not visible to me. (And the one feature I can see often appears to be sort of floating disconnected from their physical head.) That sort of visual-brain disconnect is what defines prosopagnosia, NOT simply not recognizing someone you have met before.

      5. MaureenSmith*

        Yup. Face-blindness is a thing.

        I once introduced myself to a lady at a Christmas party many years ago, no masks involved. She laughed at me, she’d been sitting beside me at work for the past 6 months and we work closely together! But she’d had her hair cut and styled, different makeup, party outfit and I genuinely did not recognize her.

      6. anonymouse for this*

        I’ve just moved back to my department’s central location after 2 years in a satellite office and hadn’t seen someone in that time and then only seen them once or twice before. They stopped by my desk to tell me something, I said “oh, I’m not involved in the project, you need to talk to Jo”. He looked at me and said “I am Jo” and was very offended I didn’t recognise him. As my new year’s mantra is stop worrying so much I just smiled, said sorry I haven’t seen you in 2 years and you’re wearing a mask, at least I won’t forget your face next time round.

    4. Beyond the Fringe*

      Another one who has trouble putting faces to names. We’ve had a number of new colleagues join since mandatory masks in 7/2020. This means I have colleagues who I may have seen once without a mask on, plus other colleagues whose faces I’m not seeing. This is compounded by the fact all my colleagues are the same race (different from mine) and have exact same hair/eye colour. Give me a moment and I might know you, but there’s not always a moment to be had. I try my best because if I get it wrong feelings are hurt and I’m automatically ‘racist’… :(

        1. Beyond the Fringe*

          Not helpful. I’m talking about only being able to know who a person is by their eyes and hair colour when all have the same eye and hair colour. Without masks and facial features can be seen it’s less of an issue, obviously. Imagine walking into a class in China and all your students are wearing masks – how quickly can you distinguish each of them without seeing any other facial features?

          1. pancakes*

            It isn’t clear from your earlier comment whether any of your coworkers have in fact accused you of racism or whether you’re concerned they will or what, but if you’ve also suggested to them that Chinese people have indistinguishable eyes and hair, you are right to be concerned about this being a possibility, whew!

    5. GammaGirl1908*

      I taught group exercise classes for many years, and “Oh! I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on!” was a common greeting from gym members when encountering them in the wild. That’ll get you some strange looks in the produce aisle…

      1. londonedit*

        Yep, same with running! I wear a cap or scrape my hair back with a hairband when I’m running, and am obviously dressed in running kit, so when people see me ‘with my clothes on’, i.e. properly dressed and with my hair in its everyday bob, it can definitely take them a second or two to recognise me. One chap in my running club is obviously completely face-blind as he never knows who I am without my usual cap on! And ‘Sorry, didn’t recognise you with your clothes on’ is a perfectly normal greeting when you bump into a fellow runner when they’re in their civvies.

      2. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

        Pre-Covid, I was in a regular exercise class and got along particularly well with one of my classmates. It took almost two months for us to realize we attended the same church at the same service time. We both regularly volunteered (she distributed communion, I sang in the choir), so it’s not like either of us were lost in the crowd. It was just the difference between sweaty gym clothes and hair out of the way versus well-groomed in nice church clothes.

    6. allathian*

      Oh my, yes. I don’t think I have prosopagnosia, because I do recognize people I know well mainly by their faces. But I have a horrible memory for names, and I’m basically incapable of remembering a name unless I see it written down. This is the main reason why I hate to do business by phone. I frequently recognize faces, but can’t put names to them.

      That said, I’m also bad at recognizing people out of context. I don’t think I’d recognize my hairdresser or beautician if I ran into them in the street. I haven’t seen my hairdresser for nearly two years, and my beautician always has a mask on when she’s treating her clients. I’ve seen her without a mask once or twice before the pandemic.

      Ooops, I’m glad your former patient had a sense of humor.

      1. Bagpuss*

        prosopagnosia is like a lot of things, in that not everyone who has it, has it to the same extent, so you may have it to some degree.
        I have it, I now actually make a point to tell new people I work with and to explicitly explain that I will almost certainly not recognise them and that it isn’t personal.

        1. Green great dragon*

          Yeh, the co-workers are being weird, but you can definitely just say whatever version of ‘I’m terrible with faces’ works for you. They need to know you’re doing it to everyone, not just them.

          We had a very big boss who, on meeting anyone new, would tell us point blank he would not recognise us out of context, so if he ran into us elsewhere please say hello and give your name.

        2. Chili pepper Attitude*

          I have it to some degree and I always explain to people that I’m terrible with recognizing faces so I will likely be asking you more than once. I find a way that works for each group; I try to be honest and funny if I can.

          Saying something right from the start can help a lot.

        3. The OG Sleepless*

          I tell a lot of people, especially coworkers, about it. I have to talk to a lot of people I’ve met once or twice, so I explain it to coworkers to not only explain why I might have trouble with their faces, but to enlist their help in talking to clients. Almost 100% of the time I get “oh, ha ha! I’m just the opposite, I never forget a face but I’m terrible with names!” Ok. That’s nice. At this point I’m fully informed that this is how most people are. It helps me not at all, and it makes it clear the other person is not really listening to this important thing in telling them.

          1. Bayta Darrell*

            It’s possible that some people are actually saying that in an attempt to be kind, not to brush you off. They may be telling you about their inability to remember names as a way to show that you shouldn’t be embarrassed about your trouble with faces. Sort of like if you accidentally do something embarrassing and a friend tells you about a time they did something that was also embarrassing, they’re doing it not to say “I wasn’t listening,” but rather to say “hey, we all have problems, and since you were vulnerable enough to share your problem, I’ll share mine too.”

            1. pancakes*

              Yes. I think it’s likely that’s what many, if not most, of them are doing. Adding on to what OG Sleepless has said shows that they’re listening enough to respond, not that they’re not listening.

      2. Chili pepper Attitude*

        I have it to some degree and I always explain to people that I’m terrible with recognizing faces so I will likely be asking you more than once. I find a way that works for each group; I try to be honest and funny if I can.

        Saying something right from the start can help a lot.

    7. Expiring Cat Memes*

      Another thing for OP to consider is that their coworkers mightn’t necessarily be annoyed at them personally so much as they are annoyed in general at the whole dehumanising experience of masks.

      Beyond the basic discomfort and inconvenience, I’m noticing some people (myself included) also do struggle with that extra barrier in connecting with others. There’s definitely something to be said about how masks interfere with our ability to communicate, given the majority of it is body language. Some of us are struggling with that more than others and can become easily frustrated. I also think that when it comes to trying to form new connections, when you already feel isolated, the idea of literally not being “seen” or recognised can hit a nerve.

      Alison’s lines work regardless, but perhaps don’t necessarily write them off as just being weird about it. Framing it in your head as a potential moment for empathy might help you forge better relationships with them.

      1. T.*

        I’m hr for about 150 people. 30 work in a building I don’t see often. I feel bad when I don’t know names in my own building. I feel like a terrible person bc the people I’m having the hardest time matching names and faces are all of one ethnicity of our very diverse workforce. I always say, “remind me of your name please, I’m struggling to remember names with masks”. And then I usually laugh and say “ it’s probably a sign you don’t need my help that much.” They all handle it well. This group rarely have their masks off and so many of their distinguishing features are the same (same hair type, same hair cut, same build) and I don’t know their personalities yet.

      2. allathian*

        Yes, and this is why I think that asking people to return to the office because communicating is so much easier than when everyone is WFH and meets on a virtual platform is an exercise in futility for as long as masks are necessary to protect our health.

        1. Loulou*

          Sorry, exercise in futility is such an extreme overstatement! I understand people find masks uncomfortable or difficult, I do too, but it’s absolutely possible to communicate normally wearing them, and to recognize people’s faces, and to interpret facial expressions. Since they’ll be a part of our life for some time to come I’d really rather be realistic about them, not act as though they’re making normal life impossible.

          1. Coconutty*

            Yeah, I work with literal four-year-olds and they’re able to correctly interpret mood/body language, recognize people, understand what I’m saying, etc. Is it ideal? Of course not! I cannot wait for it to be unnecessary. But it’s absolutely doable, and when it is no longer necessary, we will readjust.

        2. Office Lobster DJ*

          I think one could probably argue the opposite as well, where virtual platforms rob us of body language or other nuances, being on video alters how we communicate, etc.

          For me, I’m more confident communicating with my masked co-workers than I am being sure I caught all the shades of meaning in Zoom meetings. YMMV, just anecdata for what that’s worth.

      3. pancakes*

        I can see why many people would find constant mask-wearing to be a bit dehumanizing, but I don’t see how covering one’s nose and mouth impedes much body language? Hand gestures, crossed arms, tense shoulders, etc., all remain unimpeded.

          1. pancakes*

            Yes, and those are definitely impeded, but we can still see one another’s eyes, which helps a great deal. The letter writer’s coworkers seem to be able to read a “blank expression” accurately.

          2. JustaTech*

            What I’ve found with masks is that they can be very helpful if I *don’t* want to convey a lot of facial expression (having a difficult conversation with senior management, for example), but if I *want* to express myself around my mask I can.

            Now, this is a learned skill, and my work has required full gowning (covering literally every part of your body, including goggles) for years so I’ve had more time than most to figure it out. It just requires a bit more attention and slightly larger gestures (including with your face).

            1. Expiring Cat Memes*

              I think your comment hits the nail on the head for me – it’s a learned skill to communicate what you choose to communicate. I’m in a fairly politicised environment and a big part of me being able to navigate the trickier situations at work rely on me being able to get a sense of what isn’t being said, if there’s a potential disconnect between what they’re actively communicating and what they’re really thinking, so I can proceed accordingly. Involuntary microfacials are a huge part of that, and eyes only tell a piece of the expression.

              I often have the same issue with virtual meetings, unless there’s a spectacularly good internet connection with good definition and zero lag.

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      I’m in the same boat. I just started a new job. I absolutely love that everyone at my job wears masks properly 100% of the time. But our work also mandates long sleeve shirts, hats/hair covering, and safety glasses, all for PPE reasons.

      I’ve found that saying “I apologize if we’ve met before but it’s tough to put names to faces when I can only see this much, gesturing to my eyes.” gets a positive response in these situations.

    9. Librar**

      I’m pretty terrible with putting faces to names as well, but my recommendation to OP 2 is to try your hardest to avoid “introducing” yourself to people you might already know, especially if you don’t know them well.
      We had a huge blowup in our org last year because at our first in-person meeting in more than a year, several higher-ups introduced themselves to others with whom they have worked for 5+ years (so plenty of years to know who they were before pandemic times), but who belong to a department that already feels as though nobody knows or cares what they do. The introductions were taken as a further slight and later used as evidence that leadership doesn’t care about that group. Admittedly there were already some internal politics at play, but a lot of unpleasantness could’ve been avoided if people had said something like “Great to see you! How is generic company-wide thing going?” instead of starting every interaction with “It’s nice to meet you! I’m Marcia and I work in lipstick top manufacturing. Where do you work?” I witnessed several of these interactions and there are few things more cringeworthy than responses of “I’m Minerva and I work in mascara wand manufacturing. I had a 2 hours zoom meeting with you and your department yesterday about lid design. Both of our cameras were on. I said hi to your orange cat.” Our org is fewer than 50 people with very low turnover, so it’s also hard to use those excuses.
      Just work on keeping things light and lean towards impersonal, if necessary. If you must, I think it’s better to leave people wondering whether or not you recognized them instead of confirming you didn’t and offending them. If it comes up, other scripts here about not recognizing people in various situations are very helpful!

    10. Hanani*

      Last summer I had a new boss who I met with weekly via video chat, but had never seen in person. I was at work, masked, setting up an outdoor something with some other folks I didn’t really know, and introduced myself to each as the time went on. Cue my masked boss saying “yes Hanani, it’s Boss” as I politely introduced myself to her. She had a warm tone, but still, cringe.

    11. CupcakeCounter*

      So…I used to get that a lot. I was a lifeguard and swimming instructor. The kids and moms usually recognized me right away but the dads sometimes…
      Happened to me multiple times in restaurants and grocery stores and once at my university!

    12. lost academic*

      We were a swimming family when I was a kid – my mother and 2 siblings. My mother often loudly said in grocery stores and the like that she didn’t recognize someone with their clothes on. Luckily swimming was pretty big in our town especially in the summer, so it was mostly mortifying for us kids :)

    13. Tell Me About Your Pets*

      I’m autistic and am bad at making eye contact. I’m also hard of hearing and generally look at people’s mouths when they talk to lipread; I generally recognize people based on their mouths and smiles. Masks are making it SO difficult for me to remember who is who in my new office. I see their full faces on Zoom meetings, then in person I have to try to remember who is Jim and who is Bob based only on their eyes, a part of them I don’t often look at.

    14. Figgy Pudding*

      I have the opposite problem! I often have to pretend like I don’t remember someone’s name because it makes people feel awkward and uncomfortable when you remember their name after a brief encounter and they don’t remember you in the slightest. I always have to gauge if they remember me at all before I make it clear that I remember their name and other things about them.

  2. L.H. Puttgrass*

    Which supervisor said that LW1 could bring their dog to work? I read it as the supervisor at the non-profit (i.e., the client supervisor) having said it while interviewing the employee for the contract (thus raising the situation where the client non-profit says it’s okay to bring dogs to work, but stuffy multinational contracting company says no). But Alison’s answer makes it sound like the contracting company made the promise and then rescinded it. That makes less sense to me, but Alison may have more information than we do.

    1. OhNoYouDidn't*

      I read it that the employer said it’s be OK and didn’t mention it to the recruiting/contracting company. When the recruiting/contracting company found out, THEY stopped it because of liability issues to them, not the the employing company. That’s how I read it, anyway.

      1. L.H. Puttgrass*

        That’s how I read it, too, except that the “employer” in this case is the recruiting/contracting company. LW1 works at the non-profit (the client) but is paid by the contracting company (which is how the contracting company gets to set the terms of employment). The contracting company probably doesn’t have anyone else on site, which is how they didn’t find out until the supervisor (at the non-profit) called the recruiter to check in.

      2. LikesToSwear*

        That’s how I read it as well. My guess is the staffing company didn’t even know it was a thing there.

    2. Willis*

      This is my read too. Not that anyone’s going back on anything, just that the OP didn’t know about the different rules between the two entities. It makes sense to me that the staffing company would be the one to tell her she can’t keep bringing the dog, since it’s their rule. Also, it sounds like the OP is thinking she could just bring the dog in anyway, which seems like a pretty bad idea if she wants any future working with that staffing company or the non-profit or a reference from them.

      1. Editor*

        Would you mind adding a note in the letter that you’ve edited it? Like a correction note in the paper.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      It reads to me like the supervisor at the non-profit both told OP they could bring the dog in AND told the recruiter OP could not. Because the only supervisor mentioned in the letter is the one at the nonprofit. But it’s not completely clear. The parenthetical about this being the first time someone heard about it…I’m not sure who the someone is there. So there might be a typo making is confusing. Or it might be a genuinely confusing u-turn.

      1. Virginia Plain*

        I interpreted it as the supervisor mentioning the dog in passing, like “Yes, Georgiana is getting on very well, and her dog Colin is so cute!” This was the first the contracting company person had heard of it so when they spoke to LW they said, actually you can’t do that under our policies [even though the client company says it’s ok for their permanent staff]

        1. Stevie*

          Sounds about right to me. When I was a temp, I attended a happy hour event put on by some coworkers (including my supervisor) that started during working hours. I mentioned it to my staffing agency in passing, and they apparently gave my supervisor an earful about the liability involved.

          1. Office Sweater Lady*

            In my experience, there is frequent friction with contractors around office perks like holiday parties, gift exchanges, informal paid early release, pets, etc. The client supervisors often don’t have any idea or have forgotten that there are special rules for their contractor employees. This sets up awkward situations like an office holiday party during work hours where all the contractors are still sitting at their desks working because otherwise they won’t be paid. Early release/informal days off create issues because many contractors have stipulations that a client supervisor must be on site for them to work, so if everyone else goes home, they have to as well, but won’t get paid like the regular employees do (though that was pre-covid, now they might be able to continue working from home). These rules work much better when the contracting company has a strong internal culture and their employees move from site to site frequently. Unfortunately, it seems a lot of these agencies are basically pass-throughs and don’t provide any employee support or perks of their own, and place people long term at client sites, where the contract employee quite naturally feels loyalty and kinship with the client employees. This creates exactly the kind of resentment the OP quite naturally now feels, where she is explicitly excluded from a much-desired perk. If the OP wants to remain in her current employment situation, the best case scenario is to not attract further attention from the managers at her contract agency, while knowing this is part of the nature of the beast. The upside is that contractors should be getting paid substantially more than an FTE to make up for the downsides. If this isn’t happening for the OP, she might want to apply for some FTE positions or a different contract that pays better.

            1. Smithy*

              The one nonprofit I worked at who regularly used a contracting agency – this describes the situation perfectly.

              For almost the entire three years I worked there, essentially all entry level employees came in through a contracting agency. Sometimes it would take the person close to a year to move into permanent role, other times it could be as fast as a few months. It was far more rare for one of those staffers to arrive as a temp and then leave for something else than to become a permanent staffer – so by all non-HR staff members, they were treated like permanent staff and it would never occur to us what perks they might not have access to.

              I will say, that my advice to the OP would be that if this nonprofit is using the agency as a pipeline for entry level staff – in absolutely no way make the dog an issue at this time. You will almost certainly take yourself out of the running for a permanent role because it’s likely they’d need to first replace you with another contract employee and then at best you’d be competing 50/50 with the new person currently doing the role when a permanent role does open.

              My other piece of advice is that when asking around about how long it takes for permanent roles to open, I’d aim to have those conversation with mid-junior staffers more so than your boss or more senior staff members. The longer you’ve been hired, the more you can see 12 months as being a “short” period of time, especially if you’ve gotten used to budget cycles. People earlier in their careers are more likely to have a sense of the difference between 3-6 months vs 6-12. Or if it’s a case of things being wildly inconsistent where Person A ended up in a full time role after only a few weeks but it took Person B 12 months and it was entirely due to weird budget things and nothing at all with performance.

              1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                Yes, Allison mentions that there might be some sort of non-compete between the non-profit and the contracting agency, and I don’t deny that this can and does happen, but it doesn’t seem like the norm to me. All of my experience with contracting firms from both the contractor and hiring a manger side has been an expected contract to hire arrangement, and the client has full flexibility on when the “hire” part happens.

                My current role was one year contract to hire, but when the client asked me to come on board full time at 4 months, the contract firm just cancelled my contract and pocketed the finders fee. I’ve seen similar things when hiring contractors directly. There’s no reason to suspect that if the non-profit likes her, the LW couldn’t ask to be converted early. It *may* not work out, there might be a non-compete, or the client may not be ready to pull the trigger on a direct hire yet, but it’s certainly worth asking.

                My personal experience would be that if the client likes the contractor, it’s far more likely to work out than not.

                1. Smithy*

                  Because it’s a nonprofit, there may be significant budgeting/finance reasons why it might not be as simple. Getting staff positions approved at many nonprofits is far more complicated than contracts, and even if there’s a commitment to create a full time position – that may not be available until the start of a new fiscal year.

                  It may be that this nonprofit using the staffing agency in lieu of running their own hiring, and so this isn’t an issue and they’d be ready to make this switch as soon as they’re happy. However, the nonprofits that I’m familiar that use this approach, it would not be the case at all and there’d be far more financial and budgeting considerations that would not allow for quick movement.

                2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

                  @Smithy That makes sense and is unfortunate for the LW. My current role that I talked about above is with a non-profit, but it’s a very large one, and now that I think about it I was offered the full time role after my boss quit. It’s entirely possible they could only convert me early because they could reallocate his salary budget.

                  In the past when I’ve done this with contractors that worked for/with me I was at more flexible startups.

                3. pancakes*

                  That happens in for-profit businesses as well. I freelanced with one firm for over three years as part of a small team, a couple of us were told all along they were very happy with our work and were looking into creating permanent roles, then that they’d gotten a small number of these roles approved, then, eventually, told that a newly-hired lateral partner who had no idea about the process — and who none of us had ever met, let alone worked for — had extended offers to people on her own team and the firm didn’t want to tell her to rescind them.

                4. Smithy*

                  @LinuxSystemsGuy in the nonprofit world, that makes complete sense. A contract employee – no matter how much – typically has their entire cost as a fee to the staffing company. That cost may be entirely covered by one income source (a grant or unrestricted funding), or split across a few – but it’s just that contract. When it becomes a permanent employee, then you’re looking at building in fringe costs (benefits), which for how many nonprofits are funded through a mix of restricted and unrestricted funds just doesn’t have the same level of flexibility. However, if someone quits – then that whole basket of funds immediately becomes available.

                  What can make this particularly irksome is you happen to see/hear about one colleague who was only a temp for a few months (or even weeks) before getting hired – but it is entirely because someone quit and a position opened. Has zero to do with the overall performance.

                  For a staff member eagerly awaiting their fulltime benefits – be that health insurance, bringing their dog to work, etc – I do get that the difference between a few months here or there isn’t negligible. But I think it’s an area to pursue with caution and sensitivity unless you’re deeply familiar with how their budgets are being planned.

            2. The Original K.*

              Yep – when I was a contractor I opted out of all during-work social activities unless I was paid for them, which meant opting out 9/10 of the time. Or sometimes I’d shuffle so that my lunch hour was the event. I remember one contract in which I was paid to attend an off-site holiday lunch and for the full day because they dismissed afterward, which was nice, and one instance where the whole (small) company was doing an off-site all-day team-building activity. They told me I could go but I wouldn’t be paid, so I didn’t go – it was just me and one other person in the office that day (which was actually nice).

