VP says people working from home haven’t developed as much, is “it’s so good to see you” suggestive, and more

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

1. VP says people working from home haven’t developed as much

My company has announced a return to office plan for January. After the announcement last month, my VP held a meeting with our group, during which he said, “People who have been working in the office have developed more than those working from home.” Now, we all know this may be true — but neither our company nor he has ever required anyone to come in, until our now.

If there was never a requirement to come in, is he just stating facts or does what he said toe the line of being an HR issue?

It’s not an HR issue. He’s not saying, “You’re in trouble for not doing something that was never required.” He’s saying “This is a relevant difference I’ve observed.”

Of course, he may or may not be right about that. He definitely could be! There are jobs where it’s easier to grow when you’re in the office around other people — especially junior-level jobs, where a ton of learning happens from being around more experienced people and observing them doing their own jobs. And if that’s so, it makes sense that he’s flagging it as part of the reason he thinks the change is a good one. Or of course, it’s also possible that he has no basis for the statement and just sees everything through an “in office is better” lens, because those people exist too.

But there’s no HR issue here (at least not unless it starts playing out in clearly unfair ways, like if people are getting better performance ratings solely for having been in the office, while objectively higher performers are rated lower because they worked from home … but even that stuff can get fuzzy, because he might weigh aspects of people’s work differently than you do).

does working remotely harm your chances of advancement?
did the pandemic really show we can be just as effective working from home?

2. Is it suggestive to say “it’s so good to see you”?

I am a woman in my upper 20s. A 50something-year-old man who works on my floor but in another department (so our paths rarely cross) went around to some of the offices near his own to let us know, mostly one-by-one, that he will be starting a cancer treatment soon, presumably so we would not wonder at his absences and would hear it from him directly instead of through the rumor mill. I expressed what I believe to be a standard, empathetic response about thoughts and prayers (we are both Christian).

A few weeks later, we bumped into each other when no one else happened to be around. After he shared a little about his treatment, in wrapping up the conversation I stated with more emotion than I would typically use in professional conversation, “It’s so good to see you.” There was a palpable change in his expression and body language, and he quickly said, “I’ll let my wife know you say hi'” and turned and left. I was confused by the direction the conversation had taken (I had met his wife once or twice and spoken with her briefly, but the comment felt out of place in this context). It dawned on me that perhaps my comment had felt too familiar and made him uncomfortable, as if it was meant in a suggestive way. I felt a little embarrassed but tried to brush it off, knowing my intentions were pure and he has bigger things to deal with.

Months later, he was experiencing remarkable recovery and I began seeing him around the office again. The first time I did, in spite of myself, I somehow said again, “It’s so good to see you.” I immediately internally cringed and, sure enough, the statement garnered the same response as the first time.

I am a little socially awkward, especially about such serious topics, so I am seeking some advice about whether I need to ban this phrase from all further workplace interactions with people. If it ever were to slip out while talking with other coworkers, I would like to know if the meaning can be misconstrued and, if so, if I need to make a point of never saying it. Or am I maybe misinterpreting why he responded that way? In terms of my future interactions with this person specifically, I plan to keep things polite, professional, and perhaps a little more distant for his own comfort level moving forward.

“It’s so good to see you” is a pretty normal thing to say, especially when someone has been away or sick. It’s not suggestive. Of course, like anything, it could be said in a suggestive way — like if you looked him up and down while saying it, or gave him a lascivious look — but assuming you’re not doing that, it’s really not suggestive. It’s just kind. I suspect the issue is on his side; he might be one of those men who assumes every friendly overture by a woman is a come-on.

Now that you know he reacts weirdly to it, it makes sense to be more distant with him, but you definitely don’t need to ban the phrase from your conversation with others.

3. My employee seems annoyed when he’s assigned certain tasks

I’m noticing a trend in an employee who joined my team after working on another team at our company, Fergus. Fergus has been with the company a long time, although he only switched roles earlier this year, and is one of the most capable people I’ve ever worked with. I’m so thankful he chose our team. However, I’m starting to see a pattern when I assign work or projects that he views as too remedial for his skill set. I will ask Fergus to pitch in on such an item and I can tell immediately that he does not like that he’s being asked to do the task. He was very unhappy in his old role, which is why he switched, and it seems that these tasks in some way remind him of his old job that he wants nothing to do with or he feels they are beneath him. Our team is used to dealing with these types of odd requests, as we can be a bit of a catch-all for the organization.

Now that this has come up a few times, I’m thinking I need to address this. Honestly, I would be willing to do these things myself if I had the bandwidth and my manager would allow it (but they expect that these items will be delegated by me to others on the team). How do I let him know how much I value his experience and the work he does on bigger items while addressing that sometimes we all get asked to do tasks at work that we don’t want to do, especially on a team like ours where the expectation is you help where you are needed?

Name what you’re seeing, and what the reality of the job is. For example: “I might be reading you wrong, but I’ve gotten the sense that you really don’t like being asked to do tasks like X or Y. I want to be up-front that tasks like X and Y are part of the job and that’s unlikely to change.” He might not realize his irritation has been so noticeable (and this would hopefully be a nudge to rein it in) or he might have avoided looking at the reality of the job head-on and this might nudge him to think about whether he can live with it reasonably happily, or who knows what. But step one is to lay out that this is the job and see what kind of response you get.

But before you do that, I want to ask this: if he’s more capable than others on your team — and I’m not sure that he is, but it sounds possible — would it make sense to structure his role so that he’s mostly working on higher-level stuff that he’s better than others at? On many teams you don’t need everyone’s job structured the same way and it can make sense to have higher-skilled people in more senior roles. You wouldn’t want to do this if he’s not that much better than other team members, but if he’s really good it’s worth considering whether his skills warrant it. If not, have the conversation above.

4. My boss is sending me job postings

I need a reality check here. My boss is sending me job postings for positions outside our company, some even out of state!

I can’t help but feel like I’m being managed out because these job postings come on top of being denied promotions, being left out of important conversations, and her showing favoritism to other employees. I am actively looking to move on, but she doesn’t know that. Is this weird?

It’s definitely possible she’s prodding you to move on, especially combined with the other things you’re noticing. But some managers do this with good intentions — it’s genuinely “I want to see you grow and this seems like a great next move for you.”

Why not ask? There’s nothing wrong with saying, “What made you send me those job postings?” In some relationships, you could add, “I want to make sure there’s not a message I’m missing.” If you weren’t actively looking to leave, it could also be an opening to say something like, “Ideally I’d like to stay here and advance, and I’m wondering if your sense is that I’m better off looking for that somewhere else.”

Read an update to this letter

5. Putting speed reading on a resume

I’m a speed reader. Really. I taught myself to read when I was two, and have been zooming through 200-300 books a year ever since. I retain content, I’m not just skimming.

This is something my parents constantly tell me I should put on my resume. I can see their argument, as it’s a hugely useful asset in many ways (quickly becoming domain-ready, digging into complex research problems, getting through those 500 emails a day, etc.).

However, I struggle with how to put it on a resume in a way that sounds … well, real, and piques the hiring manager’s interest without sounding a little juvenile or braggy. Do you have any advice on how to navigate this, and whether it is appropriate resume material?

There’s not a really obvious place for it to go, but if you have a section for hobbies or skills, you could put it there. (A skills section would be the most obvious fit, as long as the rest of what’s there is worth using the real estate for; a lot of skills sections are unnecessary.)

It’s not going to sound braggy or juvenile. It won’t get you a job on its own but it’s more interesting and potentially more professionally relevant than “running marathons” and “jazz aficionado” and “strong communicator” and other stuff people sometimes list, and it could end being something a hiring manager asks you about.

{ 538 comments… read them below }

  1. Shopkeeper*

    LW2, if “it’s good to see you” was a come one, there are a lot of video game shopkeepers (thinking of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion in particular – in fact I read this in their exact cadence) who are coming on to the player character.

    It’s a perfectly normal phrase, but this person is being weird about it for whatever reason. Maybe refrain from using it around him, but no need to get rid of it entirely (unless you find it’s an all or nothing thing)

    1. JSPA*

      Intonation matters, though.

      As someone who sometimes picks up inflections from others, who in turn may be referencing one of the endless number of shows, movies, songs, internet bits (etc) that I don’t know, there are times I’ve run into the cultural baggage that comes from some dusty old phrase having become a catch phrase, when said a certain way.

      Not to say that this IS happening here, but it’s a possibility.

      Another pitfall was borrowing phrases or intonation from “nice people” who…yeah…turned out to have been hitting on me, or being subtly rude. It was like water off a ducks back to me, except that my tape-recorder brain saved the phrase and intonation for later use. And later…yeah.

      1. Meep*

        OP did admit she seemed a bit too emotional the first time she said it.

        It could be that he had/has a slight crush on her. It could be he had an experience with a younger woman trying to move her way up the ladder through him. It could even be he and his wife were fighting that day about his cancer treatment because that is stressful. It could just be he bristled because he is tired of hearing the phrase from acquaintances. Cancer does make the survivors act “weird” at the moment because it is a long-term brush with death.

        In this case, I wouldn’t take much stock in his reaction as the norm.

      2. jasmine*

        Honestly given the gender dynamics, it seems a lot more likely that the guy is being weird about it.

        A woman is second guessing herself on her social etiquette after a man reacts a certain way is so common and I’ve yet to see an instance of it where the woman was in the wrong, as opposed to just being the one socialized to take responsibility.

        1. Distracted Librarian*

          This. If we smile or sound too friendly, we get accused of flirting/leading guys on. It’s exhausting.

          1. Beka Rosselin-Metadi*

            This. It’s happened to me a couple of times and I was just being nice. I 100% knew about their wives/girlfriends and I was JUST BEING NICE. If you’re nice, you’re hitting on them or coming on to them. If you aren’t nice, you’re a bitch. That line is exhausting, as you said.

          2. Vio*

            It’s happened to me (a man) a few times but I was shocked to find out how often female friends have been mistaken for flirting when they very clearly weren’t, it definitely seems to be much more common for a man to assume a woman being friendly is flirting than the other way around.
            I’ll admit there’s sometimes been times I haven’t been sure if a woman was flirting with me or not, but I’m well aware that most of those times are probably wishful thinking or just my anxiety.

      3. Hannah Lee*

        “… some dusty old phrase having become a catch phrase, when said a certain way ”

        “How you doing? ”
        – said like a normal person? … fine in the work place

        “How YOU doing?”

        – said like Joey Trebbiani from from Friends? … Not so much (said like Chandler Bing from Friends)

        1. JSPA*

          Yeah, this is exactly the sort of thing.

          If OP isn’t someone who tends to “echo” phrases and intonations from others, it’s not going to be relevant. I’m only tossing it in the mix in case it happens to fit.

          I agree with everyone else that if exactly one person acts strange when you say it, the far most likely explanation is that it’s them, not you.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I wonder if something more along the lines of “happy to see your recovery is going well” or “glad treatment seems to be working well.” Placing the emphasis more on being happy to see him feeling better as opposed to it being good to see you (in case for whatever reason he is hung up on the phrase as a come on from women when aimed at him).

      1. linger*

        It could also be perceived as strange even if not interpreted as an overture: e.g. if interpreted as indicating that OP had expected him to die. (In context, this would be a less far-fetched reading of OP’s actual message of pleased surprise.)

        1. Snow Globe*

          This was what I was thinking – that he thought OP was glad to see him because she expected that she might not see him ever again.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*

                LOL. I was thinking the same thing. That or he follows the same “rule” as Pence. Anyway, this is on him, not the LW. Though LW might as well not say that around him again.

                1. Cynan*

                  Obviously it’s highly unlikely that his guy is Mike Pence himself, but given that his religion is mentioned in the letter, it does seem very likely that he follows the Mike Pence/Billy Graham Rule.

            1. Shopkeeper*

              Yup. The fact he immediately jumped to mentioning his wife suggests he thinks this is flirting, not “I’m glad you’re not dead”.

            2. Meep*

              Illness strains the relationship. Heck, most men leave when their wife gets cancer. It could honestly just be that he has some residual anger at a spat he and his wife had over his cancer treatment. Either way, people are weird.

        2. lb*

          I was inclined that way too, but the wife comment does seem to indicate that he wanted to remind her that he wasn’t available.

      2. harvey 6'3.5"*

        Exactly. I think the more ordinary response from the man would have been “Thank you, my treatment is going well”. So something odd is up with him.

      3. Rose*

        I wouldn’t say that if you don’t actually know it’s true. Making assumptions about other peoples health and then commenting on them tends to annoy people.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Snarky precaffeine me has to imagine his reaction to the Raiders of the Lost Ark quote: “Indy, I’m so pleased you’re not dead!”

      I suspect it would be a different kind of bad.

    4. MurpMaureep*

      In World of Warcraft Human male NPCs say “what can I do for you?” in a way that emphasizes the I and you, making it sound kind of lurid. Which, given gamer culture, especially when WoW debuted, isn’t surprising.

      1. londonedit*

        Reminds me of the difference between ‘How are you doing?’ and Joey Tribbiani’s ‘How YOU doin’?’

    5. ABK*

      I once had to do a full harassment investigation because a manager asked an employee what she was doing that weekend. He said it was an innocent question, but she took it as a come on and an invitation.
      I guess the bottom line is to know your audience. Since you already had this reaction twice from this coworker, avoiding this language with him seems to be an obvious choice. If you get the same reaction to the phrase from someone else, it might make sense to think about your tone and body language. If not, it’s probably just this one person’s reaction.

      1. Caliente Papillon*

        Honestly I probably would try to never say anything to him again, other than Hi if pressed. This is so eye rolly to me. It’s like You WISH I was hitting on you bro, give me a break.

    6. Luna*

      Honestly, I thought the issue was going to be, “It’s good to see you (haven’t died from your cancer yet)!” and not what sounds like his presuming it was suggestive, when it wasn’t.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Yep. This was my thought: “glad you’re not dead.” Years ago I had a serious lung surgery, and spent several days in ICU. My pastor had come to visit and had come to see me in ICU. He then went to my hospital room to see my husband.
        Well, they decided I was making such a good recovery I could come off the ventilator and return to my room. When the nurse wheeled me in, the pastor said, ‘I didn’t expect to see you again!!” The nurse gasped indignantly when he said that. Even in my weakened state I had to laugh, because I knew what he meant,he was about to leave and wasn’t going to see me until I returned home. She thought he meant he expected me to die.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        Yes, and it’s gross, and we can’t win. Act friendly and polite? You’re coming onto me. Act distant to avoid those accusations? You’re cold/stuck up/b*tchy.

    7. Not a Telvanni Magister*

      I thought the same thing re: Oblivion! I also play Elder Scrolls Online, where radiant dialogue from NPC’s includes “good to see you.” Depending upon the NPC, those same words are said every which way from flirty to bored. There’s a particular female Dunmer (Dark Elf for non-players) voice pack where the Dunmer says it like it’s the required greeting for a shop she’s working in. It’s 1000% perfunctory but polite.

      (The last time a Dunmer lady said this to me, it was right after I finished pickpocketing her and accidentally came out of sneak mode in front of her. I laughed. Then I was so amused by this, I let her live instead of using the Blade of Woe on her like originally planned, which would have made her respawn faster with a newly filled pickpocketing inventory.)

      (…I swear I’m not a murderthief IRL.

      (…As far as YOU know.)

      LW, I believe this guy was just being weird and full of himself by thinking “me sexiest man = wuh-man talk me = wuh-man want me” but if you’re genuinely worried, you can try choosing a neutral phrase from the advice given in the comments here (I’d recommend permanently dropping the “it’s so” from “it’s so good to see you” for maximum neutrality) and practice saying it aloud in the politest tone possible, until it’s second nature and no one listening in would ever mistake you for flirting with someone. Can’t guarantee the ego you’re talking to at the time will think you’re not flirting, though.

  2. Peach Tea*

    OP #2– Try one or two small adjustments: drop the “so” and/or switch to “nice”.
    They’re quite similar, but have a bit of a different tone.

    1. MK*

      I can sort of understand being uncomfortable the first time, if the OP put emphasis on the “so” and maybe was more emotional than she realized. I would be too, but I would likely wonder if my coworker had, say, a relative with the same illness, not consider it a come on. His reaction was odd.

      1. LW2 OP*

        Thanks Peach Tea and MK. Sounds like the original wording leaves a bit too much room for possible error in inflection and “nice to see you” is the safer choice overall.

        1. FashionablyEvil*

          I mean, that is certainly one option for toning it down a little. That said, this is a him issue and not a you issue.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            This. I, also a fifty-something man, have not interpreted anything said by a twenty-something woman (or man) as a come-on in many, many years. If tempted by this interpretation, I would interrogate it closely before coming to that conclusion.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                The more common circumstance is the bar or restaurant server. This combines the server being friendly because that is part of her job, with presenting the man with food and drink. We respond to that viscerally (literally so): Mom used to do the same thing, because she loved us! This cute young thing clearly isn’t Mom, so the obvious interpretation is that she is coming on to us. I completely understand this, but also understand why it is oh, so very very wrong.

                This guy seems to lack even that excuse. The LW is being friendly in a collegial way. I suspect he is simply bad at dealing with women.

                1. Jam Today*

                  I had an old boyfriend who had a similar response to a pretty bartender at his regular haunt, who he clearly had a crush on. “She’s so nice!” Yeah, dumbass, because you tip really well when she smiles and makes fun small-talk with you.

            1. Ellis Bell*

              You, Richard, are not every 50 something guy! There’s something about that particular decade, for a particular type of guy, from whom younger women get a lot of references similar to the one the OP did. For want of a better phrase, I categorise it as “obviously we’re into each other” references. Genuinely puzzling when it’s like your dad’s friend or something. In my twenties it was similar to OP and sounded something like “please control yourself”, in my thirties it changed to literal scoldings for refusing to date them, one real example is “it’s just ageist to have age limits on who you date”, and now I’m in my forties I’m invisible to this particular guy and could probably make really lewd jokes to OP’s colleague and he wouldn’t notice.

            2. Free Meerkats*

              “not … every friendly overture by a woman is a come-on.”

              Wait? It’s not?!? Well, that blows away my mindset.

              (That was sarcasm from a mid-60s guy, in case you think I’m serious.)

            3. Claire*

              Bless, but at least 95% of the time, women do not have to “interrogate” anything before coming to the conclusion that most men – especially older men – believe that women are coming on to them by existing in their presence. If a man has a reaction like this, there is really, truly no ambiguity about what it means. If LW bets that he thinks she’s coming on to him, she is vanishingly unlikely to lose her money.

              1. B*

                Unless I’m misreading your comment, I think you might be misreading Richard’s. He’s not telling LW to interrogate her conclusions, he’s saying any fifty-something man (such as the co-worker in this story) who has the impulse to believe a twenty-something is hitting on him should watch himself for wistful thinking.

          2. Miette*

            Coming here to say just this. Do adjust how you interact with this guy, but I don’t think you really need to change this phrase for other people.

              1. GreyjoyGardens*

                Exactly! I don’t think LW did anything wrong, this guy was just being weird. I’ll give him a sort-of pass because of the cancer treatment; having cancer is scary and maybe the guy is freaking out about all kinds of stuff.

          3. AnonInCanada*

            Definitely. It seems to me this man has insecurities you aren’t paid to analyze. “I’m pleased to see you” maybe? Unless, as Alison suggested, you’re looking at him provocatively when greeting him, this is a him problem, not a you problem.

            1. Seashell*

              He might take that to mean he’s pleasing her/giving her pleasure.

              I’d go with “Hi, how are you?”

              1. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

                Hahaha. “Your very existence gives me great pleasure, as does your showing up promptly to my PowerPoint presentation. I think it’s time to take this to the next level…would you be willing to advance to the next slide?”

                1. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

                  Okay, I just busted out laughing. It’s being a rough week: thank you for that.

        2. BRR*

          There is indeed room for possible error in inflection in the sense that with enough effort you could make any phrase sound suggestive. This is his issue, not yours (if there is any issue at all).

          1. whingedrinking*

            There’s the old internet joke about how any phrase can become a euphemism if you add “if you know what I mean” to the end.
            “I’m going upstairs to ‘change my shirt’, if you know what I mean.”

            1. MigraineMonth*

              I like going to opposite direction:

              “I’m going upstairs to ‘have sex’, if you know what I mean.”

              “Wait, what?”

          2. mreasy*

            Exactly, say “the meeting has moved to the main conference room” in Mae West voice and its a come-on!

        3. NaN*

          I honestly don’t think the specific wording will make a difference. I’ve had very similar experiences a couple of times, which I am now cringing at the memory of. I’m more than a little socially awkward, I’m not great at establishing friendships, and something in the way I convey “this was a good friendly conversation, which I enjoyed” will occasionally spark an immediate response of “are you hitting on me? please don’t!” followed by my confusion because I was thinking nothing of the kind.

          The way I’ve rationalized it my head: Dudes are socially awkward, too. They respond in the moment based on instinct just like I do. And, frankly, they wouldn’t respond that way if they weren’t already putting me in the “a female is paying attention to me” category in their heads. So it’s at least partially on them.

          I have tried to be more aware of my tone and body language. But also, I’m actively trying to be more friendly and approachable, so I refuse to let myself become closed off and more isolated because of the occasional misunderstanding. Just act normally when you talk to him, and his wariness should fade once he gets past the instinctive response and is able to see that you’re not hitting on him.

          1. Ellis Bell*

            It is totally “putting me in the “a female is paying attention to me” category in their heads”. Absolutely 100 per cent. OP should keep a male colleague’s name in her pocket going forward and if she hears “I’ll tell my wife you said hello” again, then should respond with “Yeah, tell her Mark says hi too!””

        4. MsClaw*

          There’s nothing wrong with you’re wording. He’s either extremely creepy or incredibly out of touch, or thinks any time a woman intonates at all that it means she’s flirting.

          Do not remove the phrase from your work vocabulary, but consider limiting your interactions with this guy to just a firm nod and a ‘Bob’ as you pass in the hall. Basically, Ron Swanson this guy because he’s a weirdo who is way overacting to a simple polite interaction.

        5. Loch Lomond*

          Yes just to emphasize, “So good to see you” is a 100% normal phrase to say to literally anyone you haven’t seen in a while.

        6. Kelsey*

          I agree that this is probably a him thing, not a you thing. Here’s my take:

          I have a coworker who enthusiastically greets me every day, with extra enthusiasm if it’s a Monday and even more if he’s been travelling. I can’t even think of exactly what he says, but his enthusiasm weirds me out. We’re just not that close! I have friends who I see less often than him, and they don’t greet me with that level of enthusiasm! Of course, since he is not actually doing anything wrong, I do my best not to show how weirded out I am, but possibly something slips through. I could see this coworker writing a letter similar to yours.
          Maybe your coworker is weirded out for whatever reason he has, but that doesn’t mean you are doing something wrong.

        7. Yorick*

          I don’t think there’s any way you could have said it that he wouldn’t have interpreted this way.

      2. Rowerrabbit*

        I’m still wondering how she could have said to sound suggestive though. Maybe overly excited or emotionally concerned, which may have come off as over the top but not suggestive. It’s POSSIBLE that the way OP said it was weird, but I’m going to the side of, the reaction by this guy was weird.

        1. londonedit*

          I can imagine how a very earnest ‘It’s SO good to see you!!!’ might come across as a bit OTT, but I’m struggling to imagine how it would come across as suggestive unless you made a real effort to make it sound suggestive.

