can I train people not to bother me when I have headphones on, I promised to tell my boss when I’m job-searching, and more

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

1. Can I train people not to bother me when I have headphones on?

I am a supervisor at a small public library (10 full-time people). Our office in the back is an open office plan. I am next to the employee entrance/exit, staff bathrooms, and the break room. Needless to say, there are a lot of interruptions! I hate this floor plan, but there’s not too much I can do about it. My boss loves it.

I often wear headphones (which is acceptable, but not extremely common here) and people don’t seem to get the hint that I need to concentrate and will often interrupt me with things that can wait or things that can be left in my inbox. I try to listen to make sure I am not missing anything important.

Is there any way that I can train employees to not bother me when I have headphones on or do I just have to live with interruptions that could have been an email? Also my boss is very chatty, so I often get a lot more work done when she is not around and need the uninterrupted work time.

It depends on the nature of your role. There are some jobs where being accessible is part of doing it well, and that can be mean being available even for things that could wait. There are other jobs where that’s not the case, and where it’s perfectly reasonable to ask people to save things up for a more convenient time, email them to you, etc. Assuming your job is in the latter category (and that your own boss would agree), it’s okay to tell your staff, “I need some blocks of uninterrupted time to focus on projects that require concentration. I’m going to wear headphones during those times, so when you see my headphones on, please only interrupt me if it definitely can’t wait.” (Of course, if you do that, you need to make sure you’re not wearing headphones all day long, every day.) You might also have luck with a sign reinforcing that message — something like, “Work block — interrupt for emergencies only.”

Also, think about the sorts of things people interrupt you for. Could you cut down on some of it with better training or more proactive guidance or by delegating more authority? That won’t always solve this kind of thing — sometimes people just want to talk in person RIGHT NOW regardless — but it’s worth thinking about.

Read an update to this letter

2. I promised to tell my boss when I’m looking for a new job

About six months ago, my direct manager resigned and I now report to that manager’s former manager. During our initial conversation after my manager’s departure, I was asked to “let them know if I’m reaching a point where I’m looking for something else.” I (in a moment of panic) agreed. Given some changes in the culture and changes in work, I’ve begun actively looking and am expecting to give notice in the next few months.

Now in a regular situation, my advice to others would be that it’s not necessary or prudent to share that you are actively looking until there is an offer on the table, especially if it could affect the working relationship while still in your job. However, I’m a bit torn in this situation since I explicitly agreed to let them know. Any thoughts on how to navigate this?

Your boss’s boss put you in an unfair position by asking that of you in the first place; very few people in that situation will feel safe saying, “Actually, I’d rather not let you know and I’d prefer to drop it on you like a surprise when it happens.” Of course you agreed to it!

But that doesn’t mean you need to do it, and it’s likely not in your best interests to. You risk getting pushed out earlier than you want to leave, or even just not considered for raises, bonuses, or high-profile projects since they’ll figure you’re on your way out anyway. Stick with two weeks notice, and if your boss’s boss mentions your “agreement” at that point (which they might not even do), you can say, “This fell in my lap and was too good an opportunity to pass up.” You don’t owe full transparency (or full transparency outside of normal professional conventions, no less) just because someone with power over you pushed you to agree to something contrary to your interests.

3. Salesman showed up in person at my new job

I started a new job three months ago. This morning, a colleague in another department messaged me that a visitor, “John Doe,” was looking for me, and asked if I was expecting anyone. I was not, and the name wasn’t immediately familiar. Before I could respond, John was led across the building to my desk. (The safety issue there is a separate issue.) I realized John was a vendor that I’d worked with at my last job, as in I’d emailed him to place an order a couple times over the last few years. My last order was a year ago.

John was of course in full sales mode, said he enjoyed working with me before, gave me his new pitch, etc. I took his business card and said a polite noncommittal thing and he left.

After, I looked at my LinkedIn history and saw we had connected on LinkedIn a while back. When I posted my job update a few months ago, he had sent me a perfunctory “congrats on your new job” message and I had responded with a thank you. I hadn’t remembered that (was wondering how he knew where I worked now), but that was the extent of our interaction. I certainly wasn’t expecting a person I barely remembered to show up at my new workplace unannounced for a cold sales call. Also, his company has never had business with my new company.

John’s company does seem to operate with an old-fashioned business etiquette, where in-person business tends to be emphasized, and I understand he is a business owner just doing his job. However, I work with sales reps from vendors frequently, and they have always called, emailed, contacted us via our website, or pre-arranged a visit. While I’m sure John’s visit was meant to be a warm, personal touch to help them stand out as a company, I feel uncomfortable and a little creeped out knowing that he tracked me down in-person! Is this as weird as this felt for me? Do other companies actually prefer these in-person, unannounced sales visits?

Yeah, this is a thing that some salespeople do. Since you announced your new job on LinkedIn (and even traded messages with him about it, albeit perfunctory ones), he didn’t really track you down so much as make a note of your new employer so he could contact you there. Showing up in person without an appointment is obnoxious, but I’d argue it would also be obnoxious if you were a current client of his. It’s more about overly aggressive, old-school sales tactics than creepiness,  at least in my opinion. But you’re not the only one who will find it over-the-top, and salespeople really should adjust their traditional tactics to account for the growing number of people who are turned off by this kind of thing.

4. My current job is pushing me to commit to projects while I’m waiting for an offer

I work in a nonprofit niche, and after being at my organization for a decade, I’ve applied for a new opportunity doing similar but higher-level job at a new place. I’m pretty sure I landed the position or I’m in close consideration. However, it’s been three weeks since my last interview and I’m still waiting for the shoe to drop.

My profession is pretty calendar-driven, with certain projects occurring annually on a standard timeline. My supervisor is starting to press me to get started on the next upcoming set of big projects. If I were staying, I’d definitely be getting started right now — but I don’t want to begin a new cycle, then bail after several weeks once the new job finally calls me. Because of downsizing during Covid, I’ve gone from a department of five to a department of one (just me!), so there’s nobody I can low-key delegate to right now, and they’d have to hire an outside replacement for me; said replacement would then have to decipher my half-done work, which is way more complicated then having them start fresh on their own version of the project.

I’ve been reluctant to follow up since my thank-you’s after the final interview. I figure (a) I’ve got the job, (b) I’ve not got the job, or (c) they haven’t decided, and calling them won’t change that. I gave consent for a background check a week ago, and I’m boring as sin so I know it must have come back clean.

Is it appropriate to let the new job know that I’m being pressed to commit to the upcoming year at my current organization, and I need to know if they’re making me an offer so that I can begin transitioning out? Both employers are in the same field, so it should be pretty clear the kind of conflict/inconvenience this would cause if the situation were flipped. I don’t want to rock the boat for rocking’s sake, but I’m afraid they might be asleep at the helm!

You shouldn’t tell them you “need to know” if they’re making you an offer; the reality is the timelines simply might not match up the way you want them to, and sometimes that’s just how this goes. But you can say, “I wondered if you might have a sense of your timeline for next steps. I’m being asked to commit to some big projects at my current organization soon, but I’m very interested in the role with you.” That might nudge them … or it might not. They might not be ready to move immediately for any number of reasons (decision-maker out of town, last-minute candidate emerging who needs to be interviewed, background check taking a while — and they can definitely take longer than a week, even when you’re boring). But it’s reasonable to ask about their timeline and you can give that a try.

Meanwhile, don’t do anything at your current job that you’ll regret if you don’t end up getting this offer (or — equally important — if you get the offer but turn it down over salary or other terms). You never really have an offer until you actually have an offer, no matter how promising things seem, and things can always change at the last minute. So generally speaking, you should proceed as if you don’t have the other job until you do, which can indeed mean starting projects that then inconvenience your employer when you move on. That’s just the way this stuff works.

5. Rejecting a candidate who I invited to apply

I was recently promoted into a management role at my company and with that I’m now hiring to fill my former position. I’ve previously supervised interns, so I decided to reach out to one who had stood out to let them know about the job and that I thought they might be a good fit.

Unfortunately, their application and cover letter both look really slapped together with a lot of typos and grammar errors. Most concerningly to me is that they’ve listed their internship under the title of the staff member they worked closely with (which was never their title) and have made it look like they were a full staff member.

I’m at the point of checking references for my finalists and needing to start sending rejections. What’s the best way to go about rejecting someone that you asked to apply in the first place? And should I bring up their resume and the misrepresentation of their work?

The main thing when you’re rejecting someone who you invited to apply is to send a personalized rejection rather than a form letter. For example: “I really appreciate the time you put into exploring the X position with me, and it was great to be able to catch up with you about what you’ve been doing since your time here. We had a very competitive group of applicants for the position, and ultimately I’ve decided to offer it to another candidate, who has accepted. If you’d like any feedback about your interview or application, I’d be happy to set up a call to do that — but either way I’m grateful for the time you spent talking with me.”

If they do want feedback, you can bring up the concerns you had then, but this message leaves it in her court rather than you spontaneously listing all the ways she disappointed you.

That said, in situations like this I wish we had a time machine! The misrepresented job title is an important thing to raise, but the best time to ask about it was earlier in the process. Doing it now before they’ve asked for feedback — when you didn’t say anything about it earlier — will feel a little odd, so at this point I’d wait and see if they want to hear more or not.

{ 268 comments… read them below }

  1. Jmac*

    #1 – people only think about themselves and do not take obvious hints. When I have my office door closed (meaning I’m on the phone, busy or otherwise want to be left alone) people insist on knocking or just barging right in

    1. coffee*

      I don’t think people even see headphones, honestly. People used to talk to me when I had my earbud headphones in, so I got some bulky red headband headphones.

      “Aha!” I said. “Now people will be able to see I’m wearing headphones before they start talking to me, and they’ll get my attention before they start talking away!”
      NOT SO. Some people are still surprised that I didn’t hear them when they come up behind me and start talking.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        I joke that some people see headphones as a sign that says, “Now is the time to start talking!”

        I currently work transcribing and translating phone calls for insurance companies and such, and my job is very literally using headphones and listening without interruptions. I work from home and I’ve resorted to working at night because at least people are less likely to strike up conversations at that time in spite of explicitly explaining why it actively makes things so much harder for me.

        1. soontoberetired*

          Do you work in my old office? The joys of working from home – far fewer interruptions. I wore big bulky headphones to try and get people to stop interrupting me and it didn’t work. Everyone thinks what they need is the most important thing in the world.

        2. Books and Cooks*

          Yes! The “Oh, headphones–great, now is the time to ask questions that could totally wait!” thing.

          I’m open to being interrupted even with headphones on; my problem is that I have repeatedly asked my interrupters to reach over and pause my audiobook or video if they are closer to it or have hands free, before they just start speaking. I’ve made the point over and over that I literally cannot hear them properly otherwise. I have had a terrible time getting this accomplished; only one of them regularly does this. And none of them “see” the headphones until I gesture toward them, or shake my head indicating I cannot hear them.

          (This is complicated in my case by the fact that my “interrupters” are my family, and the work I am doing is cooking their dinner, washing dishes, or cleaning our house [my hands are often covered in raw meat or soap suds when I’m interrupted, it seems]. Sitting down and opening my laptop to do my actual [writing] work is also some kind of homing signal that Now Is The Time To Ask Mom What She’s Up To, or Does Mom Feel Like Watching A Movie With Me, or Does Mom Feel Like Driving Me Somewhere, but I don’t wear headphones for that, usually.)

          So, LW, this isn’t something limited to the workplace! I’d guess anyone who has ever put on headphones for anything has found that other people just do not “see” them or make the connection, and “training” them to do so can be quite difficult!

          It’s still worth a try, though. I like Alison’s suggestion of backing it up with a sign. I’d also think about whether I could set up a specific time every day for this type of work, because I think it’s easier to say to people, “Every day between two and four, I do the back-up/admin/whatever, and really need to be able to focus. I’m going to put on headphones during that time to help remind you all that I’m asking not to be interrupted during that time unless it’s an emergency. My Inbox is here, and you can leave me notes here. I’d really appreciate it if you could all help me out with this, and let me concentrate on this task.” That way there are a couple of factors for them to think about, and it might be easier for them as well as you.

          1. Reluctant Mezzo*

            I had to put up a sign when my hearing ability changed (do you know that 4% of people who use sulfa drugs go deaf during the time they’re using them? Guess how I found out!) temporarily and even then, people were upset I could not hear them even with the sign saying “I am temporarily deaf. Please wave at me so I know you’re there”.

      2. Ellie*

        Lots of people I work with listen to music. If I thought I could only ask them questions when their headphones were off, I’d be waiting all day. I think this is context sensitive – headphones on public transport means don’t try to talk to me. Headphones at work depends on what you are doing.

        I think if you’re working on something critical and need some time, a sign is a much better idea. If there’s an unused room you could also book a meeting with yourself – that’s what my old boss used to do when he had lots to do and not enough time.

        1. GammaGirl1908*

          I used to work in an office where people would put a strip of tape all the way across their cubicle door entrance with a sign on it saying something like “essential interruptions only, please.” LW is in an open plan situation, so she doesn’t have a doorway to use, but she could tent a piece of paper over the back of her chair or something.

          1. MagicUnicorn*

            Maybe a folding screen for the desktop between them and the traffic path? Or even one of those tri-fold poster boards? Something that visually interrupts their line of sight with passersby might help mitigate the opportunistic chatter, at least.

          2. Glitsy Gus*

            When I worked in a more open cube situation I had one coworker who did exactly that. She made a sign that said “FOCUS TIME- Please Do Not Disturb!” and would tape it to her chair. I had another coworker who made a flag that she would stick on the top of the cube wall. If Natalie’s red flag was flying, you did not bug her ( This does require a wall, but I bet you could put it on your monitor or something if you liked the flag idea).

