Ask a Manager speed round

It’s the second-ever Ask a Manager speed round! (The first was last year and it’s here.) Until 4 pm ET today, I’ll be answering questions live.

Last year I answered 76 questions in two hours; we’ll see if I can match or beat that this time!

How to ask questions: Submit a question using the form here. (Don’t leave your question in the comment section; I won’t see it there.) If you submitted a question yesterday, there’s no need to submit it again; I’ve got it in my queue.

How to read answers live: Refresh the page to see new questions/answers. I’ll post new answers at the top as I go so you don’t have to scroll down to see the latest.

That’s it for today! I answered two more than last year so I consider that a success!

There were a ton of questions I didn’t get to (I received 750 total and only answered 78 here) so please feel free to submit them to me for regular answers if you’d like to:

I may save some unused questions for future “short answer” posts (or maybe I’ll do a second speed round with the leftovers later this month).

78. Time Travel

Would time travel actually help letter writers? Or would it generate twice as many letters as the timelines branched?

Twice as many.

77. Job Offer

I wrote earlier about waiting for a job offer. Well, lo and behold it has arrived, and whilst there are good benefits, my pay would be slightly lower than what I am currently earning.

What’s the best way to ask them for more money?

“I’m really interested in the role! Any chance you could go up to $X?”

Seriously, that’s it.

76. On Demand Interviews as a screening tool.

Are on demand video interviews (where the applicant recounted themselves answering questions in some kind of portal) a good initial screening tool? I had several of these in my last search where I was sent an email to interview this way. Some of them I did move on to other rounds, some not. All of them felt super awkward since I was talking to myself and couldn’t ask any questions. These were mid career professional jobs at large companies too.
I’m not sure if this is the way of the future or just a fad.

They’re not good. As you point out, they’re often awkward and they ask candidates to invest their own time in something fairly stressful without the chance to ask their own questions to determine if they’re even interested in moving forward. Unfortunately, I think they’re here to stay (although definitely not across the board; orgs that are thoughtful about their hiring aren’t using them).

75. Noticeable nipples

Any advice for when you notice your “headlights are on” at the office? As a woman who has breastfed two children, sometimes I realize that the outlines of my nipples are inadvertantly visible through my shirt. These are conservative tops with a standard bra so by no means revealing. Due to temperature or whatever, there they are. WWYD? Necessary to put on a jacket to cover up? Accept we all have them and not over-think it? Let it all hang out? For the record, I tend not to worry about it too much but would curious if you have any advice.

You are a human with a human body with nipples. Sometimes they might show. Don’t stress about it. If it really bothers you, there are things you can do (thicker bras, nipple covers, etc.) but you don’t have to do those things unless they make you more comfortable.

74. New hire upset

How do I adequately answer my new hire when they say they’re annoyed someone else got the higher grade role when we were interviewing for two roles? Am I ok to say, “I hear you’re upset about this, but the decision has been made and you’ll need to make peace with it,” or do I need to give more justification? (For some additional context, this person got the lower of the two grades because they didn’t interview as well and we felt they wouldn’t be as good a fit for the higher of the two grades.)

You should explain what led to the decision. Not in a defensive way and you don’t want to get into an argument about it, but the more transparent you can be about the reasons, the better and fairer that is.

73. Firing My First

I just fired someone for the first time. I know it was the right decision based on their attitude and some other red flags. Also right not only for the business but for the team as well. But I feel immense guilt…any advice.

It sucks to fire someone! Even when you know that it’s the right decision and gave clear feedback and plenty of opportunities for improvement, you’re still dealing a serious blow to someone and taking away their livelihood. It’s a really big deal.

I’ve always felt that it’s a problem if a manager doesn’t feel bad about it. It sucks, but you’re normal.

72. bathroom emergencies during an interview

Ideas how to best phrase that you need to use the bathroom ASAP during an interview? I’ve not had this happen but I’ve worried it could, and how to best phrase it. Especially as I wouldn’t want a response along the lines of “oh lets take a break in 10 mins”, when it’s a gotta go now or else situation.

“Would you mind if we paused here for a moment so I can quickly run to the bathroom?”

71. How common is it to have a crummy boss?

How common is it to have bad bosses? When I look back over the entirety of my working career (including serving at a restaurant in high school) to put bosses (and grandbosses with which I had regular interaction) into “good” versus “bad” categories, I can think of 2 really good bosses, 9 really bad bosses, and 5 neutral bosses. Does this sound like a normal ratio? I am trying to determine if I am the problem in my relationships with bad bosses, if most people think that most of the bosses they have are really terrible, or if most people are neutral about or really like most of their bosses and truly bad bosses are rarer than they have seemed to be to me.

I am exhausted by my litany bad bosses, but it has never been easy for me to find new jobs, so I’d like to determine whether, in the future, should I be so lucky as to get another truly good boss, how much I should value that when other opportunities may arise even further down the road.

So, so common. If I had to guess, I’d say more than half of managers are pretty problematic in one way or another. If you find a good boss, you should put huge value on that. At the same time, though, it can be risky to accept a job based on that since the person could leave at any time.

70. Supporting a college student’s job hunt

My child anticipates graduating from college with a business degree in December 2023 and soon he will be looking for a summer 2023 internship (mandatory in his program). Up to now his work experience has been in catering or summer camps. Any tips on how I can be a helpful and supportive parent as he seeks an internship in his degree field and later a post-college job, rather than “that problem parent” we are all so familiar with from past letters?

This is an amazing Twitter thread that is about privilege but includes lots of specific ways a parent can help a job-searching new grad (minus the part about letting them claim your accomplishments at their own). If you can, do it for someone in addition to your own kid — maybe one of his friends from a less advantaged background, or through a mentorship program, or so forth.

69. Reaching out to candidate we didn’t hire

I was recently on the search committee to fill a role in our organization. Both final candidates would have been great, but we ultimately chose the candidate we felt would grow into the role over someone who would probably just use it as a stepping stone (not that there is anything wrong with that, it was all based on what worked for us). I noticed there is an opening in another department, which, coincidentally, the candidate we didn’t choose worked many years ago before leaving for another organization. Would it be weird to send her a link to the job posting? Despite choosing another candidate, I really liked her, and want her to succeed.

Not weird. Do it!

68. Your ankle blog

I haven’t seen any updates in a while, how’s your ankle?

It was my foot! And it is more or less recovered, although I was told I will never play football professionally (a terrible blow). Thank you for asking.

67. Joking about pronouns

My company’s standard email signature has a spot for pronouns. One of my coworkers has her pronouns listed as “your highness.” I know her and don’t believe she’s trying to mock the concept of stating pronouns, but it still rubs me the wrong way. To me, it has the unintended implication that she doesn’t need to state her pronouns, because she presents as obviously female, which is something I grapple with. Should I say something to her? (She is higher-up than me but not my manager.) Ask HR to say something to her? Or am I reading too much into a harmless thing because of my own gender stuff?

Yeah, this is shitty whether she intends it to be or not. I’d flag it for HR and point out that it’s coming across as mocking trans and non-binary people.

66. How do I respond when I get a raise?

How should I respond when I receive notice of a raise? We are notified several months after performance reviews, usually through a somewhat formal letter emailed by my boss (I work remotely). I never really know what to say. I usually say “Thanks!” and end up feeling like a clod.

That’s really it, and all that’s expected in a healthy, functional workplace. “Thank you, I appreciate it!”

65. Insincere apologies not accepted

I was laid off last year as a part of a company restructure. I was really hurt by a handful of former co-worker “friends” that went completely silent after my layoff.   I’d be happy to never have to interact with them again.  Unfortunately, I expect to hear from them soon since the company I now work for provides an in-demand service and my former “friends” now need something from me.

I’d imagine that this call will start with some variation of “I’m really sorry we haven’t kept in touch!”    I’m at a loss for a response to this that’s professional without replying “Oh, don’t worry about it.”   Because, frankly, I don’t fell like forgiving them.  If it matters any, my new company has all the business it needs, so I don’t have to kow-tow to these people, thank goodness!

You get to feel however you feel, of course, but for what it’s worth … this is so, so common with layoffs. Part of it is because people feel awkward and don’t know what to say (not a good reason but unfortunately a human one), and also work relationships are often just kind of transient by their nature — they’re often circumstance-based rather than being deeper, even if they feel deeper at the time. You don’t have to forgive those coworkers if you don’t want to, but it might help to read this.

64. Productivity Methods?

I just started at a new agency and am also making a field shift. In several trainings I’ve attended, the trainer (and my boss, in some cases) discusses various productivity/digital organization frameworks, many of which Say that digital to do lists are more effective than paper and pencil to do lists or calendars. I promise I’m not anti technology, but I really love my paper planner and making to do lists every day! My question is 1) do you have thoughts on this and 2) should I make an effort to switch if I haven’t been directed to?

Productivity/organization methods are really personal; what works for one person will not work for another (and that is especially true when you throw neurodiversity in there). If yours is working for you and you’re getting good results/not letting balls drop, there’s no reason for you to change.

63. More of a comment than a question

I told my neighbor to stay off my lawn (he mowed w/o asking permission, and I don’t own the property/didn’t want him here anyway), and he contacted the person whom he thought was my boss to try and get me fired.  Can I get some validation that his actions were nutty-bananas?


62. Job application portals

How do you feel about online job applications and career websites that provide the applicant with zero contact info for following up?

I feel fine about that. They know you’re interested because you applied. They have hundreds of applications to sort through; if they want to talk with you, they’ll contact you.

61. If you worked for a supervillian…

If you worked for a supervillian, what would generally be reasonable to put on your expense report?  How would you write up accomplishments on your resume when searching for a new job, given that some people might find what you helped accomplish objectionable (or that their schemes may have failed entirely)?

You need to read Hench by Natalie Zina Walschots immediately.

60. Parents of employees

My company has a largely young workforce (16+) due to our industry (hospitality/recreation). We have parents and family members contact us every so often to “deal with things” for their child. Examples: wanting to join interviews, disputing disciplinary action or termination, disputing a job rejection, “how DARE you schedule my child at this time”, attempting to resign on behalf of their child, “call me NOW”, etc. We have a firm policy keeping employment conversations with employees, and will only provide generic information to parents.

Other than emergencies, do you think there are any reasonable exceptions to this? I don’t want to be unnecessarily rigid, but I think a firm line is warranted for privacy.

No, and especially not in the situations you described. It’s inappropriate and undermining to their kid. Emergencies only, and you should be clear about that: “This is something we will only discuss with the employee.”

59. Boss Recognition Ideas?

My boss is really great, having worked together just under a year now I have seen nothing but green flags, support, and making my job easier from her. Is there a simple way to recognize this? An email/in person/small gift? We don’t have annual reviews or anything like that which would normally be a good place to do so.

A personal note telling her what you appreciate. That’s better than any of the usual trinkets people think of buying in this situation.

58. How long should I wait

Low stakes question, but given the increase in use of online platforms (Zoom, Teams, etc.) for interviews, how long should you wait for a candidate to show up before assuming they’re not showing up. I’ve always tried to reach out to them if they don’t show up after 5-10 minutes following the start time, but wanted to see what’s the reasonable amount of time one should wait for a candidate before disconnecting the meeting.

10 minutes max.

57. Can I ask for better vegetarian options?

I work for a large multinational at one of their two main US offices, and management has started to offer free lunch once a week as an enticement to come back to the office. My team comes into the office once a week, and it usually coincides with free lunch day. My problem is that I’m a vegetarian, and the non-meat options at these lunches are increasingly just…bad. To save costs, they’ve started rotating between fast food places, wings, and premade sandwich boxes, none of which have vegetarian options. The option for those of us with dietary restrictions (v/vg/gf) is regularly a box from somewhere else (who knows??) of plain rice and vegetables. On premade box days, we miss out on all the sides (cookies/chips etc). I feel a bit whiny, but this effort at boosting office morale is doing the opposite for me. Would I be out of line to request some more inclusive food options, or at the least a la carte sides? How should I word that without sounding picky or entitled?

A decent organization would want to know that they’re not accommodating their vegetarians well. Tell them. They clearly want to feed you; let them know it’s not quite working with the current system. Ideally you’d also be able to suggest some alternatives that would work well.

56. How important are keywords and specific terminology?

I am transitioning to a different field, meaning I don’t yet know all the lingo. Should I try to incorporate terms I’m not 100% familiar with in my application materials, or play it safe and only use words and phrases I definitely know? I am worried about accidentally making myself sound worse by using terms incorrectly.

Definitely don’t use words and phrases you don’t actually understand. There’s too much risk of using them improperly or being asked something about it in the interview and having it come out that you don’t really know what it means, which will then raise questions about how well the rest of your resume is really representing you.

55. Interviewing/selecting candidates

I supervise a role where critical thinking is really important – people need to be able to problem solve and think on their feet to figure out ways to resolve issues within a general policy and rules framework. I haven’t always done a great job of selecting people with this skillset. Any tips for interview questions or other ways to target this in recruiting? I realize now that is more important to success in the role than specific topic-related experience.

An exercise or simulation is going to let you see this more than any interview question. Come up with a short exercise similar to something they’d need to do on the job. For example, have them read a 1-2 page description of a policy or framework and then give them a hypothetical situation that they’d need to resolve within it.

54. getting employee to commit to timelines

I have a staff member who, no matter what task he’s assigned, pushes back on giving timing because “other things could come up”. I’ve told him that if X is his primary project and he’s asked to do things that would jeopardize meeting deadlines, I’ll work with him to help prioritize and I’ll also make sure that he’s not getting work he doesn’t have the capacity for (unfortunately, our culture allows and sometimes encourages internal customers to go directly to developers with requests…but as a manager I can and do step in). Basically I need an approach to get him to 1) trust I will have his back when he has to say “no” or “not now” while 2) also impressing that we have to be able to set expectations and then meet them. I have a fair amount of discretion on what my staff do when and I also have the support of my leadership to push back on unexpected work. We also have good project managers who will help keep projects moving and flag issues early. This really just seems to be about one person who hates to commit to solid dates.

Tell him that part of the job is committing to timelines so that people can plan, but that if something does come up that gets in the way, he should flag that for you immediately so that the two of you can figure that out (including reprioritizing if necessary). If he’s still unwilling to commit to deadlines, something else is going on and you’ve got to have a “this is incompatible with what we need for the team to function; what’s going on?” conversation.

53. Managing Out

What does it mean to “manage someone out”?

I learned it to mean acting poorly (often subvertively) to an employee and making them so miserable that they decide to quit of their own accord.

But I also see it now used to describe using proper management techniques (coaching, feedback, PIP etc) which ultimately end in the employee’s termination (quitting, firing, mutual parting, whatever).

So which is its correct use?

People use it in two different ways, which causes a lot of confusion. One definition is “manage someone in such a way that they choose to leave so you don’t have to fire them.” That is wrong, and it’s terrible management.

The other definition is “do your job as a manager, knowing that it may result in parting ways — give clear feedback, be honest if the role isn’t a good fit, raise the question of whether it would make more sense to part ways, warn them when their job is in jeopardy, use PIPs if your company does that, etc.” That’s what good managers do.

52. Double space, Oxford comma

On your cover letter/resume do you use the Oxford comma? What about double spaces after a period?

Different style guides have different stances on the Oxford comma. That is a travesty because the Oxford comma should always be used and promotes clarity. But no one is going to reject you for using or not using it.

Double spaces after a period are outdated and not still used in any publication that I know of. They were used when we used typewriters or typesetting to make a visual break after a sentence; that’s no longer needed now that we have computers with proportional fonts. A single space after a period is the rule and has been for a while. That said, plenty of people who were taught double spaces decades ago still use them and no one is going to reject you for that either, unless you’re applying for a job as a proofreader and possibly not even then.

51. resumes

Will you offer your resume review service again? I used it and it really helped

No current plans to offer it, just because of lack of time.

50. How do I bring up concerns with a coworker without sounding like I’m just a complainer?

I have to double-check all of my coworker’s work. We have SOPs and she’s been trained, but she still does things incorrectly. How do I bring this up to our boss without sounding whiny or just like I’m complaining?

You’re not complaining; you’re raising a relevant work issue that your boss should want to know about.

“I’m finding that Jane is still making mistakes like X and Y and I’m having to double-check all her work so things don’t go out with errors in them. I think she could use some additional training.”

49. Email application

If I’m sending an email to apply to a job and attaching my cover letter as a separate document, what should I say in the body of the email?

“Attached please find my resume and cover letter for the X job. Thank you for your consideration.”

That’s it! Don’t write a second letter in the body of the email when you’ve already attached one.

48. Red Flag for new job

Not me but a coworker. She applied for a new job and got it. However, they won’t let her work a notice period at Old Job without them pulling job offer at New Job. I’m not crazy in thinking that’s a huge red flag, right?

Assuming she wants to offer a reasonable amount of notice to her current employer (like two to three weeks) and not months, you are not crazy. It’s a big red flag.

47. Date Available on Job Applications

I’m currently applying for new jobs, and some of the applications to complete online have a space for the date available to start. I would prefer to give two weeks to my current employer before starting a new job, but that really depends on when they would get back to me with an offer so I know when to turn in my two weeks. Other than that, I would technically be able to start at any time. The spaces are formatted for dates only, so what date do I put? Tomorrow? The next Monday? Two weeks out from my application? Some other date?

Two weeks plus a few days, to convey “this is when I could start if offered the job tomorrow.” No one is going to hold you to that date if the offer doesn’t come for weeks/months. Employers generally know people with current jobs will need time for a notice period. They’re asking for that in the application either because it’s badly programmed or to spot people who aren’t available for six months.

46. Work-Life Balance at Conferences

I recently attended a weeklong conference for my professional association. My workplace sent eight people, including me, all of whom regularly work together. This was my first time attending, and I found that the norm was to attend the conference from 7:30AM-5:30PM, then go straight to dinner and then happy hour/back to the hotel to drink with the whole eight-person crew. By the end of the week I was exhausted and tired of hanging out with people who I wouldn’t chose to be my friends (though they are lovely coworkers) – but everyone else seemed thrilled by all the “networking.” Is this just a norm for professional conference situations, and I have to suck it up? Is there a way to create some sort of work-life balance where I don’t have to spend 7:30AM-10PM in my coworkers’ presence without seeming like a stick in the mud? I am worried about missing out on “networking” but can’t tell how important it actually is. Thank you!

It’s not uncommon in some fields/some offices, but yes it can be exhausting! You can usually opt out of some of it — like go to dinner but then excuse yourself from drinks afterwards, or skip dinner one night “to catch up on some personal stuff I need to take care of” — but often there’s an expectation that you’ll do at least some of it.

45. Can I ask my friend why she asked me not to name drop her in an interview?

I have a good friend I knew since my first year of university, which is about 6 years ago, let’s call her ‘Delia’. Delia is 4 years older than me, and we both studied law at university.

About 18 months ago I applied for a job at a place Delia used to work at (she’d left by the time I applied), and was texting her asking about the culture, what to wear to the interview etc. when she told me to please not mention her name in the interview. I was surprised and said I wouldn’t but why’s that, and she said people seem to name drop her without asking. I didn’t go on to ask why she wouldn’t want me mentioning her name if I DID ask her.

Long story short, we’ve both long since moved on. I got the job (without mentioning her) but have since moved on to a better place, and Delia’s left the industry. I was shocked, and quite frankly rather hurt, that Delia didn’t want me mentioning her name. I can’t think of any reason she’d say that unless she was uncomfortable with endorsing me for the job and thought I wasn’t good enough. We’ve worked together in student associations at university so she’s seen the working side of me.

We’re still friends and hang out regularly, but this keeps hanging over my head even though I’m sure she’s forgotten about it. Would it be too weird to ask her now why she didn’t want me mentioning her name, and can you think of any other explanations for it other than her thinking I’m not good enough/suited for the job?

It’s probably not that she didn’t think you were suited for the job, but that she was aware she didn’t have first-hand experience working with you and thus couldn’t vouch for how well you might be suited for the job. Dropping her name doesn’t really imply that she has recommended you, but it sounds like she might have had weird experiences in the past that made her want to draw clear lines now. Or who knows, maybe she got weird advice about how to navigate it.

You could ask her about it now if you’re able to do it from a place of genuine curiosity (interest in knowing her thinking) rather than feeling slighted by it. If you still feel slighted, though, I’d try to just let it drop.

44. New Employee Will Quit if Not Guaranteed Overtime

Hi, I hired a fully remote employee almost six months ago, last week she said she can’t afford to stay unless she works at least 45 hours per week. Her performance isn’t great and I can’t guarantee overtime every week; sometimes we just don’t need the extra hours and I also worry about burnout.

Be straightforward and up-front: “I can only guarantee 40 hours a week. Given that, does it make sense for you to stay on or should we plan a transition?”

43. cover letters are terrifying – can I go another route?

I absolutely freeze up and cannot get over the hump of trying to write a traditional cover letter. (yay, AD/HD!) Would it be a different approach to film a video cover letter and include that instead?

No, don’t do it! A video letter is a whole different thing and most people who are hiring don’t want one — for a whole bunch of reasons, like that they’re not quickly skimmable like a written letter, they don’t show your written communication skills, they’d be comparing apples to oranges with what you provided and what the rest of the candidate pool provided, and on and on.

42. Favorites?

What have been your favorite questions to answer while running the site?

I like the weird ones (obviously). Spicy food thief, the coworker who wanted everyone to to call her boyfriend her “master”, the boss who was dating the letter-writer’s dad and wanted them all to go to couples therapy together, the person who started faking a British accent… But I also really like the ones that delve into why we struggle with the things we struggle with (example), and also the ones that are about why certain things just don’t fly at work (example), and the ones where I land in a different place than I expect to when I first read the question (example), and the ones that are about things that are tiny but strange (example). And obviously the ones that tug at the heartstrings (example). And the ones that let me honestly tell someone that something will be okay that they worried wouldn’t be okay; sometimes it’s clear someone really, really needed to hear that.

I also think hypotheticals can be really interesting, like this morning’s question about whether a company could require you to wear summer clothes in the winter, or how a vampire would keep their true nature hidden at work. It interests to me to take an absurd-sounding situation and think through how you’d actually need to handle it if it happened. (That’s what was great to me about that old letter from the manager whose employee was putting magic curses on a coworker; that was an absurd situation that was really happening, and it was so interesting to figure out how you’d need to navigate it.)

41. Is my no bullying social media policy dumb?

I own a small business that is booming and expanding soon and I’ll be able to hire an HR person before the end of the year. I’m thinking of what policies I want in place and one that I keep coming back to is a social media phone use policy. My mentor and a few colleagues say I’m going overboard but I don’t think I am. The policy would include:

Don’t friend or follow your coworkers, subordinates, managers, or clients. If you do and interpersonal conflict arises from social media, it is not considered a workplace issue.

Don’t post about work/tag yourself at work/list your workplace.

No selfies at work, no recording yourself at work, and no recording your coworkers (our company handles financial data).

If your social media presence reflects badly on the company, it’s grounds for termination.

No social media use on company hardware.

Management and HR is not to follow/friend any subordinates.

I’m sure there’s more but the this policy is part of an umbrella no bullying/no asshole zero tolerance policy. Many are based on a lot of my experience early on in my career where I watched entire departments bully one person on social media with a lot of passive-aggressive call-outs like “Kelsea” would make a mistake and then an entire ten person public conversation would be something like “well, now I’m working late because SOME PEOPLE are too stupid to pack a box” and the person being bullied couldn’t really do anything about it because HR didn’t want to handle it since it didn’t expressly mention Kelsea. No selfies, tagging, or recording your coworkers is a basic privacy and safety policy. I worked with a woman who was being stalked by an ex and he was able to find her through a coworker’s post. The termination policy would be like if we found out an employee posts racist or homophobic rants, that kind of thing. Management not following subordinates is just smart on a lot of levels but specifically from one time I was an executive assistant and I had access to my boss’s personal and professional email, texts, and socials (her choice, not mine) and she and several staff members who reported to her had entire group chats dedicated to trashing very hardworking decent people they just didn’t like, including me knowing I would read it/could read it. My mentor and some peers say my policy is dumb, controlling, or a waste of my time. I think it can help create if not a positive environment, at least a neutral one but I’m second guessing. Are these policies dumb?

Some of it is reasonable (no recording people) but some of it isn’t. Much of it is pretty heavy-handed. These are adults; they can friend each other if they want to. Saying that if conflict arises from that, it is not considered a workplace issue doesn’t really work in practice — it very much could be a workplace issue and you can’t just refuse to deal with it.

You’d be better off expecting your employees to behave like professional adults and addressing it if they don’t (including things like taking a hard line with bullying) — but not preemptively restricting pretty normal behavior.

40. Other advice columns

Do you ever see work-focused questions on other advice columns and wish they’d written in to you?


39. Can I refuse my appraisal?

At my three appraisals, my line manager and I have discussed training needs / my development in my role. Each time, my manager has said she needs input from higher up before she can confirm whether we can push forward with the training we’ve discussed. Each time, I have subsequently chased follow-up on this, both in our verbal one to ones and in writing, but to no avail – she just deflects, or says she is still awaiting firm answers from higher up (usually because ‘you’re part time & it’s not clear what we can offer you because of that at this time, leave it with me’). Can I refuse my appraisal this year? Since the big question from the last three isn’t answered?

You can’t refuse an appraisal. I mean, you can try, but it’s likely to use up a huge amount of capital and be a really big deal that causes a ton of drama. I would believe what you’re seeing — for some reason, whatever reason, your employer is not going to give you training. Maybe it’s because you’re part-time. Maybe they don’t want to invest in you. I don’t know what the reason is, but assume that’s not going to change so you’re not continually surprised when it happens, and decide what you want to do from there.

38. Working with Friends

I am currently working in IT for a state office, work here is boring, stagnant, there is no growth and absolutely no learning. I got an opportunity to work with a couple of friends, the new place is a corporate office with access to modern technology, i can get a good amount of learning, would be great for my career path. The problem is I will have to be working with 2 friends and 1 ex. My friends said working together will not cause any problem to our friendship and my ex is okay with working with me and has said that we will be civil with each other. Is working with friends and 1 ex (we have a little bit of on again off again thing going on too) is a bad thing ?

Would they just be a few coworkers of many, or would it just be you and them? If the latter, I’d be very wary of doing it. No one ever thinks it will cause a problem to work with/for friends/exes until it does. You’d be risking the friendships, so you’d want to be okay with that possibility.

37. WFH Savings

Should people that are required to be in office be paid more than those who WFH? They are saving significant amounts of money in transportation.