          1. I am Emily's failing memory*

            I’m inclined to Alison’s interpretation, that she sounded warm, and he’s the kind of man who reads all friendliness from women as an overture. The same reason waitresses get hit on all the time without saying anything suggestive, just having the friendly demeanor their job requires.

            1. Smithy*

              It’s this. You add this with body language, confidence to speak to him first – and any perception in style of dress being viewed as youthful, friendly, soft, trendy or body conscious – some will interpret as more flirtatious.

              Quite literally a “hi, how are you” can be interpretted as flirtaous by an endless number of service workers every day.

            2. TomatoSoup*

              I wondered about that too. I’ve definitely encountered those.

              During a conversation about a dry, professional topic (potential changes to federal civil procedure rules) at a party a man told me that he was *not* interested in me. It was very confusing and awkward and a bit rude as there was a bit of disgust in his voice. (You should be so lucky, Rando Guy). It has happened in other situations that felt completely neutral and other people present confirmed I wasn’t unintentionally putting out any sort of vibes.

              1. MigraineMonth*

                The number of guys who have asked me out because they thought I was flirting with them when I wasn’t…

              2. JSPA*

                And you’ll never know if it was intentional negging, or some messed up received message about “what it means if a woman crosses her legs, touches her nose, or rubs the back of her neck.”

            3. Lana Kane*

              I learned early on (too early, honestly) to be very careful about being warm to men, at least until I knew them well. Not all men of course, but enough of them took that for sexual interest. Those kinds of guys never mentioned their wives though, so my feeling is that this is more of a Mike Pence situation.

          2. ferrina*

            This is where I’m landing too. The wording itself is really innocuous, and it’s hard to make it sound expressly flirtatious without realizing it. I agree with Alison and I am Emily’s failing memory…..this guy is choosing to interpret it as an overture, either because he has one of those weird relationships with women in general or has something about LW specifically. Either way, LW is in the clear.

          3. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            Thirded. It comes across as “suggestive” because of an unfortunately common male tendency to believe that any interaction with a woman means she wants him bad.

          4. Nina*

            I mean, if you’re the kind of person who would say ‘It’s SO good to see you!’ anyway, you’re probably the kind of person who is bubbly (I hate that word but can’t find an alternative) and warm and friendly and outgoing enough anyway that it’s entirely in character for you.

            1. Alanna*

              I am a naturally warm, bubbly, extroverted person who absolutely greets coworkers enthusiastically, especially after the pandemic — I’ve seen most of them a handful of times in three years, and the most I usually see anyone in person is every other week or so. I would absolutely say “it’s good to see you!” to someone in town from another office, or someone I hadn’t seem in awhile, or even to a coworker I like who I see once or twice a month.

              It doesn’t mean I want anything more than a warm three-minute chat at the coffeemaker, let alone that it’s a romantic overture of some kind. I’m just happy to see them! especially if I like them, but also even if our work interactions are sometimes a little strained, because it’s good to be reminded that people are whole people with bodies attached to their heads and personalities outside of annoying me on chat and stuff.

        2. ecnaseener*

          It might not be anything in OP’s tone or mannerisms – he might have just known someone who tended to use that exact phrase as a come-on and he’s generalizing.

          1. Scout*

            In the 40+ years that I’ve been aware of what a “come-on” is, I can unequivocally say that I have never personally experienced, nor heard of anyone else experiencing, “It’s so good to see you” as a come-on.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah, I would imagine 80% of people hearing what was said, when coming after announcing a serious illness, would interpret what OP said as being glad the colleague was healthy enough to be there and having the conversation. The subtext really is “I’m glad you’re not in the hospital or dead”. I’m being overly blunt, but, the guy was being weird.

    2. BethDH*

      I don’t read the OP’s phrase as a come-on, but depending on tone and inflection I could imagine it feeling over familiar.
      This might have to deal with my own illness (nothing as big!) where people I hadn’t been THAT close to before suddenly started sounding like they were more upset about my illness than my own family.
      Just wondering if, given OP’s mention of trouble interpreting some social cues, the mention of “wife” might be about emotional familiarity and not straight about sexual references.

      1. Esmae*

        I could definitely see “I’ll tell my wife you said hi” as just an awkward conversational escape, rather than specifically bringing up his wife because he thinks he’s being hit on.

        1. JSPA*

          That’s fair…if he received it as, “I thought you were gonna die, now look at you all here and alive” (especially if he’s not 100% out of the woods yet / still wondering about his 2 year and 5 year survival chances) I can see floundering for any way to NOT break down at work, or respond irritably, or say something that’ll be a downer. It’d be a non-sequitur (and the same one, twice!) but maybe, as you say, it’s his default conversational escape hatch.

          1. Scout*

            As someone in cancer treatment, it can get old to have people bring it up all the time, even in a nice way like this. However, if you bring up your treatment (like this guy did), then obviously the other person pretty much feels obligated to say *something* positive.

            “It’s so good to see you” is an extremely mild response to sharing info about your cancer treatment. I don’t want to talk about it all the time at work, so I lead the way by never bringing it up and not getting into conversations when asked about it (I don’t mind answering at all, I just don’t let myself get pulled into a detailed conversation).

    3. Artemesia*

      nah just avoid this guy — basic politeness but don’t give him and his weird patriarchal nonsense another thought.

      1. Distracted Librarian*

        I agree. I’d keep your greetings to a polite, “Good morning,” not because you did anything wrong but because he’s making a normal interaction weird.

  3. MK*

    #3, do consider that your other employees might also dislike these tasks, but aren’t showing irritation because they are more professional than the very capable Fergus. Frankly, it’s weird to me that you would even consider doing these more menial tasks yourself (aren’t you his supervisor?), because … he isn’t professional enough to realize that almost all jobs have such parts and visibly resenting having to do them every time is kind of immature?

    Look, maybe it makes sense to restructure his role. But is it really appropriate to fall over yourself trying to solve this “problem”?

    1. Mr. Shark*

      I think it’s a little bit strange to restructure his role, if everyone else is doing these menial tasks every once in awhile, and the manager/LW is even saying she’d be willing to do things. I guess it depends on what the task is. If it’s clean the restroom, then no, or clean out the refrigerator.
      But if it’s drop off these papers for XX, or file these, then I don’t think that it’s out of bounds to require him to do those tasks, if there are not more junior level employees available (which it sounds like is the case).

      1. Norm Peterson*

        I’m on an admin team and yes, we do clean out the fridge on a regular-ish basis. Otherwise it would be full of months old leftovers that got forgotten. I took home the used dish towels and washed them over the weekend. (A previous office also had a dishwasher that had to be emptied but had a full-office rotation schedule – but admin would end up doing things when the scheduled person was out or unable to bother). And while we don’t clean the bathroom, we do refill the soap and can top off the paper towel dispenser midday.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, taking turns to clean out the shared refrigerator is pretty normal. Very different from cleaning the restroom!

    2. Kate, short for Bob*


      Please don’t rearrange everyone’s duties to avoid one conversation about expectations – it might feel awkward in advance, but practise saying what you need to say in a matter of fact tone and any awkwardness will be his to deal with

      1. High Score!*

        This. +1000. And even if Fergus is a genius mastermind, it’s still a horrible idea to not give him his share of the menial tasks. If you restructure it so that he’s only doing the plum tasks then your other staff loses the opportunity to learn and get as good as he is. They will resent this and leave and you’ll be left with only Fergus.

        1. AnonInCanada*

          This as well! If all the tasks are fairly distributed, then Fergus needs to grin and bear it. It’s not fair on the rest of the team if they have to do the grunt work while Fergus gets the spotlight tasks.

      2. Scout*

        So much this! From the employee perspective, I cannot overemphasize how annoying it is to see my manager refuse to deal with situations like this. Like, you are the manager, this is literally your job!

        If someone manages 10 people, they need to remember that avoiding a straightforward conversation with 1 person could mean annoying the other 9 people.

    3. Accounting Gal*

      I read Alison’s response as more suggesting restructuring to avoid having him complete these tasks because (1) if he really is such a rockstar at whatever higher level work they do, the company’s resources are better spent having him do that work than having someone else do it worse while he cleans out the fridge or whatever these unpleasant tasks are, and (2) the subtext of having him understand that that work is integral to the position could leave him to leave the company entirely. Which maybe wouldn’t matter, but if he is an expert Llama Groomer at a time where it is very difficult to find and hire great Llama Groomers… it would maybe be better to let someone else clean out the fridge while he grooms the llamas.

      1. ferrina*

        Agree, but even then it should be made clear to Fergus that sometimes he’s going to need the boring stuff, and when that happens, he needs to be a professional about it. When the work needs to get done, it’s on the whole team to step up. And yeah, sometimes that means doing the stuff that’s not your favorite.

        IME, it’s the people who can professionally do the tasks that they hate who are ready for additional responsibilities and development.

    4. It Takes T to Tango*

      If the team does menial tasks 10% of the time (for example), then Fergus has to put his big boy pants on and do his 10% as well. If Fergus gets special treatment and only works on the interesting stuff, the rest of the team will notice and likely will get resentful since now they’re doing his portion of the boring stuff as well as their own. Worse, some of the team may feel like they, too, can get away with not doing the boring stuff while the rest of the team gets dumped on.

      There’s still a problem with men getting promotions over women because guys are more likely to fight to get the flashy, fun projects while women are given the menials tasks “because women are more patient and detail oriented”. When it’s time to hand out promotions, the men have a list of impressive projects to show off while the women have more “keep the lights on” projects in comparison. If you exempt Fergus from the boring stuff, this dynamic may result on your team as well.

      If Fergus’ skills are so far ahead of the rest of the team that there’s a legit reason to exempt him, then he needs to be promoted to a special, drudgery-free position. At that point, his specialness is acknowledged and the rest of the team have a new incentive to improve their skills – the Get Out Of Drudgery position.

      1. Knope Knope Knope*

        I kind of disagree. My team is similar and we get lots of requests for what some people consider basic and others find challenging. Things like looking up keywords and writing headlines and posting things on social. This is important stuff, but some people find it draining. We also have to provide keyword and headline and social strategies for different parts of the business, which some people find too hard and some are great at. If fair meant everything is “equal” I could just split these tasks up evenly, but ultimately, some members of my team are better at strategy and find the other tasks draining. I get a better overall result by structuring work so the strategic thinkers can do more. It’s not technically equal, but it’s fair and tho the strategic thinkers don’t get a new job right off the bat, as they grow their skill set they get more visibility within the company, better resume builders and are preparing themselves to move into a more senior role once one opens up (on my team or elsewhere) without being thrown totally in the deep end. I think Alison’s advice is good.

        1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

          I agree with you. While everyone is cross-trained, the workloads in various types of tasks are divided so that people have a greater proportion of where their skills especially lie. And I have people ranging from 3 months to 20 years of experience in the same position (not the same pay band). The more experienced people get the more demanding/complex tasks. I give the more junior people interesting work but they also get more of the routine stuff because the more senior people are busy with the work that the more junior people aren’t yet ready for.

      2. Olive*

        I agree that he should be promoted if his skills are actually tangibly higher than the rest of the team. But first, the LW should consider *why* Fergus, one of the most competent people she’s ever worked with, hasn’t been promoted previously. Is it because he’s hard to work with despite his high-level skills? Or is it because the company fails to recognize and reward high-level work? These findings can also help her figure out how to keep other employees engaged and rewarded.

        One of the big signals for me to leave my previous job was realizing that no matter how good my work was, I was always going to be swinging back and forth between high level work and new hire level work with little notice. There wasn’t an opportunity for me to focus on high level work, even after developing those skills.

    5. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      We have a Fergus on my team, and his skills and knowledge are legit great, but I know the boss is unhappy with Fergus’s unwillingness to see himself as a member of a team. Maybe pitch it as “I need to see you pitching in and helping the team get ALL our requests done, even the boring ones. It sets an example for the less experienced people and gives them an opportunity to learn from you.”

    6. Office Lobster DJ*

      LW#3 definitely needs to have an expectations talk with Fergus, but it’s hard to judge based on LW’s vague impression that he doesn’t like said task. Is he behaving in an unacceptable way or just not enthusiastic about a task? Does he still do the task?

      Could there be some lingering sensitivity from his last role, where he was so miserable? Maybe the expectations talk can include reassurance that the team is a bit of a catch-all and the occasional lower level task is necessary and none of this is a sign that he will be sliding back to the role he was in.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, was thinking same on this one. Is he supposed to be pleased about it, actively happy? Is he being neutral/not enthusiastic, or conspicuously pouting? Because it doesn’t quite sound like the latter.

      2. Here for the Insurance*

        I disagree that they definitely need to have a talk with Fergus. There’s too little to go on here.

        OP, what does Fergus *do* in these situations? You say you can tell he doesn’t like it — how can you tell? Does he gripe about doing the task? Storm off? Huff and puff?

        Employees don’t have to like everything they’re asked to do. You don’t want them dreading coming to work; you don’t want them being miserable or making their coworkers miserable. But having an employee occassionally not thrilled with something doesn’t mean you have a problem that needs solving. As long as they’re not acting out, sometimes you just have to let another person feel what they feel.

    7. SpringIsForPlanting!*

      I’ll cop to being a bit whiny about getting the scut work. Not a lot whiny, but “Spring makes sad puppy face when I give her this work” whiny. I’m very good at my job, and I have the capital to pull this off. Crucially, I also *do the scut work as assigned* and do it well. Maybe it would work for this manager to just… be OK that people don’t like this work? Even acknowledge it. “Yep, it’s a pain, we gotta do it because XYZ, when we spread it around no one person has to go crazy.” Next time, ironic smile, “Here’s your scut work of the month!”

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yeah, I think it’s so much more bearable when management acknowledges that you don’t love this but it has to get done instead of insisting that you pretend you LIKE it.

      2. sundae funday*

        Yeah, this is how my workplace is. There’s annoying menial work that we all have to do sometimes, and we complain about it, but it’s like… good-natured complaining! And my boss is like “yeah I know no one wants to do this but….”

    8. sundae funday*

      I wish LW were more specific about what Fergus is doing aside from “seems annoyed.”

      There are menial tasks that I occasionally have to do at my job, and yeah, it annoys me that I have to do them because it takes away from the time I have to do my actual job… just like it annoys the rest of my colleagues when they have to do the menial stuff. But if we complain, it’s good-natured because we know we all have to do it sometimes.

      If Fergus is doing the menial tasks poorly, or, like, obviously making a fuss about it, I can see that it needs to be a conversation. But maybe he just has an expressive face?

    9. sundae funday*

      Also, it may be worth reflecting on whether or not Fergus is called to do the menial tasks more often than others because they used to be part of his job?

      I used to work the front desk at my job, which I HATED, so when our receptionist left and we all had to take turns at the front desk, I made sure to only do my shift and not have it fall into “well sundae is already trained on the front desk, so let’s just make it her job in addition to her other job.”

    10. DJ*

      Is it because they’ve gotten rid of the assistant for the section that these tasks are falling to others? Others have seen this happen, even seen those tasks pushed onto someone else who have then had their position abolished (happened to me a couple of years back). This is due to the lack of value placed on this very necessary work and thus the person becomes devalued.
      Naturally staff are going to be concerned about this as it takes them away from using their existing quals and skills, and continuing to develop so they can be competitive for higher positions/positions elsewhere.
      Just reinstate the assistant role.

  4. Shopkeeper*

    LW4, are you sure it’s the manager showing favouritism and denying promotions, and not someone above her? It’s fully possible she doesn’t like you, but it’s also possible she’s seeing that you’re not going anywhere within the organisation for reasons outside of her control and is (extremely clumsily) trying to help your career from remaining at a standstill.

    1. ferrina*

      This was my guess. It’s possible that Manager likes LW but knows that there is no future for them at this company. But it’s also possible that this is a passive-aggressive way of trying to push LW out.

      Either way, best of luck in your job search, LW!!

      1. Alanna*

        It’s definitely weird for the manager to do this without a conversation about it, even if well-intentioned. I appreciate bosses who are willing to be frank about whether they think an employee is a good fit for a role, or likely to move up, and who help them find something else (including not just sending job postings but reaching out to their network) if not.

        But that either has to be opt-in, or very subtle, and this is neither.

    2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      Yeah, I would take the combination of things mentioned to mean that the manager knows that promotions, etc are blocked at a higher level and that to grow in your career you will need to go elsewhere. If someone in upper management has decided they don’t like you or that you are “not a fit” she could be trying to help you get out before the upper level manager pushes to have you fired or laid off.

    3. Glazed Donut*

      Came here to note I had the same thing happen to me (via at least one early morning text message from a VP/CEO position). When I asked, I was told “This looks like a great fit for where you want to be!”
      …long story short, I no longer work there and am in a much better position at a different company, despite applying to numerous higher roles at [old company].
      I’d take it as a sign to consider leaving for sure.

  5. Aggretsuko*

    #3: well, if he didn’t want to do llama grooming, and that’s why he moved out of the llama grooming job into llama training, why do you expect he’d be thrilled to be forced to do more llama grooming again? How happy does he have to fake to please the OP?

    I say this as someone who has gotten moved out of job responsibilities I hated and have had almost every single one handed back to me and told it’s part of my job responsibilities again, because I know how and we have a revolving door of staff. I get the “it’s your job responsibilities” speech (and “duties as assigned”) allllll the time. I know, I know, but it doesn’t really help my inner personal “oh god I don’t want this back again” that goes through my brain every time. I try to hide it, but obviously everyone knows I’m not happy to be nothing but a phone answerer again.

    I don’t really have advice on this one, but if OP knows Fergus wanted out of llama grooming and yet they’re handing them more llama grooming that he can’t get away from or out of it, the least they can do is acknowledge that this isn’t Fergus’s best fun ever, but could you just pitch in and not be so obvious that you hate it?

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      I agree, my response was I don’t blame him for feeling this way (although he could address it more professionally – but I do think it’s a valid thing to address). He left the other team because it was focused on these tasks and joined this new team – now (from his perspective) the company is still giving him the old tasks “by the back door” and dressing it up by re-assigning him to this new team on paper.

      It sounds like not only his role, but the team more broadly, may not be structured quite right currently if their time is being wasted being a “bucket” for requests no one else knows what to do with but aren’t particularly valuable to the company. I have observed (and been in, once) teams like this and it isn’t always obvious at first, but over time there’s an erosion between what the team could be contributing and moving things forward, and what they are actually bogged down with. And long term that hurts the company.

      1. TechWorker*

        Nowhere in the letter does it state that the tasks aren’t valuable to the company… jobs at my company do tend to come with some work which is dull or slow but critical. In general we will try to spread it around but even high fliers need to chip in sometimes (especially if it’s slow to do but important to get right first time)

      2. Aggretsuko*

        A problem of being hired in the same office to do a different job is that you usually (certainly happened in my case and in some other people’s cases) end up being dragged back into your old job when they are short staffed or nobody’s left but you who remembers how to groom the llamas so they don’t bite you.

    2. Isben Takes Tea*

      That could be the case, but OP3 said “it seems that these tasks in some way remind him of his old job that he wants nothing to do with or he feels they are beneath him”, which makes me think they may be, say, llama hairbrush polishing.

      Even if it was straight up llama grooming, sometimes a llama trainer might need to pick up a brush now and then, and Fergus needs to treat all his responsibilities professionally or get a different job (which is a perfectly valid response!).

      I agree with Alison that more context from Fergus could shed a lot of light on it for OP3, and he might benefit from a check-in to readjust his expectations of the job responsibilities.

      1. Myrin*

        Yeah, I didn’t at all get the feeling that these are the exact same tasks as the ones Fergus wanted to leave behind.

      2. WellRed*

        Yes, there are many jobs that have menial or dull tasks. That’s ya bit different than getting stuck with tasks from the role you just left.

        1. ferrina*

          Yeah, my concern is that Fergus feels he should be exempt from any of the dull, menial tasks. And that’s just not how jobs work. Yes, it’s not efficient for a company to have a high-performer spend significant time on menial tasks, but unless you are a CEO with an EA, yeah, menial tasks are part of any job.

      3. Annony*

        I also wonder if there are some tasks others hate that he could take on to replace the ones he hates. I did that at a previous job. I permanently took on a hated task so that I didn’t have to do other low level maintenance tasks. Everyone was happy with the trade off.

      4. Here for the Insurance*

        Except there’s nothing in the letter to indicate he isn’t treating them professionally, only that OP thinks he might not like it. Not liking a job task doesn’t automatically equate to being unprofessional. I’d bet there’s not a person alive who likes 100% of their job tasks.

    3. MK*

      Even in your example, I think it’s reasonable to assume that llama training does involve a bit of grooming from time to time, especially when all llama trainers do it. Very few jobs are 100% the main tasks and all involve a bit of drudgery. Also, his two options aren’t “act visibly irritated, to the point his boss is writing to advise columns” and “fake happiness”. He can try to clarify how big a part of the job these tasks are, he can act neutral.

    4. Emmy Noether*

      I think it depends on the proportion of that task compared to other work. Realistically, most any job is going to have about 10% annoying tasks one doesn’t like. If it’s that, and the task is distributed fairly among the team, there’s really not much cause for complaint (of course if one absolutely despises that task, it’s still reasonable to switch to a job where the annoying tasks are a more tolerable).

      If the proportion starts to creep up towards 50%, and/or one catches significantly more of it than other team members, then a conversation may be in order, possibly followed by a job search.

      1. Mangled Metaphor*

        Yes, how often is “a few times since earlier this year”? (I’m going to take a tiny leap of assumption that this letter was submitted in the latter part of 2022, because if it’s a few times since the start of 2023, you’re basically asking him to do his old role in a new team and, yeah, I’m fully on Fergus’s side there!)

        Ok, flippancy aside, if it’s cropping up with an increased frequency, I’d be checking to see if this task is being evenly shared or just given to Fergus because he’s got the experience – in which case, I’d fully expect him to be moving on shortly (see above for old job in new team).

        I had a similar issue – I was about a week away from the GP signing me off work because a combination of manager and tasks (necessary tasks, I do not have a problem with the tasks themselves, just the fact I had to do them), meant I was not in a good place, when a new opportunity opened up on a different team, which I got. And less than six months later my old boss came begging to my new boss for me to help do some of my old tasks for an entire month to get the company through year end. I had an actual panic attack. This is an extreme reaction, but I left that role behind for a reason.

        1. Mr. Shark*

          Yes, if he’s getting assigned tasks that maybe were part of his old role, and therefore he’s looked on as the person most capable of doing them, then that may be a problem. It seemed more like it was “tasks that everyone on the team have to complete occasionally, even if no one likes them.” If that’s the case, and the tasks are fairly distributed, he should just understand that’s part of the job and react professionally.

          1. Mangled Metaphor*

            It just occured to me that just because the manager is distributing the tasks evenly doesn’t mean they are being done evenly.
            If any of Fergus’s coworkers are engineering things so he ends up with them, regardless of what the manager said (also been there, received that), this would also need to be taken into account.

    5. ecnaseener*

      I don’t really see how this changes the advice. No one’s saying he needs to pretend to be thrilled. You say “the least they can do is acknowledge that this isn’t Fergus’s best fun ever, but could you just pitch in and not be so obvious that you hate it” but that’s literally exactly the advice given (minus asking him to be less obvious!)

