what workplace norms surprised you when you were starting out?

It’s the Thursday “ask the readers” question. A reader writes:

In my job I manage a lot of people who are new to the workforce and are just starting to learn the typical, usually-unspoken norms of working in an office environment. This could be anything from “can I call my boss by her first name?” to “are these shoes business-casual?” to “is taking a sick day something I should apologize for?” While some of these things vary from company to company, there definitely are some near-universal norms (in U.S. work culture, at least) that most of us learn by trial and error, and no one ever tells us directly.

When I was newer to office jobs, it was easier to keep track of these, but now I’m 10 years into my career and unfortunately I can see myself slipping into assumptions about what new hires do and don’t know. In the spirit of making more of these expectations explicit, could we do an Ask The Readers on things that surprised us when we started out in the workforce?

We can indeed. Readers?

{ 1,231 comments… read them below }

  1. Chick*

    I’ve got one — how there’s an unspoken agreement to go temporarily blind when in the office gym changing room with coworkers/managers. My anxiety EXPLODED just at the thought of that scenario.

    1. Ho-ho-holey hose*

      Yes! And there will always be some co-workers who love to chat….and they are always the extra blind ones! So don’t feel obligated to chat but also don’t freak out if someone starts chatting when you’re partway through changing

      1. Anon (and on and on)*

        Or in the bathroom stalls! At least in the ladies room. There’s nothing like peeing next to your boss and having them start a conversation with you to startle the heck out of you….

    2. Professional Lurker*

      This reminds me – was there a post on here once about a woman being naked in the office locker room? I swear I saw it on AAM but it wa gone when I came back to read comments and it’s been driving me crazy ever since.

      1. Texan In Exile*

        I have been naked in the locker room at the work gym. How else was I supposed to change into my workout clothes?

        1. bmorepm*

          do you not wear underwear? I took naked to mean wearing no clothes. When I change into my workout clothes, I’m still wearing undergarments.

          1. 1LFTW*

            I’m not the person who commented, but plenty of people don’t work out in the same undergarments they wear regularly.

            My workout/running shorts have integral briefs, because that’s what works for me, and that requires taking my underwear off. Even if I worked out in my regular underwear, I *cannot* work out in my regular bra. Just… no. My exercise bra would not be professional in a work setting (in order to get the support I need, there’s some hefty structural engineering that takes place, and it would be very visible).

            So yeah, if I use the changing room at a gym there’s gonna be partial nudity at least. That’s not even getting into the issue of showering.

          2. Texan In Exile*

            Not with my workout clothes. I change into a very tight running bra and don’t want underpants underneath my tights because they will ride up and I will spend all my time tugging at them.

            And, to 1LFTW’s point, showering is usually done nude. :)

      2. 1-800-BrownCow*

        Hmmm, not sure about that post. But I don’t think I ever shared on here about the person at my first career job. It was a manufacturing company and they had locker rooms for the manufacturing floor employees to keep all their belongs in. The manufacturing floor technicians also had work uniforms they wore and changed into in the locker room each morning. The company recently had hired a new Quality Director, whom had no reason to use the locker rooms because he had his own office. But after he’d been there a short while, we (myself and other office employees) started getting complaints from the technicians because apparently the new Quality Director started coming in early, going into the locker room, stripping down completely naked except for socks and would just wander around talking to people. Sometimes he would place one foot up on a bench, rest his elbow on his knee, and chatted away. We never did find out why he did that, but there was a long list of other problems with the guy and he was eventually let go. Only 5 months in the position before getting fired.

        1. Mim O'rex*

          Quality director was trolling the grounds for pick ups apparently. BTW I actually work in a fitness center and the whole middle age man/old man strolling the locker room naked and chatting is not uncommon behavior. (This I hear from my male co-workers) But this QD is taking it to a whole new level. Weird.

          1. LadyVet*

            I have a friend who has posted on FB throughout the years about the naked ladies she’s encountered in gym lockers over the years. Most of them have a combination of awkwardness and awe, because she wouldn’t have the confidence herself to spend that much time naked around others.

    3. allathian*

      This is odd for me because I’m Finnish, and I’ve grown up with the idea of non-sexual nudity in public saunas, for example. That said, however, there’s absolutely no way I’m going to show myself as anything but fully clothed in front of my coworkers of any gender, ever. Absolutely none.

      1. I take tea*

        I have been both in the sauna and swimming with my colleagues without problem. But then I’m pretty blind without my glasses, so it is easier to imagine that everybody is the same. But I won’t use the same gym as the students I teach, no way.

    4. Sister Spider*

      I worked in a laboratory that required showers out due to the biosafety level requirements – in that case, you learned real fast who had zero chill in a group shower and locker room situation when seeing your coworkers fully nude wasn’t optional and planned your schedule accordingly. Everything was segregated by gender but some people really didn’t mind having full conversations, etc. while naked.

  2. FashionablyEvil*

    In my first salaried job, I didn’t know how to ask for time off. In retrospect, it seems so obvious (ask your manager!) but I would have appreciated someone spelling it out for me.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Yes to this! At my first job, someone on my team said to our manager “hey, I’m thinking of taking either Thursday or Friday off this week–whichever day has better weather” on a Monday and our manager said “no problem, just let me know on Wednesday which day it is” and I was thinking to myself “it’s that easy!?”

      On that topic, it’s also good to spell out what’s an acceptable amount of notice to give before vacation. At the job above, taking a day off here and there could be relatively last minute, but managers generally wanted a few weeks’ notice if you were planning on taking a whole week off.

      1. HipSaluki*

        I’ve heard a good rule of thumb to use is double the amount of time you’re planning to take off. So, if it’s just a day off, a couple days ahead of time. If it’s a week off, minimum 2 weeks ahead of time. And so forth… I try to stick by that and so far in my industry that’s gone over well.

        1. Amber T*

          What’s funny is that our employee handbook states we’re to request our time off (regardless of amount of time) one month in advance. Practically speaking that never happens – I actually mentioned that to HR at one point and she said “really? it says that?” I typically try to tell my boss a week in advance for a day or two off, but there have been times where, on a Monday, I’ve said “hey, last week was really busy, any issue with me taking Wednesday off?”

          1. No Longer Looking*

            My last boss used to insist that we not submit official requests too far in advance – we could email her for approval, but couldn’t put it into the system until 1-2 months out. This was IIRC due to a quirk of our approval system where all of the approved requests floated above the pending requests and made it annoying for her to use the system if too many requests were in at one time.

            I am one of the oddballs who plans out 2/3 of my PTO before the year even starts…

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I remember going to work sick so that I could be sent home because I didn’t know that I could just call in sick. It felt weird. I was twenty years into my career before I did not feel awkward saying, “I’m taking a vacation day tomorrow.”
      Like I need to give a week’s notice when I’m out one random Thursday.

      1. ferrina*

        Yes! I was coming off a retail-adjacent job where taking sick time required a Spanish Inquisition before it would be approved. You could be actively throwing up, and they’d ask if you’d tried all the meds yet. It was weird that I could just….say I was sick? and not come in?

        Being able to actually take PTO was a new experience.

        1. Lozi*

          Oh my gosh yes … I still remember one job in high school, throwing up at work, and they wrote me up for going home sick. In hindsight, I wonder if they thought I was hungover … I had actually just gotten back from a mission trip to Mexico and brought home a bug! My first professional job also had weird rules about getting coverage if you were sick and making you feel guilty about it … I don’t miss those days.

        2. LadyVet*

          That really threw me off when I joined the Army, because I enlisted after getting a bachelor’s and working in my field. I didn’t understand why I had to go to sick call to have it confirmed that yes, my cold is so bad it sounds like I’m coughing up a lung. I just wanted to sleep, drink tea and eat toast so the next day I’d be fine!

    3. ek*

      I still have a hard time with this when I just want an hour or two off (for an appointment or errand or what have you) – what do I say? Do I need to make up hours (I’m salaried but still expected to clock 40 hrs)? I’m in the type of job where coverage isn’t important and honestly nobody would probably notice if I’m only out for an hour but I still need to tell my manager something.

      1. katre*

        About taking off an hour ow two for appointments, I’ve had different reactions from different managers in the same company, so it’s really great to have that spelled out.

        We actually have a “Team Expectations” doc that lays out a lot of things like that, and vacation, and working hours/email responsiveness/etc, which is great for making these things explicit and not just assumptions that everyone mostly shares.

      2. Lily Rowan*

        That definitely depends on the job and the manager — it’s good for new folks to ask explicitly! “I have a dentist appointment Wednesday morning, and should be in the office by 10. How do you want me to account for that time?”

    4. Sloanicota*

      It’s brutal when you go from shiftwork, where time off or even just being a little late or needing an hour’s coverage, is a *really big deal* that you need to grovel for in advance and call around to all your coworkers etc etc to white collar hours where you’re expected to half-tell, half-inquire about your PTO.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        Going from retail to an office job was buckwild. I got out of retail in 2008 and I still sometimes marvel that I don’t have to work weekends or holidays. Heck, even leaving work before 6 PM seems indulgent. At my first office job, about three years in, I got a new manager who had just made the transition from restaurant owner/manager to working exclusively in an office. He couldn’t wrap his head around the hours, weekends, holidays, etc. We would have a good laugh about it because he’d come to me sometimes and go, “We’re off the day after Thanksgiving? Seriously? Like….wow.”

        1. turquoisecow*

          I went from retail to office job and it was like “I get to work the same hours every day, ever week, AND I get two days off in a row every week? Sounds great!”

    5. Sangamo Girl*

      In her first “real” job my daughter called me one morning when she was sick to ask what to do. It was then that I realized when she was in school calling in wasn’t something she was even allowed to do.

    6. Quinalla*

      Yup, this one is something I’ve had a lot of new people come ask me because while they know I’m not the person, they aren’t sure who to ask or the process. We always forget to explain this in onboarding, but at least we are very clear to ask us questions so usually it isn’t an issue.

      Also regarding this, if/how/what for OoO message on email and/or voice mail and coverage for when you are out, etc.

      1. JayRi*

        My first couple office jobs you received demerits if you called in sick. And you always had to justify yourself to everyone that you really were sick. It was a sad situation. Yeah people abuse it from time to time but honestly they gave us sick time and the majority truely were sick that it was ridiculous. I remember going i ot work so many times when I should have stayed home for that reason. 20 years later I almost have PTS flash backs when I call in sick.

    7. Jane Brain*

      Same here – I had to be told not to just announce a couple days before that I was going to be off, even if I had arranged all my work and appointments.

    8. ecnaseener*

      Hahaha this reminded me of how I had seen guidelines in our office handbook saying you should request PTO 2 weeks in advance, and the first time I needed a (relatively) last-minute absence, I announced it at a full staff meeting starting with an apologetic “I know I’m supposed to give 2 weeks notice for this, but…” Only later did I realize how much that probably sounded like a resignation!

    9. AnotherLibrarian*

      Yeah, me too! I didn’t know you could just ‘take a day off’ because you felt like it and didn’t need to give your boss a reason.

    10. CRM*

      Oh yes, especially for sick time! In my first job, I thought that I needed to justify taking sick tine by being specific about my symptoms. I’m horrified now remembering the overly detailed emails that were sent to my boss…

    11. Delta Delta*

      This! If you’re not told you may not think you actually can take time off. I didn’t take days off for a long time because nobody told me what to do. Seems dumb in retrospect but I genuinely didn’t know.

    12. azvlr*

      I really wish managers would spell this process out for new hires. As a new hire, it feels incredibly awkward to ask about time out too early, but then as time goes on, it feels like something you should just know, so it feels awkward to ask.

      And for me, coming from the military where there was a clear process, but one that required advanced notice. I still feel weird about asking for time off at the last minute.

      1. Snoozing not schmoozing*

        When I was in the Air Force several decades ago, if you wanted to travel overseas on vacation, your supervisor had to fill out a short form and submit it with the leave form he’d approved. One supervisor told me he wanted to write “My daughter has my permission to go on the field trip to London” because it struck him as stupid to do anything beyond approving the time off. It was pretty common for people to take last-minute vacations because flights with open seats were announced with short notice.

    13. turquoisecow*

      I asked my manager if I had to fill out a form or something. (I did not.) Took me a little while to work up the courage, though. I didn’t want to seem like a slacker – even though I think I had been there a month at that point.

    14. Robin Ridley*

      Bit of a reverse situation. I used to work in civil service where clerks were required to request ALL their PTO for the year in January, and managers were strongly encouraged to do the same. (This was a job that required coverage). Exceptions could be made, but requesting time off for July when it was 2 weeks ago would have resulted in being denied.

      Brand new manager trainee goes through orientation with HR, and they explained that everyone earned X number of PTO hours per pay period. They talked about requesting way, way, way in advance. But for Brian, fresh out of college and first time job, did not grasp what they meant by earning your PTO. One month in on the job and he has requests in for all his allowed time off within his first month (he wanted to go on a skiing trip). Our regional manager said, “But you haven’t earned your PTO yet.” I will by the time the year is over, was his response. As his training manager, I had to teach him what this all meant.

      For the record, he didn’t make it a year. Nice guy, and very bright, but not a manager.

      1. PaulaMomOfTwo*

        My job advances all the PTO Jan 1. It’s great, you can use it early or late. Just changes your final paycheck if you quite during the year (and are either paid out extra PTO or pay in the unearned PTO you used). HR didn’t explain that well either, took me awhile to figure it out.

    15. Merrie*

      I’ve always worked coverage-based jobs so it can be a Thing. In my last job, you requested all your vacation time for the year the prior November, and they allocated everyone their preferences depending on their seniority. You could request a day off with less notice than that, but you weren’t guaranteed to get it if there was nobody available to cover.

    16. NotAnotherManager!*

      We have a sheet in our orientation binder that explains PTO procedures. Enough of my team is recently graduates that it just made sense to explain the process for both calling out and scheduled leave.

  3. Galadriel*

    I had no idea what a “1-pager” or a “deck” were — I showed up to a meeting with a 1-page Word document with my thoughts when my boss mean a 1-page PowerPoint slide.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I would not assume one PPT slide, either, unless that were specifically spelled out for me. Where I work, that would be either a Word doc unless context made it clear it was one slide.

      1. Miette*

        Same. I’m a marketer–a 1-pager is a data sheet/fact sheet and presumes a certain degree of professional layout.

    2. Ho-ho-holey hose*

      I think this is also a great example of something where asking for clarification will always make you look better. Every company has their own preferences – including ones that might seem like terrible practice (ahem using a single powerpoint slide and cramming it as full of words as possible…). Ask for an example!

    3. ferrina*

      Yes! I had used Powerpoint once in my whole academic career. I had no idea it would be the lingua franca of business.

      1. cor blimey*

        I expected to use if more often than I do. Which is never. The last time I used Powerpoint was probably in 2003

    4. WantonSeedStitch*

      Ah, see, in my industry, a 1-pager IS a 1-page Word document. Often an executive summary and bullet points.

      1. ecnaseener*

        Yeah, I don’t think I’ve ever heard it used to refer to a slide! I’d think of that as “one slide,” not “one page”

    5. KD*

      I’m a teacher and up until 4 years ago all my teaching was in public schools. Moving to a private school meant all this business-speak that I had never heard before. I had no idea what a “white paper” was or what a “strategic bet” meant and to be honest I wish I never had to learn!

    6. Middle of HR*

      I told my husband I was putting together a deck for a presentation interview and he had no idea what I was talking about. He’s been working for a decade longer than I have. I’m wondering if it’s industry to industry.

      1. londonedit*

        I’ve figured out what a deck is from this discussion, but it’s not a term that’s used in my everyday working life.

    7. tamarack etc.*

      A one-pager *is* a one-page Word or Google Docs document in my world! Or even a text file, LaTex, or whatever, with one page worth of text in it. Typically we use it as a short description of a project idea that may grow into a fundable project.

    8. Jonquil*

      I had been working professionally for 10 years before I head a PPT presentation described as a “deck”!

    9. Rekha3.14*

      I only use “deck” when we have master slides, and the presentation likely pulls from those (our master deck might be 50+ slides on all product we offer, for example, but a presentation wouldn’t be all of that but select topics). Otherwise it’s just ‘put together a PowerPoint’ or ‘pull together some slides’. Likely this is just my team or company, though, it sounds like, using deck this way.

  4. TayLovesTacos*

    For me, it was calling anyone in management above my supervisor by their first name. I was working retail for a popular discount chain and they had us all call the managers by Mr./Mrs./Ms. LastName. It was a bit wild to me that a “professional” job was more casual.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        One thing I’ve found is that in some companies (e.g., retail or industrial), most of the employees will never be part of management (however it is defined). Many of these require the use of an honorific for senior people (which might be not-so-senior). In other companies, the theory is that anyone can rise to management. In those, I have found that first names are usually the norm. Of course, there are many exceptions to these general rules.

        1. nobadcats*

          One of my first jobs was at a Famous Hamburger Chain. We had a manager who insisted that she be addressed as “Mrs. FakeName.” She would pitch a fit and fall in it if you addressed her by her first name, even though that was the name on each of our name tags so it was easy to slip up.

          About six years later, I walked into my bank to buy over $2,000 worth of traveler’s checks for an overseas trip. Mrs. FakeName was working as a teller. I must admit that my petty, petty, petty soul enjoyed addressing her by her first name the entire transaction. And yes, she did recognize me from old job.

          Not my most shining moment, but I never claimed to be above the occasional schadenfreude indulgence.

            1. nobadcats*

              It’s a tiny pearl that I occasionally polish and admire its luster.

              My current boss, grand boss, and great grand boss are absolute gems.

              I have only one former boss to slay. Just quietly biding my time.

            1. nobadcats*

              Malicious compliance!

              I could see her seething as we completed the transactions. I kept on saying, “Thank you, FirstName” at every step. My dad was standing nearby and was like, “WTF was THAT all about?” Me: “Just settling old debts.” He approved once I ‘splained.

        2. Lexie*

          And in some places it can be on a person by person basis. I worked in a surgical practice and there were two doctors in our particular office. The older one was “Dr. Last name” and the younger one was “First name”.

    1. Observer*

      That’s not universal – in either direction.

      And that’s probably a more useful thing for newbies to learn. ie “What we did at my last job is not necessarily what we do here. Being respectful is following the expectations of the workplace.”

      1. doreen*

        Yep – because even the name thing can get bizarre and unique. At one of my employers , support staff were called by their first names. Professional staff were called by their last name, no title – until you got to the first level manager. Who was addressed by his/her subordinates by last name, usually no title but when that manager was interacting with upper level managers, every one was on a first name basis all the way up to the agency head. So my subordinates would call me Jones and I would call them Adams, but the head of the agency called me Doreen and I called her Ana.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          In English cricket, back in the day, there were both amateurs (“gentlemen”) and professionals (“players”) on the same teams. Newspaper reports carefully distinguished between them. The “gentlemen” were “Mr. [last name]” while the players were simply “[last name].” This system finally collapsed in the early 1960s.