              OP might not be getting paid substantially more than a FTE if she’s a W-2 employee of the staffing agency. The client is paying, but the staffing agency sees a chunk of that.

              1. Office Sweater Lady*

                Now that you mention it, I think there might be a difference between the temp-to-perm type of contracting and contracts that rarely or never are converted. I was thinking more of the latter type, where the client org has large swathes of employee categories they never take on as FTE. In those cases, contractors should and (in my experience) do get paid a premium because they take on all the risk of a contract being suddenly cancelled and never building any seniority/no obvious career development. Temp-to-perm, like the OP, perhaps doesn’t get paid more because they can reasonably hope to be hired on in 6-12 months. In that case, I think the OP should just wait it out until she is hired full time, and she can bring her dog back then.

                1. quill*

                  As someone who went through a lot of “temp to perm” positions, there’s a lot of places that call it “temp to perm” in the sense that “we COULD hire you, we just won’t, in practice,” so a lot of contractors via staffing agencies don’t get that pay boost.

      2. Starbuck*

        So…. what would happen if OP just kept bringing the dog in, since the staff where they’re actually working are fine with it?

        1. Office Sweater Lady*

          It may be that her contract agency would never find out about it. Usually, if the client is happy and not complaining to the contracting company, they don’t look into conditions on site that frequently. On the other hand, the OP would open themselves up to disciplinary measures/summarily being fired by her company if they found out about it. The client would likely not be able to prevent those measures or protect the OP, and unless they really loved them, might not be willing to jump through whatever hoops are required to hire full time (fees/waiting period).

    4. Amethystmoon*

      As someone who temped for a decade, I’ve never seen any companies allowing temps to bring in dogs. Maybe if the temp was visually impaired, but that would have been it at the time (late 90’s-early 2000’s).

      Companies often don’t give temps the same perks as permanent employees and also make separate rules that the temps need to adhere to. After all, we can’t have the permatemps thinking they are permanent employees of the company and not the temp agency. (/sarcasm)

  3. Eric*

    On #1, I read it that there client company is fine with the dog being there, but the staffing agency isn’t. If the staffing agency fires OP, does that still stop them from hiring OP directly?

    1. Stitch*

      I wouldn’t bank on the client company doing that even if it wasn’t covered by their contract, particularly if they want to keep working with the recruiter/placement agency. Not for someone they barely know.

      It obviously depends on the contract but my guess is the “no direct hiring of temps” rules includes if they get fired to avoid someone deliberately doing just that.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the contracting company had considered loopholes like this and did have them covered in the contract with the other company – she can’t be the first person whose thought of getting fired by the contracting company to circumvent the hiring restrictions. I also wouldn’t be surprised if future contracts including a clause that the temp is specifically not allowed to bring pets or family members to the client’s site, due to legal liability.

        I’m guessing that the LW’s direct employer, the contracting company, could be held legally liable if the dog bit someone, or damaged property, and they aren’t willing to assume that risk, particularly for a work environment they don’t have a direct say in it.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          The contract may also have a buy-out—i.e., if the customer really likes someone and wants to hire them before the contract is up, there’s some amount they can pay the contracting company to do that. I’d expect that to be a common part of contract-to-hire contracts, since everyone is going in with the idea that the staffer is going to be hired eventually anyway. And if you’re a staffing company, it makes more sense to have the contract cover “what if we want to hire this person before the contract is up?” instead of fighting with a client you may want future business from.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Typically those contracts specify that the client can’t direct-hire the person within X months, period, and wouldn’t have an exception for if the agency fires the person.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Or that they have to pay a hefty introduction fee (which is what happened in my “big break” job). Many employers would only do this for a unicorn.

        1. Anononon*

          The issue with many noncompete contracts is that they’re overly broad and too restricting. This is not like a noncompete because it’s extremely limited and focused.

        2. Colette*

          Because they still got in touch with the candidate through the consulting company. They can hire any candidates they find themselves, but they can’t hire someone the consulting company brought to their attention. Otherwise there’d be no reason to pay the consulting company; just have them present candidates and then hire them yourself.

          1. Nia*

            We’re talking about a situation where the agency fired the employee though and the idea that a company could fire an employee and then legally prevent another employer from hiring them is dystopian.

            1. MCMonkeyBean*

              Well we’re talking about a situation where people are sort of suggesting getting fired on purpose so you can get hired by the other company, which I feel like makes it fairly self-evident why getting fired would not necessarily void that part of the contract…

          2. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yes, it’s how they get paid for doing their work, and the client agrees to that when they sign on to work for them. Typically the buy-out fee is the equivalent of what the staffing agency would have been paid if the employee had finished out most/all of their contract period, because otherwise it’s not worth the agency’s time to do the work for the client.

            It’s similar to how recruiters own your candidacy if they present you to a company, even if you apply a few weeks later on your own.

      2. Meatballsforme*

        The LW specified it’s a temp-to-perm role, so the waiting period is usually waived. It’s understood that the contractor will be hired by the client immediately after the temp portion. Though, I’m not sure how that would work if the LW were to be “let go” by the contracting agency (rather than the client) before the temp portion is complete.

        The LW should speak to the non-profit about coming on in a permanent capacity sooner than planned. There’s no guarantee, of course, but this a very common conversation to have.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’ve never seen it waived, since the fee during the contracting period is how the staffing agency gets paid for their work. A hefty buy-out fee, yes, but not a waiver. Otherwise clients would just decide to hire people direct as soon as it was clear they would going to work out, since that would save them significant money (and mean the agency that found them didn’t get their full fee).

          1. Meatballsforme*

            The waiting period is waived. Not the fee. That’s what the “perm” part of temp to perm means – that the client has the option to hire the contractor on a permanent basis immediately after the temp portion is through. At which point, yes, they do usually need to pay the standard “recruitment fee”. The temp portion is (usually) basically a trial period for both parties (candidate and client), and it is understood that the candidate will be hired permanently after a set period of time if both parties feel it is a good fit. This is all negotiated prior to sourcing candidates for the client and it is planned ahead of time how long the temp portion will be – several weeks to a couple of months usually. However, if the client would like to extend a perm offer to the candidate early, that’s usually ok (it’s happened to me twice). On the flip side, clients can also extend the temp portion if they’re still unsure of fit. If they’re asking a recruiting agency to source candidates on a temp-to-perm basis they have clearly budgeted the money to pay the recruiting agency’s fee on top of the costs of the temp portion of the contract.

          2. No Longer Looking*

            I spent a couple decades doing contract work, and I have worked some contracts for agencies where the waiting period was “for the first X months of work” rather than “for X months after the end of work.” I thought those were much more reasonable, but I also stopped seeing them in the late 90s. I’d say if you have the opportunity to negotiate the contract terms, angle for a fee that falls off after 6-12 months, but I’ll also note that most agencies use a standard contract that isn’t open to negotiation for anything other than wages and employee specifications.

      3. Database Developer Dude*

        Which is why I would never again take a job with a firm like that. If you fire me, you have no right to interfere with me getting a job ANYWHERE else.

        1. The OTHER Other*

          Temp agencies are a bit of an oddity. Yes, you technically work for them and not the place where you’re actually working, but in most cases the place you’re working is going to decide whether or not to fire you because they are the ones reviewing your work, IME the temp agency only cares if they showed up or not, and will “fire” someone only in cases of chronic absenteeism and so on, in which case “fired” means we will never find another job for you, like being blackballed.

          The temp agencies have contracts with the employers they work with to prevent employers from doing an end-run around getting paid for what they do. Contracts with an employee not to work with an employer without arrangement through the temp agency might be hard to enforce, but ones the agency has with employers less so. I’m sure many disreputable employers have tried it.

    3. Not Australian*

      There’s usually a ‘premium’ that can be paid to the temp company for hiring a worker to a permanent contract – a previous employer of mine (grumblingly) paid a premium for me some years ago and I stayed there a further two years – but of course the calculation must be based on the worker’s ‘value’ to the employer. If OP has proved their worth so far, the employer might well consider biting the bullet and paying the premium.

    4. Smithy*

      I used to work at a nonprofit that used staffing agencies essentially for entry level roles. It wasn’t official temp to perm, but the system largely worked that way.

      Without knowing a lot more about how the nonprofit’s relationship is set up, I’d be very hesitant about assuming there’d be a budgetary ability for the nonprofit to take the staff member on as a permanent staffer at this time. Especially if they see themselves doing so in a “short” period of time when their budgets will be better set up for it. If currently there’s funding under a project grant for this kind of hire, but to hire a full time role would mean making room in the larger agency budget – they might be looking to do so in their next fiscal year – which might be in July or October. That’s just one possibility, but unless the OP is bringing in some very specialized skills I’d be warry about how much of a possibility this actually is.

  4. Escapee from Corporate Management*

    Hi OP4. Many people now have a Zoom (or other videoconference link) assigned to them for use in all meetings they initiate. If you login to my Zoom 15 minutes early, there’s a good chance you’ll interrupt my previous meeting.

    One other point since you are new to leadership: your subordinates will follow what you do, not what you say. For example, if you email them at 10:00pm, they will feel the need to check email all evening. If you always login 15 minutes early, they will rush to do so. If you don’t want them to login until the meeting starts, please lead by example and do the same.

    1. Just Lurking*

      Implementing the waiting room function can minimize the interruption if you’re reusing the same Zoom link foe back-to-back meetings, just FYI! You’ll get a notification someone has entered your waiting room, but they won’t be able to see/hear your ongoing conversation.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        And you can send them a message that the people in your current meeting won’t see, too.

    2. Sometimes supervisor*

      That’s an excellent point about leadership positions. I think OP4 is on Teams/Outlook because they get the same thing as me (an auto-calendar reminder 15 minutes before a meeting starts – you can change it but, if you forget, 15 minutes in advance is the default, and a pop up whenever a meeting is started, regardless of how ahead of schedule that happens) and I can definitely say if my boss started a meeting 15 minutes earlier than scheduled, I would be dropping everything and rushing to that virtual meeting room pronto.

      I also think the long time lag might encourage that behaviour – if somebody was, say, 2 or 3 minutes ahead of schedule, I would assume they’ve just opened the tab a little early, I’ve got time to finish wrapping up what I was doing and make it over for the start of the meeting. If somebody was to open it 15 minutes early, I’d be panicking I’d read the calendar invite wrong and rushing to get there.

      1. Expiring Cat Memes*

        I agree, I don’t think it’s something you can do as a leader. If my manager starts a meeting early I’m going to assume it’s either because they have a conflict and need to start and finish the meeting sooner, or have something urgent to discuss, or something gnarly’s going down and we need longer. Either way, I’m dropping everything and joining. With others at level I get annoyed because I don’t know if there’s an important reason for it and I’m usually trying to wrap up what I’m working on and make sure I get a quick water/bathroom break before the meeting.

        1. Allonge*

          Frankly, this situation would lead me, as a manager, to lobby for stopping the notifications on when someone joined first. We have the normal options in Outlook / Teams, everyone can set up additional ones – this is really 98% annoying and 2% useful for me and our meeting culture.

          In the rare cases where I need to set something up, I would join early to have it ready, but that does not mean everyone should drop everything. And yet, if I got a ‘boss joined’ notification, I would also find it hard to ignore. I just don’t see the use.

          But anyway, yes, 15 minutes is too early if everyone gets an extra ping for this.

          That said, OP? The ‘someone is in the room still’ scenario is as old as meeting rooms. We always had people walking in, seeing it’s a previous / prep meeting, saying sorry and walking out (and throwing us out of the room when it was their turn). An e-version of this is nothing to worry about. It’s not silly, it happens.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I find them helpful most of the time. A few times I’ve had super quick meetings, logged out, and then got a notification that the one person that didn’t make it to the meeting ‘started the meeting’ and was able to jump back in and let them know that we had the meeting and it wrapped up early.

      2. Antilles*

        an auto-calendar reminder 15 minutes before a meeting starts – you can change it but, if you forget, 15 minutes in advance is the default, and a pop up whenever a meeting is started, regardless of how ahead of schedule that happens
        Just in case anyone’s not aware of this: You can actually change the default settings on YOUR side and Teams/Outlook will automatically modify the calendar reminder to follow your settings – and it doesn’t matter what reminders the organizer did (or didn’t) include when they sent it out.
        I personally have my default set at 30 minutes because it helps remind me to get to a convenient stopping point soon. But I think OP may be better served by making it like, 1 minute, so they can keep doing their preferred thing of “just log in when Calendar pings me” and not have to worry about it.

        1. Yorick*

          In Outlook, you can also snooze the reminder. I like to get reminders at 15 minutes and then I snooze it until 5 minutes before. When I get the 5 minute reminder, I’ll wrap up and maybe go ahead and join the meeting.

          1. Sometimes supervisor*

            Snap! 15 minute alarm means “by the way, that meeting is coming up so don’t start anything that’s going to take a long time and/or think about winding down what you’re doing”. 5 minute alarm means “OK, for real this time, time to pack up what you’re doing, open up your notes for the meeting and open up the room”.

          2. Loredena Frisealach*

            This is what I do too, because 5 minutes isn’t too early but if I miss it I’ll probably miss the on-the-hour popup too! I do sometimes click the Join from the popup that someone else has started the meeting, because it serves as a visual nudge when I’m being hyper focused.

      3. Amethystmoon*

        Yeah, this may be organization-specific, but the team I work for doesn’t join until one minute before. So I have adjusted all of my reminders 5 minutes to and hit the snooze button each time.

    3. No Cheap Ass Rolls Here*

      Yup, the time I prefer people to join my meetings is at the stated start time or within a couple of minutes after that. I’m not able to create the waiting room function so one minute before the start time is okay — 15 minutes early is weird.

      1. Mongrel*

        Given the unintuitive way my company handles software updates though, I do use the 15 minute reminder to check that Zoom is up to date as it gives me time to fumble around and get it working

      2. rolly*

        OP5: “I’m not sure I can respond in a way that is honest without being disrespectful.”

        Take this as a learning opportunity to work on saying no in a way that does not reveal what you do not want to reveal. You have time to compose a response. This is a skill that can be learned with practice.

    4. Wendy Darling*

      Memorably, I worked for a company that used Cisco Webex for external client meetings but was too cheap to pay for more than one license per division, so my entire division shared the same webex account. Occasionally multiple people would schedule client meetings on the single webex account at the same time and we’d have awkward meeting collisions.

    5. tamarack & fireweed*

      These are two good points.

      A good mental image is that it’s not so similar to hanging out in a conference room 15 min early, with additionally the room reporting anyone who enters. So between the organizers getting notifications that they may feel they need to respond to in a moment when they want to mentally prepare for the meeting they are leading (eg. by sending a message “Hey OP, I notice you’ve entered the virtual meeting – meeting starts in 15 min – let us know if you need anything”) and interrupting previous meetings, pre-meeting strategizing, and technology tests … my advice to the OP would be to just configure an alert 2 min before the meeting instead of acting on the automated 15 min alert.

      1. Vveat*

        Exactly, I am always sending an email when I see somebody joining too early (15 min is too early), wondering if there was a calendar issue and they will drop out annoyed before we actually start.

    6. Groove Bat*

      I was just coming here to say this. It can be super awkward to show up when another meeting is underway; sometimes people won’t know you’re there, and other times you won’t even realize you’re in the wrong meeting.

      The waiting room function is OK, but I’ve also found it can be disruptive if people are trickling in after the meeting is underway.

      I am pretty sure, if you are using Outlook, you can actually adjust your notifications so that you get the alert five minutes before the meeting starts.

      1. Joielle*

        I don’t know about Zoom, but in Webex you can turn off the waiting room once the meeting starts. Then anyone joining late will just go directly into the meeting.

    7. PolarVortex*

      Hello to OP4! I too like to get places early – in person or virtual – so I know I’m not going to miss something. But I don’t actually go into the place until a few mins before. So if your calendar alerts you – see if that alert is snooze capable – or change your alerts!

      Honestly you are right in both your points – sometimes I need the time before the meeting to prep with other presenters and it would drive me crazy that someone was there early. Plus a few people pointed out that you’re setting the norms as a leader, so you need to be extra aware of that.

      If it helps, just remind yourself you wouldn’t show up to someone’s house 15 mins before the party started, 5 mins is more appropriate. And depending on your workplace, 5 mins before the meeting started would be fine, but the norm is as close to the meeting start as possible.

    8. Oh No She Di'int*

      I came to echo the second point here. OP, it DOES NOT MATTER what you tell your subordinates, they will follow whatever you do and/or whatever social cues you give them.

      We have a brief, team-wide Monday morning “hello”. The idea in my head was that I would sit on the video call for 10 minutes, say 10 am to 10:10 am, and people could come and go at any point just to “check-in” as present with myself or with whomever happened to be there. This was meant to fill the space that pre-pandemic would have been filled by people running into each other in the break room in the morning, coming in to say hi to everyone, etc.

      It never happened that way. Everyone would jump on the call the minute I got on and not leave until I left. Meaning that sometimes we’d be sitting there awkwardly with nothing to say for several seconds. My attitude was: “If you have nothing to say, just exit. I’ll stick around because I said I would, but you don’t have to.” But no, without fail, everyone felt that they had to be there start to finish.

      This changed when I myself started jumping in and out at random times. Sometimes I’d be on right at 10:00. Other times I might not come on until 10:05. And I leave as soon as I’m ready to leave. This has given other people permission to do the same, even though I had been verbally giving permission repeatedly for months and months. They won’t follow until you actually do it yourself.

    9. Yorick*

      Zoom allows you to use a different meeting code instead of always using your personal meeting code. If you’re setting up multiple meetings, don’t use your personal code for all of them.

      1. Rainy*

        It’s actually not considered best practice in my office to set up a different meeting address for all of the 20+ meetings we have in a week, and I’d imagine that’s true for anyone who has a lot of meetings.

        1. Curiouser and Curiouser*

          Yeah, cosigning this. If I set up a different meeting address for all my meetings that would take up hours of my week (I have 4 meetings on my zoom link this afternoon alone).

    10. Cascadia*

      Yes! Please don’t log on 15 minutes early. It throws everyone off. Log on 2-3 minutes early, maximum.

  5. Electric Sheep*

    LW2, could you have a chat to your manager asking for some help? She’s familiar with your culture and could maybe give you a hand getting your co-workers to chill. She might also be able to give you a quick refresh on some key face/name combos at the start of the day to help you out when you are in person.

  6. Fikly*

    OP2 – I have a neurological condition – prosopagnosia (face blindness) – that means I don’t recognize faces. Mine is so severe I can’t even recognize my own face.

    I have found success when people get their whatever ruffled when I don’t recognize them by cheerfully saying “yup, sorry, I can’t recognize anyone, even myself, it’s a neurological condition!” and then moving on.

    I think it helps because people seem to think if you don’t recognize them, you aren’t paying attention to them, and thus don’t care about or respect them. And while sometimes that may be the case, for me and you, our brains just cannot do, and this makes it clear it isn’t personal.

      1. Green Post-Its*

        Not OP, but my husband who also has face blindness relies a lot on height, voices, gait, posture and haircuts to recognise people.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes – also what someone is wearing, to be able to recognise (say) someone you meet at a conference and are seeing on and off through the day.

          Voices are helpful as they don’t typically change much, but they aren’t always very distinctive, same with gait.

          hair style, body shape, hair colour can all be useful but if an of them change it will mean I can no longer recognise you. (I had terrible difficulty a couple of years ago when we had two members of staff – they were both young women, similar build, similar voices, both always perfectly made up, (so very similar and uniform facial appearance) and both would change their hair style and colour very frequently . I could tell them apart if they were both there, but I couldn’t tell them apart because I’d learn ‘Buffy is blond, Willow is a redhead, and then the next week Buffy would be a brunette and Willow would be blond, or they’d both be redheads, and my whole idetification system would fall apart. )
          I find younger people are harder to recognize, generally, and I personally find women harder then men, I think because in general, most men tend not to change their hair style / colour / style of dress as much (although when they do, it’s just as big a problem. A couple of years ago I had (to me) strange man approach me and start talking, in a pub. He obviously knew me but it took me forever before I was able to work out from context that he was y plumber, who is also a neighbor of mine who I’d known for about 5 years – I see him several times a week when he is out walking his dog, and he’s worked on my house. But I’d never seen him in a suit before )

          1. ellex42*

            I often recognize people by their voices. Some people just seem to have unique enough faces, or even body types, that I recognize them easily. Others, not so much.

            For a while I worked with 3 women, all late 20s/early 30s, slim build, around 5’5″, with long straight brown hair. Even their voices weren’t distinctive enough to recognize. The only way I could tell one of them apart from the others was that she often wore a necklace with a little owl charm on it. But if she wasn’t wearing that necklace, I had no idea which one I was talking to.

            It doesn’t help that those defining characteristics – along with people’s names – seem to drop out of my head fairly quickly when I haven’t seen that person for a while.

      2. Glomarization, Esq.*

        A lawyer colleague of mine with face blindness says that they concentrate on people’s other distinguishing characteristics: What they tend to wear and how they style their hair, the bag they carry, the setting where they usually meet, the work they’ve done … all manner of little mnemonic tricks here and there. In a group, they’ll listen to how everybody greets each other, as well. I knew this colleague for years before I learned that they have face blindness. I guess they’d been using various other ways to recognize people for a while to try to overcome their challenge.

        Honestly, I don’t think it’s a completely unreasonable reaction for the co-workers to feel a little put-off when someone they’ve worked with shows them a blank face of unrecognition upon seeing them. I’d bet that a brief phrase of explanation to the co-workers would go a long way toward addressing the awkwardness here.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          So they can’t recognize faces but they can recognize the bag someone carries – the brain is a crazy thing!

          1. Sara M*

            The brain has different structures for different tasks. One part recognizes face patterns; an entirely different part does general face recognition. So you can be brilliant at pattern-matching and still not able to recognize (match) faces.

