job candidates keep ghosting us, coworkers sharing a house, and more

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

1. Job candidates keep ghosting us for interviews

We’re a small nonprofit, with a total of five staff. We recently hired for two positions, one entry-level and the other more senior. Of the initial interviews we scheduled, we had two people ghost for the more senior level and of the entry-level position we two show up, two withdrew (I greatly appreciate them letting me know), and the other six just ghosted. We tried to be as accommodating as possible — they select the date and time, which we confirm with each candidate. I put so much in screening and prep for each candidate and it is so disheartening when they don’t bother to let me know they aren’t interested. Is this a new phenomenon or have I just been lucky with previous hiring?

Employers have been ghosting candidates for years — scheduling calls that never happen, telling them they’ll get back to them and then never being heard from again, and ignoring all attempts to get in touch. The reverse — employees ghosting employers — is newer and is a reflection of the current job market, just as the old pattern was a reflection of a market that favored employers (although interestingly, employers are still doing it even though the tables have turned).

As a manager, if you’ve never treated candidates that way yourself, it might feel unfair to now be on the receiving end of it (it was unfair to candidates for years too!). It’s rude, no matter who is doing it. But employers did set up these rules themselves, even if you personally didn’t.

I know it likely feels extra burdensome since you’re a small nonprofit; you’re probably overworked and don’t have time for meetings that never happen. There’s not a ton you can do about it, unfortunately. You can try confirming interviews the day before and saying, “If you end up needing to cancel or reschedule, please let me know.” You can consider whether there’s anything you can tell people ahead of time that might make them more motivated to interview, like if you have great benefits or hours or anything else that might make someone decide you’re an interview worth keeping. But some of this is just candidates doing what employers have done for years, now that the market is letting them.

2. Coworkers sharing a house for three months

My wife is an attorney at a small firm who has a once in a lifetime case with her boss, that will set national precedent. The trial will take three months and is in a different city, so she, her boss/law partner, and the client will be lodging there for the entirety of the case. Her firm has decided to short term lease a single family house that they all will live in for the three months of the trial. This decision was made without the input of my wife, who is okay with the living situation.

My question is about appropriateness of the living situation. Two married men (one a boss/law partner, and the other a client) living with a married woman seems inappropriate to me, and from a liability perspective seems risky for the firm. I am curious on your viewpoint from an external HR/managerial perspective?

It’s not inherently inappropriate for men and women to share living space, married or not.

I would be concerned about them not being able to get enough privacy and downtime to disconnect from work — but that’s not because of the genders or marital status. It’s not inherently inappropriate; it’s just that it’s a lot of togetherness with colleagues. The same would true if they were all single women. But if the three of them are all comfortable with it and (importantly!) no one was pressured into agreeing when they’re secretly dreading it, then so be it.

It sounds like you might be uncomfortable as a spouse, and if that’s the case it’s something for you to work out on your own or with your wife — but if I’m right about that, you’re more likely to be able to work through that if you own that discomfort rather than framing it as an HR thing.

3. Our callers hate voicemail

I answer the main phone line for our division. I’ve noticed that no one wants to leave voicemails anymore. I’ll transfer the line to someone and the person will just call back to tell me they got voicemail. Okay? I tell them to leave a message and they fight me on it. They will call back multiple times instead of just leaving a voicemail. This isn’t just one or two people. This is a majority of the callers I get. Even when I let people know they might get voicemail and just to leave one (we are a smaller division with only 1-2 people handling each program) they still call back and harass me about getting a voicemail.

I think they either want me to hunt the person down or make them magically appear out of thin air. Most of the time they just call back and tell me that they got a voicemail and are upset about it. I normally just say, “Well, then the best thing to do is to leave them a message and they’ll get back to you.”Then I get some more huffs and puffs and I transfer them right back to the line.

Is this just how people are now or can I use different language? I sometimes offer to take a message for people and will just email the person to call them back, but I don’t like doing that because it makes me feel like I’m people’s personal assistant and that’s not the case.

Yeah, people do not like voicemail anymore! It’s super interesting. A lot of people have stopped using it entirely in their personal lives, instead assuming the other person will see the missed call from them and call back, or they’ll text instead, or they’ve almost entirely cut out phone calls in their non-work life anyway so voicemail feels like a strange relic of the past. But whether or not people like it, voicemail is still very much a normal business tool — in most offices, anyway.

Is it possible that people think that if you take the message for them, they’ll be more likely to get a call back? A lot of people don’t listen to their voicemail as much as they used to, even at work, and it’s possible that these callers know from experience that their chances of a return call anytime soon are low. If it’s definitely not your job to pass messages on, another option would be to say, “I can give you her email address if you’d like to try emailing instead.” (And maybe pass on to someone with some power to address it that people need to deal with their voicemail messages more often.)

But if none of that solves it and people just want to tell you how much they dislike voicemail, all you can really do is what you’ve been doing. You could try adding, “I know she checks voicemail regularly so she should get back to you soon” and that might be the reassurance they need … but obviously only say that if you know it to be true.

4. Can I give my former boss/soon-to-be-boss-again a gift?

My boss left our company a few months ago. I really, really enjoyed working with him and I’m happy to report that I have been given an offer to work on his team at his new company!! He’s not technically my boss again until a week from now since I haven’t started yet.

I really want to give him a gift. Mainly because he has supported me through my job search (it wasn’t a guarantee that I would get the job, I still had to interview and I also interviewed many other places) but also because I just think he would like the items. It’s mostly snacks from a foreign country I went to.

By the way, if it matters at all, I am very well compensated, so I don’t think the typical worry about pay discrepancy between bosses and reports really matters.

Is that okay? A possible exception to the “gifts flow downward” rule?

I wouldn’t. If I were in his shoes, I’d feel awfully uncomfortable with anything that felt like it could be a thank-you gift for hiring you or which could seen by others that way.

It would be fine if it weren’t connected to him having just hired you. If you were already working together and you took a trip and brought back snacks, it would be fine to give him some. If he hadn’t just hired you but had been supportive during your search, it would be fine to give him some. But the optics of a gift right after he hired you are not good — it feels too much like a thank-you, and you should never imply that you think you were hired as a favor.

5. How long do I need to stay in my job after professional development they paid for?

A few months ago, I was feeling less than fulfilled at work, so I requested and received full funding for a professional development workshop as a way to break out of that rut. The workshop’s coming up in a couple weeks, but in the meantime, it’s become clear that attending one workshop is not going to solve the real problem, which is that my skills are pretty underused at my current job and despite the best intentions of my boss, that’s unlikely to change. As a result, I’m starting to look at job postings again, and hoping to use the workshop to do a little networking with that goal too.

But since work is paying for that workshop (travel, lodging, and registration), I feel like I need to time my job search appropriately so that I don’t just take the money and run. To avoid burning bridges, do I need to stay for at least three more months at my current job? Six months? More than that? Best as I can tell, there’s no policy about having to pay back the funding if I leave too soon after, but if you have a suggestion for how I could discreetly confirm that, I’d appreciate advice on that front too.

People leave after employer-paid professional development all the time; it’s just the way this stuff goes and it’s not generally a faux pas. There are some exceptions to that, like if you or your manager used a lot of political capital to get the training approved and it was a big financial stretch for your team after a lot of lobbying on your side and you got it approved by saying you’d use it to come back and do X in your job … and even then, it’s often less that you can’t leave and more that you need to acknowledge the bad timing when you do.

But as a general rule, when you’re job searching you’ve got to take the job you want when it becomes available. Often that does mean the timing is bad — you just did a workshop, or you agreed to train a new hire and now won’t be there to do it, or all sorts of other things. It’s a normal part of doing business and reasonable employers get that.

Some employers do have policies that you need to pay back the costs of certain types of training if you leave within X months of doing it, although that’s much more common with tuition reimbursement than with one-off workshops. But those policies are in writing and usually something you sign. You can check your employee handbook to make sure there’s nothing like that in there but otherwise, if you haven’t signed something to the contrary, you can safely assume there’s no payback clause in play.

{ 541 comments… read them below }

  1. Jellyfish*

    In my experience, voicemail is a black hole. If I leave a message and wait for a return call, the call will never come. If I have to communicate via phone, I’ll call back occasionally until I get the person.

    That’s why email or text is preferable – I’m not interrupting a meeting, irritating whoever else has to answer, or leaving a trail of missed calls like a stalker. Regardless, I’m not going to rely on a voicemail box that probably never gets checked.

    1. Ayla*

      I feel the same way. The most extreme example for me right now is my OB’s office–if I manage to catch a person on the phone, I usually get an answer or a callback. If it goes to voice-mail, I never hear a word… and at my next appointment, it’s “Why didn’t you tell me about this SOONER?”

      If you want to encourage voice-mail use, let people know it’s checked regularly and make sure it really is!

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        My old primary doctors office never returned voicemail messages. Horrible for a medical practice. My new one checks theirs so promptly that sometimes I hardly hang up before I get a callback, and frequently they’ve addressed whatever I had a question about already. I’ve actually she’d tears of joy dealing with them after so many years of stress at the old doctor’s office.

        1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          All the grammatical errors are due to the Autocorrupt From Hell that has possessed my phone.

          1. Lizzie (with the deaf cat)*

            I thought I had enough trouble with Autocarrot! But I am a bit interested in seeing what Autocorrect From Hell might do if it manages to start spreading more widely…

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Both of our kids’ medical providers respond incredibly promptly to VMs – much faster than emails, which tend to be answered at the very end of the day where the VM box is monitored by multiple people and handled very expeditiously. If one actually listens to the instructions in the VM message, often the call-back is hey-we-took-care-of-this instead of calling you back to see what you wanted. I’d be livid if medical professionals didn’t return my calls.

      2. MissBaudelaire*

        I was going to say the same thing! I remember during my second pregnancy, being sick and miserable and leaving message after message before finally going to the hospital where it turned out I was in preterm labor. “Why didn’t you call us!?!?” I did! Several times! No one calls me back!

    2. AcademiaNut*

      When answering machines first came out, they were amazing. You could leave non synchronous information with someone, without having to send a letter, and it cut down on playing phone tag. Once email and texting became standard, its utility dropped considerably, and the disadvantages stood out more. Having to pre-rehearse a complex message so that you could leave a clear voice-mail, having to listen to a whole long rambling message to find out if there was useful information, people who rattled off their name and number so fast you couldn’t get the details… I’m quite happy that I haven’t had to leave or take a voice mail in over a decade.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        So. Much. This. Voicemail is kind of fine if a) leavers actually and succinctly give you all of the important information you need, and b) receivers actually check it and call you back, but so many people don’t, on both ends, and everyone knows it.

        There is nothing worse in terms of this type of communication than someone leaving a long rambling message with the important information — if included at all — buried in the middle; or making the effort to listen to a voicemail for it just to say, “I didn’t want anything, no biggie,” or “Hey, call me back.” Gahhhhhh! Those are most of the voicemails I get. I get long rambling informationless “official” messages from my goddaughter’s school twice a week (I’m the emergency contact); I never listen to them anymore.

        If I don’t actually catch the person on the phone, voicemail is not the next best option. We have much better methods of asynchronous communication now; I can read a text at a glance instead of trying to scribble to capture information from a 2-minute voicemail (and having to start it over if I miss something). Just like email attachments and DocuSign and electronic dropboxes have superseded mail and faxing, and Zelle and Venmo and Cashapp have superseded paper checks**, texting (and even emailing) has superseded voicemail.

        **I was shocked to have to mail a paper check for something last week. When I dug out my checkbook, the last paper check I wrote? 2016.

        1. mikeyc*

          agreed! I always turn off my voicemail on my mobile phone because it’s always just been “hey it’s your dad call me back as soon as you can!” (and despite the message it’s never urgent!!) or “hi it’s dave from infotech recruitment services; just following up the email I sent about a role …… ” (the role is always inappropriate)

          I think I last wrote a cheque in … 2013? I had to pay one in relatively recently and I couldn’t work out how since my bank has closed most of it’s local branches (you can post it, apparently…)

          1. Teach*

            Hah, my dad definitely has “hey, it’s me, call me back” syndrome too. I think he secretly still believes I have an answering machine.

            1. Michigan mom*

              My mother likes to leave this voicemail on my cell phone “Hi Michigan Mom it’s your mom. I know you have voicemails so. Call me back”. I think her compromise is making it short?

              1. I Said Hey! (Nonny Nonny and a Ho Ho Ho)*

                Flip side to this, I successfully trained my mother to leave “hi, it’s me, there’s nothing wrong just calling to say hi”-type messages because she was so prone to just hanging up even when it was something important, and so I had learned that just getting the missed call from her had the power to send me into a panic that something was wrong back home, since I was usually the family “fixer”. By leaving the “just saying hi” message, we both felt better because she knew she had reached out, I knew it wasn’t urgent, and we both learned that I really would call her back once I’d turned the phone back on after class or whatever.

                1. NotAnotherManager!*

                  My spouse’s mother is like this. She’s trying NOT to stress him out by leaving VMs, but she stresses him out even more when she calls five times in an hour with no VM and he assumes the worst. (They have a large extended family, so there is always news of some sort, it seems, and they had an extended run of that news always being bad. His worry was not unfounded.)

                2. Lady Luck*

                  Hah, my mother-in-law will leave a voicemail saying to please call her back ASAP because it’s urgent.

                  So we scramble to call her back.

                  And she’ll say something like, “Do you guys like garlic in your pasta sauce? I’m making spaghetti when you come over on Friday and I don’t remember what you like.”

                  She does it all.the.time.

                3. Becky*

                  My mother will leave messages but half the time I don’t bother to listen, I just call her back anyway.

                  My mother will check the VMs on her landline but doesn’t know how to check the VMs on her cell phone.

                4. Sloan Kittering*

                  This is what text is good for. I think there’s no role for VM anymore as most phones prominently display any missed calls or there’s text for asynchronous messages you need to leave. The only exceptions are for businesses, because I hate getting texts from businesses.

                5. Elizabeth West*

                  I don’t leave voicemails for my mom unless it’s urgent; if she’s doing something or doesn’t make it to the phone in time (she’s pretty slow these days), she sees me on the Caller ID and just calls me back. I only leave a VM if it’s serious and she doesn’t answer so she’ll call me back faster. She’ll play it if she sees there is one.

                  She only uses her cell in special situations—like right now, she’s at Dad’s house going through all his stuff and took it with her. She knows how to text, so if I need to tell/ask her something and I don’t want to make her go get the phone, I just text it and she can address it whenever.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

            I too do not use my cell phone mailbox. I set up an outgoing message saying so and referring people to my home phone. I still get people helpfully telling me that my cell phone is broken. You can’t jump past the message to leave one so that’s fun.
            And to anyone saying “kids just don’t like phones anymore”… I’m early Gen X. I used to like answering machines and voicemail and then the systems broke.
            I’ve been disconnected on transfer. I’ve been transferred to voicemails that specifically say do not leave a voicemail. I’ve been transferred into press-a-number hell that leads me back to the same receptionist. I’ve been transferred to the completely wrong department in the wrong state. I give every business a few chances before I give up on their voice mail systems….and if it’s bad enough I will take my money elsewhere. ( don’t get me started on voicemail & chat bots that require A or B without offering none of the above.)

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              I have called my doctor’s office, got put on hold and then got connected–with another patient. Like. Okay then.

            2. Jellyfish*

              Good point about the VM systems that kick a caller back to reception. I wonder if that’s the case at OP3’s job? That is a frustrating set up all around.

            3. TheRain'sSmallHands*

              I’m also early Gen X and have always hated voicemail (phones in general – but voicemail in particular). From early in email and chat existence my voicemail would say “please email me, I don’t listen to voicemail.”

              1. Aggresuko*

                I wish I could do that, but I would be eviscerated by my manager at work. But seriously, JUST EMAIL ME. All the complicated shit I have to do needs to be written down and understanding “My name is Mumble I want my document mumble phone number” and no other information is excruciating.

            4. Smithy*

              I think this is why the OP is getting such widespread disappointment from giving the direction to use voicemail. You may certainly have some people who are expecting the receptionist to track someone down, but I think it’s more the feeling that voicemail as a “thing” doesn’t reliably work.

              I also wonder if some of the people calling are doing so because it’s a follow up to an email that’s had no response or they feel they have a quick question and don’t want to wait for the email back and forth. In those moments, being directed to a voicemail can feel like another dead end. Therefore, I do think it will be helpful for the receptionist to have other options to give callers – whether that’s an email address or a reply that voice mail is checked regularly (if that is the case…and if regularly means about every 48 hours….not once a week).

              As an early Millennial, I have found ways to enjoy and be frustrated by a variety of phone eras. And in this case, I really don’t think this is as much a generational “kids these days” issue but rather where the functionality in many places has dropped off significantly. In the same ways that many people may not have a snail mail box or if they do – check it once a month – so many people get jobs now where setting up their voice mail is not a Day or Week 1 activity. And might not even make their Year 1 list.

              I had one job where our voice mails were accessible on our phone system but also emailed to us – started another job in a very large organization with lots of travel/remote work and asked if that might be possible. It wasn’t possible, we weren’t given work cell phones, and it was just “assumed” it would never be a major issue. Which was true 98% of the time? Where I am now, they just assume you’ll be happy giving out your personal number because “it’ll rarely be used”.

              1. Autumn*

                I’m dealing with an office that literally puts all calls to voicemail. It’s incredibly irritating. Especially when even a receptionist could conceivably answer the question. Additionally I don’t want a call back when I’m working, driving or in the shower. When you are stuck leaving a voicemail you don’t get to finish the task, it’s still in limbo until you are called back. If you’re the customer it’s really irritating. Like, don’t you want my money? You can’t answer the phone?

                If someone returned calls in an hour or so maybe it wouldn’t be so bad…but it’s frequently days, or you’re playing phone tag!

                So yes, if you have a simple question leaving a voicemail that gets returned 3 days later or worse, never, is wicked irritating.

          3. LinuxSystemsGuy*

            Do UK banks have photo deposits? In the US it’s pretty common to allow checks to be endorsed with a “For deposit only” message with your account number and the app will let you deposit it by taking pictures of the front and back. Usually there are limits to how much you can deposit per month or week this way, but it’s fine for the occasional check.

            We actually have to write two checks a month, one to our housekeeper and one to our CSA. Both are small businesses that would prefer not to deal with credit card fees.

            1. londonedit*

              Yep, you can definitely deposit cheques via your banking app in the UK. Actual bank branches are becoming fewer and further between but the branch of my bank nearest to where I live also has a machine where you just feed in the cheque and it scans it and pays it into your account.

              1. KRM*

                I can deposit up to a certain amount via the app, and then otherwise I have to visit a local ATM (only came up when I cashed in a bunch of stock one time). But you should have lots of options for depositing a check that don’t involve an actual bank branch!

          4. ThatGirl*

            Wow, I don’t answer my (cell/only) phone much BECAUSE I rely on people leaving a voicemail – for instance a medical office, a potential job interview, my hair salon – all at least semi-important. Several years back I took the dog out for his evening walk and when I returned I had a voicemail from my stepmom – who doesn’t text and couldn’t have emailed me at that point – letting me know my dad was in the hospital. It only takes a minute to read the transcription or listen to it.

            1. Bee*

              Yeah, since 95% of my calls from unknown numbers are just spam, I count on the people who DO need to speak with me leaving a message, which….is a flawed system, as we’re seeing here. But I’m not going to start answering all the calls from telemarketers and scam artists, so here we are.

              1. Just Another Starving Artist*

                Amen. Unless we interact regularly enough for you to be in my contacts, I’m not going to recognize your number. And even if you *are* in my contacts, I still need to know if this is a four-alarm fire or just a chat session, because it affects when I call you back. Just leave a flippin’ message.

              2. Elizabeth West*

                This, and I’m job hunting so I don’t want to miss a call, but I don’t want to verify my number to spammers either. On applications that give a contact option, I just check email.

                I use a Google Voice number on my resume and applications, and it attempts to transcribe the message (sometimes hilariously). But it will notify me if I have a voicemail and then I can call people back.

            2. JustaTech*

              “Read the transcript” – so much this! I am so much more likely to interact with my voicemail since I got an iPhone that (attempts) to transcribe my voicemail so I can quickly read if it’s spam or from the vet or car repair shop or whoever.

              My work VM does a nice thing where it sends a audio file to my email so I at least don’t have to try to remember how to call into the system.

              1. Butterfly Counter*

                Ha! This.

                I don’t know how to call into the system AND I don’t know how to get voicemails off the physical phone, either. It wants me to change my password every 3 months, but I get a voicemail maybe once in that time and by the time I go through the whole dance of remembering my “new” password and resetting the password in order to get my spam email, I’ve forgotten the reset password. And I definitely don’t remember the whole routine it six months later when I have my next voicemail.

          1. Mockingjay*

            These are robocall announcements sent by the school or district as a synchronized blast to every contact listed for a student: school closings, standardized test dates, etc.

            1. This Old House*

              Yeah, my kids’ actual school only calls parents with most of the robocalls, but religious education calls all the contacts, so their grandparents get an unnecessary call every time class is cancelled b/c of weather or something. Then my mom calls me to make sure I got the message (I did). All very frustrating and inefficient.

          2. MissBaudelaire*

            I get once a week calls. “Good evening, school families. Here are your weekly updates. Blahblahblahb….” and then because of the fact that some messages to leave a voicemail are long, it’ll cut off and start over twice.

        2. DataGirl*

          I have to pay several things by check still. Rent, the water bill (no online payment option through my city), taxes. Also we have accounts at multiple banks- there is a huge fee to do electronic transfers between banks but I can write a check from one account and mobile deposit it into the other account for free.

        3. Yorick*

          I agree with everything you said. But in this situation, people are choosing to call back over and over again and blame OP for not being able to talk to anyone real instead of trying to find another asynchronous method. This is pretty crazy, imo.

          I don’t like to leave messages and I’ll sometimes choose to try again later. But I don’t call back right away, and I certainly don’t take it out on the person who transferred me to the right person’s line.

          1. SloanGhost*

            I agree. I hate voicemails too, but having worked reception for the past several years I can say the time loss from interactions like this is significant enough that if a lot of people are doing it, it is prohibitive in performing your job.

        4. Koalafied*

          I write a lot of checks as a homeowner. Contractors rarely take credit cards or online payments, and the few that do almost universally pass the 3.75%+ processing fee on to the customer because their margins are too slim to eat the cost themselves. When I’m paying $3,000 for something that’s a non-trivial added cost.

          I also write checks to my medical marijuana dispensary every month, because credit card companies are either still legally prohibited from facilitating payments for marijuana under federal law… or if they’re not outright prohibited it’s at least legally gray enough that none of them are willing to risk it. (There’s been lobbying for several years, supported by senators from medical marijuana states, that’s been trying to carve out a special exemption to help cannabis businesses that are in compliance with state laws gain access to the full range of banking services, but I haven’t been following the issue closely enough to know whether there’s been any super recent progress.)

          1. Arabella Flynn*

            It may depend on where you are, or whether the cards are taken directly or through an escrow service. I’m in Massachusetts, and every dispensary I’ve been in was happy to take my debit card.

        5. Jora Malli*

          I wish email attachments had fully superseded faxing, but there are a lot of government entities that will still only accept applications or other documentation by fax. I work in a public library and helping people fax over their snap or unemployment paperwork is a pretty substantial part of my job, because the office supply/mail stores in our area charge $2 a page for fax services and the library’s fax is free. I hate fax machines with the fire of a thousand Suns, but until my state starts taking that paperwork as an email attachment, I am a professional faxing assistant.

          1. CoveredinBees*

            I think this has since changed, but I’m convinced that fax machines still exist in the US because of HIPAA. Until they got electronic health records figured out, emailing was not considered a secure method of communication but faxing was. You know, just shooting out pieces of paper in some office or maybe even a Kinkos.

            1. Molly the cat*

              It’s more the line in between the two endpoints that’s the problem iirc. Email is only a secure method of communication if it’s encrypted, and the certs to get that to cooperate between different organizations can be a pain and a half

            2. Anon Medical Records Clerk*

              Also, there are now several electronic fax programs, so your transmitting PDF’s from your computer to either another e-fax program or a physical machine. From what the “privacy police” tell those of us at my job who deal with records – the fax is still more reliably secure because emails can be hacked, but it’s almost impossible to hack a fax transmission.

              And also – if your encryption certain don’t match the receivers certs, it’s just a cluster.

      2. Amber T*

        Agreed. I do 90% of my work via email. Occasionally it makes sense to pick up the phone and call someone… but if I get voicemail, I almost always hang up and send an email saying “hey, just called you, want to catch up with you on X, can you give me a call back or let me know when’s a good time to call?”

        Recently had to do a project where I had to reach out to a bunch of people, a bunch of who didn’t use email and preferred a phone call. Which was fine, I’m happy to talk on the phone… but the amount of phone tag I had to play because we kept missing each other and leaving voicemails… ugh.

      3. QA Peon*

        Sooooo many people leave such bad vmail messages. So bad. Like 3 minutes of rambling followed by their phone number on rapid fire so that you have to listen to the whole darn message 3 times to get the phone number.

