can I bring my own furniture to a new job, an ominous recruiter, and more

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

1. Can I bring my own furniture to my new job?

It’s my first week in the new role, and my question is: how much should I/can I decorate my new office?

I was an outside hire in a new position within a small department. It’s a customer-facing role where I’ll have a lot of people in and out of my office looking for help. It’s also a new industry for me and, while there are similarities, some department members might feel like “what is she doing here and why was she hired into this manager role above me after my 20 years of experience in the industry?” (I don’t know that anyone feels that way, but I guess I feel they’d be justified if they did.)

I’m a big believer in surroundings affecting how people feel, and so I want my office to be inviting and comfortable. Right now, it’s a very large office with good light, but the walls haven’t been painted in years and the existing furniture is a hodgepodge of whatever others in the department didn’t want.

To be clear: I’m not ungrateful! It’s great the way it is! It’s got a big window with a nice view, and a desk, a bookshelf, another table, multiple chairs — everything a person would need to function. I’m so thrilled to have this office, to have this position, and I want to make sure my coworkers know this. Will bringing in my own furniture (nothing expensive — I have a desk at home that I bought for $150 and a simple but comfortable armchair around the same price point), for example, make me seem like a prima donna who thinks she’s too good for the furniture that was there? Or will it signal that I’m taking this role seriously and am excited to be here? How do I send the second message and not the first, while also ensuring that my office is inviting for customers?

At least for a while, I’d hold off on bringing in your own furniture other than, say, a lamp. It won’t necessarily make you look like you’re too good for what’s there, but it does risk looking like you’re overly focused on “stuff” and not on the job itself. I’m not saying that’s right — I agree that surroundings affect how people feel — but if it’s not in sync with the culture, it can look strange to do right off the bat. Wait and get a better feel for the culture first and let people get a better feel for you, and then you can decide.

If you do end up bringing furniture in, make sure you check with your facilities people first. There can be reasons you wouldn’t necessarily know about not to do it, like that it will cause drama with the more senior person down the hall who’s been asking for a new desk forever, or issues with how to store the displaced stuff. (Also, make sure you’re willing to part with anything you bring in. A lot of people lost personal belongings when their offices closed unexpectedly at the start of the pandemic, and for some people that stuff was lost for good.)

More office decorating advice:

how should I decorate my office?
how much stuff can I “move in with” on my first day at a new job?

2. Recruiter made ominous comments about my current job

An external recruiter reached out to me a few months ago and I told him I was really only interested in work-from-home or hybrid positions, and I’m pretty happy where I’m at. He didn’t have anything at the time, but he reached out to me again last week. The position was a lateral move, about a $5k raise, and fully in-office, but with a slightly shorter commute than my current (hybrid) job. I was hesitant, but agreed to a phone interview to get more information.

I “passed” the phone interview and he reached out today to see about scheduling an in-person interview. At this point, I told him I still didn’t think it was the right fit for me, primarily due to it being fully in-office. I said that even if my current company decided to go back to fully in-office, I still know that they would be accommodating about my schedule (I’m going back to school soon) because I already have a few coworkers working odd hours and flexible schedules.

Here’s where it got weird: he said, “If that’s your only hesitation, I think you should consider moving forward. I know something you don’t, I can’t tell you due to confidentiality, but I don’t think you should base your whole decision on the schedule.” I tried to probe for a little more info. He said he couldn’t say anything specific right now, but “it’s nothing to do with [new company], more related to where you’re at now. We’ll be talking in a couple weeks.”

I ultimately decided I wasn’t interested in this position. I told him I was also hesitant about some of the job duties because they weren’t really my area of interest. He said he’d remove me from the applicant pool, no problem, no hard feelings … and then he ended the call with, “Keep my number, I’ll talk to you in a couple weeks, but don’t hesitate to reach out in the meantime.”

My boyfriend thinks he’s just fear-mongering so I’ll feel like I need his help finding a new job. I’m not convinced one way or the other. He is from a well-known recruiting company so I have no reason to think he’s shady. I just got a merit raise in December, so I really don’t think I’m about to get fired. And I already addressed the possibility that my company is about to force us all back into the office and he persisted. I can’t imagine what else he could be talking about! Why is he so sure we’ll be talking in a couple weeks? Is it normal for recruiters to have mysterious insider info about the company where prospective recruits already work? Is fear-mongering a common tactic?

No, this isn’t normal! It’s possible the recruiter really does have insider info, like that your company is about to lay off your whole team, but (a) he probably doesn’t, (b) he’d be being remarkably indiscreet if he did, (c) it would also be remarkably naive (companies’ plans change all the time; presenting them as a done deal before they’re a done deal, and when he doesn’t even work there, is terrible judgment), and (d) there’s something very arrogant about “We’ll be talking in a couple weeks.” It’s also true that some recruiters (not all) BS candidates in an attempt to get them to take jobs that wouldn’t be a great fit. I don’t know if that’s true of this guy — maybe he has real info and is genuinely trying to do you a solid, despite the aggressive feel — but you shouldn’t let yourself be pushed into anything just because a recruiter you don’t know well is making mysterious claims. It sounds like you’ll have more info in a few weeks and can assess his approach at that point (and please come back and update us because now we want to know too).

Read updates to this letter here and here.

3. My coworker lied to my boss about what I think of her management style

I work at a call center for a huge corporation. We’re all licensed professionals answering very specialized types of calls. We’re 100% remote from all over the country, so we never meet our coworkers in person but we do chat on an app as a large group or occasionally individually.

Last week my manager, Britta, asked me to call her. She said that she’d recently been giving feedback to my coworker, Annie, and Annie said that she found Britta’s feedback to be “punitive.” When Britta asked for more information, Annie said “(my name) thinks so, too.”

I am not close to Annie. I have had three individual chats with her on the app, and one text conversation on my cell phone. I still have all of these communications. None of them mentioned Britta at all. Additionally, I don’t agree with this assessment of Britta’s coaching style, and I have never told Annie (or anyone else) I think that. I told as much to Britta, and she thanked me and we hung up.

I didn’t know what to make of a coworker making up a lie about me and then telling that lie to management. I have a mentor (Shirley) at work who has been there for about 20 years. I ran the situation by Shirley, and she said, “Don’t worry, Britta knows that Annie is a liar. I don’t know why she hasn’t been fired yet.” This made me feel a little better, but I’m still anxious about the whole situation. I don’t want Britta to think that I’m bashing her to coworkers or that I have a criticism of her that I don’t have, especially with my first annual review coming up. I think that Annie made me look unprofessional, and I have no idea why she did it.

I haven’t said anything to anyone else yet. I don’t want to make anything worse or create drama. Do I let this go or do I say something to Annie? I don’t appreciate being lied about at work!

I’d let it go. Experienced managers know “Jane thinks so too” can mean “I once saw Jane look annoyed when you were talking” or “I think Jane would agree with me, although she’s never said it” or “I am so clearly right that everyone on our team must agree with me.” And if Shirley is right that Britta already knows Annie has issues with the truth, it’s even more of a non-issue for you.

If it brings you peace of mind, you can always raise it with Britta again the next time you talk (“I was taken aback that Annie said that to you and I want to make sure it’s clear where I stand”) but I doubt you need to! In theory, you could address it with Annie herself too, but I don’t know that there’s much to be gained from doing that with someone you barely talk to normally — you’ve already set the record straight with your boss and taking it up with Annie is likely to stir up drama.

4. Is it too soon to start applying to job if I’m not available until April?

I’m going to be moving from Philadelphia to Arizona late next month. I will have to resign from my current job — they don’t offer a remote option — and find something else. Is it too soon to start sending resumes if I won’t be able to work until the first week of April? I’m not looking for a high level management type job — I do project accounting work — so I don’t expect there to be multiple rounds of interviews that could drag on for months. But with all I hear of the current labor shortage, I’m wondering if a company would be willing to hire a highly qualified candidate who couldn’t start for a month or two.

It’s not too soon to start applying! A lot of companies advertising now won’t be doing interviews for at least a few weeks, if not longer, and then by the time the whole process is over, a decision made, and an offer accepted, you’ll be pretty close to April (if not past it in some cases). You also might encounter companies that are moving more quickly, of course, but in those cases you can be up-front about your availability and let them decide if it will work for them or not. Plenty of jobs don’t mind waiting a little longer for the right person, but if it’s a deal-breaker they’ll let you know.

5. I was offered a second interview … but I didn’t have a first interview

Today I heard back from a job I applied to in early December telling me that they really enjoyed talking to me about the position and would love to offer me a second interview. I feel like it’s clear they sent the email to me in error, as I haven’t had a first email and hadn’t heard back from them at all till now, assuming they’d rejected me without notifying me. How should I proceed? I don’t want to be rude, but I also know they made a mistake so I clearly can’t go to the second interview and don’t want to ghost because I might apply there again in the future. I also maybe foolishly hope this means there’s still a slim chance I can get the original position I applied for. Is there any chance I can get a first interview out of this?

Who knows, maybe the error isn’t who they sent it to, but referencing a second interview instead of a first one. When you’re using template emails to respond to candidates, either error is possible.

In any case, handle it using the same tone you’d use with a colleague you didn’t know well who accidentally sent you some wrong information. So, for example: “Hi, Jane! This email might have been sent to me in error, since it references a second interview and I haven’t had a first interview yet. That said, I’d love to talk with you and your team about the llama groomer position so if the invitation still stands, please let me know and I can send you my availability.”

{ 325 comments… read them below }

  1. Daffy Duck*

    Recruiter – Please give us an update in a month or two!
    My money is on scare tactics. If a recruiter knew your company was going to make big changes before you did the place would have big issues, and I bet you would know it was toxic. Sounds like you are happy with your current company, so you shouldn’t worry.

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Agreeing – I’m thinking pressure tactics to get the commission that placing you in a new job represents. But please let us know what happens! And all the best with going back to school too!

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        Yeah I bet it’s probably extra hard to fill in-person jobs right now, so this recruiter is having to be more aggressive than usual to get people to take them. He might have some inkling OP’s office is going back to in-person or something but I’d take it with a huge grain of salt.

        1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

          I had one on the phone this morning who offered a rate significantly lower than what I’m making now. I told him that, got off the call, and he CALLED BACK. Like what on earth was he going to say that could change my lack of interest in this (cruddy) job?

        2. Observer*

          Yeah I bet it’s probably extra hard to fill in-person jobs right now, so this recruiter is having to be more aggressive than usual to get people to take them.

          This is the most likely explanation, imo.

    2. Andrew*

      My guess is the recruiter knows that this guys boss or someone important in the company is taking a new job elsewhere. It’ll have something to do someone coming or going, because that’s where recruiters have the inside info..

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        My company has just been restructuring, and made around 20 people redundant. Unfortunately, they are now having problems with trying to recruit new people. I wonder why?

        I would not be surprised though if somebody has confided in the recruiter.

      2. Bamcheeks*

        But equally, I wouldn’t want to work with a recruiter who was using that information to manipulate candidates! Who knows what they’ll do about YOUR position if you pursue an opportunity with them if it helps them land a commission? Such a lack of discretion in a recruiter would be prohibitive for me, and I’d probably tell them so.

        1. Despachito*

          And it is not even a proper lack of discretion – he did not reveal any ACTUAL information, just a vague “I know that something is happening.”

          For me, a specific indiscretion (your company is going to wind up in a month) would be a terribly unprofessional thing to say, but from the human point of view I find what he did even worse. It is trying to play quite a deep string in OP’s mind (an irrational fear), and I find this awful. I hope OP does not bite this bait and updates us how this went.

          1. Smithy*

            I do agree with this.

            I think the most least gross explanations is the he knows someone is leaving and their departure will create upheaval or someone is joining who will create upheaval. And in this very specific case, it might be someone who spent their entire interview going, staff need to be in the office 5 days a week to execute this brilliant vision and strategy I’ll share with you now…..

            Even if all of that is true, I’d probably still want to experience what that new leadership was like for my personal situation before making a decision. And even then, that decision would not be looking at only one job at a lateral move. People’s bandwidths for unpleasant working environments can really hit a wide range and to assume someone’s going to *need* out immediately vs *want* out and start looking is odd.

            And again, if the OP is let go – not great, but it’s not the equivalent of being fired for cause with a red letter on your resume you desperately are trying to avoid.

            1. Koalafied*

              And in this very specific case, it might be someone who spent their entire interview going, staff need to be in the office 5 days a week to execute this brilliant vision and strategy I’ll share with you now…..

              Even if all of that is true, I’d probably still want to experience what that new leadership was like for my personal situation before making a decision.

              Totally! Even if he had good reason to believe the LW was about to get a new boss who hates remote work, that doesn’t mean the new boss isn’t persuadable, or that LW’s company is going to allow him to curtail remote work for his employees – which are just two of the more probable possibilities. There are others like “recruiter misunderstands the org chart” or “company is planning on reshuffling teams” or “company is adding a chief of staff position to manage the Directors and handle personnel issues so the C-Suite can spend less time on management and focus on strategic initiatives” which would mean the face-time-loving-boss isn’t going to end up managing LW’s position.

              There are any number of ways that the recruiter could have reason to believe things are going to go one way, but “reason to believe” doesn’t mean “will happen.” If LW was already unhappy, it might be a good data point to know there’s potentially another source of unhappiness brewing, but LW is happy with their job. It’d be crazy to throw that away on hints of whispered rumors.

              1. Smithy*

                Absolutely. I will also say, “everyone is unhappy” is certainly a term I’ve heard and used to describe situations where from 50 feet above its true. It also doesn’t mean everyone leaves, or if they do their timeline is the same.

                In this particular work environment, where I was one of the unhappy – it didn’t mean I took every job offered to me just because I did want out. I also knew someone who had a job for about 8 or so years talking about how soul sucking it was before he left. And then there are other people who now say the place has really turned a corner and isn’t so bad. While I certainly wouldn’t recommend working there, if someone asked me about the place – at this time it also wouldn’t be right to say it was a straight dumpster fire.