          2. Elenna*

            Fun fact (IIRC, I am not a brain scientist or anything), people actually use a completely different part of the brain to recognize faces than to parse any other visual stimulus! That part of the brain is specifically designed to notice the small differences between faces – if you think about it, there’s a lot less variation in faces compared to bage. Bags can have different colours, designs, sizes, decorations, etc, while faces pretty much all have the same major features (eyes, nose, mouth) in approximately the same place.

      3. AndersonDarling*

        I have the same problem and I treat everyone like I know them. I’m assuming people think that I’m especially friendly! If someone is sitting next to me, I start a conversation appropriate for a stranger of colleague. They may change the conversation to “the project” or another work item and then I will start to figure out who it is.
        Once I get someone talking, I can usually associate their voice to a past encounter.

      4. Fikly*

        Some people find voices helpful, but that tends to be quite hit or miss for me, especially because the same person will sound three different ways to me in person, over the phone, and over zoom.

        I tend to rely most on context (where am I seeing them?) and haircut, although that has the obvious downside that it changes and gets covered up by hats and hoods and the like. In general, women are a bit easier for me just because they have far more variation in hair.

        Men and boys tend to have a very small amount of variation and then I am completely stumped. I have vivid memories of being in school and later college and being randomly assigned a group and then looking around a chaotic room in the 2 minutes before everyone left trying to figure out who I needed to pull aside to meet with.

        When I was a small child, before I understood that my brain was different, my parents told me the basic thing that if I got lost, to tell a safe adult my parents’ name and what they looked like. This led to me being extremely anxious every time we went out that I had to remember exactly what my mother was wearing, because I couldn’t describe her face. Yay anxiety!

        (On the occasions when we went to a large public space, like an amusement park, my mother dressed my sister and I in identical clothes, so if one of us got lost, she could show security the other one and go, the lost child is dressed like this. I do believe that’s cheating.)

    1. Bagpuss*

      I have prosopagnosia too – not quite as severe as yours, although I can struggle with picking myself out of photos. I once walked past my own sister without recognising her, because she had dyed her hair .

      For coworkers and people I am likely to see regularly I normally explain, when i first meet them, in a matter of fact way, and give that as an example, and find that mostly people do accept that.

      (For anyone interested, I’ll add a link in a reply to this comment to a site where you can find more information and a test to see whether you may have a degree of face-blindness, and how you compare with the average)

      1. Bagpuss*

        https://www.testmybrain.org – the famous faces test , and https://www.faceblind.org/ which has more information about the condition in general (and links for people interested in participating in research)

        I have been taking part in a research program for a while now, where they send me tests to complete online, I think they are trying to work out how it is linked to other areas of brain function and visual processing, such as pattern recognition and visual memory. It’s very interesting, although I do find it quite stressful when faced with a whole string of ‘which of these three faces did we just show you?’ questions which I can’t answer, even though I know at the outset that I won’t be able to / will score really ‘badly’ . (I consistently get results that tell me that at least 95% of people are better at recognising faces than I am. Although I ace the tests that want you to mentally rotate shapes to say which will fit / match, or what the next shape is a sequence should be!)

        1. Filosofickle*

          The famous faces test was fun! I assumed the doppelgangers would be regular people, but nope I recognized tons of pairs as other celebrities. Multiple actors running around with the same face…no wonder people say they can’t tell starlets apart. And yet, while the faces were only the tiniest bit different at times I had virtually no difficulty getting the right one! Amazing how the brain can do this at all. (And of course it doesn’t for everyone.)

          I took it assuming I have good face recognition but also realizing I rely a LOT on gait/posture to identify people so worth checking. My eyesight is a better explanation.

          1. TiredEmployee*

            So many actors have doppelgangers – especially women I find. Maybe because they tend to have similarly styled makeup hiding the unique contours of their features?

            I got a few of them right despite not recognising the name because I recognised the look-a-like they were paired with.

        2. TiredEmployee*

          I just took the “famous faces” quiz and scored above average – which was quite a surprise because any moderate change to people’s appearance will take me days to adjust to and recognise as them. Like any time my partner neatens his beard or gets a haircut, or a woman I work with who used to dye her hair returning to her natural colour. I guess it’s all the non-face details that usually confuse me!

        3. Jules the First*

          Fascinating…I just did the famous faces and as I was doing it, I was like “wow, this is easier than I expected! I’m getting lots right!”. Reader, I did not get lots right.

          Apparently 80% of people are better at recognising faces than I am (which I kind of knew as I have aphantasia, which makes facial recognition hard).

          1. bad elbows*

            ha. I got the ” there are 0 people out of 10 that are worse at this than you”. I don’t even have face blindness. Just … an averaging of people”s face. That said, I rely on accent a lot when identifying people.

        4. Elenna*

          My problem with the famous faces test is that I have 0 knowledge about celebrities. I went through the first 10 and the only one whose face I had ever seen before was Natalie Portman – and even then, only years ago as Leia Organa.

          I mean, I’m also 100% sure I wouldn’t have been able to tell even if I had seen the faces before, because almost all the pairs looked pretty much identical to me. But it’s hard to actually use the test when I’m clicking “I don’t know this person” for basically all the celebrities…

          I’ll definitely check out faceblind.org sometime, though!

        5. Mimmy*

          I did surprisingly well – 29 out of 40 pairs correct! There were a few celebrities I didn’t know at all or not well enough to guess.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I have but including a link means the comment goes into moderation, hopefully it will show up once Alison has had time to review!

      2. Employed Minion*

        This is fascinating. I almost never recognize people ‘out of context’ -where ever I usually see them. think work vs farmers market. And I know I use body language and other features to recognize people. That said, I can recognize people’s faces. I’m going to do this quiz and see where I land.

    2. Gnome*

      Ok, I was going to say something to this effect. But since it’s already here, I’ll skip and just say mine’s not quite that bad… But we have a photo and I’m genuinely not sure if it’s me in it, so I’m not much better.

      At first masks were a blessing because it made it harder for everyone… For a bit. I have worked really hard and have gotten a bit better, but what I have found most helpful is to focus on voices. I am much better at identifying those.

      FWIW, I found someone who is the exact opposite. I met them once years ago and they recognized me, out of context a decade-plus (and 40 pounds) later. I didn’t know who they were, so started my usual spiel .. this happened again a couple years later and when I restarted the spiel (now with masks), they said in their family there are some who are the exact opposite and almost never forget a face and they were so used to people they remember NOT remembering them, they didn’t notice… except I said the same thing last time.

      Apparently this is a continuum, and you and I are on one end.

      1. londonedit*

        Yes – I was going to say that I’m nearer the opposite end of the recognition spectrum. I’ve had to learn that not everyone is able to recognise/remember names and faces as easily as I can, because I did spend a lot of time in my twenties going ‘We’ve met before!!’ and feeling vaguely insulted that no one ever seemed to remember me. Now I realise it’s probably me being a bit of an outlier – I wouldn’t say I never forget a face, but I do seem to have a knack for remembering people and will often get a look of surprise when I say ‘Oh, yes! We met at that barbecue last year, you were telling me about your new job’ or whatever. I’m really good at picking out people in TV programmes and saying ‘I recognise them from somewhere…they were in something else…it was a comedy thing, they were wearing a suit…ooooh, I think they were in The Office’ and sure enough they were in one episode 20 years ago.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I have a friend like you. We both took the same test – she scored 100% and I scored 22%. (Some of the questions were multiple choice so you could get a few right at random, in that section)

          My friend can do it with places / directions, too – we met up once in a city neither of us lives in, but she was able to navigate unerringly to the obscure little restaurant, in a tangle of tiny identical alley-ways, that she’d visited once, 7 years previously (the food was great. If I had not been with her, I would probably still be wandering those alleyways trying to find my way out)

          1. londonedit*

            Oh, interesting – I can do the same thing with directions! And I’m also really good at spelling, because I only have to see something once or twice and then it goes into my brain and if I want to recall it, I can ‘see’ the letters in my mind’s eye. Maybe it’s all connected…?

            1. ellex42*

              I can do that with the spelling! I’m okay at directions, but faces, names, and numbers…not so much.

              I got so much flak in school from teachers who apparently couldn’t comprehend that I could “memorize” how to spell onomatopoeia, but couldn’t remember any of the times tables.

            2. Caraway*

              I don’t know! I’m a great speller, have a good memory for faces (a good memory in general), and am terrible at directions! Like, “please tell me specifically which way to turn out of the parking lot, even if it seems super obvious” terrible. My mom has that knack for directions and it honestly seems like magic to me. It’s just foreign to my brain.

          2. UKDancer*

            My father can do the navigating thing. He only has to go somewhere once and he can remember exactly where it is and how to get there. He’s also good at remembering peoples’ faces.

            Me I’m terrible at remembering faces and what people look like, but I remember stuff about them, e.g. their pets, children and random details like the fact Steve has a nut allergy and Mary collects china dolls.

            It always amazes me in Criminal Minds when they do “cognitive” interviews and people are able to remember vast amounts of details about the perpetrator that they saw for 3 minutes a year before. I’d be like “well he was a man I think and he had hair and arms and legs.” I really don’t know how people can remember things in any detail.

            1. Bagpuss*

              The research I am taking part in is looking at the connections and I think also at which specific areas in the brain are involved.

              Apparently there is some correlation with directions – a lot of people with prosopagnosia also have a poor sense of direction.

              I can’t spell – I read very fast and I see the shape of the word but not the individual letters.
              n the other hand, I have good visual memory for other things – I could describe the cover of a book I read once, years ago, for instance, and could tell you which shelf it was on in my parents house or in the library.. But I have a lot of family members who have been formally diagnosed with dyslexia, some of whom are great with faces, so I don’t know whether my inability to spell is linked in any way.

              Per UK Dancer’s comment – I would be hopeless as a witness for that exact reason. When I was a baby lawyer I used sometimes to have to attend ID Parades, as the accused person is entitled to have their lawyer there to check that it’s all conducted appropriately.

              I almost never knew whether or not the witness had picked out our man, as even when I had met the accused just beforehand, if they were then in a line of superficially similar people I would not know which one they were, and of course wouldn’t know in advance which number they were.
              (Bizarrely, this is the one situation where being faceblind was an advantage, as there was no question of me ever giving anything away to the witness through body language if they were getting ‘warm’! )
              I learned to actually ask, at the end , before I left the ID suite, which number my client had been so I knew if they had been identified, because of course the client wouldn’t know, being on the other side of the soundproof one way glass, and the police would assume that I knew whether ‘Number 6’ was my chap or not…

            2. Elenna*

              Ugh I would be so bad at picking out a criminal from a lineup.

              “Um, he… was a person? With a face? I don’t remember what the face looked like at all, but I’m pretty sure he had one…”

        2. allathian*

          Oddly enough, I’m the same with actors! I’m pretty good at picking out even minor appearances from decades back. That said, I’m not sure I’d recognize even my favorite actors if I ran into them in the street, at least not immediately. If they spoke, I’d be more likely to recognize them by their voice.

        3. pancakes*

          I do this with actors too, though I feel like it’s almost cheating to watch a lot of mysteries because so many of them will have been in Poirot, Midsomer Murders, or both. We’ve been watching Maigret lately and I’ve spotted at least 2 or 3 per episode. I suppose the US equivalent is Law & Order. I used to edit demo reels for actors and nearly all of them had a clip from that.

          I read an interesting article this weekend about a woman classed as a “super-recognizer.” Will link separately. She mostly tries to keep quiet about it so as not to freak people out.

          1. Bagpuss*

            I suspect this is one reason I prefer live theatre to movies – it’s generally much easier to keep track of who is who, as they are much less likely to change their clothes or appearance in the course of the story, and as writers presumably know that parts of their audience are going to be sitting a long way away and won’t be able to see faces clearly, characters tend to refer to each other my name fairly regularly so you can reorient yourself. Although I did see production of Richard II a little while ago where everyone was dressed the same and most played more than one part – had it not been for the fact that I know the play pretty well I would have been lost as I couldn’t tell most of the actors apart.

            1. Elenna*

              I’m also somewhat face-blind, I think (gonna have to check out that online test you mentioned) although not as much as some people here – I can recognize people, most of the time, if I’ve spent enough time in their company. (Although there’s been a time or two when I’ve failed to recognize one of my parents among a group of people of the same age/race/gender, because they weren’t wearing the coat I expected them to be wearing.)

              And yeah, I’m not a big movie fan, because I inevitably spend most of any new movie trying to remember who is who. Especially if it’s the kind of movie where 90% of the characters are young white men.
              Plus (and I’m not sure if this is at all faceblindness-related), I tend to have trouble parsing what’s going on in visual mediums, if that makes sense. Like, even if I know all the faces I have trouble following what’s happening on screen, especially if the scene is at all dark/gloomy. E.g. in Frozen, the first time I watched it I completely failed to realize that their parents’ ship had sunk (I was also on a tiny airplance screen, which didn’t help). This also prevents me from playing some video games.

          2. Filosofickle*

            I’ve been watching old series including Charlie’s Angels (pandemic / breakup distractions) and the sheer volume of “Hey It’s X” guest appearances is astonishing. It’s like everyone went through that show on their way up circa 1980. This week I saw ones with Timothy Dalton and Kim Cattrall. Tommy Lee Jones was in the pilot. Everyone is so young!

    3. Hazel*

      RE: #2 – Ever since menopause/being over 50, my memory has been terrible for anything that’s not majorly important, and sometimes I even forget important things (thought not usually related to work, thank goodness). I HATE this. I worry about the impression I’m making on people, and I have to keep reminding myself that I’m actually not stupid, that my memory used to be better, and that this is not my fault. And I write EVERYTHING down. I’ve done this all my life, but now I know that even when I think there’s no way I’ll forget a certain thing, I definitely WILL forget it.

      When it’s become obvious that I forgot something that everyone else is aware of, I joke about middle age being the culprit or say my memory is rubbish. If people get offended after that, it’s on them; there’s not much more I can do about it. I hope this is helpful for OP #2. You’re not alone by a long shot, esp. judging from today’s comments so far!

    4. Momma Bear*

      I have a friend with that condition and typically won’t recognize you out and about until you talk to them. Voices trigger recognition.

      I have coworkers I fully admit I can’t tell apart when they’re masked. And I used to get mixed up with a coworker frequently at a former company. IMO OP’s coworkers need to chill. It happens. Laugh and move on.

    5. KoiFeeder*

      Yeah, a breezy “after [x] years you’d think I’d be able to recognize my own face, but I can’t even manage that!” usually smooths things over in my experience.

  7. Hufflepuffy*

    For LW1, it doesn’t sound like the onsite supervisor changed her mind, but rather that this employee is a contractor and is not permitted that flexibility by her actual employer for fear of potential liability. I get that it’s a bummer, but it doesn’t sound like an outrageous position.

    1. Double A*

      Yeah, as a temp there are often perks and benefits that are available to permanent employees that aren’t available to you. I wouldn’t quit over it if you’re interested in a permanent job at this place, it’s just that you can’t bring in your dog right now.

  8. Language Lover*

    lw#1, Alison, I interpreted this differently.

    It’s not right that your supervisor told you in your interview that you could do it and then changed her mind without discussing it with you. Feedback for temp-to-perm contractors often does go through their contracting agency, but there’s no reason this had to.

    From the letter, I don’t think we actually know if the supervisor changed her mind. I think the recruiter at the staffing agency was checking in on lw’s progress a month into the job by talking with the supervisor. During that conversation, the recruiter learned lw was bringing in their dog. That doesn’t mean the supervisor expressed displeasure about the dog being there. It’s just as likely that they were delighted about having the dog there if it’s a dog-friendly office and didn’t give mentioning the dog a second thought.

    I think it’s the recruiter’s staffing company that took issue with the lw bringing in the dog.

    I definitely think it’s a good question I don’t recall seeing here. Technically, lw is the employee of the staffing firm but would the staffing firm “fire” the employee that their client was happy with?

    1. L.H. Puttgrass*

      ‘Technically, lw is the employee of the staffing firm but would the staffing firm “fire” the employee that their client was happy with?’

      That’s a really good question. It probably depends on the staffing company. I’d guess a big multinational is going to be a stickler for rules over the profit from a staffing contract for one person, but it’s hard to say.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yeah, a multinational is probably not going to ignore their rules on legal liability for one person.

        Also, if they tell the client that their policy is that the LW can’t bring her dog, the client is likely to also tell the LW she can’t bring her dog.

  9. Anne Wentworth*

    LW2, perhaps you can keep a list of your coworkers’ names and some notes about them to review before your visits, and that might jog your memory when you’re there.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes! If it’s really just 20 people and not 20 people + a billion random clients each day, you can make some progress, gradually. I used our photo ID lists for this, maybe some Zoom screenshots could help? I find it’s a start, at least.

      Also: faking it is ok, especially if someone seems to expect you to recognise them! In most conversations, you can avoid referring to people by name, and often from context it will be clear who the Masked Mystery is this time.

    2. Bagpuss*

      For what it’s worth, this may not help if the problem is a degree of faceblindness- for me, it isn’t that I can’t remember details about people, it’s that I literally cannot recognise their faces.

      I could tell you all sorts of details about the the person I interviewed for a job a few weeks ago, but if I met them in person I would have no chance at all of actually recognising them as someone I’d met before, even if I knew in advance that they were going to be there, I would only be able to identify them by a process of limitation (e.g. ‘there are 6 people here, 5 of them are men so the other one must be Jane, who I met a month ago’)

      1. The OG Sleepless*

        Yes, unfortunately this doesn’t work. I have a pretty good memory overall except for face blindness, so I can remember everything else about the person just fine. I can remember meeting someone named Kathy who moved here from Ohio and has a black Lab and is a huge fan of Star Trek and once met John Cusack on an elevator. If I run into Kathy the next day? I won’t recognize her.

  10. LoV...*

    OP4: I’ve been in both situations as a presenter trying to get everything set up before the meeting and people join. And I’ve been the person who auto-joins as soon as the pop-up appears. If I’m leading the meeting, I use the time to say “hi” to people. If you manifest chill vibes, it’s not awkward (although it’s not always easy to do this).

  11. Two Chairs, One to Go*

    It stresses me out when people come too early to zoom meetings. I have a waiting room. Still, when I have 15 minutes left and someone pops in the waiting room it’s distracting. Or sometimes someone will pop in a few days before to check the link is working.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I often run webinars with a high volume of attendees and use the waiting room option. Sometimes presenters will find it distracting, but it gets turned off at the start time.
      A bigger issue for me is that presenters sometimes want to stick around and chat for a couple of minutes after the presentation concludes, but sometimes there will still be too many people in the meeting to allow that. I could kick them all out individually, but by the time I do that, everyone will have logged off anyway.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I’m guilty of link checking. I often have to join meetings from places with iffy at best internet and like to check if the connection can handle VOIP and video or if this is going to have to be a call in well before the meeting. That way I can give the meeting organizer a heads up and can avoid the “Can you hear me? See me? Hang on, let me call in” dance

      1. WellRed*

        Don’t feel guilty. If they are going to have online meetings, link checking should be expected.

      2. Two Chairs, One to Go*

        Ah that makes sense! I should clarify I mostly work 1:1, not in large meetings. So I don’t mind a few minutes of people getting set up before we start.

    3. No Tribble At All*

      Popping in when you first get the invite is normal though! Especially if you’re outside the organization and you want to make sure any settings you have (virtual backgrounds) still apply.

    4. Nanani*

      Is there an agreed-upon etiquette to checking things beforehand?
      When you need to make sure your setup actually works, it seems like going in a bit early so you can take care of any technical issues before the actual start time makes sense. But if it disrupts other participants before they’re ready, that’s not great :/

    5. The OTHER Other*

      But most trainings on virtual meetings suggest checking in early to make sure everything is working. Most links/invites suggest the same. Perhaps this is old hat to people and they think it’s unnecessary, but with the many MANY different meeting technologies out there, issues are bound to happen. I do 5-10 virtual meetings a week, I’m fine with several different kinds but Webex often gives me problems. That said, logging in 15 minutes early seems like overkill unless I’m the presenter.

    6. Momma Bear*

      I was going to suggest a waiting room until you are ready as a presenter (especially if you need set up time). If it’s a Teams call, click the option in Outlook to snooze the reminder until 5 mins before and THEN log in. If someone starts at Teams call early, it notifies everyone, so waiting until 5 mins before is better than 15.

  12. Loulou*

    For the OP who has trouble recognizing people with their masks, I wonder if the blank expression you mention could be the cause of the offense, more so than not remembering people’s names? Based on the context, it sounds like you should probably assume the people coming up to you are people you have already met, so maybe greeting them and heading them off with a warm “I’m sorry, I know we’ve met but could you remind me of your name” could solve the issue. (That said, if the coworkers were the ones writing in, I’d say they should put some effort into not appearing annoyed!)

    1. Pam Adams*

      I see college students- I generally assume that we’ve met. With one of me and a few thousand of them, it’s just easier.

    2. Sue*

      My office has had huge turnover and I don’t know the names of most of the staff anymore. I don’t sweat it as knowing someone’s name so rarely actually matters. I smile and say hello to everyone, interact as needed and just don’t say a name. When I need to approach someone specific and don’t know who it is, I ask one of the other old timers and we laugh and they direct me. It’s working fine for me but I’m not in the office everyday and that helps.

    3. Anononon*

      Yes, this is what I was thinking. It sounds like OP has been operating on the assumption that every person they don’t recognize they must not have met. After they’ve been there a couple months, I think it’s okay to switch to assuming that you have met the person.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      I think that’s almost certainly it. Small office, 20 people, OP has been in multiple times for what sounds like all-staff activities – she can pretty safely assume that anyone who approaches her is someone she’s met before. Staring blankly honestly is a bit odd in that situation, although I’m sure that’s just an on-the-spot reaction. There’s nothing to lose by just greeting everyone warmly.