        I always do Name, number, problem synopsis, Name, number – gives people 2 chances at getting my number and way ups my call back chances.

        1. Usagi*

          I think the fact you say it at the beginning really helps. Obviously it makes sense to say it at the end, that’s the “so anyway, please call me back” part of the message, but by saying it at the beginning, it means that if I didn’t catch your number the first time, I only have to listen to the first 10 seconds of your message, rather than either having to find the point in the message that you said your number at the end, or having to just listen to the whole message again.

      4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        oh dear you’ve just reminded me of a long rambling message I left a contractor once, which I ended saying “in which case, please ignore this message, oh dear but if you’re still listening, and have only just found out there was no need to… um oops sorry to have wasted your time!”
        And I believe the case in question did indeed apply. Luckily I got an equivalent of a modern “LOL nevermind” back from her.

      5. Just Another Starving Artist*

        “Having to pre-rehearse a complex message so that you could leave a clear voice-mail,”

        Wait, what? “Hi, this is X regarding Y, I can be reached at 555-555-5555. Thank you!” It’s the same message I’ve been leaving since I was old enough to talk into a phone; what about a voicemail needs to be rehearsed?

        1. Splendid Colors*

          The “regarding Y” part needs to be worded properly. Not easy for everyone.

          What I find tricky is when the greeting lists a bunch of information I need to leave in my message, not all of which I have memorized and definitely not those pieces of information in that order. “Last name, then spell your last name. First name, then spell your first name. Your phone number, address, patient ID, date of birth, why you’re calling, the last time you saw the doctor, what insurance you have…” Unless I literally get a pen and take notes of what information they need in what order, I am not going to remember it all by the end of that list. I realize this means they can verify my identity and consult my file before calling me back, so there’s a business justification, but it doesn’t make it easier.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, I would nope out of that. Ridiculous.

            I learned very young how to leave a concise message, first for answering services, then for voice mail. Clearly and slowly say, then spell my long last name, then give the phone number twice, again clearly and slowly, then a brief summary of what the call is about. Brief, not the equivalent of some doctor’s two -sided paper form.

    3. Snuck*

      Agree! Just as people aren’t leaving voice mails anymore, people aren’t listening to them either!

      1. Cait*

        If this is so, I think the OP should have a discussion with her team about instituting a voicemail-checking schedule. Like Person A checks the voicemail every morning at opening, Person B checks it right before lunch, and Person C checks it an hour before close (or whatever). That way, when people complain about getting voicemail, OP can say, “We have a voicemail checking policy where we check voicemails three times a day. We will get back to you today.” This might assuage people’s fear that leaving a voicemail will mean they never hear back.

        1. Ally McBeal*

          OP says that customers are upset when they’re transferred to a particular person’s line and hit voicemail, so your comment doesn’t quite apply here – if this were about the main line’s VM, sure, but not for individual voicemail accounts.

          At both my current job and my most recent job, though, my VOIP can be set to send the audio file of the VM to me in an email, where I can listen to it in an audio player without having to follow all the prompts on my VOIP – I much prefer that, and I doubt it’s an expensive add-on. I also spell out my email address in my VM, so people can email me instead of leaving a message.

      2. Anon Supervisor*

        We get VM’s from insurance adjusters who, despite our outgoing message requesting the name, DOB, and claim number, insist on requesting only a call back without leaving any identifying info. Yeah…no…

        1. Anon Medical Records Clerk*

          Before you are too hard on those adjusters – their company may specify that they aren’t allowed to leave anything that includes PII/PHI on a voicemail upon penalty of loss of your job if you are caught in violation.

          I work for a primary care practice, and do spend time following up and requesting summaries of care (so that the specialist and primary care aren’t recommending conflicting treatment plans), and since it isn’t my private information I am not allowed to leave it in voicemail. If I get voicemail I generally flip back to the desk to ask if there is a better time for me to reach Medical Records.

        2. Anon Medical Records Clerk*

          Before you get too judgemental – those adjusters may work for a company that does not permit them, upon pain of being FIRED, to leave a voicemail with PII/PHI in it (because they are unsure if it is an encrypted or password protected voicemail). The health system that I work for does not allow me to leave any voicemails containing PII/PHI unless the voicemail at the other practice explicitly states that the line is password protected or encrypted in order to protect the private information of our clients.

          1. Texan In Exile*

            Yes! I am temping for an insurance company and the (hours) of training I have to take is almost all about DO NOT SHARE PI and PHI EVER! WITH ANYONE!

            (I am not in a position where I have access to this information, but whatever. I understand their point.)

            1. Anon Medical Records Clerk*

              You actually may – depending on how the terms PII and PHI are defined. In the health system I work for, PII/PHI is defined as any combination of information that narrows a population down to just one possible person (so name + DOB, name +phone number, name + case/claim number, etc). And I do not fully know the regulations, but I think the European Commentors here could tell us – Europe has much tighter rules than the US when it comes to privacy of data.

              1. Canadian Librarian #72*

                This may be different in the US, but in Canada, personal information and personal health information are defined by law (PHIPPA and PIPEDA). I don’t think this can functionally vary in interpretation between one company or agency and another, since that could put them in contravention of provincial and/or federal law. /not a lawyer

      3. Aggresuko*

        I have three voicemails right now and god, I don’t want to listen to them. Odds are the person already emailed anyway, or if they didn’t, left an incomprehensible message (see above).

    4. A.N. O'Nyme*

      I usually use voicemail on my personal phone…mostly to see if the call from an unknown number is legit or not. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message or text me afterwards. If they don’t… probably spam.

      Funniest is when the spam calls do somehow leave a voicemail – it’s either silence and then the sound of hanging up, hold music, or a long silence followed by the sound of a phone being picked up and a mildly confused “bonjour?”. Still not sure what was up with that last one.

      1. Random Bystander*

        I think that happens when the auto-dialer system mistakes your outgoing message for a person answering, and then your voicemail beep happens and records the switch-over from the auto-dialer to the rep who is supposed to come on.

      2. DataGirl*

        I still use voicemail on my cell phone for exactly this reason- if I don’t recognize the number it’s probably spam but it could be a doctor’s office or something work related (since we’re no longer in the office our cell phones are the only way to reach us). If the unknown caller leaves a message great, I know who it was and can call them back. If they don’t I assume it was spam.

        At the office is different though, I recently went back in after 2 years out and the message light on my desk phone was on but I didn’t bother to listen to anything- those messages are likely a year or two old. If colleagues didn’t figure out to email me in 2 years during a pandemic when most of us were working from home, that’s on them.

        1. Anon Supervisor*

          My Voicemail system uses talk to text and will dictate the voicemail and send me a text. Unless the text is completely garbled, I never have to listen to a rambling vm again!

    5. Medusa*

      I have always hated voicemail/answering machines. I hate leaving them, I hate receiving them, I hate listening to them. Nowadays I don’t understand why people leave me voice messages since you can literally just text or email me. It’s a little more understandable in a work situation, especially if you don’t have someone’s email and it’s not appropriate to text, but still, just email me.

    6. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      I have hardly ever listened to my voicemail. It’s so full up with spam callers that I’d have to sit through all that just to get to the actual stuff that I can’t be bothered.

      A number that appears more than thrice on caller ID, doesn’t return spam if plugged into a search engine, is from my country and looks familiar I’ll probably call them back myself.

      But I much prefer email or text. My family and friends know to text me rather than call.

        1. Teach*

          As a teacher, totally forgot I technically had a voicemail for months. When I checked it, there were three messages–all spam. Kids and parents like email, fortunately.

          1. Selina Luna*

            I don’t even have a phone in my classroom, and I refuse to give my personal number to students and parents. I used the Remind app attached to a dummy Google Voice phone number when we were teaching from home, and I’ll set that up again if I need to (I’ve deleted it for now), but I strongly prefer the written record of emails.

            1. Teach*

              Also use Google Voice. Much better than a bunch of random parents having your cell. I wish I could rip my class phone out of the wall!

        2. kicking_k*

          I have no idea how I would even make my work phone play voicemails. I know the phone has the functionality. But everyone who ever calls me comes through the reception desk and they always email me to let me know who it was and what it was about. (I didn’t ask them to!) I’ve occasionally wondered if I should find out enough to record a message saying “This voicemail not in use, email or call my mobile” but I haven’t got around to it. I’ve only been in post since 2020 so I don’t thi there’s much assumption I’ll be near my landline phone.

          I haven’t really thought about this but from my end, I’ve always assumed that if I get a robo-voice and not a recorded message from a real person, then that voicemail is not actually used, and I will contact the person another way. I dislike the phone in general though, so am glad to have an excuse to email and would never moan at the receptionist!

          1. Pocket Mouse*

            Yeah, my outgoing message asks the caller to email me at [email address]… and then there’s a long silence before the message ends to dissuade them from staying on to leave a message.

          2. Becky*

            I have a work voicemail–I have no idea how to change the message that callers hear (or what they actually hear at all–though I could call and see) nor do I actually know if there is a way to check it via my phone–my work system automatically takes any voicemail and emails it to me as an mp3.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          I am speaking about work! My voicemail message has an instruction to email me.

          I get a LOT of spam. Usually from companies trying to sell me something- software or hardware.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            And yeah, while I work IT a lot of our business isn’t phone based as we’re not first line. Usually a ticket gets logged and makes it way down to us if it requires higher knowledge/local support for our region.

            If our phones are ringing it’s usually someone from another IT department calling or our data hosting company. If all heck breaks loose it’s that plus our higher ups. Generally speaking end users don’t ring us direct – because they have learnt that won’t get their ticket done faster.

        4. TheRain'sSmallHands*

          I never did. After a bit – the phone guy was a friend of mine and we set up my box to not accept messages and have an outgoing message that had my email address and “this voicemail is not checked.” The company I worked for had an email/chat culture though.

        5. starsaphire*

          At work, they took out our phones ages ago. We call each other using Teams. If the other person doesn’t pick up, you just type your message in the chat.

          Sheer bliss!

    7. Mangoes*

      My problem with leaving voicemails is that I’m very likely to miss the return call, leading to a long phone tag cycle and having to leave more voicemails to say I’m returning the return call. This seems like an outdated system compared to email, messaging, or scheduling calls for a specific time. Though come to think of it what did people do before cellphones? Did the doctor’s office call people back at home while they were at the office?

      1. TechWorker*

        I would guess it was just more common to provide a work number and perhaps your doctor would use that if they were calling during work hours? I feel like loads of systems still have the hangover from that where they ask for multiple landline phone numbers even though many people now only use a mobile.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

          And then there is the doctor’s office whose administrator kept deleting my cell phone number from their system because my house (home office) had static… and then getting annoyed when I didn’t respond to text messages to my landline. (They finally got a different person for that role.)

        2. KRM*

          Or the “home”, “work”, and “cell” fields for numbers. Uhhh, I only have one of those. And when I did work somewhere with a work number, the only voicemails I ever got were 5% from sales reps I had a relationship with, 15% sales reps I had no relationship with, and the rest was all from one recruiting firm who constantly called most people on our floor. That must have been the worst place to work ever, as we could trace the progression. First phone call was “I got your number from a colleague and thought you’d be great for this job” followed by a couple of “sorry I missed you, here’s my cell, call me anytime” onto “Hey KRM so sorry we didn’t connect, you can call me anytime” chummy sounding BS. One rep would cycle through, there might be a month or so pause, then another would start the process.

          1. Anon Medical Records Clerk*

            I just put my cell number in all three slots – assuming it’s a contact form for somebody who I actually want to have my phone number.

        1. Texan In Exile*

          Trust me I have tried.

          I have learned never to put my phone number on any online contact form. It seems they always call instead of emailing. If I wanted to talk on the phone, I would have called instead of sending an online form.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Before cell phones there were answering machines.

        I still have one because I hate the voicemail on a landline thing. If I walk in the door and there is a small polite beeping coming from the office, I know to go push a button and hear that my thing I ordered is in.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

          Before answering machines, there was an assumption of single income homes … someone would keep trying until they reached a human. Or they would give up and you would have to call them back without knowing they had ever tried.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            And for a long time, there were party lines. And your neighbor wouldn’t answer your ring but could at least let you know someone was trying to reach you.

      3. Nanani*

        People used to use voice mail (or rather, answering machines that were literally casette recording machines plugged into a land line) a lot more, but also expectations were different.
        In 1993, your doctor called your land line at home during business hours, left a message on your machine, and did not expect a call back until the next morning.
        Now, everything is accelerated and people leave messages like “call me when you get this” – not how things were before everyone had a cell.

    8. Ed123*

      I didn’t even know I had a voicemail. I remember some years ago opting to not have a voicemail because it cost extra and couldn’t really think of a reason to have one. Maybe a year ago I got a text from operator that someone had left a voicemail. It was very exciting. My first voicemail.

    9. JayNay*

      #3 is easily solved – just give people an email address! it can be a general one like contact@ yourcompany. com and you can forward emails to the right colleague.
      you’re getting the clear message that asking people to leave voicemails is not working for them anymore. why spend time and energy arguing that when you can just give them another contact option and save yourself the hassle.
      i dislike voicemail too and often you end up leaving an email adress anyway lol.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

        I tried that with my doctor. They aren’t set up to use email. :(
        They only added an email field to their database in 2020 when they started taking video calls.

        1. TheRain'sSmallHands*

          My health system now wants all communication through MyChart (aka Epic) – so I get an email telling me to check myChart. Since I know its the doctor, I’m usually pretty sure what its about and can check if I need to. (Right now I have an email telling me to check about my colonoscopy, but its too early for the results, so its got to be the “we did the procedure” update to the chart. Next week I’ll check for the results.

          Epic also measures responses when I send a message to the doctor from it – so someone in management makes sure that the doctor or someone else is at least reading messages.

          1. Tierrainney*

            Epic and MyChart work great most of the time, but occasionally, just don’t.

      2. Amber T*

        Thinking back to my reception days… if I gave out our partners’ email addresses to everyone who called in, I’d be fired. I guess it really depends on where you work or your field, but we get so many cold calls for both professional and personal services, we rely on our front desk to be the gatekeeper. If the person isn’t at their desk when reception forwards a call, it’s voicemail or bust if you call the front desk.

        It sounds like OP is getting a bunch of really rude callers… I can’t really tell from the letter but I’m guessing they’re legitimate (meaning, calls that her colleagues would want to take if they were available). As far as suggested language, instead of just putting them straight to voicemail, I’d go back to the caller and say “Jane isn’t available right now, can I get you her voicemail?” Given the rudeness, they’d probably respond with “well where is she?” or “when will she be available?” From there, I’d just say “sorry, I don’t have her calendar. Your best bet is to leave a voicemail.” If the norm is to provide an email, you can offer it here too.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, years ago when I was on reception you’d definitely get people who’d be annoyed if they couldn’t reach the person they wanted, but there wasn’t a lot I could do about that. I wasn’t allowed to give out email addresses (in publishing you’re always getting people who want the personal contact details of the owner/publisher/senior editor so they can circumvent the normal process and spam them with terrible book ideas) and I had to do a lot of gatekeeping to make sure the only people I actually put through to anyone on the phone were people they knew and wanted to speak to. So all I could do if I did put someone through and they came back to me was say ‘I’m sorry, your best bet is to leave a message on their voicemail; or I can take a message for you and leave it on their desk’. People would want me to tell them when the person would be back, but most of the time I genuinely wouldn’t know and I also wasn’t allowed to give out people’s whereabouts, so I’d just say ‘I’m afraid I don’t have access to their calendar; you can feel free to try again later or leave a message’. That was about all I could say!

        2. LW #3*

          So I’m LW #3. I work for a state office so yeah it would be heavily frowned upon if I gave out everyone’s email. I’m also not a receptionist. It’s sort of difficult to describe but in my division we have different programs and everyone either supports or manages a different program. I support and work with a program that historically gets a lot of calls for regulation clarification and permits, so that’s why I’m first line on the phones, but the calls roll to different staff if I am busy or away. But I think people think that I’m a front desk/receptionist when that isn’t the case so they expect me to have people’s calendars. I don’t.

          1. Amber T*

            Ah, yeah, there’s a big difference between a front desk receptionist and the person who just has to field most of the calls. Do most of the people who call in want to talk to a specific person or just the person who handles X? If it’s the latter, is it possible to have a generic email and inbox set up and direct callers to that?

            1. LW #3*

              It’s about 50/50. We are a pretty small department so maybe a grand total of 3 people might handle X. We do have a couple generic emails/inboxes for bigger programs though.

              1. Anon Medical Records Clerk*

                Do you (and your teammates) notice any pattern to the questions customers are calling to ask you? If so would it be possible to get IT and your boss to approve an FAQ section to the contact information section for your programs? It may help for some of the “frustrated and don’t want to leave a VM quick question” crew. It could also give you and your coworkers to refer to (and send callers to) while waiting for the other person to get back to a phone.

          2. Lynca*

            Ah! We also had a rolling call system for years. We finally switched to more updated system and that solved a lot of these issues because the phones didn’t ping around offices trying to find someone to answer it if they refused to leave a message.

            So how supported by management do you feel? Because where I work I was okay directly explain things like: “You have to leave a message with Mr. Smith in order to have him contact you. That is the way to get in contact with him. The rolling call system in this building does not immediately route you to a front desk or receptionist if don’t leave a message. I work in X and I won’t be able to assist you directly.”

            I have been mistaken for a receptionist more than once (I have been one in the past) and I was pretty much told to correct them if I got mistaken for a receptionist. And also just instruct them to leave a message with the person then I could end the call since it’s not for me.

            1. LW #3*

              The rolling call system actually works reasonably well for us. Everyone in my position is told that answering the main line is part of their job so everyone sort of acts as someone fielding the calls.

              I have about as much support from management as two Band-Aids holding up a D cup.

              1. Amber T*

                I’m sorry, management sounds awful but “as much support as two Band-Aids holding up a D cup” is going to be used frequently by me from now on.

          3. Birdie*

            I feel your pain. I had to take on first line duties for phones when our office admin left in Feb. 2020……a role that still had not been filled when I left in March 2022 “because of Covid.” I didn’t have calendars, nor did I want them (and believe me, some staff tried to foist them on me!). Lots of our staff actually worked out in the field, so of course they were not at their desks. Things got even worse when we switched from landlines to VOIP. Despite me all but begging, there were still people who had not set up their voicemail when I left, 18 months after the switch. And the VOIP phones had that nice feature where you could set it up to roll automatically to another phone, like your cell. Again, very few people did that. So I spent far too much of my day getting yelled at because a caller got someone’s black hole voicemail box.

            Just one of the many reasons I left.

          4. Pointy's in the North Tower*

            Also a state employee whose interaction with people is mostly phone-based. When I started my position, we had LOTS of people who would play musical [role they needed] if the first one didn’t answer. I put a stop to that by transferring them right back to the same person each time they called again to complain about getting VM and ask for [role they needed]. Would also tell them they had to leave a message if the person didn’t answer because otherwise, so sorry, no one else is available. For the most part, all the musical [role I need] has stopped, and people leave a message. (Yes, everyone in that particular role checks their VM whenever they have a message, and if the person asks for a return call, they get one, so it’s not a ‘no one ever calls me back situation.’)

            I also changed our VM greeting to include ‘we cannot return messages if you do not leave a phone number.’ About two weeks of not returning calls put a stop to messages with no name or callback number.

        3. TheRain'sSmallHands*

          There are people and jobs for whom administrative assistants are important – unfortunately most of those people don’t have admins any longer. But being able to screen and triage your executive’s calls was/is a vital feature of the job – and voicemail isn’t the answer because a bunch of voicemails from salespeople isn’t any better than a bunch of emails from salespeople and voicemail can’t triage. Email actually can triage a little by putting rules in place – all emails from anyone at go into the trash.

      3. Lynca*

        This isn’t a good idea unless you get the okay to provide an email address.

        I detailed this in another post but my mom was a social worker. In the days prior to email (or caller ID), we’d get calls from people looking for her on our unlisted number because they had convinced someone to give it to them. Even when they got email, it wasn’t for the people they were helping to email them at, it was interoffice use only. Depending on what type of work they do and the policies they have, there may not be a easy solution.

    10. Flower necklace*

      This has been my experience as well. I’ve tried leaving voicemails, but no one seems to check them anymore. So now I keep trying until I get an actual person on the phone.

    11. Teach*

      This can often be true, but my dislike for voicemail is for a slightly different reason. If I’m calling a business, I probably specifically staked out time during my work day and their business hours, and won’t be available by phone for the rest of the day. If they do call back, it will go to my voicemail (which, I’ll admit, I hate checking and usually avoid, as Allison describes above), and when my business day ends and I call back, they’ll probably have gone home too. If I was a caller, I would definitely appreciate getting the email address. OP, I’m sure many of them are just venting their frustration that they used their lunch/coffee break for this and didn’t get through – I’m sorry you have to deal with that! I do my best to never blame reception, but I’m sure the annoyance sometimes comes through in my voice.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        This is a good point. ExJob didn’t let us have cell phones on the floor. So if I called a place during my break/lunch, and they didn’t answer, well, I couldn’t do anything until my next break or until I get out of work. So we’re playing phone tag, and it’s super irritating, especially when I know they might not actually get back to me until the next day, and again, I couldn’t have my phone on the floor.

      2. Anon Medical Records Clerk*

        I also always go out of my way to be polite if I have rolled back to the front/reception. I accept that the department is away from the phone and ask if there is a better time to try and contact them.

        For the record I’m generally trying to reach Medical Records or the Billing Dept – and it’s sad but no longer surprising to me how many of those Medical Office Departments don’t have or don’t state that the voicemail is either encrypted or password protected to ensure security of the PII/PHI they are asking in the voicemail prompt for me to leave. It can be a bit of a no win situation.

      3. Gan Ainm*

        Yes, and in addition to the timing issue, by the time I’ve resorted to a phone call I’ve already exhausted all other options. Logging into portals / chat bots / text/ submitting tickets through online queue systems / emails / magic 8 balls, you name it. If I’m calling it’s because it’s a last resort and likely time sensitive, so getting a voicemail, which in my experience is not going to be returned anytime this decade, is pretty annoying.

        Not OPs fault and she can only work within the system they have, but since she seems surprised / confused by the common reluctance to use voicemail this may help explain it.

      4. Old School HTML*

        This is one of my mental hurdles for the job search — having to answer my phone or check voice messages. Neither one is appealing.

    12. justabot*

      Since many of my work voicemails are from people looking for specific information, my message gives my email address and says what information to include in an email message. It’s also so much easier to get their request in writing and avoid playing phone tag. Most of the time I have zero need to actually talk to them and sending them the info they are looking for makes them go away, and I can schedule a call with anyone who needs more info.

      The only thing I DO like about voice mails is that our phone system transcribes the messages and we get them in an email. So it’s easy to just forward the email to the person who should be handling it, so if someone forwards a voicemail to me, I can actually read the message in my inbox like an email before calling the person back. So it is actually helpful if the person leaves a voicemail. The transcribing feature is key though, otherwise having to call into the VM system and be all ready with a pen and paper to catch a name and number and listen for what they are asking, is time consuming and just a pain, especially if you are going through 20 voice mails.

      1. Abogado Avocado*

        Our voice mail system transcribes messages and emails them, too — after a fashion. Many times, I have to listen to the voice mail to figure out what was said as the transcription can be hilariously incorrect.

        I do find, however, that it helps to tell callers, when offering to transfer them to voice mail, that their message will be transcribed and immediately emailed to the recipient. They seem comforted that their message isn’t going into a black hole.

      2. Random Bystander*

        Especially true if you have people leaving messages with a return number at a rate only slightly slower than an auctioneer (requiring replay of the message multiple times to get the correct #).

    13. Falling Diphthong*

      I’d further say that the degree of blackhole-ness has increased in recent years, then gone exponential with the Great Resignation.

      Medical billing is my bete noire of polite voicemails that I might as well be leaving with my toaster.

      1. Anon Medical Records Clerk*

        Oh yes – I always groan (internally) when I have to deal with Billing Offices, because even when I can leave a VM because the line is protected/encrypted, those departments never, ever call you back. Which means I’m calling back in two days anyways……

    14. LadyFiona*

      Everyone has listed some valid complaints about voice mail but no one yet had mentioned my irritation: the stupid automated greetings that take 45 sec to listen to! Yes, I know the ——- number is not available! Yes, I know I can delete or press one or * to go back or whatever. No matter how short my message is to people calling me, the system still thinks they have to listen to excessive directions.

      1. Susan Ivanova*

        I worked at a place that had an even worse system: it supported mass voicemails, which upper management used to send company updates. They were never shorter than 10 minutes, and if you had one, you could not get to your other voicemails until you had listened to the entire thing. All for something that could’ve been ignored just as easily if it was an email.

          1. Susan Ivanova*

            That’s pretty much what people did, but of course there wasn’t a decent volume control on them so you’d hear it running softly in the background when people got real voicemails that they had to get to. This was also the place that was a huge cube farm so there were lots of them.

      2. Splendid Colors*

        What I have come to hate recently, after making multiple calls to the same agency or office, is that you can’t “jump ahead” in the automated menu system.