        2. Liv*

          I came here to say this. In my office, if someone is wearing their headphones, it’s a sign that they don’t want to take part in the general chit chat, but it’s fine to interrupt them to ask a work-related question. If someone genuinely needs to work with zero interruptions, they move to a quiet corner of the office (we have these booth things) or grab a meeting room.

          1. ferrina*

            Yep, this is the case at my last two places. Some folks just liked to listen to music as they work, but that didn’t mean that they were unavailable (and if they were on a webinar or something, they’d put up a sign or get a meeting room)

          2. Cringing 24/7*

            This is exactly how my workplace is. We all wear headphones, but we can and do interrupt each other for questions (especially as each of us has a different specialty, so we’re the only people to go to with questions related to specific departments).

          3. Antilles*

            I’ve even worked at places where headphones didn’t even signal “no chit chat” – you could absolutely feel free to interrupt someone to for minor office chit-chat if you wanted.
            It just really depends on the office culture I think.

            1. quill*

              Yeah. I wear headphones at work but it’s mostly because everyone. Always has meetings. Can’t concentrate on doing actual work when the person next to me is hashing out the mechanics of updating lab procedures, two people are having lunch and talking about movies, and a third person is on a client call.

            2. yala*

              Yeeeeah, I tried to do the headphones for “no chit chat” because I kept getting hung up with small talk at the end of the day–fine for some folks, but it’s the time when I’m finishing things up and setting things out for the next day, and I can’t *do* that if someone wants to hang out and chat until we both leave.

              It…did not go well.

              I think a sign is probably a better way to go (since LW is a supervisor, they can probably get away with that). Heck, could get something cute, like a little light or something.

              And then things mean different things to different people. To me, a closed door in an office means “Do Not Disturb.” To others, it just means to knock instead of just popping in. Neither thing is wrong, but using words instead of signals is probably the best way to avoid confusion.

          4. Elizabeth West*

            This sounds like what people did at Exjob. We had “huddle rooms” where you could go meet or work on something. Most people just worked from home if they needed strict quiet conditions for most of the day.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          I agree, on the subway they should be seen as a clear DO NOT DISTURB. At work, it might just mean you want to listen to something as you are working on something boring. Personally I would definitely not take it as a sign that someone was extra-concentrating because while I know some people can I cannot listen to anything while doing work that requires thought. So I do think you have to spell it out if you want people to know… but I also am not really sure if it is reasonable to take that stand anyway depending on what their job is like.

        4. coffee*

          To clarify, my workplace (and I) are fine with interrupting to ask a question. The problem was that it’s hard to hear someone clearly when I’m using my headphones to block out the general open office noise, so they need to get my attention before asking a question. Even though my headphones are quite visible, people still come up behind me, start talking, and are then surprised when I take my headphones off and ask them to repeat the beginning of their sentence. Literally “Oh, I didn’t realise you were wearing your headphones” as I take off my chonky bright red over-the-ear headphones.

      3. Not All Hares Are Quick*

        Slightly off-topic, but I think one of the Guards (UK) regiments used to have a tradition that if someone was wearing a hat at breakfast it meant they weren’t up for talking, whether by reason of a hangover or whatever.
        A visiting member of the Marines didn’t realise this, and asked an officer wearing a smoking cap to pass the butter please. No answer. Repeat, same result. After two or three iterations, the officer said wearily, “You are obviously new here, so I need to explain that this ” (tapping the hat) “is how we in the Guards express a wish not to be addressed.”
        “I see”, said the Marine, and got up onto the table. He walked along it, on the way kicking coffee pots, milk jugs etc onto the floor, and placing his foot at one point firmly in the officer’s bacon and eggs, till he got to the butter, picked it up and returned, wreaking similar mayhem.
        As he said down, he said “Obviously, I’m new here, so I need to explain that this ” ( tapping the officer’s broken breakfast plate) “is how we in the Marines express a wish for the butter.”

        1. Glitsy Gus*

          I don’t want to take this too far down the rabbit hole, but my BF, who was in the Army, just said, “of course it was a Marine that pulled that B.S.” LOL

      4. Cringing 24/7*

        Honestly, I *see* headphones, but I don’t see them as a reason not to bring something to someone. Obviously, I only mean this in a work setting (I’m not interrupting randos out in public) – but what I mean is – I put on headphones to have something entertaining to listen to while I’m working, and I expect people to interrupt me when they need something (even something not time-sensitive) because there’s nothing lost by them interrupting me in the middle of a song.

        It honestly hadn’t occurred to me that someone might use headphones at work to signal “I’m not approachable” because, for me, my job involves being *always* approachable, so headphones are something that need to be quickly set aside when I’m needed (even for non-urgent matters).

        1. My Useless 2 Cents*

          I’ll raise my hand as another person who wears headphones at work but expect to be interrupted for even non-urgent work matters. In the rare instance where I put them in to help concentrate on what I’m doing, I have intentionally ignored coworkers I know are trying to get my attention knowing I could do the whole “Oh, sorry, didn’t hear you.” schtick if necessary. I’ve found that most will leave the non-urgent queries for another time if I don’t respond right away (but not always).

          Side note: If you are often getting interrupted by people handing you work rather than putting it in your inbox, please take a look at your desk set-up. I’ve worked with people in the past that unintentionally made it very confusing for people who didn’t regularly bring work to that coworker. Like the guy who had 4 different wall files hanging off the cubicle wall with no labels on any of them. His “inbox” was the second from the left but I only had to bring him something once every 2-3 months and could never remember that so was constantly interrupting him to clarify. It was annoying to me, I can only imagine what he thought about it.

        2. The OTHER Other*

          I found the letter really off-putting. This supervisor seems really invested in being unapproachable. “Training” staff to not come to her? I’m glad I’m not one of her subordinates.

          I don’t think it’s so much that people don’t “see” headphones, they see them as something mostly used for entertainment and relaxation, and this is work.

          Perhaps you think it’s rude of me to interrupt you when I could easily ask “where is the TPS report?” via email. I think it’s rude of you to prioritize listening to Adele when I am looking for the TPS report.

          1. Jayess*

            I think this may be contextual to what type of work you do. LW1 works in a public library – their staff are likely not looking for TPS reports. I’ve worked in a set up that sounds identical to the LW, and it’s incredibly difficult to get any work done. Sometimes you need to focus for an hour or two to get expense claims filed/community partners emailed/timesheets done, and you just absolutely do not need someone tapping you on the shoulder to say “hey is this water damage bad enough that we should be weeding this item?” (fwiw the answer to that is always yes).

          2. LW #1*

            LW #1 here. I see your point, but it’s ableist.
            I only listen to headphones maybe once a week when I need to concentrate in a chaotic environment. And I am not listening to Adele but usually chillhop to help me concentrate.
            Currently, I am without headphones because I am training an employee and need to be available in case he needs help. The specific interruption that prompted this letter was a more seasoned employee stopping me while doing complicated statistics to ask if she could take off an hour…three months from now.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              You need the “Hat of Silence”. My friend was in a similar situation. Her solution was tell everyone that if she was wearing a pirate hat she was not to be interrupted. It worked very well since she generally only needed 4-6 hrs a week focused. Obviously a pirate hat might not be appropriate for all settings, but a “____________ of Silence” (and blank could be headphones) might be an option.

              1. Glitsy Gus*

                This. It needs to be something you establish with the staff; that’ll remove both the miscommunication regarding why you are wearing headphones and the incorrect assumption that this is about not wanting to ever hear from folks.

                I mentioned above that previous coworkers I’ve had used signs on their chairs and flags on their monitor/cube wall. A hat is also a good idea. Your headphones can also work, but just make sure it’s very clear from a distance that you are wearing them. So, maybe add some bright pink tape to the ear covers, or if you want to be a little silly antenna bobbles or something. Making it a little fun can help turn down the “leave me ALONE!” feeling.

            2. Don't Panic (in friendly letters)*

              LW 1, How is the point that commentor made abelist?

              It sounds like you have a difference in understanding of what headphones mean to different people. You mean them as “don’t talk to me” and other people see them as “i’m going to listen to this while I work until someone needs me, when I will then put my entertainment aside for work matters”. If you don’t explicitly tell people that they can not bother you when you have them on, and that you are perfectly fine with that delaying whatever they’re working on, then how would they know that? Too much work frustration comes from everyone expecting everyone else to know automatically what their nonverbal signals mean, and honestly /thats/ pretty abelist toward people who are nuerodivergent.

            3. Student*


              Look, if you have a disability that requires accommodation so that you can concentrate on certain tasks, you should absolutely get that accommodation. That’s not obvious from your letter at all, so I think your “abelist” complaint here is a good indicator that you’re not communicating your specific needs as clearly as you think you are. If you don’t have a disability, but need to concentrate on certain tasks, that’s also perfectly fine and normal and you should get that.

              You can’t expect people to read your mind, though. That’s the point.

              Nobody looking at you wearing headphones can tell what’s going on from just the context of headphones. Headphones mean a lot of things, and you probably have a lot of co-workers that use them differently. You can start telling your co-workers what you need from them, and you can work out a signal that you all find mutually acceptable for when you need quiet time from them. I’m a big fan of an actual sign that says so, instead of expecting a bunch of people to interpret a very common accessory as a sign of what you need.

              Scheduling quiet working hours also works for some people, if your co-workers have tools to see your schedule or work status, and if the work is somewhat consistent.

              If you are going to stick with using your headphones as a signal that you need quiet time, then you will probably have to remind your co-workers a few times until it sticks, and be pretty firm in enforcing your quiet time. A lot of them will have to retrain themselves from other habits they use with other people wearing headphones (some people I’d just never talk to if I had to wait for them to remove their headsets on their own…), or their own headphone habits, so it’s an uphill battle you’ll be waging to retrain them. That’s a big part of why a different, more direct tactic would probably work better here.

            4. Rach*

              A lot of people at my work have these little cubes that light either red (critical task, do not disturb), yellow (working but can be interrupted if important), and green (free to talk). Something like that grabs attention and seems to work pretty well. Headphones are too open for interpretation.

          3. Lady Blerd*

            You are making presumptions based on nothing, the LW may need to do critical work without interruptions. The headphones are no different then closing an office door to avoid being interrupted, if they happen to listen to Adele, a podcast or an audiobook doesn’t matter.

            1. Rach*

              As the comments here show, a closed door and headphones are open to interpretation. A “do not disturb” sign or a light up cube or whatever that is concise and clear will serve LW much better.

    2. Move it move it*

      I taught a class at a university where students had to make individual presentations to the class that were worth a significant part of their grade. All students were clearly told no one should interrupt their classmates during the presentations. I shut the classroom door after I’d taped on a large printed sign that read something like:


      Nevertheless, one of the presentations was rudely interrupted by a student who slammed the door open then noisily made their way to a seat. When I asked that student why they had interrupted their classmate’s presentation, they said because they didn’t want to wait and didn’t think they should have to. Some people just suck.

      1. Just Me.*

        Huh. I don’t understand managers wearing headphones. Part of the responsibility of being a manager is being available, and headphones show you are deliberately making yourself unavailable to your team. If your team is struggling to understand what they can resolve themselves and what they need a managers help with that’s on the training they’ve received. Want fewer interruptions? Find out why instead of looking to “train” them for the advantage of yourself.

        1. Auntie Anti*

          Naw, it depends on the job as Alison said. Otherwise managers with offices would never be able to close their door for meetings or projects that need focus. You need to be available sometimes as a manager but in lots of jobs not every single hour of the day.

          1. Delta Delta*

            I worked in a place where people were in and out of the manager’s office every two minutes. My office was directly across the hall from his and could hear the constant interruptions. I didn’t especially like the guy, but I felt badly for him that he couldn’t ever get anything done with the steady stream of people in and out. He lacked the skills to say he couldn’t be interrupted. Not a good combo.

          2. Just Me.*

            Thank you. Comparing it to a closed door makes sense to me. I’m in my first “headphones acceptable “ work environment and am really struggling with it.

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          I’m not sure I agree, because it depends on the nature of the work. If this person has work where they need to focus, then they should be able to create some uninterrupted blocks during the day. I also would expect her to have meetings where it’s not appropriate to be interrupted for non-emergencies. Being a manager doesn’t mean that your team can interrupt you willy-nilly at all times.

          She also didn’t say that people can’t approach her in any way. Her team could email her if necessary. She just doesn’t want them stampeding up to her desk and talking for half an hour about trivia when she’s in the middle of a complex project, and is looking for a way to signal that a complex project is in process.

          1. English Rose*

            Yes exactly, if someone is in a meeting they are only normally interruptible for emergencies. We need to treat focus work with the same respect (with the caveat that yes teams need sufficient training to be able to handle routine stuff themselves).

        3. Jora Malli*

          The problem is that most managers have other job duties beyond just supervising direct reports. If my only job duty was to supervise people, then I’d be able to spend my whole day on that. But supervision is only one of my many job duties, and sometimes another duty has a deadline and needs to be prioritized, so I’m going to need some uninterrupted time to work on it.

        4. Willow Pillow*

          As someone who often NEEDS to wear headphones to focus, my manager wearing headphones sometimes normalizes the flexibility I need in how I get my work done. I’ve told him it’s fine if he’s busy doing other work and he can tell me that directly – he gives me the same courtesy if I have headphones on.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Were you able to dock the rude student’s score for that module? I’m aghast.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          I was thinking if they hadn’t gone yet, I’d arrange for someone to come in and disrupt their presentation.

