employee walks off the job to cry every day, getting more info before an interview, and more

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

1. My employee walks off the job to cry … every day

I manage a very busy retail pharmacy. I have a young employee who does well at her job but has trouble controlling her emotions. Almost daily she finds something to be upset about and cries daily. It could be an imagined slight from a coworker, a text she receives from family or friends, an interaction with a customer, or sometimes just her own anxiety. When one of these incidents occurs, she walks off the job and sobs in the back of the store. This leaves my other employees to pick up the slack and customers waiting for prescriptions to have increased wait times which they are very vocal about, causing stress for everyone. I have tried to be empathetic but my patience is wearing thin.

Yesterday she left her post to cry in the back and called her boyfriend in on his day off (he is also an employee) just to console her. Turns out she had received mean texts from a high school ex (she’s a college senior) and two former high school friends. The boyfriend/employee asked me to go back and talk to her. After finding out the problem, I told her my solution was for her to stop looking at personal texts at work and then she couldn’t be bothered by them. I told her that I had a business to run and walked away. The boyfriend later told me he couldn’t believe that I would say that to her when she was so upset. I have tried to comfort her in the past but the situation has gotten ridiculous. Looking for advice on how to handle this ongoing.

I can see why that came across as callous to her boyfriend, but it’s not surprising that you’re fed up considering that this has been happening daily and you’ve tried to be empathetic up until now! You do have a business to run, and you can’t have someone constantly walking off the job and sobbing in the back while you have customers waiting to be served. It’s not fair to your other employees either.

That said, this wasn’t the way to handle it — and I suspect that you handled it that way because of pent-up frustration from putting up with it longer than you should have until now. (That’s a reason to always address problems before your frustration gets to the point where you’re blowing up!)

I’d say this to her: “I apologize for snapping at you the other day. I shouldn’t have done that. However, I cannot allow you to continue walking off the job when you’re upset. It’s disruptive to customers and the rest of the staff, and it’s unfair to other employees who have to cover for you. I understand that you’re having a hard time. I can give you some time off if you need it. But while you’re here, I need you focused on work, not distracted by other things, and I need you to maintain a calm and professional demeanor with coworkers and customers. Is that something you can do?”

If she says yes but she continues being disruptive, I think you’d need to seriously reconsider whether you can keep her on. It’s reasonable to treat “calm and professional demeanor” as a job requirement like any other.

2. Why can’t we get more information before an interview?

As has been noted before, video interviews are a bit more involved than phone screenings. Piggybacking off of this, as well as the fact that many jobs do not list salaries, I often wish preliminary/first-round phone interviews were more substantive and commonly used. Sometimes phone screenings seem so short and more “I am just making sure you can speak in a cogent manner and seem sane.”

As an applicant, it seems that questions or compatibility (organization’s needs, salary, or questions about remote, hybrid, etc.) could be just as easily discussed in a phone conversation before I invest in an intensive video interview process. Sometimes job descriptions can be vague or so boilerplate that I often want to have a better idea of the job, organization, and salary before a lengthy video interview. Is there a way to broach this with an organization? Is it reasonable for me to want clarity prior to a video interview that may run at least an hour? I do not want to seem demanding to an organization or video-averse but video interviews require a lot more planning, time, energy, and logistics I have to work through. Am I being unreasonable or am I alone in these desires?

You’re not being unreasonable. And you can indeed say, “Before we both set aside time for a video interview, could you share the salary range with me, as well as whether the job is remote, on-site, or hybrid?” More and more candidates are doing that now. (However, a warning: if you’re not a strong candidate, you risk not hearing back after that. If the organization has plenty of strong candidates and you throw up obstacles to setting up an interview, they might just move on with the others. So you’ve got to proceed with that in mind.)

But questions about the job, the organization, their needs, etc. are better held for the interview, because those require real conversation (or at least the person you’re asking is likely to think they do, because of interview conventions if nothing else). The exception is if you have a very simple, straightforward question that could easily be answered in a sentence or two, like “are you looking for people with experience in X or in Y?”

I fully agree with you, though, on the usefulness of substantive phone interviews for the first round, and I’m sad to see them so often getting replaced by video.

3. My Spanish-speaking coworker shouldn’t have to be my translator

I started working for a new company about four months ago. We work with the public both in person and over our website chat function. As the main person who manages the chat on the website, I typically have to respond to the questions we get. Recently I’ve gotten a few questions submitted in Spanish so I went to my coworker who I know speaks Spanish and asked if she could help translate and form a response. She said she would help but commented after the fact about how it’s annoying that she’s expected to help because she speaks the language and doesn’t get any extra compensation for it. I totally agree with her and quickly apologized for even asking for her assistance, but now my question is what should I do moving forward?

I don’t want to keep exploiting her skills but I also need assistance when these questions come up. How should I bring this up to management? My first thought is to screenshot the chat question and send it to our operations manager and ask how she would try and answer the question, but I’m worried she will tell me to ask my coworker. I just want to do the right thing.

Handle it the way you would if you didn’t have a coworker who speaks Spanish — so presumably by asking your manager what to do, and ideally suggesting that the company locate a professional translator to contract with for these questions. But if she tells you to ask your coworker for help, then you could say to your coworker, “Jane asked me to ask you to help with this, but I know you have concerns about being asked to do this on top of your normal job. Would you like me to handle it a different way with Jane?” Ultimately it’s really up to your coworker to address this with your company (especially since you’re new) — whether it’s by refusing to do it, or negotiating for a pay bump, or whatever solution she wants — but you can help by not going to her as your default for assistance or by making it clear it’s your manager’s directive if you’re told to (and again, suggesting the professional translator route).

4. How much to share with clients when I’m unexpectedly out

I have a minor question about email etiquette that has, unfortunately, become relevant to me the past month. I had to take unexpected time off for a family funeral followed by sick days when I got Covid. By their nature, neither of these absences were things I could plan in advance for, and because they came back to back I ended up missing way more work than I expected at the outset.

Now that I’m back at work and catching up on old emails, I’m wondering if it makes sense to explain my absence when emailing clients. There weren’t any urgent needs left waiting, but there are a number of non-urgent emails that I left sitting for longer than usual (think three days to a week+ response time, rather than my usual less-than-24-hour response time). Does it make sense to mention I was out for a family emergency/out sick when following up with these emails now, so clients know why it took longer than normal to get back to them, or is that unnecessary/too personal?

It’s up to you and depends to some extent on the relationships you have with clients. It’s fine to just say “I was out for several days” but it’s also fine to say “I was out for a family emergency” or “I was out sick.” I don’t think you need to get into it being a family emergency and being out sick — ultimately the details don’t really matter that much to clients — although it wouldn’t be a big deal if you did. It only gets too personal if you start sharing more personal details (“stomach bug I could not shake,” “a lot of family drama around the funeral,” etc.).

5. Showing title advancement on your resume

I have a question about something you wrote in this post, “do job titles matter?” You wrote: “By keeping you title-free, there’s no way to formalize a promotion. You keep taking on more and more responsibility, but you’re still just ‘business development’ (or whatever). Being able to show advancement matters for your resume, and it matters for raises too.”

When you say that being able to show advancement matters for your resume, do you mean advancement within the same company? Like, should we be showing on our resumes that we started out as data entry, then promoted to admin, then promoted to project manager? I usually just put the highest position I held at the company on my resume, like if I started out at a loan place as a cashier and left as the manager, I would put manager down as my job title on the resume. Is this hurting me?

Definitely don’t do that! First and foremost, it’s not accurate — if you’re saying that your job title was manager for the whole four years you worked somewhere but you were really only a manager for two of those years, you’re misrepresenting the depth of your experience! Plus, if a prospective employer calls your old company to verify your employment, the info you provided isn’t going to match up with the info your old employer gives out — and it will look like you tried to misrepresent your work experience there. You need to include all the titles you had there, and ideally the time periods you held them.

That also helps with the thing you’re asking about: showing career progression. It reflects well on you that you were promoted from X to Y to Z. You want that to be evident! It shows that someone looked at your work multiple times and thought, “She’s capable of doing more.” That’s a good thing.

{ 877 comments… read them below }

  1. Loulou*

    I agree OP #1 shouldn’t have snapped or said “I have a business to run” and walked away, but telling this employee to stop looking at personal texts while she’s behind the counter seems like a pretty reasonable suggestion to me. It sounds like that would actually help a lot, so I hope OP can find a way to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater (that is, apologizing for reacting out of anger while reiterating the potentially helpful suggestion).

    1. This is Artemesia*

      I’d have fired her before this. And of course not taking texts while on duty when they leads to acting like a doink and disrupting the workplace seems an obvious policy.

      1. Anonymity*

        Agreed. She’s severely disrupting work flow. Walking off the job daily is not an option. And institute a no cell phone while working policy except for true emergency. He does have a business to run. I don’t think that was an egregious statement.

        1. Wintermute*

          totally agreed, not to mention that if only for reasons of preventing distractions and the fact it looks bad for customer’s perceptions of privacy, pharmacy techs working with prescriptions should not be on their personal phones anyway!

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            “the fact it looks bad for customer’s perceptions of privacy, pharmacy techs working with prescriptions should not be on their personal phones anyway!”

            I think customers should be able to understand even pharmacy techs have lives and may need to respond to the occasional text/call. Who hasn’t looked/used their phone during work? Sure there are occasional jobs/fields where having a phone at all may pose a safety risk/hazard, but I don’t think pharmacy tech is one of them. Pharmacy techs if they really wanted could violate patient privacy without a phone.

            Most pharmacy techs/medical professional I think can be trusted not to breach patient privacy, if one person does violate it then it is dealt with at the time.

            If customers can’t understand that people can’t be working 100% for the whole shift that is on them, no need to make employees suffer just because some customers can’t understand that and they need/want an illusion of people working all the time.

            If customers

            1. Observer*

              Nope. The problem is not that people don’t understand that pharmacy techs are humans. And some breaks should be built into the schedule.

              What people do not – and SHOULD NOT be expected to – “understand” is when the people who are filling their prescriptions are having personal conversations while they are waiting to be served, even thought the tech IS on duty, and when people are having personal conversations and messaging with phone (that all have cameras!) while they are directly dealing with highly sensitive and *legally protected* information.

              1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                Yep. There are plenty of customer service jobs where employees aren’t allowed to have their phones on the floor in front of customers and to say it’s for the illusion of working all the time is incredibly dismissive of the real reasons people, especially people who are sharing their personal and medical information, may need the full and confidential attention of the individuals who are helping them. You are not entitled to have your phone attached to your hand 24/7.

                1. Quickbeam*

                  Very valid point. As a nurse I can tell you it’s horrible customer service to be on your personal phone while doing patient care. I’m not talking an emergency, I mean every day chit chat and texting. It makes patients feel like they are in the way of the nurse’s fixed gaze on their cell phone. And yes I have seen that happen, way too many times.

                2. Jora Malli*

                  This. I used to supervise teen volunteers and the line I used with them was “just because your phone is going off doesn’t mean you have to answer it.”

                3. Lucy P*

                  This all reminds me of a trip to urgent care. I was shown into a room by someone (the nurse, I guess). The room didn’t have the right equipment so I was moved to a different room. Nurse walks out the door and I can hear her having a breakdown in the hallway. I hear the emergency exit door (right next to the current exam room) open and close. I’m left alone for several minutes. A new nurse comes in the room, starts taking vitals, but in between they keep checking their cell phone and typing into it.

                4. PlainJane*

                  This.

                  I’d say, make sure that someone in your family or friend group knows to call you at the employer’s landline if there is an emergency (ie, someone has been rushed to the hospital, not “My boyfriend broke up with me”), and then, if you find it impossible not to answer your phone or look at texts, leave the phone in your locker with your purse, or in the pocket of your winter coat if it’s that time of year. However you do it, leave it behind. Go get it if you need it to record a maintenance problem or take a picture of a prize winner or something work related, but after that’s done, put it back.

                5. Irish Teacher*

                  I went to a dentist once who I, my mum and my sister were all pretty unhappy with for a whole host of reasons, but…well, this was before the era in which mobile phones were common but he and his nurses were talking openly about other patients while treating us. This was not our main reason for being dissatisfied with him, but it did both make it seem as if he was not paying full attention to what he was doing and raised confidentiality issues.

                  I will admit I HAVE occasionally checked my phone while teaching. Sometimes for work reasons, when somebody wants me to be contactable say about a discipline issue but also sometimes when I’ve been awaiting a call from a doctor or something. But..this happens maybe…once every few months. Not on a daily basis. Much of the time, my phone stays in the staffroom. And yeah, I have free classes, but still, I think there is a difference between checking one’s phone occasionally and being on it for long periods of time or checking it continually.

                6. Ellie*

                  What if there’s an issue with daycare though? If I get a phone call saying my child is sick, come pick them up, I need to respond to that. Surely you can address this one employee’s issues without penalising everyone else?

                7. KAZ2Y5*

                  @Ellie – I would hope you would give your child’s daycare both your cell # and your work #. If they can’t reach you on one, they will start going down the list of #’s they have.

              2. Cmdrshpard*

                Of course breaks should be built into the schedule. I am not saying they should be allowed to have a full conversation on the phone while filling prescriptions or checking people out, and the employee in this situation is out of line.

                But an employee occasionally stepping off to the side (in between breaks) but still visible to customers, to respond to a quick text, is not a big deal, having to wait 30/60 extra seconds if fine.

                @quickbeams I am not saying be on your phone while dealing with a patient/room, but a nurse sending a text at the nurses station/desk I don’t think is a big deal.

                1. Emma*

                  Nah. If there is a customer standing there waiting, they should not have to wait longer just because Jen wants to know if you’re going to be at Eric’s party. You’re getting paid to work, so work.

                2. Observer*

                  But an employee occasionally stepping off to the side (in between breaks) but still visible to customers, to respond to a quick text, is not a big deal, having to wait 30/60 extra seconds if fine.

                  No, it’s not. Besides the privacy issues that people are legitimately concerned about, waiting extra time for a prescription is often NOT ok. It’s generally bad service, but especially when you are dealing with people’s medications.

                3. Cmdrshpard*

                  @Emma if you work an office or other job, I hope you are working 100% of the time you are being paid to work, and never take time to browse AAM, personal email, phone etc….
                  Retail workers and even medical personal should be given the same courtesy.
                  I think part of the reason we are seeing a shortage in retail/food/direct customer service positions is the attitude of “the customer is always right,” no that is not actually the case. Customers need to be more patient and understanding of workers.

                  @Observer I am not saying employees should disregard privacy, but there is a difference between a workers actually violating patient privacy and thinking a worker might violate it. To me it seems similar to people thinking others speaking in another language are all talking about you. It is like no you are not special enough for an employee to care about your personal medical details. They are letting their partner know they can pick up milk on the way home.
                  People waiting a little extra time I don’t think is bad service, customers/people need to be more patient in general. Most of the time picking up medications at your local retail pharmacy are not an emergency, so waiting one extra minute is not going to cause harm. I’m not saying people should excuse a 3 even 5 minute wait, but 60 seconds or less it takes to send a text sure.

                  I think we have to agree to disagree on this, but those are my thoughts anyways. Retail workers should be given similar leeway that office/white collar workers have.

                4. Becca Rosselin-Metadi*

                  I understand what you’re saying and in theory it sounds fine. But when I’m standing there waiting to get pain meds for my broken wrist/root canal/whatever else , those 30/60 seconds seem like forever.
                  This has never happened to me, by the way. Every time I’ve gone to pharmacy for something like this, the tech has filled it ASAP, with no stepping aside to answer a quick call or text.

                5. Bob-White of the Glen*

                  No, you should not be texting while people are waiting to be served. Nor should anyone waiting in line have to wait another 60 seconds while you think what ever you have to say to your buddy is more critical than helping this person who needs their medication. That is ridiculous and I would fire a person with your attitude.

                  And I am not talking emergencies or crisis situations, but neither are you.

            2. Wintermute*

              I can’t agree, obviously I understand there are moments you might have something going on in your life that requires you to check notifications. In that case you should step into the back of the store, out of sight and away from customers. It’s not unreasonable to expect people to focus 100% on the task at hand when it’s important, and it’s the expectation for basically any retail work I know of.

              In fact most places I know of that work with insurance information and other highly personal data the phone goes in a locker at the start of the shift, and you can check it after work, maybe on break or lunch but maybe not even then.

              1. Drago Cucina*

                Right, if there is a legitimate reason for having “your” cell phone with you that is one thing. But, most people don’t need it 90% time.

                When my MIL was dying I was the go-to contact because in there were no cell phones allowed in the hospital OR, so my husband couldn’t carry his. I received permission to carry mine on the floor at the library. But! It was on silent and the only time I would answer it is if it were my BIL who was the designated person to distribute information.

            3. Mek*

              Uh, nope. I’ve worked in kitchens for years and keep my phone in my locker. If I’m expecting a call I take it into the kitchen with me, but mostly it’ll wait a couple hours. If it’s an emergency you can call the main line and someone will come grab me.

              I do remember once, when I was about 25, checking my phone (on break) and discovering that I’d been broken up with. I made some excuse about jalapeno peppers and finished my shift.

            4. Seashell*

              A pharmacy has a landline, so someone could get in touch with an employee there if there was a legitimate emergency. We all managed to survive with that set-up, pre-cell phone.

              I think the manager would be reasonable to ask the employee to either leave her phone outside of the work area or completely shut it off for her entire shift.

            5. TootsNYC*

              pharmacy techs should be able to step away in private to look at their phones. Personal life or no.

              1. Properlike*

                On actual breaks. Otherwise, no. Just like all the other jobs out there.
                As far as I know, most pharmacies are understaffed and can barely handle the workload these days. “Pharmacy techs stepping away in private to look at their phones” are adding to the problem.

                1. Bast*

                  I think some of the problem is not getting breaks. Several of my local pharmacies (big name ones inside of retailers) are severely understaffed for multiple reasons, and one reason was denying the workers their breaks. Granted, it’s a lot more than that, but at particular big box store I am thinking of, the cashiers and floor people get 2 15 minute breaks a day and 1 30. Pharmacy was so understaffed they were “heavily encouraging” not taking your 15s, and rushing people to come back sooner on their 30s. The pharmacy is now closed every day from 12 to 1230 for lunch and people STILL complain and ask if they can come out to fill a prescription because “it’s 12:20 can’t they just hurry up.”

                  Again, this isn’t the whole issue, but I have noticed this in my area. Oh and the pay for the techs is AWFUL to be treated that way.

                  On using phones in general… I’ve worked retail and food service and unless there was an emergency, we could only check the phone on our breaks. You could get written up otherwise. On the flip side, I now work in an office where phones are not a big deal (and sometimes needed as part of the job). As long as it isn’t interfering with your work, no one cares if you send a quick text or whatever, as long as you aren’t spending a long time doing it and your work is getting done. If every time we look over you’re on your phone, that’s a different story.

            6. Lenora Rose*

              Customer service jobs need to be more focused. When I’m at my own desk I can be on my phone a bit in dead time – when I am covering reception, once I’m done the two-factor authentication, I really really need to not be. And yes, we’ve all probably fudged the rules for things other than emergencies, but I mean taking a call from my partner, my best friend (who knows where I work and can keep it short even if it’s light), my kids’ teacher or the day care. Reading texts from school bullies I haven’t seen in months, in detail enough for them to make me cry is definitely worth a Manager speaking out.

            7. Overit*

              If you have a customer facing job, most employers do not allow you to be on the phone while on duty. Period. I have worked at places where even having the phone on your person was grounds for termination.
              A pharmacy is customer facing so it is within normal work rules to prohibit phone usage during duty time.

              1. Sasha*

                This – this is a really normal requirement of many retail and medical jobs. I’m surprised OP didn’t already enforce it.

            8. Llama*

              Using a cellphone dramatically increases the rare of medication errors. Emergency calls via the pharmacy number only, phone OFF otherwise.

        2. WillowSunstar*

          Right. When I was first starting out, I was in many jobs that banned use of personal phones while on job duty. You might have been able to check it on your lunch break, but many companies at the time banned them inside the building for security reasons. You’d have to keep the cell phone in your car. So they could make an overall “no personal phone use while on duty” rule if they wanted to. That way, this employee would not seem like she was singled out.

          1. Cmdrshpard*

            I disagree with this, this employee should be singled out they are the problem not everyone else. No reason to punish everyone else if they are able to keep their phone on them so they can be contacted during an emergency, or even if they are occasionally responding to non-urgent texts. The other employees have shown they can handle it.

            I think a rule for this employee requiring them to keep the phone in the car or in an office with OP should be considered as a final step before letting them go.

            1. Observer*

              I think a rule for this employee requiring them to keep the phone in the car or in an office with OP should be considered as a final step before letting them go.

              I think that this needs to be a first step. But also, the OP needs to work with this person to get her to appoint where she can deal with customers better. No, she shouldn’t be expected to take abuse, but this sounds like someone who is way over-sensitive.

              1. Antilles*

                “But also, the OP needs to work with this person to get her to appoint where she can deal with customers better.”
                Why does OP need to do that?
                “I have a business to run” may be an undiplomatic phrasing borne out of aggravation…but it’s also accurate – OP’s job isn’t to be a therapist or help the employee work through whatever personal anxiety / emotion / control issues are causing this, OP’s job is to run the store.
                Give her one final discussion like Alison suggests? Sure, worth giving it one last shot and seeing if that leads to improvements. Beyond that, OP has to do what they have to do – which likely involves letting her go since you can’t continue to have an employee who walks away from her duties leaving customers/co-workers in a lurch.

                1. Observer*

                  I think you are missing my point. I don’t think that the OP owes her extended chances to get herself together. But that’s not what I was addressing. I was addressing the idea that banning the cell phone was the one thing that the OP needs to do. And, I think we both agree that that’s not the case. Yes, OP should ban the cell phone. But they also need to make it clear that the emotional stuff needs to be under control as well.

                2. Mickey Q*

                  Agreed. OP didn’t do anything wrong. You’re not her mom and you’re not required to manage her emotions for her. I would have already let her go for constantly looking at her phone during work hours.

            2. It's Bamboo O'Clock, Tick-Tock*

              Banning all phones to curb one employee’s misuse is not a great strategy. I worked at a place that did that and it was incredibly irritating. They also took one of our two computers to stop that same employee from wasting time on the internet- creating a waste of the rest of our time, as we had to wait to take our turn on the computer!

          2. Ana Gram*

            But everyone doesn’t need to be punished just because this employee can’t handle looking at her phone.

            1. JustAnotherAnon*

              Agree. I really despise the management approach of creating a blanket policy that affects everyone to deal with the behavior of one problematic employee, nevermind that it will surely fuel some resentment from the other employees as they all likely would have a pretty good idea why said policy was implemented.

      2. BatManDan*

        Agreed. First time? Warning. Second time? Out the door. Ain’t nobody got time for this. The sooner this young employee understands that work is NOT the place to sort your emotions, the better for the rest of us. (If I were a customer waiting, I’d be furious at the manager, not the employee.)

          1. AnonInCanada*

            I’m sure a customer calling corporate when they see this happening (employee on personal cell phone rather then tending to customer needs) will straighten this out for the manager in a hurry. As in: they’ll both be looking for a new job. (This is assuming OP’s statement “I manage a very busy retail pharmacy” implies they’re not the owner and it’s a location in a big chain.)

          2. The OTHER Other*

            Studies have shown that for every customer that complains, many more simply won’t come back and will take their business elsewhere. A good business or manager is glad to hear (reasonable) customer complaints for this reason.

        1. ferrina*

          I’d be worried the first time- even good employees can have a (rare) moment where something overwhelms them and they need to walk off. That would be a conversation. The second time would be a more serious conversation- “I’m worried but also we need to get this resolved immediately”. Third time, warning- “I can’t have employees walking off the floor on a regular basis. If you can’t consistently work your whole shift, I’m going to need to let you go.” (Clearly stating that she will be fired) Fourth time- let them go.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I feel like this is where I fall as well – first time I’d be worried, and the amount of sympathy would rise or fall with the employee’s ability to meet the expectations of the job.

            While there are some conditions that can cause you to be teary, full on sobbing is a sign you probably need to be talking with your Dr because more adjusting probably needs to be done.

            Also wondering, did the boyfriend help her get this job? He seems a little intertwined with his girlfriend’s job. I also wonder if the boyfriend hasn’t experienced the fallout from one of her walking off the floor sessions.

            1. Sasha*

              Honestly the boyfriend sticking his oar in would have been the final straw for me. I’d have sacked her for getting her boyfriend involved.

              Unless he is also an employee I have no idea why the OP is even entertaining discussing this with him (as in, if he isn’t an employee I would not even have heard him out, if he is an employee I guess you have to have the “this is none of your business” discussion).

        2. TeamPottyMouth*

          Ah yes the old “One crew, one screw” management philosophy. It never works because the person you were trying to control already isn’t a rule-follower or you wouldn’t have had the problem to begin w. It builds resentment and destroys morale.

      3. Petty Betty*

        Same. It really sounds like this person can’t disconnect and enjoys the chaos that comes from her screen. It also doesn’t sound like she’s actually clocking out for her daily crying session, nor does she make up her missed time (this crying is not done on breaks or lunch), which makes me question if this is true emotional release/anxiety/stress or if she’s using it as an excuse for an extra break. But, that is the cynic in me, having watched someone pull a similar stunt when I worked fast food.

        I agree that it’s long past time to insist her phone stays with her personal belongings and off the front line since it’s proven to be such a problem for her. Hold her to “calm and professional demeanor” working standards. Require her to clock out every time she needs to leave her station to go to the back to cry (bet she knocks it off real quick when she realizes how much money she’s losing), document every single cry break, who covers her, what “caused” her to need it, how long it took – those are going to come in handy, even if she doesn’t have her phone on her anymore. It may be time to plan on firing her and hiring a more reliable worker. It may also be reasonable to fire her boyfriend who has blurred the lines by expecting a boss to be a comforting friend at work rather than The Boss. Boyfriend can be blind to her faults all he wants, but he’s asking way too much of his coworkers (and boss) by expecting them to not only put up with her, but to console her (so he maybe doesn’t have to?). Does he do in-person consoling when he’s on-the-clock? If so… what duties is he neglecting to do that?

      4. Vio*

        I’ve never encountered a job where the employer would be ok with staff reading personal texts while on active duty. during a lapse in workflow? maybe. when you should be addressing customers? no way. phone on silent or off is not just common sense, it’s often mandatory if you want to stay employed

    2. Kella*

      I think the issue with that suggestion is it isn’t actually the manager’s job to figure out how this employee should manage her emotions, it’s the employee’s job. It is the manager’s job to flag for her that she’s expected to manage her emotions so that she can be calm with customers and not leave her station all the time.

      1. Loulou*

        That’s very fair! On the other hand, I think “stop using your phone while you’re supposed to be helping customers” is a pretty neutral requirement that a manager might have to spell out in a number of situations. Even if this employee weren’t constantly running to the back and crying, she’s embroiled in what sounds like multiple very involved text conversations and that’s really not compatible with a busy front-facing job. So I think that suggestion stands on its own, *and also* this employee needs to figure out a way to regulate their emotions at work.

        1. Allonge*

          Yes, stop looking at your phone if you cannot handle what comes in is not the same kind of advice as go get treated for ‘specific condition’ by a doctor.

