job applicant keeps asking for another chance

A reader writes:

How would you respond to a candidate who continues to ask for an opportunity after you’ve rejected them? This candidate was screened out and we sent them a message about finding a strong group of candidates and moving in a different direction, and we did tell them that we’d keep their resume on file.

This candidate is now badgering me on social media, asking me to give them a chance and asking how they can persuade me to give them a chance. Is there a kind way to say that “We have moved on, so should you?”

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:

  • HR director cried while laying someone off
  • Should I let a new employee work holidays in exchange for other time off?
  • Should I tell my employee to stop addressing people by their first names?

{ 216 comments… read them below }

  1. Not my real name*

    Without reading Alison’s answer, the answer to the question of how they can persuade you to give them a chance is “Not like this for sure!”

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      Unfortunately, there’s a school of thought that you can get what you want by wearing the person down (both in employment and in dating). I’m hopeful that this idea is on its way out.

      1. Czhorat*

        It’s awesome for catching people in moments of desperation who REALLY don’t want you but will have to settle.

        Either that or turning a “maybe later” into a “never in a million years” because they’ve annoyed you too much.

        The better opportunities will result in the latter.

      2. Vio*

        It’s like kids pestering parents and eventually getting what they wanted. “Can we go to Mount Splashmore?” “No.” “Can we go to Mount Splashmore?” “No.” “Can we go to Mount Splashmore?”
        Like many childhood behaviours, most of us grow out of it (usually because our parents find other ways to put a stop to it than giving in) but a few, especially the spoilt, refuse to grow up.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        Unfortunately for candidates, there is also a school of thought that any candidate who is that high-maintenance, persistently looking for an in, or an edge they can crack through to get what they want regardless of process or other people’s requests, statements, decisions, etc, is, if hired, likely to become an *employee* who is that high-maintenance, persistently looking for an in, or an edge they can crack through to get what they want. Those employees can be a nightmare to manage and often spend so much time and attention looking for edges they can exploit and orchestrating rules lawyering events that they aren’t very good at what they were actually hired to do. Or at the very least take ALL of the new hire shirts and ALL the sandwiches at their orientation session even though those goodies were intended to be one per attendee.

        Unless those qualities are critical to being successful in the job (like maybe some kinds of sales, lead generation roles) persistence and refusing to take a “no” professionally and maturely can move a candidate from the “not right for THIS particular role but keep on file in case something else comes up” pile to “never, nope, not going to happen even if they seem like a perfect match on paper” pile.

    2. Miss Muffet*

      I always tell my teens that arguing about it/continuing to press after a ‘no’ is not going to change the answer; in fact, it’s more likely to calcify the no even more. Hopefully mitigating this kind of behavior with others too (not to mention “no being a complete sentence” when it comes to when they want to say no to something!)

      1. ferrina*

        rofl! I tell my elementary age kids the same thing! They’re welcome to offer other solutions or negotiate, but they must respect the No. And “No, this is not up for negotiation” is a No.

      2. wilma flintstone*

        My mom had a thing she used to say: Want shall be your Master.

        As a kid, I didn’t understand the metaphysical existential implications, but I fully understood it was: No, End of Discussion.

      3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        A thing I have learned in parenting is that if you are going to give in, give in EARLY. Do not train your children to nag.

      4. Irish Teacher.*

        I had a class once who were really bad for this. I spent the first two weeks repeating, “you will not get your way by shouting and arguing” any time they started trying to badger me and it eventually trailed off.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Also, I am absolutely certain the candidate doesn’t want a “chance”. If OP gave them a chance by offering an interview but then chose a different candidate at that stage, this candidate would be even more upset. Nothing short of a job offer with red carpet treatment will satisfy this person. Good thing it isn’t OP job to convince them or make them feel satisfied with the decision.

    4. L'étrangère*

      Indeed. And followed instantly by blocking, which is the only appropriate response to stalker behavior, no matter who it’s from. The OP’s lack of firmness in that area does bring up the topic of whether their vagueness about use of social media extends to accepting friend requests from employees? Please read some stories here about how inevitably it leads to awkwardness

      1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        You can message people on social media you’re not friends with, unless you have made your settings otherwise.

        I think you’re making an inference that isn’t necessarily there from the info we do know.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        What exactly from the story makes you think that these people are social media friends? The social media was not named and could easily be a place like LinkedIn where (1) it is normal to accept requests from people who are colleagues (I’ve explicitly asked and been invited to connect with people who I interviewed with who didn’t hire me so we could potentially collaborate in other ways in the future) and/or (2) a place where it’s not necessary to be connected to send messages…like LinkedIn.

    5. Callie*

      There was a time when I was a new manager and I hadn’t started reading AAM when I thought that this sort of persistence should be accommodated, if not rewarded. I hired a lot of people who were still in college for seasonal positions and had to do a lot of coaching of professional norms…but this was one area that wasn’t even on my radar.
      While I feel bad about how I reinforced the behavior then, thank goodness my eyes were eventually opened.

    6. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Oh, absolutely!
      My response would be slightly different depending on if it’s a rejection for this role (bad fit) or any role (missing key requirements like a felony record for working in a gun shop…).
      In the first case, I’d clearly state we won’t hire them for this job but invite them to monitor our job postings and apply; in the latter case I’d be rather firm (and might explain the reasons, if I can – this may not always be the case, for example security clearances) so they know any further application would be a waste of time.
      Clear and unambiguous communication (without excessive sugarcoating) is essential.
      And then, ignore or block them as needed.

  2. UKgreen*

    LW’s use of the word ‘badgering’ is interesting here – that sounds like there’s already been more than one or two pieces of communication from this candidate. That’s bordering not on ‘badgering’ but ‘harassing’. Block them!

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed. And also make a note in the company’s ATS (Applicant Tracking System) that the candidate is NOT to be contacted or considered for future roles.

      Someone who is this far out of touch with how to behave professionally is NOT someone you want in any capacity in your organization. They don’t understand boundaries, don’t know how to take no for an answer, and show very poor judgement.

      1. Vienna Waits for You……*

        I can’t agree with the second part of this enough. The team I’m on briefly had a person like this. They made it six weeks before being fired for failure to follow the rules and procedures (some of which are established by Congress). Thankfully they were still in the probationary period, because otherwise it would have been hard to get rid of them.

  3. Jennifer Strange*

    For the names one, nothing would make me more uncomfortable than a co-worker referring to me as “Ms. Strange”. I get that there’s a wide berth of opinions on the matter and you can’t be a mind reader, but in my view when you’re someone’s co-worker (even if they are above you in hierarchy) you’re on a first-name basis.

    1. DataSci*

      Yes, over-formality in an office where that’s not the culture can come across as icy disapproval or passive-aggression. Stick with office norms for your office!

      1. Indigo a la mode*

        Especially if the person last-naming the other person is older. A man in his fifties calling me “Ms. a la Mode” at work would reek of patronization, like “oh, look at you, so high and mighty and grown up.”

      2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        This is very culture dependent, though.
        In German, there are two forms of “you”: “Sie” is the plural and polite form, used with last name and the default setting unless talking to children. “Du” (cf. “Thou” in older English texts) with first names is the familiar address. Using “du” uninvited is considered an insult. So it’s not uncommon to address someone with “Sie” and “Frau Müller” in German and “Ursula” in English, switching back and forth even in the same meeting!
        Other languages (e.g. Korean) have even different grammar depending on the relative status of the speaker and addressee.
        Someone who grew up with one of these might have a hard time with first-names culture, it may feel “just not right” to them (as a German myself, I know this from experience).

        1. irritable vowel*

          Yes, I read that person’s letter as coming from a perspective where it was considered culturally (or perhaps generationally) appropriate to show respect to people you aren’t friends/family with. (Even in the US, this can vary.) But I agree with Alison that they need to be in alignment with what’s done in that particular office.

    2. Butterfly Counter*

      Also, this can be an issue with honorifics. I had a student email me asking me for a favor this morning, but she called me Mrs. Counter. I HATE being called Mrs. It’s a completely irrational hatred, but I didn’t go to four years of evil medical school to be called Mrs., thank you very much. (Actually, 7 years of non-evil graduate school…) I’d far prefer my students to just call me Butterfly than Mrs. Counter, but I think Dr. Counter allows me to maintain a certain level of respect from my students. *shrug*

      So there are not only the politics of Mrs., Ms., Dr., etc. But with more non-binary people feeling comfortable being open in public, the fact that our honorifics are very much tied to binary genders can be a snag, too.