        2. Observer*

          I wouldn’t want to work with a recruiter who was using that information to manipulate candidates! Who knows what they’ll do about YOUR position if you pursue an opportunity with them if it helps them land a commission?

          Exactly. Which means that whatever the recruiter does or does not know, he’s a problem.

        3. Shrinking Violet*

          Exactly what I came here to say. “We’ll be talking in a couple weeks.” — No. We won’t.

      3. Gan Ainm*

        Certainly could be, that’s a change that I think it’s realistic for a recruiter to know of in advance, but such an ominous sounding warning doesn’t seem to match that situation. People come and go all the time, doesn’t mean everyone else automatically up and leaves. So if it is that scenario we’re back to the recruiter fear mongering for their own gain…

      4. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yeah, given that it sounds like he only pushed back once and wasn’t aggressive after that I actually think it’s likely that the recruiter at least *thinks* that they know something.

        But like Alison said, if they do they could be wrong or plans could change–or whatever happens might have very little effect on OP personally. At my job, there have been several significant restructures but every time my job and my direct supervisor stayed the same so it was like nothing changed at all for me.

        If I’m very, *very* generous to the recruiter, I can imagine it would be difficult to see someone pass on what you think is a good opportunity because they don’t have all the information. But they must know that “I know something important but can’t tell you” has got to be one of the most frustrating things to be told and obviously no one can reasonably make a decision based on something like that! I don’t know if I would work with them again even if it turned out they were right…

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yeah, if he said, “well you can still call me if ever you change your mind”, I’d maybe make a note of his name and number. But the sheer arrogance of “we’ll be talking in two weeks’ time”, coming right on the heels of a statement that comes across as worrying without giving any real info, would put me right off.

    3. Kage*

      The only semi-plausible real scenario I can come up with is your company is being bought by another and it’s going to make a bunch of people redundant/get laid off. I could see a scenario where old owner wants to make sure their people are taken care of and requiring new owner to engage a recruiter place all the laid-off people. But I’d be surprised that recruiter would have the list of official people that far in advance of everyone else knowing, so I still think it is more of a bluff “I’ll be talking to some folks at company in a few weeks” and not you-specific. And I think you’d have some sense of a sale/something coming.

      Good luck and I second the call for an update!

      1. Caraway*

        Even in that case, I think you just can’t know how it will turn out. Something similar happened with my spouse’s company last year – someone high up at his company is friends with someone I work with, and we started hearing all kinds of things through her indiscretion. The company is being sold (turned out to be true), everyone will lose their jobs (not yet, at any rate, and it’s now been the better part of a year), this VP is leaving (yes), everyone’s morale is in the toilet (I’m sure it depends, but not on my spouse’s team), etc. It caused a fair amount of stress and worry for us, and it really shouldn’t have. My colleague was trying to be helpful by telling me what he knew, but it really wasn’t.

      2. Hippo-nony-potomus*

        Not sure about this. M&A is incredibly confidential, and I can’t imagine them telling a third party before the public announcement. These things have code names in the company – things like “Project Polar Vortex” – and very tight controls over information. They wouldn’t engage a recruiter this soon and even if they did, he would be under such a strict NDA that his comment to the LW would violate it.

    4. NYWeasel*

      AAM bringing up the question on everyone’s mind lol: “Please come back in a month or two and update us…”

      But seriously, I’ve been in the position three times of knowing point blank that layoffs are coming up. One time I sort of kept my head in the sand and hoped that we’d get a reprieve, one time I deliberately waited to see my fate, and one time I was aggressively trying to get out the door. There really was no essential difference in outcomes between the three situations, just differences in my attitudes towards interviewing. In this case, you don’t even know for sure what the recruiter is hinting at, so I’d just move forward with my current plans, and if the situation changes, respond to it then.

    5. Librarian of SHIELD*

      Is it possible to ask someone at the current company about it? Something like “I was approached by a recruiter and when I told him I was happy with my current job, he dropped some very dark hints about changes that would be happening here that I wouldn’t like. Is there any truth to what he’s saying?”

      1. Observer*

        Those who know don’t speak and those who speak don’t know.

        *IF* (and it’s a big if) the recruiter actually has some information, then it’s clearly something that is being kept quiet. Which means that anyone the OP approaches won’t know about it, or is in a position where they can’t share that information.

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

        …I bet the indiscreet recruiter already outed the OP as “looking” to her current job and thinks this will create both an opening he can recruit for, and an unemployed OP that will need his help.

        1. BasketcaseNZ*

          Oh, thats a brutal take.
          But entirely plausible.
          That recruiter would be an absolute… words I cannot say here… if that was his game.

    6. Jenna Webster*

      I’d tell him, look, if you know something, don’t hint at it, tell me, and if you’re not willing to tell me, then don’t hint at it. I can’t make a career choice based on your mysterious secret knowledge. And if you don’t know anything and are just trying to pressure me into a job that isn’t right for me, which I will assume, unless you give me some specifics, that is a rotten way to do business.

          1. Nanani*

            I would love a corporate espionage novel incorporating the weirdest AAM stories as well as the theories spun out in the comments section, but like, played straight.
            The world of llama grooming is more competitive than Protagonist ever bargained for!

            1. ThursdaysGeek*

              That sounds like something that could be worked out in the comments in a weekend open thread. At least the general plot line.

              1. quill (and the bees agree with me)*

                We need to include the chocolate teapot engineers and the beverage snorkelers.

                … Or should those be sequels?

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yeah! it’s both too much information (in that it’s still confidential and even saying that much is enough to set off rumours) and not enough information (in that it basically only tells you that you need to be worried, except that being worried doesn’t ever help anyone). So he’s either already breaching his confidentiality clause, or bluffing and either way, that doesn’t make him a person I’d like to work with.

    7. Meep*

      I talked to a recruiter in November. Not because I didn’t want to leave my job, but because I needed to let off steam because my Toxic Coworker was throwing a hissyfit (any time I spoke, she kept trying to speak over me like a child) and he just happened to call right after my conversation with her. He was beyond pushy and very snippy with me. When he asked about my salary expectations I told him what I was making currently and he wanted me to ask for 2x that. And not in a nice way. So I ghosted him and decided not to talk to random recruiters calling me.

      These two could be one in the same.

    8. LCH*

      same; my guess is nothing new happens beyond your current place going back to in-person. but nothing you weren’t expecting.

    9. KC*

      I am thinking it must be scare tactics, too! I recently had a really weird experience with a recruiter that was so weird I thought I might be getting scammed.

      During our initial screening interview via Zoom, he asked me if I was interviewing elsewhere, and I said I was. He asked me the company, and I told him. He said, “Oh, you don’t wanna work there.” I asked why, and he couldn’t give me any discernable reason and said a lot of vague things that sounded like BS.

      It REALLY rubbed me the wrong way! I was super excited about the other place I was interviewing (I ended up getting an offer and accepting). It felt disingenuous and honestly a little insulting to my intelligence that he would try to sully another company’s reputation so that I would turn down an offer, even if it might have been a better fit for me.

      It was a good reminder that even though there are some wonderful recruiters out there, they are essentially salespeople, and some salespeople will resort to some slimy practices to put their bottom line first! (Seems like a bad way to place candidates into roles that they’ll actually STAY in, but what do I know…)

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        My personal experience made me give no credence to statement. I thought it was complete BS to manipulate the OP.
        I’ve gotten calls like this after posting my resume on
        “You need to make the most of this opportunity, right now!”
        It was a real estate pyramid scheme.
        So I don’t think this recruiter knows a damn thing. He’s using what works for him. Well, what worked for him in 2020, when nobody knew what was was going on and predicted the worst.

    10. learnedthehardway*

      This is a “consider the source” situation. It sounds to me like the recruiter is desperate to have candidates. If the role / company doesn’t interest you, then you’re doing everyone a favour by not participating, even if the recruiter doesn’t see it that way (they may be under pressure. That said, you don’t owe them anything.)

    11. quill*

      Given that I have had recruiters lecture me for not picking up the phone right away, or for asking them to give me information in writing, my bet is also on bad recruiter. These days I hang up on those ones, but the first few years after college were just bizarrely filled with people who refused to understand that just because I’m job searching doesn’t mean I’m available 24/7, or that I’m telepathic.

      1. PT*

        I signed up for a temp agency at the tail end of the last recession. They had a policy (which I found out later) that you had to answer the phone immediately or they’d pass you over and not call again. If you didn’t agree to the work 3 times, you were off the list.

        Well one time they called when I was in the dentist chair getting a cavity drilled. And another time they called when I was underground on the subway where there was no signal (at the time.) Another time they got through, but they wanted me to do a day’s work on a day when I was having minor surgery and I had to turn them down.

        This wasn’t even over a fixed period of time, they called once a month at most, and at any time of the day. So there was no way I could have rearranged my schedule to fit these calls. They were totally at random. And that was the end of temping.

        1. quill (and the bees agree with me)*

          Yeah, recruiters for temp / contract jobs are pretty bad about remembering that humans can’t just be booted up and sent to work like a computer.

        2. Salymander*

          That is just bizarre! Expecting 24/7 availability is terrible. Wanting that availability while you are only getting paid for a few days per month tops is asinine. What is next, are you supposed to hand over your immortal soul and firstborn offspring/pet/whatever?

    12. LW #2*

      I’m the letter writer with the weird recruiter. I’ve never been approached by an external recruiter before, so I had no idea if this was just par for the course or if he really was being as strange as I thought. I’m so relieved that other people also think he’s being weird and probably just full of hot air!

      I hadn’t considered the possibility that someone higher up might be leaving the company, but I might not even be affected by something like that. I’m not sure why he would make it seem so dire.

      I still think the most likely info he might have would be that we’re about to be forced back info the office. I wouldn’t be happy about that, but I still wouldn’t want to jump ship for just any opportunity. My current job is flexible/accommodating, the office dog-friendly (I know people have mixed feelings on this, but my office handles it well and I like dogs), and I like my coworkers. Even if we do go fully back to in-office, I would probably only want to leave for a WFH position or a MUCH shorter commute. At least until I finish the new degree I’m pursuing and a new set of jobs available to me. Money isn’t everything to me; just because it’s a raise doesn’t mean it’s worth it.

      I’ll definitely send an update if I can figure out what he was actually alluding to!

      1. lyonite*

        I’m definitely team sketchy recruiter here. Even at the “reputable” recruiting companies, a lot of the time the recruiters are entirely paid on commission, based on the salaries of the people they place. This reminds me a lot of the high-pressure sales tactics you see in other areas “better hurry up and take this deal now, or else!” (Or a psychic–“I see big changes in your future!”) Even if something does happen in the next couple of weeks, I wouldn’t be sure he knew about it.

        1. LW #2*

          We have an all-office meeting about every other month to announce changes, talk about how the business is doing, ask questions, etc. If he does know of a big change coming, I assume it would be announced at the next one of those, but it’s father away than I would consider “a couple weeks.”

          I’m definitely feeling a lot less nervous now that I’ve read all these comments and almost everyone thinks this guy is most likely just full of crap!

          1. EvilQueenRegina*

            If there was something that was going to be announced to everyone at a meeting that’s more than a couple of weeks away, I’d be genuinely surprised if this guy knew all about it now (and even if he had been told *something*, that’s not to say that things won’t change in the meantime). While I did consider the possibility that he’s mistaken in some way or it’s something that wouldn’t have that much impact on you, I think it is quite likely he’s talking a load of rubbish.

    13. Hippo-nony-potomus*

      So there have been a few times when I’ve known things that I’m not supposed to know. It’s really easy to be nonchalant about it – “I understand that you prefer your hybrid role. You were a wonderful person to interview with, and if you’re ever on the job market in the future, please reach out because I would love to work with you.” Then just sit back and wait for the call in two months.

      “I know something you don’t know” is for eight-year-olds and people who are full of it.

      1. LW #2*

        He seriously said “I know something you don’t” verbatim. It was so jarring in an otherwise professional conversation.

        1. Anonymous4*

          Did he add “nanny nanny boo boo” to it? He should have — the whole thing is what some bratty kid would say.

  2. His Grace*

    OP 2: If I were you, I would be very wary about this unctuous character. He reeks of desperation. That being said, hold on to his number. Play dumb when he calls. He will show his hand soon enough.

    1. Cheap Ass Rolls*

      Honestly I would call him in two weeks. Be like, “Okay, two weeks have passed, what were you not able to tell me?” Put him on his back foot.

      1. Salymander*

        I would love to listen in on that conversation. This recruiter sounds like a manipulative and unprofessional person, and it would be kinda funny to hear him sputtering and trying to come up with some plausible story rather than admit that he is a lying sneak.

  3. Language Lover*

    lw #3

    I semi-supervise a “and X agrees with me” employee. I think they do it out of insecurity. If they bring up something pleasant, unpleasant or anything that makes them nervous, they throw in “backup” even if their backup doesn’t agree or doesn’t care either way.

    I’ve trained myself to automatically disregard the “and X agrees with me” statements. Sometimes others have agreed with them but mostly they do not.

    If Britta has supervised Annie long enough, she probably knows this about her.

    1. I'm just here for the cats*

      Or there’s always the noncommittal “yeah me too” when someone is blabbering on and you just want to get back to work. Probably not what happened here since they are remote but it happens mostly when you’re in person

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Or even the entirely non-committal or inattentive “mm-hmm” which some people will take for wholehearted endorsement.

        1. Salymander*

          I get that from my MIL all the time. She will tell me that we should sell our house and move to the other side of the country to be closer to her. I will say “hmmm.” Later, she will tell husband that I said that I hate where we live and I want to move.

      2. Rigamaroll*

        I had that happen to me- I was coordinating an event and my manager was a bit stressed and giving me directions that I didn’t need (already had done or had made other arrangements). A coworker (who was known for being a bully, had several HR complaints, and several performance improvement plans) overheard manager telling me something and came over to tell me that she thought manager should leave me alone and let me do my thing. I was insanely busy so I barely paid attention, mumbled “uh huh” and walked away.