People who work from home save on transportation costs, but they have other increased costs (for example, higher electricity usage, running their AC during the day when they otherwise might not, paying for faster internet in some cases, etc.) plus having to have a portion of their home set aside for work. (Obviously all this will vary by person though, just as commuting costs will too.)

That said, I think it’s fine for companies to pay a premium for on-site work if they find it serves their interests (raises morale, helps retention for their roles, etc.).

36. Is anything ever really anonymous?

Surveys, polls, etc. Anything that captures data “anonymously.” Is your identity really protected?

Less often than companies tend to imply. Even when your name can’t be directly associated with your responses, if your team is small or there are only a few people who do what you do (or at your level or with your tenure or if you provided answers about other characteristics that would narrow it down), it’s often not hard to figure out who said what. Also, watch out for the difference between surveys touted as “confidential” vs. “anonymous.” The former can mean “we’ll know who you are but we won’t share it.”

35. Stay or go

Eight years with the company, on the fence about my job because it’s stable and well-paid but no room for advancement and some questionable ethics issues. Stay or go?

Why not look around and see what your options are? You don’t need to decide anything for sure right now, but find out what paths are available so you can compare your current situation to other concrete options (not just an amorphous idea of a hypothetical new job).

34. Employee quit over something out of my control but my manager is blaming me

My company just went through a merger with two other companies.

The other companies had rules against coworkers dating, no matter their title or reporting chain.
It is completely forbidden. And having this rule is legal under the laws here and so is letting people go for breaking it

As part of the merger that rule covers our company. We do have married or cohabiting couples here. When the merger was complete one half of those couples was let go.

One of my employees was a high performer, well known in our industry, is more knowledgeable than anyone and is head and shoulders above the rest. She abruptly quit when her husband was let go and won’t engage with the company or return voicemails.

We do need her back but nonetheless her reason for leaving is out of my control. I was her manager but the no couples rule came from way above me and they aren’t allowing exceptions. My manager is upset at me over her departure but there is nothing I can do and it was not my fault. He won’t lay off. Help!

Explain that your employee is refusing to engage with the company and has made it clear her decision is final, and that it’s becoming clear to you that contacting her further would be counterproductive — that she’s pissed about it and doesn’t want to hear from anyone further. If your manager keeps pushing, ask specifically what he’s hoping you’ll do.

33. “Heart” reacts

What’s your opinion on using the “heart” react in work chats? Am I silly for being grossed out by it (in contexts where warmth/effusiveness isn’t expected)?

Lots of people now use it for “great” or “I really like this” or “you got it!” or anything else remotely positive. Think of it like starting a business letter with “Dear Jane.” You’re not really dear to them (probably). It’s just convention. This is just a newer one.

32. Dietary Restrictions and Donuts/Bagels

I can’t eat gluten (and have been gluten free since prior to starting at this company). They accommodate dietary restrictions well during actual meetings/company provided food. But higher ups bring in donuts/bagels/every glutinous thing under the sun at least once a week. When they offer them to me, I say “thanks for offering, but I can’t eat gluten”. They usually say they’re sorry and didn’t know. But this happens at least once a week, all the time. I feel bad because they keep insisting I eat the food, and I’m sure they feel bad because they keep forgetting. How do I break the awkward no donut dance?

Assume people won’t remember and try switching to just, “No thanks!” That’ll at least avoid the sorry/I didn’t know/I forgot thing.

31. SOUP

What’s your favorite soup?

Tomato soup! I put lime juice and hot sauce in it.

30. Applying just to get a foot in the door

A company that i (maybe?) would love to work for someday just posted a position in my field. Unfortunately I think I’m overqualified for this role, it looks (and pays) more junior than where I want to go next from my current job. Is there any advantage to applying anyway, so maybe the hiring manager will remember me if something more senior comes up?

Don’t do it! You’ll look like you undervalue your own skills or maybe that you are that junior, despite what your resume makes it seem.

29. Terminology for when your boss tells you that you don’t have a job anymore

What’s the difference between “terminated”, “fired”, “laid off”, “let go”, etc.? My husband thinks they’re all synonyms, but I’m pretty sure being laid off and being fired are different things that happen for different reasons and affect benefits, unemployment, severance, etc differently. He’s not originally from the US, though – does the UK use them to mean something different than we do here?

I can’t speak to how the UK uses them, but in the U.S. fired means that you were removed the company because of something you did — the quality of your work or your conduct. Laid off means that the company eliminated your job; it’s for financial or structural reasons, not because of your performance or conduct. Let go usually means fired, but sometimes people use it for laid off (they shouldn’t! it causes confusion). “Terminated” can be any of the above. Generally, though, when you’re talking about someone who’s laid off, it’s smart to use the words “laid off” so it’s clear it wasn’t about them.

28. Responding to job rejection

I know that when an employer notifies you by email that you’re not moving ahead in the interview process you can reply, especially if you’re hoping for feedback (which I know you may not always get). However, would it be viewed unfavorably if I choose not to reply (because I know that I did not come across confidently in many of my answers)?

No, that’s fine. Most people don’t respond, and employers aren’t paying attention to who does or doesn’t.

27. how much time to give a new supervisor

I recently got a new supervisor. She was selected because she was good at our job for over 20 years, and they thought she deserved a shot at being a manager. Honestly, it’s not a good fit. She doesn’t seem to be enjoying it and she doesn’t really have management skills (being an expert in our highly specialized scientific field does not have a lot of overlap with people management, imagine that!). There are even key parts of the job that she has said she outright hates and will never do — so I have had to pick up a lot of those tasks without any pay or title bump (I did pitch one, but never heard back). My work is starting to take a hit because of the lack of a competent supervisor – myself and my teammate are floundering and my morale is suffering under the heavier workload that I specifically (not the rest of the team) picked up with this change. How long should I give her to come around and start doing her job at least halfway decently? It’s only been about nine months but I’m losing my patience.

Nine months is more than enough! If you were seeing signs of improvement, that would be different, but it doesn’t sound like she’s taking steps to become a better manager. You don’t need to give it more time.

26. Is it bad to contact recruiters late at night?

I am job hunting and have been talking with recruiters. When they ask for my resume, I email it at the end of the day which happens to be from 10pm – midnight for me. I like to send emails when convenient and expect that the other party will respond when convenient for them. I was told that this is rude and shows that I expect the other party to also be on email late at night. I know people have different opinions on this. Am I in the minority here?

What, no, that is fine! You’re not calling or texting; you’re using email, which by definition is an asynchronous method of communication, meaning that the assumption is that the other person will see it and respond at a time that’s convenient for them. Tons of people respond to hiring-related messages later in the evening.

25. Cats vs dogs

Why are pet-friendly offices usually only for dogs? Could I bring a cat or a hamster to the office if it’s pet-friendly?

Largely because dogs tend to be more social animals who are comfortable going to new places. Most cats (not all but most) wouldn’t be thrilled about going to an office, although I’m sure there are some who would get used to it. I think in an otherwise pet-friendly office you could bring a cat if the cat were okay with it. Or a hamster, although that would probably get more raised eyebrows, in a “does your hamster really need your company all day?” sort of way.

24. Ask A Manager podcast

Is there any chance of the Ask A Manager podcast coming back?

I loved doing it but it’s SO MUCH WORK. So it’s unlikely.

23. How do I explain to potential interviewers why my responses are delayed?

Two weeks ago, in a fit of frustration about my current job, I applied to a lot of jobs. Responses have been trickling in, but the problem is that last Friday, I found out one of my grandmothers had passed away while I was with my other grandmother in the emergency room. I’ve been sharing hospital duty with other family members while also working full-time, and I haven’t even had a chance to mourn my other grandmother. Meanwhile, I’m still getting emails about setting up phone screens and interviews, and I haven’t been able to come up with the right phrasing to indicate why my responses are slow or why I need to reschedule/delay the appointments already booked. Can you suggest some good language?

“Unfortunately I’ve had a death in my family so my email responses will be delayed.” Or “Unfortunately I’ve had a death in my family and will be out of town until X. Would it be possible to move the interview to X or later?”

I’m sorry about your grandmother!

22. Is it a red flag when an internal candidate uses their current position to get a leg up on an opening?

I have an employee whose last day is next week. Emails get sent to various support teams to notify them of this so they can take any appropriate actions in their systems.

Someone who I have never met emailed me to ask about discussing the opening. When I asked how they heard about it (since it’s not posted yet), they said they get these emails described above and try to follow up on any that look like they might fit their skills and interests.

I’ve interpreted this negatively, but am not sure if that’s correct. The reason is a) this person used their current position to essentially be “first in line” for the opening, and b) when the opening is posted, it will have our HR contact info, not mine; so they also used their current position to get to me directly as opposed to HR.

On the other hand, I could argue it shows initiative, courage, and genuine interest. Where do you land?

This is a super normal thing for people to do! It’s very, very normal for people to hear about internal openings either through the grapevine or because their job exposes them to the sort of info you described and to express interest directly to the hiring manager, who is after all a colleague. It’s not a problem at all.

21. Employee sent me a snarky email then gave me a bottle of wine as a ‘peace offering’

I am annoyed with my employee’s behavior and would appreciate a reality check.

Employee submitted a timesheet with 3 hours of OT. It wasn’t preapproved and there was no reason given for the OT. I reminded him he needed pre-approval. I also reminded him of the company’s rules about comp time in lieu of OT. He responded by email to me and my manager that he was ‘unaware that he needed specific pre-approval’ and he reminded me he ‘doesn’t agree with comp time vs OT.’ He said a few other similar things that indicated he had no idea of these policies/procedures.

I was miffed. He and I have had this conversation several times, and the last few times I documented it in an email. I didn’t respond that same day because I wanted to look through my emails to him and make sure I was really clear about the OT expectations.

The next morning when I arrived at work, he chased me down the hallway calling my name. He handed me a bottle of wine and said it was a ‘peace offering’ for the email. In hindsight, he realized that I had been clear about the rules around OT in the past and he shouldn’t have sent the email.

I am not sure what he expected me to say. I expressed confusion as to why he would give me any peace offering. I told him I had seen his email but hadn’t had time to focus on it and send a thoughtful response. Eventually another manager (grandboss) walked by, stopped to chat, and I graciously extricated myself and left. I am sure I could have handled it better in the moment.

Now that bottle of wine is in my office and I am annoyed and not sure about next steps:

1. If he truly felt badly that he sent that email, couldn’t he have just sent another email to me (and my manager) acknowledging he IS aware of the OT rules? Sure, he acknowledged to me he was wrong, but distinctly left the impression with my manager that I hadn’t done my job properly in communicating OT policies to him. A quick email to both of us could have smoothed this over easily and quickly (afterall, 3 hours of OT is not a huge deal – we can get past this.)

2. Can I give the wine back to him, and, if so, can I tell him that giving his manager a gift isn’t the way to smooth things over when you’ve made a mistake?

3. Can I encourage him to not give alcohol or shot glasses to coworkers/managers he doesn’t really know? On his last vacation he bought me a shot glass as a gift. I don’t drink.

Yeah, the idea of a peace offering is weird and unnecessary. It’s within your purview to talk to him about how to handle mistakes, especially ones that he’s cc’ing people on. You could say, “I’m going to give the wine back to you because I don’t drink — but also because this isn’t a situation where you need to make a peace offering. In fact, I will never need a peace offering as your boss! The right way to handle something like this, when you realize you were mistaken about it, is just to acknowledge that — and when you’ve cc’d other people, to include them on that acknowledgement so that everyone is clear on where the situation stands. In this case, I don’t want Jane left with the impression that I didn’t communicate the OT rules to you properly, so I’d appreciate if you’d handle it that way instead.”

I don’t think you need to get into the “don’t give alcohol to people you don’t know well” at this point since it’s not the main thing you want to communicate.

20. Quitting season…

My question is this: can a poorly managed and cash-strapped non-profit with extraordinarily high turnover ever get better? It seems like everyone is leaving their job at the small design college I work for. We had a lot of people leave during the “great resignation” (which is still happening to a certain degree), but lately there have been a lot of senior/executive level staff departures, and also long-term faculty are leaving. Many of the executive staff who are leaving haven’t been working here for that long, and in their short time made a positive noticeable difference to the college. Given my role here, I can buffer myself from a lot of the terribleness (missing budgets, verbal abuse, overwork, unreasonable expectations) but it is getting to the point where so many people are leaving that I can’t keep that buffer up much longer. We have gone through a couple leadership changes of the past seven years and things just stay at varying degrees of terrible. I have never, ever seen high turnover like this, and my colleagues at other colleges seem to be faring slightly better on average.

Stuff like this doesn’t get better unless there’s serious commitment to change at the top, and even then it’s really hard and takes a long time (unless you get someone who comes in and cleans house, and then there’s a long recovery process which is hard in a different way). Assume what you’ve seen is what you’re going to continue to get, and make decisions for yourself accordingly. (Sorry!)

19. Unhappy employee

How can I say (professionally)”if you’re unhappy, quit?”

“I hear you that you’re bothered by X and Y and want to be up-front with you that that stuff isn’t going to change. I understand that means the job might not be the right fit for you and if that’s the case I’ll support you in figuring out what you want to do next. But I want us both to be realistic about the fact that X and Y aren’t going away.”

18. crochet

How’s your crocheting going, and do you have any suggestions for patterns or tutorials you like? (I’m an experienced knitter but new to crochet; I’d categorize myself as a talented beginner.) (Obviously feel free to ignore if this is meant to be work-only.)

I stop doing it for long stretches and then start it up again. Right now I am in a not-doing it period but it’ll return. This is the pattern for my favorite thing I’ve ever made (and it also forces you to learn a ton of stitches).

17. being the boss

What is the most underrated trait of being a good boss?

Off the top of my head … the ability to be straightforward and direct without being a jerk. And the willingness to be straightforward, which is more a rare characteristic than it should be.

And an interest in surrounding yourself with people who are smarter than you are, and an appreciation for them when you do.

16. Menteeship

I have entered into a Mentoring program as a mentee. We schedule a 1 hour call once a month, for 6 months. Communications and efforts should be primarily led by the mentee, so I’ve been assertive and my mentor has been kind and accommodating. We do not work at the same organization or even the same industry and were randomly matched with each other. I’m grateful for the opportunity, but having had our first call recently, I found it difficult to fill the full hour. I came prepared with questions, but we ran out of topics before the end of the session – and that was the first out of six! I’m now at a loss of what else to ask or talk about in future sessions. It may help to note, I’m a little socially awkward and have trouble leading/maintaining/facilitating a conversation. What do I use these meetings to talk about?

Raise this question with your mentor! It’s legitimate to say, “I’m thinking about how best to use this time. What are your thoughts?”

Also, it’s possible this isn’t a great pairing. Outside of your field and randomly matched may or may not be helpful.

15. Semi-Communal Food: Bake More, Care Less?

What are the best polite, professional ways to ensure that semi-communal, non-refrigerated food is seen and available to some but not all staff? I work in staff development, but only work with one particular group of people (think faculty v. staff v. students). I like to bake, and because my office has big windows I will leave baked goods out for my staff to see and enjoy…but sometimes other folks will see it and grab some. This office is meant as a social/meeting spot only for the staff I support, so the baked goods are part of creating a welcoming atmosphere and encouraging them to stop by. I don’t have cupboards here, and since I don’t have food every day I need to ‘advertise’ that it’s there by leaving it in the open. Is there a polite, professional way to ensure that only my supported staff access the food? Is this as simple as putting up a sign that says ‘Tea Mixologist Staff Only’? Or is that too passive aggressive? Should I just bake more (despite the cost) and care less about who stops by to grab food?

You can try the “for X team only” sign. People do that. It’s not inherently rude. It’s not foolproof though; you’ll still get people from other teams who take it because people lose their minds around free food.

Another option is to keep it at your desk and send your team a message telling them to come by and grab some.

14. Question about the magic question

Do you think that, as more people learn about it and use it in their interviews, the magic question is losing/will lose its magic?

It’s possible. But I don’t think my reach is big enough that we’re there.

13. Accurate Media Representation

Is there a particular role or career you think has ever been accurately (and consistently) portrayed in media? Among my friends in a wide variety of professions, someone is snorting about “You would never do that!” or “That’s not how this works! That’s not how any of this works!” in almost every show or movie we watch.

Or perhaps a better question is, is there any particular portrayal of work (or office life) you feel is particularly accurate?

Succession? The way it shows people bending their ethics and integrity around power and money is upsettingly true to life, I think.

12. Should I have told my spouse her employee was job hunting?

My spouse and I work at different institutions, but in equivalent managerial roles. Some time back I received an application for an open position… from one of her employees. She was unaware the employee was job hunting. I did tell her, but I wonder if that was the ethical thing to do.

Knowing my spouse, I assumed she would respond by quietly finding out why the employee was dissatisfied, and attempting to address it, which is what happened. Which wins out though, applicant privacy or spousal privilege?

Applicant privacy. The applicant is supposed to be able to assume confidentiality when they apply for a job at another organization, and the understanding is supposed to be that you won’t share the fact of their application with others without their permission. In reality, though, a lot of people would do what you did.

11. Quit or stay and fight?

I work for a public library service that ticks along quite nicely on the surface but is a raging ball of distinction underneath. When I interviewed for my job (in the lowest rung of management) it was implied that I would have the opportunity to get things done, make changes as needed and generally have some latitude for common sense and autonomy. Instead, there is a multi-layered permission structure, I keep being told I shouldn’t have done specific things (but there’s been no training or documentation on any of this) and am complained at and blamed by my direct reports and others for issues I have no power to change.

So should I give up and move on from the borough or should stay and try to fight for it to become what I was told it would be?

In a government job, it’s very unlikely that you’re going to be successful in changing this. Hell, in a private employer it would be unlikely that you’d be successful in changing this. It’s a bait and switch — you were promised one thing, the reality is different. Assume the job and surrounding conditions that you see now is what you’ll still see a year from now; do you want it under these conditions, not what you were hoping/were told it would be?

10. Company Parties

I skipped my company summer party for many reasons, but after the party HR sent a company-wide message that included “As a reminder, [company] stands for a healthy, safety, drug-free and motivating workplace and wellness among all our employees. Hence, we would like to remind all of you that illegal substances at work and at any time or at parties including drink outs are not allowed.”

I have no idea what happened, but I feel like this message showed poor judgement from HR (as well as whatever employees they are scolding). If it were in association with an *upcoming* event I’d feel it made sense, but the timing just strikes me as strange. Is there a reason to put this on broadcast that I’m missing?

It sounds like something happened at the party and they’re issuing a reminder of the policy to ward off people claiming they were unaware of it in the future. (This is what office gossip is for; ask your coworkers what happened.)

9. Asking coworkers to give me time to mask

I just started my job and the office is usually sparsely filled, so although I wear a mask in common spaces, I take it off when I am at my cube. However, sometimes my coworkers stop by and say hi or ask me questions which leaves me scrambling to put my mask back on. Would it be rude if I posted a sign asking them to knock or announce themselves before popping their head into my cubicle so that I can put on my mask?


8. liked vs. respected

My manager thinks I have to be liked to manage well.  I think being liked is a bonus, and I only need to be respected by my direct reports.  Who is right?

I don’t know that you have to be liked exactly, but you do need to not be disliked. If your manager is concerned that employees don’t like you, that’s a legitimate concern. It means that you’ll have trouble attracting and keeping good employees, people will avoid coming to you for input, you’re likely to find yourself out of the loop, and your staff as a whole isn’t likely to achieve as much.

7. Recruiting Emails

From time to time I will get an email from a placement agency about a job in my field, asking me to share with my network or make recommendations, but never state outright these are targeting me. A friend in the business (education) says that these emails are, in fact, targeting me. Should I take these as general, “out to a network to share” emails, or should I see these as a soft touch to find out if I myself am interested?

Both. They’re assuming you’ll speak up if you yourself are interested, and if not they’ll be happy if you forward it on to others.

6. why (btw, I’m not writing these subject lines — I’m using the ones people enter.)

why do you think so many of your questions and answers boil down to just “use your words”? what is it about our current world/culture/jobs that makes people uneasy in addressing problems head on??

I have so many thoughts on this. I think as a society we’re bad at conflict — lots of people grow up without good models of healthy conflict. They come from families that did conflict badly (yelling, anger) or not at all. So when they imagine having an uncomfortable conversation, they either can’t imagine what it would look like at all (what would they say, what would the other person say, how would it get resolved) or the picture they have in their head is pretty awful (because they grew up seeing conflict done with hostility or where everything had to be a big deal). So people genuinely don’t know what it should look/sound like. It’s not that people don’t know on some level that they’ll probably need to use their words, but they aren’t sure what those words should be.

5. High school – summer jobs vs. ongoing volunteering

Would it be better for a high school teen to get a couple summer jobs, if they can, or to do ongoing volunteering throughout a couple years at the same place — assuming neither option are areas they would want to go into professionally? Does it matter if a parent has to volunteer with the teen for liability reasons (e.g. municipal animal shelter)?

Can they do both? (Not necessarily at the same time.) There’s value in paid employment (aside from the obvious monetary value); employees are often held to different standards than volunteers and it can be useful for teenagers to start to learn about some of the protocols (and irritations) associated with working for pay. But there’s also value in volunteering (with or without a parent). I wouldn’t stress about which will be better for them job-wise at that age — if they’re going to college, employment and internships during college will go on their resume afterwards, but high school stuff won’t. In high school, it’s really about what they themselves will get out of the experience, not about impressing later employers.

4. CEO, C-suites against WFH, Jamie Dimon article

I heard today that Jamie Dimon, CEO of JP Morgan Chase is against WFH and per Fortune article: rips remote work and Zoom as ‘management by Hollywood Squares’ and says returning to the office will aid diversity. Is it me or is he and other men in high level positions out of touch with majority of work force and work/life balance?

It’s not you. Remote work facilitates diversity — think, for example, people with disabilities who are able to work more easily from home. There’s some new data out from Meta (the owner of Facebook and Instagram) showing that after they started offering permanent fully-remote work, the candidates who accepted offers for remote positions were much more likely to be people people of color, women, and people with disabilities. There’s also a bunch of data showing that Black workers want full-time remote work in significantly larger numbers than white workers do (and report working from home subjects them to less discrimination and fewer microaggressions, and means less effort expended on code-switching). Jamie Dimon is wrong.

3. a reasonable WFH to office transition?

I started a job a year ago that was WFH with the understanding that I’d come to the office once it was built (the company decided to move buildings during COVID and had to build offices). I have a friend who works at the company in a different role, not WFH, and she informed me that the offices are done and that she heard the main bosses discussing that they aren’t going to be buying computers for the offices and except us to bring our own personal laptops (my job cannot be done without a computer). This makes me deeply uncomfortable and seems very unreasonable to me.  My boss hasn’t brought up coming to the office yet or the computer issue yet. I’m hoping that this is because she’s pushing back on the no computer thing. Should I bring up what I heard to her along with my concerns? Do I wait for her to bring it up? If she doesn’t mention anything about computers, should I go to the office without my laptop? If she does say I have to bring my laptop, how do I push back on that? If it’s even as unreasonable as it seems to me.

This is a terrible policy — not everyone has laptops, for one thing. And they’re talking about significant wear and tear on your machine. What happens if your laptop breaks and you don’t plan to replace it? Or it’s shipped off for repair for a couple of weeks? And that’s before tackling the security and privacy implications of having your personal computer be your work computer. It’s just a bad, bad plan.

As for what to do, if your boss doesn’t tell you that you’ll need to bring in your own computer and there’s no other announcement about it, you can probably safely assume the friend who told you got it wrong (or plans changed). But you can certainly ask your boss about it and share your concerns — “I heard this is happening and don’t think it will work logistically for me — I’m hoping you’ll tell me it’s not the plan.”

2. Coworker on my Facebook shared private information and now I can’t trust him

I recently had a pet pass away and posted about it on Facebook as it was a deeply personal loss. I have a few coworkers on my account but wasn’t really ready to officially bring my personal problems into work. I had to take a few days off to get my mental health in check, and let my manager know why I would be away. My manager was very understanding and sympathetic. 

When I came back to the office a coworker not on my FB messaged me condolences. I had assumed maybe my manager told staff why I was away, but instead I found out from a different coworker that one of my male coworkers has been telling others about my pet’s passing. The only way he knew was through FB, and we aren’t really close at all.

I know this is a risk of having coworkers on social media, but I’m also deeply upset that this person decided to gossip about a tragedy in my life. I don’t know how to handle this and if I should just delete this coworker. If I do delete them how do I field questions about the deletion without it being awkward at work? Unfortunately we regularly have to work together on projects.

Unless there’s some other reason to think it, I wouldn’t assume your coworker was gossiping about you — I’d assume he was sharing out of sympathy and/or because people were asking about why you were out, and he didn’t know you would object. “Jane’s dog died” isn’t really what people generally think of as gossip — it’s generally just sharing info that’s affecting someone they feel warmly toward, often so people can send extra warmth your way.

If you want to delete him anyway, the easiest/most drama-free way is to block him from seeing your posts without fully unfriending (because he’s much less likely to notice it). But if he does notice and ask you about it, you can always do the “oh, I was cleaning up my Facebook and paring it down to mainly just family and close friends.” But if you can, I would try to reframe his motivations in your head.

I’m sorry about your pet!

1. Threatened by a customer with a weapon

I manage a hotel banquet. Had a Civil War group in. Their AV wasn’t working right, because they didn’t recharge their stuff before coming in. The head of the group grabbed a metal pipe and was threatening me with it, demanding I get the AV working. Since I couldn’t, I chose to walk away.  My GM said that because we need the money, we can’t do anything about what happened, to just suck it up. Is there anything else I can do/my management should do?  I was seriously terrified by this customer swinging a pipe at me.

Someone threatened you with a metal pipe and your manager said nothing could be done about it because they need the money? They should have called the police and kicked the customer out, in whichever order they could most safely do those things … not told you that you need to deal with the threat of physical violence because they want the money. As for what you can do now, you can ask, now that the immediate situation is over and people hopefully have clearer heads, for a safer policy on handling potential violence in the future. And not just ask for that, but push strongly for it (and decide whether you’re willing to stay or not based on their response).

{ 607 comments… read them below }

    1. Irish Teacher*

      This is the first speed round I’ve been present for, so yeah, definitely planning to enjoy.

      1. Bert*

        Re: Insincere apologies not accepted (work friends all disappeared)

        I once saw a speech by an old age carer who said the reason so many people are lonely in retirement is they fail to realise that work mates are work friends and you will be amazed how many of them vanish the moment you stop working.

        In the vast majority of cases these are friendly Work mates, not friends.