        2. My Useless 2 Cents*

          Yeah, I really hope you were able to mark down the interrupters project grade. Being a student listener is a small but important part of class presentation assignments.

      3. Badgerbadgerbadger*

        I once taught a class in a room that also seemed to be a temporary common room for staff who worked in the building. Nobody except me seemed to see a problem with gatecrashing someone else’s lecture to get milk from the fridge…

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          If it had originally been a common room, and was still being used as such, I’m not really there was a problem with them coming in to retrieve the items they were storing in the common space – the problem I see is that someone felt a common room could be turned into a class room, while still maintaining its functions as a common area for staff.

          It sounds like your situation was more of the space having always been a classroom, with common area fittings added for a period of time. Which is also fundamentally a facility problem (class space and common areas for food/personal item storage should not be intermingled), but does make it a bit more frustrating when people interrupt. Even so, food and beverage storage areas should be continuously available to all staff, regardless of what else may be happening in the space – many people need immediate access to those sorts of stored items for a variety of reasons, and so I still think the issue was one of scheduling and utilization, not people being rude by seeking access to their stored items.

      4. AnonInCanada*

        Holy entitlement, Batman! I hope that student got a failing grade after that inconsiderate display of “look at me! I’m important, not you!”

    3. Mongrel*

      I think there’s also a lot of differing experiences people have.
      I’ve worked in lots of places where office doors are closed and it’s perfectly fine to knock & walk in, a small note or even a coloured Post-It note indicated DnD, and I’ve worked in places where doors are only closed for privacy
      Expecting everyone to hew to the same principles as you with no explanation just means you may want to talk to them first.

      1. Cringing 24/7*

        This. The answer is completely dependent on office/library culture, the needs of OP’s position, and the needs of OP’s employees. That said, I’m really enjoying the culture-shock of seeing people whose workplace norms are VASTLY different than mine.

    4. Loulou*

      Barging in is rude, but it’s…extremely normal to knock when you see a closed door??? “I want to be left alone” is not the universal interpretation of a closed door.

    5. biobotb*

      If people are only allowed to interact with you when your door is open, you should have a sign to that effect. Knocking on a door is not rude. It’s not like they can see what you’re up to, or know that a closed door means no contact whatsoever unless you tell them.

    6. Nancy*

      If you don’t want to be interrupted, put a sign on the door. LW1 should put a sign on their desk.

    7. KayDeeAye*

      Add my workplace as falling into the category of “Headphones Don’t Necessarily Mean ‘Do Not Disturb’ Around Here.” I generally use them only for work purposes (transcribing an interview for an article I’m working on, for example), so I would prefer not to be interrupted…but lots of other people here use them just to listen to music or podcasts while they work, and even more people use them for both work and entertainment purposes. There is *no* standard here, so how is somebody supposed to know what those headphones mean to any given person? The answer is, they can’t. So when I need to be not interrupted, I go somewhere quiet (they’re called “focus rooms” here), and that way, nobody needs to guess.

    8. AnonInCanada*

      Came here to say this as well. The scenario OP considers “this can wait” may be the colleague’s “I need this taken care of nowwwwwww!.” And of course, this will end up on the boss’s lap to get OP to stop what they’re doing every single time someone has one of these “emergencies.” I know exactly what OP is going through — my day is full of these interruptions from coworkers who could’ve easily sent my an email for me to get back to later but no, that’s too inconvenient for them: they’d rather just bark their need to me from another room where they can’t see if I’m on the phone or focused on something else.

      How coincidental: I just got an interruption that could’ve easily been put in an email from a coworker who just had to interrupt me to let me know we need Wite-out. SMFH!

    9. Girasol*

      I had a problem with people interrupting me when I was trying to lead a virtual meeting because they thought my headphones were just playing music. I put a flash-orange tag on the earpiece that said “In meeting – do not disturb” and it helped.

    10. Mac*

      I think it’s also that it’s not as obvious a hint as you may think. If you are in a lower-level customer-facing role where your attention and earholes are considered public property, then having headphones on actually gets mentally coded as “I’m on break”. So you, the supervisor may think that the headphones are a big red sign saying “I’m doing important paperwork”, while people whose only chance to ever wear headphones is on their own, non-work time, see it as a big sign saying, “I’m enjoying a relaxing podcast”. An actual sign, as per Alison’s recommendation, could help clarify this.

      1. Nightengale*

        My mother did legal work from home sometimes in the 1990s and said my father and I were the most self-contained people on the planet who amused ourselves – until the moment she took out her book and started to log a billable hour.

    11. Dawn*

      Well, YES, but also the LW is by their own admission in a supervisory role, and when that’s the case you sometimes can’t just decide you’re not interested in interacting with anyone; it’s right in the title! A supervisor supervises! And there are many situations in which an employee is SUPPOSED to put “themselves” or the clients first when something comes up that needs supervisor intervention.

      Now, everyone’s standards for that are going to be different, and they might need to set some firmer boundaries around what does and does not require their input, but this isn’t a social setting and employees are expected to put the needs of the business ahead of the LW’s desire not to be bothered.

    12. Addie*

      If you door is closed, why would people NOT knock? I can understand not wanting people to just barge right in, but you can’t really fault people for knocking, unless you have a sign on your door indicating otherwise.

  2. Tussy*

    LW5, I’ve been rejected without interview for a position I was invited to apply to and from that perspective I think Alison’s advice is really good. I think the best way to show consideration is to send a personalised email like that. It’s what was done for me and it was much appreciated.

    Pointing out the mistakes in the resume seems too harsh on top of the rejection – it will come across as a lot more supportive and encouraging (which I assume you want to be) if it is in response to a request for feedback

    1. tangerineRose*

      “Most concerningly to me is that they’ve listed their internship under the title of the staff member they worked closely with (which was never their title) and have made it look like they were a full staff member.”

      Was this really a mistake? Seems like something that should be straightened out.

      1. Sam I Am*

        Agreed. The former intern is misrepresenting their work experience, and if they’re bold enough to send this resume to OP’s company, you can be sure they’re sending it to other companies who don’t have the context to question its accuracy. This is not a typical “don’t give feedback to candidates who haven’t asked for it” situation; the former intern is behaving unethically and they are involving OP’s company in their lie. I would be forwarding the resume onto HR, and advocate for contacting the former intern to give them a chance to explain. Maybe it is an honest mistake from someone new to the workforce, in which case they deserve a chance to learn and do better. But ignoring the resume issue altogether seems irresponsible to me.

    2. Sandgroper*

      I think if they ask for feedback then it should be given, particularly as they are an intern and there’s an expectation of guiding towards professional norms. It doesn’t have to be harsh, but honesty is best.

      “When I read through your application I found there was a noticeable level of errors, given the need for an eye for detail in roles such as this it’s best to always put a checked and correct application forward. While I know your work other people will read your application and errors will mean you are placed lower in the potential hiring pool. I’d also like to raise your work history – you put on there that you worked in Job Role, however your experience and training as an intern doesn’t qualify you for that, instead you should have put “Intern Job Role” which would be more reflective. It’s very important to accurately reflect your skills and experience in a resume, as to have confusion can quickly kick you out of the running for jobs as a lot of people intentionally misrepresent or even outright lie, so I am glad you’ve asked for clarity so we can help you not have this happen for you! These things seem small but they are important as the person reading your resume has a few quick minutes to make a decision about you and move on, particularly in early career roles where a lot of applications are received. I would like to encourage you to keep trying in the future, you have a good work ethic, and good skills, and sometimes small things matter when the competition is tight. Let me know if you apply for roles again and I’ll be happy to help if I can.”

  3. Aphrodite*

    OP #1, when I was in a cubicle near the doorway I created a fun sign that said “Please interrupt if [insert picture of burning building] building is on fire or [insert picture of Robert Redford in his heyday] Bob is on the phone.” It made people smile but got the point across.

    1. CoveredinBees*

      I like this and may adopt it. You’d think that it would be clear that someone whose job involves a lot of writing and no managing is not in a spot to chat (lit. “Just say hey.”) when wearing big headphones and typing furiously. Yet, here we are.

      1. Anonymous73*

        Some people listen to music all day long. Others, like me, only popped in some headphones if I needed to concentrate and black out the noise. So it’s not always clear as to why someone is wearing headphones and when it’s okay to interrupt. OP needs to have a chat with everyone, and then use a sign when she’s busy. Hints rarely work, and it’s not fair to everyone to know what someone prefers or needs. Not to mention if wearing wireless earbuds others can’t even see them if your back is to them.

    2. 1-800-BrownCow*

      It works until it doesn’t work.

      I have a magnetic sign for my door that say “Customer conference call in progress. Please come back later unless it’s an emergency”.

      I recently was on a customer conference call, had the sign up and STILL had someone barge into my office and loudly say “Why do you have a sign up that says customer conference call in progress?”. I point to my phone and computer where you could hear voices talking and the person said “Oh, that’s why!” and then walked out. Ugh.

      1. Brrrrr*

        I can relate! I have a full page bright yellow sign I put up in an obvious place outside my cubicle, that says, “I am in a video meeting. Please come back at 3pm.” Personally I think that’s a pretty clear message. Obviously I am wrong because yesterday I was in a video meeting, and could see someone in my peripheral vision standing in front of the sign outside my cubicle. I ignored them, they started tapping on my half-wall trying to get my attention. I looked at them, deliberately removed one earbud, and they, gesturing to the sign, said “you aren’t here until 3pm”?

        I kid you not. I had to point at my screen and say (while keeping myself muted in the meeting) “I am in a meeting so no I am not HERE”.

  4. NotCombativeJustCurious*

    Hey Alison! Just a note – it looks like the former intern in the last letter uses they/them pronouns. Might be something to edit in your response. Also … did LW mention interviewing this candidate? Your reply seems to reference it but I don’t see mention of an interview in the letter!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks for catching the pronouns and I’ve fixed it. And you’re right that it’s not clear if the OP interviewed them or not! My advice doesn’t change if there wasn’t an interview, although she’d want to remove the mention of it from the note, of course.

  5. MsM*

    LW4, could you maybe treat starting the projects more as a means of documenting how you do them? That way, you’re not leaving someone to decipher your work; you’re saving time in setting up the transition. (Also creating a backup plan in case something besides leaving for a new job happens and someone else needs to jump in anyway.)

    1. This is Artemesia*

      good idea –full speed ahead on the projects, but carefully document – so that a new person can take over more easily.

      1. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        And if they don’t get the job, they aren’t scrambling to get the projects done.

        As someone who had many jobs prospects I thought I’d get an offer for and then didn’t, you’re not doing anyone any favors by delaying your work.

    2. WS*

      Yes, I would be surprised if the rest of the department left at a perfectly convenient time unless it was all internal transfers! This is the perfect time to work on the “if I was hit by a bus” plan.

    3. Tinkerbell*

      Yes, this! Even if you end up not moving to a new job just yet, you could still use your time productively by documenting things in ways that other people could take over for you (the whole “what if you’re hit by a bus?” scenario if nothing else). Presumably there are ways to start these big projects that would involve “make to-do lists” and “do XYZ prerequisites” first: imagine the new person is coming in from scratch, figure out what parts of the job you’d envision them delegating to someone else, and then do those :-P

    4. Mockingjay*

      OP4, don’t get too worked up about inconveniencing Current Job if you leave for New Job. You are doing the work of 5 people! Current Job is inconveniencing YOU.

      Start the projects; leave instructions as @MsM suggests. That’s all the courtesy required.

      1. Colette*

        We don’t know that she’s doing the work of 5 people – it’s possible that they used to have 5x the current work, and 1 person can readily do the work they have now.

        1. OP#4*

          Hello — thanks for this important question. There has been downsizing at my organization, for sure. But without revealing specifics, other similar orgs of our current size average at least two support staff in addition to my current director position. So I’m not doing the work of five, but definitely doing the work of several.

    5. The Person from the Resume*

      Yes, LW4 needs to start on the projects now. I also don’t buy the “would then have to decipher my half-done work, which is way more complicated then having them start fresh on their own version of the project.”

      The person hired is a new employee. They’re not likely to come in knowing how to do a task they haven’t done before. A start, a path with next steps would be helpful to a new employee or someone taking over tasks they haven’t done before.

      This is an annual project. At what point in the project/year has you used up so much time / gotten so far that you couldn’t start from scratch? That the path ahead becomes clear?

      I’m concerned about how hard the LW says their work is to decipher; is it poorly documented? If so get started, but document within an inch of its life do someone can take over. I’m also wary of assuming the LW will know about the job in a few weeks; it could take longer – so long that LW could have and should have finished some of the projects before their final date.

      Do be the guy who quits but leaves no documentation and also is discovered to have not done their assigned work in the last few months.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Re your first point, I think it’s often true but irrelevant here–an experienced person can be started from scratch even if a half-completed version of the project exists, if people decide that’s easier. (For example I’m a writer, and if someone else took over a piece in the early stages –because crises arise and you have to redistribute assignments–it might well be faster for the new person to start from scratch rather than try to adapt the other person’s outline and notes.) OP isn’t saving any effort for those around her by not doing work that should start now.

    6. ferrina*

      MsM’s advice is great! I’m also wondering if the new person couldn’t just start from scratch even if the work was half done- I’ve done that when taking over a project from someone who left.

    7. The Bat*

      Yes, do this!! I applied for a job at the end of Feb that I knew I was going to be a top candidate for. Interviewed end of March. Was told mid-April that I got the job, but they had to wait to formally offer it until the funding made it through the official channels. Updated mid May that they were certain the funding was going to make it through, but still needed the official signature. The funding was finally approved on Jun 17. I’ve been planning for someone else to take over for basically five months. This is my last week and my transition is going unbelievably smoothly. My team feels well positioned to keep moving, and I don’t expect to hear from them asking *too* many questions after I leave.