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yeah, my first reaction was “Fergus sounds like he’s feeling he’s being subtly maneuvered into being a llama groomer again”. Reassuring Fergus that this isn’t a bait and switch, it is customary that everyone on the team does some llama grooming, and that his main responsibilities will remain llama training, might go a long way.

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        +1 I said something similar above. It’s good that LW has that piece of context. Assuming the best of Fergus, a little reassurance might be the solution.

      2. Pescadero*

        Reassure Fergus that this isn’t a bait and switch – unless it IS, in which case – let him know that also.

    7. Accounting Gal*

      Yes to this, but also they need to recognize that he might leave the company entirely to go somewhere he can do llama training instead. And they have to decide if that is a worthwhile risk to having him share the llama grooming load.

    8. NeedRain47*

      This was my reaction too. I couldn’t tell from the letter if he’s doing the tasks well anyway. I don’t love every thing I do, but I realize it’s my job and will do it reasonably well. If his only offense is not hiding his irritation… he’s allowed to be irritated as long as he’s not taking it out on other people. It’s okay to ask him to tamp it down but I really dislike the idea of “professionalism” meaning “pretend you are not a human with feelings.”

      1. Office Lobster DJ*

        Yeah, it was not clear what exactly Fergus is doing to show that he isn’t thrilled. That could be a whole range of behaviors, some unacceptable.

        Still, I believe that LW is picking up on….something and whatever it is, it’s worth having a talk about expectations, what the role entails, and how the occasional lower level task does not mean he’s slipping back into his old role; I liked Alison’s phrasing as an entrance to that conversation.

    9. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      Yeah, if I moved teams to do Job B, and all the sudden I was mostly doing my old Job A which I left for a reason I’d be ticked too. I don’t like bait and switch, and I wouldn’t want my old job transferred with me without my consent. He may very well be looking for a new gig entirely where he never even has to admit that he knows how to do drudgery from Job A.

      Yes, he knows how do do it, but the old Job B belongs on his old team. Don’t let it creep into your department, or your entire group will be stuck doing it when Fergus gets fed up and quits.

    10. cncx*

      Yup, I don’t discount Fergus could just be being weird about this, but I’m reading it through my traumatized lens of quitting a job where I did a,b,c on promises of getting to do d,e,f in new job, had d,e,f written into my contract, said in my interview I really wanted to move on from task b specifically and boop new job made me do a,c and especially b but said if I did those tasks well, d,e and f could be seen as stretch tasks we could revisit once I did a,b and c well (which I had done well for ten years for more money at the job I left…). It was especially insulting to be given task b and told what I had signed up for were « stretch tasks. »

      So I can see a situation where he’s being stroppy for Reasons. I’m not saying it’s ok to be unprofessional, just that it is ok to be miffed.

  6. Millennial*

    #1 and then there’s me, the perpetually burnt out millennial who does not care about growth and development, just wants to clock in and clock out 40 hours a week (no overtime, thanks) and have their nights and weekends to themselves without the pressure of commuting, while getting paid to support my DINK lifestyle ✌️

    1. CharlieBrown*

      Same, but I’m Gen X. I’ve done the 60-70 a week thing and paid the price, and now I just want to pay the bills and Netflix and chill.

      1. Delta Delta*

        This. I’ve worked my rear off for close to 20 years and would be considered by some to be upwardly mobile. What I really want to do is to stop working at 4:30 every day and go for a walk.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I don’t even think the VP meant professional growth and development. He sounded to me as saying simply “people who were in the office cranked out more widgets than the ones at home”. Someone who sends their staff back to the office (which would increase the expenses both for the staff and for the company, as well as cut down on staff’s availability – can’t call into that emergency meeting when you’re driving on the freeway in a snow storm trying to get to work on time) when there’s no need for it is unlikely to worry about how the staff are developing professionally.

      I’ve done the 24/7 thing and the 12-hour days thing, and don’t want to ever do either again. I do like to learn new things that relate to my work, one, because not doing it, in my field, would put me out of my job and make me unemployable in the long term, and two, because I simply like learning new things.

      1. mlem*

        That’d be productivity, not development. And plenty of managers/C-suite types are claiming that staff grow better into their roles if they’re forced to be in an office. (My company claimed that our new — first-two-years — staff answered in a poll that they found being in the office valuable … as justification for *forcing* them to come into the office weekly. If they valued it, they wouldn’t need to be forced ….)

      2. Millennial*

        Well I think the feedback would be clearer if that’s the case — “You’re underperforming and not turning out as much work as you used to / the same quality as you used to and I need you to come into the office and meet the following x, y, z KPIs.” An even better manager would say “I need you to meet the following KPIs and if you can do so you can keep working from home.”

    3. Onward*

      Same! Except I have a kiddo I like to hang out with too. I’m not really all that interested in moving up the ladder anymore. Just give me my relatively comfortable life, I’ll do my job, and you’ll leave me alone.

    4. CRM*


      Honestly, going through the pandemic has changed my priorities in life. Career development just isn’t a focus anymore. I can see how people might look and say “CRM was always motivated to go the extra mile before we started working from home, that must be the reason why it has stopped”. Correlation dos not equal causation!

      1. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

        Right? Many of us developed a LOT while working from home — we developed our sourdough skills, our work-life balance, our knowledge of epidemiology …. If the boss wants people to “develop” in specific ways, they can communicate that and make time/money/energy available to those who want to work on those skills, rather than making it a home-vs.-office thing.

    5. DataSci*

      Yep! If I “advance” any farther, I’d have to stop doing what I like and am good at, and go into management, which I would not like and be bad at. I want to develop more technical skills, not switch to an entirely new ladder because it’s taller.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        I like this phrasing and intend to steal it.

        I guess you want to be on the same ladder, but just make it wider?

        1. Hlao-roo*

          I’ve mentioned this here before, but I worked for a company that saw the career ladder as a Y shape, where at a certain point you could choose to advance up one path that was going into management, or advance up the other path that was developing your technical skills in your individual contributor role (taking on more difficult projects, becoming a subject matter expert in a certain area, etc. but not managing people). I really like the idea of a Y shaped ladder, where there’s room for improvement/advancement without managing people.

        2. DataSci*

          Yeah, exactly. Fortunately my current job is understanding about this – it’s more general social pressure to always be trying to advance.

      2. londonedit*

        This is exactly why I currently do the job I do. In my twenties and thirties I did the whole climbing the ladder thing and I tried to go down the road of being a commissioning editor, because that’s meant to be the glamorous thing and the thing every editor wants to do. Turns out, firstly I’m not that great at commissioning books, and secondly what I’m really good at is desk editing (which is basically project-managing books through their production schedules, from copy-editing to print-ready files). I also discovered that I really hate managing people. So now here in my early forties I’m a desk editor, which is a job people usually do in their thirties until they move up via the commissioning editor/senior commissioning editor/editorial director/publisher ladder. I earn less than I would if I’d carried on up the ladder, but I’m doing work I actually enjoy and I’m actually really good at.

      3. lilsheba*

        I like this! I feel the same way. I have zero desire to go into management. I just want to do my job (which I do very well from home thank you very much) and live my life. I love my job, but I keep it to it’s 40 hours a week and no more. That whole notion that you HAVE to be in the office to thrive and grow is hogwash.

    6. Adalind*

      YES! I relate to this so much. My manager constantly asks if I want her job when she retires and I’m like no thanks – I don’t want to be required to take my BB on vacation, work long hours. I too just want my 40 hours and free nights and weekends. My company is allll about development which can get annoying at times.

    7. anon for this*

      I’ll be the odd one out here & say yeah, I feel you, but also there is such a clear difference in my team between some people who came on during the pandemic and others who got more training in person. I keep wondering if some of the folks who came on during the pandemic would just have *learned more* if they’d come in. Like really, I wouldn’t care if they only worked 7 hrs a day but had absorbed more of the nuance of the industry. Instead it’s a year in and despite coaching and conversations and pushing them to seek out more resources it’s still… conversations where I’m like “do you know anything about this company and what we do??” And I just can’t tell whether it would be better if they, say, talked regularly with coworkers.

      Sure, I have high performers who are WFH. But for these low performers, I wonder!

      1. Sometimes I Wonder*

        I started a new remote job during the pandemic. There was a lot of online training during the first two weeks, and then I was hooked up with a peer mentor (called a “buddy” to preclude hierarchical issues) to teach me the stuff that isn’t in the training. So to me, the easy solution here is to recognize what isn’t in the formal training and… formalize it.

        I use chat and phone calls and emails to get to know what’s normal at this business, what’s my responsibility and what I should be delegating or farming out to the right department, and who to ask in other departments.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Maybe my situation is an outlier, but when I started working at my current job, half the team was in another state, 12 hours away by car. The out-of-state team had initially designed and written the software we were helping complete and support, and all the business SMEs were initially on that team. Most of them working from an office in Other State, but there were a few who’d relocated to other states for their families and were already fully remote when I started.

        I learned an incredible amount about the industry, the business, the software etc. from those SMEs in my first few years on the job. I met some of them in person five years after I started, when several of us traveled to Other State for a week of teambuilding events. Some of the SMEs I never met in person to this day. Yet I learned more from these people than from most of the coworkers that I saw in my office every day. Maybe remote on-the-job training worked so well for me and my teammates because we didn’t have a choice? I don’t know. But it worked well enough for me to come to a belief that there is no correlation. People can learn well on the job in-person or remotely, or they can learn poorly in person or remotely. I fail to see how remote work is the culprit. Though I admit that my workplace may have been better prepared for this kind of teamwork and learning than most places that had been all in the same office, all the time, and never had to consider other options before.

        1. Riot Grrrl*

          I fail to see how remote work is the culprit. Though I admit that my workplace may have been better prepared for this kind of teamwork and learning than most places that had been all in the same office, all the time

          I mean, I do think you’ve pinpointed it here.

          I work in an industry in which training typically happens on the job (not in any sort of classroom setting) usually in an informal apprenticeship type fashion. It’s extremely detail oriented and in the first years on the job, it’s not unusual to be getting feedback dozens of times a day on your work as it’s in progress. It’s really all but impossible to provide this level of continuous feedback remotely.

          This is really a shame because we had someone start in a new position during the pandemic. After about a year and a half into his position, I’ve mostly given up on training him. I’ve come to accept that he’s only going to be able to do certain things and that getting him to a higher level is just too heavy of a lift, and it’s way easier if I do things myself.

      3. SchuylerSeestra*

        I’ve worked on distributed teams since before the pandemic but always has in person onboarding. My current and last two jobs have been remote onboarding, and there was a real learning curve for me. Especially with not working with my manager in person. I’ve adapted and have absolutely no interest in working a full time office job, but I do think
        there is some value with working in person. Even if just for training and occasional team meetings.

  7. Not a diva!*

    #1 – my VP (grandboss) is always going on about people working from home. He lives across the country and doesn’t understand the annoying tone deafness of the comments. That being said, he only applies his opinions as he thinks they make sense. As in “oh, i don’t mean you.” So I guess my point is to say that sometimes people peanut butter spread but it doesn’t have an individual impact if you’re good at your job. I basically tell him the reasons I think he is wrong and then ignore the comments.

    #2 – this guy is weird. You are being totally normal. I guess just keep that I mind with him, but it’s fine to say in 99.9% of work interactions.

    #3 – why not fit someone’s skill set to the work you need done, assuming there are higher level tasks needing completing? To be honest, I use this argument all the time. I joined a much smaller company than I have spent my last 20 years developing my career. And if I point out that they are paying me twice as much as someone else to do pretty remedial tasks they usually take note. My skill set is not in tactical work. That’s how I’ve ended up spending most my time in strategic and management roles. That being said, that’s what my job was sold to me when I accepted it so I’m basically just getting to remind them what they wanted when they hired me. What was the position sold as? I think that whatever the expectation was when he was hired is a reasonable baseline to start discussions from. I was hired to be a strategic manager. If I were hired to do a tactical position it would be a different situation and I would look like a diva being fussy about it. But part of my role when I was hired was to actually make our department a professional department where managers don’t do all the tactical work.

      1. JustSomeone*

        I thought the same thing!

        LW, this is the most normal thing in the world to say to someone with whom you share a warm but not intimate relationship and who has been away due to a health issue. He is absolutely being weird.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          +100 and, uh, I think this guy might protest too much. Either way, I’d keep it cordial and brief with this coworker from now on.

  8. CatBookMom*

    LW#5 – FWIW, I am also a “speed-reader”. Just go with it, as a talent, and don’t angst about it. I’m not as fast at tech stuff as with fiction. And there’s also reading/understanding. I was pretty good about much of that, not the heavier-science bits.

    1. JSPA*

      You can have your speed tested. If you have a verified number to put on the resume, there are some jobs where it’ll be relevant (though perhaps less so, as computers do more of the information processing and excerpting) in the same way that “words per minute” typing speed is (or was) a metric.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Is there an actual reputable test for it? I tested myself a year or two back by googling “speed reading test” and got WILDLY different result from different tests. I believe one site told me I was over twice as fast as another, with the rest strung in between. I wouldn’t feel comfortable putting any of those numbers on a resume. When you are using a test as an objective measure of your awesomeness, you kinda want the test to be actually objective.

        1. Allonge*

          More importantly for resume purposes: is there a reputable and known test for this? It’s usually not a good idea to have things on your resume that need additional research from the reader.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          More importantly to me, is there a test for retention at speed?

          OP5, I argue against the specific term “speed reader” — call yourself a quick reader, an avid reader, or something similar instead.

          To me “speed reading” is the 1970s fad that influenced how they taught us in grade school–and which I had to consciously unlearn. All the emphasis was on speed and short-term comprehension. I had to teach myself to slow down and read details, to think about implications, to comprehend, to remember. I’ve talked with others who learned through the same fad–at my school and elsewhere. All agreed that the emphasis on skimming & skipping hurt them until they broke the habit, especially for science classes. I didn’t fully break the habit until working as a proofreader.

          1. JSPA*

            Yeah, retention is built in. I have not done it since back in the pre- internet days. There was a machine that flashed a line of text at a time onto a screen, using text that had been assessed as a certain standardized reading level. Your speed was determined as the highest speed at which you answered something like 23 of 25 questions correctly. As a mechanical implement, it started to shake, jump and overheat at 800 (standardized for intro college level?) WPM, so we didn’t push it past that point.

            I imagine certified testing still exists (?)

            1. DataSci*

              Where’s the retention? To me that implies retaining the information days or weeks later, not just answering comprehension questions in the moment.

          2. Stitch*

            As someone who can speed read, retention isn’t quite the same. I never speed read a document I’m supposed to be editing or reviewing for instance.

            I personally can’t thibk of a work instance in which speed reading is all that useful.

            1. Nightengale*

              I wouldn’t call it “speed reading” but I read through text very quickly. I consider “read through” an in-between “skim” and “read.” And I use it all the time in my work with children who have developmental disabilities, many of whom have acquired a paper trail. Patients often bring me reports from school or other professionals that I am looking at for the first time during the visit and my ability to very quickly read through for pertinent information comes in extremely handy. However, following that, my next step is usually to get a photocopy made and read it more thoroughly after the appointment, at which time I am likely to have additional comments.

              I also find it helpful that I can read through through abstracts and articles very quickly, but again anything that requires more thought and analysis I will earmark to read more thoroughly later.

              1. Jackalope*

                The nice thing about reading quickly (I won’t say speed reading because that’s not something I have experience with) is if you need to scan a policy document, for example, to be able to find a specific rule, or figure out something obscure. If you can cover a lot of policy in a short amount of time, it’s that much faster to figure out which bits are actually helpful and focus on them.

                1. Jackalope*

                  Yeah, I love keyboard shortcuts too, but sometimes you still have to be able to read quickly. Imagine having to go through a llama medical record for example to find the date that they first were prescribed a specific medication (because it’s only supposed to be given to said llama for a year, for example), when every single note, visit, and update includes a full list of medications and so you’re having to work through 100 times when the medication name appears in the text. Or you’re trying to read a law case that goes into the specifics of a prior case but mentions it by name over and over again, and the paragraph you’re looking for has no unique or unusual words. Eventually you can learn Ctrl F mastery, but there are still times when you have to do a fair bit of reading to find what you’re looking for.

                2. Stitch*

                  I guess I wouldn’t classify that as speed reading. When I skip over the caseload dump in a motion to focus on the argument, I’m not really even reading it at all.

                  But again, demonstrating you’re a strong skilled reader? That should show up in your grades or past work performance. I’m never going to hire someone because they say they’re a speed reader. Show me something tangible and reliable.

            2. Environmental Compliance*

              Hi! I’m a speed reader and have tested informally quite a bit w/retention/comprehension. I generally score >1000 wpm with the comprehension/retention scaler (>90%).

              I use it quite a bit to do research and find information quickly, which is a big part of my job. I will stop speed reading when I have flagged sections for relevance. Is this a required skill for what I do? No, but it sure has helped. Cntrl+F is helpful, but only if you know what terms you need to search. :) I’m pretty sure this has helped me move up (and now recently into a policy/standard based role!) as fast as I have.

              I have never put this on my resume though as I’ve not been formally tested since elementary school.

              1. Allonge*

                Just to clarify, I was mostly kidding with Ctrl+F – I am fully aware of the advantages of reading fast. But just as Ctrl+F has its limitations, fast reading, even with comprehension included, is also not the end, just the means.

                1. Environmental Compliance*

                  Oh absolutely lol, no worries there.

                  There are plenty of people I work with that over-rely on that particular function… especially in Excel, where I prefer cntrl+h. :)

                  I still can’t imagine putting speed reading on my resume, though. It’s really helpful to me, and also slightly entertaining when someone figures out how fast I read and is visibly disturbed, b there’s really no good way to put it on a resume without it feeling brag-y or prompting immense skepticism.

                2. Nightengale*

                  most of the things I am reading through quickly are handed to me on paper. If I do get them into electronic form, they are scanned in as images. Can’t control-F either of those.. . .

            3. WestsideStory*

              Stitch – one field where it’s helpful is publishing, specifically book marketing. I am a speed reader, and for about 4 years I routinely read first chapters of 20-30 novels a week – in order to place each into specific promotions and pull 2-3 paragraph excerpts meant to entice the reader/buyer. The fine-tuning of marketing slant was enormously successful, and the increased revenue made it well worth the time.

              1. WestsideStory*

                And yeah I won awards in elementary school (reading/comprehension etc) but decades later would not put it on resume! Better to think of it as a secret skill you keep in your back pocket …

                1. kitryan*

                  Ha! you have the job I always wanted basically – I read unusually fast as well, with good retention, and would, as a young person, idly dream of a job where I mostly just had to read fiction.
                  I won contests on reading speed/volume/comprehension in elementary school as well :)
                  Now I do use my ‘skills’ but all I get to use them on is boring internal forms and legal docs.
                  When I was working for a regional theater, it *really* came in handy once a year when we had to cost out plays for the next season’s budget. They never gave us much time for this so we’d need to get through 12ish plays in a couple days, noting character/costume count and overall costume needs- like, ‘6 men and 3 women, 3 outfits each, victorian day dress, 1 set of outerwear each, also one king outfit’. Then my boss would come up with a rough budget from that.
                  The problem I see w/putting it on a resume is that it’s one of those things that’s easy to say but not easily believed. In addition to the fast reader thing, I have a high ‘attention to detail’ and regularly spot typos or other ‘wrong’ things in various different contexts. This is a very useful skill but I despair of describing it on a resume and having it come across well.
                  I think you can, depending on what the requirements of the job are, throw in how stuff like this helps you in a cover letter though.

            4. Jack Russell Terrier*

              To echo some of the discussion, my background’s in History. When I started my ‘only write a thesis’ Masters I spent my first term and a half zoroing in on my thesis topic. My Supervisor and I surveyed on a more general topic a week.

              This meant each week I had to seek out and read 8-10 books (secondary sources only at this point) and write an essay on the topic.

              In history, you get very good at quickly absorbing and digesting info and being able to see strengths and weaknesses of ‘thesis statements’ – you need to see where arguments have holes in them.

              This is invaluable in a lot of areas, in life too. It’s about quickly knowing the key elements and where to focus your thoughts and energy to move forward.

      2. Emma*

        Also, if it’s helped you in previous jobs, you can list that under the job. e.g. “completed week-long subject onboarding in two days due to speed reading”, or “maintained average ticket closure rate of x per day” or whatever.

        1. Charlotte*

          Agree. If speed reading is useful at work, you can think about things you achieved at work that were impacted by it and put those. Capacity for something is less important than what you do with that capacity, which is what the accomplishments on resume thing is all about: you don’t put “well, I COULD successfully plan and execute fundraising events,” you list the ones you’ve done.
          I wouldn’t ding you for having it on your resume (we’re all doing what we can to make ourselves stand out and this is pretty benign) but I’d definitely roll my eyes a bit and be like “so how does that make you good at X job?” and the majority of the time that’s the question you want to answer.

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Seconded from experience. Highly unlikely to be relevant enough to mention in most fields.

    3. All The Words*

      I also read, as I typically put it, freakishly fast (as in last Harry Potter in 4 hours fast), and I don’t ever mention it on my resume, but I will mention it if there’s either a “tell me something unusual about you” or if it comes up naturally. Since in my case it’s essentially faster processing power for all kinds of things, even math, there are lots of ways it shows up in how I work that saying “speed reading” doesn’t quite capture, so I wouldn’t ever list it or frame it that way. As Seeking Second Childhood puts it, speed reading is a specific thing, and if you’re actually a really fast reader, that’s something a bit different and saying “speed reading” might make people think you just skim important information, etc. , and that could turn people off to see it on a resume.

    4. CheeryO*

      It would honestly give me pause if I saw that on a resume. I would worry that you’d get bored, or that you would work too quickly and miss important details. That’s probably not fair, but it was my first thought.

    5. Threeve*

      How is putting “speed reading” on a resume different from including something like “very high IQ?”

      Like…good for you? I’m sure it’s a huge advantage at work. But there’s listing skills and then there’s straight-up bragging.

      1. kitryan*

        Yes, that’s why I’ve never put ‘fast reader’ or ‘freakish problem spotting ability’ on my resume. Yes, I can read fast and will find the one thing out of place, but I try to show how I’d either use that sort of skill in the job or how I’ve used it in a past job/situation in the cover letter or interview setting.

    6. Thin Mints didn't make me thin*

      I wouldn’t mention it on the resume, just know that it’s a skill you can bring to the table that lets you work faster and more effectively than others.

    1. Not teenage but still ninja turtle*

      I’m not K but I am very much here for possible tea, so I’m commenting to find this again later.

      1. Maybe3*

        Sorry to disappoint anyone waiting for a juicy reveal. (I was thinking if I were Fergus, we could do a joint update on how well we resolved it, but sadly that is not to be). My brilliant avocado plan left me frantically analyzing my manager’s responses to my chats and generally freaking out, so I just asked. I’m not Fergus. (And now my manager knows about AAM! I sent them Leap Year Birthday and the spicy food/HR drama as a fun introduction.)

        I didn’t think I was making faces about menial work, but the part about switching jobs internally and not reacting well to things related to my old job was too close to not confirm. (My manager has confirmed I don’t make faces in response to work I don’t like.)

        Even though I’m not Fergus, the letter was alarmingly close to my own situation. I was deeply unhappy (though wildly successful) in my old role. There are parts of my new role that do sometimes trigger me.