      1. Carol the happy elf*

        I get off at 5- this will interfere with dinner, but allow my husband to watch “Forged in Fire” without me griping, or “asking girl-y questions”. (Anything snarky about my demanding that he let me know when he sharpens the kitchen knives, or insisting that if they have plastic handles, the dishwasher gets them sanitized. He hates that.)
        So I’ll be coming to binge.

    2. snowyowl*

      My question wasn’t but I hope yours was! Out of 750 though I suppose the odds were not in my favor.

      I really enjoyed this a lot though and hope you did too!

    3. Irish Teacher*

      Hope it was answered. And hey, even if it wasn’t, it sounds like there’s still a chance.

  1. Con Dar*

    Reminder to self…keep working while you’re refreshing AAM for this glorious event! I’m pumped!

    1. Fran Fine*

      I’m amazed at how many questions get answered during this thing and how Alison somehow finds the time to also interact with people in the comments at the same time.

  2. Baron*

    1: It’s like that old saying – “If you can’t afford to turn down clientele who are threatening your employees with a metal pipe, you can’t afford to run a business.” I am almost sure that is an old saying.

    1. HoHumDrum*

      I know someone who worked at a grocery store early pandemic who was told their job was to make sure customers wear masks. An older woman refused, and punched him (the employee) in the face when he insisted. His manger not only refused to call the cops, but also told HIM to apologize to HER. He quit because if that’s not enough information on how your workplace feels about you then I don’t know what is.

  3. EPLawyer*

    OP threatened — welp your employer told you who they were. BELIEVE THEM. Look for a new job.

    Because this place is not long for any decent sort of business. OTHER customers will find out and not want to be at a place that allows violence.

  4. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Question — is me posting the new questions at the top the easiest way? When you reload, is the page taking you back to the top, or is it taking you to where you left off reading? In other words, should I keep posting new stuff at the top or just add it to the bottom as I go?

    1. Anon all day*

      Top is easiest because I can hit “Home” on my keyboard a lot easier than scrolling down to the exact spot.

    2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

      Add my name to the list of those who want new stuff at the top! Numbering the questions, as you’re doing now, is also a big help.

  5. Rolls@ThePotluck*

    I see the new answers at the top and it’s working well. I think this is better than having to scroll down everytime I refresh.

  6. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    When I saw “Civil War group”, I expected that the employee would be threatened by a muzzle-loading rifle or a bayonet, not a metal pipe.

    1. Falling Diphthong*

      All of the parts of this are oddly mismatched, like Civil War Mad Libs. Surely Civil War re-enactors can improvise in the field when their electronics are uncharged?

    2. KoiFeeder*

      While they may not have had functional muzzleloaders (probably the safest if you’ve got a member with that much aggression), even a reproduction pistol that can’t be used to shoot someone hurts pretty bad if you get smacked with the butt of it.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Ha. This reminds me of the scenes in the movie Tombstone where it’s basically a pistol-whipping montage — like instead of shooting the other guy, the guys just bap them upside the head with the butt of their pistol.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I like the comics/cartoons where the villain shoots at Superman until they are out of ammo, then throw the gun at him. Like, “Sure, you’re bulletproof, but I bet you can’t handle a bit of metal thrown at you!”

          1. Dragon*

            Or the Supergirl episode where the villain tried to punch Superman after shooting him didn’t work.

  7. Warrior Princess Xena*

    I’m a little confused at #3 – does OP mean that they have been working on their own, personal computer, or on a work-provided computer? Because if it’s the former, then in OP’s place my laptop would abruptly “suffer a fatal malfunction” and I would not have enough funds to buy a new one, sorry, because work on a personal computer is a major boundary of mine. But if it’s a work-provided laptop and people are expected to work from the office using said work-provided laptop, that’s a very different setup.

      1. Jo*

        Yes that’s what I assumed. I have to bring my work assigned laptop to the office on work from office days

    1. Can't think of a funny name*

      LOL, guess I was too slow at typing…but glad I’m not the only confused one, haha!

    2. OP3*

      Hi, I’m the OP of #3. I have been doing my WFH job on my personal computer since I started. I never went into my work physically for them to provide me with a computer nor did they send me one. I like your plan as a last resort. I’m fine with using my laptop for work when I’m home personally, but being forced to commute with it is where I draw the line.

      1. Jecarte03*

        Just my two cents, but even in a WFM environment I wouldn’t be comfortable using my personal laptop for work due to both privacy and data security concerns – regardless of what happens with return to work, it’s worthwhile to get off your personal device and in the best interest of the company to facilitate that.

        1. Lenora Rose*

          This. It’s one thing to sign in to your email or a staff portal once in a while on your personal laptop, another thing to be loading all the extra programs with no security.

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I do not know what kind of work you do but strongly, strongly recommend pushing back on the ‘no work computer’ thing, and also back up all of your personal things immediately. Often workplaces will have a clause that they are allowed to inspect and/or wipe any devices with work information on them.

        1. Fran Fine*

          My company does, which is precisely why I save/back up all of my personal documents to my Google Drive account.

      3. A Poster Has No Name*

        Yeah, agree with the others that you should be pushing back now on using your personal computer. Such a bad idea for so very many reasons that have nothing to do with where you physically do your job.

      4. This is Artemesia*

        They should have provided a computer from the beginning and certainly should now. Heck my daughter’s office provided a standing desk at home as well as assorted computer equipment. It is outrageous to expect any worker to use their personal computer for work that requires a computer. The security issues and the threats to your own confidential materials are enormous.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      Except, if she’s already using her own computer for work from home, that boundary is already crossed. I agree – the company should provide the tools needed to do the job, but that’s whether it’s in the office or at home, not just in the office.

      1. Anon all day*

        I am fully remote and use my personal laptop to log in to a remote server. I know it’s not fully logical, but I would NOT like having to bring my laptop in each day. I would either want a desktop at my office or a company laptop I can schlep back and forth (which I wouldn’t mind).

        1. doreen*

          It would be the schlepping that I would object to , no matter who owned the laptop. At some point someone higher up than me in the state agency I worked for decided that everyone at my level had to have a laptop ( so we could change our email password when it expired at 9 pm or on Saturday). When IT (which was a completely separate agency) got the ticket, they said I could only have either a laptop and carry it back and for everyday or a thinclient on my desk but not both. I was fine without a laptop. By the time the fighting ended, I had both.

    4. Person from the Resume*

      I agree. The LW isn’t quite clear but it sounds like employees have been using personal computers to work from home. FYI, LW: That is not standard. Many, probably most, companies provide computers/laptops for WFH employees.

    5. AnotherOne*

      I have a friend whose an attorney who uses their personal computer. Their office uses a VPN so nothing is technically staying on her computer but it’s very much on my list of things I’d never do.

      I don’t do BYOD, at least not for computers.

      1. Warrior Princess Xena*


        Legal, medical, and financial data seem like they’d be top 3 in terms of security concerns, along with govt security clearance things and R&D data.

        I have an authenticator app on my phone so I can log into my work VPN but that’s the extent of BYOD I’m willing to do.

        1. Mid*

          You’d think, but I know way too many lawyers who do exactly this. We can’t convince one of our attorneys to even back up her files. Some day, we’re going to have a massive data breach or a massive file loss, and I will not be sticking around for the aftermath.

    6. Katie*

      It makes my eyes twitch that she has to use her own personal computer for work. I know the company I work for cares about data security a lot more than others but geeze. The amount of viruses/malware this could introduce is tremendous.
      I don’t even have a personal computer/laptop so I am not sure how the company would even deal with me.

    7. Bstar0306*

      This happened to me during COVID. When we shut down I was able to work from home and I was just working on my personal computer. When they reopened they relocated me to a different area and I couldn’t work on the computer I was working on as that was also the server…and it was 100000 degrees in that room. So they told me I could work in this other area on my own computer and it happened so fast and I couldn’t really get out of it but it sucked b/c my laptop was like 12 inches big.

    8. Emma*

      Yep! My employer is currently trialling giving people one laptop to use at home and at work. They’re just looking for volunteers to try it out so far, and when I was asked about it, I just pointed out that I bike to work, and did they really want me risking a company laptop on the altar of taxi drivers checking their mirrors before they turn? (The answer was no)

      Had it been about my own laptop, I’d have taken the matching approach: I’m not risking my own laptop!

  8. Can't think of a funny name*

    I’m confused about the laptop one…what computer is OP currently using? A company-issued laptop? In that case, yes, you would be expected to bring that back and forth, not have a “wfh” computer and an “office” computer.

    1. Anon all day*

      I think it’s relatively common for people working remote (especially in companies that only went remote starting with COVID) to be using their personal laptop at home. That’s what we do, with a remote term server that we log into. But, if I had to bring my personal laptop to work each day, I would definitely push back.

  9. Raw Cookie Dough*

    OP who was threatened with a pipe – you can still call the police! Please do. You don’t need your employer’s permission for that.

  10. I edit everything*

    I feel like if you post something on Facebook, it’s officially out there and open to being talked about and shared with others. Is that just me?

    1. to varying degrees*

      Same. Once I have posted something like this on social media I almost expect it’ll be discussed amongst my friends.

    2. MegPie*

      Not just you. I agree. Having said that, OP2 is obviously grieving and none of us deal with grief 100% appropriately all the time.

    3. Hei Hei, the Chicken from Moana*

      Agreed. But the other answer here is – don’t be friends with your colleagues if you are that private.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yup, the solution to this is to not be friends with any current colleagues on social media. As soon as they leave, or you do, friend as many of you like. But social media + current colleagues = way too much potential for unpleasantness or drama.

      2. I edit everything*

        Right. If you don’t want your colleagues to know something, take the relevant steps. You can make custom groups of FB Friends to see certain posts, for example. Or just don’t friend your coworkers.

      3. Parcae*

        Right, and that’s an important message for the OP: if after thinking about it, they still feel like this was a violation and they don’t want this kind of information spread about them at work, they need to unfriend or block ALL of their colleagues, not just the one who offended in this case. Most people would not consider this to be gossip, so letting any coworkers have access to your Facebook feed is setting yourself up to have something similar happen again.

    4. I'm A Little Teapot*

      Yep. Also, if you want to keep a firewall between home and work, which is fine, then you need to not have coworkers on your personal social media. That person is not being rational from beginning to end here.

    5. fueled by coffee*

      I think the reasonable assumption to make is that social media posts are not going to be kept secret.

      That said, I understand how someone might feel a little peeved at posting something for what they assumed were their friends, and then having someone they are not close with bring it up. But I think the issue is not “my private info was shared” (it’s not private if it’s on FB!) but rather, “my coworkers were talking about me, and that makes me uncomfortable.”

    6. Triplestep*

      Agree. Plus it is so easy to post only to certain groups or people you can just create those lists as soon as you see you’re starting to add people from work, or people you just don’t know that well. It’s on each of us to be cognizant of who can see what we put out there; it’s not the responsibility for the audience we share stuff with to decide if we actually did not want them to know.

    7. LW2*

      Something I didn’t put in the question was that he kept bringing my pet’s death up during team meetings where it was not at all relevant, and trying to redirect the conversation to my pet to ‘share his condolences’, to the point I had to walk away during a meeting because it was too raw and emotional. I understand that FB isn’t private and my dog’s passing would be talked about, but if anyone was going to bring it up I expected it would be from me mentioning it/opening the conversation. But he kept bringing it up repeatedly in meetings wasn’t letting me get my mind off my pups passing which was all I wanted. I didn’t want to fight back tears during work calls with clientele or other staff members. My dog’s passing was also a really traumatic death that I didn’t want to discuss at work.
      At this point I’m taking everyone’s comments that I should just delete the coworkers. I’m not that private, but I don’t want my personal life being brought up during work meetings.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’m sorry, LW2, that’s much worse than it sounded initially. Of course you want to be able to get back to work and attend meetings without someone bringing it up constantly!

      2. KoiFeeder*

        That’s a different kettle of worms entirely. I don’t post emotionally raw things on social media, but I would be very upset if someone who knew a bad thing had happened in my life kept bringing it up in work meetings.

      3. bratschegirl*

        He brings this up in meetings? WTAF? Yeah, that’s bizarre, and I would find it intrusive and upsetting as hell. If you don’t feel comfortable addressing this with him face to face, send him an email: “Stop bringing up Fido’s death at work. I appreciated your condolences the first time you expressed them” (even though you probably didn’t because he was weird about it then too) “but this is my story to tell or not tell when I choose to. Thanks for understanding.”

      4. Books and Cooks*

        Sorry, you said yesterday (in your original question submission) that you didn’t even know he was the person who told people, and that you only found out because another coworker told you that he’s the one who’s been telling people? And that your main concern was that he was “gossiping” about you, not “that he keeps bringing it up in meetings?”

        How does he keep bringing this up in multiple meetings and work calls, but no manager or anyone else has told him to stop? They all watched you get upset and leave the room, even, but he keeps “informing” people of this loss that they’ve heard about several times in meetings already? What does your manager say about this–have you asked her why she doesn’t insist he stop bringing this up at every meeting, repeatedly? Have you asked HIM to stop bringing it up?

        I mean, this is pretty twisted behavior, if he keeps discussing this at work meetings, and I can’t believe some of your coworkers or your manager wouldn’t ask him to stop, especially since you now say the problem is that he’s spending a significant amount of time discussing it directly with you, as opposed to you just finding out from someone else that he told people about it. He’s not “gossiping about you,” he’s using your pet’s death to harass you over and over again during work calls and meetings. This is really bizarre of him! I’d talk to your manager right away–never mind your FB privacy settings, he’s using work time with clients to discuss your tragedy!

        1. LW2*

          I didn’t know initially because I had just gotten to back to work I had the message from a different coworker offering condolences which is why I was confused who told them and asked how they found out, and if my manager was the one to say something. They told me it was him that mentioned it in a meeting.
          During meetings we always have some time to just chit chat while waiting for other members, and he would constantly ask ‘oh how are you holding up over pups passing, I know it’s so hard…’ or “oh how are your other pets holding up”. It wasn’t necessarily something that was malicious and if it wasn’t work I might have been ok, but even saying ‘I’d rather not think about my pup while at work’ would let the conversation stop that meeting, but he seemed to constantly want to ‘check in’ to make sure I was ok. Talking about pets was a common thing since we work from home and during meetings would have cameras on and they would pop up once and awhile.
          After the meeting where I left I think he did get a talking to or realize what he did since it’s been stopped now and he hasn’t brought my pup up since.
          I wrote in without a lot of details because I kind of didn’t think my question would be important enough to be answered, or it would be more of a simple ‘you were right/wrong’, not a bunch of people implying that I shouldn’t be posting stuff to my personal facebook if I have coworkers on it.

    8. lb*

      Yeah, if you’re posting something as a status update on FB or any other social network, I think you have to assume it’s now public information. Even if you lock down pretty tightly who you’re connected to, you can’t control what your friends/family/etc do with that info once they have it. (I also get why someone talking to you about your pet’s death at work might be a little uncomfortable – but it doesn’t feel like deeply private, personal information to me?)

  11. Anon22*

    This was my thought as well. Maybe the friend meant they won’t be providing extra monitors.

  12. Flossie Bobbsey*

    #2. Alison’s answer is spot-on. This does not sound like gossip. I deeply sympathize with OP2 as my pet dying was absolutely awful. But “posted about it on Facebook as it was a deeply personal loss” seems internally contradictory to me. Nothing “deeply personal” that you would be upset about your contacts acknowledging to each other and to your face belongs on Facebook. I can only assume the OP2’s strong reaction here is at least partly affected by grief. I’m sorry for your loss, OP2.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      From LW2’s comment above, it seems as if the coworker wouldn’t stop bringing it up in meetings and such.

      People can also have very different boundaries for work and personal things. I had a health scare at the beginning of the year, and while I told lots of people in my personal life, I only told my manager at work. It was important for me to have a space where people weren’t constantly asking questions or trying to comfort me.

      1. Flossie Bobbsey*

        Yeah, my comment predated LW2’s comment. LW2’s additional details are significant enough that the original question didn’t actually capture the issue at all.

        1. Miss Muffet*

          yeah, it turned out to be a completely different question, it seems. Of course, Allison can only answer what’s written, and the commenters can also only go on the info provided.

  13. JustEm*

    RE #2 – agree with Alison. I wouldn’t think twice about sharing about a coworker’s pet dying with other coworkers in this scenario. (Missing work due to it + shared reason with manager + shared via Facebook such that I was allowed to see it even though we weren’t close). My assumption would be that if they were okay with all their Facebook acquaintances seeing it that they would be okay with other acquaintances knowing about it as well. Honestly this is sometimes seen a positive so that the grieving person doesn’t have to rehash the story, or deal with people cheerily asking about their “vacation” without knowing reason for having been out. (As someone who has lost human relatives, my preference is that acquaintances spread the news to other acquaintances so I don’t have to tell everyone myself).

    1. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, it could have been something as simple as “yeah, we need to postpone today’s meeting as Jane is out.” “Oh, that’s a surprise. Is she sick?” “I saw on fb her pet died, so she’s taking some time to deal with that.” “Oh, how sad! I’ll have to express my condolences when I see her again.”

      I mean if a family member had died it probably wouldn’t have been a secret from the office, and many people who knew would have wanted to express condolences.

    2. Dust Bunny*

      See, i would never, ever do that. I don’t share other people’s news unless they specifically ask me to pass it along–I assume that if they want people to know, they’ll tell them themselves, and also that they know the dynamics of their friendships (FB or otherwise) better than I do.

      1. This is Artemesia*

        A reasonable stance but I would never assume something posted on facebook was not public information. She shared this information in the most public possible way short of a billboard and so of course people share the information. Now constantly bringing it up in a meeting — well that is atrocious judgment.

    3. Heather*

      Yes same here. Something posted on Facebook would never trigger my “Keep this quiet” response. I’d assume she wanted people to know!

    4. Books and Cooks*

      This exactly. If I was the coworker who saw the Facebook post, I’d be thinking, “That’s so sad. I’ll let people know so OP doesn’t have to tell everyone, and so they know not to ask about Doggie or what she did on her days off when she gets back. And it will make her feel good to see how much we all care, too.”

      It would literally never occur to me to see this as, “Ha ha, some gossip I can use! Hey, gang, you know why OP isn’t here? Because her dog died, isn’t that ridiculous? I know, what a sap. I bet she won’t be finished with the Metro file when she gets back, because she’s been too busy /cwy-ing/.” And if anyone gave me this news about a coworker with any hint of that sort of tone, I’d be thinking very poorly of the person doing it.

  14. Camellia*

    Glad to see the answer about the laptop. Right now we all WFH and have company laptops, but at our last Town Hall meeting, they said they were researching ‘remote desktops’. That means you can log in from any computer and magically ‘be at work’ – meaning they expect us to use our personal laptops. And that they are looking at it because they have a lot of old laptops (mine is seven years old) that will need replacing soon, and the remote thingy would be a cost savings to the company.

    I’m immediately against this because I DO NOT USE MY PERSONAL DEVICES FOR WORK, period. I give them no excuse to say they have to wipe my entire phone or laptop. And I was trying to think how to word my objections, so thanks to AAM for giving me a starting point.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      “Sorry, I don’t have a laptop”. Same as not having money for a lunch outing – you may technically have a laptop but it’s not available for work. If they push back against you, say “sorry, don’t have the $ necessary to get a work-capable one”.

      But bear in mind that having remote desktops can also allow for more centralization of work – so if your laptop breaks you’re not stuck having to get the files pulled off of it to work. I’ll cross my fingers for your sake that it’s for option b rather than option a of ‘personal devices now’

    2. AnotherOne*

      ugh, this is making my desire to change jobs harder. my office has a firm new computers every 3 years.

      i’ve never asked why. i think it’s mysterious cuz in what world (unless you are in tech) do you replace your computer every three years? but my office does.

      i’ve heard a rumor that our old laptops are reformatted and made available to low income students at the school, so maybe that’s why. they just always need a new supply for that program and 3 year old laptops are still reasonably new?

      1. Foley*

        At the companies I know that do this, it’s because the computer is leased – which eliminates a whole host of potential tax issues for firms.

        1. Warrior Princess Xena*

          Not necessarily any more – SEC is rolling out new lease regulations that are bringing a lot of things back under the banner of ‘taxable’.

      2. Azure Jane Lunatic*

        If the office is using programs that are updated frequently (web apps, the newest release of program X, and especially high-performance apps like image editors or browsers with more than 10-20 tabs open at one time, the demands of the programs as they get upgraded will require more and more computer resources. 3-4 years behind the office standard is where older machines start to perform noticeably more slowly. Not because the machine has gotten worse, but because tech keeps assuming that everyone has a new or nearly-new computer, and the workplace doesn’t want to waste your time on a slow computer.

        1. Fran Fine*

          This was how it was explained to me as well. My work laptop I was given when I first started here a little over three years ago (as a fully remote employee) didn’t even make it a full three years when the battery died, and it was brand new when I got it, so companies are also making laptops on the cheap (probably) with the intention of forcing companies to have to upgrade regularly.

      3. Bstar0306*

        my company has the same new computer every 3 years thing too. My sister thinks bc that is when the warranty ends. Because her work has a similar rule.

      4. fhqwhgads*

        Where I’ve worked, the warranty is for 3 years. They don’t want to have any machines in use that are out of warranty. That’s why the cycle is what it is.

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

      Yes, absolutely, but my first thought is “banking” has always been slow to adopt new ideas. My dad spent his career first with Security Pacific and then BofA and based on what he’s always talked about, the banking world seems to exist inside a time wormhole that’s stuck 20 years prior to today’s date.

      1. Grilledcheeser*

        Yup, worked for a bank and we didn’t have company-provided email until 2001. Don’t even get me started about security/privacy issues before the SOX/GLBA legislation came into play!

      2. Snow Globe*

        I work for a large bank and have been fully remote for about 6 years, and I had coworkers who were fully remote long before that. Damon’s just an ass.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*


      I keep reading these craptastic hot takes from prominent CEOs, and I wonder why they think the rank and file give two hoots or half a damn what they think. Sure, I get it, it strokes their ego to force people to drag their butts in to an office to do work that can be done remotely, because that demonstrates their power over people’s lives. But in practice, knowledge workers especially do worse in the cheaply designed and built open plans that these CEO geniuses tell themselves that workers ought to love. The amount of self delusion that these C-suite people engage in is unreal.

      I have seen surveys where I know the workers I talked to mostly said they hated open plan, but the execs decided to discount those results and say everyone loves it (gaslighting turned up to 11).

      Do some people like/need to work in an office, even an open plan? Yes. Extroverts, people with no space to WFH, people with a bad home life, gossips and slackers love open plans for various reasons. But it isn’t everybody, and is definitely not most people in the knowledge work fields.

      It used to be that extroverts and control freaks made all the rules. Now that has changed, because people have shown that are other perfectly effective ways to do things. If C-suite types and managers are stuck on the in-office thing, they are in for a very rude awakening, because the top people won’t put up with being jerked around when they just rattle their network and have a new job in a month.

      IMO, if managers can’t manage for results and use “butts in seats” as a proxy for results, they should not be managers any longer.

      On a personal note, I am much better off working remotely, because then my (up to) seven trips to the bathroom a day with IBS are not nearly so disruptive.

      1. 2 Cents*

        As someone with an invisible disability who works in a digital field, I’ve never understood the obsession of being in the office…so I can wear earbuds all day to tune out annoyances. Add in the commute and it drained me. I don’t mind going for the occasional in person meeting but to just have me show up so you can walk around and see everyone wishing they were home working is not true leadership.

    3. lyonite*

      This is the second time in a week I have encountered white guys claiming that a thing that benefits them shouldn’t change because of “diversity” and I remain unimpressed.

  15. JMac*

    Being mad that people know about something you posted on social media is very silly. If it’s that big a secret, don’t share it

  16. KayKay*

    For LW 3 – is this actually your personal laptop or a work laptop?

    At my job we have a work-provided laptop we are expected to carry with us between home and the office for hybrid work. When we are in the office, each desk is setup with a workstation (external monitor, keyboard, and mouse) that we just hook our laptops up to. It’s an okay system IMO.

    1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*


      Although we worked from home during the bulk of the pandemic on our own devices. The state didn’t issue laptops until we were in for at least 2 days a week.

      And now that we finally have secure wifi in the building, we can carry our own laptops to meet with customers in dedicated public spaces without bringing them back to the cubicle farm. (Still mostly providing services remotely). It’s doing the trick for now.

  17. Falling Diphthong*

    … Has Jamie Dimon ever used Zoom, or just seen a Tiktok about it?

    Because the “management by Hollywood Squares” thing is really odd. You don’t win a prize for aligning everyone on MetaData Analysis into a diagonal line across your screen. If he had a team at the Antarctic research station, would he manage them solely by phone? By putting them into little bubbles that float around the screen?

    … Also the people on Hollywood Squares knew where they were in relation to everyone else in the meeting/game, so all the body language like “two people look at Gladys, and then other people look at Gladys” actually worked.

  18. Baron*

    8: absolutely no rudeness intended to the OP, but a lot of the time, people who think they’re respected but not liked are actually not respected, either. If someone acts like they respect you but don’t like you, it’s often that they’re afraid of your power over them. They “respect” that you can fire them. What you need is for them to respect you as a person.

    1. Anon all day*

      YUP. Or even if I’m not “afraid” of them, I’m going to be perfectly polite to give them no ammo against me, but I’m not going to respect them as a manager, and I’m not going to have much loyalty to them/go out of my way.

    2. one L lana*

      yeah, I feel like my answer to the question in 8 really depends on what the person’s fears are.

      managers who are too worried about being liked (hi, that’s me) should probably focus more on being respected — ie, it’s more important to focus on making the right decisions than on never making anyone mad. everyone gets annoyed at their boss in the moment, but those moments don’t matter as much if they feel their overall trajectory and work is good.

      managers who are too worried about being respected should probably worry a little more about being liked — being obsessed with “respect” is usually a byword for actually just caring about power.

    3. Smithy*

      Agree with this.

      Lots of people “like” managers who they wouldn’t necessarily be friends with, but they like – aka respect – how they are as a manager. This may feel like a case of semantics, but broadly speaking I think it may also be hindering the OP’s conversations with their boss about what the actual issues are at hand.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      Yeah, I said below that my response is probably affected by being a teacher where….well, teachers who insist they want to be respected rather than liked often mean they want to be feared.

      It might be a difference in language between the LW and their manager though if the manager is interpreting it as we are and the LW is interpreting liked to mean “person I’d love to be BFFs with if they weren’t my manager” and liked to mean “person I really want as a manager because they are so good at their job, approachable and clear when giving instructions and I learn a lot from them.”

