my chatty employee is annoying his quieter coworker

A reader writes:

I supervise a group of part-time workers doing what amounts to unskilled menial labor. One of the workers, Kent, is an older gentleman who has been doing this job for decades. He is known to be very chatty. Everyone kind of groans internally when they see him coming because they know they’re in for a 15-minute diatribe on the weather and what kind of wardrobe it calls for.

Another of the workers, Aaliyah, is a 30-something woman who is no shrinking violet. They work the same shift all week. Lately it hasn’t been very busy, so there is downtime and Kent seems to spend a lot of it following Aaliyah around, chatting at her. On the one hand, I’m sure this is very annoying, but on the other, she is a full grown woman who knows how to take care of herself and all of the work is getting done. Is this something I should intervene in? I don’t get the impression that his talk is inappropriate, just constant. Aaliyah is assertive so I don’t think she needs me stepping in for her, but maybe the work context changes things?

I answer this question — and three others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • How can I head off pregnancy talk at work?
  • Can I discipline a candidate who didn’t show up to a job interview?
  • Keeping a file of personal items at work

{ 218 comments… read them below }

  1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

    I really, REALLY want to know what kind of “discipline” LW #3 wanted to impose on the candidate!

    1. idwtpaun*

      I wonder too! I’m aghast at that one. My guess is by “discipline” they meant being abusive in an email. I’m sure this was said many times in the original thread, but what a bullet that candidate dodged! Imagine working for someone like that?

      1. Fergus but Not*

        I had that happen one time. I didn’t show up my first day because I got a discipline email for something I didn’t do but they thought I did. I noped right out of there

    2. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      Dear [Prospective Interviewee]:

      Due to your ghosting us on your interview last Friday we have determined, after an exhaustive process, that we would have to dock $1500.00 from the salary we will pay you in the event you are hired, in recompense for the expenses we incurred.

      Please contact us at XXX to schedule another interview.

      Sincerely and Best of Luck,

      Clue Less, Hiring Manager

      1. Bilateralrope*

        I do not consent for anything you suggest in this message.

        (Then I wait and see when they figure out I just declined the second interview)

      2. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Hahahaha. The most I can see doing is to send a communication to close the loop and say:

        Dear Candidate,

        Since you did not attend your interview and have not responded to any outreach, at this time we’ll be closing your application and moving forward with other applicants. If something has prevented you from reaching out, please let me know ASAP. Otherwise best of luck in your search.

        (The goal here is less “you are being shamed and punished” and more “we are dotting all I’s and crossing all T’s with each applicant and if there was something horrible that happened, it gives the candidate an opening to reach out to us.)

    3. another Hero*

      I searched for the original and it uses the phrase “send a Discipline Email Form,” which is either something internal or something the OP made up but imo it makes the whole thing funnier. link to follow

    4. Antilles*

      In the original letters, the LW used the phrase wanted to send a “Discipline Email Form” (capitalization theirs). Wasn’t really clarified beyond that, but I’m assuming it’s some kind of internal protocol they use to write up employees and convey a “this is serious, shape up or get else” message.
      Don’t ask me why LW#3 thought that an external candidate would give the slightest crap about that sort of thing though.

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        OP is definitely one of the people keeping “write ups” alive. I mean, my grade school gave demerits, but we were 10.
        This is how one poor* LW got the mindset, “I was late for work, and I understand that I should be punished, but charging $2 a minute is a financial hardship.”
        *Literal and figurative, because the staff was paying $2 a minute into a jar in the office.

      2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        Applicant dodged an artillery shell with this one. Can you even imagine what the discipline process was/is like for actual employees?

        1. Goldenrod*

          “Can you even imagine what the discipline process was/is like for actual employees?”

          Srlsy! Bullet dodged!!

    5. North Wind*

      I haven’t watched South Park in … more than a decade? But I immediately hear Cartman’s Eeh! You Will. Respect. My. Authoriteh!

    6. Morgan Proctor*

      If I received an email like that I’d respond by posting the entire thing verbatim on Glassdoor. No other response required!

    7. JelloStapler*

      Right- like the discipline isn’t just that he doesn’t get an interview or the position?

    8. Serin*

      Someone on Quora (whose syntax suggested he wasn’t from the United States) once asked whether receiving a disciplinary letter from his boss would harm his future job search.

      I thought: how would your future employees find out about it? Are YOU going to show it to them? Are you expecting your boss to stalk you and send it out to anyone who might hire you?

      Your Permanent Record works in junior high because all your authority figures share the same filing system. Lucky for us, that’s not true in the workplace.

      1. TechWorker*

        To be fair that’s way more reasonable than this letter – your boss might give you a reference, or a hiring company might call where you work to ask for a reference even if you haven’t specifically supplied this boss.

        But yes, the general point that internal workplace ‘discipline’ generally means jackshit outside of the company – and ESPECIALLY if they were never even employed there (hahahahahaha) stands :D

      2. My Boss Is Dumber Than Yours*

        My father-in-law is convinced that if someone is applying for multiple jobs simultaneously they are ethically obligated to tell every company when any one of them rejects the candidate. He (stupidly) also thinks that it’s wrong to apply/interview for more than one job at a time, but if a candidate is going to “violate” that principle, then they owe it to all of the companies to give them as much information as possible.

        This is the same guy who told my wife she shouldn’t go to the movies *ever* whole job searching, because if the company called or emailed while she was there she had no chance at the job. According to him, if a company has to leave a voice mail or doesn’t get an email response within 15 minutes they automatically blacklist the candidate.

        1. Vio*

          I’m torn between hoping your FIL never gets on a hiring committee for the sake of the applicants or wishing he would so that he gets a much needed reality check!

  2. Dust Bunny*

    If you really don’t mind Aaliyah standing up for herself, make sure she knows that. If this is like the menial-ish jobs I’ve had, I did not trust management not to discipline *me* for telling off annoying coworkers/”creating conflict”, so I didn’t, even though I could have in another setting. It’s not necessarily that she can’t, it’s that she might think she’s jeopardizing her job if she does.

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Especially if, it is a woman with a name like “Aaliyah” standing up to an older guy with a name like “Kent.”

      1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

        That’s definitely where my mind went. Kent is an institution by all appearances. Nobody gave her a heads up, “Kent will talk your ear off; you can walk away” in the beginning.

    2. Hannah Lee*

      I’ve worked with Kent. I do not like Kent.

      Kent is the kind of person who turns into the guy one of last month’s LW’s wrote in about: the retiree who comes back to the workplace he no longer works at on the regular to talk people’s ears off.

      The Kents of the world don’t care whether other people are interested in continuing a conversation, they don’t bother to look for and take note of signs of engagement, or lack of those signs. Because the other person’s level of interest, engagement in the talk isn’t the point. It’s having an audience they can talk at whenever they feel like it.