        2. allathian*

          Yes, I agree. I’m actually rather surprised that this employer allows customer service employees to use their personal phone when they’re supposed to be working. I don’t support a total ban, in some cases it’s perfectly legitimate to need to look at your phone at work, but a college senior, unless they’re a mature student, is unlikely to have the sort of family commitments that require constant access to a personal phone. Answering texts can wait until the break, and maybe not even then, if they’re liable to provoke bouts of crying.

          Retail can be a cruel environment, especially for an emotionally fragile young person, and a chance to catch your breath in the back, maybe with a few tears, after a particularly difficult encounter with a customer should be allowed. But that doesn’t mean that any and all emotional outbursts would or should be acceptable on the job.

          1. TechWorker*

            I’d like to gently push back on the idea that college age students don’t ‘need’ phone access that older people do. Young people still may be looking after family members or need to take the occasional call from a doctor etc, and not all older people have dependents. Probably not relevant here if the thing she’s worried about is unkind texts from other students, but it’s easy to assume all young people don’t have responsibilities.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              I think allathian’s main point is that it’s just highly unusual to have a phone on you in retail, without there being some urgently pressing reason for it (and even then it’s unlikely to be okayed! You’d be told to have any emergency calls made to the store). Not only is it too busy to check your phone but any kind of screen gazing at all will get you attitude from customers and make your life harder, because it’s rude. If I had a fairly kind manager who allowed me access to my phone due to Life Stuff, it would be in my pocket for the sake of answering calls not in my hand for browsing texts. Young people are aware of how to do this. Besides in this case, this is clearly a very unencumbered young person whose biggest problem is ongoing high school stuff.

              1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

                I wonder if pharmacy workers are under the same privacy rules as other medical personnel. Having a phone out could make some customers worry about the worker taking pictures of them, or their medical information. It should be a “no phone use except in break area” environment.

                1. Wintermute*

                  this is a great point and one I raised above as well. If customers can see this it’s a terrible look, first of all because they will make assumptions about their attentiveness (and it could be a legitimate attentiveness issue, this isn’t a McDonalds where a little extra ketchup never hurt anyone, mistakes could be serious), may be concerned for their privacy, and a host of other issues for both customers and the business.

                2. Observer*

                  I wonder if pharmacy workers are under the same privacy rules as other medical personnel.

                  Yes. Because the rules are not based on role per se, but the data and environment. If you have access to data that’s protected under HIPAA, you are covered by the law. And, yes, pharmacies are covered by HIPAA.

                3. Lydia*

                  @Snoozing They absolutely are. Any position that touches on patient information is required to do extensive HIPAA training. That includes the receptionist at the doctor’s front desk, the pharmacy tech, everyone.

              2. Cmdrshpard*

                “I think allathian’s main point is that it’s just highly unusual to have a phone on you in retail, ”

                I don’t know if this is still true? I think it was at one point, but not anymore maybe.

                Last time I worked retail (major chain) was 10ish years ago, when I started there was technically a company/corporate policy against having your phone on your person while working, at the store level it was not really enforced unless you were a problem employee not doing any work and always on your phone. Most managers were reasonable and if you occasionally pulled out your phone to respond to a quick text while no customers were waiting no problem as long as you still go your work done.

                I don’t remember for sure, but I think at some-point the no cell phone on your person while working was actually lifted, and the official policy became get your work done and be reasonable about it.

                1. Eldritch Office Worker*

                  It’s still pretty true. And you can argue whether or not it’s warranted for someone working at Macy’s but I would push strongly for it in a pharmaceutical setting.

                2. elena*

                  i worked big-box retail last year (walmart) and everyone had their phone on them during work, so im guessing it varies. in my store it was more of a “just dont be visibly using your phone on the floor” situation

                3. Lydia*

                  I think it’s also important to make a distinction between retail and the pharmacies you often find within retail settings. The pharmacy techs and pharmacists are beholden to much stricter state and federal requirements than store policy might be. If a patient, even incorrectly, feels like their information is being compromised because someone is on their phone behind the counter, the repercussions could be bigger. Even if an investigation of a complaint found nothing, the inconvenience could be enough to make it a policy not to have your phone.

              3. PersephoneUnderground*

                I think I’m this case it’s perfectly reasonable to restrict phone use, but I also agree with TechWorker that we shouldn’t assume anything about personal circumstances. I struggled with serious clinical depression in college myself, and had multiple friends with seizure disorders that manifested for the first time in college. My mother spent some of her college years caring for her dying father. So don’t assume anything about a person’s circumstances based on age. Even this employee may have more serious problems spilling over into her inability to handle childish drama properly.

                I think Alison’s approach of suggesting she take some leave to sort out any underlying issue is a good idea, because something is seriously wrong for this to be happening.

                Combined with practical things like not looking at her phone at work, she could certainly turn things around. Letting her take a minute to compose herself if a customer interaction upsets her may be necessary even if she wants to improve, by the way, so please allow her some grace if that’s sometimes needed as long as she doesn’t step away more than a minute or two.

              4. Captain Swan*

                Agree. My college freshman daughter is a barista at a local restaurant, her position doesn’t require customer interaction but they can still see her as she’s in the front of the house. She doesn’t have her phone on her, it’s in her bag away while she’s working. Her managers do allow daughter to send me a quick text if they are letting her leave early since daughter doesn’t drive and needs a ride home. So no reason why this staff can’t put phones away and check on breaks.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  The only person on my shift allowed to have their phone on them at all times is the type 1 Diabetic with the implanted insulin pump. His phone is both the readout screen for his sugar monitor, and also the control panel for his insulin pump.

                  Everyone else, you can go to your locker and check it on breaks. And my coworker who does get to keep his phone – it is never out unless one of the two devices’ alarms goes off. It to him is nothing more than another assistive medical device until break.

            2. WillowSunstar*

              Many companies ban cell phone use for everyone while on duty. You could still check it on your scheduled breaks, which is reasonable. But some companies even ban them on the premises and still do.

          2. Pennyworth*

            My daughter’s first job in retail only allowed phones to be used during breaks. If we needed her for an emergency we were able to ring the business and ask for her. As for LW1’s employee, if she finds looking at her phone makes her upset she needs to stop looking at it. What she’s doing now is like repeatedly kicking the wall and crying because your toe keeps hurting.

            1. JustaTech*

              I heartily agree that the employee needs to stop looking at her phone if it is upsetting her. When I was young and still learning to control/hide my emotions at work I read a personal email during the work day that really upset me. It wasn’t an emergency or anything, and really should have waited until I was home (though in my defense I didn’t realize it would be so upsetting when I opened it). Reading that email completely threw me off for the rest of the day, so from then on I made a rule for myself to strictly limit what personal email (and now texts) I read at work.

              If the employee was close to another coworker (other than the boyfriend) they might be a better person to explain this than the boss, but since she hasn’t figured it out for herself yet someone needs to just tell her “these texts are interfering with your work, you need to not look at them when you’re on shift”.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Plus she just needs to block the people who are being mean to her over text, like her ex. It’s like she has a need for drama, and that doesn’t belong in a workplace. You can’t make her block the people who upset her, but you can ban use of her phone while on duty.

          3. The OTHER Other.*

            I worked retail for several years and did customer service in a call center for years after that, yes it’s true that dealing with the public can be draining and aggravating. But this employee is going into the back to cry almost every DAY, and often about things having nothing to do with the job. She sounds exhausting, and while we cannot diagnose conditions here, it sounds like she needs professional help if she cannot function to this degree. This pharmacy cannot revolve around her emotional needs, and she and he boyfriend seem to think it should.

            I think she needs to be fired, she clearly cannot do the job. A cell phone ban makes sense but I doubt her state really has anything to do with the cell phone, she cries about other things too.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              True, removing the phone doesn’t account for all the problems, but it may help isolate or at least remove One set of distractions that seem to be causing the problems for everyone, not just this employee.

              1. Just Another Zebra*

                It also gives OP something tangible to use as a corrective measure. It’s more difficult to correct an employee who is upset by fabricated slights and difficult customers. But “stay off your phone while you’re on the floor and not on break” is measurable and actionable.

            2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              If she’s crying about a difficult customer, OP or somebody should perhaps give her some training in how to deal with difficult customers.
              Personally I think she is probably suffering from some kind of depression. She needs help from a therapist and perhaps some kind of medication, but that’s not OP’s call to make. A kind but firm warning that she needs to shape up and stop letting everyone take up her slack might just be the wake-up call she needs.

            3. Robin Ellacott*

              Yes, the employee seems worryingly fragile in general. It’s not the manager’s job to figure out why, but it’s obviously affecting work far too much to be viable.

              We had an employee like this who cried literally every day, each day about something different (any negative/constructive feedback, a client call, thinking colleagues didn’t make enough allowances, personal stuff, etc.). We ended up letting her go because her performance was very poor – lots of errors despite tons of coaching.

              In the final meeting she cried and said she loved her job, please let her stay, which was shocking based on how much distress the work seemed to cause her every single day. We felt badly for her, but it was still the right decision.

          4. AnonInCanada*

            Agreed, to a point. But taking this at face value, this employee is running to the back on a daily basis, disrupting both colleagues and customers by her sudden need to run to the back to cry. To which the manager needs to clamp down on it: either employee needs to stay off the phone while on the job, or find another job. Indeed, that manager has a business to run.

        3. The Other Dawn*

          Yes, it’s both: regulate her emotions and stop looking at her phone so much.

          Also, it doesn’t sound to me like OP snapped at her. She said what she had to say as a manager and went back to work. It’s entirely possible the employee went back to her boyfriend and said OP yelled or snapped at her when what she did was correct her. I managed someone like the employee several years ago, and she was absolutely exhausting to deal with. I first went the route of bring very gentle knowing she would have a meltdown. But it didn’t matter. I was “yelling at her.” I then decided to talk to her as I would any other person, eventually becoming blunt. It still didn’t matter what I said or how I said it, I was “screaming at her and being mean.” Thankfully she moved on of her own accord after about six months. I was getting ready to put her on a PIP and manage her out when she left.

          1. Grey Coder*

            Yeah, from what’s written I would not say OP snapped at her. (Okay, my opinion is coloured by the fact that I would have very likely done the same thing.) OP is not a therapist or crisis counsellor, they have a pharmacy to run and time spent soothing the employee means fewer hands serving customers (on top of the employee themselves being out of action).

            On the other hand, the employee is unlikely to be able to process any practical suggestions while she’s sobbing. So anything about not using her phone will need to be repeated later, along with the rest of Alison’s script.

            1. to varying degrees*

              Yeah, I don’t really think what they said was all that harsh (but I probably would have done the same thing as well). This person does have a business to run and customers do need to be helped. I remember when I worked in a pharmacy and while the majority were people just getting their normal maintenance meds, we did have quite a few that were there for antibiotics and/or painkillers that really needed to get out of their fast. Having to deal with an employee who’s routinely walking off the job to go cry every day while some poor person is just trying to get out of there as quickly as possible because they just got released from the hospital would make me a little aggravated as well.

              Of course I also don’t think a college senior should need pointing out that going into the breakroom to cry every day is unprofessional behavior.

              1. Jora Malli*

                This just confirms my opinion that every college degree program should require a course on how to have a job.

                1. JustaTech*

                  Yes, please! The closest my college (all STEM) got was the capstone project for some majors that required completing a project for an outside company and the single “etiquette” dinner to teach people how to behave in the social part of an interview (lunch, dinner, etc).
                  There was this assumption that we were bound for academia (its own can of worms) or tech where no one cares how you behave (obviously not true) and it really bit a few people in their early years.

                2. Clisby*

                  I guess, but ideally, students would have gotten jobs on their own and learned something from them.

          2. Observer*

            Yes, the OP snapped at her. And I don’t really blame them. I probably would have done the same thing. But it would still be the wrong way to handle it.

            What the OP should REALLY have done was to be more proactive about the matter, as Alison pointed out. It should never have reached that point. Having reached that point, though, the OP would have been better off NOT going to talk to the employee and they could have told the BF that the two of them are expecting way too much personal entanglement, and that it’s not going to happen. Once having gone to talk to Employee and found out the problem, a more appropriate response would have been “This is out of my purview. I do need you to deal with this later and go back to serving customers.”

            I’m not defending the Employee or her BF. But there are better and worse ways to handle things. The OP didn’t do a terrible thing, but they didn’t really handle the situation optimally. Having said that, I also don’t think that it’s an unrecoverable mistake, and they were making a very valid point.

          3. sb51*

            We’ve definitely had discussions in the AAM comments before, and I don’t mean to derail on this, but “snapping”/”yelling”/”screaming” are often things where different people define them as different levels of critical tone of voice/mannerisms. And that can be very influenced by our pasts. (Example: growing up, my parents only shouted if they needed to get our attention from far away/over a lot of noise. When they were angry with us, they got icily, calmly, soft-spokenly polite. Given that experience, whenever I read kids books where someone said they got “yelled at”, I interpreted it to mean what my parents do when they have the same feelings, and thus “yelling” to me includes things with soft voices, and I have to work to not interpret increasing calm/gentleness in corrections as someone getting more and more angry. That’s a ME problem, but when I was that young I didn’t have all these words to describe it.)

            The LWs employee absolutely needs to learn how to handle their emotions and their life so that they can be professional at work, and they need to learn how to take criticism, but if LW says she snapped, that seems like a completely reasonable description of the tone of voice she might have delivered that comment in.

            1. The Other Dawn*

              But LW didn’t say she snapped at the employee. All she said was her patience was wearing thin, she said what she had to say, and then walked away. Alison said in the script in her answer: “I’d say this to her: “I apologize for snapping at you the other day. I shouldn’t have done that….””

        4. Dust Bunny*

          Seriously, I will bow out and turn off my phone if my mom gets on a texting or calling tear, and I don’t even have a role that involves regular face-to-face with customers. It’s just that I’m at work and I shouldn’t/don’t want to spend time on personal stuff!

          And it’s not the manager’s business to tell the employee how to manage her [employee’s] emotions but she can definitely tell employee to stop indulging in non-work-related interactions that trigger them, while she’s at work, and she can also put employee on a PIP or fire her if it doesn’t change. Whether or not employee ever learns to manage this is up to her, but if she wants to keep a job she needs to do it.

        5. Observer*

          I think “stop using your phone while you’re supposed to be helping customers” is a pretty neutral requirement that a manager might have to spell out in a number of situations.

          Yes, this needs to be a statement the OP makes, totally separately from the issue of inappropriate emotional reactions.

          So I think that suggestion stands on its own, *and also* this employee needs to figure out a way to regulate their emotions at work.

          EXACTLY.

      2. GammaGirl1908*

        +1000. The manager probably should have said something closer to, “When you’re on the clock, I need you in the right space to serve customers quickly and pleasantly, and not to bail out regularly because you are upset. If that means putting your phone away, so that you aren’t distracted or upset by incoming texts, then so be it.” That is, the part about putting the phone away could have been one suggestion, but not the primary thrust of the conversation. The focus needed to be on conveying the idea that this lady needs to pull herself together at work and not storm off sobbing every day. The business probably also does need a policy that employees avoid using their personal phones while on the sales floor except in extreme circumstances, but for this employee, managing to stay even-keeled at work, even if something isn’t 100% ideal, is the goal here and the conversation should have focused there.

        That said, this sounds like a person who is very accustomed to having the world screech to a halt and cater to her because she is upset, which might not be the best fit for this business. I think the incoming texts were the least of her issues, especially because she is upset by regular (…and sometimes manufactured or misunderstood or imagined…) occurrences and interactions that happen every day. I agree with others that she may not be cut out for this job, and her boyfriend probably will follow her departure.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I sort of went the opposite way, thinking that this is a pretty fragile person for whatever reason (health, problems at home, etc.). Everyone goes through bad spells at some point. But it almost appears here that no one has ever told her that she cannot do daily crying jags at work. Part of preparing for the work day is to pull one’s self together as best as possible.

          I don’t understand the phone usage while working with the public but I do understand that if the phone is upsetting to her in any way then she needs to put it away for break time.

          While OP’s timing was off, I don’t think the message is that bad. OP did far better than many retail bosses I have seen.

          1. Goldie*

            The staff was so upset that she had her boyfriend come in on his day off and then he asked OP to talk with her. I would have probably suggested she take the rest of the day off at that point. She’s a drama queen.

            1. EPLawyer*

              Yeah the boyfriend isn’t all that great either. Telling the MANAGER to calm his girlfriend down. Then getting mad at the MANAGER for not being all sympathetic. Dude, not the manager’s job. The both of them sound problematic.

              OP I think you need to have a talk with her about not leaving the sales floor except during her regular shift without approval from you (that way if there is a particularly bad customer experience she can still go in the back and cry). You also need to tell the boyfriend that you are not part of their relationship and it is not your job to help him manage his girlfriend’s emotions.

              1. Observer*

                Yeah the boyfriend isn’t all that great either.

                I’m side eyeing him HARD. What on earth!?

                OP I think you need to have a talk with her about not leaving the sales floor except during her regular shift without approval from you (that way if there is a particularly bad customer experience she can still go in the back and cry).

                Yes, and then only let her leave the floor is a customer really was obnoxious to her.

                You also need to tell the boyfriend that you are not part of their relationship and it is not your job to help him manage his girlfriend’s emotions.

                Definitely. BF had no business trying to pull the OP into this drama.

              2. Snarkastic*

                Yes, to me, that was the most egregious part. They need to know it’s not a manager’s job to talk people down from personal problems. I’m not sure what the boyfriend wanted the manager to do! I never expected people to make room for my feelings at work. Would be nice, but there is a limit.

          2. Sloanicota*

            This employee is so young (literally still in high school) that I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t realize this is way out of the norm. I did things as a young employee that I look back on now in horror, but they seemed reasonable to me at the time with my limited judgement and perspective. On one hand I think this employee is likely struggling with a possibly-protected mental health condition and might need to be treated that way, but on the other hand I wonder if OP needs to be very direct about why this is inappropriate / unacceptable on the job.

            1. to varying degrees*

              I don’t think she’s in high school, she’s a senior in college, so 20 – 22 probably.

            2. Miss Muffet*

              it said she was a senior in college – so not that young, and presumably about to enter the fully-adult-working-world

              1. Sloanicota*

                Oh sorry I focused on “senior” and skipped over the college part. Yeah less of an excuse in that case.

            3. My Useless 2 Cents*

              Employee is not so young. She is not in high school, she is a college senior (so around 22). Old enough to know that this is not professional or acceptable behavior. If employee is dealing with a mental health or emotional problem she has not disclosed that to OP. I don’t think OP should handle this situation assuming such. OP needs to have a direct conversation with employee (before her daily meltdown) about professional behavior and with consequences going forward. I’d also start sending employee home to compose herself as soon as she walks off the floor with a new tantrum. Perhaps a short paycheck or two will get the point across in a way that a conversation won’t.

              1. Adultier adult*

                This is absolutely unacceptable. Period. You must do your job, every day, professionally. One work cry in ten years- a bad day- one a day, ridiculous.

            4. Oxford Comma*

              I think she’s a college senior, but the point is the same. The employee probably does not understand workplace norms and that needs to be corrected.

              1. AcademiaNut*

                A good percentage of 22 year olds have figured out you can’t leave your job on a daily basis to process random emotions, but not all of them. It’s entirely possible that this is the first situation she’s been in where she needs to regulate her emotions over a full work day rather than responding in the moment.

                Given that she called her boyfriend into work to console her, then her boyfriend asked her boss to come in to console her, and later chastised the boss for not being sympathetic enough, it sounds like there’s not a ton of good judgement going on with that couple.

                So – explain that this isn’t appropriate, and ask her to keep her cell phone off during work hours so she isn’t distracted. It’s probably worth explaining the nuances as well – that having a cell phone is okay at work only if it isn’t distracting you from your job, and that overwhelming emotions occasionally happen, but on a regular basis it’s a problem.

            5. Observer*

              This employee is so young (literally still in high school) that I wouldn’t be surprised if she doesn’t realize this is way out of the norm.

              No – the OP explicitly says that she is a college senior.

              On one hand I think this employee is likely struggling with a possibly-protected mental health condition

              It doesn’t matter whether she suffers from a mental health condition – all the ADA would protect are things like making sure she could get to necessary appointments, etc. There is never any expectation that a person should just be allowed to not do the job, require everyone around them to walk on egg shells to keep them from pitching a fit, or using personal cell phones (that have cameras, no less) around legally protected PII / Health information.

              I wonder if OP needs to be very direct about why this is inappropriate / unacceptable on the job

              No maybe about it. Reasonable behavior is not a “nice” thing, it’s core to most jobs and ESPECIALLY in retail. The OP needs to spell this out VERY clearly. And make it clear that if it doesn’t change, she may be out of a job.

            6. Keymaster of Gozer*

              From someone with serious mental illnesses: there is no legally-enforced accommodations for mental problems that allow you to be this disruptive.

              I have delusions sometimes. Accommodation for me is having the time to go visit medical help if they get bad. It’s not okay if I start ranting or crying in the office about whatever my brain is telling me is plotting against me.

              Also, the ‘maybe they have a mental illness so they should be allowed to act like this’ line of thought while meant well is actually offensive to a lot of us with mental illnesses who put a lot of effort into not having them disrupt the lives of others.

              1. Gipsy Danger*

                “Also, the ‘maybe they have a mental illness so they should be allowed to act like this’ line of thought while meant well is actually offensive to a lot of us with mental illnesses who put a lot of effort into not having them disrupt the lives of others.”

                THANK YOU

            7. Curmudgeon in California*

              … I think this employee is likely struggling with a possibly-protected mental health condition…

              That may be, but the accommodation for it is not to allow them to dump work on others so they can read texts and cry. The accommodation is to let them have time off to visit a professional that can help them put their life on an even keel, regardless of what that treatment is. It really isn’t the bosses business what the remedy is, it just needs to be remedied. If they need a leave of absence to get help, then FMLA is there for that.

              The boss doesn’t need to diagnose their issue. They can refer them to med/psych professionals for that. Daily crying jags are not normal, especially if the interfere with their daily life in that they jeopardize their job. What causes it is not the company or the boss’s business. Getting it solved is.

            8. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I think she is a very young college senior. By this I mean physically she’s 21-22 years old, but emotionally or maturity-wise she’s probably more like 17-18. There could be lots and lots of reasons (pandemic, overly sheltered, overbearing parents, etc) for her to be behaving this young, but the world is t going to be kind to her unfortunately.

              And even if this is some type of mental health related issue – accommodations aren’t going to be she gets to be out of control and inflict chaos and damage on all (personal or professional) around her. There is no accommodation I have ever seen that states “you get to be a jerk and dump on your coworkers.” What you’d normally get would be flexible scheduling to attend treatments, a more regimented break schedule to take timed medications, but not running off the floor in tears.

          3. Observer*

            I don’t think the message is that bad. OP did far better than many retail bosses I have seen.

            Oh yes! The fact that they actually wrote to ask for advice and have tried to be empathetic in the past puts them way above a lot of managers.

            I don’t think that anyone should take “this was not ideal handling of a situation” as “You are a terrible manager”. I think that the OP has the makings of an excellent manager. But next time, they should communicate this kind of thing before it winds up being said in the heat of a difficult moment.

        2. Observer*

          That said, this sounds like a person who is very accustomed to having the world screech to a halt and cater to her because she is upset, which might not be the best fit for this business

          That’s a bit of an understatement. I can’t think of any well functioning organization where an adult employee can get away with that.

          I think the incoming texts were the least of her issues, especially because she is upset by regular (…and sometimes manufactured or misunderstood or imagined…) occurrences and interactions that happen every day.

          I think you are right and part of why the OP’s reaction was off. I *do* think that the OP needs to lay down the law about cell phone usage on the job, but that is only on part of the problem. And the larger problem that the OP was dealing with wasn’t about looking at her cell phone. Because she could just as easily have called her idiot BF who would have called the OP because a customer was “mean to her” or the like. (And I put this in quotes because the OP explicitly mentions that some of the things she has fits about are “imagined”.)

        3. turquoisecow*

          I also think that conversation would be more effective if the employee wasn’t in the middle of (another) emotional crisis. Before her next shift, take her aside and privately tell her essentially what you said here. “I’m sympathetic to your issues but we have a business to run and this is getting disruptive. Maybe you need to put your phone away while you’re working, I don’t know. If there’s something I can do to help, let me know. But this can NOT keep happening, and if it does, I will have to let you go.”

          1. Observer*

            I don’t like this script. The OP should ban her from having her cell phone AND tell her that she needs to get her emotions under control. Because the cell hone use needs to stop in any case. And she ALSO needs to stop getting into stupid fights with her coworkers and melting down any time she has an unpleasant experience with a customer.

      3. L-squared*

        Yeah, but in a customer facing role, there is nothing wrong with saying don’t be on your phone either.

        1. Kella*

          *If* being on your phone in the contexts that this employee is doing so is a problem, then yes. OP didn’t say that it was, that’s just an educated guess based on the commentariat’s experience working in similar jobs.

          But it actually *would* be a problem if, in response to her walking off the job to go cry, this manager had responded with “Stay off your phone at work,” because being on your phone, and walking off the job are two separate performance problems. They may end up being interconnected but that isn’t how it should be framed by the manager.

      4. Beth*

        I think the manager should be pointing out that in a business setting that it’s not normal or practical for employees to be having daily emotional outbursts and having to stop working so regularly. I do think the manager should be referring the employee to the EAP (presuming there is one). It seems like there could be some mental health issues here and personally I think a manager should try to start by encouraging the employee to get some appropriate support before immediately firing them as some others have suggested.

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          This- an EAP or some time off is key here. Mental health issues often manifest in ways that just look like bad behavior from the outside, but every day is a serious issue. Please give her a chance to manage the problem before summarily firing her. If she were sick with a physical ailment, like a non-infectious cough, how would you respond? Maybe try to model that response here. Even without diagnosis, these behaviors are themselves a mental/emotional issue that needs treatment. You don’t need to have infinite patience, but don’t summarily say “we can’t have you going in the back to cough all the time!” and fire her either.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Are EAP typically available to part-time retail workers? (Genuine question, I have 0 experience with them.)

    3. Dawn*

      Are we all just going to ignore the fact that her boyfriend, the OTHER employee, subsequently went to the manager and braced them about it? Or that he said something along the lines of “How could you when she’s this upset” when she’s ALWAYS this upset?

      I’m not necessarily saying that the manager was right, but I feel like this guy was at least as much out of line, especially after asking the manager to talk to her…….. for why, exactly? They’re the business manager, not a therapist.

      Honestly this whole situation is a big bloody mess but I HAVE to come down more on the manager’s side here; the girl gets excessively emotional every day, the boyfriend gets called in to help her manage her out of control emotions and then gets defensive about it, and the manager also gets roped into trying to manage this girl’s outbursts which they are not qualified to do and then chastised by their own employee when they fail to provide effective therapy.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Yeah I kind of think it’s alarming that one employee expects to get emotionally soothed by OP and the other expects help with his girlfriend. OP is the boss, not their mum! I hate assuming genders, and truly hope OP is not a woman and they’re not disrespecting a female boss or expecting her free emotional labour. Either way OP needs a serious talk with them both.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          Given their age, it MAY be more that they see the boss as a sort of “teacher figure.” OK, by senior year, they should have figured out differently as lecturers don’t play that role, but…there are often still people in college who you can go to with an issue and they are only a few years out of school where you’re told, “if you have a problem, talk to a teacher or another adult you can trust,” “always let me know if you have a problem that could affect your work,” etc.