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’ve also had teachers who wanted to be liked so much that I lost respect for them because they didn’t have good boundaries. I was always creeped out by teachers who wanted to act as if we were friends.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Oh, yeah, I had a high school teacher who wanted to be “the cool teacher” but took his ideas of coolness from weird high school dramas, so he ended up just being constantly sarcastic and casually cruel. Nobody thought he was cool. It was such a “hello fellow teens” thing, I’d totally forgotten about him because he basically had no personality outside of that.

          On the other hand, I’ve had teachers who worked very hard to make the student body fear them, and all of them were worse in every way than Posy McPoserface.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          Oh yes, definitely. I had a teacher who started telling us about how she hoped she wasn’t talking in her sleep because she was dreaming of an ex-boyfriend and she didn’t want her husband knowing what they were doing in her dream and who brought in her wedding photos (from ten years earlier, so this wasn’t a “just got married and really excited” thing) because it would really annoy her husband and weirdest of all, took my sister and some of her classmates to the teacher’s HOUSE during classtime (and told them all to return by different gates so the principal wouldn’t find out).

          A middle ground is definitely the thing and I think good teachers DO put being respected in the sense of being the adult in the room that students can trust before being liked (punishing a bully might get you disliked but it is necessary to protect those being bullied). The teacher who acts like one of the students and doesn’t exert any authority and the teacher who makes no allowances whatsoever and has students afraid of going in to their class are both…not ideal.

          But in my experience when teachers talk about how they don’t care if students like they so long as they respect them, they tend not to mean “I’m not here to make friends, but to support my students to succeed and sometimes that means making them do things they don’t want to,” perhaps because that shouldn’t need to be said? It’s usually that one teacher who clearly means it as “I want them to be terrified of me and if they hate me so what?”

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I definitely pictured a tv character recently intoning “I rule by fear.” (Possibly Diane on The Outlaws?)

      Respecting someone’s skill, judgment, fairness, etc is different from respecting their ability to hurt you.

    6. Dust Bunny*


      My supervisor and I will never be after-hours friends (probably) because we don’t have that much in common but I generally like her and definitely respect her. I’ve had managers in the past whom I “liked” as in “they don’t make working here a living Hell”, but it was definitely relative–I didn’t like like them. I pretty much like like my current one even if we would never be close (even if she wasn’t my supervisor).

    7. Snow Globe*

      When I think of the best bosses I’ve had over the years, the ones who taught me a lot and fully supported me in my career, you know what? I really liked (and respected) all of them.

    8. lyonite*

      On the flip side, I have worked for at least one manager whose first priority was to be friends with his reports, and it did not create a healthy working environment. Ultimately, I think it comes down to what you mean by “liked”–I really like my current boss (and respect her), but we aren’t great buddies and we’re hardly going to hang out outside of work.

  19. Three Cheers for Root Beers*

    2 – It’s interesting, I was the opposite when my pet passed away in June. I just kind of hoped my coworkers would all find out, either by seeing my posts or my team and/or manager telling people why I was out, instead of me having to talk about it. (Of course I did not “have to” say anything, but I’m lucky enough to be in a tight-knit and caring office where my dog’s absence in my life would definitely be noticed at some point.) But I did once have a coworker complain to management after seeing me on FB excited about getting a raise (“why didn’t I get a raise?”) which really soured my excitement about my stellar performance review. I

    1. Three Cheers for Root Beers*

      Oops, hit send too soon. Should have said, “I learned my lesson about what I share”!

  20. to varying degrees*

    #10. Oh yeah something happened all right. Find out what it is and come report back. :)

    1. EPLawyer*

      Yeah I was totally expecting a “You know we spend a lot of time and effort on these things, if you don’t plan on showing up, at least let us know.” Not “don’t do drugs at company parties, okay?” Seriously. Even in 2022 that is NOT a good idea. Even if marijuana is legal in your state. Getting impaired at company parties is never a good idea.

      1. OP #10*

        Right? Just like, basic professionalism to at least move anything that would result in that email to an afterparty.

    2. A. Tisket & A. Tasket, LLC*

      #10: You described your workplace as a “ball of distinction”, but it doesn’t sound very distinguished (in the positive sense!) to me. Frankly, it sounds more like a ball of dysfunction – and it doesn’t sound as if it’s going to get any better. Get out as soon as you can; AAM columns often stress the danger of starting to mentally normalize a totally toxic employment situation (to the point where you start to take abuse and mistreatment for granted as “normal for here.”)

      1. Fran Fine*

        I think OP did in fact mean “dysfunction” and “distinction” was a typo, though I could be wrong.

    3. AnotherOne*

      please share. we’d all like to know now cuz HR can’t send an email like that out without telling…

      it’s again the laws of the universe or something, i’m pretty sure.

    4. OP #10*

      I am mostly WFH and no one I work with directly went (one of the reasons I skipped)! Headed to the office Monday, maybe I’ll find the gossip there…

  21. Baron*

    #10: don’t worry, you may not know what’s going on right now, but I’m sure your boss will confront you by next week.

      1. Sherm*

        There’s a classic letter where the OP left a holiday party early, then later learned through an email from the boss that the party went thoroughly off the rails afterward. The boss was angry and embarrassed and threatened that he would confront employees by Wednesday of that week if they didn’t deliver their apologies.

  22. Odyssea*

    Re no. 5, I would say if your child is looking into college, particularly selective colleges, consistent volunteering is going to be the best bet in terms of looking better on a college application, mainly because it shows consistency without a financial reward and altruism. I do agree with Alison that working can be beneficial, the main problem there is that the kinds of jobs high school students get don’t usually allow students to show the qualities that colleges are looking for (since they’re often retail, fast food or waitstaff). I’m not assigning a value judgement to either, just letting you know that the volunteering I did in high school was brought up in all of my college interviews.

    1. Malarkey01*

      This is the opposite of what we are hearing from selective colleges. We’ve heard from multiple college recruiters that they are valuing jobs over volunteering. For one thing, many kids don’t have the luxury of volunteering over working and schools, but it also does what Alison says and shows you can work with adults and in environments that have an expectation of results and a bit more “rules” or “structure” than volunteering which is many times just grateful people show up. That can be a little different if you had significant leadership or project roles (like I developed the program at the food bank to provide healthy cooking information to patrons or I created the daycare program used for patrons of our addict support groups for example).
      Mileage might vary on colleges but this is what we’re consistently hearing right now.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        That’s what I heard consistently when my kids were applying. Admissions were very aware that the ability to write “attended special two-week leadership conference” means you have parents who can write a check for that conference. Paying a ton to travel to an exotic destination to spend two weeks volunteering got especially eye-rolly.

        Also frankly I don’t see volunteering in high school as altruism. It’s “knowing the system and so having a thing to write on the application about your volunteering.” It reflects a certain level of discipline and ability to plan long-term (which are valuable), as does making sure you take enough credits to graduate. My kids’ HS had a certain number of hours volunteering as a graduation requirement, and so they knocked down those hours, but it wasn’t altruistic.

        Doing it without financial reward just means your family gives you enough money that you don’t have to work for pay.

        1. AnotherOne*

          yeah, I imagine there might be value if you have a long term volunteer position (like you volunteer weekly during the school year at a local food bank all thru high school with increased responsibility over those 4 years, like an adult volunteer.) and volunteering like that wouldn’t prohibit a summer job- or even a school year job, if necessary.

          But that’s totally different than going to Costa Rica and volunteering to build houses over your junior summer.

          Is it a great thing to do? Sure mostly it tells a school that your family can afford to send you to Costa Rica for the summer.

          (I should also admit to being biased. I had a long-term volunteer position in high school at my local library. Every Wednesday during the school year. With extra days in the summer until I went to camp.)

        2. MigraineMonth*

          I attended a week-long Leadership conference in Washington, D.C. and it was a very valuable learning experience. First, I learned that I never wanted to be a politician. Second, I learned that “only emergency vehicles allowed on the road” rules should have exemptions for pizza delivery vehicles, because without them we all would have starved during the blizzard.

        3. Jackalope*

          That seems… cynical to me. I mean, I’m sure there are teens who volunteer because they see it as a notch on their belts for college applications, or a way to fulfill the volunteer requirement for graduation. But I also remember as a teen volunteering because I was passionate about things and wanted to make a difference with my life in areas I cared about. And as an adult who has worked with volunteering teens (both as a co-volunteer and as someone working for the nonprofit they were volunteering for), that was generally the vibe I got from them as well. They were trying to be generous and do things that mattered.

          Now is this going to be related to family financial status? To a certain extent, yes. It’s easier to do a lot of things if your family has more money. But having watched, for example, middle schoolers devote hours of their lives each week for a tutoring program with elementary students, it’s sometimes teens that are too young to work anyway (or can’t work for other reasons, like lack of access to transportation).

          1. Irish Teacher*

            I even think things like the middle schoolers who give hours each week to a tutoring progamme CAN be related to privilege though. Not always, but the people chosen to do such things are often chosen by teachers or other adults and while it can be simply who is most trusted and reliable, it can also be “the teacher’s friend told them Molly is really, really excited about the idea of doing this” or the pushy parent who goes in to the principal and INSISTS her son be included. Or it can rely on having parents who are available to drive the kid to the programme if it takes place at the weekends or something.

            And sometimes schools in upper-middle class areas are inclined to offer more options like that than schools in so-called “deprived” areas. There are all kinds of reasons for this.

            Now, Ireland is VERY different from the US here, because entry to college is entirely on your Leaving Cert. results and nobody is even going to hear if you have worked or done any voluntry work or anything like that, much less care. And I definitely know plenty of teens who take part in all kinds of voluntary activities even though they gain nothing for it, but…opportunities differ HUGELY depending on school. School size is probably the biggest thing. A school with 1,000 students will often offer more opportunities for voluntry activities than a school with 250 students. Also there tend to be more opportunities in cities than in small towns (say towns with a population of less than 1,000 or 2,000 people).

            Also parents. If parents are involved in volunteering or have contacts who are, the kid is likely to have more opportunities than if they have a parent who is like “why would you want to do that anyway? It’s not like they’re going to pay you!” And that doesn’t even get into kids who have huge levels of responsibility in the home, so they may have to collect younger siblings from school and take care of them because mum and dad are drunk or kids with learning difficulties who may be spending hours each evening on homework and extra tutoring because they are struggling so much.

            So yeah, I do think kids who give up their time to help others deserve praise for it and I doubt they are all doing it solely for their college applications (especially the middle schoolers) or because Mammy or Daddy made them, but…I also think opportunities for volunteering are going to differ hugely amount preteens and teenagers who often have limited control over their own lives.

            I remember when I was in 6th class (11/12 years old), we had “jobs”. Pretty much everybody volunteered for those on offer, the one I wanted to do was supervising the 1st and 2nd class children (6-8 year olds) while their teachers had a break, but only 3 or 4 people were chosen. They probably were the right choices, I’m not saying otherwise, just that there were at least 25 people in the class who wanted to do it (which is interesting as it meant giving up part of your lunch break) but most were not chosen.

            1. Jackalope*

              I agree that all sorts of factors play into what kids and teens are able to volunteer and where. My response was more to the cynicism in saying that teens volunteering isn’t altruism but rather just “knowing the system”. Teens are often full of passion and enthusiasm for making a difference in the world, and they volunteer for a lot of good reasons (and sometimes yes, less altruistic motives as well). I’ve also known teens from low-income families who volunteered because they too can be passionate about making a difference. (I have even known teens who spent summers volunteering abroad even though they were low-income because people around them sponsored and supported them.)

      2. Warrior Princess Xena*

        I’d imagine that a lot of it would come down to the difference between “volunteered in Baja Mexico for a week to support our mission abroad” and “volunteered with our local program to help do taxes and budgeting for low-income folks regularly over the last 3 years, doing bookkeeping work X”. Or even in the case of the former, “volunteered by passing out postcards” vs “worked as the onsite manager and led a team of unexperienced people in building a durable house, starting from the concrete slab and working up to the roof, while researching local building codes and keeping the project on track”.

    2. one L lana*

      This was seen as true when I went to college, at least in the folk wisdom of upper middle class parents, but I really hope it no longer is. For one thing, it’s incredibly classist. And whether or not colleges agree, I think the experiences you get showing up at a low-wage job every day — where you have to be on time, do things you don’t want to do, and get along with people different than you, day in and day out, plus an appreciation of not having to do that kind of work forever — are much more important than you get from volunteering. I’m not knocking volunteering; volunteers can do a lot of good, but ultimately, you’re doing THEM a favor.

      I also think it’s unlikely that volunteering vs. working will make or break a college application. Alumni interviews count for very little, and alumni interviewers (I’ve done it) ask about volunteering for the same reason they do all kinds of non-academic work — it’s easier to make small talk about it. I too would rather talk about playing the trombone or tutoring elementary school kids than the Honors English 12 curriculum.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I think there’s especially an emphasis on being able to speak well about what you learned from anything–volunteering for a political cause or invasive plant cleanup; babysitting the kids next door or working at the local ice cream stand.

        I’d interpret the questions to Odyssea as less “We love that you are so altruistic” and more “So talk about these experiences, in depth, and how they helped you develop as a person.” Probing for “I dunno, my mum made me.”

      2. fueled by coffee*

        Yeah, I don’t work formally in college admissions, but I do alumni interviewing for my alma mater, and I treat summer jobs fairly similarly to volunteering. If anything, most volunteering that high school age kids do is mandated community service hours for school. I definitely think it shows character if a kid, say, took the initiative to organize a food drive at school or has had a long, consistent commitment to a particular cause (like, say, weekly volunteering at the food bank for several years), but I don’t see much difference between a summer spent re-shelving library books as a volunteer and one spent bussing tables as an employee. Both involve showing up on time, doing your job, and being professional about interactions with the public.

        And like Falling Diphthong says above, while I certainly don’t penalize students for it, that “weeklong mission trip to dig wells in some ~exotic~ country” reads to me purely as having the funds to travel. It’s wonderful if voluntourism experiences open up a teen’s eyes to social issues in the world, but not everyone has access to those kinds of opportunities.

        Also, I think that what OP noted about occasionally needing a parent present at volunteer opportunities is really relevant here! As a high school student, I found it fairly difficult to find volunteer options that would accept an unsupervised teen as a volunteer, especially when I was younger than 16 or so (for comparison, you could hold a job with some restrictions on hours at 14 in my state) – and my parents had their own jobs and responsibilities. Even if someone is from an affluent enough family to not *need* to work a summer/part-time job (like I was!), volunteer opportunities are still fairly difficult to come by.

    3. Kate*

      Hi – I have a 12th grader and it’s actually the opposite. Admission officers do appreciate volunteering, but they also can read between the lines and surmise things such as: the kid who takes a trip abroad every summer to volunteer but doesn’t have any paid work experience, is probably a kid who comes from a very privileged background.

      Other tells are kids who attend fancy camps across the country from where they live – things like a 3 week robotics camp, future leaders at the UN , kids who are equestrians, etc.

      Colleges will expect that kids with those backgrounds should have e.g. higher SAT/ACT scores (because these types of families pay for prep classes), higher GPAs, and the like.

      And they’re not wrong!

  23. Baron*

    #11: librarian here. Sorry you’re going through this. Library school pumps us full of idealism about how we’ll be able to fix broken systems, and…nope. I’ve been at the highest echelons of managing big systems, and even when you’re in charge, there’s always some issue that’s above your paygrade – either with the funders, with the municipality, etc. From a junior management position, you won’t be able to make huge changes to the system. But you absolutely will be able to make huge differences in the lives of your patrons, even if the system is bananas. Absolutely. Never give up believing in that.

    1. Critical Rolls*

      And you can make a difference for you direct reports. Give them some time to trust you and witness that you are doing what you can. Be honest with them — “Based on our conversation, I am going to ask for X, but I can’t guarantee it will be approved.” Feeling seen and supported by your boss can make a big difference when you work in a ball of distinction. : )

      1. Jasmine*

        Thanks! Yeah, I’m trying to be helpful but honest my reports and it does seem to be appreciated by some.

        Also, no idea why my phone changed “ball of disfunction” to “ball of distinction”.

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      Yes! I had the same thought. Such a great thought experiment. I used it when leaving a job I really enjoyed. I knew The Problem would still be affecting my job at least 6 months down the road, and I wasn’t willing to stick around that long because I had already endured ~2 years of it.

    2. Jasmine*

      Ooh, I didn’t know the Sheelzebub principle, but I do love a big of Captain Awkward. Something to mull over, definitely.

  24. Irish Teacher*

    #8, I think a lot depends on what one means by liked and respected. I am looking at this from a teaching perspective where a lot of people start out thinking that being liked is almost a bad thing, that it means the students think you are a pushover and that they should be scared of us. At least at second level, that doesn’t work and I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work with adults.

    Now, if you mean “it doesn’t matter if I’m not somebody they’d choose to hang out socially with so long as they recognise that I’m fair and approachable and feel I do a good job,” then yeah, I’d agree with that. I may be biased here from my own role because I know teachers who say stuff like “they don’t have to like me so long as they respect me” and those teachers usually don’t mean the above; they mean “I don’t care if they like me or not so long as they are too scared of me to express any disagreements they may have.”

    #4, I cannot see how returning to the office would increase diversity. It seems the opposite to me. As Alison said, working from home would be easier for people with certain disabilities and it may also be easier for people like parents of young children or carers for elderly relatives who may find it easier to work say longer hours on a Monday when partner is off work and can take the kids or when it’s sibling’s day to care for mom and then finish early on Tuesday and be there when the kids come home or go over to check on mom.

    It could even allow people to work from greater distances, which would mean a company in an upper-middle class area might be able to employ more people from areas where housing is cheaper.

    I guess people have different living situations, so some might find it easier than others to work from home, but…giving people more choice should surely increase diversity.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      The only thought I’d have is that not all places have equally good internet, so people who are living further in the country might not be able to WFH. But as far as I know lack of reach of wifi doesn’t correlate particularly with a specific group. And even if that were the case, a lack of diversity from lack of access to wifi would probably have far less of an impact compared to opening up the workforce to the groups you’ve mentioned.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        I live in freakin’ Silicon Valley and we found out during the pandemic that the redlined areas of San Jose (10th largest city in US and calls itself the “capital of Silicon Valley”) didn’t have broadband. The schools went online and whole neighborhoods couldn’t do it. So it isn’t necessarily an urban/rural/coastal/midwest thing.

      2. Eater of Hotdish (fka jitm)*

        It’s interesting. The place where I’m currently living–a town of under 400 people in a region better known for bison than humans–has the best internet I’ve ever enjoyed in my life, enabling my spouse to WFH easily so I could take a community-oriented job here. Large-scale agriculture these days demands a level of tech that just wasn’t available when we were living in an impoverished urban neighborhood a few years ago. Access comes down to where the money is, in the end…

    2. Parcae*

      Yes, it seems obvious to me that remote work is more inclusive of people with disabilities. It also benefiting Black folks did not occur to me, but it makes sense with Alison’s explanation. I can see some arguments in the reverse– a fully remote company might exclude those who live in places with poor internet or who don’t have extra space to devote to a home office– but the solution for that is not to drag *everybody* back into the office, but to provide the *option* of employer-provided office space, in either a central location or a co-working space near where the employee lives.

    3. OP#4*

      I totally agree. I was gobsmacked when I heard about what he said. I feel like privilege & most of C-suites are older, white men is the issue. At my old job, head of our department, older white man was against WFH & you’re only working if your butt was in your office chair at office. He hated WFH & tried to get whole department to come back when offices first started opening. Luckily my old company wouldn’t allow him to enforce his own rules.

  25. Nick*

    #2 – “I recently had a pet pass away and posted about it on Facebook as it was a deeply personal loss.” You can’t have it both ways, you can’t make something public and then get mad that your business is publicly known. Nothing “deeply personal” should go on social media. And I agree with Alison, that is a pretty bold assumption that they are gossiping instead of commiserating and sympathizing.

    1. Tuesday*

      I thought this too. If someone was posting on Facebook about it, I would assume it was okay to talk about. Not in a gossipy way, but in a “where is Jane?” “oh, her dog passed so she’s taking some personal time” way.

  26. WavyGravy*

    Re 13/accurate media rep:
    Veep. Though maybe they were more moral than the current political landscape

    1. BPT*

      I also thought that parts of Parks & Rec were accurate, especially the parts dealing with the public and Town Hall meetings. Quite a bit was exaggerated of course, but those aspects were pretty spot on.

      1. Gracely*

        My brother said he had to stop watching Parks & Rec because those parts–especially the Town Halls–were entirely too real for him to enjoy it (he’s on his city’s city council).

    2. Snow Globe*

      I also thought of Veep, although I’m guessing in real life the swearing and insults aren’t quite so…colorful.

  27. Anon all day*

    #15 – We would often get emails from the supervisor in my department that different types of treats were at her desk, and to stop by and grab stuff.

    1. Saberise*

      My first thought is she could have something else she puts in the window to signal there are treats and not put the treats up there themselves. And let the people that need to know, know.

      1. LW#15*

        That’s a great idea–my office is kind of a fishbowl, so I could make a generic ‘Hey Staff X–Come in for baked treats’ and use that whenever I bring anything in.

    2. JustaTech*

      That’s how our director does it, though he does it because his office is on a different floor and none of us go up there regularly.

      If it was just one person from another department taking too many treats then it might just be easier to talk to that person directly. There was a guy in my group years ago who would be the first person to show up if anyone brought brownies and he would take a full quarter of a pan for himself (so like 4-6 regular pieces), and would be back in an hour for another quarter. My officemate and I had to have a very direct conversation with him “Vinny, you do not get to cut your own piece, you do not get to take more than one piece until everyone else has had one *and* is it after 2pm. You may not hog the sweets.”.

  28. Jora Malli*

    For number 8, I don’t think you necessarily need to be liked, but being trusted is more important than being respected. Even if your employees don’t want to get a beer with you after work, they have to believe you have their back and will escalate their concerns when necessary.

  29. Sally*

    RE: #14 – I don’t think the “magic question” will ever lose its effectiveness because it’s a great question! I’m just sorry I couldn’t use it in my last two job searches because I was the first person in my role at those companies.

    1. Be kind, rewind*

      Agreed. It’s always possible to ask variations of that question depending on the role, so it keeps it fresh.

    2. Sit down John, sit down!*

      The magic question isn’t only magic because it impresses interviewers, but because the answer reveals so much to the interviewee about the position. I didn’t understand that until I used it for the first time in an interview earlier this year and it was really helpful in learning more about the position. That’s why it will never lose its magic.

  30. Triplestep*

    #9 I agree it’s not rude to ask people to give you time to put on your mask, but you can also use the time you’d be asking to simply don the mask. The act of putting on a mask tells people you want to be masked when you talk to them, and likely that you want to be at a distance. Plus you’ll only have to do this a few times before they’ll figure out you want to be masked when you’re around people. I’m not big on communicating via subtle message, so if they don’t catch on, than certainly tell them. It’s not rude … I just don’t think you need to go trough the formality of articulating what you want here. You can model it.

    1. Anon all day*

      I think the point of a sign is so that the visitor stays a distance away until OP has time to put the mask on. If the only warning OP gets is the visitor already in their cube, more or less, there’s more exposure.

      1. Triplestep*

        Unless that other person is breathing in their face for 15 minutes before they can don their mask, it’s not an issue (according to the CDC). Unless the LW is not vaxed/boosted, which I tend to doubt since they are back in the office and obviously careful.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          That “15 minutes of exposure” was true for Original COVID and versions through delta… but omicron is “as contagious as measles” so just an elevator ride is sufficient. I don’t want to F around and find out if “just having an unmasked chat in my cubicle” is sufficient too. (Currently I’m dealing with the owner of the building saying I am not permitted to require repair techs to wear masks in my business, which has zero foot traffic, because allegedly the County said it’s illegal. I guess nothing will get repaired until I sort that out.)

      2. I watered your plants while you had covid*

        I have this problem at my workplace basically daily. My coworkers are fully aware I prefer to be masked. I don’t require them to mask (I’m the only employee still masking) but they just walk in and don’t pause for me to put my mask on. Its on a lanyard so its not like I’m digging around my desk looking for it.

  31. Amber Rose*

    #9: I did this for two weeks after I had Covid because I was so afraid of getting anyone else sick, negative test or not.

    Everyone paused outside my door, then knocked, then waited until I put my mask on and waved them in. There were a couple of “how come?” type questions but absolutely zero drama.

  32. Ellen N.*

    Original Poster #2

    It’s unusual to consider a death of someone close to one (human or animal) to be a secret.

    As you shared the information on Facebook, it is understandable that your coworker told other coworkers. Most people share life events on Facebook because they want attention in the form of sympathy or congratulations, whichever is appropriate to the situation.

    In fact, there have been many people who asked on Ask A Manager why their coworkers didn’t console them over a loss or congratulate them over a positive event.

  33. Baron*

    #16 – well, this is odd, unless you’ve left out some details of the mentoring program that makes it seem like this mentor would be a good fit for you. Of course someone randomly chosen from outside your industry won’t be a great mentor, unless you’re looking at basic stuff like professional norms.

    1. Antilles*

      Yeah, I don’t really understand #16 at all.
      What is the point of a mentor who’s not in your field (or at least a related field) and who you apparently have nothing in common with? Just doesn’t seem like you’re going to get all that much out of the relationship – especially if we’re talking about trying to meet for an hour every single month.
      Occasionally there are times when a completely outside perspective can be useful; that’s basically what AAM is after all. But that doesn’t seem like enough to fill one hour per month, every month.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        I had that problem with the SCORE (Service Corps of Retired Executives) mentor program: their mentors had absolutely nothing relevant to say to a sole proprietor artist. On the other hand, NorCal PTAC (uh, forgot the acronym but they help small businesses work with the government and other subcontractors) found me a mentor who used to have a snack cake business and sold to the kinds of businesses who would be my potential customers.

      2. JustaTech*

        I’ve had two mentors and a mentee through my work’s women’s Employee Resource Group and it’s been pretty hit-or-miss about how useful the mentoring has been.
        One of my mentors I asked to be re-assigned from because we really weren’t clicking (she was treating me more like a report than a mentee, even though I was basically the same rank as her), and then she suggested some books that got my dander up and made me question her judgement.
        My second mentor has been more helpful (and we just mesh better personality wise), but she’s also really good about having a specific agenda.
        My mentee hasn’t been able to make a lot of our meetings, and I’m not sure that I’m helpful to her – like I can give her advice about work and how to grow some, but nothing really specific or actionable.

        And those are all people who work in the same company!

