the new hires at work are driving me up a wall

A reader writes:

My team has been going through a lot of changes over the past couple of months after years of very little turnover. The changes are not necessarily bad: the company has been giving lots of promotions out, although a couple of people have left the company for better opportunities. They certainly have shaken up the team, though. I’m 29, and after two years I have recently become the longest-tenured member of the team (aside from my boss and the managers we work with) since a few people who had been here 5+ years all got well-deserved and rare promotions within a week of each other. We also work hybrid — about half our days are in-office and half are at home, and this team in particular is fairly isolated from the rest of the company for bureaucratic reasons I won’t go into.

So we’re hiring to fill those empty positions, and the recent new hires have been recent college grads, all under the age of 24. Many of them have little to no experience working in an office or professional environment, and it shows. Some will take advantage of hotdesking and hop from desk to desk three or four times a day. Some will stand in huddles and chit-chat for half an hour or more. Half of them didn’t think to take notes during the fairly easy two-day training and are still asking the same questions they should know the answers to many months into their employment, and sometimes they’ll take unapproved work-from-home days for reasons like “not feeling the office today.”

I came into this position with several years of experience under my belt. It’s an entry-level job that I took mid-pandemic due to desperation for employment, and I’ve been staying because I like the company culture, the work-life balance is unbeatable, and the health insurance is fantastic. But sometimes it feels like I’m spending time having to herd a bunch of kindergarteners, and I don’t know how my previously-senior coworkers handled it. Whether it’s telling them that they cannot yell to each other in the office or explaining that ripped jeans are not “business casual” and pointing to the exact email from the corporate office outlining that exact policy, it feels like I’m teaching them things that they should just … know.

Due to the hybrid work schedule, our boss is only in the office at the same time as us about once or twice a week. He’s seen some things and knows who the worst culprits are, but I don’t think he understands the full spectrum of how distracting all of this is for everyone else. A couple of other members of my team are as frustrated as I am, but as I am now the “senior member” I feel like it’s been coming down on me to communicate all of this. Is this a reason to polish up my resume? Or do I just need better communication with my boss to let him handle it?

You need to communicate better with your boss so he can handle it, but you also need to draw a clearer distinction in your mind between things you need to care about and things you don’t.

Things like co-workers yelling in the office or repeatedly asking you questions they should already know the answers to are legitimately disruptive, and it’s reasonable for you to speak to your co-workers and/or your boss about those. But some of the things you listed as problems you’re having to manage aren’t things you need to respond to at all.

If your junior co-workers show up in ripped jeans or take unapproved work-from-home days, that’s something their manager can address if he wants to, but it’s not on you to handle. If they move from desk to desk all day, I can see why it might be mildly annoying, but, again, it’s not something you need to deal with. Let them move! Those things might be aggravating to see, and you’re likely right that your colleagues would benefit from additional guidance, but those aren’t issues you’re responsible for addressing because you’re not their manager (nor, from what it sounds like, are you in the sort of leadership position where you might be expected to intervene regardless of whether you had formal authority).

If something affects your work or prevents you from being able to focus, that’s squarely in the realm of things you have standing to address, and in many cases would need to address. Otherwise, it’s not your job to enforce the policies of your manager/team/organization on co-workers who you don’t have any authority over. And your life will probably get significantly easier if you decide not to care because it’s not your problem.

I suspect you’re feeling a kind of obligation to your younger co-workers themselves, like you would be doing them a service by teaching them about professionalism. And you certainly would be, if they were receptive to hearing it. But if they’re forcing you to point out the email from corporate explicitly saying they can’t wear ripped jeans, these don’t sound like colleagues who are particularly eager for your feedback. That’s not the savviest move on their part — people new to the work world should seek out mentorship, not actively push back on it — but if they’re not interested, it doesn’t make sense for you to continue trying to educate them. Let that stuff go. Your boss can address it if he wants to (and the fact that he hasn’t done that so far might indicate that he doesn’t particularly care, which is his call to make).

But it does make sense to speak to your boss about things that more directly impact you, like the yelling and the constant chatting — especially since it sounds like you’ve tried to address it with your co-workers directly and gotten nowhere, and because your boss isn’t there much of the time to see it himself. It would be reasonable to explain that your co-workers are loud and distracting and have resisted your efforts to rein them in and to ask if he can intervene.

If after you bring it to his attention he still refuses to manage the situation, at that point you can decide whether the distractions and general atmosphere in your office bother you enough that you would consider leaving. But there’s a good chance that clarifying for yourself what you do and don’t need to act on will make the situation more bearable. Your younger co-workers will figure out how to navigate the work world soon enough (or who knows, maybe they won’t), but you’re not the one responsible for nudging them down that path.

Read an update to this letter

Originally published at New York Magazine.

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. Falling Diphthong*

    Could the hot-desking be malicious compliance? If management won’t give someone an assigned spot where they can leave their files, spare shoes, etc, then not only will they hot-desk, but they’ll hot-desk every hour on the hour?

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      Lol these open office plans are terrible. I’m just glad they don’t make me go more than half a day ( per week)

    2. Caramel & Cheddar*

      There are rumours my company might do some hot desking, so I am taking note of this for the future. :D

      1. AnotherOne*

        My office is going to move in 2 years. The new space will likely be hot desking- but with us having designated storage areas someplace in the building.

        Like we’re back in high school. Everyone will have their very own locker. (No, honestly, I think that’s the vision. It isn’t terrible I suppose.)

        Plus I’ve met my coworkers- if we don’t end up sitting in the same desks every time we’re in, I’ll be shocked.

        1. ND and awkward*

          We have hot-desking and lockers since returning from pandemic 100% WFH, but you have to book the desk you’ll be using. You can book up to 4 weeks in advance, so I book the desk in front of my locker twice a week 4 weeks in advance.

          I wanted a fixed desk as a reasonable adjustment (autism and social anxiety – assigned desk in a hot-desking office is literally the second example of a reasonable adjustment on the government website) but when I floated the idea with my boss he said the desk booking system would make that unnecessary.

          1. Cynthia*

            I’m so sorry! Great that you are able to request, but kind of a hassle. I wonder if this could be reconsidered as a medical accommodation.

          2. Lightdeer*

            Are you able to provide a link to the government website? I will assume that it is *NOT* the website of your employer, but merely an applicable guide. My government employer is considering implementing hotdesking, and I’m neurodiverse with social anxiety, so I’d really appreciate a reputable source recommending such an adjustment.

        2. LobsterPhone*

          We moved to ‘activity based working’ a couple of years ago, there are designated spaces designed to accommodate different levels of working, e.g. focus/silent/collaborative. We have our own lockers which are too small to hold much and yes, pretty much everyone has chosen their favourite seats and don’t move at all including entire teams who occupy the silent areas as their personal offices and prevent others from using the space. Some upper management have instructed their support staff to remain at the same workstations regardless of whether the manager is in the office or the support staff prefer/need to work elsewhere, which conflicts with our Departmental policy (we are State govt). The initial planning stage also omitted a 100+ person team which has since expanded and there are literally not enough workstations to accommodate us all on site. I love working from home…

      2. CoveredinBees*

        It is such a hot mess. Many years pre-pandemic, my friend’s company decided *everyone* in *every* department was going to start hot desking, except the highest level employees. This made sense for half of the employees, who were journalists, some of whom spent most of their time on the go. It made less sense for everyone else including finance and HR. There was no accompanying offer to WFH. Anything you wanted to keep at work would be stuffed into a small locker along with your laptop and mouse. Any paperwork you might need would be in central filing cabinets somewhere on your floor. She was already leaving when this was announced, so I never got to hear if it actually went through or not.

        1. WantonSeedStitch*

          HR hot-desking? What if they have to have a confidential conversation with someone?

      3. Quay*

        If there’s one thing I’m mildly envious of American workplaces over, it’s the comparable lack of hot-desking, and the frequency of cubes rather than endless rows of open office desks. I’ve had a fixed desk for maybe 2 years in my whole career pre-pandemic, and loathe it beyond reason.

        1. English Rose*

          Agreed on the cubes. I’ve heard lots of people complain about them, but I would LOVE to have some degree of visual and auditory separation from my colleagues rather than sitting at a desk in the middle of a completely open plan floor surrounded by everyone’s chat and racket.

    3. mli25*

      Could a version of “change your seat, change your perspective”. Maybe one area gets hotter/colder than others throughout the day. Maybe getting a window spot (or not) is helpful and wasn’t initially open. Annoying, particularly if trying to find someone, but chat messages can solve that

      1. Missy*

        I would probably move during the day too if I had the option. It’s nice to mix things up as the day goes on, and sometimes working around different people can help break down silos or make you help you learn tips on doing things.