          1. Excel-sior*

            And the game has been all the poorer for it!

            (Not really, although the class divide is sadly still alive and well)

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              The real money in cricket nowadays is in the India Premier League. It is hard to see how the players and gentlemen system could have survived the rise of Indian cricket. It was strained by the rise of Australian cricket, the Australians finding the players and gentlemen system some combination of bizarre and hilarious.

              I recently read “Players and Gentlemen,” a memoir/history by Charles Williams (not the Inkling Charles Williams: this is two generations later) about the last years and collapse of the system. Williams played first-class cricket in the 1950s into the 60s. He was the son of a clergyman, and therefore indisputably on the gentleman side of the line, but he was neither conservative nor a Conservative, ending up in the House of Lords in the opposition. (For added weirdness, he also was the step-father of the current Archbishop of Canterbury.) It is a fascinating read, which I recommend to anyone interested in the subject.

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Fair enough. But the supports where pretty shaky by that time. The system came to fruition in an era when there was a startlingly large leisure class. This didn’t really survive two world wars. The class continued on, but they had to get jobs. Being the right sort of people, these were posh jobs in banks and trading houses, but jobs nonetheless, meaning they didn’t have as much time to spare for cricket. Unless the club could find some way to pay them while pretending they weren’t. Shamateurism wasn’t new, but in the post-war era it became prevalent. The pretense eventually was unsustainable.

              1. Excel-sior*

                The important thing is that even on a blog about (mostly) American working issues we can somehow still find people to talk to about cricket!

        2. DisgruntledPelican*

          This feels so very upstairs/downstairs where all the housemaids go by first names, but the ladies maids go by Mrs. Last Name (even if they’re not married) unless you’re accompanying your lady to someone else’s house in which case you go by your lady’s name and not your own at all.

          1. Jessica*

            Mrs. Surname (married or not) sounds more like the cook. lady’s maid would just be called Surname.

            1. 1LFTW*

              Yes. The governess usually would have been Miss Surname, because she would have been from a genteel enough family to have been educated. Even if though she had to work for a living (unlike a ladies’ maid) she was usually afforded the honor of an honorific.

      2. Texas Teacher*

        Yes it does seem to vary a lot. When I first went into teaching, we of course called each other Mr./Ms. Lastname in front of the children, but in the teacher’s lounge it was first names.
        The school I’m currently in, it’s last names all the time. I even asked one of the teachers explicitly, and they replied, “It’s pretty formal here,” so I haven’t ever tried a first name, even with my team members.

        1. Katie from Scotland*

          I once had a local govt job where I had to occasionally interact with someone who USED to be my high school teacher, but was now working in policy. The urge to call him Mr. Lastname was so strong! Fortunately I saw him in the corridors more than in meetings, so a nameless Hey How Are You worked most of the time as well!

          1. There You Are*

            When I went back to college, I naturally referred to the professors the same way I did my colleagues and management at work: by first name.

            The adjuncts were fine with it but some of the tenured ones became apoplectic, which is strange to me since I got a business degree.

            Oh! And newly-minted PhDs also demanded to be called Professor Lastname.

            1. Nina*

              I’ve found most new PhDs go through a phase where being called ‘Dr. Lastname’ is very very important to them because it symbolizes what they’ve been working towards for so long, but for most of them it wears off pretty fast.

            2. Laura Petrie*

              In the UK it’s normal to call university lecturers by their first name whatever their level of seniority. Professor is also a specific title for someone senior and very experienced.

              1. TechWorker*

                Lol not where I studied! It was Dr X, or Professor X for anyone lecturing. Post docs running classes tended to use first names but definitely not lecturers.

              2. allathian*

                In Finland, it’s totally normal for students to call their teachers by their first names, from daycare onwards. Both I and my son had teachers who asked their students to use their nickname. It goes without saying that the form of address is the informal one as well.

                That said, I never had any trouble adjusting to a more formal system when we lived in the UK, where I called my teachers Mrs./Miss/Mr. Lastname or Miss/Sir just like everybody else.

                That said, discipline in class was always much better in Finland than in the UK, so the form of address doesn’t say anything about the authority the teacher has over the kids. The teachers I had in the UK always had to call in sick if they had laryngitis, because they couldn’t keep order in class without shouting like a sergeant on parade. My teachers in Finland rarely had to raise their voices above a normal indoor voice.

                With that tradition, it would be odd to say the least for me to call anyone by anything other than their first name using informal address in the workplace. In practice, formal address is pretty much the exclusive domain of politicians in public and the armed forces.

                1. Lalouve*

                  Same thing in Sweden – my students and colleagues call me by my first name – except the guy who called me ’guv.’

            3. Grumpy Biologist*

              Academia (context: I’m in the US) can be super weird to navigate and is subject to so many individual whims (and egos). Most faculty I know ask that undergrads in their courses call them Dr. LastName, but anyone else (sometimes including undergrads working in their labs) call them FirstName.

              I go by my first name in a research setting, though, hilariously, especially medical students sometimes take multiple explicit requests to stop calling me Dr. LastName. I used to hope that signing emails as “FirstName” would be sufficient, but medical students don’t take the hint – not sure if MDs take their titles more seriously than PhDs, but calling anyone Dr. LastName in the casual/friendly research environments I’ve worked in feels too stodgy.

              That said, I do use my title when giving talks (i.e. writing “FirstName LastName, PhD” on my title slide) because especially as a woman in a computational field, it helps (some) people take me a bit more seriously. And even then, the mansplaining is never-ending, but that’s a separate discussion.

              1. umami*

                I actually just had this conversation early today with someone. I ran into a manager whom I interact with regularly via email but rarely in person. She said ‘Hello, FirstName’ and I responded in kind, and then she asked me if she was pronouncing my name correctly and if I was OK with her calling me by FirstName or if I preferred going by Dr. LastName. She had heard people saying my name but saying it differently than how she has heard me say it on my voicemail message (it’s not a very common name, and there are a couple of ways it can be pronounced). So yeah, even though I would rather be called FirstName, people generally go with Dr. LastName because they know they aren’t saying it wrong!

              2. * pseudonyms are used throughout*

                I teach a diverse and international set of students. Some are comfortable calling me Buffy while some prefer the formality of Dr Summers. I tell them when I meet them that I’m fine with either. But many decide on the halfway house of Dr Buffy, which I find quite endearing.

                Cannot stand being called Miss/Mrs Summers though! I’d personally rather be called Buffy by everyone. But if you insist on going formal and using a title, use the right one. ‘Accidentally’ erasing women’s qualifications to put us in our place (while carefully titling the men) is all too common.

                1. Worldwalker*

                  *And* referring to the women by their marital status (Miss/Mrs) instead of their qualifications, too.

              3. datamuse*

                I’m in academia too and at my institution it often comes down to the department. Some of my colleagues default to formality and then I’m in the awkward situation of reminding them that Dr isn’t an appropriate title for me (I’m a faculty librarian with a master’s degree).

              4. Nightengale*

                I’m an MD who is trying to get co-workers to call me by my first name when not in front of patients. I usually sign e-mails by my initials. But the culture here towards Dr Lastname is SO STRONG.

                1. tamarack etc.*

                  Yeah, it is. My spouse and I are friends with a veterinarian, who’s also our favorite for seeing our dogs. I have hung out with her more outside her vet duties, and address her by her first name, say, Michelle (NOT REAL NAME). My spouse and I refer to her by Michelle among us. But if we bring in a dog and discuss his or her medical issues with her, my partner finds it incredibly hard not to call her Dr. Oakley. I still call her Michelle, and she calls both of us by our first names. (We both refer to her as Dr. Oakley in front of say the vet techs or reception staff at the clinic, of course.)

            4. whingedrinking*

              I did a double major in creative writing and philosophy. In philosophy, everyone was Dr. LastName, at least to undergrads; even the grad students only used first names for the more relaxed profs.
              In writing, virtually no one had a PhD and all the instructors were either FirstNameOnly or, in a couple cases, LastNameOnly. (The well-liked head of the department and an extremely unpopular instructor had the same first name, and you could often tell which one someone was talking about by their tone of voice.)
              In my own teaching career, when working with adults I would prefer to be called by my first name, but almost all my students come from cultures where the respectful form of address is Teacher. I have new ones all the time, and I figured it was easier to get over my gut-level reaction to that than to constantly correct them. A handful of them have been taught the British convention of calling female teachers “miss” (“sir” for male ones), and that’s generally fine by me as well. Tutoring, for kids or adults, is always FirstName. I’ve never worked in a K-12 classroom setting, but there I would probably go with Ms. LastName.
              The only one that I absolutely will NOT do under any circumstance is Miss FirstName. I hate it with the fire of a thousand suns. I briefly worked for a tutoring agency that insisted on it, and I do mean insisted. I got scolded once for referring to my coworker as “Laura” and not “Miss Laura” where a child could hear. I did not last long there, for a number of reasons.

            5. collateral damage*

              I am a recent PhD, and I explicitly address this on the first day of class: I tell students they are welcome to call me First Name, or Prof. Lastname, or Dr. Lastname–whatever they are most comfortable with. I just ask them NOT to call me Mrs. Lastname. (“No titles associated with my reproductive organs, please,” is my line.)

              They still often call me Mrs. Lastname.

          2. This Old House*

            I work locally as well, with several people who were parents of acquaintances growing up, and one who was a frequent substitute at my high school. When she retired I actually told her I would call her Mrs. Lastname again as it had been too stressful tripping over my own tongue every time I had to address her while we were colleagues. (She laughed.)

          3. Seriously?*

            Just started a new career and one of my colleagues in their 20s was in my 7th grade class. Took her MONTHS to call me by my first name! My Lead, who is younger than my kid, went to my school but wasn’t in my class, which is probably for the best.

          4. Data Nerd*

            My middle school vice principal took a job running a nonprofit that interacts quite a bit with my department. I ran meetings, I assigned tasks, I called everyone else by their first names, including my boss, but I Could Not call him Jack. Took me about a year to get over it.

          5. Jojo*

            When I started working professionally with one of the Dads involved with my Father’s Boy scout troop my dad would call him Mr. Lastname when speaking about him to me. And I’d answer calling the guy Firstname, because he was just a colleague.

        2. Little My*

          I’m in a weird situation where I work in education but not in a school. I’m on a first-name basis with principals, but when I go onsite, I feel awkward asking for Jane when the school secretary is saying Dr. Smith.

        3. Amanda*

          I’m in my 9th year of teaching (also in Texas). The first school I worked at, a lot of the teachers called each other by our last names (though no Ms, Mrs, Mr), even out of earshot of students. Now, at my 4th school, it seems to be more common to use first names, though some people I still call by their last name.

        4. Thunderingly*

          My daughter’s principal signs emails “Chris” and it’s so weird to me! Of course the kids still call him by his last name.

          1. Eff Walsingham*

            When I first left post-secondary school (2 years out of high school), I moved into a small apartment complex across the street from my former high school. Our principal, Mr. Smith, was well-regarded but terrifying, never standing for any nonsense.

            Vehicle fobs had just become a thing (dating myself) and some young bozo was trying to impress his friends by repeatedly setting off and disarming his car alarm remotely before classes one morning, right below our window. My roommate worked nights, so with no small pleasure I phoned the school, asked for Mr. Smith. He picked up saying, “Dave Smith” and I replied, “Good morning, Dave. I’m a resident of the (Address) buildings, and one of your students is making a nuisance of themselves with a car alarm at the north end of the building… Oh, you will? Thank you so much.”

            The noise stopped very shortly. There was no recurrence. I felt very grown up. Dave and I, we know the score. ;)

            1. NoIWontFixYourComputer*

              My former doctor is now retired. We’re friends on FB, and we were at the same synagogue for a while. I could never bring myself to call her by her first name, it was always “Dr. Stark”, not “Arya”. And I was in my 50s at the time.

        5. amcb13*

          That’s wild to me–unless it’s because it’s so hard to learn two sets of names for new people! Whenever we have new teachers I either learn their last name, if they start mid-year and they’re introduced to students first, or their first name, if they start in September and we meet as adults first. Getting the second one takes me ages!

          The part I struggle with as a teacher is how to address parents. I want to open communications respectfully, but I don’t want to seem overly formal or stuffy. I usually open my first email with Mr/MsLastname (and even that feels presumptuous because they’re just in our system with their first and last name and relationship to the student–I have no way of knowing if someone prefers a different title or honorific). If they sign their response with a first name I’ll switch over, but only in the last few years as I’ve started to catch up in age to the parents of my students’ age group.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, I appreciated straightforward instructions on how to address people in the workplace. For example, I worked in a retirement community, and I probably would have defaulted to Mr/Ms for the residents if they hadn’t told me to call them by their first names.

    2. Prospect Gone Bad*

      I’m mid-40s and one of my coworkers is in his 60s and I heard upper management say it’s silly that I am calling him “Mr. Smith” instead of “hey John.” People in their 20s go up to him and say “hey John” and I cringe inside. Am I the only one who doesn’t want to pretend we’re all at the same level and likes at least some structure in the work world?

      1. Colette*

        Why does “structure” to you mean treating people differently based on age?

        I assume you think that calling him Mr. Smith is more respectful, but you’re actually singling him out as being older, which isn’t really respectful.

        1. Gerry Keay*

          Because “structure” here actually means “hierarchy.” It means “I want to treat people differently based on social status, and I want to know immediately what my status is in relationship to their status.”

          1. Modesty Poncho*

            Which, to be fair, can be really comforting sometimes. I get it. It’s part of the reason I enjoy medieval and regency fantasy stories. But it’s not actually based on full respect in the real world

        2. Prospect Gone Bad*

          That’s only true if you consider being older a negative though. Which, if you don’t make that connection, you don’t even think like that. Not a thought that crosses my mind. This guy has amazing experience so it feels bizarre to talk to him in the same exact way I talk to interns and such that need loads of hand-holding.

          Also someone below is mentioning “social status” as if it’s a dirty word. Some people have amazing experience and it’s completely reasonable to handle them differently, speak to them differently, and give them added perks, in exchange for their experience. Isn’t that the point of, you know, getting experience?

            1. Asenath*

              Formality is a change from the typical behaviour and a change in behaviour can indicate an acknowledgement of someone’s status, that it is different from that of oneself and one’s peers. It can work the other way, too – extreme informality, rudeness, and even ignoring someone’s existence can be ways of signalling “you are not as important/reputable/otherwise less than me and my peers”.

            2. Magenta*

              Generally in the UK formality would indicate dislike rather than respect. (Unless you are in a pub and things are going wrong in which case people get overly friendly and call you “mate” or “pal” far too much).

              If someone insisted on using my title and surname at work I would constantly be wondering why they hated me!

              1. Confused Canadian*

                Your comment about the pub reminded me of the time a man in London called me “love” (which, as a Canadian teen, I thought was a positive) and then followed this by saying “move out of the way, you stupid f—ing woman”. Really gave me whiplash. Also, I wasn’t a “stupid f—ingw oman”, I was a stupid f—ing girl since I was a TEENAGER. Some people’s children!

                1. Emma*

                  Christ, that’s grim!

                  In the north of England, ‘love’ is a general friendly term for a stranger. If someone points out that I’ve dropped something, I’ll respond “Ta love”, for example. It’s also often used to soften something that could be taken as impolite, like if someone is in your way you might say “Excuse me love”, to make it clear that you’re not annoyed. So it is generally a positive thing – but clearly not in the case of this rollocking arsehole!

            3. Cthulhu's Librarian*

              It doesn’t. Working in libraries, I deal with a lot of members of the public who I despise, based on their past behavior to me and my coworkers. EVERYONE on staff always refers to them, to their faces and when they aren’t around as Mr. Blank, or Dr. Last Name, or some other formal address. We do it specifically to distance ourselves, and shut down any attempts at personal small talk. It works about 60% of the time.

              Patrons who are wonderful and nice people, that we all look forward to seeing? They get referred to as Alice, Steve, or Saul, both in conversation among ourselves, and to their faces.

          1. ok ya'll*

            I thought the point of gaining experience was to learn, not so people would treat me like I’m special.

          2. Exhausted Honking*

            You can’t tell someone’s experience based on their age or what age they appear to be. I think it’s odd that you talk about speaking to people a certain way but don’t mention if you refer to people the way they prefer. If I ask to be called FirstName and you call me Ms. LastName, that’s wildly disrespectful. If you had a manager that was younger than whatever age you’ve decided is the age where people earn those “perks” you mention, how would you handle that?

            1. Prospect gone bad*

              Didn’t say people did? I said my coworkers have excellent experience because they do. Didn’t expect this to get litigated word by word like this

              1. Annabelle Lee*

                You’ve stepped on the “social status bad” nerve and they’re conveniently ignoring the “be kind” rule

              2. TechWorker*

                I think there’s a school of thought (and probably a group of people!) where being called ‘Mr z’ or ‘Ms X’ is seen as respectful, but then also a whole group of people who *dont* want to be referred to in that way and so won’t see you doing it as a positive. They won’t necessarily complain about it directly – but I definitely wouldn’t assume their reaction is ‘oh lovely this person respects me’ rather than ‘oh this is awkward, this person is weirdly formal’. That goes doubly if everyone else in the office uses their first name.

          3. Beka Rosselin-Metadi*

            Does that mean people you work with who are higher in the work hierarchy get called Mr/Mrs/Ms but peers and below get called by their first names? It’s not a criticism-I’m just curious. I’ve worked in a small, privately owned company-it was bought by a much larger company which was in turn bought by a much larger company-but we all call each other by first names, no matter age/position/history with the company or anything like that-and that goes from the CEO on down, so I find delineations very interesting.

            1. Prospect gone bad*

              There is no delineation, that’s what I’m saying is weird! It would be like if somebody walked up to the president and said yo Joe wiz up and gave him a high five. People would and should think it’s weird. It’s weird to be around sometimes

              1. Baron*

                I come from a country where this would, indeed, be the normal greeting for the head of government/state! It’s weird to me how a lot of Americans like to pretend the president isn’t just some dude. (No disrespect to the current president; Washington and Lincoln were also just dudes, and deserving of the same respect you’d give the kid working at McDonald’s, and not an iota more.)

                I think you’re conflating the idea of respecting someone’s expertise with being deferential to them, which is fine, if that’s what works for you. I work every day with rich, powerful people. I respect their knowledge, their abilities, and everything they bring. I call them by their names, because they’re…humans, with names.