    1. to varying degrees*

      I’m reading from context as a work-sponsored/sanctioned happy hour of sorts. But that’s just a guess.

    2. OP #10*

      I also have no idea! Briefly contemplated the hilarity of asking for clarification (“Excuse me, can you tell me precisely what a drink out is so I can be responsible at the next company party?”). For context, our working language is English but my company is in Germany and so odd phrases pop up for all sorts of multi-lingual and non-native speaking reasons.

      1. Hlao-roo*

        Ah, with the multiple-language information, I think to varying degrees’s guess is likely correct that “drink outs” is a slightly mangled version of “going out for drinks” or a work sponsored happy-hour.

        Thanks for coming back with a few more details, and I hope to (eventually) hear what went down!

  34. Slap Bet Commissioner*

    #13- I cannot speak to this with any personal experience, but I have multiple friends who have worked back of house at a restaurant and say the new series “The Bear” is the closest they have ever seen a series or movie get to actual kitchen work.

  35. to varying degrees*

    #21. I cannot imagine the type of audacity it takes to say to your boss “remember I don’t like X company policy so I don’t follow it”. WTH???

    1. LimeRoos*

      lol I can. My husband has a coworker like that – if he doesn’t like something, he just won’t entertain the idea of it, and will let you know. It’s been difficult but at least for husband it’s a coworker not direct report, eek.

    2. Rolls@ThePotluck*

      Thank you! 21 was my question. It’s a bold move, right? Alison gave me a great script and I am giving back the wine.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*


      *depends on things like exempt vs non-exempt, salaried vs non-salaried, and the applicable state and country laws.

      I’ve definitely seen posters on here talk about it.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Adding-I meant illegal to offer comp time to be used in weeks following that in which overtime hours were worked, in lieu of paying actual overtime wages. Giving comp time on a Friday to make up for overtime worked in the same pay period may be legal depending on state laws.

    2. doreen*

      It also depends on when “overtime” kicks in. I’ve never had a full-time job where I worked a 40 hour workweek – it’s always been 35 or 37.5. And while the first extra 2.5 or 5 hours was actually considered “overtime” , it was perfectly legal under FLSA to only provide comp time as FLSA only requires time and a half for hours worked over 40.

  36. Required name*

    Years back, I read an article that argued Scrubs was the best portrayal of life as a new doctor. That always stuck with me – very little of the show was about dramatic emergencies, it was mostly about the tedium and minutia and overall weirdness of life. Like most jobs.

      1. A.Ham*

        just like lots of lawyers say “My Cousin Vinny” is super accurate as far as legal rules and procedures. sometimes the comedies get it right! :-D

    1. Required name*

      Oh, and there was a not-well-noticed early aughts movie called Waiting that came out when I was waiting tables, and we all thought it really captured that life well. It was sort of like Office Space for restaurant workers.

      1. Plain Jane*

        Yes!!! Waiting is (was?? Haha) an excellent portrayal of working in restaurants during that time. I’d forgotten how great that movie is, thank you for reminding me.

      2. Stephanie*

        I agree, as someone with both restaurant and office experience, Waiting and Office Space are both accurate.

    2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Yeah. Work is mostly too boring to make for interesting drama. There’s a reason that so many workplaces are depicted with a generous helping of farce (Silicon Valley, etc.)

      There are so many lawyer shows because trials have definite winners and losers. But nobody would watch a drama where 90% of the time the case is settled out of court or the criminal charges are dropped.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Or all the tedium of actually PREPARING for trial. Discovery, going over 4 years of bank statements to find the non payroll deposits to prove someone’s income. Or you can just have a dramatic moment in court where you flourish the bank records the person admits on the stand they have a second job getting paid cash. Trust me the latter rarely happens.

    3. Smithy*

      My mom watched about 5 minutes of the US version of Getting On and said it was far too similar to her work experiences in a hospital and she couldn’t imagine anyone watching the show for fun….

    4. Snow Globe*

      I’ve heard that Barney Miller was pretty accurate for police work. Mostly in the office doing paperwork.

  37. Seeking Second Childhood*

    #25 — Just don’t bring the hamster if your co-workers are bringing cats or dogs to an “open pet day”. (Some very young neighborhood kids were very perplexed how their hamster got away when they very carefully playing with it and their VERY big dog…uh oh.)

    1. Anon all day*

      Close family used to have a hamster named Teddy 3, and the origin of that name is just as dark as it implies.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I was working at an office that had a resident big dog that was reactive and aggressive. Staff knew that if she wasn’t on a leash she had to be in a closed room. Well, a newly hired exec brought his tiny dog in to visit (after all, we were a dog office!) and someone opened the conference room door…and the tiny dog ended up with a dozen stitches.

      1. Anon all day*

        That’s enraging. Why the hell was this aggressive dog allowed to remain in the office? I’m absolutely livid on behalf of the exec right now.

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          It was the owner’s dog, and she was brought in every day because of her extreme anxiety so that was a non-negotiable situation. She wasn’t regularly aggressive, but her reactivity did create issues. A lot of staff loved her and made sure was taken care of and kept away from the UPS guy, though personally I thought the entire situation was ridiculous and distracting. The dog biting was extra shocking though. A little surprised the exec didn’t back out of the job after that, I can’t imagine how they felt.

    3. Splendid Colors*

      My thought at the “why not a hamster?” question is that hamsters sleep in the daytime anyhow, so it wouldn’t be interested in interacting with people.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      That was one of the best typos in this site’s history! (Signed, a person who makes lots of typos in comments due to only reading this site on mobile and having bad eyesight.)

  38. ecnaseener*

    Re 25, I always assumed it was because cats are (generally believed to be) fine at home alone all day, don’t need human help for bathroom breaks, etc.

    I’m guessing bringing a cat to an office where there are dogs would lead to a lot of barking dogs, too.

    1. EPLawyer*

      All good book shops have a resident kitty. Also all mystery shops that you don’t remember being there yesterday but look like they have been there forever.

      1. Suz*

        When I worked in the lab we had a resident lab cat. Several of the companies other labs had them too.

      2. JustaTech*

        When I worked at a chain used bookstore we regularly got questions about “where are the cats?” and had to explain, again, that we’d never had cats, you are thinking of the place up the street that has cats, corporate won’t let us have cats.
        “But you’re a bookstore!”
        “Yeah, and Barnes and Noble doesn’t have cats either.”

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I think it’s also because dogs (in general) stay on the floor. Cats are much more likely to sit on chairs, walk across desks, climb over cubicle walls, etc.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Also, it’s probably easier to get a dog to stay in/near your cubicle or other work area. My dog is fine staying harnessed and tied to something for hours as long as his “roaming area” that he can reach on leash includes me, a water dish, and a pet bed if we’re indoors/comfy grass area if we’re outdoors. He will sniff the perimeter and then mostly sleep. A baby gate across a cubicle entrance would also probably work as long as I was in the cubicle with him. He mostly cares about being near me, so his needs are pretty easy to meet in a typical office situation.

        While it is a big, wide world out there, I’ve met few cats that take to being harnessed at all, and I would imagine even fewer that would put up with it for hours at a time inside. (I suppose you could crate them instead, but I also have not met many cats that enjoy being crated.) Different free-roaming cats wandering the entire building each day seems like there could be a lot more to go wrong, particularly if multiple people were bringing in their cats who were not previously acquainted…

        1. TeaCoziesRUs*

          I don’t know about crated, but I know that draping a blanket over a kennel is actually really good for cats – it gives them a hiding place. Mine has taken too staying in her carrier at the vet or when we’re in a hotel room during a road trip associated with a move. It’s small and cozy and familiar in otherwise unfamiliar surroundings. This is one reason they tell TNR volunteers to put a breathable blanket over the carrier – helps ferals stay more chill.

    3. wordswords*

      Also, while dogs can certainly be territorial, many dogs are perfectly happy to be in different locations (especially a location they come to regularly, like their owner’s office) if they’re with their person. Most cats, on the other hand, are much more stressed out by a new place (and the transit to get there), even if their person is there.

      Obviously, there are exceptions! Some cats are thrilled to go exploring. But you’re a lot less likely to find a cat who’s comfortable coming into the office then a dog who is, even before you get into the issues like “what if someone else brought in a friendly dog with a strong prey drive today” and so on.

  39. MegPie*

    21-I’d be snarky about comp time instead of overtime, too. Seems like a way to pay someone less. Even if it’s technically legal, it still sucks.

    1. Rolls@ThePotluck*

      It’s not a way to pay someone less. It’s totally legal in this situation. The OT approval process is in place so that nobody feels like they are overworked or underpaid. In fact, the person wasn’t really needed at the 3 hour event he attended. Another salaried employee could have covered it with no issue.

      1. MegPie*

        Yes, I said even if it’s legal, the company encourages folks to take comp time instead of getting OT pay. That sucks. I wasn’t addressing the other part.

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Yeah, but that’s something that one should determine when deciding whether or not to work at a company, and definitely not to snark at your boss after you’ve deliberately broken a rule.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      How is it paying less? Employee works the same number of hours for the same amount of pay, those 3 hours would simply be shifted.

        1. Lurker*

          Usually, but not always. Sometimes overtime is paid at the same rate as the regular hourly rate.

      1. Pescadero*

        In California:
        Work 10 hours 1 day, 6 hours the next = 14 hours regular time, 2 hours OT at 1.5x

        In a state that allows comp time:
        Work 10 hours 1 day, 6 hours the next = 16 hours regular time

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          Is this new? I worked a job for 14 hours each on Saturday and Sunday (UC campus parking) and never got over time. My understanding, unless a new law, is that over time is only over 40 hours in a week.

    4. Rolls@ThePotluck*

      Hi MegPie, I thought more about your comment and wanted to clarify something. This isn’t shift work (like health care or warehouse etc.) where the employee was asked/told to work an additional 3 hours and then we gave comp tme instead of OT. This is an hourly employee who has a lot of latitude in his start/end time, as long as he works core hours and gets his job done. What we ask of people is that they get pre-approval if they expect OT for an upcoming event. We don’t have the budget for it, and prefer they use comp time or ask a salaried coworker to pitch in. In mnay cases, it’s not reasonable to use comp time in liue of OT, which is fine. As long as we are all aligned the reason and have the pre-approval we pay the OT. This employee keeps trying to get paid for OT, without pre-approval, and trying to act like he was unaware of the policy It’s not how it works.

  40. Required name*

    I work in medical privacy, and one frequent issue we run into is someone complaining that someone must have looked at their records, because (some distant relative or casual acquaintance) knew they had surgery when they never told that person. We review and find out they posted it on social media, but they object that they’re not friends with that person. Do you not understand that people talk? Not even to be mean or gossipy, plenty of conversations involve “oh, so and so had surgery” “ oh, I hope she’s ok.”

      1. Anon all day*

        Also, even if HIPAA is violated, there’s no private cause of action (you can’t sue your doctor’s office about it). You can just report it, and they’ll be fined.

  41. The Prettiest Curse*

    #24 – for anyone wondering how much work podcasts can be – we do a twice-monthly podcast series at my job, and we wound up having to contract out the editing to audio professionals because just the editing was consuming so much of our comms manager’s time.

    1. Anon Around*

      This is helpful info, thank you! I’ve been sort of toying with starting a work podcast, and it’s good to know what that actually involves.

    2. JustaTech*

      Oh, darn. I figured editing a podcast would be a lot of work, but I was hoping it would be manageable. Not for myself but because I’m offering it to my father-in-law as a “fun retirement activity” where he’d get to keep doing his favorite part of working: talk.

  42. to varying degrees*

    I would love to find a cat-friendly workplace so I could start fostering bottle-feeders again.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      My office occasionally makes exceptions for very young [human] babies. I feel like babies who can be kept in literal cages should qualify.

            1. Nameless in Customer Service*

              Depends on how strong the baby is. Real story: I did that to my cousin once (in my defense I was 9) and she pushed the playpen clear across the room.

    2. What She Said*

      Vet clinics are notorious for having them. My favorite work cat would lay on the computer monitor and swipe their tail across the screen as I tried to check out clients. Little stink bug. LOL

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Oh, my vet has like eight clinic cats, one of whom has made it his personal mission to sleep on the printer as much as possible.

    3. Snow Globe*

      I worked in a corporate office that was in no way “pet-friendly” but somehow an exception was made for a woman that fostered neo-natal kittens and had to bottle feed them all day. She kept them in a crate in her office and it was *years* before I realized she had kitties in there.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        Yeah, apart from fussing a bit when they wake up hungry, kittens that young don’t do a lot but sleep.

  43. Baron*

    #27 is very confusing to me. I guess it could mean that the LW is a manager with a new person under her, who is a supervisor, but it doesn’t read that way; it reads as if the new supervisor is the LW’s supervisor. In which case, you don’t really get to decide how much time to give them to get better at their job. They’re your boss, not the other way around. What leverage do you have in this situation? Somebody walking into their supervisor’s office and saying, “You’d better get better at supervising, or else…” is not going to have much of a leg to stand on.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I assume they mean “how much time do I wait for this to get better before I give up and start job-hunting.”

    2. snowyowl*

      I could be reading this wrong, but I think the LW is the subordinate of the supervisor and is asking about jumping ship — should she leave this job because this supervisor is bad, or will the supervisor improve and she should wait it out.

    3. Leilah*

      HI all :) I am LW 27 . Then new supervisor is my boss — I was trying to keep it short! I meant the question as in, how much grace period to I have give her to get good at this before being able to mentally think less, “this is because she’s new, she could learn anything yet” to “She probably isn’t cut out for this role and is unlikely to drastically improve in the short term.” I understand people can grow and learn whenever and we can’t predict the future, but I was looking for a touch point on when it would be fairly normal to have ramped up on these skills. Right now she is still struggling to do very basic supervisor work, like delegate project assignments. I wanted to know for a couple reasons — it factors into whether I jump ship, but it also factors into other decisions I’m making and conversations I am having. I can push things off or handle things differently if I think she’s going to get better at managing soon versus if I think what she’s got is likely all we’re going to get. It also factors into what I say to other co-workers at times – I’m pretty close with her boss and some of the other supervisors. At first I was totally avoiding the subject of her, giving her a chance to get going, but if she’s not going to get better there are things I need to reach out to them for support on since I’m unlikely to get it from her.

  44. Heather*

    The heart reaction person would die at my job. I’m a nurse and my nurse manager’s texts go: “(Heart heart heart) Good morning lovely ladies!! (fingernail painting emoji) (smiley face with heart eyes). Don’t forget to sign the form on the freezer when you thaw vaccines!! (snowflake emoji) (hearts) (nurse emoji)”

      1. JustaTech*

        I’ve suggested to my husband that he use a few emojis when chatting with his team because he can come across a bit flat/unfriendly, but that’s *one* emoji to convey tone, not emojis in lieu of actual text!

  45. Dust Bunny*

    My brother brought his outdoor cat in during that hard freeze in the US South a year or so ago, and that cat has zero intention ever of going outside again. He would absolutely love to come to work and get all the pets. I’ve only ever met one cat who was friendlier and that one is the permanent greeter at my vet’s office.

    My cats, however, would be disasters.

    1. smeep248*

      we have 8 in my house, and 3 of them would be absolute hams just soaking up the attention but good luck even finding the others…

  46. Merci Dee*

    As far as soups go . . . I, too, love tomato soup. Instead of adding line juice and hot sauce, I add several heaping serving spoons of a good chunky salsa. Pretty much the same flavor profile, but it adds some nice chunks of tomato and other veggies to the soup if, for some reason, your soup doesn’t already have them.


  47. LimeRoos*

    Cream of chicken & wild rice
    Chicken tortilla
    And the this from a local restaurant
    brothless ramen, smoked pork shoulder, pickled red onion, chili oil, ponzu, scallion, bonito, poached egg

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      And now this thread is making me hungry. That ramen looks amazing and I wand to find somewhere local that has it.

      1. LimeRoos*

        it is amazing…I order it every time I go there lol. I hope you have somewhere local with amazing ramen too!!

    2. Amber Rose*

      I don’t normally like soup, but Pho is the best thing ever and I will fight people about it. :D

      I have also been known to enjoy a taco soup if it’s done well.

      1. LimeRoos*

        Totally agree on Pho, so good!

        If you like Pho (and can handle spicy), Bun Bo Hue is also amazing, and wonderful if you live anywhere that gets below 0 in winter.

      2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        I would never fight about it, but you can have mine. I love soup. I love noodles. I don’t love trying to eat long noodles out of hot soup! Noodles need fork/chopsticks, but the broth needs a spoon, how does that even work? Too slurpy and messy for me. More for you ;)

        1. Amber Rose*

          Mostly kidding on the fighting. I’d have a rock paper scissors battle, probably. Or a thumb war? I’m not a fighter lol.

          My understanding of Pho is you’re not supposed to finish the broth? I could be wrong but that’s what I was told once.

          1. Gracely*

            The broth is the best part! My favorite pho restaurant actually sells containers of just the broth to people for take-out.

        2. Splendid Colors*

          Every pho place I’ve visited has both chopsticks for the noodles and those giant dumpling spoons for broth and whatever meat etc. you want to eat with it. They have utensils stacked up in a “dispenser” kinda thing so if you drop your chopsticks or the spoon sinks in the bowl, you just get another. (I’ve lived within 10 miles of two of the biggest Little Saigons in the US so maybe I’m spoiled by authenticity/competition.)

          1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

            All my places have that option, too. I know literally how it works – it’s just my weird thing that I don’t want to use multiple utensils for one dish. (And I do drop them in A LOT.) It’s a me thing, everyone else loves ramen and pho. I like all the components, just separately.

    3. JustaTech*

      Ohh, now I’m missing the cream of mushroom soup from the local bakery – it was so rich the spoon practically stood up, and it was full of real mushrooms. Basically as far as you can get from the canned stuff.

  48. Not Alison*

    #21 I once screwed up at a public meeting (so at their work but not mine) with someone and gave them golf balls as a peace offering because they were a golfer. I don’t agree that giving a peace offering is a bad thing, you know you screwed up and want to do something to try and fix it rather than just saying “my bad”. But maybe alcohol is not the best peace offering.

    1. Nanani*

      Was this a friend’s work then?
      I’d caution against bringing a social convention into the workplace, where the power dynamics are just different. It’s not better or worse, it’s just different.
      If you want to apologize to a friend for making a scene at their work event, maybe buying a gift makes sense.
      It doesn’t make sense to do that if it was within your workplace with your colleagues or managers.

    2. kitryan*

      I figure the peace offering part is an issue primarily if it replaces a meaningful apology and appropriate action to correct and do better going forward. If the person had replied all to the original email and said that they realized the policy had been properly explained, they’d just missed it or forgotten or whatever and then the person did better with following the rules without the poor attitude going forward, then the peace offering would be part of a good apology and not inherently a bad thing. But if the appropriate other actions are not done and it’s just a gift, it seems like the act of giving the gift is intended to get the giver out of performing an appropriate apology and doing better going forward – to paper over the offense rather than part of a proper repair job.
      And that’s aside from the possible issues with alcohol, which are a separate thing.

    3. Azure Jane Lunatic*

      When I did workplace peace offerings (it was always a situation where a face-to-face conversation would have probably eliminated any misunderstandings, but it was asynchronous and/or remote) it was always a treat from Trader Joe’s in the $3-7 range: same price as a fancy coffee, but more desk-drawer stable and eminently regiftable/team-shareable. Delivered in person, with a suitable statement. Generally about my personal respect for them and the hard job they were doing in charge of a workplace productivity app that was causing a lot of problems, for which I was submitting a lot of tickets.

  49. Irish Teacher*

    #29, I’m in Ireland and would understand laid off and fired the same way Alison said (dunno if it’s the same in the UK; we use a bit of a mishmash of different versions of English sometimes).

    Let go is a bit less certain to me. To me, that kinda covers stuff like “I came to the end of my contract and they decided not to renew and I don’t really know for sure if it’s because they were unhappy with me or if they just decided they weren’t continuing with the role or something,” but whether it has a more official meaning, I’m not sure.

    Fired to me clearly means “for cause” and laid off clearly means “the company was in financial difficulty and I was among the most recent hires so they had to let me go.” Those have very clearly different meanings here, especially as being fired is generally more difficult here than in the US so it is usually a VERY different thing to laid off. I think that might be why I see “let go” as sort of in between. Like if somebody were fired in their probationary period (which I think a lot of jobs have), I’d more see it as “let go” because it doesn’t necessarily mean they did something really bad, just that it “wasn’t working out.”

    1. Excel-sior*

      I’m from the UK and my understanding is the same as yours and Alison’s, and I’m certain if i asked around that would be the general consensus.

      1. Phibley*

        Same here! But I think ‘made redundant’ is probably used more often than ‘laid off’.

    2. Teapot Wrangler*

      I’m in the UK and I would say made redundant in place of laid off. For me laid off has the same kind of vagueness as let go – could be fired, could be got to the end of the contract, probably means made redundant but not definitely.

      Fired/sacked = you did something wrong. In most places you only get asked to leave immediately if you did something really, really bad. If you’re senior or work with confidential information you might be placed on gardening leave where you’re still employed and get paid etc but don’t do any work.

      Made redundant = the role is no longer needed, possibly due to a restructure. If you’ve worked there for two years + you will get money as well as your notice period

  50. Baron*

    #42: I’m not a lawyer and this is not legal advice (and I come from a foreign country), but you’ve got stuff in there that I just can’t imagine would be enforceable in the legal system I am familiar with.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I’m guessing you meant 41, the social media policy (not 42, the list of favorite questions!)

      Employee handbooks don’t need to be legally enforceable when you’ve got at-will employment (as most US employees have).

    2. Snow Globe*

      It seems like LW41 wants to manage by creating rules around every thing they’ve ever seen go wrong. But reading this column regularly, it is clear there are always new ways for things to go wrong. Keep policies general — no bullying, etc., and stop bad behavior early on when you see it. No need to outlaw every possible scenario that could lead to conflict.

  51. blood orange*

    #36 – I’ve conducted employee surveys. For what it’s worth, it was legitimately anonymous in the sense that we didn’t capture names, contact information, titles or departments (just large 60+ worksites). However, just a handful of participants outed themselves in their responses (as Alison indicated). I just personally felt I knew who they were, and I omitted that information in my summary.

    So, I guess I’d say don’t say anything very unique to you (e.g. in this case it was a very specific complaint), and if the survey captures information that you know you can likely be identified by (obviously your name, but e.g., your title or department) be aware of that in your answers.

    1. Splendid Colors*

      This is why I never participate in the surveys in my apartment complex. Even if the survey company’s “unique link” is really only used to make sure nobody stuffs the ballot box, I’m sure that the content of my feedback would be uniquely identifiable.

    2. ferrina*

      Seconding blood orange. I also am in a role where I conduct employee surveys, and anonymity really depends a lot on the company and survey team.

      Some tips:
      -Know who is in charge of running the survey. Try asking if they can walk you through the anonymity procedures. I’m always happy to show people what settings are turned on, and give them tips for ensuring anonymity. If you can’t get in touch with them, think about your company in general. If your CEO is comfortable doing shady stuff, this survey won’t be an exception.
      -Avoid “unique links”. As Splendid Colors notes, the unique link can be traced back to a unique user. This stuff is always stored in the email/metadata. If the survey is truly anonymous, we won’t be able to see if someone takes it multiple times (it’s a trade-off, and sometimes it makes sense to choose to have unique links)
      -Watch out for demographics. If it gets specific, it can start to identify you. A good survey team will always include a “Prefer not to answer” in demographic data (or provide an explanation why this particular question is truly necessary)
      -Watch out of open-ended responses where you write a sentence or paragraph. Use generic examples that could have happened to a number of people. You can also mask your writing style- I’m a long-winded stickler for grammar, so when going anon, I ignore capitalization and cut my wordcount in half.

  52. NotRealAnonForThis*

    #34 – I would ask my manager just what he wants me to achieve in pestering my former report. Seriously. If I wasn’t allowed to make exceptions to this (very heavy handed) policy, well, they get to live with the consequences of pissed off partners quitting over it.

  53. EPLawyer*

    34 — yeah what DOES your boss expect you to do about it? You say you need her back but she QUIT. You don’t get to not accept her resignation because you need her. You have no leverage here with the FORMER employee. She doesn’t want to work for you and your boss can’t make her. Your boss would be better served going to the higher ups and saying — here’s what your policy cost us. Can you we at LEAST grandfather it in?

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Seriously. I’m just not understanding the boss on this one. Thinking Labyrinth scene at the end: You have no power over me.

      Best case is as you say – the policy is reconsidered.

    2. Jora Malli*

      I got major flashbacks to the employee who quit after her coworker caused her to be injured on the job. The bosses in that letter were desperate to get her to come back but she just wanted them to stop calling and leave her alone. People get to quit their jobs when the circumstances of the job no longer work for them, and 34’s boss is just going to have to accept that.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Oh, man, I just re-read that letter and its updates over the weekend. And ALL the comments. ALL of them. It was a wild ride!

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I’d forgotten about that…and THAT was wild.

        I’ll refrain from stating my opinion on the whole mess.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously. They fired her spouse due to an arbitrary change in policy, but can’t understand why she quit and now want her back? Sorry, folks, that ship has sailed. The new policy inherited from the other company has cost you not only the people you fired, but others as well. Suck it up and deal, or get the policy rescinded, and know that it’s past “too late” for the one couple.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        And she may have quit because her spouse found a job that he was willing to relocate for (and may have told him to go ahead and accept it because she was understandably upset about the policy).

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        I’m honestly flabbergasted it didn’t cost them *more* than one of those remaining. Because if (and its a HUGE if because my hubs and I do not work in the same industry and have purposefully avoided working for the same huge employer once even though it was in entirely different roles – the whole all the eggs in one basket theory) my husband had been laid off BECAUSE of some inherited policy, I would rattle my network and be out the door as quickly as possible.

        Why? Because they’ve shown me that the must apply an arbitrary policy no matter what, no matter how illogical, and definitely to their own detriment.

        1. Rob aka Mediancat*

          If it’s that big they almost certainly did, but it’s possible the letter-writer just doesn’t know about them. I do wonder how anyone rational could blame the LW for losing this industry superstar under the circumstances, but the policy itself isn’t rational in the first place.

          If I were the LW, i’d be dusting off my own resume — a place that is not only draconian enough not to make exceptions for rules that cost them great employees, but then blames managers for somehow not being bale to work miracles to keep these employees, almost certainly has other issues.

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

          Yes, how long ago did this happen? How many other people quit and said “an offer fell in their lap that is too good to pass up?”