        I work in Teapot Design. I’m passionate about designing teapots and I want to sure it’s done right. I specialize in floral decorations, and it’s important to me that the flowers be accurate. My company has been publicly criticized for our inaccurate flowers and I’m proud of the work I’ve done to turn that around. My company also makes dragon statues. In my old role, I ended up on a major project interacting with the Dragon Department. We were designing a floral dragon teapot. It was a nightmare.

        Working with the dragons was horrible. They immediately scrapped the flowers because it wasn’t their style. So, no need for me, right? Wrong. They need someone to make sure the Dragons can also make a teapot. Okay, makes sense. Someone needs to make sure it can actually pour tea. So I did things like explain pot capacity and spout placement. They acted like I was kicking their kittens or something. How dare I suggest things like making the teapots hollow?! Dragon statutes are known for being solid. It must be solid. Forget spout placement, they thought I was insane for suggesting we have a spout at all. At the same time, they were demanding that I fix the fact that the teapots can’t hold tea or pour. They wouldn’t agree to make the pot hallow or have a spout, but they needed me to make sure it functions as a teapot. I literally couldn’t do that. I tried to explain that I respected their style, but solid teapots can’t hold tea. It’s just… not a teapot. Why not use this design for a dragon statute and make a new teapot? NO. THIS IS THE TEAPOT. MAKE IT WORK. They were bullying and gaslighting me to the point where I was crying every day and throwing up at work from the stress. I was promoted around this time and my response was to burst into tears and try to quit. I say “try” because my then-manager didn’t want to lose me and asked what we could do to help me be happier here. We agreed on a new scope of work without the Dragons. But I kept getting pulled into dragon-related work and ultimately asked to be moved to a new team in my same general org.

        On to the current day. I know I get triggered by the Dragons and my new manager is very good at protecting me. I’m not assigned to any interactions with the Dragons. People do still reach out to me with dragon-related questions. If it’s quick or I like the person, I’ll answer it. If it’s one of the people I won’t work with again, I pass the question on to my manager and she gives it to someone else.

        But what really had me questioning was that sometimes I react badly even if an issue isn’t directly dragon-related. The original design for the dragon teapot had lotus flowers. Sometimes when I work with lotus flowers in my new role, I can be more curt with people. These are perfectly nice, innocent people who didn’t bully me. But I’m not as willing to go above and beyond to help them. I’ll do exactly my job and nothing else. I recognize I’m wrong. These people deserve the same level of service I always give, but I just… can’t. I’m working on it and I really do try, but sometimes I just need to walk away.

        The part that didn’t quite resonate was reacting badly to menial work. My role does have menial tasks that no one likes, but so does every job. Once I suspected I was Fergus (while carefully analyzing every nuance of the letter and watching my work chat for the dreaded “avocado” message), I gave it a lot of thought. There is a project my manager has mentioned several times. It’s literally my job to do it. I am very capable of doing it. I just…. Haven’t. But I’m not avoiding it because it’s menial.

        I’ve been asked to work on a style guide specifically about petal angle. It’s boring and technical, but I do genuinely care that petals be angled correctly to make the best flowers. When I finally get over my mental block and do it, I will work hard on it and ensure it’s accurate. My boss will love it. My grand-boss will love it. My great-grand boss will love it. Then I’m virtually certain it will be destroyed at the next level up. All the careful detail about how to angle petals for which types of flowers will be deemed too restrictive and stifling innovation. So we’ll include a caveat that specifies these are only best practices and petal illustrators should feel free to do what works best for them. Next time I’m reviewing a teapot design, the petals will be angled wrong. I’ll point to the style guide and ask the illustrators to follow the best practices we laid out. The illustrator will refuse and say the style guide is optional and they really want their flowers closed. I’ll point out that they are designing a Blooming Peony Teapot, and all our advertisements heavily feature the bloom. I’ll speak to my manager and they will back me, and the illustrator will escalate to their manager, and it will be duked out above my level. And we’ll lose. The teapot will go to market with a closed peony. Which… fine. The business wants to empower illustrators to follow their instincts. But why did I put all that effort into the guide?

        This letter and Alison’s thoughtful response has made me realize that I need to look at the reality of the job head-on. The style guide is part of my job and I need to do it. I also need to assess if this is the right place for me. I’ve been actively interviewing for an interesting new role outside the teapot industry as Director of Floral Accuracy in a new field. I really love the people I work with (except the Dragons… psychos), and the idea of moving on is hard. My manager has made clear that she would be sorry to lose me but genuinely wants me to do whatever is best for me. But while I’m making that decision, I need to do the petal angle guide… tomorrow.

  9. That's A Moray*

    The relative importance of reading speed seems hugely dependent on your field. It might be very useful in law, for example, but less so in plumbing.

    I also wonder how many jobs get 500 emails per day, and how many of those require careful reading? That seems pretty dependent on field and hierarchy as well. Maybe I’m very wrong about this, but I’d imagine someone getting that volume of communication would have enough experience to convey their efficiency in other ways.

    1. Stitch*

      I can’t see speed reading being all that useful in law. You have to read for detail and proofread obsessively. Because part of speed reading involves not exactly reading each word but reading words or sentences together, the chances of your brain filling in things are higher. But you don’t want that in most legal contexts.

      1. That's A Moray*

        If they’re really that good, it could be a useful skill in a field that requires frequent background reading. Law is just one hypothetical example.

        The suggestions they offered in the letter gave me the impression of someone without much professional experience yet. I think they’re unlikely to encounter things like overwhelming emails or routinely learning new systems in most jobs – especially at entry level.

        There are better ways to convey quick learning or efficiency without adding a semi-unverifiable and potentially unhelpful skill to their resume, IMO.

        1. Stitch*

          If I saw it on a lawyer’s resume I guess I’d probably just ignore it. Kind of seems like a waste of space.

          1. nona*

            +1 – I don’t care if my lawyer is a fast reader. I care about their ability to synthesize that information into useful advice/representation. And that’s a whole other skill set. Maaaybe it gets me a cheaper bill, because they don’t have to spend as many billable hours researching my case, but maybe the time saved in speed reading has to be made up in constructing their argument. Photographic memory might be more useful than speed reading in this case, so they can remember where they read the thing that will be useful.

            Mostly how typing speed really doesn’t matter for most office workers these days. Sure, they type a bunch of things thru the course of day to perform their job, but it’s probably not a useful decision factor in most cases.

            I mean, I’m also a faster walker, so I can travel between meeting rooms quickly. Does that make me more efficient at my job?

      2. Jackalope*

        The way in which it could be useful is finding which prior cases are relevant, for example, or which sections of a prior decision shed light on your current case, etc. At that point you may need to focus in on your material and read more slowly, but being able to sort through a bunch of documents quickly to find the relevant ones (or several that may be relevant that you can then study more slowly) is a huge benefit.

        1. Stitch*

          Cold reading a whole case is incredibly rare,recklessness. You know what sections you can skip, you just don’t read them. I can speed read and I just rarely use it as an attorney. It’s just a bit reckless.

          I mean the reality is if someone’s good at reading case law, it’s going to be shown in their work history or law school grades (depending on what stage is being hired for). Putting speed reading on your resume is simply not something anyone would care about.

          1. foolish fox*

            Its useful in patent law. I frequently speed read prior art to get the gist and locate the important section. I need to know overall what the invention is and theres not enough consistency in the way patents are written to be able to locate specific passages without reading.

    2. AlsoSpeedReaderNBD*

      I mean, the fact that LW5’s PARENTS are the ones urging them to include it on their resume, and that LW brought up learning to read at age 2 as somehow germane to the question, tells you all you need to know about whether this is appropriate to include on a resume.

      I have to respectfully disagree with Alison’s advice here. If I saw “speed reader” or “read 200 books in 2022” on a resume as an interviewer, I would find that very off-putting. Is reading fast more relevant to job skills than an interest in cooking? Maybe. But cooking is a normal thing to list as a personal interest; speed reading is not. Reading, sure. But speed reading is weird, just as it would be weird to say, “Run (6:00 mile)” or “Golf (5 handicap)”.

      1. Katy*

        I agree. I mean, reading quickly is a useful skill, but “I read 200-300 books a year” is pretty vague: we have no idea what kind of books they are or what length or how much actual time OP is spending on reading. It doesn’t really sound like OP is a trained speed-reader so much as someone who likes to read and is still in the mindset of “Read 100 books this summer, win a prize from the library.”

  10. John Smith*

    Re #1. I get fed up of managers who make statements without backing them up, possibly because my manager does it all the time. If boss thinks – and says – people WFH haven’t developed as much as those in office, I’d expect examples or hard facts to be given to support that view, otherwise it is just an unfounded accusation. So I’d ask in what way boss believes their viewpoint and to provide examples. I do this with my manager and each time he is unable to support his claims when I ask for specifics. One of his more ridiculous ones is to ask me to account for 100% of my time wfh, but not when I’m in office, as “I can see your output when your in the office but not when your wfh” even though I’m doing exactly the same thing. Plus, in the office, we work in different rooms and there’s absolutely no difference to when I’m wfh!

    1. TechWorker*

      Tbh I don’t think this is a particularly helpful attitude. If it’s to do with your work, fine to ask for examples, but with the wider statement that people in the office have developed more, what are you expecting to be shared? They’re not about to go spreading around peoples performance reviews.

      1. linger*

        The evidence base for the statement should still be subject to serious question, because Director’s statement needs a neon pink “Citation Needed” flag attached.
        1. Is any actual study being cited? If not, then it’s unfounded bullshitting. If so, then:
        2. How is “staff development” being measured for the purposes of this comparison?
        3. How directly relevant is the evidence base: is it based on information gathered for this particular company, or at a similar company in the same industry, or a completely different industry with different ranges of jobs?
        4. Are the jobs performed by “in-office workers” strictly comparable to those performed by remote workers?
        5. Is “development” actually equally relevant to the positions held by the two groups of workers?

        1. TechWorker*

          I just… don’t think you have a realistic view here. A director has the right to make a decision on something without doing a full scientific and statistically significant study on its accuracy. Yes there are some decisions that need to be held to that bar but if a senior manager held literally every decision to that bar nothing would ever change or get done!

          There’s not a clear binary between ‘unfounded bullshitting’ and ‘fully accurate data’, there are infact a lot of grey levels inbetween.

          1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

            Yes and in fact trying to collect enough data to “prove” every decision is the right one and then creating messaging to accurately convey that decision and proof is a really onerous burden that is not sustainable for the majority of businesses.

          2. Colette*


            It might be reasonable to ask things like “where do you think development is lagging in people working from home” or “how can we encourage development in different environments”, but you can’t demand a lot of justification or statistical data.

        2. Allonge*

          I mean – this is of course all relevant if you are doing a scientific study.

          For work, and before we take any actions based on this statement, I would definitely expect some data backing this up. But management can consider trends without a double-blind assessment too.

          Last but not least: people who want to work from home just want to. I don’t think there is any way, strictly scientific or not, to argue you, me or anyone else out of their preferences about this. So, even if the director had all the information you are listing as relevant, and it all points to director is actually correct, you would still want to WFH, right?

          1. Database Developer Dude*

            …and managers who want people in the office just want them there. If you’re not going to hold them to any standard for backing up their assertions with facts and evidence, then this is said just because they want them there, and don’t know how to manage remote workers properly.

            See what I did there? You’re holding remote workers to a standard you’re not willing to hold management to. Your argument is therefore invalid.

        3. Prospect gone bad*

          You can say this about literally anything though, there is nothing special about work from home that means it needs a higher bar when it comes to data.

          I could easily ask this of the people who say they’re super productive working from home even though I don’t see it at all and they’re pretty average according to all metrics.

          This one annoys me because I’ve noticed a trend on social media where people cling to studies show workers are 12 million times more productive working from home but nobody ever looks at these so-called studies. They’re about as subjective as the manager saying it you’re more productive in the office and may not pertain to your job anyways

          There’s also the whole “there is a study for everything” thing.

          1. linger*

            I didn’t call for a scientifically rigorous double-blind study. I called for the Director to do the bare minimum of thinking critically about any observation(s) that might form the basis for their statement, before seeking to present it as a justification for a change to the workplace that the Director knows will be wildly unpopular. Any director should be held to that standard in such circumstances. My series of questions above constitute one framework for doing that if the director is unwilling to do so.
            Note that for the Director’s statement to have any validity, there must be some control over who is being compared. Without such control, one would be including e.g. the janitorial and reception staff, who must be on-site, and so would very likely find that on-site workers have on average less opportunity for “development” than remote workers.
            But of course, I strongly suspect that this Director doesn’t have directly relevant evidence, given that, per OP, workers in this group have consistently been WFH for years, which means there can be no comparable data point. And also given that “development” is so nebulous as to render the claim unprovable either way.

      2. JM60*

        Even if they do have data to back this up, this seems like a bait and switch. The OP says that coming in to the office was never required, so it’s likely that people chose to work there because they weren’t required to come into the office. I would feel like a key condition of my employment was being changed if I was working there. Even if the VP had solid data that coming into the office caused* people to work better, that wouldn’t make me happily comply.

        *Even if people working in the office did develop more, that doesn’t mean that them coming into the office caused them to develop more. It could be that those who are more ambitious tend to develop more, and also tend to choose to go into the office.

        1. Allonge*

          I found the combination of ‘work in the office was never required’ and ‘plan to return to the office’ confusing – return to the office made me think that they went to WFH & office optional for COVID, but then the ‘never’ does not make sense. If it was truly never, for sure it’s a big change in the employment conditions.

          Anyhow, I did not get the feeling that the return to the office plans were only based on the difference in level of development, whatever that was? The VP seems to have mentioned this as a follow-up, or at least that’s how I read this.

          1. JM60*

            My interpretation was that they had an office that was optional to work in prior to COVID, and they shut that office down for the COVID. Now, the VP isn’t just reopening the office, but is also mandating working in it (wiping out the WFH perk that had always existed).

    2. Warrior Princess Xena*

      I think some of this comes with how you perceive your management, but it can also be hard to measure. I know the current interns at my job are getting a better start than I am, because they are in person and thus meeting everyone rather than being siloed in one small team at a time like I was when I started fully remote (Covid year). A lot of it is things that sound superficial but aren’t. They know each other and their coworkers better – so they are more comfortable asking for help, and know who to go to. They hit milestones faster and better and are more comfortable with clients.

      All of this is a pain to quantify in hard numbers because it’s a lot of little things rather than one big thing (and a lot of it is private, as mentioned above) and if you don’t trust your management, if they tell you “our people working from the office are doing x faster” it’s easier to dismiss it as subjective, or as just management butt in seat bias.

      You know your own office and management best. If they already have a history of being overbearing, this would sound (probably rightly) like a transparent ploy to get you back to the office for no good reason. But it’s not always that way.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        A lot of it is things that sound superficial but aren’t. They know each other and their coworkers better – so they are more comfortable asking for help, and know who to go to.

        I find this to be a pretty mature attitude and frankly not a popular opinion these days.

        As I wrote elsewhere, I’ve been having trouble training a new staff member on a very technical job while he is working remotely. (Honestly, I’ve more or less given up.) A huge part of this problem is that in olden times, someone in that position would have come to their trainer at the drop of a hat to ask very small but important questions (i.e,. do I put the left widget in front of the right one? Is this green indicator supposed to turn red like this?) When we’re siloed from each other, the bar to ask those questions is much, much higher. And in practice, those questions just don’t get asked. And so learning just doesn’t happen.

        1. Red*

          As someone who graduated from university in 2020 and has had to deal with this – I hate remote working for exactly this reason. It limits my ability to learn from my peers/supervisors and it restricts my networking abilities. I will take an in-person job any day over a remote job, and I straight up exclude remote working or even partial remote working for this reason.

          I think remote working works best for people firmly established in their role, but in my experience there’s not many people in their early 20s who get excited by remote working. Maybe we’re sick of staring at screens, maybe we want the more informal mentoring, but I think too many people assume remote working either works great for everyone or works for no one.

          1. Chinookwind*

            The irony is that, if you let people firmly established in their role work from home, then the new employees who need in-person mentoring won’t have anyone in the office to mentor them.

            1. TechWorker*

              Exactly! The number of senior technical people who grumbled over coming back in to the office (3 days a week, compared to pre covid 5 days) because ‘I can do my job just fine’ often seemed to totally miss this point. Doing solely your own work is not all of your job…

            2. Red*

              Absolutely! I usually make the concession about established employees because otherwise you get a lot of complaining – but a lot of the discussion around remote working completely ignores the impact on junior/new employees, both directly and the side effects of their seniors working remotely.

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I’m not sure I agree that it’s the job of management to be giving a lot of hard examples in this case, especially if those examples might betray which employees are struggling in which areas (as could be the case, especially if it’s a small team).

      It sounds like your boss has an issue with giving specific feedback about your individual work, and that’s understandably annoying, but that feels different to giving specific examples for a whole team.

    4. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Nah, you don’t have a right to see other employees’ performance reviews or whatever other data that their supervisors are using to measure their performance. Or if there were some way to strip out personally identifiable data before sharing it with you, it’s not unreasonable for management to think that doing so is not a profitable use of their time.

      In-person attendance at the office is generally part of what you do in exchange for your paycheck. To borrow from Dan Draper, “That’s what the money’s for.”

    5. Rowerrabbit*

      Also, this can be the fault of the managers/VP. You have to manage differently when people are at home, and not everyone possesses that skill. Instead of forcing people into situations that may not be ideal, leadership should work on themselves first.
      Also, I just suspect that this may not be true. I find most “need people in the office” people are disingenuous, but that’s my bias showing.

    6. RagingADHD*

      In most jobs, having subjective opinions about the work and their direct reports is part of a manager or executive’s role. They are paid and promoted for their ability to observe and exercise discretion – subjective decisionmaking. Judgment calls.

      The evidence for the accuracy of their judgment calls isn’t measured on the front end. It’s measured in the results of those decisions over time, such as the productivity of their department, the profitability of the company, employee retention or turnover (and *which* employees stay or leave), etc.

      You don’t have to like it. You are allowed to be as fed up as you want. But I notice that you express this as a problem you have with managerS, plural. So I would ask how your mindset is working out for you in the long run, in terms of your career trajectory and your satisfaction at work.

    7. WillowSunstar*

      Well and here’s the thing. We were (and still are) in a global pandemic. Of course, it was worse before the vaccines. People were under a great deal of stress and just surviving was hard for some people, especially if they lost family members due to COVID. I don’t think that managers should have expected people to do more in that situation. The last time the world went through such a thing, it was before the Internet even existed. Have some empathy for employees and realize that many people were, and are, just trying to survive in a very stressful situation.

  11. Spearmint*

    LW5: I’ll be blunt, I’m not sure it’s a good idea to put it on a resume because many people, including me, will be skeptical. I get that different people read at different speeds, but I’m skeptical of people who claim they can read a page in 10 seconds and insist they aren’t skimming. Are you *really* retaining as much content as someone reading at a normal pace? I’ve never met anyone IRL who had that kind of reading speed for real, deep reading (not skimming).

    I know a lot of very smart people (including multiple humanities PhD students), but I don’t know anyone who can read faster than maybe, maybe, a page in 40-50 seconds of light reading like a novel, certainly not any technical content. I don’t know, LW, maybe you actually do have this ability, but I think I would not give you credit for it if I saw it on a resume, and it may even raise questions. So I don’t think this is something to put on a resume even if you genuinely have this ability.

    1. I wish I could read that fast!*

      I have a reading speed of about 120 pages in an hour when it comes to novels, so around 30 seconds per page, a bit faster if I try (but you’re right that I don’t retain as much if I truly skim. I can skim a full page in a few seconds though and retain enough to give a summary). In both my original language and english. I haven’t timed myself on non-fictional work, because that depends on how dense it is and I don’t think I could settle on an average there. It’s been remarked on quite a bit, mainly in the form of “wait, you’re done already?”

      I read fast enough (more or less a line at a glance) that reading aloud is a struggle, because I read faster than I can speak (and I speak quite fast, too), so I stumble if I don’t pay attention to reading slowly.

      It’s definitely possible to read faster than than 40-50 seconds a page and some people truly read ridiculously fast.

      On the other hand, this kind of reading speed often also comes with an ability to skim quite well – if I can take in a lot of words at once, I can find something in a text very fast or grab relevant information out of a document very fast. That’s an useful skill and in my opinion resume-worthy.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      But yeah, some folks read fast, no question about that. There’s always the other end to any bell curve. 10 seconds per page sounds unreasonable unless the person has a seriously unusual brain, but under 40 is doable. Depending on the page of course. I don’t see any reason to doubt OP.

      It’s useful information for her, though, to know that some people will be dubious about whether she is really being honest about this skill.

      1. Allonge*

        For me it’s not that I disbelieve OP, it’s that – I don’t even have a concept of what “taught myself to read at 2” means. Like, how does that work? (I read fast too, so that part I get).

        And I expect the same will be true for a lot of people whose reading speed is lower about the speedreading. Of course it’s possible to understand this intellectually, but the “how does that even work” is still there.

        I would not mention it. All that reading already has an impact on how OP communicates or processes information, and demonstrating that “live” is much more of a sure thing – write your resume well, OP, answer questions in the interview, and so on. Trust me, it’s really obvious when a young person is well-read. And reading fast will always be a benefit.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I would guess “taught myself to read at 2” means “could read some simple kindergarten books at 2 without explicit instruction.” Like nobody was making a specific effort to teach her to read but from listening to stories and taking an interest in books, she learnt to recognise basic words and developed a sight vocabulary large enough to read something like a Letterland book.

          1. Cedrus Libani*

            I was reading by age 2 also, and that’s how it worked. I had alphabet blocks that my parents would make sound effects for, and they would also read to me while pointing at the words. It’s not quite fair to say I taught myself, but my parents certainly weren’t expecting this to be enough.

            That said, it’s not on my resume! I do read very quickly, but it’s presented as “learned XYZ in record time and saved some butts” rather than explicitly.

            1. Stitch*

              My kid started reading at 2 and basically how it started is that he’d find words from the books we read him other places. And it just ballooned from there. The sounding out came a little later for him at 3. We just had letters on the fridge and he’s spell out words, including nonsense words and ask us to say them.

              But I’m also well aware early reading doesn’t even actually correlate that strongly with future academic success so the worst thing I could do is make huge assumptions. Is he reading at a second grade level? Sure. Foes he still need practice on sharing and scissor skills? Also true. If anything the social aspects of preschool are more important right now.

              1. Stitch*

                I should note that my mom (who actually has a PhD in this field) is also a strong advocate of not pushing kids until they’re ready. For every kid like my son who can read at 2 there’s a bunch of kids whose brains aren’t ready until 7 or 8 and that’s also fine. My cousin struggled with reading until 3rd grade, but she caught up easily and was her high school valedictorian.

                1. Charlotte Lucas*

                  My SO also learned to read at 2 without anyone specifically teaching them.

                  I read at 5, but I got much faster once my severe nearsightedness was diagnosed & I got glasses. I am now an extremely fast reader. But I don’t put that on my resume.

                2. whingedrinking*

                  A friend of mine didn’t learn to read until age 10 (she was homeschooled and her parents were very much of the “they’ll learn when they’re ready” school of thought), and she’s now a chief librarian.
                  I wouldn’t necessarily recommend the laissez-faire attitude to that extent, but it certainly puts the “why can’t my six year old read Dostoyevsky?!” panic of some parents into perspective.

          2. Allonge*

            Thanks, that makes more sense!