      1. The Bat*

        Oh, and the benefit of this is, even if you don’t leave, you’ve got your shit together, and that feels real nice.

  6. Lizzianna*

    LW1, I’ve had some luck minimizing interruptions by scheduling regular meetings with my direct reports. When someone brings me something that is not urgent, I’ll ask them to please remember to bring it up at our one on one and we’ll talk about it then. It took some time, but people got used to saving their questions for those meetings, and if they have something that isn’t urgent in that it can wait a day or so, but it can’t wait for our next meeting, I’ve noticed they’ll set up a 10 or 15 minute conversation vs just coming into my office.

  7. CB212*

    For LW5, I don’t see that the former intern necessarily got an interview at all? They’re down to finalists, so they’re sending rejections to other applicants — but that could include everyone who applied rather than just folks who were interviewed?

    1. Loulou*

      That was my read too. I do sort of think someone you invite to apply should get a courtesy interview, but I can’t really explain why I think that since I do also get annoyed at the time wasting aspect of fake interviews.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I think I’d make it dependent on 1) what changed between inviting them and not wanting to interview? and 2) how certain is the rejection?

        If the position no longer exits or changed, obviously no interview. If they’re number 97 in your ranking of 105 candidates, there’s also no point (and maybe reconsider why you invited them in the first place). If the application material is just a little weak or if three unicorn candidates surprisingly applied and you only do three interviews… maybe extend an extra interview anyway on the chance that invited candidate will dazzle you and re-change your mind.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Addendum: if you have to give the job to your boss’s nephew and no-one else stands a chance, maybe take your cadidate out for coffee and see if they have any leads for you.

  8. Felis alwayshungryis*

    #1, unfortunately I think that may just be the nature of your work. I worked in a public library and our back room sounds like a very similar setup to yours.

    There were heaps of occasions where we just had to interrupt our team leader – someone getting aggro about public computers (that was a perennial), catching someone with porn on their laptop, someone with an I-want-to-speak-to-the-manager haircut wanting to speak to the manager, someone arguing about policy, needing her to override something, something weird happening (that’s public libraries for you), hitting a busy patch when someone was on their break, a collections person dropping by, all kinds of things. If she was on the computer we’d try to leave her to it, but there’s no real way around getting interrupted when there are customers out the front. The headphones are a good signal to interrupt only when absolutely necessary, but don’t put your staff in a position that they feel they should handle certain situations that would really be better deferring to you.

    1. Tinkerbell*

      Agreed! The one thing I would add that you CAN probably adjust is people who interrupt you to tell you something in person because they just happened to remember it when seeing you. A former co-worker of mine was in a similar situation to yours and ended up putting a big pad of sticky notes on her desk with a sign saying, basically, “if you’re interrupting to tell/remind me of something that’s not urgent, please write a brief note here and email me about it instead.” It didn’t work for everyone but it did seem to cut down on the drive-by chatting.

      1. Tinkerbell*

        (ETA: I should mention that I didn’t sit right near her, so I don’t know how many people wrote a note and still interrupted, but it seems like the act of leaving a note did shorten the amount of time the worst of the office gossips spent at her desk.)

      2. SomebodyElse*

        I was going to suggest something similar… I worked at a place in college where we basically had a wall of notes. There wasn’t always a supervisor on duty (2 pt supervisors to 20 pt workers covering shifts from 7 am- 11pm 7 days a week), so if something came up or there was a question someone would write a note. The next time the supervisor worked we would answer the note and leave it hung up. The person who asked the question took it down the next time they worked.

        This also had the added benefit of getting information out to everyone. Since the notes usually hung around for at least a couple of days but usually a week. As supervisors we’d also leave notes for everyone if we needed to get the word out on something.

        This could also be done with a whiteboard.

        I do think the OP does need to be a bit more accepting of interruptions though… it really is just part of the job. You just sort of learn to plan for them and only disallow them for the most urgent work that cannot wait or done at another time.

    2. Bookwitch*

      To add to that, as another public library worker, in our set up email just isn’t a particularly convenient method of communication for most non-supervisory staff. A lot of the job is practical and the only desks are shared customer service desks, where spending time logging into and writing an email between checking out books to customers is a bit of a chore, especially if you can just ask in person. To insist on email would seem really out of touch with the nature of the job.

      Blocking out some periods of time to wear headphones would be OK, but if you do it all day long you’re just going to seem really inaccessible.

      1. justkiddingnot*

        That’s a good point. A lot of jobs like retail, service, and hospitality jobs run into that as well. The managers are often at computers using email, but the staff who are in support or customer facing roles often don’t have company email and don’t have jobs where they are sitting at desks or near a computer. The manager does end up getting interrupted and it’s harder to share information. You usually need to also print it out and put it right in front of people and even then, they still don’t read it! It’s so different than corporate world where everyone is checking and responding to emails or looped into an email exchange all day.

        1. GythaOgden*

          Same with facilities. I got to listen to YouTube and sketch pictures from Wikipedia on the front while the office was empty due to the pandemic, and even then I only wore one earbud so I wasn’t completely out of it. When the phone’s ringing, you can’t just shrug and carry on with what you’re doing. Once people came back in on a regular basis, I put the headphones and the sketchbook aside and had to retrain myself to look more attentive. It is what it is — I sometimes think about putting an earpiece in if it’s really quiet, but that thought usually means someone comes right up to me and asks for something. You do //not// want to be the person who looks exasperated when someone asks you for something that’s part of your //job//.

          My supervisor has her door open (it’s very unusual to have private offices in a British office building, but she has one because it’s also the post-room; I normally wait until she’s gone to do the post in order not to disturb her) ostensibly because she feels claustrophobic otherwise, but as she’s the building Facilities Admin, she needs to be available for issues as they come up. If her door is closed, she’s busy or elsewhere. If the door is open, she’s fair game. I don’t want to be ‘trained’ as her report; it’s her job to be responsive to me and mine to be responsive to her.

          ISTM LW1 needs to reassess her priorities here. While we need to treat OPs as knowing their own situations and being sincere about their motivations, she’s probably coming across as arrogant or unapproachable, particularly because she’s in a role that does require a bit more responsiveness. The interpersonal stuff is also probably rubbing some people up the wrong way; the problem with her approach also would be she’s seen as unapproachable and not receptive to the issues her own reports are bringing her, and along with the idea she can ‘train’ other people and working in a role that has in-person responsibilities, that’s a potentially explosive mixture of issues and it’s going to rebound on no-one but her.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            She mentioned above that she’s trying to get through 1-2 hours of time-sensitive paperwork, and just got interrupted by someone asking about working a short day in October. I get where you’re coming from, but I don’t think the situation is as severe as your surmise.

    3. to varying degrees*

      Yeah, I think this being a public library is an important distinction. As well as the LW not being the Director but a supervisor, they’re likely going to be expected to take some of the interruptions off the director.

    4. another Hero*

      Also in a library and I’m wondering if the next time someone leaves whose desk is in a more convenient space, lw5 could move. Depending on the layout, that might not make sense, and of course convenient turnover might not happen anytime soon. But if someone who needed less frequent interrupting ended up there and lw5 in a corner or something, that alone could create a situation where people have to specifically come to lw5 when they need something, rather than tossing every passing thought on her when they pass

    5. Dust Bunny*

      This was my thought: That it just might be part of the job. I feel like it’s something one should expect if one is a *supervisor* (as opposed to an office manager or some other thing that might not be as directly, uh, people-y?). You’re presumably there primarily to supervise.

      My other thought is that this might be a factor of wearing too many library hats, which is something you probably can’t control. You probably have things you need to do independently while also holding a position in which your supervisees need you to be available.

      My other thoughts were:
      1) Be sure you’re very clear about what needs your input and what doesn’t. If people aren’t sure they’re going to default to interrupting you to CY[their]A.
      2) Have weekly or whatever staff meetings and ask them to save non-urgent questions for those.
      3) Block off “don’t interrupt me unless someone is bleeding” work time, but use it judiciously. If you’re blocked for hours a day people will find you inaccessible and either interrupt, anyway, or you’ll find out later they’ve been running amok or hiding things from you.

    6. EmmaPoet*

      Someone threatening to stab another patron, a patron just assaulted another patron, an alarm is going off, a patron is screaming at and threatening the circ staffer on the desk because he won’t give the patron library card information since he doesn’t have ID*, patron is having a medical emergency, staff member is having a medical emergency- all of these have happened in the last month at my branch.

      *We’re not allowed to give you library information without ID as a safety precaution. We don’t know that this person is who they say they are or a potential stalker if we don’t have ID showing that yes, you are Wakeen Stark.

      1. yala*

        boy howdy, does that make me feel so glad I left the public library for an academic one. I do NOT miss it.

        1. Felis alwayshungryis*

          Yep, I left for very good reasons, not least because management let us feel unsafe a lot and wouldn’t do anything about it, because customers.

          1. EmmaPoet*

            I’m fortunate to have a very responsive management, and we do have security. But yes, it can get hairy at times.

  9. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    OP3 – I would definitely find this disconcerting. But I am particularly sensitive to people trying to circumvent normal communication channels to sell me something. I’ve had a few occasions where people I do not know have called my personal cell phone and it’s clear that they are trying to become a vendor at my job. I have told those folks that they need to lose my number, and I make it pretty clear that violating my personal boundaries like that will not result in any sales at my company if I have anything to say about it. And that’s just from a phone call to my cell. If someone showed up in person, I don’t even know how I’d react. I certainly wouldn’t entertain a meeting with them. If they want to waste their time driving to surprise meetings, they can also waste their time driving back after not having a chance to speak with me.

    1. MK*

      Yes, ideally the OP would have asked this vendor what he wanted and politely but firmly refused to have an impromptu sales meeting then and there. But many people won’t be able to do that when surprised like this, which is a big part of why these tactics make others uncomfortable.

    2. Lynca*

      I think this is really where the visitor protocols would do a lot of the heavy lifting to prevent this. After telling the person on the phone he was not expecting a visitor, they should never have led that person across the building to the OP! That’s a huge security breach where I work.

      I’d expend my limited capital trying to address that specifically.

      Personally, I’ve had this happen to me by people who were ‘in the area’ and stopped by for a chat. Because they used to do that with people that worked here before me and assume that I would allow them to do the same. I have a go-to explanation that it’s no longer possible to do that. If they want to do a sales pitch, they have to schedule an actual meeting. I find that the best way to react is to reinforce a reasonable boundary like “schedule a meeting.”

      1. justkiddingnot*

        Yeah the person who greeted the vendor should have said that an appointment was needed. Vendors stop in my workplace to cold call ALL the time and my company has a policy that all sales calls are by appointment only. Employees who work the front desk are trained on what to tell vendors or how to play gatekeeper.

        1. another Hero*

          Yeah, this pinged for me as something that shouldn’t happen because of, like, DV concerns. Don’t tell people when someone is at work! Not just to avoid annoying salespeople, but as a basic safety practice!

        2. My Useless 2 Cents*

          Management decided not to hire a front desk person. Unfortunately as my desk is closest to the door those duties often fell to me. I do not have a compatible personality for such things and am a horrible gatekeeper. To complicate things even more at the time, the purchasing managers office was also right by the front door. The few vendors who liked to do the “just in the neighborhood” cold calls learned they could just turn to the door on the left, rather than the desk on the right, when they walked in. I never understood why those vendors insisted on just stopping by as you could tell the purchasing manager was always a little annoyed when they arrived. (There was an office remodel a while ago and the purchasing manager was moved as far from the door as possible, then COVID and mostly all those cold calls ceased anyway. I really hope they don’t come back.)

          1. anonagaintoday*

            I’m sorry. Maybe you can say you are busy or about to go into a meeting, so can they just leave their info and you’ll reach out to them if you are interested.

      2. Smithy*

        I agree with this. Because largely speaking, this is where overall employer security should be doing the heavy lifting for this as well as more serious concerns.

        And I say that because while this behavior would be disconcerting, it’s also very much so part of older school professional tactics that aren’t done anymore but aren’t 100% outdated. The case where maybe this only works 1 in 20 times, but for the person doing it, they don’t mind being out of the office and it’s a metric their employer values.

        I vaguely defend the practice as “old fashioned and not impactful but not wrong” because I’m currently dealing with someone internally at work who prefers skipping/ghosting meetings in favor of cold calling (over Teams). There’s no IM in advance asking if I’m free and if this is a good time to talk. Putting aside his disregard for my calendar (which he has access to), by not even taking advantage to ask if it’s an ok time for a call – he disregards that sometimes I work in an office cube where I can’t just answer a Teams call as I can when I work from home. In contemporary times, this is not impactful business practice and is clearly irritating me (so also not supporting the development of positive business relationships between coworkers), but not to the point where I can say that cold calling colleagues is wrong. Just that you’re operating in the 1 out of 20 space that it will be warmly appreciated.

      3. Hannah Lee*


        While John and his old school and now inappropriate tactics are not great, the primary issue to me is the business allowing unexpected / unknown people into the workplace.

        Sure that might be appropriate in some cases, but it doesn’t sound like this is one of them.

        If LW can ask whoever man’s the door to not bring back visitors to her without an appointment, that’s a good first step. But if that fails a (terse if you like) “I wasn’t expecting you, I only see people by appointment” to the person who ‘pops by’ is completely appropriate!