    5. Smithy*

      This is a really good suggestion – possible variations of this sentence can include options like “I believe we’ve met before, but I’m still adjusting to being at the office, could you remind me of your name.”

      There are ways of adding more ambiguity or certainty based on how likely it is that you met, and adding that element of self ownership that you are adjusting. There was one office I worked at with multiple floors, and any time I was on a different floor than mine making note of “finding my 12th floor sea legs” helped. It was somewhat self depreciating, but not to the point where I ever found someone needing to reassure me or overall doubt my professionalism.

      I know a lot of the AAM letters are about how more direct/less softening language is needed – but I do wonder if this is a case where some softening language can go a long way. I used to work in a large organization where a more senior leader on a team I didn’t really work with used to just call me “lady”. She said it in such a way that felt familiar and friendly and it was mostly when we’d run into one another in the toilets or staff kitchen. I’m 1000% convinced she never knew my name, but it was said in such a friendly manner and not like she was ignoring my name on a meeting invite. I don’t recommend this as a suggested approach, but as example of a more assertive friendly overture making up for what can be seen as a social faux pas.

    6. meagain*

      I often attended meetings with clients in different cities and knew most of them over email/phone calls. Before the days of Zoom.) Sometimes when I would see them in person, I would forget if I had ever met them in person at another event over the years or not. I would be like, “It’s nice to meet you” and they would be like, “Uh…we’ve met before” and I would feel like oops and so awkward. So then when I would run into people at these things and wasn’t sure, I just started saying, “It’s nice to see you.” That could be interpreted as “it’s nice to see you again” or “it’s nice to finally see you in person.” I still use that trick to this day when I’m not quite sure who they are or if I have met them before.

  13. i wish*

    OP3, there are a grand total of seven managers I could use for a reference check. But six of them are unavailable, and the other is a bullying narcissist who gives out bad references for fun.

    Four of the seven are now dead. Two of them are retired: one is literally impossible to reach, and the other has dementia. That leaves one manager…who I could never use as a reference, not in the least because he tried to assault me. So, what am I meant to do? Give my potential employer a Ouija board?

    At best, reference checks from ex-managers are useless: they prove nothing about the candidate whatsoever. At worst, they are actively damaging to the recruitment process, especially to candidates who, through no fault of their own, cannot provide the number of referees being asked for.

    All my most toxic workplaces had reference checks…including for my aforementioned abusive manager. He got glowing references.

    Government departments have very strenuous recruitment processes. They’ve obviously realised they don’t need reference checks. Consider that a win.

    1. ed123*

      That’s really shitty. I don’t have it as bad, but I’m in my second professional job and the CEO of the previous job has passed away so getting references will be ineresting. I understand references, however I don’t really put a lot of value on them. People are likely going to use only good references, manager-employee relationships is a very unique one and there can be a lot of package there. Sometimes it can be because of the employee but sometimes because of the manager. My current manager is someone you have to play a game with in order to be on her good side. It requires a lot of mental energy. Therefore we can’t ever give feedback and develop our team or tell the truth to the director in exit interview, cause we need a reference.
      Off the record references are propably most useful, but I think asking for those is also crappy. So, I’m not a huge fan of the reference system cause there are so many downfalls but at the same time I get it.

    2. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Early on in my worklife, I had a similar situation where the longer my career grew, the longer the list was of past employers who longer existed as an employer. The restaurant that burned down. The restaurant that became the gas station. The small independent pharmacy that became a large chain pharmacy.

      I expect I will retire from where I am now and will not need references ever again. But if I did, I would have to really take a hard look at my last list – it’s over six years old and I’m not sure where some of them are now and one for sure has retired.

        1. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          I know of at least one for sure has died. We’re talking the job I had 30+ years ago!

          Now that I think of it, I’d like to think she’d still give me a good reference based on 17-yr-old me.

      1. Sara without an H*

        And the farther back your references are in your career, the less likely they are to remember anything useful or specific about the kind of job you did for them. (Even those who don’t have dementia.) I’m still in touch with one who would probably give me a good reference, but face it, it’s been 20+ years…how much detail would she remember?

        While I always checked references (and still would, if I were still hiring people), I’d be skeptical about an applicant who couldn’t give any recent references, although I’d understand if they didn’t want to give me the name of the current manager. (Because, obviously…)

        Government agencies have their own system that more-or-less works for them. If OP3 feels otherwise good about accepting the job, I’d say go ahead and don’t worry about it.

        1. LinuxSystemsGuy*

          The problem with reference checks is that unless you’re a lot more diligent than most places can afford to be, they aren’t all that useful. I had four managers at my last job, both because I had good longevity, and because the manager job had significant churn. I didn’t get along with one, had a fine but not exceptional relationship with two, and one thought I walked on water. Guess which one I ask for references.

          So here I am able to cherry pick between the four managers I’ve had in the last six years, and thread OP has no one, through no fault of their own.

    3. the cat's ass*

      OMG, this is my experience as well. I’m planning on retiring in in the next 5 year or so, from my current job, but I’d be hard pressed to search out my previous supervisors as they are dead/demented/retired and moved/with the one hellbeast narcissist still floating around. And three of those places have closed or been absorbed into other practices. Some of my previous colleagues are alive and kicking and positively disposed towards me, so that would probably be my option.

    4. Just Another Zebra*

      See, this is something I worry about when I think about leaving for my next job (no plans of such yet, but). My first job was mall retail. I worked in a large, popular store with a lot of pink. All of my old managers no longer work at the company. My second job was a company that closed due to bankruptcy 9 months after I left. I worry that the longer I stay at this job (which I really enjoy!), the harder it will be in the future.

      1. Filosofickle*

        It’s such a weird unintended consequence of staying at one job a long time. Not only does it make prior colleagues/bosses harder to track down, but it also means they are farther and farther away from relevant knowledge. I was in a completely different role 1o years ago — people who worked with me in that part of my career wouldn’t be great references for me today. Not saying it’s a reason to leave a job you like and there are some workarounds, but I get your concern.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      It wasn’t until I started reading AAM that I started seeing that most people only give managers as references. If the point is to find someone who can tell the potential employer about your skills and your ability to work well with others, sometimes a manager would be the worst person to choose.

      When I was finishing grad school and starting to apply for professional jobs, I listed coworkers from my part time job as my references. They were slightly senior to me, not supervisors, but they worked more closely with me than my supervisor had and were able to give a more complete picture of who I am in the workplace. I’ve also been a reference for my own coworkers, and reference checkers have never acted like that was anything unusual.

      1. AdequateArchaeologist*

        Yeah, I give co-workers as references too. I had a set of rotating managers at one job who I would not rely on for references (one was mad I didn’t want to try psychedelic mushrooms, one was occasionally drunk on the job, etc.), another boss who I’m sure would give a glowing reference is impossible to reach because she’s so busy at her actual job, one was my now spouse, and the professors in my grad program will hardly respond to their own students let alone reference checkers. All I’ve got left is my co-workers and my 1 reasonable manager.

    6. Cold Fish*

      Not dead, but I’ve been at the same place for 20 years with the same two managers/supervisors, both of who still work at company. Not that I think they would give a bad reference however I wouldn’t want to give as references because then they would know I’m looking to leave.

      Also not a fan of the reference system. 9 out of 10 it’s perfunctory responses of the 10% left, you have the heart-felt good references, the lying probably bad reference but possibly good lying to get rid of bad employee, and the hurt references who could go either way. Added together, odds are not that great that you are getting the employee you think you are based on references.

    7. PT*

      Of my references, two are retired and the third is in a field where she’ll likely work until she dies (academia.)

      But I worked in a very high turnover field and I have something like 7 previous bosses who I could NEVER use as references. One (who I liked very much!) was pushed out for taking too much maternity leave, four were fired for incompetence, two are lost to the ether because they just peaced out for bigger and better things and wanted nothing to do with our company after they left. They are just gone.

      1. Starbuck*

        They don’t have to have any current association with the company to be usable as a reference, though. If you have a way to contact them and they’re willing to speak about you, that can still work. Maybe some places will do a reference check on your references, but I don’t think that’s very common.

    8. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      Years ago, I worked for someone who was a genuinely awful human – a complete waste of organs and I don’t say that lightly.

      The woman who quit (without a job lined up – red flag) listed him as a reference because she was “supposed” to. For fun, having chased her off the job, torpedoed her chances of getting another job. He went out of his way to tell us, his new subordinates, that if we overheard him doing this, it was because she had done X, Y, and Z badly on the job.

      Obviously, I found other references when I left that job.

    9. The OTHER Other*

      Sorry you have had such terrible managers and poor experiences with references, but I strongly disagree that references are useless at best. I have never hired without checking them. Really without a reference check how do you know applicant worked where they said they did, at the jobs they claimed, for the time given? I’ve not encountered many cases of faked jobs on resumes but they happen.

      Was the toxic manager with the glowing references interviewed? You could just as well say “this proves interviews are useless” since after all the interview process didn’t uncover his toxicity either.

      1. Nela*

        I agree. References may not be a perfect system but it seems obvious to me that awful toxic managers will be much more likely to go on to be awful toxic managers at new companies if no one is talking to the people who used to work with them.

        1. Starbuck*

          Same with serial sexual harassers, bigots, etc. All those awful things people can do that don’t necessarily result in something showing up in a criminal background check.

      2. Filosofickle*

        I think there is some overlap in how people talk about references — what you’re describing I’d call verification. Contact the HR department and verify someone worked there. Versus a reference being a former boss/coworker who will get on the phone and provide an actual evaluation of someone as an employee.

        1. The OTHER Other*

          I was thinking of a more substantial talk with the reference, as opposed to simply verifying someone worked there–but that would serve both functions, no?

          1. Filosofickle*

            It would, yes, if it was a supervisor and if they are still at the same company. If you called any of my references, they’ve all moved on and would not be able to confirm dates/titles/duties beyond “yeah it was something like that”. So it could be two separate sets of calls, one to verify the resume and one for performance appraisal. Depends how thorough you want to be.

            I don’t disagree with you that references can be useful. I’m surprised when people don’t check! But I’ve also been in that situation where I have few or no substantial references — especially if it has to be a supervisor — and it’s really stressful to be at that kind of disadvantage.

      3. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        IMHO, the issue is that people who are doing the reference checks often use (bad) proxies for what they are trying to learn about the candidate, rather than thinking of the most direct and least biased way to learn what they want to know. If you want to know if they did the job they listed, in the time frame listed, you ask that question. If you want to know if they left voluntarily and are eligible for rehire, you ask that.

        However, people often leave their job because there was a problem with the job, so insisting on speaking to, e.g., the manager rather than several co-workers, won’t get you the information you need. See the below example with Ph.D. refugees whose advisors made their lives miserable.

        Likewise, a lot of very toxic people “kiss up, kick down,” so their own managers give them glowing references, while their subordinates have their photos on dartboards. When the one-over-ones hear complaints from the subordinates, they may be inclined to dismiss them, to defend their own decisions in hiring or promoting the toxic person. They may give “glowing references” to make the person someone else’s problem.

      4. LinuxSystemsGuy*

        You’re confusing reference checks with employment verification. Most of my references no longer even work at the companies we worked at together, and while they can verify I worked with them, you won’t get the comforting @oldcompany.com email address and honestly would have no idea if they were lying. I worked at tech startups most of my mid career, so we all jumped around a decent amount. References are supposed to give you an idea what a candidate was like to work with or supervise, not verify employment.

        The problem with references is partly what the thread OP complains about, where people who have a long work history with only one company, or entry level people, or people with older supervisors often don’t have good references, or the opposite. I had pretty good longevity at the last startup I worked for so I went through 4 supervisors in about 7 years, then before that I worked for a bunch of startups for only a years or so each. Over the last say, twelve years I’ve had about nine managers. I usually only need one or two manager references , so naturally I cherry pick. My managers always say I was awesome, because I pick the one or two I had the best relationship with of the nine or so reasonable choices.

      5. Starbuck*

        Same. However difficult it can be for a candidate to provide them (because of reasons that are in no way their fault, which makes it feel pretty unfair) they are still VERY valuable for hiring. The practice may not always be in your best interest as a applicant, but it’s totally in the employer’s interest. It’s definitely helped me make hiring decisions.

      6. Red*

        So the OP of this thread should get the Ouija board out then so potential employers can speak to some of her former managers?

        I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be rude, but I’m in a similar boat. I have only two former managers I could use as a reference, and one is very hard to contact. The others are a mix of genuinely awful people, people who worked with me a long time ago and in a different industry, a boss who did jail time for embezzlement, a small business owner who we had to sue to get our wages, and three dead people. I’ve been at my current job for ten years and all three managers I’ve had in that time are still with the company, so I can’t use any of them. HR does not provide any information for reference checks due to privacy laws.

        How would you react if I told you why my management-level references were unavailable?

    10. Purple Cat*

      But there’s no requirement that you ONLY use managers as a reference check.
      You can use any type of coworker, client, partner, etc. I’d prefer to hear from references in a cross-functional role.
      I had a similar issue, I’ve been with my company a LONG time and wouldn’t want to put people in a bind of keeping my job hunt confidential. Luckily (in some ways) both my most recent managers have left, so now it’s open season for reference availability.

      1. Red*

        Plenty of places require you to use former managers. Some places enjoy making it even harder by asking you for at least one from within the last 2-5 years. Just so they make sure you’re endangering your current job as much as possible.

  14. LMK*

    I sympathize with OP2. I’ve always had trouble remembering people’s names that I didn’t work directly with, although I usually recognized that I probably knew them. But put masks on them, and it becomes so much worse. One of the strangest things was with a woman who I’d only worked with after Covid started, and who I’d never seen without a mask. One day she said Hi to me in the lunch room, and I didn’t recognize her at first. Her face was not at all what I had imagined she looked like behind the mask!

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      I had a coworker who started during Covid, and from the eyes up she looked so much like a former coworker I almost called her by the old coworker’s name, multiple times. When I finally saw her without a mask, she looked nothing at all like her! Whew. Much easier. I never have trouble with her name now.

  15. Person from the Resume*

    We use Teams which recently added a “feature” that alerts you when the first person joins the meeting so that might be what the LW’s company is using. Each teams meeting has its own URL so you won’t interrupt an ongoing meeting.

    I would change my default meeting alert to 5 minutes before and just join then. You can also change the alert time for meetings others send to you if they default to 15 minutes. It’s also really easy to hit snooze “5 minutes before” when the 15 minute alert pop up.

    I understand what you do and you do it so you don’t miss the start, but it seems that it’s time to change the way you work.

    1. londonedit*

      We also use Teams and every time there’s a meeting, for 10 minutes beforehand you’ll get pop-ups with ‘Tangerina Warbleworth has started the meeting’ – then Tangerina obviously realises she’s early and leaves the meeting, only for ‘Fergus McBoatface has started the meeting’ to pop up 30 seconds later, and so on. It’s really annoying! I’m usually only lurking in meetings, so I don’t join until the actual start time or maybe a minute beforehand. Unless I was involved with organising the meeting, or I was going to be the one to kick it off and speak first, I wouldn’t join any earlier than that.

        1. londonedit*

          Ha – I can’t take credit for it (it’s a name that’s often used on this site) but it would be a brilliant name for a cat.

      1. A Feast of Fools*

        I was on a Teams call this morning and my internet connection dropped. It took 3 or 4 minutes to reboot the router and I dialed back into the call. Which had already ended. Fine, no biggie, I knew the content of the meeting anyway.

        But Teams notified everyone that I had “joined the meeting” and, one by one, all the junior people on my team joined the call, saw no one was on it, and dropped.

        This went round-robin enough that the first person re-re-joined the call.

        All this was happening while I was furiously typing a Teams IM into the junior staff chat group telling them that it was just me checking to see if the meeting had ended while I was temporarily offline.

        As to OP4’s question: In my company, the only people who join meetings 15 minutes early are the people with nothing else to do. Which means it’s a realllllllly bad look to consistently join meetings that early.

        I have my default reminder set for 20 minutes and I always click the Snooze button to be reminded 5 minutes ahead of time.

    2. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

      Yep, that definitely sounded like Teams. I’ll admit when I see X has started the meeting, I find it distracting and then I rush to wrap up what I need to finish in order to prep for the next meeting.

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Same – my workplace culture is that 99% of people don’t join until at max 5 minutes prior, and then you get the notification. I do like those notifications for that in particular as it reminds me to go join. We do have a small number of people who like to join 15-30 minutes early just to pop in, then leave, which starts the cascade of random people joining because they thought they misread and are now late, to then also pop out, etc. etc… The ones that join so very early inevitably do annoy the majority that do not.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      My job has a standing meeting daily to provide passdown from first shift of any problems they had and Aleta about any process changes. They generally are really short – like less than five minutes. We get an alert five minutes out – seems to work well for us as a team.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Gotta love mobile posting and autocorrect “that was supposed to say “passdown from first shift about problems and alerts about process changes.”

  16. Cedrus Libani*

    RE: #3 – I work for a large company that doesn’t do references as a matter of principle. Won’t check them, and won’t give them either. I gather it’s part liability (multiplied by the dozens of countries where this company employs people, it’s not worth the army of lawyers required to do it correctly) and part signal to noise ratio.

    It’s fine. Honestly, it is. There’s an obvious consequence: my department mostly hires at the MS/PhD level, and we’re enriched for people who had a terrible grad school experience and are no longer on speaking terms with their advisor. We didn’t talk to their advisor, we let them talk for themselves. So we hire high-quality, if somewhat traumatized, former PhD students in dog grooming who couldn’t get a job because their advisor hates their stupid face, and we teach them about llamas. (Disclaimer: me too. But not just me!)

    You’ve got to step up the other aspects of your interview to get away with this. Certainly, if you have the feeling that they’d hire any warm body that crossed their path, you’re likely to be correct – and you don’t want to get stuck on a team full of warm bodies that can barely fog a mirror. But if they interviewed you properly, maybe they just didn’t find reference checks to be worth all the associated issues, and that’s fine too.

    1. bamcheeks*

      As a recruitment strategy, this sounds A+.

      (PhD who wasn’t actually on bad terms with my supervisor, but just never really saw the point of them and accidentally submitted her thesis with the acknowledgements saying, “And I’d like to thank my supervisor and the Department of Llama Grooming for “, because I couldn’t think of anything I actually wanted to thank them for and I meant to go back and then I just .. forgot.)

      1. ed123*

        I thanked my supervisor for his advice through the process. It was the only neutral thing that could be interpreted as nice that I could think of.

    2. Lora*

      While I can understand being screwed for a reference from a PhD advisor, especially if you don’t have much other work experience to draw from (my first PI definitely hated my rotten guts, and I have colleagues whose advisors, though Nobel laureates, were gold-plated a$$holes), I don’t think it’s mandatory that a reference has to come from your PI alone. It can be someone on your committee, someone you TA’ed a class for or did a rotation with, even a postdoc you worked closely with if you’ve got nothing else. We’re mostly looking for people who can say “Cedrus was a nice person, shared reagents and mentored undergrads” or similar, to confirm that you weren’t faking your way through the interview process and in real life you’re a nightmare to work with. References don’t necessarily have to be direct managers, they can be collaborators and other senior people you worked with.

      My first PI is still alive but his career has been no great shakes and nobody cares about his opinion; I think he’s had about five publications in the past 20 years, none of them very high impact. Second one died (at a ripe old age of natural causes), third one died in a tragic accident a few years ago. Two of my ex-bosses were so notorious they were drummed out of the industry entirely and when people hear that I worked for them the reaction is “oh my god you poor thing!” A third manager, a real pig, has bounced around to various other jobs himself and a reference from him is nothing to be proud of. About half of the rest are retired and the other half are planning their imminent retirement. I mean, if you’re not listing at least ONE manager on there, it’s going to look bad, but even if they’re an outreach program director and you volunteered to do some kind of high school outreach or whatever underneath them, that counts. It doesn’t have to be your direct manager either – the grandboss or great-grandboss is also Your Manager, often even better because you were able to cultivate relationships all across the hierarchy.

      For what it’s worth I almost always check people out by asking around the network to see if they’re a good colleague – and I’ve caught people who were fibbing about their work experience on their resume that way, too: in a company that *as policy* will only confirm dates of employment, people can say they were the Grand High Chief Whatever Officer and nobody’s going to say “calm down, intern” if it seems otherwise plausible. But yeah, if absolutely nobody can say anything nice about you or vouch for your being a decent human, that’s going to be problematic.

    3. ThatGirl*

      I just hit the one-year mark at my current job, and they didn’t ask for references OR a cover letter. I did have a pretty thorough set of interviews (and fast) – I talked to a bunch of people (some in duos, all fairly short) and did a writing/editing test, so I must have shown my mettle sufficiently there. I was ready to provide references, but never got asked for any!

    4. JustaTech*

      I’ll offer this as a counter-point on references – if you’re hiring someone and people reach out to you offering their experiences on a person as an employee, please listen.

      At my second lab we had a guy who was just, oy. He used up expensive reagents like crazy, he could never be bothered to include controls, but he was there all the time (worked weekends because he wanted his wife to make him lunch) and was just generally unproductive. One day my PI was complaining about him to our lab manager who just sort of snapped and said “if you’d called even one of his references they would have told you that he is like this! *I* could have told you he is like this, but you couldn’t be bothered to ask!”

      (This guy wasn’t a post-doc or grad student, he was a working scientist who’d been employed at this university for decades. So it wasn’t about his advisor or anything like that, it was about his own track record.)

      Personally, on a references front I’d be much more interested in what former peers have to say than managers.

    5. Red*

      A very loud round of applause for an extremely sensible recruitment process that doesn’t involve re-traumatising people. Thank you!

