how to ask to sit with my friends, employee misses key details in meetings, and more

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

1. How to professionally ask, “can I sit with my friends?”

I’m in my early career, in my mid 20’s, and I work in one of the several small office areas in a manufacturing facility. I sit in an area with six other desks which used to be full but things have shuffled around recently and there are now only three people (including me) who sit here. The two others are very competent coworkers, but we are not peers and they are not people I would consider friends. We interact here and there, but we don’t really have fun together.

This has had a larger-than-I’d-hoped impact on my happiness at this job. I miss talking and joking around with people! It wasn’t so much talking that I wouldn’t get my work done, but those little social moments throughout the day were really important to me. I work fully in person five days a week, which normally I like, but now I feel it’s meaningless since I don’t interact with coworkers much anymore.

What’s the best way to professionally ask to move desks to sit with some of the other people who I’m friendly with? There isn’t a clear business need for this or any place that makes sense for me to move to with a better excuse than “I wanna chat” so I’m not sure how to approach this. Additionally, my manager recently left so my grandboss is now my direct boss and she is incredibly busy all the time. I have difficulty getting her attention for actual important work-related things so I feel like this is too minor/petty to try to bring up with her when we do talk. What’s your advice on this? I’m considering finding a new job over this but I’ve only been here five months and I used to really like it here, so I want to avoid that if possible.

Oooooh, I was going to tell you not to until I got to the end of your letter and saw you might leave over it. This is tricky because if you don’t have a lot of interaction with your grandboss, you don’t want one of the few data points she has about you to be “highest priority that I’m aware of is sitting with her friends so she can chat during the day.” (To be clear, I’m not saying you’re wrong to want what you want — just that there’s a high risk of it coming across that way.) So normally I’d suggest that you wait until your manager is replaced, build a relationship with that person, and then ask about it … but that could be a long way off … and if you’re so unhappy that you’re thinking about leaving over it, there’s more of an argument for saying something now.

Is there any feasible way you can frame the request as more than just “I want to talk to friends while I work”? Even something like “I’ve found I work better when there’s some conversation around me and not as much silence”? If so, and if you’re miserable and/or close to leaving over this, that might be worth a shot.

If that doesn’t work, are there other measures that might help, like using a chat program here and there while you work (assuming it doesn’t interfere with your work any more than little moments of in-person chat would)?

2. My employee misses key details in meetings

I have an intelligent employee who seems to have a listening and picking-out-context issue that I’d like to address directly with him. He’s shadowing me in many meetings and frequently I will leave a meeting and give him specific direction to perform a task, the necessary background details having just been discussed clearly in the meeting, and he will ask a series of questions that reveal he missed key items in the meeting that would enable him to perform the task solo or with minimal clarification. He’s also disorganized in his explanations of problems he’s having on other projects that he’s looking for advice on, which tells me he’s missing context in those sessions as well, and when I ask probing detailed questions he can’t answer them.

I’d like to provide feedback to him that I’ve noticed he misses a lot of context in meetings and ask him to come up with ways to make sure he understands everything that’s happening in a meeting on his own. I’m not sure if he’s second-screening, bad at listening, or bad at contextualizing disparate collections of spoken information, and I’m not sure I need to know — I just need him to fix it. Any advice on how to approach this without saying “I think you’re a bad listener, do better”? I am team lead, not a line manager, and do not have hire/fire/PIP authority, just general coaching.

The first thing is to name what you’re seeing without making any assumption about the cause — you want a statement that works whether he’s playing Suduko under the conference room table or has a learning disability. So something like: “I’ve noticed that you’re not always retaining details that are discussed in meetings, like last week when you missed that Jane had said X, and this morning when you didn’t realize Cecil wanted Y.” Then ask for his perspective: “Do you know what might be going on?” Start there because maybe he’ll have insight that will help you understand the situation. But assuming this doesn’t bring you to an easy resolution, you could say, “I’m not sure if it’s a need to pay more attention in meetings or eliminate other distractions, or if it’s something else. Can you work on this on your end? And if you realize there’s something you need on my end to help with this, let me know.”

If he’s just not paying enough attention, naming the issue might be the nudge he needs to fix it. But it’s possible something else is going on, like an inability to absorb info at the same time he’s taking notes (and so someone else should take notes), or an info-processing challenge, or an auditory disorder, or all sorts of other things. Your job at this stage is to name the issue, let him know it’s causing problems, and open the door as widely as you can to him telling you if there’s something more challenging going on / asking for specific supports he may need.

You could also try a coaching approach — like after some meetings, asking him to name his key takeaways and if he misses some, asking if he heard X or Y. (Did he hear it but not recognize its significance? Not hear it at all? Those are both different problems with different solutions.) But I’d also loop in your/his boss if you don’t see pretty quick improvement, since at that point it’s something she should be involved with too.

3. My company only asks behavioral interview questions and we can’t consider anything else about candidates

I wonder what you think of behavioral interviews? My current employer uses them exclusively for all positions. Your resume gets you an interview, but after that your resume, experience, credentials, references are not considered in the hiring decision at all, nor are you asked about them in the interview. The position is filled using 12 behavioral questions and whether you tick the right boxes in answering. (Literally … there’s a score sheet and the candidate with the highest total gets the job.)

I see the value in some behavioral questions, but as the only measure of fitness for any position, no matter how specialized or how high up in the organization?!

Noooo. I love behavioral interview questions (“tell me about a time when…”) because they let you really probe into how someone thinks and operates in real situations rather than hypothetical ones, but it makes no sense to use only those questions and not consider someone’s experience and accomplishments. I suspect your organization is doing this in an attempt to level the playing field and eliminate bias, but I would love to see data on its outcomes from doing this (data re: its effectiveness in hiring people who excel at the job and also whether it does result in a more diverse group of successful hires).

4. I turned down an interview but now want to work there

I was in the middle of my job search for a new role since I improved my skill set. One of the problems was that before I started the search, I wasn’t certain how competitive I was since it’s a new field for me. I’d just completed a day of interviews that were awkward/not the right fit, and was feeling a little burned out. One company offered me an interview the next day, and I turned them down because of the burnout and because I’d have to relocate. A couple days later I researched them more thoroughly online (which I should have done first) and realized they’d actually be a really good fit. Since I essentially turned down the job by turning down the interview, would it be a good idea to contact them and mention I am interested in their company and future positions? Or should I just let it go?

You didn’t really turn down the job; you just turned down the interview. You might have missed the window for interviewing, but you might not have — contact them now and say that your circumstances have changed and you’d like to interview after all, if they’re still setting up interviews. You might be too late, but they might be perfectly happy to schedule you.

5. Recruiter wants to change a job title on my resume

I recently applied to a job that is using an external recruiting agency to initially review candidates. During my screening call, the recruiter said they would change one of my job titles on the materials they’d pass along to the hiring committee to better reflect the work I did there.

Can … they do that?

Granted, I was severely under-titled (and underpaid) for the work I was doing in this particular role. It was the main reason why I left. But I feel uncomfortable with this — the actual job title is on LinkedIn for all to see, and I wouldn’t want to answer for the confusion should my former boss be contacted for a reference. Help!

They should not do that. It risks causing problems for you during a background check when the title on your resume isn’t the title the organization reports you had. What you or the recruiter can do is to add a clarification to the title. For example, rather than just outright changing “data analyst II” to “oatmeal data team lead,” you/they could instead do this:

data analyst II (oatmeal data team lead)

or this:

oatmeal data team lead (data analyst II)

That way, you’re not misrepresenting anything and it’s not likely to cause an issue in background checks. You’re just adding more specificity to a vague or less accurate title.

{ 426 comments… read them below }

  1. Fikly*

    When companies use a set batch of interview questions, from which they cannot deviate, it’s almost always a DEI effort, but unfortunately, it’s actually anti-DEI. This is because it eliminates the ability to ask questions that allow candidates to explain why they are excellent for the role despite coming from different backgrounds, and thus interview differently, or have different experience, etc.

    This is regardless of whether the questions are behavioral or not. If follow up questions are allowed, it’s slightly better, but it’s still a big problem, because you can’t ask questions from the start that help each candidate demonstrate why they would be a good hire.

    It’s sort of similar to companies saying “well, we want to hire diverse candidates, but they just aren’t applying!” when they aren’t posting the roles in places diverse candidates might be looking, or their requirements/language used in the posting and then the screening tools they use screen out diverse candidates. If you aren’t actively doing things to make sure you are getting a diverse set of candidates, then you have only yourself to blame when you aren’t hiring them.

    1. LittleMarshmallow*

      I’ve seen more of the opposite in my interviewing experience. When I interview with other panel members that refuse to use the canned questions, I see impressively more bias towards that first 30 second impression than I ever do when they have to power thru the script.

      Things like being really into an interview when someone looks like them Vs sort of being checked out when they don’t… like same person on different candidates. I know it’s not universal but I find the questions helpful to reduce that checking out if an interviewer decides in the first two minutes that they just don’t vibe with a candidate.

      1. Fikly*

        That’s a problem with the interviewers, not the method. Stop using highly biased people as interviewers, rather than using a method that harms candidates by default.

        Or else you’re arguing that you shouldn’t choose actions that promote DEI because they are too hard.

      2. Student*

        I’d argue that your interviewers that check out when they don’t immediately vibe with a candidate are the problem. They aren’t qualified to make hiring decisions because they lack fundamental interviewing skills. You can potentially train people out of that, if they’re receptive and it’s a core part of their job.

        Standard questions might force those folks to pay attention for the whole time, but it’s not going to make them rate the candidates fairly.

      3. Worldwalker*

        That’s a problem with the interviewers.

        This is not how good interviewers — and those with their company’s best interests at heart — conduct an interview. This is a problem with people, not questions.

    2. AcademiaNut*

      The other thing is that you’re not screening for either competence or honesty. From what the letter says, it sounds like they aren’t contacting references (or maybe contacting references before interviewing? Which would be inefficient). They’re not doing any sort of skills based evaluation. So someone who wildly inflates their credentials on their resume, or outright lies, and is good at bluffing their way through behavioural questions, would be a top candidate for the job.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. A script is a good way to reduce bias but isn’t enough on its own. Some sort of skill testing is critical — if hiring a teacher, watch them teach; if hiring a programmer, watch them work through a programming problem; if hiring a counselor watch them in a counseling simulation etc etc. And not using references means you miss horrifying background information.

        1. LabTechNoMore*

          Testing is definitely *not* a good way to level the playing field. If there already exists disproportionate representation in your field, then all you’re doing is reinforcing that bias by only hiring people who are already employed in that field, with enough experience to pass these kinds of exercises. Providing an entry point to the field through early career hiring and mentorship helps diversity. Quasi-standardized testing does not.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I disagree – not every role is entry-level, and certainly not every role can teach the fundamental skills on the job. I agree with the part about providing EARLY-career resources to help a more diverse group get in on the ground floor, but if you’re hiring for eg a mid-level programmer, you do need to know that they can program well enough to do the job. Testing their skills is much fairer than other evaluations (like considering how prestigious their previous jobs, internships, and schools were or just your subjective impression in an interview).

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              The problem is, “entry level” is no longer entry level. 3-5 years minimum are considered entry level. Actual entry level has pretty much disappeared from the job market, and with it, an entry point for college grads and professionals changing careers without an existing network in that field.

              So, these tests becomes yet another gatekeeping exercise of checking whether you either “know someone” or can paradoxically demonstrate the skills of someone 3-5 years of experience while not actually having any experience. All of which is compounded by already disproportionate under-representation.

              1. The OTHER Other*

                What industry are you in? Those I am familiar with most definitely have NOT eliminated entry level positions. I would argue that in many fields, it’s easier to get hired as a college grad today than it has been for at least a generation.

                1. Anonymous Koala*

                  Yeah that’s been my experience as well. When I graduated 10 years ago the job market was crap and real entry level jobs were few and far between – companies didn’t need to hire entry level people because they were getting so many candidates with years of work experience. Now my office has 6 straight-from-grad new hire positions opening, and we’re still having trouble hiring candidates before they get snapped up by other firms.

              2. Zephy*

                can paradoxically demonstrate the skills of someone 3-5 years of experience while not actually having any experience

                Read: Can afford to work for free for 3-5 years to acquire that experience

              3. LlamaDuck*

                Every marketing department or agency I’ve ever worked in has hired genuinely entry level roles, like Junior Associate Copywriter, from pools of people with no experience beyond college. And, they’ve hired people with no college degree.

                They did look for applicants whose portfolios demonstrate writing skill, and they issued short grammar and mechanics proofreading tests when hiring.

                Junior Associate graphic designer roles were filled similarly.

                I think eliminating the college requirement was a huge boost to getting more qualified applicants from marginalized groups. One agency I worked with had an associate copywriter who’d only graduated from high school one year prior to being hired. He had developed his writing skills intentionally in high school, and he even had some writing published in popular music-centered publications.

                He was a person of color and came from a low-income family. He was talented, but if college were mandatory, he wouldn’t have been able to progress in his career.

                In my experience, judging de-identifyed portfolios and skills tests is far less prone to bias (when hiring entry-level candidates) than other methods of recruiting and assessing resumes.

                It also helps to seek out candidates at community colleges or partner with local public high schools. This can net a highly diverse entry-level applicant pool with established skills (i.e. recruiting students in AP English who have high marks on columns written for the school paper, connecting with students enrolled in the Art + Design major at the local community college).

                These students can often reach a professional entry-level skill threshold if they understand the requirements.

                Obviously, some jobs have specific minimum requirements that no 18-year-old will have (nursing, etc). But outside of that, it is very possible to recruit and hire competent, entry-level staff who have no official work experience.

          2. Wintermute*

            I think it’s a big ask though to say employers should take people on board without any idea if they’re actually capable of performing the work. It’s one thing to teach little things like how your company does or uses this or that, but it’s not unreasonable to expect someone to be able to show you their skills on the spot.

            The only place I agree with you is to make sure that you’re not using “old chestnuts” that will select for people with a traditional career path and education. In programming good examples would be the classic fizzbuzz calculator, palindrome checker function or reverse polish notation calculator. These are so well-known most college programs will teach you how to do these in your 100-level courses. People who learned via other methods, self-taught, bootcamp, codeAcademy or whatever else may be seeing the problem for the first time (though if you aren’t smart and aware enough to google “Common programming interview questions” that does speak to your ability too).

            So I think that skills testing is vitally important, because people lie on resumes and just having done work or having a credential has no bearing on your actual ability, but you need to intelligently design those tests so they test for skill not who has been given a cheat sheet/sneak peak at the question either by their network or education path.

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              In programming good examples would be the classic fizzbuzz calculator, palindrome checker function or reverse polish notation calculator. These are so well-known most college programs will teach you how to do these in your 100-level courses.

              And if they asked comparable, priginal questions with fizzbuzz-level difficulty to ensure you can write a basic script, I would agree. But they don’t. They ask for fully-functional electronic controls, or working up data accompanied by a 500 pg technical manual, or realtime multithreading in a language you’ve never used, with the expectation of no syntax errors. (Real examples.)

              But even that’s a bad example, because, ironically, most software engineers can’t actually pass the fizzbuzz test, meaning it’s a poor indication of engineering proficiency.

              1. LetMeWorkInPeace*

                “most software engineers can’t actually pass the fizzbuzz test, meaning it’s a poor indication of engineering proficiency”

                No. Any competent software developer/engineer can handle a fizz-buzz type question. If they can’t, then they simply aren’t competent. If the interviewer wanted to make absolutely sure they weren’t eliminating anyone without formal training, they could explain the modulus operation (which is an enormous, glaring hint as to how the problem should be solved).

                It is true that many people who interview for those roles can’t handle fizz-buzz…but that’s the entire point of fizz-buzz! It’s so simple that anyone who remembers what a modulus operation is can handle it. Pick a language – any language – and bang out fewer than ten simple lines.

                1. LabTechNoMore*

                  Any competent software developer/engineer can handle a fizz-buzz type question. If they can’t, then they simply aren’t competent.

                  The question isn’t whether a developer can handle fizz-buzz as a routine part of their job (they can); it’s whether they can handle being tested on fizz-buzz, while being watched by someone evaluating their ability to write code. These are two different questions. I welcome hearing from software engineering managers about their experience evaluating seasoned SWE’s on trivially easy technical prompts.

              2. Don't Call Me Shirley*

                I’ve never worked with someone who can’t pass fizzbuzz. I rarely even interview someone who can’t quickly solve something more difficult than fizzbuzz that we ask. I can’t imagine someone not able to pass fizzbuzz being able to do even entry level work most places, unless it’s very basic stuff most non programmers could do…

              3. Worldwalker*

                If you are hiring a mid-level programmer, you do not want someone who can just “write a basic script.” I can write basic scripts in BASH, PHP, JavaScript, and a whole bunch of other things that I do not, in fact, know how to code in. Hire me as a JavaScript developer because I can write something basic in JavaScript and you’re pretty much throwing your money away. If you’re hiring someone whose job it will be to write electronic controls, etc., you’d better test them for their ability to do that.

                And since when can’t most software engineers write a fizzbuzz program? I don’t know if it’s taught in introductory programming courses in college (which I never had, despite having worked as a programmer) but I could write one in a programming language I didn’t even know if I had access to a language reference manual. As could pretty much anyone who is expecting to get a job as a programmer.

                What would you recommend as the proper qualifications to test in a computer programmer other than whether they can program computers?

                1. LabTechNoMore*

                  My point is, these tests are too poorly designed. They’re often too vague “We want to see how you think,” require rote memorization (every experienced dev knows how to Google method names, and syntax errors are easily fixed), ridiculous takehome prompts (“design this system that would take a normal team weeks to pull off! This should take you no more than 2 hours.”), or require knowledge of algorithms and datastructures that are completely inappropriate for the stack. Another variation is asking questions well beyond the scope of the role (DBA-level SQL questions about rollbacks and pgstats reindexing tables for a data scientist, cloud infra cli questions for a python dev role, etc).

                  Even fizzbuzz isn’t an accurate representation of how programming actually is done! Writing code is typically not some high pressure situation that requires you to type accurately into an unfamiliar environment while another person judges your performance, watching every key stroke. (Which is why so many experienced devs actually fail fizzbuzz in the interview – it’s not because they can’t code. It’s their nerves!)

                  Even in the rare case that the technical assessment is appropriately designed for the role, the interviewers are often poorly trained, and will just use the test as an implicit-bias generator. Writing off candidates for having an IDE they aren’t familiar with, using the “wrong” OS, taking a different approach to solving a problem than the interviewer had in mind, bringing up considerations and constraints for the design that the interviewer hadn’t considered, or, god forbid, using a builtin function or library the interviewer isn’t familiar with.

                  These “objective” tests are anything but.

                2. Anax*

                  Agreed with LabTechNoMore. Last time I did interviews, I had a lot of those “well known 100-level class problems” – fizzbuzz, palindrome checker, implement quicksort, reverse a linkedlist, explain the difference between a left inner join and a right inner join…

                  Fizzbuzz, sure, I can do off the top of my head. I can see where someone would forget because of nerves, though. I definitely forgot “reverse a and b without using a third variable” – because I’d been doing functional programming for five years and my anxious brain forgot that most languages let you change variable values after they’re initialized.

                  I haven’t had to remember the details of quicksort implementation since like, 2010, when I took that class – it’s not part of my job, it’s not something easy to figure out from base principles, and if I had to implement it in my real life, I’d just google it. But goodness gracious, there were SO MANY of those which had nothing to do with my actual job, just what I could regurgitate from college coursework – which also didn’t do a great job of preparing me for my actual job.

                  Honestly, my first job did it really well – they made it a take-home problem with a week to work on it, then had me come in and explain my reasoning. Make a reasonable attempt while you’re less anxious, and discuss solutions and debugging with a coworker, the way you would on the job.

            2. Emotional Support Robin*

              If you get a technical interview at Google, they send you an entire (pretty expensive) book on how to do well in a technical interview. You’re also allowed to schedule the interview whenever you feel ready (rather than having it 2 weeks later), which is really important for people who don’t have a lot of time. I thought that was a smart way of leveling the playing field.

              They also got rid of the weird thought questions because they found, strangely enough, that the ability to estimate the number of ping-pong balls that would fit in a bus or figure out the weird question about telling time by burning ropes had no correlation with actual job performance.

          3. amoeba*

            What’s typically tested for in technical interviews in my field is definitely stuff you should have picked up during your education (including PhD for the positions where that’s a requirement, which is most). And seeing the large differences in how well people do – they definitely make a lot of sense and this kind of stuff is really, really hard to learn on the job later on.

            I do agree that asking specific questions about things you can learn by heart makes no sense – it’s more about seeing how candidates solve a scientific problem, and whether they have the necessary tools.

          4. Worldwalker*

            Isn’t that kind of the point?

            If you want to hire a programmer, you want to hire a *progreammer*, exactly someone with experience, not someone you need to teach to be a programmer. Employers are not vocational schools; they’re employers who need to hire people who can do the job now, not at some time in the future.

            “Early career hiring” is not relevant to the vast majority of jobs. Think about it: let’s say a person’s working life is 50 years, to make the math easy. For five years of that, they’re somewhere that an “entry point” or “early career hiring” could be useful to them. For the other 90% of their career, they’re experienced. If there’s a job listing for someone with “3 years experience with SomeSoftware” they’ve got it nailed.

            1. LabTechNoMore*

              It’s also not the job of education to train the workforce. If you want someone to do a job for your company, you need to show them how to do it. Playing hot potato with entry level workers is a great way to lose institutional knowledge to attrition and retirement.

              1. LlamaDuck*

                But plenty of schools do train people in what they need to know, either in a specific major or in general. Maybe that’s not the official job of education, but it works out that way regardless.

                You graduate with a nursing degree, you pass the exam, you’re an RN. You graduate with a BFA in Communications Design or Visual Art and Design, you’ve got a portfolio, you’re qualified for a entry level graphic design position in a marketing agency.

                You graduate with a BA in Education, earn a teaching certificate, you’re qualified to be a teacher.

                If there are plenty of schools out there currently, effectively preparing students to enter the workforce with the right skills and credentials, then it makes sense for employers to work on the assumption that that’ll continue.

                1. LabTechNoMore*

                  Field-specific training, yes. Job-specific training, no. It’s not like students go straight from graduation to working independently on the job.

              2. StillInStats*

                Yeah, that’s absolutely not feasible.

                My company doesn’t hire statistical programmers because we’re a vocational school, we hire them because we have an open position we need to fill and the work is piling up. We cannot teach people how to program on the job; it takes too long to become proficient and it requires you to think like a data analyst. We can train them on our specific procedures, but if they don’t come in with at least baseline skills, we’re going to wind up investing 9-12 months into trying to get their skills up to speed and then letting them go when they just can’t clear the bar. This has happened to us at least three or four times, so now we give programming tasks as part of the interview process.

                The fact is that not all jobs can be taught on the fly to people with no knowledge or experience. I’m not sure why there’s so much resistance to this very basic fact of life when it comes to hiring for skilled positions. It’s like saying that I should be able to get a job playing for a major-league baseball team when I haven’t played baseball since PE class in middle school.

                1. LabTechNoMore*

                  > We cannot teach people how to program on the job; it takes too long to become proficient and it requires you to think like a data analyst.

                  You’re looking for people who can do statistics at the professional level, but are also expecting them to have a mastery of the tools needed for working in the field. That is not reasonable. Yes, it does take a long time to train. Factor that into onboarding, or go into a business that doesn’t require deep technical knowledge.

                  Most stat and math majors would have some exposure to programming through coursework. But if you’re looking for production-level code, you will need to teach them how to do that, or buck up and pay the pricetag for a software engineer with a masters in stats.

        2. TechWorker*

          I think a lot of programming tests are really bad at judging how good people would be at the job – sure, some are well designed, but others are… well it’s not a perfect analogy, but a bit like giving an accountant a mental arithmetic test. It’ll tell you how well they do on that specific thing under pressure and at speed, but that’s not directly correlated with how good they’ll be at the job as a whole.

          (They do tell you *something*, in the same way you wouldn’t hire an accountant who failed basic mental arithmetic.. but they’re by no means perfect.)

          1. ecnaseener*

            I think that’s true for every field – the choices are to make someone do an entire project (filters out people who can’t afford to do all that unpaid work) or to use an imperfect-but-somewhat-useful proxy.

            1. I am Emily's failing memory*

              Yeah, I think for the most part skills test filter out the people who are try to bluster their way through the process with a cocktail of charisma and white lies, when they really have little to no knowledge informed by hands-on experience. They can verify that the candidate really can do the most basic parts of the job, and for mid-junior roles perhaps that’s enough. But with the mid-senior roles I’ve usually hired for, they’re not quite as useful for trying to compare the relative skills of two competent people, because the things that would set a fantastic employee in a mid-senior role apart from someone ho-hum are often soft skills that are harder to test.

              I think as far as usefulness goes, it’s skills tests for hard skills/basic competency, references and behavioral questions for soft skills/critical thinking.

              1. ferrina*

                This. Some of the best performers I know thrive because of soft skills. They get to know people, they can get people on board with their ideas, they know how to procure resources and where to find expertise. And never underestimate the power of someone who can do a strong Google search.