      1. Baron*

        Oh, absolutely this! Once in a rare while, I feel like it might de-escalate an interaction by showing someone the respect of calling them “Mr” instead of their first name, and *every time I do that*, I’m wrong – either because they’re a doctor or because I’ve misgendered them. In neither case does this help.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        I’m a married non-doctor and I also have an irrational hatred of being called Mrs. (And Ms. isn’t all that better – basically I just hate honorifics and want everyone to call me by my first name, which is way shorter than my last :P )

        1. anon24*

          I’m a married person with a different last name than my husband and I can’t stand Mrs. or Ms. but interestingly enough I prefer to be called by my last name and wish it was more socially acceptable to just ask everyone to use my last name and ignore my first name. There are some circles where it’s fine, but mostly it’s not really a thing.

        2. Rebecca*

          My daughter has a friend whose parents insist their child call me Mrs. Lastname. Except I absolutely hate being called that and have explicitly told the kids to call me by my first name. They all do, and this poor girl was put in an awkward situation.

          It’s the only time I’ve ever broken my “never criticize someone else’s parenting” rule. I had a conversation where I basically told them that I consider it incredibly disrespectful to call someone by a name that they have insisted you not use. And that I wouldn’t tolerate it in my house. Both kept insisting it was “about respect”. After I explicitly told them I found it disrespectful to be called by a name I’ve asked their child not use. We reached an impasse.

          1. allathian*

            How did the impasse end, or is it still ongoing?

            I get it that being called by a name (or honorific) that isn’t yours or that you hate grates a lot, but in this case it’s really tough on the kid. That said, depending on the age of the children, it’s a bit much to expect her to go against her parents’ wishes in this, no matter how stupid and outdated you may consider those wishes to be. I hope that your child’s friend is still allowed to come to your house…

            For what it’s worth, when I was a kid I always called my friends’ parents by their first names, it’s the norm here. If I called them anything, that is. My son’s friends rarely call me anything, but that’s because in our culture, people don’t generally use their conversation partner’s name much. My son’s friends get my attention by saying the equivalent of “excuse me” and looking me in the eye. I can’t remember any of them using my name. When they were younger, they’d sometimes say jokingly “hey, (son’s name)’s mom” but that doesn’t happen anymore now that they’re teens.

      3. to varying degrees*

        I hate when people automatically assume Mrs., because I’m not (and have never been) married.

        1. Nessun*

          Same. Never been married, but I get Mrs. from flight attendants or hotel consierges and lots of other service-related places where my full name is required. It’s problematic because often they would mispronounce my first name (bane of my life) but being called Mrs. when I’m not a Mrs. is also not a good solution. I’d prefer Ms if people really must use a title, but even then, I understand that can be fraught for many people – best option really is first name and a quick correction if needed, I guess. But for places where a Mrs or Ms is required, why on earth do people default to the married option?!

          1. AMW*

            +1 to all of this. I’m unmarried and I have a traditionally male name, spelled uniquely, and am female. I hate being called “ma’am.” It’s really jarring to see my name with a Mrs. in front of it. I don’t really love Ms. either. Some people, on learning my gender, keep calling me a shortened, feminine version of my name that I strongly dislike. People get so weirdly hung up on my name and gender, so I always try my best not to do the same to other people–call you what you want to be called, don’t assume who you are, and keep words like “sir” and “ma’am” out of my vocabulary.

        2. nightengale*

          Yes. I am a doctor now but will answer to Miss or Ms and generally don’t correct people unless I am acting in professional capacity.

          Mostly when I get Mrs I know they just have my last name and a guessed gender and no idea who I actually am. I once asked someone – a customer servicey person on the phone – why he kept calling me Mrs and he said it was to be respectful. It is not respectful to marry off your conversation partner without her consent. . .

      4. Miss Muffet*

        I had a professor my freshman year in college do us the favor of saying outright, you can call me Dr. LastName, or even FirstName, but do not call me Mrs. LastName. When you have a bunch of kids coming from schools where everyone is Mrs or Ms LastName, it’s good to be specific. She even did say – I didn’t spend this much time getting my PhD to be Mrs.

        1. Irish Teacher.*

          I think more lecturers should do this. We spent our first couple of years at college unsure of what to call ours (and on one occasion I embarrassed myself by addressing one as “Miss” out of habit from school, not “Miss Surname,” just like “thanks Miss”). The norm in my college was first names but nobody explicitly told us that and coming from school where “Sir” and “Miss” were the norm, it was an adjustment.

        2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          First day at college, I asked a fellow student (using the familiar address of “Du” as common among young people but Not Done to persons of authority) where profesor X’s lecture was. I got my directions and we went on our merry ways. You can guess how this went – I was suitably mortified to see the “student” getting up to the lectern, introducing themselves as said professor…

          1. Rainy*

            As an undergrad, I was guest lecturer in a course on new communication technologies once (long story, but it was the early 90s and the prof had seen me using a bunch of different communication and chat functions in the library and wanted to introduce his students to them, but I was the only person he’d ever seen using them), and one of the students tried to throw me out of the lab classroom before the prof arrived.

      5. umami*

        I prefer to be called FirstName and always introduce myself that way, but I have learned that many people call me Dr. LastName because my last name is WAY easier to pronounce (and remember!) than my first name, so that’s fair. I’m in academia, so it doesn’t sound strange, at least.

      6. Cait*

        I teach an email etiquette session at my workplace where I specifically tell people not to address emails (or people) as “Mrs.” unless they specifically say that’s their preferred prefix. “Ms.” is the professional, female equivalent to “Mr.” (and as a tidbit, “Mx.” is the preferred prefix for nonbinary people).

        It’s also completely acceptable to address people with how they sign off on their email. So I would say the OP in this instance is off base if the person in the other department signs their emails as “Dave” as opposed to “Mr. Smith”, for example. If he signs off as “Dave” then it stands to reason that anyone else on that email chain (or in future emails) would open with “Good morning, Dave!” (or whatever). If, however, he signs his emails as “Mr. Smith”, I wouldn’t call out my coworker but either 1. let Mr. Smith address it or 2. make sure I always refer to him as “Mr. Smith” in my emails and hope the coworker notices.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          I recently had to fill out my legal name, and they asked for “Title”. They had Miss, Mr, Mrs, Ms, Doctor and Professor. They did not have Mx, and I’m non-binary.

          I left it blank.

          I could easier deal with Mr/Ms that I could Miss or Mrs. But I prefer Mx.

          1. Waving not Drowning*

            How is Mx pronounced if I’m introducing someone – is it Mx as in “mix” with out the I (or basically, mix with a New Zealand accent) or two distinct stand alone sounds of M X ? (Just wondering for future reference)

            1. Moryera*

              I say it exactly like “mix”—same vowel as the one I have in Ms. (“mizz”) and Mrs. (“misses”).

              Note: I’m in the Midwestern US and have the corresponding regional accent. Your dialect mileage may vary.

        2. Silver Robin*

          I definitely try to take cues from how folks sign off.

          But then there were professors who signed off with initials, or coworkers who only used the full corporate signature, or people who signed off with their full name. So irritating. I end up either using their full first name or, if they have a title like “professor”, using that. If it is far enough in the email chain, I just drop the name all together and say “Hi –“

        3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Out of curiosity, how would you address someone who signs off with “Kind regards, Kuddel Daddeldu (he/him)”?
          I’d probably play it safe (“Mr. Daddeldu”) on first (external) contact and “Kuddel” for coworkers; in more formal languages like German the rules are clear (anything but “Herr Daddeldu” would be considered impolite unless invited to use first names).

        4. Rainy*

          I got an email that started Mx Firstlast-Secondlast the other day and was just so tickled I can’t even. I like it SO MUCH BETTER than people who address their emails “Hi Firstlast” as though it’s my first name (the first barrel of my hyphenated last doesn’t look like a first name AT ALL), or even worse “Dear Mrs Secondlast”. That one’s extra misogynist because A) assuming I like Mrs, which I DO NOT and B) assuming that only valid part of my last name is what they assume must be my spouse’s, which it isn’t. I haven’t yet snapped back “Mrs Secondlast is my mum”, but I’m getting closer and closer.

          (By the way, if you are a person who arbitrarily decides which bit of someone’s hyphenated last is the “real” one? STOP.)

      7. Artemesia*

        I taught in the south where it was not unusual for even adult alumni to address women as Mrs. Artemesia while addressing men (even those who didn’t have doctorates) as Dr Someguy. I have been in groups of men none of whom had the terminal degree who were all addressed as ‘dr.’ while I got the ‘Mrs.’, the only person in the group with the PhD. So I am hypersensitive to this. Jeanne Kilpatrick PhD from Columbia used to bridle that on TV talk shows he was Dr. Kissinger and she was Mrs. Kilpatrick.

      8. Inkognyto*

        I work in healthcare for IT. I’m in meetings with Physicians at times. Most starting with Senior VP/VP/Directors on down just say “call me (Firstname)” It’s usually on the 2nd or this meeting or after I’ve had an extended back and forth in email on whatever I’m trying to assist them with for Data Security.