                1. Aglet*

                  I think Americans are respecting the Office of President in the way they address the current or former holder of that office more than respecting the dude that holds the office.

                2. Common Taters on the Ax*

                  I am very curious about what country this is where it would be typical for the citizenry to call the head of state by his or her first name, or at least what region it is in. I mean, typically the heads of state themselves don’t do it in public. I guess I don’t know what they call each other in private, but I have a hard time believing King Charles would call President Biden “Joe” or vice versa. Even the various prime ministers, who aren’t heads of state, seem unlikely to until they know each other well. And do you also call judges by their first name?

                3. Bluey*

                  In Australia we don’t call the Prime Minister by his first name because it’s too long. We call him by his nickname, “Albo”.

                4. RandomAntipodean*

                  *Raises hand on behalf of Australia*
                  Our Prime Ministers in recent years have been folks very widely referred to by names such as Kevin, Scotty, Albo…

                5. Elleoelle*

                  Same as commenters below, Ireland here. Our president’s full name is Michael D. Higgins, usually shortened to something like Mickeldee.
                  Our taoiseach (prime minister) is only known as Leo.

                6. Texan In Exile*

                  “typical for the citizenry to call the head of state by his or her first name”

                  It would depend on whether I’m meeting the person socially or professionally. If I were an elected official meeting him for a work event, I would call the governor “Governor Evers.” But if I were meeting him socially – which I have, I would call him Tony. And if I were meeting Joe Biden socially, I would call him Joe.

                  (Plus Tony Evers is one of the least pretentious people you will ever meet.)

                7. Emma*

                  I’m trying and failing to imagine meeting any of my country’s current government and referring to them as anything but “you malicious scumsucker”.

                  However, I’ve met various MPs, mayors etc and have always had them introduced as, and referred to them by, their first name. “Hi Maria, it’s nice to meet you” etc.

                8. LadyVet*

                  I kind of have a hunch that Joe Biden misses being called “Joe” by everyone on first reference.

              2. MigraineMonth*

                I was raised Quaker, which has equality as one of its principles. Early Quakers got into a great deal of trouble for refusing to use titles of respect or the English formal tense (instead speaking to everyone with thee/thou/thy). The respectful way to address one of the meeting Elders is by their first name.

              3. Worldwalker*

                I’m assuming from this discussion that you’re British. (though I may have been primed to think about that by all the talk of cricket I’ve just been reading) A country with a hereditary aristocracy would naturally think in terms of social stratification. One that aspires to be egalitarian would, on the other hand, tends to treat all people equally, neither better nor worse based on their social status.

                The US military is an interesting example. It has an absolute and rigid hierarchy. But a four-star general is *obligated* to return the salute of a buck private, and the general would address him as “Private Smith” just like that private would address the general as “General Jones.”

                1. UKDancer*

                  I’d definitely find some aspects of the US more hierarchical. I used to work for a chap with a knighthood who was CEO of the company. Let’s call him Sir James Bloggs. Everyone in the company called him Jimmy or JB. He was a fairly down to earth chap with a knighthood for giving money to the Tories. We met our US counterpart company once and the staff there all called their CEO “sir” and were way more deferential than we’d ever think of being.

                  Also I’ve met some hereditary peers (which is surprising given how few of them actually exist) and none of them use their titles socially or professionally. Sometimes they use their surname which is very English public school, but mostly not. My parents have a friend with a baronetcy and he’s just Ned. Most of his social circle don’t even know about the title and his colleagues (he’s a computer programmer) certainly dont.

                2. heretoday*

                  Not really. Someone superior in rank is free to use the last name without the title.
                  General Smith said, “Jones and Dawson! Get out there and see what the holdup is”
                  “Sulu, full speed ahead”

                3. Database Developer Dude*

                  (US Military – Army) While someone superior in rank is free to address subordinates by just the last name without the title, it’s still considered rude when done in a social setting or a normal work setting, and not disciplinary.

                  It also depends on the relative ranks. A four star general is not going to call his deputy by lastname only, but a Sergeant might do that with his direct subordinates. Chief Warrant Officers normally get called Chief Lastname or Mr. LastName, but we mostly use first names among ourselves when there’s no other ranks around.

                4. LadyVet*

                  In the Army we didn’t address officers with their rank and name, we used either “Sir” or “Ma’am.”

                  Technically warrant officers were supposed to be addressed Mr./Ms. Last Name, but usually were all called “Chief.”

                  The enlisted ranks address each other by rank and name.

                5. Teapot Wrangler*

                  I don’t know – I’m English and I would find it immensely weird to call people with whom I work anything other than by their first name. Even people who are definitely multiple steps up the hierarchy are still Jo and Andrew not Miss Bettany and Mr Woods….

          4. Lydia*

            Gaining experience isn’t to gain perks and it certainly shouldn’t confer more social status. Really, the most important part of this is it doesn’t matter what you think you should call them, it’s what do they prefer to be called?

      2. Fluffy Fish*

        Someone’s age has no bearing on what I call them in the workplace. Calling someone their name is in no way disrespectful.

        Id actually go so far as to say you not referring to him as John if that’s is his preference is disrespectful.

        Names have nothing to do with structure either. Calling my boss by his name does not suddenly make us equals. There’s zero confusion who is at what level.

        1. Becky*

          I’d say actually that calling a boss by their first name reminds us that we ARE equals (as people) despite the corporate hierarchy.

          1. Prospect gone bad*

            It’s probably a whole separate conversation but I’m learning the more time I spend online that people are a little too focused on everybody being equal in every situation. I’m not sure where that need comes from. I don’t know why it’s a problem that some people have higher level jobs or some people like judges are in more formal positions and you say “yes judge” and not “yo dude my man”

            1. Modesty Poncho*

              That’s not what Becky was saying. The judge might be in a higher position of authority but that doesn’t make them a more worthy human being. Historically, it’s easy for this kind of formality to lead to people forgetting that. Evening the playing field with first names can help the CEO remember that just because they have more of the money they aren’t a better person than the receptionist, and also help the receptionist remember that they aren’t a worse person than the CEO.

              1. umami*

                It’s not unusual in some fields for honorifics to be used, not as a sign of worth but as a sign of courtesy or respect. And depending on where and how you grew up, using honorifics can be so ingrained that it feels disrespectful to not use them. I think this is one of those issues where no one is right or wrong, it’s more of a YMMV.

            2. Parakeet*

              But “judge” is a specific role, and when you’re in court you’re acknowledging that that’s the role that person is playing in that context. “Mr” is not.

              There’s also an awful lot of ground between using title + surname and the “yo dude my man” level of informality, that you keep eliding. It’s normal in the US, in most fields, for coworkers to refer to each other by first names (and it’s not a political statement about equality regardless of situation). However, it would not be normal, in most fields, for coworkers at the same level of an organizational hierarchy to greet each other as “yo dude my man” unless they were friends outside of work. Or for a supervisor to greet a report that way, even though the report is below the supervisor in the org hierarchy!

            3. Worldwalker*

              You say “yes judge” in court, but if you’re playing poker with him after hours, you might well say “yo dude my man.”

              Because a judge *is* just a person, no more, no less. The “judge” part is the authority of their job, and if and when they are no longer a judge, they leave it with the job for their successor.

            4. Michelle*

              I think part of the issue here may also be that older workers tend to be discriminated against. (That’s why laws seeking to protect them against discrimination exist in the US.)

              By addressing this one coworker differently than your other coworkers, you are “othering” him – underscoring his status as a member of a group that is commonly discriminated against.

              Presumably you wouldn’t call your male coworkers by their first names and “other” your female coworkers by calling them Ms./Mrs./Ms. Lastname out of “respect,” right?

              Of course, the simple, one size-fits-all answer is to ask the person if you’re unsure how they prefer to be addressed.

        2. Chirpy*

          I had an office manager who made her kids call me “Miss Firstname” and would call me that in their presence. This might be more common in the state she grew up in (although, southern California? Not as far as I know?) but around here, it’s deeply odd. (I grew up calling adults Mr/Mrs/Ms Lastname or by just their first names if they were family/friends). It weirdly made me feel less respected (like I was a weird in between level of not fully a respected adult, but also something more formal than a friend? Like a babysitter. Not least because she would also dump them in my office area to watch TV during the day, but I also got a lot of age/childless discrimination in that office, particularly led by her.)

          1. Qwerty*

            It’s also a daycare thing, I’ve noticed some friends doing this despite it not being how we grew up. A lot of daycares have the kids call the adults Mr/Miss FirstName, so in the kids mind the convention is
            – FirstName = My friend (usually a kid)
            – Mrs/Mr LastName = Parent of my friend whose first name is not relevant
            – Miss/Mr FirstName = Adult who I should listen to

            Personally I’m curious what the kids will start calling me once they reach elementary school and the teachers start going by last names instead of firstnames. But my understanding is that it still indicates fully respected adult.

            1. TomatoSoup*

              I never felt fully comfortable with it at daycares, but it was how teachers introduced themselves so I went with it. Part of that is coming from a school culture that is very formal about addressing teachers and also my dislike of the Miss/Mrs split.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            Being called Miss Firstname creeps me out, since I strongly associate it with slavery on plantations.

            Call me Firstname, call me Ms. Lastname, or call me FirstName LastName.

            1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

              Yeah, I hate being called “Miss FirstName”!

              1. I’m married (Mrs or Ms, not “Miss”)
              2. I’m 61 (“Miss” is for women under 30, tops.)
              3. I’m a feminist (Ms, if female, Mx if non-binary)
              4. I’m non-binary with a female wallet name (Mx, and use my initials or my last name.)

              So if someone, usually a stranger, calls me “Miss FirstName” they are deliberately negating four things about who I am. If they start a conversation like this, they shouldn’t wonder why I’m hostile.

              I am usually too busy seething while they carry on their spiel to correct them.

              1. Eff Walsingham*

                I have a friend who teaches in a school system where all pupils are expected to address all teachers as “Miss” and I think it’s bizarre. Not the least because it’s a religious school, and my friend has 2 kids (never married to either dad, not that it’s anyone’s business. But… they’re not *secret* children!)

                It’s like they’re trying to create a fantasy land where all teachers are beings with no outside life / life experience. Especially the women?

                1. Worldwalker*

                  Formerly, if female teachers married, they were summarily fired. And women were always designated by their marital status. So teachers *were* always Miss someone-or-other.

          3. Common Taters on the Ax*

            This used to be the norm in the American South for an adult you knew fairly well but with whom you weren’t intimate. For example, my grandmother called an adult friend of my parents Miss Firstname. It is still somewhat common for small children to be taught to use it with adults who aren’t their teachers. My friend had her kids call Miss Firstname. I’m surprised to find it in southern California, but it’s possible her parents were from the South and taught her that.

            1. Allison Wonderland*

              Yeah, this is how I grew up in the south. Teachers at school were Mrs/Mr/Ms LastName, and the parents of my friends, or my parents’ friends, or other adults, were Ms/Mr FirstName. How do kids address adults in other places? Calling an adult by just their first name would have felt very strange as a child, but calling a family friend by their last name would feel too formal. Of course, it becomes a bit strange as you get older and are still calling your friends’ parents Mr/Ms, but it’s also just habit.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                Speaking as a parent of school-age children, I’m addressed by other people’s children either by my first name or (by very small children) as “George’s Mom”, where George is my child, obviously.

                The sole exception is that the second I step on to the school campus I am Mrs von Klinkerhoffen, because all adults (except the school cook, and I don’t know why she’s an exception) are known by Title Lastname.

                1. zaracat*

                  yeah, despite my daughter’s school friends all knowing my name, the kids always just called parents “X’s mum/dad”. It’s become an ongoing (shared) joke for them to do that even as young adults.

              2. MigraineMonth*

                I grew up in New England, and I would address teachers and friends’ parents as Mr/Mrs Lastname. My parents’ friends/close friends of the family were Firstname.

                Many kids would also refer to close friend of the family as Aunt/Uncle Firstname, even if they weren’t related.

              3. Teapot Wrangler*

                For me (UK, mid-30s), it was Mr Surname on first introduction at which point the adult said “Call me Firstname”. Definitely sometimes felt too informal, we all used a lot of “X’s Mum”, “Can you ask your Dad” but Miss Firstname would never have been an option – if we had to put something on, it’d be Aunty or Uncle Firstname. That was definitely much more common a generation older than us (and in black and Asian households) than amongst my friends or now my friends’ kids.

          4. Jojo*

            I first encountered this in New England when I was in college. It was weird the first time someone called me Ms. Jojo. Now, my boss does it, but it’s not that weird anymore. In both cases, it was only done with women, never men…which…hmmm. But it doesn’t bother me.

          5. daen*

            Friends of mine had their children calling adults by Mr./Miss/Mrs./Ms Lastname. Even made a point of saying to me (and probably others) “This is how we’re choosing to do this; I hope you can respect that.” Which I could. (Although it amused me greatly that their youngest almost never referred to me by name; it was always “Mom, your friend is here!”)

            Then their oldest came to intern at my company. We are strictly all-first-names-all-the-time. So I just let them know that, no matter how they referred to us outside work, using last names at our workplace would come across as odd.

            I actually have no recollection of them calling me by my first name except in the occasional email, years after. They may have completely avoided the firstnaming for the entire length of their internship(s), now that I think of it…

            1. Lydia*

              The thing is, they weren’t respecting how some of those adults preferred to be addressed. It feels like asking you to respect their decision to disrespect your preference (assuming you prefer not being called Ms/Mr Lastname).

          6. Not a Morning Person*

            I think it is a pretty common experience in the south for adults to be called Miss/Ms and Mr “first name”. I did that as a child for most, maybe all, of my parent’s friends and the parents of my friends. We even continued that into our early adulthood but gradually dropped it. It’s still something I come across, but not as frequently.,

          7. Magenta*

            I’m in the UK and at different times I have had two recent grads from Cyprus work for me. It was both of their first jobs and they both called me “Ms firstname”, with both of them I explained that I knew that they were being respectful, but that it was really not appropriate at work in the UK.

        3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I’m British but my first job was in Germany. Everybody used first names all the time, BUT used the polite version of “you” to bosses and the informal “you” to each other.

          This was a while ago so I wonder if it’s changed by now.

          1. Wonderer*

            When I worked in Germany, people only used first names when they spoke in English. When they switched to German, they all started using formal titles and last names!

        4. Confused Canadian*

          Right? I call my boss my her first name all the time. Doesn’t mean she’s magically no longer my boss because I don’t call her “Ms. Boss, PhD” or something.

      3. Firm Believer*

        If someone called me Ms. XXX I would look at them like they were crazy. It’s not grade school.

        1. Bubba Bo Bob Brain*

          This. …and in the other direction, I hate it when people try to be overly familiar by arbitrarily nickname me with a shortened form of my name. “Hi, I’m Robert.” “Great to meet you Bob!”

          No, it’s Robert, that’s why I said Robert.

          The most respectful thing you can do is simply address people how they’d like to be addressed.

          1. Chirpy*

            Yeah, I have a fairly short, unusual name that does not have a diminutive form, and it just feels so disrespectful when I introduce myself as “Chirpy” and someone replies “can I call you Chir?” No, no you may not, that’s both not my name and also not even a name at all, just call me by what I told you, please.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I’ve had it go the opposite way. I’ll introduce myself as “Bob”, and some people try to call me “Robert”. Except my legal name really is “Bob”.

            1. Worldwalker*

              I used to work with someone named Dolly who, during a discussion of names once (sometimes it got very boring around there!) recounted that she had gotten in trouble in school when she was quite young because she refused to answer to Dorothy, saying that wasn’t her name. Which it wasn’t; her name was in fact Dolly.

            2. Merrie*

              My old boss went by either “Ricky” or “Rick”, and we were all very confused when someone called asking for “Richard”. Not his name. He was legally Ricky.

          3. Fluffy Fish*

            Im a Rebekah and theres always people who want to call me Becky which has NEVER been a name I use and I actively hate (for myself, I obviously do not hate that other people go by Becky)

          4. Lydia*

            Exactly. I worked with a guy who was introduced to me as Matt, but introduced himself as Matthew, so I made sure to clarify which he preferred and call him by that. It’s not very difficult. And sometimes I would slip up because the diminutive is more common (and is also what my brother goes by), but I would correct myself and move on.

          5. Texan In Exile*

            I used to shorten peoples’ names until I met my friend David in college. I called him Dave and he asked if he should call me Stupe.

            I don’t do it anymore.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          My first workplace thought that the best way to create managers was to pressure individual contributors into taking the promotion, then doing nothing to train or support the managers. (On the bright side, the managers always understood the technical details of my job. On the downside, they didn’t know how to manage and clearly just wanted to be doing my job for me.)

          My coworker John became my manager John, then went back to being my coworker John. I think it would have been odd to change what I called him for the year he was managing me.

      4. Agoraphobic Ailurophile*

        My Fortune 15 company does first names up and down the chain both directions but when I’m talking a SVP I soothe myself by calling them sir or ma’am. I’m from the Deep South and I just can’t not show respect somehow!

        1. Tanner*

          I really dislike people calling me Ma’am. I am from New England. If someone repeatedly called me this instead of my name I’d be fairly annoyed, though I would probably tell them not to call me that.

          1. TechWorker*

            I don’t think I work with many people from the Deep South – I have one colleague who does use Sir and Ma’am and I find it aggressively weird. She’s otherwise absolutely lovely and uses a tonne of other phrases I find odd though so I have learnt to just ignore it. If anyone I managed called me Ma’am though I would absolutely tell them to stop!

          2. Eff Walsingham*

            When I first worked in retail I fell into the habit of addressing customers as sir or ma’am, and one lady complained. I summoned my supervisor as requested, my supervisor heard her out, and responded, “I’m sorry you felt disrespected, but I’m not going to reprimand a member of staff for calling someone ma’am. I don’t see how she could have predicted your reaction,” and walked away.

            I tried to get away from it as it seems to be losing popularity in this region, but it’s one of the challenges of front line customer service: trying to be respectful yet friendly yet efficient at all times. Sometimes in the thick of it we use a clumsy phrase and hope it’s not the last straw for that customer on that day.

            1. Texan In Exile*

              I worked at Macy’s in Memphis and learned pretty quickly that the only thing to say to a customer who was angry about something was “Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am. Yes ma’am.” I wasn’t going to try any harder than that for just $9/hour.

        2. Army of Robots*

          When my New England company had in-person meetings that had to confer with our Southern staff by conference phone, we’d all be in first-name mode, but the Southern Dev would sometimes reply to questions with, “Yes, ma’am.” And the room would fill with a sort of … amused tolerance? “Oh, right, we’re talking to someone who Isn’t From Here.”