  17. Stantheman*

    #5 if you don’t answer the email they might believe the email is not correct. If you answer they know the email is correct. And can pester you.

    1. Daffodilly*

      Since the message asked for her email address, I assumed the message was a voicemail, not an email.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I was assuming voicemail as well since they were asking for an email address to give to client. That’s what a former job (also education related ironically) did with me after I left – they wanted me to drive over and reset some systems for them because they couldn’t get in. They left me a voicemail while I was at new job – I did reply back, but a week later saying that I was just too busy right now and they’d have better luck calling support for that system to get their answers.

    3. The OTHER Other*

      I was wondering whether old toxic job was going to pay LW for this work, or was expecting it to be done as a “favor” i.e. for free? That would make a huge difference IMO. If paid, quote a rate that you’d feel comfortable with. If not (or if no amount of $ will make up for dealing with them again) then ignore or say “sorry, I am swamped at my new job”.

      1. DoggoMom*

        I question it being paid. I would think that if you’re trying to entice a former employee to work on a project that you’d mention the monetary gain. This reads more as an expectation to just do the project, not even as a favor. Requesting the email address to be able to send the details of what needs to be done, that’s not even really a request. More of an expectation. Alas, the working relationship ended. And like romantic relationships, you don’t just expect someone to do something because that’s how the dynamic worked before.

      2. LisTF*

        Exactly. “Sure, my hourly rate for contract work is $xx. Please have HR send over the contract and we can talk about a timeline from there.” Should make them evaporate and not bother you again.

  18. Ellena*

    LW1 I’d still want – for my own peace of mind – to talk to the supervisor who gave this information to you at the interview to clarify and state that it was a selling point that was important to you and you felt blindsided when it was suddenly off the table. At the least, he/she should stop saying it to potential other Temps when it’s untrue.

    1. Ellena*

      To be more clear – the supervisor should be informed why this isn’t allowed for contractors (because of the liability) so that he can stop saying it in interviews.

      1. MicroManagered*

        Yeah it’s this… The supervisor sounds unaware that the staffing company doesn’t allow ITS employees to take their dogs a client’s site so she can’t extend this perk to prospective contractors.

      2. Cmdrshpard*

        But this is a temp to perm position. So it is sort of two interviews in one. Partially an interview to so if they want this person as a contract temp, but also to see if they want this person as s permanent employee. So mentioning all the perks for full time employees is s good idea.

        They should be more specific I agree, x,y, and z perks are available when/if you become a permanent employee, but won’t be available while you are a contract employee. It is still important for candidates to know the full suite of perks in considering if they want that job.

        With most temp to perm positions the default assumption is you will be come permanent employee (as long as you don’t screw up) after 3/6 months.

        1. JustaTech*

          Right. And for me this is one of the hard things about a temp-to-perm position when you’re a peer: on the one hand you hope that this person will become a long-term coworker and you want to treat them like that. On the other hand there are rules/laws about how contractors must be treated differently from full-time employees. And in my experience the place that shows up the most is in the “nice bits” of work – happy hours, lunches, parties, all of that.
          (Heck, I once had an intern pulled out of a department meeting because he was a “contractor”. This was made awkward twice over in that he was very, very tall so it was incredibly obvious when he was shoo’d out by the person from corporate, and then he had to come back in 15 minutes later to give a presentation.)

          If it’s just a 3 month temp period it’s not so hard, but when the hiring to FTE drags on and on it can get difficult to remember that you can’t let Betty come to the afternoon ice cream social, and if you do remember it just feels awful, like you’re excluding someone back in middle school.

  19. Kwebbel*

    OP4 – I’d add my voice to the “snooze or delay the invite and join at the start time” party.

    But more than anything, I’m just looking for an excuse to share my “weirdest early joiner” story from the last few months. It’s not even that bad a story, but I still find it so strange:

    There’s a Senior Manager at my company (that’s a step below a Director, so a leader of around 20 people) who I work with far more often than I’d like to. He’s the type who likes to mention on every call how important his work is and how often he’s having important meetings with VPs 3 levels above him.

    I typically use the same meeting ID for all of my meetings. Our company is more of the “start on time and end on time” type so there are rarely any issues of people popping into meetings before they start.

    Except with this guy. This one day, I’m in a call with 3 Directors and a Senior Strategy Manager. The guy dials in to my next meeting 3 minutes early, while we’re deep in conversation. Rather than leave the call like a normal person, what does he do? He just turns off his camera and sits there, waiting for the meeting to end. Doesn’t even turn off his microphone.

    I was thinking later, isn’t this the equivalent of waltzing into a meeting room, sitting in a chair and covering your face with your eyes? The meeting tool had display photos as well, so maybe it’s more like he waltzed in, sat down, and taped a photo of himself over his face.

    Anyway, we wrapped up the call with a minute to spare, and even before everyone dials off he starts saying “Hi Kwebbel!” and, well, me being me, I just dialed off as well and waited another minute to rejoin from another room, pretending I hadn’t heard him. Maybe not the slickest move, but the dude gives me the heebie jeebies.

  20. Candi*

    #2: Hey, I have major trouble recognizing people I see several times, even before covid. I was lucky if I could recognize five of my classmates back in 2019, and now, well. I’ve learned own it, admit it, and be blunt I know the person, but I don’t recognize them, so who are they again? Your coworkers are being too sensitive.

    You can always use an “I’m terrible with faces” excuse, but it’s up to you.

    #4: I log into classes five minutes early at most these days. I’m usually one of the first two or three there, and we and the teacher chat (I mostly listen) until class starts.

    #5: It’s actually pretty common for IT access to be disabled as soon as a person is considered officially no longer working for the company. You are trustworthy, but there are people who aren’t, and for some reason wait until after they hand in their notice to cause trouble.

    The stay in your lane attitude is bonkers. Hierarchy should never come before due consideration of feedback, even if it’s ultimately rejected.

    You could always say your wonderful new job has you too busy to help. Just phrase it more professionally.

    1. pancakes*

      Yes, I was a little surprised Alison didn’t call that out regarding #5. It wouldn’t have been “gracious” for the previous employer to have allowed IT access to remain in place longer; it would have been a needless security risk. Disabling it right away is quite standard, not some sort of personal rejection.

      1. OP5*

        Hi — it’s not that it was disabled that troubled me, it’s that it was disabled literally after my boss emailed (and I viewed) curt “best of luck in your future endeavors” response. I had offered to work out the remaining month of my contract to get a new person up to speed. I still received two more paychecks from this company. The company was education-related, not financial or anything with super sensitive access.
        If the email issue had been the only issue with this company, I’d definitely not be emailing in to Alison! :)

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Ahh – so the disabled access is more a “straw the broke the camel’s back” scenario then. Just send back a “regrets but I’m not available to help at this time” reply in whatever manner they contacted you about the task and move forward with the new job.

        2. Observer*

          I believe you that the place was toxic – the “stay in your lane” bit is telling.

          But what your IT did is bog standard. And in education, it’s often a good idea. In the US, FERPA is a thing, and there may also be other laws and regulations where you are. Which is to say, that whatever else may be wrong with your old employer, their IT practices are not it.

          Having said that, the place was toxic, your boss sounds like a jerk and you have no obligation to do anything for them, even if they were willing to pay you. So, of course you should turn them down. Being honest doesn’t mean saying everything that’s in your mind – it’s not saying anything that’s untrue. “I’m unavailable” is perfectly honest. So that’s the line you deploy.

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        See I thought it was she sent in her resignation and (I assume gave 2 weeks notice) and then they immediately retracted all of her access. Sort of like the digital version of having someone escorted out of the office my security when they give their notice.

          1. OP5*

            Yes–except in my field, it was a month’s (4+ weeks’) notice. I was professional and helpful in my email–offering to help onboard a new person–and then that was it.
            Thanks for all the feedback, you guys!

  21. Shira*

    OP2- I recently ran into an old friend (known her for 20 years, were part of the same super close friend group in high school) in an unexpected context and I gave *her* a blank look until she pulled down her mask! And then we had a good laugh. I feel your pain! And I agree w Alison that your coworkers’ reaction sounds off.

    1. KateM*

      The teacher of kid X was subbing for the teacher of kid Y one day, and she went “I was calling X all the day, and Y never reacted, haha!” and I was like… “so you have met X?”, to which she gave me a weird look and pulled down her mask. But she is a relatively teacher for X as well, and yeah, difficult to recognize them with masks.

    1. Stitch*

      The supervisor probably doesn’t have authority to do so. If LW’s employer has a “no pets” rule because of legal liability, a client of theirs doesn’t really have any way to get them to waive it.

      The supervisor made a mistake promising it, but they probably just didn’t consider that it could violate the other company’s policies. So now the supervisor had the information, they shouldn’t promise it to a contracted interview again, but my guess isntheynsim p ly didn’t consider the liability question.

      LW needs to be realistic in this situation, if this is a deal-breaker for them, they can state it to the supervisor and to their direct employer, but they need to be prepared for it to be a no and have to move on from both.

      1. Stitch*

        Although adding that something LW should consider is that, as this is temp to perm, it is likely this is a temporary situation and once they’re employed directly by the supervisor company, the prohibition will go away.

        So LW should also ask the questions of: how long is the temp period and when would their contract with the temp agency end and they become directly employed by the supervisor.

  22. Ponytail*

    LW3 – I would be very hesitant about accepting a job where they hadn’t contacted my referees, because in my experience (UK worker) it just means they haven’t contacted them YET. All job offers I’ve ever received were contingent on successful references (and medical checks on occasion) so I would normally not accept the job, or at least, not hand in my notice, until references were received and the new employer made that clear.
    However, if you’re sure they’re not going to be sneaky and contact your referees further down the line, I would see this as refreshing – that they realise most references are basic ‘yes, they worked here’ and have decided to go for their own approach.

  23. Bagpuss*

    LW2 – I think your coworkers are being unreasonable but since you can’t change them, perhaps pre-empt them – start with a cheerful greeting and then say “I really struggle to recognize people with masks on, can you just remind me of your name?”

    As someone with face-blindness (prosopagnosia) I can’t recognise faces in a lot of situations, however, I have come to realise that this is a totally alien concept to a lot of people – I suppose that we all tend to assume that our own experience is universal (I spent so much time when I was younger, trying to work out what the the trick was that other people knew, that let them work out who people were, so I could learn to do it. I still find it hard to imagine that people can just – look at someone they’ve only seen once or twice before, and know who it is)

    So I think that explicitly telling people is the way to go. If you mostly interact remotely but sometimes need to come in, can you mention it in the run up? For instance if you are in a zoom meeting but know you’ll be coming in in the next few days, maybe mention it them – say something like ‘I’m looking forward t seeing you in person – but can I ask a favour? I find it almost impossible to recognise people when they have a mask on, so would you mind just saying hi and reminding me who you are, when I arrive, and forgive me if I seem to be blanking you, it isn’t personal, it’s that I really can’t recognise you!

    1. Allonge*

      As someone who is not very good at recognizing faces (certainly not to match a photo and a 3D human), I totally agree that it’s difficult to conceptualise the ‘not at all able to’ version of this, even for me, let alone someone who finds this easier.

      Especially if it’s a more or less stable group of people, explaining that this is a thing that will not improve should do a lot of good!

  24. Rosacolleti*

    Australian here. I’m amazed how many mentions there are on this blog about bringing dogs to work. How is it not mayhem?
    I own a business and we welcome pets at work but only on days with no client meetings and never more than one at a time. Support dogs would be an exception of course. If there are multiple dogs are they tied up all day? That sounds terrible for the dog.

    1. Virginia Plain*

      There are quite a few previous discussions where a lot of the debate is laid out. Fwiw I’m a Brit and had never heard of such a thing until reading this column (except senior army officers having a black Labrador under the desk!) but it seems to be done in the USA enough not to be weird. Personally I’m faintly horrified by the whole idea (and I like dogs!) but it’s probably largely from lack of familiarity. I guess if it works? But judging by letters here, Drama often ensues…

      1. pancakes*

        People aren’t going to write in to say it’s going well! I wouldn’t say it’s common, but I’ve encountered it a few times, with no drama. First in high school, where the headmaster’s well-behaved dog would occasionally wander into classrooms, when she wasn’t snoozing in her favorite spot on the porch of the main building.

        1. KateM*

          Oh, yes, we had a school cat! But he was not in classrooms or meetings or anything like that – he was mostly sunning on corridor windowsills and taking pats from kids during breaks. When I’m imagining office animals, I imagine them in offices.

      2. Stitch*

        I don’t think it is super common and that is something for LW to consider. Finding the benefit elsewhere may be rare. This is temp to perm so presumably if LW gets direct hired they will then be permitted to bring their dog in, right?

        So that maybe should weigh into the decision. How long will they not have this benefit (which they may not find elsewhere) but then get it later?

        Though any dog friendly office may change policies due to allergies or an incident of biting/destruction.

      3. Jaybee*

        It would not be normal to bring a (non-service-animal) dog to a standard office in the USA. I assume most situations where people are talking about bringing in pets are not jobs in a typical office building.

        A friend of mine brings his dog to work every day – he works in a warehouse that ships pet supplies to retailers.

        There are a lot of ‘office jobs’ in the US where the office itself is located inside a warehouse or a workshop etc. with only one or two offices in a corridor branching off the larger area – this is the setup for a lot of small businesses in the blue collar sector. No cubicles, just a couple offices for the clerical staff/HR/etc. That’s honestly what I envision when people talk about having their pet dog under their desk all day.

      4. Cheap Ass Rolex*

        Fwiw most of the drama I’ve read about here is related to people being promised the privilege and then having it revoked. There are definitely letters about ill-behaved dogs, or dog allergies, but those also apply to work for places in which only the boss brings in their dog. A growing slice of startups and tech companies in my area allow it and it seems like it often goes OK

      5. Gracely*

        It’s still weird, it’s just slightly less weird than it used to be? Bringing dogs to the office is not the norm by far. Exception being service/seeing-eye dogs, for obvious reasons. But even those are few and far between.

        The only time I’ve heard of it as a company policy IRL is when my aunt worked for a pet food company, which is quite literally on-brand.

        Where I work, sometimes commuter students will bring kittens that they’re trying to give away to campus, or someone will find a stash of kittens that a campus cat who evaded our TNR program had, and so a kitten might spend the rest of an afternoon in a closed-door office, but that’s very, very rare.

    2. Asenath*

      I’ve never worked anywhere that allowed pets or, actually, employed someone with a service dog, at least not in my office. I once consulted a lawyer, and found a very nice elderly Portuguese water dog in the reception area. That dog didn’t seem to cause any problems, but her presence may have been the result of seniority (in two ways). She belonged to the senior partner, not the lawyer I was seeing. Apparently due to her age, he didn’t like to leave her at home alone.

      It’s rare to see service dogs, but certainly not unheard-of. I’ve seen everything from guide dogs to ones that provide other forms of support for individuals, to support dogs making visits to groups of people – students, residents of nursing and personal care homes etc. But around my area, at least, it’s unusual to see pets at work.

    3. KateM*

      I’m reading and wondering as well and thinking they must obviously teach their dogs so much better over there because I just can’t imagine trying to work with all the digs on our street (these are the ones I meet most) in the room. And whether they also have all their toddlers over and if not then why not?

      1. ecnaseener*

        I haven’t worked in a dog-friendly office before but my understanding is that it’s usually limited to well-trained (and relatively chill) dogs. We don’t ALL train our dogs nearly that well, but unless you’re an asshole you don’t suggest bringing a dog to work who’s going to run around out of control and bark all day.

        1. ecnaseener*

          (Continued) A dog should be much better behaved than a toddler if you’re bringing it to the office all day!

    4. londonedit*

      In my nearly 20-year career (UK) I’ve worked for one company where one of the directors would occasionally bring their dog to the office, but it would be the odd Friday or whatever, not a regular thing. I’ve also worked for one company where an employee had a guide dog, and that was obviously a totally different thing because the dog was working. Apart from that, I’d never heard of people bringing their dogs to work until I started reading AAM. Maybe it happens at the cool and trendy start-up places, maybe it’ll be a thing that ends up being discussed more now that people are moving to WFH/hybrid office setups, I’m not sure. But it’s definitely not usual.

      1. UKDancer*

        Also UK and about the same longevity. When I was a student I worked in a stately home as a guide and one of the other guides brought her dog (Maisy) along and left her by the entrance. Guides used to take turns taking Maisy for a walk around the grounds as it was quite amusing and a chance for some fresh air. As someone with a dog and cat allergy I never volunteered.

        I’ve never worked in an office with pets allowed. About 10 years ago one of my colleagues had a guide dog but the dog just sat under the desk most of the time and we barely noticed it was there. I had a desk at the opposite side of the floor (due to the allergy).

        I’d personally am glad about the lack of pets in offices because much as I like dogs in theory, I like breathing a lot more.

    5. MK*

      It’s not a thing in offices in my country. Some places of business might have an animal or two on the premises (my town’s oldest bookshop has a cat and a parrot, and some places where there is a yard have dogs), but it’s usually a small business and the animal belongs to the owner, not a blanket policy allowing all employees to bring their pets. Maybe it’s more usual in the US, and AAM probably gets a score of letters on the topic because it’s bound to create issues.

      1. Clisby*

        I’m in the US and never worked in a place where people could bring in pets (other than maybe fish in a tank). I’ve been in businesses where there were pets, but they were pets of the business, not of individual employees (the hardware store in my neighborhood has two cats – likely for the occasional mouse or rat that finds its way inside.)

        1. JustaTech*

          At my office, in an act of malicious compliance two of my coworkers got betta fish because we were not allowed to have plants. (The reasoning: personal plants could carry diseases to the company-provided plants. Perfectly reasonable except that we’d gotten rid of the company plants years before as a cost-saving.)

    6. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

      I’ve never worked any place where dogs were common. Seems really weird to me.
      One time I brought a hamster to work (so a coworker could bring it home for his daughter to hamster-sit while I went on vacation the next day), and that felt really weird to me.

    7. Person from the Resume*

      I am an American and it’s odd to me too. Never seen it.

      Even though most public buildings don’t have a “no dogs allowed” sign I assume that’s implied.

      But Americans have come to treat their dogs like family and I know of someone who takes her dog places. She’s not overly pushy about it but i suspect to her unless it says no dogs, it’s worth a try.

      The dog is small and decently behaved. He’s interested in food and cuddling on people. The dog barks at other, larger dogs for some reason, but in a human space not so much so inside he’s not noisy.

      1. Anononon*

        As an American, when I was living in Italy, I was surprised at how common it was for people to bring their dogs into stores. At least where I live in the US, that’s definitely not the norm (for non service dogs).

        1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

          In Seattle it’s extremely common for people to assume they can bring their dog into Safeway or other grocery stores, and into any small shop or café. A lot of cafés offer a dog treats and water dishes at the outside seating, so I think people usually don’t dine with them indoors. But we do have a reputation for being extremely dog-friendly but child-unfriendly city (in both people’s family plans and in the city infrastructure.)

          (Some stores do have service animals only signs, but that’s enforced much less commonly than it’s posted. It’s also hear that a lot of the tech companies do allow you to take your dog into work.)

          1. Ali + Nino*

            But we do have a reputation for being extremely dog-friendly but child-unfriendly city (in both people’s family plans and in the city infrastructure.)

            I mean, families gonna do what families gonna do, but the city…what? How does this play out…and what’s the thinking?

            1. PT*

              Easy. Mass transit doesn’t have easy access for strollers but there’s also nowhere to park so you can drive instead. (Carseat laws keep littles out of cabs and ubers in many places.) Playgrounds and parks are primarily used by adults: adult frat bros who leave beer cans and trash lying around and pee in public, adults who let their off-leash dogs roam around and don’t pick up their poop, adults living inside playground equipment and leaving broken bottles and needles around the play area. Schools assigned based on a citywide lottery and not based on walk zoning, so a parent living in city center could have an elementary schooler at school in the far Southeast corner of the city and a middle schooler in the far Northwest corner of the city, at the same time, necessitating long bus rides for each child. The city doesn’t issue building permits to builders constructing apartments with more than 2 bedrooms because “it will attract roommates throwing parties”, so the minute a family has a second kid (especially if they are opposite sex to the existing kid) they have to look outside the city for housing.

            2. Simply the best*

              For what it’s worth, I also live in Seattle and would never think to describe it as child unfriendly.

              1. JustaTech*

                Yeah, and we’re back to more children than dogs (though we did have more dogs than kids about 5-10 years ago).

            3. Cheap Ass Rolex*

              Mostly childcare availability/ affordability (a more-than-yearlong waitlist most places); difficulty of navigating streets/intersections/transit with a stroller, kid-friendly parks, etc etc. It exists but it’s not the best. And of course housing, with 1br apartments in the city renting for 2k plus and the real lack of starter homes and 3br places. A modest townhome or something is likely to be significantly north or south of the city proper.

              Also culturally there are way more young adult couples here than in e.g. the Midwest that don’t plan to have kids, so if you are, you might be the only one in your friend group doing so. Obviously that varies, and doesn’t mean the end of those friendships, but it is a trend that’s more pronounced here.

              No one’s saying you can’t have a kid here; we plan to. But the wheels aren’t as greased so to speak.

              1. Cheap Ass Rolex*

                (Sorry if a second phrasing of this same reply shows up; I looked back and this didn’t show up, so I thought the website ate it and posted a second time.)

            4. Cheap Ass Rolex*

              As PT mentioned, transit navigability with little ones or strollers, curbs and crosswalks that are difficult for strollers, childcare affordability/availability (a while back we had over a year average wait for daycare spots), child-friendly parks and green spaces. Plus:

              -We have rampant non-ADA compliant sidewalks, one survey found an average of one problem per block where a wheelchair or stroller would have trouble

              -It’s rarer to find 2-3br apartments (at all or affordable) and starter homes go for 700k plus. Housing stock gets snapped up within days by cash buyers. A nice modest townhome with 2.3 – 3 br goes for, again, 7ook plus in the city or is located 40ish min north or south. (Not saying it’s a shock that having a kid might necessitate moving to Renton or Everett, but that’s the way it is.)