        It takes a bit to learn which ones want it, then to honor that request. I just add that note into my person OneNote comments so when I review later to respect that request in person and email.

        I try hard to use the proper honorifics, but not all systems pull in more than the names. No one has complained yet, so the effort must be correct.

        If we want to make it even more confusing there it someone at my work with the same shortened Firstname/Lastname. I was there 2 years before. Outlook displays my name without a number. They have a number. I get tagged in that person’s stuff in ticketing systems because it displays me first in those.

        It was suggested one of us use our fullname. I’d love it, I actually prefer it for my email, I only said I go by this when asked during the interview. Problem, I’m in data security. I get a lot of sensitive topics sent to me. If I change it, odds are they will get ALL of the email. The other person didn’t think it would be an issue. I think they regret not doing it (we’re 1 year in). I’ve missed meetings because someone invited them. Not one, like multiple from all kinds of people.

      9. amoeba*

        Really interesting thread because it’s quite different in Germany – on a professional level, first names are becoming much more common (think within companies), but in public (doctors, shops, restaurants, public transport…) it’s still very clearly last names only, and using the formal address (“Sie” instead of “du”).
        And people with a Dr. (or Prof.) would very commonly just be called “Mr” or “Ms”, would seem a little pompous and old-fashioned to insist on the title (both genders!) But then again, you’re not just “Dr.” but “Mr. Dr.” or “Ms. Dr.” (Herr Dr./Frau Dr.), so you just drop the second part instead of replacing…
        At uni, with a new professor, you’d probably start off with “Honored Ms. Prof. Dr. lastname” (yes, the “honored is still a common form of greeting in formal settings” and then quickly change to “Dear Ms. lastname” once you knew them better.

        Also, for Mrs/Ms – we luckily got rid of the “Fräulein” (Miss) some decades ago but now everybody is just the equivalent of “Mrs”, so at least no problems with changing there.

        1. Phryne*

          My Dutch friend with a PhD lives in Germany, and literally every sort of formal communication addresses her as Dr. (including the nameplate put on her door by the landlord), and she *hates* it…. In the Netherlands it is really weird to call yourself doctor unless you are a medical doctor and prof is reserved for uni department heads with tenure, not just anyone who teaches at uni. She put a sticker on her nameplate to cover the Dr up.
          The Dutch are notoriously informal, so using last names or formal adress (U instead if jij) at work would generally be considered out of touch weird here…

          1. amoeba*

            Ha, yeah, some people are like that. My solution in general was just to… not tell people I have a doctorate (because, also, in most contexts, it just doesn’t come up anyway). You can even add it to your national ID here – I never have and don’t want to.

            1. Phryne*

              Well, in case of the landlord, in the large city where she lives having a title very greatly increases ones chances of finding a decent apartment… so she used it to her advantage and now they know. (Small price to pay imo )

    3. L'étrangère*

      Yes, not only should the OP leave their employee to their own devices here, but they should give a long hard think to their own practices. This is the kind of thing that can get you nicknamed Mx Strange pretty quickly

    4. I Work for Cats*

      I work with a number of people who are south of the Mason Dixon line and they routinely refer to me as Miss Suzie. I’m older than all of them. I guess it’s a southern thing. Doesn’t bother me, I actually think it’s kind of cute.

      You can call me anything you want, just don’t call me late for dinner.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        In contrast, my skin crawls when someone calls me Miss Migraine. It’s my least favorite form of address.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          Same. I may be AFAB, but I’m 61, married, and to me “Miss” should be reserved for juveniles or young women heavily into the dating scene. I’m Mx, or if you insist on gendering me, Ms.

      2. Army of Robots*

        Back when I was on the Gulf Coast — which was, admittedly, Many Years Ago — I’m pretty sure we all said “Miz”, which I consider to be the same as “Ms”. (That’s not to say that one sub-region stands for the entire South, of course.)

      3. DataSci*

        I’ve never heard of adults using the Miss Firstname construction before! I thought it was usually a little kid thing, for the parents of their friends or preschool teachers.

        1. NeedRain*

          I never even heard of this with kids until one of my friends from high school taught her son this way. He calls me “Ms Firstname” and I think it’s a good combo of being respectful to adults/your parents friends but also not overly formal.

        2. Kit*

          Oh yeah, it’s a construction I’ve heard mostly among Black Southerners, generally the older generations – no guesses where it comes from as a title of respect. :(

          1. Massmatt*

            I have encountered this (Mister First Name) too, among the same population. At first I thought the person was trying to be formal and forgot my last name but then it happened several times. It didn’t bother me, I thought it was kind of an interesting quirk. But I’m a guy, I get how if all the guys were, say, Mr. Or even Dr. Last name and the woman is Miss or Mrs. First name that would be aggravating.

        3. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          No, the other day I had a f’ing bill collector calling me “Miss Curmudgeon”. I. Hate. That!

          Yes, my damned bill has my legal name on it, it has to. But I’m 61, married, and non-binary. I haven’t been close to “Miss” for over a decade. When customer service people use “Miss” on someone my age it comes across as very, very condescending, like “Of course you didn’t know you had to pay your bill, little girl, (never mind the fact that our company can’t get it to you in a timely manner.)”

          Needless to say, I wasn’t having it and gave them both barrels. I found out that a) the bank lost my bill pay payment (it never went through), and b) that the company was working on a new billing system due to ongoing complaints.

      4. Artemesia*

        In the South this is not exactly an honorific — it is a tad patronizing. It is what you call old Aunts and elementary school teachers in front of children. Always made my skin crawl. And when used on people much older than the speaker it is particularly patronizing.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          … when used on people much older than the speaker it is particularly patronizing.


          I’m 61, I own my own house. I don’t GAF why you’re calling me, don’t call me “Miss”. I’m non-binary and not a child.

          1. LizBot30316*

            This is definitely a southern thing, and I wonder if Suzie is significantly older than the coworkers calling her, but not other coworkers, Miss? I find Black women over 50 especially get this treatment, whoever is addressing them. (It’s also a playful, affectionate way to address a close friend or even coworker of any age, presuming at that level you know it will be taken as such. And this is only among women…definitely not coming from men, especially older.) By the way I don’t think anybody in the south differentiates Ms. v Miz. v Miss in this usage.

            I grew up in Georgia and since becoming a parent have noticed “Miss Firstname” is commonly used by everyone, including recent northern and midwestern transplants to Atlanta where I now live. Definitely agree it strikes a nice balance between familiarity and respect.

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          It’s pretty common in my area for parents’ friend, coaches/scout leaders, etc. it’s not intended to be patronizing, it’s kind of a compromise for the mixing bowl here where some want kids to call adults by first names and those who feel kids need to use an honorific. I’d much rather be Ms. Not than Mrs. Spouse’sLast.

          It’s also not an uncommon expectation for my older Southern relatives when addressing someone older than I am or someone you know more than formally but less than personally. It’s generally more offensive to the older generation to just call them Suzy and is not considered patronizing, but they way also expect sir and ma’am, which I understand some folks also find patronizing and offensive. It’s about knowing your audience.

          1. Cheshire Cat*

            Definitely, in my part of the South “Miss Suzy” or “Mr. Bob” is a respectful way to refer to someone who is older than you, or has more authority.

    5. TomatoSoup*

      Titles can get tricky if you don’t know someone’s gender or you work in a field where other titles (e.g. clergy or academia) are common. Then there is the issue of Miss/Mrs/Ms. Personally, I would love to do away with any distinction based in age or marital status and if I was called Mrs. Soup at work, I like it even less. However, there are people who feel very strongly about being called Mrs. instead of Miss or Ms. At work, I use a nickname that is unisex but people often assume male so I get letters addressed to Mr. Tom Soup. Personally, it doesn’t bother me, and occasionally I use the ambiguity in my favor, but it can be hurtful to others. So…too many opportunities to mess up when it isn’t necessary.

    6. Strict Extension*

      I worked for an arts non-profit at which most employees were contractors. There was a policy that all admin personnel (staff or contractor) were to refer to everyone else in the organization as Mr. or Ms. LastName (unless something like Dr. was in play). Artistic personnel were encouraged to do so, but the option was left up to them. Note that admin staff was working in close collaboration with the artists on these projects on a daily basis and sometimes were doubling in an artistic role, so this isn’t just “when you get an email about filling out a W9” territory.

      The folks in charge who instituted the policy believed in it so hard. To them, it was the least they could do to show proper respect to the artists choosing to work there, since as an arts non-profit, almost no one is getting paid what you’d like to give them.

      In practice, no one else liked it at all. At best, people found it weird and kind of dumb. At worst, they thought it was a sham defense against the occasional misstep that meant the artists really weren’t being treated with proper professional respect. In the middle were folks who found it undesirably divisive or patronizing. Not once in the six years of working there under that policy did anyone outside of the policy makers ever express that they even understood where it was coming from, much less that the liked or appreciated it.