        And if you like, never ever do business with people who ignore that.
        And could someone please explain to me why, in our year of Beyoncé 2022 and during a global wildly infectious pandemic, there are still *copier* salespeople going door to door, to businesses? I have to turn one away at least once a month from our small company.

      4. I Herd the Cats*

        This. The person who held my office admin job before me clearly welcomed those visits; we worked in a central business district so there was a lot of opportunity for sales people to stop by because they were “in the area.” These folks often came with treats, or swag. I explained to them individually (in the reception area, they couldn’t just wander back) that I didn’t want them dropping by. I was polite but firm about it. I didn’t find it alarming, though — just an annoyance, an old-school way of doing business that’s ridiculous given all the ways there are to communicate now.

      5. Ally McBeal*

        This exactly. When I worked in midtown Manhattan, I once encountered a salesman who had lied(!) to the security desk in the lobby, saying he had an appointment at my company – the building had dozens of tenants and didn’t make it a practice to call up to verify. I answered the door and he lied to me about the appointment too… but once my coworker said there was no appointment and she’d told him no over the phone earlier that week, I escorted him out of the office and called his corporate office to complain.

        An hour or so later my coworker said he was still hanging around on the floor and in the elevators, trying the same trick with other tenants. Wild, and quite frankly a bit scary.

        1. kitryan*

          I was a midtown Manhattan receptionist as well for a bit and also had a lying sales rep try to scam their way up. Procedure was that when the lobby called up we had to confirm the visitor was expected before giving the lobby the go ahead to let the visitor up. So when I called the partner the visitor named, partner *betrayed* me and said sure, let them up-but didn’t say that the sales rep didn’t actually have an appointment. It was only when the reps (there were two of them) were in our lobby (and thus harder to get rid of) that we sorted out that they didn’t have an appointment at all.
          At that point, the first rep started trying to name other partners that he could meet with, asking me to see if they were available. Since it had become clear this was basically a cold call, and my job was to gatekeep exactly this sort of thing, I started stonewalling. Turns out the second rep was not down with this aggressive an approach and pulled rep one up short. It was really awkward!
          Lesson- it’s best when everyone’s on the same page about building/office security!

    3. Butter Bonanza*

      Anyone who ever deals with salespeople and vendors should have a quiver full of “back off, cat” tactics. And to also know that it’s business, not personal. A salesperson you’ve done business with in the past showing up in person does not rise to the level of panic this LW portrayed in their letter.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        I think it might, given that the salesperson hadn’t done any business with OP at the new company. It’s fairly stalker-ish and I would find it slightly alarming were it me.

        1. wibbly-wobbly but not like that*

          That’s literally why he’s there. If they’d already been doing business with the salesperson’s company, why would the salesperson spend energy on it? The point of their job is to acquire new business. “Old contact moves to new company” is the most standard way to accumulate business…anywhere.

        2. Smithy*

          I think an evergreen reality – though tactics may change over time – is that there will always be aggressive sales tactics that do not include a personal dynamic but may feel that way. And when you’re on the receiving end, it can be confusing particularly if you don’t work with that specific sector a lot. This happens with a lot of people and encountering pushy recruiters if it’s their first time.

          If this particularly vendor were to do something else disconcerting – then I think their own specific behavior is worth specifically calling into question. However, because these sales tactics do exist in the world in addition to genuine security risks – that’s why the ultimate way to handle this is with overall workplace security for someone who doesn’t have a scheduled meeting.

          I’m in fundraising and over my career I’ve been assigned tasks or projects that have a much lower ROI. Would I consider them strong ways to raise funds? No. Have they raised zero dollars? No. A lot of these aggressive/poor/low impact tactics may be coming from above and when met with firm boundaries (i.e. OP can’t take unscheduled meetings, please do leave a message), behave appropriately.

        3. Slow Gin Lizz*

          Both good points you make, but I think it’s also worth pointing out that given that the salesperson doesn’t know the reality of the person he’s trying to sell to, it’s entirely likely that his behavior could cause…well, not panic, maybe, but definitely concern and irritation at the stalker tendencies. Cold calling a previous customer at a new job isn’t totally the worst sales tactic, but that’s only if by “calling” you mean “on the phone” rather than the more old-fashioned “in-person visit” that calling used to mean. Visiting someone at their new office for the first time without calling first is not a great sales tactic. Nowadays especially, when most people wouldn’t dream of even visiting a friend without calling or texting first to see if it’s okay. The days of drop-in visits are behind us, at least in my circles.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            You can say it’s not effective, or certainly rude, but I think it’s a little over the top to say it’s “stalker-ish”.

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              It’s not, though, because this is exactly the kind of things stalkers do. I’m not saying this guy was being a stalker, I’m saying that the way followed OP to her new job and stopped by unannounced is a stalker move so it can easily raise alarm bells and put a prospective customer on alert in a way that emailing and calling doesn’t. Especially if the prospective customer has already dealt with stalking behavior before*, because our animal brains might react badly to someone acting like this even if the actual intention is harmless.

              * Not saying OP has, but I’m saying that there’s a chance greater than zero that a prospective customer has.

      2. Shirley Keeldar*

        I read this as “a quiver full of back-off cats” and could not help envisioning someone wearing a quiver full of snarling, spitting cats, ready to deploy them at intrusive salespeople.

        Just thought I’d share in case anybody else was entertained by the mental image.

      3. Captain Vegetable (Crunch Crunch Crunch)*

        Not sure where you’re getting panic from the letter. “Uncomfortable and a little creeper out” is hardly panic. And the LW is correct in saying that allowing unidentified people without appointments free access to anyone in the building is a safety issue.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      I had a salesman do this to me for a product I’d pretty much told him we were ready to buy but it would take awhile for the approval to go through. He called every week for awhile to follow up and I can’t even remember what I told him to finally get him off my back, but then one day showed up at the office unscheduled (and all our interactions had been via phone and email before that) with COOKIES. I was actually rather insulted that he thought cookies would seal the deal for him, that I was so indecisive that not until offering me sweets would I make up my mind. I wonder how many men he was trying to sell to did he try to bring cookies??? (I’m guessing…none?)

      Anyway, I was soooo annoyed that I was tempted to not buy the product from him but it was really the one we wanted so of course it is the one we bought. But wow, I was so totally aggravated by their sales tactics. Were it now I might even have told them so, but I just let it slide since I didn’t have to deal with them anymore once we signed the contract.

      (And the cookies weren’t even that good, just store-bought packaged ones. Not as cheap as Oreos, mind you, but still not fancy bakery cookies or anything.)

        1. CoveredinBees*

          One of my kids is currently *really* into Hawaiian rolls and buying them makes me giggle. Not buying my family any sort of cheap ass rolls.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Yeah – I think that’s where I was going with my post… these tactics are so annoying and irritating to me, that it literally has the opposite effect and I will tell people that I will never buy their product or service because their sales tactics are so brash that I don’t want anything to do with a company who would let someone like that be their representative.

        I may be more extreme than most who would just be irritated, but possible still be a potential customer, but I refuse to work with companies that make me feel that way.

      2. My Useless 2 Cents*

        A few years ago I created a cookbook of family recipes and gave them out as Christmas presents. I used one of those internet printing sites to print and bind them together. My job is in no way close to publishing and I had never done anything like the cookbook before so I had inquired in August about how long it would take to print, bind and receive the finished books (we are not talking a huge number of books here so it was only a few weeks). I received so many aggressive emails from sales at that company that I almost went with another company. I am pretty conflict avoidant but after one particularly aggressive email I responded to them and told them to back off, that I was still finishing the editing, but if I received one more email from them I was going with another company. All my other interaction with the company was great, the process was simple, and the books turned out great. However, that sales department almost lost them business (albeit an very miniscule bit of business). If this had been in person, I would not have done business with them.

        1. pancakes*

          Many (probably most) times, marketing emails from companies like those are automated. Responding as if there’s a person on the other end and not an automated process may only result in receiving more of the same. You will often have better results looking for a Unsubscribe button than replying.

          1. My Useless 2 Cents*

            No, these were not automated and not “marketing”. They started out as just a “following up on your inquiry last week, let me know if I can help” kind of email and got progressively pushier over 5-6 weeks to two emails a day of “Useless, you have not placed your order yet, respond IMMEDIATELY. Are you getting these emails? I need a response TODAY.” (My sole communication before this was simply inquiring about lead times. I hadn’t placed an order, uploaded pages, or anything else.)

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Ugh, I hate those kinds of emails. I think it’s good you told them to back off. They need to hear that.

    5. Some guy*

      It’s interesting to me that this is considered old school sales tactics as it’s completely the norm in my field. I hate it so much and am glad to see others feel the same and it’s not just me!

    6. Junior Assistant Peon*

      Pushy salesmen must be an industry-dependent thing. I’m a bit amused by how shocked others seem to be by this guy’s actions; I’m quite used to being harassed by salesmen who show up without an appointment and generally act like Daffy Duck’s portrayal of an annoying door-to-door salesman in the old Looney Tunes. Other posters say aggressive salesmen are old-timey and obsolete, but these guys are very much alive in my industry.

    7. Ames*

      I get calls from random salespeople (people sell your phone number. I’m not saying people you know). Most of the time, you can recognise it is not a number you should respond to (but it is tough if you are getting random appointments for health issues and can’t be sure of the number). For these reasons, I was picking up calls from random numbers more, so I listened for a few seconds to check and use the block function.

  10. Bilateralrope*

    #3 Luckily it was just a salesman who tracked you down that way. I’m sure we can all see ways that escorting unknown visitors can go badly.

    As for that salesman, pushing the in-person touch makes me think that whatever he’s selling can’t win on price or quality. Though that’s mainly because of my experience with door to door salesmen

    1. KatieP*

      Yup. HUUUUGE safety risk, there. You don’t know if this person is an abusive ex-partner, a stalker, or just a random creep. Because sales cold-calling has dropped-off significantly, it’s more likely that this person is up to no good. I’ve done purchasing for a government entity for a couple of decades. The in-person cold calls used to be a weekly thing in the 90s. I’ve gotten one in the last 5 years.

  11. niksu*

    LW1, please use a sign instead of trying to teach people that you shouldn’t interrupt you when you’re wearing headphones. A lot of people, inculding me, wear headphones all the time, and it’s not a sign that I shouldn’t be interrupted.

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Oh man, this is a pet peeve of mine—I find people who wear headphones all the time to be so frustrating because I never know if they’re available or if they’re actually listening to me if do need to interrupt. Definitely a YMMV type situation!

      1. Loulou*

        I think this is sort of a “you thing” to get over! Lots of people like to listen to music or podcasts all day. You can just ask them what their preferences are for being interrupted.

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          I mean, my point is is that wearing headphones can be interpreted in a variety of ways and that expecting a universal maxim for how to interpret the headphone wearer’s message is misguided.

      2. JenLP*

        One thing I recommend is to confirm they are listening to you before talking. I wore big purple headphones most of the time while I was working because of how loud the office was. Some of my colleagues would walk up to my desk and just start talking to me while I was listening to something (sometimes from behind me). I’d then take off the headphones and ask them to repeat – they would seem frustrated that I wasn’t listening but I didn’t know I needed to. I don’t know if they were frustrated at me, themselves, or not at all, but it seemed like it.

        The other thing I recommend to headphone wearers is to take off the headphones during the interruption to indicate the person has your full attention.

        1. Junior Assistant Peon*

          I had a coworker like this. She would just randomly start talking while I was engrossed in something, and would be almost through talking by the time I realized she was speaking directly to me.

        2. Mill Miker*

          Did they also do the thing where they’d only rephrase the part you heard over-and-over while getting more frustrated, and no amount of explaining, begging, or pleading could convince them to repeat the bit you hadn’t heard?

      3. Galadriel's Garden*

        Yeah, our office moved from a traditional setup to an open office plan, so a lot of us wear headphones both to take calls and to do some heads down work. Largely the system has become walk up near a colleague’s desk outside of camera view, do a quick wave then point to the headphones while mouthing “call?” or making a phone gesture. Much of our team is across a number of different offices and states, so the likelihood of being on a call is quite high.

    2. former-cube-dweller*

      A coworker at old job had a stop light thing that updated the color based off of his calendar.
      He had it on the edge of his cube and it was easy enough to check to see if he was free to talk or not

  12. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP3 (pushy sales visit) I would be inclined to bring this up with management in 2 aspects: 1. the company urgently needs to review their visitor process (as you alluded to) and also 2. to get in ahead of the perception that you’ve started a new job and then almost immediately tried to get your ‘old’ vendors on board.

  13. it's-a-me*

    I have the opposite problem to OP1. I wear my headphones to stop myself being distracted by casual conversation about babies and weekend socialisation and stuff, but am happy to be interrupted with work-related stuff. Too often I see people start to walk over, notice my headphones, and walk away, and I have to call them back!

  14. Foley*

    LW1 – is there some way to move your inbox out of your line of sight or off your desk? I’ve never worked anywhere that didn’t have an external box/folder structure and/or assistant so that people could drop stuff off for you without contact. But I’ve only worked in jobs where I had to keep confidences, so barging in would be a big problem.

    However, when my door was open, I was never a fan of people dropping off random crap – as mostly an excuse to chat as they were bored, or wanted to walk around, or simply wanted to connect. I tolerated it, but it can be disruptive.

    TBH, though, I think your chatty boss is a different issue to be addressed in another manner.

    1. Loulou*

      I thought OP meant an inbox figuratively, as in “things they could email me about that don’t require an immediate response” but maybe they did mean a literal one.