      LW should absolutely check in with Aaliyah about this and give her free reign to push back on Kent. But LW should also be paying attention to how often Kent is doing this to all the other employees and whether or not he’s doing the full extent of his job, and also if this habit is impacting his work in other ways. ie are people avoiding interacting with him about stuff he’d normally be in the loop about because they just don’t want to deal? I know with my Kent, I figured out ways to work around him, because I didn’t have time or patience for a 2 minute FYI update to turn into 15 minutes of him droning about whatever. I was cordial to neutral when I ran into him, but I would literally go out of my way to *not* run into him if it was possible. Part of it was that he was really boring, it was almost always a monologue, never a conversation. But also, if I spent 15 minutes being who he was killing time at that day, I’d be spending 10-15 minutes at the end of the day catching up on whatever he was distracting me from. I tried every variation of direct “can’t talk right now” I could think of, but his behavior never changed. He did the same thing at multiple co-workers, so it wasn’t a “me” thing, it was definitely a “him” thing.

      1. Tacobelljobfair*

        I worked with a lady like that in a store. She was very nosy too. She wanted to know where the employess lived like streets specific. How they got to work transportation wise. The manager liked her because she was very “open”. Even if she was afraid of modern cash regiesters.

  3. Not a Real Giraffe*

    Ugh, we have a boss like OP5, who loves a clean workspace to the point of enforcing it on everyone that works there. Even though it’s my office, no clients ever see it, it’s organized to me, this guy routinely complains that “it’s a mess in here!” and orders it to be cleaned and organized to his liking. It’s infuriating. Videos would drive me far over the edge.

    1. PlainJane*

      I always wonder when I get that if guys get the same stuff about keep a pin-neat desk. I somehow doubt it.

      1. PsychNurse*

        At my work— yes. One of the male doctors’ desks is a nightmare and we all complain both to and about him about it.

        1. PlainJane*

          Well… I feel marginally better about it, then. I thought it was just a “You’re woman! Why can’t you keep everything in an alphabetized file and never have any leftover clutter after a project? Doesn’t that come standard with the model?” kind of thing. :D

          (And yes, if it’s old bananas with fruit flies, that’s a whole different level of yuck, and yes, that needs to be taken care of.)

    2. Hoteling is Nice*

      Wow. I’m glad we went to a hybrid work model and hoteling. No one gets to leave anything. The whole office is so much cleaner so I don’t have to deal with fruit flies from Karen’s week-old banana that no one can touch in *her* workspace. Also don’t have to wait for Miranda as she digs through all of her 20YO old development boards to find the one I loaned her last week. No worries about finding a cubicle for the new person bc Fergus has hoarded a whole row for himself and filled them with junk.

      1. Not a Real Giraffe*

        To be clear, I’m talking about papers being in piles on a credenza, boxes of event supplies stacked in the corner, that kind of “mess.” Not old food, or an entire industry’s worth of documents, or overtaking space beyond what’s already mine.

      2. Cyndi*

        “Fergus has hoarded a whole row for himself and filled them with junk”

        Wait, did this happen to you in a workplace? Because if so I’m SO curious about it.

        1. Hoteling is Nice*

          Yes, every time some one vacated a cube, Fergus the Hoarder would take it over saying he needed it for lab space (the lab was filled with his crap too). Fergus was a good talker. He’d also convinced management that he “managed himself and his team”. He was not a manager. It was purgatory for us (his team). He took control of our teams database and lab spaces & then insisted everything be done his way in order for him to give us access. We complained and got no where and finally found other jobs. Fergus even bullied people on other teams for some of their cube space.

          1. Cyndi*

            I can’t come up with a response to this that doesn’t involve a lot of swear words, but thank you for satisfying my curiosity D:

        2. HigherEdEscapee*

          This happened in a former workplace of mine. Fergus was a dept head and had so overfilled his cube that he had started to take over not only two additional desks but also what had formerly been an employee lounge space. As we were leaving that office space entirely I was responsible, with support from my boss, who he also reported to, for getting him to get it all cleaned out. It happened, s l o w l y, but not without him yelling at me for “throwing away some of his important things.”
          As the purge of items in a public area had been announced multiple times and weeks in advance he ended up apologizing to me for yelling but still didn’t understand why he actually had to get rid of anything and why he had to pack his own items up when we were moving out of that particular office. He changed jobs shortly thereafter.

      3. Overreact much?*

        Yeah, there’s just no middle ground between a more personal decor style or papers stacked on a desk and rotting food. None.

        1. Hoteling is Nice*

          Middle ground perhaps but every place I’ve been, the “messy” people think of their office/cube space as “theirs” rather then the employer’s. Generally what they see as a mess is actually inappropriate. I don’t want to see bobble heads of your favorite politicians or a plaque with a judge-y Bible verse or photos that are NSFW or calenders that objectify people. And that’s only the messy people who don’t fill “their” space with gross stuff while saying “it’s me area!”
          I find the people who object to hoteling and clean spaces are messy to the point of being gross or they’re hoarders or they love to fill their space with inappropriate items.

          1. NeedRain47*

            Wow, that is judgmental. I hope you can find some robots to work with.
            I’ve worked in cubicle farms for 22 years and not found that true at all. Most people are somewhere between neat as a pin and a lot of clutter. As long as they’re getting their work done, it doesn’t matter unless they cross the line into “gross mess”.

            1. Hoteling is Nice*

              Been in cube farms over 30 years. This is exactly what I’ve seen. So observation not judgement. Part of the reason my current company switched to hoteling was that the cleaning people couldn’t clean properly around everyone’s mess. The “I must have my space personalized” people were the worst offenders. Where that is allowed in an office there’s always someone who is gross.
              Since COVID we’ve enjoyed a hybrid work schedule and hoteling. So we get to WFH most of the time which is awesome and the office is nice when we go in.
              It does make sense, documents are mostly electronic and stored on your laptop, you can look at your loved ones pictures on your phone that you can personalize and keep with you, and when customers, clients, or upper management come to the office, it’s already nice – no extra clean up effort required.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                “Where that is allowed in an office there’s always someone who is gross.”

                This is just flat out not true. Your experience is not universal. I’ve never encountered any cube or office that reached an actually gross level of mess.

                And the messiest cubes I saw were usually ones that were entirely work where they simply did not have enough storage for all the binders and papers they wanted to keep on hand.

                1. Reluctant Mezzo*

                  But I love some of the personalization; in my last job, I recall Ft. Garfield, Pooh Corner and my case, the Starship Enterprise. Didn’t interfere with work and normally brightened the day of everyone who visited those cubes.

          2. Curmudgeon in California*

            I’m glad I don’t work with you. I loathe the sterile, minimalistic thing that the clean desk fanatics adore. I don’t put NSFW calendars or judgey Bible verses up, but I like my little tochkes, books, and writing tools.

            As I look around my WFH workspace I realize that you would term me a hoarder. I’m so glad I’m not in the office with people who have so little to do that they can spend it judging people’s workspace.


            1. allathian*

              Yes, me too. My desk at home is cluttered, although not dirty, and there’s certainly no leftover food anywhere. I keep my desk clean at work now because I’m so rarely there that it’s just as well that someone else can use it when I WFH.