          Yeah, this is something I’d more expect from 16 year olds than college seniors, but is possible they are seeing the LW as the “grown up” whose job involves advising them. Especially if their previous jobs were ones they got through family connections or in their local area where the boss might see it as “doing x’s son or daughter a favour” and still see them as “the kid.”

          Not that any of this makes it remotely acceptable and the LW would probably be doing them a favour by making them understand that bosses are not in-loco-parentis in the way teachers are and that adults are expected to take responsibility for dealing with their own problems or to get support from family or friends, not just from the nearest “authority figure.”

          1. metadata minion*

            “OK, by senior year, they should have figured out differently as lecturers don’t play that role”

            I think this depends a lot on the college. I would absolutely have gone to some of my professors with this sort of personal problem, and the likelihood increased as I moved from giant intro classes to tiny senior seminars.

          2. Lilo*

            I guess maybe she was sheltered but college senior really is too old for these antics. Even in my first retail job at 16 I would have been fired for this stuff.

            1. The Prettiest Curse*

              Yup, if you are still caught up in high school mean girl drama when you are about to leave college, you have some growing up that you need to do, ASAP.

            2. Dust Bunny*

              I cannot think of a single job I’ve ever had, going back to high school, where this would have been even remotely acceptable. Every single one of my coworkers, all of whom I think were normally-sympathetic people, would have thought I was an enormous prima donna and been very fed up with me.

              1. JustaTech*

                At my first retail job, where I was all of 15, I remember that the managers would let people slip in back to “look for something” if they’d just had a really hard time with a customer. (It was a chocolate shop in a very fancy mall and while most people were fine to lovely every once in a while there would be a very entitled and nasty customer.)

                But that was 1) after an obviously bad customer, 2) only if we weren’t swamped and 3) at the manager’s suggestion (you didn’t just run away).

                1. Just Another Zebra*

                  When I worked in the mall at a clothing store with a lot of pink, customers would get outright abusive. It wasn’t unheard of for one of us to use our walkies and ask to look for something, or get a sip of water, or even have a manager tell us to step off the floor for a minute. We never ran away for an indefinite period of time.

                2. GammaGirl1908*

                  Right. No one is saying that no front-facing employee should ever get to step out for a moment after a very occasional extreme encounter to pull himself together. But that isn’t what’s happening here.

            3. Sloanicota*

              Yep, at 16 I’m sure my manager would have been sympathetic and also I would have been fired after the second incident. My experience as a young worker was that things are a bit more black and white, presumably because the value I contributed was pretty low looking back on it. I do think this might have changed with the worker shortage due to the pandemic, particularly in a front line role like this.

            4. CPegasus*

              I”m 32 and my mood disorder means I’m always going to be this way. Glad to know I’m too old. When I’m under stress, I cry and need time to stop crying. That’s a fact of life, and it’s frustrating to know that this disqualifies me from working for other people. I’m incredibly lucky that I’m in a position to freelance or I’d be SOL.

              1. Dawn*

                So for my own side of things, I want to say both that having a disorder is absolutely a different situation (I have my own issues there and I sympathize,) but I’m guessing that at 32, at work, you’re not going to be pulling other people into it, at least not to the extent of calling your boyfriend at home to come console you and then having him pull your boss into it.

                There is a huge gulf between “I have a mood disorder and I’m going to cry and need some time to myself when I’m stressed” and “I’m constantly bringing my personal drama into the workplace and then pulling other people into it, including my boss.” The manager is quite correct here that if she keeps seeing personal things on her phone that upset her, barring an active emergency situation, she has to turn off her phone at work.

                1. Lilo*

                  Yes this. There is nothing wrong with having a mood disorder. But there is a big problem with abandoning your post at work and getting your boss and coworkers to manage your emotions.

                  It’s a job. If an employee is abandoning customers and not doing their job, they get fired.

              2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                It doesn’t disqualify you from working for other people, though. Like, at all, and suggesting that has a tinge of learned helplessness bordering on internalized ableism.

                The difference between a mature adult with a mood disorder and the OP’s employee is that the former has probably developed coping mechanisms that are less disruptive to themselves and others. You also probably understand your triggers in a way that the OP’s employee may not.

                The immaturity that people are referencing isn’t really about having a symptomatic mood disorder, it’s about the apparent inability or unwillingness to own what’s going on with oneself.

              3. GammaGirl1908*

                I don’t think anyone is saying you are too old to be upset or that you can’t work for others. We all have things we’re not cut out to do. This specific position may not be the right job for this specific young lady, but other jobs may be just fine. If you have a mood disorder, there similarly may be certain jobs that aren’t the right fit, but other jobs may be just fine. Nothing wrong with that.

      2. MK*

        A talk with the boyfriend is absolutely warranted in my opinion. Why on earth did he think it appropriate to go get the manager to console his girlfriend during work hours?

        Frankly, this employee doesn’t sound capable of holding a job right now. This kind of emotional instability requires professional help, not a supportive partner or an understanding boss.

        1. M2*

          This and why did the BF come in at all? Yes he’s an employee but in most businesses if a partner came in and then hold the boss how to handle things that would be a huge red flag!

          Both of these two need a talking too and I agree a new policy of no personal cell phones on the floor while you are working only on breaks. But cheap lockers and locks or something.

          1. tamarack and fireweed*

            Well, both these points make me think that there’s a chance something pathological is going on. Because if someone breaks out crying on a daily basis, and it’s not a manipulative situation, nor a case of dealing with acute grief, then the next thing on the list is an emotional or mood disorder. Sure, restrict phone usage to break times, and maybe this will cut down on unexpected sobbing fits, but it wouldn’t eliminate the problem.

            In which case this would be much more akin to, say, someone with an open wound that requires wound care several times a day: If they impose the sight and smells of their wound, dirty bandages, blood etc. on their co-workers, this isn’t ok, however much it *is* ok to go through a time like that. So I would both lay down the need for emotional regulation and show understanding that this may be something that requires a therapist. Maybe EAP intervention, maybe tweaks to avoid situations that would set it off – but mostly it would require that the employee realizes that she needs to take action and get this problem under control.

            (On a side note, I had a classmate in school who burst into tears several times a day. She was teased for it and called names, which must have made things worse. Anything could set her off – any low grade on any piece of work however small, any imperfection (and she was a pretty midling student), any refusal, or minor accident (like a dropped pencil). I’m glad I wasn’t among those who treated her with contempt, but internally I found her annoying. Until … the school did something or other. Possibly via their social worker network. She went away for a few weeks, with her father (mother was deceased), to some sort of therapeutic family retreat, with therapists that helped her work through whatever was the problem. She came back *much* more stable, with hardly any sobbing episodes any more (and certainly not for dropped pencils), and we found out that she could totally smile. In her absence, the class had received some stern admonishments, and the teasing and put-downs stopped. For me, who was mostly an onlooker, this was an intriguing and thought-provoking episode. Later, when I battled my own depressive shadows, I also had tears close to the surface at all times – and once started crying on the sidewalk, from looking at a car with minor damage from a hailstorm.)

            1. annons*

              Yeah, I’ve recently gone through a patch where I would cry and break down nightly, and it was 100% triggered by something stressful and traumatic. Something similar is probably going on with the employee but it’s not really the manager’s job to play therapist.

            2. Kez*

              I really appreciate the compassion you shared in this response. As someone with a mood disorder that I work extremely hard to make as nondisruptive as possible to others, I was sort of shocked by the vitriol in the comments for this person who is clearly struggling.

              I’d just like to emphasize here that, generally speaking, people who are crying every day are not having a good time of things. If having a reasonably positive attitude is an important qualification for most jobs (as AAM and the commentariat tend to agree is true) then this is a person who is young and looking at a long road of learning to regulate their emotions and temper their physical response to stress, possibly without any income during that process.

              I had a period of time in my life where the only jobs I qualified for were retail, and when I was experiencing extreme states of emotion, the toll of holding that all in was enormous, and the stress of knowing that a slip-up could cost me my job did not help. I wish that, if they noticed me struggling, management had been empathetic and supportive of me taking time off and maybe suggested job-hunting for something that wouldn’t have the same pressure to be “on” in customer interactions. I knew I wasn’t suited for the job, but I needed to pay rent and eat, and so I tried to only cry on my breaks and on the bus ride home. It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t best for me or the business, but in the American system of health and welfare, it was the best I could do at the time.

              Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of advice for the LW, but I would definitely hope that as we in the comments try to add some value to the advice Allison gave, we could maybe remember that the people in this situation are all human, and all struggling with something that’s difficult to resolve.

              1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

                If this was retail where the coworker in distress was just ringing out groceries or clothing? Relatively low stakes, and I think there might be a lot more empathy directed at them.

                It is not. This is a pharmacy, where people are going to have prescriptions filled. Even if the only thing this worker is doing is pulling completed orders and handing them to people, there is still the very real chance that them making a mistake results in someone else dying. Drug interactions and being handed the wrong prescription can literally be a life or death matter.

                So… I hope the problem employee gets all the help she needs, yes. No one should have to be in that level of emotional distress. But she can not do it while employed in a role with these levels of responsibility, and management showing empathy and being supportive would also be management that is failing their duty of care to their customers. And that duty of care is a vastly higher ethical priority and responsibility than being kind to an employee, regardless of whatever might be causing the employees meltdowns.

                1. Lydia*

                  Exactly. I’d only add that if the employee is struggling with a mood disorder, it would be wholly inappropriate for the OP to suggest that or ask if that’s the case. This is one of those things the person suffering has to manage as it’s their health. OP can only deal with what’s in front of her and that’s the employee’s work performance.

                2. JustaTech*

                  The chances of a really emotionally charged interaction with a customer at a pharmacy are a lot higher than a lot of other retail jobs. Waiting in line for a prescription I’ve seen customers get very upset at the cost of their meds, or frustrated at what their insurance will or won’t cover, have to choose what prescriptions to not take that day because they can’t afford it, or just be so obviously sick and miserable that it shows.
                  The techs and pharmacists are always really kind and try to find solutions, and I always compliment then on dealing with folks having a hard time (even if it means I have to wait longer).
                  But I can completely see how dealing with all that can be very draining, and if you’re not well-grounded yourself it could be hard to deal with.

                3. MiloSpiral*

                  Management showing empathy and being supportive, without also letting their employee know that the employee is approaching a line, and letting them know well before they have crossed it, is failing their duty as a manager.

                  There are ways to manage someone compassionately while still maintaining business realities. As Alison pointed out, the way the manager handled it was not the way to go: handling it earlier would have been both more compassionate AND would have addressed the business issue sooner. In other words, it would have been better for everyone involved.

                  There is a middle ground between treating someone with kid gloves and telling someone point blank, when they are already upset, “Get yourself together because I have a business to run.” It sounds like this manager has slingshot themself from one end of the spectrum to the other. That was their misstep. I agree with you that the stakes are higher in pharmacy, and I agree with Alison that it’s understandable why OP is so frustrated. But for all of these reasons, OP needed to be clearer with their employee earlier on what issues they were seeing and what the consequences would be if those issues weren’t addressed. They can do that while still showing compassion to someone who is struggling.

            3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I had posted up above wondering if the GF has some problems that are totally independent from the phone. But even if she does have issues that need addressed, her boss unfortunately isn’t the person to help her fix the problems.

              Oh, and I also agree that BF needs a talking to – he isn’t the owner, he isn’t the manager, he doesn’t get to tell the OP how to manage an employee whose issues are causing problems for everyone else she works with.

            4. Cmdrshpard*

              I would think if someone is having to take frequent and potentially lengthy (not sure how long the employee take for crying) breaks to care for wound, cleaning the wound, putting a new bandage on, etc… I would question if they are ready to come back to work yet, and not think that they were. I could maybe see it being okay in an individual environment where an employee leaving does not impact other, but when it creates more work for others that person is not ready and able to work.

              Having to change a bandage once maybe twice during an 8 hr shift, understandable. But more than that suggest an active open bleeding wound that needs to be taken care of at home, not at work.

            5. Dawn*

              I absolutely agree with you that something else is probably going on, but we’re both not supposed to armchair diagnose here in these comments and it’s not really the manager’s role either beyond maybe one “If you think you need help managing this, I can work with you on that” or something to that effect.

              One can have compassion but also recognize the boundaries and limits in place; her manager is not a doctor or therapist.

          2. Chris too*

            We don’t wear watches any more, so people use their phones to tell the time. It can also mess up a retail business when people don’t take their breaks on time. That’s why the stores I’ve worked for don’t want to ban employees from having their phones on them – they just don’t want the phones used for too much else. Sometimes phones are also very useful when you’re working on displays, because of the camera function.

            1. giraffecat*

              Many people do still wear watches and if someone needs to check the time without having access to their phone, a cheap watch sounds like the way to go. There’s no reason someone needs access to their phone to know what time it is.

            2. Oxford Comma*

              An inexpensive wall clock is a good work around. I don’t know what the displays on the pharmacy registers look like, but they may have a clock function as well.

            3. Observer*

              We don’t wear watches any more, so people use their phones to tell the time. It can also mess up a retail business when people don’t take their breaks on time.

              There are a lot of other ways for a place to deal with that problem. On of them is CHEAP clocks on the wall.

              I’m not saying that the OP should ban any and all cell phone use in the place. But for a pharmacy tech, cell phones are a bit of a problem anyway. And for someone like this, who is clearly spending too much time on her personal phone rather than the job, it’s not only reasonable it is 100% necessary.

            4. Just Another Zebra*

              Computers have clock functions though. Most registers have some sort of time-keeping mechanic, at least in my experience.

        2. My Useless 2 Cents*

          I think there is a big factor that is getting glossed over that MK touches on…. Employee is now getting PAID to have these emotional outbursts! And that they are long enough in duration that boyfriend can be called to come in for moral support so we aren’t talking about a couple minutes to compose herself. OP needs to start sending employee home immediately when she steps off the floor and to not finish out her shift. And that will include staffing appropriately so that coworkers aren’t going to be put out by missing staff member when employee is inevitably sent home.

      3. Hel*

        My read on the situation is that the manager has been playing the supportive/soothing older figure/confidante to the employees and that’s why this has gotten so out of hand. The boyfriend and this employee are treating the manager the way the manager has likely trained them to – and it’s going to take a bit of work to course correct.

      4. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

        THANK YOU. I would discipline both of them and make it clear that this kind of thing can NEVER happen again going forward. There is zero room for this sort of drama at work. I have no patience for it personally or professionally. Get your shit together or go work somewhere where this behavior is tolerated.

        1. Just Your Everyday Crone*

          Given that the manager has never told her this is a problem, “one strike and you’re out” seems a little draconian.

          1. Cringing 24/7*

            Definitely true – even though what Employee is doing is inappropriate, if OP has allowed it up to this point without making it known how serious of a deal it is, it is the OP’s responsibility to now follow the proper steps of escalation.

          2. The OTHER Other.*

            That’s one way of looking at it, another way is that this employee clearly cannot do this job, and it’s not unreasonable for a manager to get rid of someone this far out of the norms of being able to do the work. Crying in the back almost every day is not “one strike”.

            1. Observer*

              It’s not one strike, but no one has ever told her that’s she is misbehaving.

              We don’t actually know if the employee is capable of doing her job – I don’t think she’s even tried.

              That’s why the OP does need to lay out the new *REASONABLE* expectations and hold her to them. They don’t need to give her 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th chances, etc. but they do need to have some sort of escalation path.

          3. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

            That’s an excellent point. I would not have tolerated this from the beginning like OP has – I would have had a particularly strong reaction to the boyfriend’s feedback because I am sooooo NOT THE ONE to splash your messy personal emotional difficulty on – but in any case, OP needs to make it crystal clear going forward that this behavior is unacceptable at work. To both the woman and her boyfriend. If it were me, I’d acknowledge that it was my failure for letting it go on so long, but that I’m doing what I need to do to put a stop to it now.

          4. Observer*

            Given that the manager has never told her this is a problem, “one strike and you’re out” seems a little draconian.

            Agreed.

            The OP definitely does need to put a stop to this, but jumping from “shoulder to cry on” to “You’re fired” is not just draconian, it’s just bad management as well. Even the employees she’s affected the most negatively are probably going to look at this negatively.

      5. Cringing 24/7*

        Yes, I thought it was very strange for Employee to call Boyfriend not just for soothing, but also to try to act as a go between for her and OP. I’m not stoked that coworkers are dating in this scenario (although as long as it’s not breaking an existing rule, obviously adults can do whatever they want), but I wonder how awkward that workplace is – does Employee have Boyfriend intervene with *other* coworker relationships as well? Does Boyfriend also admonish those coworkers when they don’t react the way Employee or Boyfriend expects them to?

      6. Petty Betty*

        I have the sneaking suspicion that the boyfriend “helps” sooth her emotions when he’s working. He just happened to have the day off and didn’t want to or couldn’t come in fast enough to handle her and chose (maybe in a panic) to ask manager to help?
        How much time are two employees wasting on dealing with this on the daily? Weekly? It would be beneficial to actually know, and then write her up and put him on notice that no, he cannot be her Emotional Support Employee/boyfriend at work and that she needs to manage her emotions At Work and if she has to emotionally vent, she needs to do it clocked out.

      7. Observer*

        Are we all just going to ignore the fact that her boyfriend, the OTHER employee, subsequently went to the manager and braced them about it? Or that he said something along the lines of “How could you when she’s this upset” when she’s ALWAYS this upset?

        Agreed. BF was out of line, and the OP is going to need to deal with that.

        Do NOT get into their relationship! In fact, that’s really your point. You are not part of their relationship, and you will not be discussing Employee with BF any further. The only exception is a TRUE emergency. “My GF is REALLY upset and can’t calm down” does not qualify unless BF adds “I think you may need to call medical help”.

    4. MK*

      I think people are focusing on the texts too much. The OP says the sobbing is also triggered by interactions with colleagues and customers and general anxiety. Putting her phone away won’t solve this.

      1. T.*

        Hmm, maybe the coworkers are getting fed up with this too so it snowballs into her reaction to them.

        Anyone else finding that students (like the co-ops I hire) are social emotionally stunted 2 years? Everyone worked so hard to make sure their academics didn’t fall through the height of the pandemic but they missed a ton of social emotional learning like how to cope with your stress in a polite manner, how to talk to people, how to get along with people, shake hands, dress to be in public etc.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          That actually makes a whole lot of sense. I said above that both employees might be seeing the boss as a “teacher figure” though as college seniors, they should surely know that lecturers (and bosses in any previous jobs they had) don’t act in that way, but I forgot they may have been studying from home and may not have been able to take part-time jobs due to the pandemic, so…they may have had limited interactions with authority figures since their schooldays. In which case, “go to the person in charge when you are upset and they will help you” may still be the norm to them.

          And yes, I agree that young adults missed out on an awful lot- living away from home for the first time in some cases, if college was online, spending time with peers, maybe getting a part-time job, opportunities to date… All the things that teach us something about being in control of our own lives and interacting with others as adults rather than as young people who generally have an adult “in charge” to defer to.

        2. Cat Lover*

          I honestly think everyone has kind of lost the ability to act rationally the last 2 years, and especially children and young adults (critical ages for development).

          1. anne of mean gables*

            Agreed. People in general are wild right now. Honestly, I have a ton of empathy for young adults right now – that said I also don’t have to work with very young adults right now and it’s probably a real adventure to manage, mentor or otherwise supervise 22 year olds who missed the last two years of socioemotional learning.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            We joke that our coworkers have gone feral. I’ve got a bunch of 30-something professionals on one project team acting like Regina George and the Plastics to the junior staff (and some – thankfully not ALL – of the higher-ups are afraid to piss them off because of how hot the job market is for their skill sets right now). They are killing my 80/20 rule right now, which also unfairly diverts resources from the people behaving like reasonable, respectful human beings.

              1. whingedrinking*

                I joked that I bought myself a particularly snazzy pair of Fluevogs as a reward for de-feralizing myself enough to go back to teaching.
                The process has been longer than I thought it would be. I feel like things that used to come easily to me in the classroom just aren’t quite the same – whether I’m out of practice or something has shifted irrevocably. I hope it’s the former.

              2. SwiftSunrise*

                Oh, when I feel safe enough to go out in public again for more than the bare necessities, I’m gonna need to be re-socialized like a feral kitten.

      2. Antilles*

        Especially since the OP specifically mentions the employee having a similar reaction from interactions with customers. Like, customers are mean jerks on a sadly regular basis – sometimes because the person is a prick, sometimes it’s someone who isn’t getting the answer they want and gets frustrated, sometimes it’s just a normal person who’s having a particularly crappy day totally unrelated to you. None of these are okay, but it’s the honest reality of working customer service jobs.
        Blunt truth is that you need a thick skin and the ability to let a lot of stuff roll off you – and the way the employee is described, I just don’t see how it’s viable.
        Removing the phone might fix getting personal texts, but it’s not going to make customers stop being jerks to retail employees; that’s a problem that’ll exist as long as retail stores exist.

        1. Petty Betty*

          I also think that removing one (or more) small to medium annoyances will help regardless.

          We all have a baseline mood. There will always be small annoyances to mess with that mood. Let’s say customers are going to be that daily pelting against us to break our mood. They are hammering away to break us. A coffee spill threatens to break us. Mean texts? They can’t break us if we don’t see them…

      3. Wintermute*

        You’re right that it won’t necessarily help. But like it or not part of being a manager over young people can sometimes mean giving them more guidance than you would for a more established employee, especially around workplace norms and around problemsolving. It’s more appropriate to offer solutions rather than just say “this can’t continue figure it out” as if they should already have the requisite knowledge.

        It might legitimately not have occurred to her that there are times that it’s not appropriate to be checking phone notifications, or that ignoring them is even an option depending on the culture within her friend group and their expectations. Younger people tend to have less experience with occasions where you’re expected to be totally focused on the task at hand and when there are such situations they’re usually explicitly told so.

      4. Luna*

        It won’t help if she gets easily upset over being corrected by coworkers or reprimanded by customers, nor with general anxiety. But it will be *one* factor that triggers her being pushed aside. Not much, but it’s a baby step.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Honestly, I think this is an employee who is so fragile (for what reason we don’t/can’t know), that even just pulling back one of the stress sources may help her get a toe-hold on some emotional stability.

          But in the long term this young woman needs help finding a way to be healthier. This has to be completely miserable for her as well.

          1. Observer*

            Yes. And I think that having her boss spell out for her what needs to change could be a real push towards finding the help that she needs.

      5. Observer*

        Putting her phone away won’t solve this.

        No, it won’t. It’s a situation where more than one thing needs to happen. One of the things that needs to happen is that Employee puts away her phone. Another thing that needs to happen is that Employee figures out a way to deal with the normal events of life in a functional way

      6. Rain's Small Hands*

        And this is not normal. The person in question is obviously suffering from some sort of emotional disregulation – anxiety, depression, both? It may be the humane thing to figure out a decent work around if possible, treating it as an ADA accommodation. Getting rid of phone at work is step one, but identifying other triggers – are there some really difficult customers she could not take? If accommodations haven’t been tried to reduce the incidents, it is probably worth doing so since the person appears to be in crisis.

    5. Daily reader, rare commenter*

      LW1, your employee sounds so exhausting. As her manager, you let this go on for far too long, and did not consider how her behaviour impacted her colleagues. If I were her co-worker, I would be pissed off and looking for another job.

    6. Tertia*

      A college student is probably one of the very few people in the US who can access mental health care relatively easily. While the employer is not responsible for the employee’s mental health, I think it’s appropriate to insert into Alison’s script something like “I encourage you to look into whether your college has resources that can help you with stress-coping techniques,” or words to that effect.

      1. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

        While this should’ve true I will say that my college student, at a large, well respected and funded Canadian University, had to spend hours on the phone to try to schedule a counseling session last year, and then was able to get 20 minutes a few weeks later.

        The pandemic has caused a shortage counselors and a surge of students needing the services.

        We pay out of pocket to a private therapist.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Yup, this was the case at my Canadian undergrad alma mater, my graduate alma mater, and the universities and colleges I’ve worked at, all in different cities and provinces over the past couple decades. The pandemic has made things worse, but even well before that counselling services in higher ed weren’t really designed to provide much more than an EAP does for employees.

      2. Kella*

        This was not true when I was a college student in the US. The mental health center had a waiting list of 6 months to see a counselor and even then, you’d only get to see them for 6-8 weeks before you had to stop. There was no support for people with more extensive or immediate mental health problems.

      3. WhatAmIDoing*

        I think encouraging the student into seeing what resources they have available is a good point.

        I will caution that University health may not actually have help available. When I showed up with some serious needs, the therapist they sat me down with was visibly traumatized by just doing my intake (the “what brings you here today?” question) and ended our session with stammering “I’m…I’m not sure we can help you here…” with no other redirects. It was not a good thing for anyone.

    7. The Person from the Resume*

      It could be an imagined slight from a coworker, a text she receives from family or friends, an interaction with a customer, or sometimes just her own anxiety

      That seems like it would only help in 1/4 of the examples the LW gave.

      There needs to be a big talk about controlling emotions, not being so overcome that she needs to hide in the back or cry.

      LW can suggest not looking at the phone, but that is not a solution to the overall problem.

      It sounds like she’s a dramatic, emotional, drama queen but I’m not sure that it’s under her control. Firing may well be the only option. Because if it’s not all an act then she won’t be able to stop from breaking into tears imaging slights from coworkers, not so great interactions with customers, or her own anxiety.

      Talk with her big picture: she cannot get upset and cry in back daily and retain this job. More than once a month is not acceptable. She has to hold it in and deal with her emotions on scheduled breaks. But make it a short PIP and obviously be prepared to fire her. Possibly be prepared to have her BF quit in solidarity.

      1. Observer*

        There needs to be a big talk about controlling emotions, not being so overcome that she needs to hide in the back or cry.

        True.

        LW can suggest not looking at the phone, but that is not a solution to the overall problem.

        No, the OP should MANDATE not looking at the phone. It’s not a complete solution, but it helps. And it also helps to clarify what workplace norms look like, at least in retail. Because even in a reasonably run retail establishment, this is perfectly normal.

        Possibly be prepared to have her BF quit in solidarity.

        I agree. OP, don’t let that stop you. Juts build it into your plan for dealing with this young woman.

      1. Lilo*

        When I worked at a theme park we had put put phones in the breakroom lockers. I’ve never worked retail where I was allowed to have my phone.

    8. hbc*

      It’s a reasonable suggestion given at the wrong time. There should be a 1 on 1 meeting when she’s not upset (at least at the start) where guidelines are laid down and suggestions are made on how to achieve success.

      You don’t go up to someone who’s currently bleeding and say, “Well, guess you shouldn’t run with scissors.” Helping them treat the injury, pointing them at the first aid kit, or even telling them to get themselves fixed and back to work are all better options in the moment than telling them why it’s their fault.

    9. Anastatia Beaverhousen*

      As a licensed therapist there is likely more going on here than the supervisor is trained to handle. It is perfectly reasonable to 1. ask but not require disclosure of anything that may be impacting their work, 2. offer resources to help with their mental health/coping skills, 3. set firm boundaries about expectations at work.

      1. PersephoneUnderground*

        Thank you, a real therapist response here is much more valuable than all the “she’s childish just fire her” pile-on. Mostly responding to elevate your comment!

    10. Falling Diphthong*

      Since I am not in line at the pharmacy (or covering for my coworker), my empathy can edge out my exasperation for a young person who is not coping well with life this past month or two. I wish there were someone she would listen to who could spell out to her… well, exactly what OP did. If reading texts at work upsets you, don’t read texts at work. The thoughts of your mean ex and mean friends are not important for you to read and analyze and respond to mid-shift; you should read them off-shift and then respond by blocking their numbers. “Handle your s***” is basic work advice for a reason.