        Later, in a debrief meeting to discuss the event coworker decided it would be a great time to call out our manager about it, in front of big boss, big big boss, and the biggest boss (plus bosses from other departments) and said “I felt bad for Rigamaroll and they agreed that you were over the top”
        The sheer look of confused panic on my face must have given away that I did not think that but it was very awkward.
        I pulled manager aside after to ensure that they knew I did not say that, I explained exactly what happened (how I just “uh huh” and walked away) but let them know that the feeling of being publicly attacked by coworker was how the entire team felt on a daily basis. Manager had just never seen it. Biggest boss was in managers office within an hour of that taking place… Coworker was fired 2 days later.

        1. Observer*

          Good for you! I love how you turned it around on the bully. It’s just a shame that your boss had to experience that first hand – and that it had to happen in front of all of the big shots – for them to actually do something effective about it.

    2. John Smith*

      It’s weird because I have this problem where “X (and y, z, a ,b & c) agrees with me” is actually true. I get told that it’s just my opinion as to whether X agrees with me. X sadly is rather timid about speaking up so now a lot of such communication is via emails which can be forwarded (with permission) just to show I’m not making things up. I still get ignored.

      1. ecnaseener*

        But if X isn’t willing to push back on whatever the thing is, what do you gain from convincing people that X agrees with you? Most workplace decisions aren’t made by popular vote, and certainly not by tallying up the opinions people quietly hold but don’t actually want to push for.

        1. John Smith*

          It’s purely to show Im not making these things up, which is the suggestion of my manager. He can then either agree or disagree – I personally couldn’t give a monkeys which – but I won’t be accused of facts being merely opinions or of making them up.

      2. Anon for this*

        I am currently an unhappy X who people keep saying I agree with them. Yes this is true…. but my opinions on the matter are more extreme than yours. You just think the head of HR is lacking in information and if he’s presented with enough data showing his people are wrong he’ll acknowledge that his people are wrong.

        I’m very aware that the head of HR’s bonuses are dependent on their employees NOT BEING WRONG, and if you tell him I’m threatening this blissful state of wealth and happiness he will go on a madness fueled warpath in the name of squashing the threat to the bonuses. I don’t want to be punted out the door without anything lined up by a tyrant who thinks their cushy money is being threatened.

        1. Anon for this*

          Basically even everything the employee speaking up says is true and everyone agrees, it is not up to one person to out the rest of the team. There could be extenuating circumstances someone isn’t aware of.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      Back in usenet days it was practically a running joke that when someone was arguing a stupid and unpopular position, he would claim that he was getting a bunch of private emails of support, but of course he wouldn’t breach anyone’s privacy by naming the senders. That approach at least had the merit of not being disprovable, making it smarter than what happened here.

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          Former (and current) sysadmins, unite!

          At least three seven seventy-three other commenters wrote me to tell me that they agree!

    4. Macapito*

      This. I’ve also learned to be wary of coworkers who do this but who seem to always cite unavailable/retired/moved-on colleagues, or even entire organizations, who are viewed with more authority, respect, and prestige.

      I had one colleague constantly rationalize his unethical, and actually illegal, work practices by saying “Former RespectedLlamaGroomer did it this way, too; what’s the problem?” and “My Former Highly Respected Company in the Field does it this way; that’s not good enough for you?” There was no real way to verify these claims and it shielded this guy from termination for four years {which is a whole other story}…so I would only caution that I wouldn’t absolutely count on Britta knowing this about Annie. My boss and everyone around me, including me for a while, didn’t connect the dots. It took some real, hard, frank, all-cards-on-the-table, all-political-capital-spent talks with my boss to get some eyes opened.

    5. Sara without an H*

      Hi, OP#3 — I think you’re probably fine. You’ve assured Britta that Annie’s claim wasn’t true, and a trusted mentor has assured you that Annie has a reputation as a liar.

      If you want to take it up again with Britta, do it once and no more than that. (Alison’s script is fine.) You can follow up by responding positively to any feedback she gives you.

      I wouldn’t try to take this up with Annie, if I were you. She sounds like trouble. Deal with her only when work requires it and otherwise, steer clear.

      1. PB Bunny Watson*

        Agree. I wouldn’t focus on it too much. I just keep thinking about the Chekhov short story A Slander… where, in an effort to prevent gossip from ruining his reputation, his basically ruins his reputation with his protests. Bringing it up too often and/or with too many people is just likely to make the issue worse.

    6. Nanani*

      To me it sounds like “And everyone clapped” semi-fantasy about the scenario.
      Very middle school, not worth taking seriously.

      I agree with Alison and would add that getting further entrenched in the ~drama~ of who said what and why will look worse than just doing your job and ignoring it.

    7. Meep*

      I am always hesitant to say “x agrees with me” even if I know they agree with me full-heartedly from a standpoint of I don’t want to make them a target or throw them under the bus. I had an actual toxic manager, though, so there was that.

    8. Cat Tree*

      I don’t manage anyone, but I used to be in a role where I trained all new employees doing a certain job, about 2-3 people per year. There was one guy who was had weirdly defensive and I could see him saying “X agrees with me”. He made a lot of careless mistakes and when I corrected them he always had excuses that actually made him sound worse. For example, he would say he just forgot but at his level he should develop methods to remember important things. Anyway, he often acted like he was a naughty child and I was scolding him, but all I wanted was for him to fix his work. So if he tried to throw someone under the bus I wouldn’t believe him.

    9. learnedthehardway*

      The OP might do well to mention to her manager that if her manager ever wants feedback, she should come to the OP for it, not listen to Annie.

      Put it more diplomatically, of course. It just strikes me as weird that the manager would bring it up if she didn’t believe Annie, to some extent. But maybe she is trying to give the OP the heads up that Annie made something up about her.

      1. SimplytheBest*

        Just because Annie is known to lie, doesn’t mean she lies about everything. The boss may know to take Annie’s word with a grain of salt, but that doesn’t mean she should just ignore anything she says. She was told OP had a problem with her, so she reached out, got the clarification, said thank you, and that was that.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          yes, I have a friend I really love but who sometimes embroiders on the truth. So I take everything she says with a pinch of salt. Once someone else has confirmed, and I’ve confirmed that the friend is not their source of information, OK I’ll believe it.

      2. RAM*

        Britta definitely brought it up BECAUSE she didn’t believe Annie, otherwise she’d probably be more discreet in figuring out what’s going on, and not mention Annie. The fact that she was so blunt and direct on what happened makes me feel like Britta had a feeling that Annie wasn’t being truthful and wanted OP to understand what went down.

    10. Artemesia*

      This can be so damaging. I have had people ‘Artemesia’ agrees with. me before and it takes a lot of damage control, not always successful, to disabuse the person who was told this. It tends to stick.

      I would tell this person to NEVER again use my name in a complaint and would have as little to do with her in the future as possible. And never be seen chatting or having coffee or otherwise ‘being friends’ with her so you are not put in the same cognitive basket by the boss.

      I once had someone CC me on a pushy proposal about something I had advocated and then been told it was a no go and accepted that. Sometimes the answer is no and you have to know when to let something drop. It made it look like I was trying to keep pushing through surrogates. I was furious and because the decision maker who got the message was not someone I interacted with much, it meant that impression was impossible to really change. People who do this lack judgment and it is poison to be associated with them.

    11. not that kind of Doctor*

      I had a burned-out employee badmouth me and the company in her exit interview, claiming that her coworker – who was also leaving – felt the same. The co-worker’s exit interview was in fact almost the opposite.

      So there’s that.

      (Also, I did disregard the first employee’s report of her coworker – it didn’t match what I knew of the coworker.)

    12. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      Hey OP. One way to relieve stress about it would be to understand that Britta wasn’t necessarily accusing you, but rather just gathering information. It’s very possible that once you said “no, I never said that”, she believed you, noted it and moved on. Especially since your manager Shirley breezily told you that both she and Britta already know that Annie lies.
      I wouldn’t waste any energy trying to figure out why Annie lies, because that question can never be answered, so it’s not worth it. (Brings to mind one of Captain Awkward’s brilliant rules for life: “Reasons are for reasonable people.”)
      Unless Britta brings it up, you can stop worrying. It sounds like you work for normal professional people who already see you for the honest person you are. Keep building that, you’ll be fine.

  4. Rebecca*

    To the project accounting submitter, feel free to dm me, my company is looking for project control roles and we’re all 100% remote, no matter the state you live in!

    1. Sloan Kittering*

      Man I knew I had the wrong field. I don’t really know what “project accounting submitter” means but I want a job where just mentioning what I do gets me recruited and headhunted from anonymous message boards!!

      1. Beany*

        Yeah, I was wondering what the mechanism was supposed to be. We don’t even have static profiles, do we? You can change your screen name for every comment you make.

        1. quill (and the bees agree with me)*

          Yes we can, though I do wonder if the gravatar / email system could potentially be used to get around that.

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

          You can, but considering if I post too often in short time I seem to get flagged and my posts start taking a longer time to appear (moderation?) despite being innocuous, I would think that if you change your user name too often the same will occur to avoid people flooding the site with sock puppets.

        3. Snark No More!*

          OP4 could send Alison a message that asks her to forward information to the poster showing as Rebecca.

          Alison, would you do that if two commenters are trying to get in touch?

          1. Hannah*

            She previously has asked that people not ask her to do that because of the existing workload from the blog.

          2. pancakes*

            Alison has also said that she doesn’t read every single comment due to the volume. If people want to get in touch I think your best bet would be to either email her or create a new email account and type it out here (soandso at gmail or whatnot).

  5. I'm just here for the cats*

    #1 I would gradually move small things in. A lamp or 2, maybe some artwork, throw cushion. Thersca lot you can do with mismatched furniture and some nice accents.
    After a bit talk to facilities about painting. But I wouldn’t bring in my own furniture, unless ut was a special desk chair that helps with my back, or maybe a standing desk. But I would make sure it was documented that 1. You had permission from whomever and 2 it was purchased with your own funds. I would wait until you have established more of a relationship with your new company
    #2 please send in an update in a few weeks. I bet that the guy was bluffing or if anything he heard a rumor.
    #3. Take Alison’s advice but I would stear clear of Annie.
    #4 & 5 good luck on you job searches. See # 4 it can take weeks for someone to reach out. I bet that whomever sent the email,used the wrong template and was supposed to m send the initial set up interview.

    1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      LW1, the only things I would consider early after starting are ergonomics/accommodations, like an office chair if the one provided gives your back pain or a special mouse. Still check with facilities; I’d use language like “during WFH, I found that this specific chair does wonders for my back so I’d like to bring it in or get exactly the same.”
      I have my own mouse (trackball, actually) and it helps a lot with my wrist. Originally I found it in a box of unwanted IT stuff in the office so I called it and tried it out – a week later I bought a second one for home!
      For the more design-y stuff, Alison is spot on. “Read the room” first.

      1. Freya*

        This – I have a footrest under my work desk that I brought in (and my boss got her husband to fix it after I broke it with excessive use and I said no when she offered to replace it – I’d break anything reasonably priced within about six months) because I am very short and I am fussy about my ergonomics (it is Just Right)

        (I break footrests because my feet don’t touch the floor so I push off of the footrest to move my chair back and stand up. Or to roll across the floor to my bookshelf )

        All of which is to say: no good manager will argue with ergonomics, as long as you follow whatever office procedure is. Wait until you’ve got a good grasp on office culture before thinking about anything more.

      2. JustMe*

        I used to work in a building that was very specific about when and how furniture could be moved. Only a few-hour window on Saturday, only in the freight elevator, and you had to schedule it in advance. Building security once threatened to call the police when someone attempted to take a standard office chair up a regular elevator. These weren’t company rules – we only had one floor of a large office building – they were building rules.

        So this is another reason to check with facilities, there may have to be a process/form/etc for the building independant of anything the company wants.

        1. That One Person*

          Agreed, plus they can pinpoint you where things like the freight elevator is (since its usually hiding down a hallway), and what door to bring it through initially – in my office trying to get stuff through the main doors either side would be a pain, but via the dock where larger things are supposed to move through is absolutely fine and a lot easier.

          I would keep it lighter at first however. Organizing tools I’m sure no one would bat an eye at, and maybe a quick chat to see how they prefer artwork and wall mounted things be hung (whether pushpins are okay, does someone else have to do the nailing, or do they prefer the easy peel strips?). I’d agree though that I’d stay light at first and try to keep it to things you wouldn’t be sad to lose or put out about. I’m still not sure what to do with a package someone wasn’t able to get, and we still have a room full of boxes of personal items that are organized, but still unlikely to be picked up soon (and some of it who knows since they’re no longer with the company).

        2. Ama*

          Yes I’ve worked places where when we were moving desks from one end of the floor to another we had to schedule a time for facilities staff to move our computers (this was back when most people had huge desktop towers) and any boxes heavier than about 10 pounds. This was because they were trying to reduce their liability for workplace injuries and so wanted anything remotely heavy to be moved by staff that were trained in moving things safely (and also generally wearing appropriate shoes/safety braces to prevent accidents).

          When I worked at a university we had a faculty member move a very fancy recliner into her office, which was fine (although she also had to have facilities help her move it in), but then it turned out she moved it in there because she wanted to sometimes sleep in her office which my boss (our administrative director) had to tell her she couldn’t do as our security was not set up to allow people to stay in the building 24/7.

      3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I acquired my special ‘for people with spinal injuries’ chair from one firm when I left because they outright stated nobody else would want to sit in it so I may as well chuck it in my car along with my box of nicknacks. The only reason I didn’t bring it into this current job is because it’s lived at home long enough to pick up a truly insane number of scratches and marks from the cat.