        I have to listen to “press 1 for English, 8 para Español” before pressing 1 for English,

        then “press 1 if you are a doctor’s office, press 2 if you are enrolling for the first time, press 3 if you want to change your address, [options 4-7], press 8 if you need to talk to [option I actually need]” before pressing 8.

        And so on for a couple more levels. If I could just press 1, 8, 2, 2 I could cut about 5 minutes off that call listening to all the options that are not my option.

        I suppose this is to keep people from just mashing buttons to get to ANY live person, even if that person has no connection to the relevant department (and probably can’t transfer because they’re working from home these days).

    15. Asenath*

      But surely voice mail isn’t so weird that, when you are told on the phone that this business uses voicemail, it’s reasonable to use it and not call back saying “I got voicemail, do something about it!”. My own personal quirk is that I do have voicemail on a landline, and EVERYONE I deal with gets that number, not my cell phone number. I really dislike getting calls on my cell phone since they always seem to arrive when I’m out in public or, conversely, attending or participating in something where it’s appropriate to mute my cell phone. Moreover, calls sometimes (often, actually) involve something personal – medical or financial. The medical crowd here don’t seem to like using email for privacy reasons, neither wants to discuss something I want to discuss in public or away from my records. I had a problem recently with my doctor’s office, which I gave my cell phone number in a weak moment and which promised to use it as a secondary number if they couldn’t reach me otherwise, started calling me on it. I nearly missed one important call – by pure luck I’d turned off “do not disturb” after leaving an event – so I told them to take the “wrong number” off my file. But voicemail, no problem. Especially for a business or individual that routinely uses it, as this one does.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Agree with the first statement – using voicemail is not weird for business — it’s weird after being told that you might get voicemail to call back telling the person “I got voice mail!” as if that is a perplexing and difficult thing to navigate.

        1. londonedit*

          Yep, that’s definitely the weird bit. If I was transferred to someone and got their voicemail, either I’d leave a message or, more likely, I’d send them an email saying hi, just tried to call you but got your voicemail so here’s an email with the question I was going to ask. I wouldn’t even think to call the receptionist back and berate them for the fact that I got someone’s voicemail. There’s nothing they can do about that – and it’s a huge waste of my time and theirs!

        2. Seeking Second Childhood, CTA*

          I would suggest that if businesses getting enough complaints about being transferred to voicemail that a employee call in and get transferred to voice mail and make sure the system is functioning as expected. I’ve been put into more than one circular press-a-number scenario that took me back to the original receptionist.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            So have I.

            As well as leaving voicemail that nobody ever returns.

            It’s particularly annoying when the receptionist says “Let me transfer you to X and they will answer your question!” as though X is at their desk answering calls even when the receptionist knows X is never at their desk and everyone has to leave a voicemail. How hard is it to change that to “Leave a message with X and they will call you back.”

            1. M313*

              To be totally fair, I worked at a medical billing company where my department was saddled with the job of taking calls and passing them to the appropriate rep, and it wasn’t at all uncommon for said reps to tell me they’d take a call from a patient…and then instead send the call directly to their voicemail instead.

              I REPEATEDLY asked them not to do this, to just TELL US if they were too busy to take the call, since there was no more surefire way to get a patient to immediately call back in a frothing rage than to send them straight to voicemail like that, as opposed to letting us explain that so-and-so was busy but would (probably, maybe, theoretically) call them back if they left a voicemail. But they just never stopped.

              Why yes, I am still a bit salty over this years later, how could you tell?

      2. Washi*

        Yeah, I work in healthcare and call doctors offices all the time so believe me I get the hate for voicemail…but harrassing the front desk for it is just dumb – like what is she going to do about it? Voicemail is still so common in my field that I can’t imagine getting this bent out of shape about it.

        It slightly reassures me when the voicemail message includes something about how the voicemail is checked between x and y hours and calls are returned within 1 business day or something, partly because then I at least know when I can start following up. And yeah, being reassured by the front desk that so and so really does check and return calls is also nice and might slightly cut back on the calls from more reasonable people?

      3. Jellyfish*

        Recently, I dealt with a major banking issue that was not my mistake, and on them to resolve. I sent emails, left voicemails, and got nothing. The same teller answered almost every time I called back, maybe twice a week. When I finally went in person, the bank manager chided me for not leaving a message and waiting for a call back. I told him I’d left messages once a week for a month. He shrugged it off and said, “I guess I haven’t checked for a few days.”

        My goal isn’t to whine or irritate people, but if I need to talk to someone in real time, I’m going to follow up at polite intervals one way or another.

        I’m not discounting OP3’s experience that people are being rude or demanding a magical fix. I’ve worked in reception; demanding callers happen far too often. As the caller though, I’ve learned that work VM is usually a brush off. It gets me off the phone without obligating the callee to do anything. People call because they need an answer, so giving them some alternative may help.

    16. Aqua409*

      I work at a company that has a strict communication policy that you have to return all voicemails within one business day. (Friday night or over the weekend will get a return call on Monday.)
      But, they also have a setup that it will email you the voicemail audio when one is left for you and with the system you can hit a number to skip my voice instructions and allows you to just leave your message.
      It’s rare to get a message much as of late but occasionally I will get one.

      1. Ariaflame*

        Since the Panini started I learned how to set my voicemails to go to audio file via email (well, asked someone to set it up) and it’s been set that way ever since. I think I’ve had maybe three in that time.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        Oh boy, I wish OldExjob had had that policy. I used to get sooooo many disgruntled bouncebacks for one sales rep who never returned his calls. Nobody wanted to leave him a voicemail because they’d never hear from him. So I’d take a message on a post-it and go stick it to his monitor right in front of his face.

    17. PeanutButter*

      In addition to the black hole, when I worked in healthcare, the time I was calling was likely the ONLY time I had to actually have a conversation during regular business hours for the next 24-48 hours. I would still leave a message, because what else could I do, but in it I’d give my email, encourage texting if they had that capability/it was an appropriate medium for the conversation topic, or tell them that I would be calling back at $TIME_DATE and that would be the only chance to talk for the next $NUMBER of days.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        Oooh, I like your solution. I’ve been in a lot of situations where I simply am not going to be reachable by phone for this topic and of course they always return my voicemail when I’m on the freeway right before a tricky offramp or on public transit.

    18. Quinalla*

      Yes, this is why people don’t leave them because they have been burned too many times. I use voicemail and always promptly call people back, but I definitely prefer email.

      I hate when people call and don’t leave a voicemail and expect me to call back. I don’t call people back who don’t leave a message personally, I will sometimes follow up with email/text, but usually I just wait for them to reach out again. To me, not leaving a message means it is not important.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Yep. I don’t answer cell numbers I don’t know. I figure if it’s legit and they really need me, they’ll leave a voice-mail.

    19. DrSalty*

      Yep, especially in a customer service setting. I assume it’s just a holding pen for my problem so they can ignore it.

    20. iliketoknit*

      I’m kind of surprised everyone feels so strongly about work voicemails. I have to use them, I leave them and I answer them, and it’s just accepted in my field (law). Ideally I’d e-mail about everything in my entire life (I hate the phone), but some things are time-sensitive and complex enough that an email will take way longer than a call. I also *really* don’t want people texting me about most work stuff, mostly because if you’re going to send me something in writing I have to keep track of, I want it in my e-mail where I can access/organize it easily. (I will text very mundane things like “be there in 5 mins” or “we’re set for 10 tomorrow,” but that’s about it.)

      1. Anon all day*

        Yeah, as an attorney, I know a lot of our field can be somewhat outdated technology wise (fax machines are still somewhat regularly in use!), but I still find it interesting the severe dislike of voicemail. I definitely prefer emails over voicemail, generally speaking, but they’re definitely a useful tool. So many of the opposing attorneys I work with are at least somewhat stodgy with email, that voicemail and phones are a necessity.

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I’m surprised too. They’re still pretty commonly used in my field (although I occasionally have to tell people that no, my manager will not check his voicemail while he’s on vacation, because he doesn’t check it when he’s in the office).

    21. ThatMarketingChick*

      I need to object to the suggestion of providing someone’s email address to a cold call. We have a policy that we don’t give out employee emails. I get bombarded daily with sales pitches and requests for meetings out of the blue, from people I’ve never spoken to. If you have to call the main line and don’t have my direct or my email, it’s likely because I don’t know you. I probably unsubscribe (if they even provide a link to) or block at least 3-4 sales pitches a day. I’m grateful that our team doesn’t hand out our contact info.

      That being said, I do listen to voicemails. If it’s legitimate or applicable, I absolutely call back. If it’s a true cold call with no relevance, I don’t.

    22. Jenna Webster*

      Our IT department now has our voicemails sent to our emails as sound recordings. I still wish they could turn them into text, but it has made things much easier. I went through the whole I hate calling people and I hate voicemails, but I’m kind of over it. If I know I need to call someone to reach them, I just do it. I leave a voicemail if I need to and make a note to follow up if I don’t hear back. Now that our voicemails are in our emails, they’re just as easy to access and delete the unnecessary vendor communications too – or to just hit forward and reply to their call in an email.

    23. PhyllisB*

      This brings back memories!! I was a telephone operator when direct dial/answering machines first came to be. After I finally convinced folks they could save money dialing themselves, then they’d get upset when they got an answering machine and REALLY upset when they were told they had to pay for that because they could leave a message. Then there’s my children who never listen to their voice-mail. I had to learn to text in self defense because they would never listen to their messages.

      1. Cei*

        Interesting – how did it work, if they didn’t dial themselves and no-one picked up (no answering machine), would that be free?

    24. PhyllisB*

      I had one job a number of years ago where one of the bosses (not mine thankfully) who just deleted her voice mail without listening to them. Her team quickly learned that if she didn’t pick up to email if they needed answers.

    25. JackInTheBox*

      Agreed, doctor’s offices, city offices, or any other service-based offices my voicemails never receive a callback. Sometimes they don’t even have a voicemail available. So more often than not I’m just forced to call back another time anyway.
      In my personal life, however, voicemail is just how I screen phishing calls, but I can’t see a business operating by that method.

    26. Dust Bunny*


      I hate voicemail because more often than not it means I’ll never hear back. It’s the wastebasket for understaffed organizations.

      I do answer voicemails (personal and professional both) but I don’t get very many of them in the first place. I feel like institutions or people who get a lot of them just flush them.

    27. 2 Cents*

      Seriously — it’s from certain businesses / categories of businesses never returning your calls. (Looking at you, medical offices). I would rather call 3 times a day than leave a voicemail that’s almost certainly a black hole. My favorite is when you’re transferred to voicemail only to encounter the mailbox is “full” so you have to go through everything again.

      1. quill*

        Am I the only person who thinks that voicemail storage limits are ludicrous? Some services still only store 15-20 messages: get enough spam in one day and you can fill it before lunch.

    28. quill*

      Voicemail is so much harder to check than a text or email: you need to be in a place where you can quietly hear it and deal with poor connections, wondering if you misheard something, or people who make calls while in their car via a bluetooth setup recording VIA the car, and thus sound like they’re gargling marbles in a wind tunnel.

    29. Nanani*

      This exactly.
      If your workplace actually listens to and returns voicemails promptly, it is very much the exception.
      Giving people an alternative (like email) is a really good idea, seeing as how anything that’s non-urgent enough to be feasible for voicemail should also fit email nicely.

    30. Rana*

      I think it’s one thing to call back occasionally until you get the person. Especially if you have experience with them not responding to voicemails. I get the sense that the most (but not only) frustrating thing about this for the LW is that the callers are calling back immediately and expecting her to do something different. There’s nothing different to do! The person is almost certainly still not there, the options are still leave a message, call back another time, or use some other form of communication. This is especially true because LW is not a receptionist, they’re just the poor person who got stuck answering calls in addition to their actual job.

      The only advice I have, which is similar to PP is to say at the very start: “I’ll transfer you to their line. If they aren’t able to answer, please leave a voicemail and they will get back to you if required.” If they call back “I’m sorry, there is no other way to reach them. Would you like me to transfer you back to leave a voicemail?” Of course, this does assume that people listen to their voicemails. It would also be good to set up a generic email address to give out (since I saw you don’t always have an appropriate one and you are not wanting to give out personal emails – pro tip, make everyone include that email address in their voicemail greeting as well and responsible callers will be able to self-serve) as a catchall for those smaller programs – and make it SOMEONE ELSE’S JOB to forward those emails to the right person. Try your hardest not to get stuck as the phone answerer AND the email triager. That sucks when you’re trying to do your non-receptionist job too.

      I feel for LW. I have a similar situation in that I started with a company as the office manager and my phone number got given out to a lot of people. 5 years later and I have moved to a completely different position, but still get calls (on my cell phone!! please please everyone protect yourselves and get a Google voice number if you don’t have an office line – I did this too late and some people still have my cell phone number). I can’t help these people. Most of the time the person they are looking for does not even have an office line. I work from home. I can give them a generic email or I can give them the main line. 99% of the time, it is a cold call that no one wants anyway. Sometimes I tell them there is no one I can transfer them to and to please delete my number from their records. I am tempted to start replying that I no longer work there and just make them figure out a solution.

    31. RedFraggle*

      On the flip side of this, I work in a large medical practice, with a wide variety of departments and locations.

      If I call a patient who doesn’t answer because they are screening their calls, I leave a voice mail with my name, the most direct phone number possible, and instructions on what to press in the phone tree to get to me quickly when they call back.

      The sheer number of people who not only don’t follow those instructions (and then get mad because it’s hard to reach me without them) or who call back without checking voice mail and tell the person who answers the phone that they just missed a call from our office is maddening.

      (I get this in my personal life, too. Just yesterday I left a voice mail for someone letting them know that I work in the medical field in direct patient care and can’t answer the phone while I’m in clinic, to please text or email because I can check those quickly without interrupting clinic. Five minutes later, that same person called me back because they didn’t check their voice mail before returning the call.)

      I’m wondering if people are choosing not to leave voice mail because they don’t bother to check their own?

    32. Danish*

      It also doesn’t help that nowadays a person can also experience:
      — your cell phone doesn’t ring, it just informs you you have a voice mail. No further information.
      — your voice mail was set up automatically on your phone with a password you are unaware of.
      — 55 scam calls in a row all that left a voice mail asking me to press 1 to accept my cruise prize.

      99% of the time there is no reason I’d want to listen to anything left in my voice mail.

      1. LegalRestorer*

        I despise voice mail at my work (and in life in general). I have actually forfeited an office phone to avoid voice mail and force email contact.

        With email, I can control the topic, the length/time,and have documentation of the dialogue if necessary. Also the client usually indicates what they need in the first email as opposed to a voice mail ie:” This is so and so, please call me. I have a question.” Email also allows me to react real time when I am not in the office (every morning I am off site) to assist a client quickly as opposed to a call getting dumped to the voice mail black hole.

        Staff knows to give out my email always. As a result, my clients typically get a return/acknowledgment email within half an hour. My staff love me for this as they do not get hounded by clients for my failure to call back or an endless game of telephone tag.

    33. Beth*

      Agreed. Both personally and professionally, my experience is that voicemail does not lead to return calls. It’s a relic–there are so many easier, faster, and more usable ways to contact someone who isn’t available now. Most people check email and text more often, and they have the added benefit of never having audio issues that might garble my message.

      OP, if you want the voicemail conversations to stop, have an email address handy to direct people to instead. Better yet, have an email/online form option on your contact info page–I bet way fewer people will call in the first place.

    34. nonprofit llama groomer*

      That’s why I changed my voicemail message to say that I’ve received your message, but I’m often out of the office for days at a time, so if you haven’t heard from me, please call *main number* and if you still haven’t heard from anyone, please call *mainhelpline*.

      I work for a nonprofit that won’t pay for a separate mobile phone AND will not let me set up a Google Voice number (because of legitimate concerns about privacy) AND have been burned by giving out my private cell number to clients, getting texts on Christmas Day and on weekends, even when I’ve begged clients to not send me texts during non business hours and the clients have my work phone AND email address but still go to text messaging first.

      It’s a management problem. I have asked for a work cell phone, but was denied.

      Every other aspect of my job is phenomenal, so I put up with this crap. I just refuse to answer texts or personal cell phone messages from clients who know my office email and work phone numbers. If the clients complain to the higher ups about not getting return calls, they make my case stronger.

  2. Observer*

    #2 – The thing with this is that it’s pretty hard not to wonder if there REALLY wasn’t any pressure. It’s not clear what the wife’s position is, but it does seem like she’s not a partner, and the decision was made without her input. Did she really have the option to push back once this was decided, without doing significant damage to her career there?

    That said, I agree that the OP really can’t say anything to the firm. And when speaking to his wife, it’s probably not a good idea to frame this as an HR matter. CERTAINLY don’t mention the liability issues. For one thing, that’s really not his place. And for another, the implication there is likely to sound a touch paranoid.

    1. Pop*

      Yes, mentioning so-called “liability issues” (which are what, exactly?) to a law firm that is high enough profile to do a newsworthy case seems a little off-base.

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        This was my thought, too. Liability for…what? Because LW’s complaint seems to be about “appropriateness,” he seems to be concerned about his wife sharing a house with other men. I mean, let’s say the worst happens, and either a) Wife voluntarily ends up in an affair, or c) Wife endures harassment from a housemate. In either case, is the firm legally on the hook? I mean, it’s not like a shared house is necessary for these things to happen. The group staying in the local Homewood Suites wouldn’t change all that much, as they will still be doing a lot of work together, and having late nights and early mornings, and sharing meals and drinks, and doing prep work and debriefing.

        I will say, I likely would be able to make do with the arrangement if I had a private bedroom and bathroom. Not ideal, but I’d be able to put up with it for a few weeks.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          Posted before I added: either way, this is an issue to work out in your marriage, not with your spouse’s job.

        2. Julia*

          Yes, the firm could be on the hook for harassment that occurs between coworkers. That’s why federal anti-discrimination law has teeth: companies are worried they could be sued, so they take proactive steps to stamp out harassment.

          However, LW’s thought that living together opens up the company to liability comes from this weird idea some people have that when you throw men and women together, harassment suits are “bound” to happen. Harassment suits happen when there’s a harasser; they don’t spontaneously generate out of too-intimate situations.

        3. Nathan*

          If the firm pressured an employee into doing something dangerous and then she got hurt, the firm is liable for putting said employee in that situation.

          It sounds like from the LW’s perspective the firm may be pressuring their employee into a situation where she could be at risk. For many, mixed-gender roommates are so normal as to not even warrant comment. For others, less so — whether due to age / cultural differences, past history of abuse, or other reasons. Keep in mind that in some cultures (and, believe it or not, some US states, though the laws are unenforced) sharing a house with someone of the opposite sex that you’re not married to is illegal. These laws of course are hilariously outdated along a number of axes (same-sex couples are largely allowed free reign; the laws generally don’t take into account transgender persons; most humans are very capable of coexisting nonsexually in a shared space with other humans that they’re not in a sexual relationship with) but it would display empathy and understanding to realize that such an arrangement would be harder on someone from one of these cultures. And these cultures exist within the United States too!

          I’m not saying that the firm needs to change their behavior, or that LW#2 is even right to be concerned (though I would argue that we don’t have enough information to know whether concern might be warranted). I think Alison’s advice is correct and helpful even given these constraints, but I think both her response and the responses from most commenters I’ve read could be more understanding of cultural issues!

          1. Roja*

            Agreed 100%. I grew up in an American sub-culture where this would have been absolutely unthinkable. I no longer belong to that subculture but would still find myself intensely uncomfortable with co-ed housemates. I would probably do it to smooth over things at work, but I wouldn’t like it and would receive a tremendous amount of judgment and questions from friends/family/acquaintances if anyone found out about my living situation. It’s not a rational thing, but it’s hard to shake that much training even when you know intellectually it can be just fine. And having to hide it or explain it to one’s social circle may or may not go well either…

        4. RagingADHD*

          If the female employee gets harassed in a work environment, the firm has liability exposure, period. It doesn’t matter where it happens. There’s no extra liability based on the travel arrangements.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I am hoping someone can explain the liability!

        Right now my theory is it’s a cousin of “… It’s a HIPAA violation.”

        OP, people can engage in shenanigans anywhere, including ye olde office at midday. On a research trip my spouse’s institution did the same thing–rent a house with enough bedrooms. It’s banal for a lot of people.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Discussed this post at lunch with a couple of the other managers here (all blokes) and the only idea that made any kind of sense was:

          “It means they fear the men will be liable for anything bad that happens to the woman. There’s this ridiculous fear that any woman alone with men is going to falsely accuse them of improper behaviour and destroy the mens careers”

          We agreed it’s bananas of course. I mean, I just had lunch with a load of men…

          1. I should really pick a name*

            But in this case, it’s the partner of a female lawyer writing in, not one of the male lawyers.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

              I know, but that’s really all we could come up with. Except the idea that just entered my head that means “if anything happens with her, consensual or otherwise, the company will be liable because they put them in a situation where it could occur”

              Like the ‘you put a man and a woman alone together it’s a safety risk for their marriages’. I dunno, trying to get inside someone else’s head is hard when I spend a lot of time out of my own!

          2. MCMonkeyBean*

            I am fairly certain that he meant the men *are* the liability, not that they would be held responsible. As in the liability to the company if one of them were to attack his wife.

            While I as a woman would probably not feel super comfortable with this arrangement, it’s a weird argument for the OP to take up with the company.

        2. Anon all day*

          I was picturing OP thinking that the two men just simply won’t be able to stay appropriate with his wife, because men clearly have no impulse control.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            And the firm would be ‘liable because it put her into an unsafe environment knowingly’

            (Yuck I hated typing that)

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Liability for creating an environment with a high risk of sexual harassment? Idk I can’t contort my HR brain to come up with anything legitimate. Again, assuming no one was coerced into a situation they were inherently uncomfortable with – but even then “liability” wouldn’t be the term. Also the “no one” umbrella wouldn’t cover spouses.

          2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            The husband clearly thinks his wife is incredibly beautiful and sexy and can understand only too well that any bloke holed up with her for any length of time will obviously want to hit on her.

        3. Corporate Lawyer*

          There is no liability issue. The OP is uncomfortable with this situation and came up with “liability” when reaching for a valid-sounding reason.

          1. Anon all day*

            No one’s saying that there is any liability/validity to this. We’re just brainstorming what kind of thing OP could even be considering. We know it’s bunk.

          2. Abogado Avocado*

            Exactly. And this situation of renting a multi-bedroom house or apartment, rather than living ad infinitum in a hotel, is very common when a legal team is looking at a long trial away from home. Long trials mean large legal files, so renting allows you to drive all your files to the location and leave them there. The same goes with your clothes. Otherwise, if you’re in a hotel, you have to take everything back home on Friday night and return with everything on Sunday night — and that’s a royal pain, as well as a recipe for losing in transit something vital to your case.

            #5, let’s be honest about what you’re worrying about: that there’s going to be bed-hopping going on. Alison and the commenters are right that this is between you and your wife. However, as someone who has tried a number of long cases, let me assure you that sex is the last thing the legal team cares about during trial — and that’s because they’re all sleep-deprived and busy as heck preparing for the (if they’re lucky) six hours to present evidence to the jury each day.

            What happens during trial is: (1) the judge makes the legal teams the first to show up to the courthouse and the last to leave so that s/he can rule outside the jury’s presence on legal issues that tend to arise only during trial; (2) the legal team spends most jury breaks getting rulings, engaging in witness prep, or researching legal points; (3) breakfast and lunch are energy bars in your brief case; and (4) evening meals are taken on the fly because there’s document review, motion-drafting; witness prep, and cross-examination to prepare for the next day. You’d like to get a whole six hours to sleep each night, but, usually, it’s four — and that’s because the team is focused on getting the verdict the client wants.

            Win or lose, I’ve never ended a trial wanting sex. What I’ve wanted is a good meal and then to sleep, perchance to dream of something other than how those 12 people and four alternates are taking the evidence.

            1. Malarkey01*

              I was going to add that this is extremely common when I worked in big litigation because we were actually working Saturdays and Sundays too. Having a house with a full kitchen and a dining room/living room that could act as conference space is infinitely better than everyone squeezing into someone’s hotel room and the awkward “do I sit on the edge of the bed or the floor?” “Is it weird to go to their bathroom, should I go back to my room for the bathroom?” issues that come up when you do have to work after hours on travel.
              In my experience affairs in rentals were actually pretty rare because Jim might be in the kitchen or Robin just went to the bathroom and bedrooms are next to each other compared to hotels where there was more ability to be discreet and rooms were spread out on different floors.

        4. Anonymousaurus Rex*

          The wording of #2 “two married men” had me thinking that the men were married to each other. And then I was confused because noting one was a client and one was a partner had me thinking the liability must be a conflict of interest somewhere of a spouse representing his husband. It took me a moment to get that LW is concerned with the propriety of married people of opposite genders sharing a living space.

    2. Language Lover*

      He said his wife is okay with it. I suspect that if she weren’t okay with it or had felt pressured, she would have mentioned that to her husband/OP.