        1. charles*

          Same! When I was working from home I’d move from standing to sitting (at my desk) to dining table to countertop to couch to balcony in a workday, and still be more productive than I am in the office… I don’t love the concept of hotdesking (I’ve had workplaces use it in WeWork offices before) but my current office has assigned desks and I’m not productive sitting in the same place for 8 hours either.

        2. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, I have a coworker who basically did do that when we were full-time in the office — you could often find her in an empty conference room or one of the random seating areas around the office.

        3. quill*

          Moving with the sun so you can be near the window without the sun directly in your eyes.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            I really like this image of office workers as sun-seeking or shade-seeking plants, gracefully swaying about the office to optimize light conditions.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              I was thinking more of cats following the patch of sun or sneaking into the good spot on the cat tree someone just left.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I dunno about that. I’d prefer to have my own desk with all my stuff exactly where I need it, next to the people I need to interact with most (or that I get on with best, since my job is typically something where I just get stuck right in and rarely need input from anyone else). Packing everything up and moving to the next room would waste time and is also the best way to lose stuff like chargers that you might use in the morning but not need in the afternoon.

      2. Admin of Sys*

        Yeah, I tend to just bear it if I’ve got one of my preferred hotdesk locations, but if I didn’t get the golden standing desk/window seat location, I will absolutely move when the sun gets too much or ends up causing glare. I mean, that’s part of the advantage of an open system, if I’m not going to get a dedicated space, I’m going to take advantage of being able to switch to the other wall when the 2pm greenhouse effects kicks in.

      3. Cat Tree*

        Yeah, I guess I just don’t really see a problem with changing desks during the day. It seems like general annoyance with the new hires is spilling over into things that are a mild inconvenience at best. Or maybe it’s just not what LW is used to so it feels wrong?

        1. PeanutButter*

          I have never hotdesked, but moving during the day would involve schlepping upwards of 20 lbs of reference material back and forth (and maybe to work every day???) in addition to losing about half an hour with every move adjusting the monitor orientations (I have a portrait extra long monitor for coding/reading) and re-doing the resolutions. Not to mention breaking my focus when deep in the weeds on an algorithm. And I couldn’t have everything set up nicely at my desk for maximum efficiency/minimum chance of coffee spillage. It would be hell.

          1. Snarktini*

            Sure, that would be entirely nonfunctional for you, but not everyone has that. For me it’s my laptop, phone, water bottle, and maybe a bag. Maybe two minutes to relo? I keep a keyboard in one location — if I’m at that desk, I use it. When I am not, I go without. I had an external monitor for awhile but I don’t like being tethered to one place. I tend to move around a lot, whatever works best for my brain at that time.

            1. PeanutButter*

              Yes, but there’s absolutely no indications that any allowance is being made for people who have heavy analysis and research work to do. Every place I’ve heard of hot desking it’s an all or nothing (except for the brass, natch.)

        2. Gumby*

          Other people changing desks? I guess if they keep an eye on the messaging system that might be okay. (I have to track people down in labs way too often to want to also have to check every possible desk in the building to have a conversation.)

          Me being forced to hot desk? Absolutely not. I like my set up to be mine. I like knowing where my stapler is and my post-its and my writing utensils and my snack stash. I like to keep a mug and silverware on hand to avoid disposables in the kitchen. I like having the foot rest that is necessary to proper alignment for me, the book shelf with my own reference books (like 3 of them, but still), a couplefew charts/graphs that I put up on the wall for easy reference. Thankfully, I have an office! with a door! and that is unlikely to change any time soon.

      4. Underrated Pear*

        I thought the same. I can see why constantly changing seats would be mildly annoying. But as someone who does a lot of “deep work” in their job (data analysis, writing), I find it really helpful to change locations when I feel myself getting unfocused and distracted. It’s a great mental re-set. One thing I miss about being in grad school was my ability to move all over campus every few hours (couple hours at my table in the lab workspace, couple hours at the library, couple hours in a cafe… ahh, I miss the productivity that came with those days!).

      5. 3lla*

        Right, I’m about a decade into my career and would absolutely switch desks throughout the day if the option were available – get that burst of settling in energy more than once or twice a day! When I worked from home that helped me be more productive.

      6. Reluctant Mezzo*

        Some offices have badly placed windows and inadequate shades, so a reflection off a car in the parking lot can blind you at certain times of day. Ask me how I know…

      7. Sleeve McQueen*

        Yeah – when I was growing up it was instilled in me to have a dedicated place to study so your brain knew it was ‘time to work’ but there’s evidence that you should actually mix it up with locations to force your neurons to forge connections or something. For instance, you are more likely to be able to recall something when you can go “oh yes I learned how to do X, Y, Z when I was in this seat at that cafe” and then it’s easier for you to remember what you learned.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          My desk at home is set up so that I can see everyone coming in and going out, and I also have a prime view of my favourite rose bush, currently in full bloom. Being right next to the window I can easily let the cat in, and I have my printer, a basket with toys to throw for the dog, a box of tissues for hay fever season, a cushion for when I need to be careful to avoid RSI and my fingerless mittens for cold weather, stationery, hand cream, nail file, small prints of artwork by a friend, calligraphy by my son and a happy lockdown card from my daughter.
          If there’s too much going on I can relocate to one of the empty bedrooms, that’s pretty rare and usually at the weekend for an urgent job.

    4. pancakes*

      To what end? Who is it for? It doesn’t seem that anyone in management is likely to be particularly put out by it, if they even know about it. It would be slightly annoying to see coworkers doing that so often, but not nearly as annoying as taking part oneself. If that’s the idea it seems far more likely people will wear themselves out for no good reason and still not have assigned desks.

    5. lilsheba*

      How in the world can hot desking STILL be acceptable? Beyond the pandemic making this a bad idea, you can’t expect adults to act like adults when they’re treated like kindergarten children! Either let them work from home or have enough spaces for people for gods sake.

      1. Cmdrshpard*

        It is not unreasonable to have for a company to not want to find an office with 10 offices when only 5 people are coming in at a time on a permanent by hybrid system, or if employees are on the road a lot and only in 1 day a week. Etc….

        If someone works 3/4 days in the office yes they should have a permanent desk.

        1. Siege*

          Yeah, we solved that when we moved offices by having hoteling offices for national reps who are in town, and giving offices to everyone who actually works here and is expected to be in the office regularly.

      2. Phryne*

        Depends on the kind of work. We have flexwork spaces, but I’m in education. Teachers are not at a desk the whole day, they are in class, in meetings. Almost all of them work part-time for us. We used to have desks for all of them and it took up an enormous amount of space. Considering the fact that floorspace is the absolute highest overhead cost there is, it did not make sense. We all have a laptop and phone, and there are cabinets and lockers available and meeting rooms and concentration cubes. We do have designated work areas per department, you can’t just plonk down between the people form HR or Finance. And working from home (when not teaching) is encouraged.

    6. Lemon*

      I’ve switched desks a couple of times in a day due to tech issues and I know multiple people who do the same, perhaps that could be a reason too?

    7. Uncle Boner*

      I’m enjoying a certain level of irony in many posts to this thread and others. On one hand, people get outraged with mandatory full time return to office policies. On the other, people get upset that companies are taking cost cutting measures like hoteling/hot decking when people are rarely in the office. If you want dedicated office living space, you need to be willing to live in the office.

  2. Ben*

    Boy, I dunno. This all seems pretty harmless, and roughly in line with the workplace behavior of people I’ve known between the ages of approximately 20 and 75. I wonder how much of this irritation is actually about feeling abandoned at the kids table by the recently promoted coworkers.

    1. Bunny Girl*

      Yeah in my office all the younger employees are constantly at their desks and we can never find our older employees because they are standing around gossiping and we have to explain things to them 30+ times….

      1. starfox*

        I’m unpaid tech support because my coworker in her 50s can’t ever figure out how to work the computer. I know nothing about technology… yesterday, I “fixed” it by restarting it.

        I would take a 22-year-old in ripped jeans any day! But also, we’re so short-staffed right now that we’re having to take turns being the receptionist in addition to our actual work, so I would be ecstatic to have LW’s “problem!”