        3. Confused Canadian*

          Tbh, if you have a southern US twang and call people ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’ I think most North Americans wouldn’t be bothered or surprised. But then, maybe it’s just me because I think southern accents are endearing.

      5. There You Are*

        Yeah, my co-workers are in their 20’s and 30’s; I am in my mid-50’s. As co-workers, we do the same job. It would be seriously weird and othering if any of them called me “Ms Lastname”.

        Hell, my *managers* are in their 30’s. “Ms. YouAre, can you come into my office for a second?” “Sure, Christy!”

        Our consultants are almost exclusively retirement-aged folks in their late 60’s to mid-70’s who enjoy the mental stimulation of part-time gigs. I direct their work during the weeks they work for us. It would be wild to address them as “Mr” and “Ms”.

        Howsabout we leave age out of the “what to call coworkers” equation?

      6. Critical Rolls*

        I’m not sold on the idea that hierarchical honorifics lend meaningful structure to a workplace, especially not if you’re applying them laterally, to a coworker, as opposed to up or down the org chart. Additionally, an honorific isn’t the whole way you talk to someone; using or not using one really, really doesn’t mean you’re addressing the C-suite the same as the interns. Seems like the better way to show respect is to respect the person’s wishes, and go with the company culture (this has a bonus effect of not doing a performative thing that no one else is doing).

      7. Laura Petrie*

        I’m in my 30s but have managed people over twice my age. I’ve also had managers younger than me. I’d find it weird to call some colleagues by their first name and others by their surname

      8. DataSci*

        Do you call your 20-something co-workers Mr Lastname and Ms Lastname as well, or is this just a “respect your elders” thing? You don’t say anything to indicate he outranks you or that he wants to be addressed formally.

      9. Momma Bear*

        Depends on the context. I call everyone up to the CEO here irst name but at a previous job one of our directors was MRS. Smith and you needed to always, always remember the MRS.

        In this case, if John would like to just be John, call him John. The “structure” comes from things like deferring important decisions to the higher-ups, prioritizing meetings with the bosses, etc. I might call both the Intern and the Director by first name but how I treat them is very different.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          This. I respond to my coworkers differently based on our roles (e.g. deferring to my manager’s decisions on work distribution and offering the newest person on the team help), not to the hierarchy.

          This is particularly important to my job because I provide support to another department, so I’m not reporting to them and they’re not reporting to me; I’m the technical expert and they’re the workflow expert.

      10. Oryx*

        I’m early 40s and call our CEO by his first name. Everyone calls our CEO by his first name. He’s in late 60s, early 70s. So I don’t think reducing it to age is applicable across industries and experiences.

      11. RagingADHD*

        You might be one of the few who values a self-imposed hierarchical form over looking weird to upper management.

        I have worked in orgs that used honorifics for people in certain roles or above a certain level. I have no problem with it, that’s the culture of the institution. And if the prevailing culture is first names, I have no problem with that either. I have multiple ways to show respect to my coworkers or leadership.

        But if management is going to talk about me for something, I want it to be something positive about my work or prospects. Not that they think I’m silly.

    3. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I have one. Worked in the head office. Call the CEO and VPs by first name. Moved to satellite branch. The branch manager was Mr Smith.
      Ok then.
      New manager level guy came in, Hi, I’m Bob.
      Sorry. You are not.

      1. DataSci*

        “Call people what they want to be called” is pretty basic. Enforcing formality when someone asks for informality isn’t any better than the reverse.

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          So awkward for both of us. He kept signing notes and emails with his first name. I kept not doing that, because I didn’t want to hear about it. Part of my role was to teach him office dynamics.
          We were both mid 20s and we had to pretend that there was some class line because I sat in the outer office and he had his own. He felt like, we were both kids from the suburbs, grads of local colleges, rode two buses to get there, but walk into the office and he’s the prince and I’m the pauper.
          Yeah, dude. Welcome.

          1. TechWorker*

            I’m literally so confused by this comment – you’re annoyed at him because he signed off using his first name – which is totally reasonable and normal to do, even in an office where some people choose to use ‘mr lastname’. And it’s awkward because he felt you had things in common and you didn’t…? So confused…!

          2. NeutralJanet*

            “He kept signing notes and emails with his first name. I kept not doing that, because I didn’t want to hear about it.” I honestly don’t know what this means–you didn’t want to hear about his name? Was he not just…signing his name? I don’t feel like reading someone’s name is “hearing about it”, so I’m thinking there has to be something I’m missing.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        I’m confused. Did you not want to call him Bob because you thought it would be disrespecting his position to do so? Or did you think he was putting on airs for wanting to be called by his first name like the CEO and VPs?

    4. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      I wonder if that tends to be regional though. In California, I’ve been calling adults by their first names my whole life and Mr./Ms. was the exception for certain circumstances but not the norm. I’ve been working for 30 years so it’s hard to remember things that were new…but I guess I had to learn to be more formal in an office environment.

      1. UKDancer*

        In the UK here and I’ve never worked anywhere which didn’t use first names. Even when I worked for a chap with a knighthood we called him Jimmy not Sir James.

        1. Former call centre worker*

          UK here too, working in retail and the ‘calling the shop manager Mr/Mrs’ thing I think was definitely a thing in the past, and I occasionally hear it if someone is calling for the shop manager over the tannoy, so it might be hanging on a bit in some contexts. The other place I’ve encountered it was when working in education, with some teachers seeming to be expecting to be called Mr/Ms/etc by other staff in non-classroom contexts, which I as admin staff found weird and uncomfortable.

        2. londonedit*

          Yep, UK here and in nearly 20 years I’ve never encountered a workplace where anyone was addressed as Mr/Mrs/Ms rather than their first names. At school here kids call the teachers ‘Mr Smith’ and ‘Ms Jones’ (or at secondary school, more usually just ‘Sir’ and ‘Miss’), but it’s been first names for everyone in every office I’ve been in. We also don’t routinely use Sir and Ma’am like parts of the US do, unless it’s a very formal situation (and then it’d be Sir and Madam, say for instance if you’re going into a posh restaurant).

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Yeah, I think you might only have to use sir or ma’am in the UK if you’re a butler for the aristocracy, you’re meeting a member of the royal family or you work somewhere super posh like Claridge’s or Fortnum and Mason.

          2. Beka Rosselin-Metadi*

            But what about
            Don’t call me señor! I’m not a Spanish person. You must call me Mr Biggles, or Group Captain Biggles or Mary Biggles if I’m dressed as my wife, but never señor.

            Sorry, I wanted to toss in a little Monty Python.

          3. Timothy (TRiG)*

            As a child, I noticed an interesting difference between Ireland (where I lived) and England (where my parents are from, and which we visited a few times a year). Adults were simply FirstName in Ireland, but Uncle/Auntie FirstName in England.

            1. TechWorker*

              Was this ‘all adults’ rather than ‘ones that were literally your aunties and uncles’ :p?

              I do know friends who call all adults aunties and uncles but they tend to have inherited that from their other culture (Eg Caribbean) rather than it being standard in the U.K.. Could be wrong!

              1. londonedit*

                It’s a bit of a middle-class thing, I think – we called close friends of my parents ‘Aunty Jane’ and ‘Uncle Stephen’ when I was a small child (white British middle-class upbringing). It wasn’t all adults, though.

              2. Miss 404*

                Could be a regional or in-group thing as well – up until a certain age (I think around 13), I also called every adult in my religious community Uncle/Auntie. On the rare occasions where I needed to mention someone on the outside, they were always “X’s mum/dad”, which means it took forever to find out anybody’s names when I did start calling them by their first name!

              3. Magenta*

                I’m white, British, upper working/lower middle class from the East/South East of England.
                Other than for actual aunts and uncles as kids we used the title for very close friends of my parents, their best friends where the relationship was as close as a sibling relationship, all other adults were just first name.
                I was the last of my friendship group to have a child and my friends did the same thing, where I have very close friends their kids (when they were little) call me Aunty firstname and when she is talking properly my daughter will do the same to them for as long as she wants to.
                But this is about the relationship, they are very close friends, almost like sisters and the title signifies that closeness. Other adults that don’t have that close relationship with the child/parents don’t get the title.

              4. Timothy (TRiG)*

                To agree with much of what has already been surmised:

                * friends of parents or of grandparents,
                * mostly, but not exclusively, white,
                * in the south of England (Bedfordshire and Kent),
                * mostly middle class,
                * in an insular religious community (Jehovah’s Witnesses).

                The same social situation in Ireland was first name only.

        3. Forrest*

          I have once in the UK! When I was a medical secretary the doctors were Dr Lastname and the secretaries were Firstname, and it was freaking WEIRD.

      2. Becky*

        When I was a kid, I called adults by Mr/Mrs Lastname but as soon as I hit 18 I consciously made an effort to call adults by their first name.

        1. Neurodivergent in Germany*

          I grew up in a fairly conservative village (I’m in my 30s) where you addressed neighbors with the formal you.
          At around the age of 14 (confirmation in the Lutheran church), people who had known me as a toddler, started addressing me that way too. Super awkward!

          I’m a teacher and it is convention here (four schools so far) that students call us Mr/Ms Lastname and we refer to other teachers that way too, but call each other FirstName in front of the kids too.
          Weirdly, at my current school, admins and aides use last names when addressing teachers and only teachers can offer to use first names (typical convention in my area is that the older person gets to offer)

      3. MigraineMonth*

        Midwest here, always called coworkers/managers/CEOs by first names.

        I’ve noticed a bit of a gendered thing where some men call each other by their last names (no title), but since they call me by my first name I call them by their first name.

        1. Anna Badger*

          you get the men calling each other by last names thing in the UK too – I’ve always assumed it’s a hangover from school sports (or boys’ private schools, where students’ first names are used less often, I think.)

          I sometimes get included in the last name rotation, and I’ve never been sure if it’s an indicator of comfort or if they somehow think I’m one of the lads or if they just really enjoy saying my last name (which is satisfying to say)

          1. Mr. Lastname*

            Where I worked this was a practical matter. We had SIX guys named Mike in one department (actually their cubes were all adjacent to some degree as well). Calling each other Mr. Lastname was really the only way to keep confusion down.

      4. Kaisa (The Librarian)*

        I think it might be a bit generational too. I grew up in the midwest calling all adults Mr./Ms, but I’ve never felt inclined to have my kids’ friends call me anything other than my first name. I also work with teens and try very hard to get them to call me by my first name rather than Ms Librarian (this does get a tad awkward at school visits when I introduce myself as Kaisa and the teachers are all going by Ms. Lastname, but it is what it is).

    5. DaveDave123*

      Yes, in fact I often use this as a way to judge if the work and hierarchy is performative or if it the work really matters. When there’s lots of formality that’s often there to enforce a hierarchy that isn’t real. But when the formality goes down, then the work is more real and the work and responsibility highlight the actual hierarchy and and not the titles.

    6. College Career Counselor*

      Shades of “Are You Being Served?”

      “Mr. Humphries, are you free?”
      (glances about obviously)
      “Why, yes, Captain Peacock, I am at the moment!”

      1. GreenShoes*

        They actually had this exact episode… Mr Grace comes back from America and decides everything should be more relaxed:

        Mr. Rumbold: …and we must all call each other by our first names. Mr Lucas, what is your first name?

        Mr. Lucas: FORGET ABOUT IT! Just call me Mr. Lucas.

        Mr. Rumbold: We can’t have that, now, can we Mr. Lucas! Tell me your first name.

        Mr. Lucas: [after a long pause] *Dick.*

    7. GladImNotThereNow*

      I’m in a tech company, and everyone goes by their first name, but I have a mental block referring to the company founder by other than Dr. . Similarly, if I met one of my college professors from 30 years ago it still would be Prof. . Just doesn’t feel right otherwise.

      1. Amy Farrah Fowler*

        Yep! I struggled with this in college. I had one instructor who told us the first day “I’m not a doctor, so you can’t call me Dr., I am not a professor, I’m an adjunct, so just call me <>.” My freshman brain was mortified at not having an honorific. I did my best the entire semester to just never say his name at all.

        However, I’m now in my mid-30’s and have no problem calling my boss or anyone else at our company by their first name.

        1. Albert "Call Me Al" Ias*

          I had a class once that was team-taught by a husband/wife team. Their introduction on the first day was “I’m professor (lastname), this is also professor (lastname), so just call us by our first names. We also have college aged kids, so we’d probably respond to Mom and Dad also, if it slips out.”

        2. Ashley*

          lol This reminds me of a professor I had years ago. On the first day of class, she said “I have one request. I worked hard for many years to get my doctorate, so please – call me Doctor (first name), Doctor (last name), Doctor Teacher for all I care, please just use Doctor!” haha She was the best!

    8. NobodyHasTimeForThis*

      I work for a University and almost all the professors go by their first names – to staff, to students, to everyone. Only the president tends to use the honorifics.

      Except one department within the university that everyone goes by Dr. and I am so bad about doing it. I first name them all the time out of habit.

      1. UKDancer*

        When I was at university we called everyone by first nam e including the chair of the department (Mike) and all the staff except the visiting German professor who was Professor Dr Dr Schmidt. He was the outlier. The ethos was that we were sharing the journey of learning as equals.

        Not sure how common that is but we weren’t formal I mean we called the chancellor Sunny rather than Sir Shridath, everyone did. It was his preference.

        1. RecoveringGradStudent*

          When I was in grad school undergrads called professors Dr. LastName, master’s students went either way depending on professor and if the student worked in their lab, but PhD students almost universally just called professors by their first name or maybe LastName, no honorific. I say almost because there was an older professor who only allowed his students to call him by his first name until after they defended and were a Dr themselves. It was A Thing.

      2. Anyone*

        When I was in college, one of my good friends was the daughter of a professor who ended up being my advisor, and I had him for several classes. He was very firm that he was John when I was hanging out in their basement, despite every instinct I had to call him Dr. Smith there. It took a while, but I finally got it. I also managed to never call him John in class, which was way more important as far as I was concerned!

      3. ecnaseener*

        The Dr’s are the hardest to figure out lol! I’ve gotta check the directory to see if you’re a med student or a resident or whatever, ok you’re a resident so I’ll default to Dr. Lastname until you sign an email with your first name – and then uh oh I have to address an email to both you and your PI who hasn’t indicated I can use their first name, so I better go back to Dr for both of you so as not to imply I respect your PI’s degree more than yours…..

        1. Forrest*

          In the UK, surgeons switch BACK to Mr/Miss when they reach a certain point in training, and it’s an appalling solecism to call them Dr. Surgeons are wild.

          1. TechWorker*

            Haha I never knew this! I had surgery a couple of years ago and always thought it odd she signed off with ‘miss’. TIL

      4. Bookgarden*

        When I was an undergrad, at the turn of the millennia, the vast majority of my professors wanted to be called by their first names at my school. I’m not sure why this broke my brain coming out of high school, but I just couldn’t make myself call them what they preferred. Instead, I made the logical choice to bend over backwards to never call them anything at all.

        I tried as hard as I could to never use their names when speaking with them. If I had to say their name I tried to say it so fast that it came out like a mumble or a sneeze (picture Ash Williams trying to remember the unholy words to remove the Necronomicon from its pedestal).

        I don’t remember if I got over that as an undergrad, but the following year I went to grad school and had gotten over that and called professors what they asked to be called, mostly their first names.

        1. Confused Canadian*

          I had the same problem! I remember feeling SO weird about calling profs by their first name and going out of my way to ever address them by name. I probably made things way more awkward than they needed to me.

      5. Indubitable*

        On the west coast, I was a grad student in one field, and firstnamed all my professors.

        Now as a university staff member in the Midwest, I still call all the professors John (or whatever) — but in this field, the grad students I work with address their profs as Dr. Smith. Which leads to email like “Hi Sally — please ask Dr Smith (copied here) about this issue. John — fyi.”

    9. Agile Phalanges*

      I worked in the academic dean’s office of the college I went to, so we called EVERYONE by their honorific, often Dr. So-and-So. It was weird to start working in a non-academic setting and just call people by their first name. It felt “wrong” for quite a while.

    10. lb*

      Ugh, it makes me cringe when I hear employees calling their managers Mr or Ms. I really, really detest those policies.

      1. Merrie*

        I’ve worked in retail settings where we did that. I think it’s more for the customer’s benefit, in that if you say “Oh, I’m gonna call Mike” it doesn’t really inspire confidence, “I’m going to call Mr. Smith” makes it sound like he’s a person of some importance.

    11. Esprit de l'escalier*

      In English-speaking countries, all you usually need to think/worry/obsess about at work is whether to use firstname or honorific-lastname. I wonder how this is currently playing out in countries where the language itself distinguishes informal and formal address.

      My reference point is French/France, where it used to be a kind of relational rite-of-passage when the more senior person would say (in French of course) “you can use ‘tu’ with me now,” ie no need to continue with the formal ‘vous.’ I assume that even very hierarchical workplaces have loosened up quite a bit by now, but is that still a problem for junior people?

      1. MigraineMonth*

        My understanding is that European languages are moving quickly toward only using the informal forms of address (though French will of course dig in its heels).

        Which I find somewhat ironic, since English dropped its informal address (thee/thou/thy) and kept its formal one (you/you/your).

    12. Michelle Smith*

      I’m so confused by this. I have never called any managers by their Title Last Name except for in formal writing to an external client or in statements made on the record in court. They would have thought I was bonkers for doing so.

    13. PostScription*

      I encountered the opposite as a newbie wage worker in academia. My boss was a professor and told me “When it’s just us in the lab you can call me by my first name but in front of people you must call me Dr. …”
      Needless to say, I never called him by his first name.

    14. L*

      I worked at a retail store and transferred to the same store in a different city where I guess the culture was different and I was BAFFLED that in the new store, all the managers went by Mr. and Mrs. Last Name, primarily. I could never get used to it and often let first name slip (the managers referred to each other by first name, further confusing things). I think everyone thought I was the rudest person when I’d forget.

    15. MsClaw*

      Especially as someone who grew up on the american south, this was a habit I had to break as well. My jobs as a teen, we definitely called the bosses Mr./Ms, and then I worked in universities where my bosses were Dr. Whatever. Calling my boss Roger instead of Mr Smith when I was 23 was a shift.

    16. another poster*

      agree with this one. one of my first bosses was former military and EVERYONE called him Mr. LastName. It was an office job, and everyone else went by First Name. It was bizarre. I work with a lot of MDs now, and we usually call them Dr. LastName, and everyone else by first names.

  5. Dust Bunny*

    This wasn’t really an across-the-board thing, but at my current job everyone goes by first names regardless of position. My previous jobs all had a sharp distinction between bosses and support staff–you were either Dr./Mr./Ms. Lastname or you were Firstname. It felt weird at first but since I didn’t know anyone’s last name right away I had to get used to calling them by first names pretty quickly.