      1. BethDH*

        Unless she is kind of uncomfortable but not willing to blow up her career / expend capital on it, and knows that the husband is already freaking out enough that if she indicates any discomfort he’ll handle it in an inappropriate way.
        Only bringing this up because if OP is worried, him being over the top and making his wife anxious about him as well as her office is the exact wrong approach.

        1. Abby*

          She said she is fine with it. No need to second guess women, they are not children.

          1. Observer*

            It’s not necessarily about second guessing women. It’s more about wondering if someone of lower status in a workplace might feel pressured but doesn’t want to risk an otherwise good position. And an added complication of a spouse who seems to be going round the bend.

            Of course, ultimately, it doesn’t really matter because it’s not the OP’s place to deal with it. Except for making sure that he’s not adding to the stress by freaking out.

        2. Tiger Snake*

          Except even if she felt pressured like that, that’s still something she can share with her husband – whose the one writing in.

          The OP is in a position to be aware of her personal thoughts, and said that she’s okay with it. I’m willing to her at her word.

      2. Cmdrshpard*

        I would have no problem sharing the house with coworkers because of their gender. But I would be slightly uncomfortable/have an issue with sharing a house with coworkers period. Due to feeling like I would still need to be “ON” when using the kitchen, living room, bathroom etc.

        But that said as a more junior person I would not push back on this at all.

        From a practical standpoint it makes sense. During a high stakes trial you will end up with lots of late nights. So even in a hotel you would likely end up working late in one person’s room. Or even if their was a local office you would end up with a lot of late hours. So being able to just walk 5 steps to your room after finishing work at 11pm makes it a lot easier, and having a dining and/or living room as a local war/prep room would help.

        1. Smithy*

          Looking at it practically, I also wonder if based on the location they felt they’d likely need to rent 4 rooms at a Homewoods suits? Essentially one for each individual and a fourth for the war/prep room? By having the house, it may have felt possible to get more space/comfort for that kind of workspace – particularly if they were able to find a home with enough bathrooms per individual.

          I shared an apartment once where not only did we each have our own bathroom, but the bathroom was attached to our room. So you could walk back and forth between the bedroom/bathroom in your preferred state of dress in complete privacy. In a situation where even if I had a hall bathroom, but the other two had attached bathrooms…..that would feel like enough separation to make the shared home just fine.

        2. Retired (but not really)*

          I find it a bit odd that someone would be uncomfortable sharing a house with coworkers. Years ago my roommates were coworkers and at one point one of them was our mutual shift manager. We all got along fine and had very few instances of one of us having an issue with one of the others. We were all 20 something young ladies at the time, who had shared dorm rooms with roommates in the not too distant past, which might have made it easier for us.
          I still would have no problem sharing a house with either male or female coworkers if the need arose. In fact I do it on weekends in our booth at the Renfaire regularly. Although now I do like being able to go home and chill out by myself during the week!

          1. Ace in the Hole*

            It’s not an arrangement I’d be comfortable with indefinitely… for long-term housing, I want to be able to disconnect from work and have the privacy to do things I might not want my coworkers involved in.

            But for a short-term temporary housing situation, this doesn’t seem all that strange. I’ve worked in jobs where communal bunkhouses were normal for seasonal field work. Since it’s the norm for that field, people are generally aware of it and good at negotiating professional boundaries for the time they’re in shared housing.

    3. anonymous73*

      He states she’s fine with it. He clearly isn’t comfortable with it from a spouse standpoint which to me is BS. If the other 2 were women, I’m guessing it wouldn’t be an issue. Assuming that men and women can’t exist together and work professionally is a very old fashioned way of thinking.

      1. Julia*

        Well, I don’t know. I think there are certain situations in which it’s OK as a spouse to be uncomfortable about your spouse moving out for three months and sharing a house with two people of the gender to which they’re attracted. For example, if there has been a breach of trust in the relationship.

        And even if there hasn’t, after you’re married, *living with* someone is… typically something you only do with your spouse. It can get weirdly intimate – not sexual, but in terms of people seeing each other in pajamas with sleep in their eyes and messy hair. It may just be a level of closeness LW isn’t ready for his wife to have with someone else.

        If that’s the case, he’s entitled to his feelings but it’s a matter between him and his wife, as Alison said – not an HR thing.

        1. Worldwalker*

          “He’s not ready” is entirely on him. She’s his wife in the ”his” of “his father” not “his car.”

        2. JustaTech*

          I mean, there are plenty of jobs/professions/careers where people do leave their spouses at home and go live with coworkers for extended periods (any kind of field work from geology to archeology, fishing, logging, the military, for example).

          While some of those tend to be single-gender (fishing, logging), others are not (academic field work, NGO field work, government field work, the military). It is a little unusual for lawyers, but again, not unheard of.

          And depending on the shape/layout/size of the house the OP’s wife’s firm rented, it could be that everyone has an on-suite bathroom and so always has the choice to be fully “people ready” before coffee.

        3. Abby*

          WTAF??? She isn’t moving out to share a house with the opposite gender. She is pursuing her career. He needs to shut up. Does she tell him how to deal with women in his career????

        4. anonymous73*

          If there’s a breach of trust in their relationship, that’s a marriage issue not a work issue. And OP claiming “liability” is just an excuse for not wanting to discuss his real “why” with his wife. If she’s going to have an affair with one of the men, being in the same house doesn’t make that easier. She could just as easily do that if they were all in separate hotel rooms. He’s entitled to his feelings, but those feelings don’t give him the right to try and keep her from going.

        5. omiya*

          lol in my experience, people become LESS attractive when you’re house-sharing.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            Yep, seeing Hot Ben from Accounting blowing his nose into the sink can kill a crush in seconds.

            (Not that OP’s wife has a crush on anyone but him, this is just an example)

        6. Dahlia*

          “sharing a house with two people of the gender to which they’re attracted.”

          Come on. Do you really think if she was bisexual and sharing a house with two married women he’d feel the same way?

          1. Nopetopus*

            Took the words right out of my mouth and said it more kindly than I was going to!

    4. Person from the Resume*

      This 100% reads to me that husband doesn’t want wife living in a house for 3 months with two married men. A husband doesn’t trust his wife and doesn’t want her to be tempted. Or the men to be tempted. I don’t know. I don’t think this way.

      There is no liability that I can see. They are renting the house very similar to how one would rent an hotel room only it’s more homey. They presumably won’t have locked doors between them at night, but if the wife in any way feared her boss or client would attack her, harrass her, or whatever then why would she be “okay with the living situation” and probably wouldn’t be okay working with them at all.

      This is the husbands problem. He’s trying to make it a work problem, and it isn’t. As Alison says, he needs to work through it. It sounds like a great profesional opportunity for his wife.

    5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Honestly, if the case is that high profile, even if they were in a hotel (something the LW would prefer I’m guessing?) they’d probably spend hours in each others rooms working on and discussing the case. Mr Gumption was a witness in a case and literally spent 10-12 hrs a day with the AUSA and her team prepping in the days leading to his testimony. I’m guessing the legal team spent time before and after working with him, so I could see how having the space of a house would be nicer than cramming in a hotel room to do the work. If I was the LW’s wife, I’d much rather do all the work in a kitchen or living room than crammed into a senior partner’s hotel room.

      1. Banana*

        That was my guess too.

        I was involved in a work project several years ago that involved more than a dozen people from my office traveling to a work site 1200 miles away and staying Monday-Friday for about six weeks, and we wound up having to stay over the weekend once. The work site was in a place with some tourism, and one sub group banded together and got a gorgeous five-bedroom lake cabin rental for less than what their collective separate hotel rooms would have cost. They hosted a lovely little cookout for the whole group the weekend we all had to stay, complete with a fire in the fire pit outside. It’s a nice memory in a project that was otherwise a very stressful blur. I don’t remember all the genders of the cabin hosts but it shouldn’t have mattered, the people I do specifically recall were unimpeachably professional and everything was proper.

        I can understand that the woman’s partner may never have expected this situation to come up and may have some issues with it that he hasn’t fully thought through, but at the end of the day it’s some combination of his problem and a marriage issue to work out, not a work issue. Either he trusts his wife or he doesn’t, and either that’s something he needs to figure out within himself or something he needs to work out with her.

      2. AnotherLawyer*

        I agree with this. In my experience they are going to be spending most of their free time prepping and hyper focused on the case for these three months. A house to me sounds awesome if you have a private bed and bath. They’ll set up the common areas as trial prep and be able to keep the bedrooms private and not have to hang out in each other’s hotel rooms every day.

        1. AnotherLawyer*

          Oh and I think pressing that it’s inappropriate because a woman is there gets into territory where women are pushed out of opportunities to advance their career because it’s easier to bring all men and rent a house than it is to bring a woman and treat all the logistics differently. It sucks but if she’s not at the house she may seriously miss out on a major opportunity to work closely with a senior partner, get her name on a significant case, and advance her career. That shouldn’t be underestimated

          1. Abby*

            We might as well send them to Saudi where they can’t go to the airport without a man.

        2. Abby*

          Why we need to point out that the woman is working is beyond me. Does she interfere with his career? I doubt it. He would have said if that was the case. It disgusts me. Everything women achieve and the only thing he wants to whine about is ‘BUUUUUUTTTTT she’ll be around men. It’s like feminism never happened.

    6. omiya*

      His emphasis on marital status was a little icky to me. If you don’t trust your wife or her colleagues, just say that! Framing it as “more inappropriate” for a married person to share accommodation than a single person is weird.

    7. Rana*

      The most LW can do is ask his wife, one and only more time, if she is sincerely comfortable with the situation or if she is going along to get along. Then BUTT OUT.

      As long as they have their own bedrooms, I don’t see anything wrong with this. Most modern bedrooms even lock from the inside, so she can lock it if she wants to (though if she feels she needs to that’s a BIG red flag on who her coworkers are). Even if there is a shared bathroom, as the only woman she will probably be able to argue for the master bedroom/bathroom (again assuming a modern house that has a master suite, which almost all AirBnBs do) and not have to share. I do think that house-sharing is a new enough phenomenon in the business world that I would have asked everyone involved if they were comfortable with it before pulling the trigger, but logically I think it is no different from a hotel as long as they have their own bedrooms and bathrooms (and different but not too different if there is a shared bathroom – more room here for needing to clear with everyone in case someone is uncomfortable or has a medical issue that makes sharing a bathroom unworkable or TMI for a coworker).

      I can see major benefits to renting a house in this scenario, the biggest of which is probably the dining/living room space to prep. That will actually be better from an “oh no my wife is going to sleep with her coworker” perspective that the husband appears to have since no one will be in each other’s hotel rooms to prep. Personally I also love to have that extra space and the ability to have snacks/breakfast easily. If you’re someone who prefers to recharge alone, you can still do that – just go to your bedroom instead of the living room at the end of the day.

  3. AcademiaNut*

    I’ve stayed in group housing with coworkers (including my boss) on multiple occasions, and am usually the only woman in the group. I have no problem with with, but I do think that this sort of thing should be opt-in, and if someone isn’t comfortable the employer should be willing to pay for an alternative unless the situation is very unusual. Having a house with a living room to relax in, a full kitchen for making myself healthy meals, plus my own room to retreat into for privacy is much more appealing to me than staying in a budget hotel and eating restaurant food for weeks on end.

    If you are worried that the men are going to take advantage of their access to your sleeping wife and sexual assault her, you need to calm down – your wife knows these people and is able to assess her own safety. If you’re worried that the close quarters will result in your wife having a consensual affair with her boss or client, that’s more of a relationship issue.

    As an aside, one bonus feature of being the only woman in the group is that I usually get the bedroom with the ensuite, to minimize middle of the night pyjama clad encounters.

    1. Anonnn*

      I will say, sexual assault is a legitimate fear. Especially if you already know the person. However, it seems since the wife is okay with it she is not worried about it. But don’t be so quick to discount it :)

      1. MK*

        It’s a legitimate fear for someone for a woman to have, presumably based on her knowledge of the persons involved. And if by “especially if you already now the person” you are referring to the often quoted statistic that women are more likely to be assaulted by someone they know, that is based on women being generally very careful of strangers, so if they do get assaulted, it’s often an acquaintance. It does not mean that an acquaintance who has never shown any inappropriate behaviour is especially likely to do so in the future.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I think that statistic also reflects the fact that romantic partners, former romantic partners and (unfortunately) family members are very likey to be perpetrators of sexual assault. It’s also a little bit like the ‘accidents happen close to the home’ stat. They tend happen close to the home in part because we spend most of our time close to home — it’s not as though our houses are dangerous and stranger’s homes are safe. If we spend the evening three miles from home we wouldn’t magically be safer from injury or death.

          Those stats can be telling, but we should be careful not to inadvertantly wield them as tools that holds women back in life. Implying that this husband’s instincts to intervene in his wife’s work life are on point because women are more likely to be sexually assualted by someone they know seems (to me) to fall into that category.

          And, FWIW, men who spend a lot of time reminding me that other men might hurt me so I should keep my distance…largely tend to be more of a problem then those “other men”, although YMMV.

          1. MK*

            Yes, especially since a lot of these warnings are not actionable. A boss or a client could sexually assult a woman in the office, or if they were staying at a hotel. You could get assulted every time you leave the house. What are you supposed to do, never go anywhere without a chaperon? (I am guessing that would be a popular solution in certain circles, but not an acceptable one to me)

            1. Allonge*

              I think the warning part was supposed to be that focusing on ‘stranger danger’ is counterproductive because it gives people a wrong image in what to look for. That getting raped in a dark alley by a passing vagrant is less likely to happen than your boss cornering you in his office, so when the alarm bells are going off in your head about your boss, listen to that, because it’s a real danger (statistically anyway).

              The message was not supposed to be ‘be afraid of everyone you know’. But then these get corrupted, and statistics are a dangerous tool.

              By the way, fully agreed on the part that if a boss / coworker is dangerous, they will be dangerous in a hotel too.

            2. Irish Teacher.*

              Yes, that’s what I always think about these warnings. The SEN department of our school is currently two men and me (female). Our principal is also a men. It would not be practical for me to avoid ever being alone with any of these men. I can understand why women would feel uncomfortable in such situations, but…the advice given often seems victim-blamey, like women should follow impossible rules or they are to blame if they are assaulted.

            3. Allonge*

              I don’t think that is what the warnings are supposed to be about. The issue is that if you think that bad things happen to women when they meet a stranger in a dark alley, then you don’t listen to yourself when an alarm is going off in your head about your boss or coworker. When people associate danger with a specific place or context, it takes them more time to realise they are in danger in another one.

              This does not mean that you are supposed to be afraid of everyone you know! But ‘stranger danger’ is a troublesome concept because you will be looking over your shoulder in all the wrong places.

              1. Allonge*

                Forgot to add: this has precisely nothing to do with the original question – OP’s wife is perfectly capable of deciding if she feels safe or not and a hotel accommodation would not prevent a crime from happening.

              2. Rusty Shackelford*

                Yes, just like “stranger danger” warnings for children. Most children are harmed by someone they know. It doesn’t mean strangers can’t also be a threat, it just means don’t assume people you know will never hurt you.

                However, the point remains that if these men were going to assault the LW’s wife, they could also do it in the office, or at a hotel. Being in a house with them is not inherently less safe.

          2. tamarack etc.*

            OK, statistics is part of my job skills, so maybe it’s useful to point out that from “when a woman is sexually assaulted it is more likely to come from an acquaintance than from a stranger” DOES NOT FOLLOW “a woman who enters a temporary house share situation with 2 other people is at greater risk of sexual assault if the two people are acquaintances rather than strangers”.

      2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        But don’t be so quick to discount it :)

        I mean, it may be a legitimate fear for the wife. But it’s really not the husband’s place to worry about it for her and set boundaries for her, and AcademiaNut is right to point out that it’s the wife’s place to assess her own safety.

      3. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        It’s a legitimate concern to have but honestly as a woman I think it is really undermining to women in general to be constantly terrified of the possibility of sexual assault. If you have reason to be wary of these colleagues that is one thing, but I feel like encouraging unnecessary fear is one step on a slippery slope to a situation where it’s seen as too dangerous for women to leave the house at all. Just the fact that a woman is sharing accommodation with men is not and should not be viewed as inherently sexual.

        1. UKDancer*

          This so much. I mean I’ve worked with people (men and women but mostly men) that I wouldn’t trust and wouldn’t want to be alone with in a vulnerable position. The boss who always looked at my chest and was renowned for being a sleazy guy comes to mind. That doesn’t mean that I think all men are like that and I refuse to be terrified of my colleagues just because one chap was a scumbag.

        2. WellRed*

          Well said. The proximity of a man does not automatically equate to sexual assault.

          1. So I'm Anon Today*

            Nobody says or thinks that. Remember “me-too”? Dozens of women were victimized by Bill Cosby in the furtherance of their career. Few were wary or afraid. Saying “not all men” is tired. Women are wise to be cautious at all times. Hopefully, OP’s wife will lock her bedroom door.

            1. Keller*

              You clearly do think that proximity of a man equates sexual assault if you’re advising OP’s wife to lock her bedroom door to prevent the men she’s with from sexually assaulting her. Assuming that all men are sexual assaulters is the same type of backwards thinking that gave us “women should dress modestly if they don’t want to be sexually assaulted.”

              1. Caliente*

                I don’t agree that locking the door means you think a man will come in an sexually assault you. I would go on this trip however I probably would lock my door. In the bathroom too. Doesn’t mean I think I’ll be sexually assaulted, nor am I paranoid and I’ve never been sexually assaulted. I don’t know, guess I like locked doors? I mean why can’t I control my space if I want to without it meaning all kinds of things? People always want to try to tell women what to do or what they are thinking based on what THEY think. No thanks.

                1. Keller*

                  I would also lock the bedroom and bathroom doors to ensure my privacy. That’s perfectly reasonable, but the commenter I responded to advised OP’s wife to lock her bedroom door to prevent the men she’s with from sexually assaulting her.

                2. Julia*

                  “I don’t agree that locking the door means you think a man will come in an sexually assault you.”

                  This isn’t what Keller was saying, though. They were responding to a comment that advised locking a door specifically to guard against sexual assault. Your general door-locking preferences aren’t relevant. Lots of us like to lock doors for reasons unrelated to sexual assault.

              2. Red top*

                No not all men are sexual assaulters but enough of them are to be concerning. Let me ask you, if one skittle out of 200 are poisonous, are you comfortable eating skittles?

              3. Abby*

                There’s nothing wrong with locking the bedroom door. I had to do it because of a woman.

            2. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

              I’ve had bad experiences too but I wouldn’t immediately view this situation as dangerous without further information. As I said further down, it’s very common in my field to temporarily house share with mixed gender colleagues. I wouldn’t even hesitate to stay in a house like this unless I had some reason to think that one of the other occupants might be concerning.

            3. Observer*

              Dozens of women were victimized by Bill Cosby in the furtherance of their career. Few were wary or afraid.

              In fact, many of them should have been wary, because there were clues for a very, very long time. I don’t want to blame the victims, because it’s easy to see why they didn’t listen to those fears. Women keep being told to ignore their wariness unless they can PROVE that the person they are worried about is a Certified Creep. Same with Harvey Weinstein. His “casting couch” was a well known phenomenon. And so on.

              And none of this is relevant here. Either the the OP’s wife knows who she’s dealing with. Or maybe she doesn’t. But what IS certain is that she’s a competent adult so it’s for HER to make that judgement, not the OP. And unless the OP left out a lot of significant information, there is no way that HE is a better judge of the risk that his wife – who ACTUALLY WORKS WITH THEM.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Very true. I err on the side of paranoid a lot of the time (psychological disorder plus some very very bad experiences) but I still went to a stay away thing with fellow managers a few years back where we were put up in student halls of residence (funnily enough at my old university). The nature of our business meant I was the only woman there but I knew these guys and trusted them.

          Besides the amount of work we were doing in the day…hoo boy, nobody had energy for more than a couple hands of poker in the evening.

        4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Agreed. I just came back from splitting a trailer with 3 male colleagues on a project where we are trying to connect migrant workers with services. My biggest concern was one of the farmers/ranchers lighting the trailer on fire as a warning to orgs reaching out to their workers and the workers. My second biggest concern was going down for homicide because one coworker snores like hell. Sexual assault was on my concern list, but no higher than when I have my own hotel room. Yes, it is always a concern, but not one that is going to stop me from doing work I feel is important.

        5. Julia*

          Thanks for this. I said this on reddit and was massively downvoted. It’s a very common narrative right now for women to talk about what it’s like to be a woman in the world – that you always have to be suspicious of any man and avoid rejecting them directly because they might get violent, never walk alone at night, etc. I am really glad that people’s narratives of sexual assault are coming to light and women are able to talk about their experiences. But I really dislike the narrative that I’m a shrinking violet who always needs to be afraid of any men who cross my path. Most men are fine, and I’m an adult who can handle myself. Danger obviously exists and I take precautions, but I don’t assume every man could attack me.

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            Yeah. I have started to wonder about the true motivations of some of the people who are publicizing these narratives. Perhaps it’s all unintended consequences, and of course I don’t want to minimise anyone’s experiences, but I don’t like the uptick in fear narratives.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              Yeah, just like the fear narratives I hear about crime in my city (on N*xtd**r, of course). Pretty sure a lot of this has a political motive based on the comments they elicit.

          2. Jan*

            Thank you! That’s pretty much what I feel too and I can’t say that without getting shouted down as a misogynist. I don’t know why choosing to live without fear means I hate my own gender, but people’s logic can be weird.

      4. iliketoknit*

        If the *wife* is worried about sexual assault sharing a house with co-workers (during trial, which is *incredibly* work intensive), then her workplace has much bigger problems. If a co-worker is so inclined toward sexual assault that they’d risk their position (and relationship with the client) by acting inappropriately in this context, they’d act that way at work in the break room, or the hallway, or a conference room, or someone’s office. She could well have reason to think this, but the problem wouldn’t be sharing a house, it would be that she has a co-worker she already considers creepy. But it sounds like she’s okay with the situation, so that’s probably not it.

        If the *husband* is worried about sexual assault without the wife having brought it up, I think he has some misguided ideas about sexual assault. As others have pointed out, the stat that most sexual assaults are committed by people the victim knows doesn’t mean that everyone the victim knows is equally likely to commit sexual assault. And I don’t think the liability is any greater in a rental house than in an office, if both are workspaces.

        If the husband is worried about someone making a pass at his wife?? his wife having an affair??, again, I don’t think being in a rental house is going to make this more/less likely than it would be in her workplace. Sexual harassment b/c one of the dudes might walk around with their junk out or something? I guess I’d be surprised, but it’s theoretically possible. But even roommates/housemates of the same gender have to negotiate comfort level around this, without it being a question of sexual harassment.

        I’ll just add again that trial is *incredibly* labor intensive and *incredibly* exhausting. I don’t think anyone will have time/energy for anything else. The intent is probably to make sure everyone who will need to work together at all hours during the trial is in the same place, in a setting that’s probably less expensive/potentially more comfortable than a hotel for 3 months (for ex. access to a kitchen).

      5. Abby*

        It always is. But according to this reasoning women should be controlled. Can’t go to a club. Sexual assault. Can’t house share with a man, sexual assault. Can’t fall asleep if a man is in the house, sexual assault. Can’t get drunk around a man, sexual assault. Have you noticed it yet? Either way, it doesn’t matter, she is fine with the situation. She’s not 5. She can make her own decisions.

      6. omiya*

        I don’t see anyone discounting the possibility of sexual assault, but men don’t get to use the possibility to control the women in their lives.

    2. ..Kat..*

      As the only female, I would worry that the men would be expecting me to take care of cooking, cleaning, etc.

      1. Snuck*

        This would be my concern! The assumption of (non sexual, shouldnt’ be gender based) ‘wifely duties’.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yeah I would be more concerned about this than sexual assault given my knowledge of my current colleagues. Many of them are nice men but they’re used to having someone pick up after them and sometimes assume women like doing domestic chores or have an inbuild need to tidy stuff, so I’d want to be clear about expectations and ensure there was a regular cleaner for the property.

          I’d not have any safety concerns about my current colleagues, a couple of previous ones I might have done so I think this heavily depends on the people that OP’s wife is around. I agree with the commenter who said that it’s a bad idea to have an idea that all men can’t be trusted.

          In general I’d prefer a long stay apartment hotel to sharing a house but that’s because I’m a grumpy antisocial hermit who doesn’t like living with people.

        2. Rusty Shackelford*

          {Pictures boss in the bathroom yelling “Jane! I need toilet paper!”

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            I mean if that situation comes to pass, as embarrassing as it might be, i think asking Jane for TP is preferred to the person walking out with their pants down to grab TP.

      2. RabbitRabbit*

        This right here. Living for three months with roommates from work sounds nightmarish enough, but women regularly get relegated to maid-type duties in this kind of situation, even without the other men being actual work bosses.

      3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        LMAO. I just got back from a trip living in a trailer with 3 male colleagues and that was my biggest worry. Luckily it came to pass that everyone is a functional adult who was able to handle a cleaning/cooking rotation. I can safely say that 2 of them are better cooks and cleaners than I am.