    2. Missy*

      Honestly, in most of the places I’ve worked dropping something into someone’s inbox without conversation would have been considered pretty rude. The expectation was that putting something in the inbox also necessitated some sort of “here’s the X forms for you to sign” or “this is for you to review, it isn’t due until X so it isn’t a priority”. Even if the information was on the paper they wanted to hear it at the time I was dropping off the paper, I think so they could sort of manage their internal schedule. But that’s just the people I’ve worked for, so I’ve been trained that way, and so I think that OP needs to explicitly make clear what they prefer.

      1. Foley*

        Oh, wow. That’s interesting. Maybe it’s the industries I’ve worked in, but here’s some mail on the latest update to union contracts, new laws, continuing ed classes, new books isn’t something I’d expect a comment on. I’d look at them later. I was thinking mail, bookish stuff, new procedures, not the kind of thing that requires comment or action.

  15. Well...*

    I’ve been invited to apply for faculty positions that I was never longlisted or shortlisted for, and with literally no word about it from the inviter afterwards. I think they were just trying to get more women in the applicant pool. I didn’t mind really since it means I have a tiny bit of name recognition, and the first time it actually did prompt me to start applying more aggressively for faculty jobs (I was convinced I wasn’t ready for that step yet). If they had followed Allison’s advice, or even just emailed me with some constrictive feedback, I’d have been grateful. Overall I was already just happy to be asked.

  16. Asenath*

    LW 4 – I used to have a job with, as well as many, many short-term tasks, several ones than came up annually (and a couple that came up less frequently) which were to top importance. I knew I was leaving a month before one of them occurred. I gave proper – even generous notice – but I knew that the employer was unlikely to hire a replacement before I left, and almost never had an overlap to allow for the departing employee to train the incoming one. So I just went on as usual, planning for the future events, adding copious notes about what I had done to the procedures manual I had been working on. It was practically guaranteed that the new employee would eventually set up her own procedures rather than follow mine to the letter, but I couldn’t bear to leave her with no preparations done for a major event that would occur just after she arrived.

    1. OP#4*

      Thank you — this is definitely what I’m feeling right now. All I can do is leave my best work for whoever takes over the position after me. I can’t anticipate how the transition may or may not go, or even if there will be any overlap.

  17. Madame Arcati*

    Lw#4 those chickens aren’t hatched yet so don’t count them. And if it does work out remember people hardly ever manage to leave a job at a point (I suspect a mythical point) where everything is neatly finished with no tasks outstanding. Most jobs don’t work like that.

    Lw#5 remember you invited them to apply; you didn’t invite them to take the job outright. Don’t feel like you are going back on anything!

  18. Richard Hershberger*

    OP3: I work in a small law office, and it is really normal for salespeople to show up in person, often bearing high quality junk food. This is much reduced since Covid, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it picks up again eventually. If one of them followed me to a new job I would be mildly impressed by the efficiency of their note-taking system, but that is about it. It would be neither here nor there so far as placing orders with them goes.

    1. Gabby*

      So maybe Michael Scott had the right idea after all showing up with a gift basket full of Turtles…

    2. ScruffyInternHerder*

      Similar in my (construction and A/E related) office. High quality perforated pastry units, preferably creme filled!

      Honestly, in my industry, not abnormal at all. Heck, I switched jobs once and it was “high season for really good quality things being handed out by a particular vendor” and I was flabbergasted that I was included in NewCompany’s delivery.

      It can be reasonable sometimes. Sometimes, well, not so much. (Example: “What will it take to get our product purchased for this project?” “Literally? You need to lose 4″ from this dimension because your product doesn’t fit, and no amount of anything is going to make it fit. It does not fit. Quit pestering about this!”. Example situation is not made up.)

      COVID protocols here mean that I have to enter my expected “outside visitor” appointments into a program that is used by both third party security and by our front desk. We each have a short list of people who can pop in whenever and its fine, too. But third party security absolutely checks this list, and I had to go retrieve an out of town relative who’d popped by because it was “hey, its lunchtime and that’s where Scruffy works, lets see if she can join us”. Yep, no appointment and not on that list? You’re calling who you want to see to come and get you.

    3. pancakes*

      Yes, it happened to me once years ago. I’d replied to an unsolicited email with something I thought was a polite brush-off, but the guy showed up in person to talk to me a few weeks later. I was newly-hired staff attorney at a large-ish firm with zero purchasing power there, and somehow I don’t think he knew that until he arrived. Minor waste of everyone’s time.

        1. pancakes*

          Likewise, and where is the idea that anyone considers this “impressive” coming from? “This sometimes happens in my industry” is not code for “This is great and should happen more.”

          1. Kit*

            I mean, it is ‘impressive’ in the sense that it leaves an impression. That impression is just generally negative, especially in industries where in-person cold-calling or unannounced visits are not the norm.

  19. Saraquill*

    In Old Job, Boss liked to think of himself as a mentor, helping employees grow their skills before they move onto more prestigious companies. In my last few months at Old Job, this mindset was used as an excuse to ignore workplace bullying against me, undermine me professionally and socially at work, etc. For all I know this was part of a campaign to force me to quit. He even asked me at one point why I was still there.

    I had no desire to tell him about my job hunt or personal life. He eventually laid me off. Unemployment was a vacation compared to that office life.

  20. Heather*

    Number 3 reminded me of the episode of The Office in which Michael getsmobsessed with old-school sales tactics. He insists that salespeople should be showing up unannounced at clients’ offices with gift baskets.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      Well according to the previous comment but one, it’s still a thing in some businesses!

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        It most definitely is. I was the beneficiary of some excellent cup cakes just within the last couple of months. It isn’t an everyday thing, and it isn’t as frequent as in the Before Times, but it is still a thing.

            1. Science KK*

              Right?!? I’ve never gotten cupcakes either, just aggressive “teapot calibration” people who lie to us.

              They literally say we’re to to calibrate your teapots can you let us in and get extremely indignant when we say no you don’t and we aren’t interested in your service.

        1. Can't think of a funny name*

          A vendor contacted one of my direct reports and she told him not to show up to the office without cupcakes…haha….and he brought them….every. time. LOL

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            I feel like a crooked politician sometimes. Food baskets, hats and polo shirts, very expensive sports tickets, etc. I’m willing to tolerate pushy salespeople for the goodies!

          2. UrsulaD*

            Someone came late to get medicine made and brought flowers as an apology. My boss explained we want edible apologies so now he rarely shows up without cake or cookies.

    2. Generic Name*

      Yeah we get vendor gifts at my office fairly frequently, usually around the end of the year. I imagine they ask to talk to their main contact if they are there. Yes, it would have been better if he had an appointment, but I’m not seeing it as an egregious breach. Your front desk admin letting him in before you had a chance to agree to see him, that’s obviously another problem.

  21. Pickaduck*

    LW#3 NOOOOO! I think this requires an emergency meeting with upper management. Your company’s security policies are severely lacking. Bringing a stranger to your desk? That could have been a crazy ex-husband who tracked you down. Also to let that person know that these are not sales tactics that your company will engage with.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’m not sure I’d panic with an emergency meeting, but this definitely rates a conversation about process. Front desk should not be making assumptions about who should be brought back to other people’s desks.

      For reasons from “I’m in the middle of something and don’t have time for an unscheduled anything” to stalking and other various dangers.

      Which would also allow you to set a boundary to that sales person saying “I do not have interest in unscheduled sales calls.”

      1. heather*

        Yes agreed— not an emergency, but there should be some communication to clarify the process to everyone.

      2. OP 3*

        My workplace is tricky because we don’t have a front desk/reception. I work in higher ed where “campus” is just one huge building that is open during business hours for students. The vendor had wandered over to the IT office (of all things) and asked for me by name because he knew I worked here but didn’t know where my desk was. IT does not normally get outside visitors, as you can probably imagine, so they were baffled and didn’t really know what to do.

        But I agree – I need to start the conversation of general building safety/policies when a stranger asks for a specific employee. Technically the building is open to the public so there’s not much to be done about that part, but asking where an employee sits when the employee doesn’t know the person could be unsafe for a variety of reasons.

  22. Alan*

    For #5, it’s very possible that the intern is just clueless. I cringe now when I look back at the advice I was getting just out of college, e.g. “Just apply for senior positions because you have a degree”. Not that long ago a colleague saw that one of our coworkers had gotten a title change, decided that he liked that title better, and started using it, even though the title change was a *big* deal. It wasn’t malicious. He was just clueless as to what the title change meant, and thought his job would sound more impressive (which it definitely did!) with the new self-claimed title.

    In short, I agree that it’s awkward to criticize someone whom you just invited to apply, but you really might be doing them a service to explain a few things to them.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      I would go so far as to say that given that this individual did well as an intern, perhaps these youthful indiscretions should not be regarded as disqualifying, so long as they are open to instruction.

      1. Alan*

        I agree! I actually think the early-career people I mentor are sharper than I was at their age, but occasionally I’ll see someone do something inexplicable and think “Wow, that was really dumb”, and then remember that I did the same stuff when I was their age.

      2. Lydia*

        Yeah, it’s a little odd to me that they wouldn’t interview a known quantity. I get the need to have a good cover letter and resume, but they already know this person’s work style to the point where they were invited to apply in the first place. This is not the reason for the question, but why didn’t the OP contact the former intern and ask what was up?

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          It’s like thank you notes to the interview panel. It is a good idea for a candidate to send them, because it makes the candidate stand out so their sterling attributes will shine. But we see interviewers who regard it as a mandatory part of the process, and will dismiss an otherwise excellent candidate for the failure to check this box. That is really, really missing the point.

  23. HawkLady*

    I recently visited a cubicle farm type office where someone had a sign saying essentially, blue headphones mean don’t interrupt, I’m in a Zoom meeting but green headphones mean I’m listening to music and can be interrupted.

    1. Monday Monday*

      That is cool!
      We had flags. If your red flag was up it meant you couldn’t be disturbed.

  24. Lab Boss*

    Letter #1 just reminded me of my first lab job, in college. To help us learn lab safety & etiquette, the PI had hung a big poster of guidelines. Most of it was useful general knowledge but one has always stuck out to me:

    “If you need to concentrate without interruption, wear headphones and make sure everyone knows that means do-not-bother! If the music would distract you, don’t listen to anything- nobody will know that your headphones are silent. If you don’t like the feel of headphones, get a special brightly-colored hat that everyone knows means to leave you alone.”

    So LW1, May I humbly suggest you get a garishly colored hat that you wear when you really must not be interrupted? I’m thinking a bright red cowboy hat should be noticeable…

  25. Mockingjay*

    #2: I wouldn’t take that promise seriously. The boss’s question is a knee-jerk response to the situation: he lost a valued employee and doesn’t want to lose another. You were caught off-guard in your own response.

    If Boss really wants to retain you or other employees, he shouldn’t wait until you announce your impending departure to see what he can do to make you stay. Good luck in the job search.

    1. tennisfan*

      Right. Once a person is considering leaving, finding ways to encourage them to stay is then that much harder.

      I had a similar situation happen as OP where my manager left and my grandboss (turned boss for the time being) said the same thing to me. It was clear the person’s departure was a serious blow to them, and the grandboss saw saying this to me as a way to stave off future surprises. However, it actually made it more difficult for me to raise questions or concerns, and ultimately reinforced my desire to leave on top of other reasons…which, I did, about six months later.

    2. ferrina*

      Yep. This is exactly the situation where I first learned the phrase “it fell into my lap”. It’s ridiculous for an employer to expect you to tell them that you are looking for a new job, and those that expect it aren’t reasonable. As Captain Awkward likes to say, reasons are for reasonable people.

      It’s fine to say, “oh, the offer was too good to pass up.” and all kinds of nice, vague things that make them leave you alone. If they are mad at you for doing something normal and reasonable, that’s a reflection on them, not you.

    3. Banana*

      One caveat to Allison’s answer – if there are internal advancement or experience-building opportunities you’re specifically interested in and you’ve reached a point where you feel like you’re ready to move up, you can use the “promise” as an opening to speak up. Some of that depends on your company culture and relationship with your boss, as well as whether those opportunities exist.

      I would never just straight up tell my own boss I was thinking about leaving, but for example if I was interested in getting experience in sand sculpting instead of rice sculpting by working in another division of our large company, I know he would use his network to help me get that experience (depending somewhat on his own timing preferences – like now, I am in the middle of a critical project that will last till October, he’d tell me to be patient for a couple of months.)

    4. tw1968*

      Ditto! As a favorite teacher once said to me, a contract is a situation where both parties receive consideration. If your boss had given you a raise and promotion in exchange for your promise to let him know, that’s another thing. Even so, you could still have an opportunity drop in your lap.

      I’ve read a couple of Harvey Mackay’s books, this advice comes to mind: “Dig your well before you’re thirsty”. There’s also a book by that title too. Treat your people well BEFORE they ever think of leaving. Pay well, offer advancement opportunities, BEFORE your staff comes to you with their 2 weeks notice. If you do that they won’t be looking to leave.

      We’re all SO DONE with this BS from crappy bosses where we ask for raises and we’re told sorry even tho megacorp made record profits there’s no money to pay you more…oh, you’re turning in your notice? Magically we have $$ for a raise for you now. No, WE’RE DONE NOW.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I read “Dig your well before you’re thirsty” and thought you were going to talk about keeping one’s resume up to date, checking job openings every once in a while, applying if a really good one pops up–even if you’re not desperate to leave your current job. You went in a different, and more important direction–putting the burden on employers to make the effort. Thank you!