      It sounds like she can’t handle it right now, and I have no idea if this is a therapy situation or a person-you-respect-gives-you-a-come-to-FSM-talk situation. (A lot of people, and particularly those without much life experience, were at some point helped by a “Hey, this thing you’re doing? Not landing the way you picture it in your head. Really hurting you, in fact.”)

    11. quill*

      Yeah, OP would be much better served by having insisted on no texts long before they were at a snapping point.

    12. Zennish*

      It wasn’t the ideal way to respond, but then I’m also thinking that her boss isn’t her therapist, and the sooner she makes the distinction, the smoother her work life will go in the long run. I’ve had employees who expect their supervisor to manage their emotions, and it is exhausting.

    13. Curmudgeon in California*

      This. If an employee is being upset by personal texts while at work, they should stop looking at personal texts while at work!

      I’m usually not big on “cut yourself off while at work”, but in this case she needs to put her phone on silent and give her attention completely to the customers. I would be irritated if someone filling my prescriptions made me wait longer while they stood there texting. Plus, she really needs to block her exes and other mean people if they are texting her and causing her distractions at work. Life’s too short to deal with jerks. If their text made her cry, they need to get blocked.

      Also, if you have an EAP you might refer her to counseling to help her handle the emotional stressors in her life that lead to daily crying jags. This is not normal, and she needs a professional to help her address it and get back on an even keel. Whether she has anxiety or is just unable to deal with elements of her life is immaterial from your POV. A professional can help her sort it out, especially since it’s interfering with her ability to do her job.

    14. McS*

      Agreed. I think the detail Alison glossed over is that the conversation should happen when the employee is not already crying and the manager is not already near the peak of their frustration, and specifically discuss a pattern, not a particular incident. In fact, addressing it the way OP did risks the employee hearing that it’s something about this particular time that is the problem and if they fix that it’s OK.

  2. Lilo*

    I think LW1 will likely have fire the employee but should also be prepared for the boyfriend to quit when that happens.

    You can be compassionate but if this person is leaving the retail floor to cry every day and doing so over minor interactions, she ends up dumping work on her coworkers.

    The problem is letting this dynamic go on for as long as it has. This kind if thing needs to be addressd from the beginning. Obviously not the first time someone cries, but leaving the pharmacy unmanned is a big deal. I’ve been the person desperately waiting in line for very needed medication and I would 100% switch pharmacies if this was a regular occurrence.

    1. Ayla*

      Yep. The first day or two is, “I’m sorry youre struggling!” Then it’s, “Do you need me to point you toward some support?” But after a week or so of *daily* meltdowns, it’s time for a talk about whether she’s actually capable of doing the job or not.

      1. AnonToday*

        And it’s especially inappropriate that she’s doing it over drama with jerks from high school when she’s been in college for YEARS. I could understand if she had a close family member in the hospital, when she might need to go say goodbye on short notice (or make sure they got a ride home) and kept getting updates, but this?

        1. Dust Bunny*

          Yeah, this. Two weeks into college and I barely remembered my high school classmates, never mind interacted with them. Granted, it was before cell phones were common, but still.

          1. LunaLena*

            Eh, to be fair, sometimes a lot of people go to the same college from the same high school. The great majority of people I knew in high school went to University of California schools, and there were jokes about forming caravans, taking over the whole floor of a dorm, etc. From what I could tell (this was before social media), it was high school all over again. I actually fell off of the grapevine pretty quickly since I chose a school in the Midwest that I was the first person from my school in ten years to go to, precisely because I *didn’t* want to relive high school all over again, but they seemed to really enjoy staying close to each other.

            1. JustaTech*

              Facebook became a thing my senior year of college and I was mostly glad to re-connect with my friends from high school, right up until a gal I wasn’t good friends with shared a memory from elementary school that was something like “remember running the mile and doing square dances and all the times JustaTech cried and the giant clover chain we made?”
              It was a complete gut punch (and I don’t think was meant in a really mean way, just thoughtless) and I signed off Facebook for a month.

              Now with all the forms of social media I can see how high school could follow you into college even if you don’t end up at the same school as half your class.

      2. Avi?*

        Especially at a pharmacy! Those places always seem to be overworked zoos and magnets for cranky customers. I’m honestly amazed that someone who has regular breakdowns over negative customer interactions would even want to work there.

        1. Wintermute*

          this is a good point too. I know I haven’t always been my best self in a pharmacy. I wasn’t outrageous but I wasn’t proud of how I reacted to them taking half an hour to fill a simple painkiller script when I’m sitting there after having a dental infection worked on and the pharmacy is not living up to my dentist’s expectation that they’d be able to fill the script before the local wore off.

          1. Curmudgeon in California*

            Yeah, I’ve not been my best when dealing with a pharmacy after dental stuff, or when I’m injured and in pain. While sometimes I can have my spouse pick things up, this isn’t an option for everyone, so pharmacies are ground zero for miserable customers.

            With staffing at a lot of pharmacies cut to the bone, having an employee who take frequent crying breaks is problematic. It would be a problem if they took frequent and prolonged bathroom breaks as well.

        2. Guacamole Bob*

          Yeah, I’ve never been a terrible customer, but I’ve probably been visibly frustrated in a pharmacy transaction – not at the pharmacist, but because there are so many confusing problems that crop up with doctors calling in prescriptions, number of refills, insurance coverage, timing of when insurance will let you refill something, copays for generics and different formula tiers, people trying to figure out emergency access to medication if something goes wrong during travel, etc. My insurance once switched one of my son’s prescriptions to a different brand without telling me and I didn’t recognize the name, so I got a notice that a prescription was ready and then had no idea what it was when I went to pick it up.

          No one should be taking frustration out on customer service employees, especially for things that aren’t their fault, but it’s easy to see how some negative customer interactions would be inevitable in that role.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I wonder if there’s also a safety aspect here (given that it’s a pharmacy): is she distracted on the job the rest of the time even when she’s not actively walking off it, and more likely to make a mistake in dealing with a customer/patient?

      1. StellaBella*

        This was going to be my angle. I am not in the USA and our pharmacies have a system that one person gets the drugs with the prescription, then takes both to the other person for a quality control check – right drugs, right amounts, noted interactions. This woman working for OP1 may also need some psychological help or to talk to a counsellor at least. I agree that the manager should not have snapped but I also think that having a ‘calm demeanour’ to be public facing in a pharmacy is a core job requirement and as such this woman needs a short PIP. Can she make it 2 weeks without this drama? If not, then time to process her out.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          A US pharmacy often also has a standard cash register for nonprescription items. Small-town pharmacies & chain stores often double as convenience stores. They sell everything from aspirin, first aid supplies and hygiene items to cosmetics, toys&electronics, greeting cards and even food.
          Yes she might be a trainee pharmacist, but it’s much more likely she’s a standard retail worker.

          1. Wintermute*

            the post says it makes people have to wait longer for prescriptions, so it’s safe to assume she’s somehow involved with dispensing OR that her behavior is putting more task load on those that are. Both have the potential to create dangerous inattention.

            1. londonedit*

              What happens here in the UK is that the pharmacist will dispense all the medications into individual paper bags for each patient, which are then stapled or closed with the patient’s name/address label on them and filed in big drawers alphabetically. You approach the pharmacy counter (as described above, pharmacies here often sell all sorts of other toiletries/cosmetics/first aid/OTC medications/even food and drink if it’s a big chain like Boots) and say you have a prescription to collect, and the person working behind the counter will take your name, find your paper bag in the drawer, and then ask you to confirm your full name and the first line of your address before they’ll hand the bag over to you. That person is not a pharmacist (they may have extra training so they can give advice on OTC medication, but they’re in no way a pharmacist) but they do handle the prescription drugs once they’ve been dispensed and bagged up by the actual pharmacists.

              1. Dust Bunny*

                This is how a lot of pharmacies work in the US, too. Mine is inside a grocery store but you pay for the medication (and some small grocery items) at the pharmacy register, not the main store register. There is a pharmacist on duty and they might wait on you, but more often it’s an assistant.

              2. AnonInCanada*

                That’s basically how they work in Canada as well. But the prescription counter is usually in the back of the store, separate from the main cashier. That person will also handle restricted OTC medications, and be responsible for handling payment for them, but only them. If that customer also had something else, they’d have to go to the main cashier to pay for that.

                1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

                  Exactly, with some exceptions. What gets tricky, though, is really small independent pharmacies (so not SDM/Rexall/etc.) sometimes don’t have a main cashier on duty and instead just have a pharmacy tech handling payment for everything, either at the pharmacy counter or running between both cashier stations. I don’t remember seeing this happen before pandemic-era staffing shortages, but I wonder if this is what’s happening with the OP – if his employee runs off, there’s no one to cover cashier duties at all?

              3. LavaLamp (she/her)*

                Yup, mine are in reusable baggies and they ask for your birthday. I haven’t been asked for my birthday in years because they KNOW me as I’ve been at that pharmacy since I was a small child.

            2. Lilo*

              Making people wait for prescription unnecessarily is a BIG deal too. Ever been waiting for antibiotics feeling like I was about to drop. I have in the past switched pharmacy locations because of having to wait.

              1. Wintermute*

                Exactly! I admit I was not my best self when a pharmacy (despite me being the only one in the place) took over half an hour for a simple pain script that the dentist called ahead so it would be ready by the time the local wore off. The dentist had planned things so I wouldn’t end up without any pain medication after some serious work on an infection, and they couldn’t deliver on that.

                While it was wrong to get snippy with the pharmacy tech, I fully stand by everything I wrote in a letter to their corporate office, and I’m never going back there.

              2. Dust Bunny*

                This. Especially if you called it in ahead and were told it would be ready by X time, and it’s not. I remember waiting for antibiotics and pain meds for a spider-bite abscess with my leg puffed up and throbbing. I kept my temper but I was not amused.

                1. Wintermute*

                  absolutely, not to mention that if a doctor expects you to have antibiotics onboard in X amount of time and that’s missed by a significant margin, they might have changed their treatment plan (E.g. IV antibiotics so there’s no delay). Same with people waiting for scripts that have to be taken at a given time daily or that would suffer either breakthrough symptoms or withdrawal symptoms if they are late taking a dose.

                  It would be rare, but depending just how long people are kept waiting it can have medical consequences.

                2. Dust Bunny*

                  I’ve also called in meds and been assured they’d be ready by X time, only to go to pick them up and be told they didn’t have that type of medication in stock, after all (but they didn’t realize it because they didn’t start to fill them until I arrived).

                  I admit I got a bit snippy about that. It was a long-term medication for my cat’s asthma. I can’t be home to watch her all day so if she had had an attack while she missed meds (I had a horrible time getting it at the beginning of the pandemic because it can be used to treat respiratory disorders) I wouldn’t have been there to take her to the AER.

      2. londonedit*

        I’m guessing she’s a cashier rather than actually being involved with dispensing the medications etc – though I suppose in theory she could grab the wrong bag of medication out of the drawer of filled prescriptions, or something (still fairly unlikely as they’re stored alphabetically and they always check name and first line of address before they hand your medication over).

    3. BatManDan*

      It’s not compassionate AT ALL. It’s cowardice on the part of the manager. Compassionate would be taking into account the many other people (customers, employees) that make this business run and the way they feel about this situation. Being held hostage by one employee’s emotions and immaturity should not be framed as compassionate, ever. It’s a dereliction of management duties.

      1. Wintermute*

        THIS. Oh. My. God. So much this.

        I call it “pathological empathy”– when someone has so much boundless patience for one party to the interaction they ignore that they’re being actively cruel to everyone else that has to put up with the situation or is impacted. You have no idea what co-workers are going through in their own lives, or have gone through in their past. Having someone “sobbing” in the back room might be seriously traumatic to them, it’s tough to just ignore someone in obvious pain!

      2. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

        +1. This might be too paternalistic, but it’s also not compassionate to the employee either. This person is reliving the same crappy situation, day after day, on your watch. Whatever’s going on, it’s rather obviously not a cycle they can break on their own. Being passive about handling the job-related impacts of the employee’s behaviour – in not setting ground rules, referring to resources, or even considering termination – makes a manager complicit in the bigger picture of the employee’s problems.

    4. Grace Poole*

      I also think this is a case of someone relatively new to the work world who doesn’t automatically know that she can’t be on her phone all the time in a customer service job, and she can’t just flounce off and leave colleagues in the lurch. The OP has let it slide for too long, but ground rules need to be set ASAP.

    5. Daisy-dog*

      I had a job when I was that age that made me cry almost every day. I was a very poor fit for the role, but couldn’t find anything else. I was also consistently promised more resources to make the job better that weren’t happening for all kinds of reasons. I usually could hold in my tears until I got to my car or got home. If I cried at work I would turn towards a corner, take a few deep breaths, blink a bunch, and then be fine. It was rare that I would be full-on sobbing and that only happened at home. No one at work noticed this. (They noticed that I was bad at my job and were sympathetic about the lack of resources, but didn’t know how upset I was about it.)

      It sounds like this employee does need a wake-up call. Having a real job, especially a customer-facing one, can be overwhelming. But she needs to learn coping mechanisms. Some of that will come with experience.

  3. Anon librarian*

    Now I’m rethinking our hiring process for an academic librarian role. We do our first interview via a 30 minute Zoom with as many of our small team as we can. It’s not particularly intense and I think it lets candidates meet us to get a sense of who we are too. We ask the most basic questions that anyone might guess would be asked in an interview, we leave time for them to ask questions, and we give them more information about us and the role (without them asking).

    Does this strike people as onerous?

    1. Won’t somebody think of the candidates*

      Not too onerous for you, but for the candidate it’s a formal job interview with several people, on video and they will prepare accordingly. They have no idea what you will ask and have to over prepare.

      1. Loulou*

        What do you mean by over prepare? It’s not like the candidates are preparing a 45-minute presentation…it’s only a 30 minute interview.

        It’s good practice to let candidates know what to expect (so basically what OP told us) but I don’t see what’s wrong with a candidate having to prepare for a “formal job interview with several people”…. which is exactly what this is.

        1. Dawn*

          Hi, trans woman here.

          Anytime you ask me to get on camera that adds a MINIMUM of an extra hour of prep work to my day to polish myself up sufficiently to be on camera. When I already work full-time hours (remotely, so I am normally under no pressure to be camera-ready.) And I don’t know if you’re really going to stick to your half-hour schedule either.

          Now I’m not saying I’m not willing to do that but if we’re at the stage where you’re still interviewing 50 or 100 or however many candidates for one position, I may very well nope out on scheduling two hours of my very limited free time and energy for you.

          And you might be fine with that! But you might also be pushing away good candidates without even realizing it by putting additional demands on their time and energy and scheduling early on in the process because, I don’t know, what purpose does being on camera serve here?

          1. Loulou*

            The committee is definitely not doing 50 or 100 interviews! Without knowing anything more about OP’s situation it’s probably closer to 10 or fewer, with the intention of choosing three candidates to fly to campus for a full day of interviews.

            Obviously this all depends on both the person and the job, but in the library field what OP describes is completely standard, and first round interviews already mean you’ve whittled down a ton of candidates by quite a bit.

            1. Dawn*

              Yeah but here’s the thing: I, the candidate, don’t know that.

              If I apply to a position and they say “Hi we’d like to do a short video interview early on in the process” I may just decline to continue the process.

              And, again, good on them if they’re fine with that but she asked: “Is this onerous?” And to me, yes, it is, and surely to other people as well if it is to me, and they may be selecting otherwise good people out of their pool because we’re not sitting on their side of the table and don’t understand why we would need to spend the time and juggle our schedules and “meet the team” for a first round interview, especially if we’re an in-demand candidate.

              1. Loulou*

                I feel like we’re talking past each other — if you are interviewing for an academic librarian position then what I said about the number of candidates is (or should be) common knowledge and an established norm. This is a tough field and, at the entry level, there’s really not such a thing as a desirable candidate who can turn down an interview because they’ll get another one that’s less onerous.

                Should interviewers try to make the process less onerous whenever possible? Yes, definitely, because it’s humane. But the “good candidates will go with other options” concept does not apply here.

                1. Dawn*

                  I genuinely do not understand why it is so important to you to establish this.

                  You are correct that I do not know anything, nor do I care to, about the academic librarian field.

                  We’re talking past each other because I, sorry, feel as if your comments in this thread are dismissive of what I’m trying to say, or at least sidetracking it, which is that video interviews suck for me and are, in fact, quite onerous, and I’m not even someone who has to deal with kids in the bargain.

                  My answer stands. “It’s only a 30 minute interview” isn’t really acknowledging everything that a video interview necessitates and it’s a lot early on.

                2. Allonge*

                  Loulou, Dawn, I think the issue here is that the process is not clear (right now on this board).

                  If in these academic library hiring processes ‘first interview’ means

                  a, after a long, written application process where the hiring committee already eliminated 95% of candidates and all candidates are informed of all working conditions and now it’s finally time to meet a very small pool of candidates to select the 2 who will be interviewed in person

                  then the weight of a ‘first interview is on video’ is totally different from

                  b, the hiring team wants to video-meet every candidate from a 1000+ pool, without having shared anything but the minimum info about the job previously.

                  For me, b, is both a really weird process and more importantly, totally different from what Alison talks about as a normal hiring process with phone interview. Whereas a, is still different from this normal but the function of the phone screen is fulfilled by other means. So a ‘first interview’ in a, is very different from that in b, and this has an impact on whether or not video is onerous or totally to be expected.

                3. Green great dragon*

                  I think it comes back to what the original post flags – what info do the candidates have in advance? If they’re being asked to do a formal interview before they’ve had chance to ask what the salary is, that’s not great. If they already have the basic info (and ideally a chance to ask brief questions) so they can make an informed judgement about whether it’s something they want to devote some hours of time to, then it sounds fine to me.

                4. EPLawyer*

                  Here’s the thing — for YOU its just one of 10 interviews. YOU know the process because you are the one setting it up and running it.

                  For the candidate its a JOB INTERVIEW. With all the formalities that entails. Getting clothes right, hair and make up if female, getting your head in the right space, researching the institution so you can ask intelligent questions. Even if they know IN GENERAL the process for hiring at academic libraries, they are preparing for YOUR hiring process. Which is more work for them because they don’t do it all the time.

                5. Allonge*

                  @EPLawyer – ok but it’s an interview. Not a fun day at the beach. Interviews are rarely fun, easy or anything like that; that is not the issue here – all this frustration is also present for a phone screen.

                  Also, I have been a woman for 40 years, wore makeup to exactly zero interviews unless tinted lipbalm counts.

                6. Loulou*

                  Dawn, I feel it’s important to establish because your comment seemed to suggest that a video interview took a lot of effort that you are potentially willing to put in if it’s a substantial interview that means you’re pretty far along, and not willing if it’s a screener that you along with 50 or 100 others are going through. And I’m telling you in academic libraries it’s the former. You can still obviously feel however you feel about them, but the interviews OP is describing are step 1 in a two- step process, the next step of which is getting on a plane.

                7. Loulou*

                  EPLawyer, do you think I’m OP? I’m not the one doing the interviews…I’m commenting from the perspective of an applicant.

              2. Books and Cooks*

                I dunno. I kind of think that your grooming needs are your problem; most people need some time to get ready for an interview, so I’m not sure why you’re presenting this as some big issue that everyone needs to be extra considerate of. “We could do a video interview, but that might require candidates to put on clean clothes and wash their hair, and women might wish to put on some make-up, which is a huge imposition for the everyday person rather than a pretty basic condition of adult life,” doesn’t strike me as the kind of thing most people would really think. Yes, you’re expected to look professional in a job interview…and?

                If “A video interview means I have to look presentable like any other adult at a job interview! That’s an onerous demand!” is something a candidate is actually thinking, and it’s such a big deal that they get angry about it…I’m not going to be upset when they decide working with me isn’t their thing. So in that respect, perhaps the process described is a good thing.

                (I’m also getting shades of the LW who informed her boss that because she was a woman who needed to do her hair and make-up, she needed an extra hour every day that the men didn’t and it was unfair of her to work as many hours as they did, sorry. Job interviews require some grooming. The level of grooming it takes you to get to the point where you’re happy is your decision, not anyone else’s, and no one else should be expected to change their process because of it, especially when they’re trying to meet you and let you meet them, instead of presenting the job interview as some weird siloed process in which you never get a sense of what the people there are actually like until the very end.)

          2. Dawn*

            And just for the sake of clarity, I’m a lot more likely to consent/acquiesce/not resent a video call if it’s a second or third interview. First-round candidates are frequently just being checkboxed by prospective employers in a large pool and you’re asking a lot of me to accommodate a video interview at a point where it’s still fairly likely it won’t pay off for me.

            And frankly maybe I’d like prospective employers to pare down the candidate pool a bit more BEFORE they have a chance to clock my appearance and unconsciously (or consciously!) judge me or take me out of the running early on; and while it’s not my lane I suspect that there are other people belonging to visible minorities who might feel the same way.

            At the very least, if you only have a short/limited interview process or candidate pool, making that clear up front is going to make me a lot more likely to accommodate you.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              I think your second to last paragraph is super important, diversity wise. Keep the selection process as anonymous as possible, as long as possible.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                ^^^^THIS ^^^^
                Not just for trans candidates, but older ones as well.

                Now people are doing short (as in 15 minutes) video screens. So you have to prepare as you would for a full, hour-long Zoom interview, with business attire, makeup, etc. but for only 15 minutes. I have done three of these now and I am just…ugh. Just call me on the phone.

                And I’m increasingly convinced that, although I don’t LOOK “old” on Zoom quite yet, I’m definitely being judged on my appearance. At the screening stage.

            2. Yellow Flotsam*

              How many interview rounds does your field have? Genuinely curious because for all my positions the most I’ve ever had was 2. Often it was 1.

              I think the customs of the field is relevant here, and unless it is entry level likely to be known (but good to make explicit). If there’s only 1 interview then I’d be annoyed for it not to be on video or in person, because I want to meet people, and I find communication easier via video because I get body language as well.

          3. Nameless*

            I feel like an hour of prep time for a video interview is a lot. Is there anything that you might be able to forgo in terms of prep? I feel like an hour prep for a 1/2 hour is going to limit you.

            1. Willow Pillow*

              That prep time is showering, hair, makeup, etc. An hour doesn’t seem unreasonable for that.

              1. Nameless*

                An hour is too much if like she said it limits the amount of interviews she can do. If she is limited on the amount of interviews then that’s going to limit her career growth. It would make sense for her to condense her route to maximize the amount of interviews she can do.

                1. Kella*

                  It’s simply not always possible to reduce the time your routine takes. For health reasons, I have several routines I have to do before I can be functional and it’s simply not possible to skip them or shorten them. Does that impact how and what I can do with my day? Very much so. But that doesn’t mean there’s something I can do to change that.

                2. Willow Pillow*

                  Dawn is saying that she’s choosing not to devote that time for a lower expectation of it being worthwhile, not that she can’t do it. She also hasn’t indicated that this is impacting her ability to find work, or that she’s even looking at this point. To echo Relentlessly Socratic below, I suggest we take Dawn at her word – I acknowledge that you say you aren’t doing so, but you really seem to be interpreting her feedback on this thread as something that she needs to fix.

            2. Relentlessly Socratic*

              Dawn identified herself as a trans woman. As a cis woman, it takes me a long time to get ready for a video call, so I suggest we take her at her word.

              1. quill*

                Yeah I can easily see how just appearance prep for an interview would take an hour, with the combined pressures of being a woman and so held to a much more labor intensive standard of professional appearance, and hoping to pass as cis.

            3. Dawn*

              I’m doing my best but I don’t have a lifetime of experience behind me with this stuff the way cis women do, and cameras tend to highlight some things in a way that’s likely to out me ahead of schedule if I don’t spend a fair bit of prep time. What’s considered professional dress for women also factors into that.

              And you’re right, it does limit me! But so would, for example, showing up for an interview with visible stubble.

              That’s just how our world is at the moment, and I’m fortunate enough I’ve managed to bring it down to around an hour, it was taking me two when I first came out.

              1. Dawn*

                For anyone who’s wondering: right now I start with The Ordinary silicone primer, followed by Fenty peach concealer stick, followed by Nyx full-coverage liquid foundation, followed by Nyx full-coverage powder, followed by Revolution Sport fixing spray.

                That’s for my skin and then we move on to the eyes, heh.

                1. Lydia*

                  Is it weird that I wish I wanted to do that much make-up prep, but I just can’t care enough? Like, I love the way it looks on people and want to know what I would look like with all the prep, but I can’t convince myself to get out of bed early enough to try.

                2. Dawn*

                  Is it weird that I wish I wanted to do that much make-up prep, but I just can’t care enough? Like, I love the way it looks on people and want to know what I would look like with all the prep, but I can’t convince myself to get out of bed early enough to try.

                  I’d love to be able to do less, frankly, but that’s the minimum required to make sure any razor stubble doesn’t show up under harsh lighting.

                  One day when this pandemic is over, possibly I’ll be able to get electrolysis, but I’m still not comfortable putting my unmasked face near another human being for any significant length of time.

          4. Nanani*

            THIS!
            There really really is an extra layer of prep for video that there isn’t with voice.

            On top of that there’s basic logistics – you can answer a phone from any random quiet place but video will require you to be at your computer, maybe arrange for other household members to be out or at least not using much bandwidth, maybe a lot of things.

            It’s not about intensity, it’s about necessity.

        2. Not Australian*

          Don’t forget that while you may be calling from an office or regular home-work setup, your candidate may be using a corner of their accommodation and it may be necessary to get pets, house-mates, clutter etc. out of the way and bargain for some alone time in advance. All this adds to the stress and the time requirement in a way that would not be necessary for a simple phone or audio-only call. Please don’t assume that because a thing is easy for you it will automatically be easy for everyone.

          1. Loulou*

            I’m not assuming that! It’s in fact not easy for me, or wasn’t when I was interviewing for jobs as a recent library school graduate. But I actually find that “phone interviews are always easier” also involves a lot of assumptions that also don’t apply to everyone (in my case, a poor quality cell phone and no landline added a layer of tech issues, no car or quiet place to take a call meant I still had to travel back to my shared accomodations, etc).

          2. Esmeralda*

            I dunno, I have always prepped as much for a phone interview as for an in-person or video one. Getting some time alone: whatever the mode, interviews are during working hours and I’m working, so I’m going to have to arrange time alone regardless (either in my office or at home if I’m WFH or take some PTO to do the interview). Getting dressed appropriately (comment from upthread): I’m already working. Even when I WFH, my on-camera body is professionally attired because I’m going to be on camera.

            I imagine what I experience is fairly common?

            Is it extra work or not easy for some folks? Yes, the comments make this clear. Is it unreasonable extra work? I don’t think so.

            The substantial concern is for persons who are visible minorities, as Dawn puts it. Not an issue in my office, but I’m sure that’s an exception.

          3. ThisishRightHere*

            So much this! My family is currently staying in a one-bedroom airbnb while we await the move-in date for our real house and yesterday for the first time in my career, I simply could not find a private and presentable corner of my home to take a video call. I decided to go out to the car (on a 96 degree day) and my phone overheated and shut down in the middle of the call even with the AC running (burning $5/gallon gas in the process). Had it been an audio-only call, I could’ve ducked into a restaurant booth or something. Being able to take video calls on short notice is definitely a privilege I didn’t realize I [previously] had.