        1. Coffee Bean*

          I am in my 50s. I know how to reboot a computer, work with MS Office, etc. I taught myself SQL. I was in my late 20s in the mid 90s. Went through Y2K I my early 30s. Computers were around then. Most of us in our 50s are well versed and have acclimated to upgrades and new technology. The woman you mentioned in your post is an outlier not the rule of thumb for people that fall into the Gen X age group.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I don’t think this was intended to be an exemplar of Gen X? Though it is true the older you are the more likely to find tech scary – even though the oldest folks still likely to actually be in a workplace are people who did grow up with at least the idea of computers.

            However, in 2005-6, a woman in her 50s at my workplace needed copy, cut and paste continually re-explained to her. And she’d taken an office assistant course that taught her how to use a computer for common admin assistant tasks. Absolutely a sweetheart, and very good at other parts of the job, but whoa was it not her field.

          2. OhBehave*

            Exactly! I pity those who are being prejudged. Mid 50’s here too. I’ve taught some youngsters a thing or two about computers :0)

            1. What's the Problem?*

              Mid sixties here, same. I’m always teaching younger folk how to remove trackers, cookies etc. from phone and laptop to improve performance. Ageism sucks.

          3. Meep*

            I have a feeling it is more of an entitlement thing. My grandfather turns 80 in a week and is better at using an iPhone than I am. I have a former coworker who turns 60 in July and she doesn’t know how to resize an image despite it being explained to her five times already.

          4. Splendid Colors*

            My first job had a word processor that used 8″ floppy disks and ran WordStar. My workflow was often slow enough I read the manuals out of sheer boredom and I learned how everything worked.

          5. starfox*

            Well… I have two coworkers in their 50s who do this. I guess they’re both outliers?

          6. Guin*

            Agreed. Same age group. Find myself giving instructions to the tech people because I’ve had a chance to google the problem. I really hate the ageism that seems to be inbred in the twenty-somethings.

            1. What's the Problem?*

              I love AAM but I see so much ageism here. I’m surprised this form of prejudice is so acceptable.

              On topic: hot desking sucks. But if folks want to move around, let them.

          7. Shakti*

            Yes my dad is 54 and knows wayyyy more about computers than me! From excel to graphic design to photoshop to website design he’s far more computer literate than I am. It varies from person to person! I don’t think it’s a generational issue at this point given many people who created computers and computer programs we all use are in their 60s and 70s

            1. Middle Aged Lady*

              Some weirdness I can’t remember happened at work in the mid-2000s and I actually had to use my ancient knowledge of DOS commands to fix it. The young ones were impressed.

          8. Mannequin*

            It varies. I’m in my 50s and know people my age that can barely handle Facebook. My best friend only knows how to use phone apps, not how to access those sites online from his phone.
            I grew up with PCs from when they were introduced but don’t know how to use Office, Outlook, any of those things.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Back when we were in-office, my desk was in a shared two-person office that was in a high-traffic hallway and also close to several meetings rooms, and I cannot tell you the number of times coworkers (mostly middle-aged and on the higher end of the career ladder) decided that the spot right in front of our open office door was a great place for them to have a loud impromptu meeting in. So distracting! I’d ask them to keep it down, close our door to shut some of the noise out, they’d apologize, and then do it again the next day.

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      It does to me as well. Standing in a huddle chatting for 30 mins? Normal for all ages and genders in my 20 years in offices. Yelling across a cubical farm? Depends on the office culture. Cubical farms suck and so does hot desking. Moving to different desks throughout the day? Do they leave the last station a mess? Then who cares? I basically do this at home when I decide I want to change the room or seat I’m in. Coworkers wearing clothes you wouldn’t wear? Just don’t wear them yourself.

      1. John*

        Office manager here, and I can see getting up to stretch for five minutes or bumping into someone in the kitchen and spending a few minutes talking about the latest Marvel film (or whatever floats your boat), but chatting for half an hour or more on the clock would not fly here.

        1. Fluffy Fish*

          And that’s fine – but even if that’s an issue in OPs office – it falls squarely under not their monkey.

          *If* the chatting is delaying or preventing OP from getting work done because the chatters are not getting them work they need, then it’s theirs to address.

          But otherwise OP is not their boss, not a manager, and not a unwritten kind of team lead.

          No one wants to work with a self-appointed office hall monitor.

          1. soontoberetired*

            As the senior person on my team, I have told people to go back to work when they’ve spent a half hour chatting. but only in certain circumstances. Some people do not understand if there’s an emergency, we work on the emergency and they need reminding. And the worst people at it were older people who should have known better. And I am Senior (now in age) not just for longevity but senior as the system expert/stand in for management.

            There’s a time and place for everything.

        2. amoeba*

          But the chatting is also (at least at my workplace) very frequently work-related – the famous “water-cooler chats”. Which for me is actually really valuable for collaboration, new ideas, etc. – to the point where we’ll have areas specially dedicated to that in out new building.

    3. River Otter*

      Yeah, there’s a lot of this that OP could choose not to care about. Somebody gathering up all their stuff to move to a new desk could be distracting, but most people can train themselves out of that (people with ADHD excepted, of course). Ripped jeans might violate the dress code, but are not a thing that anyone should find themself getting distracted by. You can choose not to say anything about that.
      OP would really benefit from dividing these behaviors up into Things That Affect Work and Things That Do Not Affect Work and choosing not to care about or address the latter category.

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I’m wondering how much of this has to do with the statements that the OP is 29 and the most-senior person at this location. Sometimes that can have invisible “expectations” that you need to provide an example to the new hires…even when you really don’t have to.

        Had this conversation one time, as an aside:
        “Ripped jeans aren’t business casual”
        “Neither are Lularoe leggings” ::shrugs::
        I was not the one wearing leggings, for the record, nor were my jeans torn.

        1. quill*

          I think the high turnover and the secondhand embarrassment of trying to be way more professional in order to contrast with the new grads are irritating OP as much as the new hires are.

        2. Meep*

          When my ‘work wife’ was hired, she was expected to be in at 8 AM. In fact, one time I walked in at 7:30 AM, and our boss was annoyed she wasn’t there. I hadn’t even been there until two seconds ago! She is annoyed that these “kids” get to come in at 8:30 AM or later. Mind you, I am their manager and I completely understand that people work better at different times so if they give me an hour to do my work in the mornings (when I am most productive) without pestering me, what do I care?

          I used to be the same way when we had a new hire who would be in from 10 am to 3 pm with a two-hour off-campus lunch in between. (He ended up being fired after a year of this.) But it wasn’t my employee so I just had to let it go.

          OP (and many others) need to learn to focus on their own work.

      2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        “OP would really benefit from dividing these behaviors up into Things That Affect Work and Things That Do Not Affect Work”

        I think this is the key. And then paying attention to the framing when addressing the things that do impact your work, so if they are all huddled up by your desk, phrasing the request as one of lower volume or relocated huddle so that you are able to concentrate on your task. The impromptu teleworking causing them to miss a scheduled meeting – well, someone other than you takes notes or a dial-in option gets set up by someone other than OP.

        Oh – and for all the questions that they should know the answers to – I’m a big fan of “what do your training notes say?” And also of its cousin “there’s a help/step by step/notes on how to do that on the intranet.” Basically I make coming to me for help more work than just looking the thing up in the first place would be.

        1. Kit*

          “I’m a big fan of ‘what do your training notes say?”

          Honestly, and I know this will sound bad, I don’t like this because it presupposes that everyone learns the same way.

          I’m not excusing the apparent refusal to learn after months of asking the same question (though depending on what the specifics are I can excuse that; if it’s something that can feel nuanced and situational then it can be daunting to try to apply what may feel like a general answer to a situation especially if it comes with a risk to the client/customer that something could go wrong…). However thinking about my own learning style, I don’t do a lot of notes. I struggle to know and understand in the moment what information should be noted and what needn’t be. I don’t LEARN when I try to take notes because I’m so preoccupied with trying to keep the unending stream of information banked to write it out in notes that I can’t devote time to processing it.

          I started my current positions in 2014. I did not take any notes during my training period. I learned after the fact that my trainers were concerned because of this. However after a couple weeks of training, when they finally sat me in front of the computer, I was able to do what they expected of me. I asked salient questions for the steps I was unsure of.

          But I still never took notes.

          Everyone learns differently. One tool may be your godsend and be the utter ruination of someone else.