  4. Tinkerbell*

    re: work holidays – I think this would depend massively on the employee’s work, and whether they can be effective if alone in the office (or working from home at a time nobody else is). I wouldn’t be surprised if this were a religious accommodation, though – your employee may be of a religion that doesn’t share the same holidays as the majority of your company, or doesn’t celebrate holidays at all. It would be a good thing if you’re able to give them the time off they prefer!

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Our official holidays are included in our PTO bucket, and my team is fully remote with 24/7 flexibility. Any PTO requests for the official holidays are approved (even outside of our normal coverage requirements), but if they don’t want to take the holiday, they can absolutely save the PTO for another day because we don’t have an onsite office that needs to be open for them and their work isn’t dependent on anyone else being around.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        (They don’t get holiday pay if they choose to work the holiday – just regular pay, and they get to keep the PTO in their bucket to use later.)

    2. Bookmark*

      This was my first thought as well. If this is the case, it would definitely be a huge kindness to your employee if you could let her take, for example, the Jewish high holidays off without having to burn most of her vacation time.

      1. Sally Ride*

        I thought this as well – trading something like a Good Friday (which some companies give off) for a Yom Kippur (which extremely few companies give off) feels like a good use of flexibility

      2. MCMonkeyBean*

        Yes, I think this is a key thing as well–while in general the reason behind PTO is really not the manager’s business, in a situation like this I think it would be reasonable if you don’t want to offer total flexibility to move company holidays to whenever you want but were willing to accommodate for specific reasons like swapping some government-designated holidays for ones that you actually observe.

    3. KHB*

      OP says that the role is client-facing. If clients aren’t coming to the office on holidays because the office is closed, and if the office need a certain amount of coverage on the days when the office is open, it’s very reasonable to say that no, you can’t swap a holiday for a non-holiday on the PTO calendar.

      1. Dinwar*

        On the flip side, having even a skeleton crew onsite during holidays may offer business opportunities. Gives you an opportunity to serve customers that otherwise would be out of luck. There are a number of historic examples of this working out very well for people.

        That’ll depend on your situation, of course. It may cost more to keep open than to close for the day if the population is pretty homogeneous with regard to faith/holiday celebrations; if you live in a diverse area, though, it may be a way to serve an otherwise forgotten group.

        1. AngryOctopus*

          Or just “people have the day off, so they have time for an appointment for X they may otherwise have a hard time scheduling for”, so it might be nice if someone can see clients (and is willing to see clients!) on that day, even if it makes appointment times more limited because there is only one person in the office.

      2. Sally Ride*

        Client-facing just means “works with clients” – clients don’t have to be physically coming to an office to be able to get work done in those roles. A quiet day when most others are off could be a good time for thought work or work that is better to do in a flow state.

        Also, if they work in marketing or retail (so ads/sales), it’s good to have people working in case something breaks or you hit an overspend. I would have happily worked Christmas while in ecommerce in exchange for one of my holidays off without using PTO

      3. Observer*

        OP says that the role is client-facing

        That’s true, and it’s possible that the OP really can’t accommodate this. But there are a surprising number of client facing jobs where some concentrated time to get stuff done is highly useful. So, this is something I hope the OP gave some serious consideration to.

    4. Data Nerd*

      I was wondering this myself. My deputy department head awhile back was an atheist (still is, far as I know) and negotiated that he would work Christmas Day at regular time in exchange for a full day off on his birthday. Our management union isn’t that big, so they let him do it and everyone basically just didn’t say anything about it, even the office busybody. But yeah, if the employee wanted to trade, say Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur or maybe some extra time off during Ramadan or Eid or something similar, I’d think that would be an easy switch, and could be easily explained as religious accommodations if anyone else asked.

      1. Jay (no, the other one)*

        I did that for years. I’m a doc, so we always need coverage. I’m Jewish and we are not the family that has a big barbecue for every possible holiday, so I really didn’t mind working Memorial Day, Labor Day, Fourth of July, etc, and I always worked Christmas and Easter so my colleagues could be off on their holidays. In return I got to take my holidays on Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and the first day of Pesach and so didn’t lose five vacation days to holiday observance. That worked fine for about five years and then my boss told me I couldn’t do it because it wasn’t “fair.” The rest of the group was (of course) fine with it. He was adamant that it wasn’t equitable for me to work all the holidays even if everyone else agreed. When I explained that it helped me take time off for Jewish holidays since his major holidays are official and mine are not, he said that was just coincidence that Christmas is a holiday (!) and finally said “Jews are always asking for special pleading.” (!!!!) I dropped it and waited until a few weeks before each holiday, when I quietly approach whoever was scheduled to work and offered to switch. I look back now and wonder why the hell I didn’t start looking for a new job the moment he said “special pleading.” I put up with him for another three years. Oy.

    5. Artemesia*

      If it is a client facing job or a coverage job or if it is in any way inconvenient OR if the person needs some supervision because they are new, it should be a hard ‘no’. If it is possible sparingly in the future then tell her that. ‘We can’t really do that during your first 6 months here when we need to monitor and train you in the work. We can talk about it again at your six month review.’ or ‘We interact with clients on a daily basis in this job so we can’t offer days off when we need people available in the office and it is open.’

      If I were an old hand who had never been accorded this kind of benefit it would piss me off that a newbie could work the system right off the bat.

      If the work genuinely doesn’t require supervision or office presence on days the office is open then it is reasonable to offer it as a benefit to everyone.

    6. Goldie*

      I would definitely accommodate religious requests. Otherwise, I would decline. We have a nice amount of vacation time and sick time. Our team is highly integrated, most people don’t have work that doesn’t involve other staff. I don’t want to get meeting requests, reports to review and contracts to sign over holidays. I also don’t want to come back from a holiday to a full inbox. It’s hard to stay distraction free on vacations for me. The nice thing about holidays is that no one else is working either.

    7. Daisy-dog*

      Though OP mentions that it would be difficult to let her have an extra 10 PTO days/year. Not all holidays are religious holidays. And she does still get PTO to celebrate non-Christian holidays. I can understand not needing Good Friday, Christmas Eve, and Christmas (which really only the last one is observed by most businesses). But Thanksgiving, as problematic as the history is, is pretty standard for everyone in the US. (Spare the “not everyone eats sandwiches” caveats.) I can certainly understand allowing 3-4 to use for religious reasons assuming there is work (audits, updates, etc.) to be done on those 3-4 days that everyone else is off. But 10 days definitely sounds like the new hire is trying to add on some long-term vacations like the LW a few weeks back.

    8. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Also a potential safety hazard – in my office, we need to register at the front desk (manned by security 24/7) when working outside regular office hours. This way, security knows which floors need evacuation in case of a fire, and can check on us during their regular rounds. We had a coworker who was working alone years ago and had a medical issue; security found him barely responsive and initiated a proper medical response.

  5. RW*

    I think maybe the holiday question should also include looking at the company’s time off policy – maybe it could be more flexible?

    1. MigraineMonth*

      I think the OP’s instinct to talk with the employee and find out why is a good one.

      For example, if the employee is Jewish and wants to take the High Holidays off instead of Christmas, that seems like a good request to approve for DEI reasons (and the exception wouldn’t need to be extended to a teammate who just wants to go fly-fishing).

      It’s also possible that the employee wants extra flexibility this year, but not in the future. I remember trying to scrape together enough vacation days in my first few months in a job to go to a family reunion. Allowing one-time flexibility (or explaining the employee can go into the red on vacation days) might solve that.

      1. OtterB*

        I was thinking a possible need for extra flexibility when new in the job and haven’t had the chance to accrue much vacation yet.

  6. Baron*

    We just had a thread about the first-name thing late last week, and, yeah, some people are surprisingly intense about reinforcing hierarchy this way. I’m currently working in a field where many of my clients are high-powered professionals, and even there, about 1% of them expect to be called “Mr.” I’m reminded of that time on “The West Wing”—“The president is ‘sir’. Everyone else is ‘hey, where’s that thing I asked for?”

    The thing about hierarchy is, truly powerful people know they’re powerful without being addressed by honorific or title.

    1. Pippa K*

      I wish we had agreed indicators of formality, though, that didn’t overlap with our indicators of hierarchy. Formality is not always a bad thing.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Interesting. I can’t think of an example where formality doesn’t have hierarchy built in.

        1. Hlao-roo*

          The example I can think of is how I send informal emails to coworkers on my team (and they send informal emails back), and I send more formal emails to people on different teams. So, for example, if I were emailing the TPS reports to someone on my team, it might look like this:

          See attached.

          And I would expect a return email along the lines of “Thanks.”

          If I were sending the TPS reports to someone in a different department, it would look more like this:

          Good afternoon Dave,
          The TPS reports are attached. Let me know if you need anything else from me.