              1. Min*

                With no “at home” option, I can easily see someone choosing a booth in the corner of a quiet restaurant as the least worst option.

                Sometimes a person’s individual situations mean that they have to do things under less than optimal circumstances and choose from what is currently available to them.

                1. Loulou*

                  Lol believe me I’m familiar with less than optimal situations….but a quiet restaurant isn’t quiet anymore once someone is talking on the phone??? I would absolutely never PLAN to take a phone call in a restaurant, period.

                1. Loulou*

                  The street….you can apologize for street noise but if I heard noises that indicated a candidate was INSIDE A RESTAURANT, I’d be shocked.

                2. ThisishRightHere*

                  For what it’s worth, once my phone cooled down and I was able to re-join the video call I literally took it standing on the sidewalk. I got 13 mosquito bites in ~10 minutes. Me constantly stepping out of the way to allow joggers to pass plus constantly swatting bugs was, I’m sure, more distracting and less professional than simply turning off the video (which wasn’t allowed)

                3. Loulou*

                  Missed that OP’s phone was overheating so the street is not an option, but regardless, i absolutely feel A RESTAURANT is not an option and it’s wild that thats presented as an attractive alternative to a one bedroom apartment.

                4. Kella*

                  Loulou, I’m trusting ThisishRightHere that there simply was not a private, presentable option in the 1-bedroom air bnb. I’m guessing perhaps there were small children and a lack of closeable doors. Perhaps you would’ve chosen differently but when home, outside, and car are not options, then an indoor, semi-public, non-crowded space would likely be the only alternative.

                  I’d hope that if you had a candidate taking an interview in a restaurant and they apologized for the extenuating circumstances, that you would take them at their word that there simply wasn’t another option (unless it was part of a larger problem of lack of professional norms) rather than judge them for not *having* other options.

                5. Yellow Flotsam*

                  I’ve booked (free) rooms at public libraries and community centres. I’ve borrowed a friend or colleague’s office. Some job centres and charities have rooms available. I’d also preference an outdoor nature space over a restaurant.

                  If it is a job I want I (in my industry) will already have put a lot of effort into the initial application (up to 40 hours work there). I would be putting aside at least a half day for prep and the interview if not more.

                  When I was applying for entry level service jobs my prep was less, but so too were expectations

              2. ThisishRightHere*

                I didn’t say the word interview at all. In my case, it was just a routine video call. And yes, had it been audio-only, the back booth in a quiet diner would have been a much better option than either a hot car or a one-room apartment full of people doing their own thing. At any rate, my experience yesterday taught me to never again require video for a conversation that can work fine with just audio.

              3. Elizabeth West*

                Soooooo people have business meetings in restaurants all the time; if the place is quiet, then why is this an issue? Other people dining in the restaurant also talk to each other. They’re not eating their meals in complete silence.

                If the interview is scheduled at a time when the restaurant isn’t busy and the candidate isn’t talking loudly or blaring a speakerphone, I really don’t see it as a problem. Especially if the candidate said something like, “I apologize for any extraneous noise. My partner is taking work calls in our studio apartment/the baby has a cold and is loudly cranky today/they’re doing construction on our building so I’m at the [quiet] diner.”

        3. astral debris*

          Video itself is a medium that requires significantly more work than a phone call, and the argument is that it’s a high burden for the candidate to shoulder for what is, effectively, a screener interview.

          With a phone call, you need to block out the required time plus a little extra to compose your thoughts, find a quiet place to sit (could be your home office, could be your car in your current job’s parking lot), and prepare for the interview as normal. There’s also a convention around phone screens that nothing especially in-depth will be asked.

          That convention gets significantly fuzzier around video interviews, even if they’re only scheduled for 30 minutes, so for safety the candidate is going to try to prepare to answer more substantive, main-interview questions. On top of that, they have to find a place that is both quiet and professional-looking to conduct the interview (and may need to schedule extra time away from their current job if they need to drive home to find such a space). They need to consider lighting and camera angle. Women will usually have to ensure that their hair and makeup look good on camera. If they’re like me, they will have to mentally relive the ongoing argument they’re having with their father-in-law about whether or not headphones “look professional.”

          I think this dichotomy is what Won’t somebody think of the candidates is trying to get at.

          1. Dawn*

            You’ve mentioned it there, but let’s just highlight it again: there’s also a question of WHICH candidates it’s onerous for.

            Single white men living alone without kids may have to throw on a shirt and have had a shave within the last six hours.

            For everyone else, it gets progressively more onerous in various ways.

            1. astral debris*

              Lol I deleted a whole paragraph that was basically a rant about how different (and much more time-consuming) on-camera makeup is vs. everyday in-person makeup! Figured it would probably be relatable to only a subset of [mostly] femme-presenting readers, but my background in film and theater means it’s something I can’t not consider when I’m prepping for video calls. Especially when something as important as my livelihood is on the line.

              And I’m sure there’s tons of things I haven’t even thought of that other people need to account for due to accessibility, concerns surrounding discrimination, or something else entirely.

              I’m not exactly a fan of phone calls; I have a hearing condition that can sometimes make them a nightmare, particularly if it involves an accent that I don’t hear regularly. And they’re not a good fit for when additional people need to be involved (although I’d question whether bringing in multiple team members at the initial screening stage is really a good use of everyone’s time — it might actually be, but it’s worth at least considering if you’re seeing any real value coming out of it).

              I just think that when setting up initial screening interviews employers should know going in exactly what they want to achieve at this stage, and then through that lens they should interrogate their process to see if there is a way to accomplish what they want in a way that puts the least amount of burden on the interviewee.

              1. umami*

                But … it’s a job interview, not the 6 o’clock news? I get wanting to look decent on-camera, but I don’t think anyone expects the average candidate to look like they just got out of a makeup chair or would notice the difference on the average zoom call. At least I hope not because it never occurred to me to do anything different with my makeup for video than I do in person. Makeup is certainly not something I would even think to judge anyone on.

                1. Dawn*

                  Unfortunately it absolutely does happen. In a perfect world it wouldn’t, but the reality is that your interviewer doesn’t really know you and it’s human nature to put a lot of emphasis on first visual impression, even if you’re not conscious you’re doing it – and if you’re a woman interviewing with a man it can be even worse, many men don’t even know how to recognize makeup.

                  That’s clumsy. To put it in perspective, one day I had a customer come in with a really great and really thick and visible eyeliner wing, and I complimented her on her eyeliner and eyeshadow. Seriously, they were awesome. And my ~60 year old male colleague had been hanging about and asked me what that was about when she left (because I basically said, “love your wings,” which he couldn’t parse,) and I explained that I’d been complimenting her eye makeup and he said “Oh, I hadn’t noticed.” But of course he does notice – he just doesn’t consciously register it. And this is how we get women being told that they “look tired” when they wear less makeup than usual.

                  And so unfortunately, no, we can’t rely on that we’ll get someone who won’t judge/care.

                2. astral debris*

                  It’s not that I expect to be judged on how my makeup looks; most of the time people don’t register when someone they’re looking at is wearing makeup. But I do know that I will be judged, at least subconsciously, on how I look generally as a person. That shouldn’t be the case, obviously, but for whatever reason it’s something that humans instinctively do.

                  I probably overthink it more than the average interviewee because of my background and training, but I’m acutely aware of how cameras wash out my skin tone and flatten and erase my facial features. Video interview makeup for me is not about achieving that flawless, airbrushed complexion with lashes that a family of four could shelter under during a rainstorm. It’s making sure it looks like I actually do have a nose, and that my chin does not appear to be melting into my neck, and not giving Melancholy Ghost Doomed to Endlessly Wander the Misty Moors vibes. Or at least, to not unintentionally give those vibes.

                3. Maggie*

                  Yeah I think there’s a bit of making mountains out of molehills here. It takes me 10 minutes to do my makeup and I’ll just wear a brighter lipstick on camera. If other people have unchangeable hours long routines that’s fine, but maybe not necessary. I’ve gotten my last two jobs starting out with video interviews out the gate, so I don’t think camera specific makeup that takes hours is necessary. I do understand of course what Dawn is saying about needing extra time due to wanting to pass on camera.

                4. astral debris*

                  Yeah I may be making a mountain out of a molehill; I’m not trying to say that my experience is universal by any means, but there are lots of reasons that some people might feel it’s important to take extra care with their makeup. They might need to make sure they pass on camera, or they might be concerned about being screened out early due to weight discrimination, or they might have health issues and not want the interviewer’s first impression of them to be “tired and sickly.” Or they could just have a case of overagitated brain-weasels.

                  I’m talking about the makeup portion of the equation because it’s something I think about a lot, but I don’t want my point to get hidden under a bunch of makeup. What I’m trying to say overall is that there are a whole bunch of factors that can make a video call a much bigger lift than a phone call for candidates. Sometimes video is the best medium for what you want to accomplish, and after reading the comments on this thread throughout the day it sounds like that may be the case for Anon Librarian. But I’ve also seen a lot of companies choose video calls in cases where it’s completely unnecessary, and I’ve seen a lot of people who haven’t really thought about the impact that switching initial phone screenings to video can have on job candidates. Video is still a new-ish thing in interviews for a lot of organizations, and I’m just hoping the trend will bend towards a more considered, judicious use of it over time.

            2. Oxford Comma*

              I’ve done both phone interviews and the zoom/video interviews. They are both stressful. I’m an academic librarian and for us we know at this stage, they’re probably down to about 5-7 people.

              The phone interview is often awkward because of the pauses and often not knowing who is speaking to you. As with a video interview, you still have to make sure no one else is around, that you have a stable phone connection, no interruptions, etc. Sometimes you have no idea how something you said landed. Are they in a room looking at each other and mouthing “what the heck?” or are they nodding in approbation at what you just said? You don’t know.

              Video interviews have all the issues referenced, but at least you know who’s on the call and you can generally see who you’re talking to.

        4. Lyngend (Canada)*

          I had to go buy a web cam with no notice for a job interview in 2020. As well as a headset with mic because I was told it was required for the interview.

          1. Pisces*

            While it was time for an upgrade anyway, I bought a new home laptop earlie this year because my old one couldn’t run Zoom virtual backgrounds.

        5. MCMonkeyBean*

          Anon librarian has suggested that they don’t think their first interview is too much because they only ask the most basic questions. But if the candidate doesn’t know in advance what questions are going to be asked that doesn’t really change anything on their end as so they will likely prepare for deeper questions as well.

          IMO what they described sounds like a pretty normal interview. But the point is that a phone screen *before* that point saves everybody time if it is clearly not going to be the right fit.

          1. Loulou*

            I don’t agree that a phone screen saves people time…scheduling two interviews (in any format) is more time consuming than one!

          2. Yellow Flotsam*

            I don’t really understand the (quick) phone screen. Are these used instead of longer applications? I’ve only ever had something similar when I contacted a company when they weren’t advertising (so they had no chance to ask me anything before)

            I’m struggling to understand what could be useful in a short conversation that would rule in or out candidates that you wouldn’t get from the application.

        6. Esmeralda*

          Agreed. We do this (description down the comments). I do let candidates know the topics (only three).

          If a candidate wanted to do a phone interview, we would be fine with having a zoom with their camera off. The zoom makes it easier for the committee to see each other and direct chat. Phone interviews are clunkier in this regard.

    2. Araminty*

      By the time you’ve set up the video interview, does the candidate already have the basic info as covered in the OP’s letter – salary (at least band/range) and status (remote, hybrid or all in-person)? If not, consider making this info front and centre.

    3. Loulou*

      I think I’m in the minority among commenters here, but I vastly prefer video for any interview by committee. Talking to a group of people on the phone can be difficult and confusing when you can’t see them!

      1. Won’t somebody think of the candidates*

        I agree, my comment was meant that the candidate will treat this like a formal interview, not a preliminary screening call. If a preliminary screening call via phone it should be 1:1

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I’m like you! Even if it’s just one person, I generally dislike phone calls with people I don’t know very well. I prefer to see body language or at least facial expressions, so video is much better than sound only. Disembodied voices are much more stressful for me to follow. I’d hate extended phone screens.

        1. Anonanon*

          Same here. I have to concentrate a lot more intensely on voice-only calls. In my re experience, on the phone, there also tends to be a lot of 2 or more people starting to talk at thre same and have to do that awkward “Oh sorry, you go ahead.” “No it’s ok you go” over and over again. It’s a lot easier to avoid this awkward dance when we can see body language and facial expressions. Even before COVID, my company had been using Skype and other online video call platforms for meetings, interviews, and training for years.We’re quite use to it and to us it’s no big deal.

          1. amoeba*

            Yeah, I’m always a little surprised by the aversion people have to video calls. I recently had my first actual phone screen, like, ever, and actually found it quite a bit more stressful that video – you cannot see the other person, I find it much harder to know when they’re finished talking to avoid interrupting, I actually found it much harder to understand the audio…

            But then I also do basically zero prep for video calls and I’m always a little surprised (and wondering what I’m doing wrong, haha!) Just make sure my hair looks normal and I’m wearing something more or less presentable. For the background – yeah, I try to move things out of the way, but if that’s too much effort, I’ll just blur or use a virtual background, I think that’s super normal and accepted nowadays? (It does annoy me when the interview is on a platform I hadn’t used before and I’m not sure how to use backgrounds. But Zoom or Teams is fine.)

            But then I also have very, very regular video calls at work, don’t think I really ever have days without at least one where video is on for at least part of the call (it’s also normal and no problem to switch it off after a while when other people are presenting etc.)

            The only part I get is that it might be hard if you cannot do home office and have to interview from your car etc. In which case I’d probably just be open about it and tell them I’ll unfortunately have to connect from my phone and will be able to do audio only/switch camera off after the intro. Or just chat to them via video on my phone. I’d just assume they probably know I have a current job and cannot reasonably expect me to drive home for an hour and back just for a 30 min interview. (And if they don’t understand that, not sure I’d want to work for them in the first place…)

            Of course, if it’s a job I’m really super keen on, I’d probably go to more effort. But if it’s a job I’m really not sure about in the first place, I wouldn’t go above and beyond for just a first screening, no.

            1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

              Right, I’m already on video every day and have been for almost a decade — and usually prefer it because I can see cues and connect better. I’m so awkward on the phone. So it’s really no big deal for me to do a video call! My space is set, and a few extra minutes on face/hair is enough for an interview. When I was newer to video I put a lot of time and thinking into video calls so I do remember a time when it wasn’t so simple and it’s always good for me to be reminded that many others have different experiences.

        2. KRM*

          I feel the same way. Phone calls are hard because I don’t know the person, and I don’t have any visual cues to see how they may be reacting to what I’m saying (are they engaged, taking notes, do they look bored, etc). The problem is, as always, that different people have different comfort thresholds for things, so your process as chosen will never ever make everyone happy. And it can’t! We’re all just doing the best we can! All I can say is that whatever your initial screening method, make sure you talk about the following: salary band (and what might affect it, such as years of experience, or deep experience in X and Y that would be covered in a second interview with more time), general benefits offered, work location and possibilities, and anything else that could affect compensation (like a bonus program). This can help align everyone.

        3. Kimmy Schmidt*

          I’m the same. I also like that *I* can show some cues. For example, on a video screen I feel much more comfortable taking notes because the interviewers can see that’s what I’m doing, as opposed to a phone call where it’s just dead air.

      3. Person from the Resume*

        Is talking to a committee the first time the interviewee is talking to anyone from the company? If there hasn’t been a phone screen has there at least been communication about salary, location, WFH possibilities, etc?

        If I’m talking to a committee, I’m expecting this to be a serious, got to prepare interview, got to look good and be dressed at least one step above the normal office dress code.

        That’s what I can’t get the read on in your question. If I’m not even sure that I want this job, a video interview is a lot. If I know the salary and location and basic job description is something I’m interested in, then I’ll be more ready to do the video prep.

      4. Smithy*

        I’m with you. If there is more than one person on the call, doing it without video – I find the lack of visual cues to be challenging. Being able to see when someone has stopped speaking or turned themselves on/off mute I find to be incredibly helpful.

        Additionally. While I am a femme presenting woman, I am also single, live alone, have a very flexible hybrid remote work schedule and don’t wear any make up. My current job requires video meetings daily, so my existing at-home computer set-up has lighting/angles in place where I am comfortable with the image I present on very short notice. Even when talking one on one, I prefer having visual cues to just auditory ones.

        However, I also acknowledge that part of this preference is my current living and work situation. I can take a 30 minute interview during my current work schedule and have minimal disruption or need for PTO in my current job. Pre-Covid when I was in the office 5 days a week, scheduling interviews around my work schedule was far more complicated and feeling like I needed to use PTO or potentially tip off my boss that I was interviewing for what might have been just a 30 minute HR screening would have been deeply frustrating.

        With all that being said, it may be worth seeing if it’s possible to set any kind of “mutual screening” call prior to the first interview. A call where someone is able to discuss the upmost basics of the job (remote/in person/hybrid), upfront salary information, basics about the job description. After that discussion, if there continues to be interest to share that the process will be followed by X number of video/in-person interviews and ask about moving forward. Often the total number of interviews is unknown, so it does make it hard how to evaluate the demands of Interview 1 at any given employer.

      5. Joielle*

        Same here! I absolutely hate group phone calls for this reason. Even one-on-one, I prefer to be able to see the other person’s body language and make a more personal connection. It makes me feel more at ease. If you can’t see someone it’s a lot harder to avoid accidentally interrupting.

      6. Mockingjay*

        I’ve conducted work by teleconference for decades, so a phone screen is no big deal for me. I don’t have a camera on my elderly home computer, which means if a video interview is required, I have to use the crappy built-in camera and mike on my cheap tablet or phone.

        My sister is interviewing and asked me and my siblings to do a practice Teams call with her because she also has to use her phone. The quality was terrible and she ended up with Option B, which was going to a friend’s to use their setup. She’s in a somewhat rural area and her internet service is not great. Not everyone has a quality camera and good lighting for a video call or fast internet, nor do they want to invest in such for home use. (These things are expensive!)

      7. Elizabeth West*

        This is very true. However, a screening interview, in a process where there are usually multiple interviews, can be a 1:1 thing. Especially if it’s short.

        I did a panel interview last week that was only 15 minutes. On video. They announced at the start, “We only have two questions, with the possibility of additional questions if your answers are conducive to more” (they did ask more). This was a state job and IDK if a panel is common in government for a preliminary screening, but it could also have easily been done 1:1 by phone.

      8. Mid*

        I don’t actually think anyone is advocating for a voice call committee, but rather that 1:1 phone calls should be the screening/preliminary call rather than a committee/panel interview. You don’t need to waste everyone’s time if the salary isn’t going to line up.

      9. Maggie*

        Yeah I agree with you, I don’t need a phone interview just put me on video and let’s move this thing along. But my routine to get ready for a video call does not exceed 15 minutes.

    4. Allonge*

      This by itself is not onerous – if it’s followed by 5 individual interviews / tests or whatever, it’s part of a process that is.

      Personally if I am going to be talking to multiple people I prefer video, especially if the point is to meet the team.

    5. bamcheeks*

      I think this depends on how much information the candidates have access to beforehand, and how transparent you are about the interview itself and what you’re screening for.

      I mean, interviews ARE onerous— there’s just no getting around that. Application processes almost universally require the majority of candidates to do a vast amount of work and preparation for no reward. There are undoubtedly candidates who’d prefer a phone screen because they can simply shut themselves in a small messy room away from the kids without doing their hair and others who really appreciate the opportunity to see the team or need to see people’s faces/lips and find it far easier to have a video call.

      I think if you wanted a real answer to this you’d need to figure out what your goal is (broad and diverse pool of candidates? anyone who can do the job for the right price? Someone who is willing to go the extra mile because they really really really want THIS job?) and get feedback on your entire process and the information you share at each stage. But if, as you say, it’s a highly competitive field, you probably feel like you’re getting enough qualified candidates and can afford to lose some. It depends on whether you’re ok with that.

    6. Cat Tree*

      Honestly, from the candidate side I’d rather have Zoom than a phone screen. There is the added hoop of wearing a nice shirt, but other than that it’s not much different than a phone screen (same amount of preparation, same requirement to find a quiet private place). Like many others, I hate talking on the phone. A big part of that is lacking social cues. I would much rather see the other person’s facial expressions. For example, then I can tell whether a long pause is them thinking or taking notes rather than disapproving of my answer.

      So I guess my point is, everyone has different preferences. If your method is working for you and you’re getting the right candidates, then you don’t need to change.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        A video interview with a full panel of people is definitely quite different than a phone screen to check the very most basic details like salary/hours/location.

        1. Loulou*

          The phone screen you’re describing is not usually a part of academic hiring IME. This is a short interview with a panel who has already determined OP needs the qualifications.

    7. Hel*

      My guess is that since you’re setting up interviews that involve your team, the number of interviews you’re granting is relatively small. Therefore the risk/reward for the candidate is different for your process than it is for someone who is being asked to video interview in a first stage pool of 100 or more applicants. I don’t think it’s too onerous, BUT to Dawn’s excellent point, you may be inadvertently losing out on some candidates for whom their “Is this worth it” math is different. Like Loulou, I would actually prefer a video interview if it’s with more than one person, and my assumption upon learning it’s with more than one person is that this is a more serious interview.

      However that’s my assumption, so the question for you is what are you telling the candidates explicitly. I would look at it as knowns versus unknowns. The more a candidate knows upfront, then the more the interview will be focused on what is unknown. If your goal for the team interview is to allow the candidate and you to get a sense of each other (since you’ll be working closely in a team environment, that’s a big piece of what you’re looking for), then the best way to do that is avoid having to spend the first 10 to 15 minutes explaining things that could have been put in an introductory email or better yet: the job description. I think this is particularly important for salary. If you don’t list salary, then the odds of you finding a candidate you love who turns down your offer is higher than if you do list salary. There are lots of reasons turn down offers, but letting them know what the salary range up front is one you can control and will eliminate candidates who *know* they won’t be able to accept the job at the salary range you’re offering.

      Just my two cents.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        I’ve interviewed with a few places, including where I work now, who would send out a hiring process and estimated timeline when they sent out the email asking if you would like to schedule an interview. It wasn’t super detailed just a flow chart of how you would move through the process and an approximation of the time between steps (e.g. initial phone screen – approximately 2 weeks – in-person/video panel interview – approximately 3 weeks – final decision). I always appreciated it

    8. Less Bread More Taxes*

      From your end, why would you want to potentially waste multiple people’s time at the beginning of the process? While people choose to remove their candidacy for jobs at different stages of the process, they are most likely to leave at the very beginning when they and the company aren’t yet aligned on salary, work schedules, work locations, other benefits, etc. So doesn’t it make sense to make sure you and the candidate are aligned on all of that before bringing your team into the conversation?

      1. Less Bread More Taxes*

        Basically, as a candidate, when I find out we’re skipping the phone call stage and jumping straight into interviews, my first thought is “Woah, hold on, I don’t even know if I want this job yet!”

        1. Loulou*

          I sound like a broken record, but in academic jobs there’s not really a “phone call stage.” It’s a first interview (virtual) and an interview day (in person).

          People can still have issues with video calls as a medium, but I truly think a lot of the comments are talking about something completely different than OP.

          1. Springtime*

            Something else that I think has been missing from the discussion is that academic librarianship is a field where almost all jobs will require showing up looking presentable, either in person or online, almost every day. And it’s been a while since I switched to public librarianship, but my currently reality is that my job is in-person, but I’m in at least one video meeting almost every day. So facility with that is also a very basic job skill, and I assume the same is true in academic librarianship. It can be good for the screening process to screen out those who don’t want that kind of job.

        2. Cmdrshpard*

          But a phone call is an interview? Unless you were approached first, you applied for the job so you should at least be thinking you might want the job. My thoughts is that you never know if you want the job until you have the “full offer” in front of you and you have to make a decision.

          To some people saying a video call takes 1 hour of prep for the video aspect, that seems like it is on you choosing to spend that much time on it. The only thing for me different between a phone and video initial call would be putting on a button down and combing my hair a bit.

          1. Dawn*

            I don’t know what your gender presentation is, but I can promise you that as a trans woman I don’t get the luxury of “just throwing on a button down and combing my hair a bit.”

          2. Mid*

            Aside from what Dawn addressed, you could also need to find someone to remove your children and pets from the place with a nice enough background to take the video call, find a quiet enough place for a video call (phone calls don’t pick up as much background noise usually compared to a computer microphone), make sure everything you need is in front of you because you can’t walk around on a video call like you can with a phone call, triple check that you don’t have anything in the background inappropriate, leave the office and find a place to take the video call versus just stepping outside, etc.

            1. Dawn*

              Heh, my cat decided the other day that I was spending too much time after I’d already been working all day talking to my doctor. He got treated to a big ol’ kitty butt as she attempted to climb into my arms.

              1. Cmdrshpard*

                I know you are probably talking about telemedicine, but I really enjoy picturing either you brining your cat to the doctors office, or your doctor making a house call and your cat interrupting.

            2. Cmdrshpard*

              Dawn does raise a good point, about routines for different gender presentation taking a bit more.

              But I do most of the things you describe for a phone interview minus the background. Maybe I am too paranoid/overprepare for a phone call. If at home I would “find someone to remove your children and pets from the place” of call, “find a quiet enough place” I don’t want any noise in the background, “make sure everything you need is in front of you because you can’t walk around” I don’t want to be scrambling during a phone call at all.

              If I am at work I would “leave the office and find a place to take the,” I would not “just stepping outside, etc.” I want a quite place no background street noise, I want my notes in front of me, where I don’t have to worry about co-worker hearing me.

              If people don’t put a ton of work into a phone call interview I can see where video seems like a lot more work. But for me I guess I put in 80/90% of the same work into a phone call that I do a video call.

              1. Loulou*

                Yeah, this is where I land too. Phone calls also require a lot of preparation and, in my case, usually presented more challenges than a video call. I understand that my experience is not universal, but that goes both ways.

      2. Oxford Comma*

        In an academic library interview, you may start with a pool of 50 people. You aren’t going to call them all (phone or video). If they don’t meet the qualifications, they are rejected. From that initial pool, you’re going to do a half hour phone/video interview with a much smaller group who have met all the qualifications and have good application materials. You’re going to end up with like 3-4 people you will fly in for the in person interview (1-2 days). The phone/video interview will be with at least 2 people and potentially the full search committee.

        The job descriptions are usually on the lengthy side. They often include a salary range and sometimes general information about benefits. Job duties and such will be provided in the posting.

        Most new librarians are somewhat familiar with the process and if not, they get up to speed fast. Academia doesn’t really do things the way it would work in a corporate setting. If we hire you and you get through tenure, it’s very hard to get rid of you if you’re a problem. And from the candidate’s perspective, this is potentially a place you’re going to work at for a long time so you want to be sure.

    9. Anon librarian*

      Thanks for all the comments, it has given me some helpful input. I’ll be bringing lots of this to the team.

      Just to clear some things up:
      1. I do think quite a bit of the process is standard and therefore clear to candidates. We zoom with 3 people, maybe 4 if they are great on paper. Then we fly in 2 or 3 and they give a presentation, spend the day in interviews and in seeing the campus. That IS all standard and should be understood by those getting the MLIS which is required for this position.
      2. I also think the process is clear because the emails they get to invite them to the zoom interview and for the in person interview do tell them what to expect (but not salary, at public schools you can look those up).

      I agree with those who think a phone interview with multiple people is confusing. And it is really important that everyone on the team participates in the process both so we all know the candidate and so the candidate can assess us.