          1. Siege*

            If they didn’t take notes and they didn’t sit down and impress people with their skill and lack of questions, they didn’t learn. The point is less that they needed to take notes and more that they didn’t bother to learn if they’re asking the same questions multiple times, about what I interpret as questions without a lot of nuance. Less “why do the llamas sometimes get bathed first” and more “who do I file this receipt for llama food with?” Trainings at the start of your time in an entry level job isn’t training in the nuanced politics of llama grooming.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Siege, this is what’re I’m aiming with my question – it’s less about learning style and more about redirecting Ed and his question that he should know the answer to by now question back to his own resources. Ultimately Ed can have whatever learning style and use whatever resources work for him. But that learning style and resource can’t be OP always because they presumably have their own tasks to get done (and constant interruptions from Ed, Jill, and Joe about how to do thing they should know how to do/were already trained on will slow even the most efficient worker down).

          2. allathian*

            Yeah, this. Please give me written documentation so I don’t have to attempt to listen and write at the same time. I struggle with both note-taking and listening without taking notes. Even at college, I vastly preferred to read an additional 700+ page textbook to attending a series of lectures. Most lectures were a sub-optimal use of my time, I mostly went for the Q&A sessions.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              But do you ask the same questions over and over or do you mark important pages in the manual for the next time you need to check?

      3. starfox*

        The ripped jeans is the only thing I could see being a problem where I work, but that’s because we’re client-facing and have to look somewhat professional.

        The rest might be mildly annoying, but I don’t see how it matters. I chat a lot with my coworkers, but as long as we get the work done, it’s fine…. Now, if things aren’t getting done, that’s a whole other conversation. But just being annoyed that people are talking seems silly.

    4. sadnotbad*

      I think sometimes there’s a time in your life when you’re just mature enough to notice behavior in people slightly younger than you that is embarrassing and feel a strong reaction to it because you know better now, but not yet mature enough to recognize you were probably that way at some point too. The idea of holding a five-year age difference over them as an example of how much more work/life experience LW has makes me wonder if that plays a part.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        Boy howdy have I been there. What will I laugh at myself about in 20 more years?! I wish I had that wisdom now.

      2. bamcheeks*

        Yeah, this rings true, and the other factor here is often, “this bad behaviour will reflect on me, people will think *I’m* like that too”.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I have been caught by that trap in the past though. If it’s a fear that others in the company will think that OP is just like the other really casual/hard to find/needs professional polishing coworkers then what OP may need to do is talk with manager about just exactly that concern. But it does sound like attempting to get the coworkers to be more polished/professional right now will not work, so they probably need to drop those attempts.

          1. MM*

            OP’s been there two years; if that’s what they’re worried about, I suggest they not worry about it.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I was in the department for three, then there was a bunch of turnover (just like with OP) when I got snarled up in the judging the department. The problem was just like with OP – our department was very siloed from the organization as a whole – so one or two lazy loudmouths (who were both new and eventually put on PIP’s) destroyed the reputations in that company of everyone in the department. I ended up leaving, because it was the only way I could continue to advance – because of the new folks nobody was going to get promoted out of our department now, and it sucked for those of us that predated the changes.

              I get that I’m just one data point, but it’s not impossible for a department to be judged as a whole based on the “face” of the department, whoever it may be.

      3. Cat Tree*

        That makes a lot of sense. I’m 38 and fairly senior. I have noticed a lot of new grads using emojis and phrases that wouldn’t have seemed professional a few years ago. Personally I like when they do that because it makes the team feel more welcoming, but it definitely seemed weird at first. If I was closer in age maybe I wouldn’t feel so “detached” from it. They’re also all high performers too, so maybe it would rub me differently if they were mediocre at their jobs?

      4. quill*

        Yep. Though my experience was mostly in regards to having teenage / college age coworkers when I was like, 24-25. After that I matured to the point that I’m just like go ahead, make your mistakes, I have work to do.

    5. Snark*

      The yelling is something that really shouldn’t be done in any professional office environment, but the rest seems like not OP’s pool, not OP’s otters.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          It really really doesn’t have to be. I *could* raise my voice and say “Who left yellow paper in the printer tray?” and our fairly open cubicle farm and everyone would hear. But I don’t because that would be utterly unprofessionally rude.

          So I sometimes have to pretend not to listen in to other discussions? (Or completely fail to pretend when certain phone calls get Dramatic) Sure. I still don’t assume shouting is okay.

    6. Fluffy Fish*

      I wonder to if it’s perhaps about righting a sense of unfairness. For OP these (insert list of things) are wrong and should be corrected otherwise it’s unfair to those following the “right”. Why should these newbies be allowed to get away with xyz?

      1. JM60*

        And if the OP finds out that the boss (and the employer at large) is really okay with those things, then perhaps the OP should reconsider what they consider to be “right” (provided they aren’t being rude to others). For instance, if the most casual clothes the OP has been wearing to the office has been khakis with a polo, but management doesn’t care if people show up in ripped jeans, then perhaps they should take that as a sign that they can dress much more casually in the office if they want to.

    7. Koalafied*

      I do think this is a big part of it – not even necessarily the “kids table” feeling, but the more general feeling that, “I came into this culture, adapted to it, and liked the way it was, but now the new people who haven’t been initiated into it outnumber the veterans by such a large ratio that they’re changing the culture here according to their own styles instead of adapting to the one that already exists.”

      I’ve been part of clubs and subcultures that had very distinctive attributes and ways of doing things, where there was very much a system of new people “learning the ways of the elders,” until one year the proportion of new people to veterans gets so out of whack that the group no longer has the same adherence to traditions that you’d grown to love. It feels like a double loss in that not only is the culture changing, it’s a place where your expectations – that you would one day become one of the respected elders passing the culture on to the new folks – suddenly clash with the reality of the situation – that the new people care how things have always been done before and don’t look up to you the same way you looked up to more experienced folks when you were new.

      1. Koalafied*

        Oops, deleted a key word above: *the new people DON’T care how things have always been done

      2. Smithy*

        Absolutely this – I also think that whenever work systems/teams change – having feelings of discomfort are normal. Hello re-orgs/mergers!

        So you combine a case of losing a specific make-up/dynamic of the team and having that replaced with a newer cohort who behave differently and it can create anxiety around mourning what was lost as well as trying to recreate it. Combine that with being in a situation where you feel “old”, it can be a doozey. (I was an “old” 26 in my graduate program where the bulk of students were just out of undergrad – and looking back….while I understand why I felt that way, it also feels hilariously precious)

      3. one l lana*

        This is really insightful and I suspect it is a large part of what’s going on here. My organization has gone through this over the past few years (10-year-old startup with little turnover for the first 7 years, followed by lots of turnover that has led to 80% new leadership and 50% new rank and file). It’s been helpful to me to just think of it as a new job at a similar but different organization, because trying to think or act like I worked at Teapots Incorporated C. 2015 wasn’t serving me well.

  3. Llellayena*

    Sounds like you could use a formal mentoring program (that you don’t run…) for entry level staff. A lot of this basic office protocol stuff is designed for a mentoring situation, rather than an office discipline thing. If there’s an abundance of entry staff and few upper level, maybe it’s a weekly group mentoring meeting that covers multiple topics for multiple people at once (though having some care to not single people out in the meetings might be needed).

  4. Lab Boss*

    This definitely sounds like something the boss has decided not to care about. That could be for a few different reasons- he genuinely doesn’t think their behavior is an issue that impacts their work, or he does think it’s an issue but hiring is so hard right now he’s overlooking it so they don’t leave, or maybe he even just doesn’t care because he’s in so rarely that it doesn’t affect him.

    Whatever the reason, OP, I think your only hope of getting him to take action is if you can point out specific measurable ways that your work is being impacted. The annoyance of watching them huddle up and chat rather than work? Either it will impact their productivity enough that he addresses it, or it doesn’t. Not your problem. Ditto the hotdesking and possibly even the WFH, unless that’s regularly leaving them unavailable when needed.

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

      I agree with you. The work place has changed in a huge way and the boss has either decided they don’t care, the old way is gone and this will be the new way forward, or they don’t have leverage to stop it. The OP sounds like they are angling for a promotion to Team Lead or something more formally “in charge” while the boss is out.

    2. Kate*

      The rationale that’s always given for bringing computer-based jobs back to the office is that it’s better for ‘collaboration’ or ‘team building’ or ‘company culture’ – the company almost certainly *wants* people to spend time in the office talking to each other socially.

  5. Essentially Cheesy*

    Dear LW, I value your experience but I think that two years over the new kids isn’t a lot. Maybe try to be more tolerant. Those of us that have been in person during this pandemic have experienced a number of ‘weird’ things that take getting used to, so we are in the same boat.