            2. LlamaDuck*

              But plenty of schools do train people in what they need to know, either in a specific major or in general. Maybe that’s not the official job of education, but it works out that way regardless.

              You graduate with a nursing degree, you pass the exam, you’re an RN. You graduate with a BFA in Communications Design or Visual Art and Design, you’ve got a portfolio, you’re qualified for a entry level graphic design position in a marketing agency.

              You graduate with a BA in Education, earn a teaching certificate, you’re qualified to be a teacher.

              If there are plenty of schools out there currently, effectively preparing students to enter the workforce with the right skills and credentials, then it makes sense for employers to work on the assumption that that’ll continue.

          2. Observer*

            I think a lot of programming tests are really bad at judging how good people would be at the job – sure, some are well designed, but others are… well it’s not a perfect analogy, but a bit like giving an accountant a mental arithmetic test.

            That’s an important point. But that’s not a good argument for not using tests. It *is* a compelling argument for making sure that you use the right test for any given position.

            I think that there has been some case law about the use of things like personality tests as a hiring screen. And in many cases where there seems to be a discriminatory impact, the general take in the courts is that you need to ascertain if the test is actually relevant to the position you are testing for (eg who cares if your coders are extroverts or introverts) AND whether the test actually does what it claims to be doing. Using that kind of frame for skills tests would be extremely useful, imo.

            1. Emotional Support Robin*

              My first full-time programming job required a personality assessment. It was a nightmare. In hindsight, I suspect that they were targeting the “insecure overachiever” demographic and trying to filter out anyone with the experience to know the company culture was whackadoodle.

              Hilariously, they had a lot of trouble filling certain maintenance positions because they required *every* employee to “pass” the personality assessment.

          3. just a random teacher*

            There are two main problems I see with programming tests, as someone who would probably do very well on them (I chose to run screaming from CS grad school and work in a different field entirely now).

            The first problem is that, like any sort of puzzle, once you are familiar with that genre of puzzle you can solve one much more quickly than someone who has never seen one before. This is fine if the actual type of programming you need people to do is similar to the type in the test (if someone is going to be working with Excel all day, handing them a spreadsheet with dummy data and asking them to complete a task that expects them to write a decent set of commands to pull the right things out for a report on certain things might be a good measure of whether or not they will be able to do a job where it’s mostly wrangling with Excel and getting it to spit out reports), but otherwise selects for people with past experience with those kinds of puzzles rather than people who will be good at figuring out the actual “puzzles” in their job, or puzzles in general.

            Non-programming example: one curriculum I used to teach math out of had “tile problems” where you would be shown, say, the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th figure in a pattern made out of tiles and needed to be able to figure out 1st, 5th, and 100th figure and write the general rule for the number of tiles in any figure in that pattern. The first time I saw one it was an interesting puzzle and I spent a bunch of time exploring different ways to think about it. (The intent is to give a visual model to type to equations, and also it’s easy to create figures that grow linearly and figures that grow quadratically, so it’s a good way to reinforce that not everything is linear.) After a few months using the curriculum, it’s a very straightforward process to analyze a given pattern and determine how it grows and thus write a formula. If I put one of these on a final exam for a course that used them all year, students would quickly be able to attack the problem using a known approach and write the formula or answer whatever question I’d asked about it. If a student in a different Algebra 1 class transferred in late in the year, that problem would be a Brand New Puzzle! for them on the final and would not assess the same things. This has nothing to do with whether they know Algebra, and everything to do with if they’re already familiar with a question pattern.

            The other problem is that you will end up hiring people like me, who are very good at short bursts of supervised, focused work on challenging problems but who, given a large, vague written task, a distant deadline, and no interaction with others while they work end up in a miserable anxiety and avoidance spiral and get nothing done until right before whatever is due, at which point they produce something similar to what they’d produce under “programming contest” conditions and/or give up and call in sick. (This is why I left the field, but I also have friends who tried to stay in and who I see end up in this loop regularly.) It selects for a particular personality type that is probably not actually the best suited to sustained lower-pressure work. (Teaching is all about short-turn-around deadlines and interacting with others. I will basically never be given a vague task and an uninterrupted month at the end of which I’m supposed to turn in a large, written thing that I’ve carefully spent the entire month working on by myself.)

            1. DyneinWalking*

              Um. I’m don’t have experience with interviewing/being interviewed, but: Why would a programming skills test need to be a puzzle? Also, it sounds a bit like you see these coding skills test as something where the best person is the one who can write it down most quickly as runable code.

              But… unless the job requires implementing solutions on the spot, why would you care for that? You should be looking for general coding ability – how do they approach the problem, do they know the common algorithms, do they know the basic syntax…

              I wouldn’t make “can they perfectly solve this specific coding problem during the interview” the deciding question (especially since for common problems, the solution might have been learned by heart without understanding it); instead, I would simply use it as a way of making sure that they do have some coding abilities.

          4. anon for this*

            or like hiring a chemist based on their ability to do a titration properly.

            A lot of us haven’t even thought about doing a manual titration in a decade or so because there are machines for that now and they’re mostly used as a teaching tool in the first year of undergrad.

            1. StillInStats*

              Is a hiring manager really likely to hire someone based on their ability to perform an outdated procedure? Is this something you’ve actually seen happen? Because that’s the hiring manager’s fault, not the fault of performance evaluation.

              We assign programming tasks to applicants. No one has to do them from memory because one of the most necessary skills in the positions I hire for is the ability to use Google to find solutions to problems or become familiar with unfamiliar procedures.

      2. KoiFeeder*

        Yeah, I was reading that, and I was thinking that the job is more or less screening for a particular level of charisma or social aptitude, and nothing else. And, frankly, I don’t know that good candidates would want to take a job where their hard skills aren’t even being taken into consideration- I’d be worried that there’s a lot of smooth-talking snake oil sellers in the company after going through that interview process, because that’s the sort of person who’s going to thrive in this kind of process.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, we’ve had plenty of horror stories here from people who skipped just the checking references step.

    3. Varthema*

      What about if one or two of the planned questions is written to allow for the kind of explaining and extra context you mention? We stick to a set of questions for DEI and fairness purposes (because otherwise it IS too easy to give a “better” interview experience to someone you just naturally click with), but they’re pretty open-ended, and spontaneity is allowed in follow-up questions. Sometimes as well if we move a candidate to interview who doesn’t quite fit our ideal profile in terms of training/experience (something normally done when they’ve got something else and unexpected going for them and/or if they come from a different-than-usual background and seems like a good opportunity for widening our scope and diversifying our team), we will craft an extra question around that gap to give an opportunity to, I guess, show us that the gap is compensated for in other ways.

      1. NYWeasel*

        I was going to say that our hiring process from a very basic level sounds like what the OP describes, but that’s because our very first assessment is the information covered off on the resume. In the first interview team members sit in on (second dialog with candidates) we use a set list of behavioral questions that are designed to encourage candidates to share context beyond the bullets on their resume. It might feel to some of our team members who are less connected to the process that we aren’t looking at experience but we actually look deeper to get a holistic view before we hire.

      2. Drago Cucina*

        Yes, I’ve always given people the opportunity to clarify or cover something that we didn’t address in our planned questions. What else do they want to tell us about their experience or desire to work at this organization.

        Behavior questions can uncover a lot that just focusing on skills doesn’t. Granted, in library world soft skills count for a lot. During the height of the 50 Shades craze one of my go-to questions was, ‘Would you check out this book to a 15 year old?’ They had the chance to elaborate on why or why not. I was shocked at the number of degreed librarians that said, “No.” Asking about Sandra Brown’s “Riley In The Morning” would get a “Yes”. (If you don’t know this book it’s basically sex scenes with a little bit of filler around them.)

        They could have stellar references, but this behavioral question usually put them in the “No” column.

    4. Emmy Noether*

      I think it can go both ways, though I believe the scripted questions are on average better for DEI.

      Let me elaborate: scripted questions need to be very well designed for it to work really well, yes. Clear, but with enough room for different experiences. With the freestyle interviews, the thing is that the interviewer has to have diversity at the forefront of their mind and work really hard at overcoming their own biases. It’s harder than one would think, and the peope who believe they don’t have biases are actually the worst.

      So if you have an average interviewer, the set questions are better, unless they are really terribly designed. Only exceptionally good interviewers can do better freestyle. The set questions and scorecards make people have to justify their “vibes”. Most people won’t say their biases out loud, so it can make them think. The exceptionally good interviewer can probably work the set questions well too.

      So to me, the order of what works best is:
      1) exceptionally good interviewer freestyle
      2) really good set of questions
      3) middling set of questions
      4) middling interviewer
      5) bad set of questions
      6) bad interviewer.

      I know everyone thinks they’re 1 (like everyone thinks they’re a good driver), but most are really 4. So I’d prefer to go with 3, which is as likely to occur, but works better.

      1. Smithy*

        At best, I am an average interviewer. I’ve not had to do it a lot as a hiring manager specifically, so usually when I am – it’s as being part of a panel.

        What I’ve found most interesting about those contexts, is that you’ll see an interesting mix of people who’s interviewed well before but are awkward but overall well-spoken during the panel. Or someone very charismatic on the panel, but more middling answers. People who have a more formal style vs people who have a more naturalistic vibe (quality of answers from both can end up all over the place).

        While taking all of this in – I’m not really able to think of amazing next questions. Sure, sometimes an answer will stick out that demands some kind of follow-up, but more often than not I’m spending my time during their answer processing the response. I am just not a good enough interviewer to take that information and formulate another question.

      2. Emotional Support Robin*

        There are also ways to set up rubrics and write evaluations that will reduce unconscious bias.

        The place I did interviewing was very clear about each of the things we should be looking for. For example, they the question “Rate how well candidate would fit in the company culture” with “Rate candidate on these three core values of the company”. Not surprisingly, the first question just rewarded people similar to those already employed at the company.

        Also, evaluations were all in gender-neutral language, since that was shown to reduce gender discrimination.

    5. Skippy*

      “This is because it eliminates the ability to ask questions that allow candidates to explain why they are excellent for the role despite coming from different backgrounds, and thus interview differently, or have different experience, etc.”

      I’m not sure I understand how a scripted interview prevents you from doing this. You just have to craft your questions carefully.

      1. ferrina*

        That’s just it- you need to be very skilled in crafting questions. Unbiased questions are a lot harder to write than people think (i.e., think of the racially biased standardized test questions). There are whole teams of people that literally write questions professionally and have specialized education (graduate-level) in question design. I know someone who wrote questions for the U.S. Census, and it took her team months to design and test the questions (they also test the questions to make sure it’s read the same way consistently and there isn’t a cultural bias in interpretation of the questions).

        Safe to say, a lot of hiring managers don’t have that kind of expertise.

      2. Eldritch Office Worker*

        What I have found is that when you have a script people don’t feel empowered to ask followup questions, which is where that nuance often comes in. What it really comes down to is training interviewers well – which most places aren’t doing.

      3. I am Emily's failing memory*

        I think they’re talking about some of the especially rigid processes we’ve sometimes heard about in the comments here, where it literally has to be verbatim the same question for each candidate and no follow-ups are allowed.

        My organization doesn’t make us use a standard list of questions, but I always make a list of pertinent interview questions ahead of time and then tailor that list to the specific details on their resume, mostly in ways that make the interview feel more conversational and demonstrate that I’ve actually read their resume/cover letter, but where the core question is the same across all candidates. E.g.:

        Basic question: Y and Z are often constraints on our work here. Walk me through the steps you would take to complete Task X, given constraints Y and Z.

        Variants:
        * I saw you have experience with Task X, but it looks like you haven’t had to deal with constraints Y and Z before. Here, you would be dealing with those constraints a lot of the time. Walk me through how you would approach Task X if you were constrained by Y and Z.
        * You mentioned in your cover letter that you have a lot of experience working within constraints Y and Z, which is great, because those are frequently key concerns for our work. Walk me through your approach to Task X under those conditions.

        In each case I’m asking them to walk me through the same scenario and providing the context that the scenario is one the role they’re applying for would have to deal with a lot. But tailoring it a little bit like this it shows respect by demonstrating that I read the application documents they spent time putting together, which helps with building rapport in the interview. I don’t hire for public-facing or high-pressure roles generally speaking, so it’s always one of my chief goals in an interview to try to put candidates as much at ease as I can, to try to minimize the extent to which a well-qualified candidate being nervous might cause them to tank the interview, when it’s unlikely anything on the job would cause them as much nervousness.

    6. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

      My current job interview asked ONLY “a time when” questions. Three people taking turns asking me the questions I hate most. Not one about anything on my resume. I asked recently about that, was told they could get that info from my references. I don’t think that’s a great way to handle choosing new employees.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Can you say more about this? I would answer “a time when” question with things from my resume, so I’m not sure what you mean.

        1. Allonge*

          Not Admiral Thrawn but behavioral questions already require giving some context in the answer so that it makes sense. Most of the time there is not enough time to add ‘at this point I was doing X job at Y place for 3 years and had a chance to practice Z with the W team’ or anything that helps show off about the good aspects of your resume. Not my skills in managing difficult people but that I did it for years at a place that is famous for managing this well.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            If it’s that important to highlight, I wouldn’t cut it from my answer for the sake of being brief. I absolutely find opportunities to highlight my strengths, even if I have to shoehorn it in as a pivot from the answer to a related question, or raise it at the end when they ask about my questions. If it’s information that really makes a strong case for you as a candidate, no reasonable interviewer is going to care that you shoehorned it in or used question time to bring it up; they’re going to be glad you gave them useful information.

            1. Allonge*

              Of course, but if you do this at all or most behavioral questions, you will come across as someone who has no focus. So there is a very limited number of things you can mention like this.

    7. ferrina*

      What about having someone at the company who is a skilled interviewer assist with the interviews? We had someone on my team who did that informally- she was soooo good at teasing out strengths and weaknesses from a candidate (I should add that she’s a professional moderator). She was asked to sit in on every interview our dept did, even if it wasn’t on her team. In an hour long interview, she was slotted for 10 minutes, and that was all she needed.

      What made her so good was that she could forge a connection to anyone. Most interviewers either made an instant connection or not, and if not, the rest of the interview would be awkward and stilted (not bringing out the best in the candidate, and the interviewer would walk away feeling “meh, they weren’t great”). But she could take an awkward conversation, ask a key question, and suddenly our team saw exactly how the candidate would fit. Sometimes it was finding a point of concern; sometimes it was uncovering a strength.

      I think it worked- we had the most diverse department in the company and produced great work.

    8. Governmint Condition*

      Government interviews work like this. We can ask follow-up questions that are based directly on the answers or ask for clarification. Every other question must be from the script. We do get to write the questions, which must be approved by HR. We ask a variety of question types, usually 10 questions for the interviews I am typically involved with. We do not score numerically.

    9. snarkfox*

      I think behavioral questions can, of course, be helpful… but taken alone and with no other consideration, you’re basically just prioritizing people who are good at thinking and answering on the spot–or even just blatantly making stuff up. Being able to come up with a really great answer on the spot doesn’t necessarily translate to what you need from an employee… unless you’re hiring people to answer questions on the spot, I guess!

  2. Just Want A Nap*

    “Missing Key Details in Meetings”
    …if you really suspect him doing non work related things during meetings, have a trusted coworker walk behind him if possible to see what’s on his screen.
    We caught one guy staring at musical instruments all day in a field that that’s just not that relevant.

    Sometimes people have issues with processing auditory information, so it’s not getting “noted” properly in his head. That can sometimes be helped by sending out written notes in a follow up email.

    1. M*

      I have ADHD and I’m waiting on an autism eval as well. My auditory processing is moderately affected by it. It really helps if meetings with agendas (or TRAININGS) have something for me to refer to that’s guiding what’s happening, like a PowerPoint or a handout.

      A lot of the time I’m fine and other times people sound like Charlie Brown adults.

      I would also figure out a way to have the employee restate what the expectations are for him after the meeting, for whatever his follow up is. It’s a good way for people to process and internalize the info.

      1. Francis*

        I really felt for the person in this question – I seem to have similar issues, and your reply sounds like me, too. I think I used to be ok with verbal instructions, but in recent years I’ve really noticed at work that I can’t retain the key things I’ve been told without writing them down. I’m not sure if it’s a getting older thing (I’m 45), some kind of learning disability, or just a kind of cognitive or memory impairment from years of poor sleep/general stress/Covid…?
        It’s not from lack of effort to pay attention at the time – more like it just all gets jumbled in my working memory pretty quickly afterwards. I’m great at getting the work done once it’s written down. My manager still always gives me verbal instructions via a Teams call even though I’ve told her I find it much easier to have things in writing. Maybe I should find out more about ADHD.

        1. Myrin*

          I’ve always had a very strange memory – I’m SO BAD at retaining instructions at work, and during university, if you’d asked me while leaving a lecture hall what the lecture was about, I probably could’ve given you the general topic and some details I found particularly interesting but anything more than that? Forget it.
          OTOH, I have an excellent memory for all the trivia people tell me, or for how things work once I know them, or just really any kind of more-or-less useless information, or what people wore on a specific occasion, or for what people and things look like in general.

          I assume I have a mild form of ADHD (my sister has it confirmed and our mother probably has it, too) which is probably contributing to this issue more and more as I get older. But the thing is – and that’s what’s concerning me about OP’s employee here – that I know this about myself and actively do what I can to combat it. I’ll be starting a brand new job next week and I’ve already made my future boss aware that I’ll be needing to write down everything – that is the only thing that’s always worked for me; I might’ve forgotten everything about a lecture as soon as I stood up from my seat, but when I later sat down to review my notes, the information came back to me easily and I could go from there.

          1. London Calling*

            These are really interesting and helpful comments. I have always found it easier to process data if I write it down because if I rely on what I hear rather than what I’ve written I leave things out and forget them – hence the copious note taking so I can refer back. I even had an appraisal many years ago that said I seemed to have trouble remembering things I’d been told.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          I’d suggest asking to record the call or getting used to taking copious notes. My meeting notes sometimes look like a real-time transcript. A two monitor setup helps for this, but isn’t strictly necessary. In fact, if she’s annoyed by hearing all the typing as you write down everything she says, she might change her tact and start messaging you.

        3. Ellis Bell*

          Sometimes it’s a change in circumstances. I have ADHD but I was always fine in round table meetings where I was participating in every item. When I went into education it’s more of a “briefing” in lecture mode and I just cannot hold onto a single word, even things super relevant to my department because it’s mixed in with so much that’s not. I also simply can’t do 100 percent attentive listening without any break. They used to send out a written version of the points made later, which was massively helpful. Now they don’t because it’s something that isn’t helpful to everyone.

          1. Salsa Verde*

            I just cannot hold onto a single word, even things super relevant to my department *because it’s mixed in with so much that’s not*

            This really stood out to me because I feel like I have this problem as well, especially recently. I have been in this organization for a little over two years and it seems like the people I have worked most closely with, including my direct supervisor, cannot give a straight answer, they are constantly answering my clarifying questions with even more information, which obfuscates the message even more. I’m trying to figure out if I’ve lost the ability to parse information, or if they are filling in with more unnecessary information than I’m used to, or what. But I have a lot of trouble paying attention. I feel like this has worsened since I had Covid, and I’ve heard lots of people saying this – maybe this is a symptom of long Covid?

            1. Autumnheart*

              It is a symptom of long COVID, and executive dysfunction in general is a hallmark of so many things that everyone has been dealing with over the last several years.

            2. Al*

              I just read an article that there are several clinical studies investigating the use of low-dose naltrexone to treat the fatigue and brain fog of long COVID.

          2. As Per Elaine*

            It doesn’t need to be helpful to EVERYONE to be worthwhile!

            Now I’m annoyed on your behalf.

        4. King Friday XIII*

          When I was evaluated for ADHD as an adult, the screener mentioned that she mostly sees people at three points- early elementary, high school/college, and early to mid-40s, and the latter appears to be common because that’s another point in life where the coping strategies that have worked until now stop working, or you just don’t have the energy to maintain them anymore. So it’s possible that it’s both a getting-older-thing and an ADHD-thing, and could be worth looking into.

        5. Flash Packet*

          I don’t have ADHD or a learning disability, but I do juggle a ton of things so there’s always a lot going on in my head. Therefore, I open a blank Word doc every morning. If someone calls me (or I them) I type while talking. If I need to, I’ll ask them to hold on a sec while I finish writing something down.

          At the end of the day, any open items left on the Word doc get put into appropriate To-Do categories.

          Although I hated it at the time, I’m really grateful now that my high school had such limited elective options that I took Typing* three years in a row. Touch-typing FTW!

          *(On actual non-electric typewriters, complete with stacks of blank paper and replacement ink ribbons. And you had to reach up and physically move the carriage down a space and back to the right to start typing a new line.)

      2. Librarian of SHIELD*

        My favorite meetings/trainings are the ones where the facilitator prints out their PowerPoint in that format with the note taking lines next to the slides. That way, I have the slides themselves and also my own notes on the discussion of those slides and it’s super easy to refer back to later.

      3. Thistle Pie*

        The Charlie Brown adults! You just put into words what I experienced when my depression got really bad – I felt like meetings were happening around me but I was dissociating to the point where it was hard to make out what people were even saying.

      4. KoiFeeder*

        I’m a professional autistic, and the charlie brown adults thing is so true. I’m hearing the sounds, but actual meaning and language just slides off of my brain and puddles onto the floor.

    2. Chilipepper Attitude*

      You are in a meeting, they talk about details of a process, you leave the meeting and THEN give your employee a task and part of it was discussed in the meeting. Have I got that right?

      I’m wondering if it is just not clear that the details matter until after the meetings. I don’t take in details of processes when they don’t relate to tasks I have to do. Like it’s good to have an overall idea of something but I’m not taking notes that would enable me to apply the info unless I know ahead of time that I need that level of detail. You are telling him after the meeting that the details of f the meeting were relevant.

      I mean, maybe it should be clear to the employee that the details all matter all the time, but that would not be clear to me from the context you gave.

      1. KateM*

        I was thinking similar – if possible, OP could assign that task to employee BEFORE that meeting where the details are discussed, instead of expecting the employee remembers all details of all possible tasks that could maybe in the future get assigned to him.

      2. SeeReeves*

        I was having the same thought. Does this employee know, walking into the meeting, what their area of responsibility is related to what is discussed? If yes, then even without knowing they’ll be assigned a task, they should still know what parts of the things discussed they should pay particular attention to because even without assigned tasks, they’re in the meeting for a reason (to know about and/or provide feedback/information on their area) and can pay more attention to and retain more information about that. But if they’re just in a meeting with no idea what in this meeting is going to be relevant to them, I can see how they might not retain all the details about everything just in case something ends up relevant to them.

      3. NotRealAnonforThis*

        Definitely similar thoughts. Is your employee also newer to the company and/or field?

        First couple years in my field, the worst possible recipe for failure was:
        1. Meeting with zero agenda prior
        2. Assign highly technical task hours post meeting by verbal direction.
        3. Wonder why I didn’t know that the widgets were a requirement for the floozag process when we’d only discussed one or the other in the “Charlie Brown Adults” meeting.
        4. Wonder why I couldn’t do the task well.

        1. Panda*

          This really hits home for me. I am in a new job and I struggle to pick up the details because I am not familiar with the company/work. At my previous company, I knew the work inside and out and since I was very familiar with our business model, the processes, and our products, I could pick up what I needed easily and do the work quickly. At my new company, which is 100x+ larger than my previous company, I am struggling to understand and pick up what I need in meetings. I sometimes completely misunderstand what I’m to do and it’s embarrassing. I am a 50 year old woman with a previously successful career behind me. Ugh.

          1. Salsa Verde*

            I totally feel this, and as a fellow woman of a certain age, I wish you the best here – it’s scary to be in a new job, and then have the added pressure of being worried that any normal mistakes you might make are not attributed to being new, but to being a woman of a certain age. I have the same issue – I am struggling mightily to understand and get what I need out of meetings.

          2. Autumn*

            I remember an all staff meeting when I first started as a nurse for a head start program(early childhood education for disadvantaged populations) They introduced or were retraining certain classroom management theory and at the end of the meeting I said to my immediate boss, “someone please explain that in ‘nurse-speak’ I’m lost as to how any of that applies to my role?” She laughed and said “All you have to do is respond if you see kids about to have a problem.”

            Some work places ought to hand out a glossary to all new hires!

        2. Butterfly Counter*

          This is what I was wondering.

          I worked as a temp for several summers and being dropped in a new professional environment every few months meant there was a real learning curve as to the context of a whole new vocabulary.

          Yes, I was told that when there were 3 indicators vs. 2, I should save 3 paper copies vs. two, but had I been told that this was because a copy was sent to everyone indicated, I would have retained that a whole lot quicker! A meeting about the minutiae of the TPS report was all just trumpet sounds to me because I didn’t have a working knowledge of where and how that information was being used. Therefore, if someone later asked me to tell them why it was decided that line item three should be rounded to the nearest tenth vs. the nearest hundredth, I’d have been completely at sea.