              Before the pandemic, when I worked at the office most of the time, and only WFH one or two days a month at most (my employer has been hybrid since long before the term existed, I got my first work laptop in 2014), I kept a few photos, a card or two, etc. in my cubicle space, and my desk was covered in paper files more often than not. I could always find the files I needed, and as a senior SME, that was the whole point. I guess my manager or coworkers could’ve rummaged through my piles if they needed something in my absence, but AFAIK that never happened. There was logic to my chaos, the task I was currently working on was always top of the pile.

              But now all our files are electronic, and we’re actively discouraged from printing stuff out for environmental and security reasons, and that alone has eliminated a lot of the clutter.

              Clutter makes some people anxious, but I hate the sterility of a minimalist workspace. I find I’m a lot more creative in a cluttered environment than in a minimalist one, go figure.

      4. lilsheba*

        nah I have to have a workspace I can call my own. If I am going to spend 8/9/10 hours in a place I have to be able to feel I belong and it’s a least a little homey. But luckily I get to work from home from now on so it’s definitely homey!

    3. Picard*

      When I first came onboard at one of my jobs, the CEO made a point of letting me know how much the person (who I was replacing)’s office drove him nuts by how messy it was. I have since then made a point of making sure my office is relatively clean and the surfaces are cleared off every night before going home even if its just sticking stuff in my drawers…

      1. Chapeau*

        I have a drawer where the papers get shoved and I clean it out once a week or so. I do a weekly conference call that is useful for about 10 minutes out of 60, so I clean out the drawer during that call. Most of the papers end up in the shredder because they’re not actually something I needed, but someone decided I needed to have a paper copy of that email/chart/article.

    4. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

      When I had a cube, my filing wass stacks on my desk. Proximity to my keyboard determined urgency. Only closed projects and PII went in locked files. Clearing my desk would mean I would completely lose track of everything and forget it existed

      1. Philosophia*

        I worked several years for someone whose filing was likewise stacks, and kept trying to organize his stuff into folders until my Internet reading finally turned up the explanation that some are “filers” and some are “pilers” and never the twain shall meet. If it works for you, it works for you!

      2. Curmudgeon in California*

        Yeah, I definitely have a “out of sight, out of mind” organization problem.

        I literally have clear storage bins for my hobby stuff because if I can’t see it, I can’t find it. When I buy refrigerators I try to make sure that the produce drawers have clear fronts so that stuff doesn’t get forgotten in them. I am sorely tempted to replace the doors on my kitchen cabinets with plexiglass fronts just so I don’t have to open them all to find things. I forget clothes in drawers all the time, so I finally started stacking them, folded, on shelves.

        Clean desk fanatics are my bane.

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        Same! If it isn’t out on the desk it doesn’t exist in my head. I have a system that works great for me. It isn’t dirty, the stacks don’t fall over or anything like you see in cartoons, but it is “vertical organizing.”

        Learning that I have ADHD and that this is a very common thing for folks with it really helped my mental health. I spent 30 years being told I was a mess and there is no way I could keep my desk that way, even though it worked perfectly well for me. My self esteem took so many hits over the years from neat-niks who can’t comprehend the idea of someone doing something differently than them.

        1. whingedrinking*

          Hell for an ADHD person is living with someone who “tidies”, which in my personal lexicon means “playing a weird game where they move your stuff from the place where you know it is and not telling you, with apparent bonus points for putting it in the most obscure possible location”. I once found my Introduction to Arabic Philosophy textbook on the bookshelf…in my father’s office…months after I’d gone nuts trying to find it and had to buy a replacement.

    5. RabbitRabbit*

      On one end of things, I once took over an old desk that had not fully been packed up – previous employee transferred to a different job inside the institution, and the desk had been left without someone sitting at it for months. She had left all kinds of old personal financial papers and things in it, stuff that had to go to the shredder, and I had to sort through it to make sure there wasn’t anything departmental that we needed.

      On the other end, a few years later we moved to a new office space and the top boss for our department was insane about ‘cleaning’ things, to the point that he threw away all the instructional guides for our new smartboard and AV-enhanced meeting room. We had to trial-and-error our way out of errors, and mostly used the smartboard only as a regular projection screen or as a plain whiteboard (when powered down) because it was too awkward to figure out otherwise.

    6. Flash Packet*

      My mom still has nightmares about the boss who had a “clean desk” policy. Literally nothing allowed on the desk unless it was something you were actively working on (this was pre-desktop computers).

      And the active work stuff had to be put away out of sight when you left for the day. Further, if someone asked you a question about something not related to the paperwork on your desk, you had to put the current paperwork away, pull out the stuff the person asked about, find what they were looking for, put all of that back in storage, and then retrieve your current work from its hiding place. The boss enforced this by asking random-ass questions about things he knew his employees weren’t currently working on.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        This is evil. I work in an industry with a lot of confidential information, so there are things on paper that do need to be locked up at the end of the day (each person has a work box they can put their in-process tasks in, and then put the box in the locked file room at EOD), but filing and locking up after each task? That is insane. You are wasting half your day just going to and fro. How is that effective? Plus the trick questions to check? Someone has WAY too much time on their hands.

    7. Curmudgeon in California*

      Seriously. Getting lectured or getting videos on the clean desk thing just incites me to more clutter. When one company tried to impose a “clean desk” mandate in an open plan, I put a ton of random tchotckes on my desk in protest. The only thing that irritates me more is other people rearranging my desk to their idea of “organized”. Another person’s organization isn’t mine. They need to keep their **** hands off of my desk. The only time I do anything close to a “clean desk” is if the workplace has a sticky fingers problem, and then I resent it, and distrust my coworkers.

    8. Reluctant Manager*

      Videos! Horrors!

      Also, “leading by example” is so often code for “trying to make people just like me.” It hardly ever means “I don’t like it either, but let me be the bigger person here.”

  4. Uplifter of all*

    If I ever get a “disciplinary” email like the one #LW3 proposes, I’d make sure to respond in kind. :) Watch me reply back with the choicest words!

    Seriously though… WTF? In which world does anyone think this would fly? Employers have been rude to candidates and interviewees for AGES. But the shoe really stinks if they have to wear it

    1. Software Engineer*


      And people miss interviews for kids of reasons! They could be hit by a bus on the way to the interview, who knows

      I get people flaking on me occasionally and I’m grateful that it’s somebody else’s job to do scheduling so I just bounce it back to then to figure out the missed connection because I would probably find the hassle annoying. But life happens! I have blanked on meetings before, though not interviews thankfully

    1. Curmudgeon in California*


      They want to “reprimand” someone who doesn’t even work for them? Definitely high on their own supply, and not someone I’d want to work for.

      See, I’d be more concerned that something happened to the candidate, and want to reach out to see if they were okay, whether or not they wanted to work for me. Because that’s more gracious and kind.

  5. Hiring Mgr*

    Kent and Aliyah could be good friends or even dating, but either way it doesn’t seem like Kent is really doing anything wrong… OP mentions everyone groans when they see him coming but don’t let that cloud your view of everything he does.

    1. Drago Cucina*

      It doesn’t matter. Their personal relationship doesn’t allow him to be constantly talking to her. If he’s following her around, is he doing his work?

      I used to work with someone like Kent. I would be writing a grant and they would “need” to come and chat about things that could absolutely wait. My concentration would be blown.