    1. River Otter*

      I agree. Practicing compassion is an evidence-based way to decrease negative feelings. OP could lessen their own irritation by remembering that they might be the most senior one at the moment, but they are far from senior and probably once had and still have some extremely annoying characteristics of their own.

    2. LinuxSystemsGuy*

      It’s also worth noting that not only is is likely that these kids haven’t worked in an office environment before, they also spent the last two years of their schooling in a pandemic. Fewer of them are likely to have done internships, a lot of their classes were probably virtual, etc. even more than most of us at that age, these kids have no idea what they’re doing.

    3. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      Two years in this workplace, but much more than that in general workplace experience. LW says they’re 29, so they’ve probably been working for 6-7 years already. Plus they’ve been in multiple workplaces, which is valuable.

      1. River Otter*

        Which sounds like a lot to a 29 year old, but is still not a lot in general.
        I have worked with people like OP, people who are the most senior due to circumstance but are still early career and relatively inexperienced, and I find them just as annoying as OP finds the new hires.
        Unlike OP, I am now old enough to recognize that people even more experienced than I probably find some things that I do annoying, and I use that to temper my own annoyance. I think recognition of OP’s own relative inexperience and more tolerance is good advice.

      2. Essentially Cheesy*

        Six to seven years of overall experience is valuable but it won’t carry a whole lot of authority. LW is probably a very valued employee at this point but will need more time before worrying too much about those annoying coworkers.

  6. Retired - not a work nanny anymore*

    Is it your responsibility to manage these kids? To what extent? You and your boss should sit down and have a clear description of what he wants from you. And if managing this circus is a new task, document that so you have proof that you deserve a raise/promotion.

    Next, in that sit down with the boss try and get them to clearly define what goals the kids should have. Should they have mastered specific tasks in a certain time frame? If they still can’t tie their shoes after repeated lessons, that is a problem. If you can come up with expectations – in writing – that the new hires have to meet it actually benefits everyone. Everyone is on the same page for what to do in the job. And it sets you and the boss up for PIP if necessary.

    Good luck!

    1. River Otter*

      Isn’t it a little premature to jump to preparing for PIPs already? None of these behaviors are really all that egregious. Annoying, yes, possibly, if one is unable to manage one’s own annoyance. PIP-worthy is quite a leap.
      How we frame things affects what we notice. Putting oneself in that mindset, the mindset of monitoring for mistakes in preparation for a PIP, robs us of the opportunity to monitor them for improvement instead. I don’t think that’s a great path for OP to go down in this case.

      1. Retired - not a work nanny anymore*

        Maybe saying PIP is premature but it seems the new hires need written goals. And the understanding that tasks need to be mastered. I’ll walk back the PIP if you give me the new hires should meet goals.

        1. Retired - not a work nanny anymore*

          That was one of my points – did her boss expect her to manage? Then that task needed to be added to her job description. Certainly, the new hires were coming to her with questions if I read her letter correctly. If answering questions had become a time sink that makes it a problem.

          But happily for her she is off to a better job!

          1. Fluffy Fish*

            It’s totally normal and expected for new people to ask questions of established people. It doesn’t add up to management nor would it be something that needs adding to a job description.

            There’s really nothing in the letter to suggest OPs manager has asked them to undertake any kind of management function. It would be real weird and potentially reflect poorly on OP to ask about given the details OP has provided. Hey boss – Sally wore ripped jeans and John and Dan don’t stay at the same desk – do you expect me to help manage them?

            The – I’m having to deal with John repeatedly asking me the same questions and it’s taking a lot of time out of my day – is something to bring up with the boss, even going so far as to suggest a possible solution such as identify staff that need to attend training again – is perfectly fine to address.

    2. Antilles*

      I don’t think OP has ANY responsibility to manage the newbies – not a designated team lead, not the deputy manager, nothing like that. It really reads to me like OP just independently took on this role (possibly without the boss even realizing it!) out of a mix of frustration, ‘seniority’, and wanting to help the newbies.
      If so, I don’t think any of what you recommend would go over well – it’d be very likely to pull a “stay in your lane” type of response. If there’s work impacts on OP, then you can ask about those and how to work around those, but only insofar as it matters to your ability to do your actual job.

      1. starfox*

        Yeah… I think for some of the stuff, the newbies are asking LW questions. I get it–it’s annoying. I’ve been at my role in my company the longest, so I always have people asking me questions. I’ve only been here 4 months longer than the next person hired, so I’m really not more experienced than anyone else, but I’ve sort of become the de facto question answerer. I have a coworker who is in her 50s and used to have me walk her through how to do something on the computer every single time she did it (I actually think she was bitter because she didn’t want to do this particular task and she was hoping I’d just do it for her). I talked to my boss about it, and he walked her through one more time and said she needed to be on her own from then on. Easy!

        But for stuff like the dress code, it seems like LW has taken it upon themselves to enforce the dress code. Why??? I definitely side-eye some wacky stuff one of my coworker wears, but it’s none of my business. I’m certainly not going to police when my coworkers are chit-chatting.

        Now, if LW has been asked to take on the responsibility, it’s a whole different matter.

    3. turquoisecow*

      It doesn’t sound like OP has a responsibility to manage or that they even know how the new hires (who are adults, not “kids”) are doing at their jobs. Is the standing around chitchatting and moving desks frequently actually affecting their *work output*? OP doesn’t say, likely because OP doesn’t know, because OP is not their manager.

      OP needs to understand that not all people operate the way they do or find the same things helpful to work the way they do. If the new hires wearing ripped jeans damages their credibility as professionals? Let it. If the standing around chatting means their work is delayed, or makes them look like slackers? Let it. Unless manager has specifically told OP to keep the new hires on track, it’s not OP’s job and OP should leave it alone.

      Now if OP is waiting on the new hires to do some work and that means OP’s own work is delayed, go to the boss. If the talking and moving around makes it harder for OP to concentrate to the point their work suffers? Talk to the new hires, ask them to keep it down, and if they don’t listen, talk to the boss. If the new hires constantly interrupt OP’s work to ask questions they should know the answer to (and OP’s work sufferers), then maybe suggest to the boss that they need some more training.

      But OP isn’t their supervisor so talking about PIPs at this point is getting waaaay ahead of things.

  7. rage criers unite*

    kids these days – ammirite?

    I agree with the answer Alison gave – they dont report to you, so unless their shenanigans are directly affecting your work, you dont have to worry about it!

  8. WellRed*

    I get why you’re annoyed but…I also think since your company has had some unprecedented turnover and is actually hiring the newest workforce generation you can expect and hope to see your company make other changes to keep pace. Things like WFH and dress codes. That isn’t a bad thing. Companies need to evolve with the times.

    1. Lab Boss*

      Something for OP to consider: Do they feel that there’s something truly improper about the way the newer hires act, or is it out of a sense of “I was never allowed to get away with that, so it must be bad behavior?”

      If it’s the latter- OP, it sounds like your workplace is evolving and the door might be open for you to do things like wear more casual clothes or WFH on way less notice. You’re not stuck in an uncomfortable blazer and having to commute forever just because it was that way when you came up!

    2. charles*

      Completely agree with this! OP, if you were hired two years ago, things like flexibility on telework and lax dress codes may be a reflection of your workplace trying to adjust to the labor market and demands of candidates / employees in order to prevent additional turnover. If the old policies are still in place, but not enforced, you could approach it from a “could we update these policies to reflect the current reality” standpoint – you, too, could be wearing ripped jeans and working from home more flexibly!

  9. OP*

    Wow! Was not expecting a response, if I’m being honest. I wrote this letter after one of the worst days I’d had with these guys that I spent answering LOADS of redundant questions they had and if I’m being honest, I don’t think I worded all of it quite correctly because I was so frustrated. When I reread what I had written I had the same thoughts as a lot of you- that a lot of it is none of my business and shouldn’t concern me- but these are all things that have been piling up over months that have mostly come around to me to help take care of in one way or the other.

    The ripped jeans thing- the girl who wore those had been called out on it a couple of times by higher-ups and she was complaining about being lectured to me. I showed her the exact wording from corporate, and let her know that they were not exactly business casual attire. She hasn’t gotten better about her clothes but she hasn’t been coming to me about it anymore since I didn’t take her side previously, so that’s something that truly is none of my business now. We each do have desks- there are PLENTY in the office for each of us to take and I’ve been sitting at the same desk since I began here, as have most of my coworkers. There are a few people who have simply become impossible to find to ask questions to because they’re bopping around from desk to desk on different floors all day every day so they can sit with different people.