        1. Lucy P*

          Glad to know there’s a few men out there like that. I work in a predominately male business. In a daily work setting they can’t even pick up a candy wrapper off the floor, wipe up the sugar they just spilled making coffee, or toss their dental floss (because they just flossed at their desk). For that reason, there’s no way I’m living with them for 3 months.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            Oh my god.

            I went to a college that had optional co-ed bathrooms and THANK GOODNESS my floormates all turned out to be not gross. My mom’s friends were all a-twitter about me/girls in general sharing bathrooms with boys for the usual silly reasons, but I was more worried about . . . toilet mishaps. It turned out not to be a thing.

            1. Snuck*

              I suspect that co-ed might improve the situation! The reality that sharing a bathroom with the opposite gender means you will be outed for being gross means that young adults might well be better behaved in there?

          2. Red top*

            That is sooo gross. Who flosses are their desk? Then on top of that leaves it on the floor….

      4. Lady Blerd*

        I honestly thought this was where the letter was going until it took a turn.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, this.

        I do enough housework for myself and my parents as it is; I don’t want to get stuck with a bunch of guys who are accustomed to obliviously letting their wives handle it.

      6. Jules the 3rd*

        Yeah, my thought on this is that if I had to spend 3mo with a pair of male co-workers, I’d come home appreciating my husband even more. He broke his hand last year, and I had to pick up his usual cooking / cleaning for 6 weeks – reaffirmed for me just how much he does.

    3. Snuck*

      I don’t get the vibe of a worry of sexual assault though. I get the worry that he’s concerned his wife might mutually agree to shenanigans… why else would he reference them all being married but without their partners. If it was about sexual assault then it would be “Two males and one woman!” But if it’s about the sanctity and vows of marriage it suddenly becomes “Two married MEN and one married WOMAN”.

      Put down the adult movies and stop assuming everyone wants a three way? *end eye roll*

      1. UKDancer*

        This so much. I managed to travel much of Europe with my boss and sometimes another male colleague without having affairs with either or both of them. Proximity doesn’t mean you fall into bed. In my experience people have to want to have affairs to have them. They don’t just happen by pure magnetic attraction.

        1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          People got really weird when my (male) housemate and I go on vacation together. “Doesn’t your husband worry about that?” Well, no, my husband trusts us both, the dude is basically my brother, and for heaven’s sake, we have lived under the same roof for six years, if we were bound and determined to get up to nonsense, we wouldn’t need to go to Florida to do it. :P

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            Heck, when I’m away for work for long periods my husband frequently has his best mate stay over. Who is a) gay and b) attracted to my husband. Our house only has one bed.

            My sibling went nuts upon hearing that. “But, but your marriage!” But it honestly does not matter to me. I know my husband and I know his friend.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Shoot. Mr. Gumption travels with his female friends and I travel with my male ones all the time. It is wonderful. I wanted to go to Tyson Research Center in MO and explore the abandoned bunkers while making up B-horror movie plots and scaring the crap out of myself, he didn’t, so I took a friend who happened to be male. He wanted to go to Scotland, I didn’t (I just can’t with cold and damp), so he went with a friend who happened to be female. If either of us wanted to have an affair with these folks, we don’t have to incur the expense and stress of travel to do it.

          3. tinybutfierce*

            Yeah, one of my very best friends is a guy and we’ve both had our share of people insinuate or outright say that we can’t possibly be ~just friends~. My fave was a former mutual friend who INSISTED we acted like she and her husband had before they got married… and then she was divorced less than a year later.

  4. Astrid*

    #2 I’m assuming OP is not an attorney. When you’re on trial, it takes up all of your time, especially when it’s a case of this magnitude. I’ve never had sexy feelings toward my co-workers, so maybe I’m biased toward taking this setup as nothing more than a matter of convenience rather a setup for anything that will put martial vows in jeopardy.

    1. Barbara Eyiuche*

      Yeah, especially with a big trial like this, they’re not going to have any downtime. Being in a house together will probably be more convenient for meetings and food than staying at a hotel for three months.

      1. JM60*

        I could easily imagine that that’s the firm’s reasoning behind getting one house for them all to share.

        I haven’t been in this situation, but I think that if I was, having a place of my own to sleep at would make a major psychological difference for me. If I was spending 80+ hours/week with my two coworkers, having to go home with them would probably make me feel unable to “unplug” for the night (even if I’m mostly just sleeping/bathing in the accommodation).

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          The flipside can be having a living room and kitchen, possibly some outdoor space as well, and a neighborhood more conducive to walking/jogging than most hotels–I would much rather be in a house for an extended stay.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Also, excellent point elsewhere: If everyone’s in a hotel, then you don’t need to rent a conference room at the hotel because all those late night work meetings can just take place in the hotel room of the lowest ranked person, since that’s also where they decided to store all the reference stuff.

            I’d much rather have a shared dining room to dump the stuff and meetings into.

            1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

              Exactly. In a house you’ll have a bedroom that’s your own and no need to wonder if you’ve got undies on the floor.

              In a situation like this, as long as there’s a hidey-hole, it might as well be somewhere that’s got a more casual vibe than tapping at a hotel door to see if someone wants to hang out, or to get the TPS report from 2014.

        2. Kevin Sours*

          In the context of a three month trial with the potential to set national precedent unplugging isn’t a really an option. Regardless of the housing arrangements. That’s just an occupational hazard.

          1. JM60*

            You wouldn’t have downtime for fun, but I would think that you should carve out sufficient time to wind down and rest so you can be fresh when court is in session the following day.

      2. Delta Delta*

        Yeah, my biggest trial was 9 days and all I wanted to do was sleep for a month when it was done. I would not have done well with hotel bed and crappy food for 9 days, let alone 3 months.

    2. Asenath*

      That’s partly why I’d prefer a hotel – having a house means that you’re also going to have to spend time doing ordinary house things, like cooking and cleaning up after yourself. I also prefer completely separating work and what little after-work time I might have, which is harder when you’re living with your co-workers. Whether or not the spouse thinks its inherently risky or otherwise sexually inappropriate, I think it’s more beneficial for the employer (financially especially) than an appropriate arrangement for a lengthy period working away from home.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Hopefully the company is paying for a cleaning service. Cooking and such, well who knows how that will work out.

        But I can see how staying in a house for 3 months seemed more cost effective and easier than renting a hotel room for 3 months.

      2. BethDH*

        I wonder if they’re actually thinking it will give them MORE privacy. Not from each other, but from other people. If this is high profile — even just in specialized legal circles — they could end up with press coverage or random people with a stake in the outcome trying to talk to them.
        Think how much worse it is when your only privacy is your tiny hotel room and you can’t even eat dinner in a restaurant, or when the only place you have to discuss strategy privately is the partner’s hotel room.
        Also, eating in restaurants or takeout in your room gets really old after three months even if it’s just ordinary work. The single room really starts to feel like a bunker and you wish you had a way to cook your favorite comfort food, especially after a hard day.

      3. BongoFury*

        My first thought was “Oh no, they’re going to expect her to vacuum because she’s a woman.”

    3. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      I said the same thing above. They could be in a hotel or even local and the legal team would be together for crazy hours. It seems like renting a house would be much, much better than trying to do all the work out of a set of hotel rooms where, odds are, the LW’s wife would be spending hours in the most senior person’s room.

    4. Popinki(she/her)*

      This is a very good point. They’re going to be keeping a grueling schedule and eating/sleeping when they can, and any downtime they get will be spent catching up on rest. This would be the case whether they were sharing a house or staying in separate rooms at a hotel – they’d be together working on the case or in court together most of the time anyway. They’re going to be too tired and drained for any shenanigans, and likely by the end of the first week be so sick of each other’s company that they’ll be as romatically appealing as sacks of old moldy potatoes.

      Trust your wife. She must be well regarded as an attorney if she’s working on this big of a case, and wouldn’t be working on it it she and her boss didn’t have a good professional relationship based on mutual respect. They’re not going to swoon into each other’s arms just because Vive Le Difference.

  5. AED*

    I’d rather not normalize sharing a house with coworkers regardless of who is “okay with it.” It sets a precedent that makes those uncomfortable with it at a disadvantage. And people with introverted personalities, disabilities, or just a desire to have privacy and security for any reason, are the ones who’ll be uncomfortable with it. I’d like to keep a hotel situation as the professional standard. They’re not perfect but they offer more privacy and safety. There’s other people around and easy access to other retail/restaurant spaces or concierge assistance if desired or needed. I had my own bad experience at a corporate training situation at a hotel but idk what I would’ve done had I been at a private residence/Airbnb type place with nothing else and no one else around. Plus adults just deserve private spaces and personal time. Sharing a house does not facilitate that easily.

    1. Snuck*

      Generally agree!

      However this is an unusual situation, with extended working hours (trust me, they’ll be talking work until well after midnight, and up at 5am to continue, daily), and isn’t something that could be generalised to other employment roles, are rarely to other same sector employment.

      I have several friends who work at a similar level, in similar high court level legal work – it’s fairly common to book a hotel room near the courts (even if same city as home) so they can do their “lawyer” thing all night long without disturbing their family, and to be able to focus purely on the court case at hand.

    2. Observer*

      All of this is true. But none of this is the OP’s to fight. And for the most part, none of what you are describing is inappropriate in the way the OP seems to be implying. Certainly they don’t present *liability* issues.

    3. Tau*

      At the same time, staying in a hotel for weeks to months on end really sucks in a number of ways, especially not having access to a kitchen (also going to be a problem for some disabilities!). I was in a company where we would go out to work at client sites for long periods of time and the company would either rent a flat or put us up in hotels, and as far as I could tell everyone was hoping for the flat option when they got sent out. I ended up in a 2-person flat with a male coworker for over a year; if I’d been in a hotel for that long I would’ve probably lost my mind (+ had a really unhealthy diet due to the lack of ability to cook).

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        That’s the bit I detest most about hotels – the fact I’m going to get generally a tiny kettle and that’s it. Not even enough for the gallons of tea I drink.

        Food wise if I know I’m staying in a hotel I just resign myself to doing a big shop of cold food from the nearest tescos. Living off cold Cornish pasties isn’t healthy really.

        1. Solana*

          I have fibromyalgia and a LOT of food issues, so need to have something small like oatmeal for breakfast to start off with. When I stayed at the Atlantis, I was not going to be paying the high prices for that, so used the coffeemaker to heat my water for my oatmeal. (I just had to clean it first so I didn’t have coffee-flavored oatmeal.)

      2. pancakes*

        That’s what hotel rooms with kitchenettes and corporate short-term rental properties are for.

      3. Rusty Shackelford*

        So many hotels have suites with kitchens and dining areas that can be used as a conference table.

      4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        At the same time, staying in a hotel for weeks to months on end really sucks in a number of ways, especially not having access to a kitchen

        I feel this so much–after even a week in a hotel, I’m so ready to be able to cook for myself again…

      5. kittymommy*

        Yep, I’ve worked a job where we were housed in a hotel for four months. I was one of the lucky ones who had my own room and it still sucked.

      6. AdequateArchaeologist*

        In my line if work we usually get sent to tiny towns with ultra limited restaurant options, a dinky grocery store, and hotel coffee makers if questionable cleanliness. I have food allergies and what I wouldn’t give for a half decent kitchen set up. (Have considered taking an instant pot but some hotels are weird about you cooking your room.) I got put up in a extended stay with a kitchenette twice and it was like winning the lottery.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          Could be that hotels are afraid of people setting the room on fire with cooking equipment, making a mess cooking, cooking food with lingering odors, etc. Or they know the rooms aren’t wired for TV, lamps, laptops AND a 1500W appliance. (Just like dorm room cooking issues!)

    4. NotForMe*

      Conversely, as a person with several chronic conditions (some of which are food related), I think that there would be plenty of people who’d be uncomfortable or disadvantaged by being put in a hotel stay as the only position, for medium to long term business travel at least. I certainly would be. For me, having done it both ways (albeit for 3 or 4 week stints, not 3 months), the shared house was 1000% better because it had better accessibility and I could cook food that I could safely and comfortably eat , and the rental house was much quieter at night than hotels typically are, which made sleeping easier.

      Honestly, I found that I got as much privacy at the rental house as I did in a hotel. I still had my own bedroom (with en suite bathroom), and could shut myself there as easily as I did in a hotel room. Yes, my two coworkers (one male, one female – I’m female) were there – and sometimes we watched a movie or something in the living room together of an evening – but we had a similar level of contact really as if we’d had hotel rooms on the same floor. And work meetings were WAY easier.

      (NB: I’m in Australia, so YMMV re the safety aspect, but short term rentals here are generally as safe as, if not safer than, hotels.)

      So bottom line – I don’t think either should be the default standard. Different things will work for different people and different situations.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’ve stayed in hotels for long periods of time for work and yeah, even with their best efforts they’re not exactly good for my disabilities. Generally speaking houses have separate areas, are easier to relax in (no fear of housekeeping coming in), are a darn sight quieter and have cooking/tea facilities that are more to hand.

      2. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I like hotels for short stays as they’re easy, maintained and cleaned by someone else and usually very central with restaurants etc. I like apartment type hotels for anything over a week so I can cook because hotel food isn’t always healthy in the long term. Different types of stay need different accommodations.

        I don’t like staying in houses much but that’s more because I’m not very social and prefer my own living space and not having to speak to people much.

        1. BethDH*

          The last time I rented a house with people we got a place that had more than one living space (think a den/library and a living room). My colleague asked everyone if they were okay with designating one space the “quiet minimal social space” — you could use it if someone else was in there, but you should assume that a person there wanted to focus/ have calm.
          It never would have occurred to me to bring that up in the usual “how do we make this work” discussions but it was perfect.

      3. Solana*

        (Fistbump of solidarity.) Hypoglycemic and fibromyalgia here. Above I was talking about making oatmeal with the room’s coffeemaker instead of paying about ten dollars a day just for that. (I wish I was kidding.)

    5. MK*

      Hotels are not ideal, and also present problems to the categories you mention. In general, I agree that hotels should be the norm for short stays, but for anything longer than a week they suck. The best accommodation is aparthotels, but they are not common.

    6. rudster*

      It sounds like the house is basically going to be their their office as well (presumably making use of the dining room table, dens/office and any other common spaces to collaborate). So if staying in a hotel they would need to rent a conference room for the duration. I can certainly see the appeal of the house from a comfort and especially from a financial sense from the company’s standpoint, compared to three hotel rooms, a conference room, parking and restaurant food for three months.

    7. Tegan*

      As an extreme introvert who loves privacy and security, I would FAR rather stay in a rented house with two people I know than a hotel full of strangers where I have to eat room service or in a public space and deal with an ever-changing assortment of hotel staff and member of the public. A house where I know who will be there, where I have my own room and can cook and clean for myself, and where I don’t have to expect to interact with strangers would be far more relaxing and comfortable for a long-term work trip like this.

      People have different needs and preferences. As long as the OP’s wife could object if she wanted to, I don’t see a problem with this. If she’s OK with the setup, it’s absolutely fine.

    8. AJL*

      I’ve done a lengthy trial while staying in a hotel, and I would have given my right eye for a house. Being in a hotel meant the senior partner was in my room until all hours of the night, because as the junior partner I had the bulk of the files and documentation. Much harder to say, “Welp, it’s 2 am and I really need to sleep, bye!” when your room is both your temporary “home” and temporary office.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yes, I came here to say exactly this. I had far less privacy in the hotel situation than when we were put up in a house. We could designate communal work areas and private spaces in the house situation. In the hotel situation, the work area was my room so I had NO privacy and NO downtime.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      My husband did this in the 80s for a research trip. It’s been normalized for decades.

      I agree with Snuck that they are going to be eating and breathing the case, whether that’s in the living room of the shared house or in the hotel room of one of them. This doesn’t sound like a “Well it’s 5 o’clock, time to shift gears!” trip.

    10. anonymous73*

      Who’s trying to “normalize” it? This is a unique situation and you’re making a lot of assumptions. Personally if I was working on something this huge, I would prefer to share a common space – it makes it easier to work together and then you can leave and go to your own space when you’re done. Unless they stayed in hotel suites with living areas, it would be more awkward to have to go to one person’s room or constantly have to find a common area in the hotel when they have to work.

      1. CTT*

        If anything, given how few cases go to trial and the number keeps going down, this specific situation is even LESS likely to happen.

    11. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      Sometimes there isn’t a choice. I was just working on a project doing outreach with migrant workers. My team and I shared a trailer because there are no hotels close to the folks we wanted to reach, most do not have transportation, none wanted their bosses knowing they were talking with us, and we wanted to be available as folks came on and off shift. Was it my preference? No. Should it be the norm? Hell no. Is it sometimes necessary? Yes.

    12. WorkingMom*

      I completely agree. Once I had been asked to share an apartment with a male coworker for 3 months (I was single at the time) during a business trip and I refused. I had no worries about sexual assault or whether I would be expected to do “women’s work” like cooking or cleaning- that never occurred to me – but I simply did not feel comfortable sharing the space. I did not like the idea having to fully dress before going to the bathroom or making cup of coffee in the morning, etc. The coworker might have been completely comfortable walking around in his underwear in our shared space but I am not. I would feel the same with a female coworker – I am not going to sit down for breakfast in my pajamas with a coworker. (The employer was not happy but provided me with my own apartment and it had bo negative effect on my employment.) As a married woman now, in addition to the concerns above I would consider it completely inappropriate but I would expect husband and wife to be on the same page regarding these types of matters. If LW’s wife is comfortable with the arrangement, it’s her call and she would need to work it out with her husband. Is it possible LW’s wife is not as comfortable with the situation as she is saying because this case is a huge deal for her career and this is a way to look for help?

  6. Sarah*

    I relate so much to the voicemail one. I work at a college and take calls for the mainline. It is super frustrating that people call back after leaving a VM. Even if you hate leaving VM’s, don’t do that. You’re just going to add frustration to someone’s day! At least at my company, VM’s automatically send an email to your work email. And, what is the front desk/admin work supposed to do it about? We cannot control if someone is not answering the phone. It’s also frustrating to be constantly taking messages. Please just leave a VM and go about your day. Email if you are not satisfied with that

    1. Snuck*

      If the person isn’t listening to their voicemails then I assume the receptionist/telephonist/switchboard operator could take that up with them and say “Hey! I’m getting 10 return calls a day for your line, is your voicemail working?”, but if the caller isn’t leaving a message (this could be industry specific – I find leaving messages on medical specialists lines is complicated – I don’t want to share all sorts of intimate details, but a “hey, can you call me back” doesn’t feel urgent!), then maybe turning your tone warm and helpful and a little conspiratorial and saying “Oh, I know it’s frustrating, but Joe Bloggs does listen each day, usually at hte end of the day I’ve noticed, so just leave a message and I’m sure he’ll return your call when he can!” Or “Oh, I remember you! I put you through yesterday! Joe hasn’t called you back? Hrm, how about I send him an email, what was your name again? And your number…? Ok… I’ll send it direct to him.” And take the message… if you can.

    2. Assistant to the Regional Librarian*

      I work at a university library and we’ve been the defacto switchboard since they got rid of the actual switchboard position years ago and we’re seeing the same thing. In our case I think it’s because they want to talk with a real person and can end up waiting a long time to hear back from other departments either via email and phone.
      It’s been worse since the pandemic began though, with every other department working from home we would get people calling us asking if anyone was in at so and so department (we don’t know, half the time we don’t know if the librarians are working from home or not), or upset that this department hasn’t gotten back to them and asking if we can ask them to call them back (we can’t, we don’t have secret numbers for each department).
      This is despite the fact that employees can check their voice-mail and call back from home, and the auto reply emails letting people know how long it will take to get a response.
      Gosh it’s frustrating for everyone involved.

    3. Mockingjay*


      OP3, keep using your script. You noted that it’s not your responsibility to go chasing people or taking personal messages, so don’t. If your coworkers aren’t responding to voicemail, that’s their manager’s role to address. If the caller chooses not to leave a message at all, that’s on them.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        I think the only thing I’d add is if OP3 notices anything resembling a pattern of who seems to get lots of follow up calls along the lines of “I’ve left voicemails for so and so a few times now and not gotten a call back, is there someone else who could assist?” In that case maybe you can pass that along to the manager for further follow up?

      2. Mallory Janis Ian*

        As a former university departmental admin, whenever we would get feedback from multiple sources that a faculty member wasn’t responding to student contact in a timely manner (and not super-short turnaround times, but like a week between attempted contact), we’d tell the professor (or eventually the department head and he would reach out to the faculty member to say that students were having trouble reaching them). If they were behind on email/voicemail, contact from us (or if not that, then the department head) would prompt them to catch up.

        All we could do on the admin end, though, was encourage callers to leave a voicemail or send an email. If we were getting lots of messages from students about any individual faculty member, then we’d contact the faculty member first, and if no improvement from that, the department head.

  7. Snuck*

    OP 4 if you are well compensated, then assume he is as well!

    Why not just say “Let me shout you a coffee and we can catch up on the last few months” and let that be appreciation enough. If he has plenty of cash then a gift of your time and shared mutual stories and work anecdotes could be a gift itself, rather than something he has to remember to take home?

    1. Snuck*

      And why not take the snacks into work a few weeks after you start, when you get a feel for the culture. Invite him to partake then.

      1. Annie Moose*

        This was going to be my suggestion! Bring the snacks in for the team as a whole–it avoids any potential weirdness and your manager can still enjoy them with everyone else.

    2. Bluesboy*

      Yeah, I was going to say something like this. I’m actually in a similar situation myself, I’ve received a verbal offer (waiting for the paperwork) from an old boss to come and work with him in his new job. My plan is to take him out for lunch, it’s not silly expensive so he won’t feel funny or guilty about it, it’s a pleasant way to catch up, but I think it still shows my appreciation. A coffee works the same way, depending on your budget or relationship.

      Plus a coffee or a lunch is shared – it isn’t ‘for you’ it’s ‘for us’ so there’s less pressure on accepting it.

    3. Cait*

      This is what I was going to suggest. Lunch or a coffee would be a nice way to say thank you without the awkwardness of giving them a physical item.

    4. Smithy*

      I do get that for the overly literal – “no gifts” would also seem to imply things like “no coffee” but I do think that’s where sites like AAM are helpful to walk people through those shades of gray.

      In my last office hot Cheetos were a common snack of affection that were seen as more special than other generic snack items – so if there was ever a food the OP bonded over with their boss, that’s another option. If the OP and their boss are going into the office multiple times a week, I’d recommend bringing in the cup of coffee or snacks towards the end of their first week.

  8. Prefer my pets*

    For the nonprofit…

    Some of it may just be the market, but a couple things I’d suggest you take a hard look at from my experience on the BoD of a couple nonprofits…

    -Nonprofit pay and benefits are notoriously low but with inflation and gas prices these days, pay that even 6 months ago was “well, I can make it work because I love the mission” is now “I would literally lose money every week”. Make sure you’re very, very upfront with the pay, benefits, & remote options (or lack thereof) before you even schedule interviews

    -do you know what your organization’s rep is, particularly your ED’s, among other nonprofit employees? We had a bad experience with an ED who was great with the Board and funders but absolutely a nightmare with staff. Took two mass resignations before we were able to convince enough members of the board she was the problem not the staff. It was a real struggle to communicate in hiring going forward that there was a new (amazing) ED and previous issues had been addressed. The new ED had an uphill battle with hiring for several years because the nonprofit community can be small.

    1. Lawstudent*

      I came here to say this. Aside from checking to make sure no one internal is intentionally sabotaging the interviewers/tipping them off, I’d double check your organization’s reputation. There may be something on google, or a yelp like board that has negative comments about your org. The market is hot for employees and while some people may ghost interviews, others use a hot market to leverage a high salary/better title.

    2. Social Worker Shocked*

      This right here, look at jobs in your area that are asking for similar requirements, do they outpace you with salary and benefits. Often non-profits get stuck in the “this is how it’s always been” in regards to pay, policy and procedure, and do not know how to adapt in a new market where employees have more leverage and mobility. You need to learn to adapt and make the job more appealing.

    3. Ama*

      As a nonprofit worker myself, I’ll also say that right now I think very small nonprofits have an uphill climb making a case to candidates that they are an appealing and functional place to work. Too many of us have had bad experiences with the growing nonprofit that needs to go through a major culture change and isn’t really ready for it or that knows it needs to add staff but hasn’t really thought through what the new roles will actually do (and if those roles are really one person jobs or trying to cram three roles into one). This is not to say OP’s org wouldn’t be a good place to work (and it’s still rude to ghost and not just send a “hey, I’ve thought more about it and I don’t think this role is for me” email) — I just think right now experienced nonprofit workers don’t want to take a chance with a tiny nonprofit if they are given an option for something that seems more stable.

      1. Smithy*

        Came here to say these things – and in addition to the points of being upfront about pay and acknowledging reputation – it may be worth reviewing what is being gone over in the first informational interview. My bias with nonprofits of truly any size, is that a lot of growth or change does not always match with thoughtfulness in hiring. So even if the organization is large and stable, the team or the job itself may be in fulltime chaotic flux.