        (Probably also enough cat hair to give anyone with an allergy a really bad time)

        I did bring in my USB fairy lights (all year round they’re up my PC case) and a keyboard I find way easier to work with (mechanical, not membrane. Yeah it’s noisy but boy does it work).

        1. L.H. Puttgrass*

          “The only reason I didn’t bring it into this current job is because it’s lived at home long enough to pick up a truly insane number of scratches and marks from the cat. ” I had to read this a couple of times before it clicked that it was the chair that received an insane number of scratches, not you!

          I’m another clicky-keyboard person. I have my really clicky modern Model M for home use, and for the office, a Cherry MX Brown keyboard that is slightly less clicky and thus a bit less likely to drive my neighbors mad. Then there’s the original Model M in my closet that I take out for special occasions (it doesn’t play entirely well with my Mac, but it’s conveniently located should I need it to fend off a home invader). I’ve been working from home in my new job, and I’m quietly terrified that my employer won’t allow us to connect any un-sanctioned USB devices, which means I’ll have to use the default squishy Dell keyboard. Ugh.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            I got plenty of scratches from the cat! Although I heal faster than the chair.
            The keyboard at home is a razor blackwidow and incredibly noisy and clacky but has lasted 8+ years where membrane keyboards generally last me one or two. At work I admit it’s a lot easier to put in requests for non standard IT peripherals when you’re the one running the IT department…

            1. L.H. Puttgrass*

              That is one of the biggest downsides (perhaps the only one) of moving from sysadmin to being just another user. It’s a lot harder now to justify non-standard peripherals or wanting admin access on my own box.

              I’ve been contemplating making the keyboard an ergonomics issue (to sort of bring this back on topic), but I’m not sure whether that would fly—or trivialize real ergonomics issues. But my hands really do hate standard mushy membrane keyboards.

              1. Observer*

                If your IT and management are reasonable, that really shouldn’t require a lot of justification. RSI is a real thing and anything that reduces it makes sense. And if you just need something that’s decent and not mushy vs a real top of the line mechanical keyboard, you can get them inexpensively enough that it’s really hard to argue against it. In fact, it’s so low cost that it’s the kind of thing we do without any special approvals needed, despite the amount of paperwork we generally need for anything “non-standard”.

        2. Very Social*

          Ugh, the facilities folks at my old job indicated that they wouldn’t stop me from taking my special chair when I left and still, six months later, I regret that I didn’t actually take it. I thought just any chair that goes low enough for my feet to be flat on the floor would be fine… not true.

      4. Smithy*

        Absolutely agree with this language about asking is same/similar furniture can be acquired for ergonomic needs.

        Even if the OP does have modestly priced furniture at home they’re willing to essentially donate to work, I do think this is a good gesture for staff who are not in a position to buy their own office furniture. A lot of older office furniture for “sit at a computer all day” jobs doesn’t work for everyone, and it is good practice for our offices to be buying that for us – especially in an office.

        Style wise and given the OP’s other concerns – definitely read the room. I’ve worked in places that were almost anti-style in practice where many staff had almost no personal touches. Not that bringing in items were frowned upon, but it was best left to desk-top based items – be they plants, pictures or other personal touches. So in trying to connect with staff, having throw pillows/more personal armchair wouldn’t work.

        Lastly….bringing anything upholstered into an office has to be code for “I don’t care what happens to it”. Not to veer into gross territory, but spills, weekend floods, other assorted accidents…..

        1. oranges*

          Yep, read the room, wait, and then ASK. Ask because there may be moving restrictions on elevators or times. Ask because there may be a reason everything is in there and must remain. Ask because there might be a person or team who does this very thing and can help you. Ask because there may be a closet full of great options or a budget for you to purchase what you want from a supplier.

          Whatever you do, don’t roll in on a weekend unannounced and start giving your space a makeover without clearing it with the TPTB.

      5. Nanani*

        I honestly thought the letter was going to be about something like this, like LW needs a special chair or custom equipment for health reasons. Was a bit surprised that it’s just about like, the vibe of the space.

      6. Artemesia*

        This. Lots of places people turn their offices into personal sanctuaries with furniture, carpets etc — Universities are like this in the offices of tenured professors. But many places it would be viewed as presumptuous and be the wrong message to send.

        For any behavior that ‘shows’, it is important to observe for a few weeks or months before striking out in a new direction. It may be that this is a commonplace thing in your new office and if so — go for it. Or it may be something mired in all sorts of petty nonsense and then you want to be careful about what you do or ask permission to do. Ergonomics yes; decorating beyond a plant or picture or two no until you know the lay of the land.

    2. I'm just here for the cats!*

      Oh also want to add that some places are super anal about furniture and that it all has to be in a certain color scheme and matchey matchey. At my university there is one guy who is know for this. But he’s like the cfo or something so whatever he says goes.

    3. Dotty*

      For LW #1, how this goes over probably depends a lot on the field you’re in. I’m in a design-related profession, where some companies are EXTREMELY picky and sensitive about office furnishings. Several I’ve worked for would be very uncomfortable with you bringing in the types of things you’re talking about, and some would be direct about telling you to remove your stuff. In one office we were only allowed to have family photos, diplomas, etc. on our walls if we purchased the approved office-standard floating glass frames for them. In another all devices (even personal coffee warmers, pencil sharpeners, etc.) had to be white, and had to be plugged into orange surge protectors. Things that didn’t meet the principals’ ideas of photogenic office design tended to just disappear, vaguely blamed on cleaning staff.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Wow, the “items not matching the colour scheme going missing” thing is both impressive and horrifying. Talk about being committed to a design concept…

        1. La Triviata*

          My father once worked in a building where, in order to make sure it presented a uniform appearance from outside, the heat/AC systems were placed along the floor – below the glass of the windows, so no furniture could be placed against the windows so no one outside would see anything but the uninterrupted tinted glass.

    4. Amethystmoon*

      1. Right because the company can always claim they gave it to you, so it’s theirs, especially if you get laid off with short notice someday. That does happen and many people lose whatever they had at their desk for good. Also, they may have certain standards about what things need to be in an office for not only appearance reasons, but fairness as well. Plus some offices have issues with people stealing things after hours. I learned long ago never keep anything at work that you can’t afford to part with forever.

    5. londonedit*

      Yeah, I agree with all of your points about number 1. I expect there are industries/company cultures where people do routinely bring in their own stuff and offices are highly personalised, but I’ve never experienced it personally. I’ve only ever worked in offices where only the very senior people had their own personal office; everyone else just sat in rooms with banks of desks (no cubicles, I’ve only really seen those on US TV programmes). So I’ve never worked in an environment where people would bring their own stuff, beyond a mug or a plant or something like that. I’d definitely wait and see what the company culture is like first, and I’d definitely make Facilities my first stop if you do decide to ask about getting your office spruced up – they’ll most likely need to be in charge of any painting and decorating that might need to happen. Otherwise I’d stick to just bringing in some bits and pieces to personalise the space, like a couple of plants and some books and things.

      1. lilsheba*

        If I had my own office in a building I would for sure turn off any overhead lighting and bring in low level fairy lights/string lights and low level lamps. That would be non negotiable with me, I have sensory issues with lighting and fluorescent lights just kill me. I don’t know what furniture I would bring in but I would definitely have personal touches, including things on the wall. If I have to be there all day I want it comfy.

      2. bleh*

        I once rogue-painted my office over a long holiday weekend because facilities would not. I was scolded – ah Universities in olden times. The whole section of the building later sorta fell into a hole during renovations, so easy come…

        1. quill (and the bees agree with me)*

          Into a HOLE? Were you in a place that often has sinkholes, or was this just campus wackiness?

      3. HB*

        I very recently went through a very big design spree on my office. I’ve been here a little over a year and I was moved from my original office to my new one which as a window. My previous office stayed very bare other than a handful of items on my desk. And weirdly most of the offices are rather bare – but I think that’s largely because the company has only been here for a little over 2 years so everyone is still in the settling in point.

        For the OP: I started small. My new office has an alcove that is just big enough to fit a narrow bookcase so I bought one off Wayfair and then went a little bonkers at the Container Store for bins and the like to organize personal items (I work in Tax so I stocked it with snacks, etc). I then bought various desktop organizers – two acrylic monitor stands with drawers for office supplies. And because the office walls are very thin, I bought acoustic tiles from a company that does them as art prints. I also brought in a good speaker, and a turntable, and am in the process of putting up acrylic shelves for albums. The reaction from everyone – particularly one of the partners in this office – has been overwhelmingly positive (I literally just got interrupted by a colleague who wanted to come in and talk about the turntable and albums). But I think if I’d done it all at once it would’ve been jarring.

          1. HB*

            I got them off Amazon: Olanglab Art Acoustic Panels. There are a few other companies that do them as well. They’re not magic, but they help. I ordered some additional foam panels to put in the alcove area (I can hear the person next to me anytime he adjusts his blinds… it sounds exactly like he’s in my office messing with my blinds).

    6. Mitzii*

      I think OP 1 should definitely ask before bringing anything. I hate to be a Debbie Downer, but what if a coworker sits on the chair or leans on the desk and it breaks? Could be a liability issue.

      1. After 33 years ...*

        Our place would also insist on no outside furniture, and also that all furniture be moved in the appropriate way by the appropriate union member(s). Painting would be the same way, even if you wanted to pay for it. On the other hand, any ergonomic requests would be rapidly approved.

    7. Sara without an H*

      OP#1, the first rule for any new job is to make friends with the Facilities people and the IT people. You do NOT want to get crosswise with them for any reason.

      My last employer had definite rules about bringing in your own furniture — they were concerned about liability. Had someone once fallen out of a chair they’d brought from home and claimed Workman’s Compensation? I never found out why the rule was in place.

      Since you’re new, I’d just start with a nice wall calendar, a desk lamp, and maybe a potted plant. Then take some time and get a sense of what’s considered appropriate in your new organization.

      And congratulations on the new job!

      1. Adultiest Adult*

        We have a “no furniture” rule after an ambitious staff member completely refurnished her office in French Country…which required the assistance of several other people and tied up the main door for an hour…and then wanted to abandon it all when she left. Our worker’s comp policy specifically disclaims moving furniture from coverage if that is not your primary job. And, not to put too fine a point on it, but we’re a nonprofit and our cleaners mainly clean the bathrooms and empty trash. Bedbugs have made an appearance more than once. Any furniture here gets hard use and isn’t likely to be cleaned too frequently (or at all) so bringing in anything you’re really attached to is a recipe for disaster. I’ve added furniture larger than a lamp or footrest to our list of banned items, which includes glass, visible sharp objects, and anything above five pounds as decoration. (We’re in mental health, you have to think about these things!)

    8. kittymommy*

      Definitely wait until more settled in because you never know what’s going to happen. I had a co-worker who pretty quickly moved a bunch of personal stuff in (table, chair, lamp, statue and a couple of paintings) for her office (government offices are not the most attractive). Unfortunately she was here less than a year (and the separation was not a good one) and decided her best course of action was passing ALL the stuff to her husband through her office window. Hella awkward.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Wow, that must have been pretty hilarious to witness. Also, her husband deserves some kind of award for being long-suffering, because even if they were on the ground floor, that stuff must have been heavy.

        1. kittymommy*

          Yeah, it was weird and funny and uncomfortable all at the same time. People just kind of avoided that area until it was done.

          There were some legitimate and not legitimate reasons for her being let go, but she did not handle it well. And I say this as a friend of hers outside of work.

          1. La Triviata*

            I recently came across an article about a man who asked if he could fix up his cubicle to his own taste. He was told it was fine – I think the person he asked was thinking he’d bring in a new lamp, maybe some art. Instead he turned his cubicle into a mountain lodge – his computer and three screens in one corner, an image of a lake and mountains on the far side. Stuffed fabric heads of a deer and a moose. A heater (because he got chilly) that looked like an old fashioned stove. He took it pretty far, but did stop short of hanging the cast iron chandelier he had. The redone cube was popular enough that the other staff helped him hang the chandelier and others did a little decorating in their cubes.

    9. Tangerina Warbleworth*

      I agree with Allison’s advice and those of others here about furniture, BUT, I also think that talking very, very politely to facilities about painting the office is worthwhile to do right now. You’ll establish early on that you are a reasonable and nice person, treating facilities as they should be treated, asking for official guidance on how to do a very reasonable thing. Everyone already knows that a fresh coat of paint makes a real difference, and that would be true for anybody in that office; it’s not you being picky. I suspect that asking nicely for (and hopefully getting) a quick paint job would go a long way with a lot of people in establishing a reputation of being collegial, reasonable, and professional while caring about your customers.

    10. Lilly*

      My company’s buildings all have a bunch of “green” sustainability certifications that are partly based on all the furniture and finishes having documentation of passing specific air quality testing, no PVC, no phthalates in the plastics, etc. All furniture purchases have to be blessed by the sustainability coordinator.

  6. Wendy*

    OP5, think of this as an opportunity to show how professional you are while still being assertive about yourself. Even if they didn’t mean to send you that email, a smartly-worded acceptance (eg “We didn’t have a first interview but I’d still love to speak with you”) might get your foot in the door :-)

    1. Lime green Pacer*

      This reminds me of when my brother was applying to law school as a mature student. He received an email that was clearly intended for someone else, “What do you think about this guy applying with the wife and kid?” He wrote back, pointing out the mistake, and was accepted into the program.

      I’ve often wondered if the email was really an accident or not.

      1. pancakes*

        I don’t see why they would intentionally want to give prospective students the idea that they need to be worried about age discrimination. It would’ve looked really, really bad for him to not be accepted after that.

        1. Artemesia*

          3 D chess — the guy who sent it wanted to admit him but the key decision maker didn’t, so the ‘mistake’ made it impossible to reject him.

          1. pancakes*

            I find it hard to believe someone in admissions would feel so strongly about a prospective student as to want to make themselves look a bit incompetent to others in their department, but I suppose it’s possible.