      I do think we can review our emails to be sure they are clear about the process and we can make the use of cameras optional (and mean it!).

      Thanks all for the comments.

    10. Person from the Resume*

      Yes. You may use zoom every day at work and be comfortable and have a nice set up. And you don’t have to dress to impress and sey up your background to impress.

      A lot of people do not use zoom at home or do not currently use zoom at all. For them it may be onerus to figure out how to use their phone or computer to present themselves and their location to put their best foot forward with a first impression.

      1. Maggie*

        But if someone can’t figure out how to do a zoom call in 2022 I would literally never want to hire that person

    11. ferrina*

      Are you doing a screening call first? A screening call is the first step of any interview I’ve been a part of. This helps 1) the company ensure that this person isn’t a total waste of time 2) get a sense of how to prioritize the interview, for example, if not everyone is available for every interview 3) gives the candidate a chance to ask a few clarifying questions, like compensation range, if there’s a few quick questions about the role or company (not an in-depth convo, but I’ve worked some places where it’s hard to tell from the outside what the company/department/role is), and 4) tells the candidate what the next step will be so they can prepare as needed

      If you have the screening call, then the interview you describe, that sounds fine to me.

      1. Person from the Resume*

        I think of a phone screen as a conversation with one person, often HR, with the basic info. It’s not really to interview the candidate, but to provide info to the applicant about the process and basic facts (WFH/hybrid/in office, salary, job description, anything left off the job ad). Some of this may in the job ad, but I hear so much about WFH bait and switch that is something I’d want to recomfirm before an interview if possible.

    12. WellRed*

      Why does “as many of our team as we can” need to be involved in a preliminary interview? (Or any interview). Yikes on a bike!

      1. Oxford Comma*

        In academia, most people stick around for a while. It’s rare people leave a job after a few months. There is a lot of collaboration and group work in academia. So we’re going to be working with you closely for most likely years. I work at a library that has tenure. I’ve seen people who end up being nightmares to work with get hired. They make it through tenure and they don’t leave.

        So we like to know who we’re hiring and not trust it to one or two people–especially not to HR. From the other side of the process, you’re looking to make a move into a place where you will probably be working for some time. There will be group work and collaboration. If the people at the potential place of employment are weird or great, you want to know that.

    13. Nancy*

      Not for me. I personally hate phone interviews. If I had my way as a candidate I’d go straight to the in-person/video interview. I don’t work in a field where a suit or formal clothing would be expected at interviews, though, so I don’t dress much different than I normally do when I go to work.

    14. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh, I can’t imagine having a zoom call with an entire panel of people as the very first contact. Way too many people! I’m not a prized pig at the county fair or a contestant on American Idol!

      I’d be second-guessing myself constantly. Is there a political reason that everyone’s on the call? What if my innocuous answer is OK for one person but gets misinterpreted by another? Who even are these people, and can I keep their names straight?

      1. Loulou*

        This is totally standard in academic libraries. You can feel however you want to about group interviews, but in this particular field you would absolutely need to get past it.

        1. Another Academic Librarian*

          Agree. It normally has to be a full appointments committee as a part of the organization’s collective agreement with librarians/faculty. Anyone in the field knows this and would expect it.

        2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

          Sure, a panel interview with the hiring committee at some point. But the very first contact, though? You’d have to be really rigorous at down-selecting resumes, otherwise the hiring panel is going to spend an inordinate amount of time on candidates who don’t work out, are just interviewing for practice, are wishy-washy about relocating, etc.

          1. Loulou*

            Yes, they are really rigorous about whittling down. The committee uses a rubric to compare each candidate’s application package against the job description. By the time you’ve gotten to the first round, you have spent a lot of time on the application and the search committee has spent a lot of time deciding you are worth speaking to.

            It seems like a lot of people on this thread are extrapolating from their experiences in other fields, where you might blast out resumes and then be one of many selected for a telephone screen. It’s not like that in this field.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I did this last week and did not get all their names. So my thank-you email went out “To the hiring panel,” care of the person who scheduled it. This was state government, so an initial panel screen might not be unusual—I don’t know.

        LOL it did feel a bit like an audition as opposed to a first interview.

    15. Another Academic Librarian*

      I’m also an academic librarian and I like your current method. I’ve always found phone interviews really difficult with multiple people, they may not be sitting close enough to the phone to be heard, and you don’t get to see their expressions and judge whether what you’re saying is landing well. A 30 minute Zoom would be a great way to get the gist of the position before a formal interview (which at least here are usually a full day).

    16. LB*

      Personally, yes, for me it does – both being on video before any kind of phone screen, conversation about the specifics of the job, etc, and especially meeting a group of people all at once this early in the process. I wouldn’t withdraw over it, but I wouldn’t think it was the right way to go about things.

  4. Lilo*

    For LW3, I have worked with translation services and they can be a bit clunky or backed up, particularly the phone-based ones. The one thing I note is your coworker mentioned she doesn’t get compensated for this. I might feel out if she would be okay with having it as part of her role if she was given adequate compensation and then support her asking for that. If she’s not then of course ask for a translation service.

    1. Lilo*

      I should note my dirty lens here is that I used to work with the public in a city with large immigrant population and without staff who could speak the two languages that were most common, we would have been absolutely lost. We had official, in person translators for important things like hearings and sometimes could get them for more minor interactions but they were crazy busy. The phone translation service was clunky.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Everywhere I have worked had a pay bump if you were multilingual and agreed to take on translation duties if your language came up to avoid this very issue. Even if people spoke the language, they could opt to forgo the extra pay and extra work if they didn’t want to do it and those that opted to do it were compensated. Seems like a win all around

        1. TheRealOP#3*

          I think this is a great idea. I love that someone can opt out of the extra pay if they didn’t want to be responsible for the extra work! I think it’s the idea of making it clear from the very beginning that if they want to help out with this (and be compensated for it) there is a mutual understanding of what is expected.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      At my last job, we had to send out the majority of our written materials in Spanish and other languages in addition to English. Unless it was a big project with a longer lead time, it was much easier and faster to have colleagues who spoke those languages do the translations. (The words “[Language]-speaking” were in their job title and they got paid extra for their skills – also, we had multiple staff who spoke each language, so we weren’t asking the same person every time.)

      If you just need an email translated, a translation service might not be the solution, because they often charge per word. So you have to count the words, contact the translator, get their quote, get the quote approved, wait for the translation to come back, send it to the customer, then get any response from them translated … and this means that you won’t be able to give your Spanish-speaking customers the same level of customer service as everyone else. The fact that your Spanish-speaking colleague us clearly tapped out probably means that your management doesn’t really care about serving those customers. Definitely bring it up, but don’t expect very much.

      1. allathian*

        Depends on what the response time is. Emails rarely require immediate answers.

        I’m a professional in-house translator, but we have so much work to do that a lot of it has to be contracted out. We have a deal with a translation agency that charges per page (1,560 characters including spaces), and for standard texts, we don’t have to ask for quotes, just send it in and they’ll return it within a day or two for email-length texts, but longer ones obviously take longer.

        As a professional translator, my experience has been that merely speaking the language does not a translator make. But hiring people in frontline positions for their language skills, and paying accordingly, is certainly one solution to the problem.

        A lot of crap has been said about machine translations, and while Google translate can be a bit hit and miss, the most studied language pair is English-Spanish. I certainly hope that there’ll be jobs for my fellow translators in the future as well, but machine translations, especially English-Spanish ones, are probably better than nothing.

        One of my pet peeves as a translation professional is the way people get translation and interpretation mixed up. The former only produces a result in writing (even if the source can be audio or video), whereas the latter is spoken, or signed.

        1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

          I got the impression that it’s kind of a customer service job, like handling those insta-chat pop-up windows for online restaurant orders or online retail, where the customer has questions, so the conversation has to be in real time.

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yup, that was the impression that I had too. Which means that they may just have to hire a dedicated Spanish-speaking customer service specialist to have real-time conversations. If they’re getting a few emails a week in Spanish, they might be able to rely on Google Translate, but if it’s more than that, they just need to hire someone.

        2. Elizabeth Bennet*

          I have so much admiration for translators/interpreters. I wish languages came easily to me, so when I see interpreters doing simultaneous interpretation, I am in awe. I believe translation isn’t much easier, given the lack of body language and tone of voice, so I am in deep appreciation of your work.

        3. Texan In Exile*

          “One of my pet peeves as a translation professional is the way people get translation and interpretation mixed up.”

          Me, too! I am always (in my head) correcting the mistake!

          1. Lilo*

            Especially in legal work you can’t rely solely on a translator. Having a Spanish-fluent attorney is absolutely crucial.

        4. JustaTech*

          At my work we had a bunch of documents in Italian that we needed translated but no one would approve an actual translator so we had to make do with machine translation and my 7th grade Latin (so, basically nothing).
          The machine translation was OK for that, mostly because we already mostly knew what was in the documents and it didn’t matter if the language was clunky (it was a batch record which is basically a giant technical recipe, so intentionally not nuanced at all).
          But I told the group flat out that if we were going to be translating this into German (for another group) that we would have to pay a human (with technical document expertise) to do the translation because we could not be “close enough” on the execution end.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        I used to be part of a team that was hired with a requirement for bilingual proficiency + technical proficiency, and we covered 5-6 European languages between us. If the engineer who spoke French and English happened to have to deal with something in German, say, then of course the normal thing was to ask one of the German-speaking team mates – quite normal. (If we had been using more high-pressure performance tracking, the ticket could have been re-assigned, or a second ticket opened, to track this work, but we were loose enough not to require that.)

        However, if one of our colleagues from a different team had needed little snippets of documentation or inquiries translated on a regular basis, this would have *very quickly* become an issue as it would have eaten into the team’s core workload.

        So the OP needs a Spanish-speaking resource. A translation service may be too onerous, inflexible, and maybe requiring ramp-up to get on top of the exact jargon/subtleties you’re dealing with. A bilingual co-worker could be just fine, but it needs to be part of their job. The OP’s co-worker sounds suitable, but is she interested? If yes, everyone’s job attributions need to be adjusted officially. And if it is a step up for her, that too needs to be taken into account. (Also, there’s the question of back-up during absences. No job process should hinge on a single person.)

      3. Anonym*

        I support Alison’s advice, especially on the co-worker getting extra compensation if she’s doing this extra work. And that may be the better option, or at least worth considering, because not all professional translation companies deliver good quality work, or do so consistently.

        Example: I was working at a major international company, with vendors already in our system, and spending tens of thousands of dollars on translations into 50+ languages but still ended up having to ask communications colleagues in other markets to clean up and edit the translations. It was a total clusterf*ck, and happened more than once, with more than one vendor. One person’s reaction during the review: “Did my great grandmother write this? It’s like it’s from the 1890s!” A few others said it sounded like they ran it through an online translator, and that core meaning was totally distorted or lost. Sigh.

        1. Anonym*

          Ooh, one more thing: if you do end up with a translation company, maybe have your colleague (compensated) vet their work initially?

        2. Texan In Exile*

          Yes! In an interview in Miami, I was asked why they should hire me – a non-native speaker – for a position that required Spanish.

          For two reasons, I answered. The first is that I have actually studied Spanish in school, which means even though my accent isn’t perfect, I speak proper Spanish. The second is that after working in Chile and living in three Spanish-speaking countries, I know that I don’t know and that no matter what, we always need to have a local person check the copy.

          (Otherwise, you get what my company got when they used a service in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, for a promo piece for Chile. You get a reference to a “pico,” which means “thingy” in many places in Latin America but in Chile is slang for male genitalia.)

      4. Temp anon*

        I worked in a financial call center for several years, and bilingual (Spanish speaking) employees got paid extra if they could pass a fluency exam. It was difficult for non-native speakers to pass since the job required a lot of specialized vocabulary not likely to come up in course work or even immersive day to day conversation in the language. For other languages, or when the bilingual reps were busy, we used AT&T’s interpreter service, which was excellent but evidently very expensive (I don’t know details).

        I recall news about a court case many years ago that might be instructive to the LW. Employees that spoke Spanish were not paid more, but were pulled from their regular jobs in order to provide interpreting/translating services. Not only did they not get any additional compensation, they were PENALIZED because their production on their regular work suffered.

        Now, this is a pretty egregious example, but IMO this employer seems to share the view that being bilingual is something without value, and that needs to change. Not to mention, if a significant part of he customer base the company is serving speaks Spanish, they should really have native Spanish speakers serving it, and paid appropriately.

        1. JustaTech*

          My aunt gets a bonus as an ER doc for being fluent in medical Spanish. She can’t hold a conversation about a TV show or explain what’s wrong if the car breaks down, but she can clearly explain (and understand) all kinds of medical stuff, which is really useful when the patient is an older woman with a “woman issue” and the only translator available is a young guy. (Or worse, her own grandson.)
          Language fluency is a valuable skill and should be compensated as such.

    3. Cats and Bats Rule*

      I wonder if LW3 could also suggest the company offer Spanish classes for employees so they could handle some of the questions.

        1. Lilo*

          I took Spanish all through school and still wouldn’t consider myself remotely competent for full translation issues. Minor interactions, sure. Actual fluency? No.

          1. quill*

            I have a minor in Spanish and although I read it just fine I would not be able to do more than very basic checkout counter stuff in it if I had to speak it or comprehend everyone’s speech in it.

          2. AnonInCanada*

            I know that feeling, except replace Spanish with French. Unless you’re taking immersion classes (i.e. when your entire day is interacting in the foreign language, not just that one class) then you will never become fluent in that language. I learned that the hard way — but at least it got me out of jury duty :-D

      1. WellRed*

        It takes more than some classes to become fluent enough to engage with someone who speaks it as a first language.

        1. Kotow*

          I agree, although to a certain extent it depends on what the requests typically entail. If it’s customer-service related, they may very well be the same types of conversations repeatedly. It takes far less time to get to that level than the “professional working proficiency” level, which is where you would really need to comprehend the language well. For highly specialized work you obviously need someone who has true control and proficiency in the language, but that’s not required in every context. I absolutely agree though that most people vastly underestimate the time it takes to really learn a language well!

      2. Lizzo*

        A good idea, however language proficiency is something that can take years to achieve, so it might not be the best investment of time and resources.

    4. Charlotte Lucas*

      I worked somewhere that had a department that handled international business, so we had employees who spoke the languages of the countries we dealt with. Sometimes we’d get something that wasn’t in on of our core languages. An email would go out to see if anyone was fluent enough to translate. The would usually get paid a premium for the day that they did it. (Translation was for the most part in house & timeliness combined with federal laws about who could see what – security clearance was required in this division of the company – meant this was a better option than going through a service, which I believe was the backup plan.)

    5. Beth*

      Yes, I got the impression that the sticking point for the co-worker was being expected to do extra work requiring special skills without any compensation for it.

      The LW can document how often Spanish translation is needed, and at what level of complexity. In the manager’s position, I would cost out what a translation service would be, and use that information to get Spanish translation assistance added to the official duties of the Spanish-speaking co-worker, with a pay bump.

      1. doreen*

        I am not saying this is the case at the OPs job – but it is not uncommon for people in certain jobs to be expected to use language or other skills without being compensated for it in their paycheck. And I say “in the paycheck” because while there is no additional pay in the situations I am talking about , you won’t get hired as a “Cantonese speaking customer service rep” if you don’t speak Cantonese or a “Social Worker ( Spanish speaking)” if you don’t speak Spanish

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          I got the impression that OP’s coworker is listed as a customer service rep, not CSR (Spanish-speaking). The latter would have a modest pay bump over the former. Coworker is a plain ol’ CSR, who happens to speak Spanish. She’s not getting that extra pay, for doing work that requires her special skills.

          1. doreen*

            I’m not sure which she’s listed as – but my point was in the jobs I’m speaking about there is no bump for the “extra skills”, even though the title may contain the special skill . There isn’t always – sometimes all you get for speaking Spanish or having a driver’s license is that you didn’t have to compete with the larger group of people who don’t have that skill.

            1. New Jack Karyn*

              Wait, they don’t get a premium for using their specialized skills–not even $0.25/hour extra? That seems unfair to them.

              1. doreen*

                They don’t – but in some cases (like civil service lists and other mass hiring situations) they might not have gotten the job at all without those skills. A fairly common situation is that two lists are made, one ranking all the candidates and one ranking only those with the “special skill”. A decision is made to hire 40 Teapot Painters , 20 from the general list and 20 from the specialized list . If you are number 15 on the specialized list , you get hired, even if you were number 35 on the general list.

    6. JLC*

      I took support tickets in a previous job from all over the world. I would run the ticket through Google Translate and attempt to understand it. I would be clear in my response, passed through Google Translate the other way, that I used this tool to do my best but our staff only speaks English so if they have the ability to write back in English we may be able to help more.

    7. spartanfan*

      My team is primarily responsible for our chat function and we do not have time to go to a translation service as customers don’t like waiting (think about if you’ve ever used a chat function as a consumer). I have directed my team to use google translate when dealing with a Spanish speaker on the chat function. We have occasionally used a translation service when a phone call necessitates and I fully agree that they are very clunky to use (not cheap) and if a coworker speaks native Spanish, it is much better to have someone with internal knowledge of the company and it’s procedures to speak with customers. It’s not great to ask those who speak another language to help out, but maybe the best solution is a small pay bump for her help.

    8. Junior Assistant Peon*

      One of my college professors had a funny story about when he was hospitalized many years ago, before medical translation was a recognized field with associated credentialing. Apparently, when hospital management found out that he spoke fluent Spanish, the poor guy would get his hospital bed wheeled into other patients’ rooms whenever a translator was needed!

  5. nnn*

    As a purely pragmatic suggestion for #1, because you do have a business to run, I’m wondering about the feasibility of having this employee do less customer-facing work and more non-customer-facing work?

    Obviously that depends on factors that I can’t see through the internet (how much non-customer-facing work there is to be done, what other employees are available and what their skillsets are, etc.). But this employee is of more use to you in the back room unpacking a shipment rather than in the back room crying, and it’s often easier to manage one’s emotions with less customer interaction.

    1. Lilo*

      I mean customer interaction is usually 95% of the job in retail. If she can’t interact with customers, this simply may not be the job for her.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      It’s retail, so it’s a people job. Either on the shop floor or behind the counter or on the phone. I’m just kind of amazed that someone with this temperament is trying to work in retail. It’s brutal on your feelings, and your demeanor is as much a part of the job as if you were on stage. She possibly thought it was a nice quiet little pharmacy with people just waiting in line for her to dole out bags. Somehow I don’t think people being in poor health or in dire need of the product makes this any more chill than other retail settings.

      1. Wintermute*

        This. Though it’s been co-opted for all kinds of things the original, academic definition of “emotional labor” was referring to the fact that emotional continence and the ability to handle upsetting things without emotional reactions is a huge part of why customer service jobs are so demanding and psychologically draining.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I was thinking this! It’s the healthcare field, & that requires more focus on the fact that the customer is often not feeling well themselves. A pharmacy is often full of people who would much rather be elsewhere.

        1. DashDash*

          Or he took the job because she worked there. Or they met at work. Both equally or more likely, none relevant to OP.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      It’s a perception that I’ve run into a few times in my career in tech support that dealing with people is a secondary skill and there’s always a job for someone who prefers to not deal with the public. In both cases the inverse is true.

      Retail/customer support requires a personality that isn’t easily distressed, can speak to customers without problems and a whole slew of the ‘soft’ skills. It can be a brutal environment for people who are not suited to this. I once worked in a pharmacy and you have to have a thick skin because you can hear some really distressing stuff about people’s health.

      Basically I think it’s best this woman be guided toward a different line of work entirely away from retail.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yeah, in addition to her being distracted by texts, her anxiety is clearly exacerbated by working in retail – and the anxiety seems to be the primary source of the crying. I hate negative customer service interactions too, but if they’re having that much of an effect on both your mental health and your workplace, it’s probably best to find another line of work.

        1. quill*

          Yeah. I imagine pharmacy is extremely stressful right now / since the beginning of the decade, and Crying Customer Service Person has been getting a LOT of slack because they’re potentially hurting for workers.

          That said, OP may need to start searching for a replacement now rather than waiting to see if anything improves.

      2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

        YUP!

        I’ve observed multiple times that I’d rather hire someone with a proven track record of soft skills (and I will call your references to find out about them, be sure of it), and no technical skills, than hire someone with technical expertise who has avoided working with the public. I can and will train someone on the technical parts of things – and it is easy for both of us to know if you’re getting it, and me to follow up on your work even if I am not right there as you do it.

        Training you on the soft skills of dealing with people? Nowhere near as easy.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I have worked a lot of retail. People WANT to go unpack the shipment so they can get away from customers for a bit. I don’t think it’s fair that she gets to unpack the shipment because she cries a lot. Not a great message to send out to her cohorts. She needs to do her share of the work- whatever work is needed today.

      This sounds odd since I am a big fan of using tears for health and well-being. But there is a time and a place. When my father died, I made myself have a cry before work. This way I knew I was pushing some of the emotions out of me on a regular basis. I did this for almost four months. At the time, I felt like I was just keeping my head above water. But at the end of the daily private cries, I realized that it did help me cope with the day and all it’s events.

      None of this is yours to deal with, OP. I am pointing out that we CAN help ourselves but we have to deliberately build a plan for that help. This boils down to telling her that she needs to get a plan for how she will deal with life and work without frequent crying spells on the clock.

      Just an aside, I’d be very wary about her handling any prescription drugs given her distracted state.

      1. Antilles*

        As someone whose mom worked as a pharmacy tech in a CVS for years, I’ll also note that shipments also come at specific times and often need to be unpacked immediately since prescription drugs are controlled substances with specific paperwork requirements. So the idea that “oh, we can just have Employee go unpack some shipments when she needs a break” isn’t likely to be reliable – her emotional breakdowns aren’t going to precisely coincide with when the truck pulls up ready to be unloaded; hell, she might not even be at work when the daily shipment arrives.

    5. CouldntPickAUsername*

      The thing is it’s not always customers making her cry, she got mean texts one day. She desperately needs to develop a thicker skin.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        That’s a bit of a crass way to put it, but yes. Not so much develop a thicker skin but it sounds like she needs help outside the scope of what an employer can provide. I doubt a retail environment has an EAP but if it does OP could mention it to her. Other than that, I don’t know what else OP could do; suggesting therapy or a doctor’s visit seems a bit of an overreach here, but maybe mentioning that there are people that could help employee (a la last week’s letter about the boss in the abuse situation) might be okay.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I think OP can substitute “collecting coping tools” instead of “developing a thicker layer of skin.”
          And I think “coping tools” is relatable… as most of us are looking for ways to cope with what is out there.

          Without getting into medical, OP, if she says she can’t stop crying you can simply say that a check up by a good doc might be her next step. There’s a few physical reasons why a person might feel weepy or be weepy a lot.

          1. Observer*

            I think that it’s more empathetic – and probably more accurate as well. This does not strike me just someone who is “thin skinned”.

      2. Observer*

        The thing is it’s not always customers making her cry, she got mean texts one day. She desperately needs to develop a thicker skin.

        Right, and she’s even having these breakdowns over *imaginary* slights and her own anxieties.

        I feel bad for her. And it sounds like she really needs help. But, even in a job where you can reduce the interaction with the public, this kind of emotional volatility and hyper-sensitivity is just not sustainable.

    6. EPLawyer*

      She works in the pharmacy. So even if she is only sorting pills, she is still getting upset all the time by non-customer things. Texts, coworkers. If she walks off from sorting pills, then the orders STILL get backed up. Or worse, she makes a mistake that could be dangerous because her mind is on some “mean” text, not her job.

      1. Lilo*

        I’ll point out legally retail workers aren’t counting pills. Only the actual pharmacist can do that.

        1. Storm in a teacup*

          maybe in the US pharmacists count pills but I doubt that 5 years of training and a post graduate that they do. It’s the pharmacy assistant / technician who will dispense. Pharmacist oversees, clinically checks the script, counsels patient etc…
          Sorry this view that working in a pharmacy is the same as other retail stores is really frustrating for those of us in the field. We are highly trained clinical healthcare professionals. In my country pharmacy technicians will have done a minimum of 2 years training to qualify and it’s a broad role with a lot of responsibility. If you make an error, worst case scenario someone could die.

          1. doreen*

            It’s not clear from the letter what this person’s job is – but I do know that in my local pharmacies there are people who work at the pharmacy counter who have nothing to do with the medication other than handing me the bag. Might there also be non-pharmacists back there counting the pills – sure, I don’t know which of the people back there filling prescriptions are pharmacists and which are pharmacy technicians But I do know that some people answer the phones , hand over bags and run the cash register and don’t leave the cash register area – they are not technicians.

    7. doreen*

      There are some retail jobs that don’t involve much customer contact ( stocking on the overnight shift) but I don’t see that happening in a retail pharmacy.

    8. Temperance*

      That sounds a lot like rewarding her crappy behavior at work, though. Not dealing with people at a CS job sounds like the dream.

    1. Jen Guernsey*

      OMG please no!!! It’s bad enough that the author is turning to a random bilingual person rather than a professional translator. But a company should never, ever use Google translate on anything important and especially anything public-facing. There is a huge risk the company will look incompetent and/or ridiculous. Signed, a professional translator

      1. just a random teacher*

        Yeah, district guidelines where I am say that I should either use Google Translate or ask a bilingual co-worker (who at least does get an extra stipend for it) when I need something translated if it’s a “just my class” level communication rather than something school-level that’ll go in a formal publication (think “email to all parents in the class” versus “statement in the course catalog”). I’ve settled for just including “translated by Google Translate” at the end of the Spanish version of the message (I always include both the English and Spanish versions) so they know why it looks like it was translated by wolves, but realistically Google is probably going to do a better job than I’d do on my own, and my district has chosen not to pay for proper translators for teacher/classroom-level communication. (I think they’d like to be able to mandate that all teachers speak Spanish well enough to do their own translations, but have not found a deep enough hiring pool of bilingual teachers to pull that off.)

      2. Emmy Noether*

        I disagree. If it’s mostly about understanding a question, not putting text out into the world, google translate works quite well. As someone else said, it has much, much improved since the beginnings – at least between germanic and romance languages, it is now intelligible, though the turns of phrase can be clunky.

        I work in patents, and machine translations are used frequently. There’s lots and lots of text to go through just on a suspicion that it may be relevant, and real translators are expensive (the money is spent when every word counts: translating one’s own patents for submission, but for understanding something – nah). It’s also very common here to just ask a colleague who happens to speak a language (Chinese especially) for help, no-one has ever had a problem with it.

        Depending on what this question function is, exactly, the clients may prefer getting a very quick turnaround with clunky language (being in a foreign-to-them-language country, they’re probably very used to it) rather than waiting for the polished version. Obviously, for official communication, or anything for a wide audience, get it professionally translated.

        1. Allonge*

          There were places where we used Google translate to understand the question in languages we did not speak and then sent an answer in our primary language (with the assumption that the other side knew how to Google translate as well). But this is only good for certain situations, as you say.

          1. Grey Coder*

            Yes, depending on the complexity of the questions coming in, this could be fine. If it’s “how late are you open today” or “do you have next-day shipping” then I’d be entirely confident with Google translate. In my fairly brief experience of answering web chats, 80% of the questions were super simple and answered elsewhere on our website — we didn’t get into any deep technical conversations. We translated incoming questions but not our answers, just as you describe.