  26. anonymous73*

    #1 in my first job out of college I was a developer. It was the mid 90s and we didn’t have a messaging system, so when the help desk got a call and needed my help, they would walk over to my desk. I would often eat lunch at my desk, so I started hanging a sign that said “I’m at lunch, don’t bug me.” Not the most professional wording I know, but having the sign worked. I would first have a conversation with your co-workers and explain what the headphones mean, and then put up a sign when you need little interruption.
    #2 don’t stress over it. Your new manager put you in an awkward position and you owe him nothing. Do what’s best for you because your company and management will do what’s best for THEM.
    #3 I agree that it’s not creepy, but it is way over the top and obnoxious. I hope you told him you didn’t appreciate an unannounced visit. And you need to have a serious conversation with that colleague who just brought a stranger back to your office space not knowing who he was…I would even have a conversation with your manager or maybe even HR – not to get anyone in trouble, but to spread a message to the whole place that you shouldn’t bring random strangers through the building without knowing who they are and what they want, especially when not expected.
    #4 it’s always best to assume that you didn’t get a job and continue in your current one normally. People leave and it’s management’s job to be prepared for it. And it’s not your role to bend over backwards to make sure you make it problem free for them. If they’re unprepared for your departure, that’s a THEM problem, not a YOU problem. Never have more loyalty to a company than they would have for you, because while they may care about their employees, they would not hesitate to get rid of you if it helped their bottom line, which was proven in your statement that you are now a department of 1 from 5 because of COVID.

    1. OP#4*

      Ugh, you’re right. It’s also entirely possible that if a transition goes roughly, they’ll blame it on something I did or didn’t do after I’m gone. There are definitely reasons I’m looking to leave this company, and it’s not my job to try and smooth those issues over on behalf of a new hire.

  27. Delta Delta*

    #3 – Leading the person to OP’s desk was a big mistake. I’m guessing they have few in-person visitors to this office, so perhaps the front desk person didn’t totally know what to do. It could very well have been a situation where, when OP saw the person, recognized them and did want to see them. The safer way to do it in this situation, though, would probably have been to have the desk person get more information about the purpose of the visit, and if OP wanted to see the person, could come out to the front for the interaction.

    I don’t love this sales tactic, either. This guy might have thought this was a promising lead, but the better way to do it would have been to connect beforehand. It’s got a bit of a “Third place is you’re fired” vibe.

    1. Amy*

      Salespeople are nasty. I am okay with people who had to find work and, when possible, moved jobs. I am not okay with people who just do it as a job without realising that they use well-known psychology tactics to achieve their goal (I am a senior academic in psychology).

      I have received emails from people who want to talk about learning materials. I am absolutely fine with that. The ones who show up on the day see no one apart from a receptionist (not for my subject, the whole university)! We can work from home as much as we like. If a salesperson doesn’t understand our freedom to work from home, that is their stupidity.

    2. OP 3*

      Agreed! My workplace is tricky because we don’t have a front desk/reception. I work in higher ed where “campus” is just one huge building that is open during business hours for students. The vendor had wandered over to the IT office (of all things) and asked for me by name because he knew I worked here but didn’t know where my desk was. IT does not normally get outside visitors, as you can probably imagine, so they were baffled and didn’t really know what to do. But yes, this was still a safety issue.

      Thankfully the vendor wasn’t overly pushy – I think he was surprised that I didn’t immediately take him up on his company’s services, but he left after a short conversation. If he had been pushier, that for sure would have left a negative impression. But the visit certainly didn’t drive any business from me/my company either.

      Thing is, though, that their website is not at all user friendly, has no pricing details, and doesn’t list all of their services. That, mixed with my assumption that hiding pricing means that you do not have competitive pricing worth bragging about, makes me much less inclined to order. Sales people, please take note – it’s 2022. Websites are important; typically more important than your ability to find and interrupt a potential client’s day to give them a sales pitch. Especially if that sales pitch that has no useful details but consists only of “we’re the best, whatever needs you have we can do it, here’s my card.” Like any English composition teacher will say: show me, don’t tell me.

      1. Amy*

        I’m in England and a university lecturer. All that happens is they show up, and it is a ghost town. We can work from home as much as we like (unless we are booked for teaching. Nowadays, Microsoft teams have taken off, and loads of meetings still use it after COVID/ lockdown).

  28. Monday Monday*

    #4 Alison is spot on. Keep working your current job like the other one won’t happen.
    Earlier this year, my partner interviewed at a very famous company. They loved him, verbally offered him the job the next day and they were in the throws of salary negotiation. He was just waiting for HR to sign the letter with the new negotiated salary. Then all of a sudden he was ghosted. 3 weeks went by, and he finally got in touch with the hiring manager and come to find out they “forgot” they had an internal candidate they needed to interview and ended up taking back the offer (no formal letter had been written yet) and gave it to the internal candidate.
    It was really crappy that they didn’t know about this internal candidate, nor communicated that to my partner, but it was a great lesson in don’t say a word until you have that signed offer letter in-hand.

    I hope your offer comes through soon!!

    1. OP#4*

      Thank you! And I’m so sorry your partner went through that — what a gross and frustrating situation!

      Since both my current and potential employers are similar organizations, I guess it is easy to assume they have an understanding of what my priorities and concerns are at this point. That’s definitely an unwise assumption on my part!

    2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

      And that’s assuming that they actually told your partner the truth!

  29. Cringing 24/7*

    OP2, I feel for you, and you 100% don’t have to keep this promise that you were awkwardly manipulated (either intentionally or unintentionally) to make. I’ve been wondering what I’d do if I were asked that by a manager and in trying to prepare a script in my head for it (for an ideal world), I came up with this:

    “I know that sometimes things can just fall into our laps in surprising ways, but I can definitely promise that if I’m ever feeling like I need training or growth opportunities, or if there’s something I need to get my job done that I don’t have, I’ll absolutely come to you with it. With those sort of conversations, do you prefer informal meetings, or would I put something on your calendar?”

    That last question would hopefully move the conversation forward and give the manager something to focus on rather than noticing that their question wasn’t directly answered (because it’s an unreasonable question). If they push it, I guess I’d just say “yes” and just do the it-fell-in-my-lap excuse later.

  30. Canonical23*

    #1 – I’m a library branch manager and unfortunately, unless you’re the cataloging supervisor, most interruptions are probably “I need an answer right now” interruptions. Alison’s advice about extra training is good – I have a feeling that you’re the circulation supervisor and circulation clerks are interrupting you about how to handle situations with customers and returned items. Start keeping track of the questions that interrupt you and train all of your staff so that they feel they can handle those situations without supervisor help.
    Also, be open about what you’re working on – “I need to make next month’s schedule, please don’t interrupt me unless it’s a 911 emergency” is much clearer than “I’m going to wear headphones whenever I need uninterrupted time.” The former shows you have a specific reason and you’re being transparent with your staff. The latter won’t be effective because everything is immediate when there’s a customer at the front desk asking a question the clerk doesn’t know the answer to. I know that’s not a great answer, but unfortunately, library work is public service work, which by definition involves a lot of human interaction and not a ton of alone-in-your-office time.

    1. Valancy Snaith*

      This is likely the strongest advice available in this thread. Specific roles and jobs vary a lot and make a huge difference, so what works for someone who doesn’t wish to be interrupted in a largely-solitary job that requires very little collaboration will not work for someone who works in a small library with a lot of interaction.

      Depending on the culture of the library I’d also be extremely wary about encouraging subordinates to not contact their supervisor with questions, concerns, etc. A situation in which a supervisor is unavailable can easily become one in which subordinates get onto a weird track by policing themselves, not following guidelines or rules in favour of doing something else, or simply just creating an environment where communication is discouraged.

    2. Gracely*


      LW1, you’re probably going to have to spell it out for them every time. If it’s relevant, it might even be helpful to say why you need that uninterrupted time: “if I don’t get this paperwork done, we could lose funding from the board/timesheets won’t be ready for pay/books won’t get ordered in time/no one’s schedule will be ready/etc.” I find that people are a lot better about not interrupting for a couple of hours if they know the consequences to my not finishing what I’m concentrating on.

      I wish it wasn’t the case, but it’s just what you have to do.

  31. A Yellow Plastic Duck*

    What if this salesman had instead been your crazy stalker ex who you had a restraining order against?

    1. Person from the Resume*

      But it wasn’t. That was not the situation. That would be an entirely different situation.

      If the LW had a crazy stalker ex with a restraining order, then they should have told their manager and the front desk person should have been told not to admit anyone to see LW without he LW’s okay.

      1. Sally*

        On the other hand, I think it’s reasonable for an employee who is being stalked or harassed to not want to tell anyone at work and assume that the front desk will not just bring random strangers through the office.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      That’s why the only real action OP3 can take here is to make sure the company enforces better security protocols for all visitors to any employee. If they don’t have a formal policy, they need one. And if they do it needs to be followed or revamped.

    3. fhqwhgads*

      The LW clearly realizes that and says “The safety issue there is a separate issue.”
      In other words, not what they’re asking about.

    4. Ames*

      If a workplace doesn’t have a policy for that, it is time to fight to ensure workplace rules cover it.

  32. Just a Manager*

    Get a busylight. You can find them on Amazon. One person in our organization got one from their spouse as a present and it took off like wildfire. We’ve probably bought 30 of them. It’s a little light attached to your computer via USB and with software turns green if you are free and red if you are on a call or set it red.

  33. Aspiring*

    #1 — Have a system in mind for triage during your blocked time, with some very short follow-up questions to ask the interrupter: “Is this an urgent patron matter?” “I can look at this at 1:00” “Here’s my inbox” “Send me an email with the details” “I need 1 minute to finish this sentence.”
    Keep the headphones on and your hands still on your keyboard. You can be available for urgency without engaging in long discussions.

  34. Warrant Officer Georgiana Breakspear-Goldfinch*

    Re #4: What if you do have the offer, have accepted, but haven’t given your notice yet, and your current job is trying to get you to commit to long-term projects?

    For Reasons, I am not giving more than 2 weeks notice but I’m not leaving for another month, and my current boss wants me to start work on some things that are not going to be wrapped up by the time I leave.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I would say, start work on them, and just be a bit more careful than usual about documenting what you’re doing carefully so it’s easy for someone else to pick them up. Until you’ve given your notice, you can’t really down tools or start a formal handover process.

    2. OyHiOh*

      Start the projects and document, document, document! My OldJob was kind of this situation, where we were in the midst of spooling up a big multi-year grant program and my role was desperately needed for capacity, but I was actively job searching at the same time. I didn’t really have a choice but to take new assignments under that heading, but documented much more carefully than usual, knowing I was about to get a job offer (which I got, and NewJob is as good as I thought it would be).

  35. Recruited Recruiter*

    LW #2, Early in my career, I signed an employment agreement that required me to notify my employer when I was looking for a new job, that explicitly stated that I would receive negative reference checks if I did not. I went through with notifying my employer, and 6 weeks later I was pushed out for my replacement. It’s not worth following through on those kinds of forced agreements.

  36. Traveling Nerd*

    LW3 – I had something similar happen when I worked for Wikipedia!
    A computer server salesperson, who I had never met and had no prior relationship with, kept emailing various people at the office for an in person meeting. After everyone ignored all of his emails, he showed up at our office in person.
    I decided to have a bit of fun with him! Everyone knows Wikipedia is a nonprofit…. so I pretended to think that he was there to offer to donate a bunch of servers to Wikipedia! After thanking him profusely, I offered to usher him into a conference room to work out the details of the donation…. he quickly “remembered” he had another appointment, booked it out of there, and never emailed us again.

    1. Amy*

      I can see your thinking; I have the devil inside me. But it won’t work with salespeople, they just show up again. At university, we use the same (world-leading textbook) as part of our core material.
      Every other month we receive calls from publishers’ salespeople wanting to sell us a new textbook. It’s like they don’t pay any attention to how things work, even if it has been going on for decades….

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Traveling Nerd just said that it *did* work. Salespeople are not evil. They’re just people.

      2. Gracely*

        It can work with a one-off salesperson. It’s obviously not going to be a solution for a vendor you actually do sometimes use, or with materials that can change from year-to-year. And if they happen to sell more than one textbook, as these publishers usually do, they’re probably already dropping in on departments that either do buy from them or *are* interested in new materials, so tacking on another dept. or two while they’re in the neighborhood or doing cold calls is going to be worth it on the off chance your department is looking for something new.

        One thing that works to cut down on sales calls specifically from textbook reps is to give them a specific person or number to direct their calls to–“Prof. Linear Algebra is our coordinator who handles any textbook needs we have, you can reach them at ____”. (my spouse is that person for his department, and most repeat vendors are a lot more chill knowing that he knows who they are, and knows that he can reach them if there is interest in their textbooks). It helps because instead of them trying to reach anyone who might possibly have a say in what they’re selling, it focuses their outreach on someone who actually does have a say.

        1. Amy*

          ‘ *are* interested in new materials, so tacking on another dept. or two while they’re in the neighbourhood or doing cold calls is going to be worth it on the off chance your department is looking for something new’.

          *Waiver could depend on the subject*. My subject (psychology, top 1-3 choice at most universities in England).

          There are simply too many modules and variance. There are multiple lecturers per module on top of that. I teach science and statistics. We try to make students transition to science articles during their first year. So we use 1 world-leading textbook (we obviously have a few in the library, and you can order whatever you want from the British Library). After that, they adjust to it they have to read journal/science articles to achieve the requirements.

          Please bear in mind we pick a world leading textbook so all that happens is following the new edition of that textbook. Most universities will use the exact same textbook for the subject.