          And I would expect Dave to respond along the lines of:

          Hello Hlao-roo,
          Thank you for the reports.

          Dave and I are being (slightly) formal, but in a non-hierarchical way.

        2. Allonge*

          How about the strangers to friends spectrum? There is no hierarchy needed for me to address someone I don’t know more formally than someone I know.

        3. tamarack etc.*

          Interesting question. The two are so often entertwined.

          The two cases I can think of are:

          * Ceremonies. True, there’s often hierarchy implied (in who leads a ceremony, in ceremonial roles, in who confers an honor or whom or a formal blessing or swears an oath). But at the same time, it’s a time where the same people that can be pretty informal with each other interact in more formal ways without their roles having changed beforehand. (Similarly, family traditions and customs, like dinner time, dressing up for certain things, singing religious hymns / songs together…)
          * Certain professions. Like in a court of law. Sure, the judge is on a pedestal, but the defense and prosecuting counsel are on the same level. Or in a parliamentary proceeding, or mock debate societies, or even sports in how to treat your opponent.

        4. Kit*

          It used to be somewhat independent of it, and still is in limited circles – think English public schools (not US public schools – these are the posh boarding schools like Eton). Acquaintance-level students will generally refer to each other by surname; first names are reserved for close friends, and ‘Mr. So-and-So’ is how their teachers will address them in classes. (Or Miss So-and-So, for the coeducational schools.)

        5. linger*

          The formality scale is a whole cluster of things.
          At its core is a psychological concept of how much pressure you feel under to conform to a certain prescribed behaviour (including, but not limited to, language production).
          Situational formality is the set of factors that may cause such pressure, including: the level of social importance attached to the event; the amount of advance planning required or expected in consequence; limits set on who can speak, at what times and in what order and at what length, on what topics, with what phrasings; other limits on behaviour or appearance. More formal settings tend to force participants into socially prescribed roles, rather than letting them act as individuals; and as part of that, more formal settings tend to pay more attention to status rather than solidarity. But there are many more factors in play than status marking alone.
          Linguistic formality is the set of language markers signalling formality level. To a large extent these are caused by the situational factors, though the linguistic marking of formality used by participants is also part of the evidence that contributes to our perception of the formality of an event, and can be manipulated to change the perceived formality of an event. In English (but also more generally across languages) such markers include: vocabulary level (range, specificity, word length — mostly as a function of how far wording must be planned and tailored to a specific purpose, as opposed to being retrieved in the moment); syntactic complexity (sentence length; noun/verb ratio); and explicitness (use of information-bearing markers, including logical connectors, explicit subordinators, case-markers such as wh-relatives, and full rather than contracted forms). More informal styles contain higher levels of pronominal reference, context-dependent reference such as deixis (this, now), interactive language (2nd-person pronouns, direct questions), and expressions of personal stance (1st-person pronouns, emphatics, swearing).

        6. amoeba*

          Huh, in German, using the more formal form of address (“Sie”, “Ms. lastname”) if just common with people you don’t know very well, interactions in public, etc. It’s definitely not hierarchical in nature as such, although for sure some people will try to use it that way.

        7. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Dressing up and being on your best behavior for a formal dinner, prom, or awards ceremony, maybe?
          Showing respect does not necessarily imply a hierarchy, and dressing up for a meal can be fun.

    2. Ainsley Hayes*

      Pretty much!

      I have clients who address me as Attorney which…feels very formal! I will remind them repeatedly to use first names, as I will also remind younger attorneys to call other (much older) attorneys by their first names as well.

      That said, I once got an unsolicited request for an internship from a law student who referred to me as “Mrs. Hayes” and that bugged me…

    3. anon for this*

      Truly powerful people know they’re powerful without being addressed by honorific or title. Women, people of color, and particularly women of color are reminded when those honorifics are dropped that they can’t learn or earn their way out of the position their bodies occupy in hierarchy.

      (Giving a talk at a college next week, tweaked my bio/intro to add Dr because it was left off…)

    4. Artemesia*

      In higher ed the use of the term ‘Dr.’ when addressing scholars and faculty is inversely proportional to the prestige of the institution.

      1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

        That! Once met a very humble guy who did not want to be addressed as “professor” although he had tenure, and a Nobel prize to his name. The university in question is also not exactly inconspicuous.

  7. J!*

    Yes, I was wondering if there’s a middle ground. Relatively neutral bank holidays like Independence Day or Labor day are set but a few holidays that are typically more religious (like Christmas) could be floated for another purpose.

  8. KHB*

    Q1: “Kind” is often used to mean “softening the message,” but if this has already escalated to “badgering,” it may be one of those situations where the kindest thing to do is be completely blunt: “We’ve already made our choice on this hire, and the matter is closed. Continuing to contact us about it is not going to convince us to revisit our decision – and in fact, it’s just going to make us less likely to think of you the next time we have an opening in this area.”

    Q2: It’s certainly not great, but it’s weird to say that crying (usually an involuntary action) is “messing up” or “really not nice.” Based on this information alone, the worst I’d say about this HR director is that maybe she’s not cut out to be an HR director. The best I’d say about her is that maybe she had some unrelated issues going on in her life that came to a head at an inopportune time.

    1. Baron*

      Agreed on both.

      For #1: not making excuses for this guy, but for a certain type of person, “we’ll keep your resume on file” is an invitation to badger. That’s one of several reasons why I don’t love it.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I disagree that it’s an invitation to continue contacting them. I think the vast majority of people will interpret “we’ll keep your resume on file” to mean “don’t call us, we’ll call you”. It isn’t couched in possibly misleading language., and it might even cut down on the number of people who re-apply if the job is posted again.

        Of the few people who will keep contacting, I think the most would have kept contacting no matter how straightforward the rejection.

    2. ferrina*

      Q2: Eh, I think an HR Director who is crying when delivering outcomes to the affected people is messing up. Yes, it is likely an involuntary action, but part of her job is to be able to calmly and professionally deal with sticky HR issues. That doesn’t make her a bad person, but sometimes we have personal issues that make us the wrong person for a certain job. In a much more extreme example, think of a surgeon with shaky hands who can’t perform surgeries. The surgeon isn’t a bad person, but performing surgeries is the wrong job, and trying to perform the job without fixing or sufficiently mitigating the issues is messing up a core aspect of the job.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I think that saying someone “messed up” is a lot *less* severe than saying that they aren’t cut out for their job. The HR director made an error and should probably work on not crying when delivering bad news, but that sounds like a very fixable problem; I wouldn’t conclude that they couldn’t do their job.

          1. Rainbow*

            I completely agree. I am a big crier – I hate it, and the reason I hate it is it is sometimes inappropriate. I have been laid off and it would have been inappropriate as heck for someone in a position of authority who is keeping their job to cry in that context. I would work my arse off not to cry in that situation and if I thought I couldn’t I think it’s best to defer the job. It’s so important.

          2. Modesty Poncho*

            Maybe that’s the crux – as an easy crier, I don’t think it’s a fixable problem at all, let alone easily. I’ve been through lots of therapy and medication to even myself out so that now I start crying when I feel closer to the 7-8 mark of “upset” on a 1-10 scale, but before I would cry at a 3 or 4, and even now I have no control over whether I’m crying or not. I would be a hellishly bad HR person, not cut out for the job.

    3. Khatul Madame*

      On Q1 I agree in principle, but companies may shy away from this messaging because it may open them to legal liability. Besides, any communication from the company/hiring manager will be perceived as an opening to again argue their case.
      Therefore, it is more practical to just block and ignore.

    4. Artemesia*

      I did this once when firing someone, teared up. I was really ashamed of myself. Yes it is hard to fire someone but so much worse to be on the other end of that conversation. It is just wrong and someone who does it should figure out how not to do it again. I apologized and told her just that — I knew this was inappropriate of me and that I was sorry realizing that this was a much worse situation for her than for me. Don’t do this.

      Also sometimes you do the wrong thing — all you can do is do your best not to do it again.

  9. ABCYaBYE*

    Re: working holidays and banking more PTO. The LW says that they are client-facing. Do your clients generally need to contact you on holidays? Or is the business one that is “closed” for major holidays and clients understand that? Those answers might also help in the decision. I also think it is worth kicking the can down the road a bit, too. The employee just started. You don’t know their work style and quality yet. Give it some time and you might know better how they’ll function when everyone else isn’t there. And I do think it does open a lot of doors to potential questions if others find that they can work, say, July 4 and take August 3 off instead. I think you could potentially run into managing a lot of those requests and it may be easier to just defer to “we are closed” if you are indeed closed and there’s no expectation of client contact on holidays.

    1. ABCYaBYE*

      One additional thought, too: What will stop someone from asking to work Saturday and Sunday (if you’re a M-F business) just to have more flexibility?

      1. metadata minion*

        Asking to move 3 or 4 days isn’t nearly as big of a change as asking to switch one day every week. It’s not inconsistent to allow the holiday move but not the weekend one.