          I have been through more than one layoff, and in both cases there was a rash of resignations not long after. In one case it was after a month, in another case it was a few months later just after the holidays (that company gave everyone the week between christmas and new years off as paid holidays).

          If I were working at OP’s company, I would be job searching too, even though I don’t work with my spouse so it wouldn’t have impacted me directly. It’s just a terrible way for an employer to treat their employees. They are reaping what they’ve sowed.

  54. Tarragon*

    #23. Was just on the other side of this. We had a candidate that stopped responding to attempts to schedule an interview. After a bit of time we assumed they ghosted us and stopped trying. I’ll be honest there were a few snarky comments inside the team along the lines of “I’d rather not work with someone who would ghost us rather than simply say `no thank you`”.

    A few days after that the candidate emailed and explained the situation. We still had time in the process so we scheduled the interview and went forward with it. The snarky comments were forgotten and the application moved on with no prejudice against the candidate.

  55. steliafidelis*

    for #15: I often put baked goods into small takeaway/cheap tupperware containers and bring them to the desks of the intended recipients. (Although this would be tedious to do for more than, say, a dozen people)

  56. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #43: Why don’t you do your video shoot, and then write down and edit the transcript of what you said? That might be enough to get you over the hump to doing a regular cover letter.

    1. Strawberry*

      I suppose that’s one way to do it. I think I’m just absolutely battered after being fired twice in a row – the first for having a mental breakdown over my husband’s cancer returning (including being pushed into taking leave I didn’t want to take yet by being written up two days in a row for extremely minor things), and the second for still being depressed about the first one. (can’t imagine why!)

      1. Luna Lovegood*

        I have ADHD and I came here to suggest the same thing. If it’s easier/more productive/less painful for you to speak than write, I’d record yourself speaking and then take notes to use as an outline. If a video seems appealing because you think it would require less time/polish or because you’re hoping to stand out from other applicants, it probably wouldn’t come off the way you intended.
        I’m sorry you’re having to job search during such a tough time. I hope your husband is doing well. Good luck!

        1. Strawberry*

          Thank you. He is doing better, though I’ve ended up having some health issues of my own. Thankfully I’m in a state where I qualified for state health coverage so I haven’t had to deal with that financial burden. It’s been A Time for sure!

    2. c buggy*

      Came to recommend the same thing. I have ADHD and have this problem all the time – I can talk about something just fine but for some reason can’t get myself to put the same words in writing. So occasionally I’ll just record audio of myself on my phone, then transcribe and edit it. Do make sure to edit thoughtfully – wording that works well out loud may seem off in writing. (Though honestly I find this to be more of a problem in the other direction. Doing a voice recording first can actually help simplify your writing in a good way and achieve a more natural conversational tone.)

      1. Divergent*

        When I had a brain injury and couldn’t write, I found voice-to-text very helpful. I’d write what I wanted to way in short bullet points, then “present” in voice-to-text to get something I could edit into the finished product.

  57. ecnaseener*

    43: Try recording your video letter and then transcribing it! (Resident ADHDer here: working *with* your brain’s weird blocks and quirks usually goes much better than trying to force your way past them.)

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes! In school, I always had the hardest time starting to write an essay. If it was a take-home essay, I would talk to my friends about the essay I wanted to write. Talking made it a lot easier to access to words/phrases/points I wanted to write than staring at a blank page did. So I second ecnaseener’s suggestion to record your video letter, transcribe it, then edit it.

    2. Strawberry*

      I think I’ll have to try that. If you see my comment just above, I think I’m just absolutely spent after being fired twice in a year for mental health issues and my current state of affairs mentally is incredibly low.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Makes sense that you’re spent in those circumstances! Be gentle with yourself and ask for help.
        One thing that just occurred to me is, could you ask your husband or a friend to do the transcribing for you? That way you just do the video essay and get the transcript back ready for touch-ups, none of that crappy middle step of transcribing it yourself and second-guessing yourself the whole time.

        1. Strawberry*

          I’m going to take a slightly different route and use Google Recordings to just record the audio since it auto transcribes and then I can touch up any mistakes. The supportive comments mean so much – thank you!

  58. fine tipped pen afficionado*

    Would it ever be possible to get a floating back to top button on here? These comments sections get deliciously deep but ya ADHD girl sometimes needs to refer back to the post when reading them. Especially for stuff with multiple questions. Thanks for considering!

    1. Anon all day*

      If you’re using a keyboard, you can hit the Home key to go to the top. And I know for some smart phones/ipads, you can double tap the very top of the window to go to the top.

      1. fine tipped pen afficionado*

        You have changed my life. I have never used that collection of keys and I suspect am just missing out on a whole world of earth-shattering shortcuts.

        1. Anon all day*

          Woo! Keyboard shortcuts are my absolute jam, and I’m always super excited when I get to show others really cool ones.

          Some of my other faves are:
          Window key + left or right arrow which auto aligns the current window to that half of the screen. (And then the window key + up arrow maximizes the window again, and the down key minimizes the window.
          Ctrl + w closes the current tab
          Ctrl + q closes the entire window
          Similarly, if you have multiple PDFs open, Ctrl + w closes the active PDF, and Ctrl + q closes all of the PDFs.
          In a word doc, F12 is a shortcut for “Save as”
          In a PDF, Ctrl + shift + s is a shortcut for “Save as”
          Finally, if you use Teams (and there’s a decent chance this could work in other applications, as I’ve used it in random ones), if you want to start a new paragraph break WITHOUT sending the message, use shift + enter.

          1. Azure Jane Lunatic*

            Alt + Tab switches between windows. Once gets you back to the next most previous window you’ve been using, holding down Alt and pushing Tab multiple times lets you look at the options and you can keep hitting Tab until you get to the one you really want.

            Alt + 1 through Alt +8 switch to the first through 8th tabs in a browser. Alt +9 switches to the last browser tab. Alt + PageUp switches to the tab sequentially before, Alt + PageDown switches to the tab sequentially next.

            Email programs and some websites do j/k navigation: J for next email/post, K for previous. My mouse has side buttons and I’ve programmed them for Home and J, which are so useful to me that I keep trying to press the side of other mice, or to use J on websites that don’t have that shortcut implemented.

      2. Mimmy*

        I teach keyboarding and find that a lot of my students aren’t aware of that set of keys (Home, End, Page Up, etc.).

        By the way, I’ve now learned a few cool shortcuts thanks to these comments! I could never remember how to get a line break in Excel.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      This is a fantastic overall thought and suggestion.

      I have zero idea if its even reasonably possible.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I’m on a mac, and use command-arrow up/down constantly here to jump to the top or bottom. (Sometimes I have to click in the margin first)

    4. Mimmy*

      Another suggestion, especially for multi-question posts, is to do CTRL+F (Command+F on a Mac) to do a search on a keyword and it’ll take you right to whatever question you want to reference. Try to make the word as distinctive as possible to minimize the number of hits that you have to skip through (the search begins from the point you’re at, then searches the top of the page).

  59. Parcae*

    My personal opinion is that it’s best to get a paid job as soon as practical– I’d target 16, as before that there aren’t as many employers willing to hire you. My thinking is that a lot of young people flub their first jobs– they struggle with punctuality or dress code or customer service– and that learning opportunity shouldn’t be in a make-or-break situation. If you get fired from your first job at 17 for talking back to a manager or being late everyday… eh, you can learn from it and try again next time. If your first job is instead as a 23 year old new college grad, that puts a lot more pressure on you to get it right!

    Also, at some point employers get wary of applicants who have never had paid employment. It’s not fair, since that can happen for all sorts of reasons that aren’t always under the applicant’s control, but if I’m advising a privileged young person who doesn’t NEED to work, I’d still tell them to get a cashier or shelf stocking job under their belt early. Then if your later resume fills up with unpaid internships and study abroad, you’ve still got a W-2 job to point to.

    1. Anon all day*

      I agree. I got my first job at 16, and as an incredibly shy, awkward kid, being a cashier at a grocery store really helped me get more comfortable in public. (My shyness level was such that I would have my friends order for me at restaurants when we went out when I was a young teenager.)

    2. BugSwallowersAnonymous*

      I agree! I also think it can be really confidence-building to start making your own money, even if it isn’t very much.

    3. Paris Geller*

      I agree! I worked one summer after I turned 18 and then I didn’t work at all until I graduated college. My parents wanted me to focus on my schooling and while I’m absolutely grateful they were able to help financially support me through undergrad (though student loans, scholarships, grants were involved for tuition & big expenses, they absolutely helped me out with the day-to-day stuff and made sure I didn’t starve), and when I graduated I really wish I had more true work experience. I had tons of internships & volunteer experiences, but I definitely felt a little behind the curve when it came to the working world when compared to my peers who had worked retail/food service/on-campus jobs, etc.

    4. Johanna Cabal*

      Just be mindful that it’s much harder to get a paying job as a teenager now. I also know of families that pulled their teens out of part time work during the pandemic to keep their families safe.

      Also, I spent my teenage years in a rural area and wasn’t able to get an after school job that pays until I was 18. I didn’t have access to a car and public transit does not exist there (despite being fairly close to a major city but apparently public transit might cause “criminal elements”–aka POC to enter the community). I had to have a parent pick me up and drop me off at my first job, though one time I did try hitchhiking there when I didn’t have a ride. Fortunately, a friend driving by saw me and took pity on me, giving me a ride.

      I’ll be honest, while I think the part-time job might’ve helped me obtain an internship, once I added internships to my resume, I removed the part-time work because the internships were more relevant to my career and no one questioned me about it. I think I did put it down on the application my first post-college job had me complete but I don’t really remember.

  60. Falling Diphthong*

    #48 forbidding notice periods: Sounds like if anyone hears you’ve accepted a job at New Company, then they will fill your ears with tales of not being paid and cod falling from the ceiling tiles. Which they get around by trying to have start RIGHT NOW and not leave open any bridge to your prior job.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      … cod falling from the ceiling tiles? I feel like there is a story behind this very specific example of dysfunction…

  61. What Do I Know?*

    Hope I’m not violating the rules here but since someone asked about the resume writing service. I used Evil HR lady last year after it was posted on Ask A Manager and had an incredible experience she was super thorough and thoughtful with her edits. I cannot recommend enough!!
    With so many sketchy resume writers out there this was worth every penny. And I had the peace of mind that Alison was recommending it to her readers so ya know its good!

  62. ScruffyInternHerder*

    #46 – speaking from my own experience, I had enough capital to spare to get out of one or two back-at-the-hotel drinks with all the coworkers nights in a given stay. It was exhausting. If it were non-conference related work travel with one coworker, that usually went far better as far as work-life balance. Conferences were completely exhausting and I’m glad I’m not typically required to go to them anymore.

    Mileage varies by industry. Mine is still known for drinks being acceptable.

  63. Chirpy*

    #13: Superstore. Everything on that show is completely believable for retail. It’s a bit more “condensed drama” than an average day, but it’s otherwise not even really amped up for TV.

    #1: I wish that was a less common thing, management brushing off serious threats…

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      For nonprofits, some of the scenes in the earlier seasons of Insecure really rang true. It’s not the focus of the show though.

  64. Angstrom*

    8 – One of my best bosses was someone with whom I’d never want to socialize outside work — just not my type. I had immense respect for how well he did his job and took care of his team, and enjoyed working with him.
    “I like X” and “I like working with X” are not the same thing.

  65. Greg*

    #56 – If you don’t know what the lingo or acronym is…ask! I work in a very specific industry with its own language and it is apparent when someone doesn’t know what was just said. The people around the table should appreciate the question, share what it stands for, and move on.

    1. Antilles*

      In a meeting or if you’re already working there, yes, you should absolutely ask. Or, if you’re in a discussion and you’re not sure if you’re using the term correctly, it’s easier to ask in the moment “so if I’m understanding you” and get confirmation/correction as needed rather than to keep using it wrong.
      But if you’re writing application materials like #56? There’s no real way to ask ahead of time, so I’d stay away from any industry-specific lingo that you’re not fully confident in. Either use a more common word or rewrite the bullet point/sentence to avoid the whole issue.

      1. kitryan*

        I feel similarly since I’ve seen enough people trying to work in industry specific terms or ‘vocab words’ they are fuzzy on or outright don’t understand in both work and casual contexts. There is often nuance to how the word or term should be or is normally used that (when not fully understood) make the writing appear choppy, awkward, or forced. You’re then doing yourself a disservice to a greater extent than just using ‘plain english’ would be, as that would read as natural and unforced and wouldn’t be unintentionally highlighting the author’s unfamiliarity with the term.

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

      I think OP#56’s problem is that they kind of (or think they) know what it means. And they want to look smart by using it correctly, and/or not look “dumb” for asking something they should know.

      I have definitely been dinged in interviews for using industry-standard terms imprecisely. Depending on how well-defined the term is and how strict the interviewer is, doing so can have range from OK to removed from consideration.

    1. nobadcats*

      Proportional fonts and online sites will do it for you whether you like it or not. I have double-spaced this entire comment at the end marks and one colon. It will render as single-spaced when the comment is posted. Every platform I use, renders double-spaces as singles. All of them. And clients require it.

      By looking at my resume, I can pinpoint the exact year of the transition for me: 1988-90. I was the head proofreader for a (big 10, probably big 5 or less now, through acquisitions and mergers) accounting firm. We spent two+ years retyping and proofing seven years federally required audit and tax reports from our old mainframe system into Macs (remember the Mac Classic and SEIIs?), and the platforms changed all our lovely double spaces into singles. I had to school all the temp proofers under me to use single spacing. Looked weird to me then and made me bristle. But it’s been a good 30-odd years by my count.

      1. Anon all day*

        That’s interesting because I was born in 1988, and when I was taught typing in the mid to late 90s, I was taught to double space.

        1. Nanani*

          Same, and I’ve had clients who prefer double-space in the present century. Though it’s true that the majority of fields and industries go for single-space, as do the majority of online spaces by default.

        2. nnn*

          Same here. I actually learned to type a little at home with a computer game, but then took a typing class for an easy A in high school and they absolutely drilled into us double-spacing.

          My entire adult life I’ve worked at organizations with style guides dictating single-spacing, but I still can’t entirely shake the double-spacing muscle memory. I basically search and replace two spaces to one space as a final step in any document production.

          1. nobadcats*

            The worst, for me, when doing a CE, is having to remove all the extra para returns to get to a new page and replacing all the spacespacespace (instead of tabs or indents).

            Tell me you learned how to type on a typewriter without telling me you learned to type on a typewriter.

        3. nobadcats*

          I graduated HS in 1984, so I have no doubt they were still teaching it in later typing classes. Technology took a minute to catch up.

          One of my freelance copyediting jobs was a suite of textbooks for McGraw, that taught the MS Office suite AND “keyboarding” (aka typing) at the same time, this was about 14 years ago.

          But it’s true! In my career from proofing to editing to copyediting: 1988-1990 was when the worm turned.

      2. PollyQ*

        It’s part of the basic HTML standard–multiple spaces are collapsed by default. It’s possible to code a website to keep extra spaces, but it’s extra effort.

    2. Curmudgeon in California*

      I used to be hard core double space. Now I’ve been writing online and stuff and it varies. For texting and other short response I use single spaces. For formal paragraphs and other expository writing where it may become a wall of text I use the double space convention for readability.

    3. Katiekins*

      You can pry the Oxford comma from my cold, dead, and rigid hands. So glad Alison is an advocate!

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That’s how I feel about it.

      Double spaces after the period & Oxford commas are about making reading easier on the reader to improve comprehension. Omitting them is about saving the writer time and a few keystrokes.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        Not true. Books are set in proportional fonts with a single space after each period, and I have yet to hear anyone complain that they can’t tell where a sentence ends. This is just being unnecessarily rigid.

    5. JewishAndVibing*

      It’s interesting because double space appears pretty standard for writing official things that may need to be edited/reviewed in my field of academia/research. But then it’s edited down to single space!

    6. CharlieBrown*

      I’m well into my fifth decade, learned to type (on monospace typewriters) with a double space after periods, and was quite happy to abandon it when WYSIWYG word processing and proportional fonts came along. I tend to view insisting on a double space as a failure to adapt to new technologies and standards.

  66. Pam Adams*


    There’s always having a cat who lives at the office- example, our friends Jorts and Jean.

    1. Benny is Here*

      The church where I work has a cat cared for by the pastor and the archivist. He meowed at the door in November 2020, we let him in and the rest is history. He is a huge hit with just about everyone who comes in the door.

  67. Constance Lloyd*

    Maybe the podcast could come back in a limited scope to talk about the highlights of update season and/or winners of worst boss of the year? Only if it’s a thing you miss doing and would be interested in bringing it back on a smaller scale, or course!

  68. metadata minion*

    25 – Cats are much more trainable than many people realize, but most cat owners don’t have any particular reason to do obedience training beyond “please at least don’t go on the kitchen counters while I’m looking”, so I’d worry that a cat would just wander at will through the office and get into things they shouldn’t. A well-behaved dog can be expected to stay near their human reasonably consistently.

    1. ceiswyn*

      Yeah, my cat is very good with not going in places he isn’t allowed, but if I took him to a new place I’d have to teach him about the ‘allowable spaces’ individually. On the bright side, he would also mostly find a warm spot and fall asleep on it.
      On the down side, if anyone brought a tuna sandwich for lunch, there would just be a blur of ginger and no more tuna sandwich…

  69. ecnaseener*

    65: if you can’t bring yourself to say “it’s okay” or whatever, nothing wrong with “thanks for saying that” – and then move on.

  70. Fuzzyfuzz*

    Re: #45. Do not assume it is you! A friend of a friend was applying to an old (15 years ago) employer of mine and asked if they could drop my name. I told them not to because I was an unprofessional, immature baby when I worked there and was not a great employee! I didn’t want my 22 year old weirdness tainting their chances. It might not be you at all!

    P.S. I’ve grown up a lot and am a rock star at what I do now, so immature babies can and do get better!

      1. Books and Cooks*

        Me, too! I definitely assumed it was a “Mentioning my name will not help you there, and may even harm you, because I was caught embezzling/running an escort service out of the office after hours/sending nasty emails to higher-ups, and when I was fired I screamed profanities in the middle of the room and tried to set the building on fire,” thing but Friend didn’t want to admit it or explain it, and nothing to do with her feelings about the OP at all.

    1. Fran Fine*

      Honestly, I thought something similar was going on with the friend, hence why she ended up leaving the field entirely.

  71. Baron*

    #67 – I mean, she is trying to mock the concept of stating pronouns. You may mean that you don’t think she’s trying to be cruel, and I bet she isn’t, but she is absolutely mocking the concept of stating pronouns. I’ve known so many people who meant well but just didn’t *quite* get all of this pronoun stuff, and so I sympathize, but “she is mocking the concept of stating pronouns” and “she is a good person who can keep learning and growing” can both be true.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Also 100% the sort of behavior that will be used as fodder by “stating pronouns is just a joke – look at these examples!” types. Which makes life all the much harder for people trying to break out of the mold of “don’t quite get all this” and are looking around for examples of how to be decent to their fellow human beings.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        I have said for years that pronoun free-for-all will be (not may be) weaponized. I am surprised it hasn’t happened already. Given how many right-wingers have recently been demonstrating that they haven’t a club what a pronoun is, this might be the explanation. The other problem with pronoun free-for-all is that this simply isn’t how language works. Common nouns and proper nouns are pretty easy to switch. When my teenager announced his new name, there was a period of adjustment but it was actually pretty easy. The pronoun switch has been much harder. Pronouns are wired in the brain differently. This is why none of the various exotic suggestions have caught on. This was utterly predictable.

        The good news is that this is actually going to resolve around they/them as a non-gendered personal pronoun and all these problems will go away.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          I don’t suppose we can fast-forwards to they/them being accepted as a non-gendered personal pronoun? Please?

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            They already are, for many people, particularly many younger people. My kids use them very naturally, where I have to kind of stop and think about it for an instant.

            George Fox, an early Quaker, wrote a screed against the singular “you” replacing the older “thou” and “thee.” This was about fifty years after that ship had sailed. The result was that Quakers used thou/thee a few centuries longer than everyone else, but the response by everyone else at the time was that Fox was an old dude shouting at clouds. The same thing will happen here. I predict that a generation from now it will be totally normal, with a few wanna-be pedants complaining and everyone else ignoring them.

            1. KoiFeeder*

              Yes, I know, I went to Quaker school! We didn’t have to use thee/thou, but it showed up in many of our assigned readings because we were reading Texts Written By Quakers.

              And it drove the poor teacher who handled most of the shakespeare unit nuts that we could never get it right despite that (I know thou is nominative, thy/thine are possessive but one goes before vowels and one doesn’t, and I never did figure out what was up with thee).

              1. Corrvin (they/them)*

                “Thine” goes before vowels like “an” goes before vowels– they both have an “N” if that helps?
                So, “thy cupcake, thine apple” for instance.

          2. doreen*

            I don’t think we can, as much as I would like to. Because there are too many people who are opposed to a single set of non-gendered pronouns. And I don’t mean people who are insistent that she/her/hers are to be used for people with one type of body and he/him/his for people with another type and they/their/them are always plural. I mean people who think that everyone should remember that Kerry uses zie/zim/zir and Pat uses sie/sie/hir and Chris uses e/em/eir and using they/their/them for Kerry, Pat or Chris is just as offensive as using gendered pronouns.

        2. anonyMouse*

          I can confirm that it is harmful, if not necessarily weaponized yet. Maybe not super publically, but having people creating totally new pronouns (fae/fayr was one I still remember) brings a lot of people unfamiliar with the concept of choosing one’s pronoun up short. They begin to say “this is meaningless, these words signify nothing I understand and when I research it no one else seems to understand it either”. And then in a lot of people that becomes “these people are picking meaningless words -> these words are meaningless -> why should I bother remembering a meaningless thing”.

          Source: have seen this happen with older family members. Not people who are jerks either.

        3. Not All Hares Are Quick*

          Surely the elephant in the room is that this person has misunderstood what is being asked for? The request is for how you would like to be referred to (3rd person), not addressed (2nd person). ‘You’, ‘your’ and ‘Your Highness’ are already and always have been ungendered.
          Maybe take this person aside and point this out. At the very least, if they persist on the same path it would force them to choose between ‘His/Her/Their Highness’, which removes every issue except the jerkiness, which is now without any other justification.

    2. Wisteria*

      I wouldn’t jump to mocking. She is causing harm, but labelling her actions as mocking is imputing an intention that neither you nor the LW have any insight into. I don’t think it’s necessary to jump to conclusions about her motivations or intentions when you point out the harm that she is doing.

    3. AnonThisTime*

      I agree that she’s mocking it.

      But I also would deeply, deeply resent being forced to include pronouns in an email signature. I am fine with people defaulting to the pronouns that they do when addressing me but I do not want to be forced into claiming a set of pronouns for myself. I have absolutely no problem with supporting other people who do want to claim a certain set and have no issue with anyone else putting pronouns into their email signatures if they want to. But I can almost see a situation in which I would *think about* putting something else into a required space like that as a protest – not of stating pronouns in general but of forcing it onto me. Though I wouldn’t actually do it precisely because that is not how it would come across.

      1. Emily*

        This was my reaction exactly. I think required pronoun disclosure is short sighted. Certainly there are people who aren’t quite sure? Who are in the midst of grappling with their own identity and don’t feel ready to declare it at work? Perhaps they’re not interested in advertising the evolution of their gender identity, especially if it involves multiple facets, say from he/him to they/them to she/her? At least to me, any forced pronoun disclosure at work comes across as a misguided attempt to be an “ally” without any consideration to the negative impacts on the very people they’re claiming to support. I see how the Your Highness is a miss, but I also understand where it could be coming from.

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        sighWhile I can understand resenting being required to put any specific type of thing in one’s email sig, I also know why the requirement is made.

        The reason places are requiring it is to normalize letting people know your pronouns so they don’t have to guess. Sure, lots of people are easy – the ultra-fem woman in pink with full makeup, dresses and freshly done nails, or the macho guy with a full beard, buzz cut and lumberjack shirts. But those are maybe 10% of the workforce. The rest of us aren’t as easy, and what you think you see/read may not be the case.

        Take me for example. I’m non-binary. But I have the boobs of a person AFAB, and people assume, even though I wear polo shirt and jeans, that I want to be addressed by she/her. I don’t. I put my pronouns in my email to head this off. But if other people don’t use preferred pronouns, it comes off as “look at me, I’m different!” If everyone has pronouns, it becomes normal.

        I realize that many people haven’t experienced being aggressively misgendered. It’s not just a microaggression – it actually is an attack on who you are. Putting pronouns in email can help short circuit that by taking away the “oh, I didn’t know” excuse. Requiring them makes it normal.

        1. JustaTech*

          A few months ago I had an hour long discussion with my in-laws about what pronouns in an email signature meant. They’d just hired a new guy and at the bottom of his email sig it said (he/him). So she calls my husband and I in a tither asking if this is homophobic.
          “No, no, he’s just putting his pronouns there.”
          “But why?”
          So first we explained that some people’s pronouns aren’t obvious (either from their physical presentation or their name) and then explained that people who aren’t likely to get mis-gendered (like us) include pronouns in their signatures to normalize it for everyone.
          I think she got it after about the third time. (She’s also been retired for years so is very behind on email signature etiquette.)

    4. Some Dude*

      Jokey pronouns are a pet peeve of mine (although I’m a straight cismale who is very cismale presenting so it never impacts me personally, I just object to being shitty to trans or non-binary people on principle). I work with a lot of queer and queer-adjacent folks, and I’ve also seen it done by queer people whose colleagues include tons of trans/nb folks. They will be like, “my pronouns are diva!” And maybe in their specific context it is not taken as mocking the concept of pronouns but rather as a playfulness within the group, but it bugs me. It’s not the place to be glib or irreverent.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I’ve had good luck with taking the person aside and explaining to them that pronouns are Not A Good Place For Jokes, and explaining that it can both be seen as mocking people’s actual pronouns in some cases and that it also just … takes up space that they shouldn’t be taking up, because it’s important to keep the pronoun signals clear so we refer to people correctly and they’re adding noise rather than information. (In our context, I’m clear with them that they can list pronouns or not as they prefer, but that they need to not use that space for jokes. We have lots of other spaces that can be for jokes because we’re not relying on them for actual information, but that one we need to keep clear.)

      The people I’m having these conversations with tend to be Older Dudes Who Like Puns A Lot, so in their cases I’m pretty sure it comes from an impulse where their first tendency with any new thing they come across is how to make it a funny joke rather than that they have a pronoun-specific complaint, so it’s mostly about pointing out that this is not a thing where that’s a good move. Sometimes I also refer them to Scalzi’s essay about how the failure mode of clever is asshole.