        It’s worth reviewing how the initial information interview is presenting the job and organization situation. And whether any of the terms or descriptions that might be exciting to you (lots of growth! adding new systems! starting new programs!) might be communicating a higher level of flux. Not that you want to bait and switch, but I think you can consider how to present change as being thoughtful and planned. Now, if phrases like ‘seat of our pants’ and ‘thrown into the deep end’ and ‘improv’ genuinely apply to the organization or these jobs – then you want people who are prepared for that. But I’d argue that within nonprofit circles that style of work is being seen with more and more jaded eyes and the people who thrive in those spaces are my least favorite managers.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        If I were younger and more ambitious/idealistic I would have concerns about how far I could grow in a place with only five employees. Sure, it might mean getting in on the ground floor, but it might also mean more or less spinning wheels because the organization can’t quite get up enough steam to expand (or doesn’t need or want to expand, depending on the demand for what they do), and if you’re hoping to build a career that’s not going to look very promising.

        1. Smithy*

          While I’ve never worked for a nonprofit that small, I do want to shout out that sometimes working for an organization that small when you’re younger can actually be quite advantageous for growth. Depending on the nature of your job, you can end up doing a lot of different things and have more “senior” experiences sooner.

          The downside is actually that it’s best to be very mindful around how long you stay. If you are particularly ambitious, it’s usually good to move on when you’re still early enough in your career that taking a mid level role won’t feel overly junior where you can learn how larger systems operate. However, leaving can feel like there’s never a good time and you are obligated to give a super long notice because of that. So I think as long as you are aware of those challenges and do your best to support yourself in making that transition – it can be really beneficial.

          1. Dust Bunny*

            This is kind of what I mean. My place of employment is about 45 people and we’ve had several admins work here for a few years and then move on to bigger places, but 45 people looks both manageable for a newish admin and big enough to seem like a real management position. Five people is . . . really small, and I would wonder how focused the position can actually be on managerial duties vs. all the other stuff that you tend to end up doing when there are only five people around. it’s a much bigger leap to a bigger organization.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      I was just getting on here to say this, too: Nonprofit wages and benefits already have a reputation, and you’re a very, very, small nonprofit so I’m going to hazard a guess that yours aren’t at the luxurious end of the spectrum. (Disclosure: I’ve worked for a reputable, well-established nonprofit with about 45 employees for over 15 years. Our pay is not luxurious but the benefits are good and the culture is great.)

      You definitely need to reevaluate your compensation, benefits, and reputation. And if you find yourself thinking, “Yeah, but how much can people expect of a small nonprofit?” you’ve probably answered your own question about why your candidates are ghosting.

    5. Llama Llama*

      Yessssssssss. I have worked at a small (12 person) non profit for 7 years and we are having extraordinary difficulty hiring. I am actually in my notice period currently after finding a new job (moving on to work for the government) after years of low pay and an excruciating executive director. Both of these things really matter. When you offer $15/hr for an entry level job in my area you are competing with retailors and fast food restaurants that offer more money. It just isn’t sustainable and job seekers have lots of options. I live in a high cost of living area and have over heard leadership discussing the cost of living (“it’s not as high as xxx place near by” “people live here because they want to” etc) as well as how only a few years ago you could pay someone only $28k/year. Remember the good old days? Ugh.

      I interviewed at a bunch of non-profits before getting the Gov job and you can really tell who is putting in the work to really think about what they are doing and who isn’t. Things like salary and benefits in the job posting, good reputation, one provided questions ahead of time, one had their entire hiring process described on their website, several had not just the standard “everyone welcome to apply” but actually had bullet points about DEI in their job description, job descriptions that were well thought out…in my experience at my current place of business none of this happens because they are so strapped for staff. Job seekers can tell.

    6. Derek*

      OP Here – You were spot on regarding pay prior to posting this position. We were completely out of synch with market value. We have since corrected this and are now competitive, plus we posted our flexible work arrangement, which we thought would be a draw.

      Since I am the ED (I recognize I have a bias) but believe I and we as an organization have a good reputation within our small field. It is likely that those, particularly with the entry-level position, haven’t ever heard of us and may choose a larger more well-known organization.

  9. JSPA*

    If the snacks are minimal in value in country-of-origin, one bag’s worth is incidental in cost, and friendly. But make the presentation be, “realized you might like this,” not, “thanks so much for being a friend.” Or if they can wait without getting stale, bring them for boss-and-office, as suggested, once you’re aware of the office culture (and any “jaye is deathly allergic to shellfish / peanuts” information about bringing in food, plus any “covid isn’t over yet” food-sharing policies).

    I’d avoid things with religious / symbolic implications, ditto boozy chocolate, and maybe even super-strong (biologically active) licorice.

  10. Popcorn enthusiast*

    As someone who actually uses voicemail at least to check and get back with potential jobs that are calling to hire me ; I tend to not answer my phone very much because of a high volume of scam calls that look like they’re from my area but are really just people trying to sell something. I tend to check my voicemails to see what the number wanted and usually a hiring manager will indicate that they’re calling to have me fill out a questionnaire or do an interview. However I do check my voicemail in this case and will at least get back with the person via email since I tend to work fairly late and I may not always be awake during the hours someone might call me.

  11. Dragonfly7*

    PLEASE leave voicemails, both personal and at work. Working a public customer service desk means I usually can’t answer my phone right away, and I receive 6-7 spam calls a day, some even from local area codes. If there’s a voicemail, I know it’s important.

    1. High Score!*

      I haven’t listened to a voicemail in over a decade. My personal line won’t even accept them. It’s too slow and I get annoyed listening to people babble on when they could’ve sent a concise email. So I guess it depends on the person and email is more reliable, easier to understand, everything printed, no need to state a callback number or other number twice for understanding. Voicemail is ancient tech that doesn’t get the job done.

      1. anonymous73*

        “Ancient tech that doesn’t get the job done”? That’s a bit obnoxious and untrue. Just because YOU don’t like it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t work. Some professions rely on phones and VM.

        1. Broadway Duchess*

          Agreed. I hated voicemails, too, but my carrier has “visual voicemail” so I don’t have to do all of that extra stuff that took time. If there are 10 calls from the same number, I usually check one to see what it is (usually spam), then delete all of them and block the number. I think the various tech options have a place and it depends largely on a number of factors, so calling it outdated is not really accurate.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        What about people that don’t have your e-mail address or are not literate either in your language or any and thus can’t write? In my job that comes up quite frequently given the communities we work with. Anceient tech sticks around because it works for some situations and is the best option.

      3. Colette*

        Voicemail is not ancient tech. If you accept calls in a business setting, you should be providing a way for people to leave messages, and then making sure you get those messages.

        And generally, you should be taking calls. Email is great, but it’s a lot easier to reliably give out a phone number than an email address.

      4. Generic Name*

        The reason your personal line won’t accept voicemails is likely because you’ve not bothered to set up voicemail or your voicemail box is full.

      5. Dragonfly7*

        I’d have missed out on two scholarships in the past four years if I hadn’t listened to my voicemail. Both were from an organization that prioritizes communicating by phone.

        1. Colette*

          I’ve left voicemails for companies I wanted to hire, and when they don’t call me back, they’re off the list. (The same goes for “contact us” forms on websites; if you don’t get back to me when I want to give you money, you’re not going to be helpful if there’s an issue.)

      6. The Cosmic Avenger*

        In addition to what’s been mentioned before, some populations may have limited access to email, such as the poor, elderly, and those with motor issues that make typing difficult or impossible. There are solutions to those, like voice-to-text and free internet access at (some) libraries, but those also require more time and effort from the user that they may not be able to spare.

      7. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        And by the tone of your response, I can tell you experience plenty of privilege in your life, and work with individuals who also do.

        Many of us work in fields where we deal with everyone, including (often especially) those who aren’t computer literate or computer comfortable. Voicemail remains a consistent means of reaching someone and indicating what you need assistance with so I can be prepared to help you when I call you back.

        Voicemail is tech that works, and many things it needs to. Your personal disdain for it is valid, but don’t insist everyone else lives their lives the same way you do.

      8. Hen in a Windstorm*

        Ha. I love the fantasy that someone who “babbles” in a voicemail will magically become “concise” in an email. Your preference is blinding you to reality.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Oh, goodness, this really is true for me though. Because I can edit an email. (Not that I agree with the rest of the post.)

        2. Aggresuko*

          Yeah, but I can scan an email for the important bits. Can’t do that on a damn voicemail.

      9. Observer*

        listening to people babble on when they could’ve sent a concise email

        You think that people only babble on voicemail? Also, what makes you think that folks are actually going to put their contact information in the email? Sometimes it’s not enough to just reply to the email.

        Voicemail is ancient tech that doesn’t get the job done

        You know what else is “ancient tech”? Text. It works for you because some people use it in a way that works for you. By the same token, for a lot of people voice-mail gets used in ways that work for them.

      10. Jora Malli*

        Not using voicemail isn’t really an option for people with chronic medical conditions whose medical providers use phone calls for scheduling or relaying test results.

      11. MCMonkeyBean*

        I am not a big fan of voicemail but this take is odd to me. There are infinite people who might need to contact me that don’t have my email?? I never answer numbers I don’t recognize, so voicemail is generally the only way to know if they were a legit call that I need to reach back out to.

      12. Elsajeni*

        I mean, I don’t think people who say “please leave voicemails” are saying that because they prize voicemail above all other means of communication — I certainly don’t. If someone calls me, gets my voicemail, hangs up and instead sends me an email or text with whatever message or question they had, that’s great! It’s being expected to glean some kind of message from “Missed call: 832-867-5309,” or someone calling back again and again as if that will unlock some secret other way to get in touch with me, that are the problems.

    2. Observer*

      nd I receive 6-7 spam calls a day, some even from local area codes. If there’s a voicemail, I know it’s important.

      I wish. I cannot tell you how many spam and cold sales call messages I’ve gotten.

      1. quill*

        It’s always the extended vehicle warranty for the car I had five years ago which caught a fatal case of tree. Or “you may be one of the few owners of [make and model year] in good condition, do you want to sell?”

        I guarantee you that car is barely good for scrap, guys.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously. I’m job hunting right now, and so I have to answer my phone.

      It’s about one for one, scam calls to recruiters. Scam calls don’t leave messages, recruiters do.

      Another thing that annoys me is recruiters who send me an email, and if I don’t answer it within 15 minutes, call me to tell me that they sent an email. No. Stop.

      I check email two to three times a day. I’m not sitting there constantly hitting refresh waiting for the “perfect opportunity” to work for half my previous wage on-site halfway across the country. Just no.

      It is important for my mental health to maintain boundaries between my work search and my life. Voicemail and email are part of that.

  12. The Dude Abides*

    While I would love to have voicemails forwarded to my inbox for me to listen to, I don’t ever see that happening any time soon.

    I have voicemails waiting for me 1-2 days a week, and can say the same when I’m coming back from lunch.

    If it is someone internal, I 100% prefer email/Teams, so that I have a record I can easily save. When working with the public, I don’t have a choice, since oftentimes a phone number is all I have (within our software) or that the public has (my direct # is at the bottom of most notices/letters sent out by my unit).

    1. Cmdrshpard*

      There is a way to do it for s business setting but not sure how much it costs. At one place I worked they had voip phoned and VMs were auto-transcribed and sent to your email. The autotranscription was pretty good but not great so sometimes you still had to go into the voicemail to try and figure out the name/number or body of VM, but 80% it worked well. That was a few years ago, the transcription tech is probably better now.

      For personal cells some carriers offer visual / text transcription of your VMs. You have to pay an extra monthly fee but not much.

    2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      If your company is using a VoIP system there almost certainly is a way to have the voicemails forwarded to an email inbox as a digital file – but it will probably require talking to who ever is responsible for managing the system in your organization.

    3. AnotherLawyer*

      I do have that! And they’re transcribed (by a computer so not perfect but pretty good). It’s glorious and I wish I knew what the software is so I could tell you, but I’m not sure. It does exist though

  13. Justaquickcomment*

    Re the voicemail thing, at my company voicemails are automatically converted into sound files and emailed to the recipient. I always respond, even if not immediately. That said, I encourage people to email me instead of calling. I am literally in front of my emails all day, every day, and in fact use my inbox as a to-do list. If you call me, I will type a note of the call and email it to myself anyway, so you may as well just email me in the first place. I am also likely to respond faster.

    In fact, it is the people who call and call and call and call until they get through that annoy me. I am often away from my computer, or in a meeting, or on another call, and can’t answer your call, it’s not personal. JUST LEAVE A MESSAGE. If I see a number repeatedly calling me without leaving a message, I assume it is a telemarketer, because unfortunately that is who it usually is every time I answer a number that has repeat called me with no messages left. If the calls with no messages from any one number persist I will often block the number.

    If you have a legitimate reason for calling me, you have a legitimate reason to leave a message telling me who you are, what you want, and how to get in touch with you. If you don’t feel you should be leaving me a message (or shooting me a text or email) then you need to ask yourself if you really should be calling me at all in the first place, let alone repeatedly.

    1. allathian*

      Yes, this. Voicemail is acceptable, but only if it forwards the recorded audio to my inbox. Our current system doesn’t do that, unfortunately. Luckily at my organization people tend to use Teams for either calls or IMs. I really hate calls out of the blue, especially when I don’t know who’s calling or why. Teams at least lets me know who’s calling. Most people will also IM me first to ask if I have a few minutes to chat, and that makes it a lot less disruptive.

    2. A.N. O'Nyme*

      Especially because it’s not uncommon for scammers to call you multiple times in rapid succession, hoping to make you think it’s urgent so you’ll pick up.

    3. Mockingjay*

      For OP3, though, the issue is that her company uses a voicemail system for missed incoming calls and callers refuse to leave one. That system is not on her to change. She just needs to repeat her script: “please leave a message on Caroline’s voicemail; I cannot contact her directly.” If Caroline isn’t returning calls or checking emails, that’s a separate issue. The most OP3 can do is mention to a supervisor: “callers are irritated by leaving voicemails; they claim staff aren’t returning calls.”

    4. SnappinTerrapin*

      Multiple calls, no voice-mail? No communication. I don’t return those calls.

  14. Daisy*

    LW2: I am more concerned about who is doing the cleaning and cooking for three months. They’d better talk this though before going. I’d advice this to any friends who will be moving in together for three months. Being high end work I assume/hope they have already arranged for a cleaner to come, at least.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, I really hope so! Especially if they’re working something like 20 hours a day…

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Having been in the situation in the very short term, I put my foot down before we even left that I wasn’t the maid or the mom, and that of course a cleaner would be covered by the company. It was the best short term, non-hotel stay, and it DID set the precedent that, of course, the company was going to set up a cleaning service.

      I have a lot of side eye for the pearl clutching (my interpretation but its based on some of my interactions in my industry, where wives get pi$$y with me for no other reason than they see me as a threat. ‘Scuse me while I give that a hearty laugh. Don’t want your spouse, he’s not a catch in my book, and I’m married too…and the concept of looking elsewhere isn’t even in my thought process) and the “but…but…but….liability!”

      That’s a work-it-out-with-your-spouse or work-it-out-in-therapy thing, not an HR thing.

    3. Popinki(she/her)*

      I have a feeling there’s going to be a lot of drive-throughs and Doordash deliveries in their future. I’m a good cook and I enjoy cooking, but working that kind of schedule I’d have zero energy for shopping, prepping, and cooking.

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        Yeah time spent cooking/cleaning is time wasted that is not being billed.
        Or even if the entire time is billed to the client, I’m sure they would much rather pay $600 an hour for actual legal work instead of $600 an hour for cleaning/cooking.

  15. Chocolate Teapot*

    5. In most of my employment contracts, there is a clause about reimbursing fees for training. I realise this might not be the case for everyone, but I think it was something like having to repay half the cost if I left within 6 months.

    1. allathian*

      Depends. I’ve taken a certification that my employer paid for (cost in hundreds rather than tousands of euros), and I signed a contract to repay the cost if I left within 2 years of completing the certification, which took a year. I was allowed to use company time for some of the training, including seminars in person.

      There’s no expectation of reimbursing fees for training if it’s something like going to a conference. A former coworker was allowed to go to a conference (in our city, so no need to travel) even during their notice period. Granted, our notice periods tend to be a month or two rather than two weeks, but still, I wouldn’t expect this to happen with most employers.

      1. MK*

        I think this can depend on whether there is some benefit for the company from an employee attending a conference-type event vs. training that is directly to the benefit of the employee only. E.g. I work for the courthouse system of my country and me attending conferences, seminars and workshops, especially in the European level, is considered a plus for the organization in general, although there is no tangible benefit. Good PR, I guess? But me getting, say, a Masters degree, would be considered something solely for my own benefit.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Yeah, but any repayment policies should be spelled out in the employee handbook. My company requires you to reimburse tuition assistance if you leave within two years of completion, but the rest of it just falls into the category of, “Oh well, that’s the cost of doing business.”

      1. UKDancer*

        Same in my job. If you do a PhD or MBA and the company pays you agree to refund them if you leave within a certain period. The same is true of other professional training. There is a full list on the intranet of what is included here. Anything else is just the cost of doing business and having staff.

  16. WoodswomanWrites*

    For #3 regarding voicemail, that must be maddening to get those complaints as the person who happens to answer the phone.

    I apparently live in a totally different professional universe than many others. I like getting voicemails. I work in a nonprofit where my work is largely relationship-based, I don’t get very many calls, and when I do they’re people I want to speak to and I like hearing their voices rather than the flatness of email. I respond quickly since I’m not inundated with random messages from people I don’t know. I do like that a recording of my voicemails automatically goes to my email to make sure I can track the gist of messages later on.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, it really depends on the job.

      I’m comms adjacent, and I spend most of my working day writing. Usually phone calls are an unwelcome distraction. I only serve internal clients, who use a ticketing system to submit requests, which is all that’s needed for simple ones. If it’s a more complicated situation, we’ll usually schedule a meeting or Teams call to discuss it further. The calls can sometimes be scheduled at very short notice, by IM.

  17. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP2: Another perspective from someone who was involved in a very big, very complex, very high profile legal case. Not as a lawyer, but as a key witness for the prosecution and involved the highest court in the land and went on for months.

    It absolutely drained ME and I wasn’t doing it for as many hours as the barristers who were on my side were. Once I left the courtroom at least my day was over (apart from dodging the press) but their day wasn’t. I’ve little doubt they frequently worked into the night or had to sleep like big time.

    If your wife has said she’s okay with this then I’d just give the advice to believe her. It’s unusual but high profile court cases generally are. Perhaps ask if there’s anything she would like you to do to support her during this?

    1. Popinki(she/her)*

      This is a very good point. They’re going to be keeping a grueling schedule and eating/sleeping when they can, and any downtime they get will be spent catching up on rest. This would be the case whether they were sharing a house or staying in separate rooms at a hotel – they’d be together working on the case or in court together most of the time anyway. They’re going to be too tired and drained for any shenanigans, and likely by the end of the first week be so sick of each other’s company that they’ll be as romatically appealing as sacks of old moldy potatoes.

      Trust your wife. She must be very experienced and well regarded as an attorney if she’s working on this big of a case, and wouldn’t be working on it it she and her boss didn’t have a good professional relationship based on mutual respect. They’re not going to swoon into each other’s arms just because Vive Le Difference.

  18. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

    #2 — Although I am way below lawyers in terms of pay and benefits, a house sharing arrangement like this is very, very common in my field. As long as everyone has their own room it makes no difference what the gender mix is.

    We often move around from job to job, the sites are almost always remote relative to where the staff are, and the company tries to make accommodation arrangements that give you access to normal household facilities like a kitchen. It’s no fun staying in a hotel or b&b with no fridge or stove for months on end.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I am an attorney and I have never heard of sharing the living space with the client though. Gender is not an issue, but it does not seem to be professionally appropriate in my opinion to reside with the client.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I skipped right over that bit. Seems weird to me but I’m not a lawyer. My point was more that it’s very common to share accommodation with the people you’re working with regardless of gender, marital status, etc.

  19. Lady_Lessa*

    Grin about voice mails and phone. Yesterday at work, the woman who answered the phone let me know that a certain salesman was on the line and if I wanted to talk to him. Being in the middle of a complex document review, I just asked that he send me an email. That worked out nicely, because now I have an update, and our purchasing manager and I can talk about the best diplomatic wording to respond to him.

    1. Miette*


      OP3, are a lot of the people getting huffy with you actual potential/current clients or sales people? Because how you should deal with the calls in these cases should also come from an understanding of the goals/purpose of the callers.

      If you work at a doctor’s office, as was mentioned above, people have a right to be insistent if there’s a tendency for voice messages to fall into a black hole, and Alison’s advice to try to get to why there’s a culture of not responding to messages at your org might be worth pursuing. But if you work in media or publishing and the people calling are PR folks trying to pitch clients or any host of other similar salesy situations, callers may feel that being pushy will get them results, so are thus being huffy with you as a tactic for getting what they want (i.e. a person) rather than what you/the org can offer (i.e. a callback as/when relevant), so you may want to approach it differently.

      1. Betty Beep Boop*

        I think this review of the callers goals could also apply to how best to deal with these return callers. Pushy sales people don’t get their repeated phone calls answered (if you can see the number that is calling), clients or people that truly need an answer or a person can be transferred to someone else or given an email address or take down their message or whatever makes them feel better/matches the situation. Hopefully your management would back you up regarding screening calls this way – important people get additional help, unimportant people get ignored.

        I think maybe some of the worry about voicemail is that office phones were the one left behind piece of transitioning to our “temporary” pandemic WFH solution. So people either weren’t using their office phones (and maybe having no or infrequent access to their voicemails) or were working a hybrid/flexible schedule and again not always having access to their phone/voicemails. When we were all WFH and trying to get make it work in the early days of the 2020 I think we all were fine to just not doing phone calls but now that everyone’s work schedules are all topsy turvy you never know if you’re calling into a black hole or not.

        TLDR for the above paragraph: including in your script that “they usually check/respond to their voicemail at/on _____ “or that ” they are in the office ______ days of the week” or anything in that realm to help alleviate their worry of leaving a message in a black hole (i like the idea of giving them their email right away as a backup option)

  20. AJL*

    #2 – this is extremely common in litigation, as others have noted, as it sure beats being in a share hotel suite with your coworkers for days or weeks on end. As to Allison’s concern re: downtime, there is no downtime during a trial. You are in court all day and spend most of the evening preparing for the next day. At least in a house you have room to get up and stretch your legs, and access to a kitchen so that every meal you eat doesn’t come from a take-out carton or a vending machine. (There is a reason or 500 that I no longer litigate.)

    OP #2, this is a you problem, not a liability for your wife’s firm or something that will make HR clutch their pearls. I would gently suggest you assess where your feelings are coming from, because if your wife remains a litigator this will happen again.

  21. Not All Hares Are Quick*

    >> “I can give you her email address if you’d like to try emailing instead.”
    A word of warning that this might not play well with your company. Ours strongly discourages (read: forbids) giving out email addresses over the phone – public-facing workers’ email addresses are out there anyway, and there’s a past history of stalkers/abusive ex-partners blagging an email address in just this way.

    1. Emily*

      I like the idea of giving out email addresses, and they can use non-personal email addresses (programs were mentioned, so they could give each program an email address which also forwards to the personal email accounts) if they don’t want to give out personal emails.

    2. Lynca*

      I agree with this. There can be a whole legitimate reason why you’re not supposed to hand out people’s emails. So definitely check before doing that!

      There can be a whole lot of rules about sharing contact information professionally.

      My mom was a social worker and there was a very definite line of where you cannot pass out certain contact information. Back before email and caller ID, I remember having to deal with several calls because people found someone to give them our unlisted home phone number.

    3. Miette*

      Another reason is cyber security: many phishing attacks come from people spoofing an important person’s legit email address from within your org to internal people who may respond with sensitive information. I’m reminded of the time the HR manager of my company nearly sent out a complete list of employees’ contact details and SSNs to an email that looked like it came from the controller, and only realized it wasn’t a legit request because she had a question about the format for the data.

  22. Susan1*

    For the first post, I think it is too flexible to offer candidates any time. Perhaps you are selling your time short and they are taking you for granted. I would find it odd to be asked to set my own interview time, and maybe they think you are disorganized and it creates a negative first impression. Instead organize your interviews and slot them in unless they bring up an issue with the timing. Eg are you available on z day at x time?

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I have always been given a choice of interview times! Something like, “are you available on any of these dates and times?”

      We have seen people here mention they have been told to jump into a potential employer’s calendar and set a date/time. That makes me uncomfortable!

      I don’t think being offered flexibility in interview timing is a signal that the employer is disorganized. It’s a signal that the employer respects my time and the fact that I have to fit interviews around my current job.

      1. WellRed*

        I suspect Susan is reading it as “hey pick a time, any time!” Rather than “do any of these times work for you?”

    2. Zephy*

      I was sent a calendar scheduling link for the phone screen for the job I have now. It’s not weird, just faster than the back-and-forth of “will this time work?” “no but i can do that time” “oh that won’t work for me, how about the other?”

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Too flexible??? I highly doubt anyone is thinking “oh no, this company is too flexible and has too much respect for my time I better flake on them.”