      4. Michelle Smith*

        Exactly what I was thinking. It took me a couple of weeks at my current job to realize that my boss wanted me to remember everything that happened in a meeting, because some of it might become relevant to me later or she might ask me about it. I am used to a world where I’m listening for things that are relevant to me and the tasks I’ve been given. I was not prepared to remember what John and Jane were supposed to be doing by when. It’s possible this employee needs to be explicitly told to take notes on everything, because any of it could become his problem post-meeting.

        1. DramaQ*

          Same! I am in a new job where the type of work I do is familiar but it is an entirely different field with it’s own entirely different rules and regulations.

          It has been frustrating and embarrassing at times because the company wouldn’t let me on board till the person I was replacing left.

          My manager hasn’t done the actual job in years. On top of that the person was with the company for like 20 years. They forget that I haven’t and don’t remember till they get annoyed I miss a detail.

          I’ve pointed out I don’t know what questions to ask if I don’t know anything about the procedure. That this box on the sheet is Uber important in this one particular situation is something you need to tell me in that situation. Not in the first two weeks amid a 30 minute training conversation and then expect that I retained it five months later when nobody told me that was critical.

          At least they usually recognize they are doing that and when I say something they work on communicating better with me.

          Not everyone is good at retaining everything. If I’m walking through the process I’ll retain all you said. You Segway into a different topic, go back to current task and never mention the Segway again I won’t retain it. I need to be prompted.

          I’d prompt the employee beforehand that you need to retain X Y and Z and see if they follow through first. Some people just don’t learn and absorb sitting in meetings just listening to people blather for 30 minutes plus.

      5. ecnaseener*

        I was thinking the same thing. If it’s not possible to anticipate before the meeting what the task might be, I would at least have LW specifically name that for the employee – “things often come up in these meetings that our team needs to take care of and which I want to assign to you, so listen/take notes with that in mind, anything in these meetings could be relevant to a task for you”

      6. KGD*

        This is a great point! I’m a teacher who works one-on-one with students with ADHD and Learning Disabilities (and I have ADHD myself), and one strategy I often suggest is to read the assignment BEFORE you read the context. Kids doing a reading comprehension task should read the questions before they read the passage so they know what they are looking for.

        If it’s possible, maybe OP could try to give this employee some sense of the task before the meeting? If that isn’t possible, they could have a few coaching meetings where they talk about the kind of tasks that might get assigned and the kind of context the employee should be listening for. I would also ask how the employee is taking/organizng their notes to see if better system might help. I’m a big fan of the Cornell Method for work meetings, and I always organize my notes afterwards. They could also record the meetings and listen back later for relevant context, but that takes forever and lots of people never get around to it.

        Regardless, I bet this will get better over time as the employee has more knowledge and context about the role.

      7. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        And if someone is new, it may not actually be obvious what the key things are. They don’t have all the background information and context to have a sense of what’s vital and what isn’t.

    3. Admiral Thrawn Is Always Blue*

      I started my admin assistant job three months ago, and I’m having a lot of trouble processing the very complex info I get. I try to keep up but my brain just isn’t processing and/or retaining a lot of it. It’s a highly technical field. I had 17 years of experience as an admin before this, but this job is really kicking me in the rear a lot of days. I haven’t found a solution yet.

    4. learnedthehardway*

      I CANNOT remember anything I haven’t written down. Doesn’t matter how vital the information is. My memory is crap.

      I am wondering whether this employee is actively taking notes during the meetings. If not, he should be.

      Personally, I take copious notes, and come back to them later to review. I highlight the stuff that is important. Might write a summary of what is expected.

      When I was a junior consultant, my managers used to say my notes were too detailed, but I have found that (in fact), my written record tends to be far more accurate than their own memories of what transpired, and I don’t get information mixed up.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        Hard same. I have to write everything down because my memory is crap. And all the stress of an ongoing pandemic is Not Helping.

        And yeah, my notes and/or the meeting minutes are regularly pretty helpful at reminding decision-makers what we decided or what tasks they committed to. These days, it’s a constant problem of people freaking out because they are learning about something for the first time, even though we discussed it thoroughly at a meeting they attended 2 months prior. Good times for everyone.

      2. Bit o' Brit*

        I have the incredibly helpful combination of seriously crap memory that retains almost nothing that wasn’t written down, and complete inability to concentrate on someone speaking while I’m writing. Both tasks use the language processing part of my brain, and it can only do one (slow) thing at a time. Information-heavy meetings are tough, I generally have to hope that a key word or two that I manage to jot down before it evaporates is enough for me to reverse-engineer my tasks.

    5. ecnaseener*

      FWIW I think when LW said “second screening” they meant doing work-related tasks. Zoom meeting on one screen, checking email or whatever on the second screen. (The term also makes me think these are virtual meetings…who brings two screens to an in-person meeting?) Anyway, maybe this should be less about ~catching him in the act~ and more about prompting him to make whatever changes he needs to make to retain more information. (I don’t even want to say “get rid of distractions” because I often need a low-level distraction like a sudoku or a fidget or whatever to help me pay attention to the main event.)

      1. SparkyMcdragon*

        OP for question 2 here. These are primarily zoom meetings and that is what I meant by second screening. Appreciate all the feedback above from folks transitioning to new roles in different organizations because that is what’s going on here. I can’t prep him for tasks ahead of time because frequently they crop up in the meeting as a surprise due to the nature of our clients frequently changing processes and just the ever fluctuating nature of the project. This is also a PM role with many meetings with many different stakeholders and collaborators and there’s an expectation that he shouldn’t need daily check-ins and post-mortems after every single meeting. Appreciate the advice about key takeaways above as I think I can use that on a specific aspect of the project.

        1. Smithy*

          In addition to this, I also wonder if this is a case of someone on a new job who hasn’t yet figured out the information that you think is actually really important from a meeting and for these projects?

          I’m having a case with a coworker – peer on another team, so don’t have any direct management lines which has made these issues linger. Anyways, the basic problem is that in practice he ends up lying/giving bad information about work that our department works on. As these lies really are just making him look poorly, my boss and I have finally come to a place where it’s clear information, context and definitions that are technical and really important to the decisions we make, are not that important to him.

          Essentially it’s the equivalent of asking someone how many eggs there are in the fridge, and being told 5-6 eggs. Then when you’re at the fridge you either have 10 or 2. To him, this isn’t a lie because he was right about there being eggs in the fridge and didn’t see the point of checking to get the exact count. But to me the difference between 2 eggs, 6 eggs, or 10 eggs results in different decision making and erodes trust is someone being an effective professional contributor.

          When I’ve had this happen with someone I’m managing, I do think getting their view on the most important take aways are helpful. I’d also add that there are probably ways to coach them on the information you’re looking for before you get to meetings. Obviously, you won’t always know what will come up – but if there’s a list of the top 5 or 10 issues to potentially catch as immediate/medium/long term issues. That may be helpful.

        2. A Program Manager*

          Since the OP clarified this was a PM role, this whole scenario with the employee is problematic. Even if the employee does have a learning disability or auditory processing disorder or something, they may consider rethinking their line of work (especially if they know they have this disorder and they’re getting treatment / accommodations). PM work is not for everyone – it is a requirement of the job for a PM to be able to listen, pick up key points, document and share them, and be able to summarize and communicate concisely across all levels of an organization. Your job is to be organized and to ask questions to gather the context when/if you don’t understand. The not asking questions or understanding context thing is more forgivable if they are new or are new to the workforce (it’s not clear if this is an entry-level person who could benefit from coaching or if this is a more senior person who should really know better and is just not doing a good job). Maybe this employee was misled by the job description or the hiring manager did a poor job in screening / selecting candidates, so I’m not about to place all blame on this person, but I’m concerned this employee isn’t in the right job.

          1. gyrfalcon17*

            There was a letter awhile ago where someone new to the organization seemed to be doing badly at their PM job. But I’m the comments it came out that PM can mean vastly different things in different organizations. So it wasn’t clear then if the person was bad at being a PM, vs. hadn’t grasped that this PM job had a very different job than their previous PM job.

            OP, is your employee clear on what PM means at your company? Can you talk to them about what might be different from their last company?

      2. Actually has APD*

        I think LW2 needs to look at how the meetings are structured. A lot of what they describe in their employee does sound like an auditory processing issue, but of course we don’t know for sure. I have auditory processing disorder (and a lot of ADHD like symptoms) and in a lot of jobs I can look like I’m falling apart, seem confused, etc. I can’t listen and take notes at the same time, because my brain simply cannot keep up with listening, interpreting in my head, and typing or writing it down fast enough. I can’t listen and figure out the context of what’s important, so if the meeting is a huge discussion and I’m just supposed to know what to work on, your gonna get bad work out of me. It feels to me like this might also be what’s happening with the employee.

        I find a recap of action items at the end of a meeting to be incredibly helpful. The employee will have a set list of what needs to be done and if they’re still confused they can ask questions.

        I did a huge presentation at a conference once that was centered around my APD. More people than you may think have trouble processing information. Always err on the side of clarity.

      3. Observer*

        Anyway, maybe this should be less about ~catching him in the act~ and more about prompting him to make whatever changes he needs to make to retain more information.

        Very much this. I think that the OP is on the same page, as they say “I’m not sure if he’s second-screening, bad at listening, or bad at contextualizing disparate collections of spoken information, and I’m not sure I need to know — I just need him to fix it” They also say ‘Any advice on how to approach this without saying “I think you’re a bad listener, do better”?‘ In other words, they are asking how to fix the problem not “catch” him in a misdeed.

    6. RIP Pillow Fort*

      If they’re remote it’s going to be hard to do that. Unclear if that’s the case but that’s something that could be at play.

      Ultimately naming the problem directly is the way to go. We have had this issue with employees. We hire a lot of new grads and the transition from university to working can be rough for them. There’s a lot less of a support structure that can mask problems. We need to know whether there are specific things that can be reasonably done to ensure that happens. And if they can’t retain information (and we have had employees that struggle with it despite robust attempts to help them) then this job may not be a good fit for them.

      But the employee also needs to figure out how to manage this problem on their end because it’s a two-way street. I have ADHD and have struggled with information retention, especially during lectures, all my life. I had to develop coping skills very early on to make up for it. Note taking (especially on an agenda/powerpoint) helps me because I visually process information better than just listening. Also I do really well when meetings are engaging (like status or development meetings) because I have a defined role and pre-defined responsibilities.

      1. Joanna*

        I’m with RIP Pillow Fortress on this. Name the problem and set expectation for your employee, but ultimately I think the solution lies within the employee. I have learning disabilities and probably an audio processing disorder, and I was fortunate to get private help managing them in grade school. I know I have to take notes, I know I can’t multitask with another screen and process what I’m hearing. And, at the end of the day, I’m the only one who knows how my brain works, and I’m the only one that can figure out tricks to make it work the way it needs to.
        One thing I do think you can do is help your employee to understand the big picture. It’s a lot easier to remember something that’s connected to something else you know. I’ve seen a few mentions in the comments about context, and I agree, assuming it’s possible.

        On the other hand, we have someone in my work group who just does not seem to be able to “get it” and it’s been several years, and I’m tired of having to go back and explain things I’ve already explained to him. He takes notes, he repeats things back to me, and yet non of it sticks. Some jobs just aren’t for some people, not matter how hard you work to make things easy.

        1. bicality*

          “Some jobs just aren’t for some people..” it’s true!

          We had an employee that stayed a little less than a year. Their job required them to be able to hear something, pick up key points and draw conclusions, and then create something based on what they heard/understood in accordance with the goals of the org. They missed the mark on nearly every project, requiring extensive revisions and people finding workarounds to avoid asking this person to do their job. People were frustrated with the employee, the employee was frustrated with them, and I was in the middle trying to coach this skill that was inherently not going to improve.

          It was a long year of trying different solutions to improve their work product – implementing a request form system, them taking copious notes, 1:1 meetings after every group meeting, me (as their supervisor) sitting in on meetings with them and others to make sure they heard what I heard. It didn’t improve, they were put on a PIP, and they quit before it was up. I don’t think they were a bad employee or unskilled in their profession, but how we needed them to work wasn’t something they were equipped to do. They ended up taking a job at a place with a ticket system to perform tasks in a less creative, more prescriptive way, and as far as I know they are thriving.

    7. ferrina*

      I had an employee who was like this. She would just miss key details in any communication. It was a big problem, because she was supposed to lead client projects. She didn’t see any issues in her own performance. At one point she even accused me of not giving her key information! It turned out she had all the emails where the info had come through, she just couldn’t see the info. It wasn’t in a bullet; it was a client email written in a conversational tone and she needed exact bullets and action items in order to understand what was needed. But her role was to read unstructured communications and turn them into action items.

      At the end of the day, sometimes the necessary accommodations just can’t be made. She couldn’t manage client projects/communications and also need me to read through everything- that was a huge burden on the business. State the facts- the issue and the business impact- and let the employee figure out the cause and get the accommodations he needs. He might insist that he’s just fine and it’s just that around him is bad at communicating….but that’s on him to figure out a solution, not on you. (back to the mantra: You can’t be more invested in his job than he is)

    8. Autumnheart*

      Not paying attention in a meeting is one thing (with many caveats, as noted by several people), but frankly, I don’t think it’s a good idea in any case to give instructions for a task verbally in a meeting, without any follow-up or “summary of action items”, as one might say in corporate-speak.

      TONS of people can’t remember everything that was discussed in a meeting, for tons of reasons. Don’t depend on verbal instruction and memory for critical information sharing. Write it down. Each meeting should have an agenda and a designated note-taker if these discussion topics are that important.

      1. Francis*

        These responses have really helped me feel better about my own difficulty retaining verbal-only information or instructions (see my comment upthread). Several people saying they feel it is unreasonable for a manager to rely on verbal only where there is complex or detailed info that they need to communicate. There is also the aspect of having a paper trail in case there is an issue down the line. Call it documentation!

        1. StillInStats*

          But someone has to retain that complex or detailed information in order to transition it from verbal to written. That has to be someone’s job. Since OP2’s employee is in a project management position, that person is… well, them.

          I always communicate that kind of information or task instructions via email, as much for my own reference as for my reports’. I also write things down, because I don’t always retain verbal information that well either. But when you’re talking about meetings, sometimes complex and detailed information is discussed, and action needs to be taken on that information, and there’s really no way around it.

      2. Allonge*

        The thing is, meetings are for discussions and sharing info that do work for a lot of people; if managed well they save time and alliw for interaction that an email does not. Taking notes and getting them approved and distributed costs time and money that may not be readily available. It’s not inherently unreasonable to expect people to come to a meeting and go away with the information shared there (like, ~80% of it).

        It’s of course unreasonable to expect someone with an auditory processing issue to do this. But that may just mean that this guy cannot do this job – not all accommodations are reasonable.

      3. Joanna*

        This would never work in my job. We are expected to take verbal directions during meetings and we are expected to figure out how the discussion in the meeting impacts us and take action. However, I went into my job description, and it pretty much lays that out upfront. It discusses being able to utilize information from various formats and outlines the need to be able to process information and draw conclusions from it. We get paid well to do it, so I don’t think this requirement is reasonable if it’s not explicitly called out. So, I actually agree with you Autumheart.

      4. ferrina*

        Many of my meetings have an informal agenda and no note-taker. It would be burdensome to require that for every meeting. For meetings that are deeply complex or have a lot of components, yes, but not every meeting. Sometimes individuals need to apply their own strategies that they need (I’m ADHD, so I’ve got a ton of strategies I need to apply- I’ll ask for my colleague’s help, but ultimately I’m responsible for my success)

        If there is no note taker, do a summary at the end of the meeting. “Okay, so my take-aways are that I’m going to draft the kitten scarf design- we want a striped pattern- then Halima will review the design and select the color palette and yarn. Is that right?”

    9. Observer*

      if you really suspect him doing non work related things during meetings, have a trusted coworker walk behind him if possible to see what’s on his screen.

      Do NOT do that. The last thing you need is to get coworkers involved in general. And having a coworker walk behind him to see what he is doing is not likely to give you any real information. If the coworker DOES see something it is also highly unlikely to be relevant.

    10. Sharon*

      OP should also consider whether they are giving the employee the appropriate context ahead of time so they know what to zero in on. Is the purpose of the meeting to give them background they’ll need to write the manual on the new llama grooming process or is it just to meet the llama groomers? I would approach those two situations very differently.

    11. Curmudgeon in California*

      I have ADD, plus I’ve had a TBI and a stroke. I have a sieve for a memory.

      If I hear stuff in meetings, it’s about 50:50 if I’ll remember it. If I’m taking notes, I’ll only remember what’s in the notes, and if people talk too fast I won’t get everything into the notes.

      If you want me to have the data, I need it in writing, preferably notes from both myself and someone else.

      Spewing necessary information rapidly in meetings just means I have to come back to you for information that didn’t stick in memory, which will be at least half. Put it in an email or chat or something.

      I hate it when people do rapid info dumps verbally then expect you to remember it all and then act on it. It activates one of the most frustrating weaknesses I have that I can’t do a thing about.

    12. snarkfox*

      I have ADHD, and I learned in college that the best way for me to listen is to be doing something mindless at the same time, like playing Tetris. This is because, if I’m just sitting there staring at the person talking, my brain doesn’t shut up about random things. But if I can be at least slightly distracted from my brain chatter, then I can actually listening.

      Unfortunately, playing Tetris is not socially acceptable to do in lectures or in work meetings.

  3. Jessica*

    “Ticking the right boxes” and resulting in a numeric score also does not sound like LW3’s company is using the behavioral questions in the way Alison would, as an opener to then be able to dig in further to whatever example situation they come up with. It sounds they’ve taken something that was meant to be a thoughtful, revealing conversation with the candidate and made it formulaic. Like, let’s simplify interviewing (with this one weird trick!) rather than actually improve our interviewing skills.

    1. LittleMarshmallow*

      Hmm, we use the grid score system with the behavioral questions. It’s helpful when you’re doing sort of marathon interviews with multiple interviewers, multiple interviewees, and over a couple weeks. If done in the spirit it’s supposed to be it can be pretty effective (some of the worst hires I’ve seen were where we let one person go rogue instead of following the process and choose someone that no one else thought was a good idea and didn’t grid well). I suppose it’s like that with any process… if followed well as a guideline it works well, if done to letter of law or with complete disregard then it doesn’t.

      Hiring is tough.

      1. Cookie*

        “Grid well,” like they’re trying to stuff their round human head into a cube-shaped box. This is why, unlike Alison, I do not love behavioral interviews. The behavioral questions always feel like a pop quiz: did you guess which “time when” scenario you’d be ask to tell about? The answer always seems contrived, and it reduces a three-dimensional person into their ability to fit into some standardized grid. Whether I’m the interviewer or the interviewee, it’s just uncomfortable and I can’t wait for that segment to be over so we can talk about experiences, teams, tasks, projects, etc.

        When I’m interviewing candidates, I like to let them open with their pitch, then ask deeper questions about their resume, and I find that these lead naturally to real stories of real experiences. Whether the person “grids” well or not. My employer does require we ask those weird, stilted questions, but not only those questions.

        1. Bubba*

          Pop quiz is a perfect way of describing how those behavioral interview questions. Oh no! Did I spend too much time studying for “tell me about a time when you had to deal with a difficult co-worker” and not enough time reviewing “tell me about a time when you had to convince your boss to adopt one of your ideas”. A lot of times I KNOW I have examples from so many years of work experience but, nothing really specific or noteworthy stands out during the interview if it’s not a question I “studied for”. So I end up giving, not really a fake answer but, a scenario that is an amalgamation of different similar scenarios I have faced over the years because I don’t recall exact details. I’m sure this comes off as making stuff up, even when I’m not trying to do that but, at least I don’t say “I can’t think of a really good specific example, I didn’t think this would be on the test!”

          1. Cringing 24/7*

            Oh, my goodness – YES! This is exactly what it feels like! It’s so nice to have this little validation of my slight feelings of annoyedness surrounding these questions!

  4. LittleMarshmallow*

    #3 have you been on interview panels or are you hearing this from others? It matters only because your impression may not be correct if you’re just hearing it from others. My company also uses exclusively Behavioral Based Questions in interviews and uses grid scoring so it may look like that’s the only thing considered but It’s definitely not the only consideration even though those are the only questions we ask (grid assessments usually lead to good discussions about each candidate among the interviewers). By us, good interviewers can use those question to get way deeper than the resume.

    While I’d say with inexperienced interviewers sometimes these questions are clumsy, I agree that the intent is generally to level the playing field so that everyone is getting the same questions so I get it. I’ve been in team interviews where my partner insisted on going off-script for all of the interviews and it is very interesting how quickly biases come out that are clearly based on appearance/ culture/ and other demographic items and not actual skills. So I do find that the very scripted questions do help with that.

    If I interview candidates that are newer to the workforce and may not have a lot of experience in answering these, I do ask follow up and sometimes slightly leading questions. I’m not really giving them an advantage, I’m just trying to make sure they understand what’s being asked so that I get a real answer. I’m less helpful with candidates that are interviewing for higher positions where I’d expect them to know or have prepared for it.

    I hope this explanation from my perspective helps some.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      Your process sounds thorough and I’m guessing you check references. The OP says they don’t do that, which makes no sense at all.

    2. bamcheeks*

      This is normal for most large-scale recruitment and large organisations in the UK too. (Although we call them competency-based questions, not behavioural.) I’m very familiar with graduate schemes, where organisations could be sorting hundreds or even thousands of applications and recruiting tens or hundreds. In that situation, you have to ensure a consistent application, interview and assessment process, because you have a whole team of people doing the assessment and you need to be able to compare people on a scale.

      Most large organisations rely on competency-based questions for other types of hiring too because it creates the most consistent and transparent experience for candidates. It can be frustrating, of course, and it is still biased towards people who perform well in that particular format, but I think that’s true of all hiring practices. And there is pretty strong research showing that it’s the most effective way of identifying best-fit candidates when it’s done properly– which means that the organisation has properly-trained hiring managers who have thought carefully about the skills and knowledge needed in the job and chosen questions that adequately seek for those qualities.

      1. Skippy*

        Behavioral based interviews are a great way to get at transferable skills, which opens doors to non-traditional candidates or people with imperfect resumes. It’s so much more useful to get at how someone would approach a problem, rather than grilling someone about whether they spent their time “productively” during the six months they were out of work last year.

  5. Linda Pinda*

    Ohhh OP 1: Please do NOT ask to move your desk to sit by your friends. It will really NOT reflect well on you – especially being so new, without really having established yourself, and so young. Rightly or wrongly, new and young employees can gain an extra poor reputation.
    What can you do to be able to successfully work where you are now? Chat function like Alison said? Meeting up before work, at lunch, at breaks? Listen to music or a podcast if I need something to listen to?

    1. Beth*

      I think this is pretty harsh! It’s not an inherently unreasonable request, and presentation is going to make all the difference here. Phrasing it as “can I move desks so I can chat with my friends all day?” would definitely come off badly, but “I’d prefer to be closer to my core team if possible, is there any chance I could change desks?” might not get a second thought beyond a yes/no on whether it’s feasible. OP1 is going to need to think about how she can make a work-relevant case for this, but I bet there is a plausible narrative out there.

      1. Allonge*

        I don’t know – it’s not inherently unreasonable (we would all rather be happier than not) but the only motivation OP seems to have is the better chatting and that is never ever guaranteed in any job, certainly not long term. People come and go, you get someone who asks to tone it down because they cannot focus with all the chitchat going on, your friendly coworkers (or you) get promoted… in any mid-sized org there is absolutely no stability on who is around you.

        So it’s incredibly easy to interpret this as a pretty bad misunderstanding of how work works. And even if OP looks for another job, there is next to no way to screen for this until you are in a job.

        1. English Rose*

          “…there is next to no way to screen for this until you are in a job.”
          Yes exactly, the next place could be just the same.
          I know OP says they don’t have much interaction with their current coworkers, but I wonder if they’ve tried. It could be that some friendly questions about weekend etc could begin to build relationships with their current desk neighbours.

        2. StillInStats*

          This is a really good point. OP, not all jobs are chatty places. Not all co-workers are chatty co-workers. If your need to have a talkative workplace is so strong that you will literally quit your job if you can’t spend significant amounts of time socializing, you’re going to self-select right out of things like (many if not most) office jobs and a stable employment history.

          Maybe you need a different line of work. I don’t know what kinds of jobs have “socialize, 75% time” written into the job description but I know they exist, and one of them might be a better fit for you.

      2. Artemesia*

        If it can possibly be phrased so that the person would be sitting next to people whom they need to interact to do the job, this would be the way to go. ‘My core team’ ‘I find I need to consult Sue and Frieda on the TPS report throughout the day and sitting in their area makes that easier’ If the OP cannot do this then she needs to wait till she has the new manager and can make her mark before making the request.

        1. Venus*

          This is my thought too. It doesn’t even have to be the team, it can be someone who is generally helpful. When someone new started shortly after me, I offered to guide them because I knew how to map the printer and do all the new things, unlike our bosses who hadn’t worried about it for years. Requesting a move to increase productivity and get better mentorship should be a positive.