    6. Susan Ivanova*

      Even if *she* thinks her pronouns are obvious, and she has a name that has never in the history of the English language been given to a boy, someone who only deals with her via email and is from a different culture is not going to think it’s that obvious.

  72. Sabine the Very Mean*

    Whoa #65…this seems like a very extreme stance to take. I don’t see what anyone has to apologize for.

  73. Azure Jane Lunatic*

    #43 – *submitting* a video cover letter: not a good idea. Using video as a way of getting over the hump to get a *first draft* of a cover letter? GREAT idea! Do your video, then let the points and phrasing that you were able to bring up in the video work for you in the second, probably written, draft.

    1. Strawberry*

      I submitted that question, and I’m going to do just that, except in audio so it auto transcribes.

  74. Angstrom*

    46: I’ve been frustrated on work trips being in a new interesting place with colleagues who just wanted to sit in the hotel and drink every night. I’d check to see if there was something specific work-related on the evening agenda, and if not I’d go out. Much better for physical and mental health to go to a museum or show or just out to explore.

    1. snowyowl*

      And check with your work mates about this! A lot of times more of them want to go see things then you know but they haven’t really considered it as an option.
      At my last conference a group from a few different agencies, including me and a coworker, went to a science museum and had a blast.

      1. Fran Fine*

        Yeah, I always used to rope my colleagues into going places outside of the conference venues with me when I had to travel for work, lol. No one ever objected. My colleagues at my current company didn’t even have to be cajoled into it – they barely attended the breakout sessions when we attended conferences pre-COVID because they wanted to go sight seeing instead!

  75. lb*

    Re #40 – I love Danny Lavery very, very much but every time he got a work-related letter when he was doing Dear Prudie, I fervently wished Alison were answering it.

    1. Nameless in Customer Service*

      Word. And things have not improved on the topic of work since his departure.

      There was a letter to How To Do It which still haunts me. The LW was a young woman whose family member (!) was trying to pressure her into sex work she did not want to do, and the answer was basically advice for that career rather than advice on how to fend off the pressure. I very nearly wrote in to tell them to refer her to AAM, who could offer advice on jobhunting (and standing up for oneself).

    1. Hlao-roo*

      I haven’t read Hench yet, but it’s on my list.

      For #61 – The TV show “Harley Quinn” has some bits about the work side of being in a supervillain crew. The work stuff isn’t the main point of the show, but I greatly enjoyed those jokes.

    2. GoryDetails*

      Awesome! I really enjoyed Hench (even the incredibly dark and twisty bits), and was hoping there’d be a sequel. More from The Auditor!

    3. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      Going to get this out of the library tonight! It sounds right up my alley.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        I just went to see about it at my library, and there are several holds on it right now, despite there being many copies available on the shelves. I assume it is from other AAM readers putting the hold during yesterday’s chat!

    4. CIM*

      I grabbed Hench off of Amazon based on yesterday’s mention, and inhaled it. So good, and so glad there’s a sequel coming!

    5. Kayem*

      Yessss! After reading Alison’s recommendation, I bought it and wound up staying up late to finish it. I’m looking forward to the sequel!

  76. Gumby*

    The twitter thread linked in #70 was actually great but also seemed to have the mom (or aunt or whatever the relationship was) advising her daughter to lie or at least mislead on applications and I find that really upsetting. This is not the fault, obviously, of the person tweeting the conversation they overheard. But “pretend that something I did is actually something you did” is horrible, terrible, no good, very bad advice.

  77. Strawberry*

    Ugh. I wrote the video cover letter idea, and I’m discouraged that it isn’t seen as a good option. I CAN write, but I am terrible at writing about myself. Why must EVERYTHING be stacked against the neurodivergent??? I want to give up.

    1. Authorial*

      I feel you. I am a publisher author and cover letters still give me extreme anxiety. Gradually over time I’ve developed strategies that help me, but yeah, they’re still horrible. Best of luck to you.

      1. Strawberry*

        Oh wow, that is extremely encouraging. I can sit down and bang out some pretty good writing (not self assessed, I’ve been complimented on it before) but for some reason writing about myself is just HARD.

    2. Strawberry*

      I posted this comment before I saw the other encouraging comments above. I think I’ll have to try that approach, or dictating to myself and then working from the transcription. I’m just so battered emotionally from coming off back to back firings for mental health issues, and things have been very bleak so far.

        1. Strawberry*

          Thank you. It has been difficult. I filed with my state’s EEOC office about my disability specifically, but there’s a whooooooole lot of other stuff that I couldn’t specifically state in that claim. My first former employer low balled me three months salary for compensation for filing since I got another job after three months, but surprisingly, the depression hung on while I was waiting, and even more so when second job found out about what happened with first job and the filing. I ended up fired a week and a year after the first one.

          I was trying to avoid a lawyer and mediate – I just wanted to go back to work! – but they refuse. I’m in my 40s, and that was a career job I had explicitly told them I intended to retire from. Now I’m trying to figure out finding a lawyer after all. I think I have a strong case, but trying to find a lawyer with no conflict of interest and that would take this case has been difficult, along with trying to find yet another job.

          Bad management will poison an otherwise harmonious workplace. I have the emotional scars as proof.

    3. Sorryberry*

      Cover letters can be really hard, I always feel like I’m advertising myself and it’s not a great feeling. That being said I have found it more helpful if I kind of pretend I’m not writing it about me? Like obviously all of my accomplishments but instead it’s for a character that would be played by me.

      If you have a friend to look it over too that will help. And early on in my career I would just highlight which parts needed to be changed and just roll with one cover letter so I didn’t have to keep writing them. It can make you a bit less specific about the job but can be helpful enough to do more job applications to be worth it.

      You are not alone and good luck!

      1. Strawberry*

        I like that idea too! I actually do write pretty well (from what I’ve been told), and I can talk about myself reasonably okay, but for some reason writing about myself is an impossible, daunting task. I think I’ve just been in the forest of despair so long that the obvious solution wasn’t that obvious.

        Thank you!

        1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

          Just wanted to say that nothing is truly “obvious” even without the forest of despair. Our brains see what they see, in the ways they see it. Our frames of reference simply can’t encompass everything! So that’s why it’s wonderful when other people share what they see that might help us. You didn’t miss it. It just wasn’t in your viewfinder. I’m glad you found support today!

          I am also ND. And writing this nudges me to transfer my compassion for you to myself <3

          1. Strawberry*

            Thank you. Why is it we can give great advice to others, but not to ourselves? *shakes fist at brain*

        2. Divergent*

          Can you pretend you’re a friend talking about you, telling the hiring manager why they should get in touch and ask if you want the job? Neurodivergent here too, and I find cover letters easy because it’s masking I can do in private and think about a lot before I do it and even research the target.

          I really hope you get some support out of that despair.

        3. Snow Globe*

          A great piece of advice (I think from Alison here on this site) is to pretend you are writing to your best friend telling them about this great job you are applying to and explaining why you’d be great at it. I find that framing really helpful to get me started.

            1. JustaTech*

              Yes, this is how I write my cover letters. I’m not writing them about me (gag ick yuck no!), I’m writing them about this amazing other person who just happens to be named JustaTech, who just happens to have my exact work experience, but Is Not me.

              If I’m really extra stuck (because it’s one of those days), then I’ll write it like I’m back in 11th grade history class, writing classic 5 paragraph essays. I would never *send* a cover letter in that format (way too stiff) but it gets stuff on the page that I can come back to with a cup of tea and revise into something that sounds much more conversational (and like my writing voice).

              From one ADHD to another, Strawberry, good luck! We’re all rooting for you!

              1. Strawberry*

                Thanks. Follow up – how did you stop from getting carried away, or did you let that be part of the process?

    4. Anon all day*

      Do you have anyone who can write it for you? Like, if you tell them what points you want to highlight, notes you want to hit, they can craft the letter?

      I know this isn’t the most ethical thing, but when I’m sure others are constantly doing it with less/no justification, I can’t be too pressed about it.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Not unethical really, unless you’re applying to a writing job. They need to know who you are and why you fit their needs. If someone else’s wording can convey that better than what you came up with, then the cover letter is doing its’ job.

      2. Strawberry*

        I think I can write it – this post and the supportive comments and suggestions have really done a lot to help my self esteem!

    5. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      What did you think about the suggestions to record yourself, then write down what you said in the recording? It doesn’t get you out of writing at some point, of course, but it does let you start by doing what comes more easily to get the words out.

      1. kitryan*

        My mom used to do that with me when I had trouble getting started with school reports. She would ask me the questions I was supposed to answer and write down what I said, then give me the notes to turn into the report. It was very helpful when I was blocked on how to start (possibly because of undiagnosed ADHD) and I imagine it or a similar approach could work for adults writing cover letters.
        I also do the ‘think about it as if you are your own best friend/colleague and what would you say then?’ trick, to keep from being too reticent with my own accomplishments.

      2. Strawberry*

        It’s a great suggestion, and I’m going to try that! I think I’ve been in this gloomy forest of unemployment and seeing solutions has been really difficult, especially when I’m not only trying to find a job but deal with the BS from the last job/s.

        And the deep, deep depression. I am medicated, and technically have a therapist, but I need a good lawyer instead of a therapist at this point. Which, ugh.

    6. just passing through*

      I’m so sorry for what you’re going through, I hope things get better.

      I know you said elsewhere you wanted to use an auto-transcription service to transcribe yourself, and there’s nothing wrong with that especially if you don’t have anyone around who’s available/suited to help you get your thoughts on the page, but I do want to urge you not to discount it if you *do* have anyone in your life that’s good for talking writing out with. I fill that role for my (also ADHD) best friend and it is truly never a burden to me — I enjoy hearing her thoughts and helping organize them and get them on paper. And if you’re doing it with a friend they can remind you of all the ways you rock that you might not be remembering while you write :)

      Obviously do what works for you, but I’ve noticed that sometimes my friend assumes my helping her is as difficult and miserable for me as doing the cover letter is for her, and it’s really not difficult and miserable for me at all, so I wanted to encourage you not to exclude the possibility of help from friends on that ground, if you do by any chance have someone who’s qualified and offering.

      Regardless of whether they can help with this specific thing, I hope you have all kinds of good support from people in your life who care about you — you deserve that.

      1. Strawberry*

        Thank you. I was actually heavily considering writing a book about all the things that happened in the past five years before this did, and still sort of am, but it’s been one heavy thing after another. I’d go into great detail, but it’s pretty identifiable. Let’s say if I do get around to a book, it’s a crazy memoir.

        Ironically, one of the things that happened in the last five years is that we moved 1700 miles across the country, so we have few friends here. Husband is also quite underemployed and trying to hang onto a career in a dying industry, so he’s been searching as well. I do have some good friends, but it’s definitely a lot harder at a distance. I’ve also been distancing myself probably more than I should out of…shame? Not wanting to sound like a broken record? Not wanting to continually be a downer? Not sounding like I’m obsessed over what happened and how I got totally fubared?

        I’m quite glad you are a good friend to your friend. AD/HD is so much harder than people who don’t know about it thinks it is. I want to do the thing! Brain does not want to do the thing! Brain goes BRRRRRRR! The lack of a schedule doesn’t help, but I’m trying to get out of the 3 AM-11AM sleep schedule so I can try to get back on track.

        Having these very helpful and encouraging comments is so tremendously helpful, and I think it will really help get me over the hump.

    7. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      I know you his is against advice here, but my last job search I didn’t send a single cover letter. Unless they ask for one, or you’re in a field where they are common, try sending one without them.

      And maybe you’d like the video screeners that were in a later letter!

      1. Strawberry*

        I’ve applied to a few jobs that didn’t require cover letters (mostly through Indeed where it wasn’t required) and haven’t heard a thing. I’m in my 40s and trying to figure out another new career when I had one I loved and intended on doing until retirement. It’s been pretty hard to even know which direction to go in some days. These comments have been great though!

    8. Sarah Jane*

      I really really hope that you can gain some traction with recording and transcribing. And if you have anyone in your life that could edit and assist with the letter I would heartily recommend that too (I had a few friends look over mine). I don’t think it’s fair that cover letters put a much larger burden on some folks than others, and will think about that the next time I do hiring.

      However! Speaking as a fellow neurodivergent (autistic), I’ve been a hiring manager a few times and a video cover letter would be very difficult for me to process. I can handle video calls just fine, but I have a ton of trouble focusing on videos and passively getting information from them. It isn’t just at work – I don’t watch tiktok, I can’t watch video tutorials, and I skip TV a lot of the time too. Having to review video cover letters would take me a long time and give me a rather large headache.

      Maybe that just means we *both* should be accommodated – you should be able to submit your letter as a video, and I should be able to ask for a transcript from HR instead. But I did want to provide some context to why videos aren’t a great idea for everyone.

  78. a raging ball of distinction*

    #73 – If you’re doing it right, people fire themselves. If you clearly communicate your expectations, confirm with the person that they want to change, clearly communicate where & when they fall short, clearly communicate timelines and stick to them… Assuming it’s not a gross skills mismatch where the person never should have been hired in the first place, letting someone go does not all fall on you. It definitely does stink. But as long as you did it right, it wasn’t entirely only up to you.

  79. DannyG*

    #23: I experienced this exact situation this spring. Applying for a new position internally and had just responded to a request for available dates for a 2nd round interview. I had been my (much) older sister’s PoA/Guardian for the last 6 years & got a call from the nursing home that she was crashing. I was able to get there before she passed, but I had several days of work to handle the immediate issues. Which overlapped most of the dates I had listed . I emailed my potential new supervisor & explained the situation. She was more than gracious: take care of your family, take care of yourself, when your world stops spinning send some more dates. I did…and ended up getting the position. Her response was a good indication of the type of manager she is.

  80. Nicki Name*

    #71: I seem to have had a pretty even distribution so far, thinking back. 2 terrible bosses, 3 neutral, 2 good, one of those spectacularly so.

    There was also a stretch where I had no boss at all (the position was open, and our grandboss was too busy filling in for an open spot on one of his other teams to do any real supervising of us, so the senior members of the team worked together to direct the team) which ranks as some of the better months of my career.

    1. Alexis Rosay*

      I’ve never had a boss who was truly all good or all bad as a boss. Each of them has had some important strengths and at least one significant weaknesses when it came to their management style.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I must have been incredibly lucky. I think most of my bosses have skewed neutral. I have had one or two excellent bosses (bizarrely, the most excellent was a 22 year old), a couple who were nice guys but ineffective and unwilling to make the hard decisions (these always seemed to be men for some reason), one who was a complete bully (thankfully, she was more of a team lead and really awesome boss was HER superior) and one who was a perfectly nice person but just out of her gourd.

      I’m honestly not even sure how many people to count as bosses, because like, I guess the principal is my BOSS, but the deputy principal also has a certain amount of authority and in my specific role, the SENCO sort of runs our department. And I subbed for a number of years, so I worked under some principals for a matter of days or weeks. Had two or three bosses who SEEMED excellent when I was subbing, but it’s hard to tell for sure because some issues don’t come up in that role. Somebody who seemed excellent when you worked under them for a couple of weeks or months might not seem so great if you were there years,

    3. Snow Globe*

      I guess I’ve been very, very lucky. I’ve had nearly 20 different bosses, only two were bad (and one of those was fired), about 5 neutral, and the rest very good or excellent. Maybe because I spent most of my career in a company that did a great job in hiring/training managers.

    4. Fran Fine*

      I’ve had 6 good-to-great managers over my 12 year career, 6 neutral ones (my current manager is in this category), and only 3 really bad ones. All of my really bad managers happened earlier in my career when I took jobs for survival versus taking them because I wanted them.

  81. kiki*

    45: Delia may also have been trying to protect you if her reputation hadn’t been the best when she left. Or she may have simply wanted to avoid calls from her former workplace. I would try to put it out of my head and assume this has nothing to do with you.

  82. EchoGirl*

    49 is me, thanks for answering my question! I knew not to write another cover letter into the email, but was getting a bit hung up on what DO I say to get the point across and not be too curt or abrupt.

  83. required name*

    #34: what even happened? “oh whoops, we just merged, let’s randomly pick one half of every couple to fire” or “whoops, we merged, let’s look at all our couples and the one who performs worse gets voted off the island”??? Did the couples have any lead time at all to job hunt? Did you give them severance? Or did they wake up one day and half their family income was gone through circumstances out of their control.

    Yeah. Losing a great employee over this is… completely reasonable. If she’s that fantastic, she won’t have any problems finding a job at a place that didn’t just up and fire her husband for no reason.

    1. kiki*

      Yeah, it’s confusing that LW’s boss is surprised this happened based on their new policy. I wouldn’t be surprised if more of the remaining halves of these couples leave as soon as they can land something new.

    2. KoiFeeder*

      I would presume the latter, because that’s at least vaguely-sort-of work related. Though maybe they really did flip a coin if some of the couples were performing at equal (or equal enough) levels.

      And even if the couples were warned that one of them would be fired due to the policy of the company they were merging with, her husband got lead time, excellent severance, and all the works, it still wouldn’t be unreasonable for her to decide to leave over this policy. She’s an excellent employee and she almost certainly has other options- if that company isn’t working for her, it’s not working for her.

      1. required name*

        if I’m in that position, I’m sitting there and wondering what other bizarre policies they have that reach too much into their employees home lives. But I work for a gigantic org. Yeah, of course, employees can’t manage family members. But to have a spouse in another division? It would be seen as such a strange overreach to say if you start dating someone who is among the tens of thousands of people who work here, one of you has to quit.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Oh, this is a horribly executed policy- I assume it’s to prevent nepotism and/or sexual harassment? But it’s a terrible way to go about it. I’m also sitting here wondering just how badly they’ve botched other intended-as-protective policies, as well as how badly they’d handle an actual case of sexual harassment at the company if this is their idea of a preventative policy.

          My point was more that even if this is the only case of bad judgement on the part of the company and they did their absolute best to mitigate the impact on employees during the merger, it’d still be reasonable for her to leave.

        2. DannyG*

          I’m wondering what the background to that policy is. Is this something that admin/HR/£egal came up with out of whole cloth or did something tragic like a domestic violence murder occur on site to spur this type of policy?

        3. UKDancer*

          Same here. I’m not permitted by my company to date people I work for or people who work for me. If I want do so one of us has to move. I’m also not allowed to manage or be managed by family members. All of this seems very reasonable and it’s been the same in all the companies I’ve worked for. They don’t try and stop people dating their co-workers as long as it doesn’t present a conflict of interest because we’re a big company and a lot of people meet their partners at work. Firing people for being in a relationship with a colleague elsewhere in the company, especially if your company is just taking over another company, is guaranteed to tank morale and cause good people to leave.

    1. Relentlessly Socratic*

      Darn message fail : # 58. How long should I wait Having been on both sides of the Zoom, please please please provide some contact information when setting up the interview so that if the candidate has technical issues, they can contact someone. I have been in situations where as a candidate I’ve been: Sent to the wrong Teams link; had Internet crap out; had someone not know the difference between central and eastern time — when this happens, and I don’t have anyone to contact, then I’m a no-show. As an interviewer, I always provide contact information for day-of tech issues.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        When I interviewed for my current job via Zoom, they made it clear to me that I would spend the first 5-10 minutes sitting on the call with a lovely HR person to make sure that I had the correct meeting link and there were no technical issues on either end. Only then would the actual interview start.

        I’m very grateful that they thought to do it this way, because it made the whole thing a lot less stressful, both for me and for the interviewers.

  84. Baron*

    73: you’re more conscientious than most. I hate to have to let people go because of performance issues if they’re honestly doing their best, but I find it easier when it’s because of attitude issues. (Still not fun to take away somebody’s livelihood.)

  85. Lily Potter*

    #65’s question didn’t get answered. He didn’t need to be told to get over the hurt – he needed a response for when his former co-workers call and “apologize” in order to get something out of him. It’s tricky, because he can’t say what he wants to say (“sure, you’re sorry NOW”) and he can’t just not answer the phone (much as I’m sure he’d like to!)

    1. Sabine the Very Mean*

      I don’t understand why there needs to be apologies at all. I’d find it super odd if laid off coworker started working at a client org and was outwardly upset that I didn’t call to say Hi or whatever. To the point where I’d find them unprofessional and would avoid them.

      1. Anon all day*

        Yeah, exactly. Sometimes the question can’t be answered because it assumes an unreasonable premise, and that beginning assumption must be addressed.

        1. Falling Diphthong*


          First, workplace friendships are often all about being in the same place at the same time, and when that ends the friendship fades off.

          Second, OP seems to be picturing some sort of “Ha, we don’t need you to buy our pens! We have plenty of customers already!” which is really not going to land as remotely normal or commensurate.

          1. turquoisecow*

            Yeah, these aren’t “real” friendships, they’re professional relationships. If OP doesn’t want to continue having these professional relationships, that’s fine, but they need to know that a) they’re taking this super personally and other people may find it weird and b) this might end up affecting them professionally as well. If OP declines customers for her new business or refuses to work with old coworkers because of perceived personal slights, that’s not going to end well for OP, because as a professional they’re expected to put aside personal issues.

      2. Tuesday*

        Yeah, I think Alison’s reply was spot on – this is really normal when someone gets laid off. Maybe they were waiting for the LW to reach out once things had cooled off, or maybe they just didn’t know what to say and felt too awkward to stay in touch. Either way, as much as it hurts to be snubbed by someone you used to see every day, coworkers don’t owe you friendship outside of work. I would just chalk this up to people that were fine to work with but clearly weren’t interested in staying friends after they didn’t have work in common anymore. Don’t let this impact your professional relationship with them moving forward.

      3. Lily Potter*

        LW#65 is not asking for an apology – quite the opposite. He’s clearly expecting one along the lines of “Hey LW#65 long time, no see! Sorry I didn’t get in touch when the layoff happened, but I’m hoping that you can help me and OldJob with a rush job!”. LW#65 asked Allison how to reply without granting blanket forgiveness. There’s no way to know this but I suspect that there are certain co-workers that he’d be okay replying “Oh, not a problem, good to hear from you!” and others where he’s holding an understandable grudge. Should he hold the grudge? Maybe not – but that wasn’t his question.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          1) What people are trying to say is that there’s nothing to forgive. This fading of a proximity friendship when proximity ends is normal, and conveying that he may hold a grudge is not going to land as normal.

          2) He really might want to run the intended cold shoulder by his boss, who may disagree that they have so much business they don’t need OP’s old company, or that new job is the proper context in which to work out OP’s grievances with old job.

        2. Malarkey01*

          I think it is far my likely that no apology will be offered and the former coworker will say “Hi LW, it’s so great to connect with you again. How have things been? ..and after a second of small talk “we’d love to talk to your company about your llamas”.

          I wouldn’t think to apologize to a former coworker about not contacting them (and it goes both ways, LW didn’t reach out to them either) so I don’t any of them will go into it with an apology…which will probably annoy LW even more.

  86. WonkyStitch*

    The answer about Facebook offering full-time remote work is so ironic – years ago when I was looking for work, I reached out to their “diversity and inclusion” recruiters about working remotely as a reasonable accommodation for disability, and they totally blew me off. Insisted all work had to be done at their Menlo Park site. Jerks.

  87. zlionsfan*

    Re #21: I wouldn’t talk about this during the conversations about peace offerings, except maybe as an aside and in a clearly different tone (the first part being more instructive – don’t bring peace offerings, let’s just get you on the right track – and the second part being more informational), but as someone who also doesn’t drink, I noticed that you’ve already received two alcohol-related gifts from this employee, and I suspect that if you don’t mention it that more will follow.

    But it should also be a two-part explanation! One part is “hey, I appreciate the thought behind these, but I don’t drink, so if you were to leave a small gift it really shouldn’t be alcohol-related” … and the second part, immediately after, should be “and remember, gifts should flow down, not up! You don’t need to get me anything at all, ever. I appreciate your work (even if sometimes things don’t quite go as we’d want), and that’s all I need.”

  88. I Speak for the Trees*

    25. Cats vs dogs

    I’ve had several bosses offer to let me bring my cats on dog day, but that would have been a literal hell for them, I fear. That said, I did once work at an office which was 30 minutes from my house, but three minutes from my vet, so on vet days, I’d bring whichever cat had the appointment and they’d hang out all day. Thankfully, I had a small, portable litterbox and all my coworkers were cat people. The bonus was that Yoda, my male cat, loved it so much that he didn’t mind going to the vet because he also got to go to the office where he’d be constantly petted, played with, and stuffed with treats.

    1. Kevin Sours*

      Cat’s really aren’t trained they way dogs are to sit quietly or otherwise stay were they are told to. Plus they generally don’t deal well with new environments. I don’t know of a cat I’ve owned that wouldn’t react by finding an inconvenient place to hide and stay there until somehow forced out. There are probably exceptions but they’re rare. It just wouldn’t do anybody any good.

    2. kitryan*

      I brought my cat in for 2 days when my apt building was doing fire alarm testing (with my boss’s permission and after checking for any allergy issues with my immediate coworkers). I had an office with a door and nothing going on that would require anyone to use the space during the time in question, so I figured it would be nicer for cat to stay in the office with me than to be subject to the incredibly loud alarms at home, alone.
      She clearly didn’t enjoy it but was not overly put out. My coworkers however, took her picture through the window and printed it out and put her name on the door, saying [Cat’s] Office, with her picture. They got a kick out of the whole thing.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Destructobot would love it. She would shed orange hairs all over everyone, slowly push all the objects off each desk, and spend the afternoon casting herself over people’s feet while they tried to walk to the kitchen.

  89. Kevin Sours*

    Maybe I’m off base but I kind feel like “parents shouldn’t get involved in their children’s jobs” should be relaxed a little bit when you are talking about minors. While the employee should generally be the one to deal with things and parents get involved when they shouldn’t, stepping in to deal with things when life goes off the rails is something parents are supposed to for their children who are not yet adults. Especially when dealing with inappropriate work demands or other attempts to exploit a child’s lack of experience.

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

      If its’s a parent worried about kid being exploited, or possible abuse, then yes, I agree with you. But if its just parents calling and demanding the manager change their son’s schedule or wanting to be part of the interview, then no. There’s got to be a time where the kid learns how to do these things on their own.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        I’m not sure the line is that bright. Is “I told you I can’t work Saturday mornings because I have band practice but you keep scheduling me then” just a “change to their son’s schedule”. Scheduling is a pretty common source of exploitive practices.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          In high school oldest worked in a tutoring office, in a barn, in a restaurant, and had summer internships in a lab. (She had an expensive hobby.) Never once did I communicate with these places on her behalf. If someone scheduled her when she couldn’t work I’d expect her to say “no” followed by “then I quit” if for some reason they insisted that she work at their will, rather than when she’d indicated she was available.