  23. Kivrin*

    Another exception for #5 would be if you’ve used the employer-paid training courses as networking opportunities to nab yourself a new job. (Looking at you, Wakeen….)

    1. Chilipepper Attitude*

      But is that an exception?

      What should the OP do if the training leads to a job offer? Turn it down?

    2. anonymous73*

      Most companies have policies that if they pay for any type of your education and you leave within X amount of time, you have to repay what they paid out to you. If the company does not have that policy in place, you owe them nothing. If OP is being underutilized in her current position, there’s nothing wrong with them moving on if another opportunity comes up, regardless off how long it’s been since the training took place.

    3. bamcheeks*

      “nab” here suggests that getting a new job is some kind of vaguely illegitimate con…

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I mean, it does sound like that is OP’s plan and to be honest I feel a bit weird about that as well, but since it’s not like they can tell the company they are job searching I don’t think there is anything to be done differently.

  24. After 33 years ...*

    #2: With the rising cost of gasoline here, it’s becoming more common for co-workers to share accommodation in town during the work-week rather than commuting as formerly. That always was the case for 2 weeks on – 2 weeks off work schedules, regardless of profession.

  25. Squidlet*

    OP1, I think this will help: ‘You can try confirming interviews the day before and saying, “If you end up needing to cancel or reschedule, please let me know.”’

    When people realise they aren’t going to make it, it often feels too awkward to say so. By giving them an opening to do so, you might find that you get fewer people ghosting you.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I know everybody has different hangups and anxieties, but I really doubt there are many people out there who actually need to be told that the person they’re meeting with would prefer not to be ghosted. Roughly everyone knows that the polite thing to do is to tell them if you’re not showing up. If a candidate can’t bring themself to have that awkward conversation, it’s not because no one specifically asked them to.

      1. BongoFury*

        I wonder if providing an email address would be helpful. Not a lot of people like confrontation and it’s easier to ghost people then deal with “oh do you want to reschedule? Why not? Are we not good enough for you?”
        But most can send a bland “please withdraw my name” email.
        It would depend on the organization and if they’re able to set up a generic HR email.

        1. Derek*

          OP here – we do confirm the appointments via email and I think a check-in the day before is a great suggestion. If nothing else it lets them know one more time than we anticipate meeting them and if they aren’t available/no longer interested, they can kindly let us know.

          We had one candidate who canceled due to a family emergency, re-scheduled, then ghosted. That ended up being a lot of work for both parties. I just don’t get it!

  26. Purple Cat*

    I attended a major offsite for my department where we were mostly put up in townhouses. Each attendee had their own bedroom, but we shared with others, across divisions so it wasn’t necessarily people we knew. I honestly don’t remember if genders were mixed or not, because it’s totally irrelevant. Professionals can share a house without issue and there is no “liability to the firm”.

    Personally, I’m an introvert, and having to be “on” all.the.time because I’m staying with coworkers for months on end would be the dealbreaker for me.

    Most importantly, it doesn’t sound like your wife has an issue with this. Only you do. Reflect on why.

    1. anonymous73*

      Well said. The whole “men and women can’t possibly be JUST friends” drives me banana crackers. I’ve worked in IT for over 25 years and most of my co-workers and friends have been men and there have never been any lines crossed. When I was first starting out, my male friends would suddenly “disappear” when they started dating someone new as if I were a threat or something.

  27. Asenath*

    The ghosting must be really annoying. I don’t think that the fact that employers did (and do) that justifies applicants doing it now; it’s just rude behaviour all round. I don’t think you can do much more than you are doing except maybe reminding them to call or email if they want to cancel their appointment, or sending a reminder the day before. Perhaps its some consolation that you won’t be hiring someone who ghosts people.

    1. anonforthis*

      Not a justification but an explanation. Unfortunately, employers set the norm for ghosting interviews so people feel they can do it with no consequence.

      To be clear, the behavior is rude on both sides. I can’t imagine ghosting anyone intentionally. But if employers model rude behavior, rude people will feel like they have a place.

  28. Helvetica*

    LW#2 sounds like a relationship issue rather than a work issue. I will say, I have done plenty of work travel with (married and unmarried) male coworkers and it has never resulted in an affair just due to proximity. If you think it might then your feelings about this being inappropriate are about you and your trust in your wife rather than anything else, especially if your wife does not have concerns about this arrangement.

  29. I should really pick a name*


    What is it specifically about the situation seems inappropriate to you? You make a point of specifying the genders and marital statuses of the people involved, so I assume that you think it’s relevant.

    Are you concerned that they’re going to have sex with each other? That’s a problem whether they’re married or not. That’s also something that could happen if they were all the same gender. That could also easily happen if they were staying in separate hotel rooms.

    Are you concerned that someone is going to be assaulted? That’s a problem whether they’re married or not. That’s also something that could happen if they were all the same gender.

    Are you concerned that they’re going to see each other in sleepwear (maybe one of the men walking around in boxers)? If that’s a concern to you, why does it matter if they’re married or not?

    So is your problem that they’re sharing a house period, or that it’s this specific combination of marital status and genders?

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I think the OP is old fashioned (i,e sexist) and doesn’t want people to gossip about his wife staying with another man!
      I think OP needs to take a hard look at why he is uncomfortable, especially since the wife seems ok with it.

  30. The Witch of Sanity's Annex*

    OP #3 There’s always an answering service! We do still exist!
    On the other hand, you would not believe the number of people who tell me “I don’t want you, don’t they have voicemail?”
    And lest you think I exaggerate, I had 3 calls like that in the last 10 hours…and I work overnight.

    1. LW #3*

      We do have a lovely answering service for nights, weekends, and holidays. My phone is actually programed to roll over to other people’s lines if I am busy or on the line.

  31. ecnaseener*

    The “liability” part from letter #2 confuses me. If that refers to a risk of sexual assault, what does marital status have to do with it?

    1. bamcheeks*

      (I think it’s what happens when your starting point / sense of unease is a traditional notion of respectability, women-as-property and sexual threat, and you’re trying to couch it in terms of autonomy, consent and liability because you think that’s more likely to stick, but the first one slips out unconsciously. )

      1. ecnaseener*

        I mean yeah, but consciously does this person literally think there is a legal difference between assaulting a single person and assaulting ANOTHER MAN’S WIFE?

    2. anonymous73*

      I think it’s an excuse to use to not have to admit the real reason OP is uncomfortable with the situation.

    3. Rusty Shackelford*

      I thought he was probably hoping to frighten his wife’s employer with the idea that if anything happened to her, they would be liable. But yeah, her being married shouldn’t make a difference.

    4. Nanani*

      Marital status has nothing to do with it for well-adjusted adults in 2022. It h as everything to do with it for insecure victorian time-travellers.

  32. Cait*

    If this is the case, I think the OP should have a discussion with her team about instituting a voicemail-checking schedule. Like Person A checks the voicemail every morning at opening, Person B checks it right before lunch, and Person C checks it an hour before close (or whatever). That way, when people complain about getting voicemail, OP can say, “We have a voicemail checking policy where we check voicemails three times a day. We will get back to you today.” This might assuage people’s fear that leaving a voicemail will mean they never hear back.

    1. Colette*

      I assume these are voicemails for individuals, so everyone would have to check their own voicemail.

  33. Noelle Bataille*

    I set my voicemail to the professional-sounding “Voicemail responses will be delayed, please text or email me if you need to get in contact with me.” Between robocalls, sales pitches (I’m a buyer), phone-calls-that-could-have-been-a-text, and the need for CYA in almost all business interactions, yeah. Put it in writing.

    1. BongoFury*

      I’m also a buyer and good god, I’d much prefer voicemail to all the insane daily email sales pitches I get. Four or five a day for a service we don’t even use/need but that doesn’t stop them.

  34. Seriously?*

    As a teacher I often couldn’t answer the phone. I asked parents to email instead as I was going to see it sooner and could sometimes answer while in class. And then my phone broke and ALWAYS had the you have a message light on, even when there was no message. I gave up after awhile and stopped checking.

  35. Hiring Mgr*

    i used to have a job where me and a some others would go to India a few times a year to train some colleagues…. We went for two weeks at a time and always stayed in “guest houses” rather than hotels where it was usually three of us (always mixed gender i think)

    We all had our own private bedrooms/bathrrooms AND someone who did all the cooking/cleaning/laundry/bed-making, etc. This was all considered very normal and nobody batted an eye.

  36. Suzie SW*

    #1, since this is a common occurrence and not something you have much control over, it might be helpful to reframe the power shift in ghosting as a positive thing. While the practice itself is frustrating (and yes, still rude), as the employer, you’re still getting paid when you’re ghosted. When the power differential is reversed, the job candidates are not, and they’re often losing money if they’ve taken time off of work. Employers generally have less to lose here than job seekers.

    1. WellRed*

      This is an impractical take. OP May still be getting paid, she may even understand the positive aspects of this power shift. But, she needs to hire, presumably because there’s work to be done. She’s wasting time and time that could be spent more productively, and getting ghosted(or stood up), especially on a regular basis, is frustrating not to mention draining.

      1. anonymous73*

        It’s not impractical, it’s realistic. There’s literally nothing OP can do to combat this. Asking them to let her know if they can’t make it isn’t going to do anything because (as someone said upthread) people know it’s rude to ghost and they still do it. They don’t need to be reminded to have the courtesy to inform the company they can’t make a interview. Getting mad and frustrated doesn’t help OP either, so having this take may help alleviate some hard feelings.

    2. Resident Catholicville, USA*

      And, they’re self-weeding themselves out of the process. If they truly wanted the job and/work for that company, they’d stick with the process. (Or, if they were excessively polite and potentially didn’t want the job but showed up for the interview out of obligation, but I wouldn’t consider that a downside on either side- an interview might change someone’s mind for the good or bad.)

      1. Derek*

        OP here – Love that perspective! While I may have wasted the prep time, fortunately, I didn’t have to invest any more resources in someone who would ultimately be unreliable.

    3. anonforthis*

      Yep – it costs more for job seekers to interview than it does for hiring managers to interview. As a hiring manager, you don’t have to travel to the interview or prepare for it as much as job candidates. And it’s a part of your job so you don’t have to take PTO or anything.

  37. Oakwood*

    Re: ghosting

    After the interview is setup, they start doing some serious research into your organization. When they find out more about you, they ghost you.

    Does your Glassdoor info imply you pay below market and are a horrible place to work? Is there some info floating around the internet that makes you look like an undesirable place to work?

    I turned down an interview with a company because they had a reputation for hiring contractors and never converting them to full time employees.

    It might be a employee’s market at the moment, but that doesn’t mean people are in a hurry to burn a bridge with an organization they might want to work for in the future. I suspect the ghosters have decided they never want to work for your org. Hence, they can afford to ghost you.

    1. KRM*

      That was my first thought. They get the interview, and do some research and start thinking “geez, this sounds like a terrible place to work” or “wow there’s no room for advancement here at all according to Glassdoor”. Or they get another interview who offers them $$ above what Glassdoor says the company will offer, and they think “whoa they’re not even going to pay me market value, so forget it”. There is something about this company that makes people think twice, and while ghosting (from either side, really) isn’t great…yeah, they’ve already decided ‘I’d never work here, so I’m out’. You’ve got to ask yourself why all these people are comfortable walking away.

      1. Derek*

        OP here – If we aren’t on Glassdoor, is that a red flag? It isn’t something I’d considered before.

  38. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #3 makes me think that the people who print those pink “while you were out” stationery pads might see an uptick in business…

    It’s true that many people ignore their personal voicemail, mostly because of the big volume of spam calls. It’s likely that the people calling your organization are projecting their own personal voicemail habits on your coworkers.

    Would it be technically possible (and economically feasible) to get an automatic voicemail-to-email bridge for your organization?

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      That is a good suggestion. I know when our office went remote for covid we all had that set up. The only problem is that the caller isn’t going to know this. I can see if the op says “Leave a voicemail. It goes directly to her email and she will contact you as soon as possible” the caller will say “Well why don’t you just give me her email address instead of me leaving a VM.”

  39. missy*

    #3, when I was a secretary one trick that I did with people who didn’t want to leave voicemails was to give them an email address instead. Even though email won’t necessarily get a faster response than voice mail (it totally depends on the person receiving it) they may feel like it is faster or more likely to be responded to. In any case, people feel better when they are given an option. “Leave them a voicemail” makes the caller feel FORCED to do something they don’t want to do (they want to talk to the person directly!). Saying “well you could leave them a voice mail or I could give you their email address” doesn’t get them the thing they want (talking to the person now) but they feel better because they choose what to do next.

    1. anonymous73*

      OP needs to make sure everyone is okay with this first. Depending on who’s calling, they may not want their email given out.

    2. Littorally*

      Good idea. Also, an email is something you can document having sent; if you leave a voicemail, you as the voicemail-leaver have no record either that you left it or what you said.

    3. ACanadian*

      As others have mentioned, I’d be cautious about giving out emails unless you know why the person is calling. It could be scammers, unsolicited sales calls etc. and once they get an email address they can become a real nuisance.

  40. SongbirdT*

    Related to #5…

    My spouse worked for a smallish (~150 employees) company that required employees to sign an agreement when they took company-provided training (that was required for their job) stating that they’d remain with the company for 12 months after training. Because – I’m not making this up – “I keep paying to train these people and they turn around and take a better paying job somewhere else!”

    The pay at this company was woefully under market. The day they were acquired was such a happy day in our house! And my spouse always paid for his own training so he didn’t get locked into that agreement.

  41. Overit*

    #1 Are you being upfront about pay and the compensation package? How does the pay stack up against your area’s pay for the work and COL? What is your organization’s reputation?

    Having spent my career in non-profits, I am all too aware of the low pay, high stress, multiple ball juggling, and commonly, zero benefits. Often, therefore, people taking jobs in them did so because they had no other option. Right now, people have options.

    I suspect you are.getting ghosted because (1) people have found what they believe are better options and (2) given how employers behave, people think ghosting is the norm on both sides.

    As an example, when I was last job hunting for a professional position, I applied for 50 jobs that required advanced degrees plus years of experience. At one point, Of the 50 applications. I heard back in some manner from five. The other 45? Nothing. Of the five from which I heard, I got 2 interviews. One interview turned into five for one job and then I was ghosted (after giving them over 20 hours plus 10 hours in travel time, all entirely unreimbursed).

    Based on what I hear from job hunters’ boards, etc this experience is the norm, not the exception. It would not surprise me if job seekers believe this norm also applies to them now.

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      I’m sorry that so many of your applications did not get a response. But I don’t see that as ghosting. Usually, ghosting is you’ve started a conversation and you are going on to the next steps and then one party stops communicating.
      Yes its bad that employers don’t send out rejection emails to applicants but it’s not the same level of ghostin.

  42. MissBaudelaire*

    Re: Ghosting.

    I honestly don’t think most of the time it is a reflection of the business. When I’m job hunting, I have so many feelers out there. You offer an interview, and then someone paying more offers an interview. I’m going to the place that offers more, because well… I gotta eat.

    It is super rude and frustrating, and I understand why you’re bothered, OP. This is also what candidates have been living for years. Ghosting. It is still a poor practice, and I’m not sure when it somehow became acceptable to do this to people but… here we are.

    1. anonymous73*

      I don’t think many would agree that ghosting is acceptable, yet it seems to be common practice. It’s like keyboard warriors online. Most wouldn’t spew the hate that they unleash online if they were face to face with the people they’re talking to, yet the anonymity gives them the guts to do it. As a company, if you decide to ghost a candidate, it’s not like you have to face them every day knowing what you’ve done. You can ignore them and forget about them and it doesn’t really affect you at all. And the only downside of a candidate ghosting a company is potentially burning bridges if there’s a connection to a future role. I’ve noticed in the past decade (maybe longer and especially in the last 2 years) that common courtesy is becoming a rarity in life, so I think this is just one more thing that follows that trend. #getoffmylawn

  43. Interviewer*

    #1 – We got ghosted by a candidate just yesterday. When we reached out to find out if she was running late or wanted to reschedule, she said she learned we were located downtown, and she didn’t want to commute or pay for parking. Rather than asking us about remote work, or factoring it into the salary negotiations, she decided not to show up at the scheduled interview time or even call to let us know that she wouldn’t be there.

    This was for an opening on the HR team. Yes, her prior work experience included recruiting. LOL

    1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      oh wow! Isn’t like one of the first things people do is check the location of the place they are applying too? Maybe it’s just me, because I mostly rely on public transit and there are some areas of my city that you just can’t get to via transit. But if one of my sticklers was that I didn’t want to work downtown I would make sure I wasn’t applying to places downtown.

      I don’t think you are missing out on anything with that person.

      1. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        Sometimes the ad doesn’t even name the company, and you’re not given the address until they offer you an in-person interview. So someone might go from knowing the office is somewhere in New York City to being told “OK, 2:00 Tuesday, we’re at $address in Brooklyn,” accepting the appointment, and only figuring out where in Brooklyn, and what that means for parking fees or subway access until you’ve finished that conversation.

        Not that ghosting is a good thing, but I suspect the person mayhave been told something like “Joralemon Street, Brooklyn,” and had to look up the address to know that the location is in downtown Brooklyn, with good subway access but a problem for parking.

        1. Taco Bell Job Fair*

          This happened to me a local factory is hiring, but they want me to tour and interview at a factory that is far away from that one.

  44. Dwight Schrute*

    Voicemail: in one of my jobs I’m the sole phone admin. We work in a job where answering the phone when it rings just isn’t going to happen so if people don’t leave a voicemail or text the phone they’re never getting a call back. I assume any missed calls with no voicemail are spam these days with the number of spam calls going on. I do however return voicemails in 24 hours.

  45. Littorally*

    I feel like there’s a synthesis between #1 and #3. People act based on their past experiences with businesses & interactions that aren’t yours and aren’t your responsibility. You might be different (never ghost candidates, always return voicemails) but you can’t singlehandedly change that many employers ghost candidates or that some businesses will never fricken acknowledge that you left a voicemail.

    1. Derek*

      #1 OP Here – Thanks for the perspective! If we all choose to follow the ‘golden rule’ then maybe we’ll fix the underlying issue of ignoring common courtesy…or maybe courtesy just isn’t common anymore.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        From the employer side it hasn’t been common since I joined the job market 25 years ago

  46. Let’sBeReal*

    #2 – I personally think it’s highly inappropriate for work to assume that colleagues should room together on a business trip, even if it’s an extended trip. Nothing to do with gender specifically; I don’t think two men should be expected to share a house either. I am assuming that it is a situation of sufficient separate bedrooms; if it’s shared bedrooms it’s definitely a no. I’d be uncomfortable sharing a bathroom with a colleague, regardless of gender. I’d be uncomfortable being in a private lodging with no external third party 24/7 for months. I think hotel rooms or an option like managed apartments is more appropriate. I’m with the husband on this being weird.

    #3 – I hate voicemail. I don’t listen to mine regularly and although I feel bad about that, the reality is that most voicemail to me falls through the cracks. So yeah, I don’t leave them anymore either unless it’s a rare exception where I KNOW the other person listens to voicemail regularly. If OP wants to help the caller, definitely go with offering the email address or confirming that the person does, in fact, listen to voicemail. I don’t think it’s a default for most people to assume that people listen to voicemail anymore.

    #5 – where I work, if you ask for PD that costs over a certain amount, they make you sign a document saying you will remain at work for a specific period after the training. If you didn’t sign something like that, then there’s no expectation you need to meet. If they want to put a policy like that in place, they can. You don’t need to do it voluntarily.

    1. LJ*

      #2 – ordinary I’d agree, but for 3 months I can imagine the amenities of feeling like you’re living in a home with a kitchen and a yard outweighs the burden of sharing some communal space. (Certainly no shared bathrooms though). Could it be nicer with separate managed apartments? Absolutely! but practically if the options within budget are rooms at the Courtyard or a nice Airbnb house, I’d side with house on this one.

  47. VanLH*

    Retired attorney here. Even for midsized firms it would not be unusual to set up temporary living quarters near the courthouse for a major, lengthy trial.

  48. bamcheeks*

    Hm– I think like a lot of this stuff it’s less about people deciding to ghost and more about how high a priority it is to let people know. I’ve never ghosted a job interview but I know perfectly well that in my brain this would fall into the category of, “must remember to let X know I can’t make that interview .. must remember to let X know before the end of April … must remember to do that before Tuesday … aw, crap, it’s Wednesday, oh well.”

    It’s not that it’s too awkward, it’s just that it’s not a high priority on my mental to-do list. If I get an email or a phone call the day before reminding me about the appointment, that’s a really obvious and easy opportunity to go, “Oh sorry– actually, I won’t be able to make this, and no, I don’t want to reschedule. Sorry about that!”

    1. bamcheeks*

      oops, this was supposed to be a response to ecnaseener*, May 3, 2022 at 8:00 am.

    2. quill*

      Yeah. I wonder how much is ghosting and how much is just the volume of things to keep track of during a job hunt.

  49. Dr Crusher*

    I’ll take any excuse I have not to use the phone, so if someone calls me without leaving a voicemail, I’m not calling back just because I have a missed call. I’m usually going to assume it’s spam or not important. If it’s a friend or family member I’ll text back, because an unplanned call from anyone in my social circle is concerning, but other than that anyone calling can text, email, or leave a voicemail if they want me to call back. The only exception is if I’m awaiting a delivery at home.

    I don’t use the phone at work at all, though. My expectations around voicemail might be different if I did.

  50. PB Bunny Watson*

    Re: Ghosting

    I would caution people (on both sides of the hiring process) to avoid ghosting. Right now, the market has swung to favor the employee… and so many people are becoming terrible about it. It reminds me of the person who gets cheated on and then decides to cheat on the next person as revenge. It’s not any better than the original problem… plus I don’t trust that this market will last. I have a strong feeling that some of the ruder behavior is 1. going to make it worse for people who are considerate and 2. going to bite them in the butt later.

    1. Derek*

      OP here – I think the pendulum will soon be swinging back and I’m nervous for those who haven’t developed or who have lost some basic skills.

  51. AdequateArchaeologist*

    LW#3: At my printing job we would have customers and vendors call to speak to the general manager and she would just… ignore them. After being blown off 2-3 times people would stop wanting to leave voicemails. It was wildly irritating. Taking a note was my best solution because I could do it and tell people “oh, I left her a note to call you” and they wouldn’t really know how to push more about it. You’ve called, I let her know and left her a note. A second one ain’t going to change things.

  52. JelloStapler*

    The call/hang up/call/hang up/call cycle (all within 5 minutes) drives me nuts. I am clearly not available right now. Email me or leave a message and I will get back to you. I won’t suddenly interrupt a meeting ot answer your call because you called fifteen times…. unless you are my family.

  53. Evvie*

    It’s time for more places to realize it’s 2022. If I can email my doctor and ask for an emergency refill and get it done, surely I can email a company or worker and expect a relevant response.

    I ask simple yes/no questions via email to other institutions with way lower privacy issues all the time and am forced to spend 30+ minutes (i.e. my entire break) on the phone with their office in HOPES of getting that yes/no answer. (Think “do I need an appointment to drop off an item?”) My record is 3.5 hours during ONE work day. Work. Day. Because they couldn’t tell me via email when something would ship.

    I’m not saying eliminate phones. There are people who prefer them. But, live chat should be live (after routing), people should email customers back with answers other than “call us,” and phone calls should be returned within a reasonable number of *business* days. (I once had a person get mad about me not returning a phone call from Friday night until Monday…hahaha!)

  54. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

    In regards to voicemails: OP do people say that they leave a message and no one returns their call? I would be hesitant to give the person the email unless that’s something your company does. I know in past places where I’ve worked that would NOT be ok.

    Does your company have a policy for return calls? For example in one past job it was expected that voicemails be returned within 1 business day, or if the person was out of the office within 1 day of them returning.
    Is there a way that you know if they are out of the office or a way you can express to the caller that the person will respond within X time per company policy. That might help.

    I would stop with the emailing letting the other person know a client is trying to reach them. That just sets the precedent that you should be doing this. I would reach out to your coworkers and find out what they would like you to do.

  55. LW #3*

    Hey everyone! I wrote the voicemail letter (thank you for publishing it!). I think I should clarify a couple things because a lot of this advice is great (and I like the script provided Alison!) but it doesn’t work in my situation.

    I work for the state government so yes we are a little behind the times and still rely heavily on voicemail systems in our office. I’m not a receptionist or a front desk worker. Within our division we have a multitude of different programs and I support and work on a program that historically has a lot of phone calls, so it just made sense for me to answer the phone since a lot of the calls are for me. If I don’t answer, the calls roll over to other people. We aren’t encouraged to give out email addresses, so that wouldn’t fly in our office at all. Voicemail is unfortunately the best option to get in touch with 99% of people. Although I will take messages for some of the very high level people, I won’t do it for my same level coworkers because again, I’m not their assistant.

    All that being said, I’m hoping to leave this job this year so hopefully I can send an update that says I just told everyone to Leave a g*d d*mn voicemail on my last day.