    2. LW #5*

      Hi! I’m letter #5. I did end up replying using a lot of the advice here, and was greeted with an instant template rejection email. Oh well! It was worth a shot. I’m glad I made an attempt because I definitely think I would’ve wondered otherwise!

  7. Prospective employee*

    #5. During my job search, I was turned down for a job which said, “After your interview, we have decided to pursue other candidates.” I never had an interview. Wasn’t even offered one.

    1. Vanilla Nice*

      I once got a rejection letter from a job I never applied to!! I met one of their team members at a conference and gave them a copy of my resume for networking purposes, but how that turned into “Vanilla is an applying for the open llama-grooming position in West Fargo” when I’m really a a Camel Herder in Miami completely escapes me. (Okay, not really my title or location, but you get the idea).

      1. Artemesia*

        I once got a formal offer for a tenure track position in Edmonton Alberta after a conversation with a rep of the school at a conference in the US. I did not realize I was ‘applying’ for the position and would never have taken a position without a campus visit.

    2. Non non*

      I once received a form rejection after notifying a company that I was withdrawing my application. It felt like a bad junior high relationship: “You can’t reject me because I reject you!”

    3. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

      A couple years ago I received a job offer for a position I applied to three years prior. Worst of all, that interview was a group interview where the only chance to speak was when I introduced myself. I laughed and deleted it.

      1. Perfectly Particular*

        Haha – late last year I got rejected for an internal position I applied for 4 years ago!

    4. Katie*

      I started a new position and during my first week received a rejection letter from the same company. I did bring it up with HR and they were horrified that it was sent when obviously I had the job.
      So yes, mistakes can be made. Be honest and see what happens.

      1. irene adler*

        I received BOTH a rejection and an acceptance email – for the same job!
        Then when I contacted to confirm the acceptance, I was told this was in error. I had been rejected for the position.
        THEN they called back later on to say oops! we want to rescind that rejection notice.
        I passed.

        1. allathian*

          Yes, that was a whole parade of red flags. If they’re this bad at recruiting, how well (badly) is the company otherwise run?

    5. Ann O'Nemity*

      It’d assume an error with the workflows in their hiring system. Like they may have moved several candidates to the next stage, which triggered automated emails.

      It’s also possible that the OP skipped the first round of interviews because they stood out in some positive way – key experience, veteran preference, etc.

    6. The Prettiest Curse*

      I had access to an applicant tracking system to do some interview scheduling in a previous job. In the system we used, it was way easier than you’d think to accidentally send a rejection to an applicant. (I never did, because I was kind of paranoid about it.) So it’s totally possible some of these weird rejections are a result of someone clicking on the wrong button.

    7. Imaginary Friend*

      I do a lot of contract work and I am ALL THE TIME getting emails from recruiters that reference the phone call we never had. I don’t reject them just for that but I file it mentally as “not as careful as they could be”. (Lots of recruiters also tell me that a position is “remote until covid”. And yes, that is the entire phrase they use. And while I get what they mean, they’re recruiting me for writing positions and it just irks me.)

  8. WoodswomanWrites*

    #2, I work in a field where my skills are in high demand and I regularly hear from recruiters. Not once have they used the kind of scare tactics you’re describing. While the company the recruiter you spoke with may be reputable, his individual methods are not. If a recruiter spoke to me like that, I would immediately think they were unethical and cease communicating with them. You know your own workplace far better than he does and you’re happy, so you can ignore him.

    1. anonymous73*

      I agree. I wouldn’t work with the recruiter anymore, and I would even try and contact someone in a higher position at the recruiting company to let them know what happened. Maybe they wouldn’t care, but if they have a good reputation in the industry, they should care. I know not all recruiters are terrible, but I’ve worked with a lot of them and find that 90% of them suck.

      1. DJ Abbott*

        I second not working with the recruiter anymore. He tried to manipulate you and that’s not cool. And I would also contact his company if I felt up to it.
        Manipulation makes me crazy, I don’t do business with anyone who tries to manipulate me. That may be an overreaction, but it keeps me safe.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, this is a good idea. They can also put you in touch with another recruiter if you do decide to start job searching in the near future.

  9. No Dumb Blonde*

    #1 – this is the second letter today where I can honestly say, That was me X years ago! In the early 90s I took a copyediting position at a tiny publisher of academic journals. The owners/publishers were VERY eccentric, highly educated college professors (a married couple) who also were hoarders. My office occupied part of an attic space, the rest of which was filled with messy stacks of file folders and papers. My desk was – I kid you not – an old door covered with Con-Tac paper set on top of two post-WWII-era file cabinets. The office chair was approximately the same age, and very uncomfortable. About 8 months into the job I asked my eccentric boss if I could bring in an extra desk chair I had at home. She snootily allowed it, but she persisted in referring to it as my “teddy bear — oops, I mean your chair” from then on. I’d suggest maybe waiting a few months to make sure your managers and coworkers are, you know, normal people with functioning social skills.

      1. Artemesia*

        You don’t think wanting a comfortable office chair is not an admission of being childish and needing your blanky? You would never have fit in at that office.

  10. nnn*

    #1: Another thing to take into account is whether you’d be setting an unfortunate precedent by buying your own furniture rather than having the employer provide it – and rather than using your power/authority/influence as manager to have the employer provide furniture that meets your actual needs.

    This does depend on whether there’s any practical element to the furniture you want to bring in, as opposed to it simply being aesthetic. For example, if you want to bring your own desk because it can convert to a standing desk, your first step should be to ask “Does this company ever provide standing desks?” And later, after some time has passed and you get a sense of the place, maybe pitch the idea of standing desks at the management committee meeting, so they can be available to anyone who wants them.

    Actually, even if your reasons for wanting new furniture are purely aesthetic, perhaps (in the medium term, once you get a sense of the place), you could pitch “customer-facing areas should be more inviting and comfortable.”

    I know, it’s often faster and easier to do it yourself than to go through channels, and when you’re making management money, buying a $150 desk is negligible! But you might inadvertently establish a precedent – or lead lower-level employees to believe there is a precedent – that people have to bring their own furniture if the mediocre furniture provided doesn’t meet their needs. Whereas working to fix the furniture issues on a systemic level will make you look more like a person who is taking this manager role seriously.

    1. MK*

      Maybe I am wrong, but it seems clear to me from the letter that this is about aesthetician, not functionality. The OP says the existing furniture is fine, she just wants the space to look more inviting.

      Which….no offense, but a different desk isn’t going to accomplish that. What makes a space look warmer is curtains, rugs and decor. It would be better to start by hanging a painting or two, a lamp and maybe a small rug, and leave big changes for much later.

      1. Marion Ravenwood*

        I’d agree with this, but unless there are already existing fixtures on the walls to hang paintings etc I’d go to the lamp/rug/cushions first. I know you can get things like Command strips so you don’t have to make holes in the walls, but I know some offices can be funny about walls potentially being marked so I’d start with things that you can easily take away or change if needed.

        1. Kippy*

          Yeah, I hung some holiday decorations on my cubicle wall using not-Command strips and it ended up bubbling the paint when I removed them. I got a gentle reminder from our office manager about the office approved way to hang things up, not nailing into the walls, not damaging the paint, etc. and Facilities came in to re-paint three days later.

          The moral of this story: make sure you’re following office protocol and test anything out in a not so visible spot before you start hanging!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’m guessing you’ve never worked for a government agency or university that still uses decades-old, banged-up putty or grey colored metal desks. Believe me, a nice, simple wooden desk in good repair is a lot more inviting.

  11. turquoisecow*

    #1 reminds me of an old VP I had who came in on the weekend and painted his office. No one else had painted offices – he painted his walls blue while everyone else had plain white that had probably been painted when the building was built like 40-50 years prior. I personally thought it looked great but I heard through the grapevine that he got in trouble for it. The company was the sole tenant in the building but did not own the building so I don’t know if the landlord was unhappy or it was just a case of “no one does this, therefore you shouldn’t have, even though there’s no specific rule against it.”

    1. MK*

      There is no specific rule against it because any reasonable person should know you don’t paint walls in a building you don’t own without permission.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        In my case in grad school we asked if we could paint over the really hideous randomly coloured walls (think having your desk directly facing a brilliant pumpkin orange, fuchsia or teal wall) and were told that we couldn’t because it was against union rules. I think I ended up taping printer paper on the wall to mute the colour a bit.

        1. lilsheba*

          Personally I would love those colors!! I’m so sick of white or gray everything, it’s so boring.

        2. allathian*

          I could deal with teal, but pumpkin orange would probably have my pulse skyrocketing (orange is an energizing color) and my blood pressure up in the “needs medication” range, and the fuchsia would give me a headache if I had to stare at it for any length of time.

          At the office, one wall in our break room is painted in a bright orange color, to both energize people and discourage them from spending too much time in the break room. Our meeting rooms are windowless, with one wall painted in teal (look at the flag of Kazakhstan for an idea of the color, the wall paint is very similar). I work in an office building that was built in the early 80s. Originally everyone, except the secretaries in the typing pool, had their own offices. Now we’re mostly using the same spaces for 2 or 3 people. The corridor wall outside the office I share with my closest coworker is a sickly pea soup green… I’m so glad that my actual office walls are a boring plain grayish white color!

        1. KateM*

          It could be “you may paint your walls as long as you paint them back to the orginal colour before you leave”.

          1. Forrest*

            I’d still find that very weird at a workplace, where it’s not just about the colour of the walls but also the quality of the paintwork, the risk of damaging the floors or carpets, the safety/insurance concerns of having random people up ladders, how the paint was disposed off — I can’t imagine any work building being happy with people who aren’t professionally qualified and insured decorators doing decorating, but that may be a national difference.

            1. KateM*

              Even if landlord was OK with it, I can easily imagine the renting company being uncomfortable with all that. What if VP falls off the ladder while painting their office – who is responsible?; are the colours in the correct company colour scheme, and so on.

          2. turquoisecow*

            That’s been the case every apartment I rented. Paint the walls whatever you want but then you either need to paint again before you move out or pay the landlord a repainting fee.

            Funny thing is, after our company closed down, the building was demolished to make way for condos. Since a lot of other companies were moving out of the area and the building was not new, it seems corporate tenants weren’t interested in it regardless of wall color.

            Of far greater concern was the leaky roof. The last year we were there, excessive rain and snow did their part, and I had a garbage can full of smelly water next to my desk for a few months. The company was out of money, I guess the landlord was also.

      2. Nanani*

        I’ve always understood at as if you paint the walls in a place you don’t own (think, a rental) you are on the hook for painting it back to the original colour when you leave.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      In my company, this would also violate material safety rules — everything needs an OSHA Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS).

      1. Agnes*

        At my university, it’s a violation of the facilities rules – the facilities people have to handle all the painting. Faculty have been known to sneak in on the weekends and paint their offices or labs.

        1. After 33 years ...*

          This is the case at my place – anyone who painted on their own without going through Facilities Mgmt would find their work rapidly undone.
          When I became head, I ‘adjusted’ the department budget to allow everyone one freshly-painted accent wall in their office. The only stipulations were 1) the painters had to have enough space to work in your office, 2) you weren’t allowed to be in the office while the painters were working, and 3) you could have any colour, as long as it was not black.

      2. Environmental Compliance*

        Yep. This is a great way to irritate both HSE and Facilities. If you bring a chemical onsite without approval & the SDS/documentation, there’s a risk (and OSHA issues). If you use whatever random paint you find in a closet, did you use the right PPE? Was there appropriate ventilation? More OSHA issues. Is there a paint scheme the company is supposed to abide by? Facilities now has to fix what you did. Did you damage the carpets/furniture? Facilities is not going to be pleased. Is the building leased and not owned? Now we have a lease contract issue potentially.

        Always ask first. Chances are there’s a team or person that would be able to help out and get it done the right way (and even paint for you). I’ve had my office repainted at two different workplaces. The people in the space previously just never asked, and the paint was….flaky, at best. There may be even a schedule to paint spaces in rotation – maybe that space is coming up. Or they don’t have a schedule, but no one has even thought about the paint in years, but they’d be willing to bring in a company to repaint the office space.

        (I confiscate paints on a regular basis, because there’s always someone who wants to ‘test something’ and takes it upon themselves to purchase it instead of waiting a couple days for approval. Certain paints can have very nasty stuff in them.)

        1. quill (and the bees agree with me)*

          I worked in paints as an intern and let me tell you it’s not just “certain” paints. If it’s paint or stain? You do not want to be breathing any sort of fumes, as a general safety rule. Of course, we were probably far stricter about ventilation than the average layperson because we worked with them every day…

          P.S. do not paint any surface that food will ever be prepared on. It is NOT food proof.

          1. Environmental Compliance*

            We have some paints onsite that are much, much worse than others because of the overall environment they need to be in, which is what I’m referencing for especially nasty.

    3. John Smith*

      We had someone who installed their own TV in a workshop (hidden in a cabinet), which meant gaining roof access to set up an ariel and wire it down to the workshop. God knows how he done it but it was about 3 years before anyone noticed and was told to remove it.

      If I were the OP, I’d be pushing for better furnishings in the office, at least a lick of paint. Our walls were white but had turned to a browny yellow from when smoking was allowed in the office. It was still browny yellow when I moved out 5 years ago and wasn’t a good look at all for visitors.

      1. MK*

        Eh, I could be wrong, but what I get from the letter is that the office and furniture is in good condition, but it feels cold because there is no personality to the space and the furniture are mismatched. If that’s so, and depending on the offi e culture, it could be tonedeaf to suggest spending money on aesthetic changes (it’sone thing to suggest a lick of paint when the white walls have turned brown, and another to do so because you think yellow would be more cheerful).

    4. WellRed*

      I’m reminded that when we consolidated our offices space and I was moved to a much smaller corner, (everyone lost space) the office manager wouldn’t let us freshen up the ancient paint (my corner had 1 million thumbtack holes). I didn’t ask to paint or push the issue but it was such a small thing that would have lifted moods. Other posts about corporate color schemes etc just underscores again, why work can be so out of touch.