    In the end, though, I already have an update, so none of this is really going to matter to me. I’ve gotten an offer somewhere else offering 10k more with twice the vacation time and will be leaving in 2 weeks! I think in the end my frustration was that I felt like I should be further along in my career than a bunch of recent grads, and getting the same job title and same pay as someone who was in their first-ever office was starting to grate on me. That’s a personal issue and luckily something I have been talking to my therapist about! Thanks Allison!!

    1. ES*

      Congrats on the new job! This is a very introspective update, I’m glad to hear that you were able to get to the root of the issue and improve your situation!

    2. Canadian Librarian #72*

      Thanks OP, this is really helpful context! And congratulations on your offer, that’s amazing. Well done you and good luck at the new job!

    3. Generic Name*

      Yesssss! It’s funny how little things at work that ultimately don’t matter can bother us when we’re overall unhappy with our job/company. Congrats on your new job!

      1. Migraine Month*

        Whenever I get to BEC-level of frustration with a situation, it usually means I’ve lost sight of what’s actually important. It’s one of the few times that venting to a friend can be really constructive, because after I’ve gotten through the rant I realize that only one out of the twenty annoying behaviors is actually an issue that needs to be addressed, and addressing that one issue isn’t as hard as addressing twenty.

        1. OP*

          Oh it definitely became a BEC situation, but ranting with coworkers who felt similarly only seemed to make things worse for me. I came around to realize that maybe I’m just tired of this office itself, considering I’ve been working in this industry about 6 years and they’re still keeping me in an entry-level job. So I put out feelers and applied for one single job that looked interesting (without thinking I’d get it) in order to make myself feel like there was some kind of exit plan in the foreseeable future. Lo and behold, that’s the very job I’m starting in July!

    4. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      Congrats on the new job. FWIW, my impression from your letter is that you’re a “rules person.” If so, just try to be aware that some people are “do what makes sense” people, and that’s a kind of diversity of approach that is usually useful to have in an organization.

      1. OP*

        Only to an extent! I think it’s more an “oldest sister” thing than anything- I remember getting talked to and even let go from temp jobs for things these new employees are doing and it feels like it would suck to see someone go for something I could’ve told them not to do. In truth, I don’t care that much about dress codes. I just see it as something she gets lectured about that’s extremely avoidable, and I was having to hear about it when she was done getting lectured.

    5. Bill and Heather's Excellent Adventure*

      Congratulations on your new job and managing to work out what was really bothering you. (The ripped jeans thing would have bothered me, too.)

    6. Janeric*

      That sounds IMMENSELY frustrating on several levels. I have been there, but with new grads that were earnest and working hard to appear professional — so it was more of an occasional twinge than an ongoing irritation — but there’s nothing quite like that “we are the SAME level of employee. This is apparently acceptable behavior for someone at my level. I have dramatically mis-read how to manage my career.” experience.

      Congratulations on your new position!

    7. turquoisecow*

      Congratulations and thanks for the update! It sounds like you already took a lot of the advice given, so good for you for coming to that conclusion on your own. Best of luck in the new job!

    8. Anonymouse*

      Wear ripped jeans your last day at the office.
      Hot desk every hour on the hour.
      Yell at people across the cubicle farm.
      And each and every time someone asks you a question that was covered in training or is on a company website, tell them you are recommending that they go through orientation again.
      And again.
      And again.

    9. Absurda*

      Congrats on the new job! Just wanted to mention regarding the clothing thing: Kids right out of college with no office experience may need several paychecks to come up with a work appropriate wardrobe. So, while ripped jeans girl sounds unreasonably stubborn about it, newbies might appreciate a bit of leeway in the beginning when it comes to clothes.

    10. Observer*

      Congratulations and thanks for the update.

      Also, kudos on the self awareness and the grace with which you are handling the responses.

    11. Ellis Bell*

      Congratulations OP! We know when it’s time to leave the party don’t we? Can you satisfy my curiosity on the question of your young colleague complaining to you; as in did that happen a lot? Like, I got the sense from your letter that nothing the young’uns did was stand-out scandalous, but they just did what they did a LOT. Like, there was not a break from them iykwim. Just wondering if my hunch on that one was correct.

      1. OP*

        Ohhh yeah. If she wasn’t complaining to me she was complaining loudly to someone else in earshot of everyone in our little desk pod. I don’t think my issues were that these things happened at all- I can handle a redundant question or two, or someone not coming in a couple times when we need them. They just *continued* happening which really wore on me after a while.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Ah, noisy young people. I teach so I have two more weeks of earache and then suuuuummmer! I hope someone coaches your colleagues on their noise level (especially since they probably missed a few years of being socialised in public places etiquette), but congrats again that it’s not going to be you!

    12. AnonInCanada*

      Congratulations! Now this truly isn’t your circus to tame the monkeys anymore :-D.

    13. starfox*

      Ahh, this does make more sense. You weren’t trying to police the dress code or anything, she was just whining to you about getting in trouble. I was too hard on you in some of my previous comments.

  10. We're all new here, kind of*

    I think it’s important to note that we’ve been in Not Normal work patterns for almost 3 years now…which means that for young people, the *office environment itself* is actually what is Not Normal. A 20-22 year old college grad in 2020 has no idea what consistent, day-in-day-out working in an office is like unless they’ve been an essential worker which, given the fact that they are now 23/24, I doubt they were.

    I think some compassion and understanding could be given here— not only for these younger workers, but for yourself, OP! You’ve picked up a lot of slack over the last few years and deserve to be rewarded for it. Direct your frustration where it actually belongs, with the management of your company.

    1. Kayem*

      Agreed! AAM discussions often talk about how a dysfunctional workplace or abusive employer can skew someone’s perception of what is normal, especially for people newly entering the workforce. And with the recession followed by disruptions the past couple years, even functional workplaces might have lost a few steps.

      And to add to that, the LW said “ it feels like I’m teaching them things that they should just … know.” But here’s the thing: they don’t enter the job magically knowing these things. They have to not just learn it, they have to be exposed to the right conditions to where they even have the information to know there are questions they should be asking. I hear a lot of comments from coworkers calling out younger people for not having “common sense,” but the problem with that is it ISN’T necessarily common. Common sense and knowing what does and does not constitute professional behavior can vary wildly due to culture, socioeconomic class, past experience, and education. Sure, if someone is willfully ignorant or they know and just don’t care, that’s a whole other thing, but there’s no magic way of just knowing these things, no matter how many times I try to sleep with an encyclopedia under my pillow.

  11. alienor*

    Honestly, none of this sounds all that unusual for new college grads coming into the corporate world at any time, but especially in the current weird situation. They need to learn, but so does everyone at that age/stage of their career. It feels like because OP is still relatively young too, they have a (maybe subconscious) desire to distance themselves from these “kids,” like an older sibling who’s been put in charge getting frustrated with the younger ones for being immature.

    1. Anonymous, colleagues who read here will recognize it*

      I dunno. My kid is a recently graduated bfa from an art school. He wears skirts when it’s hot, shops in the ladies dept of the resale stores, goes goth occasionally, sports amazing hats… he does not wear any of that to work. He doesn’t go corporate, but nice black jeans, button up shirts, polished dress boots. His art school friends are similar.

      The young folk at this office are … probably not that typical.

  12. CatCat*

    and sometimes they’ll take unapproved work-from-home days for reasons like “not feeling the office today.”

    I kind of love that.

    They’ll learn “under the weather” is how you’ve got to phrase it.

    1. Lab Boss*

      “I am sick. Of being in the office. Oh crap, I forgot to say the second half in my head, didn’t I?”

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

        I’ve said that to my supervisor on occasion, but we have that sort of culture…a stress day is acceptable sick leave and I’m sick…of work. Mostly though, during the last 2 years, being upfront about stressed out vs. having symptoms is important.

    2. Free Meerkats*

      “I’m having vision problems today.”

      Translation: “I just can’t see myself in the office today.”

    3. Generic Name*

      I mean, on some level I think it shows a measure of self-awareness and emotional intelligence that one is not able to be their best at work and working from home is a reasonable option. I’ve certainly had days where I feel crabby for no reason, and it’s much easier to just put my head down and work when I’m at home and don’t have to act nicely to anyone.

      1. Loulou*

        Sure, but there’s a further level of awareness and judgement that makes you realize you should use a euphemism or polite excuse rather than “not feeling it.” I would be pretty taken aback to hear someone say that!