            I learnt to read from my mother – she was not teaching me to read, but all my bedtime stories were from books and apparently I got curious and asked which letter was which and after a while this got to me reading for myself. I have absolutely no idea how this worked, I have very very few memories from before I was ~six, but then it does not sound like a very different experience.

            But I also just realised that there is a linguistic/cultural element to my confusion: in my mother tounge we have a separate word for “I can recognise and read out letters and maybe some words” and “I can read and understand a text with full sentences”. So for me “reading” is the second category. Brains be weird!

            1. amoeba*

              Yup, similar for me. Honestly no idea how old I was, not two, for sure, but maybe four or so? My mother showed me some letters as I was apparently interested and to keep me occupied (she was writing a book at the time with me at home). And apparently one day I just marched into the kitchen and read out the first chapter of one of my books. So, honestly, I have no idea what happened between “single letters/sounds” and “reading fluently” (and neither did my parents!)

              1. kitryan*

                My version of the same ‘taught myself to read at 2’ story is that my mom was reading a Dr Seuss book to me and had to stop to answer the phone. I was annoyed and picked up where she left off, loudly. After a bit more examples it was clear I was reading and not remembering, and per my parents, this all happened around when I turned 2yrs old.
                My mom was showing me flashcards and reading to me constantly from the get go, so while I technically started reading ‘on my own’, it certainly was greatly helped and speeded up by my mom’s dedication. Once we were older she said something along the lines of ‘I never wanted anyone to call my kids stupid’. She’s very smart herself but was not at all encouraged as a child, so we had all the encouragement she could muster when we were little.

            2. Hanani*

              I really like that your mother tongue differentiates between those two levels of understanding the written, Allonge!

            3. turquoisecow*

              Yea, this. My sister is a speech pathologist and she explained to me that there are different stages of “reading.” There’s recognizing sight words, which a lot of kids do by two or three, especially if they have parents or caregivers who read to them a lot. Then there’s sounding out the sounds.

              And then understanding what you read, which often comes later. Only once you get to like 7 or 8 can kids read a passage for new information, and that’s when a lot of kids start to struggle, because the focus shifts from “can you read this,” to “okay, you read it, now what did you learn from it?” and there’s more times where a teacher will say “okay here’s a few pages to read about (topic), and some questions about the thing you learned.”

              1. amoeba*

                Hm, I was definitely reading books (obviously children’s books, but not, like, picture books – think Astrid Lindgren) before age 6, maybe 4 or 5? So at least I had enough understanding to get and enjoy the story.

            4. Scout*

              American English kind of has that, in that “decoding” is sounding out words and “reading” is reading and understanding. There are further breakdowns, but not always the same terminology.

              You might hear emergent reader >> early >> transitional >> early fluent, and then possibly levels of fluency.

              Or emergent literacy >> alphabetic fluency >>words and patterns >> intermediate reading >>advanced reading.

              I have had a fair number of people tell me that they or their kids starting talking in sentences at 6 months and/or fluently reading at 2 years, but I have yet to see it for myself. Or to see any social media videos showing such, lol. I don’t think it happens as often as stated, that’s for sure.

          3. londonedit*

            I learnt to read around the age of 2/3 – I wouldn’t say ‘taught myself’ because my parents read books to me and I had a set of alphabet blocks and loads of things to do with letters that I loved playing with. According to my mum, around the age of two and a half I could read basic words in my story books, I could point to simple words on signs and notices and read them out, and I could spell out simple words with my alphabet blocks and whatnot. My nephew is 4 and I’ve just seen him transition into the ‘I think he’s actually read that word rather than memorised it’ phase, which is something my parents remember me doing around 2/3.

            I’m also a very fast reader (which is annoying when I’m on holiday and I want to savour a book) but I wouldn’t put it on my CV, even though I actually work with books. As an editor, people are going to care far more about what my project management skills are like, how I am at managing a schedule of books, and what my copy-editing/proofreading skills are like, rather than how fast I can read. Being able to read quickly or skim-read is a useful skill in my line of work, especially if you’re reading book submissions, but overall it’s more about sticking to deadlines and budgets and working well with authors and freelancers. ‘I can read really quickly’ just sort of comes off as a bit childish to me and it doesn’t speak to the quality of my work.

            1. Scout*

              Yeah, “taught myself” implies an intentionality that I don’t think toddlers possess, lol, and sounds rather self-important. “I learned” is much more accurate, as almost no one learns to read at 2 or 3 without parents who, at minimum, provide a literacy-rich environment. In 99% of cases, this includes having alphabet books read to you, which of course teaches the sounds of letters. Any baby/toddler who has books, has alphabet books.

              I agree with the childishness of the phrase, because you can term it speed-reading, but the resume-reader will translate that to, ‘I can read really quickly’ anyway.

          4. Mittens*

            Yeah, some kids just put the pieces together, usually from a combination of being exposed to books, Sesame Street, etc. Shortly after I turned 3 I announced to my mother that pregnant women shouldn’t smoke (she wasn’t pregnant, nor did she smoke), and when she asked how I knew that, I told her that I read it in an ad in one of her magazines. (I was fascinated by/terrified of the legally mandated warning messages from the Surgeon General.)

          5. This Old House*

            My son taught himself to read at 3 – he knew his letters, and we would read to him. And then he spent maybe a week or two asking us to “point to the words as you read them,” then briefly sounded out words – like he only needed to do that for a handful of books – and then he was reading and could read essentially any word he saw. Within weeks of “point to the words as you read them,” he could read chapter books – with some comprehension, definitely not full comprehension. His decoding definitely exceeded his comprehension, but I think he was comprehending about as much when he read as when he was read to – he was still a 3yo, after all. He’s in elementary school now, and I sometimes give him chapter books he read years ago just so he can read them again now that he’ll get more out of them.

        2. bamcheeks*

          I always believed “taught myself to read at 2” until I had two year olds, because I just couldn’t work out how you’d KNOW if a 2yo was reading. I had a very oral 2yo who spoke very clearly for her age, but until very close to 3 she wouldn’t really have had enough vocabulary/complexity in her speech for me to know whether she was reading as opposed to telling me a story she recognised or repeating words and a rhythm she’d learned off by heart. Like, she couldn’t exactly answer comprehension questions. So it’s always intrigued me how to you know that someone is reading at 2!

          1. Charlotte*

            I mean I don’t think it’s relevant here because presumably no one is putting what they did when they were 2 on their resume (I certainly hope you have more recent accomplishments!) and god knows this thread could devolve very quickly into how fast everyone reads and how young they started, but I know someone like this and if they’re reading something for the first time you know it’s not memorization. So like, home videos of getting a new book for Christmas, opening it up, and reading it aloud right there. I suppose you could fake that but it’d be very odd to fake a home video no one but your family will ever see. The kid I’m thinking of is also on video answering “what did you like about the story?”, sounding words out letter by letter, etc, because their parents were fiends with the camera in the mid 90s.

            1. Filosofickle*

              That’s how my mom confirmed my reading abilities when I came home at 3 and told her I could read.

          2. Lore*

            In my own childhood, apparently, I used to sit in my car seat and yell out every word from the signs we were passing.

            1. Avery*

              Similarly, there’s a story a close family friend likes to tell of when I was 2-3, in the car with her, saw an Exit sign, and said, “What does Exit mean?” Apparently I pronounced the word right and everything!

          3. Ellis Bell*

            Reading is both decoding and comprehension. You’re still “reading” if you’re recognising the letters or sight words. Comprehension is a higher level of reading that (usually) comes after learning decoding.

          4. Too Many Tabs Open*

            My dad tells the story of taking two-year-old me to the grocery store; we were waiting in line by a freezer case that had a plaque with some maintenance instructions, and I started reading it aloud, much to the surprise of the folks around us. Was I comprehending it? Almost certainly not (unless it was something simple like “open door”), but I could sound out the words.

            My one child who started to read at age 2 was definitely reading the words because they’d point out words when we were out and about. Broader comprehension, again, that’s more difficult to evaluate. Even now, their younger sibling who learned to read at 4 has a much easier time summarizing stories in their own words.

        3. Pescadero*

          “I don’t even have a concept of what “taught myself to read at 2” means. Like, how does that work?”

          I taught myself to read at around 3.

          My parents had read me books for a long time. I had memorized them word for word. I spent lots of time, by myself, looking at the words on the page while reciting the book – to the point I learned to recognize whole words.

          Basically used memorization to learn to read through phonemic awareness (as opposed to phonics)

          1. Filosofickle*

            This is exactly how my family believes I taught myself to read, too. I never napped, and they would just put me on a bed with a stack of books to rest — tons of time to match up the sounds I memorized with the words I saw. Plus I had an older sibling and I watched what was developmentally appropriate for them. (Electric Company!)

    3. TechWorker*

      I do think this comment smacks a bit of ‘I can’t imagine doing it myself so it can’t be true’ :p

      I’m probably not as fast as OP (I definitely read 200-300 books a year as a child, including novel length ones, but that was allowing multiple hours a day to reading & I’ve not had that amount of time in years), but I have had people (teachers/colleagues) be like ‘what you’re already done!?’ in surprise when I have infact read the whole thing.

      I agree for detailed technical content you’re not familiar with the bar is not so much speed as understanding, but I can get through content I’m familiar with (Eg reviewing a document for something my team is working on) pretty quickly too.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I see where you get that vibe, but I do resonate with Spearment. For me it’s more that people who can speed-read are comparatively rare relative to people who think they can speed-read but are actually skimming.

        I reminds me of people who claim they can check their phone while still paying attention to the conversation at hand. I have met some people who can multi-task in that way well. But I can count them on one hand. FAR more common is people who don’t realise what they’re missing; they assume they’ve gotten the whole conversation but then ask questions or interject in ways that tell me they haven’t.

        RE: OP. I don’t think it would matter to me if OP had the claim on her resume or not, but it would be more compelling if there was something documented (like if there are speed-reading compititions or something) because otherwise I’d wonder how she was measuring her retention and thus how she knew she wasn’t skimming.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          I can’t check my phone while conversing (nor would I want to), but I can read & comprehend very fast. I can also complete forms & tests quickly. But I do slow down when the writing is thought-provoking or meant to be savored.

    4. Emmy Noether*

      Just a note: speed reading has nothing to do with being, or not being, smart. It’s more of a brain quirk, like eidetic memory or perfect recall or being able to do cubic roots in one’s mind.

      It can certainly be a useful tool (especially if combined with also being smart), but there’s not much of a correlation between intelligence and reading speed above a certain base level of both.

      1. Bit o' Brit*

        That’s actually why I’d lean toward not including it as a serious note on a CV/resume. It’s added colour, but not likely relevant to doing well at a job unless that job is something like approving manuscripts for a publishing house.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Yeah, I think the jobs where this would be seen as a positive are limited. Law comes to mind for me (could be quite useful for reviewing discovery).

          I’d think it would be seen as a negative for editing/publishing actually, because while the content may get absorbed, reading at that speed neccessarily means that spelling or grammar errors will not be caught (because it relies on absorbing the general shape of the words and phrases and auto-completing). Also that the general content will maybe be absorbed, but not analyzed in depth or thought about critically, because there’s just no time for that.

          1. Allonge*

            As someone who reads fast and retains information well (nothing I can take credit for, born with a brain this way) – it’s really useful in many contexts.

            But, I totally agree with your “jobs where this would be seen as a positive are limited” because for the purposes of this discussion, the immediate connection may or may not be there, and OP is taking a small risk including this – just look at all the assumptions people make here about the feasibility of this.

            Speed of your reading is just a single aspect of the person you are. It makes some things easier, some, less so. Of course it helps to digest 500 emails per day! But it’s absolutely no guarantee that you will do that well, because that takes a lot more, just like everything else.

          2. Seeking Second Childhood*

            There’s one publishing role it does help to be good at skimming — reviewing unsolicited manuscripts, a.k.a. the “slush pile”.

          3. Georgina Sands*

            Actually as a very quick reader who does a lot of proofreading as part of my job – it’s actually more useful than the way many other people seem to read, because grammar and spelling mistakes jump out at me and are very jarring. The shapes aren’t right any more! Other people seem to have to look for mistakes instead, which means they are more likely to miss them. And I don’t agree that the speed you read means anything to do with how critically or closely you read a text. Experience has taught me that slower readers don’t come out with any more of a deeper read or a more critical understanding than me (inherently- I’m not saying that I’m the best in the world, just that it’s not correlated with speed).

            However, assumptions like yours have made my life much more difficult over the years where people straight out don’t believe me. I’ve had people say, like you, that I couldn’t possibly have gained a critical understanding of a text, been made to go and wait for a while, play on my phone, etc and then been told how much better the same understanding is now I’ve “read it properly”. I’ve had to fudge the times it takes me to do things – for example, open documents far before I need to read them so it looks like I’ve read them in a “normal” amount of time, and it’s not fair that I have to do things like this because of prejudices like yours. It’s a whole extra load of work that you don’t have to do, and I’ve had no complaints about my work. I know from past experience though that if I admit to reading quickly, I’ll face negative and unfounded assumptions like yours. I don’t get it – just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean it’s bad! My brain is also bad at a few normal but thankfully not important things but I don’t decide that if anyone does it faster than me, they must be doing it badly.

            1. I read books*

              This. It’s so frustrating to be asked to prove I actually understood what I just read because someone realized I read it so quickly. I never say anything about how fast I read, but if someone notices they tend to first think I’m faking it, and then ask me to do tricks to prove it. I read fast. So what? Leave me alone.

            2. ecnaseener*

              I think what it comes down to is that speed reading in and of itself doesn’t guarantee a candidate’s going to be extremely quick at the job. Someone like you who can genuinely do good work really fast, awesome, but I’d want to read about that work in your resume, not the speed reading itself.

            3. Bagpuss*

              That’s really interesting as I read by the shape of the word but a lot of mistakes don’t ‘show’ at all, because they don’t (for me) change the shape of the word enough to matter – so for instance, children and childnre are both the same shape, as are accommodation and acommodation and accomodation and (as I discovered when e studied Chaucer, things such as Knight and Knyght and Knygte are close enough that while I mostly *notice* the difference it doesn’t affect the meaning / speed of reading .)

              I believe that I have dyslexia (never formally diagnosed but 99.9% certain!) which is probably relevant, but I find it fascinating that there are so many differences in how brains work and in different people’s experiences

              I find

              1. Emmy Noether*

                Interestingly, most people can read text where the letters within each word have been jumbled perfectly fine. The brain just sort of rearranges them into familiar shapes. Most people also automatically correct things like words occuring double and such and never even see them.

                There are some fascinating puzzles around this.

                1. Bagpuss*

                  Yes, I was responding to Georgina Sand’s comments about mistakes jumping out because the shapes were wrong. I think it’s common to be able to read the words despite misspelling, but I think the extent to which you notice the wrongness varies wildly.

                  It sounds as though Georgina and I are on opposite ends of that particular spectrum!

              2. Georgina Sands*

                It definitely sounds like we’re at opposite ends of the spectrum! I find it incredibly difficult to read things like Chaucer or that are written in an “accent” – my brain doesn’t want to see them as words, I basically have to sound everything out and it’s really jarring, for lack of a better way of describing it. It’s a shame because I love history but it’s so painful to read for me. It’s so interesting to hear your experience – brains are so weird hey!

            4. Emmy Noether*

              It sounds like you have an above average reading speed, which is different from speed reading as in the letter. For example, take a page with average read time of, say 1 minute. If you read it in 30 seconds, I do believe you probably take in and notice as much as everyone else. There are common prejudices over that, as you’ve experienced, but I don’t share them. It’s just normal reading, but faster. I’ve actually frequently been the fastest reader in school classes myself, but by a small margin over the next. That’s just fast reading, not speed reading. Speed reading is functionally different from fast, normal reading.

              It is different if you read it in, say 5 seconds. Because then, it gets towards the physically impossible to have seen and analyzed the actual shapes of the actual letters individually. There’s a shortcut method to it. Also, errors are not that rare. If you stumble on each one, that will tank your average speed (because huh, error! takes a second each time, and if you have to mark it, more, and probably time to get back up to speed, like when you stumble while running and are supposed to remove what you stumbled on).

              Also, just because someone can read 12 times as fast does not mean they can automatically think 12 times as fast. I do believe the content can be retained, but the kind of critical thinking and analysis I’m talking about just takes more than 5 seconds for all but very rare genius brains. Someone could probably speed read for 5 seconds and then form a coherent analysis about it in 15 seconds, but then the page would take 20 seconds total to process, which again puts one in the realm of normal, albeit quite fast, speeds. Unless someone is a genius in addition to being a speed reader, they need to pause to process, because the thinking itself takes time.

              1. Georgina Sands*

                I think you’re mixing up speed reading and skim reading – the OP seems to be talking about reading quickly, rather than skimming. Plus, have you got any actual source for those figures or are you just pulling them out of thin air? I really don’t see where you’re getting your ideas about how long it takes people to process things from and saying that things which people are saying they do are physically impossible. I don’t think you get to decide how fast or slow people can read or process – just because you can’t do it doesn’t mean that others can’t, as you can see by this thread. I doubt anybody reads faster than they can process because otherwise it’s not really reading. And being quick at reading or processing doesn’t make you a genius or any different to an average person, just faster. And it may well be rare – but I also suspect that, like me, people feel obliged to hide it, so you don’t see the people who do read more quickly. Less judgement please and more accepting of people’s differences!

            5. NervousHoolelya*

              I just had a sudden flashback to mandated reporter training, which was offered as an asynchronous online module. The activities usually involved reading a slide or an external document, and they were set to a timer, so you couldn’t move on to the next page or activity until the timer ran down. As a freakishly fast reader with sky-high comprehension, I was typically finished with multiple minutes to spare. For the most substantial activities, I’d be finished with 10-15 minutes to spare. I’d try to fill up the time with something else, but if I got too engaged in the side activity, the training system would log me out. So frustrating! I’m glad I don’t have to do that again for another few years.

              1. Bagpuss*

                Oh yes, I had to do some training which was similar – timed slides AND some sections which were a video of the presenter literally reading out the notes – and you couldn’t skip to FF (I did mute them once I realised they were adding nothing at all to the written material ) It was very frustrating and, for me, far less effective as the delay between reading each part meant it was effectively being constantly interrupted.

              2. Loredena*

                There is one mandatory video course at my employer like this and it is annual training. I get through all the training, pass the test at 100%, and cannot advance for another 20 minutes. Drives me crazy! And it’s not just that I read quickly, though I do – they are expecting training I’ve done annually for a decade to take a minimum amount of time to process and it simply does not.

            6. kitryan*

              I have that patterning thing that helps to spot typos- it just looks wrong.
              I also had the experience of being told to reread a thing because I could not have read ‘the whole thing’ that quickly. It didn’t take long to figure out how to pretend to take longer.
              I do think that it’s so open to misinterpretation that it’s not great on a resume though.
              The fact that ‘training’ in ‘speed reading’ is pretty much skimming and usually doesn’t have great retention also muddies the waters for people who just read so much or for whom it comes very naturally, that they’ve gotten quite fast in an organic way and aren’t skipping most of the text and do have good information retention.

        2. lunchtime caller*

          As someone who works in publishing and also finds reading a page in 10 seconds very easy if I try (I lose some of the enjoyment of the language that way though since I’m reading purely for information, so I don’t do it unless I really don’t care about the material)–publishing doesn’t care. It may be helpful to me personally in balancing a very small amount of my workload (reading stuff I don’t care about) but since I have to slow down to read the important stuff (manuscripts I do care about, anything that needs to be edited) and also no one but me cares how long of hours I work in a day, it’s one of the least brag worthy skills in my toolbox.

        3. Aggretsuko*

          I’ve mentioned that I can speed read in interviews, but not on paperwork. I doubt it’s that much of a selling point for the vagueness in verifying it, as mentioned above.

    5. ee*

      I am not the LW, but I could be.

      My recollection of learning to read is that when I was about 2.5, one day I woke up and sat down for breakfast and went “oh, that’s what the back of the cereal box says!” and from then on I could basically just read everything. This is called hyperlexia, and is strongly associated with being on the autism spectrum (especially the sort of profile that used to get called Asperger’s), which I also have. I have also observed the same thing happen with my toddler.

      As far as reading speed: There are plenty of speed reading tests available online. I can read about 1000 words per minute on paper and still pass a reading comprehension test. That’s when I’m going a little fast, I tend to read closer to 800 wpm when I’m going comfortably, 500 wpm when I am trying to go slow and savor a book. Obviously if I am reading a dense scientific paper where I have to stop and think about the ideas behind the words, that adds time, but the words themselves are fast. I tend to read whole sentences at a time, and I go straight from images to meaning, I don’t say the words aloud in my head. Relatedly, I always put subtitles on when I’m watching tv, and when I have a verbal conversation, I’m actually turning all the words I hear into mental subtitles in my mind’s eye before I understand them. If you say a word I don’t immediately have a good guess at how to spell, I cannot remember it or repeat it back.

      You may not have noticed this in others because it’s rare, or because people like me are often trying to hide this ability. I had a lot of teachers throughout my school career accuse me of lying and cheating, so I acquired the habit of just reading everything three times over whenever I’m in a situation where someone is watching me read.

      1. S*

        This is my experience to a T. I can’t watch TV unless the room is completely quiet or I have subtitles on, because my auditory processing is awful. But I’ve read twenty novels in the last week, despite a full-time job, kids, spouse, and a houseguest.

        I’m told our brains reassign the space usually allocated to facial memory and processing to read, and that checks out for me–I’m pretty much face-blind but I have an excellent visual memory for text.

        1. Bagpuss*

          That’s really interesting. I have a significant degree of faceblindness but none of the information I have about it has suggested that I’m using that brainspace for reading instead! I’m a participant in research about faceblindness and at the moment, a lot of the tests they have been sending seem to be about looking at pattern recognition. Turns out, I am very good at spotting whether or not something is a face, or whether any of the multiple images I have seen in a short space of time were faces, but identifying any specific face is the issue.
          Maybe they will get to reading in due course! I have heard that there is a fairly high correlation between faceblindness and problems with map reading / sense of direction, it’s not true of everyone who is faceblind but a higher proportion of people with faceblindness than people on average, have no/poor sense of direction and/or find map reading difficult. I fall into that category (I am definitely someone who has to turn the map round to be able to read it, and the arrival of affordable GOS was a complete gamechanger for me!

      2. Cedrus Libani*

        I’m like that too. I’m dealing with the written word directly, not converting it to sounds in my head. When I speak, I am at least semi-consciously writing it down on the imaginary whiteboard in my head and then reading it out loud. My native language is writing. I don’t know how much of that is hard-wired (had an autism diagnosis as a kid, though it never quite stuck) and how much is just what happens when you read more than you talk during your peak brain plasticity years.

        I’ve never heard the facial processing part, but that matches my experience too. Part of my occupational therapy as a kid was learning to recognize facial expressions – I’m a bit “hard of hearing” in that way, I do have the instincts but I may struggle to hear you at normal conversational volume. As a corollary, my own facial expressions were a lot louder than I’d meant them. My face would shout loud enough for me to hear it, such that I’d think I had rolled my eyes a little, meanwhile others took it as murderous rage.

    6. Rowerrabbit*

      I read faster than this and remember everything I read. I’m not some wunderkind, and PhD doesn’t necessarily mean very smart, some people just work really hard. Some people just have talents. I would never mention this though. In fact, I kind of have to hide the fact because I consistently do not have enough work to do because I read and process so quickly that I work about double the speed of other people. I am in a senior level of my company, but still, spend a good portion of the day….pretending to work at the speed of others.