        1. MK*

          In an office where many people work, and many people will work by the time it’s repainted, boring is good, actually. I guarantee that the yellow one person finds cheerful will grate on another person, and the blue one finds relaxing, another will find depressing. Neutrals is much safer.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            I agree. The previous resident of my office may have loved egg yolk yellow or bright tangerine and I do not want to look at those colors all day long. Use artwork or a throw pillow on your guest chair to brighten up your office.

        2. JustaTech*

          I don’t mind that my office color scheme is boring (it’s an improvement on the previous color, purple and beige with coffee stains for accent). I mind that the previous highest ranked person in the build refused to allow anything on the walls, including the scientific posters that we had presented at conferences that were in company colors.
          Presentation posters are the absolute bog standard for “decorating” the lab parts of a building. But no, plain white walls.

    5. Cattlegirl*

      Painting walls may not be allowed, but removable wallpaper is an easier option (no fumes, comes off without a trace)

  12. Vanilla Nice*

    LW #3: I agree with Alison’s advice given thst you’re a remote worker and rarely interact with Annie.

    If Annie were someone you had to work closely with on a regular basis, it might be necessary to address the issue with her head-on in order to set boundaries, but I don’t see a point to getting sucked into it. In my experience, people like Annie thrive on drama, which you’re not giving her if you ignore it.

    1. anonymous73*

      The rational side of me knows you’re right, but the part of me that hates gossip and detests people who start rumors and spread lies would want to confront her. “Next time to talk to boss and feel the need to mention my name…DON’T”.

  13. ToTiredToThink*

    I was going to suggest similar for painting as well. Some places won’t mind you repainting on your own time/dime as well – with approval. But they may also be willing to do it too. I had a boss who got approval to paint and if I were to say the color they painted – I might out myself, LOL. But it was pretty! And calming, just… not a “normal” color for an office.

  14. Stantheman*

    #1 think about the cleaning staff . Vaccuming around a non standard seat. Cleaning products for your special desk. Etc

    1. Peachtree*

      Hm … I think cleaners are able to vacuum around all types of seating. And assuming that the desk is not made of marble, well, standard products will probably be fine …

    2. Nikki*

      At every place I’ve worked, the cleaning crew doesn’t even touch the desk. They don’t want to deal with complaints about moving people’s things around. They’ll vacuum floors and empty trash, but wiping down anything on the desk is the employee’s responsibility. A few months ago, my office wanted to do a deep clean so I had to make a special trip into the office to remove everything from my desk, including monitors and keyboard, so the cleaning crew could scrub it down.

      1. Alice*

        I envy that. At OldJob we’d get an email once a month saying the cleaning crew was going to do a deep clean and to remove everything from our desks by Friday EOB. Of course I never actually moved anything, as this was the office that only provided desks and no cupboards/drawers/anything despite our repeated asking (and we were forbidden to bring anything from home). But it was annoying to come back on Monday and find my things all out of place.

        1. EventPlannerGal*

          It was probably pretty annoying for the cleaners to have to move everyone’s stuff around in order to do their jobs even after regular advance warnings so it all balances out in the end! Why on Earth wouldn’t your management give you any storage space? An attempt to force everyone to go paperless?

      2. Butterfly Counter*

        At a company I temped for, the cubicle desks would be cleaned every night. Therefore, you had to take EVERYTHING home with you at the end of the day and all files and paperwork had to be stored in the appropriate offices. We were only one step removed from hotdesking. Plus, 90% of us were temps, so it wasn’t unreasonable to ask us to keep things Spartan. Clean desks were nice, too.

    3. pancakes*

      The letter writer said they paid $150 for the desk. I doubt it’s made of antique mahogany or anything that requires special care.

    4. Rolly*

      “Vaccuming around a non standard seat. ”

      Yeah. Brutal. So disrespectful to force that on them. Brutal.

    5. bluephone*

      IDK, I doubt that the cleaning staff is actually made up of knock-off Roombas that Amazon is usually selling for below $200 (like my fake Roomba that can’t handle a shag throw rug so I have take the rug up before turning the fake Roomba on). I think the cleaning staff can figure it out. Blue collar doesn’t mean stupid.

    6. Nancy*

      Professional cleaners have seen all types of seats and can handle cleaning an office that has different furniture than the others. This is silly.

  15. Spoo*

    As for the furniture and decor it’s possible there’s budget or a facilities storage where you can pick things out. It’s definitely worth it to ask the question but I’d wait a few months then ask

  16. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (recruiter) – despite the pushy tone I do feel (based on the info in the letter) that he is probably on to something concrete, although he won’t necessarily know if it affects you personally! I think all you can do at this point is wait a few weeks to see if anything transpires, and in the meantime be vigilant and keep your ‘ear to the ground’ in your current place, as it’s often possible to pick up on these things.

    1. Delta Delta*

      I sort of wondered if maybe the recruiter had come into information, like that the company is changing its WFH policy so lots of people are leaving, or there’s a restructuring coming, or something. And maybe the recruiter was thinking that OPs reasons for turning down the new position are about to become moot because of impending changes at the current job. But the recruiter did seem sort of shady about it – would have been better to keep quiet all together.

    2. anonymous73*

      Or he’s trying to scare her into accepting the job so he gets his money. I wouldn’t trust him. Even if he knows something, the tactics he’s using are unethical and I would stop working with him immediately.

      1. KRM*

        Exactly. Even if OP’s company completely disbands next week and everyone is out of a job, I would not work with this recruiter. Shady AF.

      2. Nanani*

        Maybe the recruiter just thinks WFH is a fad that’s about to die or something like that. Don’t trust someone who repeatedly tries to push you into a job that lacks a significant aspect you want.

    3. EvilQueenRegina*

      He might genuinely believe he’s onto something concrete, but there are so many ways that what he (thinks he) knows may not end up having a negative impact on OP.
      1) It could be something that’s going to impact on specific departments at the company, but will have little or no impact on OP,
      2) It could be something he was told by someone who hasn’t quite got their facts correct/is acting on a rumour that may not be true,
      3) It could be something that was believed to be true at the time he was told but that info is now out of date,
      4) It’s all a big mix up and he’s actually mixed that company up with another somehow. (I have seen something similar happen).
      There’s probably a lot more possibilities than that. No harm in keeping your ear to the ground and seeing if anything does back it up, but at the same time also keep in mind it could all be nothing.

  17. A mathematician*

    For OP4: I had an interview at the beginning of October, which asked when I’d be able to start. I essentially said “I could start in February or March if you really need me, but June would be better”. They were ok with that – but I’m in academia, which has long hiring times (and if I’d got and taken the job, I’d have had an international move to do, so they weren’t expecting me to start instantly anyway). As it turned out, they went with someone else – but I doubt whoever it is has started work yet, or if they have they’ve probably only just started.

  18. Despachito*

    OP2- I think the recruiter’s behaviour reeks of manipulation, and I’d be pissed off if someone tried that one on me.

    One thing is if this was said by someone I know and trust – THAT would perhaps be a reason to stick my antennae out to test the waters, but still no big steps just because of a vague hint that something may be going on.

    Coming from a stranger who is, moreover, interested in me doing what he wants? A big NO-NO. Several things are off here IMHO:

    – What information can he realistically have if he is not an insider?
    – Even if he DID have information that the entire OP’s company will be winding up, why try to get OP take this one job OP already has said does not fit her requirements?
    – How can he expect a stranger to make an important decision in her life because of a vague hint that something may perhaps be happening?

    I think what he did is unprofessional and sheer manipulation. I’d not cave in, and personally I would stop interacting with him – I hate this kind of BS.

    1. Bamcheeks*

      And 4) if you do have confidential insider knowledge and are using it to try and manipulate me, how do i know you’re not going to leak confidential information about MY job search if you think it gives you an in with another candidate?

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      “interested in me doing what he wants” is key. The reason external recruiters often feel greasy is where their interests lie. It can seem, to the naive, that their interests coincide with yours: you are looking for a job, they make money by finding you one. Their actual financial interest is in placing warm bodies in slots. If it is a good slot for you, great! But if not, that is OK, too, from the recruiter’s perspective, so long as it is good enough that they get paid. There is no possibility of their getting paid without bodies moving around. If you are already employed and happy where you are, one way to open things up is to stir the pot a bit. Because again: their interests are not your interests.

      1. RecoveringSWO*

        Agreed. What wouldn’t be in the recruiter’s interest though, would be if OP started independently job searching and took a new position without the recruiter. I don’t think that the recruiter’s warning necessarily warrants OP taking the time and effort to start a job search in earnest. That said, if OP is fretting too much, maybe a leisurely search could help tame their concerns?

      2. pancakes*

        Yes. I think another reason it often feels a bit greasy is that many times people who want to leave an industry that doesn’t suit them and don’t want to start from scratch in an entirely new one will turn to recruiting as a career move. It is adjacent to the industry they’re familiar with, but like just about anything, requires skill and experience to do well, and I suppose there’s quite a lot of pressure on even beginning recruiters to place people in positions.

  19. A Pinch of Salt*

    LW3: I started a remote Analyst job during the pandemic. Have never met most of my co-workers. A few months ago one of the supervisors asked me to watch how much work I’m assigning to one of the CSRs because I was significantly impacting her production.

    …I hadn’t even spoken to her in months. But she had been telling her supervisors I was assigning her HOURS of work every day. To this day I still don’t understand why she thought I, a literal stranger to her, would cover for her.

    I agree with the advice to let it go, but also watch your step and document everything with her. Not surprisingly, my co-worker is holding a grudge and causing all sorts of drama now.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      “To this day I still don’t understand why she thought I, a literal stranger to her, would cover for her.”

      Likely a panic reaction. She was called to the carpet for low productivity, and your name was the one that popped into her head.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Yup – the folks who know her know she’s “retired in place” and don’t have any desire to cover for her because she is their groups missing stair.

    2. BethDH*

      Maybe she assumed you were an unknown quantity as a relatively new person and that the bosses would take her at her word without checking up.
      People who are negligent at their roles often assume other people are also negligent.

      1. Lily*

        “People who are negligent at their roles often assume other people are also negligent.”
        This is so true.

    3. RagingADHD*

      She likely never considered that the supervisor might circle back to you. After all, if she doesn’t speak to you, surely nobody else does, either.

      1. ThursdaysGeek*

        And maybe it worked for a time – who knows if the supervisor immediately talked to Salt, or waited a week or two?

    4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      Yup – sounds like she got a talking to about performance and then panicked. And in that panic did think that the manager discussing performance with her would circle back to you – if she really even thought about it at all. It’s amazing what the fight or flight reflex will cause some people to do.

  20. katkat*

    #4 I have the same situation, have to change jobs in April. I too was a little hesitant at first, but applied for a dream job, and made it clear that I cant start until then.

    The next day, tuesday, I got an email for an interview on thursday. Because it was such a quick respond, while I accepted the invitation, I politely (hopefully!) reminded them about my schedule. They responded that they are bringin several new people in in April, so thats fine with them!

    So apply! You never know whats their situayion too. And furthermore, your situation is VERY understandable. Good luck for all the changes!

    1. Philly2AZ*

      OP#4 here…congratulations on landing your dream job and thanks for responding! I guess I’d better update my resume and start sending it out.

    2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      For relocations I put my timeframe in my cover letter and in the location line of my resume (e.g. currently Oldtown, relocating to Newtown in MM/DDDD). I figure if it is right up front from the get go, if the schedule doesn’t work for them, they can give me a pass.

  21. Squidlet*

    OP1, things like a leafy potted plant in a colourful plastic pot (something you can easily carry), and a cheerful wall calendar would add instant cheer to your office, and are SO normal that nobody could possible object or think you are sneering at the company-provided stuff. Books can also add colour, and presumably they gave you a bookshelf for a reason. You can add bits and pieces as you get more comfortable.

    If your office has a lot of outside people coming in and out though, I think it’s reasonable to ask whether it can be painted. And whether there’s any matching furniture in storage.

    1. Agent Diane*

      I was going to suggest plants and co-ordinated soft furnishings like cushions. A set of cushions all in the same colours should bring together the hodge-podge furniture.

  22. Seeking Second Childhood*

    OP1, Let me add onto Alison’s comment. Beyond “nothing you aren’t willing to lose” I say “nothing you can’t carry out in one trip.” I was laid off from a job where everyone involved had to be escorted out, and my manager chose to carry a box for me to avoid a second “perp walk”.
    One trick if you’re into plants–stick with pothos and others that grow from cuttings so you have the main plant at home already.

    1. lolly pop*

      Just moved into my first office recently and all my plants are from cuttings of office plants so I know they can survive my ‘care’ and their location.

  23. Spicy Tuna*

    I met with a recruiter once. I had a job that I wasn’t happy with, and the job market wasn’t great, but I had an MBA and am bilingual. After reviewing my resume and having an in person meeting, the recruiter told me that I should feel lucky to have the job I had, that I was grossly overpaid for my experience and skills (I was barely making an entry level salary).

    On my own, I found a much better job. A few months later, recruiter called me with a great opportunity. I had been feeling awful about our earlier meeting, but then I realized he had no available positions when we had met, and it was easier for him to make it seem like a “me” problem instead of his problem

    1. MK*

      That’s… incredibly stupid. Him not having any job leads when you met wouldn’t register as a “him problem” to any reasonable person, it was just bad timing. What on earth did he think he had to gain by insulting you?

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Seriously. Why burn a bridge with Spicy Tuna? I would think that building good working relationships with a portfolio of candidates is pretty fundamental to a recruiter’s job, but then I hear about this type of thing.

  24. I should really pick a name*

    You should really make sure you know your office culture before you ask about bringing in your own desk. It could come across as a very prima donna move if it’s not typically done.

    Regarding this:

    Or will it signal that I’m taking this role seriously and am excited to be here?