          1. Smithy*

            Giving the OP the benefit of the doubt that she’s not being inappropriately/overly chatting – this is actually something that came to mind and where being only 5 months on the job may work in their favor. Saying that as part of their onboarding Team Members ABC and XYZ had been helpful in sharing the company’s overall ways of working, are available to troubleshoot quick bureaucratic questions, etc.

            I totally get that going from having some regular social interaction to having zero can make a work environment relatively unpleasant. But I do think there might be some onboarding ways of framing it to accurately represent the professional and personal plusses.

        2. High Score!*

          We’re only seeing OP1’s side of this. She may have been seated away from her work friends bc they found her distracting and were too polite to say anything or maybe her manager saw her as a distraction and seated her with quieter workers who were less open to conversation.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            This occurred to me too. I would like more information on why things got “shuffled around” to begin with.

            If this is the case, OP might need to recalibrate their expectation on working in an office.

            As someone who is also extroverted and chatty – it’s very possible OP does not have a sense of how much they’re actually talking. They say “It wasn’t so much talking that I wouldn’t get my work done” – but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t keeping other people from getting work done or otherwise causing a disturbance.

            1. ferrina*

              Exactly. I love chatting at work- so much so that being social and approachable is now part of my job description :) But early in my career I had to be told a couple times that my chatting was distracting. I now work remotely and have other outlets for my chatting- I have regular coffee meetings with coworkers, grab lunch with them, IM with them, and when I’m in office, stop by desks once a week to just chat (don’t do more than that- it will get distracting).

              If you need social interaction that much, look for jobs that require that- client relations, project managers or anything that’s responsible for liaising.

              1. A Program Manager*

                I actually did change jobs to project / program management because I needed way more social interaction than I was getting as a spreadsheet monkey working as an analyst. I love it!

            2. Goody*

              I’ll preface this by saying I’m a much older worker than LW1 and clearly have very different (and much less flexible) office experiences than many younger workers.

              No, you cannot “just move your desk”. Your boss needs to be able to find you without wandering the cubicles to hunt down where you’re sitting today. Your phone has to be mapped to your location. Your computer access may also be tied to a specific station. All of these required advance planning before this reorganization.

              This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision by your bosses. This was a deliberate, planned shuffle, and you are not owed any explanation as to why this took place.

              Maybe your former pod was broken up because of disturbances to other workers. Maybe management thought you were becoming too much of a high school clique. Maybe this was done to foster more varied work relationships. The reality is, it ultimately doesn’t matter WHY your pod was broken up. This is how it is. And you can either work with it or not.

              Now, if you had a good relationship with your immediate supervisor, you might be able to work an off-handed “out of curiosity” framed question into another discussion. It does not sound like that’s the case here, so I would not recommend attempting that conversation. I personally think your best bet is to keep your head down, focus on your work first and on building relationships with your new pod second, and make sure that you aren’t the disruption that causes the next shake-up.

              1. ferrina*

                When you say the phone needs to be mapped, I assume you’re talking about a physical office phone. My last two jobs haven’t had a physical phone, but a virtual one instead (makes it easier to wfh/hybrid). I do not miss the days of physical office phones.

            3. Mallory Janis Ian*

              My former coworker (and still friend) was always very chatty, but she was one of those people who could get a TON of work done whether she was chatting or not. At an old job, she says that she was talked to by her manager for talking too much and keeping other people from getting their work done. All of her work was fine, but that of everyone around her wasn’t. I know when I worked with her, she could do even fidgety, detail-oriented work, to a high standard, while talking the whole time. I still don’t understand how she does it. Maybe she’s like Kelly Kapoor and just tunes herself out? I know if I’m talking that much, I can guarantee my work isn’t getting done.

          2. I prefer a quiet office*

            I think there’s a good chance OP was REALLY annoying the coworkers they previously sat with due to the constant chatter. And/or annoying the people sitting nearby who would be forced to overhear all the chatting.

            I used to share an office with three people I really liked and enjoyed chatting with in a social setting. But one of them would NOT stop talking and I couldn’t handle it. I really liked him socially but I couldn’t get my work done. In most offices constant chatter is not appreciated by a lot of people.

          3. e271828*

            This is what I thought. I wonder whether OP1 was being noisier and more distracting to others than they think, and the chat group has been broken up to enable everyone to get their work done. I wonder how many “little social moments” there were and how much “joking around” was happening.

            Read the room, OP1: it’s not the Kremlin, but if seating is shuffled like this, there is usually a reason. Your view of the workplace as a social outlet may not accord with your employers’, or some of your coworkers’, views.

        3. to varying degrees*

          But according to her letter, that’s not true. The only reason she wants to move is social. And truly it may not affect her work product but it might be affecting the work product of the other individuals.

          1. High Score!*

            According to *her* that’s not the case. Buy someone could’ve spoken with the manager or HR bc they didn’t want to offend her and, rather than telling hey they was an issue, they reseated her.

            1. to varying degrees*

              That’s my point. The LW states there is no business reason for doing this, purely social (and IMO one shouldn’t lie about it by saying it is needed for work).

              Overall this isn’t not going to be good optics for the LW: they haven’t been there that long to have any political capitol, they have already been moved once for whatever reason, they have a new boss who is somewhat removed (so no real relationship to fall back on). Asking to relocate for purely social reasons probably isn’t going to go over well.

            2. Velociraptor Attack*

              I think varying degrees is saying it’s not true that she needs to be seated next to them for work-related reasons and she only wants to move for the social aspect. They’re agreeing with you.

              1. Velociraptor Attack*

                And that’s what I get for responding without refreshing the page, this was already covered, sorry!

          2. qWERTYDFSOP0*

            I find it difficult to believe that OP’s chatting was so over-the-top and disruptive that it was worth rearranging the entire office over, but not worth her manager telling her to cut back on it. It doesn’t sound from the letter like she’s received any negative feedback on her level of socializing, so I’m guessing that the change in her environment was a side effect of an office shuffle, rather than the cause of it.

            And frankly, I’m not sure it matters if the reason OP gives for wanting to move is strictly true, as long as it’s plausible. That’s how navigating politics works sometimes–if the real reason (this is making me feel so isolated that I want to quit, it’s seriously impacting workplace satisfaction) isn’t

            1. qWERTYDFSOP0*

              Sorry, hit enter too soon! If the real reason isn’t something you feel like you can say, sometimes the easiest path is to find a true-but-not-really-the-main-reason justification for what you need. (Which in this case could be being closer to team members, needing a space that runs a little warmer or cooler, being closer to a mentor you communicate with frequently, being closer to the printer…there are a million things that might be true and useful but that OP might not be thinking of because they’re not on the scale of the real problem in her head.)

            2. StillInStats*

              I’d agree with you, but I think that if AAM teaches us anything it’s that having that sort of direct conversation with a problematic employee is very difficult for some managers, and escalating complaints to someone’s boss is difficult for a lot of employees. It’s possible – though not the most likely scenario – that her officemates just hit BEC status with her chatter and wanted her out of the office, and her manager just went along with their request and called the problem solved. I think that’s probably not what happened, but I don’t find it at all hard to believe that it might.

      3. Your Former Password Resetter*

        If the OP is genuinely more productive or better at their job when they’re around their friends, then that might be a good way to frame it. Don’t focus on the friends and chatting part, but the part where they’re more productive and focused on their job.

        1. Slow Gin Lizz*

          This is a good take. “I find I’m far more productive when there are other people around” seems pretty valid to me. “I can’t focus very well when it’s too quiet” could also work, but that could backfire, I guess, since it’s got a more negative connotation (that is, that you have focus issues).

          1. Slow Gin Lizz*

            Although, actually, now that I think about it, why not just ask and not give a reason? I suppose the boss might ask why you want to move, but you could just keep it casual. “Hey, would you mind if I moved desks next week?” might be something other people ask on the regular. I moved desks in my last job (same office, just moved to the other desk) and while I had Reasons, my boss didn’t even ask what they were. Especially if your boss is quite busy, she might not even care what your reasons are.

            1. Allonge*

              I think not giving a reason could work well, but it needs some finesse – I get along great with my boss but she would be totally ‘wtf’ if I just announced I wanted to move. And in any case, be ready with an answer to ‘why’ – it’s not a wild leap that something may be wrong and a good manager would want to check what (e.g. young woman wants to move away from older dudes is a potential red flag, if the new officemates are men).

              But I like asking because if there is an issue with too much chat, it would likely come out. And then you know.

          2. Worldwalker*

            I can’t focus very well when it’s too quiet — I find myself getting distracted by every little noise, like the HVAC coming on or an ambulance going down the main road a block away. And I work from home. My solution is an app called myNoise — there are many similar ones — on an iPod, and a Bluetooth link to a speaker. I have it playing music right now, but it’s usually set for something like “vintage office” (typewriters and paper shuffling) or one of its assortment of nature sounds. That app, or a similar one, and earbuds could solve the too-quiet problem.

      4. Antilles*

        I don’t think wanting to sit with your friends is “unreasonable” but quitting over it does strike me as incredibly naive about the way office seating works in practice.
        I’m an outgoing person, generally genial, and have made friends at all my jobs. And yet, in my decade-plus of post-graduation jobs spread throughout four companies, there was a total of about a year where my physical working location was adjacent or close by one of my friends. For the entire rest of my career, it’s been a mix of (a) being next to a couple people who we were friendly but not really friends, (b) being next to empty cubicles or offices, (c) having my own office, or (d) hybrid/remote models where there’s nobody near me period.
        You can certainly make friends at work and IM back and forth on Teams/Zoom, walk over to their cube for some in-person chit-chat (first thing in the morning tends to be best for this), grab lunch together or make plans to grab a drink after work, and etc…but sitting next to them during the work day just isn’t something you can realistically expect.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          “quitting over it does strike me as incredibly naive about the way office seating works in practice.”

          Yeah I have followup questions about OPs expectations and experience in a office setting.

        2. Smithy*

          For a start – you’re totally right that I’ve had some jobs that we were wildly anti-social by the nature of how they were designed. And so even applying for a new job in the hopes of fixing this, the OP may find themselves in an even less social professional environment.

          So in the spirit of believing the OP that they do have friends who they’re not bothering and they’re not being overly chatty – but also that they may be a bit new to the work place. I wonder if this is a case where they’re being undermanaged/under utilized and have a boss right now who’s not even available to give them more work. But they need to be at their desk for 8 hours to be paid full time.

          All to say, I do think there’s a way to frame this as a work thing. Just as colleagues well positioned to introduce you to the working environment, who have the bandwidth to show you how general things are done, etc.

        3. Jessen*

          This makes me wonder, what’s the option for people who find that “normal” working expectations make them want to rip their hair out? There definitely seems to be an underlying attitude in society that a standard office environment is something everyone can work reasonably contentedly in. What do people do if what they need to not be miserable in a job is something that’s fundamentally going to be seen as naive or demanding to expect? Obviously I don’t know OP or what their options are, but if what they need to be comfortable in a job isn’t something they can really ask or screen for, what’s their best option?

          1. Antilles*

            Broadly speaking, I think the best option is analogous to any other need that society doesn’t normally accommodate: Figure out what you really need/want and then try to brainstorm alternatives to get a similar result in a more common and acceptable fashion.

            So for OP’s situation in particular, here are some possibilities:
            -If it’s wanting that connection with friends, could you get that via meeting up with people for morning coffee or lunch regularly?
            -If it’s an issue of wanting the background noise of conversations, could you simulate that with earbuds and constantly listening to podcasts?
            -If it’s wanting to feel like you can have fun conversations to keep your day going, can you use Discord or a group text thread on your cell phone to chit-chat about random stuff as you’re going about your day?

            Not all of these will work in all workplaces (e.g., your boss might hate headphones) and it’s certainly possible that even if you can do some/all of these, it won’t be quite the same as OP’s previous situation of being next to a friend for chit-chat whenever. But what OP wants just doesn’t strike me as a long-term realistic plan (there’s no guarantee you’ll even be friends with people at your next job, never mind sitting directly adjacent to them!), so it’s mostly about coming up with a coping strategy that you can (somewhat) control and that can partly replicate what you’re missing.

      5. JSPA*

        OP specifically said there is no business need–which I take to mean, no plausible work-related reason. They’re chat buddies, not a team.

        I read “peer” to mean “age and stage,” like your classmates at uni. And if you can’t make work friendships outside of your peer group…then that is a darn good reason to actively make a point of interacting with people who are not your “age and stage,” using non-clique, non-in group language.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          In my organization, “peer” means someone at your general level of the hierarchy and sometimes extended to mean someone doing similar work to you. My peers are other individual contributors overall, but more specifically individual contributors who are in supply chain. My boss’s peers are others at her level of management overall, but more specifically those at her level of management in supply chain.

          So if my peers (other individual contributors in supply chain) are moved to another area and the people who replace them are in IT, that would be a good reason to ask to be moved.

        2. Beth*

          I assumed “not my peers” meant something closer to “I am an individual contributor and the people around me are managers”–‘peer’ to me, in the workplace, usually means a hierarchy thing rather than a university-classmate or high-school-clique vibe. And while it’s not inherently out of line to be friendly with people above you in a work hierarchy, I can see why it might be less comfortable for OP.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I also read “peers” as a young, early-career person wanting to be around people the same age and stage.

      6. Coco*

        Yes! Please do not say anything about your wanting to be closer to people who make you laugh or that you are friendly with. It comes across as immature. I love thé wording used above.

        Also, is there anything you can learn from the people you are with now? Rather than moving to chat…maybe stay and listen.

    2. Phryne*

      That would depend on the workplace culture and the reasons for the current seating arrangements wouldn’t it. Pretty much anywhere I worked the bosses did not care much where people sat unless there were good reasons for requiring it. They had better things to do than policing peoples desks like a kindergarten teacher.
      If OP is now placed within a team and there are reasons why this team needs to be seated together then there is probably not much they can do. But if seating as it is now is just how it happened to turn out after an office rearrangement or something, there are plenty of reasons to ask to move, from window placement to access to facilities (printers).
      Sitting with friends might sound flakey, but employee happiness should matter to employers and if there is no reasonable objection to sitting elsewhere it is a very easy and small way for an employer to keep people happy. Wanting to spend a significant portion of the day with people whose company you enjoy may not be a given at work, but it is not shameful thing to want.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      If you ask, brace for a NO answer, OP. I was in my early 40s and I went back to school to finish my degree. I had a prof who spent decades in corporate America. I asked if I could be moved to a team my friends were on. He said, “BECAUSE you asked, the answer is no.”

      While the prof’s attitude never improved, I also had second thoughts on the request. Each team had five members. On my team three people actively participated. On my friends’ team (long story very short) only one person participate. My team came in second place and my friends were at rock bottom last. Yeah, that friendship was over. It was a very challenging semester.

      Some times what we think we want isn’t actually what we need. The two other people who participated on my team turned out to be really good at what we were doing. We laughed a lot and really moved through decisions. It turned out to be a decent experience in team work. (Although, it did not reflect real life at all.) I met two people that I actually admire.

      Here’s the thing that caught my eye in your post. If you are willing to quit over this, then I’d suggest to you that there is something else about the job that is not going well for you. It might be that you’d get with your friends and down the road quit the job anyway. One of my rules of thumb in life has been if I need my friends to hang on to the job, then I probably have one foot out the door and I don’t even realize.

      I think you’d cut through a lot of preventable angst if you try to figure out what is at the core here. The answer may be that instead of moving your desk, you may need to move your job… to a different company and setting.

      1. Important Moi*

        I’ve noted you said long story very short, but did you stop being friends because your team performed better?

        1. My Cabbages!*

          I’m guessing it’s because NSNR’s friends were okay with foisting their work onto the one other team member.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          The class was not the easiest class and it was a capstone, to boot. (stress)
          The prof did have a few good ideas of things to present in class but he was pretty toxic overall. (more stress)
          It was the early 2000s and a lot of people did not have any exposure to computers. The learning curve was steep and the school did not encourage people to take computer courses. Learn on the fly was their motto. The project for the whole semester was on a website. It sent stats to the prof of who logged on and when.(more stress)

          Both friends suffered upset in their personal lives that semester. I was aware of it and tried to be supportive. One friend went MIA to attend to personal matters (understandable) leaving the other friend alone to do the project. (The other three teammates were no where to be found.) My remaining friend completed the project but she was a bundle of nerves and had her own private concerns also. (Each team had their own project, so this was not like my team could help her team, the teams were competing against each other. There would only be one A given and the second place team would receive an A minus, and so on. Yeah the set up sucked.)

          I almost cried their situation was so very bleak. One friend emailed to ask what I got for the semester. I really did not want to answer, I tried to bury the answer as best I could. I asked how she was. And I never heard from her again. I took the hint. Things were just not good in her life. I didn’t seem to be a safe port for her. She had at least one life event and possibly two serious life events. Some times people don’t want to be reminded of the darker times in their lives.

          In the end I just felt sad about the whole thing. When I lost contact with the first friend the second friend also drifted away. If they ever drift back, I’d more than welcome them.

          1. StillInStats*

            Ugh, I hate your professor. What an awful setup to have to deal with on top of personal issues.

      2. EPLawyer*

        Oh that’s a good point — is the lack of friends just a symptom of the underlying unhappiness with the job over all? OP look at everything that has changed with the job in 5 months and decide if its the lack of chatter or something else.

        1. JSPA*

          It’s also getting to be shorter days in the northern hemisphere; cue seasonal blues.
          And loss of the boss.
          And a grandboss, now boss, who’s not approachable (or stressed).
          Agreed that there are probably multiple things in play.

          Otherwise, “ready to quit over this” otherwise just seems a bit over the top, as a reaction to…working quietly at work (given you can still see your work friends at lunch, getting coffee, on your way in, on your way out, etc).

          Work is not supposed to be one’s primary social outlet, and being without active stimulation from work friends for (say) 6 of your nominal 8 working hours isn’t normally considered a misery. (Heck, OP isn’t even alone in the room, the coworkers are just normal coworkers, not self-selected “peers.”)

          1. Librarian of SHIELD*

            Yeah, this is a lot of change to go through in a relatively short period of time, and I think it’s possible that chatting with friends feels like the one thing that’s been lost that the OP can easily get back. They can’t get their old manager back, they can’t change their grand boss’s priorities to get more of her attention, but their coworkers are still right there and getting them back feels like the only thing they have left of the way the job used to be.

            OP, if you can think of a business or building related reason to move seats, your grandboss may be receptive to that. But you should keep in mind from the start that having pleasant chit chat with people you like might not actually be enough to balance out the way you feel about everything else.

            I do also want to give a plus 1 to the podcast idea above. Due to the nature of my work, I sit alone in an office while the rest of my team sits together. I miss out on a lot of the social chatting and it feels lonely sometimes. But I’ve been pretty successful in filling that need with parasocial relationships like podcasters and YouTubers. Having a familiar voice taking at me isn’t quite the same as a two way conversation, but it can be a comfort on lonely days.

          2. tessa*

            “…being without active stimulation from work friends for (say) 6 of your nominal 8 working hours isn’t normally considered a misery.”

            I do wonder sometimes if some people expect to be entertained by everything, and easily grow bored when they’re not. (Once on an airplane, when the flight attendants were demonstrating safety measures in a clever and humorous way, a woman behind me said ”Okay, THAT’S how you get me to pay attention to these.” As though her own safety wasn’t motivation enough to pay attention).

            I sort of see that same thing here. “This job isn’t working out because lack of stimulation via chatting with my friends…”

    4. learnedthehardway*

      I think the OP needs to consider whether the group was split up because of the chatter. They might have been having fun, but were they really as productive as they thought, and were they possibly disturbing other people who were trying to get work done?

      Also, logically speaking, while you might miss the companionship at work, OP, quitting is going to definitely result in you missing the comraderie, and joining another company isn’t a guarantee that you’ll make the same kinds of connections.

      It might be better to join your friends for lunch, but work at connecting with your pod of workers during work. You might need to change HOW you connect – it’s probable that your pod will appreciate hard work and productivity rather than friendliness, and it might take time to do, but it’s probably very good for you to have the opportunity of working close by and learning from people who are experienced in their roles and with the company.

      1. Worldwalker*

        In a collection of articles from old issues of the Farmer’s Almanac, I remember coming across this one about seating arrangements at a corn husking:

        “Ensure that an adult is seated between every two boys, because one boy is a boy, but two boys are half a boy, and three boys are no boy at all.”

        Chit-chat is not new. Nor is the reaction of other people to it.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Phrasing is everything here, because there is a difference between “I’m not getting enough chatting with my mates, who are my raison d’etre” and “I feel unmotivated in my work, I’m getting less done and I’m so disconnected from colleagues that I have to consider leaving.” Whole “team building” days at great expense of time and money are organised by employers who suspect much of the latter, because they are vastly easier than rehiring. Also, for all we know, the existing seating arrangements were made expressly for employees’ happiness – the mistake was thinking everyone appreciated extra room and quiet. The problem would be easy to articulate if the boss knew the OP, or was enough of a presence in the office to understand the personalities/culture. Without that background, I fear OP does risk coming off as someone who actually is a possible chatterer to a problematic degree. In their shoes I would probably invent a business reason for it and say something relating to cross training, or the need to air peer-level problems with other peers (I’m not sure if OP is talking about job role peers or age peers with that one though), being closer to the printer or supplies, or glare on their computer, or anything really. If worst comes to the worst OP may have to hope someone isn’t going to judge them for: “I’d feel more connected to the team in a busier office. I didn’t think it would be an issue but I’m finding the current arrangements too isolating to for my long term happiness here.”

    6. Rain's Small Hands*

      Agreed. I spent a good deal of my career working with Facilities on MACs – Moves, Adds, Changes – for big Fortune 500 sized firms – and they were always called MACS at each of the half dozen corporations I worked with. Its a big deal to move someone from cube to cube – it isn’t just pick up your stuff and go. There are a ton of politics around who sits where (windows, oh, my god, who sits next to a window – or a row away from a window….and who gets stuck next to the break room or coffee machine. Then there were the ADA requests for close to windows to deal with SAD and close to bathrooms – those had to be met, and once we started moving people for SAD, everyone had SAD – facilities started buying people lights – it was cheaper). There are floor plans to update, perhaps mail stops and network maps. Phone changes. At one company, you had to have updated Windows policies sent to your PC so you’d use the proper printer – and even if you didn’t need it, IT still had to check if your policy was going to the “right” printer. The whole thing ends up – even if its “I’m moving down four cubes to an empty one to sit closer to my manager – costing the company time and money – there were six of us in the MAC meetings I last attended – and no company I’ve worked with would do it because a young employee without capital wanted to move to be closer to friends – that would send a horrible precedence.

      At least spend some time before even asking sizing up what the facilities management process for this – is it a big deal to move or is this a company that is on the verge of hoteling anyway and has dropped a lot of the processes around configuring phones and PCs for a specific person in a specific place while playing Jenga with the politics of where people sit.

      I don’t think there is a way to ask this that doesn’t sound naïve and selfish. If you ask, I think you’ll end up quitting anyway because it could do that much damage.

      1. Worldwalker*

        I have a SAD light on right now. :) I work from home, and sit within touching distance of a window … on the north side of the house. So from equinox to equinox, I have my light. It helps. (and it’s surprising how many people do have some element of SAD — our species evolved in an equatorial area, after all, so long periods of low light do affect us; look at depression rates in Scandanavia in summer versus winter)

      2. cmcinnyc*

        100% this as someone who has had to deal with office moves–both the entire company to a new location and then COVID spacing for our initial return to office, new hires, interns… “I feel like sitting over there” involves a lot of work. Which I do not mind in the slightest, BUT everyone sees that you moved to sit with your friends, now everyone wants to move to be closer/louder/farther/quieter/whatever that person’s desk fancy may be. This ask would hit me as clueless and I wouldn’t do it unless senior staff backed you up on it. And that usually means senior staff wants you in quick earshot because you’re deep in a project with them. Not because you want it, because they want it.

      3. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

        In my current job, we “rent” our office space from our parent organization. Every cube has a cost, and there are bidding wars for the good ones. It’s not nearly as simple as, say, changing seats in the lunch room.

    7. Janet*

      My workplace has pretty casual expectations on seating arrangements. I would probably focus on wanting to move out of a quiet area personally, but I don’t see anything inherently wrong. I think it would ultimately depend on workplace culture.

    8. Anonymous Koala*

      I also wonder whether the OP really was part of a random re-shuffle or if the managers noticed that they were talking/chatting too much and moved things around to intentionally limit this. Just because the OP was getting their work done doesn’t mean the chatting wasn’t distracting to the office at large.

    9. L-squared*

      I think this is a really interesting take, because I wouldn’t think anything of it. If someone wanted to move desks for whatever reason, I wouldn’t really care as long as their work is still getting done. We aren’t children who need to be in assigned seats and monitored

      1. Worldwalker*

        As people have mentioned, that can cause all sorts of chaos.

        I once did a consulting job where computers were automatically logging into the network as people who were now somewhere else in the building — or didn’t work there at all anymore. (this is also the site that had no admin password on NetWare, so they are not an example of best practices!)

        If a typical office worker moves somewhere else, at a bare minimum their phone number needs to be transferred to the proper desk. Probably their computer identity. Potentially various directory listings.