        2. ferrina*

          Yes, I’ve used Google for things that were written to me, but would never try to use it to send a message in a language I don’t speak

          1. quill*

            I tend not to use it for full sentences, but I have used it in place of a spanish-english dictionary, at which it is pretty acceptable… at least for random spanish vocabulary words I don’t know, translated into english.

    2. John Smith*

      I can tell you a couple of horror stories that have arisen from using GT. It’s not terribly accurate and aside from the lack of professionalism it conveys, mistranslations can lead to unpleasantness, such as accidentally insulting the customer.

      1. JustInPassing*

        I encountered this in a very different context, but to paraphrase: the world of difference between “horseplay” and “ponyplay” should make one very cautious of being certain about questionable translations.

        1. Student*

          If you end up having to communicate a lot with people who don’t share your first language, you learn not to use idioms pretty quickly. Some adjustments to speaking style and vocabulary can go a really long way in improving communication with people across language barriers, regardless of how you’re doing the translation.

          1. Nanani*

            And most of the time, these adjustments are being done by the non-English speaking party (you’ll all be shocked to hear that machine translation output is highly English centric) while monolinguals, especially anglophone ones, don’t see this invisible work and thing MT is just so great.

      2. TechWorker*

        If this is a company that provides a public service and has a commitment to do so in multiple languages, that’s one thing. If it’s a private company that generally does business in English, are they really expected to respond in perfect Spanish to enquiries in Spanish? (Spanish is obv first language for a lot of people in the US, so perhaps I am missing cultural context here – I assume you wouldn’t generally assume you could contact a business in ‘any language’ & get a response in the same one…?)

        1. the once and future grantwriter*

          I suppose a private business *could* insist on monolingualism if its customer base didn’t want or need multilingual customer support, but it seems like in this case replying to Spanish inquiries in English would create friction for what I presume the business wants to be a low-friction experience for their customers, so there’s a business case to be made for having some practice in place for supporting customers who prefer or need to make their inquiries in Spanish – and their customers may take their business elsewhere if their needs aren’t addressed.
          13% of the American public speaks Spanish at home, and in many states, it’s much higher. While the business might not have a legal obligation to reply to inquiries in any language, it seems like the letter-writer feels that figuring out a way to provide timely and reasonably accurate Spanish-language support is requested by customers frequently enough that they feel it’s worth figuring out.

    3. Dawn*

      Just as a general note for everyone replying here, Google Translate is WAY better nowadays than it was when a lot of those horror stories came to light, especially with Romance and Germanic languages.

      I work with a lot of French speakers and I’m working on improving my own French, but speaking as someone who is halfway-fluent, Google honestly translates it excellently and the latest Pixels, at least, can even do a live translation.

      1. Varthema*

        I am a former translator, language teacher and lover, and agree that when there’s a job that needs to get done quickly and communication established, Google Translate has actually gotten astoundingly good. Would I want Elena Ferrante’s most recent novel translated using it, or even copy for our website’s front page? Nope! But it’s excellent for communicating on the fly.

        That said, if a number of Spanish inquiries come through, it would make sense to hire an appropriate number of bilingual employees and funnel the inquiries to them, but Google Translate for an ad-hoc job is fine (especially when it’s explicitly mentioned so either interlocutor is on the alert for any miscommunications).

        1. allathian*

          Yes, exactly this. Google Translate has improved in leaps and bounds, even between Germanic and Fenno-Ugric languages. At least as long as the source material is reasonably intelligible. If the content of your writing is semantically null, the translation will reflect that, because GIGO (garbage in, garbage out) still applies. If you want to use machine translation, it pays to write clearly and concisely, and the results will be better. This will also improve readability for those who will read the original text.

          It’s not perfect, though, and critical texts should still be translated by professional translators. There is a risk of insidious errors, sometimes serious ones, if the translation omits a negative, for example, and ends up saying the opposite of what the original text said.

          I’m speaking as a professional translator. I’ve occasionally proofread machine translated text, and that’s hard, because the result looks superficially so good, but subtle errors can creep in. For the most part, we can’t use machine translation, because our texts contain a lot of confidential information that can’t be sent off into the cloud, and redacting it would be onerous. But for ad-hoc translations, it might be worth it to redact personal information from the text and put placeholders instead.

          1. John Smith*

            Hmm I don’t know. I’ve been bored enough to put a sentence in GT, translate it then get a translation of the translation either in the same or another language, and the results are quite often comical.

            1. Raboot*

              Translating a “good” sentence is much easier than translating a “bad” one, plus the simple fact that every round adds a little more degradation. So translating twice is not at all representative of translating once which is what OP would be doing.

              1. quill*

                I’ve also found it substantially better to feed Google translate one clause at a time: I’ve noticed that when it comes to tense and subject-verb agreement the more information, the more errors.

          2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

            I can see that. I’ve had some success using it with patrons in our library for whom English is not their native language, but many of my coworkers say they don’t know how I can do so successfully. I suspect that a lot of that has to do with my personal choices in written language – I try to be very precise in my word choice, and use full sentences rather than fragments – and also learning to my having learned to keep things very simple.

            And if there’s anything slightly weird about the response, I ask the question a second time, in as distinct a way as possible.

          3. Dawn*

            Like you should ABSOLUTELY 100% have a professional translator for real translation work.

            But I’ve done live chat support before – which is what the OP here is doing – and the questions are usually super basic (ymmv depending on your industry) and the answers really don’t need to be poetry.

            “I am looking for this product,” “The product you’re looking for is on this page of the website” is not necessarily a conversation that calls for professional services.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          Indeed, and the way I’d use it is to accelerate the process and cut down on the work to do by the bilingual employee. If the OP can figure out what the Spanish speaker needs, and already find out the answer, so they can go to their colleague and with a very clear, easy request (“Could you write in Spanish that we expect the part to be in by next week and will send them an email once it’s here / that we require a birth certificate for the youngest child to process the application”) rather than a multi-step back and forth.

        3. Books and Cooks*

          My husband uses it multiple times a day to communicate with his Spanish-speaking employees, and they use it back. (It’s actually amusing to see them all standing around talking into their phones and then showing each other the screens, like, “See?!” and then nodding with satisfaction at each other.) None of them have had any problems with it.

          On the rare occasions that I need to use it to communicate with someone for work-related reasons, I make “This came from Google Translate,” or “I’m using Google Translate for this, so please excuse any minor errors,” the first sentence, and then continue. I’ve never had anyone complain or say they didn’t understand.

      2. Wintermute*

        It is very much better, but it’s also not very good at sounding natural. It can give you the gist of passages accurately, and translate simple things (think, you have an emergency at work and need a sign that says “buzzer broken, please knock” right now and don’t care if it sounds a little stiff), but it has major issues.

        I will say this they’ve solved the problem of transliteration and not understanding a sentence in context (E.g. older free translation tools would often ignore context and sentence structure and trying to translate something like “the track meet is in the highschool gymnasium” might be translated as “far-above-ground education highschool contains the Pawprint gathering”), and they can even often recognize an idiom and translate it to a recognizable one– which might be even worse because it gives people false confidence.

        For Germanic languages as you said it’s pretty good, but in my experience it sounds very formal and stiff, it will go with a German-native word that one one would ever use in daily life and might show up on a trivia show rather than the very common loanword from English or French which a native speaker would, for instance. It will also often choose the most formal way of speaking even if that makes what you’re saying sound Very Serious or literary. As an aside unrelated to what this person may use it for, it also doesn’t handle nonstandard language situations well, it assumes you are writing formally or speaking professionally, it doesn’t handle switching to sign-type command language, fiction writing or other contexts where tenses and conjugation would be different well.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            English is a mashup between a Germanic language and the old French the Normans brought over (which explains a lot about the weirder parts of English). It’s like someone grafted parts of one language on a trunk of another and it grew together quite gnarly. Sentence structure is closer to Germanic, though.

      3. Colette*

        Yes, it works well for translating sentences and paragraphs (and less well for words, because context matters).

      4. Smithy*

        Even ten years ago, I would use Google Translate at work as a way of being able to preface my next steps. Essentially, “I think that this email is about X, however I appreciate having that rough assumption clarified and thinking through best next steps”.

        Basically it was a way to start on step 2 or 3 instead of step 0. By starting on step 2/3, I could begin a conversation with my boss having an idea of what might be needed. Did we need to hire translation services? Could we loop in another colleague for some quick emails? Was this just an ad selling printer paper or invitation to a relevant event needing an RSVP?

        As others have said, this is not about replacing professional knowledge or translation, but not feeling stuck until someone can translate.

        1. Smithy*

          I’ll add that while I sometimes did this for Spanish, I was mostly using it for Arabic and Hebrew which are languages where I don’t think Google Translate has ever shined. However, it still was really helpful in coming to someone with initial ideas of what was needed.

    4. felis*

      If in fact your management suggests asking your coworker for help, I think Google Translate (or maybe similar services, Deepl comes to mind as a professional option that often yields even better results in my experience) could at least help minimizing how much of her time and effort is required. It certainly can help with understanding the received messages and then it can be a first step of writing an answer. Having your coworker quickly read through an already formulated text to make sure there are no grievous machine translation errors is almost certainly a lot less work for her than having to formulate her own answer.

      1. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research*

        That’s how I use it. I work in a school where we have a number of Spanish-speaking families. If I have to send a general note home, I’ll run it through GT first, then send that to one of my Spanish-speaking colleagues for a quick proofread. Honestly, I don’t think anyone has ever found anything, but it’s always good to do the double check.

        1. St. Mary’s Institute of Historical Research*

          Actually, I take that back – there was one time someone found an error, but it was so simple and so obvious that now it’s something I can look for and correct myself before I even send it on.
          Proper nouns like names will sometimes get translated as if they’re regular nouns. So “Mrs. Green” becomes “Señora Verde” and the person I sent the email to check was like, “Wait, when did we hire her?”

      2. Willow Pillow*

        I agree, I’ve had the same experience with French and it was easier to use Deepl then have a bilingual colleague check that. Said colleague had a strong preference for Deepl over Google Translate.

    5. Jora Malli*

      I sometimes use Google translate in face to face interactions with customers when it’s the only option for us to understand each other, but I’d never, ever do it for official communication like the OP is describing here.

  6. Lyngend (Canada)*

    Interesting, I put my last title. Especially when filling out the application forms. But not much difference between a senior cashier and a cashier.

    1. Salty Snacks*

      You’re not showing progression, recognition or development that way. It doesn’t look more impressive to have four years as senior cashier than two as cashier then two as senior cashier. It looks stagnant.

      As a hiring manager, I’d be wondering why you hadn’t moved up in that time – what problems are holding you back, what is the issue that made you unpromotable? It would be a concern. And if I ask you about it in an interview, and you explain, you’d look unreliable at best and dishonest at worst.

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

        “As a hiring manager, I’d be wondering why you hadn’t moved up in that time – what problems are holding you back, what is the issue that made you unpromotable?”

        This seems really critical and honestly, it comes across as condescending to me.
        Depending on the business there might not be a way to be promoted except from cashier to senior cashier. There are only so many manager positions in retail, especially in smaller stores. I know someone who worked 8 years at the same place and he did everything, stocker/bagger and cashier. But there just wasn’t any room for advancement.

        So saying that someone who moved from cashier to senior cashier in their 4 years looks stagnant is just arrogant. Especially depending on what the differences are. Senior cashiers may be in charge of the service desk (suchas taking packages for UPS or fedex dropoffs, answering calls, completing returns, or other complicated tasks besides register transactions). A senior cashier may also be more in charge of others or do training.

        So really, depending on their resume and the job, perhaps Lyngend (Canada) should think about adding both titles.

        1. Polly Hedron*

          Salty Snacks did not say that “someone who moved from cashier to senior cashier in their 4 years looks stagnant”.
          Salty Snacks said what you said: Lyngend should show progression by adding both titles.

        2. Lyngend (Canada)*

          At my longest job, they only had cashiers, assistant managers, and managers. I was a senior employee but no authority or difference in compensation. I absolutely didn’t want to be a manager at that company. I definitely had the responsibilities of training and such after 6 months. Reason I didn’t move on for 7 years is lack of transportation among other things. (hard to get a job when you can’t drive). Among other things making me afraid I wouldn’t be able to thrive elsewhere. (I’ve proven myself wrong thankfully)

      2. Lyngend (Canada)*

        Not everyone wants to be a manager. And in retail, that’s often the only path to a different job.
        I personally don’t want to manage others. Especially at my current job, where doing so means listening to people’s calls. And I have little tolerance for people who don’t seem to learn or listening to instructions.
        Gotta recognize my limits, and having a hard time ignoring bias in a heavy audio based job is one of mine. (not an issue of accents, but personality in 1 case and I haven’t figured out what the problem is with the second person not getting what I said and having so much backwards.)

    2. Dr. Rebecca*

      That’s the thing though, isn’t it? Your overall level of responsibility changed, but your duties didn’t. Still, it might be good to list your overall time as a cashier, and then the time during which you’ve been senior.

    3. Audiophile*

      I put my last title at the company, but then have a bullet noting I was promoted. This seems to be the ideal solution so far.

      In the past, I’ve listed the company and then job titles and bullets for each role. Weirdly, that led recruiters to think I had a gap in employment.

      1. ferrina*

        I have it listed as:
        COMPANY NAME
        Current Title (month year – present)
        Previous Title (month year-month year)
        -Accomplishment
        -Accomplishment

        It’s less real estate, and clearly shows the title progression. And no room for confusion

        1. Audiophile*

          While I like this layout, I worry the first question is going to be, “Which job title aligns with which accomplishment?”

          I may try this format out to see if it works or causes any confusion.

          1. ferrina*

            I’ve been using this format for years, and have never gotten that question. In my experience, interviewers just care that you did X/have a proven track record of X, not what title you did X under.
            Which is great for me, since I’ve had a history of working for organizations that like to load me with my boss’s responsibilities. They also like to really delay promotions, so I’ll have acted as Supervisory Team Lead for 10 months with no end in sight, but still have the title of Junior Team Member.

    4. ferrina*

      I’m 100% with Alison- on your resume and wherever possible, list all of your titles and when you had them (I know application forms don’t always have space for that, but most do).

      As a hiring manager, I’m looking at your resume as a story. When I see increasing progression at the same company, I see that you’ve performed so well that they wanted to recognize that and increase your responsibilities.
      If I see that you’ve maintained the same title, okay, but if we then get to the interview and you talk about getting promoted, I will not be happy. You misrepresented you experience when you told me you had Job Title 1 for 4 years, when it was really 2 years at Title 1 and 2 years at Title 2. In my mind, you are either so poor at communication that you can’t give me an accurate picture, or you are willing to bend the truth as suits you. Either way, a serious mark against you as a candidate.

      1. BurnOutCandidate*

        This is an interesting perspective. I’m trying to figure out how I can apply it.

        My title has morphed over the years, but the basic outline of my work has not. I don’t supervise others, nor has my direct supervisor changed. There’s also a difference between the title my department uses for me (which is more specific) and what HR uses in anniversary emails (which is very generic). It’s a copywriting job, but a dead-end one; there’s no place for me to go, no opportunities to grow.

        The best way to show progression, then, would be to point out when various duties fell to me, sometimes because a colleague was assigned to other duties (which is the company’s way–don’t hire someone new, find someone internally and just give it to them), sometimes when someone was fired or left. So I can show that I took on new responsibilities until the point where I was working 50 hours a week, at which point there was not the time, the energy, nor the mental space to take on anything more.

    5. Lynn*

      Yeah I am confused by this also in how you would consolidate it into resume (something like Linkedin where there is more space I could get) because I have had 4 titles on 4 teams in 8 years:
      -Title 1 on Team 1 and then Team 2
      -Title 2 on Team 2 and then Team 3 and then Team 4
      -Title 3 on Team 4
      -Title 4 on Team 4

      And my responsibilities were different with each combo of Team and title which I feel like is not super unusual when people have been at a company a long time

      So I typically just put my total years of employment and my last 3 sets of responsibilities but now I am wondering if there is a better way to message that / if that is wrong?

      1. FormerInternalRecruiter*

        If the roles and responsibilities were different from job to job, I’d treat it as though you worked for different companies.

        I’ve been at the same company for over 10 years and had 5 different titles. I’ve grouped the titles together that had similar responsibilities and have seperate entries for the titles that were very different.

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          I’d list each team as if it was a separate job, so:
          COMPANY (mm/yy-mm/yy)
          Team 1
          Title 1 (mm-yy-mm/yy)
          Team 2
          Title 1 (mm/yy-mm/yy)
          Title 2 (mm/yy-mm/yy)

          and so on

  7. Lily*

    I work in a pharmacy (not in the US) and we are not allowed to have our phones on us unless we are waiting to hear something important. Is she checking her phone while there are customers waiting and then walking off? It sounds so odd to me. I am truly sorry that she is being bullied but why hasn’t she blocked those numbers?

    1. Ayla*

      Sorry to be uncharitable here, but maybe she’s not blocking numbers because she’s found a way to get paid to hide away from work while people swarm to comfort her.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        It’s possible but I don’t feel like that’s the case here… more likely she just hasn’t developed good boundaries yet (and neither has the boyfriend so he’s no help in advising her!) around what’s appropriate or not to bring into work. Maybe I am projecting my own experience but I’d find it much easier to just do the job rather than go through all this drama so I don’t think hiding away and being comforted is actually the easier option!

        I missed the “being comforted” when I read the letter, though. That’s worse if she’s drawing other people into the drama (and away from their own work) then.

        1. Petty Betty*

          Her boyfriend is definitely comforting her, and he, in turn, has at least once asked the manager to comfort her. It’s plausible to think he’s asked others to help if he’s been off-site when she’s had an emotional outburst (and very plausible to assume that others are no longer willing to indulge her emotions any longer).

      2. Yahoo mama*

        Yes! This is what I thought of her too. Attention hog who looks for drama to get more attention

      3. KelseyCorvo*

        It’s possible. Being the center of attention can be addicting. Some younger people haven’t yet learned there’s a very short tolerance period for it, though, for most people and especially at a job.

      4. Petty Betty*

        I think that’s an added benefit of what’s going on here, but not necessarily her main goal.

      1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Ehhh….some young people just haven’t figured this stuff out yet and have no idea how to leave their personal lives at the door. I was useless at one of my summer high school jobs because I was spent all night in a chatroom with my non-requited crush and a few other friends, then wandered around work all day humming dramatic song lyrics on no sleep. It was definitely more a “stage of life” problem rather than something I’d still pull today.

        I don’t it’s useful to name a potential personality trait rather than focus on the behavior this job needs to see for them to continue in the role, which may or may not be something this person is able to pull off right now.

        1. allathian*

          Summer high school jobs sure. But this person is a senior in college, and they should’ve grown out of that high school immaturity by now.

          I do agree with your second paragraph, though.

          1. ferrina*

            Not necessarily. If she has a trauma history or something that interrupted her social development (or even a social circle/culture that didn’t promote professional norms), she may not have the experience or mentorship to have recognized this. Helping young professionals develop professional norms is often part of the first job, regardless of the age (it’s why there’s a certain challenge that comes with new grads and why that requirement of 1-3 years experience is a thing- so you don’t have to deal with the learning curve from the first year of experience)

            That doesn’t mean she doesn’t need to be fired. She absolutely should be fired, with a clear explanation as to why.

          2. Lizzo*

            I’m not excusing the behavior, but please remember that many younger folks had two years of interrupted education and missed out on a lot of the social and emotional development opportunities that come with being in a school environment. (#ThanksPandemic)

            1. quill*

              Even before the pandemic people had interrupted emotional development because shit happens when you’re in your teens (and early twenties!) and frankly not everyone has the same maturation process emotionally. People with anxiety and trauma history can come off as immature because the brain is worse at forming memories when you’re consistently under stress.

              That said, this is not the right job, or the right time, if this person can’t get this addressed. LW definitely needs to provide concrete steps (no phone during work hours, you cannot step away for longer than X minutes at a time, you definitely cannot call your boyfriend in to be emotional support and clog up the business on his off day) to how she can fix her behavior, and let her go if not.

        2. GammaGirl1908*

          Heh. I had some similar moments at some early jobs, so I sympathize. I do think it would be a kindness for LW to be more explicit about the professional norms Employee is expected to try to meet. I definitely had some supervisors in my youth who needed to pull me aside and say that X or Y wasn’t the best thing to wear or that A or B was best done after hours. LW also really needs to emphasize how much Employee’s drama is affecting her coworkers. As far as she’s concerned, she’s just doing her thing and living her life like she always has (and, as alluded by many posters upstream, there are several hints here that this young lady is VERY accustomed to having many people around her drop everything and dry every one of her tears), but many times your life drama needs to come in second when you are actively on the clock at work.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        Or she’s just young and hasn’t figured out the block function yet, because “people should just be nicer” and yes! True! But also, just block mean exes and get on with your life? Regardless, she needs A LOT less tea and sympathy and more “buck up, chuck” in the communications OP is having with her. Especially if it’s “a perceived slight from a coworker”. Egads, if she keeps dumping work on them it’s going to be more than just perceived ones.

        1. Observer*

          Regardless, she needs A LOT less tea and sympathy and more “buck up, chuck” in the communications OP is having with her.

          I think that you are right.

          Egads, if she keeps dumping work on them it’s going to be more than just perceived ones.

          This is completely true.

          OP, if you don’t reign this young woman in, you are going to start losing your best people. Retail is hard enough, that no one needs this kind of added stress.

      3. The Other Dawn*

        Maybe, maybe not. I’ve managed someone like the OP’s employee and it was damn hard and exhausting. Yes, there were definitely times where she created her own chaos and drama, but many times she simply just couldn’t deal with emotions and was very sensitive to just about everything. On top of that, she had a really tough home life (bad marriage) and some crappy family members, so all of that spilled over to work. Then add in depression and anxiety (she disclosed it to me late in the game). My talks with her were around the need to be professional at work, how to treat her coworkers and others in the company, and if she’s having a particularly tough day, work from home or take PTO if needed. I told her she can’t spend everyday sobbing in the bathroom or at her desk. None of it helped and she eventually rage quit over something very trivial. She just had too much going on in terms of external factors and her own internal factors. Hopefully she eventually got the help she needed.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        She might be a drama llama. We don’t know yet because OP needs to talk to her first. If the problem persists then OP will need to take action.

        The problem I had when I was supervising it that “drama llama” and other labels made it very hard to act and feel that I was a fair supervisor and not a judgey supervisor. It would make it easier on OP to remain neutral for example. “X is occurring. We need Y to happen because of A, B and C reasons. Do you think you can work toward this goal over a period of Z time?”

        OP, there are folks who just won’t stop doing X. In this case she could be a drama monger and this maybe what you end up having to deal with. But you don’t actually know until you move through a conversation or two with her. Maybe you can offer a leave of absence and she can come back to a fresh start. Then she could use that time in whatever way she needs to.

        1. Observer*

          The problem I had when I was supervising it that “drama llama” and other labels made it very hard to act and feel that I was a fair supervisor and not a judgey supervisor. It would make it easier on OP to remain neutral for example. “X is occurring. We need Y to happen because of A, B and C reasons. Do you think you can work toward this goal over a period of Z time?”

          I think that this is very important. The labels are not useful. And it’s quite likely that they are inaccurate. Even more importantly, it fundamentally doesn’t matter. The OP needs to be kind – but at this point they also need to utterly clear and not leave any room for misunderstanding what needs to change, and the potential consequences.

          By the way, I would not give the employee a time frame. They need to stop, not just reduce their emotional over-reactions on a rolling basis. It’s not enough to go from leaving the floor daily to 3 times a week for the next month. She can’t reduce looking at her phone by half for the next 6 weeks. She needs to stop looking at her phone, getting into fights with people and melting down. Period.

    2. Luna*

      Why hasn’t she blocked those numbers? Maybe because she’s young and still thinks that what happened to you in highschool is important, when the reality is that nobody cares. Or she thinks blocking numbers is ‘rude’. Or any number of reason that we might not understand, but it might make more sense to ‘kids these days’.

      I work in a clothing store, so a different kind of retail, and our rule is you are not allowed to have your personal cellphone on your person. It has to be in the backroom, with your other personal stuff. One coworker does have permission to have her phone up front because she has kids that might need a quick check-in. But it’s not a burden because she’s not on her phone most of the time, just glancing at it maybe once an hour, otherwise working.

    3. anonagaintoday*

      Because it’s probably not so much random mean, unsolicited messages bullying as that she’s engaging with frenemies and getting into drama and sending long responses.

    4. Antilles*

      Retail policies on phone usage tend to vary between chains and even just depending on how much of a stickler the individual shift manager is. Using your phone while customers waiting is always considered a firm no, but beyond that it can be very YMMV – some places ban phones entirely, some let you have it with you just don’t use it, some don’t mind phone usage as long as there’s no customers in sight.

      All that said, the fact she’s getting texts at work isn’t really the point – since OP says the employee has similar issues with customer interactions and imagined slights from co-workers and sometimes just general anxiety, this goes way beyond just needing to block a few phone numbers or not checking texts at work.

  8. Aphrodite*

    “Almost daily she finds something to be upset about and cries daily. It could be an imagined slight from a coworker, a text she receives from family or friends, an interaction with a customer, or sometimes just her own anxiety.”

    This employee likes being a mess. You may be about to lose your other employees who find this ridiculous drama irritating. And you are annoying your customers. You need to let her go now and require professional behavior from all employees fro now on.

    1. Pony tailed wonder*

      I worked with someone who had constant drama in her life and wanted to talk about it endlessly. It is draining to be around for that. I wonder if docking her pay for the amount of time she cries in the back would cut down on the drama.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          If my coworker who also used to constantly talk about her dramas, some of which going back 30 years or more, you’re probably right. Our then-manager did take her aside once and ask her to rein it in a bit about her exes/ailments and all that achieved was a long rant the next day about how dare our manager talk to her like that.

      1. Observer*

        I wonder if docking her pay for the amount of time she cries in the back would cut down on the drama.

        I’d expect it would cause way more drama than it’s worth – and I doubt it would change her behavior.

    2. LB*

      The question is how long “almost daily” has been going on. If it’s 1 – 2 weeks, she could really just be going through a hard time – confluences of bad events do happen. But if it’s longer, then yes, she probably does need to either take time off to stabilize, move to a less public-facing job, or learn to focus during work hours and not brood on her moods.

    3. Observer*

      This employee likes being a mess.

      That’s both unkind and unfair. Yes, there are people who enjoy this kind of drama, but most people actually don’t. And the OP mentions that she has high anxiety. That tends to be miserable.

      I’m not saying that the OP should allow the behavior to continue. But this kind of attitude does not help anyone – not even the OP.

      You may be about to lose your other employees who find this ridiculous drama irritating.

      You are probably right. The real problem is not the people who turn up their noses in “irritation” and look down at someone who looks down at someone who “enjoys” drama “too much.” The thing the OP should be worrying about are the good staff members who are tired of dealing with the fall out of her behavior and her tendency to take offense when none was given. I don’t think a boss needs to accommodate people who find other people’s behavior to be “ridiculous”. But a boss DOES need to consider the burden placed on staff who need to pick up someone else’s work because she can’t deal.

    4. starfox*

      I used to work at McDonald’s, and one day, someone’s screaming at me for not putting enough caramel on her sundae was just too much. But I held the tears in for the rest of my shift and cried in my car over my break, lol.

  9. HigherEdAdmin*

    OP 1, in addition to Alison’s excellent suggestions, you may want to guide her toward a mental health specialist. It sounds like she may have an emotion dysregulation issue (common in neurodivergents who are really sensitive to rejection or criticism).