    1. Mallory Janis Ian*

      I’m support staff in academia, and whenever I’ve started in a new department, it’s been habitual to address the professors as Dr. Lastname; usually at that point, they say, “Oh, no — call me Firstname” and then I do, except when talking about them to or in front of a student, etc. There have been a few that have never said, “Call me Firstname”, and so they are Dr. Lastname from then on out. I noticed that nearly ALL the women faculty would say “Call me firstname” and most of the few who never did were older men. I felt awkward when in a large group of them and I would be calling them Susan, Kate, Melissa, Dr. Gentleman, and Dr. Dude, so I started calling them all Dr. Lastname in those cases.

      1. TootsNYC*

        some of that gender split is that addressing someone by an honorific is age-linked; you use “Mrs.” or “Mr.” for people older than you. And women are conditioned to loathe and fear being seen as older.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        See, I know quite a few women academics who absolutely insist on being Dr. or Professor Lastname specifically because their students often feel they can one-sidedly decide to call them Firstname, where they wouldn’t with male professors.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          And I know a couple of people whom I can call Firstname socially but would definitely call Dr. Lastname if we bumped into each other in a professional setting (I work in an academic/medical library, but these are people I’ve known socially since I was a kid).

        2. ProfessorTeapots*

          I’m a woman academic. If the world were different my personal preference would be first name, but in reality I use “Dr. Teapots”. Why? Because I have noticed over the years that if I don’t indicate my preference the students default to calling me by first name and calling my male colleague, who has literally the exact same qualifications as I do, “Dr. Colleague”. So I ask to be Dr. Teapots to make the point that yes, women can have advanced qualifications and be in positions of authority as well (I’m now the programs chair of my department).
          The ones who continue to call me by my first name tend to treat me in their e-mails like I’m someone’s admin assistant (often that same male colleague despite him being lovely and not encouraging it at all), which is frustrating (no offense to admin assistants, that’s just not my role and they’re making an assumption purely because of my gender!).
          FYI, despite all this, colleagues call me by my first name unless we’re interacting with students. That’s the norm in my country (Canada) – calling a work colleague Mr., Mrs., or Dr. definitely comes off as odd with the exception of the occasional older colleague who insists on it or colleagues from other countries who are used to different cultural norms.

          1. Pippa K*

            Similar experience here, sister academic.

            I recently co-taught with a (wonderful) male colleague who is of the “call me FirstName” school in dealing with students. He knows why I and a lot of women academics don’t do that, so he was conscientious about referring to me as “Dr. K” with students – which is very typical at our university anyway. By chance all our students in this small class were women, so one day when he was out, I took the opportunity to talk to them explicitly about why I use my title with students and he doesn’t, and how that relates to gender and professional roles and social norms. We ended up having a really good talk about gender and race and status and equity in the workplace, and what they themselves might experience as they enter professional life. It’s not often we get a chance to discuss this forthrightly with students, and I really valued the discussion we had.

            1. AustenFan*

              I do this, too! I’m female and I’ve gone by Dr. First letter of last name for a long time. I do that because of gender differences in respect towards faculty. When students graduate, I tell them they can call me by my first name, but most are too weirded out and always call me Dr. Initial letter.

              I still find it odd to call my favorite professors by their first names and I graduated from college in the late 1980s.

          2. That's Dr Buffy to you*

            At a conference I was recently introduced without the Dr, which wouldn’t have bothered me except that my PhD student was simultaneously introduced with one, which he doesn’t have.

        3. fueled by coffee*

          Yes, although (personally at least) this would be something I insisted on with students and not necessarily support staff. I *think* the difference is that I see support staff as colleagues in an office environment (hence, first names) and students as, well, students.

        4. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I know a couple of women faculty who insist on being called Dr. Lastname for that reason. When they’re in my office with the door closed and we’re laughing and chatting, it’s Firstname, but out in the hallways, etc., it’s Dr. Lastname.

      3. tamarack etc.*

        Thanks for being so thoughtful about this. As a non-tenure-track grant-funded research academic, and a woman who’s more junior than typical for my age (because of my unusual career trajectory), my preference is simple first-name, but when I’m publicly introduced as [myfirstname] while someone I’m acting in a peer situation as (panel member, next speaker, …) is [Dr X], then that is not ok without good reason. (There are occasional good reasons, like when everyone in *our* department uses first names, but we address the visiting scientist by their honorific – that’s ok!) Your solution is the right one – just upgrade everyone to Dr. X for the occasion.

        Similarly, my former PhD advisor, who I am on first name basis with, will introduce me to new people with my doctorate. I am still a little embarrassed when she does this, but we all understand why she is.

    2. Last Names Only*

      In my first job after college, the big boss was an older Brit who called everybody by their last name, regardless of gender. For the (American) men, this felt more natural, but less so for the women. I (a woman) didn’t care, and felt like it maybe indicated being one of the gang in a positive way.

      Until someone referred to me by my first name and he didn’t know it!

    3. Mr. Shark*

      I’ve never, in any job I’ve had, called people by their last names. It’s always first names, no matter whether it was the intern to the CEO/President.
      Part of that to me is that there is no *age* that determines how far someone is up the ladder. Now that I’m a little older, there are plenty of people younger than I am who are senior to me in position. Some people I knew when they were junior to me and we actually hung out outside of work and were friends, but because of career paths, they are now higher up in the food chain.
      It would be absolutely strange for me to now call them Mr./Ms. XXX. And there’s always the issue with the women who are at those level, do you say Ms./Mrs./Miss? It’s just easier and more reasonable to just use someone’s first name in a business situation.

    4. Wannessa*

      This can be so fraught. I work in healthcare, and it’s customary to refer to our physicians as Dr. Name, both as a sign of respect and as a nod to the fact that our org doesn’t directly employ the physicians (we legally can’t in our state). But, folks in my position are often members of workgroups chaired and run by our physicians, who generally refer to each other by their first names during casual chit-chat. But the physicians refer to each other as Dr. Name when they’re calling official votes in those workgroups. It’s such a weird, convoluted dance to be respectful but not inappropriately formal, and it so easily leads to Drama!! when, e.g., a physician refers to the physician chairperson by their first name when it should be their title.

      I try to just avoid calling people by name. Thank you, remote work.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        Haha I was temping in a department before I was hired to a permanent position, and the engineering professors all got into a very heated argument, right in front of the departmental reception desk, about whether my fellow staff member and I were allowed to call them by their first names or not. Several of the professors had told us to call them by their first names within the office suite, and several others had a Problem with being so addressed by staff. After witnessing an argument so heated we feared it was about to come to blows, my colleague and I immediately started referring to everyone as Dr. regardless of which side of the argument they had been on — it had become too fraught to do otherwise, and we were like, it’s more trouble than it’s worth to get it wrong with somebody.

        1. Mallory Janis Ian*

          Edited to add: The professors who had a problem with it didn’t have a problem only with the way they, themselves were addressed; their problem was with ANY of the other professors allowing themselves to be so addressed.

  6. Kate*

    When I was first starting out, I found work-appropriate chit chat about your weekend surprisingly difficult. I was 22 and single; everyone else at my workplace was married and would chat about spouse, kids or the lawn. It felt oversharey to say “I’m going on a date this weekend” (because the natural followup would be for them to ask about it and now here I am evaluating a potential romantic partner.) Cooking and food were a good landing place.

    1. The Original K.*

      Ha, I’m over 22 and single and childless and still stick to neutral topics when asked about my weekend, usually my hobbies (one of which is cooking). If I went on a date to a place I liked, I’ll reference the place – “I tried a great restaurant, The ABC Cafe, have you been?”

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Yeah, I don’t think of myself as my cats’ “mom”, but I don’t have anything but cat stories to contribute when a coworker is talking about the funny/gross thing their child did.

        2. Opheliasprozac*

          At my first job out of college, the dog I had for basically my entire life had recently passed away. I talked all the time about walks I went on with Oliver, things he did, etc. Finally my boss asked me if I was hanging out with Oliver this weekend, and he looked horrified when I told him no, because he was dead. It was then that I realized he thought Oliver was my boyfriend…

          1. Moonlight Elantra*

            Reminds me of the episode of Brooklyn Nine-Nine where they can’t tell, based on him talking about his weekend with Kelly, if Scully’s talking about his dog or his wife.

          2. Seashell*

            I hope you didn’t talk about Oliver licking your face.

            A former college friend of mine posted on Facebook about Riley chewing cords under the desk. I wasn’t sure if Riley was a pet or a small child.

      1. Chirpy*

        Also still single and childless and past 20s, and I never know what to say as a “neutral” weekend answer, as my hobbies tend to be VERY geeky and my manager is definitely a jock (who generally answers “that’s neat” but clearly has no idea why anyone would do what I do)

    2. lifebeforecorona*

      I cringe now on how much I overshared at my first few jobs. No one needed to know everything that I did all the time.

      1. HMS Cupcake*

        OMG me too! In fact I cringe at a lot of things I said and did throughout college and my first job. Too much know-it-all oversharing and too little self-awareness.

      2. Sloanicota*

        I also just lacked perspective on how certain things would land to older, perhaps more conservative colleagues who were further from the college scene. I must have seemed like quite a bimbo and a partier back in those days *dies of embarrassment.*

        1. Eff Walsingham*

          I left a job in part due to persistent oversharing on the part of coworkers. The two worst offenders were a VP and the CFO, both about ten years younger than me. I’d be hip deep in troubleshooting an office machine, and one of them would be telling me details about his pregnant wife’s cervix that I can now never un-hear! Both were in the years of new fatherhood, and I think stress might have blurring some boundaries for them. But I felt it was really, really inappropriate… and I thought that their wives would, as well!

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        Oh yes.

        I’m lucky in that I tend to be quiet around new people, so I was able to rein it in relatively quickly, but the conversations I practiced in my head were VERY different than the conversations I actually ended up having at work.

        1. Chilipepper Attitude*

          When my now closest friend but new coworker (29 years my junior) asked me if her clothing choices were professional, I said something like, typically people show some skin of the leg (short skirt) OR skin at the top (low cut, spaghetti straps) but not usually both.

          She replied, well they do on Sex and the City!

          We laugh about that now

      4. cam*

        same, I was single and meeting people off the internet, and there were far too many bedroom details. I cringe thinking about it

    3. just another queer reader*

      I had a hard time with this too (and still do in many ways), although it was extra hard when I was not out at work since most of my weekend involved doing gay things.

      Agreed that food, “just relaxing,” housework, etc can be bland enough to deflect attention.

      1. MM*

        I usually ask, “did you do anything fun this weekend?” rather than “what did you do this weekend?” It give the other person an out if they don’t want to talk about their weekend and keeps things very general while starting conversation.

        1. TootsNYC*

          I like “How was your weekend?” because they can just give an adjective and move on, but if they have something they kind of want to talk about, they have an opening.

        2. DataSci*

          Ugh, I HATE the “anything fun” phrasing! It makes me feel old and boring if the answer is “no, I cleaned the house and took my kid to his soccer game”.

          1. Adultier Adult*

            YES! lol.. I feel like a loser (when in actuality, I quite enjoyed the boring, contentedness of my non-working wife/mom/person weekend.)

            1. Chirpy*

              Yeah, it feels awkward to say “I sat around and did nothing” even when you specifically decided to sit around and do nothing and loved it.

              1. Army of Robots*

                I’ve actually long since decided to own it. “No, I just sat around and read or gamed, it was *great*!”

                1. MigraineMonth*

                  Reading and gaming *is* fun. It doesn’t have to be a vacation to Cancun to qualify, in my view.

          2. Forrest*

            Hm, this may be age-group/workplace dependent but I think, “No, but I ticked a few jobs off my list, which was satisfying!” is a perfectly normal answer!

          3. MarfisaTheLibrarian*

            See when people ask if I did anything fun, I usually go “I did laundry, it was great!” and they laugh and we both move on

          4. Kayem*

            Most of the stuff I do on the weekend is fun for me, but not necessarily someone else. Digging a hole doesn’t seem exciting to most people, but they just don’t know how fun it is for me to discover a thrust fault in the back yard.

          5. Mr. Shark*

            I use the “anything fun” as well, and I don’t have a problem answering if I didn’t do anything fun, whether it’s just did chores or just relaxed. The point is more about avoiding anything unpleasant, really.

        3. Mill Miker*

          I once tried to strike up a conversation this way with a coworker while we waited for someone with keys to let us in. He replied with just “Yup.”

          Not even, “Yup, you?”

          Just a “Yup”, and back to staring at the locked door.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            Now I’m dying to know what definitely-so-fun-he-had-to-say-yup-but-definitely-not-work-appropriate thing he did that weekend.

            1. Mill Miker*

              I did get a chance to see his Facebook photo feed at one point (we had just graduated from the same program, so we had some social connections), and based on that: Partying so hard at the clubs that he probably had actually told me everything he could remember.

          2. Vio*

            I often am that coworker (although I’m also the one with the keys so that couldn’t happen quite the same). These days I can usually answer any questions but don’t always have the confidence to give a full answer and follow up questions. With some people it’s rudeness but sometimes it’s anxiety

    4. Critical Rolls*

      It’s really easy to overthink this in any new environment! It’s good to know you can be as vague as you want as long as you’re warm and don’t seem actively evasive. “Just enjoying my downtime, nothing special” is a totally fine answer to “what did you get up to this weekend?” Just mix in the occasional specific — a new restaurant or recipe, a movie you saw, an activity — and you will be just fine.

      As a note: parents talk about their kids a lot in part because that’s what takes up their time. It shouldn’t be construed as disinterest in other topics, it’s just where they live.

      1. Be Gneiss*

        Parents talking about their kids is also a way to address the weekend question in a way that says “I’m a warm and relatable human who does things outside work” without oversharing or getting into personal subjects.

        1. Chirpy*

          But for those who don’t have kids, we risk being seen as not warm/relatable because we can’t say the same. “I hung out with friends” hits differently as an adult, and it often is seen as an opening for parents to ask what you did (and potentially either judge you for it or complain they wish they had the time to do stuff)

          1. Kayem*

            I got lucky and moved closer to my brother and his family, so now I can deflect it by talking about my niece and nephew. That seems to work better than talking about the cats.

          2. Critical Rolls*

            If people don’t see you as warm/relatable because you don’t have the exact same life circumstances as them, and are look for excuses to judge you, the problem isn’t that they’re parents, the problem is they suck. They sucked when they were single, and when they were partnered before they had kids. Please don’t attribute their suckage to parenthood.

    5. CheeryO*

      This is mine too. When I was new at my current job in my mid-20s, I always either clammed up or slightly overshared in social situations because I really couldn’t figure out how to share the right amount of information in a professional way. I now realize that our office culture is a little more stuffy than I would prefer and that it’s nothing personal, but at the time, I was just desperate to make connections and felt like a square peg in a round hole, which wasn’t fun.

    6. Heehee haha hoho hichic*

      I still get this. I’m 33, but I’m single and don’t plan on having kids and me and my co-workers, even ones who are the same age, lead very different lifestyles! I agree with you about food/cooking/restaurants. Movies and sometimes concerts/live music can bridge the lifestyle gap too (depending on the artist!)

    7. Caroline*

      Argh the small talk! I genuinely didn’t understand why people I barely knew wanted to know what I did at the weekend/if I had any plans for the weekend. It took me about a decade to realise people weren’t really interested; it’s a form of relationship building. I cringe now when I remember how I used to answer flatly “No” to both questions!

    8. The Coolest Clown Around*

      I had a SUPER hard time with this starting out. I started at 22 and my next youngest coworker was 35, with most being upper 40s to early 50s. I distinctly remember talking about the weekend with one coworker who’s daughter had just achieved tenure at a prestigious university, and when she asked about my weekend all I could say was “uhh… I bought a new video game?” There are still lots of one-sided talks about home renovations, but now I feel able to talk to people about my own hobbies more.

    9. Kayem*

      All my coworkers are remote, which is a great way to avoid such chitchat, which I really am bad at. I still haven’t mastered the art of just enough information without seeming too distant. So far, all they know is I garden (for food) but they know more about it than I probably should have passed on.

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        My coworkers are all remote now, and we regularly ask each other “How was your weekend?” We can get anything back from “Nice and dull.” to “My snowblower broke and I had to shovel by hand. Now my back is killing me.” to “My inlaws were in town”. (Yes, in our business “nice and dull” weekends are good, because nothing had to be urgently dealt with at work or at home, which is relaxing.)

    10. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

      I’m childfree, and was single until I was in my 50s. I also didn’t do the dating thing or the sports thing. So I couldn’t talk about my nonexistent nuclear family, my nonexistent dating life or my nonexistent sports mania. I eventually had pets and roomies, and rented a house with a lawn, so gardening, food and weather were suitable subjects.

    11. ursula*

      Mine is an extension of this: I didn’t realize that (depending on your particular workplace culture, etc etc) the majority of people weren’t really interested in making friends and weren’t evaluating you on the same “who is chill and fun to be around” criteria that your classmates in college might have used. It’s fundamentally different than meeting new people in the context of university or summer jobs or whatever. I’m going to stop writing this comment now because the horrible memories of mistakes I made in my first years are………… shudder

    12. Jonquil*

      Haha, when I was younger I used to think “all anyone does is talk about their renovations/home DIY projects” but now I’m old and have a mortgage, I totally get it. Firstly, home maintenance is a big part of your life now. Second, it’s a nice neutral topic and it provides more avenues of discussion than the weather but less controversy than parenting.

  7. ilyasaurus*

    Honorifics! I used ma’am/sir in my first few jobs. Said ma’ams and sirs were definitely weirded out. Now I only use them jokingly.

    1. Too old*

      My bosses are younger than me but if they tell me something to do I still say yes sir or yes ma’am

    2. Peach*

      Same! I was raised/went to college in the south. Then I started a job up north. My first day I said “yes sir” to my supervisor all day in training and he eventually asked if I was former military. Once I explained the cultural difference he was like “lol yeah don’t call me sir”

      1. belle*

        I got asked that too. “No sir, my parents just taught me manners.” (No of course I didn’t say that)

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          Same! It is so weird to me that people think sir/ma’am are rude or insulting. It was non-negotiable when I as a kid, especially with the older generations. (I also grew up in an area with a substantial military population, so I got Southern upbringing AND military. One of my friends used to jokingly say to his dad, “Yes, sir, Colonel, sir!”) Fortunately, I only got as far as DC where it’s less unusual than up north.

      2. Chilipepper Attitude*

        I remember the first time someone ma’am’ed me. Where I grew up, they were basically calling me old but politely.