          I think I had a rule that she couldn’t work her first semester freshman year, until she had a handle on how much time just academics + hobbies was taking. (Insert “oh mom” eyeroll.) That was the extent of my interference with her paid work.

        2. doreen*

          My position was if my kid is old enough to work, they are old enough to ask me for advice and then handle it themself. Even if it is exploitative and even for the most part if it’s illegal – me calling the manager to tell them it’s illegal to schedule a 16 yr old until 2 am isn’t going to lead to a better result than my kid telling the manager “I quit”. Same goes for scheduling on Saturday morning. There’s nothing a parent calling will do that the kid can’t do – either the manager just forgot and will fix it, the manager doesn’t give a damn and it will happen again next week or the manager needs someone Saturday morning and if my kid can’t work then , he’ll have to be replaced. Those options aren’t going to change just because I call. What the parent can do is help the kid decide if the job or the band is more important and help the kid work out what to say to the manger – but actually speaking to the manager? Nope.

        3. #60 OP*

          Jumping in here real quick. I know there are a lot of things that seem really simple. The problem is when you open the door, you’ve …. well, opened the door. It leads to a whole host of issues, and ultimately we’ve just deferred back to our ultimate responsibility which is our employee. Not their parent.

          Think about circumstances that are less black and white than a parent looking out for their kid. Parents who want to pick up their kid’s paycheck, resign on behalf of their child, change their child’s schedule, etc. I have minor employees who I believe to have difficult home lives… if my responsibility is to them, then I’m holding that boundary in those circumstances and therefore in ALL circumstances. I can’t stop a parent from ordering their minor child to quit a job that they want, but I can keep these boundaries that are within my purview as an employer.

          I do believe it’s best for the employee in the long run for the reasons I noted here, and for the reasons that other commenters have noted. We’re not super rigid, we’re not rudely turning away parents, but we are redirecting the conversation and citing privacy.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I think if you are actually worried your child’s workplace is exploiting them the answer is to tell them to quit. A parent stepping in won’t fix the problem if it’s truly that kind of workplace. If a child cannot advocate for themselves, I truly feel like they are not ready for the working world where they will be interacting with managers, coworkers, and the public at large (which don’t behave all that great in the retail/food service jobs most kids have).

    3. Meep*

      I worked at Safeway when I was 16. There were twin girls who worked with me. One was hard-working and dedicated. One clearly did not want to be there. Safe to say, Mom would call into management and inform them that NO her daughter did not quit every two weeks like clockwork. Honestly, if I was management, I would’ve just let her quit.

    4. J*

      I casually mentioned how exploitative first jobs were when my niece was applying at 14. My brother-in-law grilled me about it privately later. I explained about the constant sexual harassment, scheduling (like the time my job called me in 4th period math and asked me to come in to cover a shift…that was in the middle of 5th period) and honestly predators in the community. Like a person who escalated from masturbating in the shoe department to kidnapping a child and I was on shift for multiple occurrences.

      Brother-in-law passed away last year and my niece shared at the funeral how on some days she worked he’d order endless amounts of food just to sit in the dining area at a distance and make sure she was safe. I don’t think many adults with office jobs remember all the risks faced at jobs where you’re a minor. My parents were super hands off and I had to navigate all that as a child and I feel like if I had a kid, I’d be very concerned if I heard about those issues happening to my fake kid.

  90. PersephoneUnderground*

    LW#43: My ADHD coach actually told me to not bother with cover letters, because it’s better to submit a resume alone than not apply at all.

    In my case, worrying about cover letters had slowed my job hunt to a crawl, and just dropping the whole expectation made a huge difference. In some fields or situations you can’t get away with this, but it might be worth it to try the resume only approach and see if it ends up working better for you.

    If you want some kind of narrative explanation to guide people reading your resume, the summary section is good for that, but doesn’t have to be rewritten every time.

  91. Paris Geller*

    #25-I have two cats. One I absolutely would not bring into an office even if I could because he spooks very easily. The other one would LOVE going into an office as he would have the potential to make so many new friends! He’s scared of nothing and is happy to make friends with all other living creatures (yes, including the dogs in the office). He even likes exploring the vet office. He’s my lovable weirdo.

  92. Richard Hershberger*

    #52: The Oxford comma is not always the best choice. It is the best choice more often than not, but those “not” cases exist. The issue is a list of three items: “A, B, and C” or “A, B and C.” Either can be ambiguous because of apposition. This is when you rename something: “The capital of Norway, Oslo, is very nice this time of year.” There is no ambiguity here, but when we get to lists, wackiness can ensue. The classic example is some variant of “my parents, God and Ayn Rand.” Without the Oxford comma this can be taken as “God and Ayn Rand” being in apposition to “my parents.” “My parents, God, and Ayn Rand” eliminates this ambiguity, hence the argument for the Oxford comma. But change “my parents” to “my father.” Now we have “my father, God, and Ayn Rand.” If spoken aloud, the intonation of the voice makes clear whether the speaker is naming God as their father, but written language lacks this tool.

    All the discussion around the Oxford comma is people asking for a simple rule they can follow without any additional thought. This isn’t how good writing works. Using the Oxford comma is a good rule of thumb to start with. It is more likely to be beneficial than harmful. But if you are serious about writing well, you will need to put more effort into it. Also, this really really is not worth obsessing about. This turns the topic into another stupid language peeve. The hallmark of an enduring peeve is that it is easy to understand, with no nuance getting in the way. English punctuation is a strange and wonderful thing. Reducing it to a language peeve does it no honor.

    1. Tuesday*

      I don’t think it’s about wanting a rule just so you don’t have to think about it anymore, but wanting a rule so you can punctuate the same way throughout a book, website, blog post, etc. You can’t just choose to omit the Oxford comma sometimes and not others because it’s clearer that way. In the example you cited, I would think the better choice would be to just rewrite the sentence to avoid the confusion. Of course, you can say the same thing about both options, so there isn’t really any merit in arguing about it. It’s the writer’s job to ensure clarity no matter the style guide.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Serious response: Why can’t you use the Oxford comma selectively? Pull up a page of edited text. Look at every comma on that page. Think about places that don’t have commas but could. Writers, or editors, have general tendencies about where they use commas, but there is nothing like absolute consistency. It’s just that we have collectively latched on to this one situation, the presence of absence of a comma before the last item on a list, and privileged it as Very Important Indeed. Why? Just because.

        And yes, recasting the sentence often is the best choice. The Oxford comma won’t save you from this.

      2. ThatGirl*

        You absolutely can use Oxford commas selectively! That’s exactly what the AP style guide rule is – use it when it helps!

        1. Tuesday*

          Well, the AP style guide isn’t the only one out there. In my work we use style guides for consistency, so pieces will be punctuated the same way across authors and platforms. For the purpose of uniformity, we’re expected to use the Oxford comma every time. I’m not in journalism, but I’ve never worked anywhere that would have been okay with selective punctuation – if I left it out, it would be considered an error.

      3. ceiswyn*

        Yes, yes you can just choose to omit the Oxford comma some times and not others because it’s clearer that way. Being clear is the entire purpose of writing. A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I also think you can fix the “my parents, God and Ayn Rand,” simply by rephrasing the sentence. “Ayn Rand, God and my parents.”

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        When in doubt, recast the sentence.

        That, along with, “I cannot explain, I can merely describe,” constitutes the majority of my copy editing of friends’ grad school papers.

    3. Nanani*

      That’s why we have style guides.
      People trying to over-broaden their preference in stylistic matters by pretending its a law of the entire language are wrong. But they aren’t wrong to have the preference in the first place.

  93. ZSD*

    #72 – When interviews used to be in person, I always took a half dose of Pepto before leaving the house just to be safe.

  94. Alex (they/them)*

    LW #67- please say something! As a non-binary person, speaking up personally about “””jokes””” like that is often received poorly and as being “too sensitive”, but a cis person saying something would be more likely listened to. I’m very used to transphobic people online using those types of jokes to signal their transphobia and would be extremely uncomfortable with a coworker doing that.

  95. Richard Hershberger*

    #17 Straightforward boss: Many years ago, in a previous life, I worked retail. The best manager I ever had was perfectly straight with me. I might show up in the morning and we would tell me “Richard, I’m going to screw you over today.” In practice this meant preventing me from performing my usual job responsibilities, while still holding me responsible for them. That’s retail! I worse boss would go smarmy on me. But by being straight with me, we was acknowledging the reality while making it clear that this was a considered response to some imperative above me and beyond his control. I can work with that.

    1. kitryan*

      When my boss felt they had a tedious/thankless/irritating task for me, there would be an apple cinnamon turnover (which he knew was my fav from the bakery by his house) on my desk in the morning- a pastry of *doom* as it were. He was rather a ‘spoonful of sugar’ sort of person, and overall a pretty good boss :)

  96. Justin*

    The WFH and discrimination thing is very true. At my last job, I worked with some…. folks who were, let’s just say, outwardly friendly but way behind on a lot of my ideals. I struggled socially there, which affected my work.

    (I’m Black and neurodivergent for those unaware.)

    My boss noticed I was doing better after a year and half at home, and I couldn’t say WELL I DON’T LIKE YOU PEOPLE, but I wanted to.

    And now, with a job that respects WFH, I like my colleagues and I’m actually happy to go in a couple of times a week (not required, but I do it for variety).

    1. Divergent*

      Neurodivergent and genderweird here and always looking for diplomatic non-threatening ways to say I DON’T LIKE YOU PEOPLE. My boss is trying to harass WFHers back in so she can enforce social norms on us (pretty sure that’s the actual reason) and your story is hopeful and encourages me to drop a few more resumes out there.

  97. Same boat as #27*

    #27 (how much time to give a new manager to settle into the role) – I am currently in a similar situation, where I feel like my team is currently worse off with the new-ish manager than when we had none. Any suggestions on what next steps should be?

  98. Sara without an H*

    Hi, No.41 (Is my no bullying social media policy dumb?) — I don’t think it’s dumb, but you’re focussing too much on the social media part and not enough on the bullying, which is what you want to clearly make unacceptable, whether in social media or real life. Of the list you sent Alison, I’d keep these three:

    No selfies at work, no recording yourself at work, and no recording your coworkers (our company handles financial data).

    If your social media presence reflects badly on the company, it’s grounds for termination.

    No social media use on company hardware.

    What I think you want instead is a policy on workplace conduct, which will include treating coworkers with respect at all times, confidentiality (you said you handle financial data), plus an acceptable use policy for internet access and company hardware.

    When you get ready to start interviewing HR professionals, try to prep some interview questions about this topic and see if you can find someone with relevant experience.

    1. Snow Globe*

      The second one should be worded better-if an employee posts pictures of themself drinking, and their profile indicates where they work, is that grounds for firing? I would imagine employees having a hard time interpreting that.

      1. Sara without an H*

        Good point. Since the OP says they plan to hire an HR person soon, they should plan to ask about the candidate’s prior experience in drafting this kind of policy and how they would enforce it.

  99. Fran Fine*

    #30. Please don’t do this! I have a colleague that applied for a junior role to get a foot in the door, hated the job because she felt too senior for it, and became so unpleasant to be around because she did nothing but complain about a job that she willingly chose. I think it did more harm than good.

    1. The Real Fran Fine*

      Mmmm…who are you? Lol. I’ve been using this screen name here for about two years and have never seen you before (I almost thought I responded here and just didn’t remember…trippy, lol).

      1. Fran Fine*

        Hi! I am actually relatively new to the blog and don’t often read the comments section. Sorry to coopt your name! Will think of something else :)

  100. AnonRN*

    #45 (Delia)- I’ve worked with a couple of people who left under clouds of uncertainty. We are licensed professionals so I assume they were accused of doing something that could jeopardize their licenses…sometimes the mere accusation is threatening enough that someone leaves even if they know they are innocent. Even their current co-workers might just think they left voluntarily. If this is Delia’s case, she knows that bringing up her name will be a poor association for the applicant, though she probably doesn’t want to discuss the details (or may not even be allowed to). It’s unlikely, but possible.

  101. Trawna*

    #38 – are you eligible for a pension at your government job? If so, factor that into your decision. That’s very much worth keeping.

  102. Mouse*

    #54 (timelines): oh look, it’s me! (Not really, but I had a coworker recently comment that “We know [new planning process] is working because Mouse can give us timelines now.”)

    In my case, it boils down to a few different factors:
    – Time isn’t a real thing inside my head (probably something in the direction of ADHD, but not diagnosed), so it takes extra effort to think through what those dates actually mean beyond just “not now”.
    – Related to that, and especially with “figure it out” type work where I don’t know what kind of bugs or new issues I might run into, I don’t have a good intuitive grasp of how long work takes. If I don’t have good records or past metrics of how long similar work has taken, it’s difficult to guess at how long the current work might take.
    – Asking for an extension or to re-prioritize feels like failure, even if it’s due to other requests or inevitable firefighting. I can grasp intellectually that people would rather have dates and updates if needed than just “it’s in process”, but it feels much safer to just not attach a date because then at least I can’t miss the date yet again.

    What has helped:
    – Having a really good step by step schedule of current or projected tasks, including dependencies that will add time, so I can refer back to what’s due now and upcoming. Also to use as a reference the next time similar tasks come along.
    – Daily stand-ups, so I have a built-in opportunity to raise issues early and to re-orient myself to what’s going on.
    – Seeing in action that raising concerns about current or projected workload gets results. Proving to my brain over time that it’s ok to say “that won’t work” or “we’re not going to hit that date” makes a bigger difference than any amount of reassurance.
    – If a task really does have too many unknowns, setting a date for when to update rather than when to have it done, then planning the next stage from there.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      For those who can’t handle spice, try a dash or two of red wine vinegar. It also makes a huge difference!

  103. Emily*

    Thank you for the answer to #62. In my experience almost everyone who “just wants to follow up” after submitting an application really just wants to try and control and/or circumvent the process. I once had someone submit an application and then immediately call me saying he wanted to schedule an interview (so presumptuous!). I let him know that once we had a chance to review his application we would either contact him to schedule an interview or let him know we were moving forward with other candidates. After reviewing his application it was clear he was not at all a good fit for the position. In my experience no one who has called to “follow up” right after submitting an application has been a good fit for the position we were hiring for.

  104. PookieLou*

    For Alison about #40: Does other columnists’ work-related advice ever make you face-palm? What appalling advice have you seen in other columns that you know you would have handled better? Have you ever left your own, better advice in the comments under a pseudonym because you’re just that frustrated? (That’s probably crossing a professional line, but I would be so tempted!)

  105. Anon Supervisor*

    I crochet too! I entered 2 afghans into the State Fair this year for the first time.

  106. New Jack Karyn*

    #40: I read AITA sometimes (okay, a lot), and often, when I see stuff about the workplace, I link this site in the comments. Surprisingly, the commentariat there are usually pretty good about who’s in the wrong and who isn’t–but they can miss a lot of nuance that Alison captures very well.

  107. nnn*

    A thought for #5:

    I found it incredibly difficult to get a job when I’d never had a job before, because I’d never had a job before. Even the kinds of jobs you’d imagine as a student’s or teenager’s first job preferred to hire people who’d had a job before.

    On that basis, I’d say if a teenager can get a job and can handle their schoolwork too and the job isn’t unsafe or abusive, the job is a better bet.

    (I know some portions of the labour market are more in the employees’ favour right now, but who knows if that will still be the case in a few years?)

  108. Stephanie*

    #13: The movies Office Space and Waiting are both quite accurate, from someone who has worked in both environments.

  109. Panhandlerann*

    52: I love, love, love the Oxford comma and am pleased to hear your support of it, Alison.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      It’s the difference between “We’ve just hired Jane, an acrobat, and a clown” and “We’ve just hired Jane, an acrobat and a clown.”

      In the first case, you’ve hired three people, and in the second case, Jane is bringing some unusual skills to the workplace.

  110. rudster*

    LOL on being concerned about employee burnout if they work more than 45 hours. Trying being self-employed or otherwise in situation where there’s zero money coming in if you aren’t actively working on a project. I haven’t worked less than 80 hours a week in at least a decade.

    1. JewishAndVibing*

      There’s different types of work and abilities to handle work. 45 hours can definitely cause burnout. You can get burnout in 40 hours and less, too.

  111. oh no*

    i asked the magic question and was apparently the third interviewee in a row to do so, fml. our industry is particularly online tho so more likely to read blogs. hopefully more normal industries aren’t quite so blog savvy

  112. Sharp-dressed Boston Terrier*

    As a counter to oh no’s post above, my girlfriend from the UK was here on a two-week visit and had a video interview scheduled during that time. I mentioned AAM and the magic question and offered to write it down for her if she was interested in trying to use it. She was; I did.

    Afterward she came back and told me that it had elicited an audible “wow” from the interviewers. So the magic isn’t completely gone just yet!

  113. Metal Librarian*

    Regarding #13, the episode of Black Books where Manny works for Goliath Books is, from personal experience, unfortunately an accurate portrayal of working in corporate retail. Simon Pegg absolutely nailed the character of the middle manager who takes his job and work culture far too seriously.

  114. Olivia*

    Magic question is still magic as far as I can tell! I used it this summer. Still seems to impress.

    1. JewishAndVibing*

      Same! I’ve been told in my interviews so far that it’s a really good question!

      Part of it is that it’s not just an unusual question, but one that helps convey what they want from a candidate while also revealing some of the work culture. I don’t think it’ll lose most of its power if it becomes well known.

  115. Bagpuss*

    For #29
    I am in and from the UK
    I think UK terminology is used a bit differently – partly, I guess, due to employment laws being differnet.

    So ‘terminated’ and ‘fired’ mean the same thing – you were sacked.
    ‘let go’ is also most commonly a euphemism for fired (perhaps more likely to mean that you were dismissed for poor performance or capacity rather than misconduct) t I think in most cases if you heard someone was let go you’d assume they were fired (or possibly that they resigned before they could be fired)

    If your employment is ended becaue the company was downsizing / went bust / closed your department / then you would be made redundant (which has a specifc legal meaning and carries a whole raft of specifc requirements and entitlements, both in terms of how decisions are made and in ermsof what the employees being made redundant are entitled to in terms of pay, notice etc)

    laid off I think is more ambguous . y esperience is that it would *usually* mean made redundant but might be used in other situations,but it would be more common to use the terms redundant / redundancies. I think where I have heard it used it has mostly been in situations where the reason is redundancy but the preson/people involved are not entitled to any reduncy rights (which might be the case if they are short term or eseasonal workers or sub-contractors). Most people who are made redundant will get a redundancy payment as well as getting paid during their notice period or in lieu of notice, s othere is a finacial difference.

    That said, there are genreally fairly formal processes for both dismissals and reducndancies so normally

  116. The Tin Man*

    Well I just ordered Hench from my local bookstore. Per the blurb it is “told with razor-sharp wit and affection, in which a young woman discovers the greatest superpower—for good or ill—is a properly executed spreadsheet.” Sold.

  117. Dawn*

    13. Accurate Media Representation

    This is very specific, but Season 4 of The Wire is extremely accurate in how it represents teaching at an alternative school. When I watched it, I was in fact teaching at an alternative high school for boys with emotional disabilities (in Baltimore nonetheless!!), and though I’m in gen-ed now, when people ask what my former job was like, I point them to this season of this show. Any one of the school scenes was a normal day on the job for me.

    And I don’t think it’s unimportant, as most people don’t really know what alternative schools are (or even that they exist), much less the number of children of color who get placed in them and then can’t get back to gen-ed.

  118. Troublemaker*

    To #8: I have three requirements for a manager to be respectable.
    1. Delegation: the manager never asks reports to do something that the manager could not do themselves
    2. Command: the manager never gives an order that they know might be disobeyed
    3. Experience: the manager’s past responsibilities include the report’s current responsibilities

    I can remember exactly when I experienced respectable managers. They look at labor pools as self-organizing and self-motivated, with their own problems to solve. A manager can change the order of priorities, and also request that laborers consider taking on new tasks, but cannot force them to do anything.

    1. EuropeanAnon*

      Eh, I think this is a bit too strict, especially for managers supervising knowledge workers. My current team has a lawyer, two paralegals, three IT functionality specialists, and three compliance officers. You’ll basically never find a lawyer who can also specify how a large-scale IT system should function AND who wants to manage people, and yet our boss is great.

      I’m pretty sure it works mostly because he’s very humble about knowing what he doesn’t know and listening to his subject-matter experts when we tell him that our work should be organised differently.

  119. TootsNYC*

    73. Firing My First

    I just fired someone for the first time. I know it was the right decision based on their attitude and some other red flags. Also right not only for the business but for the team as well. But I feel immense guilt…any advice.

    Note that it was also the right decision for them.
    They are not in a place that they can thrive, and they are working with people who will come to actively hate them, eventually.
    They will be picking up on all sorts of negative things.

    Firing them sets them free to figure out where else they can go, and it also gives them some valuable feedback and a wakeup call.

    I once saw a comment by Perri Klass, a pediatrician and writer, who said that when she gives a child a vaccination, the child cries. Which is hard for her. But it’s balanced by the conviction that with this short-term pain, she is saving that child from something really hard, scary, and dangerous later.

    Firing someone is sort of like that. And I would suggest we not get smug and superior over it, but also to recognize that people can and will recover, and that being fired can actually be a ticket to freedom.

    I say this as someone who was fired.

  120. Paisley*

    Re: #75, Noticeable Nipples
    What about men’s noticeable nipples? My boss is a bit heavyset and has what many refer to as man-boobs. He always wears thin Under Armour-style t-shirts or golf shirts. The fabric is such that you always see his nipples. I had to take some pictures of him at a recent event for our newsletter and the main thing that stuck out in all of the pictures are his nipples. I didn’t even really feel I could use the pictures because of the way they came out. I know I can’t say or do anything about it, it’s just one of those things and probably just a me-thing. Like Alison said, we’re all human and all have nipples, lol.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Alas, men’s nipples have not been sexualized in the way that women’s nipples have been.

      In the end, it’s just another body part, but we have such unhealthy attitudes about the human body that there are no easy answers to these questions.

      I don’t care about nipples, male or female, one way or the other. I just don’t want to see those toes! So we all have our “ugh!” thing, I guess.

  121. Ladycrim*

    LW43: I wonder if it would work for you to film the video you want, and then write down what you said in letter form. The video might help you get your thoughts together and unfreeze.

  122. Ladycrim*

    LW3: are you using your personal laptop to do your job now? That’s not cool. Your company should have provided one for you to WFH with. Why didn’t they?

  123. Raw Cookie Dough*

    #65 – upset that work friends aren’t contacting you after a layoff: On more than a few occasions, former coworkers who were laid off or fired leaned on me heavily to engage in badmouthing the boss or company. One of them even tried to get me to quit, and stopped talking to me when I wouldn’t. I didn’t want to have any of these conversations! I just wanted to express empathy and maintain a friendship or friendly acquaintance.
    Now when this situation arises, I’ll reach out to the person via LI but only after a few weeks have passed and emotions have leveled.
    I’m not at all saying you would drag your former coworkers into drama, but I’m just letting you know one perspective from the other side. Good luck to you!

  124. OP 3 from*

    With #65, while I can’t speculate about your former coworkers, I will say that I have former coworkers who were fired, laid off, or left on good terms, and even with their outside contact, I simply haven’t reached out to them. However, if any of them were to contact me, I would definitely positively respond. As I said, I can’t speak about your own situation. From one of my previous workplaces, I was fired, and I also had a combination of coworkers from there who ignored me when I tried to keep in touch with them, as well as ones who did positively respond to me after I reached out.

    With coworkers from the place I was fired from, I will say that 2 of the ones I did talk to were a person doing another job who happened to see that the place I went to had an opening he was interested in, and he reached out to me to give him a referral. At the end, he decided to not change jobs anytime soon, and we were for a bit regularly talking to each other, before we’ve since talked less in time. Another one was a manager, indirectly overseeing me as he’s in charge of the group I was in, but I directly reported to others in that team and not him. He never felt like I was given a good deal from the others in what led to my firing, and I was surprised to hear that honesty. He was also one who only talked to me after I reached out to him. Periodically we would talk, but likewise I gradually stopped communicating with him. However, I wouldn’t define any of those connections as ending, and I could theoretically see myself again talking to those people.

    Now let me ask you this: how many of those former coworkers were ones who you connected with outside the workplace when you were with them? With myself, I’m an ambivert, and also I have very few people I’ve worked with at any place who I independently tried to connect with outside the workplace. That said, if any of those people were to ask me to socialize outside, or, whether when working with me or after we’re no longer coworkers, tried to connect with me on LinkedIn or Facebook (I don’t use other social media) or any other electronic means, I would definitely accept. You could definitely reach out to them if you feel like, and see how it goes.

  125. Yellow Flotsam*

    LW41 (social media policies) If this was my company’s idea of things they’d fire me over – I’d want this in the job ad. Honestly, it’d be my warning to run like crazy!

    This is a million red flags screaming choreographed warnings that the employer wants an unreasonable level of control over the personal lives of their employees. Not to mention the misplaced priorities. Sally I’m going to have to let you go – you’re my best sales person, everyone loves working with you, and I don’t know what we’ll do without you. But it’s been brought to my attention that you liked Carla’s photo of her daughter’s birthday cake in complete violation of our social media policy.

    Your staff are people, with personal lives they deserve to live without your interference. Reflecting badly on the company might be reasonable, but it needs to be used in an incredibly narrow range of circumstances. If they aren’t doing things in your name, and they aren’t breaking the law – it’s probably none of your business. I’d be wary of a company that appears to oppose normal, friendly interactions between colleagues. I spend more time awake with some colleagues than my own family each week – it is natural for friendships to arise, and for these to carry over into personal lives sometimes.

    Bullying is covered by anti-bullying policies. Not social media policies. Doesn’t matter whether someone sends a bullying or harassing message via text or snail mail – it’d still be wrong.

    You could require that staff do not list where they work on social media – but unless you’re in some sort of National security role, that is weird. LinkedIn is just one social media site commonly used to progress careers – banning your staff from engaging on it is odd. It is reasonable to ensure there’s no confusion between whether things are personal or official opinions. It is reasonable to ask people not to list you as an employer in non-career related sites/profiles. It is reasonable to ask people to keep separate work and non-work profiles at times.

    You also might want to think about how social media is used professionally by the types of people you want to hire as well as the industry your company if focused on. You may find this sort of policy leaves you with staff who do not engage with social media themselves – and your company hurting by not having social media skills.

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