              -Just culturally, the nationwide trend of fewer couples having children is far more acutely concentrated here than it is in, say, the Midwest. Obviously some still do, but it’s hardly the default (or maybe even majority) for educated couples in their 20s-30s anymore. Which just means the wheels aren’t as greased socially or logistically for those who choose to do so.

              I think it was Citylab that had an article last year about less-than-child-friendly infrastructure in various cities, but I can’t find it. No one’s saying it’s rare or impossible to raise a kid in the city proper (my in-laws did, and we plan to), but it’s different than it might be elsewhere.

              (And yes, syringes on the ground in public parks is definitely A Thing.)

              1. pancakes*

                I suppose I think of most of these things as accessibility and infrastructure problems rather than family-specific problems. Single people walking their dogs (or just themselves!) don’t want to encounter broken glass in parks either, people who use wheelchairs, crutches, etc. need transit access, people who need a live-in carer may need a 2- or 3-bedroom, etc. With a nationwide lack of parental leave and affordable childcare, I don’t think those wheels are greased well for anyone but the rich.

      2. the cat's ass*

        I’d adore to work in an office that had an office dog or cat- I think it would lift morale as we slog along. Not viable with the type of work I do tho. Guess when i retire I’ll work in a bookstore that has a cat!

    8. meagain*

      My workplace used to allow dogs and it wasn’t too disruptive. Then we had an employee with an aggressive dog who had no business being there and it bit another employee unprovoked, pretty badly and it was a whole mess. They will never allow dogs again. The person the dog bit was (overly) gracious, but the dog owner employee was completely unprofessional about the whole thing and wasn’t brought back after the pandemic. Another employee had just gotten a new puppy thinking they would be able to bring their dog to work and I know that factored into the decision to get a dog. But the policy changed right after that which was unfortunate but the right call. Liability is a big issue and I can understand why the staffing company/employer doesn’t allow it.

    9. anonymous73*

      American here and I don’t think it’s really that common. Outside of my hair salon, where the owners bring their dog to the “office” I’ve never seen it. Which is why I’m surprised the OP is ready to leave the job. It sounds like a temporary situation that will work itself out if and when they hire her as permanent.

      I work from home now, but I’d be annoyed if I worked in an office that allowed dogs. It’s hard enough to get work done with distracting co-workers, and based on how irresponsible most pet owners are IME, the dogs would make it even more distracting.

      1. Anononon*

        Yeah, I’ve only seen this done in very small businesses/companies, where the owner would bring their dog in. I’ve only ever heard of one company that had a dogs allowed policy for everyone.

      2. JayS*

        Another American here and it would annoy me too even tho I have a dog and I love her to pieces. I find it strange that people must bring their dogs to work. Luckily I work in healthcare where people can’t bring their pets into work. Dogs didn’t go everywhere their owners went for many many years and now all of a sudden we have to bring our dogs everywhere. But if schools are closed, I can’t bring my polite, well mannered 8 year old and 11 year old children into work, I have to either call out of work or find alternate arrangements so I can into the office.

        Anyway, OP1, if it’s a deal breaker for you, then if you’re able to, end the contract and look for another employer and/or agency. If you really need this job, then if you have the finances, hire a dog walker to come in throughout the day then after your contract is up, hopefully they will hire you directly. I’ve had issues in the past as well where the temp agency and the company weren’t on the same page and it’s really frustrating to be in the middle like that.

      3. Windchime*

        I used to work in an office that had a non-official policy that allowed dogs. It definitely wasn’t an every day thing; people would bring their dogs in once or twice a month and were responsible for keeping the dogs quiet and well-behaved. One person had an office and kept her little dog contained with a baby gate.

        There are stores here in my area that are dog friendly; you can’t bring your dog into Target or the grocery store (except service dogs, obviously), but you can absolutely bring them into the local hardware store and the new feed store that just opened up also welcomes dogs.

      4. Smithy*

        American who can also say it’s not really common, and so to find a workplace where this will eventually be a possibility – holding out properly is the approach I’d take.

        The only flip side I’d see is if the other positions the OP was looking at were either full time remote or had greater remote work options. And that she chose this job because of the “bring the dog” even if it required being in the office more.

        There are two jobs I’m currently looking at tentatively. IMO, they could both be done fully remote from my current city with some kind of arrangement of traveling to Desired City X times a year. And that’s travel I’d even agree to cover myself. However, on face value both jobs insist on the person being physically based in Desired City. I’m still continuing to interview at this time because my understanding of the benefits package and that it might ultimately soften me to the move. Because the move is what I like least about these jobs, anything in that benefits package that would dip would be a real irritant – and if I took either job, moved, and then a benefit was taken away……I get being upset. So if the OP feels this is a job that could be done remotely or passed on positions that could be done remotely because of the dog perk….I get the context for being upset in a different context.

      5. doreen*

        I’ve never even seen it at a vet’s office – cats, birds, even the occasional rabbit but I’ve never seen a vet’s office with a non-client dog there.

        1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

          My vet has had a couple of office cats and an office budgie. She also had a softshell turtle for a lot of years.

        2. pancakes*

          I wouldn’t expect a vet to want to their own (or their tech’s) pet exposed to every condition that comes through the door. A lot of pet illnesses aren’t contagious the same way people illnesses are, but some of them are. I would like to think they’d be more rather than less sensitive to the increased stress for all the animals who come through, too. Even if their own pet is super relaxed about other animals, their patients aren’t guaranteed to be, particularly when they’re not feeling well.

    10. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I worked for a small consulting firm with a “startup vibe” and brought my dog to work. There was a lot of open communication among co-workers and most of us brought older dogs who were very well-behaved and chill. (My dog used to greet my co-workers and escort them to their desks, then he mostly slept all day.) We never left our dogs unsupervised and only asked others to watch them very briefly and under unusual circumstances.

      It worked great until the boss got a puppy. A puppy who wasn’t yet house trained. The rest of us couldn’t bring our buds in because a) puppies are annoying and b) we couldn’t risk our dogs peeing indoors. I was irritated because my perk was gone, but he was the boss.

      The dog loved it, by the way. He loves people and he loves me. He got extra scritches and Mama time, plus walks in a different neighborhood.

    11. Librarian of SHIELD*

      I’ve usually only seen it offered in very limited settings. For example: the last time I was applying for jobs I found an opening for a data specialist at a local pet care company that allowed office staff to bring well behaved pets to work. I didn’t apply because I’m allergic to most household pets, but I can see why some people would be excited about it.

      I’ve worked in several libraries where members of staff get really excited about getting a library cat until I remind them that people with allergies exist.

    12. Jennifer Strange*

      American here. It’s definitely not the norm to have dogs (or cats) brought every day (outside of service animals), but both at my previous job and current job people would occasionally bring in a dog (sometimes a cat) for the day. The director of my current job does it more often than most, but a) he’s the director and b) he’s got a private office with a door so presumably he could keep the dog in there if it starts to become a distraction.

    13. The OTHER Other*

      I agree, I’m in the US and only had 1 dog at work ever, that was when I worked retail and the manager would sometimes bring her dog in to sleep in a crate in the back room, away from customers. I get people loving their dogs (and other pets) but find the idea of bringing them in to work mystifying.

      People are usually not good judges about how well their pets behave, nor interact with other pets, nor how coworkers feel about being subjected to them at work. Is your cubemate Tom delighted at seeing Bingo or does he wish he could set off a hand grenade every time he barks and finally get his work done?

      And this isn’t even getting into coworkers with allergies, or phobias, or the liability for a dog fight or a dog bite.

    14. JustaTech*

      American here: I’ve never worked anywhere that explicitly allowed dogs, but I’ve always worked in labs where everyone just kind of knows that you can’t have a dog in the lab. A couple of times coworkers have brought in their dogs, but the dogs stayed in their cars in the underground garage.

      I have a friend who works for Big River and he used to occasionally bring his small dog to work (dogs at work is a big thing there in the before times), but eventually decided that she wasn’t well suited to the office.
      My orthodontist has/had an ancient golden retriever in the office, which I thought was a bit odd (since it’s a semi-medical space) but that dog was so chill it never got in the way, and I think it helped some of the patients who were stressed out by the whole “person inside my mouth” thing.

      In general I think that for the “dogs at work” concept to work you either need one very chill dog for the whole office (like the orthodontist) or you need lots of offices with doors (not an open office) so if dogs don’t get along they can be kept separate. I also think (but am not totally sure) that at bigger companies that allow dogs they have some behavior requirements so if someone’s dog is too loud or aggressive or not sufficiently house-trained then management can ask that dog to not come back.

      (Way back in the 70’s my dad was adopted by a golden retriever who came to class with him in college and would ask to be let out of the lecture hall when he needed to go out, and then come back and lay under my dad’s chair. He was a good dog.)

  25. Aunty Fox*

    I empathise with OP 2. Someone was once slightly shirty pointing out we’d met plenty of times before because we attended the same quarterly meeting and had been for years. A meeting with around 30 people in typically, of which at least 26 will be white men of a similar age, which we don’t all attend every single time. They may remember me as one of the few women (and prone to speaking up) but I am not great with names and faces and this situation is a set up for me to fail.

    1. darcy*

      I have this issue as a non-binary person (mostly get read as a woman) working in computer science. I’m chatty and one of the few non-men so people generally remember me, but I have prosopagnosia and can’t pick my mum out of a crowd reliably…

  26. archangelsgirl*

    I meet with 14 year olds. I HAVE to start the meeting 15 minutes early to give them all time to see that I’m there, make peanut butter toast, get dressed, email me that they slept in, email me that the dog ate their homework, finish and submit their homework, etc. etc. They’re so over online learning and they’re anxious. I tried starting my meeting two minutes before and my students bombarded my class stream for 15 minutes before the meeting to see if we were still… having the meeting, even though there’s a note in the stream saying, the meeting starts at 9:00.

    So I think if you’re hosting a meeting or what time you join a meeting, like everything else that Alison advises on, depends on your company culture. If you’re interrupting people preparing, you’re too early. If you get there early, and nobody else is there, I think it’s fine to hang out and go about your business, with both mic and camera turned off. That’s what I do.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Oh agreed – the rules with kids in online meetings for school are a wholly different than in a normal work culture.

      And trust me, we parents are struggling just as much to get the kids there on time and prepared. Even if it’s only a temporary return to online to let the wave of the latest variant peak…..

    1. OP5*

      Thanks for the inspiration! I liked the *work* I did, just not the people I worked for. I am hoping if I ignore my old boss, she’ll go away, but these comments are giving me some good one-liners to use if she circles back around.

  27. HitchHikersGuideResearcher*

    I work in video games so my standard line when meeting colleagues in real life for the first time, when I didn’t recognise them straight away, was “I didn’t recognise you in 3D!”

    Even without masks, we’re so used to seeing people from the one camera angle recognising them in profile, or realising you made wrong assumptions about their height isn’t easy. (For me, anyway.)

  28. Jules the First*

    LW3, my company didn’t ask me for any references when they made me an offer, but when I joked about it later with one of our charming HR folk, he laughed and told me they took several references, they just didn’t ask me who to speak to. To this day (five years on!) I wish I knew who they’d spoken to, as I’d send wine or flowers because this is the most fun I’ve ever had at work…

    1. Red*

      I’m glad you had a good experience. But back door references are a downright horrible practice for so many reasons. And not just because an excellent candidate’s horrible ex-boss will use it to torpedo their chance of getting the role.

  29. So they all cheap ass rolled over and one fell out*

    #5 you’re definitely free not to respond to an ex-employer. You don’t work there any more.

    That said, is your biggest complaint that they disabled your account overnight and didn’t wait until morning? There are plenty of non-offensive reasons for that. For example, most of the IT people I know work strange hours. Larger businesses tend to have automatic scripts that disable accounts of departed employees. etc.

    1. londonedit*

      What I find weird about it is that it seems OP5 handed in their notice and then immediately had their IT access revoked overnight – how were they meant to work their notice without access to their computer etc? It sounds to me like one of those ‘if you resign, we march you out of the building’ things, and it sounds like the OP wasn’t notified that this would happen – so they were expecting to hand in their notice and work out their two weeks, or whatever, but instead the company revoked their access overnight. I’d be pretty insulted if that happened without warning!

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        That was my thought as well – the accounts were locked before notice was worked – what if OP had things to email to clients on Tuesday morning that then didn’t get sent because of the lockout?

    2. anonymous73*

      That’s an interesting thing to focus on when OP said the environment was toxic and gave an example of being told to stay in their lane when they tried to provide feedback.

    3. Artemesia*

      She doesn’t work there anymore and found the place toxic; she absolutely should not do this work for them. If she doesn’t respond and they persist, she might send ONE message ‘Oh, sorry, I am really busy with my new job and don’t have any time to take on a consulting role. ‘

      Then don’t respond again.

  30. Washi*

    So let’s say OP1 tells the supervisor on the first day that the temp agency won’t let them bring their dog to work, and the supervisor says “they’ll never know! Bring your dog anyway!” Would that be a terrible idea?

    1. Nia*

      Other people are going to tell you it’s a bad idea but I agree. So long as the supervisor is on board with it just start lying to the agency.

      1. Observer*

        Lying to the agency that places you is a TERRIBLE idea. If there is any chance whatsoever that you are going to need to deal with them in ANY capacity in the future, it’s going to bite you, hard.

    2. Anon4this*

      Yes, that would be a terrible idea. That’s risking a lot to bring a dog to work. If the agency finds out (especially if it’s due to the dog getting hurt or hurting someone else) OP will have their contract terminated, possibly won’t be hired permanently at the job (certainly not for a while at least), and would burn a bridge with the agency if they ever needed placement again. It suck’s for them, but better to wait out the temp period.

  31. Guin*

    Facial Recognition Blindness – it’s a thing! I was so relieved when it was recognized as a legitimate disorder a few years ago. If I don’t see the same person more than every week, I will not recognize them. Thank goodness I’m not meeting new people now that we all wear masks. You can google a self-test for it. Now I tell people, I know we’ve met before, but I have facial recognition blindness. They’re often confused, but at least they tell me their names again.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I was surprised to see this comment saying it was only a few years ago, so I tried to look it up and apparently it’s still not in the DSM yet.

      Anyway, face blindness as a term was coined in 1996 (and other similar terms come from that) but we’ve known about it much longer! Look up prosopagnosia for older studies.

  32. pancakes*

    “. . . I’m not sure I can respond in a way that is honest without being disrespectful.”

    I’ve seen a number of commenters here say something similar, particularly in the Friday open threads, and it nonetheless always surprises me. If you don’t feel you have any options between mute and full blast, your communication skills really need upgrading.

    1. londonedit*

      Yeah…I’m not sure why the OP felt their only options were ‘ignore completely’ or ‘air all the dirty laundry’. All it needed was ‘Thank you for thinking of me, but I’m afraid I’m not able to take on any extra work on top of my current commitments. I hope you find someone who can help’.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I mean people don’t need to know everything and just because you feel something deeply doesn’t mean you need to share it. Just say “I’m sorry my new job means I don’t have capacity to take on anything else. Have a good day.”

        By and large the older I get the more I realise that as long as you do or say something conventional and within the standard range of responses, most people won’t ask further and will accept it at face value.

        1. TiredEmployee*

          The letter writer’s words were “honest without being disrespectful”, so a pleasant lie like “my new job is keeping me too busy” doesn’t fall under that heading. I read it as more like they don’t know how to say “I don’t want to”, which isn’t airing anything. I’m surprised so many people here think they must have meant a diatribe of some kind.

          1. Glomarization, Esq.*

            Then I think the answer to LW is, well, no, there’s not really a way to be 100% truthful and say literally “I don’t want to do this” without coming across as disrespectful. If LW is going to insist on sending such a 100% truthful response, then the recipient is going to take that the way they’re going to take it. I don’t think there are any magic words that LW can use to express their truth about the situation that won’t come across as cranky and unnecessary.

            When I’ve been in a position where my truth is “I don’t want to do this,” I’ve used phrasing like, “I’m sorry, I am unavailable for this work. [Insert a reference to a colleague here.] Best of luck in your endeavors.” Do I literally wish them the best of luck? Am I literally unavailable? Am I actually sorry? No. But this is professional communication.

            1. bamcheeks*

              See: the letter a few months ago where an employee responded to their boss with, “I would prefer not to.”

            2. Observer*

              I don’t really agree. I think that we get a bit too literal here and also assume that if you don’t say EVERYTHING, then that is somehow that is “dishonest”. No, it is NOT dishonest to say “I am not available” without explaining WHY you are not available. It IS 100% honest.

              “available” doesn’t mean “My body is present, I have the skill set, and there are the requisite number of hours in my week that I have not conclusively and unbreakably committed to someone else”. Merriam Webster offers this as one definition that actually explicitly makes this clear “present and able or willing to talk to someone”

              1. Librarian of SHIELD*

                Right. It’s like when I turn down an after work happy hour by saying “sorry, I have other plans,” when my plans are to eat frozen pizza in my pajamas. It’s true at the Obi Wan Kenobi level, from a certain point of view.

              2. UKDancer*

                Absolutely. It’s not dishonest to say “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have any time and can’t help you” even if what you’re busy with is meeting friends for afternoon tea or having an extended nap.

                You’re not being dishonest if you leave out the part about never wanting to help again or having bad feelings about the organisation.

                Just say that you’re too busy / unable to assist and they should be fine with that.

          2. londonedit*

            I can’t imagine being, or wanting to be, 100% truthful at all times. Part of professional (and personal!) communication involves telling those little white lies to smooth things over, and I wouldn’t have any problem at all with saying ‘So sorry, just can’t fit in any extra work at the moment’ (the professional response) rather than ‘God no, I wouldn’t work for that company again, they totally screwed me over’ (the not at all professional response). I’m wondering if this is like the questions that come up where people ask whether they really and truly have to speak to their co-workers on a Monday morning because they don’t want to divulge information about their personal life and weekend plans. When all you need to say is ‘Yes, not bad thanks, how was your weekend?’ and people will be perfectly satisfied.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Insisting on being 100% truthful all the time makes me think of those people who have to be “authentically me,” which generally means they’re kind of obnoxious. “But I’m not going to put on an ACT just because I have a job! I have to be ME at work!” Yeah, no. Being polite isn’t putting on an act. Saying “Sorry, but I won’t be able to help with that” isn’t enough of a lie to matter, and it works.

              1. pancakes*

                Yep. I don’t think even that is a lie so much as an incomplete sentence. If the answer is, “Sorry, but I won’t be able to help with that [because I don’t want to],” the part in brackets is immaterial and would only be needlessly damaging. The question is whether or not you’re available, not what your feelings about your availability, what are your feelings about our work history, etc.

                1. Clisby*

                  Yeah, I once let my 6th grader stay home to avoid the dreaded field day. I sent in a note that said, “X isn’t feeling well.” I did not feel compelled to say “X isn’t feeling well at the thought of having to take part in field day under blazing late-May sun of coastal SC.”

            2. AvonLady Barksdale*

              Completely agree with this. I pride myself on being honest and straightforward, and I ALSO pride myself on knowing when to hold back. Like most things, it’s not a binary truth vs. lie. Every person who has eaten a mediocre meal at someone’s home should know when to employ, “It was a lovely meal,” when asked what they thought of the dry, tasteless chicken.

          3. Observer*

            The letter writer’s words were “honest without being disrespectful”, so a pleasant lie like “my new job is keeping me too busy” doesn’t fall under that heading.

            “I’m unable to take on this job at this point” is perfectly polite and totally honest. It doesn’t matter WHY the OP is unable to take on the job. Whether they are just too busy or the old employer is to toxic to be safe for their mental health, they are still unable to take on the job – and “unable to take on the job” is the ONLY thing that the OP needs to convey.

            One of the most important skills adults really need to learn is clear communication that conveys ENOUGH, but not everything that is in their head.

            1. OP5*

              Hi! Thanks for the line to use.
              I do think the hard part is that the workplace was incredibly toxic, and I was there for years, so when I left I was very glad to have it behind me. Being contacted out of the blue 6+ months after leaving was jarring. To me at least it feels like a nasty ex-boyfriend circling around for a chili recipe or something trivial when there are plenty of other places to get the recipe. Just because his mom asked for mine doesn’t mean that’s the only way to make chili.
              I hope that analogy isn’t too terrible. At any rate, my new job does keep me busy, and I do love it, and this work really wouldn’t take much time at all. I just would like no further contact with people who treated me (and others) terribly without blinking an eye.

              1. Mockingjay*

                I think the hitch here is that you do good work and are proud of it, even though ExJob didn’t acknowledge that or took advantage of you. When ExBoss contacted you, the little voice inside you said: “see, you REALLY did need me after all!” Acknowledge the feeling of vindication, but also realize that YOU OWE EXJOB NOTHING.

              2. Observer*

                Yes, this explains why you really cannot take the job- it’s not about time, but your need to stay away from toxic people. But, you don’t need to explain that to the toxic people.

                Your bad boyfriend analogy actually works very well here – It would probably not take more than a few minutes to shoot of that recipe, but I would hope you wouldn’t do that either. Because the issue isn’t the time involved, but your need to stay detached.

            2. AnonInCanada*

              Why even say “at this point?” I would tell ex-boss “I am not in a position to take on this job.” Period. And if they ask why, repeat: “I am not in a position to take on this job.” And if they ask again, then you ghost them, block their number(s) and get on with your life. They need no further explanation, and if it bugs them to tears, then it’s on them.