        I grew up in new england and sir and ma’am don’t sound polite to me at all. They sound military and hierarchical and vaguely controlling (like the person saying that was in a controlling situation)

        1. tamarack etc.*

          ROTFL, this reminds me of the first time someone ma’am’d me. I was still a student in Germany, early 20s. I had saved money for a laptop. At the time, laptops in the US cost about half what they cost in Germany, and there were US companies advertising in German computer magazines. I had a VISA card, am American friend who would travel to my town soon, and a discount card for international phone calls, so the plan was to call the US computer retailer, pay over the phone, have the laptop shipped to my friend and brought to me that way. That’s what I / we did, no hitch. BUT – the company was in Alabama, and it was THE WEIRDEST THING to be ma’am’d by the call center / phone sales person.

          1. Eff Walsingham*

            Ontario, Canada. The first time I was “ma’am’ed” I was 12. I was in the public library, and a little boy who couldn’t find the clock asked me what time it was. I thought he was very sweet. That’s why I was confused as an adult in another province, when I encountered someone who said it made them feel old. It seems to be a progressive attitude shift, but still a regional thing as well. I’ll have to pay close attention to expected forms of address once we move again, especially if I’m working with the public.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Also grew up in New England, I was super weirded out when my martial arts teacher told me to call him “sir”. My only association with “sir” was to refer to a military commanding officer, which was more martial than I was looking for.

    3. AGD*

      Ugh, me too. I grew up outside the U.S. and didn’t want to aim too low. Fortunately, my supervisors probably thought it was adorable.

    4. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Another thing that should go by the wayside, not just because f it’s formality, but because it assumes gender, too.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Yeah, here isn’t a widely accepted gender-neutral version “sir/ma’am”. That’s why I’ve been working on dropping them from my vocabulary.

    5. tamarack etc.*

      We have a good number of students from military families, and I am always taken aback when I get ma’am’d by them. TBH though the use of this address often goes hand-in-hand with an attitude to get done what needs to get done, which isn’t exactly a bad thing. (Especially once they’ve unwound a little about deference and engaged their reasoning skills.)

    6. Auk*

      I work in a military adjacent organisation and I’m still getting used to the fact that it’s very much the norm for my colleagues, uniformed or otherwise to sir/ma’am each other, or address people using their rank. At first the whole thing felt completely alien to me (my background was very third sector/ informal).

    7. Chemical Engineer Noob*

      I work in an American branch of Japanese company (automotive manufacturing), so I had to get used to using and hearing Japanese honorifics. Answering to “[my name]-san” took a bit of getting used to, but the harder part was remembering to refer to my Japanese coworkers the same way. It turns out that referring to them with no honorific is quite rude!

    8. cam*

      I interviewed someone at a startup the other day for an article. I’m in my late 40s and was horrified to be called Maam all the way through the call.

  8. Tanja*

    I thought it was okay to use my phone in the bathroom while I was on break. It just looked like I was on my phone in the bathroom while I was supposed to be working. I was too embarrassed to explain myself when I was told not to do that.

    1. Pool Noodle Barnacle Pen0s*

      How would anyone even know? Unless you mean you were having spoken phone conversations on the phone in a shared bathroom, in which case, yeah. That bothers a lot of people.

      1. Tanja*

        It was the time before touchscreens. They could hear me typing. I was playing games just to have a few minutes to de-stress before interacting with people again.

        1. Fishsticks*

          Gotta tell you, I cannot imagine standing in a bathroom making a point of listening to someone being on their phone. Whoever decided to call you out on that definitely was micromanaging, especially if you were on break.

          1. Samwise*

            More likely someone was in another stall and heard it. I can see how that could be off putting, and some folks might feel weird about peeing while someone else was on their phone.

            Not a big no-no, but if I were doing something non-bathroom related in the bathroom and someone told me it was off-putting, I’d stop. Not because what I was doing was wrong, but because it bothered a co-worker.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              A phone conversation, maybe. I assume everyone looks at/plays with their phone while they’re using the bathroom.

            2. Fishsticks*

              I mean, if someone is in a stall next to me and they’re on their phone, that’s normal bathroom behavior. As long as it’s not like a long conversation, I wouldn’t even notice. Even if it was, maybe there’s a reason?

              I worked in a place where we had to have a talk about it, but in our case we had exactly two single-stall bathrooms, one for customer use (retail environment with a target demographic that skewed older and very female), and one in the warehouse for all thirteen employees to use. We had someone using it for phone calls that meant a LOT of time it was unavailable. The person was just told to take their phone calls outside.

          2. rayray*

            I agree. I might notice, but it’s absolutely none of my business. I only find it odd at my current workplace because there are many break areas and places to sit that are far more sanitary than the bathroom. I remember when I was younger and worked at a call center, there was almost nowhere to go for a breather, phone call, etc so it made more sense to use the bathroom there for that purpose.

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      That’s a workplace specific thing. Who the hell is watching people in the bathroom? I am not criticizing you for doing it, or for thinking this is how it’s done.
      It may well be, but it is intrusive and gross.

      1. Tanja*

        My first job, very shy and easily intimidated. Retail job, 2 bathrooms for around 15 employees, manager waiting outside the stall and hearing the taps. I probably also had my phone in my hand ready to put it in my bag (sink inside the stall.)
        “Were you on your phone?!”

        1. Butterfly Counter*

          Unless being on your phone meant you were taking longer than normal on the toilet with people waiting in line, it was you manager who was out of line, not you.

      2. Excel-sior*

        I’ve always kept an eye out for anyone who doesn’t wash their hands in there, because those people need to be avoided. But anything else is too much.

      3. Oxford Comma*

        I worked at a job where the bathrooms had stalls and I heard all kinds of conversations from the other stalls without meaning to listen.

    3. Essentially Cheesy*

      If someone (anyone) is monitoring you that closely .. that would be a big red flag for me.

      I mean, I am not obvious about my phone usage in the bathroom, but I’m really there to use the facilities anyway and am only in there for a few minutes. Extended breaks would garner attention, of course.

    4. OhNo*

      Every place I’ve worked, being on your phone in the bathroom (to play games, not to have long conversations, obviously) is 100% okay. I think you just had a very weird manager.

      1. Mid*

        Yeah, my morning bathroom break is when I do my Wordle, and sometimes respond to personal emails. It’s fine to be on your phone in the bathroom as long as it’s not 1. Talking on the phone 2. Taking pictures 3. Excessively long (barring medical reasons, 15 min is a good maximum time)

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          Yeah, I learned to have my phone on silent in the bathroom, because tapping on the keys with sound feedback was echoing…

    5. Alice*

      We had an issue with a woman who would have video calls, on speaker, in the restroom. The weirdest part was that she had an office all to herself…

  9. Marie*

    Co-workers exist in a different kind of relationship space than your friends, even if you feel very close to them and get on well.

    It’s taken me many many many years to realize that co-workers are NOT the same thing as, or a substitute for friends. So even though I might be close to some co-workers, at the end of the day the only thing we initially have in common is that we work together. Now, I have absolutely had co-workers turn into dear friends that I’ve kept in touch with after not working together anymore, but those are the exceptions.

    1. irene adler*

      Yes- and to that end, the topics of conversation might need to be less personal than with friends. It is still the workplace.

      I’ve had coworkers come crying to me about their love life or family issues, or to fix things (car won’t run), need a place to stay, ask for rent money, don’t know how to manage their private affairs and want me to step in. NO! That’s not how the coworker relationship works.

    2. Antilles*

      Along these lines:
      A lot of your work friends will fade out when you no longer work together. Even if you’re close now, it’s much harder to maintain those friendships when you don’t have that shared connection and it requires much more effort to meet up…and the vast majority of them will just sort of slowly wither over time.

      1. Marie*

        YES! And that stings! I have been super duper close (in a work sense) with some of my co-workers and then didn’t hear a peep from them the instant I left the job, and in some ways that hurts just as much as losing a friendship.

      2. Keyboard Cowboy*

        Yes. This is something I didn’t really expect, and actually something many of my colleagues are about to learn for the first time with the tech layoffs. I organize a common-interest social group at work, and people are wondering whether we should start including our recently laid off colleagues, but six months from now I almost guarantee those same laid off colleagues will have zero interest in participating in that social group anymore. Once in a while you find someone you want to stay friends with, but it’s the exception, not the rule.

    3. Lacey*

      Yes. I know a lot of younger people who are devastated when their work friends turn out to only be work friends. They think those people were being “fake” to them.

      Though, I’m not sure if this is the kind of thing a manager would address with a young hire.

      1. unlucky shopper*

        Oof, this happened to me. Student worker thought we were friends (I was neutrally friendly) and then was Hurt And Betrayed when I had to gently correct their work.

    4. NewJobNewGal*

      This was hard to understand because TV. The plot for most sitcoms is a workplace where everyone hangs out before work, during lunch, during breaks, and after work. They even go on vacations together!

      1. TechWorker*

        I mean to be fair I have been on vacations with colleagues (who are also friends). It’s not impossible. (Though I agree – sensible to have some amount of distance with anyone you are working together closely with). I also met my partner of 7 years through work so probably not the best example :)

    5. NeedRain47*

      Conversely, I got scolded during my annual review for not being friends with my coworkers. One of whom was hostile to me to the point that she wouldn’t even say hello. It’s not a job requirement to be bffs.

      1. Julia*

        Someone once said you need to be friendly with coworkers not friends which has always stayed with me.

    6. Chidi has a stomach ache*

      Cosigned. One of my supervisors in the position I’m leaving has complained to me (more than once!) that she doesn’t feel like she knows me very well — to which I would like to reply, “yes, that’s intentional.” I’ve also primarily worked in small private schools, which really lean on the “we’re a community” thing for employees. It’s a retention tactic when they know they can’t meet the same salary/benefits as public schools.

    7. AY*

      Yes, and where you would follow up with/offer support to a friend, you would not do the same with a friendly coworker. If I knew a friend was having health issues, I’d see if they wanted to talk about it, if they needed help at home, etc. With a friendly coworker, I would respect their privacy and only follow up with a discussion of handling work responsibilities.

    8. Princess Peach*

      Ooh yes, absolutely this. Coworkers are not friends! They might be work buddies, and you might enjoy working with them, but they are not friends. Both of you are drawing your paycheck from the same place, and the money is a bigger priority than interpersonal relationships.

      You have no obligation to share details about your life, and you definitely shouldn’t casually discuss things like job searching if you don’t want that information making its way up the chain.

    9. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, we’re coaching a younger friend on this right now. She’s basically fine but there have been some hiccups where she took things too personally or responded to something in a way that was a bit too informal. Fortunately, she also has a good office mentor.

    10. StressedButOkay*

      Yes, yes, YES. I so wish someone had told me this – I not only was too needy in my first few roles (lol) but also then got very hurt emotionally too. I slowly saw how toxic this can become – not always but where I was, yes – and finally drew that line in the sand.

    11. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      THIS THIS THIS. It didn’t help that the culture in my home country, where I’d worked at my first job out of college, was different. People would work at the same place, on the same team, for their entire careers, so of course they’d be friends. At my first job, everyone was ten years older than me and had started there at the same time right after college, so by the time I joined them ten years later, they were all friends, supported each other, knew each other’s families etc (God, I miss that place sometimes.) The office politics, the backstabbing, the knowledge that the default setting with any new coworkers is not “buddies”, but “assume they will throw you under the bus the first chance they get unless proven otherwise”, as well as the fact that we are only working together for a short time and then one or both of us will move on and I’ll never see this coworker again; were all things I had to learn the hard way in my first US job. The one person at my first job that acted friendly and offered a lot of workplace advice, turned out to have a knack for sleeping with his subordinates. (I spent a couple of years turning down his advances, eventually he got together with another woman on my team and left me alone – but also tried to take an exciting project from me and give it to her.) The teammate that acted as my mentor at the same job, turned out to be spreading horrible rumors about me behind my back! Both should’ve been on a low-information diet from day one, but I did not know any better.

      With that said, working together can help form great bonds and I too have dear friends that I met through working together – but we bonded after years of working as a team in stressful conditions, not the other way around when you befriend each other after the first week or the first happy hour on the new job.

      1. Mad Harry Crewe*

        I don’t think that level of backstabbing is very common, though. I’ve had very few actually contentious work relationships, and many more where we are, more or less, ships in the night. Some people suck, and some managers/management structures are not good at weeding out employees that that suck, and that kind of thing can multiply. But it’s not normal, and quite frankly I would bail on a job with coworkers like that, unless I had a *very* compelling reason not to.

    12. Hehe haha heehee hoho hichic*

      Yes! I have had plenty of co-workers that I got along with incredibly well over the years, but I literally only have one close friend who I met through work. After 9+ years in the workforce.

    13. Pink Candyfloss*

      +1. Too many people think of work friends as equivalent to non-work friends and this is just not the case, as they discover too late when the person leaves for another job, or becomes promoted away, or (god forbid) becomes their boss.

      1. 1LFTW*

        or (god forbid) becomes their boss.

        YES. Or vice versa, and the newbie manager wonders why their “friends” are suddenly a little more distant than before.

    14. irritable vowel*

      Yup. At one of my earlier jobs, several of my coworkers there became some of my closest friends. It turned super-awkward on a couple of occasions when work stuff got problematic (it was a dysfunctional place with a lot of drama and manipulative leadership). When I left that job, I resolved to keep my personal life and work life separate from then on. I’ve been *friendly* with people at subsequent jobs, but they are not friends that I spend time with outside of work.

    15. Nom*

      This is important! I moved to a new city for my first office job so most of the people I knew in the city were for work. This made it really difficult emotionally when I was laid off – although losing that job was definitely a hidden blessing, I also lost my entire social circle. I am still in touch with many of them, but we definitely aren’t still getting drinks once a week.

    16. Not my Monkeys*

      I have made some really close friends at work but I have been very selective and it has taken longer than it would have outside of work. I moved six hours away to take the job seven years ago and I didn’t have any friends in my new town, so I was more open to it. Interestingly, my friends from work are usually not people that I work very closely with. They are people I would have been friends with anyway, if I had met them somewhere else. Maybe the norm is don’t assume friendly co-workers are your friends and don’t take it personally if your co-workers don’t want to socialize with you outside of work.

    17. SleepyHollowGirl*

      Yes. Even people you eat lunch with every day, and get along with very well are not your friends. Once you don’t work together, you may not see them at all.

      The time you will talk to them again is when when one of you is looking for a new job.

  10. Justin*

    It’s sort of a cop out but the fact that cultures vary so much from job to job. And that every time you change you need to learn a new one.

    Also that a lot of “norms” are just (insert identity)ism.

    1. OhNo*

      That second part – honestly, 100%. It’s always interesting talking to my boss, because half the things she insists are “standard professionalism” are just classism wearing a work-appropriate hat.

    2. Dark Macadamia*

      Yes! At my first job the dress code was fairly conservative – you could only wear jeans on Fridays and only if you wore them with a spirit shirt, there were lengthy yearly debates about whether capris should be allowed, tattoos had to be covered, etc. Where I am now there is literally NO dress code and I feel overdressed when I wear, like, plain black pants. Both public secondary schools, but in different states.

      1. Kayem*

        This definitely! Dress codes can vary so much by employer, industry/field, and region. Even a specific category, like professional clothing can be wildly different. My partner has worked the same academic professional position for decades and the dress codes for men’s professional has been everything from “just no shorts or tshirts” to “khakis and a blazer” to full on suit and tie. They said the hardest dress code to follow was the least restrictive. Even though everyone else came to work in jeans, partner just couldn’t dress down that far. In that particular area, a pair of dark jeans and a polo shirt was considered very professional dress, so partner got a lot of teasing for “dressing up” in khakis.

  11. MuseumChick*

    This isn’t exactly what this question is getting at, but I remember starting out that I had ZERO clue what HR did when I should and should not go to them etc. I also wish someone had taught me phone educate when I was starting out. I grew up in the age to caller ID and texting so being *on the phone* felt so strange to me, and I’d always get tongue-tied. Finally, and this might be more nuanced than you are looking for but, to put it very bluntly, not to fully trust anyone until you have been in the office for a while and know the lay of the land. Be professional and friendly but don’t air as much as the normal complaints one has at any job with anyone until you know who will spread your business and who will not.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      My mom started her career as a secretary back when that was like being an EA. I am so grateful that she taught us how to answer a phone professionally. And made us practice when people called our house (back in the days of landlines).

      We also learned how to politely shut down pushy callers.

      1. President Porpoise*

        Share your pushy caller wisdom? And any wisdom for backing out of a conversation that just won’t end, actually.

        1. Clisby*

          I wouldn’t advise using this in a workplace, but my 20-year-old son got so sick of picking up our landline and hearing yet another telemarketer that he started opening the conversation not with “Hello” but with “This better be good.” (He knows not to do this with his cell, unless he can tell it’s one of his friends calling.)

        2. Seven If You Count Bad John*

          “Well, apart from that spreadsheet issue, is there anything else I can help you with?…Great, always a pleasure, thanks so much for calling TTYL”

        3. Charlotte Lucas*

          It was literally, “(Mom’s name or The lady of the house, back when people used that term) is not available. May I take a message?” Repeat ad nauseam. No telemarketer can beat a stubborn 9YO with time on their hands.

        4. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

          If it’s a telemarketer, be very direct- “We’re not interested in X, have a great day, good-bye.” And then just hang up. Don’t be overtly rude (tell them off, cuss, etc) but also don’t engage in any counter arguments that they have. While it feels rude, it’s better in the long run. Also, if your company has an auto-attendant, that cuts down on A LOT of spam. Not all, mind you, but a lot.

          If it’s a customer or someone you need to be polite to in order to retain their business, a sudden Zoom call or caller ID issue will work. “Oh, I need to catch this incoming call- can I circle back with you on this?” or “Oh, I have this Zoom call starting. Could you email me those questions and I’ll get back to you after it’s over?”

          If it’s someone who has decided that no, really, they don’t want to leave a voicemail for the person they just called who wasn’t at their desk (and/or is ignoring their phone) and you’re the next person on the auto-attendant, play dumb. “Oh, Fergus isn’t at his desk right now. Do you want to leave him a voice mail? Or email him? Or I can take a message?” Only if you’re able to take a message. Otherwise, don’t offer- only give the voice mail or emails as options.

          1. tamarack etc.*

            I’ve certainly used “I’m sorry, but to set up a phone call with the Director of Professional Services/Managing Director [my boss/grandboss] the best is to email them directly. I can certainly pass on a message telling them you called, if you would just spell out your name, company and contact details to me” with pushy callers who wanted to sell / pitch us something and called the tech support phone line. (I was the lead for that team, so weird calls to that line often ended up with me.) Obviously these people didn’t want me to know who they represented, so they mumbled something about trying what I suggested and went their merry way.