  37. something about sharks*

    OP#1 – unfortunately, this is kind of a public library hazard! My previous job was as a team lead at a public library, and we had the same issue with constant interruptions. To some extent, it’s just part of the job – even if you train people really well on what they do and don’t have the authority to handle themselves, there will always be weird gray areas and exceptions (“okay, I know our policy is XYZ and I can bend it for ABC circumstances, but this patron has a BCD circumstance…” comes up a lot, somehow). I had some success getting quiet time by just telling staff when I was working on something that required focus, so they could use their own judgment on whether “Mrs. Smith is mad about her fines again” was worth interrupting me for, but at the end of the day I did have to just deal with a lot of it. Trying to set a hard line of no non-emergency interruptions when you have headphones on can backfire pretty hard if you have a staff member who doesn’t share your definition of “emergency”.

    You mention in your letter that you get a lot of your work done when your boss isn’t in – do those times overlap with generally slow times where you don’t expect to see many customers? You might be able to schedule some of your work into those time blocks regularly, and train your staff to expect it. “Hey, on Tuesday nights OP#1 does the schedule/billing notices/catalog update, so don’t interrupt her then unless there’s blood, fire, or someone yelling at staff” is sometimes an easier expectation than “never interrupt when there are headphones on”.

  38. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

    As a mother of sons, it’s not great to hear how your child is going to be a predator solely based on their genitals.

  39. ZSD*

    #2 Telling your boss when you apply for other positions

    In my naive youth, I agreed to my boss’s request to tell her if I ever applied for another position. I learned the hard way never to do this! I did tell my immediate boss the first time I applied for another position, just because, well, I’d told her I would. Imagine my surprise when *her* boss comes into my office and asks why they should continue investing in me if I’m thinking about leaving. I (naively) had had no idea that my boss would pass the information on to her boss, and I was gobsmacked when that boss suggested that just because I was applying for other positions, they would treat me differently and be less likely to train me. Sooo…I learned never to give my boss confidential information again, and never to agree to let anyone know that I was job-searching.

  40. TradeMark*

    In my experience, the culture of libraries is that you are always available to talk to. I don’t know if it is because of the culture of being available to patrons when you are on the desk, but I think you are going to be fighting an uphill battle. That said, it doesn’t mean you can’t fight it. I just think you are going to have to use more concrete visual cues – a sign, or some sort of physical blockade on your desk – and you aren’t going to be able to do it quite as much as you want.

    My $.02

    1. Other Meredith*

      I agree. There’s also the fact that if you’re often unavailable, your staff will resent you (ask me how I know!). I have to be available to patrons almost the entire time I’m at work, but my supervisor can sit in her office all day listening to music and planning her wedding while being irritated if I interrupt her. Not saying that’s what you’re doing, but it can definitely risk looking like that to the public service staff.

      1. River*

        Agreed. People’s perception is reality no matter how transparent you mean to be. And in my experience as well, if you’re unavailable, staff will seek elsewhere for answers including approaching others. I remember a gentleman from another department would approach me with questions because their manager was off for the day, at lunch, or just not available. I felt like I was doing someone else’s job! This gentleman was the typical person that needed instant gratification and didn’t like it if I didn’t have an answer, told him to wait for his manager to get back, or any response that was not a direct answer to his question. Hoping that doesn’t ensue in OP’s situation.

  41. Ann Onymous*

    LW 2: Something similar happened to me a few years ago. A person on our team was really unhappy with some things about the way his role was setup (many of which could have been changed if the manager knew he was unhappy), but the first indication he gave to our manager that he was unhappy was his notice that he was leaving. After that, our manager had a conversation with me (and I assume also with others on the team) asking me to please let him know if I was unhappy with something before I had one foot out the door. Any chance something similar happened in your situation, LW? Maybe what your manager meant wasn’t that they want you to tell them if you start job searching, but more that if you’re unhappy enough with something that you’d consider job searching give them an opportunity to change the thing that’s making you unhappy before you decide you need to leave.

  42. Andrea*

    #2 — I read this letter completely differently: I took it as a boss wanting a new report to be satisfied in their job, and wanting opportunities to discuss how to make things better if they’re thinking about leaving. I personally would not have taken it as a request to literally tell them I was job hunting. If I had been told “tell us before you start looking for a new job”, and I was dissatisfied with my job but liked my company and thought my boss really could effect change, I probably would ask for a meeting to discuss a few concrete changes that might lead to more job satisfaction.

    Based on Alison’s and everyone else’s response, it sounds like I may have misread it, and the boss actually asked for a specific commitment not to start job hunting without informing them, in which case I agree; you owe them nothing.

    1. shea55*

      Thanks for the feedback! I’m the OP and in this instance I have regular meetings with my new boss and I do share that I’m not satisfied/happy with the new culture and work structure. There has been minimal effort made to adjust at this point which prompted my current search.

      1. Andrea*

        Ahhhh thank you! I was reading it wrong. Yeah, get out; you owe them nothing anyway, but even less if you’ve expressed a need for change and been ignored. Best of luck in the job search!!

  43. Numerator*

    LW#1- while obviously job specifics mean it may not all translate well- in my experience having specific noise cancelling headphones has been a boon. They are over-ear ones, so immediately noticeable and the main value to me is canceling out noise around me to help me concentrate.

    The secondary value is that I’ve found that people wanting to talk to me casually overestimate how much noise is cancelled. It slightly raises the bar on the effort to talk to me by offering a minor hurdle. If someone really needs to talk to me, they come into my field of view and indicate it, but passing unnecessary interruptions have been reduced.

    I also may have given the impression that my headphones cancel out basically everything, so no one assumes I can just hear them calling from a distance.

  44. Just Me*

    LW1 – In defense of your underlings, they may not always know what is an emergency or concern that needs to go to a supervisor right away. In my previous roles, I have erred on the side of bothering the manager when a situation arose because I wasn’t sure whether or not it required immediate intervention and thought it was better to annoy the manager over nothing than to ignore something that might be important. You may need to train your staff and say, “I need this time block to work without being disturbed. You CAN, however, get me for xyz things. If abc questions arise, they can wait until our 1:1 meetings or later in the day.”

    1. Just Me*

      I’ll add that you can mitigate this by empowering your staff more during the times that you need to work without interruption. You can say, “Wanda is available to answer questions while I’m doing this project on Tuesdays” or “Fergus is the event coordinator and he has the power to make these calls about event space. You don’t have to ask me–Fergus can fill me in later.”

  45. Not Working Out*

    I will have over-ear headphones in a bright color and be talking at my computer for a meeting and someone will still interrupt me. Including if not especially my spouse when we are both working from home. I have no idea how to get people to pay attention!

  46. River*

    #1. In my years of management experience, I always felt the need to make myself available and to never create barriers between myself and my staff. As much as I wanted to put on headphones or close that door, I feel like this would signal to my staff that they cannot approach me with anything until they see me without headphones or my door is open. And I don’t want my staff to have to walk by my office every so often to see if I am actually available. That would get annoying after a while. Yes if it’s urgent or important they should be able to interrupt me but typically being in a management role it’s expected that you be available (during work hours of course).

    I don’t know, it just sounds a little selfish to me if I am closing myself off from my staff and the rest of the workplace. In a management position you should be able to juggle and wear many hats if you need to, which includes interruptions or thinking on your feet. I’ve always done my work with my door open. The only times I need to close my door are for private/sensitive conversations. Another thing to note is, if you’re constantly being interrupted by your staff, maybe you should encourage them to be able to try and solve their issues on their own first before they rope you into the conversation. Not everyone has the same style of communication, and maybe you should also get your staff into the habit of send you emails.
    I get it. You want to work uninterrupted on your own work. Maybe you can wear one earbud/headphone but still be available? Or maybe check to see if other managers in your company wear headphones and see how they handle their job, assuming they do use headphones. But typically the expectation of managers is that they be open and available.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      I’m ADHD. So are a lot of people, including those in management or supervisory roles. It’s not unreasonable to have a couple 1-2 hour blocks a week for head-down working, and it’s okay to close a door or put on headphones to enforce that message.

      1. River*

        That’s fine as well. You’re correct, it’s not unreasonable. People’s perception is reality however.

  47. Frustrated Front Desk*

    #3 – Speaking as the front desk person, salesmen showing up unannounced is a regular occurrence. You probably didn’t see it at your prior job because your prior receptionist was better at shooing them away. There’s a good chance they got your contact information to set up a meeting because the receptionist gave it to them and told them to set up a meeting. It’s what I do.

    1. OP 3*

      My workplace is tricky because we don’t have a front desk/reception. I work in higher ed where “campus” is just one huge building that is open during business hours for students. The vendor had wandered over to the IT office (of all things) and asked for me by name because he knew I worked here but didn’t know where my desk was. IT does not normally get outside visitors, as you can probably imagine, so they were baffled and didn’t really know what to do.

  48. Echo*

    OP 1, I’d recommend doing the inverse – scheduling blocks of time on your calendar as “office hours” when you ARE available to take questions. Then, if someone approaches you while you are working, tell them “that’s a great question for my office hours! Can you come back at 2:30?”

    1. Echo*

      (And you could even schedule your office hours for the exact same times that your boss is usually in the office…)

  49. Ames*

    3: I hate salespeople. I ignore them when I see them in town (although I have responded to charity ones). If they show up at my door, I tell them to go away and close the door on them. Anyone ruse enough to show up at your workplace without a prior agreement is the worst. I would simply say (next time. I’m sorry to say it will happen again) ‘I am booked up all day. If you have a query, please email. We will not interact with anyone not booked in for an appointment. When they email, say no, bugger off (in a polite way).

  50. are you serious*

    two comments:
    1) as i was giving notice to my last job, my boss said “i didn’t even know you were looking!” and i still think about it lol. of COURSE you didn’t know. why would i tell you that?

    2) i NEED sales people to RELAX. i don’t know who is training them but these unhinged tactics really turn me off. I entered my info to download a free resource off of a website recently–a really good resource that I wanted and proved useful. immediately after, the person sent me a request and message on linkedin, and then an email. yesterday, she called me. i declined the call (not knowing who it was, I was working and it was an unfamiliar number) and then she immediately called AGAIN. i then saw that before the call, she’d sent me FIVE messages on linkedin. please. chill.

  51. CoveredinBees*

    OP5 is it possible that the intern felt some pressure to apply because you’d asked them but weren’t necessarily that interested in the job? This happened to me when I was fresh out of college, even though the person pressuring me did so with the best of intentions.

    I was invited to apply for a job that really wasn’t my thing but my manager (who was also head of the organization and important future job reference) took my lack of interest to mean I lacked self-confidence and repeatedly encouraged me to apply until I did. Maybe he knew the roll better than I did? Would he get upset with me and think I was ungrateful if I didn’t apply? I somehow managed to get interviewed and it was the second worst interview I’ve ever had because I had no interest in the job beyond paying my bills and it wasn’t a match for my experience.

  52. 1-800-BrownCow*

    OP #3, do you have a front desk person/lobby area? I deal with a lot of sales people, most call or email first and schedule a visit. But there are a couple local people that will every 3 to 4 months stop by unannounced. But when they do this, our front desk person will call us and if we don’t answer they take the person’s business card, and any other paraphernalia they bring with, and give it to us later. If we do answer, we can either accept or decline the visit. We do have policies that people must wait in our lobby and the person they are visiting much come out to the lobby and escort them at all times while in the building.

    1. OP 3*

      My workplace is tricky because we don’t have a front desk/reception. I work in higher ed where “campus” is just one huge building that is open during business hours for students. The vendor had wandered over to the IT office (of all things) and asked for me by name because he knew I worked here but didn’t know where my desk was. IT does not normally get outside visitors, as you can probably imagine, so they were baffled and didn’t really know what to do.

      I had responded to my coworker in IT with “tell him to just leave his card with you” but they didn’t see it in time and brought him to my desk.

  53. OP#4*

    Hi everyone! OP#4 here, the one waiting on a job offer — Alison, thanks so much for the guidance on how to inquire. You’re right, I don’t *need to know* right now, I just feel like I have to try and narrow down the variables a bit so I know how to focus and proceed in the short term.

    Thank you everyone else for such great feedback right out of the gate. I didn’t articulate myself well when I implied I’m holding off on doing work that needs to be started immediately — to clarify, I’m keeping very busy with the things due right now and not delaying anything, but the next big wave of projects is very close on the horizon. There is basic documentation in place for these processes, but every cycle winds up being handled somewhat uniquely based on our cohort of clients and data sets, and my organization has problems with relying on certain departments (mine) disproportionately because of our (my) years of company knowledge.

    I just have visions of setting a replacement up to fail because I won’t have the chance to let them know what to expect, and clients being left in the lurch because our leadership hasn’t quite reconciled with how badly they’ve cut staffing in comparison to the workload. After reading your comments, I’m going to try and channel that concern into revising and notating the process documentation with best practices rather than just current procedures — it’ll help a new hire, and if I wind up staying in the position it will help me start some important conversations anyway.

  54. Sybil Rights*

    #5 Because they were a recent intern, I think it would be a kindness to speak to them about the misrepresentation of their work with your organization and their resume in general. It may be awkward now, but if they leave it as it currently stands and some future potential employer does a reference check, they could lose out on a good opportunity or be branded a liar. They could even be fired from a job if an employer later decided they lied on their resume. Nothing in your letter specifically points to this being a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion issue, but a poor resume from an otherwise impressive intern might be one of those clues that suggest this young person might benefit from someone probing/extending themselves a bit.
    Particularly if this candidate has a background of poverty, parents who may not have professional careers, was ever a foster child, or they or their parents are from another culture, poor resume skills/norms could disadvantage them for years to come. You are in a unique position to gently explain how an internship should be represented correctly and possible effects of misrepresenting one on a resume.

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