      Most work takes a certain level of attentiveness. If Kent is always chatting at Aaliyah how is that impacting her concentration. Also, Aaliyah shouldn’t have to be the one to tell Kent to focus on his own work.

        1. tangerineRose*

          That would still be SO frustrating, and she might not feel like she is allowed to tell him to stop. I’ve had a co-worker like that, who filled up a lot of time with useless chit-chat, and it was incredibly frustrating.

          1. curmudgeon*

            I worked with someone like that too. Just non-stop mindless chatter. The worst is when I’d go on break and she’d walk into the breakroom and start blathering away. This was a very busy retail store so any moment of peace was sacred.

            It got to the point where I had to be like “listen you’re really nice but when I’m on my break, I don’t want to talk to anyone so please don’t be offended if I don’t answer.” At least that got through to her.

    2. Siege*

      Why is your perspective that the (older, male, white-pseudonymed) voluble person must be tolerated by the (younger, female, more-Black-coded-pseudonymed) person who is giving indications that they would like to be left alone? Is there no room for social expectations coloring an unpleasant interaction? If someone was demonstrating annoyance with another coworker’s behavior, I’d like to at least check in and make sure I didn’t need to help them handle it.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        That isn’t my perspective. I was going by the letter which stated clearly that Aliyah can take care of herself and is assertive, and I didn’t see any mention that she finds it unpleasant or was demonstrating annoyance?

        And yes, a check in is totally fine

      2. Mr. Shark*

        There’s nothing indicating that she is giving indications that she would like to be left alone.

      1. KatEnigma*

        The letter specifies all work is getting done and that this is during downtime.

        I had one of those jobs where DAYS would pass and we wouldn’t have anything to do because of a quality control issue that caused a work stoppage until they got new materials. This same place banned READING. It also banned cell phones. We could play cards or we could sit and talk and that was about it. And was a Union shop, so if you showed up, they had to pay you 100% and if they called and told you to not show up, they had to pay you 90% so they almost always made you show up, but the union also severely limited the amount of busy work we could do (cleaning was NOT allowed except by those whose job it was to clean) Trust me, they are all bored out of their skulls and Kent may or may not be a problem, but not the main problem.

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I would take out a notebook, pretend to be taking notes on some business problem that needs a long-term solution. I would actually be outlining chapter 36 of my latest novel…

          And I still wonder if Kent is actually getting all his work done, because I very much suspect he does this at work time, too.

    3. Bob-White of the Glen*

      Because we’ve all experienced a Kent, and while it might not harm his productivity, it can ours. Especially those of use who can’t multi-task or concentrate over distractions (ADD, ADHD, etc.)

  6. Ground Control*

    Regarding the employee who kept personal files in her work desk – maybe keeping these docs at home wasn’t safe? The letter writer mentioned divorce proceedings so the first thing that came to mind was that they may not be able to keep important paperwork at home and needed a secure place their ex couldn’t access.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Very possible! Regardless, none of the employer’s business – but always good to remember we don’t know everyone’s situations and we shouldn’t pass judgement.

      1. Siege*

        It doesn’t really seem like judgment to say you probably shouldn’t keep entire files of personal documents where your coworkers can inadvertently find them and learn details about your personal life, destroy them by accident, or steal them intentionally. It seems like basic security precautions.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          Which is a judgment that you’re making. I wouldn’t do it, but as Alison says it’s not the employer’s place to interfere.

          1. Siege*

            It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about camping supplies or personal documents. An employer is not set up to provide a safe storage repository for an employee’s goods. That’s not judgment, any more than it is judgment to say that my office job would make a terrible hospital due to the lack of medically-trained staff, hospital equipment, and paramedic services. It’s factual.

    2. Drago Cucina*

      It always makes me concerned the opposite way. In my work environment, anything in my work space is on government property and subject to review by my boss. I used to have to remind people that they shouldn’t be sending personal emails from their work email. There are their personnel emails and then personal emails.

      I once refused a job offer for a specific office because the manager was notorious for going through staff desks.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        My thoughts exactly.
        For a long time, I kept a few CDs with scans of all really important documents in my desk drawer at work, just to be safe in case of a fire or whatever at home. (Now I keep hourly backups on two different locations online, encrypted).
        If you can’t be sure that a vengeful Ex-to-be does not destroy or abuse documents, storing them away from home makes sense.
        In a best case scenario, the employee would clear it with their manager and get a lockable document box, though.

  7. Morgan Proctor*

    Ohhh, I really bristle at the phrase “unskilled labor.” There is simply no such thing as unskilled labor! This just feels so disrespectful of the LW! I know it’s not what the letter was about, but whenever someone tries to assert that one job or another is “unskilled,” I think about how I, someone who has a masters degree, could not do it. I’d have no idea how to work in a fast food kitchen, for example! Even dishwashers have skills and rules that I don’t know about. Everyone, let’s please wash this phrase from our brains and stop disrespecting workers!

      1. Chief+Petty+Officer+Tabby*

        LITERALLY! My job is what most would call unskilled, but it requires a LOT of different skills to do: good customer service, the ability to control 40 – 60 dogs loose in a room (believe me, it’s not nearly as easy as most imagine it to be! You have to jump in the middle to separate fighting dogs, for instance, where you’relikely to get bitten!), cleaning procedures…

        It’s a long, exhausting list, and many can’t do it.

        1. CommanderBanana*

          I have 2 dogs and I struggle to control them / am routinely outwitted by them, so hats off to you!

        2. That One Person*

          Agreed. Having worked retail that job was rough and especially physically tiring (the bored days were so rare, there was always something to do and never enough time to do it). The list sounded easy on paper, but in action took practice and of course skills and system knowledge were picked up along the way. I feel like the intent was to create a phrase for “jobs with easier skills to pick up” and poor word choices were selected.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      My first job was working the drive-thru at McDonald’s. To this day it remains one of the hardest jobs I ever did.

      1. Goldenrod*

        “To this day it remains one of the hardest jobs I ever did.”

        Agreed!! Retail and food service are HARD.

        The more I’ve been promoted/paid, the easier work has become. It’s counter intuitive but it’s true.

        1. Daisy*

          Absolutely! “Unskilled” is just code for low pay and hard on the body. It has nothing to do with how hard the job is, or if you need to learn techniques to keep yourself safe/functional.

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          I’m a senior executive now and my bad days are still better than any day waiting tables in my previous life

      2. snarkfox*

        Working at McDonald’s is absolutely the hardest job I’ve ever had. It’s total sensory overload. Taking orders, putting the food together, cleaning the store, never being allowed to not be working unless you’re on your official break…. We were warned that the owners liked to come in and make sure everyone was always working, so if you were just standing behind the counter during a slow time, you’d be reprimanded. So if you weren’t taking orders, you had to clean the store or wipe down the trays (with an absolutely disgusting bucket of dirty water, so I do not recommend ever eating anything that touches the tray, btw).

        I found another job before I was trained to do the drive-thru and thank goodness because I don’t think I’d be capable of it. You have to put the last order together while you’re taking the next order. My brain doesn’t work like that. I could never.