    4. bamcheeks*

      This is actually something we’ve been talking about as part of our return to work / hybrid working principles! Like, if you’d planned a day in the office but it’s tipping it down and you’ve no meetings that can’t be switched to Teams, is it ok to be like, “eh, not feeling it”? Is it unfair on the person you were due to meet who might have come in solely to meet you? If it’s a meeting with a client or an external partner, do you wait for them to suggest switching to Teams? Can a more junior person ask a more senior person to switch? All super important questions!

    5. Siege*

      Well, they actually won’t, if they don’t start figuring out that when people advise them on what’s appropriate for a given office they should listen.

  13. Daisy-dog*

    Have a chat with your manager about the things that only affect your work. Just because you’ve been there for 2 years doesn’t make you a senior person in the role – unless you’ve got the job title and the pay bump to go with it. He may not prioritize this. He may have other things going on and coaching the new hires on their annoying habits may not make the top of his list.

  14. Middle Aged Lady*

    I feel sorry for young people who have not been taught to take notes at lectures or presentations. Also, we are learning many smart people do not do well with a lump two days of training where they have to write it all down. Maybe the materials could be better, or the documentation made more readily available later. Or the training spread out. When they come with questions there should be a place to refer them.
    Also, the boss needs to know if they are still missing things months in and asking you.
    The jeans, the hotdesking: I don’t know why that bothers you. The chit chat? 30 minutes at a time seems a lot to me, but I worked for the state and we were always conscious that we were using taxpayer money to run our program. Maybe at some workplaces they want to build camaraderie. But if I could hear it while I was trying to work, it would bother me.

    1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I take notes, but I’d also expect the stuff I was learning in orientation to be in written procedures or for them to circulate slides later. Using one delivery method for that stuff is just bad practice. Thinking everyone should have their own handwritten procedures is bananas.

      1. Lady_Lessa*

        And sometimes the presentation is too fast to take notes. I’m having that challenge in learning a new computer program. New to the company and all the training is a live trainer on-line. We do have copies of his slides.

        But like so often experts go faster than learners can. (I’d love to have an in person trainer, because that would get me up to speed faster) Right now, I am very slowly working my way through the slides.

      2. Just a name*

        I take awful notes. I’m better at reading/processing than listening/processing. My mind wanders when I’m in a lecture. Probably why I prefer emails to meetings/calls. I’d definitely want printed materials.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      These are college grads. I know better than to assume that college students take notes, but if they haven’t figured this out by the time they enter the work force, they are a trifle slow.

      1. Chickaletta*

        This. And even high school students take notes, so anyone who has reached that stage of life should be associating “new information = write it down”.

      2. McS*

        Really? I took excellent notes in college and now do so rarely. Other than reminder for something I’ll definitely forget otherwise, I only really take notes if I am using them to create a shared document. Everyone taking their own notes is a waste of time.

      3. Middle Aged Lady*

        Nay, it’s all in the powerpoint slides. The days of having to take all your lecture notes are long gone.

      4. Mannequin*

        Slow? Wow.

        I was considered brilliant in school, because t could never take good notes because the combination of my (then undiagnosed) disabilities means that if I don’t look at what I’m writing, it will be completely illegible (I can’t touch type, either, because of same disability) but if I look away from the person speaking, I lose track of what they are saying.

    3. Hlao-roo*

      When I was new to the workforce, I appreciated the managers and coworkers who made a clear distinction between “I’m showing you this thing for general background knowledge, no need to take notes” and “I expect you to remember this, please write down these steps.” I now err on the side of taking more notes, and I am a lot better at figuring out when notes are expected/necessary, but those few “no need to write this down/you need to write this down” comments when I was transitioning from college to an office job were very helpful to me.

  15. nnn*

    In keeping with the “identify things you don’t need to care about” and “communicate with the people who do need to care about them” spirit of Alison’s answer, the problem of new hires asking repeated questions about things covered in training is that the handouts weren’t robust enough.

    In a well-designed training, no one should have to take notes – either the training should lead to them fully assimilating the information, or the material they have to refer back to should be in the handouts. You could communicate with whomever is in charge of the training “You know, I get an awful lot of questions from new hires about how to fill out timesheets. Next time you’re updating the training handouts, it might be useful to go into more detail about that.”

    1. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, I find it helpful to write notes when I am reading new material but it’s not helpful to me to have to write them as I listen – my attention ends up split between what’s being said now and what I wrote about what was said a moment ago. Having good handouts where people can jot notes in the margins is by far my preference.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        I’m mixed in that sometimes my notes in real time meetings can be helpful, but if it process or technical details being convey I cannot absorb what’s being said and write down enough relevant info at the same time, and trying winds up with me with a choppy memory of what happened real time and notes that are rarely helpful.

        We recently updated our ERP system, and the vendor’s default training method was video meeting with a live demonstration of how to do stuff. Handouts were basically bullet points of the training *topics* being covered, with very little details of the actual content being taught. Unless I repeatedly asked for documents that actually included “how to do the thing” I was left with my incomplete notes and a general understanding of how things work. They, oh so helpfully /s recorded the training, so if I need to do something I can go back and watch it again. But having to weed through a 90 minute video to find the 3-4 five minute sections I need is mega annoying. An actual hand out with actual process steps would have been much more useful.

    2. Just Your Everyday Crone*

      I thought the same–that there should be written office procedures that address the material presented in the training.

    3. AFac*

      People learn in many different ways. I am a copious note-taker. I write everything down. This is the way my brain works. The act of writing it down, of seeing it in writing, cements it in my brain better than hearing it, even if I don’t look at the paper again. If I don’t remember exactly what it said, I often can remember where to find that note to myself.

      It took me a long time (and some training on learning styles) to realize that not all people learn this way, and that many people don’t know how best they learn*. I would much rather read text than watch a video. My colleague in the next office is the exact opposite. We both have essentially the same job. When I train, I try to give as wide range of learning opportunities of various styles as I can, and hope something sticks.

      *It’s also situational. I was slow to learn to drive because there’s not really much you can write down and you just have to do it, and do it a lot.

      1. Siege*

        What about your learning style makes it okay to interrupt your colleague repeatedly with the same questions though.

  16. Lacey*

    This all sounds obnoxious to me, but it’s true that you can make yourself feel 10,000% better about it by just not caring. Some of it is worth bringing up – certainly the yelling would be intolerable to me.

    But they’re wearing the wrong clothes to work? Eh, they will either eventually get told to cut it out by someone in authority or the office at large is going to realize they don’t care about the dress code and it will be whatever. I work for a place that officially requires dress pants, closed toe shoes, blouses, button up shirts or polo. When we were still in the office we wore jeans and nice t-shirts every day. I did wear closed toe shoes, but one of my coworkers wore flip flops all summer long. Cute ones. But flip flops none the less.

  17. Emily*

    “My problem/not my problem” are definitely buckets that I put coworker behavior into. You can be annoyed by things that are not your problem, and you can make choices in the future based on that information – like, who you choose to work with, if that’s an option. But not having to do anything about something makes it a lot less stressful!

    Also, having been in the position of being the relatively older person on a team (but not in a more senior position), I do not think my age and experience translated to increased credibility — if anything, it was the opposite – like, ‘what’s wrong with you?’

  18. Generic Name*

    OP, at the tender young age of 29, you have reached a scary realization that you are now “the adult in the room” and are noticing common foibles of the very young and new to the workplace. This is what young people are like, and no, plenty of them don’t “just know”. Either they aren’t all that observant, or they haven’t grown up in an environment where they started learning office norms from parents who worked in an office. Or they just don’t care. But it doesn’t really matter because it’s not your job to teach entry level staffers how to office. I assume your boss hasn’t put you in charge of mentoring them, correct? I sympathize with the urge to Fix What Someone Else is Doing Wrong, but from personal experience, life is a lot less stressful if you let a lot of this stuff go. As Alison advised, yes deal with the stuff that affects you directly and is distracting from your work, but otherwise, don’t worry about if other people follow the dress code or not or if they move from desk to desk. They’ll either learn, or they won’t, but either way, it’s not your responsibility to police them.

  19. blood orange*

    In addition to Alison’s advice, if you decide to speak with your boss about the pieces that do affect your work, some general input could go along with that. If you have a good rapport with him, it might be fine to just acknowledge that these new hires are new to the workforce and the company will benefit from more intentional coaching/mentoring on those professional norms (I say “the company” because the benefit to the employee is more obvious).