    I honestly don’t think that asking to bring in furniture would ever signal this.

    1. pancakes*

      If it turns out there’s no storage space for the furniture that’s there now it might. It’s fine to bring in a lamp or some plants, etc., but I think the letter writer should spend at least 3-4 weeks getting to know the place better before asking about replacing the furniture, assuming that doing so would be a matter of preference rather than needing a special chair for physical reasons. That would be fine to ask about right away.

      1. Librarian of SHIELD*

        For my first week or two in any new job, I bring a pen case and my preferred style of notebook and nothing else. After my first few days when I’ve seen how other people have personalized their space, I’ll start bringing in items at a similar level. Usually that means family photos, a plant or two, maybe a poster if I have a good wall, a fan of that seems necessary. When I had a private office, I bought a coat stand because it was an over air conditioned workplace and my sweaters kept falling off the back of my chair. I’ve never worked anywhere that would be okay with me bringing in a whole entire desk.

        1. pancakes*

          Yeah, I wouldn’t bring anything more than that for the first week at least. I haven’t ever had a desk I’ve wanted to replace with my own so I don’t know what’s to be expected there, but I suppose it’s much more common to ask for a new one to be purchased than to bring in one’s own.

  25. anonymous73*

    #1 decorate your office to meet YOUR needs – if you need a bigger bookshelf, a mini fridge (I’ve done this in my cube to keep people from stealing my food), a more comfortable chair, something on the walls for you to enjoy. Unless you’re a therapist, there’s no need to bring furniture in to make your employees more comfortable. And it’s not about being a prima donna. Quite honestly, I couldn’t give a crap about what my manager had in their office. What you have in your office isn’t going to affect your rapport with your employees, your treatment of them will.

  26. RabidChild*

    LW#4: Definitely start now. My sister works in your field and there are SO many jobs. You may find that they will want to hire you now and let you work remotely until your move.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I think you’ve got to read the room on decorations/furniture. I worked in an office that supplied furniture, but I brought my own chair after a while. Everyone knew I had saved up for it (change jar, mileage reimbursements, etc), and when I got it I was clear that it was mine and that when I left it was going with me (and I had fun parading it out). It was fine in that office.

    Then I applied for another job where they made a big deal about how everyone gets measured for ergonomically-correct furniture. I asked if I’d be permitted to bring my own chair, and the 3 second silent pause before the interviewer said, “well, we could talk about that” immediately told me I wasn’t getting the job. So, you know, your mileage may vary.

  28. rollerskates*

    #5 – I’m fairly new to help out with recruiting, and based on my experience it’s VERY possible that someone accidentally sent you the “second round interview” email template instead of the “first round interview” one. You can send emails to multiple candidates at once (the ATS will add in the names after you click send), often done by selecting multiple candidates at like you would when ticking emails in your inbox to delete or file elsewhere. In my office, someone meant to set up a phone interview with a candidate, but accidentally sent them the in-person interview template instead. Pretty embarrassing when the candidate turned up at our office unexpectedly!

    Also highly possible that the person emailing you isn’t the hiring manager or wouldn’t have been involved in the actual interviews, so might not have clocked that you hadn’t had a first-round interview yet.

    Side note is that all these errors COULD lead to clicking the wrong person when intending to invite another candidate to a second-round interview. But I don’t think you need to assume just yet that you’re definitely not in the running.

    1. LW #5*

      Hi! I wrote the 5th letter – I replied today using the advice here (also it was so helpful to learn about the backend on the hiring side) and got an instant rejection email, haha. It’s fine, I’m glad I did it otherwise I would’ve wondered, and I’m glad to have gotten the rejection instead of never being notified!

      1. Dotty*

        Hmm… maybe you shouldn’t have used the part of the advice about the llama groomer position. : )

      2. rollerskates*

        Ah well! Better to know, like you say.

        And you’re right, it’s so crazy learning all the back-end hiring stuff. Also like it’s always said here, don’t read too much into comms around recruitment and hiring etc. One time I emailed someone to set up an interview, then followed up with a call the next day when I hadn’t heard back yet. If I was in their position I’d probably be thinking, “wow, they’re really keen to interview me!” Whereas actually, there was a small window in the hiring manager’s calendar, and I just wanted to get the times lined up. I literally couldn’t have cared less whether that candidate moved forward – I just needed the scheduling sorted :D

        (PS to make me sound less evil, he did end up getting hired and I’m glad he did because he’s very nice!)

  29. Jam Today*

    A cautionary tale about bringing in your own furniture, etc.: about a decade ago I worked for a company that (after going without for way too long) hired a UX team. The director of the department immediately decorated her office with her own furniture, standing lamps, draped fabrics, etc. I guess because she was focused on “design” and things that looked nice and comforting but it *immediately* set her and the team she hired apart from everyone else in the company and that absolutely came through in how they conducted themselves around the rest of us. Its not causative, but correlative — she viewed herself as “apart” (or really “above”) and made sure the rest of us knew it, including drawing a boundary around her soft, luxe environment and the regular office the rest of us inhabited.

  30. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    #4 It is DEFINITELY not too early start applying! I started applying before Thanksgiving, as I moved states the first week of January, and am JUST NOW getting some responses. I know the timing of mine is a bit different, due to holidays, but even if you’ve always had pretty quick turnaround when applying for jobs, it’s not too soon.

  31. CatPerson*

    We had a new leader who completely redecorated her office a weekend or two after she started. I’m talking waterfall on the wall (which facilities later said she could not turn on), white shag carpeting, mood lighting, decorative stand for photos and figurines, etc. Then a couple of years later, she dumped all of that in the printer room for everyone to trip over and did it all over again. This was basically a cover for the fact that she did not have any skills for the job (the person she reported to had a habit of hiring people who knew less than he did so that he could look smarter in comparison).

  32. Esmeralda*

    OP 3
    Strongly disagree with Alison here (I know! that almost never happens!).

    You should not let this slide by. If you did not already say to Britta, “No, I did not say anything like that, in fact Annie and I have had exactly three interactions and they were all llama-related”, you need to say so now. Follow up with Britta, use Alison’s script for that.

    I’ve been around a long time. You cannot have someone lying about you. If you don’t respond, even if Britta knows Annie is a liar, she doesn’t know that this time it’s also a lie, and you not responding can come off as actually culpable. (Britta can think, maybe this time Annie is telling the truth.) From my experience, if you let someone lie about you once, they will do it again. And eventually you will be dealing with a much bigger problem.

    That’s advice I got from a mentor, who knew that our Annie was a liar. It has served me well.

    1. pancakes*

      They did tell Britta that. From the letter: “. . . I don’t agree with this assessment of Britta’s coaching style, and I have never told Annie (or anyone else) I think that. I told as much to Britta, and she thanked me and we hung up.”

        1. pancakes*

          It is such a jarring, rude, and sketchy thing for Annie to have done, I don’t think there’s any harm in more or less repeating it once.

  33. The Crowening*

    LW1 – Honestly, a couple of good lamps that cast soft light, a few little framed pics of pets/loved ones/favorite places, and a plant or two, can warm a space up a lot! You can start cultivating that “I care about people” and “I want this space to be comfortable” vibe right out of the gate. Then later on if you still want to swap out furniture/bring stuff in, you’ll have a better sense for how to do it without it causing any issues or raised eyebrows. (Be sure to label any furniture or lighting you bring in as belonging to you, brought from home – otherwise it’s real easy for things to just get unintentionally absorbed into the place. Trust me…)

  34. Biscotti*

    #1 As the friend that paints well and has helped paint many friends offices & office furniture (my superpower is I can paint a room without tape and drop cloths and not mess up anything) hold off on painting and furnishing with your own furniture. If they ok you to paint find out if there is a list of approved colors or banned colors , and prewarn your floor someone will complain about the smell. If they ok you to bring in furniture only bring what you are ok with loosing, it goes missing ( greedy co-workers, annoyed movers, company changes), usually your only recourse is small claims court and even if you win you loose. Also find out what the moving policy is are you required to move your own furniture if they change offices (which they do alot, especially after someone fixes theirs up)

  35. Lynca*

    OP #1- Given you talk about these pieces being cast offs from other departments, you definitely need to find out how furniture changes/painting are handled before making those kinds of changes. It may be relatively easy to order what you want or you could have to make due with what you have available. It’s hard to know from just your first week.

    I know that where I work it would not be okay to change out a desk. Everything is inventoried and assigned for use in a specific unit/specific office. Changing out a desk means finding another place to store it or giving it up. Most likely the latter because storing a desk is a huge space issue. Meaning that if you bring in your own desk, when you leave we no longer have a desk assigned to that office.

    I would personally put the major cosmetic changes (desk/furniture/painting) on the back burner and get a feel for the office/role first.

  36. RagingADHD*

    LW1, I agree that this is really specific to company culture and heirarchy.

    I’ve worked in law firms where nearly all partners and some of the associates personalized their offices, some with luxury furniture and high-end artwork.

    In other corporate-type environments, the C-Suite might fully decorate their office with personalized furniture and rugs, but there was less and less customization as you went down the ladder of superiority. An assistant director might hang a picture, and below that it was pretty much just desk accessories.

  37. MistOrMister*

    OP1 – I agree about leaving the desk at home at first, but not so much the chair. I despise most office chairs. I find they are usually too soft and make my legs fall asleep. So I will bring my own chair prettt much immediately after starting if the chair provided isnt firm enough and there are no other options. I do think you have some room there. Or, if you have a standing desk. I have been using a standing desk for 3 or 4 years now (I think I have not sat down while working since May 2021!!) and would be absolutely miserable sitting all day. I would not hesitate to bring my desktop model in my first week once I knew it would fit my desk space.

    1. MCMonkeyBean*

      Because they referred to an “armchair” I wasn’t sure if OP meant a chair for them to sit in or a decorative chair for other people that come into the office. I can’t really picture sitting in an armchair at a desk at work so I was leaning toward the latter.

      If she’s talking a decorative chair, definitely leave it at home. I would agree that bringing in your own desk chair to actually sit in should be reasonable most places, but I’d probably still ask someone first and then as Alison said you would have to be prepared for the possibility that you might not ever get it back.

  38. Water Everywhere*

    LW#2, you believe this recruiter isn’t shady because his company is well-known, but the two are not mutually exclusive. I think I’d report this interaction to his manager. If the company puts value on a good reputation of satisfied job searchers (and not ‘our placement numbers are highest, don’t care how we get them’) then I don’t think the people who manage him would approve of his tactics.

  39. Thursday Next*

    OP#2, the recruiter’s comment read to me like he knew something about the new job opening that you didn’t – like that it was stated that it was a fully in-office position but he happened to know that the hiring manager was working to get that changed, but couldn’t officially say (or something), so he didn’t want you to make a decision solely on the schedule because it wasn’t set in stone but he didn’t have the authority to say those exact words (again, or something).

    This seems way more likely to me than that he was making any kind of insinuation abut your current job. And the “we’ll talk again in a few weeks” was just being cocky/awkwardly reassuring that you didn’t burn the bridge by withdrawing.

    1. Napkin Thief*

      That would make sense (and be more…normal?), except the recruiter explicitly said it wasn’t the case: “ He said he couldn’t say anything specific right now, but “it’s nothing to do with [new company], more related to where you’re at now. ”

  40. Reeneejune*

    When I moved abroad, I applied with several teaching agencies (companies that provide local schools with native English speaking teachers and provide support in English to the teachers). One company offered me a job with an email that referenced an interview that never happened! And when I pointed out the mistake, the recruiter said something to the effect of “the offer stands, but we can schedule an interview to answer any questions you might have at this point.”

    Now, given this happened in the middle of the 2020 and now that I’m a year in (with a different company), I know that while it was probably still an error, companies were so desperate for teachers willing to move internationally during a plague they’d take anyone who could get a visa. It’s definitely not a great sign when the hiring person loses track of the recruitment timeline so badly.

  41. voluptuousfire*

    Op#5–that email was likely sent in error. If you applied via an ATS, the coordinator likely just chose the wrong template from the dropdown menu. Surprised they didn’t catch it though! I’m a recruiting coordinator and I’ve done the same thing of clicking on the wrong template in the dropdown menu. I’ve done that so many times! Usually, I caught it and told the candidate I made an error or they responded to the invite and were confused. It happens.

    Just respond and be polite and say “Hi! I think this was an error. I didn’t have a first interview for this role. I’d love to chat since I’m still interested.”

    1. LW #5*

      Hi! This was so helpful and basically nearly the exact message I ended up sending (thank you!). I did get a template rejection, which is fine because now I know and can move on. Thank you!

  42. Xaraja*

    When i was about ready to accept the position i have now, which was in August of 2020, i was contacted by a recruiter who pushed really hard for me to consider a different job she was trying to fill. It was about 2/3 of the pay i have at this job and a significant pay cut from the job i had at the time, and if i remember correctly didn’t offer good benefits (I’m chronically ill so the amazing health insurance at my current job is really important). It was also more of a customer service/order processing job (even though it required the niche IT skills i had) unlike the pure IT job i ended up taking and have now.

    In order to sell this job she told me that this company i now work for but was considering at the time was a terrible place to work, that she’d worked with people who were leaving it and they told her all about it and i would regret not taking this job she had. It gave me pause! But the job she wanted me to consider was really shitty, not at all what i wanted, and i wouldn’t have been able to live on the salary. And i didn’t like her either, she was super pushy and kept calling and texting me.

    On the other hand, i looked at Glassdoor reviews and such and everything indicated the company i did end up working for was not a bad place to work, and that ended up being true. I love this job and I’m transitioning into a new higher role now after a year and a half, one that i wouldn’t have been able to support applying for on paper because i don’t have the experience or specific software skills for, but the company is great about promoting from within and giving people a chance to grow and learn. So I’m moving into a really hot IT field (data governance) instead of the niche one that no one has heard of (EDI) and I’m still not doing order entry! People are super nice, my managers are very supportive, and i have made a really good friend in one of my coworkers.