        It did teach me how to avoid crying when people scream at you, so that was a skill that has actually served me well….

        1. Jennifer Strange*

          You have to put the last order together while you’re taking the next order.

          Yep, that’s where I had issues. Also, the fact that not only do some folks tend to mumble when speaking into the speaker, but their voice is also competing the with the sound of their idling car and any other outside noises that may be occurring at the time. And there’s a big clock behind you timing how long it takes you to get each car through. Not fun.

        2. She of Many Hats*

          Yeah, front-line customer service roles are not “unskilled” —

          Front-line Fast Food Skills Required: High level communication skills, often needing to be somewhat multi-lingual depending on kitchen staff and local demographics, ability to focus on multiple tasks, production line tracking (status of multiple orders), customer relations, conflict de-escalation and resolution, health & safety regulations familiarity including hazardous chemicals & biohazards, in-depth knowledge of constantly changing product lines, time management during peak stress periods…and that doesn’t include the specific skills needed if the person also rotates through the kitchen roles.

      3. Marketing Queen*

        First off, love your name, Dragonslayer.

        Second, I never worked food service, and every time I see a server handling all those plates, I think about how many I would have broken trying to do that! I don’t think I’d last a day.

      1. Siege*

        I worked at an Amazon warehouse with a Masters from Oxford … please tell me in what way I was/am unskilled. I am very curious to learn this.

        1. etcetera*

          They could train a random person off the street to do your job adequately in less than a month. That’s it. That’s the definition. It’s not a reflection on you as a person, it’s not a description of your inherent worth, it’s just a description of the market niche that you occupy, and how easily-replaceable you are.

          You are presumably highly skilled at whatever you got your Masters in. The work you do in an Amazon warehouse is unskilled, and the person who replaces you doesn’t need to have anything beyond a GED to fill it.

          1. calvin blick*

            This isn’t a hard concept. Just because a job is difficult or draining to execute doesn’t mean that it takes skills.

            And if start using another term for what we now call “unskilled labor,” whatever term we choose will instantly take on the exact same connotations as “unskilled labor” has now.

            1. Siege*

              I can pack at least 60 boxes per hour. How many can you pack? It takes skill, unlike standing around talking about how it doesn’t take skill.

          2. alienor*

            Well no, it’s not unskilled because the person with the Amazon job had to be trained to do it, and their GED-having replacement would also need to be trained to do it. There are maybe some day labor jobs that are truly unskilled (like “fill this hole with dirt”) and even then there’s some skill/knowledge involved because how high do you fill the hole? Do you pack the dirt down or leave it loose? What do you do if there’s dirt left over? And so forth.

          3. Siege*

            And yet, very strangely, we use “unskilled” to mean “this person is worth contempt”. It’s not actually a reflection on the job, and Amazon was one of the hardest jobs I’ve ever had, that demanded significant skill, as is the case for working in restaurants and housekeeping, both of which I’ve also done. It’s 100% a reflection on the person, and if it wasn’t, it would pay well and we wouldn’t call it “unskilled”.

            In the meantime, my Masters is almost 20 years old and I’ve never utilized it professionally. Inarguably, I am not skilled at my degree. But I bet I can still build a nice tight wall in a trailer, one that won’t fall when the driver hits the gas. And I bet my pack rate per hour for singles (one boxed item) is in the 60s at least; it was in the 80s when I left.

    2. KTC*

      Came to the comments to say this. It colors everything else the LW said with a tone of contempt, disrespect and condescendence. No such thing as unskilled labor, and you’re not better than him, LW, just because you sit at a desk.

      1. Bob-White of the Glen*

        “I supervise a group of part-time workers doing what amounts to unskilled menial labor.”

        It might have been poor word choice, but it it a very common word choice that people would use and they were just giving us more details on the situation. There’s been some snark and judgment towards the OP that seems a bit much for the “crime.”

        I know I’ve simply thought of unskilled as entry level/trained on the job and don’t have a negative connotation towards it. I’ll be far more careful with its usage after this discussion, but still could have done this because in my experience it’s never been a negative term. Now see how easily it can be, but it’s hard to be judged by your standards when I haven’t had your experiences.

        We are all trying to figure out language in this modern age. Correct, discuss and move on. But don’t put the OP in tears (okay, that’s how I would have been) because you need to get across how much better you are at this modern language.

    3. Coco*

      I don’t care for the phrase either, but I think LW was mostly trying to provide context. This type of work that does not require a high level of concentration (folding boxes, pulling a lever, sealing envelopes, assembly line type repetition based off muscle memory). I’ve worked those sort of “mindless” jobs before. Social chit chat is common because the work is typically very boring and repetitive. It’s hard to counter with “Talking to people distracts them from work” when it really doesn’t.

      1. lost academic*

        That’s how I read it too – it’s important context because it’s the way OP communicates that there’s nothing inherently wrong with a great deal of non work related chatting and socialization because there’s no major reason for it to de facto be considered a distraction/impediment to work. It bolsters the reason for asking – should or could a manager say something outside of actions that do naturally interfere with duties? Thus, Alison’s answer providing the nuance.

      2. Morgan Proctor*

        Your one experience of a “mindless” job does not reflect the experiences every single other person in similar jobs. Some people might find chit chat distracting.

        I would also go out on a limb and say that “social chit chat” is also common in office jobs. All jobs, really.

        There is simply no excuse for the language the LW used to describe their employees. The context is not needed in this case.

      3. Roland*

        Yeah, I think it’s valid to mention that the phrase has all sorts of issues with it and we should be reexamining how we speak, while at the same time understanding that it is still a common phrase and doesn’t mean that OP is especially elitist or dismissive.

    4. Constance Lloyd*

      I have to use the Dictionary of Occupational Titles (DOT) in my daily work, which means I have to use phrases like skilled, unskilled, and semi skilled on a daily basis. In the context of this particular task, “skills” have very precise and specific definitions that I can’t avoid so I grit my teeth and work with them, but outside of this very specific context I will absolutely rage against the suggestion that any work is unskilled. Managing a lunch rush in a crowded room filled with deep fryers and a grill and absolutely no air conditioning is the the hardest work I’ve ever done, and in most states that job earns sub-minimum wage. Despicable.

    5. Panhandlerann*

      You are so right. And really, since the problem the letter was about had nothing to do with the supposed skill level of the workers, including that phrase in the letter seemed quite telling of the LW’s attitude toward the workers.

    6. Student*

      I want to push back. I think a lot of the early jobs I held could be reasonably called unskilled, and I don’t think that’s offensive.

      I worked as a cashier at a grocery store. Sometimes it was hectic! You can gradually become better at it! Sometimes customers are the worst! But it didn’t require me to have any specific major skills coming into the job. We were trained on key stuff in the job within a very short period; I want to say 1-2 shifts. Anything else we could learn on the job as it came up.

      I worked at a library at the circulation desk. We checked in books and occasionally helped customers with some very basic things. Training was completed within the first shift. I didn’t need to bring any specific skills to the job.