    2. Kirsten*

      Also I’d look at whether pay would be different. Would they be getting holiday pay if they work any of those days? That’s something I used to get back when I was hourly and working on holidays.

  10. Heidi*

    I agree that in most places it’s fine to use the first name, but there was one time when someone referred to a colleague (whom she had not met) by a shortened version of her name, and I think I visibly recoiled. Say my colleague was named Tricia, and the new person emailed her with “Hey Trish!” Knowing that she has never gone by Trish, I was like “That’s not her name!” But I think even if she did go by Trish, it might be too familiar for a first email.

    1. Jennifer Strange*

      I mean, if it’s well-known she goes by Trish I don’t see an issue with it. My FIL’s legal name sounds like it’s a shortened version of a longer name (think “Nick”) so it would be odd if someone called him “Nicholas” when he’s listed as “Nick”.

      1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        One of the reporting agencies decided that my son Jack was actually named John. There is no reference to him in the entire universe as “John,” because his name is Jack. Then it was difficult to fix because he couldn’t prove he was John Lastname. Facepalm.

    2. Bethany*

      definitely follow the cues that are available and don’t assume a nickname if you don’t know they use it! I get really put off when I get emails from strangers addressed to “hi Beth” because I don’t use that name, even though “Hi Bethany” would be fine. It assumes a familiarity that, if they had, they wouldn’t call me that.

      1. Czhorat*

        Agreed. The easiest thing is just to reflect how they introduce themselves, sign-off on email, etc.


        “Hi, I’m Leonard”

        “Hi Lenny”

        “BZZZZT!!! WRONG!”

    3. Interplanet Janet*

      I work with a “Tricia” and even after being on the team for quite a while, I feel on my toes because I don’t know her super well – I hear others call her “Trish” in meetings but see emails addressed to / signed by “Tricia.” I know that some people feel strongly about using variations of their name (the “Michael is my father, call me Mike!” type) so I just want to get it right!

      1. Jennifer Strange*

        I know you say you don’t know her super well, but most folks would be fine if you asked “I’ve heard folks refer to you as both Tricia and Trish. Is there one you prefer?” I was in a similar situation with someone who was “Katherine” but folks also referred to her as “Kate”. She said she was fine with either, just not with “Kathy”!

        1. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

          Yes, I do this frequently! And check about pronunciation. I also let the person know that I’ll help correct others if I hear them using a wrong pronunciation or a version of their name they don’t like. I’m always told it’s appreciated.

        2. Quinalla*

          Agreed on this strategy, it is what I use myself as a Kathryn who mostly goes by Katie, occasionally by Kate, one Aunt calls me Katie Sue (nicknames for first/middle), but never by Kathy :) If I have no context, first time employee for example, I may ask them if they prefer to go by their full name or a nickname. For something like the Tricia/Trish, I would do what Jennifer Strange suggested.

          I also will ask folks who’s name I am unsure how to pronounce (last names especially, but sometimes first) if they can say their name, I’ll repeat it and make sure I’ve got it. Slightly different topic, but similar solution.

    4. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Gonna out a friend here, Alicia, who in her online dating phase went out once with a guy who then kept calling her “Leash.” (Not sure how he spelled it.) The fact that there was no second date should not have been a mystery to this guy.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      (Going to have to use the real first name for reasons that will become clear) I shared an office with a coworker who went through a short phase of calling our boss Eddie Spaghetti. The reason why the phase was short was because E.S. was understandably shocked, and told her to stop. To this day I’m like ???? Who does this?

    6. Nessun*

      I’d rather be mislabelled as a married Mrs. than abruptly given a nickname by anyone (especially someone at work who barely knows me). I hate nicknames, I do not use them, and I do not give anyone permission to re-name me in that fashion. I always ask people what names they prefer – I’d never call a Jonathan John in an email unless they’d said they go by John (or signed an email “John”). It’s a form of respect with me. I’d correct anyone who used a nickname without a basis for it (at the very least, I’d ask if they had previously heard the person agree to that name). There’s no reason for it when you have a name you know they use, right in front of you.

  11. Alex*

    I have never, ever addressed a coworker or manager by anything but their first name (or in some cases, a nickname!). I haven’t used Mr/Ms So and So since high school, in any context that I can think of.

    1. FormerLawClerk*

      Same here, with one big exception: When I was a law clerk, the judge I clerked for was “Judge”, not “Robert” or “Bob”. I get the feeling that he would have wanted me to call him “Bob” were he not a judge, but the culture of the judiciary is that “Judge” *is* first-name terms with a judge. Last-name terms, you call the judge “Your Honor”. (There’s a joke going around that once you become a judge, your name changes to “Judge Your Honor”.)

      1. Redactle*

        This is extremely niche, but in England I worked somewhere where one of the big bosses was a titled aristocrat. It was a very informal company and everyone else was first names, even the big big boss…. But this guy was always referred to by his job title, or as Sir in person.

        I didn’t hear a single person ever call him by his first name, though when I first met him he introduced himself simply by his first name and didn’t mention any of the other stuff. I was always curious about the history that led to the way he was referred to.

  12. WantonSeedStitch*

    I have only once referred to a manager by anything other than their first name: when I worked for a small company whose owner/CEO/President was ALWAYS called, as it were, “Dr. Evil,” No one called him David or Dave. Just Dr. Evil. And it wasn’t a medical office, though he was a medical doctor. Everywhere else, the manager introduced themselves as “Hi, I’m Jane, nice to meet you.” If a new employee started calling me “Ms. SeedStitch,” I would raise an eyebrow and correct them: “it’s Wanton! Only people who are trying to sell me things call me Ms. SeedStitch.”

    1. Spooky Doo*

      To be fair, if my last name was literally Evil I would get an honorific and then require everyone to call me Dr. Evil for the remainder of time.

      1. Kelly Kapoor*

        You didn’t spend six years in Evil Medical School to be called “mister,” thank you very much.

  13. Tio*

    LW 3: Make sure if you are actually considering approving the holiday swap, you run it up the chain first. For one, certain companies rate holiday time differently. For another, you need clear boundaries on when this can be requested, is it available to everyone, how do you approve requests (such as, if everyone wants to work one holiday and not come in the following day, what is the chain of approvals? Seniority? First come first serve? Rotating based on previous holidays?)
    Finally, the other major reason is that if other departments can’t do something similar, it could cause internal issues that management may not want to deal with. So send it above you and get approval before okaying anything.

    1. LauraB*

      I worked for a small organization in a place with terrible winters and an unusual number of winter holidays, such as a civic holiday in February and St. Patrick’s Day. It was common to work those kinds of “non-holidays” in exchange for another day off, usually when the weather was better.

      But it was agreed that it was NOT an overtime situation and I guess that was not strictly legal, even though it was completely voluntary. Someone could technically have agreed off the books, then gone to the labour board. I would never approve this set up without senior management’s approval.

  14. Czhorat*

    I feel the world has, in most instances, moved away from Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss Lastname and to Firstname. To me using the last name doesn’t connote respect but deference; in current American culture it can be read to mean that you aren’t addressing them as an equal, but as a superior – especially given that one of the few people who DO get the last name treatment are primary- and secondary-school teachers.

    I see myself as equally deserving of dignity and humanity as everyone, so I’ll in general refer to almost anybody by their first name except in those rare cases in which there’s still a protocol that would make doing so seem problematic or disrespectful (ie, certain members of clergy)

    1. MigraineMonth*

      In my religion, the only appropriate way to address other members–including elders–is by their first name (though we’ve mostly stopped using the informal thee/thou/thy).

      1. Czhorat*

        That’s why I said “certain members”.

        If the religion expects an honorific I’d use it even as a non-believer. Overall, I think the move to first names is a good one, for the above reasons.

        1. turquoisecow*

          I grew up Catholic. Some priests are Father Firstname – the pastor at my church was Father Joe, for example, and others are Father Lastname. I think even then it’s up to the individual what they want to use. I’ve also been acquainted with two Lutheran ministers – one went by Pastor FirstName and the other uses Pastor LastName.

          1. Random Bystander*

            At one point, I attended a particular parish which had four priests. Two of the priests were brothers, so they were both “Father Firstname” because if you called them “Father Lastname” you would have to then use the first name to specify who you were talking about. By complete happenstance, the other two priests shared the same *first* name (and not a particularly common one), so they were both Father Lastname. Where I live now, it seems that any priest who is approximately my age or younger (I am mid-50s) is always Father Firstname, while the older ones are more of a mix.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      Last names can also be used to emphasize distance. “Bill” might be someone I know personally or outside of business, but “Mr. Gates” is someone I only interact with professionally and am in no rush to change that. He’s probably also someone I rarely agree with.