    Experienced professionals (especially owners or higher level managers) forget that when you hire new or recent grads, you’re taking on an employee who just doesn’t know that stuff! Hopefully you hire them because they show a lot of potential, aptitude for the skills, and alignment with company mission, etc. but you can’t expect them to be a fully formed professional without actual experience (and even then, as others have commented, you still may see some of the things you’re talking about). You’ll get varying degrees of professionalism, of course, but new professionals will all benefit from their manager realizing that they need to coach them on other aspects of the work world on top of developing the skills of their role. This might not be you, ideally it’s the manager, but you can certainly develop a mentor relationship and have an impact.

    To be clear, this is an AWESOME opportunity. Having people on your team who are inexperienced and connecting them with a good manager or mentorship program to help them build their skills is great for the company and the employee in the long term. I’ve had numerous conversations with managers and upper leadership complaining about behaviors of newer professionals. Most of the time I just need to remind them that we’re taking on something different with a new/recent grad. Not better or worse, just a different stage of their career, and we have the opportunity to impact their growth.

    Quick bone to pick with “generation” comments as those inevitably come with these conversations. It’s not Gen Z. It was Millennials before Gen Z, and every preceding generation before that when they entered the workforce. There are unique aspects to each generation, of course, but let’s not blame Gen Z as though they are bad/lazy/entitled, etc. for what OP is seeing in these new hires.

  20. Hannah Lee*

    This LW’s post made me remember a moment year’s ago when the 30 person dept I worked in had a couple of new hires, one of whom, Angela, after a couple of months still had ways of behaving in the workplace that were very very different from the rest of the department – I’m trying to remember specific examples, but it was things like having a more casual approach to time/deadlines, when the norm was on-time or early; yelling across cubes when the norm was get up and go talk to people where they’re at, making up their own workpaper, project management formats – documents that needed to be shared, referred to by co-workers – with the key info placed, labeled, sorted very differently than the department standard, and changing them frequently, so that every time anyone else needed to refer to those docs, it took extra time to orient yourself to how Angela decided to do things that day … which was doable, but kind of annoying. The department was very MBA/science/data geek heavy, and while there were a range of workstyles and personalities, having all output, workpapers of the department have a consistent look and feel with key data that was easy to find was actually important for real work reasons, instead of “because that’s the way it is”

    Finally, one of the other people who started when Angela started, as she was doing something yet again that was randomly unique and throwing off workflow piped up with:

    “Angela! Norm, dammit!”

    and the entire department cube-farm, including Angela, burst out laughing. She made an effort after that to keep anything that impacted others more to the department standard, but she was always in a zoney of her owney in other ways.

    One the other end of things, there are also those times where the old-school employees hold onto the dynamics, norms of how things were and don’t recognize that norms and culture can shift over time. If over the course of a year or two all the people who used to be there are no longer there, and new people have different workstyles, interests, energy than the prior crew, and/or the IT/processes/workspace that existed in the before times have evolved, sometimes the old culture, way of doing things isn’t THE norm anymore, and the institutional knowledge of “this is how it HAS BEEN done” does not equal “this is how it IS done” anymore and there’s no real reason to force the old ways to live on.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      “Angela! Norm, dammit!”

      I love it! Insistent, but cheeky enough to soften the edges. I also love that the person read the room (or got lucky), and this comment was effective AND made everyone laugh–meaning that it didn’t sting Angela too badly.

  21. kiki*

    Something like this happened at a company I used to work for. A big part of the issue was that it was a new department almost entirely staffed by folks fresh out of college or who had never worked an office job before. Instead of the new folks having an existing culture to acclimate and blend into, they were left to their own devices to establish a culture. And that culture was chaos, a mish-mash of how things worked when they were in school and things they likely picked up from television series.

    This is beyond LW’s purview, but what worked for my office was ensuring their managers were more present in the office and ensuring the newbies weren’t only interacting with each other. Their managers also had to regularly intervene and have discussions with them about what was okay or not in the office. It must have sucked for those managers, like, they had to tell the employees not to have burping contests and to not play spin-the-bottle at staff happy hours.

  22. Gen z professional*

    As a 24 year old young professional, I really think the person writing in should do some internal work and ask themselves WHY this stuff bothers them so much when it doesn’t particularly affect their work day. It’s giving “Old man yells at cloud” a la The Simpsons.

    1. Siege*

      Really? It doesn’t bother you to be repeatedly interrupted to give answers you’ve given before?

  23. Lenora Rose*

    Questions I don’t see answers to: Are there written instructions besides the trainee’s own notes for the tasks they keep asking about? If not, why not? These are good things to have.

    If there aren’t, is there someone who IS learning faster who could be entrusted with the job of assembling instructions, and thereby become the go to person for dumb questions from their peers?

  24. Nunya*

    You’re not really acting like a “senior”. That would require having a tougher skin, doing your work and not worrying about what they’re wearing. If management wants them to change the way they dress, let them do it. You’re not their boss, and you’ll just end up looking like a busybody.

  25. E*

    OP… you’re not a manager, team leader, or supervisor. Being senior doesn’t mean it’s suddenly your responsibility to police people. Talk to your boss about things actually distracting your work (for example the yelling) but things like the dress code really aren’t your responsibility nor place to monitor. The people you’re describing seem hard to work with but it’s also hard to work with people who aren’t in a position of authority but act like they are.

  26. Nodramalama*

    What on earth. Who would willingly swap desks multiple times a day. That sounds so annoying

  27. Sleeve McQueen*

    I actually have a deck that I go through with all new hires which outlines how we like to conduct ourselves. I do it with everyone so that people new to full-time work can get a sense of workplace norms and also those managing them so they know the standard they should hold people to. I always mention “at least one part of this will make you go ‘uh duh’ but just know that not everyone has the same ‘uh duh’ so that’s why it’s in there”. Obviously, this is the manager’s role here, not OPs but it can be hard to hit a target when you don’t know where it is and things like “common sense” can sometimes come with assumptions about having the shared experiences.

  28. Varthema*

    I… kinda thought the whole “creative” argument behind hot-desking (at least the one that wallpapers over the true reason of saving space and money) is to do exactly what the new hires are doing – sit in a different place according to your needs. In a quiet zone when you need focus time, in a more social area if you’re doing some loose collaborating, somewhere…else if you have a lot of calls? There are also studies that back up switching location to improve retention and focus. If I had to hotdesk I’d also probably want to take advantage of its silver lining and change location frequently.

  29. PannaLisenka*

    I might be alone on this, but much of this sounds like a… non-issue? They just have different personalities than you, and save for the taking notes and the yelling, all of these are harmless phenomenons. Live and let live, your target will not be affected by the fact that Donna switches desks every 30 minutes. You are not their manager, so why would you even bother? If you are so frustrated with the questions you already answered, then yeah, this is a problem to solve, but apart from that, it sounds like you are just extremely easy to irritate and thus many thing people do are going to drive you up the wall. I have been that person. I once genuinely fumed at a co-worker who ate a cake at her desk because how dare she expose us to her feeding habits! In an office, no less!

  30. Mewtwo*

    It just seems like this job/company isn’t a good fit for you anymore. I’ve known plenty of recent college grads/young people who are very competent employees and am hesitant to paint them with one brush. If you are getting a bunch of badly behaved coworkers, your org sucks at hiring and there isn’t much you can do unless you have influence in hiring.

  31. Sarah*

    You aren’t their manager, so stop taking it on yourself. If they aren’t working or aren’t dressed appropriately, stay out of it. If they are being loud and distracting, ask to to stop or put on headphones, and if it doesn’t improve talk to your boss about how the noise is directly affecting your performance. If they are bugging you with questions 100x a day, tell your boss you can either do your job or answer their questions. So if he wants you to help train them, he needs to free up time in your schedule to do so. If he doesn’t, then you’ll refer people to him to answer questions.

    Stay out of it. It’s not your job.

  32. PayRaven*

    I’m curious how OP has posed this input in the past. Without any title/managerial responsibility over the new hires, they’re going to need some other kind of credibility or rapport.

    OP, did you explain that they need to take notes and remember things because it’s disruptive, or say that their yelling is disturbing everyone else’s work? Or did you just tell them to knock it off? I definitely understand the feeling that they SHOULD know how to read between the lines, but the way you frame it is the difference between “oh shit, we need to take this seriously” and “look at the fun police over here.”

    1. PayRaven*

      And if it’s something that’s annoying you but you can’t actually articulate how it’s affecting your work (most dress code violations fall in this bucket), then yeah, you’re going to need to let it go. Pick your battles.

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