      I worked at a retailer (in inventory, not a customer-serving role). I didn’t bring any special skills. I got trained by whatever random task they needed, and training usually took minutes to an hour for any specific task. We put tags on clothes, checked inventories against purchase orders to make sure we’d received everything, and checked for defective clothing. Sometimes we did light cleaning.

      While there are certainly jobs that are unfairly tarred as “unskilled”, there really are jobs that you can learn in a day, that don’t require prior experience or special skill sets. Those jobs still need to happen. I’d argue that you actually do harm by inflating the assessment of some of these jobs to make them sound harder or more skilled than they really are – you discourage people from trying new things, you discourage people who don’t have big skill sets from finding appropriate jobs, and you can even artificially inflate the requirements that employers place in job-holder’s way. This impacts people without college degrees negatively the most. I can remember in the late 90s when more and more jobs started “requiring” a college degree, regardless of whether that made any sense for the job activities. It cuts people off from opportunities they need.

      1. Morgan Proctor*

        If you have to learn it, even if learning it only takes a day, it is a skill. There’s really not that much more to it than that.

        1. New Jack Karyn*

          Come on. There’s a difference between a chef and a dishwasher. How would you define that difference?

        2. amoeba*

          I’d argue that “unskilled labour” would be the jobs where no prior skills are necessary and everything can actually be learned on the job – as opposed to jobs where you already have to have certain skills in order to even start the on the job training (which is probably still necessary, no matter what previous experience you have, because every job is different!)

    7. Clisby*

      Exactly! Way back in the 1990s I was in a conversation with a couple of co-workers; one was commenting on how lucky his mom in Florida was to have found a great house-cleaner for $10/hour. Co-worker 2 was astonished, and said, “$10/hour is a lot to pay for unskilled labor.” I said, “Hiring me to clean your house would be hiring unskilled labor. Assuming this house-cleaner actually knows how to clean a house, that is NOT unskilled labor.”

    8. Aunt Bee’s Pickles*

      I get your point, but your phrasing of “even the dishwashers “ frankly comes across as disrespectful and condescending itself.

    9. Temperance*

      “Unskilled” doesn’t mean that the person doing it doesn’t have any skills. It means that it’s a job that anyone could do with some training. It doesn’t require a specific skillset.

      I’ve worked in food service. You learn on the job. No one magically is an expert at working in a fast food kitchen.

      1. Morgan Proctor*

        “Learning on the job” quite literally means acquiring the skills necessary to do the job. Nobody is magically an expert at writing C++. You learn through study and on the job.

        Skills are skills.

        1. amoeba*

          But then you don’t generally get a job as a programmer without any previous knowledge of C++ and just pick it up as you go along. It’s expected that you already have that skill when you apply.

  8. Jennifer Strange*

    It’s interesting that the LW in #3 also immediately assumes that the candidate must have made a specific choice not to show up for the interview and that it couldn’t possibly have been due to a mistake or some sort of emergency situation. Can you imagine sending someone a disciplinary email only to find out that they are in a coma from a car accident?

    1. Bilateralrope*

      Yeah. The LW didn’t even stop to wonder why the candidate missed the interview. Imagine what happens when they do have power over someone.

      I’d have suggested sending the “discipline” email. Not because it’s good for the LW, but because it let’s the candidate know that running was the right move.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I think it’s a favor to the world when someone lets you know right away that they’re a jerk. It’s the people who are better at camouflaging that until they have power over you that I worry about.

    2. raktajino*

      I was a no-show to an interview in my 20s and got a call asking if I was ok and if I wanted to reschedule. I had gotten lost and then had a panic attack, so I felt it wasn’t as “understandable” as a car accident, and I had a lot of shame and embarrassment about it. I’m so glad that the employer was relatively chill about it and not like LW3!

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I was an hour late for an interview because I have a terrible sense of direction and was trying to navigate with a printout from MapQuest. (Young people, you’ll need to look that up.) I drove 30 miles in the wrong direction on the highway and had to turn around and go back.

        Believe it or not, they not only interviewed me, they were willing to make me an offer.

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          I’m so directionally impaired that I drive out to the interview site the day before if at all possible. Still have gotten lost, but not usually as long.

  9. L. Ron Jeremy*

    My first wife was like op5, but at home as well, to the extreme! So glad she divorced me; I didn’t realize what an uber anal clean, organized freak she was until I was set free.

    Life is so good when you’re not worried that all the cans and products in the pantry be ordered by food type and/or color in neat rows with the labels facing outward.

    Life too short.

    1. lilsheba*

      what’s wrong with being clean and organized? It’s much more pleasant that way, and it’s way easier to find things. I personally can’t live in chaos.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I personally can’t live in a pin-neat environment, it gives me major anxiety. I need a little chaos. So we probably shouldn’t get married, lol. But incompatibility certainly doesn’t make anyone a “freak”. There’s nothing wrong with being clean and organized if that makes you happy and content.

      2. Merci Dee*

        “Clean”, “organized”, and “chaos” are subjective terms, and they rarely mean the same thing to everyone. Two people in the same household can have different ideas of what makes the home “clean” and “organized”. The problems come when one or the other decides that their idea of “clean” and “organized” is the =right= definition, and start trying to impose their standards on the other person. Neither person’s ideas are =right=, they’re just different. Their differences need to be worked out in ways that are acceptable to both of them, instead of having one person who tries to overrule the other and insist that their standards are the ones that must be met.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I roommate and I went through a rough patch before we really clarified what each of us meant by “messy”. She didn’t like me leaving clothes on the floor and I didn’t like her leaving food in the bedroom trash can long enough to go bad/attract insects.

      3. snarkfox*

        There’s nothing wrong with it unless you impose your preferences on others. I like to be relatively organized, but I’m not going to waste my time ordering the pantry by food type (unless I’m really procrastinating on something else I don’t want to do).

      4. Cyndi*

        I personally think of it as people having different priorities! Some people, like you, find that organizing things very strictly by color/type/size is worth the time and effort for how much more comfortable you feel in your space as a result. But lots of people would think “hey, there are more important things I want to do with that time and energy,” or find that they feel better in life when they learn to allow themselves some degree of chaos and imperfection.

      5. Roland*

        It’s ok if you would enjoy and value a home where “all the cans and products in the pantry be ordered by food type and/or color in neat rows with the labels facing outward” but do you really not see how not everyone would find it pleasant to have to live like that?

      6. Skyblue*

        But I think there’s a limit to how much you can impose your preferences on someone else. You can expect the person you’re living with not to leave their stuff everywhere, but organizing the pantry by color and fussing over which way the labels are facing… I think that’s too much to ask of someone who doesn’t care about such things themselves.

    2. Merci Dee*

      Mention of the cans reminded me of the scene from the movie Sleeping with the Enemy when Julia Roberts’ character buys groceries and starts to put them away in her new home. She begins to order them the way her abusive husband demanded, realized what she was doing, and then purposefully knocked some cans over and disorganized them. Her cans, her rules. I didn’t think an awful lot about that scene when I was younger, but every time I see it now as a middle-aged woman with more knowledge of the world, it kind of breaks my heart for her.