    7. The Girl in the Red Sweater*

      Yeah, I agree… I think this would be a great point to bring up in an interview, where you could potentially “show off” the skill. But saying you speed-read brings to mind many people who have told me they have eidetic memory. My reaction is always, “do you actually have a photographic memory, or do you *think* you have a great memory but can’t remember some details when it comes to practice?” (It is usually the latter)

    8. Shopkeeper*

      This. I can read extremely fast, but that’s really only useful when I’m triaging info for my team in an emergency – once I pass on relevant info or dismiss what is not relevant for them I also forget information very quickly.

      I still read pretty quickly when I’m actually trying to retain info (usually faster than people around me), but it is noticeably slower than my top speed because I need to do more information processing.

      It’s handy in an emergency, but I can’t think of many other situations where this would be relevant and while I can fully understand reading fast without skimming (if there are letters I have read them, very annoying with ads), but I have my doubts about information retention.

    9. S*

      It’s not nearly as uncommon as you might think. Hyperlexia is associated with autism, and it’s a real thing. I read between 250 and 600 novels a year, and that’s not skimming, that’s reading. I consider it a low-key superpower. Going through technical docs is slower than fiction reading, but still a remarkably quick process.

      I am face-blind but I have excellent visual recall of words on a page. I can usually tell you not only what’s in the document, but what page and paragraph to find it.

  12. HelloAvocado*

    I have to voice slight disagreement with the answer to LW5. As a hiring manager, if I saw “speed reader” on someone’s resume, I may wonder if they are the type of person to speed through tasks to complete them with little attention to detail. Or, I may wonder why they felt it was relevant enough to include at all. If it did catch my eye on their resume, whatever way it is interpreted, I don’t think it would be positive. At least for me. I’m in high tech, fwiw.

    1. FurySaidToTheMouse*

      If I saw “speed reader” especially with the commentary about teaching yourself to read at 2, my impression would be that you’re hard to work with / that you place emphasis on strange things. What I’ve learned in the workforce is that many people with natural gifts – being a quick study for instance – suck as coworkers. What I mean is, being smart is not enough. I want to know what you DO with your smartness. What is your actual output from speed reading? Were you the most efficient case worker in your unit? Did you clear a huge backlog of customer complaints in one day? Don’t just tell me you’re gifted and expect me to be impressed. Show me how you use those gifts for good.

      1. Phryne*

        ‘What I’ve learned in the workforce is that many people with natural gifts – being a quick study for instance – suck as coworkers.’
        That’s quite the statement. Did you mean people who *claim* to be gifted in some way? Because blanket judging people for being quick on the uptake sounds a bit weird tbh.

        1. Isben Takes Tea*

          I read it as people who *claim* to be gifted, since we’re speaking about what we put on resumes. As Alison has said, statements we make on resumes/cover letters/interviews shouldn’t be subjective judgments or even necessarily lists of skills or duties, but accomplishments and evidence of putting those skills to use.

          I agree with Fury that especially combing speed reading (or any skill) with “I learned how to do it at 2” would read very strangely to me on a resume: it’s like including your college GPA if you’re more than a year out of school. It shows at least a lack of experience in what hiring managers are looking for, and possibly an inflated sense of ego if you think anything you did at age 2 is a salient point that I should consider when hiring you.

      2. I should really pick a name*

        It sounds like you’re filling in a lot of blanks here.
        Instead of making assumptions, you could ask about these things in a ninterview.

      3. Rowerrabbit*

        One of the reasons I’m so good at my job is because I am able to read and process info so quickly. No one really knows this, because I think people would think that I am lazy. I just continue to do awesome work with a lot of free time.

        I agree with you though partly. I have a super great memory of what I read which makes me an expert in what I do that translates into my work, so yes, the fact that I speedread doesn’t mean anything, but I think your judgements about people with talents that exceed yours is interesting.

        1. Retired To Morning Room To Write My Letters*

          I’m sooooooo jealous of you!!! I want so much to be able to do a great job and have lots of free time. Wow!

    2. McS*

      I kind of agree, but if it was, as Alison suggests, in the one line for hobbies and special skills, it wouldn’t be a negative. People can leave that off entirely and I think that’s known. If it is taking real estate away from describing something relevant that they have done, yes, I’d wonder about their understanding of what a job is and whether they have any ability to reflect critically on their own accomplishments.

  13. Speculator*

    Speculation, obviously, but maybe the LW2 listener is reacting to “so good to see you” with some complicated emotions of his own? A cancer diagnosis will make you reconsider lots of things you thought were unshakeable, such as being around to have conversations with coworkers. He could be thinking “I might be dead next week/month/year, seeing and being seen is something I can’t take for granted anymore.” His abrupt deflection might be a way to redirect his own emotions in the moment.

    As I said, speculation. And it doesn’t really change the LW’s approach- either way the phrase seems to make him uncomfortable and avoiding it is wise. I wouldn’t categorically avoid it with other people, but since it does carry that corollary of “the time could come when I’ll miss seeing you, you know, forever” it might be sensitizing for someone facing a major health challenge.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      I think he might be hearing it as “it’s so good that you’re still alive!” and it’s reminding him that he could not be alive. Definitely avoid using these words with this person again, but I don’t think there’s any reason to avoid using that phrase in general.

      1. CharlieBrown*

        This is how I was interpreting it. It’s a friendlier way of saying “Glad to see you’re not dead!”

    2. LW2 OP*

      Thanks for sharing this perspective. You’re right–perhaps me accurately reading into his reaction is fairly impossible given the specific, extreme circumstances he’s facing that might be affecting his interactions in any number of ways. Good to keep in mind.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Possible, but his immediately referring to his wife suggests that he did (or did *also*) read it as some kind of come-on.
      I agree that avoiding that phrase for that colleague is sensible in future regardless of how or why he had that reaction, and also that his health issues may have resulted in him more more sensitive than usual

    4. bamcheeks*

      That was an interpretation that occurred to me too- that it just veered a little too much on the side of treating him like a Terribly Ill Person rather than just any other colleague, and it felt weird to him. I don’t think that’s terrible, LW, but maybe just a reminder to dial it down a little!

    5. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      This is where I think I was landing. Bringing my own experience of having a friend who delivers commentary on me like “oh, look you’ve made the thing, that’s so good that you made the thing” when I have, in fact, just showed her that I made the thing … there’s a tone that makes me feel like a child being talked down to by an overly “lovey” Sunday School teacher. Like her acknowledgement of my state of being is actually the point of the conversation, and not the fact that she has just pushed my previous knowledge of my own experience out of the way.

      So, yeah, adjusting the comments to a more run of the mill conversational routine may make the difference for the person dealing with an overwhelming challenge to their health and longevity while also trying to just get through Thursday’s TPS reports.

  14. WS*

    I am also someone who taught myself to read at age 2, and I am generally an extremely fast reader with good comprehension. That said, I would never put it on a resume because people get quite aggressive and disbelieving about it when it comes up in conversation, and I can’t think of many jobs where it would be at all relevant – it’s rarely about your reading speed as opposed to what you do with that information. (That said, when I was working in the retail side of pharmacy, it was very helpful because I could read the entire box of whatever I was selling in a second or two and then sound very informed about it!)

    1. PoolLounger*

      The comments section already has people disbelieving the OP! I also learned to real early and read quickly, and I just don’t mention it to most people. I found people more understanding when I worked in education and/or book-related fields—I was never the only speedreader in those situations.

      1. Rowerrabbit*

        Same here. I also basically never had to work hard at school, because I could read a textbook and memorize it very quickly. Good thing too, I had a lot of mental health issues that affected my concentration and desire to work. I just didn’t have to work very hard.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, it seems to be one of those things where there is a high level of disbelief from people who didn’t/ don’t have that ability. I learned from a conversation with a friend a couple of years ago that she didn’t realise it was possible to read ‘in your head’ any faster than reading aloud, whereas to me as someone who reads fast, the idea that it might be limited to how fast you could speak, when you aren’t speaking, seemed equally strange!

      I think rather than just putting ‘speed reader’ it’s more appropriate to explain how it helps with the job – some roles, the capacity to read and process a large volume of information is useful, others it’s not, so giving examples is probably more useful.

      1. Emmy Noether*

        I read recently that in the Middle Ages, it was unknown (?) that reading silently was possible – people always read aloud. Now, I’m sort of doubtful about this, because surely some people must have realised they could do it – it’s a skill most human brains are capable of, and it’s useful. But it seems to have been uncommon at least.

        I not only read faster than I speak, but I do it even while reading aloud. My eyes are always 1-2 lines ahead of my mouth. From talking about it with others, I gather this is a common, but not universal, skill.

        1. Phryne*

          I think that had more to do with the medium. Handwritten texts are almost always harder to parse easily and depending heavily on the where and when a text was produced, standardised spelling, interpunction and even spaces between words might have been completely absent. Also, in a society where not everybody could read, reading things aloud would be more common.
          There is certainly a quote in Plutarch about Gaius Julius Caesar reading something silently, but the context does not make it clear if that was uncommon altogether, or uncommon in the circumstances.
          By googling around to refresh my memory on the subject (I did some study on literacy in the past in uni) I came across an interesting site with interesting info on the subject, I will put the link in the next post.
          Paraphrasing: people probably could read silently in the past, it was not a wildly uncommon skill, but in a much more orally focused society reading aloud would be really common too.

          1. Emmy Noether*

            Good point about handwriting being harder to parse!
            One other thing I thought of is standardized spelling: it certainly makes going straight from page to meaning without detouring through sound so, so much easier. When I read something that is spelled non-standardized, approximately phonetically, like old texts or dialect texts, sometimes I do have to explicitly sound out some words to get them. So that may have something to do with it.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I agree with your disbelief. If nothing else, surely the monks & nuns who took vows of silence would have read religious materials.

        3. DataSci*

          I think that’s more likely to be social than skill based. Literacy rates were much lower in the Middle Ages, so people who could read would often have an audience who couldn’t, and would be reading for them, not just themselves.

          1. Annony*

            Yes. And even if the others could read, they were unlikely to have multiple copies of the same book.

      2. SarahKay*

        I was today years old when I realised that (once able to read) not everyone reads faster in their head than out loud. I can read far faster than I, or others, can talk – a fact that makes pre-recorded video/audio based training very irritating because I could do it faster and absorb more if I just had the written text and any relevant diagrams/pictures.

        From reading Bagpuss’s and other comments, it definitely seems that OP5 would do better to list the benefits this skill has given them in their work, rather than listing the skill.

        1. bamcheeks*

          a fact that makes pre-recorded video/audio based training very irritating

          yes! Thrilled when I discovered I could speed up LinkedIn Learning to 4x, even more thrilled when I discovered I could just read the transcript. 20 minutes training is 2-3 minutes scanning a transcript.

        2. amoeba*

          I actually have to read at the speed I’m reading aloud when reading French. It’s quite annoying and makes me… not read a lot of French! But yeah, when the words and phrases are unfamiliar, it’s quite a different feeling, even though technically you understand (almost) everything.
          I think it’s a matter of how large the chunks of text are that you recognise at once. In German (my native language) and English it’s usually the better part of a line. In French, it’s one word. (For really complicated text, it might go down to one word in other languages, too, though!)

          1. Katy*

            My native language is English, and I speak French much better than I speak German, but I find German much easier to read than French. I can scan a German sentence and take in most of it, even if I don’t know every word, but there’s something very thorny and resistant about written French.

        3. Phryne*

          Oh, yes, I hate instruction video’s instead of manuals. My workplace puts everything in video’s nowadays and it is so annoying if you just want to quickly find out how to do a thing.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I bought an online sewing pattern recently that turned out to have a 20 minute video instead of a page of instructions and diagrams. Fury!

            1. Delta Delta*

              This is awful. If you need to know the seam allowance in step 14 (or whatever) you want to be able to glance at something, not watch and re-watch a video.

          2. ecnaseener*

            On a webinar I watched the other day, the speaker declared that people prefer video for training over all other mediums. Gaaaaah. I don’t know where that idea comes from.

          3. Environmental Compliance*

            I hate videos not only for that, but for speed, AND for I cannot for the life of me retain anything useful if it’s *just* video/listening. Something I am trying desperately to get my grad school to understand with their audio-only online lectures and *no damn transcripts*.

        4. Emmy Noether*

          Count me among those that despise video instructions. It is simultaneously way too slow and too fast. Takes more time than reading a transcript, and then ALSO, if I want to re-hear just one sentence, or look at one shot in detail, trying to catch that exact moment takes even more time. Speeding up does nothing for the latter problem.

          1. I Talk About Motorcycles Too Much*

            YES! This is exactly how I feel about them and my agency is moving everything to video and it frustrates me to no end. Also, the added challenge of ensuring the content is accessible makes the transition a pain from the perspective of helping people use the content.

        5. Kelly L.*

          OMG yes! I do not want to see a YouTube or a TikTok or anything of whatever it is! Just send me text and pictures! Lol!

        6. kitryan*

          I think this is part of why the whole decline in blog tutorials/articles in favor of videos has been so frustrating to some people, including myself.

      3. londonedit*

        There was also a letter a while back where the LW mentioned spotting a note on their boss’s desk and inadvertently reading it – tons of people in the comments were arguing that they had to have made a choice to read the note and therefore it was their own fault for reading confidential information. And a load of other people countered with no, that’s not how it works for them – when they see a short passage of text, their brain doesn’t read it word-by-word, it takes it in *whoomph* in one go. There’s no active choice about whether to start reading it, it just goes in. And that has nothing to do with intelligence or reading ability – it’s just how different brains work. Personally, my brain absolutely works like that and it’s probably why I’m a fast reader – my brain works by taking in chunks of text at a time.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          I actually remember when learning to read the moment I transitioned from sounding out letters to reading in one go: we were in the car, and I suddenly realized I could not *not* read the signs along the road. If the letters entered my eyes, the word entered my brain, no way to keep it from doing so. Sort of blew my mind at the time.

          1. bamcheeks*

            I remember this moment with my daughter– we were walking home from a summer camp and she suddenly said, “Freetown Church–hey! I didn’t mean to read that! It just jumped in my head!”

        2. Phryne*

          On a tangent, this is why I also *hate* home decor with text on it. Even a coffee mug with the word coffee on it would be constantly imprinting ‘coffee’ ‘coffee’ ‘coffee’ into my brain. Anything with text I have to look at every day will tattoo itself into my neurons and pop up randomly during the day or night.

    3. Jane Bingley*

      Here to echo exactly this as a hyperlexic kid turned adult speed reader. Best to let people see it play out in my work before making any claims. Yes, it’s an impressive skill, but it doesn’t land me a job because so many people don’t believe it until they actually see me read and retain at a consistently high speed.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        I honestly think it’s better to stress the outcomes than the skill. So if OP is reading an impressive number or type of books per week or over a summer (I’m comfortable betting that they are; speed readers are always reading), they should put that number down. Fellow speed readers will recognise the skill, while non speed readers will assume there’s a dedication and a great time investment going into the reading. I also know a lot of skim readers who honestly think they read fast and that type of reader is far less likely to read anything substantial for pleasure.

    4. Kelly L.*

      I wonder if this comes from, like, scammy fly-by-night “speed reading” classes? Like, i definitely believe some people read fast just as a brain quirk–I do myself–but I don’t necessarily believe some shiny sales guru can teach everyone to do it. And that makes it tricky for a resume, because it’s hard to quantify unless you got some kind of certification, but the certifications themselves seem dubious. Does that make sense?

  15. Allonge*

    LW1 – without context, it’s difficult to tell what this person meant, just as it’s not quite clear to me what “HR issue” means in your question.

    It could be an issue for HR to address, as in “we as an org are not very successful in making sure WFH-ers develop at the same level as those in the office, what kind of training / management development can HR offer to correct for this?”.

    1. Firm Believer*

      I think that he’s offering a solution to that problem though – people need to come to the office. Period.

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        Which is a great way to reduce headcount, IMO. Either folks will quit, or get sick from the pandemic that is still going on.

  16. JSPA*

    #3, acknowledging that the tasks don’t make great use of his skills may help. Or simply, that they’re nobody’s favorite. Or that sometimes you wish there were another department to field those catch-all tasks. Or that it’s like the Monty Python Spam sketch: sometimes the best you can do is the order with less spam, because there’s no spam-free option on the menu. But if he hates it to the point of changing jobs over it, then you do have to decide whether to keep him (and perhaps slowly lose other people who have to pick up his share?) or lose him.

    If it’s not universally loathed but only disliked, you might make some sort of departmental trophy for the person who does most of it, and hope that means you get willing takers? This would not motivate me nor would it motivate most of the people posting here but experience says that some people will do just about anything to get their name inscribed (repeatedly) on a $3 trophy. Pocket change well-spent, if so.

  17. Academicadmin*

    LW 5 Maybe not resume worthy, but definitely something to work into conversation during an interview.

    1. Annony*

      Yes! It could easily be worked into “tell me a time when” type of questions and then the utility is highlighted.

  18. talos*

    Tangential to #5, I want to say that one of tech’s strange hiring conventions is that it puts a ton of focus on the skills section, particularly for people earlier in their careers. I’ve certainly had recruiters direct me to particular postings or teams based on the programming languages/containerization frameworks/Linux experience in my skills section, and found those postings and teams to be better fits than what I had originally applied to.

    1. amoeba*

      I don’t think that’s weird, actually! In fields where you’re really looking for somebody with a very specific technical skillset, I imagine having a skills section as an overview helps a lot (compared to having to go through the CV piece by piece, trying to figure out whether that person has actually worked with the programming language you need…)

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        Yes, when I was starting out doing sysadmin I had an extensive skills section in my resume to tell people what I had knowledge of. It made the automated skill matching systems happy.

      2. talos*

        Personally, in addition to my skills section I also bold all relevant skills under a particular experience item – so I might say “developed graphical application for in *C++* using *Qt* framework”.

    2. McS*

      An unfortunate byproduct of trying to automate resume reading and submissions in my opinion. You are better off hiring someone who can learn new languages quickly and has bomber architecture skills than someone who is 2 weeks ahead because they know the language already, but that requires talking to people and judging them effectively, which is hard and unreliable.

  19. British guy reading American*

    For LW #2, it’s the “so” in “It’s so good to see you” that turns it from a pleasant greeting into something else.

    For some reason, the phrase “It’s so good to see you” brings to mind the character Moira Rose from Schitt’s Creek (if you’ve not seen the show, she’s a wealthy socialite). I can picture her using this in three way, with different emphasis:
    As a greeting – “It’s so good to SEE you” when spotting an acquaintance at a party.
    As a dismissal – “It’s been SO good to see you”, followed by turning away… the added “been” here has an implicit “buh-bye now” at the end.
    As a come on – “It’s SO good to see you”, with a tap of the other person’s elbow. That added physical contact makes it that much more intimate.

    I’m also slightly confused by the context – in both cases, it appears you were using this as a parting phrase, not a greeting phrases; at least, it appears it was near the end of a conversation. I know that there are a lot of regional variations, and this may be common in your area… but perhaps the recipient of this message is taking it as “I’m really enjoying this conversation, let’s continue it further” rather than “This was nice, let’s do it again sometime”.

    1. JustSomeone*

      This is fascinating! I’m in the northern USA, and when I really dig into how that phrase would be used around here, it actually matters a lot where in the conversation it occurs.

      At the beginning, it would tend to suggest surprise at encountering the person. Sort of like if your college roommate happens to be a colleague’s date to a benefit dinner. “Oh my gosh, Heloise! It’s so good to see you! Are you living in [my city] now?”

      At the end of the conversation, it definitely carries a sense of “I acknowledge your presence has been missed after you endured The Bad Thing.” Likely delivered in a sad/friendly/wistful/supportive type of tone. “Well, Gerald, it’s so good to see you. You take care of yourself, now.”

    2. amoeba*

      Yeah, the “so” makes a difference for me as well – but not as a come-on. For me, I’d say “It’s so good to see you!” for friends, people I genuinely like and haven’t seen in a while, or just generally when I’m *actually* really glad to see somebody. While “It’s good to see you” is basically a polite phrase I’d use with most people.
      So, I can see how it would be slightly weird using it with more distant colleagues I don’t have a very personal relationship with – but more in a “she’d weirdly enthusiastic, does she think we’re friends?” kind of way.
      Also, yes, can definitely see the “So good to see you’re not dead” interpretation as well, which might make it awkward for other reasons. (Also, don’t know how common “thoughts and prayers” is in your area? For me, that would be quite weird, actually, and I’m nominally Christian. But then I’m in Europe, so we tend to have a lot less religious connotations in our daily lives.)

    3. mreasy*

      This makes me so sad! Imagine being so fearful of women in the workplace for whatever reason (I have my suspicions) that a colleague expressing genuine, enthusiastic happiness at seeing you well after an ordeal makes you recoil with suspicion? LW2, definitely be chillier with this dude but there is no reason to stop being kind to your other colleagues. I shudder to think of the other ways his aversion manifests in the workplace!

      1. Nysee*

        I agree. LW is in her 20s, he’s in his 50s. He wishes. If this was a two-time occurrence, and LW never initiated any other contact, then this is in his mind.

        When someone replies with “my spouse/partner,” my first thought is ‘whom are you trying to convince you’re married? You or me?’ and then lob it right back..as in “yes, how is Mary? This can’t be easier for her…please send her my best.” The I inwardly roll my eyes.

        1. Generic Name*


          OP, you did nothing wrong. This guy is the one who imagined a hidden meaning (likely based on wishful thinking) in a perfectly normal phrase. It says a lot more about him than it does you. I’d stick to polite professionalism with this guy and stick to work topics only (don’t even ask about his weekend, even though it is a normal coworker thing to do). It sucks that he’s made you question and second guess yourself.

    4. Bibliothecarial*

      The dialectic (?) differences are interesting – in my area of the US, unless you were really exaggerating the “so,” it would just be taken at face value. It’s a common phrase that’s used between all ages and genders with no hint of a come on. I think the LW is in the clear and the colleague is the one bringing the weird.

    5. Dahlia*

      You know, sometimes I think I’m not really that neurodivergent and that I understand social cues just fine and then there’s a post like this with 100 comments about the nuance of emphasizing “so” in “so good to see you” and yeah, no, the autism is definitely there.

  20. Irish Teacher.*

    LW1, I feel like the VP is being very vague here and even if there is a genuine difference, he is at least phrasing it badly. If he said something like “people haven’t developed as much due to the lack of opportunities for collaboration” or “those who have been in-person have done more upskilling” or “managers have not been able to give feedback as efficiently to those working from home,” it would be more informative.

    And honestly, more useful to him and everybody else, because if people working from home are “less developed,” that could indicate a failure on the part of the company. It may not. There may be forms of development that simply require one to be in person, but it may also be that the company didn’t adapt its practices to fully support those working from home.

    But I don’t see that there is much you can do or that you need to do. It sounds like he was either just making a throwaway comment or was trying to defend bringing people back to the office.

    LW2, I wonder if his reaction might have been related to his reason for absence. Like he was interpreting it as “I’m so glad to see you out and about. I thought you were going to die/were seriously ill” and that made him uncomfortable. Just to point out, his reaction may be specific to his situation and not because you are a woman and he a man. I see nothing at all wrong with saying it’s good to see somebody.