        A typical office worker’s desk nowadays is a whole environment of technology, all of which has to be relocated or redirected to the correct desk, not just a spot to sit.

    10. pengy*

      Someone early in my career told me once, don’t bring your boss a problem, bring them a solution.

      So I think you need to be smart about this. Don’t ask your boss about moving (yet). Rather, approach it like solving a problem.

      1. Why are you in the space you are now? You say it happened, but was there a design behind it? Maybe it was. Did people move away from you? Did they move people to you for another reason (to give you access to certain knowledge, or get you away from chattiness, or because they needed to be closer to something, or away from something, or clustered in a certain way)? Do people move frequently? Can you move throughout the day? (ie, start one place, do work in another, have a meeting in a third/) what is the business norm for space?

      2. What space do you want? Is it free? Are the other people there open to you moving? Observe dynamics there a couple of days. what benefits could be gained by moving there?

      3. Define a business case for moving there. Not chattiness. Is there something else you can define about that space as preferrable? Closer to X, ability to collaborate with y, etc etc. It can be flimsy.

      4. What does it take to move? Is it a hassle for IT/phone or other set ups?

      Spend about two weeks doing/answering 1-4. you are figuring out the lay of the land. THEN, you can go to your boss and say, hey, I’ve noticed there’s an empty space available here, and it would allow me to do X. Would there be a problem in moving?

      Maybe then boss might say no, for reasons you don’t understand, but figuring out what that is could be helpful to you as an employee. And if they say no and you’re more determined than ever to leave, at least you’ve had an interesting observational project for two weeks.

    11. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      Yeah, it’s best if there’s a work-related justification. “Now that I’m working on the Fleckenstein project, it would be easier if I sat closer to Vanessa because she’s been the expert on that.”

  6. Chilipepper Attitude*

    I’m sure OP#1 would have just done this if it were possible but sometimes the simple solutions escape us. Could you just send an email or mention to the bosses boss in passing that you are going to move your desk on Tuesday unless they have a reason you should not move?

    Is it important to anyone where you sit? Can you just move to a different desk?

    1. Nance*

      In my office this would require coordination with IT, you couldn’t just do it on your own. That means it would be an overstep to just do it and instruct them to do their part of it without getting approval for the move.

      1. turquoisecow*

        Yeah same in my office, and you’d have to have your phone moved as well. And then if a higher-up comes looking for you and cannot find you, it doesn’t look good.

    2. I would prefer not to*

      In a lot of offices, the seating plan has been carefully put together and decided by managers for (I can only assume) their own reasons, based on information that they have.

      It would be wildly inappropriate to just move your desk in those environments.

      1. Antony-mouse*

        I was going to add this. Our office seating is carefully crafted and a move would be difficult. Think like A doesn’t get along with C so they can’t sit opposite each other but could sit a few desks away, B works on confidential info so can’t have a desk where people can see the screen, D works on very confidential stuff and E is nosy so they can’t be in a office together, F needs quiet and G and H are fairly quiet people who only work part-time so they’re all together. That sort of thing

      2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

        When I worked in office we were always seated by department. Asking to move without a business reason, as OP states there isn’t one, would be ok and just straight up informing them you’re moving would not go over well at all.

        I worked on the office for a manufacturer and IME they tend to be more traditional/old school. It just might not be the place for OP in general if they are looking for a more dynamic environment.

      3. Xaraja*

        For #2, I wouldn’t discount weaponized incompetence, if this person doesn’t want to do whatever it is they’re shadowing OP for. But that will show up in the process Allison described. On the other hand, in virtual meetings I frequently play games on my phone and in face to face meetings I sometimes find my own fidgeting to be distracting or disruptive and have to plan ahead for a way to fidget quietly and less noticeably. I find out easier to pay attention when my brain is partially activated. I’m college lectures I used to write out lines from poetry that I had memorized in my notebook which made it look like I was taking notes and was not distracting to anyone…but I was paying attention and learning from the lecture. So this person doesn’t seem to be like that but just a general note that someone who is doing well but is doing something surprising during a meeting isn’t automatically wasting time. :)

    3. fhqwhgads*

      I’d expect IT and/or Operations to be very unhappy about asking for forgiveness rather than permission on this one, unless it’s a known sometimes-hotdesking space anyway, but if that were the case the question wouldn’t be a question.

    4. Moonlight*

      Like other commenters have mentioned, in a lot of offices, this requires IT and operations coordination; I used to work in an office with 2000 and about 300-400 people on my floor alone, so it might legitimately affect the logistics of other teams in ways I wouldn’t be aware of if people could just move without it being coordinated.

    5. Observer*

      Could you just send an email or mention to the bosses boss in passing that you are going to move your desk on Tuesday unless they have a reason you should not move?

      In a significant percentage of organizations that would be a MAJOR issue. The most obvious issue would be IT, even when your IT department is pretty good at standardizing equipment and centralizing data storage. But I can see a lot of other scenarios where a move could have unexpected repercussions.

      Is it important to anyone where you sit? Can you just move to a different desk?

      It’s possible that it’s not important to anyone where the OP actually sits. But it could be that it’s important to some people where the OP does NOT sit (eg they don’t want someone from a different department sitting close enough to hear client calls). And it certainly does NOT mean that they can just move to a different desk.

    6. LB*

      This would be a big misstep at my org. You could ask to move, but to just do so on your own would be a strike against your professionalism (and you’d probably just be moved back).

    7. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I wonder if approaching IT or HR about it would work – that would have been my approach when I was working at a small manufacturer/warehouse with a few different secured office areas (and with a mediocre/absentee boss). I held good relationships with the three people in these units, and in this case would have felt very comfortable pointing out that grandboss is very busy, but that I’m wondering what it would look like to have mt desk moved closer to my peers, and can they help me understand if this is possible and what would be required.

      Obviously this depends greatly on the org and the individuals, but I don’t see it backfiring at OP if they’re not supportive. Also, it’s probably not gone unnnoticed that OP is not sitting near their peers or team.

    8. Everything Bagel*

      I would not do it this way. Aside from the IT reasons others here have mentioned, suggesting you’re going to move your desk unless they explain why you shouldn’t just seems so over the top. Yes, I think you should find a way of asking the reason that you are sitting in the group you are and if it’s possible for you to move. However, I would not, especially as a rather new employee, just tell my manager I’m moving my desk unless he explains why I shouldn’t. It’s really presumptuous and just will not look good.

    9. amoeba*

      I find the whole discussion quite interesting in the context of hot-desking etc. – guess at least that problem would be solved by that!

      (Basically, in our new office space next year, there won’t be any fixed desks anymore and you can decide every morning where you want to sit.)

  7. John Smith*

    #1, is it possible for you to simply swap desks without asking? Because of my awful manager, we turned an unused room into an office that we now all work from (leaving out manager alone in “his” room which he seems to like, missing entirely the reason why we’ve all moved), but I digress…

    Alternatively, could you phrase your request into “just a quick question – any objection to me moving to room X as I find I work better there? Feng Sui thing!” Or “its more efficient if I’m in room X as thats where all the equipment I use is located”? If you make it a minor thing your boss may treat it as minor and not give it much thought. You will also want to phrase it so that there is a benefit to the organisation, and not about you.

    Or possibly ask another manager / supervisor who knows you a bit more? You can say that you don’t want to bother Grand Boss with such a minor thing. Hope you get your move and don’t have to leave.

    1. nnn*

      This is what I was thinking. If it isn’t a logistical challenge to move desks (e.g. if you’re using a laptop and a mobile phone as opposed to a desktop and a landline) what would happen if you just moved?

      If the culture is that you do need to ask, what if you just asked to move without giving a reason? “Any chance I could use that empty desk over on the other side of the room?”

      You probably would want to have a reason in your pocket in case they ask, but you could pick any physical/environmental characteristic that’s different between the two locations. (warmer/colder, more/less direct sunlight, more/less ventilation)

      Also, building on the suggestion of asking another manager/supervisor, you could also ask a more experienced co-worker “How do people go about switching desks around here? Do I need permission from someone? I’m not sure if it’s the sort of thing Grandboss wants to be bothered with…”

      1. Roland*

        > warmer/colder, more/less direct sunlight, more/less ventilation

        Those are great cover reasons! All of them would have flown at my last job, I think. I think this is the way to go.

        1. Cookie*

          I hope it works. Back when we had assigned desks, I had horrible glare on my computer screen and asked (nicely, and more than once) if I could move to another workstation. Anywhere in the building, just away from the source of glare. TWO YEARS later I was finally allowed to move to another desk where there was no glare. Two weeks after that, they installed new blinds that didn’t block the sunlight (barely filtered it) and the sun was directly in my eyes for 2-3 hours per day. I’d still be sitting there if not for covid…now we have hotdesking and I always head for a dark corner.

          Also, my old desk was in a Chatty Teammates area and I had a hard time concentrating. Some people do better where it’s quiet. I hope LW1 was not making other people’s work difficult with their need to talk and laugh, and thus they earned this desk assignment?

          1. Observer*

            Also, my old desk was in a Chatty Teammates area and I had a hard time concentrating. Some people do better where it’s quiet. I hope LW1 was not making other people’s work difficult with their need to talk and laugh, and thus they earned this desk assignment?

            I was wondering about that, too. Which would be all the more reason why the OP needs to check with someone.

            In a good company, there will be a real effort to accommodate reasonable needs. But if the OP’s need for chat disturbs other’s people’s work needs, that’s going to be a real issue.

          2. Grouchy scientist*

            Yes, that is something LW1 should think about—I can imagine a manager trying to subtly break up Chatty Teammates Area by moving a few people around. I like Alison’s suggestions about finding other ways to meet the need for interaction. How about a standing afternoon coffee break with some other chatty teammates?

      2. Allonge*

        I don’t have a better solution, but the thing to consider here is that OP has only been there for five months, moved desks once already if I am reading it right and there seems to be more of a structure to where people sit than who they get along best with.

        OP, is there a chance that you are also having a six-month slump (a bit early), meaning the thrill of a new job is vaning, and that adds to the effects of the new office-mates? I am admittedly more of an even-tempered person but I find the switch from ‘all is great’ to ‘I need a new job’ a bit sudden. Maybe give this more of a chance if you really like the job otherwise? See what your new boss will be like, for example?

      3. Observer*

        If the culture is that you do need to ask, what if you just asked to move without giving a reason? “Any chance I could use that empty desk over on the other side of the room?”

        Good suggestion about HOW to ask. But the need to ask is not just about “culture.” It’s generally about need. That could even be true if the OP is just using a laptop and cell phone.

    2. I would prefer not to*

      Unfortunately, it is certainly possible that citing feng sui, or even temperatures etc could make the LW seem… a bit precious? Or a bit of a diva?

      Obviously that’s wildly unreasonable and unfair! But depending on what the grandboss is like, it just feels like too much of a risk to me, for a young woman in a new workplace.

      After all, there aren’t really temperature issues etc, so saying you want to move because of an issue that no one else can see could give that impression.

      Which doesn’t mean she can’t do it, but is it worth the risk?

      Sometimes in jobs you don’t get to sit next to people you chat with, I would say try and give it a bit longer, try finding time to socialise during breaks and lunch, see if you feel the same in another six months.

    3. Sharper*

      At my old office it would have been more appropriate to ask the Office Manager/Head admin instead of my work supervisor. After making the switch, I would just given my supervisor a heads up about the move.

    4. Observer*

      is it possible for you to simply swap desks without asking?

      In most companies, this could be a major overstep.

      Your other suggestions seem like solid possibilities, depending on office culture.

  8. mr roboto*

    Letter #5 is not a big deal in some industries. In the tech world, background checks are usually done with information the candidate fills out themselves after receiving an offer, and nobody scrutinizes job titles on these forms. As long as dates of employments match all is well.

    Can’t guarantee this will be the case for the letter writer, but it’s not always a cause for concern.

    1. Yennefer*

      I responded below saying I also didn’t think it was a big deal, but am realizing this could be a tech thing since I also work in tech? Tech titles are all over the place.

    2. Artemesia*

      I know someone in a fairly important job who got fired years in for a falsehood on his resume and IMHO it wasn’t even really a falsehood but an issue of interpretation. You cannot list a job title you didn’t hold; the advice to put the real job title there with the ‘real job’ in parenthesis covers you and should be done.

      1. NotRealAnonforThis*

        I went round and round on this topic with the “employment counselors” I had to see during my time on unemployment (requirement at that time in my state).

        “You should change your title from X-adjective assistant to X”
        “I cannot do that. That is a licensed title and I don’t even have the prerequisites done to sit the exam for licensure.”
        “But you were doing X work”
        “No, I literally wasn’t doing X work because I’m not licensed to do X work nor do I have the experience to do X work”
        “But you’re not going to get a job as an X-adjective assistant”
        “No, literally that’s how the licensure path works, I absolutely WILL find another position with that title”
        “Well I’ve never heard of that”
        “Maybe leave this two stoplight town once an eon?” (Okay, I thought that and did not say it out loud)

    3. OP5*

      Hi there, OP5 here! I can see why this wouldn’t be as much of an issue in tech–however, I work in the nonprofit realm in a midsize-to-large city, so the potential for worlds colliding is higher than normal.

      I was just so taken aback in the moment that I had no idea how to respond–the recruiter didn’t present it as a parenthetical clarification, but rather a substitution to make me a more competitive candidate–and it was a big title change (think, grooming coordinator to director of llama care). Either way, I won’t be referring anyone to that recruiting service. The recruiter said a few other off the wall things that made me wonder how they’ve kept their job.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yeah in that industry people talk, too – you don’t want to get a reputation for overinflating your job. It’s just bad advice.

      2. ScruffyInternHerder*

        ::eyebrows somewhere above ceiling joists::

        Good call on your part re: the recruiter and not referring anyone else to that service.

      3. Blue Meeple*

        I had a recruiter once ask if it was ok if he “rearranged my resume a little” and I said fine, because rearrange means…rearrange, right? No, it turned out he removed half my job history and all my education. Then he got mad at me when I gave a copy of my full resume to the people I interviewed with, because “it made him look bad”. Wtf.

        I think we both ran into people who were bad at their jobs.

    4. kiki*

      Even if it’s not normally a huge deal in tech, I do feel like there is a line, though. I know sometimes internal titles very company-specific and niche, so clarifying a role to something more broadly applicable makes sense. But I’ve definitely seen people try to claim titles that weren’t truly accurate and get burned. It stinks when you are under-titled and doing the work of a higher level like OP, but changing your title on your resume isn’t the right approach. Especially because there are a lot of people out there who truly think that they are doing the work of someone at a higher level but 10000% are not. It’s hard to know who is like OP and who made a bad assessment of the work they do.

    5. Warrior Princess Xena*

      Tech companies are infamous for their disorganization, bizarre hiring practices, dysfunction, and toxic atmospheres. I don’t think that their hiring practices are something to aspire to.

  9. my 8th name*

    #2. Is this person new? Or new to these types of projects? If so, maybe it’s not him. It’s possible you and others in these meetings are not speaking at an introductory level because you are operating off of a shared understanding that this employee does not yet have. Are you explaining definitions and processes and context in enough detail to account for novice ears?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Jargon and fast talk both occurred to me reading this question. I’ve definitely sat in meetings that were over my head and most of my notes were terms I wanted to look up or just…lots of question marks. There are definitely questions to ask of the employee, but I would also take a look at the accessibility of these meetings and if there’s a pattern of topic or technical level where he doesn’t seem to be grasping things.

    2. Managing to get by*

      If the employee is just “shadowing” maybe they are checking out during the meetings because they don’t feel it’s important to engage? Although after a few times of getting assignments after the meeting that depend on information delivered in the meeting, they should start understanding they need to pay attention.

  10. Worldwalker*

    I may sound harsh here, or worse yet old and stodgy, but having fun with your co-workers is not a professional goal. Nor a good look. Save the socializing for when you’re off the clock, or at least away from your desk. Think water cooler.

    1. JustSomeone*

      People are human beings. We are (almost universally) more productive and more creative and just overall better workers when we find our surroundings pleasant as opposed to miserable. You’re certainly not an inherently superior employee if you sit in glum silence rather than engaging with your coworkers in non-intrusive ways throughout the day. (And on the flip side, if your idea of a pleasant environment is to be left alone as much as possible, that’s also valid.) There is, of course, a level of constant socializing that begins to get in the way of getting work done by any and all chatters. But the average office workday includes lots of opportunities for friendly interactions thy don’t cross that line.

      1. bamcheeks*

        And there are also lots and lots of jobs where the work itself is pretty boring and repetitive, and making it social is how humans have always worked! Think of work songs and sea shanties and things like that. The idea that people are always more productive when they’re not socialising is wacky. It’s just misery for misery’s sake.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I think the question is whether one finds not socializing to be misery or not.

          If I’m working on something, I want to be able to get deeply involved in it, and only come up for air when they turn out the lights or something. That’s not misery; that’s how I enjoy working.

      2. StillInStats*

        Your assumption that a quiet, undisturbed work environment is “glum” is pretty judgmental. Some of us actually need quiet to work. It’s possible that OP was disturbing people.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      I don’t think things are always so clearly divided into socialising and work as all that. Sometimes people just want somebody they can glance at and roll their eyes when they are in the middle of a particularly stressful task or somebody they can share an amused glance with when something funny happens. Or just make an off-hand comment to. Being around people you can’t do that with, especially if the LW is surrounded by senior people and feel she has to look impressive the whole time can get stressful.

      It’s a hard thing to ask because it does come across a bit like “I wanna socialise with my friends” but…it’s more about feeling comfortable and relaxed and maybe having some support, somebody you know will have your back if you need a second opinion on something or are upset or whatever.

      No, having fun with colleagues is not a professional goal, but being surrounded by people you barely interact with at all or feel uncomfortable around is very unpleasant. And it’s hard to say that without seeming to criticise them, which isn’t the issue.

    3. Been There*

      You do sound harsh. We spend a lot of time at work, it’s normal to want to be happy there. That involves socializing and some interaction for the OP.

    4. Purple Cat*

      You are both harsh AND old and stodgy. OP isn’t saying the “goal” is to have fun, but she has noted that a lack of social interaction is negatively affecting her job performance and happiness. For all of the people that have LOVED working from home and the (relative) solitude that has provided, there are just as many people that have HATED it. If OP is so impacted by this that she’s considering looking for a new job, then it’s worth asking for a change.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I kind of went a different way- if the only thing OP gets out of the job is the friendships then it’s time to raise the bar in what she is looking for in her next job.

      I get it. We can need to have friends or at least friendly faces at work. But when things shift to “my survival at this job is based on my friendships” that can telegraph a problem has started.

      1. Phryne*

        That depends on what you find important in your working life. Through introspection and coaching sessions I’ve been able to isolate what I find important, and the atmosphere of where I work, a friendly and safe environment is way, way more important than working my way up, being constantly challenged or earning big bucks.
        I require the basic levels of life, just like everybody else, an income I can live on comfortably, work I find relevant and not mind-numbingly dull, a basic amount of appreciation for the work I do, but I do not need to be pushed every day, and I do not need to move upwards in the organisation. There is no amount of money that will entice me to take on more and more responsibilities with more and more stress, the money will not compensate my happiness.

        1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

          Nod. We’re all different. Like a friendly work environment isn’t important to me but if I’m in the office I will certainly chatter.

      2. Smithy*

        I’m not sure if this is the case for the OP but I do agree with it. The times I have been most invested in who I sit by and what chatter I get to participate in, have been the times I’m least engaged with my job (bored/under-challenged/complacent in my case).

        Probably a good time for OP to reflect and check if they are happy and engaged with the job. If so, it’s still not unreasonable to want to feel part of the team. If you are not enjoying the role, then moving will only ever be a band-aid.

      3. MF*

        The thing is: a lot of jobs that will hire entry-level employees (OP says she’s in her mid-twenties) are not particularly engaging or exciting. A lot of times, these are jobs that are fairly rote. And if you’ve ever had a job like, you know that have fun and friendly coworkers makes a MASSIVE difference in your happiness at work.

    6. bamcheeks*

      The idea that work and socialising are incompatible activities sounds like a weird and anachronistic one to me. Of course there are some types of work that require deep concentration and quiet, but there are lots and lots of work which is either social or where the work itself is repetitive or manual (in the sense of using your hands, not just the class hierarchy way) and being able to interact socially whilst you do it is what makes it doable. Think of sea shanties and work songs! There are lots of types of work where managers and team leaders promote social interaction and chat because it’s what turns an almost unbearable eight hours into a fun and productive one.

    7. Ellis Bell*

      I was kind of leaning towards this sort of attitude based on the headline, but then OP clarified that they a) get their work done and b) gave the new arrangements a good shot and “hoped for” a basic level of contentment short of wanting to quit. Even when I’ve worked with emergency service front line people there is time for jokes and warmth! What kind of job are we really talking about that you have to step away to privately ask about someone’s weekend or make a work related pun?! Remember the OP works in the small back office of a manufacturer. She’s not in a courtroom.

    8. CharlieBrown*

      This very much has an “old man yelling at cloud” vibe to me. People are social animals.

    9. Observer*

      I may sound harsh here, or worse yet old and stodgy

      Yes, you do. But you also sound like you know very little about how people actually operate. Needing some social interaction is not necessarily about “having fun.” People who don’t understand that distinction tend to not be good managers and also often struggle in many jobs.

      1. Worldwalker*

        The vibe I picked up from the letter was much more “high school clique” than “sea chanty.”

        When someone is saying they’re thinking of quitting their job because they can’t sit with their friends, that just doesn’t sound very professional to me.

        Possibly relevant: I’m an introvert, possibly on the spectrum, and my work style is deep focus: no matter what I’m doing, computer programming or packing boxes, I want to just get into the flow and get it done.

      2. Allonge*

        But having social interaction is not restricted to the people sitting clisest to you. There are breaks, lunches, meeting starts and ends and so on. Needing almost constant interaction while working IS a big ask.

        1. Observer*

          That’s true. But even so, the OP doesn’t seem to be saying that they are looking to “have fun” but need more social interaction.

          From what they are saying it sounds like their expectations around what is a reasonable amount of social interaction may need a reset.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Aside from the fact that chatting helps while you’re doing monotonous jobs, there are jobs were you don’t have those things you mention. Some offices have loads of meetings and breaks and take lunches together. Others have no breaks or meetings and you take lunches separately to provide cover.

    10. Geek5508*

      Maybe I missed something in OP’s letter, but is there any reason OP cannot “chat” with the people he DOES sit with?

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Doesn’t sound like those people want to chat/are fun to chat with. This may be why OP was moved if they were too chatty.

        This is what group texts/Slack channels are for, though: you can chat all day and nobody has to hear it/complain about it.

    11. Courageous cat*

      You’re right, you do sound stodgy. This feels like such a pro-capitalism take. I like to think we are moving away from that as a society, and remembering that workers are people with human needs, and that morale is extremely important, especially in industries where people may be underpaid.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        Workers are people? They have human needs? Morale is important? What kind of communist nonsense is this? Do you think we won WWII with people? Who had needs? Who needed morale?

        /s for them what needs it.

        Sadly, a huge part of capitalism is participating in the Stockholm syndrome belief that you, too, could be a millionaire if you just work hard and be good. Oh, wait, you already do that? It must be all these [minorities, women, immigrants, young people and their avocado toast, scapegoat of the moment, etc] who are using up all our resources. Better get started crushing them underfoot.

        Yep, we need a different system before we go extinct.

  11. talos*

    #1: it sounds like since you moved desks you may be collaborating in person less as well? That may be a good angle to approach this from.

    1. Mockingjay*

      There’s a few things to unpack here.
      1) OP1, you’ve been at the job less than six months. For new and/or junior employees, it can take six months to a year to really become well versed in your role. Right now you are comfortable and productive with others around you, but you also need to learn how to function autonomously at times and with people you don’t usually work with. These are useful abilities in any industry.
      2) See what you can learn from the nonpeers you currently sit with. Why are they so focused or nonchatty? They might be working on a really interesting project; have skills you might want to learn to assist your own career; have learned focus to keep on schedule; etc. You don’t have to be besties with everyone at work, but developing cordial relationships with other staff can benefit you.
      3) No matter where you work or what kind of job you have, you will be moved. It’s normal and frequent in every business. Infrastructure can drive seating charts. Team realignments change where you sit. Managers might have moved you deliberately to see how you do on your own. There are myriad reasons why desk assignments change; likely you won’t know the reasons for most. At my current company, I changed desks and buildings 5 times in 3 years, as business needs ebbed and flowed. Annoying? Sometimes. Most moves I got better acquainted with employees from other projects who had excellent advice and skills to offer my project.

      Take some time to figure out why being with your peers makes you more productive. I’m speculating that you prefer to collaborate on assignments because you have natural people skills, which is very good to have. If so, then discuss your preference for working on a team or group projects with your manager. Keep in mind, though, there will always be autonomous duties. Learn how to do those as well.

  12. Yennefer*

    I’m kind of surprised about the advice to not change job titles on a resume. I’ve lived in different countries and have changed the names of previous roles to align more clearly with what they’re called in my current country. The previous titles would actual make me seem more senior, but also sound like a completely different career path than the one I’m on. I always figure I can just explain if the company ever goes down the background check process, but it has never come up. It gives my experience (which is admittedly all over the place) more cohesion. I see nothing wrong with it as long as you’re not trying to deceive employers into thinking you have more experience than you do.