  43. Edward J Williams*

    If a recruiter tells me “The Sun rises in the east and sets in the West,” I’d want to go outside on a clear day and check.

  44. Macapito*

    For #1, I think it depends on the industry, office culture, and the LW’s position. As I’ve moved up in companies and been more near senior/mid-level managers and then C-suiters, it would be weird to have a new hire at either of those levels not bring anything into their office or personalize it. I would start to wonder if they were still looking for other jobs or possibly weren’t happy with the new position. Every new person has come in and spent the first few weeks working with admin staff and facilities to get their office put together, while still working, of course. Including me. :-)

    So, I would suggest peeking into other offices to see what those look like, make friends with admin/support staff, and then just ask about the norm.

    1. new worker bee*

      On the other hand, as someone who works in procurement, we would definitely find it a little weird if a new employee just did an end-run around our department and started bringing in major furniture purchases of their own. Like… this is what we’re here for? If everybody else in the office has nice furniture, and you’re going to be a manager, then most likely you can get some things replaced so they match, just ask for them. If there’s not a budget, then ask about bringing your own stuff at that point.

      Earlier this year, an employee ordered a couch for her office and had it shipped here without telling anybody. (And then expected Maintenance to move and assemble it for her, but that’s another issue and it doesn’t sound like LW was going to do that.) But it was just kind of awkward. Especially since she didn’t put her department on the shipping address, so I had to ask all of the department secretaries, “Who is X?”, so then she kind of became known to everyone as the person with a new couch instead of any other traits.

      1. Macapito*

        Which is why I specifically mentioned working with support staff to figure out the norms and then working with facilities and support staff to arrange whatever needed to be done. I’m not sure why you responded to my comment.

      2. Honey honey bee*

        Fwiw, it’s nice to hear someone in procurement saying “this is what we’re here for.”

        The last time I ordered office furniture, my boss was enraged that I had the audacity to request $2000 be spent on a hand-crank standing desk with a couple cabinets — to replace a ’60s era desk causing me pain — and a keyboard tray for the communal desk. (None of our furniture was designed for the personal computer era.)

  45. Nanani*

    #2 – Do not listen to this recruiter.
    Whether he’s genuinely mistaken or trying to scare you, he is clearly not a good fit.
    You told him you don’t want a fully in-office job and he’s tryign to push you into one, that’s strike one.
    The new job isn’t THAT much better than your current one so as to be worth losing that aspect, and he’s still trying to push you into it? This person does not have your best interests at heart. He is pushing you into the role because it benefits him but he forgot it’s supposed to also benefit you.

    You are fully justified in cutting off your work with this recruiter. You do not have to keep being his client. You owe him nothing.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      Not to mention that all of the vague insinuations means that you are unable to refute your own personal knowledge of the situation … what if the rumors he allegedly heard were about how they were planning to disrupt your whole department — by giving you a huge big fat raise and promotion — which they had already discussed with you?

      He’s being terrible, and if his recruiting firm is so reputable, perhaps they’d like to hear that one of their recruiters is spreading insider information.

    2. Koala dreams*

      Yes, I agree. The important thing is that this recruiter won’t help you find a job that is a good fit for you. It’s fun to speculate about their reasons for acting weird, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. Even if they know something, you will be better off looking elsewhere for your next job.

  46. Person from the Resume*

    Every place I have ever worked it would be odd to bring in your own furniture. Decorations, yes, sure, bring them in. The office was furnished and it was the same similar to all the other office furniture. It would be odd to bring in your own especially just for personality. I did notice the LW said she’s got the leftover furniture so I guess it’s not quite the same.

    I’m picturing the LW dragging in a living room type arm chair and desk and that would strike me as extremely odd.

    #1 – I don’t think that doing this will send the signal you want and probably wouldn’t be as bad as the worst you imagine (prima donna too good for our furniture). I just think people will think you odd.

    #2 – You are overthinking it. Folks just won’t give that much thought to the furniture in your office and they know it’s business office furniture so it doesn’t reflect your personal style.

    #3 – You don’t need to be so grateful to have the job they hired you because of you qualifications. You are definitely showing signs of imposter syndrome in your letter. Be confident and let the quality of your work send signals and not your office furniture.

    1. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      LW 1 also says they want their office to be “inviting and comfortable.”

      (If your organization has no “standard” furniture whatsoever, and everything is just a random collection picked up who-knows-when and who-know-where, then you can ignore the following statement.)

      Nothing has made me more uncomfortable in the past than being invited into the office of a manager with noticeably different furniture. I immediately start wondering about why, and what it means, and “is this antique or really expensive so I shouldn’t touch it or set my coffee cup down on it”, etc.

    1. LutherstadtWittenberg*

      It’s a shame Annie couldn’t be Pierce, because that’s such a Pierce thing to do.

  47. Elizabeth West*

    #1—I know OP has been given an office and not a cube, but I wouldn’t bring a lot in right at the beginning. When I started at Exjob, I ended up moving to a different space after a couple of weeks. Moving posters, the contents of my cabinet, etc. would have been bad enough. I can’t imagine the disruption of hauling a bunch of furniture too.

    I just want to add I appreciate the Community references in #3. Love that show (I binged the entire thing in 2020 lockdown).

  48. Koala dreams*

    #1 Small items like a calendar or blankets should be fine, but for bigger items like a desk you should check first. Also, you can ask if your employer is willing to provide (or reimburse) things that would make your office more comfortable, like a desk lamp or a more comfortable chair. Even if your employer doesn’t provide matching furniture, they might still be able to get you a few things that make the office nicer.

    Exception: If it’s an ergonomic thing or a health issue, you should of course get it sorted out as quickly as possible and don’t wait and see.

  49. Avril Ludgateau*

    I really hope we get an update from OP#2. My money is on the recruiter being a slimy character, but wouldn’t it be wild if it turns out they have some key industry or company-specific knowledge that OP doesn’t? Not even “they’re sending you back to the office,” but something bigger. A restructuring, a merger, a bankruptcy, major layoffs, or even a large portion of colleagues at OP’s company are leaving and happen to be searching through this same recruiter. In which case, the ethics are murky, no? The recruiter should not disclose information they are not in a position to disclose, but if OP’s livelihood is actually on the line…

    But realistically the answer will almost certainly be that the recruiter was trying to provoke anxiety in OP, and nothing ever comes of it.

  50. Elenna*

    OP #4 – yes, do start applying now! For my current job, 3-4 weeks passed between my interview and my getting the offer, and then another 4 weeks passed between my getting the offer and my starting the job. That’s your two months gone right there, let alone the amount of time between my application and my interview, or the amount of time I spent applying before sending an application to this place.

    Granted, 4 weeks between offer and job start is unusually long (it’s a huge company with tens of thousands of employees and apparently HR was pretty backed up on work and/or covered in red tape). But even if there’s a more normal 2 week gap there, you could still be looking at 1-1.5 months between getting an interview and starting a job. Plus however long it takes to get an interview for a job you want. Now is definitely not too early to start.

  51. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    OP#1: Although this is dependent on the particular work environment, here is my advice for a traditional corporate office environment:
    1. For the first week, do nothing but observe and familiarize yourself with the culture and what appears to be acceptable.
    2. For the second week, if it appears that brining in small items would be acceptable, bring in a lamp, or some other small desk items. Speak to the facilities person or other person with authority on office furnishings and painting. Ask that person about the company’s policy with respect to the furnishings and re-paintings. If it feels right in the conversation, ask (a) if the company will provide any additional furnishings, or if substitute furnishings are available, and/or (b) if you may bring in your own furnishings, and if there are any rules or limitations on that.

    I think it’s important to keep to keep in mind that this space and its furniture belong to the company and you should follow the company’s policy or even informal guidance consistent with the culture. Before you remove or replace any company furnishings, you should always have authorization from your employer, because your employer will need to store those items or find another use for them.

    Here are issues that I have seen around this:
    1. The company wants all the furnishings to have a consistent look, for design and/or professional reasons, especially if clients are around a lot. This doesn’t sound like the case with OP’s office, but wanted to mention it. Also, the company may not like the look of your personal furniture, once it is onsite.
    2. The company does not want you moving large pieces of furniture in and out on your own, due to liability reasons and possible physical injury. For similar reasons, using your own furniture may have liability reasons related to possible physical injury. (Chairs may not support enough weight. Area rugs may be a tripping hazard.)
    3. The company likes to consistently apply rules to all employees and doesn’t want all employees bringing in their own furniture, and also doesn’t want just one employee doing this when no one else does, for perception reasons.
    4. If your employment is terminated on short notice, you may not have time to remove all your furniture.
    5. The company does not want to deal with requiring you to remove all your personal furniture if your employment ends, and doesn’t want to get stuck with it or deal with disposing of it.
    6. For very expensive furniture, if the piece is damaged and it is not owned by the company, there may be insurance issues, and the company just doesn’t want to deal with that complexity.
    7. For electric items that may be hazardous because of possible fires, such as portable space heaters, it is common for companies to prohibit these.

    1. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      8. Some companies have rules specifically about hanging pictures on the wall, the hardware to be used, etc. Ask about that first, if you want to hang pictures.

  52. Becky S.*

    To #1 – Anything I took in to work, which in my case was usually just desk accessories, I always left behind when I left the job. People forget that the items weren’t company property. Better to not have people wondering what you were stealing…..
    #2 – the recruiter… I was a recruiter in the mid-80s before it was easy to find jobs online. I lasted 2 years and made pretty good money but the field left a bad taste in my mouth. The small agency I worked for was better than most but there was tremendous pressure to fill the jobs because that’s how we made money. There was a line about how ‘we’re not a paper mill’ and ‘we want to find quality people’ but day to day that’s not what I saw happening. Use recruiters, but protect yourself.

    1. Macapito*

      It’s really not the norm to leave things you’ve paid for, and it’s really not the norm for coworkers/supervisors to think an exiting employee is stealing when emptying out their workspace. Take your stuff.

  53. Casey*

    #1 — Alison, can we please have an open post for folks to share their weirdest office furniture experiences?

  54. monogodo*

    #1 – I have a few personal items at work that I purchased entirely to help me do my job better. I work for a school district (I’m not a teacher, I’m considered Administrative Support Staff), so getting those purchases approved is a huge PITA, and the items were inexpensive enough that I don’t mind paying for them myself. One tip I was given by a coworker was to print out a copy of the receipt, reduced size if necessary, and tape it to the underside or back of the item in question. This serves two purposes: 1) if “they” come through and do an equipment audit, they’ll look for an asset tag, and my items won’t have that tag, but they *will* have my receipt on it showing that I own it. 2) If/when I do leave this job, I can justify taking these items with me, as they are clearly marked as something that I purchased myself. I haven’t tagged everything I bought, as some of the things are too inexpensive to worry about. But the Manual Creaser/Scoring machine, and the scanner cart, and my chair are all tagged as mine with receipts taped to them.

  55. Not One of the Bronte Sisters*

    At one job, my office was beautifully furnished, but since I read all day, and some things, like title reports, have very tiny print, I needed a desk lamp. I requested one, and the other lawyer’s secretary flounced into my office and said, “You can’t have a lamp.” So all righty then to Miss Snotface. I bought a beautiful desk lamp that coordinated with my office decor and I kept the receipt in my top desk drawer as long as I worked there.

  56. Lizard*

    #1. While I admittedly have never had a job where I could seriously contemplate painting the walls (good for you!), I have at times had my own office, and have also been in cubicle situations. Some thoughts:

    1. Hold off on bringing in any furniture from home until you know more about your local culture. Allison’s advice is solid on this.

    2. Ease into bringing personal effects. Too much too soon will make you seem “extra”.

    3. If it seems like bringing in furniture from home wouldn’t be so strange, ask your facilities folks about the painting when you talk to them. For example, do you know if your employer is renting the space, or do they own it? You’d probably want to work out a painting schedule with them too, if it is allowed… and don’t plan on doing that during main working days/hours. My hunch is that unpleasant paint fumes really won’t endear you to your new co-workers.

    4. No one will get that you’re super serious and excited about this job if you personalize your space. That information can only be conveyed by your actions and overall job performance.

  57. Olivia Oil*

    Curious – has anyone actually ever had a good experience with a recruiter?

    I’ve mostly had experience with internal recruiters at large firms, though I have had a conversation with one external recruiter.

    My experience with them is that they are very bad at both understanding and describing the roles they are trying to place for and, by extension, matching my background with the roles. I feel like I’m better off applying myself and having the hiring manager themselves directly select me to interview rather than involving a recruiter as an unnecessary intermediate step.

    In my last job search, I would show up to an interview set up by the recruiter only to find out that the recruiter did a very bad job of matching my background to the hiring manager’s expectations, and the HM would seem frustrated about the mismatch and end the interview early. After wasting numerous PTO days on these interviews I gave up on them and just applied directly and eventually got hired.

  58. obleighvious*

    I just wanted to mention that in my office they’d frown upon bringing in your own furniture in part for accessibility reasons. While some of my furniture is reused/castoffs, it’s been approved for my space, so they want to ensure that there is xx inches of clearance to get in the room and shut the door, around the desk, etc.

    So they might be OK with at-home furniture, as long as you’ve cleared the sized with facilities and arranged to have other pieces removed.

  59. Guin*

    Regarding bringing your own furniture into your office: Don’t. It’s just awkward. Plus if you get terminated, you have to haul it all out again, instantly. Especially do not bring in “armchairs” or basically other living room furniture. Your office is work, not home. If you need another chair in your office for other people, put a request in to Facilities or grab one from an empty office. Being approachable is one thing; setting up a living room is unprofessional.

  60. Anne Wentworth*

    LW1, I second what Alison said about only bringing in things you’re willing to lose. As you accumulate things, it’s also worth considering “How will I remove all of this in one trip if my position is eliminated and I’m escorted out of the building?”

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