    LW5, I think one thing here is that “speed reading” and the number of books you read in a year is quite vague and people might not know how impressed they should be, so to speak. 200 books a year wouldn’t seem particularly unusual to me. 300 is more impressive, but without knowing what length these books are or how much time you spend reading each day, it’s hard to gauge how quickly you would have to read to do that. If you were reading for 2-3hours a day and the books are say the length of Agatha Christie’s, that would seem normal to me. If you are reading books the length of Lord of the Rings for an hour or so a day and finishing 300 in a year, we’ll, that’s a lot more worthy of note.

    If you were going to mention it, I think it might be worth trying to get a figure for words or pages. Like “I read a page in 20 seconds” or “I read 5 pages a minute”.

  21. JustAThought*

    For LW2, I guess I had a bit of pause because this particular person’s a boundary was set in first interaction & you noticed it. Then In second interaction “you just couldn’t help yourself” from crossing it again . The boundary was set, maybe tighter than other folks would. Once done, it should have been respected. Good you are rethinking.

    1. FurySaidToTheMouse*

      I don’t think the coworker actually set a boundary. Rather, he behaved in a weird confusing way in response to a perfectly standard greeting. I think it’s kind of like expecting someone not to automatically ask
      “how are you?” because you were squirmy about it one time.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      I disagree. “It’s good to see you” is such a normal platitude that (1) it wouldn’t occur to me someone could be setting a boundary around those words and (2) they just slip out automatically when the brain goes [insert platitude here].

      For example, if I said “good morning” to a colleague and they gruffly replied “yeah, mrnin’ “, I also wouldn’t assume it was about the words generally. I’d think maybe they had a bad morning today, or my cheerful tone was grating on them pre-coffee, or it’s totally unrelated to what I said. If we had to exclude every innocuous phrase that once got a non-standard reaction from someone, that would be… a lot to keep track of.

      Now, twice, that starts to be a pattern and justifies giving it more thought when talking to a person. The first time, one may note the reaction, but it wouldn’t be clear what the boundary is about (words? tone? body language?).

      1. JustAThought*

        The phrasing was “ its so good good to see you [with emotion both times]” not “it’s good to see you”. First time made recipient uncomfortable. Opposite sex exchange. Boundaries were awkwardly established after first, ‘accidentally’ because of enthusiasm breached again on second, with same response. In my opinion, one person has set boundary, albeit at not same point as others, simple answer is to respect said boundary, not question if you/they wrong. A specific co-worker set that boundary. Whether 1000 others would be fine with it is irrelevant to me here.

        1. Emmy Noether*

          Even with the “so”, I maintain it would not have remotely crossed my mind that this is a possible boundary after one occurence. Too many other, more likely, explanations. After two occurences (pattern), probably.

        2. mreasy*

          The issue is with the coworker, not LW2. this type of response to an ordinary greeting is very unusual! And when she repeated “it’s so good to see you,” she probably meant it! There is nothing inappropriate about being happy to see a colleague. This is not about a boundary, it’s about the coworker’s own baggage, which he can’t expect others to remember to shoulder for him.

        3. allathian*

          Yeah, I don’t think the words are a problem in themselves, but the LW admits that she showed more emotion than she normally would in a professional context when she said it, and the older man reacted to that. It could simply be that he’s stressed by his diagnosis, or maybe he has a secret crush on her and feels guilty about it, or who knows what.

        4. Critical Rolls*

          Having a weird reaction to a common phrase is not “setting a boundary”! Especially if the weird response is implying, for no darn reason, that your much younger female coworker is hitting on you.

    3. Onward*

      Really? No boundary was set. He never said “I’d feel more comfortable if you never used those words with me.” He just had a weird reaction. That’s not a boundary. Boundaries are clear.

      Also, some phrases are ones you use so often that they just slip out. Do you really not have those? “It’s so nice to see you” is a very common phrase people use in social interactions, the same as “Hey! How are you?”, “What have you been up to?”

      She didn’t do anything wrong here, but if he expects her to tip toe around him this much, she should just avoid any interactions with him because he’s an unreasonable person.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, not every awkward social interaction is the person deliberately setting a boundary. Imagine if every time someone exited a conversation awkwardly you had to assume that the last sentence out of your mouth was a transgression!

        Now that there’s a pattern of him saying the same thing twice in response to the same thing, it’s clear he doesn’t like it, but it’s super unfair to LW to expect her to guess correctly from just the first time.

        1. Lunch Ghost*

          And, sometimes the last sentence out of your mouth was a problem, but only at that particular time. I’m sure I responded with awkward evasions to “Doing anything fun this weekend?” the Friday before I went to say goodbye to my dying grandpa, but most other Fridays I’d be happy to tell you about my weekend plans!

      2. Jackalope*

        Yes, this. There are so many reasons he could have had this reaction (look throughout today’s various threads for a range of them), and many are not even related to this making him uncomfortable (at least not with him having reacted that way the first time). I honestly would have thought he just misheard me or something the first time. If someone wants to set a boundary and expect that the other person will respect it, they do have to let the other person know what it is if the boundary is asking their conversation partner to avoid doing something that is such a normal part of a conversation.

    4. Generic Name*

      I’m genuinely confused. Can you give an example of how a boundary can be set in such a way that it could fly under the radar of a colleague one has a passing acquaintance with? Saying “it’s so good to see you” is a standard greeting, so I’m struggling to envision someone having a boundary around it.

    5. Ellis Bell*

      Hmm, I think setting a boundary means using your words explicitly. He couldn’t have used his words in that situation though because he would have sounded obviously ridiculous. But let’s imagine that he did state an explicit boundary of “do not greet me so warmly because I consider it to be a come on” it would have at least given the OP the chance to say this is just her stock phrase and she has no intentions like that. Not only is the air cleared, but if she does accidentally use the greeting again it’s been made explicitly clear by her that it’s just a greeting which is something one automatically says. You might just as well try to ban the greetings “hello” or “how are you?”

    6. SofiaDeo*

      You all are forgetting the context. This is a cancer patient, going through a stressful period, who may be triggered not just from a reference to health, but may also have gotten overwhelmed shortly after discussing their treatment. It has zero sexual component. IMO it’s more, this is coworker who is trying to control their emotions and failing. If you haven’t had a family member or friend be extremely emotional around a cancer diagnosis/talk of the diagnosis and treatments, you may not understand. Ending a conversation with “it’s so good to see you” could have simply brought up the reality of the diagnosis, with attendant emotions, to the forefront. Even if a few minutes previously, they had been calmly discussing their treatment. We try to maintain composure, but sometimes we can’t. And it has nothing to do with sex. Regardless of whether society overall accepts this phrase as a common, normal greeting, it obviously is upsetting to this particular person. Especially in the context of the reasons *why* it may be triggering.

      1. pieces_of_flair*

        I’m truly sorry you’ve had those experiences, but it sounds like you are projecting in this case. He did not “lose composure” and become emotional. He pointedly mentioned his wife in a context where it didn’t make sense. The evidence points to him thinking OP was hitting on him.

    7. Parakeet*

      This is an over-the-top imposing of pop psych jargon onto something innocuous, making it sound like LW2 did something sketchy when they did nothing of the sort.

  22. bamcheeks*

    LW5, I’d say the key thing about “speed reader” is — is it relevant? Are you applying for the kind of jobs where getting up to speed really quickly or getting through large amounts of documentation or research is a key skill? Because if not, it is just a hobby, and it’s not really of any more interest to an employer than “speaks Elvish” or “amateur opera singer”.

    Unless you’re applying for jobs with a fast turnover where getting up to speed and taking on your own work by the end of Day 2 is vital, it’s not necessarily a benefit to get through all the documentation at speed. Sometimes the answer to, “I finished all that reading that you said would take a week in two days!” is, “oh no, now what am I going to do with you?”

  23. English Rose*

    #4 This seems odd to me, and depends partly on your relationship with your manager.

    I can see a scenario where you had expressed to her clearly an interest in a certain type of role, then she had an honest conversation with you about how for whatever reason that isn’t going to be possible where you work, and told you she would keep an eye out for opportunities with her network. That might make sense, but because you’re questioning it, it doesn’t sound as if you have that sort of relationship with her.

    I’m sorry to say this feels like a very bad sign to me.

    By the way I assume you’re in the States, but if you were in the UK, these actions by your manager, together with the other things you mention like being left out of meetings, would likely amount to you having a case for constructive dismissal, with a financial settlement.

  24. Kate, short for Bob*

    OP2 this is an easy one – just remind yourself that it’s *not* that good to see him because he’s a weirdy sexist that assumes you can’t resist him. And continue using the opener with anyone else you’re glad to see.

    It’s one of my favourite openers – that and ‘it’s so nice to see your face’ – because it happily skirts all the commentary on looks and health that can be so unwelcome.

    1. JustAThought*

      I know you are well-intentioned, but if you told me ‘you were so happy to see my face’, I’d pop a single eyebrow at you in massive confusion & hope you would notice my discomfort with that phrasing. Pretty much the point, if it makes someone else uncomfortable, drop it once you notice their discomfort, even if 1000 others don’t blink eye.

      1. Kate, short for Bob*

        Well it’s something I’d say to an established friend so don’t stress your eyebrow on my account :⁠-⁠D

    2. Asenath*

      For me, it’s the addition of the “so” – especially if there’s an emphasis on it – which makes the phrase a little, well, over-enthusiastic for a business setting. Not enough so that I’d make a fuss about it, but enough that I’d notice it, wonder a bit, and probably then dismiss it as one of those odd things people say. And that goes even more for mentions of my face.

      1. Clisby*

        I can easily imagine he was put off by what seems to have been an over-emotional response, but it’s a stretch to see it as a come-on. I’d have thought his reaction would be more like, “I wish people wouldn’t make it so obvious I might die.”

      2. ferrina*

        I’m a person that is prone to enthusiastic greetings in general. People can find me a little weird, but their reaction is almost always just as Asenath says- “that’s one of those odd things people say”.

        It’s odd that this guy leapt from “over-enthusiastic greeting” to “this woman is coming on to me”. That says a lot more about him than the LW.

      3. Not my real name*

        Not really though, the man was back from an extended illness. It’s good to see that he is well enough to be at work. That’s all.

        1. mreasy*

          That’s the thing! I would be very enthusiastic to see a colleague after an extended illness – given the alternative is not being able to see them at all.

      4. Snell*

        If an AAM commenter told another commenter that [such-and-such phrasing] was acceptable, but [such-and-such phrasing+the word “so”] was strange and overdoing it, they’d get chastised for nitpicking words and referred to commenting rules.

    3. Tiptoe*

      I’ve only said that to friends I regularly communicate with via phone or text. Joy pops into my brain at the sight of them. I would not say it to random colleagues I don’t keep in regular touch with.

    4. DataSci*

      Ooh, I’d avoid “face” for a while. Talk about “seeing people’s faces” gets used by anti-maskers a lot. And someone who just finished cancer treatment may still be masking (chemotherapy temporarily ruins your immune system) or have just recently stopped.

    5. iglwif*

      I’d be comfortable with “it’s so nice to see your face” on a video call, but in person it’s started to sound like a passive-aggressive way to say “why are you still wearing that stupid mask?” to me, because I seem to only ever hear it from people who think the pandemic is over.

      That could just be me, though.

  25. Enescudoh*

    LW5: I have a skills section at the bottom of my CV, and at the bottom of that I have ‘I was once a backing singer for the Spice Girls’. I doubt it’s ever got me interviews I wouldn’t have otherwise been qualified for, but often people ask about it as an ‘and finally’ question that helps to set a friendly, collegial tone in what can otherwise be a nervewracking experience. Add it, if you can.

    1. spruce*

      … you were?!?! That’s really amazing. Maybe another “interesting jobs” interview for Alison?

  26. Justin*

    I will have you know that jobs always ask about my marathons when I include them. But it’s definitely not relevant

    1. amoeba*

      Ha, yes. I include my martial arts hobby on my CV and it’s always a good opportunity for smalltalk! Amazing how many hiring managers have some martial arts background and are excited to chat about it…

    2. Marmalade*

      I run ultras and try to avoid bringing it up, otherwise the meeting devolves into people being confused/amazed that a person can run a hundred miles and asking if I take breaks or eat.

      1. CheeryO*

        Ha, I would hire you immediately! Ultrarunners know how to work hard and how to have fun, and most seem to be highly successful in their careers because they’re so driven.

      2. Elenna*

        I looked into the Ultra Tour du Mont Blanc a little when preparing to hike my own (much, much slower) TMB, and a) wow, very impressive and b) I admit that if it came up in an interview, I’d have a hard time not pivoting to discussing ultramarathons :D

      3. Filthy Vulgar Mercenary*

        I think that’s a plus for interviews, though, because it gets you talking on a more relaxed and interpersonal level, and may make the interviewers like you more (because now you’re talking more like a human especially if the conversation till then was a bit stilted).

        I agree that it is smart not to let it derail meetings though!

    3. CheeryO*

      I agree, but running is relatable. Everyone knows someone who runs marathons, whether it’s a friend or family member or someone in the office. It’s been a hugely successful conversation starter for me in interviews if I’m asked about my hobbies. Speed reading would be a bit harder to relate to.

    4. Avery*

      A bit different because it’s not resume/interview-focused, but after going into the same field of law as my father, I’ve learned that his reputation among fellow lawyers sharing the same kind of law practice in the same local area is “oh, he’s the marathon runner.” It’s definitely something people remember!

  27. Thatoneoverthere*

    #2- I think that is an odd reaction to that phrase. I say this all the time to friends and family. I do say it to co-workers too, if I haven’t seen them in a while. I always say it in a friendly tone. It’s never garnered a strange response.

  28. I should really pick a name*

    For LW3, I would approach this by nothing that the employee is reacting negatively to certain kinds of tasks and ask them why.
    Let them provide the reason instead of filling in your speculation. It might be something you haven’t thought of.

    1. Doodad*

      I’m an expressive person and I don’t feel like my emotions are anyone else’s responsibility. If I’m assigned something I find annoying at work, I express it, quietly and do it well.

      I would say, if Fergus isn’t causing a scene with his irritation, isn’t expecting anything in return when he expresses himself and ends up doing the work well, it doesn’t matter that he finds it tedious.

      An expectation that your employee is going to cheerfully do all work related tasks is an example of toxic positivity. It’s okay to find it boring, annoying or disinteresting sometimes!

      Long term, he will probably want to move and that’s already expected for most employees.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        This isn’t toxic positivity. This is responding to the fact that someone is visibly irritated when they are asked to do their job. It’s not asking them to smile and talk about how much they love the work.

        There’s a clear pattern that Fergus is responding differently to specific tasks. Having a discussion about it could result in a change that improves things for Fergus.

      2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        An expectation that your employee is going to cheerfully do all work related tasks is an example of toxic positivity. It’s okay to find it boring, annoying or disinteresting sometimes!

        This. I’m not gonna smile and burble happily the 20th time I have to fix the same problem caused by someone else screwing up. I’m not at all gonna be happy if you suggest that I “fill in for the receptionist because I have done that work before” when I’m a technical professional but all you see is my secondary sexual characteristics.

  29. AnonFedManager*

    LW#4: I send posting on announcements to my employees – but I also explain why! We’re all feds, but the position listings identify skills and responsibilities for different job series, pay grades, and agencies. They help employees identify training or project opportunities they would like now to be prepared for internal promotion or changes. It helps them see what they might prefer or dislike about other jobs.

    1. Camelid coordinator*

      That is what I would do too, send an employee a post to show an example of a job that might be a future step in their career. I’ve also sent jobs that seemed like a good next step to an employee and encouraged them to think about it, explaining that I wasn’t trying to push them out but looking at their development. Getting promoted within my university office just wasn’t possible, as it would have required a structural change the higher ups refused to consider.

  30. CharlieBrown*

    LW#5 — If I got a resume that listed “speed reading” I wouldn’t have a favorable impression. I would think that your parents or college guidance office told you this was a good idea.

    1. irene adler*

      Ditto. What does this skill do for an employer?
      Okay, you read fast. And there’s probably plenty of reading needed for the job-at least initially. You’ll get through this faster than others. Great, the sooner you are put to work on your assigned tasks. After that, then what?

      1. maratos*

        So do you think that about people who list other hobbies like the ones Alison mentioned? Because that’s really common.

        1. irene adler*

          Yes- to a degree.
          It is nice to know someone has a life beyond work.
          Common or not, as an employer, show me how this relates to the skills outlined in the job.

          One useful avenue for speed reading: quantitate how the speed reading results in a KPI an employer can use.
          Example: if the job entailed reviewing lots of batch records, give me a statistic: can review up to 3o ten page or greater batch records per hour. Able to sustain this rate for greater than 4 hours per workday.

        2. CharlieBrown*

          “really common” does not mean it’s the right thing to do.

          Yeah, it’s great that you raise racing pigeons and have won several awards, that you love to decorate cakes and your cake decorating instagram has a lotta buncha followers, and that you are also an avid runner.

          But you’re applying to a bank. Please tell me how any of those hobbies are relevant.

          Also note: this is not a “hobby”, this is a skill. Please tell me how this skill would be beneficial to you on this job. If you can’t, it’s just weird to put it on your resume.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Right. I’d file it mentally with the ones that say they’re “proficient in MS Word”.

      I learned to read when I was 3, but you won’t find that on my resume…

      1. Cedrus Libani*

        You laugh about the MS Word, but it’s on my resume for a reason.

        I once had an interview at a tech startup, where the company’s founder knew me and had arranged the interview personally. The hiring manager sat me down, looked me over disapprovingly, and said: “I understand that you have no experience with MS Office, but it’s an important skill for the position, MS Word in particular. If you were hired, are you willing to learn how to use these programs?”

        I have an engineering degree from MIT. From the late 00’s. Don’t know Office…them’s fighting words where I come from, Boomer. But I spent a solid ten minutes politely trying to convince the guy that I could probably check my email without assistance.

        It turned out that HR had refused to consider me for the subject matter expert job that I thought I was interviewing for. That position required MS Office, and it wasn’t on my resume, so obviously I’ve never seen a computer before. I was instead interviewing as an assistant office manager…but nobody told me this.

    3. GreenShoes*

      I think this is where I land on this one. Is it going to help you? – Probably not outside of very narrow circumstances. Can it hurt you? – It may come across as weird or inexperienced

      For me it falls into the category of “unless there is a specific reason for including, it’s safer to leave it off”

  31. Help Desk Peon*

    Regarding #1, I think there’s some truth to newer hires not developing as much, depending on team culture and the new hire’s personality. I’ve seen a stark difference between my team and some others – we’ve made a concerted effort to reach out to our new guy, pull him into meetings we feel will benefit him, even do “pre meeting” meetings to give him context and explain who people are. We’re IT, so we’re doing a lot of 1:1 demos over zoom for him, and if another colleague and I are troubleshooting a sticky issue we’ll invite him into our call and show how we’re going about solving the problem.

    Other groups clearly aren’t doing that with their new hires and it shows. It seems to be an out of sight, out of mind thing.

    1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      And stuff the newbies don’t overhear. I learned that we were firing an annoying client because I overheard my boss talking about it with her boss. It wasn’t a secret or anything, but I didn’t actually NEED to know either since I never dealt with that client. On the other hand, my boss has a lot more free time now and production is doing much better at getting the teapots out on time, both of which do effect me.

    2. ferrina*

      I agree that it can be a company culture thing. I’ve seen the same thing as you, Help Desk Peon. Pre-pandemic, my company was entirely in-person. Post pandemic, we’re maybe 10% in-person. Some teams have adjusted their communication and development, and some have not. There’s a distinct difference.

      There are definitely strategies that teams and companies can use to enhance remote development. More explicit communication, deliberate professional development plans, regularly assessing and identifying knowledge gaps, interactive trainings and intentional networking (since you don’t have a physical watercooler, you need to make virtual watercoolers). My company is trying to get a more uniform support system (so remote workers have equal opportunities on every team). We have a literal playbook for onboarding which incorporates all these elements in a really effective and natural way.

    3. Colette*

      Yeah, I think it’s true that when everyone is remote, you have to plan for the stuff that happens organically when when you’re all in the same area. One of the groups I work with has been very intentional about stuff like that, and it has paid off.

    4. Riot Grrrl*

      It’s encouraging to hear that you have found a system that works. I have had less luck in my own situation, partly due to my own limited bandwidth.

      Typically in my industry, someone in the learning position would take on a project and then stop periodically when they hit something they don’t understand or aren’t clear on the way forward for. This can happen a dozen times in a day. Being remote, those questions just… don’t happen. So LOTS of stuff gets done wrong and it can be literally impossible to go back and figure out what happened.

      1. ferrina*

        Interrupting is less intimidating when you can see what the person is doing.

        My solution to this is to set up regular check-in points. I’ll also try to say what I’m working on that day, so they feel more comfortable interrupting me. “Let’s check in in a couple hours. By that point, you’ll probably have finished X and Y. Feel free to reach out before then if you have any questions! I’m just working on odds and ends, and I’ll be totally interuptable.”

      2. Help Desk Peon*

        We’ve assigned our guy a super simple project- say a teapot that’s more of a pitcher, no lid, short spout, easy shape. The lead teapot designer had him work with her on her teapot, showed him various steps, where to find specs, how to get one made, basic problem spots and solutions, asked him to make some simple modifications to her project that she didn’t have time for. Then he went off to design his first pot, was told to call me when finished, I walked him through making it (I’m QA on the software for making pots and I like teaching) and helped him troubleshoot his design, sent him back to the drawing board on a few things with concrete examples after he implemented the first few with me watching.

        I think it helps that we give discrete chunks and specify who he should ping when he’s done so he knows we’re expecting it, and once we respond with a time he takes care of the admin of setting up a zoom call and invite. It also helps that although there are only 2 teapot designers, my boss and I are both capable of doing it (have to be in order to create and test the software!), so we can share the training load. We also help the department that makes the tea train their people on things like getting the tea in and out of the pot, etc.

        I get called in to troubleshoot when production teapots start going wrong and that’s when I try to pull in new people when it’s not a preset meeting -I’m doing a lot of things they’ll need to know anyhow and it doesn’t slow me down much to explain as I pull things apart to find the flaw.

      3. Colette*

        One of the groups I work with has an hour booked every Thursday that is set aside for questions and discussions – so if you are stuck on something or have a propsed solution you want input on or don’t know whether you’re doing the right thing, it’s an open forum to discuss.

  32. Keymaster of Gozer*

    OP5: Fellow Commander Data! (Referring to fast reading speed). I can easily manage a book a day.

    In the UK it’s common to put a ‘hobbies and interests’ line on the end of a CV and I’ve included my collection of books (entire front room of the house) and my geek embroidery design but not my reading speed.

    Because, while don’t get me wrong it is a rare ability, it’s like putting a Mensa membership on there in that it doesn’t say anything about 1) ability to do the job 2) ability to get along with your coworkers or 3) who you are as a person.

    Just do what I do and get a second Kindle when you max out the storage space on the first :)

    1. Allonge*

      No, you sort your Kindle content by file size and strategically remove or put on a backup drive large files first!

  33. spruce*

    I’ve been sitting at my desk trying to think of what tone someone would need to have to make “It’s so good to see you!” sound suggestive and I’ve come up completely blank. This is completely on the coworker. However, he has given LW2 some useful information: he is likely to take things you say to him in a completely wrong way, and you should have a very cool tone with him in the future. Whether it’s because he is a weirdo who think women regularly try to lead him astray, or (the kindest explanation) he is stressed and tired and it’s having an impact on his normally reasonable conversation skills – that doesn’t really matter.
    Also, you don’t need to change how you talk to others. These are completely normal small-talk phrases.