    1. Yennefer*

      Also thought I’d mention I changed the titles on LinkedIn too. My old coworkers aren’t looking at my LinkedIn and – after some time – don’t remember or don’t care what my title was.

      1. Cherry*

        I’ve changed titles too, but only to be more specific. In my field, every company has its own ranking of titles, and they clash considerably (I used to be Senior Oatmeal Crusher, which was a fairly standard role, but at Biscuits LLC that means you’re top dog on the oatmeal ladder). I might say I’m “principal jam tart baker” instead of “principal cook”, that sort of thing.

        Never been a problem. When it comes to the official background check, I give them my formal titles.

        1. Nikki*

          Most companies I’ve applied to do not ask me to fill out a separate form for a background check. They pull the information off my resume or application so if I’d changed a job title that’s what would be used in a background check and there would be questions about the difference. That’s why Alison suggests keeping the actual job title with a clarification in parentheses.

      2. Mockingjay*

        LinkedIn, though, isn’t ‘official’ the way your resume is. I use generic versions of my job titles on my profile for better matches during searches. The assigned company titles are on my resume. (My general resume is not uploaded to LinkedIn; I’d rather send a tailored one to a prospective company.)

  13. Cherry*

    OP1, I really feel you :( I quit my last job over many many things, one of which was the complete lack of social contact. In my new job, I knew straight away on Day 1 that it was a much better environment for me. There were many issues there, but that was the one that made me miserable.

    You have that environment right there at your current job, so I hope you don’t have to move to get something that’s only an office or two away. I would make noises about it being a much better environment for you: lighting, background noise; a good phrase could be “people to bounce ideas off”.

    1. Kate*

      I have so much sympathy for OP1 and I am strongly on the introvert end of the spectrum.

      Before starting my new-ish job, I never realized how much I valued being able to talk over a problem with a colleague, or offer to walk down for coffee together, or even help them decipher our boss’ scrawl in the margins of a document.

      In my current office, no one talks. Ever. We are all existing in the same place, but there is zero feeling like we are in this together, working towards the same goal.

      At least when we are WFH, we have the option of Slack or messaging on Teams, which helps a lot, even if it’s just a gif during a meeting.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I’m usually the last person to pull the introvert/extrovert card – I think the conversation gets off the rails easily, and I ask we don’t do that here – but I think it’s an important point for this question in particular. You make a good point that even for introverts, ZERO social interaction is weird and stilted and isolating. For extroverts, it’s also exhausting. If OP is an extrovert the social isolation could result in trouble concentrating, restlessness, mental fatigue… that’s going to impact work performance.

        An important part of work is also feeling like your role is valuable – as you say, feeling like you’re working towards the same goal. Social collaboration is definitely part of that. I hear some yellow flags in the question that make me wonder if OP is maybe *over*socializing – but needing some social connection with your team is very normal.

  14. Persephone*

    LW 1 — can I ask why needing to sit with your friends is such a big deal? I’ll admit, you’ve baffled me with the notion that not sitting with your friends is something to leave over. That feels like an outlook that someone with no experience with professional norms might take. You are going to encounter this at basically every office, so leaving here for a similar environment isn’t going to do much.

    If not having these interactions with people really does bother you that much, then you’d probably be better off in a more socially active job — e.g. customer service, where you’d be interacting with other people as well as have greater opportunity to interact with your coworkers. In the interim, if you’re able to listen to a podcast while you work, that might help.

    I would just like to throw out there — could your chatting have been bothering other people? I know I’d be bothered if I was stuck with chatty coworkers all day, so the rearranging may have been a “two birds, one stone” sort of situation. Fulfil this work need AND deal with Beth and Kit who’re distracting everyone else. Obviously, if that’s the case then it should have been addressed with you first but it is a possibility.

    1. Been There*

      Every white-collar office job I’ve had I’ve been able to talk with my coworkers because we sat next to each other. It is not constant talking throughout the day, but sharing some frustrations or quickly talking through an issue.
      I was miserable in my current job when I was sat in a different spot than I am now. I asked to move to sit closer to the coworkers I work more often with, and get along with. My bosses are very pleased with my work, so the chatting every once in a while is not an issue.

      1. Persephone*

        Oh I definitely agree that every once in a while is fine. It’s just that LW is considering LEAVING over this. If LW had been moved somewhere isolated I would completely understand, but this reaction strikes me as odd.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I inferred (so could be wrong) a thought process along the lines of “I’m happy to come in to the office 5 days a week when I can have those ‘spontaneous collaboration’ moments upper management keeps using as a reason to bring people back to the office, but the ‘spontaneous collaboration’ went away so now I would rather (a) work in-person somewhere (a different seat at the current company, or a completely different company) where I can chat with coworkers or (b) work from home/some sort of hybrid schedule” (I assume (b) is not an option at the current company).

          1. Been There*

            Working from home doesn’t seem like a good alternative if you’re missing social contact and interaction in your job.

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              It is if it’s a tradeoff. A lot of what people are encountering right now is “why am I commuting, putting on real pants, and not hanging out with my cat just to sit in my cubicle/office and stare at my screen the same way I would at home”.

              1. Insert Clever Name Here*

                10000% this. I generally enjoy my required 3 days/week in the office each week because there *is* spontaneous collaboration that occurs when I’m around my peers. But if I’m sitting around people I have no business interaction with…why am I here, because it sure as hell isn’t for spontaneous collaboration.

        2. Ellis Bell*

          Sometimes you can be totally isolated without being totally alone! I often work in the vicinity of people in y role, and they have no understanding of my X role. This means venting my frustrations or airing an issue is met with blank faces which just makes me feel lonelier, so I keep all talk very shallow “how’s your weekend” etc. I cope by meeting with y colleagues in the morning before going to my x-heavy work area. I also have one y colleague in my work area, who is in Weds-Fri and I can wait the few days she’s off to hash over things and brainstorm usually. Monday and Tuesday are very isolated days though! If Wednesday through Friday were similar I would either be talking to my department head, or if all else failed I would definitely be rethinking the fit of the role. This is from the perspective of an introvert too!

    2. Skippy*

      I am currently looking for a new position after six months at an organization, and my workplace setup is one of the reasons why. We are mostly in-office, and I was placed in a far corner of the office, next to a woman who prefers to keep the overhead lights in our section of the space off because she gets migraines, so I spend most of my days sitting alone and in the dark. My team seems to forget I’m even there most days, and some days I go hours without talking to anyone. Some people would be fine with this, but I absolutely hate it.

      1. ecnaseener*

        The darkness would be a completely justified reason to ask to switch, if there’s somewhere for you to move!

      2. Fives*

        I left my last position because we had all of the lights off and no windows. I didn’t fight it because I was the only person on my team who hated it. I don’t usually like the fluorescent overheads on, but the complete darkness except for monitors messed up my sleep cycle completely and gave me headaches. I’m now in a cube with natural light (windows!) and a lamp and some friendly chatter. Makes all the difference.

    3. Llama Llama*

      Because it’s miserable not being able to talk and socialize some. I work for giant company and one of the questions is about whether you have friends in the workplace. If you have friends in the workplace, the better engaged you.

    4. D.C. Paralegal*

      Yeah, that’s the part I don’t really follow: The LW wants to sit with her friends. Fair enough. But she’s considering quitting, in which case…she would also then not be sitting with her friends. (And either unemployed or, who knows, maybe end up in an even more stifling office environment.)

      The red flag for me is only being there five months. Is leaving over whatever level of misery is being experienced worth the potential future misery of being a young professional and having to explain in an interview why she quit a new job so soon? Even if she can describe the nuance behind the decision, I think there’s a real danger that all an interviewer will hear is, “I quit because I couldn’t talk to my friends all day.”

      I don’t know. I don’t think there’s a great answer here. Unless she’s on really friendly terms with her grandboss, I don’t love Alison’s advice of bringing it up to her. Maybe it’ll work. But it seems like a risk.

      I know it’s not what she wants to hear, but I think the best solution is to wait until a new manager gets hired, give that relationship a month or two to develop, and THEN broach the subject of moving desks. There’s probably a path to getting what she wants. Just not a quick one.

      1. JimmyJab*

        I didn’t gather that she would be miserable in her non-work life without her current work friends, but rather, if she’s going to sit in an office all day, she would like to sit near people with whom she can occasionally chat. Presumably, leaving and finding another job where there is a more collegial atmosphere, she could make new work friends, feel comfortable being a little social through out the day. I gather people think this is weird, but people are different, have different priorities, needs, etc.

        1. D.C. Paralegal*

          I…didn’t bring up her non-work life? My point is, is there any reason to think a new job would be any better than her current situation? What if she gets there and the potential for social interaction is as bad or worse? Now, if she has a lead on a job that she believes offers what she’s looking for, sure, go for it. But I don’t think sitting near people you enjoy chatting with is something you can simply count on finding in an office.

      2. Ellis Bell*

        A new job with a more social culture and team element could be easily found. She’s not asking to sit by her actual lifelong best friends, but near people willing to be “work friends”.

        1. D.C. Paralegal*

          I don’t at all agree on the easily part. She’s actually looking for a fairly unusual setup:

          A) A group of coworkers clustered together.
          B) People who she would enjoy talking to.
          C) An atmosphere where chatting isn’t frowned upon.

          Right now, she has two out of the three (A & C), and she says she doesn’t like it. B is really hard to find!

          If she quits her job and goes looking for that elsewhere, I don’t know how you identify it in advance of taking the job. Unless she has a friend who can say “Yeah, apply here, this is exactly what you’re looking for,” it’s just a shot in the dark.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            I think that varies massively by industry. Highly collaborative and sociable would be rather the expected culture in two of the fields I’ve worked in. One in particular was very easy to find new roles in. Probably OP knows the case with her region/role.

    5. ecnaseener*

      I had to laugh at the implied “if you like a few minutes of pleasant chit chat per day, you’ll love customer service aka socializing non-stop your entire shift with disgruntled people who expect perfect cheeriness out of you!” I know you were just tossing out an idea, but whoa maybe a middle ground would be nice ;D

      1. CharlieBrown*

        My jaw dropped a bit at that, too. I mean, it’s one thing to get a different job, but to move into an entirely different field. Over this? And because of a recommendation from a complete stranger on the internet? This is a bit ridiculous.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I went from retail straight into an office job where everyone had top people skills and a great office team ethic. They were not at all similar jobs. It’s a bit like comparing a conversation with your toddler who won’t eat, to a conversation with a fellow parent who’s making you laugh about the problem.

        2. Persephone*

          Apologies, I didn’t feel the need to expand on it there but I meant more like “front desk” or a very collaborative role — a position where social skills are a requirement. Customer service is the all-encompassing term that came to mind, given that my experience with it is “white-collar” and not in the retail/hospitality/food sectors.

          I also absolutely don’t expect LW to change fields or anything ESPECIALLY based on words from an internet stranger. I don’t know where you got that from. But I’m not going to say something without at least spitballing solutions, because that wouldn’t be constructive — it would just be mean.

    6. Irish Teacher.*

      I can see a situation where being surrounded by people who might be actively unfriendly or who are a lot senior to the LW and who she therefore feels uncomfortable around and spending maybe 8 hours a day, feeling ignored by those sitting near you or even judged by them (if they are senior, as seems possible, she may well feel judged by them; I know when I was new to the working world, I was very self-conscious about what more senior colleagues thought of me) could make a person feel miserable at work. I am very much an introvert, but sitting in silence for hours every day while those around me seem to ignore me sounds like something that would bother me after a while.

      I know the LW hasn’t said any of this is the case, but I am guessing there’s a bit more to it than, “I need to walk across the room to chat to my friends” and I can imagine more than one situation where being surrounded by people who are likely more senior, possibly significantly older (which shouldn’t matter, but I know in my 20s, I was sometimes nervous around older colleagues who had so much more experience than I did) and who don’t seem particularly friendly could make somebody unhappy in their job.

      The fact they are considering leaving really makes me think it’s more likely to be about being lonely or bored or feeling excluded rather than just wanting to be with friends, as leaving would mean less time with those specific friends.

  15. Bea*

    I may be being uncharitable, but given LW1 didn’t mention why the desks were reorganized, and given they were moved next to people who don’t chat, I wonder if they were deliberately moved because they were talking too much and distracting their colleagues.

    1. KateM*

      I read it as it’s not OP who has moved desks but out of the six-desk office where OP has been sitting all the time, three other people have been moved out.

      1. Myrin*

        I read it the same way as you (although it’s not quite clear to me whether the two other people had already been part of the setup before the reshuffling, too, or whether they’ve been moved from somewhere else entirely) but functionally, it doesn’t make a difference; OP was (possibly intentionally, possibly not) separated from the people she talked to most.

    2. nelliebelle1197*

      That was exactly what I was thinking. I am betting that a desk reorg after 5 months in where LW is now sitting with more seasoned workers was intentional. I was surprised Allison did not bring that up. The unit is without a manager right now and perhaps LW was very intentionally moved since the direct supervisor position is open for the foreseeable future.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        They may have moved her so she would gain knowledge from the more senior people near her, as well as reducing the amount of chatter in the office.

        I’ve worked around people who liked to chit-chat All. Day. Long! Sportsball, family gossip, blah, blah, blah, and at volume in an open plan office. I wanted to kill something. Headphones didn’t help, because then some jerk would tap me on the shoulder and demand to know if I was done yet with what I was working on, startling me, breaking my concentration, and delaying the actual work so I could give him an updated.

        I WFH now, and I’m a lot happier. My roomies know not to joggle my elbow when I’m head down.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      It could be that OP shows potential to excel at her job and TPTB wanted to see how she would fair if she was away from the group. I had one boss who treated me differently than my cohorts. I really could not have meaningful interactions with them because my experience was different from theirs because of different treatment.

      The boss was pretty toxic. But I ended up with new and interesting projects. I was the first one to go through the learning curve and streamline stuff for the next person. I actually liked this.

      Sometimes when employees get separated from their cohorts it’s not an insult or a punishment. It’s because the boss is positioning that employee to have more responsibility.
      Is it possible that this could be what is happening to you, OP?

    4. Mr. Shark*

      I was wondering that as well. There’s been times that I’ve had friends that I’ve enjoyed chatting with or even hanging out after work, but during work, I need to concentrate, and they just would talk too much. So changing desks to get away from that would be a helpful thing for me.

  16. Varthema*

    I don’t think LW1’s outlook is all that unreasonable or juvenile as some are making it out to be. Connecting with colleagues in spontaneous ways is a huge reason why both companies and individuals wanted to return to the workplace post lockdown. Coming into work, exchanging a pleasantry with two other people, working in silence for eight hours, and then leaving again is a pretty isolating existence if it’s not naturally your preference! And tbh, I’d find it pretty isolating as well, and I’m a pretty hardcore introvert. On days when I have no meetings and my husband is at work (I’m WFH) I often feel kind of at-sea at the end.

    I also don’t see how the colleagues she misses could really be counted as friends, given the short timeline. It sounds more like people who are more open to interaction during the day and have more commonality with LW’s work, which leads me to…

    LW, you say that the colleagues you used to be with were more “peers” – hopefully you mean in type of work more than in age? Because if so, that’s your argument. You found that you were more productive/had higher morale when you had people whom you could occasionally bounce ideas and commiserate with, with more commonality in your day to day work.

    Still, I also wouldn’t rule out that the reshuffle was done specifically to eliminate or reduce chat. Any sense at all, if you’re super super honest with yourself, that that might have been the case? In that situation, I’d tread muuuuch more carefully and maybe wait until your manager is replaced. But if you have strong reason to believe the shuffle was wholly unrelated, I don’t think it’s unreasonable to sit near colleagues with whom you share work.

    1. LondonLady*

      In addition, #LW1, maybe you could fix to pass by your friends at coffee time or meet up at lunchtimes? That might give you the friendly contact you need and allow you to focus on work for the intervening periods. Also, if it’s allowed, why not use headphones while working so you can fill that void with agreeable noise whether that’s music or an audio book or a rain noise programme or whatever works for you.

      1. Tau*

        I was thinking this. I am someone who loves chatting with people at the office, but the vast majority of that happens over coffee time or lunch – I’ve even worked in places where office rules meant we used the chat system to communicate at our desks in order not to disturb others, so zero chit-chat with your desk neighbours at all, and didn’t feel like I was getting much less socialization in than before. I’m honestly struggling to understand how OP’s workplace works here (and probably biased by my own very flexible one), that who they sit next to is what makes such a difference. Like, if OP isn’t allowed a ten-minute break to get coffee and chat with some coworkers on occasion and there’s no work-related reason for that, I’d view that as a bigger problem than the seating arrangements…

        1. Allonge*

          Oh, that’s a great summary of something that was on my mind: it’s not like work socialisation only happens with people sitting next to you! There is IM or other chst software and this is what breaks are made for. There is a reason watercoolers and coffee / tea are a thing.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I agree with most of this, but a few months of seeing someone every day is definitely long enough to become friends!

  17. Jess*

    I wonder how the questions are framed to #3’s candidates? Because I can’t help but think that if I were answering behavioural questions at job interview, I wouldn’t be able to help but trying to pull in references to my experience. “Ah yes, I can tell you about a time I solved a conflict with a customer! My twenty years of experience in that field have taught me that XYZ, so I’m well-practised at applying ABC problem solving techniques, and etc etc.”

    So even if they’re not GRADED on it, surely it’s still coming up in the conversation?

    1. Bookworm*

      Well, but if they’re only allowed to consider the elements they graded, the fact that it came up in your answer might not matter. For example, someone who said “I have 20 years of experience working with difficult customers and I typically handle them by doing x and y”, but the answer they’re looking for is x and z (where z is something they’ve done but maybe not as frequently) then the person who has 3 years of experience but answers the question “correctly” will score higher and the extra experience won’t matter.

    2. Madame Arcati*

      I was about to say something similar – in my experience at least, competency based questions like this are about experience but they want you to show not tell (asAlison advises in resumes). So instead of “I have 20 years experience in the porridge industry” they want an example of that experience – “I was faced with a severe oat shortage and I solved it by doing…and I knew to consider cereal legislation…and we were able as a result to save twenty per cent on our golden syrup supplier”.
      In my world we provide the competencies in advance, at least one of which will literally say “proven experience of…” and the questions will draw out those competencies, with further probing questions if necessary. And the panel make notes and discuss after how well they felt they demonstrated the experience, knowledge, skill, and assign a score.
      Of course OPs company system may differ it’s just my experience that it isn’t as scripted as described. It’s not a perfect system perhaps but it helps guard against the influence of information you shouldn’t be using. For example, I was interviewing a candidate once and tbh thought the outfit they were wearing wasn’t really business appropriate BUT there was no way for that to be take into account – there was no way to score it, and only the scores matter, and even if id written it down it would only have served to get me in bother (all notes are made on booklets along with the questions themselves and returned to HR). So it was rightly irrelevant and that person got the job and my opinion on their attire still doesn’t matter a damn.

    3. Allonge*

      Not necessarily! Especially as the interviewees don’t know there will only be behavioral questions, they might focus on the scenario and not on giving all the context.

      Franky, if someone cannot tell me about a time when… without mentioning all their accomplishments at that job, it would seem way too show-offy. But we start with tell us about yourself and other questions on the background and we are in a different culture from the US.

  18. SeeReeves*

    I wish we had more information from the behavioral question LW. The question seems to be phrased that behavioral interview questions may be the problem. But then it also seems that a strict interview script and scoring sheet seem to be the problem (maybe aside from the types of questions). I guess I’d like to know what the LW thinks is missing from this interview process. From my perspective, what they described sounds like a good process. Using the resume and cover letter to see who appears to have the skills and experience you need and then using behavioral questions to get them to tell you about actual times they’ve used those skills and experiences to do the sort of work needed or demonstrate the sorts of skills needed. Assuming they also check references as part of their process, I’m not sure what I am missing.

    1. Allonge*

      The issue is that only behavioral questions are allowed in the interview, so there is no way to e.g. ask about the specific work history of the person, or ask technical questions about the profession.

      Behaviorals are great, but they cannot cover everything you need (unless I suppose when one is hiring with zero experience and will provide all the training needed for the job from the ground up). It’s limiting for no good reason.

      1. Hotdog not dog*

        That’s the issue my current company has. Managers can’t ask anything that isn’t on the score sheet, so if your candidate has something on their resume you wish you could clarify (like, “With a decade of experience working with Llamas, how and why did you pivot to Director of Teapot Handles?”) you’re out of luck unless one of the pre selected behavioral questions happens to be, “Tell me about a time you made a dramatic change in your career path.”

        1. Allonge*

          That’s pretty wild. We use standard questions, but asking about work history and follow-up to any response are encouraged.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          We have one manager on our team who tries to run hiring this way and I’ve been consistently overriding her when it comes up. It’s a terrible practice who in our case is enacted by someone who thinks they understand DEI and doesn’t.

  19. SeeReeves*

    Less than six months into my current job, I learned I might have to move desks. At the time, I didn’t sit with my department. All my work was in service of another department and I sat with them. In a pending office re-arrange, my actual dept. would now be close to those I needed to work with and it was suggested I sit with my dept. The new location was a windowless corner with cubicles designed for call center roles that dealt with HIPAA information. So the cubicles had high sides and were designed to isolate each person. I knew immediately that move would impact my work satisfaction. I thrive in environments where I can engage with those around me. Also, the nature of my role was such that overhearing the conversations of the team I served meant I had the information I needed to do my work and meant I could interject important information as needed.

    Even though it had been less than six months, I told my boss this. I told her that the move would impact my effectiveness (maybe not as relevant for LW) and my job satisfaction (more relevant for LW). Ultimately, I was not asked to move.

    LW, I recommend emailing the grand boss to say that since the seating re-assignments you’ve realized how the office environment impacts your productivity and work satisfaction. That you work better and happier in a space where you can engage with peers on a regular basis. That you are not able to do so now. And you’d like to suggest a move to X space.

    I would refrain from using the word “friend.” A work environment isn’t about making and sitting with friends. But it can be about being near those with whom you work well, have warm relationships with, etc.

    Also, I’d think very carefully about what others had advised first. Is it possible your previous chatting was actually a problem and the re-arrangement was a solve for that? You can only make this case if you and those you sit near actually would be more productive if you moved. If it would actually be the opposite, then this request would look oblivious.

    Also, make sure your not making a request that will inadvertently affect someone else. Are you asking to move to an open space? Or would someone have to swap desks with you? Do those near which you want to sit want someone (anyone or you specifically) there? You don’t want to solve one problem only to create others.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      This is excellent wording and you’re right the word “friend” has got everyone in a tizzy.

  20. Erika22*

    #3 – American in the UK here. My current company (UK based) uses a method just like this, and when I’ve interviewed at other UK-based companies, the structure of the interview suggests this is what those companies do as well. Extremely limited time for chit-chat (possibly also a side effect of virtual interviews). The interview itself is just running down a list of behavioural questions and having the candidate respond, then giving a chance for questions from the candidate at the end. We then give points based on how questions were answered (loosely based on how effectively the STAR method was used and how fully the question was answered), then add the points all up at the end, and if we select a candidate who was not also the highest point earner, we have to give a reason. We also have to give a reason for why we didn’t select the other candidates.

    I can’t say if this is a better or worse way to interview than how interviews I’ve experienced in the US go (which in my experience are usually far more conversational, some behavioural questions, but overall not nearly as rigid). I definitely don’t perform as well interviewing in the UK – no matter how well I’ve prepared my responses, or how kind the interviewers are, the formality of these interviews really throws me off. It always takes me a few rounds to get used to it, and for some reason I always have the interview for the role I’m most excited for right at the beginning of a job hunt, so I always mess it up!

  21. 653-CXK*

    OP#2: I have problems like this when my boss and I have one-on-ones; they will say something and at one point I will misinterpret it or not understand it fully. Numerous awkward pauses and slight impatience is the result.

    I write as much as I can down that was discussed, and at the end of the one-on-one, recap what needs to be done. “OK, I will do X and Y as a priority, let you know the outcome of W and Z, and we’ve agreed to revisit T when more information.”

  22. Mabel*

    I have the same problem as the poor listener in #2 and would like to know how to do better as well.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It depends on what the root of the problem is. Do you just have trouble processing auditory information? One tool is taking notes as verbatim as possible so you can read them later and process them in your own time. Writing things also helps them stick in your brain.

    2. sb51*

      I have had good luck with actively piping up when the work is assigned mid-meeting and saying something like “let me make sure I’ve recorded this right, you want me to [blah] and make people slow down enough I can get it all written down. Is it occasionally a little annoying? Maybe, but most people interpret it as diligence rather than me covering for the fact my audio processing and working memory can glitch out on me.

    3. Sunshine soup*

      I find I take much better meeting notes on the computer, rather than hand writing them. I type faster, edits/additions are easier to make, and it’s easier to read later.