    1. AGD*

      I agree – you and we can’t diagnose, but this is both a more realistic assessment and much kinder than the notion that she supposedly just enjoys the drama.

      1. allathian*

        Agreed, although I don’t think it’s necessarily appropriate for a business owner to do that.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          If it’s a chain their EAP may be available to part time employees. That’s a good idea.
          Especially because the more I think about this, the more she sounds like a disturbed overwhelmed kid. That “mean ex” being dismissed by commenters could be an abusive stalker who changes numbers for example–and that would be WAY above a retail manager’s pay grade. EAP or college counselling number seems a reasonable compromise.

          1. ferrina*

            Yeah, my first thought was an EAP. This should have been part of the early conversations (the second or third time it happened).
            “I understand that you’re going through some difficult emotions right now, but this is a business and we need to be able to rely on you to work a whole shift without emotional outbursts. If you find that you are having difficulty controlling your emotions (and I’m not saying that this is the case, but if it is), that is something that a professional may be able help you with. Here is the info for our Employee Assistance Program- you can call them and they can help you find the resources you need to help. This is entirely confidential, and I will never know if you called or did not call. But while you are at work, I need you to be focused on the work and able to work your entire shift without leaving the floor like this. Can you do that?”

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I don’t think there is any thing wrong with suggesting she check in with a doc if need be. The situation is serious. She could lose her job. Typically healthy bosses do not like firing people and prefer to find other solutions. She doesn’t have to say what kind of doc or anything else that is the least bit specific.

          OP, I mentioned above about a leave of absence but another thing to consider is a reduction in hours to allow her time to work this through in whatever way is meaningful to her.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I wouldn’t assume she just enjoys drama. Generally people don’t choose to make their own lives more difficult. There are a whole host of possible reasons from emotional dysregulation to depression or anxiety to being under stress from some problem the OP doesn’t know about and focussing on little things rather than the real issue (I remember once at college nearly crying over a papercut, because I got it when looking through the umpteenth book that did not have the information I needed for an essay, which was about something we hadn’t covered in lectures because our lecturer was teaching us to research for ourselves, and I was tired and stressed and starting to worry that the information she wanted just wasn’t available and getting a papercut was just the last straw) to just not really understanding how the adult world works (somebody pointed out above that people have lost much of the last three years, so in experience, she may be more like a college freshman than a senior).

        That said, it is not her boss’s responsibility to deal with any possible underlying issues

        1. Not So NewReader*

          This is a great example. I think many people have BTDT but their own version. Paper cuts can indeed cause crying. These situations can be a call to go back to square one and check everything as we look for how to change what we are doing.

        2. Rach*

          It is if it’s considered a disability, it is the manager business and even if it is not a disability, there’s a reason EAP exists. If the employee does have a disability, the employer has to make reasonable accommodations (such as having a space for the employee to be upset privately). Obviously the employee needs to limit the inconvenience to other employees but there are many reasonable accommodations that can be made for anxiety and emotional disregulation.

          1. Observer*

            It is if it’s considered a disability, it is the manager business

            Nope. It’s only the employer’s business if the employee bring it to them and asks for some sort of accommodation.

            but there are many reasonable accommodations that can be made for anxiety and emotional disregulation.

            Not dealing with customers, regularly walking off the job and fighting with coworkers are not on the list of reasonable accommodations in a retail setting, though. There is simply no way for the OP to even begin to figure out what MIGHT be reasonable. If and when the employee comes to the OP with some suggestions, the OP should seriously consider them. But the cannot – and is legally forbidden to try to essentially diagnose the employee and then push “accommodations” on her, even assuming that there is anything that makes sense in that environment.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      From personal experience I’d say a combination of ‘you need to find professional help for this, can we help you find it?’ and ‘regardless of that though this behaviour has to stop’ works pretty well if it’s something fixable.

      If it’s not or ‘just the way I am’ then let her go to find a job that involves far less customer interaction.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        It would be great if she let OP know “that is just the way I am” so OP can cut to the punchline: “Most work places would not accept this behavior and neither will we. When you are here you need to focus on your job and focus on maintaining a professional presence.”

        Dragging it out with promises to fix the problem and then doing nothing just makes it harder for everyone involved.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t think this is appropriate at all, actually, even if you’re dead on the money. People don’t like to be diagnosed or have their lives read like that, or have it assumed the problem is them as a person rather than it simply being about their behaviour. OPs duty is to spell out that the behaviour is unacceptable and ask if it’s possible to change it going forward. If the employee realises it’s difficult to do this alone, even when their job is at risk, then it’s their call to ask for, or indicate that they need help.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Although, in the spirit of your comment, it may be both kind and productive to say: “What’s going on?”, or “Is there a reason you are upset so often?” as part of a constructive discussion, but I really think any “professional help is needed” noises have to come from the employee.

        1. Green great dragon*

          Oh that’s interesting! To me asking “is there a reason you’re upset so often?” feels much more intrusive than “have you spoken to a professional about this?”

          I think OP could usefully signal that this level of upset is not usual, and is putting her job in jeopardy, in a way that points her to outside help – the employee can choose not to take it up if actually it’s her misunderstanding of what’s reasonable rather than her really struggling to control emotions. That could be an EAP if one exists, otherwise it could be asking her to speak to her health professionals.

          1. Colette*

            Yeah, I agree – and asking why she’s upset so often both isn’t relevant (the issue is not how she feels but how she’s behaving) and is going to get you sucked into the drama. If you know her parent is seriously ill or she has a stalker or she’s afraid she has cancer or she’s getting kicked out of her apartment or she has a gambling problem, you still need her to do her job without crying on a daily basis.

            I will say that, in my experience, people do this because it gets them what they want (i.e. attention and comfort). When that doesn’t work, the behaviour stops.

          2. Littorally*

            Agreed, I think it would be pretty intrusive to dig like that. Plus, it also opens up the OP to be dragged much further into the employee’s personal dramas, which sounds like the opposite of what they want.

        2. Student*

          I think there’s a line based on the specific behavior/issue.

          For most issues, I think your approach is better, where it’s the manager’s responsibility to spell out only the issue and not get into the “you need professional help” discussion.

          When issues are severe enough or continue for long enough, I think it’s better for managers to have the direct “you need professional help” conversation. Sometimes people who need professional help aren’t easily able to recognize it themselves, for a variety of reasons, and hearing it from a work manager can help make it clear to the impacted person that an issue they’re not addressing is significant enough that it’s going to impact their employment, before it’s too late.

          I’ve managed people where there’s an issue that might or might not be related to mental illness. Staying out of diagnosis to address the work problem generally works well without getting intrusive into people’s personal business.

          However, I’ve also managed a person who had a more serious ongoing issue that involved (but was not limited to) hearing voices, repeatedly breaking safety rules, repeated harassment and intimidation of peers, and ongoing paranoid commentary that was disruptive to working with the employee. This employee was obviously struggling with something pretty substantial that was out of his control. It was also obvious from talking with him that he didn’t view any of it as a problem, and normal measures were not getting through to him. We weren’t ultimately able to get him help and had to let him go, but directly telling him the issues were severe and that it appeared he needed professional help was part of trying to get through to him and give him a fair chance to get the help he needed while he still had access to our employee insurance and EAP. Since health insurance is so closely tied to employment, I feel like we owe people with substantial potential mental health issues the best possible chance we can afford to give them to get help while they are still employed. That said, it’s still business, and you can’t wait forever for someone to get that help, or imperil others in the process.

          To me, daily & disruptive crying at work would become a “you need professional help” conversation after 4-5 work days, unless the employee had a clear explanation for how they’re addressing this, or why this is happening, and has showed active improvement. I would cut someone more slack than that if they told me their were grieving or something – but OP described daily crying triggered by normal social interactions. That’s very far outside normal, and it sure sounds like someone who also doesn’t recognize how far outside normal they are.

        3. Just Another Zebra*

          My concern with OP asking this is that she wouldn’t get a useful answer. I suspect, given the info we have, that it will be a rambling list of many small things. And that will force OP to say something to the effect of “that’s tough, but you can’t bring that stuff to work”. It’s probably easier to avoid the ‘why’, which isn’t OP’s problem to fix.

    4. Bagpuss*

      I am not convinced it would be appropriate . I think if the organisation has any kind of EAP then LW#1 could offer her those details (e.g. make her aware that it exisits and is available to her) I think if, when LW speaks to her bout the work issues and the expectations about her behaviour, she explicitly raises anxoety then it would not be inappropriate to say suggest that she talk to her doctor about her anxiety but I think the initial raising of a health issue needs to come from her, not LW

  10. Ducky*

    If it’s just occasional, it seems a little off to demand a pay bump or refuse to help for the translation. That’s never occurred to me or seemed like a huge burden in jobs where I’ve been asked to occasionally translate something informally.

    It’s also important to remember a professional translator is often necessary for industry specific needs, medical translation, legal contracts, and someone translating quick questions from a customer might not merit the same pay bump.

    1. allathian*

      Mmm, to me it sounds like the Spanish-speaking employee is already overburdened with work to the point that they don’t want to take anything else on. At the very least, ad-hoc translations should probably be included in their job description if they do it with any regularity, with the understanding that they can reprioritize their work so that they can do the translations. This bilingual employee has a useful skill that isn’t strictly required to do the job, but which helps other employees serve their customers better. It should be recognized as such.

      Translation is its own skill, and many bilingual people can’t work with two languages simultaneously. Even if they could write their own customer emails in the other language, they can’t necessarily create an accurate translation of someone else’s writing.

      1. MsM*

        Also, if they’re having to field multiple translation requests from multiple sources on a regular basis, it feels like the company needs to be making some level of proficiency with Spanish a priority when making new hires so it’s not all on them.

    2. Allonge*

      On the other hand, coworker has no way of knowing if this remains occasional; almost by definition it interrupts their work at random times and this being chat, seems at least urgent. This is worth a clarification at the very least, so I am not surprised they are pushing back.

      1. londonedit*

        I agree – if someone from our marketing department asks me to do a quick proofread of a particularly important/urgent press release as a one-off, that’s one thing. But if it turns into them asking me to proofread all of their press releases before they send them, that’s going to be a problem because it’s not part of my job description and I don’t have time to do it. Doesn’t matter if it’s ‘Oh but it’s only one page’ or ‘Oh but it’s super urgent and it’ll look awful if it goes out with a typo’ or whatever. OP might feel like they’re just asking their Spanish-speaking colleague to check the odd small thing, but it might not feel like that to the colleague, especially if translation isn’t actually part of their job.

    3. MCMonkeyBean*

      Yes, I think how often this comes up would significantly impact how I would feel. If it’s just like a couple times a month or less then I think this would fall into the category of normal things to help with at work as part of your regular job. OP is fairly new to the company so I imagine sometimes they must get questions they don’t immediately know the answer to right, so what do they do in those cases? Like if they mostly answer questions about llamas and every once in a while someone writes in to ask about goats would OP go ask someone on the team who knows about goats to help them answer the question? If yes, then to me this seems similar.

      If they have a growing base of spanish-speaking clients where this would start coming up more and more often than they need to hire someone for that purpose. If it’s just an occasional thing then getting assistance from someone on the team who has the relevant knowledge seems like a reasonable solution.

    4. Cringing 24/7*

      Maybe I’m greedy or unreasonable, but I feel like translation should *never* be unpaid work or simply something added to “and other duties as assigned.” If a job – even occasionally – needs an employee to translate, then they need to pay that employee either more in base pay than standard, or pay something additional for that time, skill, and interruption to their work. Speaking a second or third language is a marketable skill and I feel like too many corporations simply demand use of it without acknowledging how much it’s actually worth.

      1. ThisishRightHere*

        Not to mention there could be racial discrimination implications. If it becomes the norm that an employee gets extra work intermittently dumped on them because “they’re the only Spanish speaker in the office; who else will do it?” then that very easily becomes “my workload increased without compensation because I am Mexican.”

      2. Nanani*

        Yes!
        It’s right alongside “She’s a woman, she’ll plan the holiday party”

        Monolinguals, especially anglophone ones, do. not. realize. how much work it is, and often don’t even register it as SKILL separate from knowing the involved languages.

      3. Another_JD*

        I’m also baffled about requesting a pay bump for answering three inquiries in four months. How long does it take to answer these chats? Assuming an hour each, that’s 9 hours a year. What kind of pay bump should you get for 9 hours of work?

        1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          We know it is 3 inquiries from the OP in 4 months, but we don’t know how many other people are requesting translations. If they are on a team of 10, that could mean she is also fielding 3 inquiries in 4 months from 8 people in addition to the OP, in addition to her having to cover her own English and Spanish workload.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          If it’s really that rare, then maybe a pay bump isn’t appropriate for the role. But *some* recognition will go a long way. Employee of the Month, if several came through in a short time, maybe a Target gift card, a note in their annual review about how helpful they’ve been in this area.

        3. ThisishRightHere*

          The person may not actually need/desire a pay bump. But that is language people sometime use when they want to bring attention to unpaid labor they are unfairly (whether because of gender, parental status, proximity or in this case, a reason likely related to ethnicity and/or national origin) called to do. In my workplace, one in that situation might ask higher ups “I’m spending a good deal of time on this despite it not being a part of my job description. To justify the resources I’m spending on this, can these tasks be included in my annual evaluation?” It has the same effect.

      4. Emmy Noether*

        It’s not really unpaid work though, usually: presumably it’s done during work hours, and those hours are paid. Even if the person is salaried, that doesn’t mean they can never do anything outside a strict set of tasks – there has be some room for helping out colleagues in a functional team. It is “other duties as assigned”, and I don’t really see a problem with that, as long as it’s very occasional (as in: once a month or less). If it becomes daily and it’s eating into core tasks, that’s a different conversation.

        I have my language skills listed on my C.V. and thus am already marketing this skill, on the theory that companies I’m applying to will think it’s useful and be more likely to hire me and pay me more. It’s just not explicit. It’s certainly a plus when I’m looking at candidates, though, again, thinking that speaking language X may come in handy maybe twice a year cannot be used to justify a higher salary in itself. It may give an edge over an otherwise similarly qualified candidate though.

    5. Nanani*

      It’s not unreasonable to ask for pay to reflect additional duties they’re taking on.
      It definitely doesn’t sound like LW was the first and only person to ask that colleague for a translation.

      And yes, translating quick questions from a customer, in a job where -the work is answering customer questions- does indeed deserve to be recognized as an additional valuable duty being performed.

  11. Dawn*

    This may very well be my Old Fart showing but I really do not understand what the obsession these days with video is. EVERYTHING seems to be about video now.

    Given that we’re all reading a blog in 2022, I suspect I’m not going to be alone in this stance, but what in the world happened to, you know, text for things that don’t have to be a video?

    99% of communication on my team happens by text and the rest happens by voice. Not so long ago, we had a new grandboss brought in by the director-level people…. she wanted to get everyone webcams “because I’d just like to see your faces!”

    I wrote my direct manager a small novel on how that wasn’t going to be happening. Especially not in my home. The company gets to put a camera in here over my dead body.

    1. John Smith*

      Here here! I’ve commented before that this obsession with videoing is intrusive. For most of the time, video brings little benefit and seems to be done purely for the sake of it.

      1. Spearmint*

        I disagree, I feel very disconnected from the organization and my work when I never get to even see my coworker’s faces. Of course, most interactions don’t need video, but literally never using it would make me feel isolated.

        And I don’t really understand why people feel like it’s a huge privacy invasion. Just pull up a chair to a blank wall, it’s not that hard, or use the backgrounds.

    2. Passionfruit Tea*

      Video is the next best thing they have to looming behind us to make sure we’re there in our chairs doing our work. It’s a control thing.

    3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I have an audio processing disorder, and for me video helps (but captions help even more). I strongly prefer Google Meets for any work-related conversation to phone calls, so I can turn on captions and, ideally, watch their faces for cues that help me better process the audio if they’re willing to turn on their cameras. (Pre-pandemic, I relied on lip-reading to get information that I didn’t pick up in audio. Frankly, I’d prefer that everyone keep masking even though it’s harder for me to understand what’s going on, but audio-only is pretty miserable for me in terms of comprehension.)

      1. Dawn*

        I have audio processing as well, but I’d honestly rather ask someone to repeat themselves if necessary…. and otherwise I read FAR more than I listen to entertainment, etc. I watch TV with captions, I read video transcripts rather than watch the video whenever possible.

        I have plenty of other reasons for disliking video but believe me I do get what having an audio processing disorder is like, I have one myself! (And incidentally you can turn on live captions for phone calls on, at least, the latest Pixels. It’ll hopefully become more widely available soon.)

        1. Dawn*

          And to be clear what I REALLY like is when people accommodate my preference for text. For work-related calls, can we do this in a chat program instead? Most of my work-related stuff is done through email and Teams chat nowadays and I’d say everyone benefits from the improved clarity.

          1. Passionfruit Tea*

            That’s my preference as well. Text also cuts out annoying behavior like talking over people.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I much prefer text over video or audio phone calls. I can read faster than I speak and I’ve got chronic tinnitus in one ear that can make hearing a bit difficult on one side. Also, I cannot handle eye contact.

            (Additionally it’s easier in IT to send a problem fix in text format rather than spelling out URLs)

            1. Dawn*

              Oh lord, flashbacks to when I had to spell out an entire longform URL for an older customer absolutely convinced that he saw one of our brand new $700 products listed on our site for $50 and that not giving him that price was “false advertising”.

              It turns out that what he actually saw was an ad on MSN – his landing page – back in the days before ads had ANY vetting whatsoever.

      2. WS*

        I have visual issues meaning that moving images (yes, this includes TV!) can trigger vertigo and sometimes migraines. Everything being on video is a serious accessibility issue for me, so it’s nice to hear that someone is getting something out of it!

      3. Smithy*

        I’ve never been diagnosed with specific audio processing challenges, but I understand information far better when looking at the person speaking. Removing visual cues makes communication harder for me.

      4. Lizzo*

        Question: if an HR person conducting a screening interview presented you the option of either phone/audio or video, and you could choose whichever one best suited your needs, would you feel that was sufficiently accommodating?

    4. Esmeralda*

      For our jobs: in addition to screening for experience and knowledge in the main job areas for the position, it’s important for our office that people be able to converse with each other and with students and they need to be able to predict likely questions and scenarios. We allow for nervousness, of course, but we need to actually hear *how* people respond. Text or email are absolutely not going to cut it. As I said elsewhere in this thread, we are ok with cameras off.

      Also, we can be sure that we are getting answers from the actual candidate. (Doesn’t happen often, but occasionally someone has done the resume and/or cover letter for the candidate…)

      If someone had a disability where they could not speak well enough for a phone or video call, that would be prohibitive for the position, which does require speaking to students and coworkers. We run a virtual help line (email/chat), but that’s not a full time position.

    5. Spearmint*

      To each their own. I too prefer most communication be via text or audio, but I do find it alienating to literally never see my coworker’s faces. It makes me feel completely disconnected from the organization and my work. My office has a nice balance, I think, where we do video calls once a month during our all staff meeting but otherwise stick to audio.

      As for the preference for text, you seem pretty extreme on that front. There are lots of situations where a 10-minute call would be 30 minutes of composing an email or messaging back and forth. Usually it’s situations that require a lot of back and forth. I’d be pretty annoyed if a coworker tried to turn all our calls and meetings into text messaging.

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

      I’m sorry, but I don’t understand what your comment has to do with the letter. How are you supposed to do an interview via text? Nowhere is it stating that they are replacing text with video.

      A video call should be more like an in-person interview, not as a replacement for a phone screen. Depending on the position it should be phone screen > video interview and then maybe > in-person interview ( especially for higher and/or complex positions).

      1. Willow Pillow*

        Interviews are questions and answers and the interviewer has those questions pre-recorded. They could send said questions in text and get a text answer. This can be done in conjunction with a video or phone interview and it’s a common accommodation for many of us – anyone who finds common interview questions and writes answers is doing the same thing, in essence.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I’m not one to diss text form (I’ve always been more comfortable with written exams than oral exams, for example), but I have to say that the information one is getting is different.

          If interviewing for 100% remote work that is done over text, that format is probably fine. If the position itself needs oral communication, with teammates or especially with customers, then that’s actually something that is tested in an interview. It’s a sort of metadata: I want the answers to the questions, yes, but sometimes the delivery is actually more interesting than the content. One can read a lot out of tone and nonverbal cues. Also, I already have the polished, edited, written version of this person in the application material. I also want to see the spontaneous side of this person (again, if relevant to the job).

          1. Willow Pillow*

            The problem there is that many of us send out nonverbal cues that get misinterpreted. Eye contact can be outright painful for autistic people, for instance – it’s often interpreted as shifty, uninterested, or insincere. The utility of that metadata depends on the ability to understand it.

            A job interview is also not the spontaneous side of a person! It’s still a polished, edited version of that person, probably even written if they’ve prepared a lot. Interviewing doesn’t measure one’s ability to do the vast majority of jobs, it measures one’s ability to interview.

  12. Passionfruit Tea*

    NGL I’d have fired both her and her boyfriend over this. It’s one thing to sneak a peek at your phone during work hours but making a scene over text from an ex to the point of sobbing in the back is not okay, neither is her bf confronting you over it.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      If I was managing this she’d have been on a fairly short dated PIP before this (and probably failed ultimately but maybe she cam change??) and I wouldn’t have fired the boyfriend just for that but it would have been a reprimand that goes on your file.

      1. Passionfruit Tea*

        She’s definitely the employee who forked it up for everyone and now there are phone rules at the workplace.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I missed the bit about the boyfriend! Hoo boy. He’s bang out of line too.

      Definitely need a ‘your emotions are not the responsibility of management to cope with’ talk to both.

    3. JustKnope*

      And why did the boyfriend expect OP to talk to/comfort the employee? That’s the weirdest part to me. It’s not OP’s job to be comforting, it’s their job to manage a pharmacy! The boyfriend/girlfriend do not have a sense of professional norms or boundaries and it would be a kindness to be firm with them.

  13. Natalie*

    LW3, for my job I do sometimes need to respond to customers in Spanish, which I don’t speak at all! Like you, I have a coworker who is fluent, but it isn’t her job to be a translator, though she’s usually happy to help out in a pinch.
    Something I’ve found that sometimes helps is to go ahead and use google-translate, just to get a rough draft. Then I send her:
    1) What I’m trying to say, in English
    2) The google-translate attempt
    And she emails me back a finalized Spanish translation.

    The google-translate is NOT good enough to be used by itself, but she’s told me that using it for a first pass-through does really speed her up a lot, and makes the request much less onerous. So if your manager does send you back to your coworker, you could maybe try a process like this, and see if it makes it less burdensome for her?

    1. allathian*

      Sounds like a good idea.

      Is your coworker correcting factual errors or simply fixing the style so that it sounds less clunky in Spanish? If it’s the latter, you could do without that in a pinch, especially if you mention that it’s been translated by Google Translate.

    2. Fabulous*

      Right, I was wondering why Google Translate or something similar wasn’t suggested in Alison’s response.

    3. Nanani*

      Your colleague is doing what professionals call post-MT work, or MT editing.
      The fact that your colleague is NOT a translator is highly linked to the use of such a strategy.

      For a real translator with the skillset required, a google “draft” is actually an impediment and slows us down.

      Also this does not address the fact that Jane isn’t, and by all impressions does not want to be, a translator.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        Mmmh, there are tools for professional translators that make translation suggestions though. As far as I understand they go to a database of existing translations to compare. That way, if you have to translate the same boilerplate sentence as last month, you don’t have to rack your brain to remember, the software puts it right there for your convenience. It’s structured and presented differently from google translate (and you have control over the database), but even professional translators rarely translate completely from scratch.

        I’ve done the MT editing (I’m not a translator, just multilingual), and while it’s bad for getting the most elegant or concise way of saying something, it is the quickest way to just get meaning across.

  14. Keymaster of Gozer*

    I’ve had one employee who would cry over just about anything. Thought the backup tape delivery guy hated her, that the reception staff hated her, that the person on the helpdesk hated her, her family hated her, she couldn’t get a boyfriend and so on. I offered time off (after a customer complained that she’d sobbed the whole time fixing his pc because she made a tiny mistake initially) so that she could get help – which she took.

    But the problem continued, she cried the first day back over something really trivial – she’d cry in the loos for upward of a half hour several times a day – and I had to have the same conversation a boss had once had with *me* about it’s not acceptable to be disruptive all the time regardless of what problems you’ve got going on. After a long talk (during which she cried a lot) we basically agreed that customer service roles such as IT were not good for her.

    Because she wouldn’t change (and a lot of this crying stuff was really trivial – think ‘someone disagreed with me on a forum’ level) and I couldn’t have a member of staff who’d cry over everything.

    It’s been 6 years ish? She went off to work in a role with less human interaction.

    1. Healthcare Manager*

      Just gently, think it’s worthwhile acknowledging she ‘couldn’t’ change, rather than ‘wouldn’t’. Or even better ‘didn’t’.

      It simply wasn’t the right workplace for her.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        No, it was ‘wouldn’t’. I asked her to stop doing certain things that were possible and she refused. Regardless of the mental condition (and my brain collects them like Pokemon) it’s not acceptable to sit at work, read online forums then go disappear to cry on a regular basis.

        I do wish her all the best, and sincerely hope she got some medical help. But believe me when I say that she actively put herself into some of those crying situations.

        1. Beth*

          Exactly — someone who takes time out at work to expose themselves to non-work-related online toxic cesspits has a very, very easy way to reduce their exposure while at work, ffs. “Stop sticking your hand into that pool of acid, or at least only do it on your own time” is a pretty low bar.

    2. Luna*

      Your first paragraph makes me think of that saying, “If you met an a-hole today, you’ve met an a-hole. If you meet an a-hole every day, maybe you are the a-hole”.

      1. Cringing 24/7*

        This is perfect!

        Also – maybe you’re the a-hole, or maybe you just work in customer service.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        I did have the ‘what have all these incidents (of people ‘hating’ her) have in common?’ talk with her when I was trying to narrow down if it was something she said/did. Basically, you’re right, the only common denominator was her. She even tried to claim that I hated her too – and I’ll be honest when someone is saying twenty times a day that you dislike them it can become a real opinion!

        (Never hated her, just found she was far too much hassle for little reward)

  15. Ellen N.*

    Original Poster #1,

    Your employee is dispensing medication while being constantly distracted. This is a serious accident waiting to happen.

    Also, it’s out of control that she became upset, called her boyfriend in on his day off and the boyfriend asked you to comfort her.

    She is pulling too many employees into her extreme emotional neediness.

    1. Cat Tree*

      I agree with your general sentiment, but I think she is a cashier rather than a pharmacist dispensing medication. It sounds like she is a senior for a four-year degree, but pharmacists require grad school.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        ^^This^^
        A “pharmacy” in the US does more than dispense medicine; see my longer reply above.

      2. AnonyNurse*

        Yes. But the cashier or tech grabs it from the stack and hands it to the customer. Grab the wrong one, scan it, customer pays … it’s gone.

        Grab two instead of one.

        Grab one but not the other.

        Miss the fact that the hanging bag had both a box of 12 and a smaller baggie of 3 pills in it, which literally happened to me on Friday. Tech caught it as i was walking away.

        Rush through the screen where it says it’s a new Rx or a new patient and fail to have them speak to the pharmacist and there’s an unknown drug interaction potential.

        You work at a pharmacy, you handle meds and have the potential to make mistakes that cause harm and can be really hard to identify.