  34. ABCYaBYE*

    LW2, I’ll assume that nothing you’re doing makes it seem like a come on, but I do want to remind you and everyone that how we say something matters. My favorite example is this. Walk up to someone and say “how you doing?” and you’re greeting them in a friendly way. Now say it like Joey from Friends. Same three words…very different meaning.

    Now, having said that, like I said, I’ll assume there’s nothing in your tone that expresses anything other than a friendly and genuine greeting. It may be something that makes him uncomfortable and no matter how you address him, he may just be uncomfortable. Not going to speculate as to why, but you might just consider greeting him differently the next time you see him.

  35. Tobias Funke*

    Dude is being weird, don’t trip on it. I’m a therapist and when folks leave at the end of their session I tell them it’s always great to see them and I look forward to our next meeting. Nobody has ever got weird about it. I also use “it’s so good to hear from you” and “it’s so good to see you!” in both my personal and professional lives. I’m really Not Great socially and I picked these up specifically because they’re warm and generic and difficult to misinterpret. (Except for the comments that somehow decided you were saying you thought he was dead, because that would definitely make him mention his wife?) This dude is weird, but the vast majority of the planet sees this as generically warm.

  36. MicroManagered*

    Am I the only one whose head is about to explode over #2 and the responses????????

    OP2 your coworker has been out extensively for cancer treatments so you said “it’s so good to see you” — which is a normal pleasant thing to say to someone who has had a serious illness, it means “I’m glad you didn’t die” — and he thinks the woman half his age has chosen THIS MOMENT to hit on him?!

    I’m surprised and disappointed to see all the comments dissecting whether the “so” in “so good to see you” is the problem… like… what? We do not tone-police men this same way and if the gender roles were reversed, this letter would not even exist.

    HE is the one making it weird, not you. But now that he’s let you know he’s weird, stop saying it to him.

    1. Pierrot*

      I actually think part of the issue is what you named: “ a normal pleasant thing to say to someone who has had a serious illness, it means ‘I’m glad you didn’t die’”. For some people who’ve experienced cancer/another life threatening illness, a coworker implying “I’m glad you didn’t die” might be kind of heavy for the workplace. Of course, others might not feel that way, or potentially the coworker is misinterpreting where the LW’s comment is coming from. But he’s gone through a traumatic experience and maybe that statement reminded him of things that he doesn’t want to think about at work. He might just want to move on and not be reminded of the fact that he almost died.

      To be clear, I don’t think what the LW said is inherently bad at all! But something that implies “I’m glad you didn’t die” might not be what the coworker wants to hear. My mom had cancer and a lot of acquaintances would make comments that were way more overt in mentioning potential death than what the LW said so it’s possible the coworker has heard similar things and is sensitive to these comments.

      1. Lana Kane*

        But it doesnt mean that she’s glad he isn’t dead. Maybe she’s glad that his illness isn’t so hard on him that he’s sidelined, sick at home, etc. (Which is what I gathered when I read it).

        Also, the wife thing is a dead giveaway that “glad you’re not dead” is the issue.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Right – a lot of the cancers are treatable. We know it isn’t a death sentence, like it was seen as in my home country when I was a child long ago. But most of us who had family members and friends have it and undergo treatment, also know that it is a painful and long process, which was how I read OP’s greeting – happy that Fergus is back on his feet and feeling well enough to be at work again.

          And yes, the wife remark is very odd.

    2. ferrina*

      I was wondering how many people I had inadvertently hit on when I was just genuinely happy to see them (I can be a pretty peppy person).

      But yeah, it’s a normal greeting, it’s hard to make it accidentally weird (you generally have to try to make a comment like that sultry), and LW did nothing wrong. This dude is being weird and maybe indulging in some weird self-flattery (“she’s flirting with me!”).

    3. Liv*

      Good lord, yes. It’s extremely clear from him mentioning his wife that he saw it as a come on, which is weird as hell. It happens constantly when women are being friendly to men. He’s obviously not reacting to it as “glad you’re not dead!” Why are people pretending that’s the case!

      1. Alanna*

        The number of people making excuses for this dude is absolutely wild, fairly out of character for this site, and I think can maybe be chalked up to the fact that AAM has an unusually large number of “I’m not at work to make friends” commenters.


    4. Madame X*

      This is exactly how I felt when I read the letter! he’s being very weird about a very innocuous phrase. I mean she was basically saying “it’s nice to see your alive”

    5. Bess*

      10000000% this.

      Sorry but as someone who has maybe flirted like five times in life total, the amount of perfectly neutral conversations I’ve had where a dude I don’t know and don’t like drops in the girlfriend mention out of nowhere is kind of comical and exhausting…and honestly pretty offensive now that I’m married. No one is hitting on you, dude! I am just existing in your area and attempting to be a person. Especially at work, I mean, come on…

    6. Lana Kane*

      I’ve noticed that when someone does something realy weird, some will try to look for the reason in order to make sense of it. It’s like something can’t just be odd, there must be a valid reason.

    7. bighairnoheart*

      Absolutely. OP, since you’re in the comments, I hope you read this one. This comment section likes to read very deeply into things sometimes. Please take all those weird suggestions about how this common phrase is potentially offensive/bad with a massive grain of salt. He’s being weird. Maybe he has a valid reason for being weird, but it’s a him problem, not a you problem. Don’t use that phrase around him anymore so you can avoid future weirdness, but feel free to use it around others. I highly doubt you’ll ever encounter another person who cares about it in even the slightest bit, and worry the commenters here are going to make you second guess yourself when you shouldn’t!

    8. Snell*

      Just adding my support to you, since the other commenters who got hung up on the usage of the word “so” kinda grated on me too.

    9. Elizabeth Zott*

      “We do not tone-police men this same way and if the gender roles were reversed, this letter would not even exist.” 1000% agree!

    10. Here for the Insurance*

      Thank you! The effort in some of the comments to make the guy seem reasonable instead of weird about a perfectly common and innocuous phrase boggles the mind.

    11. JessicaTate*

      Right?!? All I could think was, “Do you work down the hall from Mike Pence?” Because this has the same odor as that “I can’t be alone with a woman” BS.

  37. Not your typical admin*

    LW 2: I wonder if one of the reasons for the do workers reaction is the amount of emotional people he’s had to deal with. My husband is a pastor, so we’ve been with many people as they’ve gone through diagnosis and treatment. I’ve noticed that sometimes people who are occasional acquaintances can get very emotionally involved, wanting updates and to talk about what’s going on. Not saying that LW did this, but if the coworker has been dealing with lots of emotionless people while dealing with their own emotions, they may be just burned out. LW – in no way do I think you did anything wrong. I would just write it off as someone navigating their way back into normal life after being sick. Going forward I would be friendly and as much as you can act like they has never been away.

    1. Rowan*

      Seconding this. Deflecting by mentioning his wife is weird, but swiftly exiting a conversation with someone who seems to be having way more emotions than a distant coworker relationship indicated is completely understandable.

    2. ABCYaBYE*

      I’ve been the person going through diagnosis and treatment of a serious issue, and I’d agree that it can be heavy to have people who genuinely care ask how you’re doing. Like, I just want to get back to normal and not continue to dwell on the problem. It was exhausting at times. Maybe the deflection to saying something about his wife is a way to get out of the conversation, but I think it is a weird reaction. Maybe there’s more to it (like he’s thinking of it as a come on) but I’m wondering now if it is just a deflection because he doesn’t want to dwell on his health.

    3. New Jack Karyn*

      This makes a lot of sense. Maybe he is Mike Pence-ing his way through life–but maybe not. Maybe he just wants to dig into work, spend large parts of his day NOT thinking about cancer, NOT dealing with big emotions.

  38. Delta Delta*

    #2 – Maybe it is so good to see him. But you know he’s reacting weirdly to that phrase, so maybe replace it with, “hi, Fred.” If he reacts weirdly to that, maybe stop greeting him and let him greet you.

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    As a fiftysomething man who is often getting hit on by twentysomething women, I think he was either trying to let you down easy, or subtly hinting about a menage a trois

    Seriously though, what you said was completely normal and I’d chalk it up to him having undergone the whole cancer scare or just being an odd guy in general.

  40. Ex-prof*

    LW5– You know how a doorstop of a Congressional report will come out and two hours later there will be a news story offering highlights and a summary?

    Speed readers!

    1. connie*

      Or, more likely, draft versions were sent out to media that were embargoed until the official release date and time.

    2. Generic Name*

      Ha ha! I wish there were more of those in my industry. A new rule recently came out, and it took most industry news sources a week to come out with their summaries.

  41. eons*

    My first boss, after 7 years, suddenly started telling me about really great jobs in the area that were high paying with benefits that he would give me a great reference for. I didn’t really understand why since we got along great. It was because he was planning to retire in a few months and couldn’t tell me yet but didn’t want me to miss out on great job opportunities in the area.

  42. Madame X*

    LW2: he’s the one making this interaction weird. Maybe he has some weird baggage around that phrase that has nothing to do with you letter writer 2. It is very odd that your coworker would assume that his female colleague, who is in her 20s is hitting on a 50-year-old guy who is married and currently going through cancer, that is not a reasonable assumption to make on his part.

    1. Generic Name*

      He probably also thinks that waitresses and shopkeepers are hitting on him when they are nice to him as a part of their jobs. Some men are just that delusional.

  43. SofiaDeo*

    #2: “It’s so good to see you” said in an emotional way, to someone who has said they underwent a cancer treatment, often is NOT a bland greeting. As a cancer patient myself, with one of the “prognosis not generally great” ones, having someone emotionally react to seeing me once again, would mean something along the lines that the person saying it was surprised to see me. It would remind me of the fact if the cancer, and not in a good way. I am wondering if *this* is more of what’s going on.

    I am not saying for people never to use this phase, or any other phrase regarding someone’s health to another who has shared a cancer diagnosis. It’s more, getting this diagnosis can often mean, certain phrases are triggering for those of us with the diagnosis. And we have no way of knowing ahead of time what might trigger us. LW#2, you did nothing wrong. But much like some people may say “please don’t call me honey” if you tend to call others this, if you notice a *particular* person obviously dislikes something, and it’s someone you interact with somewhat, avoiding it would be appreciated.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I think your reaction is so much more reasonable than this guy’s that I’m curious as to whether there actually is a similarity.. ….when you felt uncomfortable about a greeting did you ever harrumph about the fact that you had a spouse, or did you leave your marital status totally out of the reaction?

      1. MurpMaureep*

        Yeah, it’s the mention of his wife that indicates he’s spinning this in a weird way.

        I appreciate that someone who has gone through a serious illness might react unexpectedly to the phrasing (even if there’s nothing inherently wrong with it). But to react with “I’ll let my wife know you said hi” implies he’s remind her that he has a wife and he’ll be telling his wife that a younger woman was talking to him intimately (which, to be clear, she was not!).

      2. SofiaDeo*

        You have to remember, even the testing to “rule out” a cancer can be extremely emotional, let alone getting a diagnosis. Some of us react very very emotionally to *any* mention of health even after treatment appears to be going well. And it’s odd that random things can trigger, or things that didn’t trigger suddenly do.

        I am guessing the “I’ll tell my wife you said hi” was just blurted out as an attempt to end the conversation without actually “reacting” inappropriately. I know early in my diagnosis, it was very difficult to “not think” of the cancer, and I would suddenly end conversations/leave when my emotions overwhelmed me. I didn’t share my diagnosis with coworkers, only my manager, to explain why my work was affected, and why I needed to reduce hours. But I knew I was reacting, was often irritable/near tears, and would just try to leave quickly when feeling overwhelmed. This person just sounds to me like they are struggling to maintain a semblance of calm, and failing, otherwise LW wouldn’t be wondering if they did something inappropriate.

        I was unable to work much after my diagnosis, I was so ill. I ended up retiring on disability before telling co-workers, But I have participated in support group discussions where this sort of thing has come up, among those of us who can still work. I also coincidentally happened to be a healthcare worker who spent several years working with cancer patients specifically, so I also have this perspective from before I myself got ill. There can be all this anxiety, even surrounding successful treatment/surgery. Before the tests, waiting for results, what the results mean, worrying about potential treatment side effects, experiencing side effects after treatment, dealing with after effects of side effects/treatments, anxiety while waiting for the next set of tests to see how things are progressing, or is the treatment working, or am I relapsing. Dealing with the relapses after a remission, which sometimes seems more devastating than the original trauma of the diagnosis.

        I am a decade into this diagnosis now, and am personally happy, with reminders that I am still here, against the odds. But not everyone is like me. This may be a bugaboo that the coworker will knee-jerk react to in future, or coworker may get past it. I’ve seen some people get almost an OCD health obsessive reaction to anything health related, post diagnosis. And some of us just can’t successfully mask these emotions at work/around others socially, even though we try.

  44. irene adler*

    For #5: Maybe the avenue for the speed-reading skill is a superior KPI one can claim.

    Up thread, folks commented on how speed-reading helps with classifying books for publishing, case law, etc. Quantitate these and there’s a KPI for the resume that means something to an employer.

  45. Elenna*

    Re #2: yeah, there’s nothing suggestive about that phrase and the guy is making it weird by mentioning his wife. That being said, “it’s so good to see you” (as opposed to “it’s good to see you”) does feel a little more emotionally warm than I’d expect from a co-worker, if I heard it I’d be like “huh, LW is particularly friendly to everyone, interesting.” But I wouldn’t think badly of it, and this is definitely weirdness on his part and not yours.

    Also, I am slightly surprised that nobody has made a Lizzie Bennet Diaries reference yet. :)

    1. Adds*

      I agree. The weird is on him, not the LW.

      I don’t think there’s anything wrong with noting the return of a coworker who has been open about an ongoing medical issue like cancer treatment. In fact, I think it marks you as a conscientious and kind person.

      I mean if the LW wanted to adjust the phrase they might say “it’s good to see you’re back in the office” or something similar if they thought the phrase needed retooling. But there’s nothing wrong with the way they said it originally.

      1. Lana Kane*

        I just can’t wrap my head around people thinking it’s overstepping for someone to express that they care about your wellbeing.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Agreed. This is all very odd on the coworker’s side. If someone with whom I had a pleasant professional relationship said this to me, I’d be totally fine with it. Unless there was something in the tone or body language, I wouldn’t automatically assume that person was flirting with me or anything like that. The words themselves are entirely appropriate, in my opinion.

      I would treat this as a quirk of that individual. I don’t see any need to change your behaviour around others because of this one dude.

  46. Alan*

    LW #2, I know other people are saying this too, but in the spirit of piling on, you did nothing wrong. It was caring, maybe more intimate than “Hi”, but he established that intimacy when he announced to you (an acquaintance) that he was having cancer surgery! You sound like a very caring person. Please do not beat yourself up over this. This weirdness is all on him. (And honestly, he sounds really self-centered. He wants everyone around to know about his surgery and then needs to tell him wife when anyone says anything nice to him? I’d just give him a wide berth.)

  47. Alan*

    We’ve got #3 at work. I’m a team lead on a high-profile project at work, and like it or not, occasionally all of us (me included) have to do work that is “beneath us” because it needs to get done, and it takes less energy to do it than to argue about it. You do it so that you can move ahead with the main job.

  48. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

    LW1: I’d be very curious about what mechanism that VP would use to explain this apparent trend. Like, what is it about in-office work that is leading folks to develop faster than those working from home (assuming that they are). And what options might be available to fill gaps for people working from home.

  49. TiredMama*

    His discomfort might be more of an indication that he has a crush on you rather than him picking up on anything you are putting down. At any rate, definitely a him problem.

  50. Nancy*

    LW5: Not sure how reading since the age of 2 or being able to read 200 books a year proves anything about how someone can speed read, and unless a jobs specifically needs a speed reader, not sure why anyone would care. For example, reading a short mystery for fun is very different than reading a long technical paper for work, or reading a lot of books one year because you happened to have a lot of free time.

    If you want to use it, I would add time it takes to read X amount of pages, and give an example.

  51. RagingADHD*

    LW 5, please don’t listen to your parents. Obviously they’re proud and think you’re awesome. Which is great, so they should.

    They are not giving you a reliable picture of what employers care about. Being able to recognize letters and words at age 2 is early, but not super-rare. Being able to read fast is a cool trick, but only as useful as you make it.

    Parents get very excited when their children are ahead of the curve on developmental milestones, but that can do the kids a big disservice as they grow up and make their way in a world that is more interested in results than in process. Average students – B and C students – are much more likely to be highly successful entrepreneurs and self-made millionaires than the brilliant kids who made straight-As.

    If your innate talents help you produce higher quality work in a more efficient or effective way, or help more people with their needs, or come up with an innovative idea that solves a problem — that’s what’s applicable to work.

  52. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    If “It’s so good to see you,” is suggestive, then I have a whole family and about six friends to slap.
    We say this all the time.

    I’m with Alison, the problem is with the person hearing it. Unless there were some sort of non verbal cues (which I’m thinking there weren’t) I don’t see the problem.

  53. Catwhisperer*

    LW #4 I also read really quickly and put “reads average of X books annually” under the hobbies section of my resume. That, plus adding the very unusual names of my two cats, has led to some very interesting interview conversations.

      1. Catwhisperer*

        They sadly both passed away last year, but they were Angus McFluffington and Leeloo Dallas Muffinbutt. My sweet babies.

  54. Catwhisperer*

    Caveat: I work in tech and was hired during a period where companies encouraged people to bring their authentic selves to work, so adding those details spoke to my alignment with that company value. If you’re going into a more conservative industry, it may not be as advisable.

  55. MurpMaureep*

    For LW 3 I’d definitely start with expectation setting about the current job rather than restructuring to give Fergus the more complex or interesting projects. There are other people on the team who would, probably (rightly) start to resent Fergus as well as management if he got the “better” assignments and they were left with the drudgery. Perhaps if there’s a way to promote him to take on more complex work that’s an option, but you’d also want to avoid the perception that complaining garners rewards. As others have pointed out, you have staff who do this type of work and don’t complain about it (and presumably do it reasonably well).

    High performers can be great, but one of the first things I realized when I became a manager was that I’d rather have a team full of proficient, friendly, low drama people than high strung, needy, argumentative super high performers*. The time it’s taken me to deal with the latter could have been better spent mentoring the former.

    *and I had to confront the fact that I’d been a high strung, high performer at points myself!

  56. GreyjoyGardens*

    LW 2: If “OMG SO GOOD TO SEE YOU” was a come-on, then I should be dating my hairdresser, who just returned from leave. I also gave her a big hug. I’m sure you were not half as enthusiastic as I was. I think this guy might be operating on a kind of Mike Pence rule (beware of women and their tempting wiles) added to the fear and weirdness that is having cancer and being treated, which will mess with anyone’s brain. You did nothing wrong. But dial back the greeting when you see this particular guy, as it seems he is weirded out for some reason.

    LW 3: Definitely talk to Fergus, and if he is a good worker and smart, maybe give him more desirable or “reach” tasks instead of the grunt work. If not, well, just talk to him and explain that admin work is something everyone has to do, and maybe give him some work that will help him stretch his capabilities. I think it’s fine and great for someone to want to do higher level work, after all, that’s what leads to promotion. Having a bad attitude about the grunt work – unless one employee gets the bulk of it, which sucks for that employee and will lead to resentment – is not, because everyone has to do it. Give him the “we’re all in this together” talk.

  57. Dawn*

    LW3, like, I do get where you’re coming from; the requirements of the job are the requirements of the job.

    But I also get where this guy is coming from: if he transitioned in from another department, he’s experienced, he’s a high-level performer, he probably finds it somewhat demeaning when you assign him particularly menial tasks that really could be done by someone who is not on the same proverbial level that he is.

    Discuss it with him by all means, he should at least try not to be visibly annoyed by the tasks you’re assigning him, but also ask yourself whether it makes sense to assign your top chef to wash dishes because “that’s one of the tasks in the kitchen and we are the kitchen department”.

    There’s something to be said for making sure that everyone takes a turn at everything SOMETIMES, but you’re going to be operating a lot more efficiently if you predominantly assign people to do the tasks that they are best at/most enjoy when that’s doable.

  58. McS*

    It depends on the role for sures, but as someone who hires skilled engineers, speed reading wouldn’t be a relevant skill. The fact that you can read fast and follow a story or a simple non fiction book at that speed doesn’t mean you can learn new science content, assess a process improvement, or detect an identity threat that is making a colleague bring up a conflict over email at that speed. Things I need people to try at are rarely limited by reading speed.

  59. Megatron*

    IP PLEASE READ: I have a different perspective on the guy’s reaction to the comment. Everyone keeps thinking this is suggestive sexually, but it can be suggestive in another way. As a cancer survivor, and also as someone who has experienced devastating personal losses, it is always upsetting when a person sees you and injects all sorts of pity in their voice. In this case, I would assume the guy felt the “nice to see you” with more emotional impact than normal as you say you had, would imply that it is especially nice to see him because he might have otherwise been dead. This is demoralizing to us as we fight the battle against cancer because we want other people to have faith that we can beat it; it lifts us up. Pity and assumptions of terminality bring us down and can actively harm our recovery process. I know the OP did not intend this, that is clear because she couldn’t even conceive of this being a reason. But since so many people have commented, and from my perspective gotten this guy’s reaction wrong, I felt it was worth saying how I as a cancer survivor interpreted it. Another possibility: even if he didn’t assume she was referencing the possibility of not seeing him because he was dead or too sick to work, it can still be jarring and upsetting when you are dealing with something that takes a great deal of emotional strength (say your dad or child or husband just died or you have been told you have a brain tumor), and you are just trying to make it through the day without focusing on your terrible situation and pain especially at work where you want to remaon professional, and someone more emotionally than normal is pitying you or treating you differently, this is invasive and bad for us. When I had to perform an opera the day after my baby dog died in my arms, I sent out an email to all my colleagues saying that I needed them to NOT say a word to me about it, and not be nice to me or try to interact with me beyond purely what needed to be done workwise. I said basically ignore me except onstage- our performance depends on me keeping my shit together. But I can’t tell you how hard it is when people give you that kind and knowing “look” of pity or whatever you want to call it, or even saying “hi” with a certain intonation can make us feel hopeless and helpless in the face of our illness. I hope that helps you, and maybe other readers as well, so that in the future you know to keep conversations around people dealing with serious life changing issues as positively and as sensitively as possible. Remember, we also have pride. ❤️❤️❤️ All of this is said with love, and I am glad you asked this question, it shows you are a kind person.

  60. Scout*

    From the speed reader letter: “(quickly becoming domain-ready, digging into complex research problems, getting through those 500 emails a day, etc.).”

    I’m a little surprised you weren’t advised to focus on what speed reading enables you to do, versus just listing speed reading.

    What did speed reading enable you to DO in college? If it enabled you to take an average of 18 hours of high-level classes per semester in your last two years, that means much more to me. Maybe it enabled you to move into detailed research more quickly (did X type of project in junior year, which is usually reserved for seniors). These are statements of fact that avoid the pitfalls of branding yourself a speed reader, and they get the same point across: I can process information quickly.

    If you had an extremely average record in college and can’t come up with anything specific, then best to not mention the speed reading at all.

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