  23. flemmard*

    Re. “Missing Key Details in Meetings”, this reminds me of being an undergraduate. I found it very hard to take extensive notes or learn much whilst listening to a lecturer, so I’d briefly note down key concepts, references etc. and then read up on them later in order to fully understand them. The lecture served only as a general overview and guidance as to where to direct my studies.

    For me, reading is a much more effective way to learn things. In the place of the co-worker mentioned I would rather concentrate on the meeting and refer to documentation later.

    More often in the past than now I’ve encountered situations where people needing me to implement work will call a meeting in which they talk about what they want to happen and expect me to take notes myself and write up any specifications based on those. The inevitable result is the missing of “key details”. If they write it down themselves and, if necessary, answer questions to clarify points whilst the work is in progress then the result is a lot better.

    I’m not the only one to have found this method of working difficult.

    1. hamsterpants*

      I agree that sharing agendas in advance and notes after is a general meeting best practice. That said, assuming ADHD right out of the door seems like an overstep and even if LW2 has it, the ball will be in their court to manage it (up to and including requesting disability accommodations).

    2. Mockingjay*

      Keep in mind, there is a difference between minutes and technical notes. Minutes record only general basics: who attended, topic titles, and action items. Technical notes are detailed discussion notes with data, project progress/milestones, issues, and possible solutions.

      Determine what kind of notes would benefit OP2’s coworker. I suspect technical notes are what he needs; the next step is to find several people on the team who can do these. (In my experience, technical notes reflect the needs of the writer; I focus on items that pertain to my work and not necessarily my teammate’s portion of the project. So OP2’s coworker might need notes from several people.) Or provide training to the coworker on how to note key items himself. It is a learned skill and not everyone picks it up automatically.

      1. hamsterpants*

        If someone is struggling with an important part of doing their job well, the default should not be “someone else does it for them forever.” I agree that training can be helpful, though unless the employee is very junior, the employee should take the lead on asking for it.

        I am grumpy about this because taking detailed notes that serve everyone’s needs and not just your own is the kind of non-promotable administrative work that often is dumped onto women. The archives are full of examples. https://www.askamanager.org/2022/09/i-stood-up-to-a-sexist-coworker-who-wanted-me-to-take-all-the-notes-for-a-team-im-not-even-on.html

  24. LDN Layabout*

    As others have said, letter three is essentially what happens in a lot of institutions in the UK and isn’t an issue:

    For the reference check issue, most reference checks in the UK come down to ‘X worked here between Y and Z date’ vs. the kind of reference check I’ve seen discussed here. It’ll be something handled by HR and not interviewers.

    From the public sector side at least, your CV/resume (and other materials) got you the interview, there’s no need to rehash them once you’re there. Plus it’s the document with the most ‘material’ in terms of what people look at for class/other indicators, whether deliberately or unconsciously.

    For credentials, there are two options: they’re either a requirement (in which case the group is already pre-filtered by the CV check/online application) or they cover things which can be better assessed in a behavioural question. If there are two candidates, one with X credential but they’ve never used it at work vs. a candidate without the credential but who’s outlines how they used the method in Y example, the latter is more attractive.

    And as for experience, that should again be covered by the behavioural questions. Someone asking about a time when X happened isn’t just looking at how the candidate dealt with the issue, they’re hearing about how the issue itself occurred and what position the candidate was in to deal with it.

  25. Perfectly Particular*

    OP1 doesn’t mention their gender, but I’m wondering if that’s not playing a role here also. Manufacturing environments sway heavily male, so if she is a young woman, she may be feeling the effect of being one of the only women at work as well as having her friends relocated. Additionally, in a manufacturing environment, it may not be possible to leave her desk without PPE, so the water cooler chats that many have recommended are potentially less frequent.

    I have successfully asked to move desks a few times at work, for more sunlight, to be closer to my core team, or to have a quieter place to work. For the 3rd one, I was the only woman, and was mid-career, in a space with 5 young men. It literally smelled like a locker room, and their playfulness was fine for their workload, but not for mine. I didn’t mention the specific issues to our boss, just pointed out that there was an open desk and I would like to sit there for the quiet.

    So all that to say, OP1, I think you should request the move, but give a more broad reason than sitting with your friends. Be careful about tying your reason to a specific location (I.e. more sun) or you may find your “accommodation” will keep you away from the group the next time everyone moves!

    1. just another queer reader*

      Agreed. I have often felt deeply socially isolated at work, and it’s really tough. Spending all day with people who either I don’t click with, have nothing in common with, or who actively microaggress me.

      Spending time with people who I click with is so powerful and rejuvenating. Sometimes I intentionally fabricate opportunities for social interaction – joining the LGBTQ employee group, setting up lunch with people I like, etc.

      Good luck, LW1 – I really hope you find a way to make this work!

  26. orange line avenger*

    LW2, I think all you need to really say is, “I’ve noticed a pattern where you ask follow-up questions that have already been answered in meetings. For example, [x]. What’s going on there?”

    Whether he’s got auditory processing issues, is playing Tetris, or is unclear on his job duties and doesn’t understand how these meetings are relevant to his work, I feel like explicitly and directly naming the pattern and asking if he’s noticed it/why it’s happened will help you get to the bottom of it. Maybe you need to make adjustments to your process and have an agenda he can preview ahead of time. Maybe he needs to start taking notes and asking clarifying questions during the meeting. Maybe he just needs to close the other four tabs he’s got open. Maybe all three!

    Simple and very direct is best. At least for me, Alison’s script would sound clunky coming out of my mouth — I do much better being very warm and very direct, but obviously, you should make adjustments for your own style and your relationship with this person.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I realise you’re just using this an example, but being able to play tetris during online meetings MASSIVELY increases my recall. :D

      (actually it’s Two Dots, but same principle.)

  27. Llama Llama*

    In regards to 2, you mentioned he is shadowing. Does that mean he is not actively engaged in the conversation? Does he know this is something important to his work? Meetings are often filled with useless stuff that it’s hard to retain everything but if he goes in knowing specific topics he should be engaged in would help that. Or if you don’t know going in that it’s an important topic, get him engaged somehow in the conversation to know that this is an important topic.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      That stuck out at me too. If I’m shadowing in a meeting, my mindset while there is probably different than if I’m an actual participant in the meeting. I don’t mean to nitpick wording, but in this case, it may be setting the employee’s expectations in the wrong direction. Clarifying that might make a difference, or it might be something larger.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah if you tell me I’m shadowing then to me that means “take in the overall vibe to learn how things are generally done” not “predict that you are being briefed about an upcoming task”.

      1. Allonge*

        Ok but after 2-3 meetings where your boss has questions and action items for you, would you not be at least suspicious that your inizial assumption is not correct?

        1. Ellis Bell*

          I’d take more notes, cross my fingers that I was taking the right ones, and would still be really baffled that the boss didn’t seem to know what they wanted or to express it clearly.

  28. FashionablyEvil*

    #2–have you considered coaching him before a meeting? As in, “We’re reviewing the oatmeal production numbers so make sure you’re keeping an ear out for factors that impacted production that fall under our department since we’ll likely be asked for a plan to address them.” Sometimes just signaling what to listen for can help a lot. Also, if you have 1:1 meetings, frequently referring back to the big picture (“This all goes along with the oatmeal production issues we’re following up on,”) can help too.

    For communicating back about his other projects, there’s a communication technique called SBAR (situation, background, assessment, recommendation) that would give him a template for organizing his thoughts and would likely help you see where he’s stumbling (Does he not understand what the core issue is? Is he getting bogged down in irrelevant details? Is he not able to formulate a recommendation about next steps? etc., etc.)

  29. Pillow Forts FTW*

    OP#2 – Be careful of your own mental framing when having this conversation – if your own job does require ‘coaching.’

    I’ve never had a coach just say “you’re bad at X, just go fix it”. They normally provide advice and help on how to fix X.

  30. Dinwar*

    #2: I was like that for a while. I’d sit in meetings and not understand what was said, so it looked like I either forgot or wasn’t paying attention.

    The issue was that everyone else was so in the weeds of what was going on with a client that they were talking WAY over my head. They were using acronyms and site-specific terminology and just assuming that everyone understood what certain things meant. I had made a fairly major shift after leaving school–I studied invert paleontology in school, and was suddenly doing groundwater sampling. I didn’t know what a peristaltic pump was, much less how to low-flow a well, and in meetings everyone merely assumed that everyone in the meeting knew all that and having conversations where all this stuff was assumed. Some folks tried to fix the problem by saying “You need to ask questions when you don’t understand”, but that’s just about worthless as advice goes. You need to realize there’s something to understand in the first place before you realize you don’t understand it.

    Ultimately what helped me was being thrown into the weeds as deep as they were. Once you live and breath a language for a year, you pick up on it. This was NOT a comfortable process, and I was nearly fired for it. At the same time, as I understood certain aspects people would commend me for my work in those areas. Led to some fun conversations–“On the one hand if you screw up again you’re on a PIP. On the other, I’m giving you a small bonus because of how well you’re doing.” Shattered my confidence for a long while.

    It may be that the kid is just overwhelmed, and struggling to absorb so much that they don’t have capacity to absorb it all. They don’t know what’s important because they don’t know what’s being said half the time in the first place. At the very least, it’s worth stepping back and listening to your meetings and seeing if a new person could follow them or not. If not, maybe take 5-10 minutes after the meeting to discuss the key points with the employee, to get them trained on how to follow along in the meetings.

    1. kiki*

      I was also wondering if this employee has been given proper background and feels like they’re able to ask questions. I don’t know how long LW has been at this company or in their role, but it can be easy to forget that internal meetings are likely to sound like gibberish to anyone new. The new hire might be listening very intently, but it might be hard for them to understand the significance of certain things or immediately grasp implications that are clear to others in the room.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I assumed from the word shadowing that questions were expressly discouraged. Also, they don’t know what task to ask questions about until they are given the task AFTER the meeting! Seems very back to front to me. If OP is in a position to delegate right after the meeting and is saying to herself “we just spoke about this” then why isn’t she simply delegating it before, or while speaking about it? That’s more productive for anyone, regardless of their memory power.

  31. Jam Today*

    #2 missing key details

    Two things I have learned about myself as I age:

    1) I can’t take notes and be an active listener at the same time. I basically become a transcriptionist and am focusing on words said, who said them, etc. and not the meaning behind them.

    2) I understand things much better in written form than in verbal. I am absolutely that person who says “can you just send me an email” instead of “jump on a quick call” because I need to see a concept, read it, re-read it in order to fully grok it. Listening to words without a written reference is difficult for me. If I could do my entire job in email, with the occasional customer-facing meeting, I would.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      But regarding #1 – If you took notes, you were not actively listening and not absorbing during the meeting, but you should have decent/good notes about what happened during the meeting that you could read over later.

      I agree that I can’t be the notetaker and particpate, I end up stopping note taking. But I can go to meetings and remember/comprehend the main points of the meeting.

      1. Jam Today*

        Re note taking: not really, because I need to be able to pay attention to everything I can’t “drop out” and process choice pieces of information and move them from short-term memory to working memory for the choice pieces of information or concepts.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        From someone who also has this problem: That’s not how it works. You can’t possibly take notes fast enough to get that much detail, and if you’re not absorbing it because you’re writing or typing then you will definitely miss key phrases, emphasis, etc., so your notes won’t be as good as you need them to be.

  32. Garlic Knot*

    #2 I had an employee who was perfectly responsive when getting instructions, understood them well, and then still said “It’s the first time I hear about this” the next day. I attributed this to them being married with two kids and thus giving automatic reactions to anything. Nothing was ever done about it because they were the boss’s favorite and could do no wrong. As a result, constant babysitting was the only working solution. The final product was always excellent.

    I have another employee who seems to have severe listening comprehension problems and is unfortunately a cockoolander in general. Having a meeting agenda does not help. Providing instructions in both working languages of the department, written and oral, does not help. Having them take notes does not help. Having them give a summary of requested tasks at the end does not help. Implementing all of the above as a package set barely worked, but took so much time and effort that the actual task could have been completed by someone else thrice over. This person is also very responsive and does it so convincingly that sometimes one forgets that the act of communication most probably did not happen as one expected… Evidenced by the deliverables that are so widely off mark, it makes one question one’s own sanity. Again, nothing is ever done about the situation and never have there been any consequences. I at least got an official permission to make it the boss’s problem, but I still get pulled in now and then.

    The third example is an employee who seems to just stop listening midway – again, while remaining perfectly responsive throughout. For now, we are cultivating a habit of a) taking notes and b) actually referencing those notes if questions arise. This is also the type of person who has a question and immediately asks it aloud with no effort to search for an answer on their own. It is often the exact same question, already asked multiple times. It’s a work in progress, but I am not very hopeful, since this is the boss’s new favorite. I would just like to note that the team leader does not equal a babysitter… In theory.

  33. Wintermute*

    with #3– my main concern with a situation like this would be you have no way of verifying they’re not making everything up to sound good. Part of the challenge of answering a behavioral question well is finding a time in your own working experience or life that relates to the value you want to demonstrate to them. If you can simply invent a situation out of whole cloth then it becomes more about how well you can intuit the answer they’re looking for and tailor a response to it– even if that situation never happened.

    That is a risk with all behavioral interview questions, of course, which is actually why I think they’re terrible and should **not** be used, simply because lying is too easy and they too heavily advantage liars and privilege glibness. But in this case it seems especially egregious.

    In any behavioral interview if I know the company is undergoing a big transition I could make up an incident that happened at a company I really worked at on a project I really did work on that maybe didn’t happen quite the way I said it and there is literally no way they could ever call me out even talking to references because it’s so down in the weeds the subtle differences. But in this case I could just cut something from whole cloth, a project that didn’t even exist in an area I never worked in, maybe even for a job I invented, and it would “score” better than someone who used actual life experience.

    1. bamcheeks*

      I find the opposite with behavioural (we call them competency-based) questions, as long as you can ask probing questions. I’ve run hundreds of these and the kind of person who can make up plausible details about real situations is actually very rare. Lots of people can have prepared good examples which try and show their activities in the best light, but probing questions about why they chose a particular course of action or what the impact was or how stakeholders were involved etc really show up the difference between someone who is spreading a superficial answer very thin and someone who is only showing you the tip of the iceberg and has the broader context and understanding.

      We ran an interview recently where we interviewed two people from the same team — one seasoned, one more junior– and they both talked about the same project in their interview, and the level of detail and context that the more seasoned person was able to provide was just so noticeable. The junior person very confidently talked about what she’d done and what the impact had been (very good STAR technique!), but the seasoned person was able to explain why particular decisions had been made, what alternatives had been discarded and it was quite clear that she was thinking at a much deeper and broader level than the junior person.

      You do need to be able to ask probing questions, but I have never met someone whose been able to bullshit about a real situation sufficiently consistently and fluently to be able to convince a good interviewer. I have had people stop and reframe a situation in response to a probing question because they realise they can’t sustain the level of control/knowledge/ability they are trying to project.

      I don’t think they’ll necessarily identify the one-in-a-thousand who is that good a liar, but I don’t think any interview process will do that.

      1. Wintermute*

        That’s fair, but it sounds like you’ve implemented them in a very thoughtful way that also allows for freeform followup and probing. And, frankly, good interviewers are going to be good interviewers no matter their tools if they’re not hamstrung.

        My concern is mostly that in the hands of a mediocre interviewer, which is the norm (since, you know, the average person is average) or one without a lot of experience, they give worse results because they focus on the wrong things.

        This also may vary by field, I work in IT, where it’s very easy to learn to talk the talk and learn superficial skills, and the actual work is much harder.

  34. Important Moi*

    In RE: LW1 and the comments.

    To me this an interesting flip on the “friends and friendly behavior” questions that come up on this site.

  35. Dust Bunny*

    inability to absorb info at the same time he’s taking notes (and so someone else should take notes), or an info-processing challenge, or an auditory disorder,

    This would be me. I cannot take notes and absorb information at the same time, period. My boss, a few years ago, signed me up for a series of lectures on [work-related thing] and after the first one I had to tell him not to pay for the rest of them because they refused to provide any kind of transcript, outline, or visuals and I couldn’t get enough out of them to justify the cost (boss was annoyed that they only had one format–it was a talk but only a sound recording, not a video/PowerPoint). I’ve tried every trick anyone has suggested and this is an area in which I just can’t seem to make enough improvement.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      But also, I think it’s pretty crappy to only provide one format for something like this. It was a recorded talk that they’d used before–surely they could have provided an outline or partial transcript by now?

  36. Hiring Mgr*

    for #1, unless there was a specific reason why your boss moved desks I’d say go for it. As a mgr i would be completely fine with this. Plus, it sounds like the boss who made the switch isn’t even there anymore? If it was a random reshuffling I doubt anyone would care, if there was a specific reason, they’ll tell you..

  37. ABCYaBye*

    OP1 – I don’t recommend framing a request as “I’d like to be by my friends” but I do think you could make a request based on the fact that your manager has left and your interaction with those you were closer to in your time at the company allows you to get some quick answers to help your productivity. Feeling isolated is a thing and while we’re not at work to socialize, it is reasonable to want to enjoy going to work. If the murmur of people around you helps you, and you’re able to get some quick answers to questions you have about your job from those others who moved elsewhere, that’s a good reason to inquire.

    “Hey, grand boss, since (manager) has left, and others have been moved, I’m finding it a little more difficult to get quick answers to things I’m working on. The others in my work area aren’t able to help in the same way. I’ve also found that since they moved, there’s a lot less ambient noise around me, and that white noise really helped me as I worked. Would it be feasible for me to move my work space?”

    Be prepared for no, but if you frame it in the right way, and don’t make it about sitting with your friends, you’re more likely to get the response you’re seeking.

    1. Persephone*

      I think you found the perfect phrasing for this. LW1, if you’re going to asks, this is the way to go!

  38. Not So Super-visor*

    Ooof, I feel like LW1 could be the youngest member of my department who recently asked to sit by friends for similar reasons. Unfortunately, her friends have issues with their chatting becoming so much of a distraction to themselves and others that their productivity (and others) struggled. It was specifically addressed with those individuals, and the solution that we came up with was to move them slightly apart from the rest of the group. While I couldn’t give the younger employee exactly what she wanted, I did give her some options that would move her closer to that vicinity, and she accepted one of those.

  39. Miller_Admin*

    1. How to professionally ask, “can I sit with my friends?”
    I wouldn’t ask for it. It’s possible that your new seating could be result of your friends chatting and laughing. They could have just moved you around versus saying it was an issue. I’ve seen co-workers in the past that got into the habit of talking over the cubicle wall to the point that it was distracting to others and made it hard hear when having telephone conversations. I’ve had one employer that rearranged the seating to separate people under the guise of you need to sit next to so, so since you are on the same project versus being upfront that there is an issue or do not want you to figure out who is complaining about the noise level. I like Alison’s advice; hold off until you get new management.

    2. My employee misses key details in meetings
    Does the employee take notes? That is something I have found when supervising or training others. Some will come back to you a few times with the same question because they are “not” taking notes, and are not retaining the information. I had to do this with someone once, ask them to take notes during a meeting or training session. Than discuss what their take is. If they are taking notes & still unable to follow directions they are not a good fit.

  40. Managing Upstate*

    Oh goodness. Regarding the changing of job titles – Out of desperation to secure an interview at a place, I changed my job titles (well, I added the word “Operations” in between the “Specific workplace” and “Manager”) I had read in an online forum to do this, as that was how the “game is played”. I’ve been feeling guilty about it, and now I remember why it doesn’t always serve me to trust random internet strangers over a seasoned professional.

    All that to say, I have NOT secured the interview, but I do like the approach of adding clarification in parentheses. Live and learn.

  41. Fabulous*

    #2 – OP, definitely don’t be super harsh with him not retaining things until you understand what’s going on. Also remember, not everyone is like you. Just because you’re great at absorbing meetings, not everyone else is. I’m going to give you some background about me to kind of paint a picture of what this guy may be experiencing:

    I can’t sit through meetings and pay attention fully either, unless I’m 100% engaging in the conversation. It’s always been like this for me – I couldn’t do lecture classes in college either. I can’t take notes and hear new words at the same time, and I’m a terrible note taker regardless. I’ve noticed that I do get easily distracted, not only from my phone, but by other work and notifications that happen during meetings, yet if I don’t have “distractors” I constantly zone out and still don’t hear words that are said. Because of this, I’ve always preferred email communication because I can see the written words on the screen, and absorb them as slowly or quickly as needed. In addition to simply not retaining lectures well, I’ve also suspected I have an auditory processing disorder because I can’t distinguish words well when on the phone (or in person for that matter) unless I’ve got complete silence in the background and am concentrating super hard at hearing what’s being said. And even then, there’s often a delay between me hearing something and understanding its meaning.

    It’s a tough place to be. The last few years it’s been in the back of my brain that I probably have ADHD, but I still have yet to get a proper screen. Not saying your employee also has undiagnosed ADHD or anything, but as Alison said, there may be a plausible medical explanation.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      As soon as OP said that the person was “shadowing” I just thought “Oh hey, look – my worst nightmare.”

  42. Engineering Mom*

    OP1: I also work in an office support role in manufacturing. At one point I had an office on the same hall as the engineers and department management (lots of activity), then I was moved to a different building and there was literally no one there! It was awful! Eventually they moved another department into the dozen empty cubicles around me but it was very lonely for awhile.

    At my manufacturing plant, office assignments are handled by HR. Could you go to HR or someone in facilities to ask about moving desks? Maybe you could go to them and do the leg work of finding space, and then just send a quick note to your grandboss letting them know you’d like to move, you’ve cleared it with HR/facilities, and you just need their stamp of approval to move forward? I hope it works out for you, I know how lonely it can be in your shoes. Good luck!

    1. nona*

      If not HR, does your group have an admin that supports your group? Such that you can ask them the policy on moving desks and what the process/requirements are for requesting a move? That way you are just asking about how/why moves happen, and if asked why, you can explain “It’s really quiet over here and I just wanted to know if there was an opportunity to change that”

  43. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW1, are you in an environment where you can just move desks without asking? Is there an admin person you could ask instead of your boss?

    1. Miller_Admin*

      If they have an office phone, than paperwork is required to switch it to a new location. There could be a charge associated with relocating an extension number.

      1. Observer*

        That’s extremely uncommon. It used to be more common, although never universal.

        Our old system had something like this going on – moving an extension from one phone to another cost us money. But actually physically moving the phone was generally not a problem.

        We have not had this issue in about 17 years.

  44. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Q2: I used to have a manager who swore she was a world champion at multitasking…yet if you were talking to her while she was doing something on the computer or looking at her notepad to write something down, she literally would not hear or process a word you said that entire time. Then when you’d bring up that conversation in context of a later work issue, she’d flatly deny the discussion ever took place, because she didn’t hear or remember it. But she’d keep doing it because “oh I’m just so busy, keep talking but I have to get this one thing done.” It drove us all crazy and wasted a lot of time. Point being, a lot of the time our brains do better when focusing on just one thing or task at a time (it why distracted driving is dangerous and illegal). If this employee is on their phone during meetings, concentrating on taking notes, or even just daydreaming or thinking of other things, that could be why they’re not processing the info discussed during meetings. Or maybe they’re just not someone who perceived and learns auditorily, some people learn & retain much better when they can write things down and refer back to the written words later.

  45. Environmental Compliance*

    OP1 – I’m wondering the same as some others above… were people moved to break up some of that chatter, and it was more chatter than any of you realized? I’ve seen this happen several times, and it never seemed that the Chatterers necessarily recognized *why* until they were plainly told, which didn’t always happen.

  46. MissMeghan*

    OP1, do you do anything with your former deskmates now? Like a 5 minute break to walk around the building and get a little fresh air and chat? In addition to any slack/teams options you might have, one or two little breaks where you stretch your legs and get a bit of social time can make a big difference and feel less chained to your desk.

  47. JSPA*

    #1, if people were intentionally moved around–please ignore the people upthread telling you it’s no big deal to move back.

    1. You don’t just undo an intentional shuffle.

    2. There’s a chance that your grandboss was being driven quietly nuts by what you considered reasonable levels of conversation. Or perhaps someone else on the edge of your chat zone was bothered. (Has anyone outside your chat group ever asked the group to “keep it down,” or commented in any way–negative or positive–about the level of conversation?)

    3. there’s a chance that the error rate or the output of someone’s work (yours work or one of your chatty work friends or someone subjected to it without participating) was borderline, and your boss is figuring out whether silence will improve the reliability of the product.

    4. There’s a chance that one of your chat partners likes to chat, in the moment, but (rightly or wrongly) blames the chatting for their lack of concentration. (Do you know if they are still chatting at the same level in your absence? )

    5. There’s a chance that your boss saw a cohort becoming a clique (and found that problematic) or found some aspect of the chat exclusionary or problematic, or realized that you were all missing out on the opportunity to learn from people a bit more senior. If there’s been a mixing and matching of ages, cultures and experience levels…and the reason you don’t find the people to be potential friends is a matter of demographics, not personality…that’s something to sit with, for a while.

    Why not ask your boss what the thinking was, behind the shuffle?

    And if you still want to move back to the same place, rather than the same people, you can reference the lighting or the air flow or the atmosphere.