        5. Cedarthea*

          “I appreciate this conversation, but I need to end this call because of another commitment (other relevant term here)”

          “Thank you for your time/information/conversation, I do need to get to a meeting/another call, so I will have to go now. I thank you and appreciate your time on this”.

          For telemarketers.

          “I appreciate your call, however I don’t require this service. Thank you” and then hang up (but not angrily).

          Its all about being clear in that you are ending the call, that it’s not open for negotiation and then adding whatever politeness you need to retain the relationship, or not.

          I had a call like this yesterday, and I did have to end the call to make another obligation, and I said to the person “I do need to tell you that I have a meeting in 5 minutes and I need to finish up our call. I appreciate your time, and will XYZ (I recapped our convo and made the action items clear).” the other person went, “oh sounds good, thanks for that” and we said our goodbyes.

          With people higher up in the org I am more deferential, in that I might say “I am so sorry, but I do have XYZ in a few moments, so I need to get ready for that” while when I am working down the org chart, it is more “I need to do XYZ so let’s get this finished up”.

          I hope that was helpful, because I need to wrap this up and get back to my actual work for the day.

        6. coffee*

          Pushy caller – I’ve found a comfortable way of ending those phone calls is to say something along the lines of “No thank you, best of luck with your next call/I’m not interested/I have to go, goodbye” and hanging up. I use the same kind of “friendly thanks” tone that I use if e.g. I’ve just bought something at a shop and they’ve handed me my shopping bag, and the transaction has come to a close. If the pushy caller is doing the thing where they don’t let you get a word in edgewise, I just talk over them and then hang up.

          In-person conversation – say you are trapped in a conversation about the other person’s llama grooming routine. Wait until it is your conversational turn, contribute to the conversation, and then signal that you’re leaving.
          “Oh yeah, it is so tough to get the mud out from the wool just over the hooves. No wonder it took you five minutes! Anyway, been great to chat to you but I have to get back to it. Talk to you again later.”
          If the other person is monologuing then you can just politely interrupt (“oh look at the time”), do the “nice to chat, goodbye” spiel and leave.

      2. Middle of HR*

        My mom did this as well! I thought she was being annoying and old fashioned, but lo and behold, my first office job was answering phones so this was helpful.

    2. doreen*

      Definitely don’t fully trust anyone right away – I knew a group of new employees who trusted a group of more seasoned employees and signed a petition without reading it. They later said they were told the petition was about one thing ( let’s say vermin ) and only found out it was about something else ( let’s say changing the dress code to allow non-leather shoes) after things blew up. They did not get fired or even disciplined – but they did get a reputation for being gullible that took a long time to shake.

      1. Ama*

        I find new hires who have less work experience sometimes assume if a senior colleague is asking them to do something it must be something they are supposed to do. If you have either particular colleagues like this or there’s a task that people regularly *think* your department does but you don’t it is helpful to give a proactive “heads up, sometimes people think our department handles X work but we actually don’t do that, if someone asks you to do that, redirect them to Jane’s team — and if they push back send them to me and I’ll explain.”

        1. M*

          I’m a legal admin assistant, and I’ve told junior lawyers that senior lawyers don’t always know if their request can be done the way they want.

          Once I typed up a form the way the lawyer requested, to show her why her request was impossible.

          1. HRAnon*

            M, I love this! I find people of all ages (i.e. all number of years of experience in an office) who still follow requests like orders, without ever stopping to mention to the person that it really can’t or shouldn’t be done that way. You are doing a great service to your colleagues!

    3. KC*

      Seconding the “don’t trust anyone” thing!!! Don’t vent to people until you can tell if they’re the gossipy type or not (and do not vent to them if they’re gossipy!); don’t tell people things that are personal until you’ve known them for a while; etc., etc. I was burned a few times very early in my career and I’m much more reserved about things now. I’ve figured out who I can talk to about different sensitive subjects, but you really do have to be careful about your words and actions at work.

      It sucks to feel like you have to play games when you’re socializing with coworkers, but that’s just a part of adjusting to the professional/corporate world! (It never stops feeling weird, even if you get good at playing.)

      1. Secret Agent*

        Yes, it NEVER stops being weird! I always feel as if I’m a cunning, machievellian, super inhibited, secret agent in my work life, when actually I’m just ensuring my basic survival. It is tiring!

      2. Mr. Lastname*

        And this flies in the face of this “I’m going to be 100% authentic ME at work and there’s nothing you can do about it” attitude I see younger folks discuss all the time. It’s just not practical or wise to share so much about yourself to people you don’t even know and who could submarine your career if they felt like it.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Though part of the “bring your whole self to work” movement is specifically opening up space for marginalized identities at work. It can be very stressful, for example, to always avoid pronouns when talking about your partner or mentioning celebrations for non-Christian holidays.

          So yes, there is risk when sharing about a non-mainstream identity, but there’s also a cost to keeping it under wraps.

    4. E*

      No one told me that HR is there to protect the company, not me as the employee. It took way too long to learn that on my own.

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        Ditto. I often trusted HR too much, and got burned by it. It didn’t help that some of the HR people I dealt with were two-faced slime.

    5. Malarkey01*

      I think the HR one is really important. They are not an arbitrator of “fairness” (not saying they aren’t fair just that their job is not to mediate whether someone was mean to you and not the teacher at recess that you go to report someone not playing nice).

    6. WheresMyPen*

      I was in the office for six months before covid and it was my first office job, and I HATED having to answer my desk phone. It wasn’t often I got calls but occasionally reception would put someone through to me who had a query and I usually didn’t know the answer or who was calling as I was so new. We also had to cover reception one lunchtime per week and again, I never had any clue how to respond to queries so I would just take a message and leave it for the receptionist to deal with XD

  12. Melissa*

    This is so embarrassing, but when I was in my early 20s I had a job in an office on a college campus. I would kick off my shoes and walk around barefoot. Somebody had to tell me that in order to be professional, I would have to keep my shoes on.

    1. LiberryPie*

      My sister worked for our father for about a year. He was the president of a small tech-related company. She reported to us that he walked around in socks! :) But it’s definitely not the norm.

      1. Ranon*

        My boss at the first job I had in my actual field walked around in his socks and a full suit. The rest of us dressed in business casual.

      2. irritable vowel*

        Oh god, there was a guy at a place I worked who walked around in his socks all day, including into the men’s room. Just, no.

    2. CSRoadWarrior*

      Sounds like it was just a learning curve and not really a big deal. You were only starting out. Nothing to be embarrassed about.

    3. Em from CT*

      I had a supervisor once–or, rather, my boss’s boss, who was the head of the entire department–who’d do this! An elegant, no-nonsense, immensely competent woman in her 50s. Of course, she could get away with it, at her level. The rest of us? Not so much.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        After watching the executive director of our non-profit walk around the entire building in literally her pantyhose, I started wearing clogs to work and taking my shoes off under my desk and walking around my particular office in my socks. If I were anywhere else in the building, I put the clogs back on- but in my own workspace? Socks only. No one ever said boo about it.

        1. Sparkle llama*

          My grand boss (male) often walks around in socks in the afternoon within our office area (around 15 people) and I have never had an issue with it. I assume his feet get sore from a pair of dress shoes. I would never walk around the building in my socks but if I had worn uncomfortable shoes for a fancy meeting I would feel fine ditching them for socks part of the day and don’t think my coworkers would think anything of it. As long as my socks were matching and in good condition

    4. President Porpoise*

      I would give shoulder massages to coworkers (I’m female and so were they – just older with sore backs).

      Then we had a pair of interns who were really, really good friends outside the office – not dating or anything, and these guys would give each other really extensive back massages. at work. In an office. It was uncomfortable, and I learned a lesson about personal boundaries.

      Now I cringe at my past self. I did so many stupid things.

      1. Sabine the Very Mean*

        I’m so glad I witnessed such a thing in High School when a woman who was just a little older than us got a job there as an aide. We were in the library when she suddenly started rubbing the male librarian’s shoulders in front of us. It was as if I was witnessing a sexual act it was so intimate and odd. Don’t cringe at yourself. I’ve done so many stupid things as well and it’s so nice knowing others have carried some of this crud around as an adult like me.

    5. The Original K.*

      I knew a man who would put his awful, Frito-chips-for-toenails, crusty-heeled bare feet on the table in meetings. A fully grown man with decades in the work force. Somebody more senior finally said “Are you serious?!” to him in a meeting, which got him to stop.

    6. Data Slicentist*

      I would take my shoes off every day when I first started, but I did have a very tall cubicle that also went all the way to the floor. I still don’t think it was great to do, but I hadn’t yet found the right socks to keep my feet unsweaty in shoes all day. I wonder if people noticed.

      1. tamarack etc.*

        It’s all about local norms. Taking your shoes (winter boots right now) off is fine in our office, and so is bringing in house slippers to wear in the office if you want to walk around sans outside shoes.

    7. Anja*

      As someone who used to work in Big 4 accounting and walked around my (admittedly small town, not big city) office – in my defense, only in the back, never past client facing areas – in socks…I once asked the managing partner “…do I have to wear shoes?” and he responded with “I don’t care if you wear shoes.” So it can be office specific.

      Now in a different job I have very specific rules for myself. I never wear shoes in my cubicle – I’ll be full barefoot in summer, or in socks. I will go down my cubicle row in socks to talk to a colleague (but not bare feet). And I won’t go into the main hall past our little cubicle group without shoes.

      I operate on the idea that not wearing shoes isn’t super professional clothing, but that I’m able to have different levels of professionality of dress depending on space and people involved. This is the same reason why during covid most of my direct colleagues I work with a lot got to see my collection of free volunteer t-shirts but I always had a fancy shirt hung on the doorknob of my home office in case I got pulled into a meeting with people I knew less.

      1. Relentlessly Socratic*

        When I taught summer classes, I would frequently kick off my shoes.

        I’d still do it today, TBH.

      2. Frieda*

        Yep, I teach barefoot sometimes (ONLY with sandal-appropriate feet.) Sometimes I teach outdoors if it’s nice enough. I have gotten scolded by another faculty member for being barefoot in the hallway outside my office.

        I told her to get ready to be shocked, but that I also go barefoot … outside sometimes.

    8. Stanley Cupcakes*

      I had an internship in a foreign parliament in a country where it rains a lot; I turned nineteen my first day on the job. One very wet day, after my two-mile walking commute, I took my shoes off at my desk, put them on the vent to dry, and walked through the hallways of the parliament in (still kind of damp!) stockings, running into lawmakers and one political figure who’s a household name. Ugh, get it together, young me.

      Also I learned it’s okay to commute in one pair of shoes and change into another when you get there. I have another 2+ mile walking commute now, but with happier feet.

      1. Anja*

        As someone who lives in a city that has snow on the ground six to seven months of the year I definitely embrace the changing shoes lifestyle. Boots to/from work and a variety of indoor shoes at my desk.

        When everyone got send to work from home during covid and started to realize it was going to be a while you had a lot of people pop by the office at one point to take home a box of shoes.

        1. Forrest*

          I cycled to work so I would keep a couple of pairs of heel or smart loafers under my desk. It was only when I left the job that I realised the collection had grown to about eight pairs, oops.

        2. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          I sometimes has a pair of slipper mocs under my desk for days when my regular shoes were uncomfortable. They were just right for “indoor shoes”.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        It rains a lot where I am. I’ve taken wet shoes off while I’m at my desk, but I put them back on if I’m actually going anywhere. And, yes, I’ve learned to bring spare shoes.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I mean, it’s a college campus… you get a pass from me on this one.

      I worked with a guy who wore sandals to work all year long, and then while working, would kick them off and put his bare feet up on his desk, facing the aisle. We sat in the same aisle and I had to walk past him to get to my own desk. The image still haunts me. At least his feet did not smell (that I know of).

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh and how did I manage to forget the guy who’d take his shoes off in meetings and scratch them with a plastic fork? He also had a charming habit of sticking his hand WAY down his pants and scratching himself there when talking to you. Then he’d walk over to the communal kitchen and help himself to the plastic utensils from the shared drawer. I developed a habit of packing my own silverware with my work lunches because of this guy. I also had a woman teammate who would do the same thing; pick her butt while talking to you, then take her hand out of her pants to show you something on your screen or to type on your keyboard. Amazingly all three people worked at the same company (though not all at the same time), it’s true what they say about work culture!

    10. Jack Straw from Wichita*

      Adding to this not to sit on desks. As a teacher, I was constantly sitting or leaning against my desk–which was 100% fine in that job. Moving to an office job, I realized that was not professional or accepted.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        I had my desk sat on by at least one coworker. She’d come in with a question and sit on my desk next to my keyboard and just keep talking. It used to squick me out, I eat at my desk and didn’t want or like someone’s pants, that had been in contact with workplace toilets and who knows what else, placed where I have my food. Neither did I like coworker crotch at almost my eye level. Oddly, I now think that, had this coworker been a cat, I’d have been okay with her sitting there. Double standards, I know!

    11. Delta Delta*

      I worked with a guy who often walked around the common office areas barefoot. Then he stepped on a staple. It was roundly considered to be his own darn fault.

    12. What Angelica Said*

      I worked in the Communications office of a university and somehow decided that stuffed animal slippers were the thing to wear. Into the PRESIDENT’S OFFICE. No one ever told me not to, which is very strange in retrospect.

    13. run mad; don't faint*

      I mentioned this elsewhere, but in my first office job, I would go to meetings and take my shoes off because my feet were hot. These were meetings with the COO, and when he implied or suggested I put them back on, I ignored him. Very embarrassing in retrospect.

    14. GreyNerdShark*

      I have worked at 2 universities in their computer science departments.

      At the first one you could tell the staff from the students because the staff wore shoes.
      At the second one you could tell the staff from the students because the students wore shoes!

  13. DisneyChannelThis*

    Asking vs informing for using PTO for sick leave. Giving too much details when calling out sick, as a new to workplace grad I was used to professors being suspicious and wanting 10,000 details. Boss had to take me aside and tell me he didn’t care what my temperature was, just say you are sick.

    1. Lexi Vipond*

      I work with students, and I still don’t want to know their exact temperature, which parts of their body things came out of, or what medicine they took. Just tell me you were too ill to come!

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        Oh my goodness, yes.

        Also, unless it’s a test day, I don’t care if you’re absent. You don’t have to tell me about this appointment or that flat tire. I have almost 200 students. I won’t remember anyway and absences don’t count against you. I’d almost prefer you NOT email as it’s just one more thing in my inbox that I have to deal with.

        1. Hehe haha heehee hoho hichic*

          This is a major learning curve for undergrad students because high schoolers are generally forced to abide by pretty strict and arbitrary rules (at least, they did at my high school). When I got to university it was a bit of an adjustment to be able to simply get up and leave when I had to use the washroom or notify a prof of my absence to class with no details apart from “I’m sick”. So I completely understand why new university students give excessive detail when explaining an absence or a late assignment.

      2. Robecita*

        Agree! I’m a professor and have no need to hear about the timing, number, or contents of vomiting episodes. High level of detail does not actually make me more inclined to believe that a student is really sick!

    2. Lacey*

      Yes! My first office job had a super suspicious boss and you had to justify every absence with tons of details. I took that with me to my next job and it took a long time for me to realize that I honestly could just say I was sick.

      Though even then, I did have one pushy office manager who I had to tell, “I can’t make it to my car without throwing up – much less the office”

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        I still remember the one job where I was supposed to do a presentation, but was sicker than a dog. I called in from a parking lot – I was literally puking into a cup in my spouse’s car. Yes, I told them I was throwing up. I went home and went to bed.

        Ordinarily I don’t get into details.

        Now, I just have to tell people if I’m unable to work, eg a migraine.

    3. ZugTheMegasaurus*

      The one illness I usually specify is a migraine, just because a lot of people understand that means it comes on fast (often in the middle of the day) and I’m not going to be able to work through it, and that I’ll probably be (mostly) fine tomorrow.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Ironically, none of those are true for my migraines: mine ramp up slowly, I can usually work through them, and they always last several days in a row. I’ve started calling them just “headaches” so people don’t whisper around me (which isn’t necessary, since mine aren’t sound-sensitive).

        1. ZugTheMegasaurus*

          Oof, that still sounds awful! As I’ve gotten older (I’ve had chronic migraine for like 20 years now) I’ve started getting some that are very different and sound more like yours (mostly visual aura with the worst symptom being an intense smell of burning popcorn rather than blinding pain) but unfortunately those are only maybe once every 5 or 6 times.

    4. Anon cause my family might read this*

      I totally did inform my boss that I’d be out for my young son’s medically required circumcision.

      He sent an email to the team saying I’d be out because my son was having a “minor medical procedure” which was what I should’ve said to begin with *facepalm*

    5. Bird Lady*

      I had just the opposite situation once. When I worked retail, I called off sick once. It meant the opening manager could not leave until we could find another manager to cover my shift, and if no one could, he’d have to stay open to close. I called off and said that I was too sick to work or drive, and there was no way I could make it there.

      Since I had never called off before, I didn’t think a vague reason would be a problem. If someone who never misses a shift calls off, I would usually took that as a legitimate sick day.

      The opening manager, who happened to be my boss, did not take it that way. He called and demanded I come to work. I was on my way to ER and told him so.

      The diagnosis was a large kidney stone that got caught in my urethra. And as I was having a machine hit me with sonic waves to break the stone up so I could safely pass it, he continued to call demanding updates and when I was going to return to work. My doctors did not want me standing and doing physical labor for a day or so given the damage the stone did.

      So at my next job, I overshared all the details until finally my manager said, “For the love of God, I do not need to know every detail!”

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        That opening manager was an asshole. Being on your way to ER should have been quite enough. Demanding updates while you’re in ER? I’d probably be offering my resignation unless he stopped. (I get very blunt, short and growl-y when I’m in pain. People who push it find out just how irate I can get.)

        1. NotRealAnonforThis*

          To be honest, I’d have probably handed the closest medical professional my phone and an exasperated “could you tell my boss to eff off, medically?”

    6. CRM*

      +1 on giving out too many details when you are sick. I still cringe at the level of detail in the sick-day emails my first boss received…

    7. Jules*

      My first office job was as a law firm receptionist. For some reason, part of that position’s responsibilities was keeping up with PTO time for all of the staff. Legal admins would give me time off requests with all the details, like “I’m going in for cancer treatment that no one knows about.” I finally asked why they were telling me all this personal stuff and apparently the person in that position before me had “required” details. I told them to stop, that I didn’t need to know everything. New office manager came in and took over that task, which was more than fine with me!

    8. Magenta*

      The worst one I had was a recent grad in her first job who gave me paragraphs of excruciating detail about exactly why she was unable to work. Some of it was really personal stuff, so it was both gross and painful to hear and also embarrassing. There are some mental images that I just don’t want but will never leave me!