    3. allathian*

      The teacher thing is interesting. I grew up in Finland, where children always call their teacher by their firstname, or sometimes by a nickname that the teacher has specifically asked the kids to use. I didn’t have any trouble adjusting to the British system when we lived there for a year, I called all my teachers by honorific + last name or Miss/Sir, just like my English classmates did.

      But I have to say that the form of address and the authority of the teacher in class have little to do with each other. My teachers in the UK couldn’t keep order in class without constantly shouting like a staff sergeant, to the point that a bout of laryngitis made them call in sick, whereas my teachers in Finland rarely had to raise their voices above a normal indoor voice.

    4. amoeba*

      English-speaking world, yes. German and French, not so much yet (although it’s slowly changing)…

  15. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t know whether the holiday swap is a good idea or not, but I didn’t get why Alison mentioned working alone as one of the criteria? As far as I can see that wasn’t mentioned in the letter

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Presumably if she works on a holiday everyone else has off then she’d be working alone.

    2. learnedthehardway*

      There’s a safety issue of having an employee working alone in an office outside of office hours. It may even be something that affects the lease or the insurance, so would be something the OP should check into.

    3. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      In addition to physically being alone in the office, there’s also how much your work intersects with other people. If you are a receptionist, for example, and the office it closed then it doesn’t make sense to work onsite alone. Admin roles always have some background or long-term tasks that would benefit from alone time — files, data entry, ordering — but is it enough for whole day(s)? Other examples are a junior person who needs a lot of direction, or someone who works on quick tasks that someone else takes in and delegates. Some roles are highly independent and others aren’t.

      1. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        The way I understand the letter, we’re talking about the big federal holidays like Christmas and July 4th when many businesses close. The LW mentioned “10 days” which tracks with that. In that case, one employee working on a day when the office is closed would likely mean working alone. If the office retains some people even on those days, that could be different (but could still run into the “no one from my department is working” problem).

  16. KatKatKatKat*

    Please, please, PLEASE be kind to persistent job seekers. I understand that it is obnoxious and annoying and way outside of job seeking norms, but we don’t know their background or history or anything about them, so pleas resist the urge to be snarky or rude and pull the kindness from wherever you can muster. Imagine that it’s your relative on the other end of the email, take a breath of the most polite air you can find and be kind!

    1. Rosemary*

      I think you should definitely be firm but kind. But at some point may need to be VERY blunt if the message is just not getting through (as it sounds is the case here). And many people take blunt = unkind/rude.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed. Kind does not mean softening the message. They need to hear the message. That is a kindness.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I don’t know if this is in response to something else, but where is anyone advocating that you not be kind to job seekers?

    3. learnedthehardway*

      I would say the OP should be professional. Part of being professional is recognizing when someone else is being inappropriate and either correcting them or blocking them. In this case, blocking is more likely the right response.

    4. Observer*

      I understand that it is obnoxious and annoying and way outside of job seeking norms, but we don’t know their background or history or anything about them

      And how does this change anything?

      Sure, I agree that it’s a good idea to be as kind as possible and to skip snark and hostility. But that’s true regardless of one’s background. And I also can’t think of a background that would make this ok.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      What do you mean in practice by being kind though? I honestly think blocking is as kind as you can get at this point, because they already sent a polite and kind message “about finding a strong group of candidates and moving in a different direction, and we did tell them that we’d keep their resume on file.” To go on badgering someone after that, then you aren’t going to stop. At this point, if it was my relative, I would want them to be very cleanly cut off so they could redirect their energies somewhere else.

    6. Artemesia*

      You get one kind response. then you get ignored or if you keep it up a frank statement that this behavior compromises their job search with this company.

  17. Eldritch Office Worker*

    This may be an overreaction in the other direction but I don’t this I could work somewhere where we ever threw around “Mr. Smith” when addressing a superior or a colleague. Feels icky.

    1. sam_i_am*

      I have an external colleague who calls her boss “Dr. [lastname]” when everyone else, including me, calls everyone by their first name. It’s rather weird and reads as obsequious to me, so I’m always wondering what the colleague’s background is that she feels the need to address her boss that way!

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I will say if it’s an honorific someone has earned, like doctor, I’d be more open to doing it a lot of settings. But I hope I can still send an email that just says “Hey Jane”.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I sometimes refer to my boss as Dr Smith when suppliers are being useless. I have never once called him that to his face.

        So a normal email would say “please let me or John (cc) know when [deliverable] is ready”, and a very snarky email might say “Dr Smith (cc) and I are still waiting for [deliverable] and should be grateful for an update on when we may expect it.”

    2. MurpMaureep*

      I work in IT/analytics for a health system. While the clinicians we serve have no problem with first names, and usually tell staff to use them, it’s not uncommon to refer to them by Dr. to clarify a customer and their role. For example if I’m talking to Dr. Herbert’s West, I’ll call her Herbertina, but if I’m talking about her I may say “Dr. West needs the patient safety report for her presentation to the service chiefs”.

  18. ECBeacePHR*

    Uff, I had a non-HR boss lay me off with tears streaming down his face. In my case, it helped me keep myself together until I cleared out my office and left. I figured one of us needed to. But yeah, it’s not great.

    1. MigraineMonth*

      Exactly: becoming overly emotional is actually placing a burden on the person being laid off.

      1. Nessun*

        Agreed. Right up there at the top of awkward situations, make me feel bad that you had to tell me I’m terminated. Wow – like, I’m trying to figure out what to do next and I need to remember where you keep the kleenex and somehow apologize that you had to tell me I no longer have security or peace of mind…just wow.

    2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      I got laid off by a newish manager who was visibly upset. I’d been through it before, and I think I managed to calm him out. Some of the other employees that also got let go were very upset, as this was their first job out of school, and their first layoff. My first layoff was nasty, so most of them since have been much milder.

      I’ve been in the work force for 42 years. The longest I ever worked for one company was seven years. I’ve been through a lot of layoffs, or “contract ended” temp jobs. It gets easier, but it’s still never fun.

  19. Professional Button Pusher*

    Aside from being weird in many work environments, a big issue with honorifics is that they can lead people to make assumptions about a person’s gender based on their name. This can wind up being really disrespectful and/or just plain awkward. I work for a global, membership-based non-profit and I often write to member contacts I’ve never met, with names whose gender association I’m not sure of (ex: Andrea or Gabriele in Italian vs English). I never take the gamble of using honorifics, even though it’s common in business communication in many of the countries where our members are located.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I write to contacts in many countries but particularly USA, a handful of SEA countries, and some in eastern Europe. The different formality levels are interesting to me, because I find that US contacts want to use first names and are almost offended by Mr Smith, whereas I would never dream of addressing a Korean or Japanese contact by their first name (if in doubt, Dr, because there’s a high proportion of PhDs) and am careful to put my title in my signature (“Aloysius von Klinkerhoffen (Gen.)”) so they can reciprocate as they prefer.

    2. Weaponized Pumpkin*

      I think avoiding gender is the strongest argument for eliminating them where reasonable/possible. We could argue about culture and whether or not honorifics are right/wrong/helpful/hierarchical/respectful until the cows come home, but we can’t get around the fact that most of the ones we use now are gendered. Not only is it easy to then misgender someone, it forces a defined gender, period. Time to move past this.

  20. Anecdotal Dot*

    When I worked retail, all the women were referred to Miss or Mrs First Name. The men were always referred to by their first names only, apart for the store manager who was Mr. First Name. So you’d ask Miss Mina what aisle garlic was on but tell Johnathan to markdown all the wolfsbane. It was weird and now that I’m typing it out, it’s even weirder than I thought.

    Now I’m in an office environment and everyone is either referred to by their first name or a nickname if they have one. (For example, everyone refers to the CEO as the Big Boss but would call him by his first name if speaking to him directly.)

    1. Person from the Resume*

      We have one guy who does this. I think he say “Miss” woman’s first name and it’s weirdly creepy because no one else does it and he only does it to women. It’s not always and I don’t really work with him any more, but it’s a bother and sexist.

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        I would pop a gasket. I’m AFAB but non-binary, and am over 60. The first thing I would do is ask if he’s had his eyes checked lately.

      2. allathian*

        It’s annoying for sure, and I’m glad that I’ve never run into this. It’s problematic, and probably a sign of a person who doesn’t believe that genuine friendship or a truly informal relationship can be possible between people of different genders.

  21. AnonInCanada*

    LW #1’s applicant: you didn’t just burn that bridge with the continual pestering, you covered it with napalm then dropped a 400 megaton nuclear bomb on it. Asking the same question 50 times to the same person, expecting you’ll get a different answer, doesn’t help your cause any!

    1. The RED Redhead/HR Nimrod*

      Speaking of bombs, I had an applicant respond to our generic “thanks, but no thanks” email with “What nimrod reviewed my application? I have 20 years experience in llama grooming.”