      1. OyHiOh*

        My marriage wasn’t abusive and yet, I’ve gone out of my way to make my post death-of-a-spouse life different. The differences largely reflect my own personal growth and change (and that of my children) but it’s an interesting choice to notice when I catch myself doing it.

      2. Bob-White of the Glen*

        I immediately thought of that scene too. :)

        And very young decided no one would ever rule my life like that.

      1. Beebis*

        I hope dude’s ex wife has commented on a completely unrelated letter somewhere on the internet about how happy she is that she left her slob of a husband because he thought her wanting an organized pantry was peak control freak behavior

        1. Bob-White of the Glen*

          He was worried about not having cans facing the right way. Like it caused him anxiety that they might be placed wrong. Sorry, that’s not clean and organized, that’s abuse when they slightly mess up something and you make their life hell on them.

  10. Goldenrod*

    LW#1: This is probably the MOST common problem I’ve witnessed (and experienced) at work, and it’s really challenging! I think what makes it so challenging is that people who do…not…stop…talking….really can’t help it, to a large extent. Some people are just that way. Also, often they are extremely nice people, so you don’t want to hurt their feelings.

    I do think managers should try to intervene in these cases, but I honestly don’t know if these kinds of people can change. The only thing that seems to work, in my experience, is building in physical space! I’ve had co-workers I’ve truly liked but was soooo happy when I got a chance to switch offices (to be farther away)….But that doesn’t sound like an option in this case.

    But also – like Alison said, it’s important to check in with the impacted employees because it’s always possible they don’t mind it.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I agree. They may not mind, they may prefer to handle it themselves for any number of reasons. But it is compulsive for some people and a manager should interfere if it’s impacting work (the talker, or the people they’re talking to). However the focus should be on the work impact, and not on behalf of an individual unless they request it.

    2. Cat Tree*

      I disagree in general with the “can’t help it” idea. Kent presumably can help it and refrain from talking non-stop in certain situations (religious services, funerals, etc). It may be difficult for him but not impossible.

      1. Hannah Lee*

        Yeah, I find this habit like some people’s habit of flying into a rage when irritated.

        It may be a tendency or a preference or an impulse, but unless you’re doing to everyone and many situations… including people who have some power over you: authority figures, the big boss at work, a very powerful, threatening looking person, the argument that you “can’t help yourself” doesn’t hold water. What’s really happening is you’re choosing to prioritize not managing, containing your habits, impulses, behaviors at the expense of other people’s time, comfort, energy, well-being, etc.

    3. MigraineMonth*

      I had a coworker actually thank me for (politely) cutting him off in a large group meeting and suggesting he schedule a different time for that issue. Apparently he knew he was rambling but couldn’t figure out how to gracefully drop the topic.

    4. Curmudgeon in California*

      At one job we had a guy from a completely different department come and talk to/at us for over an hour at a time. Drove me nuts. There were three of us in the room, and he would stand in the middle and… talk… and talk … and talk.

      There was no real polite way to shut this guy down, either.

  11. C-Dub*

    #3 – If the employer would do such a thing while a candidate is interviewing, I cannot imagine once someone actually starts working there. The candidate definitely dodged a bullet.

    And employers have been rude to job seekers for decades. I have no sympathy for the OP. It sucks to be on the receiving end of it, doesn’t it? Now you know how upsetting it is to job seekers.

  12. CommanderBanana*

    “How can I discipline someone who doesn’t work for me?”

    Sorry, give me a minute to pick my jaw up off the floor.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Reminds me of the manager whose best employee quit when the manager wouldn’t let her go to her college graduation. She wrote in to ask how to best scold this stellar employee for being unprofessional.

      Alison read her the riot act.

  13. Ann Lister’s Wife*

    Re: OP 3
    Sometimes I wonder if the letter writers have ever actually read AAM or if they just randomly send bonkers out of touch questions in search of validation.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      An alarmingly large number of the posts in the “Wait, what?!” category are managers writing in about wacky things they are doing that they think are completely reasonable. I have to assume they haven’t actually read much of AMA (or think that advice ever applies to them).

  14. metronomic*

    I really wish people would stop using the word “menial” in relation to someone’s work tasks/job level. Someone on an adjacent team from me at work has used it a few times to describe rote/routine tasks someone was responsible for. It feels so judgy and makes me cringe.

    In this example, LW1 used “unskilled” in her description of their employee’s work and that gave me all the information I needed to understand what job level he is at, I didn’t need menial too. I’d much prefer if people would use entry-level, unskilled, routine, rote, clerical etc to describe this kind of work, which feel more neutral to me than menial. Am I the only one who feels this way?

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Clerical is the only word you list that I’d consider appropriate if it’s the majority of someone’s job. Entry-level can be anything. Rote and routine work could be part of someone’s job at any level. So could clerical – but clerical is at least descriptive. And is in no way unskilled or menial (which mean the same things so I’m not sure why you’d think unskilled is okay).

      1. metronomic*

        I’m not saying what I feel is logical, just that menial rubs me the wrong way. Menial suggests less important/low on hierarchy in a way unskilled doesn’t *to me*. I also think depending on context any of those terms may be reasonably accurate to describe someone’s work.

    2. Fikly*

      You object to menial but not unskilled? Please see the above thread for all the reasons unskilled is a terrible and wrong categorization.

    3. 867-5309*

      But also…what is “unskilled.” Because it sure as heck is a skill to deal with customer’s in fast food and such…

      1. metronomic*

        Agreed! I worked retail from high school into my mid-20s and interacting with customers tactfully and juggling lots of tasks at once is absolutely a skill.

      2. etcetera*

        A job which does not require prior training or skills to hold, where you can expect to be taught all of the skills necessary to preform it adequately in less than a month.

      3. Temperance*

        It means that the job itself doesn’t require a specific course of education or specialized training. You get trained on the job for those sorts of jobs.

      4. AcademiaNut*

        These are actual, commonly used definitions for types of jobs. Unskilled means no prior training or specialized education (beyond, usually but not always, basic literacy and numeracy) where someone is trained on the job in a short amount of time. Skilled labour means that the job requires both specialized skills and advanced training. There’s also a semi-skilled category, which is in between.

        If a job refers to people being entry-level for the first few years, it’s probably skilled labour. If there are no particular education requirements, they get a day or two of training and then start working, it’s probably unskilled.

  15. t-vex*

    #5, I also enjoy a clean and tidy workspace. The problem is that when it’s clean and tidy nothing gets done because I forget about things that aren’t right in front of me. So for me, clutter = working. I’m sure I’m not the only one – don’t make us choose.

    1. Hannah Lee*

      Yeah, I’ve realized over many many years that my brain REALLY likes and operates best with a horizontal, layered, visual filing system. Looks “messy” to someone else, but I can quickly see my important stuff, can find things in seconds. I had one manager who was big on the appearance of organization, having stuff put away unless you were actively working on it, and it was a really bad work environment for me. Both in terms of my experience and the quality, quantity of work I could get done.

      I can spend all the time I want making nice, well organized files and putting stuff in drawers, labeling files IMPORTANT! DO THIS TOMORROW! But part of my brain is apparently stuck in the stage of a < 6 month old baby, with no grasp of object permanence. Out of sight = completely out of mind.