    Finally, if you are in your mid 20’s, given we lost a couple of years due to Covid restrictions and WFH…do you have enough experience in a professional office, to know that what you’re looking for is something reasonable for an office? Moving jobs won’t help if you’re missing the feel of a student study lounge or an intern office (places where, yes, people work hard, but socializing and networking are a bigger part of your daily experience).

    1. kiki*

      I was thinking the same on your last point. There are for sure some fields, jobs, and companies that are more social, but “will my coworkers and I like socializing throughout the day” is really hard to screen for in a job. As LW has seen, even a change of desks can disrupt it. I still think it’s worth it to see if you could move to a different area, but I would caution LW from leaving over this unless they’re aware of a job that would be inherently more social or they have other reasons to leave.

    2. RagingADHD*

      LW, please listen to this very sound advice.

      And if you absolutely *must* approach the boss about potentially moving, I highly recommend you start by asking about the reasons for the shuffle. Many of them listed above are things a good manager wouldn’t volunteer (so as not to be overly negative), but would be willing to discuss if asked.

    3. blood orange*

      I totally agree. I’m sure in some offices it would fly to just move, but in the vast majority I’d argue this would come off as quite unprofessional. As someone who has had to navigate literal turf wars, please OP listen to JSPA.

  48. April Alter Ego*

    OP #1 – What if you lean into it as the “unimportant” item that it is probably to your grandboss. A casual pass in the hall and a, “do you have any objection to me sitting at x desk so I have a bit more background noise when I work? or “I found I work better with background noise, any concerns about me sitting x”. Or if there is an empty desk sit there once a week and then bring it up as ” I have found I focus better working from the x unit, any concerns with me making that change with Office manager?”

    1. MicroManagered*

      This worked for a friend of mine once. She was all stressed out over her desk being moved from a location that she really liked (window), to a location she did not like (no window), and the plan after was that the desk would remain empty afterward. I suggested “just ask” and it turned out to be a complete non-issue.

  49. Toto*

    LW1 took me back to the early days of the pandemic when my supervisor pressured me several times to come into the office (we were all able to WFH) because she wanted to be there and she said “work is social for me and it’s more fun with more people here.” Yeah no, I’m not dying because you need to socialize.

    Having work friends is fine and does help to pass the day but sometimes people are more disruptive than they realize.

  50. Ann O'Nemity*

    #1 Can the OP ask their (grand)boss if there are plans to fill the three empty seats? They could also mention that they found themselves happier and more productive when the office was livelier and there was more environmental stimuli, and that the current configuration is awfully quiet and isolating.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I really like this approach. It’s less “I want to be with my friends” which rightly or wrongly will come off as juvenile, but emphasizes the environment and the work impact.

  51. Becky*

    #1. I would make darn sure the friend coworkers are on the same page before making any moves to rejoin them. Why were things shuffled around recently – could one of them have requested it? I have been stuck with chatty coworking neighbors before and I’m sure they thought I loved interacting with them but I really, really didn’t.

  52. Cats win*

    #5 I work at a large university and I do think there’s a difference between our system / HR derived titles vs our business titles / job posting titles that might not translate well to a background check.
    For example, on my team, we have a bunch of Teapot Operations Analysts with different levels, as far as our system titles go, which includes manager jobs. We’re so large that in a background check, that’s probably what would be reported.
    However, our actually business titles vary and give a lot more context, for example, Spouts Design Teapot Manager; or the non-manager roles are commonly referred to as something more like Design Construction Analysts because the system title isn’t particularly accurate.

  53. NeedRain47*

    I wonder if the person in #2 is taking notes. It seems obvious, but I see people all the time take no notes in meetings, then act surprised when they are expected to know things. Not only are notes often useful, but they kind of force you to pay attention, you can’t write things down if you don’t listen.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      There’s also the question of if the person knows how to take notes, or how to take them in the way that’s most appropriate to the setting.

      It feels simple/obvious but there are different note-taking techniques and some will give you better results than others. As someone who was usually a couple steps ahead in school, I did not learn how to take notes until college and even then they weren’t great notes. It’s definitely something I’ve had to explore and work on in my professional life.

      1. NeedRain47*

        Yes, and if he’s brand new, even if he listens well it might take him a bit to figure out which are the important things he might need to know later and which aren’t. But going from no notes to some possibly not great notes is still likely to improve the situation.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Notes have to be taken with some kind of purpose in mind. You can’t possibly get down every word, you have to put down the choice bits that you know you’ll need later. He needs to have some kind of brief beforehand, not “remember everything” followed by an expectation that he can zero in on any specific part of the whole meeting.

  54. Queen Ruby*

    Re: LW 2
    I’m new to my current job, but have almost 20 years in the industry. The company I work for does very technical work, and while I have 2 degrees in a closely related field and maybe 3-4 years experience in a support role doing work very similar to the current job, there is still so much technical info being discussed at meetings that it’s hard to keep up at times. I can understand/follow the conversation, and find it super interesting, which makes it hard to focus on taking comprehensive notes at the same time. Which, as the project manager, is very much my job!
    As a student, I did significantly better when actively listening, and taking minimal notes, so I could go back and study up on topics I didn’t quite grasp in class. So I know that’s what’s best for me and my own gratification, but that’s usually not what’s best for the team and my job performance. I’ve learned to write down things verbatim, then go back and digest what was discussed, and distill it into meeting notes. It’s certainly an adjustment, and there’s no way I would have had the experience and maturity to figure that out on my own early in my career. I also didn’t have adderall back then, but that’s a different story lol.
    All that to say, some guidance and coaching would probably be very helpful. Maybe LW could suggest this employee shadow other team members, for exposure to how others handle such situations. I think seeing how they work might help the new employee get ideas for how they can adjust their current approach to get more out of the meetings so they’re not missing the important stuff. I remember when I was an undergrad, many professors noticed I had an unusual way of doing math and it seemed to frustrate them. Then I had a genetics professor who was delighted to encounter a student who did math the same way she did! We ended up developing a good professor-student relationship, and I became more comfortable with my wacky ways and grew from it.

  55. Eagle*

    For LW1 – have you scoped out the area you would like to be in and are there available desks? If yes, there may be someone like a facility or office manager that does desk assignments and you could ask them if you can be assigned a desk there. It is reasonable to say things like “I feel isolated where I am, the temperature tends to be too hot or too cold, this space is closer to the rest room, break room, copier and printer, I find myself needing to occasionally consult others and this saves time rather than walking over to their desk a couple times a day.” Think of all the other reasons a change makes sense and use all the reasons with the desk assigner or your grand boss.

  56. The Crowening*

    LW1, could you frame it as something like – sitting in that area feels a bit isolating? Nothing against the folks sitting there in the same area, but if it’s overall quieter, with overall less interaction, that’s less about “I want to talk to my friends” and more about “it’s so quiet it makes me really miss having a little more activity around.” Which doesn’t sound like “socializing” to me so much as just a quality-of-work-life issue.

  57. Goody*

    (reposted from nesting error)

    I’ll preface this by saying I’m a much older worker than LW1 and clearly have very different (and much less flexible) office experiences than many younger workers.

    No, you cannot “just move your desk”. Your boss needs to be able to find you without wandering the cubicles to hunt down where you’re sitting today. Your phone has to be mapped to your location. Your computer access may also be tied to a specific station. All of these required advance planning before this reorganization.

    This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision by your bosses. This was a deliberate, planned shuffle, and you are not owed any explanation as to why this took place.

    Maybe your former pod was broken up because of disturbances to other workers. Maybe management thought you were becoming too much of a high school clique. Maybe this was done to foster more varied work relationships. The reality is, it ultimately doesn’t matter WHY your pod was broken up. This is how it is. And you can either work with it or not.

    Now, if you had a good relationship with your immediate supervisor, you might be able to work an off-handed “out of curiosity” framed question into another discussion. It does not sound like that’s the case here, so I would not recommend attempting that conversation. I personally think your best bet is to keep your head down, focus on your work first and on building relationships with your new pod second, and make sure that you aren’t the disruption that causes the next shake-up.

    1. The Crowening*

      Wow. Where I last worked, they moved people around all the time, and it was almost never deliberate based and nearly always because people were coming and going from the org, so they would stick folks wherever there was room. For several years one of my teammates was separated from the rest of our small team due to space. And it was upsetting to her, she felt very isolated. And it was through no fault of her own.

      It’s not youthful or entitled to feel lonely spending 8 hours a day in a quiet corner and wish more of your buddies were nearby. That doesn’t translate to hours of goofing off. If she asks her boss and they say no, that’s different, but asking is not unprofessional. Good grief. Your letter overflows with judgement.

    2. Goldenrod*

      “This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision by your bosses. This was a deliberate, planned shuffle, and you are not owed any explanation as to why this took place.”

      Actually, you don’t know this. It may very well have been a random decision. Where I currently work, it’s totally fine for people to move to another cubicle, for no reason or any reason at all. Part of the reason for this is that we have extra space. And yes – where people are assigned to sit is pretty random!

      Also, as someone whose job it is to move the phone/computer, I’m here to tell you it’s not that hard! Takes a very short time and why wouldn’t you make that small effort to help someone feel more comfortable??

      On a related note – I have thought it weird for a very long time that it’s somehow considered unseemly for workers to care about their environment. LW1 is going into work 5 days a week and presumably working a full day – why WOULDN’T you care what your space is like, whether that be having a window, privacy, or a social setting?

      Interestingly, high-status workers are ASSUMED to care and that’s why they are offered corner offices, etc….Because we all enjoy a workspace that we like! I think this reveals that this is ALL about status and who has bargaining power.

      Why choose to be so servile?? LW1 can at least ask for what she wants. It’s not a character flaw, it’s normal!

    3. Observer*

      Your phone has to be mapped to your location. Your computer access may also be tied to a specific station. All of these required advance planning before this reorganization.

      I’m one of the people who said that the OP should not just move their seat. But this is pretty ridiculous. Yes, there are phones and computer access situations that are mapped to a particular location, but that is FAR from universal.

      This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision by your bosses. This was a deliberate, planned shuffle

      Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t. You simply have no way to know that.

      you are not owed any explanation as to why this took place

      Maybe. But that’s not relevant. Whether their boss explains or not, the OP is perfectly ok to ask to change their seat as long as they have a decent reason to present and they accept whatever answer they get in a reasonable way.

    4. Dinwar*

      “Your boss needs to be able to find you without wandering the cubicles to hunt down where you’re sitting today.”

      If the LW goes through a formal process of moving it’s unlikely that they’ll do so again in a hurry. This is a mischaracterization of what’s going on.

      Besides, this clearly isn’t universally true. Many office plans include shared office space where you pick your work station based on what’s available that day. The idea of a firm, fixed work location is increasingly vanishing (which is bad in my opinion).

      “Your phone has to be mapped to your location. Your computer access may also be tied to a specific station.”

      Phone? Maybe–if they even give you an office phone. Does any company do that anymore? Everyone I work with uses their cell phone, which by definition is mobile. Computer? Hardly. If an IT department can’t move a computer they’re incompetent and should all be fired. For that matter, if someone in 2022 can’t move a computer there’s a problem. Again, most offices I’ve worked with (myself, my clients, my contractors) issue laptops on the grounds that mobility is important.

      “This wasn’t a spur-of-the-moment decision by your bosses.”

      Was it, though? Again, many offices not only allow spur-of-the-moment decisions on work spaces but are actively built around those concepts. Even when they aren’t, most managers don’t spend a lot of time sweating over floor plans. They try to avoid egregious issues, then just put names on maps. We actually got in trouble for it, because they grouped us by type of work and a few of us were working on confidential contracts and had to be re-organized. The re-organization was “Here’s the group of cubicles you have to choose from, you decide where you want to be, I’m going for some coffee.” Worked out surprisingly well, too. In another office several people started working from home (before Covid) and I was offered my choice of work stations, all I had to do was move my stuff. (I opted to stay put, because I have a window.)

      “The reality is, it ultimately doesn’t matter WHY your pod was broken up. This is how it is. And you can either work with it or not.”

      Or the LW can ask to change things and either succeed or learn why things have changed. The idea that managers are authoritarian without any regard for their workers’ opinions is…outdated, to say the least. Modern management is all about employee buy-in and transparency. I have role power, but I have MUCH better things to burn it on than forcing people to sit where I arbitrarily chose for them to sit.

      If one of my workers came to me and said “Hey, this area doesn’t work for me. Mind if I change my seat?” I’d have zero qualms about it. The seating assignment consisted of “You’re not going to be in the office a whole lot anyway so….how about here?” Even if I had a reason to turn them down, I would never object to them merely asking! Asking means they don’t have information, and if I provide them information it may recontextualize the thing and make it more palatable.

      1. Observer*

        Everyone I work with uses their cell phone, which by definition is mobile

        This is more common than is sensible, but I really don’t think it’s the norm.

        For that matter, if someone in 2022 can’t move a computer there’s a problem.

        That is absolutely not true. The LAST thing most IT departments want or need is people deciding to move their own equipment. A decent IT department should be able to move a computer fairly easily provided that the appropriate infrastructure is in place. eg network jacks, access to a printer etc. But for someone to just try to do that on their own? In most organizations I know of, someone doing that is going to get slapped down.

        Or the LW can ask to change things and either succeed or learn why things have changed.

        Yes. Bosses are not omniscient. If the OP’s (grand)Boss is a reasonable person or there is another appropriate person for the OP to, ask, it really is not a big deal to ASK, with the caveats that Allison and some of the posters have mentioned. If merely asking is going to create problems, I would advise the OP to start looking for a new job.

        1. Dinwar*

          “This is more common than is sensible, but I really don’t think it’s the norm.”

          I disagree. I’ve worked in over a dozen states with scores of contractors, ranging from federal agencies, to high-profile engineering firms, to–and I’m not kidding–BillyBob’s Tree Trimming, and everyone I’ve spoken with provides a cell number. Whether it’s wise or not, it absolutely is the norm. Office phones exist, but are increasingly akin to fax machines.

          “The LAST thing most IT departments want or need is people deciding to move their own equipment.”

          Why?

          Again, there are offices where moving equipment is an expected part of the day–offices where there are no assigned seats, where everyone just plugs into whatever seat is available. And WFH–and especially hybrid work–shows that people are fully capable of unplugging a computer from one location and plugging it into another.

          If you have a bulky desktop computer, sure, that’s different–though I honestly don’t know anyone below the age of 50 that doesn’t have at least some experience setting up a desktop computer. But business uses for desktop computers are increasingly limited. Laptops are much cheaper, have as much power as supercomputers did back in the 1970s/early 1980s, and since most people’s use is limited to Microsoft Office or the equivalent (Word, Excel, Outlook, plus a PDF reader, maybe some specialized programs), unless you’re in a niche business mobility is the cheaper option. And laptops are inherently mobile.

          I was assuming, given the fact that the LW had identified work spaces, issues like network access and printer access were non-issues. If you want to work on the roof that’d be different, but if the switch is to an established work space the effort on IT’s part would be mostly lugging the gear from Point A to Point B. In most well-run offices IT doesn’t even need to be involved–the manager keeps track of who’s where, not IT.

          You seem to be taking the most unreasonable assumptions as given in this scenario in order to make the outcome negative. Reasonable assumptions (they want to save money, they are at least within ten years of the current tech trends, the LW isn’t lying about where they want to relocate their workspace to) make your objections much harder to sustain.

          1. Observer*

            and everyone I’ve spoken with provides a cell number.

            Which doesn’t mean that they don’t have a desk phone.

            “The LAST thing most IT departments want or need is people deciding to move their own equipment.”

            Why?

            For the reasons I and others have noted. Also in many cases, they need to track the location of equipment, there may be security issues, the appropriate connections may not be available, etc.

            Again, there are offices where moving equipment is an expected part of the day–offices where there are no assigned seats, where everyone just plugs into whatever seat is available.

            So? That’s not the set up here. And in any place where this is not the set up it’s almost certainly going to be an issue for people to just move their equipment around.

            Laptops are much cheaper, have as much power as supercomputers did back in the 1970s/early 1980s, and since most people’s use is limited to Microsoft Office or the equivalent (Word, Excel, Outlook, plus a PDF reader, maybe some specialized programs), unless you’re in a niche business mobility is the cheaper option.

            Nope. Sure laptops are more powerful than supercomputers were a few decades ago. But laptops are generally NOT cheaper than the same level of power in a desk top. And they are CONSIDERABLY less ergonomic. Which is why many places that do provide laptops ALSO provide docking stations. There are more desktop PCs out there than the sales numbers would indicate, because they tend to be replaced less often and they tend to be less expensive.

            And the computer per se is not the only relevant item, as noted.

            I was assuming, given the fact that the LW had identified work spaces, issues like network access and printer access were non-issues.

            Why? On the one hand it’s not clear that the OP has thought about it. On the other hand, depending on the set up the fact that a printer is sitting in a given office doesn’t mean that someone is going to have access to it.

            but if the switch is to an established work space the effort on IT’s part would be mostly lugging the gear from Point A to Point B.

            Which is something that they might have good reason to want to do. And, it’s not true that this would be have to be their only involvement. As I said, depending on the specifics of the set up, there could easily be the issue of connectivity and configuration for access to whatever resources needed.

            In most well-run offices IT doesn’t even need to be involved–the manager keeps track of who’s where, not IT.

            That’s far from universally true. And very often it’s a joint set of responsibilities. IN any case, SOMEONE other than the OP needs to be in the loop on where equipment is being moved to.

            You seem to be taking the most unreasonable assumptions as given in this scenario in order to make the outcome negative.

            No, I’m making assumptions based on decades in the field of IT management. I know what happens in my organization and many other organizations. I also track what is normal and usual in terms of IT management, as it’s important for me to keep up with the field.

            Reasonable assumptions (they want to save money, they are at least within ten years of the current tech trends, the LW isn’t lying about where they want to relocate their workspace to) make your objections much harder to sustain.

            Uh, no, those assumptions don’t change my objections at all. Because you are wrong about the costs and trends at play.

      2. Nance*

        “Phone? Maybe–if they even give you an office phone. Does any company do that anymore?”

        Uh, yes. I’m in different clients’ offices most days of the week and 100% of the companies I see in my work still assign office phones to on-site workers.

    5. Courageous cat*

      It sounds like you would be well and truly out of your element in a company that did hotdesking, then. There is a spectrum here, and every company falls somewhere different. It’s not necessarily one or the other.

      This is a lot of assumptions.

    6. Ellis Bell*

      I think you’ve fundamentally misunderstood the question. OP never suggested unilaterally moving themselves without permission, or hiding their location and it doesn’t mention anything about the alternative desk lacking any equipment. (Which my IT team could sort out in ten minutes at the quiet end of the day even if a desk were ill equipped).

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      It’s not a pass/fail question. It’s meant to show experience dealing with different scenarios and get a sense of how you would handle certain things and how good a fit that might be in a given environment.

      Behavioral questions are an important part of interviewing, but they are just one part of the equation.

    2. NeedRain47*

      Theres’ not so much one correct one, but there are bad ones. A common one with customer service is “There are three people approaching you and asking for stuff at the same time, what do you do?” As long as you don’t say “freak out and melt down” or “ignore two of them”, you are probably gonna be okay.

  58. H3llifIknow*

    I’d try to either find an environmental reason to ask to move like, “Hey I’m super close to the air handler here and I freeze. Could I move over by the X group? I find that temp more comfortable,” OR, I’d try, “With all the people leaving and the office sort of empty around where I am, I’m feeling a little disconnected from the rest of the team. Would it be okay if I switched desks and move to XY location?” But yeah “I miss my friends and want to chat” is NOT a good reason to move. It would make you sound super “young” –at least that’s how I’d read it if one of my reports framed it that way to me.

  59. My ADHD Manifests In My Inability to Shut Up*

    Regarding #2: If it turns out your employee is struggling not because they’re not paying attention, but because their brain just Will Not Cooperate (for whatever reason, whether that be a diagnosed learning disability or not*), it may be helpful to have a point towards the end of the meeting where you/someone else explicitly calls out and lists what was discussed/needs to happen. Ask your employee if this would help! If it does, encourage them to write it down and not hesitate to be like “One sec, I need to write this down.”

    Personally, I have ADHD and do something similar for myself! I’m pretty good about picking things up in meetings and writing them down, but sometimes something will come up and it leads to a bunch of back and forth about the part of the work that I don’t understand enough to follow in detail, but DOES affect a task I need to do. My coworkers will reach a conclusion but it’s not one that I picked up on because it got lost in the weeds. I used to sit there and feel like an idiot and just not think about it until a ticket came through, but I’ve gotten involved in projects that are so early in development that they’re not being tracked with tickets yet so I’ve started just explicitly being like “Alright, just so I’m 100% clear here, should I do X?” or “Sorry, can I get some clarification on what I need to do here so I can write it down?” Sometimes I do this right after an instance of back and forth, sometimes I hold my questions until the end of the meeting. Sometimes I catch everything, sometimes I got something wrong!

    Your employee might ultimately be able to do this for themselves like I do, but I think it’s worth being the one to start this kind of explicit calling out of information to help them learn what to ask and get it in their head that it is okay TO ask for this kind of clarification in the meeting.

    *I mention “or not” because I spent most of my life not having ANY idea that I had ADHD until I hit a point where I was really struggling in my job. I was just incompetent until a few friends were like “You know uh this sounds like ADHD you should… maybe look into that.” Lo and behold!

    1. Dinwar*

      It’s better for everyone if folks work in a pleasant environment that conforms with their optimal productivity. Forcing someone to work in a location that runs counter to how they do their best work makes the employee miserable, makes them more likely to make mistakes, and makes them more likely to leave. And in return you get…what? The rosy glow of knowing you’re slowly crushing the spirit of an underling? What good does that do you in the long run?

      I’m very counter to the general trend here–I LIKE random chit-chat. No joke, this has saved the company I work for millions. Office chit-chat serves as an informal means of information transmission, allows people to check in on each other, and allows them to build relationships that will help advance their careers.

      If someone wants to be a worker bee in a cubicle and left alone for 8 hours, that’s fine; there are people like that. If someone wants to be more social, that’s fine; it helps the company. A reasonable manager should be open to reasonable accommodations to account for work style.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I teach children and although I would never in a million years let them seat themselves, I definitely listen to their thoughts on the seating plan and how it affects them. I would have thought it was a no brainer with adults.

  60. Still*

    I’d be interested to see a Venn diagram of managers who think that people need to come to the office because of Collaboration and Team Spirit, and the managers who think that wanting to sit next to coworkers whose company you enjoy is somehow frivolous and immature.

    1. StillInStats*

      You’re assuming that managers who cite Collaboration and Team Spirit (and Water Coolers, and Corporate Culture, and…) actually mean those things, instead of just using them as a euphemism for “I pay to control you for eight hours a day and if I can’t see you then you’re cheating me out of my money.”

  61. Still*

    I’d be interested to see a Venn diagram of managers who think that people need to come to the office because of Collaboration and Team Spirit, and the managers who think that wanting to sit next to coworkers whose company you enjoy is somehow frivolous and immature.

  62. Bubba*

    LW 1- I would put aside the idea of asking to relocate desks until your company hires a new direct manager. As others have brought up, there may have been a reason you were moved and it is not really something most people would want to spend capital with their grandboss on. If/when you decide you’re going to make the request, try to put it in business terms as much as possible- you want to move to because better collaboration or more face to face communication with your team will make your job easier/you’ll be more productive etc. I’m not one who thinks socializing at work is completely meaningless but, it’s not a reason for moving desks that most companies are going to consider very seriously.

    Also, I’d suggest thinking through whether you’d really want to leave over this (assuming this is the only issue). You’re just as likely as not to find a workplace where you don’t click with the team or where the office culture is one where people keep to themselves. Right now you at least have a group of co-workers you get along and want to socialize with, even if they don’t sit near you. Try to find other ways to connect with them like stopping by their desks after a coffee run or scheduling lunches together.

  63. Courageous cat*

    Some of y’all seem to still be subscribing to the idea that workers aren’t people but commodities. Can we move towards a society where we treat workers as real human beings with human needs, and a big part of that includes *morale*? I’m much further along in my career and I would suffer without someone to be able to talk to here and there throughout the day. It makes it go by faster and, more importantly, it makes me like being there. Everyone in my office chats throughout the day. It can absolutely be beneficial.

    The concern should be “are people getting their work done”, not “are people having too much fun” or “are people acting like 4th graders by enjoying human interaction”.

    Whether LW1 has any real standing to ask here, or if she should, is not something I can answer – but some of these comments are reading a bit extreme to me.

  64. Nodramalama*

    OP1 do you need your grandboss’ permission to move desks? What is the process to move desks? Could you just… Move?

    Also is there some other reason you can ask to move? Better light, more close to your actual work group? If you can come up with a work pretext I’d use that.

  65. J*

    For writer #1, my advice:

    Pick one or two work friends (preferably, people who sit with other work friends) and ask your boss if you can move to sit with them in particular because you’ve developed a collaborative workflow that makes the day go by faster.

    OR, if applicable, say they’ve been mentoring you (or you’re shadowing them for a specific task) and you want the opportunity to work more closely together.

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