      Instead of responding any one of 1,000 ways I really, really wanted to, I left the email on read and satisfied myself with printing the email out and stapling it to his (v short, no details) resume with DO NOT HIRE on it and copying the text of his response into the notes of our ATS.

      And then I’ve been amusing myself alternately referring to myself as The Nimrod in HR and mentally composing snarky replies to his emails.

  22. Veryanon*

    That first letter….hoo boy. If this person has continued to pester LW even after getting the polite rejection, I’d have to send them something like: “I’m following up on your communications regarding your continued interest in ABC Company. We have reviewed your qualifications and have determined that there is not a match for our current hiring needs. Please do not continue to contact me via social media or email, as this decision will not change. Best regards, etc.”

  23. HiHello*

    I have no family in the country I live in. There was a time when I didn’t have a lot of friends either. Having holidays off actually sucked. The people I knew were hanging out with their families, most places were closed, so I sat by myself. It was a waste of a day off cause I couldn’t even get any errands done. I liked working on holidays and giving other people off so I could use that day some other time.

  24. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: Please tell this person their behavior is inappropriate. There are career “influencers” out there who tell people that you can get a job this way. They are WRONG but candidates don’t always know that. I’d tell this person explicitly to stop contacting me on socials, that the decision is final and the hiring process has moved on, and that repeated attempts at communication will result in a block and a note not to hire them in the future. If they are normal, they’ll back off at that point. If they’re unhinged, their abuse may escalate, so be prepared to block them and follow through on the do-not-hire note.

    LW3: I’d say no. If you’re client facing and clients aren’t coming into the office to be served on holidays, that’s not really fair.

    LW4: Do not correct that person. Who is to say that your way is better? I hate, hate, hate, hate, HATE being addressed by something other than my first name. When people I will have to see again call me Ms. Smith, I explicitly ask them to stop. (Meaning, I won’t correct a grocery store employee in the check-out line, but I will address it with a coworker.) I don’t use an honorific. I am nonbinary and I don’t really like Mx., but nothing else applies. When you insist on being “polite” by calling me “Ms.,” you’re actually misgendering me and making me feel uncomfortable. When you call me “Mrs.,” you’re making an incorrect assumption about my marital status. “Mrs. Smith” is my mother, not me. It also makes me feel about a thousand years old when someone, usually a young person, insists on using “Ms. or Mrs.” and “ma’am.” If we’re working at the same place, we’re peers. Just call me Michelle. Note: I have only ever worked in conservative industries (legal) and the only time I wasn’t expected to address someone by first name only was when it was the elected government official running the office.

    1. Kayem*

      This is 90% of the reason why I want to take the plunge and finally get my PhD. Because I don’t like any of the feminine honorifics (though I will accept “Mx.” and “Ms.” if I have no choice, like in some online forms I’ve filled out). And it would please me greatly to be able to correct someone who says “Mrs. Soandso” and go “That’s Dr. Soandso.”

      But with only 10% of the reason being for academic/career advancement, wanting to make people call me Doctor is probably not the best reason to go into more student debt.

      1. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

        Me too!

        I avoid honorifics SO HARD, but would totally own Doctor.

        My company just launched a new internal info page that’s got a lot of “social media” type features, so we all had to go in and update our info. I am silently judging everyone who is now listed on our pages as “Mr. Bob Soandso or Mrs. Kathy Soandso.” It’s just so weird. I think about 20% went for the honorifics.

  25. Lily Potter*

    Holiday request – the manager should ask this employee why they want to work holidays. My guess is that they don’t have PTO banked yet (since they’re new) and want to take time off for something specific.

    If it works for the office (in terms of whether the employee can be trusted to work alone, if there’s work to do on the day of the holiday, all the other things people have noted) it would be a kindness to allow this new employee some flexibility. It sucks being the new kid and having to watch every hour of PTO that first year!

    Obviously, if it’s a limited time offer (either to specific holidays or for a limited amount of time) make that perfectly clear at the onset so that the employee doesn’t ask for this special treatment on an ongoing basis.

    1. Artemesia*

      Start as you mean to go on. Any adjustment right off the bat like this needs to be very clearly an exception and should be refused without a very good reason.

  26. BellyButton*

    I found the first name/last name letter so odd. I have been working for over 30 yrs in various countries and never called another employee Mr/Ms Last name. The only time was in Japan with the board of directors, but that was 10 yrs ago at a time when that was the cultural norm, but since then the culture has become more casual.

  27. BellyButton*

    The letter linked in the “You May Also Like” — “employer won’t give me a fair chance to interview”

    WOOOHOO boy, I missed that one when it was originally posted. We need to remember to discuss it in Friday’s Open Thread.

    1. Nessun*

      It’s quite the trip, but it’s an excellent example of taking time to take advice on board, and going back and thinking about what was suggested. There’s a lot of growth from the OP if you read all the way through the comments, and that’s wonderful to see. I hope she had all the best luck and finally got a good position she succeeded with.

  28. The_artist_formerly_known_as_Anon-2*

    1) – on the person asking for a second chance…. I have a personal experience.

    When I was out of work, I applied to a software company. I had a full day of interviews. Everything seemed to go well. Then they ghosted me for a few weeks, and finally told me they hired someone else.

    Later in the year, I wrote a note – “if you still could use someone with my skill set, I’m available”…

    Long story short – I was rejected because “I wasn’t aggressive enough” — well, I thought traveling 1400 miles on my own nickel, gaining a full day of interviews, and I did OK, how is that not aggressive?

    “Well that’s the point. He (CEO) thought you were here for a sales job, not a software consulting job. Your name came up, we clarified, he wants you in here.” For a couple years they made overtures toward me but by the time they got back to me, I was working somewhere else.

    2) – on the HR director crying in a termination meeting. Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, the termination meeting comes as a relief to the employee. A lot of people are NOT quitters – it’s not in their nature. I am reminded of a Celtics coach = Tom Heinsohn. The club’s GM, Red Auerbach, had asked him to take the coaching reins – and he was a very successful insurance salesperson and real estate broker. Heinsohn had to sacrifice a lot to take the job. He did. He won two championships, 1974, and 1976. But by 1978, he was failing and losing.

    Red could see, it was KILLING Tommy but he wouldn’t quit. Finally Red had to fire him. And, Auerbach always insisted, in his long career, firing Tom Heinsohn was the toughest thing he ever had to do.

    So sometimes the task is rougher on the person doing the firing than the firee. Not often, but it happens.

  29. El l*

    Going to go out on a limb and think that this poor person has someone in the ear telling them to “show gumption.”

    Which is why your answer has to be, “Our no is final. Nothing positive will come from persisting any further in this.”

  30. fgcommenter*

    So, a candidate was rejected, and is now asking how to improve themselves for next time.

    Yet another point in favor of explaining to a rejected candidate what criteria they didn’t meet instead of leaving them to guess and figure it out on their own, and not even a month after I have already posted other points is favor of using this kind of clear communication.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Sometimes it’s “you were fine but others were stronger.” Sometimes it’s something nuanced that would take a time investment to explain clearly and that’s not necessarily the right use of the person’s time, especially when they have hundreds of applicants. Sometimes it’s something awkward that employers are under no obligation to share (for example, about the person’s lack of critical thinking). I’m in favor of giving feedback after an interview when there’s an easy, clear way to do it (there isn’t always) but it’s not reasonable to expect that after just the application stage.

    2. Irish Teacher.*

      It’s very probable they met all the criteria but so did 5 or 10 or 20 other candidates and there was only one position. If you have 50 or 100 applications for a job, excellent candidates are going to be rejected, for no real other reason beyond “we only had one position and there was one particular candidate who stood out more than you did.”

  31. Caleb (he/they)*

    I think with the employee asking to work holidays so they can take other days off, it’s important to consider if they practice a religion that isn’t the dominant one in your country and they’re asking to work on religious holidays they don’t celebrate so they can take off ones they do (e.g. if you live in a Christian-dominant country like the US and a Jewish employee is asking if they can work on Christmas and Easter and take off Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur instead). In that case, I honestly think letting them pick which holidays they work can honestly go a long way towards creating a more equitable workplace (and if you have multiple employees who want to do the same, it may be worth seeing if you can give people floating holidays instead of fixed holidays so everybody can pick which holidays they do and don’t work).

  32. Keymaster of Gozer*

    We’ve had a person apply for every single job here in IT and contact us over and over about why they didn’t get an interview, why they didn’t get the job, don’t we know they’re really good at this and it gets real old real fast.

    (We’re senior IT – these are jobs that require a lot of knowledge and experience and this person has NO IT experience at all. But they are in a senior role in a totally unrelated job and want a career change)

    Because this is an internal applicant we can’t block them or be harsh without a lot of fallout so basically we’ve got a standard template now that says ‘we do not have any roles that will fit your experience. Feel free to apply to helpdesk’

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