          4. Marillenbaum*

            In that case, you just go with “I’m not in a position to take this on”, which is true–they just don’t need to know that the reason you aren’t in a position to do it is because you don’t want to.

  33. LiberryPie*

    LW2 I wonder what it is you’re saying to co-workers that clues them in that you don’t recognize them. Are you saying, “Hi, I’m Jennifer. I’m new here.” (as if introducing yourself for the first time) or “Have we met?” (which you might mean as a literal question but could be taken as implying you haven’t met) or “Good morning, sorry it’s hard to tell who you are with the mask on” (implying you *know* them but just don’t *recognize* them). I would try to figure out a wording that lets people know you’re having trouble with the recognition but assumes these are people you know.

  34. Don’t Pay Me Less Because of Body Parts*

    Agreed with what Alison said for LW 1 but I’d offer this perspective too:

    About a month ago I was working in person (forced back under a guise of “community building” even though I’d been performing quite well remotely) at a mid-sized nonprofit and the Executive Director didn’t recognize me with my mask on. Not a big deal, I told her my first name (I am the only one at the organization with this somewhat uncommon name and my work was widely visible and impactful so most people knew who I was, at least by name if not face). She looked confused. So I added my last name (profoundly unique). She still didn’t recognize me. Then I told her my department (a team of 2) and then she finally recognized me or at least faked it after several more seconds of trying to remember.

    I don’t think I was asking too much to be recognized by somebody (at least once I said my name!) who routinely interacted with my work. My larger team had been decimated over the past several months (everyone leaving for better jobs and fleeing this particular place), so I’d been pretty down lately anyway. It’s hard to feel like anyone cares about you if they don’t check in when things are obviously very difficult or don’t even recognize who you are.

    Unsurprisingly, this did not help me buy into the in-person work and “community” “benefits.” I received a new job offer the next day and accepted it.

    No idea where OP fits in this, but I say all this so that if anybody is making decisions to force people into the office (still in a pandemic ya’ll), especially for roles that can be remote… make sure your employees can actually visibly see the benefits you’re touting when they’re in person (my former manager who is hard of hearing has extra problems with masks). Between this and other issues, I sure couldn’t see any benefits to staying, and was able to leave somewhat easily for a fully remote role that pays very well.

  35. anonymous73*

    #1 – I wouldn’t necessarily assume your supervisor misled you…maybe she didn’t realize that bringing your dog to work wasn’t allowed before you were hired as an FTE. But is it common to find a job where you can bring your dog to work with you? If you leave, will you be able to find another dog friendly office? IME it’s rare, so you may want to just roll with it until they hire you permanently.
    #2 yeah your co-workers are being weird. My stepson’s mother and I go to the same nail salon. She walked up to me once while I was waiting (with masks on) and until she spoke to me I didn’t know it was her.
    #4 yeah don’t do it. As someone who leads a lot of meetings, I hate when people join that early because it makes me feel like I have to hurry up and finish my work so I can join too. Most meeting reminders allow you to “snooze” them. I never join more than 5 minutes prior to the start.
    #5 I would ignore the message. You owe them nothing. Not even the brain space they’re inhabiting that nudged you to write to Alison. You’ve moved on – leave it behind you.

  36. ecnaseener*

    OP5, definitely use a script like the one Alison gave you. Also, understand that this isn’t going to feel fraught for the client the way it does for you. Even if the client does contact you directly, if you say something vaguely normal (especially over email!) about how you don’t work there anymore and don’t have time to do freelance work (or here are your rates for freelance work) the client isn’t going to read your mind and pick up on your hurt feelings, and they’re not going to go “oh how juicy, OP left their job! Must be some drama!” They’re going to assume you left your job for boring reasons in a boring way, as most people do, and that you’re not going to work for free, as most people wouldn’t.

    1. Clisby*

      We get so many telemarketing calls on our landline that if my son happens to be at home and picks up, he says, “This better be cool.”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Lol – my oldest answered my phone the other day (it was grandpa, so I was okay with it). Their opening – “you got me – what’d ya need.”

        Obviously, we will be working on phone manners very soon…….but at tween age there is time to learn.

  37. Jean*

    I’ve worked for 2 big financial companies and a state government that did not allow managers or supervisors to give official references. They only allowed verification of employment with titles and dates. Companies with those policies may be assuming that an applicant’s previous employers have the same policies and not bother asking.

  38. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    LW3, References are a trade-off; by relying on them, you’re going to accept losing some good candidates to hopefully avoid some terrible ones. Everyone’s going to evaluate that trade-off differently.

    I wouldn’t see it as a red flag as someone who has been under some less-than-stellar management in the past. I would see it as a hiring manager putting more stock in what they can observe and flush out directly and having confidence they can deal with a bad hire and less stock in the unverified opinions of strangers.

  39. No Tribble At All*

    Joining meetings early: 15 minutes is too early! Eventually that de facto pushes the start time earlier, while those of us who were in other meetings miss those 10-15 minute pre-meeting.

  40. I'm Not Even The Droid I'm Looking For*

    LW 4: anything between 1 and 5 minutes early is fine where I work. I usually pop in closer to the 5 minute mark, but it’s solely because about half the time Zoom won’t work correctly and I’m giving myself time to account for that.

    It got brought up to me a few times that I’m always one of the first ones in, but my director wanted to make sure it wasn’t because I wanted to just sit in an empty waiting room not performing other work. I explained my Zoom issue and it was fine, but that would be one thing to keep in mind, too. If these were meetings in a traditional sense, sitting in the room for 15 minutes before it starts wouldn’t look super great either.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      my director wanted to make sure it wasn’t because I wanted to just sit in an empty waiting room not performing other work

      Yikes. That’s quite an accusation.

    2. Observer*

      but my director wanted to make sure it wasn’t because I wanted to just sit in an empty waiting room not performing other work.

      Is your boss a suspicious idiot in other contexts or is a he just DEEPLY clueless about how this stuff works?

  41. Eebbss*

    #4 – I was doing my performance review with my boss over zoom when a coworker called in for the next meeting and heard several comments. It was extremely embarrassing, for both of us! Don’t do that. I wait until exactly the time to call or one minute before.

    1. Person from the Resume*

      But that strikes me as a ZOOM technology problem!

      It is perfectly appropriate to join a meeting a few minutes early. Meetings should start at the meeting time. If you join at the top of the hour, you may be late especially if you have a technology problem and have to fiddle or login again. For an in person meeting there’s nothing wrong with showing up a few minutes early. People who aim to arrive at the start time (to be efficient or something) are often frequently late people because they fail to anticipate the many things that could slightly delay them.

      If it’s a private meeting give it a private URL. I haven’t used Zoom in a year, but it used to have separate meeting URLs. It seem to offer as a feature the ability to use an owner’s personal meeting code for all them meetings they set up, but obviously that should not be used for private meetings or meetings that run back-to-back and in a culture where meetings run over.

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        They may not be able to give a private url. At my company we have a limited number of Zoom accounts that have to be reserved in advance (much like a conference rooms). I think showing up exactly on time is perfectly fine for a Zoom meeting. People are pretty understanding about tech issues and most will give a 5 minute grace period.

  42. Cat Mouse*

    Would 5 minutes be too early? How about for remote interviews? As I’m not usually the person running the meeting I tend to just sit on a screen with a notification that I will be added once the organizer logs in, but should I be waiting till the scheduled time instead?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      5 minutes early is fine. What if it takes longer than expected to get logged in?

      About 10 or 11 years, I arrived about 5 minutes early to my phone interview. I don’t know if I had ever dialed into a teleconference before. Mostly my old job used big video teleconference systems in conference rooms. (Also a difficult pain to get connected, but not in an individual user sort of way.) I probably has never dialed in from a computer. But it was an interview (so I’d be early in order to ensure I wasn’t late) using a teleconference system I’d never used before. The interview committee had just completed another interview, they welcomed me, and then finished discussing the previous interview before starting my interview. I thought that was awkward even though I didn’t know the person they were discussing.

      I got the job. I came to use that teleconference system regularly until it was replaced by computer-based Skype and Teams. And I came to understand how it worked. I suspect the interviewers or person scheduling the interview was an old hand at it and didn’t consider that someone unfamiliar with instructions and trying to make a good impression would be extra nervous about the technology and show up early to ensure that they’d not be late for the job interview.

    2. C in the Hood*

      I always log in 5 minutes early so I can tend to any potential technology issues. If no one is “there” yet, you could always mute & turn off camera until they are (but don’t forget to turn them on again!).

    3. Observer*

      Remote or in person doesn’t really matter. 5 minutes is fine (as long as you’re willing to wait) and 15 minutes is generally too much.

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I tend to go with the five mins before because it give me time to troubleshoot if needed. In the before times I would go with about five mins as well – gave me time to gather everything I needed, walk to the room, and stop by the restroom if I thought it would be a longer meeting. More than that may be too much time depending on the office culture.

    5. Coffee Anonymous*

      This is what I do (use the 15 minute alert to wrap up whatever I’m doing, and the 5 minute one to actually join and sort out any tech issues) so I think it’s fine. I use the 5 minutes to sort my email or work on other quick tasks, or for informal networking and chat once other people start to join.

      The one time this gives me pause is when I’m interviewing applicants, since I don’t want to make candidates more nervous or suggest that they should have been earlier. I try to diffuse that by addressing it head on (“Hi X, I’m just here a few minutes early to make sure the Zoom works and we don’t eat up part of our hour with tech issues”) and then using the time for small talk to help them feel more comfortable.

  43. MCMonkeyBean*

    OP2–stop introducing yourself! If you’re the lone new person in the office, then leave it up to the people you haven’t met yet to start the introductions. If they don’t, then assume that you already met. (I’m not sure exactly what you mean when you say you have “a blank expression” but that seems like something you should generally avoid at work anyway?)

    If someone comes up to you, just greet them with “hello, how are you” and a smile or something. (I know you can’t see a smile in a mask, but you can usually still tell if someone is smiling!) Wait to see if they introduce themselves or speak as if you’ve already met.

    Pro tip: if they ask you to email them something and you have no idea who they are, say you’ve got a lot on your to-do list and could they send you an email laying out the request to make sure it doesn’t get lost. Then you will know who to send it to. I may have done that once or twice when I didn’t remember someone’s last name and therefore didn’t know how to look them up in Outlook lol.

  44. Meatballsforme*

    The LW specified it’s a temp-to-perm role, so the waiting period is usually waived. It’s understood that the contractor will be hired by the client immediately after the temp portion. Though, I’m not sure how that would work if the LW were to be “let go” by the contracting agency (rather than the client) before the temp portion is complete.

    The LW should speak to the non-profit about coming on in a permanent capacity sooner than planned. There’s no guarantee, of course, but this a very common conversation to have.

  45. Sun Moon Stars Rain*

    OP 3 – I believe reference checking is becoming less common. My company neither checks references nor provides them, and our new hires are generally great.

    I’ve also been casually job searching for the past 18 months and have been through multiple interview processes–and even gotten a few offers–that did not involve checking references. These companies were rigorous about hiring in other ways. They had a structured list of questions, followed the behavioral question format, and asked questions relevant to the work (no “what animal would you be” nonsense). They gave me plenty of time to ask my questions. Many of them included a mini project or submission of work samples.

    So I think you have to look for other signs of whether the company is being thoughtful about interviewing. It might help to look up best practices for interviewing (AAM has a few pages on this!) so you know what to look for.

    In my case, I’m really glad to see reference checking going away because references are tricky for me personally, and separately I worry that references can reinforce systems of privilege.

    For me, I’ve been with the same company for 10 years, and many of my former managers still work here. Some of them were abusive, or managed me afterward when I was in that awkward phase of recovering my confidence and re-learning work norms. When I first began my job search, I ended up freelancing for about 6 months partially to get more, and fresher, references outside my current company. (Though as I said, I ended up not needing them, but now they serve as supportive mentors and friends, which is also great.)

    I hear Alison that they helped her avoid a disaster once, but…. I’m still skeptical. Maybe it depends on the type of role you’re hiring for. My role is fairly technical and has no access to finances or operations, so in my field the mini project is the crucial element.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I don’t think that’s true. I give references all the time for employees I had years ago. It probably varies a little bit by industry and role. For example I can see a role that’s more technical and not terribly dependant on soft skills not being checked as thoroughly.

      Also for my current role something happened like the OP describes. They didn’t check the formal references I gave them, but we had network contacts in common so they reached out directly to people who they knew and whose opinions they trusted. That’s very common in my relatively small industry. So I think a lot of factors are at play here.

    2. Red*

      In my case, I’m really glad to see reference checking going away because references are tricky for me personally, and separately I worry that references can reinforce systems of privilege.

      100% agreed. It is pure luck of the draw a lot of the time as to whether you end up with a good manager, a bad one, or an adequate one.

      And if you end up in more than one toxic workplace (which is especially common in times of economic uncertainty, which is all Gen Y and Gen Z have ever known, and probably a lot of Gen X, too; and if you’ve had to take whatever job you can find quickly because you don’t have a trust fund or similar to fall back on), you are often mostly or even completely screwed for future references. Plenty of awful managers will give awful references to good employees just because they can, and let me tell you, it happens all the time.

      I do a lot of hiring. I don’t rely on reference checks, and often don’t do them at all. The only couple of hires I’ve made that haven’t been amazingly good are the ones where someone more senior than I has forced the reference check issue, and one of the least strong candidates has been able to produce glowing references.

  46. JohannaCabal*

    #3 It’s not just government agencies. I worked at a startup that wouldn’t check references. My director told me that it was because candidates only shared the names of managers who’d have good things to say and that most companies prohibit it. Personally, I think it’s because they wanted to seem “cool” unlike those “established” companies that do things like reference checks (as you can imagine, there were other issues there).

    1. Meep*

      I work for a startup who doesn’t. We mostly hire students out of college and many don’t even have jobs up to this point. I also think it is laziness. Our hiring manager is also a sales manager and has a hard time responding to clients who want to renew our software. If she cannot be ass’ed to get a commission for doing the bare minimum, she isn’t going to bother checking references.

    2. Lucy P*

      Not a startup, and we do check references. However, I’ve never gotten a bad review from a reference.

      Most references either give ho-hum factual details or glowing reviews. One reference turned out to be the boyfriend of an applicant (they had previously worked together).

  47. SheLooksFamiliar*

    OP 3, a lot of employers are choosing not to check references, and I’m all for it. After decades in corporate recruiting I can tell you this:

    1: Candidates can and do provide fake references – when a former ‘immediate supervisor’ can’t tell me what a person actually did on the job, I can’t rely on their reference. I always asked if providing a reference went against their company policy; if it didn’t, I expected to hear more than ‘we really liked John/Jane.’

    2: Reference checkers can really suck at checking references, and I’ve heard of candidates getting declined for superficial, non-specific reasons – they didn’t ‘smile enough’ at work?! Really?

    If the employer has a good interview process with relevant behavioral and/or leadership questions, reference checking isn’t so necessary.

    1. Observer*

      If the employer has a good interview process with relevant behavioral and/or leadership questions, reference checking isn’t so necessary

      This is totally not true. How well a person interviews, even with really good interviewers actually gives very limited information about how a person would be on the job in most cases.

      The stuff you describe is not a flaw with the concept of checking references. In fact, in the case where you discover that someone gave you a fake reference, you actually found out something that you would almost certainly never have known just from an interview.

      And if someone declines a candidate because a former employer said that “She didn’t smile enough” the problem is not that they checked references, but that they are a total idiot (and probably sexist as all get out.)

      1. JohannaCabal*

        And when I became involved in hiring at the No Reference Company, I got burned by several hires that interviewed well but were disasters (one of the hires probably could’ve been prevented if I could’ve checked references, sigh).

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          ‘If the employer has a good interview process with relevant behavioral and/or leadership questions, reference checking isn’t so necessary.’ I said if the employer has a GOOD process, not A process. Appropriately structured interviews and well-trained interviewers can suss out a candidate who performs their job well, not just interviews well. I’ve got decades of experience telling me this, so yeah. I’m standing behind this.

          ‘The stuff you describe is not a flaw with the concept of checking references. ‘ Yes, it is.

          ‘And if someone declines a candidate because a former employer said that “She didn’t smile enough” the problem is not that they checked references, but that they are a total idiot (and probably sexist as all get out.)’ Well, that’s a bit harsh to the reference checkers – jebus, maybe they’re just untrained and not sexist – but it’s why a lot of companies don’t check references.

          1. Lora*

            Gotta disagree with this: “Appropriately structured interviews and well-trained interviewers can suss out a candidate who performs their job well, not just interviews well.”

            I have worked with two honest-to-god personality disordered, severe bullies who were harassers and physically violent with their reports but sweet as pie to their bosses. Both were VERY skilled at explaining away the ridiculously high turnover in the departments they managed, and they were not fired until they finally, after a year full of HR and EEOC complaints, displayed their true colors to a senior manager. The one guy had had one job (which he had been demoted from and transferred overseas when his entire staff quit en masse) and thus no references as of course they didn’t want to call his current boss; the other guy had only had a couple of unrelated internships and a couple of letters from his university professors saying he’d been a good student. There were refugees from the one guy’s previous reign of terror working right down the hall, but the hiring manager imagined that it would be somehow illegal to pick up the phone and say “hey I’ve got a resume here from this guy Ken, do you know him?”

            Both were quite technically competent. It wasn’t a matter of technical competence. It’s that throwing things, screaming for hours on end, telling women to wear more makeup and act dumb so they don’t intimidate male colleagues, using 1:1 meetings to unleash hours of insults and put-downs, ruining every Kaizen event attempted by the department with their behavior and racking up dozens of complaints and lawsuits is problematic, and “tell me about a time when you did group work” resulted in answers about how they led the group like heroes and got the best technical thing ever accomplished, not “five people walked out of the room and refused to work with me ever again.”

            When I say these guys were seriously disordered, I mean, maybe the Voight-Kampff test might have caught them, but normal humans wouldn’t have. You can figure out if someone is not competent, or maybe fibbing convincingly about their work experience by being a good interviewer, but if you have not encountered anyone who has presented a nice face to you and subsequently turned really abusive, you better thank your lucky stars and buy a lottery ticket, because they are out there.

            1. pancakes*

              Yes. There are all sorts of behavioral problems that people have enough self-control or self-awareness around to keep under wraps during a brief interview.

              1. SheLooksFamiliar*

                Again: I said a GOOD interview process, one that includes appropriate training, assessment tools, and validation. I assumed that would be inferred, my apologies for the expectation.

                Looks like I’ll need to be far more thorough from now on.

                1. Lora*

                  Unless the interview process includes a complete analysis by a psychologist trained to look for abusive and narcissistic tendencies, it’s probably not going to catch these guys. And “come spend a whole day convincing our corporate psychologist that you’re not a manipulative sociopath” is definitely going to scare away candidates – plus, when the alternative is the hiring manager making a few discreet phone calls, it’s probably not realistic.

            2. Red*

              Yes, but references are sought from managers, not colleagues or people who you have managed. This is part of the reason why the reference checking system is stupid. People can be awful and still get a glowing reference from a manager and vice versa.

          2. Observer*

            ‘If the employer has a good interview process with relevant behavioral and/or leadership questions, reference checking isn’t so necessary.’ I said if the employer has a GOOD process, not A process.

            Again, that’s just not true. Sure, a GOOD process can help you weed out a lot of stuff and can sometimes correct the record from low quality references. But the reality is that someone can answer all of these questions very well, and interview well and still be a poor hire.

            I agree that references are not the be all and end all of hiring due diligence. And it’s important to understand that sometimes people don’t have a lot of professional references for a good reason. But I’ve seen too many situations where someone interviews well in a genuinely good interview process (because they know their stuff, they are well prepared and they are good at that aspect of things), yet were very poor hires.

            Well, that’s a bit harsh to the reference checkers – jebus, maybe they’re just untrained and not sexist – but it’s why a lot of companies don’t check references.

            Seriously? I need to train someone to know that “she didn’t smile enough” is NOT even close to a good reason to decline a candidate? If that’s the kind of thing your reference checkers OR interviewers think is relevant information, I don’t want to work in your company.

            Harsh? Yes. Because trying to cast this as possibly reasonable and probably not sexist is very, very bad.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              Observer, we’re actually on the same side here and I don’t know why you’re assuming I was okay with the previous reference checking behaviors – untrained or not. I wasn’t and am not. I said, ‘Reference checkers can really suck at checking references, and I’ve heard of candidates getting declined for superficial, non-specific reasons – they didn’t ‘smile enough’ at work?! Really?’

              Did you not get the ?! part? As in, disbelief? And the ‘really suck’ part?

          3. pancakes*

            Even the best-trained interviewers do not have clairvoyant abilities or unlimited foresight. Performing well in interviews is a skill in itself, and the job on offer may or may not require the same skills. Similarly, people who perform well on standardized tests may not necessarily be the smartest, most diligent, most hard-working, most intellectually curious students in their class. You are taking a very narrow slice of a person’s work persona as representative of the whole and in many, many cases it simply won’t be.

    2. MsClaw*

      In my industry, almost every major company has the same policy as mine — they don’t provide anything other than confirmation of your dates of employment. Yes, it’s a liability thing.

      Now certainly, if we’re about to hire someone, especially someone local, we’ll often send a query out to the rest of our team and see if anyone has every worked with Person before and has any feedback on Person. But there’s no point in calling Person’s former managers, because they’ll almost certainly give the same “please call HR at xxx-yyyy to confirm dates Person was with us.”

    3. late*

      I’d love to see the back of reference checks. I work in recruitment so I’ve seen it all, and I’ve also had to survive more than one toxic boss and workplace. If I were to need a reference myself, luck is not necessarily on my side: more of my good/great former bosses are now dead or otherwise unavailable (or very hard to contact) than the bad/toxic ones. I know I am not the only person in this position.