    1. Lars the Real Girl*

      “Let me transfer you. You’ll probably get her voicemail, please leave a message – she checks them regularly and will get back to you.” If you prompt on the front end, the callers may not feel like they’re going to a voicemail black hole or there’s been an error. “You don’t want to leave a voicemail? Oh, it really is the best way to get in touch with her. We don’t directly take messages.”

      Hopefully some scripts for the front end will reduce the irritation and call-backs!

      1. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

        I hope this script helps the OP. I know I get push back even when I am transferring them directly to the person they need. Like yesterday someone calls for X and asks a bunch of questions I cannot answer because X is not my job. I explain let me get you to M and he cans better answer your questions. The person blows up saying “where are you sending me to! are they going to call me back?” I legit wanted to say CHILL OUT WOMAN! I very nicely explained that the person will be on the line, but in order to get her to the M i have to put her on hold.

    2. I'm Just Here For The Cats!*

      Thanks for the added info OP. Working for the state I understand exactly what you mean. You’re not always allowed to give an email or sometimes its just not the best option for confidentiality.
      I think that you just need to be firm and explain that the best way to get a hold of someone is via voicemail and that once they are able to they will return their call.

      good luck!

    3. Anonym*

      Totally understand, OP. I used to have the publicly available direct line for a small, public facing program in a large organization. Unlike for you, there wasn’t typically a need to transfer folks, but overall there were so few important or urgent messages that I set up a voicemail box for the line and stopped answering the phone entirely. I would check messages and forward to someone if necessary, but it was wonderful how few people actually left them. Most seemed to redirect to our email address, which was a better tool anyway.

      It was also helpful when someone decided to start calling with weird demands and possibly delusional beliefs about a member of our exec team. Our tiny program was nowhere near the C suite, nor would anyone reasonable assume it was, but they found the number and just called dozens and dozens of times for months. I was able to forward the messages to our security team for awareness and didn’t have to interact with the person (who eventually stopped – I hope they got help).

      Good luck in landing a great new role soon!

    4. Doctors Whom*

      Appreciate the clarification!

      One thing that could work is that if pressed you could say “We do not take individual messages for privacy reasons” if it’s even remotely true.

    5. sdog*

      Would it make sense to just point to different contacts within your division for different questions? So, for example, where ever people go to get your number, also list the other available programs and different numbers for those programs. For questions about X, call xxx-yyyy, etc. That way, you’ll get fewer calls that aren’t meant for you?

  56. Failing Up*

    I will say that I do listen to and leave voicemails.

    Firstly, people who speak ESL (or have dyslexia, or another difference) sometimes find texting and typing very difficult, and talking is much better/faster/easier.
    Secondly I learned to slowly say my phone number at least TWICE, ideally at the beginning and the end of a message.
    Third, my messages are basically the email subject line, so that they know what we need to discuss, and is also not a long rambling nothing.

    There was a discussion earlier about how people need to be trained on how to talk on the phone. Part of that lesson should include how to leave appropriate messages for people.

    1. MissBaudelaire*


      “Hello, this is MissBaudelaire. My number is 555-5555. My issue is super condensed version. Please call me between x and xx. Again, my name is MissBaudelaire, my number is 555-5555.”

  57. Alexandra Nicolas*

    The callbacks after getting voicemail seems like the confluence of 2 different things — issue one has been well-trod: voicemail is indeed a black hole, especially at some offices (mine included — what gets left on my voicemail is rarely worth hearing.)

    The second issue is that many people are/were used to being able to call an office — any office — and receive a “the customer is always right,” level of response. It’s not 1980 anymore and the pandemic has seen many people putting in place firmer boundaries around what kind of availability they have for other people’s needs and what kind of treatment they are willing to accept from others. A lot of people really aren’t comfortable with this. So yes, they’re calling back because they want to assert that They Matter TM, and they’re hoping you will affirm how much they matter by going to find the person they want to speak to.

  58. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

    LW2: Something that occurred to me, reading the comments — the pandemic hasn’t vanished. A person might reasonably be comfortable going to court in person, and traveling for a work assignment, but not want to spend much time in public unmasked, or eat in a roomful of strangers, like a hotel restaurant.

    I really wouldn’t want to spend three months taking all my meals in my hotel room to avoid possible covid exposure in the hotel restaurant. A shared house, and eating only with the same two people, is lower risk and thus lower stress.

  59. BlueBelle*

    #1 right now the biggest indicator of people being interviewed and hired is speed. If the interview process is taking too long to schedule, is being dragged out with more than 2 interviews, and then the offer is taking weeks- you will lose the candidates. Schedule them as quickly as possible and don’t wait to make an offer if you find someone.

    1. Derek*

      OP here – speed and interview frequency are not issues for my positions, but my wife works in higher ed. She has lost many candidates to their very slow process. She has been trying to hire a position for four years…and might finally be close!

  60. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

    Oh my soul. I work for a career center whose doors are still closed to the general public. We have no front desk for people to wait at to get their question answered. Instead, there’s one staff member catching voice mails and calls every day, amongst other things. The calls are returned if the message is left.
    And yet I literally will get customers who ask “How can I get in contact with the career center without having to leave a voice mail?” Um, by leaving a voice mail. (or finding and typing out a complex and irritating general email address).

    (And of course we’re screening calls because folks with Unemployment Insurance questions will continue to ask the questions until the end of time despite the fact that we aren’t UI and cannot solve their problems and sorry, they’ll have to call the other phone number, and meanwhile the other calls are backing up.)

  61. HannahS*

    OP2, I wouldn’t be comfortable sharing a house with my coworkers due to covid, but even if there wasn’t a pandemic I wouldn’t want to share a living space with male colleagues. If your wife is uncomfortable with it, encourage her to talk to her boss about it and see if there’s a different solution. If she’s fine with it (or at least, willing to tolerate it for the sake of her career) then I think you’ll also just have to tolerate it, even if the idea seems strange or uncomfortable to you.

    1. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      really, the bigger issue is attorneys sharing a living space for that timeframe with their client.

  62. Doctors Whom*

    LW3, I feel for you.

    I think that if people are actually *calling* a place they are demonstrating a remarkable lack of self awareness and entitlement by whinging about having to leave VM.

    Since OP did not indicate that there was any negative feedback about calls not being returned, I’m going to assume that this is just about people assuming that they of course should get immediate personal audience. I might just head that off by saying “I’ll transfer you now to that extension; in the event that your call goes to voicemail it will be checked and returned in a reasonable period.”

    1. LW #3*

      It depends on the person. We have some people that are great at getting back to voicemail and others that aren’t. I’ve talked with the department manager multiple times about this and there hasn’t been any help there. Which is unfortunate.

    2. Nanani*

      This is going to depend on the place being called, but aren’t callers usually doing that because other methods aren’t available to them? They dont have the email of the person they need to reach; they have a customer service number and maybe a case number. The website directs them to call because their issue is too niche to make a chatbot do. Things like that.

  63. Bernice Clifton*

    #3 I actually don’t think is new; this would happen when I was a receptionist 20 years ago.

  64. Lady Pomona*

    Re: Voicemail
    Being shunted to voicemail sends the message “I’ll get back to you when I darn well feel like it! You need me more than I need you and don’t you forget it!” Most annoying is pressing one button after another as you’re chased around the maze of departments…only to hear the cheery message “The mailbox is full. Goodbye!” THAT’S why people don’t like voicemail, folks! And businesses would do well to remember this: they DO need customers and they DON’T need exasperated reviews on Yelp.

    1. Colette*

      But the other option is “you need to keep calling until you magically catch me at my desk, even though I’m in meetings for 6.5 hours per day”. Voicemail is the convenient option for the person calling, as well as the person who isn’t available when they call. There’s no indication there’s a phone tree or that the mailbox is full in this case, so those aren’t the issues in play.

    2. Doctors Whom*

      Heaven forbid the call recipient be *on the phone with anyone else* when called?

      Or perhaps they should be required to answer calls while in the toilet? :)

      No thanks, I’ll leave the voicemail.

    3. MissBaudelaire*

      My Mom would intentionally leave her voice mail full, but she couldn’t really figure out texting on her phone. So she fully anticipated that you would just call her multiple times until she decided that she’d be answering her phone. Yeah. No.

    4. Bunny Girl*

      What? I’m sorry but that’s more projection than a Pink Floyd laser show. Voicemail means “I’m currently doing something else but I need to know you called so I can help you.” In most offices it’s very, very normal to not be available to every single person every single second of your day. People are allowed to do crazy things like go to the bathroom, eat lunch, or help other customers.

    5. Shan*

      There are many, many jobs that do not consist of a person being employed solely to wait for calls to come in. If you need to speak to me, and wish to do so by phone, you must be willing to leave me a voicemail message.

    6. Anon_Manager*

      Employees are allowed to manage their time and their work. And that includes not answering their phone as soon as it rings (as long as their position isn’t a switchboard/receptionist where answering and directing calls is a major part of their job).
      I’m an office manager and I get lots of calls that are just cold call sales (not regular customers/vendors) and honestly, I don’t have much time in my day to stop when I’m in the middle of a task to deal with that.
      If I don’t know who is calling, I rely on voicemail. Now, because I do this, I do check my voicemail regularly and make sure that my voicemail is working properly. I will return calls that I need to address and I try to do so promptly.
      But I think it is perfectly fine for folks to not drop everything all the time to answer the phone just because someone doesn’t want to leave a voicemail (plus, they might legitimately not be in their office to answer the call either).

  65. Anony3543*

    Re: 5. How long do I need to stay in my job after professional development they paid for?

    I don’t think that leaving after a single weeklong or whatever workshop is a faux paus. I would think that something like a bachelor’s or master degree program would carry more weight and most companies already have policies in place for you to stay a minimum of 1-2 years if that’s the case.

    1. JustaTech*

      Agreed. Though some people will hold it against you, but those people are unreasonable. The VP of my department is still mad about a coworker who, like 6 years ago, got permission to go to a really cool conference in a really nice location. And then very soon after the conference she handed in her 2 week’s notice.
      Now, I can see that the optics are bad. But she signed up for that conference like 6 months before, and if there’s one thing we’ve all learned from this site it’s that the hiring process can be very fast or very slow, so it’s not like she intentionally timed it to pull a fast one on the boss or something.

      But he’s still mad and has pushed back on other people wanting to go to similar conferences (in less exciting locations). (Heck, the only reason he let me go to one of my conferences is because it was in Wisconsin, and “who would want to go there?” – oy.)

  66. Doctor Dread*

    For LW2, the concern I would actually have is in terms of gendered division of labor. I would strongly advocate for the hiring of housekeeping staff for the period of time to make sure that there aren’t issues with the one female resident being expected to do more housework. It’s a common thing in offices for women to be expected to do the lion’s share of domestic tasks within the office situation, and I imagine being in a home situation would make that more extreme.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Had I been the woman, I’d have asked to have separate lodgings, quite simply. I wouldn’t want to be in the same house at night as my boss and client, I’d want to be able to wander around half-dressed listening to insane music.

  67. Frinkfrink*

    In my early years of work as an office temp in the early 1990s, my experience was that people hated voicemail then, and would argue with me, the temp at the front desk of the giant company, as if I had the power to make the salesperson on the road get on the phone with them RIGHT NOW!!! At one particular company it was incredibly bad, because they’d insist I take the message personally as if relaying their message through me would make it more accurate than them leaving it on voicemail. (All while multiple lines were ringing!) My supervisor had me take the message down, but then call the recipient and leave it in their voicemail. I was so tempted to explain to people that’s what would happen.

    Also, through a number of different jobs a certain chunk of people never understood that “She stepped away from her desk for the moment; would you like to leave a message to have her return your call?” is quite often code for “She’s in the bathroom,” and would either demand to know where she was or insist I go find the person to put them on the phone.

    My years temping are not ones I look on with great fondness.

    1. Frinkfrink*

      And I forgot about the MANY people who, after being put through to a person’s line and getting their voicemail, would call me back, indignant, and complain “I asked to speak to [X], not their voicemail!” And then get huffy at whatever I said next, usually a variant of “They must not be at their desk right now. If you leave a message, they’ll return your call,” and demand to know why they weren’t at their desk, or where they were. ARGH.

  68. Hannah Lee*

    RE voicemail

    I work at a small company and people here are pretty good about responding to voicemail messages. Though my real job is a ton of other stuff, I’m also the person whose phone rings when people bounce out of the auto-attendant phone system, including when people hit *0* when then get voicemail. I’m also the person who sees the status of the phone system and knows there’s not voicemail messages sitting unheard piling up in mailboxes.

    It may be just the nature of our business, our client base, but about 90% of the people who refuse to leave a voice mail and want to talk to someone! right! now! are people who are either selling something we don’t need or are “customers” in the sense that they bought something we made 20 years ago on the cheap from some 3rd party reseller we’ve never heard of and want a lot of free hand holding and free stuff to make it work. Customer Service may help them out with some tips when they can, email a manual, etc but they’re not going to drop everything to do so on a moment’s notice.

    The other 10% are usually customers working on something time sensitive that I’m aware of (small company and all) and even then the next step is often for them to either leave a message with me I can relay or to for them to text/email details to a shared mailbox so someone technical (who is likely offsite with a client ATM) can see and respond ASAP. Or rarely a family member, school trying to reach an employee ASAP in which case I’ll go find the person (again, small company)

    All that being said, in the last 10 years, the volume of calls, voicemails, etc has dropped, and the pandemic is giving it a giant push for nearly everything to be done by email, messaging and virtual meetings instead of by phone or in person. (And as an aside, I am completely baffled every couple of weeks when a printer/copier salesperson shows up at our door trying to sell us something in person without an appointment. How is that possibly still a thing … door to door copier salesperson? Aside from the most hard-copy output intensive workplaces, can’t most businesses just buy a multifunction device online and set it up themselves?)

  69. Xaraja*

    I’m not convinced people ever liked voicemail. I was a receptionist 20 years ago and people gave me problems about leaving voicemails. People get nervous because they feel on the spot and don’t know how to leave a good voicemail any more than they know how to open a call clearly (Hi my name is____, I’m calling from ____, about {one to five word}_____, can i speak with {name/role}). Older people haven’t gotten over the idea that the person who answers the phone should be taking messages and running down the person they want to speak with; they want the person who answers the phone to do the services and think leaving a voicemail is akin to using self checkout. Younger people find voicemail intimidating to leave and to listen to. And everyone thinks their issue is the most urgent thing that could be possible.

    As to answers… My employer uses a VOIP that translates voicemails to text and you get an email as well as you can see them in the app that’s on the computer and optionally on your phone. I never listen to voicemails but i still get them immediately in all my channels. I don’t get them very often because very little of my work is on the phone but i love the system. If you have one, letting people know that’s how it works might help.

    1. Nanani*

      This is a good point – Voicemail was never good, it was a cludge that has been made obsolete by other methods of reaching people.
      If all you need to transmit is “an attempt to reach you was made” then you don’t need to leave a message, the missed call is enough.
      If there is real information to transmit, either you try to reach them again or you use a different format like email.

      Voicemail is the worst of all worlds for a lot of people a lot of the time.

    2. TootsNYC*

      Google Voice numbers will do that; I got a GV number during a job search because I thought I might be freelancing, and it would look bad to be on the phone–but I could sneak over to read an email.

      If OP’s company has that capability, that would be good to mention to callers so they can trust voice mail.

  70. My Voicemail is a Black Hole*

    Here’s the thing: I have a phone on my work desk that presumably has voicemail. I have never checked it. I was onboarded during the height of the pandemic and no one ever showed me how to use the desk phone. Shortly after starting I became entirely work from home. If anyone has ever called that number they did not get an answer and there’s a good chance they never will. If you want to reach me, your options are to email me or use teams. Or contact my supervisor I guess but she’s also remote so she probably also isn’t checking her office phone very much.

    1. HannahS*

      Yeah. I have a voicemail that exists on a server that I have to check remotely from my personal cell phone, so no one is ever able to directly reach me, because there is no physical phone tied to my extension. Guess how convenient that is for patient care? I make it clear on my voicemail the timeline of getting an answer and what to do in an emergency, but it is majorly inconvenient.

      1. quill*

        I have been in four or five jobs now where no one has showed me how to call out, let alone find my voicemail. People, if you need to press a button to call out… for the love of god record that info somewhere!

  71. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    Voicemail: on my phone I get notification of voice messages at random times, usually several days later. I actually put a message on to say “please don’t leave a message because I don’t know how to get to listen straightaway, but I can and do respond promptly to texts and emails”.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      And those who ignore that and leave a message anyway usually laugh while they are doing it. I asked one friend why, and she said my message was so very funny. So maybe I’m remembering it wrong (especially as people do still leave messages) and I said something ridiculous. But do you think I remember how to go and change it? Luckily the vast majority of clients send emails only.

  72. Dinwar*

    LW #2: I’m a married man living in a different city from my wife. I’m renting rooms from a single mother, who has one child living with her. It happens, for several reasons. In my case it was that the IRS decided (retroactively) that I was on a Temporary Duty Assignment, and the economics of the situation made renting a room much better than hotel stays or getting a house or apartment for myself.

    I’ve seen it done on other projects as well, where people would be there for a long time. If you’re on per diem everyone can chip in, get a nice house, and pocket some cash as well. As long as everyone acts like an adult everything works out great. Everyone, including the company, saves money, and the living conditions are better than normal for a field grunt.

    As for the propriety of men and women sharing living quarters, I think it’s a very outdated mentality. Reminds me of my mother telling me that men and women can’t be friends because it would lead to adultery. It can, of course, but again, if everyone is acting like an adult that outcome is not inevitable. That’s not to say you’re wrong–obviously every relationship is unique, and you need to do what’s best for you and your wife. I just think that the suggestion that they share a rental house isn’t necessarily inappropriate. If they were sharing the same hotel room that would be another story!

    I would definitely second the idea of a cleaning service. Not just because of the gendered workload thing, but also because even though you’re at the house, you’re still at work. Coming home from a 14 hour day and realizing that you’ve got to vacuum, dust, organize the house, mow the lawn, etc is brutal. Outsource these services as much as possible, for the sake of everyone’s mental health!

  73. Re'lar Fela*

    In regards to the voicemail issues–

    I am that weird elder millennial who still uses voicemail. If I call you and you don’t answer, I’m leaving a message. If you text me and ask what I called about, I’ll tell you to listen to it. It drives me BATTY when people call and don’t leave a message.

    On the professional side, I am the intake coordinator for a non-profit offering 10+ services in four different areas. When someone calls and doesn’t leave a message, I have NO IDEA what they’re calling about and nine times out of ten it will delay the return call because I’m busy handling all the people who clearly laid out in a message who they are and what they’re looking for. It also makes me insane when I’m on the phone with one person and see a call come in from the same person/number 2-3x in a row. I need a button I can push to tell them “I see that you are calling, but I am in the middle of another intake and cannot get to you. Please leave a message with your name, number, and reason for calling and I’ll call you back in 3 f–ing seconds when I’m off the phone. Please and thanks!”

    (Apologies for the snark; I’m in a mood today and this has already happened multiple times this morning)

  74. PhoneCallsEw*

    LW #2 – they hate voicemail because most people never return voicemails, which is fair. It feels like you’re just getting schleped off when you get transferred to a voicemail box.

    I’m not sure if you’re a receptionist or someone in a separate division. I generally answer the phones so I just give folks the option of leaving a message with me or leaving the recipient a voicemail directly. Most people leave a message with me. I have an email template set up that I use to just email the missed call over during the call if the person is not in the building.

    I have also had problems with transferring people to the voicemail (per my boss’s request) and the person calls back angrily. They think my boss is trying to avoid them (and rightfully so, in most of these cases.) No advice on that one, just commiseration. It gives me a lot of anxiety. I have no idea what to say to people when I have a strong suspicion my boss is in fact giving them the runaround (which is very infrequent, but sometimes has happened.)

  75. librarianmom*

    #1 – my doctor’s office, hairdresser, etc text me a reminder with a confirm/cancel response request — that might be useful to look into

    1. Derek*

      OP here – we do confirm when they originally set their date/time but will work in a day-before reminder.

  76. jill*

    to LW #4:

    you want to show your appreciation and thanks to your former/future boss; the way to that is with a heartfelt letter. (especially hand written! those are rare and special these days).

    those sorts of things; knowing that you are appreciated by coworkers, is something they will be thankful for, treasure and save, and is appropriate. (given of course that the content is sfw and such!)

  77. Abby*

    2. Ugh another man trying to control his wife’s career by claiming men and women can’t be around each other. Either you trust your wife or you don’t. She has a very important career so butt out. You can’t say it is inappropriate unless you also think your wife will screw them. Focus on your own job if you have one.

  78. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

    LW2 – If there is something really concerning in this arrangement, it is the idea that the attorneys will be living with the client. I am an attorney, and this arrangement seems like a terrible idea and a total breakdown of appropriate professional boundaries with a client. But that is really for the attorneys/firm to understand and not for you.

    1. sdog*

      Yes, this stuck out to me too. It seems completely inappropriate for the client and attorneys to share a space.

      That, and honestly, if it were me, I wouldn’t share space like this coworkers period, men or women. It sounds terrible to not have a place to come back to that’s separate from work.

      Neither of these concerns, however, are for OP to take issue with.

  79. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Just say you don’t trust your wife. Or say that you’re jealous of her professional success. So much easier that way.

  80. TootsNYC*

    Re: a gift for your boss

    Speaking as a boss, what I would value most is if you would tell me quite specifically what it is you admire about the way I manage you.

    My own boss doesn’t really see that; they just see the end results. The people who know whether I’m a good boss or not are the ones I manage.

    So if they say: “I really appreciate that you structured the budget to include coverage for vacations during crunch time,” or “you give really clear instructions,” or “I appreciated it when you backed me up in that conflict; it can’t tell you what it meant to be able to believe that I didn’t need to worry about that criticism from them.”
    Someone once said to me, “What I liked about working for. you is that you always thanked us. At the end of the week, we’re always so crunched, and there’s so much pressure, and without fail, you always thanked us.” When I was in -college,- I headed the yearbook, and someone who was on the next year’s staff was complaining about that year’s EiC, and the late hours, and I said, “We had really bad hours last year,” and the person replied, “Yes, but you were there with them–you didn’t walk off and leave them behind with all the work to do.”

    I’ve floated on those two comments for decades.

    Feedback about the specifics of how I am a good tells me something huge, and its feedback I don’t get from someone else. Feedback I can’t get from someone else.

    And it makes me feel so good!

  81. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

    OP1, it isn’t clear from your letter, but are you doing an initial phone screen? It’s a really good idea and would probably save you from some of these ghostings (or at least, you would be ghosted for a much less time-consuming appointment). For pretty much every job and contract I’ve ever had, there was an initial phone screen *that was scheduled ahead of time*. Sometimes it was a low-level interview for 30 minutes, but just as often it was someone confirming job title and expected pay and lasted 10-15 minutes. But both ways, someone emailed with me, set an appointment, and got to hear my voice and got to see that I was there for the phone appointment I’d agreed to.

    1. Derek*

      OP here – we’ve discussed, but in trying to limit the amount of prep time and the number of interviews for the candidates, we decided that we’d rather just schedule one Zoom meeting (which does run 30-45 minutes), then if appropriate bring them in for an in-person interview. We may need to revisit this in the future.

  82. El l*

    Yeah, this isn’t something written in law, or some socially-agreed-to standard like “two weeks notice.” There’s no general obligation on you. Any employer agreeing to pay for professional development has to understand that there’s a possibility the employee will leave. My employer does, it’s in the employee handbook – you leave or get fired within 2 years, you pay it back, fair enough.

    If they are that concerned about wasting money on departing employees, they need to write it in formal policy. No other way. If they do not, ultimately that’s on them. If they get offended, they should’ve thought of that beforehand.

    Stop worrying so much about timing your job search. These things have a way of disobeying ANY pre-set timing requirement you impose. It’s time to go, and that’s all that matters.

  83. Feral Historian*

    LW1 – I can tell you I just ghosted a potential employer who, after I applied for a mid-senior position, sent me a one line email saying I wasn’t qualified and then sent me another email inviting me to apply for a junior position by writing three sample pieces for $10 per. (Yes, this is a content mill, which is why I only applied for the mid-senior position.) I ghosted them with a vengeance because subminimum wage doesn’t deserve politeness. If people are ghosting you repeatedly, I’d wager your compensation and/or benefits aren’t up to snuff.

  84. ResuMAYDAY*

    Voicemail OP, when people ring back to you to take a handwritten message, tell them the person they called for is in a different part of the building. Don’t say anything else or offer anything else. They’ll draw the conclusion that you don’t physically cross paths with the intended person, and will most likely ask to be put back into voice mail.
    And if you find out that your employees are particularly bad at returning voice mails, maybe this is something to talk to a supervisor about, because it’s making your job needlessly more difficult.

  85. Mary Ellen*

    A client once dropped us because my contact felt I wasn’t available enough to him.

    I was perplexed because I responded to all of his emails within one business day. We were also outperforming on the deliverables for the contract.

    It turns out his issue was my VM was always full.

    And the reason it was always full was that my harasser/stalker ex husband called me 3+ times a day and even though I had the prison’s number blocked, the VMs he left still counted toward my VM limits.

    I had no idea.

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