      One way I keep it from completely overwhelming my workspace is by storing whatever I can electronically. My favorite piece of office equipment is the small document scanner on my desk. For some reason, stuff organized in virtual folders is very easy for me to organize, track needed actions on, and manage overall.

      1. allathian*

        Yes, this is me as well. Until 2014, when we had a largely paper-based filing system, and actually got assigned some tasks by interoffice memo rather email, my desk was cluttered. Thankfully my then-manager, who otherwise was a bit of a micromanager, didn’t mind, because my filing system worked for me.

        Now we’re actively discouraged from printing things, and everything is filed electronically, it’s much easier for me to keep things organized. I don’t enjoy working when I need to have a clean desk, because I find that I’m more comfortable and creative in a less sterile environment, but I can live with it. When I WFH, I embrace the clutter, although I’ll draw the line at dirt and leftover food.

  16. Keyboard Cowboy*

    LW1, I’ve got nothing to add but…

    “Ach, he’s got someone.”
    “Should we go save him?”
    “No, no, it’s every man for himself with our Colm.”

    1. Jen in Oregon*

      Exactly where my thoughts went as well. “What’s happening? Am I dead–is this *my* wake? Am I in hell???”

    2. Auntie Matter*

      I’m laughing out loud. Amazing. Of course.

      “And the taller fellow, though to be fair there was no more than an inch in it…”

  17. Ginger Pet Lady*

    OP #1 The kind of labor the employees are doing has NOTHING to do with the issue. They could be lawyers, insurance adjusters, nurses, plumbers, construction workers or university professors and still have this issue.
    Yet you felt the need to insult the work they do with “unskilled” and “menial”
    Might want to put some serious thought into why that is. Why you think of them so patronizingly. Why you felt it was important to include.
    As others have said, there is no unskilled labor, and no work is menial.

    1. New Jack Karyn*

      There’s a difference between a legal secretary and a paralegal. How would you describe that difference?

  18. Kella*

    Was letter #5 removed from the article at a later time or something? I’m seeing multiple mentions of a letter that is definitely not there.

      1. Kella*

        It’s not that. People aren’t describing #4 and typing #5. There are multiple people naming letter #5 and describing a problem that isn’t mentioned in any of the other letters.

    1. C-Dub*

      I was wondering the same thing. And I even quadruple-checked to make sure if I wasn’t going crazy or missing anything. There is no letter #5.

      1. Phony Genius*

        This is turning into one of those Twilight Zone episodes where half of the people insist that there’s a letter #5, and the other half insist that there are only 4. And those who have seen letter #5 are all talking about how awesome it was.

  19. DrSalty*

    I think the title of letter #1 is misleading. There’s nothing in the letter suggesting the employees is actually annoyed, just that LW thinks they would be, in her place. The first step is to ask her if she’s annoyed.

    1. raktajino*

      It sounds like he’s annoying other coworkers though, so it’s not wholly inaccurate. The title is precise in a way that it becomes misleading; at least it’s not to the point of clickbait.

  20. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

    LW3 reminded me of a long ago call I got from a recruiter for a scammy “financial advisor” position that I ghosted the final interview for. She reamed me out for “being unprofessional and wasting her time.” I interrupted her to tell her she could apologize to ME for wasting MY time, or I could file a complaint with the SEC against her shady company, then hung up on her while she sputtered. Anyone who thinks they have the right to “discipline” someone like this is an idiot and deserves ridicule.

  21. Job Hunter*

    I tried to go to to read Alison’s responses, and got this:

    “You are offline.
    Please connect your device to the internet for more great Inc. content!”

    Um, okay. Let me try to get more online than I already am.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      I get that from my ISP sometimes.

      “You are not connected to the internet. To troubleshoot this, please visit…” and then they list their troubleshooting website. Umm, I can’t get on the web right? So you send me to….a website?

      1. raktajino*

        The troubleshooting page might be cached on your modem or something. If you’re connected enough to get a customized “no connection” page, you’re in the internet’s version of hold music: connected to the first part, you just can’t get further. If you can’t connect to anything, you get the “this phone number cannot be completed as dialed” or an error from your computer rather than your ISP.

      2. Job Hunter*

        Except that I *am* on the web and can access every other webpage I’ve tried to visit. Just not theirs.

      3. Mrs. Pommeroy*

        I’ve found that actually the troubleshooting websites can sometimes be accessed when I’m offline! I have no idea how it works but sometimes it does.

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Already addressed at least twice in the comments. Also, how is this actionable for the LW with regard to Kent?

  22. I would prefer not to*

    Maybe LW3 and their organisation has a reputation which got back to the candidate, and that’s why they didn’t show.

    Obviously they still should have let you know in advance, though.

  23. Pillow Forts FTW*

    LW3 – Life happens. It could be that the person had an emergency pop up… they overslept.. got the date wrong… All sorts of reasons could have kept them from making the interview. None of which are nefarious and/or malicious.

    If this happens often with them – the behavior will get self corrected without your… tutelage. Mark it up as the cost of doing business and move on.

  24. ChattyForAReason*

    It’s obviously not the case here, but I’ve had several jobs where the only way to get information I needed was to regularly (at least 2-3 times/week) walk around the office and stop to talk to dozens of people to chit chat and, in the process, find out about the things they were working on I needed to know about. I am a shy person by nature, but I had a reputation as a socializer and I’m sure I annoyed some people, but if I hadn’t forced myself to do this I would not have been successful at my job.

  25. TeaCoziesRUs*

    Same. I figured out that one reason I HATE cleaning, even while I appreciate a clean house, is because it makes me LIVID to spend an hour cleaning the floor (main area hardwood, so sweeping and steam cleaning the floor, and vacuuming the two room-size rugs) and see a random ball of cat fluff resting contentedly on that gleaming surface 15 minutes later. Same with organizing – if we’ve designated a home for every THING in the house and I see three or four out of place, I get very twitchy. But 15-20? I can look past them in the comfort of my clutter-blindness. All this to say I find it worth EVERY penny to find someone to clean the house (seems like I’ve been spending around $200 every two weeks for roughly 3k square feet in multiple locations throughout the USA) who gets satisfaction of seeing every surface gleam. THAT is both skill and satisfaction – and worth every penny to me.

    1. TeaCoziesRUs*

      Oh good grief, that was meant to respond to Eldritch’s comment about not enjoying a pristine space. *sigh*

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I found it! Lol. A housecleaner is on my “when we have the money” list, for sure.

        1. starsaphire*

          1000% worth every penny. Especially now I’m older, and it really hurts to try to get down to scrub things near the floor level.

  26. Jonquil*

    To the pregnant LW: I’d say feign morning sickness and bolt for the nearest bathroom anytime anyone talks to you about pregnancy, but that would only generate more gossip. Alison is right though, you set the tone by acting as if it’s the least interesting thing about you. I actually found that I was almost too chill about being pregnant at work (and my coworkers were delightfully respectful about that) and I actually would have really benefited from some accessibility accommodations (no standing meetings, minimal walking, better chair) and felt a bit silly asking for them.

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