      People who you are contacting to ask about the candidate have no obligation whatsoever to tell you the truth, and will often have their own motives, which can work both for and against the candidate. I also think that reaching out to people that the candidate hasn’t listed as a reference is reprehensible.

  48. Phony Genius*

    On #4, the program we use won’t even let you log in more than 5 minutes early. Our boss tried to find a way to bypass that, and wound up waiting in an empty room that was not the meeting room. He didn’t understand why none of the 16 of us were in the meeting once we got to the actual start time. And we didn’t know why he wasn’t on, either.

  49. Nea*

    #5 – am I misreading, or is somewhere you aren’t employed asking you to work for free?

    Because if that’s the situation, it doesn’t matter that you used to work there, it doesn’t matter that the old job was toxic, it doesn’t matter that it wouldn’t take long, it doesn’t matter that you had a good relationship with a client, what matters is the bottom line: a place that doesn’t pay you wants your labor, in return for which they will not pay you.

    Viewed through that lens, the answer is easy.

    Ignoring them is the best bet, but if you want to be really vengeful (not recommended) you could always remind them of their place in your personal hierarchy.

    1. OP5*

      Thanks for your response. I’d like to think I’m generally a helpful person, but this previous employer has had plenty of instances of ignoring my boundaries (ex: texting as late as 11pm for clear non-emergencies), and I am hesitant to send ANYTHING and re-open lines of communication. The PTSD from working there–even just seeing her name pop up on my phone–is a lot. That’s why I think ignoring is my best bet here.

        1. Nea*

          PS – I’m sure others have suggested this too but – block the number! You don’t need it because you don’t work there.

  50. WellRed*

    Dog OP. You don’t say you were specifically looking for a dog friendly workplace and honestly, going the temp route, I expect even less so. Now you’ve had that perk taken away and are getting all worked up when, frankly, you got lucky for the month. Leave Fluffernutter at home and get on with the temp assignment. Maybe they’ll hire you permanently.

  51. ticktick*

    OP#5 – I was in a similar situation, where a former employer called and asked me when I was available to hop on a call with one of their customers, that I’d been dealing with before I left. My way of handling it was to call the former employer back – after hours, so that I was leaving a message and didn’t need to get into a conversation – and tell them that I wasn’t comfortable being on a call as their representative, since I was no longer their employee, and also mentioned that me being on a call like that would be both confusing and misleading to the customer. I never heard from them again.

    1. Nanani*

      What on earth were they expecting to happen? Did the person who called not get the memo that you don’t work there anymore, or are they so deluded about the nature of a job?
      When someone doesn’t work for them anymore – they don’t work for them. It’s not complicated.

      Good job not just laughing at them in your voicemail.

      1. ticktick*

        It was a power play – my then-boss had put out feelers before I left about whether I would be available to help transition files and so on after my employment had formally ended. My response was to make sure that, before I left, every file had a detailed transition memo attached regarding its status and next steps, so there’d be no need to call. And just in case, I also left them with a detailed contractor agreement with rates for my time, to be signed if they wanted me to do any work. Needless to say, they didn’t sign it, and this call was a way of testing the waters, to see if I would still jump through hoops for them. I have soooo many stories about the toxicity of that workplace…

  52. Meep*

    LW#2 – So I recently introduced myself to my 5th-grade teacher at a family function (she is best friends with my Aunt). She looked exactly the same, but I didn’t particularly like her all that much (I was a very intelligent child, she didn’t challenge you. Instead she was more focused on 11-year-olds not saying “stupid” and being their friend than teaching. -eye roll-) so I completely blocked her out of my memory by the time I entered high school and it had been 15 years at that point.

    So do not feel bad. If I can forget what a lady looks like after spending an entire school year with her, you can be forgiven for not recognizing someone you met once for a few hours.

    1. Elenna*

      As someone who is somewhat faceblind, my mind is kinda blown at the thought that you might be expected to recognize someone that you only knew for a year, 15 years ago! I can recognize people if I spend enough time with them (on the scale of weeks/months, not days), but even then it fades if I don’t see them for long enough, and 15 years is way more than “long enough”.

      (Same kind of feeling as when my mom came back from a walk saying that she ran into someone whom she met once 6 months ago (with the implication that she recognized them immediately) and I’m just sitting there like “… but how??”)

      1. Meep*

        I am actually typically very good about recognizing people from ages ago. I managed to recognize my preschool teacher, Ms. Pauline, twenty years after the fact and we ended up giving her a lift from the mall back to her apartment. Wonderful lady. There is a lot that goes into it including having a photographic memory and just loving to people watch for creative writing purposes.

        It is mostly she is a “family friend” – even if it had been fifteen years since I had personally seen her. I just kind of tossed the knowledge willingly from my head in an “I don’t care to see this lady ever again” sort of way. She was neither good nor traumatizing enough to recall, I suppose.

  53. Dr Sarah*

    OP5: I think one perfectly reasonable answer would be “Thank you for your request. My fee for working externally will be [HIGHEST AMOUNT YOU THINK YOU CAN POSSIBLY GET AWAY WITH AND PROBABLY JUST A BIT HIGHER]. Please confirm in writing if you are happy to pay this.”

    However, that only works if you genuinely would be happy to do the work for that money. It’s also perfectly legit to feel you just don’t want to have any further dealings with the company for any amount of money, in which case it is also perfectly reasonable for you to either ignore them or reply “Thank you for letting me know, but I won’t be available for any further work” (if you do the latter, it’s helpful to picture yourself saying it in the coolest tone you can summon, preferably with slightly arched brow to make the point).

    1. OP5*

      Oh, I will save that second suggested line. I know it’s simple–but I like that it doesn’t leave the door open for other communication (whereas one stating that I’m busy seems to imply if I have down time I might be able to do it later).
      If she messages me again, I’ll use that. Thanks!

      1. I'm just here for the cats*

        OP5 are they going to pay you or just expect you to do this for free. My guess they are not. Just ignore or give a cool I’m not able to complete this work anymore but I left X documentation.

      2. Nanani*

        You don’t work for them anymore. No need for excuses! Just say no or let their messages fade into the ether.

      3. Filosofickle*

        Yes, you have this exactly right! Reasons give them hope. You are simply unavailable for future work. Period.

  54. J Ginger*

    LW2 – I have to be honest, I’d be a little annoyed, but not enough that I’d think badly of you! Granted I’m pretty easy to recognize even with a mask (I’m a ginger with very vibrant locks) so I’d think it’s weird, but I wouldn’t hold it against you.

    LW4 – I also have to admit I do this too. I “show up” to the meeting 15 minutes early because I’m overly nervous that I’ll be late. My workplace automatically has the waiting room thing turned on so it’s hasn’t really been a problem yet. But I see Alison’s point so I’ll start trying not to do it in the future.

  55. OP4*

    OP #4 — thanks for the feedback! It seems from the comment section that 5 minutes is the earliest acceptable time and I’m looking into my email notifications to make that easier. To answer/clarify a couple points in the comments:

    1. It is Teams and not Zoom so every meeting has its own unique link. So I have never joined a meeting where the previous meeting was still going but sometimes the organizers have still been “setting up”

    2. 75% of meetings at my organization start on the hour, 24% start on the half hour, and the remaining 1% at a different time. So I didn’t think about more junior staff thinking they would have the time wrong. I still think 1-5 minutes early is better for the reasons discussed but it would be highly unusual to start a meeting on the 45 mark for us

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Teams makes showing up early much more intrusive since you get that “OP has started the meeting” message. Sometimes I click that without even checking the time and then I realize I’m trapped in the pre-meeting small talk, haha.

      This is also highly cultural – five minutes would be a lot at my office! But if five minutes feels safe to you it is not objectively super early. I’m definitely an “on the dot” meeting joiner but social cues are big here.

      1. OP4*

        Our Teams/VPN etc setup is not stable enough to reliably join at the meeting time by clicking the button at the meeting time. So your 2 options are

        1. Click the button on time and be 5 minutes late probably 30% of the time
        2. Click the button a few minutes early and be early 70% of the time, but always on time.

        This is a systems issue and everyone in the organization has to pick one of these two options because it just is that unreliable. I prefer to start my meetings actually on time so I’m totally okay with pressuring people below me to join a couple minutes early to roll their dice on if it’s working today. (But I don’t freak out when people trickle in a few minutes late since I know it’s unreliable/people are coming from other meetings/whatever). Most of my meetings are small enough that we are able to use a “start once everyone has joined” approach.

        1. Observer*

          For your situation, 5 minutes sounds like a reasonable solution, especially since everyone probably knows about the problem. 15 minutes is still too early.

    2. Delta Delta*

      Changing your alert settings is probably the most helpful part of all this.

      I also think that although you can most definitely do other things in the time leading up to the meeting, logging in 15 whole minutes early may inadvertently have the look that you don’t have anything else to do but sit and wait for a meeting.

    3. NotMy(Fancy)RealName*

      Generally on teams when the 15 minute warning comes up you can hit “snooze” for a 5 min warning. I like this because the 15 minute warning lets me know to wrap up what I’m doing and I generally log in on the 5 min to account for tech issues.

  56. Wintermute*

    #3– The government is constrained by law as to what they can consider, and references as mentioned usually are not required. That’s what background checks and civil service exams are for.

    But beyond that, I think the era of references is coming to a close. Companies poisoned the well, so many tried to keep people from job mobility with “no references” policies where all they would do is confirm dates of employment and (maybe) elligibility for re-hire. In that environment some people found ways to bend the rules and meet arbitrary requirements, but often the couldn’t use managers so they had to use peers that provided less than fully-informed views of the candidate. Employers played themselves– trying to make it hard to leave they made it hard to get good information on new hires.

    This doesn’t stop the companies that are the most rigid about it being a firing offense to give an underling a reference from ALSO being the most rigid about candidates supplying two management references, of course. To the point I consider it a red flag if they DO want references or seem to place unusual emphasis on this. It tells you they don’t know how modern hiring works and probably have plenty of other 1980s (at BEST) era norms that they will cling well past when they make no sense and are counterproductive.

    1. late*

      Agreed. The entire process of checking references, and the emphasis placed upon it, is just ridiculous. Why should you trust the word of a complete stranger that this person is good, bad or otherwise? Especially when most people leave jobs because of bad managers, and a bad manager can sink an excellent worker at the best of times. Plenty of people contacted for references, especially without the permission of the candidate, lie. And it costs plenty of excellent candidates jobs every single day.

  57. Yvette*

    Re: #1
    This is my favorite part of the answer “Yeah, “you can’t bring your dog to the client’s office” isn’t something that you’d normally find in a contract even if it’s their policy … but they can all have sorts of policies that aren’t included in the contract. The contract binds them (and you) to what is included there, but doesn’t preclude them from also having additional, separate rules you’ll be held to.”
    Could you imagine people pushing that? “Nobody said I couldn’t have someone come in and give me a pedicure”, “Nobody said I couldn’t practice my tuba in the break room” , “Nobody told me I couldn’t mime my presentation”.

  58. the cat's ass*

    L5-just ignore them, and perhaps block them everywhere they’ve had access to you in the past.

  59. Bob-White of the Glen*

    OP2 – I found out a few years ago that I was face blind. Didn’t even know such a thing existed. It means I have to meet people SEVERAL times to have a face stick, and if I see them in an unexpected place I will still not recognize them. Found out about face blindness while watching a news show (and in the middle a friend called to say there was a show about me on TV!) And it made me feel a ton better. I’m not forgetting people because I’m stupid or rude, my brain just doesn’t recognize visual patterns the way other brains do. (I also drive home by street signs not by what houses look like.) It’s not memory. I have a ton of people tell me they see someone and can’t remember their name. I would kill for that! I will look right at them and not have a clue I know them.

    You might want to get tested (there are online tests you can try), and I now tell new people that I am face blind and it will take me a while to learn their face. The vast, vast majority of people are very kind about it. Plus once you know, you realize it’s just that your brain works differently and that’s not always a bad thing.

  60. Batgirl*

    I think the dog perk thing, while obviously really useful, is better considered as a temporary extra rather than counting on it and basing your choice of workplace around it. There’re just too many reasons that a workplace might scroll back on that, such as hiring someone with terrible allergies, or finding out that the pet hair puts the cleaning bill over budget, or the rental agreement changes, or it just doesn’t work for everyone, or whatever. For people who would otherwise pay for doggy daycare I can understand seeing the offer as putting the company head and shoulders above the rest, but from the company’s perspective it’s a simple morale boost and they’re only going to do it when and if they can.

  61. Delta Delta*

    #1 – One thing that isn’t 100% clear from OP’s letter is how long she’d have to work at the placement before being offered a full time position. If it’s 90-120 days, and a month or so has already gone by, that doesn’t seem like an especially long time to figure out daytime dog care before being able to work there full time. If it’s a year, OP might think about whether bringing the dog is a deal breaker.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree. I totally get that having a perk and then losing it is different and worse than never having it–but if this wasn’t something you would usually expect to have and you think you’re likely to be hired on full-time by the non-profit in the future and are otherwise happy there, then it seems like your best option is just to wait a while before you can take advantage of bringing your dog to work. There’s not much else you can do about it in the meantime.

      I’d be very frustrated in your shoes, but try not to be frustrated at anyone in particular. I personally don’t think anyone here acted poorly, it’s just an unfortunate series of events due to lack of communication over something rare enough that it’s reasonable IMO no one though to communicate more about it. Like obviously it would have been ideal if the non-profit and your staffing agency figured all this out before offering you this perk. But I think it’s reasonable that it never occurred to the non-profit that it wouldn’t be allowed, and it’s reasonable that it never occurred to the staffing agency that this was a rule they needed to specify. Just a case of people not being on the same page.

      The only thing that I think would change my thoughts on this is if you were deciding between two contracts and actually preferred the other but chose this over it solely because of the dog perk. If that is the case, and you feel strongly that you would prefer another assignment now then I suppose it might be worth asking your boss at the staffing agency about that?

  62. Retired (but not really)*

    OP2-I just tell people “I know names and I know faces. Occasionally they match! It usually takes me about 5-6 times before I can keep them together.” That gets the awkward out of the way ahead of time. I’m very likely to recognize someone as looking like I should know their name but not having a clue as why or where I know them from.

  63. Orange Flag*

    OP3 – The massive private company I work for actually stopped checking references as part of DE&I.

  64. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: I’m not face blind, I tend to have the issue where I can recognise a face but have zero chance of remembering the associated name/business/rank so it becomes ‘oh…yeah…you’re…I cannot remember your name or what you do’

    Mostly I interact with people via email anyway – people putting signatures on the bottom of their mail? Bliss.

    With masks it’s even worse because I never look people in the eye when speaking to them and all masks look the same. I’ve got some great use out of ‘sorry, been concentrating on work all day and forgotten my social interaction application – what’s your name again?’

    However, I’m an old battleaxe and not so concerned about people getting offended by things I cannot help….

  65. Nanani*

    #5 – You don’t work there any more and it isn’t your problem!
    I recommend just pretending the message never got through and not responding at all.
    You don’t have an ongoing commitment to your former job or to that client. Zero need to respond! Be free.

  66. Other Meredith*

    My go-to thing I’ve been saying since mask wearing is “I guess now it doesn’t seem so silly that no one recognizes Batman as Bruce Wayne! Only seeing half a face is very different from a whole face!” I am pretty good at remembering faces normally (not at connecting those faces with names, alas), but the masks throw me off a lot.

    1. Sunflower*

      I use to make fun of the Superman thing, but then one day didn’t recognize a friend without his ever-present baseball cap.

  67. Sunflower*

    #5 Don’t do it if they are not paying you. If they pay you, you need to decide if a few hours is worth it. I’ve heard horror stories about how former employees “clocking in” for a few hours messed up their taxes. You can work as an consultant but you need to know how to make a contract and file taxes.

    #2 I have trouble recognizing people outside their “environment.” I only easily know coworkers at work, students at school. Heck, sometimes don’t recognize my relatives or friends when I run into them in the streets. I only know faces when I actively look for them.

    1. The OG Sleepless*

      I’ve probably told this story here before, but part of my face blindness is that if I see somebody out of context, I have trouble recognizing them. I saw someone at the store that I knew I was supposed to know, and I stared at him for a second or two as I tried to remember…client? Parent of one of my kids’ friends? Guy caught me looking, gave me an unsurprised, gracious nod, and kept moving. Hours later it hit me that he was a distinctive-looking celebrity who happens to live nearby. I was mortified.

  68. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Re: #2 – why are so many companies and workplaces still insisting on doing in-person “team-building” activities during the worst surge of this pandemic so far? Why are you putting trivial activities (that practically no one likes) ahead of the safety and health of not just your employees, but their families and local health care workers? It doesn’t make sense to me.

  69. mreasy*

    OP4 – can you set a second calendar notification for one minute before the meeting starts? I have my defaults at 10 min and 1 min before a scheduled meeting. That way you get an earlier reminder and you don’t have to wait around, watching the clock.

  70. SaffyTaffy*

    OP5 – the same way a terrible boyfriend may ghost you today but will DEFINITELY text you in six months, terrible jobs seem to reliably want back the workers they can’t help taking advantage of. A month after I was part of a massive lay-off at my last job, HR emailed and called to ask if I “knew anyone who would be a good fit for a new position.” It was my position.

  71. Meow*

    LW#1 – Something I’ve learned the hard way is, despite what anyone might tell you during the recruiting phase – if you are a contractor assigned by a staffing firm, never expect to receive any of the employee perks from an assignment. You technically work for the staffing agency, not the company. That’s not to say you won’t ever be able to receive these benefits, just don’t get your hopes up.

    I had an assignment where I was not allowed to eat at the company’s employee appreciation dinner because I was not an employee. (They also refused to provide me with a chair on my first day, but I digress) One of my coworkers only took that assignment because he was promised he could use the onsite gym, which turned out to be a situation rather like the dog thing.

    Not every employer nickels-and-dimes their contractors like that (my current employer makes no distinction between contractors and employees aside from who you submit your timesheet to) and not every staffing agency freaks out about liability, but it’s something to keep in mind.

  72. Agile Phalanges*

    Re #3: I was hired at an earlier job because my predecessor, who had worked there 13 years, had embezzled from the company for a lot of that time, and was therefore terminated rather suddenly when it was finally discovered. A few days into the job, I asked if he had checked my references, as none of them mentioned hearing from him, and he said, “No, 13 years at the same company, I feel like you must be a great employee.” HEADDESK. He did not see the irony. He also didn’t feel the need for any internal controls, so I could’ve probably easily embezzled if I were so inclined, which luckily for him I am NOT.

  73. Elizabeth West*

    #4–I usually log in five minutes ahead of an online meeting or call. This gives me time to adjust video and audio. If there are any technical issues, I often don’t know that until the other person logs in, however. I had a Zoom interview on Friday with sound and video problems; the interviewer didn’t come on until one or two minutes into the call. We wasted ten minutes before we figured out to just talk over audio and turn the video off. So I think it’s good practice to come in a tad early.

    If it’s in-person, I try to arrive ten minutes ahead. Then I can go over my materials or make a quick bathroom run if necessary.

  74. halfwolf*

    it’s so interesting to hear that many government agencies don’t check references because i work for a nonprofit where a plurality of our employees are covered under a city government contract and we’re required to collect and maintain (and make available during audits) 3 professional references for everyone funded on that contract. this is in addition to necessary background checks, and since they’re our largest funder we just make sure to get 3 references for all employees, regardless of whether they’re on that contract or not.

  75. anon45612*

    LW #2 – are you the only person (or one of only a few) who is working remotely at your office? If the other 20 employees are all generally in the office together, and you’re being able to work remotely is perceived as a perk they don’t get, and then when you do come into the office, you’re staring at them blankly/reintroducing themselves when they talk to you like you have no idea who they are… well. I can see how they might view this as you not putting in effort into getting to know them (and then getting annoyed). Maybe not a fair reaction on their part, but obviously not the way you want to be perceived by your coworkers! I think other responses here about greeting them warmly, banking on the idea you have probably met or interacted with them before is likely to go over much better.

  76. Liu1845*

    OP2- I agree with you and have something similar. My co-workers and supervisors all knew. I was upfront with them. I have “facial blindness”. I do not recognize faces, no matter how long I have known people, unless they are unusually distinctive. I recognize people by their body language, walk, voices, clothing, perfume, etc. I always received some good natured teasing, which never bothered me. Especially when my boss brought up that it’s a fairly common occurrence in psychopaths, lol.
    If these people are coming to her/him at your normal office/desk they may know you more by that than actually recognizing you. They may not recognize OP away from where they expect her/him to be.

  77. Bluebonnet*

    OP5: your former education job that is based on hierarchy, limits feedback, and does little to reward going above and beyond is eerily similar to my job in higher education. I am glad that you got a better job, and hope for a better job for myself one day. I am curious if this is a common situation those in the education field face.

  78. Wenike*

    For LW#5, be aware that onboarding/offboarding is being automated at a lot of companies so there might necessarily not be anyone who manually terminated your account. My company does this automatically: HR just has to flag your record as terminated and IT processes that termination at around 5 AM the next morning. Nobody is actively involved on the IT side other than anything that might still have to be manually done afterwards (internal accesses in applications) but email is almost always tied to network accounts and those are easily automated away. So, don’t use that as a sign of your former employer wishing you gone with alacrity but rather just an automated process done for security.

  79. MisterForkbeard*

    The “disabling access immediately upon resignation” thing isn’t strange at all to me – I’m in IT, and we do this for anyone that has sensitive information. Once you’ve announced you’re leaving you’re an elevated security risk, and unless you’re critical to closing something out then your access will likely be removed ASAP.

    If you didn’t have critical or sensitive access then they should have waited, but… yeah, I get it.

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