      My rule is, I need to know you can’t work as soon as is reasonably possible for you to tell me. If you have an idea of how long you expect off then that is a bonus. Other than that I don’t need specifics.

      The caveat is that my employer offers 10 days paid sick without a doctors note and up to 6 months if you have a note. If an employee goes over the 10 days uncertified then HR expect you to be having a conversation about it, partly to check they aren’t taking advantage, but mostly to make sure there isn’t an underlying health issue that needs to be accomodated.

    9. HotSauce*

      I’ve had managers who wanted 1,000 details when I called in until one day I just realized, this is my manager, not my mother. If they want to fire me because I am too sick to work, so be it. From then on whenever I would call in sick, I would just say, “I’m not able to work today or I’m too ill to work today” and that’s it. Even when pressed for details I would gray rock & repeat the phrase over & over in a monotone. They do not have the right to my medical details & I don’t want any chronic conditions being held against me.

  14. TJ*

    One thing for those new to the workforce or just new to your workplace

    What are the office norms?

    Do people eat at their desk, go out for lunch or is there a lunchroom?
    Where are all the facilities located?
    Is it normal for people to check their phones (occasionally) at their desk?

    A quick run through of the basics never hurts

    1. Anonymouse*

      “We have down time here. You will see when you get your own assignments. You can use that time to read, catch up on bills, clip coupons. Be ready to work when the work comes in.”

    2. Interplanet Janet*

      I was going to add a comment if I didn’t see anything: I didn’t know what it was okay to ask about before my first day! now as a hiring manager I try to proactively provide the information, but to anyone new, it’s totally okay to ask the person coordinating your first day logistical basics if they don’t think to offer them. Adding on to the Qs above, I try to provide the info about the following that I’ve asked about in the past:

      Is there a fridge, microwave, etc. for me to plan a lunch?
      Is the office generally a comfortable temp? (I work in a field where this isn’t a given. I keep three levels of cardigans in my office for yearly swings)
      Are headphones allowed? (by policy or norms)
      Is the first day tour going to require closed toe shoe areas? (again, field specific)

      1. Interplanet Janet*

        Oh, also a big one I volunteer: What is OUR interpretation of the dress code? “Business casual” is borderline meaningless on its own. I much prefer to specify something like “Khakis, non-logo tops, and dresses/skirts are all standard”

      2. ferrina*

        Lunch is a BIG one. When I was young and $20 was LOT, I wanted to bring my lunch every day, but didn’t want to embarrass myself with a brown bag. I also had no idea where to eat, how to bill my lunch hour…it was weirdly fraught.

  15. Stevesie*

    Not having to tell the manager when you were taking your lunch/break/bathroom for jobs that don’t require that coverage was a big one.

    8 years in I still don’t understand how informal lunch groups work or how to casually ask to tag along without feeling incredibly self conscious.

    What HR actually does and how to report something to them.

    1. ferrina*

      YES! The lunch constantly baffles me.

      Also not needing coverage is something I’m still grateful for, 10 years later. Not asking permission to use the bathroom is so, so freeing.

    2. FashionablyEvil*

      Lunch is much more informal in an office! Just ask people if they want to join you (“I’m going to go out for tacos at 12:15–would you like to come?” Or invite yourself along, “Oh, are you going to that new sandwich place? Mind if I join you?”

      Inviting yourself along is totally an acceptable thing.

    3. Caroline*

      My first year or so in an office job, I used to tell my colleague I sat next to every time I was going to the bathroom, I was so used to needing to inform coworkers for coverage. So embarrassing.

    4. Kirsten*

      I remember asking my boss daily whether I was okay to go home when my day ended (in my office job). I was so used to my retail job where you needed to make sure there was coverage before leaving!

    5. mimi*

      I had a job in an office where not only did we have assigned lunch times, if you had brought your lunch you were all expected to sit together in the breakroom together. I had an assigned lunch time with my immediate supervisor and her cronies where they would pick apart what I brought for lunch. I only lasted 3 months there for a lot of reasons but that was one of them.

      1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        Oh, that’s f’ing rude!

        If I had people picking apart my lunch I’d either a) stop eating with them, no matter what the expectation, or b) if they pushed it, find something that would consistently gross them out, even if it wasn’t my actual favorite, and visibly and audibly savor it. I have a championship ring in pettiness, so I would be very petty.

  16. Common Taters on the Ax*

    I can’t think of anything for me, but I have a friend who was surprised that her boss expected her to tell him that she’d rearranged her schedule for the day. She’d worked through lunch so she could take a family member to a doctor’s appointment and he reprimanded her (lightly) when she was gone for the appointment. And then a couple of friends as grad assistants were surprised that in their customer-facing positions, gym shorts were not okay although other shorts were.

    1. Anonymouse*

      We do this in my place a lot, but we have to let our manager know first. It came down too, boss needs to know if you are in the office or not. Fergus needs Liz to do X. Where is she?
      So yeah, I can see friend’s boss’ situation.

    2. amoeba*

      I think that’s super dependent on the field, though. We have flextime and if I told my boss that, he’d be like “…OK, cool, but why are you telling me?”

      1. Common Taters on the Ax*

        Agree. I guess this position was not announced as flextime, though, and I think it’s still the norm to assume a position is not flextime unless stated otherwise. My workplace has flextime, too, but new hires (who are never entirely green in our department, although some might have only had an internship) nearly always ask if it is in so many words. That’s the smart approach. Some ask at the interview, some during onboarding.

        Honestly, I don’t think there are any truly universal norms, even if you restrict it to the US. You’d think “don’t bring a bottle of booze into the office” would be, but it isn’t a rule at some tech and probably sales offices. And if 30 Rock is to be believed, nor is it in the offices of TV executives. The smart thing for people starting out is to know what MIGHT be different from what you assume, and just check. (But don’t check on the booze! Assume that one unless told otherwise.)

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          At one operations job I was keeper of the team liquor cabinet. I was very irate when the email went out that the liquor bottles could no longer be visible (some of them were too tall for the cabinet that had a door on it.)

          After that I often had a couple of those little airline liquor bottles in my drawer, just as an homage to operations work. (Big company computer operations is often high stress, if X is down we lose $Y thousand/minute.) I never drank them, I just had them.

        2. Not my Monkeys*

          My company has a booze cart that goes around during the holidays. Which isn’t quite the same as booze in your desk. But norms are definitely different. When I worked at a non-profit and traveled, limits on meals were strictly enforced and no booze could be expensed. At my current corporate company, drinks with dinner are fine and the meal costs what it costs. However, my corporate card doesn’t work at a liquor store, as I discovered when trying to buy wine as a leaving gift for someone on my team. I was still able to expense it, but not pay for it with the company card.

        3. amoeba*

          True. We do generally have employment contracts here though, which specify this kind of thing. But for sure, there are still workplaces where on paper something would be acceptable that just wouldn’t fly in practice.
          When I started here, it was very quickly obvious that there was no such thing as a “normal start/end time” – people generally come in at some point between 6.00 and 9.30 and leave whenever they’ve finished their hours (as long as there are no scheduled meetings, of course). Can imagine that would be harder to observe if you’re fully remote, but for me emulating what others did worked quite well.

      2. Relentlessly Socratic*

        I don’t have to tell folks when I’m moving my “lunch hour” to a different time of day, but I do like to let people know if I’m flexing time when we’re on a deadline or something or if I’ll be out a little longer than usual. Day to day when it’s slow and I’m flexing? I don’t bother.

      3. arachnophilia*

        I’m the manager of a small team, and we do quick slack check-ins at the beginning of our days – when we’ll be away from our computers for an extended time, what we’re currently working on, if we need help or have time to offer help. It’s informal, and it does help for my team to know, oh arachnophilia is in meetings all day long, so I won’t expect a quick response from her, or I’ll know that a team member is going to be out in the afternoon for an appointment. It’s not a matter of asking permission ever for those sorts of things – just letting the team know so that our often very collaborative work moves forward.

    3. RH1812*

      Being explicit about what “flexible” time means is so helpful!
      In my very first professional job out of college, I was told the job has “flexible time.” Mortifyingly I thought this meant I could just go hang out with my boyfriend whenever I wanted, including when we had team meetings scheduled! I still cringe thinking about it. Luckily my manager explained it to me eventually. Then I swung farther the other way than I needed to, feeling embarrassed if I had to leave early for an appointment. I’ve finally found a proper balance, but in retrospect for people new to the work world, clearly defining norms for flextime could be really useful.

    4. JayRi*

      I think that depends on the boss too. As long as my outlook calendar is kept up to date my current boss doesn’t want to know everything I leave early or step out for appointments. My prior boss was a micromanager and wanted exact details o when and how you were making up time (salary jobs).

  17. Soprani*

    At an in-person office if you have completed your most recent work assignment and are waiting for more work to be assigned, look busy. If the expectation is that you will have down time while engaged to work, don’t sit at your desk scrolling through social media unless you have been told clearly that is what you should do for those times.
    Some work places do not react well when an employee appears to be slacking. Use down time to do things that look productive, even if you have permission to do personal things.
    Appearances matter.

    1. Lana Kane*

      I had a job in my early days in which I shared receptionist duties with someone who was new to the workforce. I noticed that when she was at the desk and had nothing to do, she’d sit there and read a book. I didn’t have the guts to tell her not to do that since we were peers, and to give her pointers on how to look busy. I wish I had because she got called out on it by our supervisor a bit harshly.

      My mom had a coworker who would sneak in reading time in small bits by appearing to be rummaging through her filing cabinets. No one would have known otherwise, she was that good!

      1. Lana Kane*

        sorry, missing a line: “She clued my mom in, but no one would have known otherwise”. (And no, my mom didnt rat her out lol)

      2. sundae funday*

        Ahh, see, that’s where Kindle comes in. You have the Kindle app pulled up on your computer with other work stuff in the background. When someone walks by, switch to the work stuff. Then go back to the Kindle!

        1. Shira VonDoom*

          YOU’RE A GENIUS

          My current bosses absolutely don’t care if I read online if I’m out of work, but there’s only so many advice columns and whatnot I can read before I want something a little meatier.

          Time to find out if the firewall will let me access it (Amazon is blocked, but I don’t shop there for fun anyway, so it’s fine, LOL)

          1. The Prettiest Curse*

            Pocket is a lifesaver for reading during downtime at work – you can save the link to an article and it will convert it to plain text. There is an app version, and it’s also online at getpocket[dot]com.

    2. NewJobNewGal*

      Oh yes! I try to read news articles in a small window on my screen when I’m bored. The rest of my screen is filled with reports and docs that look important.

      1. Shira VonDoom*

        Depending on the job, there literally may not be any.

        I’ve had reception jobs and I’ve temped, and sometimes the answer really is “just don’t be OBVIOUS about the fact you’re reading a book/the internet”, and be responsive to calls/visitors/packages as per job duties.

        I would lose my mind if I had to stare at a wall for most of 8 hours without any kind of means to occupy myself.

        1. Vio*

          That’s exactly the case with my job. There’s only so much work that needs doing but the insurance requires a member of staff be present at all times that the building is in use (and of course there are good reasons for that!). I always have work prioritised but sometimes I run out of the “if there’s time” work as well as the “must be done”s. It wouldn’t effect my ability to do my job if I put my feet up, pulled out a crossword or jigsaw puzzle or even loaded up World of Warcraft on my laptop… but obviously all of those are unprofessional and look bad if someone sees staff doing them. But so long as my work is done, I look busy and it isn’t too distracting then I’m given a lot of freedom.

      2. Kayem*

        I try to help out coworkers when I have slack time, but our project stages are highly regulated on when the next one can start. If there’s nothing left for me to do and my coworkers don’t have anything I can help with, then there’s nothing for me to do but wait around for the next stage. Which is frequent, as it takes me only a quarter of the time at most to finish all my tasks. My boss would love to give me more work, but there is rarely any available until the next stage, unless she can get approval to put me on a second project, which is usually not permitted at my level.

        (Much of my job is a lot of dreary computer task skills. Copying and pasting between documents, organizing data, converting formats, typing technical descriptors, etc. I’ve spent the past 20 years in such jobs in academia and tech and am very, very fast at it. My coworkers are mostly retired teachers and have more experience than I in curriculum development than tedious computer tasks. Our project stages are timed for the median speed at which work is expected to be done by a typical specialist, not a specialist whose one big skill is moving bits from one page to another. So I can finish in one day what everyone else does in a week. But because I also have to be available, I’ve had to learn to schedule the tasks across the week. On the plus side, we’re all remote so no one notices if I spend several hours reading.)

      3. Miette*

        I came here to say this too. I’ve been at places where the manager was too busy to even pay attention to what I was doing, so if I finished all my projects and even the busy work, I’d straight up ask her. Of course, ymmv depending on the work and the office, but doing this also makes you look like a go-getter or more conscientious. Honestly, I just had a low threshold for boredom.

    3. Ama*

      Yeah I had to have this talk with a direct report who sat in a highly visible area and had two habits that looked like she was slacking off — when she looked at anything on her phone she turned fully away from her computer, and when she was thinking, she had a tendency to pick at her cuticles. We had to have a chat about how C-level staff were walking past her desk and seeing her doing what read to them as “not working” frequently enough that I was getting concerned comments about it, and that, though I was assuring them I didn’t have problems with her work output, she might want to try being a little more aware of when senior staff were near her desk, thinking while facing her monitor, having a work document open on the computer when taking a break to check her phone, etc.

    4. MigraineMonth*

      I think that recommending things for new people to do in their downtime is a really good idea. Particularly things that *don’t* require a lot of attention, since no one is actually capable of concentrating for 8 hours a day. Or things to work on while waiting for a question to get answered, since new people are more likely to run into a situation where they need help to proceed.

      1. Resident Catholicville, U.S.A.*

        Also, having a back up plan for things to do during short outages of Internet, phone, or electricity. It amazes me that people just…stop…when those things happen. I have back up ideas for things to do (organize files, clean desk, tackle that supply closet project, etc) to do when the Internet goes out and you can’t do real work. Obviously, you can’t do that if those things are going to be out for the whole day or longer, but a few minutes to an hour or two? Have something you can do to while you wait.

    5. Somehow_I_Manage*

      Managers are often a bottleneck for work and it takes time to prepare assignments. If you want to be a rockstar, give good feedback on your schedule in advance of completing your tasks so they can actually plan out your schedule and it’s not an immediate crisis.

    6. Spearmint*

      This varies by office. At my office it is totally normal to be on your phone in downtime, but obviously this varies by workplace so don’t assume when you first start!

      1. Stripes*

        Yeah, in my workplace we are only judged on “do we get the work done”, so our management don’t care if someone is sending a personal text or doing a bit of internet shopping or just looking out the window while thinking. There is a line (it would be weird if one of us was reading a book, because that “getting stuck in” wouldn’t suit the rhythm of our work) but for the most part no one gives a monkeys what you are doing as long as you’re helpful and you work well.

    7. Underrated Pear*

      Yes! When I had just graduated college, I took a summer temp job in an office before my full-time teaching job started up in the fall. As a college student, I was used to being BUSY – every spare moment was used for something productive. I was studying to take the GRE that summer, so I had vocab flash cards I would pull out and study for 2-3 minutes at a time whenever I had a moment (it’s semi-relevant that this was in a time (1) before smartphones and (2) when a huge number of websites, including personal email sites, were blocked on company computers, so none of those were “time wasting” options).

      One day I had about 5 minutes before someone was going to drop off some new work at my desk. Due to the nature of my temp job, there really was absolutely nothing work-related I could do in the meantime, so I pulled out my flash cards without even thinking. One of my coworkers kindly warned me that I shouldn’t do that because management wouldn’t like it “on company time.” Which of course makes sense on its own, but when I asked what we were supposed to do during these times, she shrugged and said “just sit, or pick up the phone and pretend like you’re calling someone.” What a waste!! I mean, I know they don’t want people getting deep into a book or something and forgetting what they’re supposed to be working on, but… ugh. The “sit and look busy” thing at many offices drives me crazy.

      1. Underrated Pear*

        I should also acknowledge, before someone jumps on it – there is an issue of optics, as a commenter below has pointed out. Someone walking by my area for 10 seconds wouldn’t know I was just flipping through flash cards while waiting for my manager to walk back to my desk with some files. They’d get the impression I was just sitting there collecting a paycheck while doing my own studying. So I do get it, but it was still frustrating.

        1. Strider (I wish)*

          Really frustrating.
          I say this a bit tongue in cheek, but – this is the time to develop a meditation practice.

    8. Shira VonDoom*

      Also, what constitutes “look busy” should be specified, LOL

      I’ve had jobs where I could read a book or do non-messy crafts, but they didn’t want me surfing (even work safe sites) the internet.

      Other jobs were ADAMANT I could not read a book at my desk, but I could surf the internet all I liked.

    9. Pudding*

      I had to have this talk with my direct reports. Our workload fluctuates and I don’t expect them to be 100% busy, but appearing to be unproductive leads to: gripes from other teams when anything takes longer than expected or I say no to rushing a task, pushback on my requests for outside help when our workload spikes, pushback from my bosses on backfilling people who leave, difficulty turning down requests to help other teams with high backlogs, questions from my bosses about people’s performance or the team’s capacity, and risks that I could lose staff members in a layoff more easily due to the perception that I have room for cuts.

      Also, I had a newly transferred staff member in training a few years ago who got faster as she learned, and was ready to take on more work, but didn’t tell me she was finishing her work more quickly, or ask for more to do. And she was great at looking busy, so I didn’t realize right away, but she told her friends on her old team how boredddd she was. Her old manager tried to shift more work to my team, I pushed back on it, and THEN I got to hear about how her manager knew I could do it because of how much time Jen was complaining about having on her hands. I lost the argument about the extra work, and had some choice words for Jen. Don’t do that to your boss!

    10. WorkingRachel*

      Oh, yeah, the first thing I learned in my first real office job was that you’re not supposed to read a book during the workday, but need to “look” busy somehow even if you don’t have any work and even if your boss knows you don’t have any work. (I was actually reading while I waited for a slow scanner to finish each page, so not quite the same thing–but still a bad look and I was gently reprimanded for it.)

    11. Dragonfly7*

      Yes. We were allowed to read ebooks but not physical books because the customers couldn’t see our computer screens.

    12. Kay*

      Genuine question – what’s the rational behind this? I get that perceptions matter, but I’m really struggling to see how reading at my desk (or using flash cards, or any of the other examples given here) has any real impact in cases where there’s really no work to be done.

      I didn’t have long in the office before covid hit, but it was super stressful when I had no work to do and this immense pressure to look busy! If I could have read a book, it would have been such a huge relief. This really is one of the top reasons I love WFH – I can use that time to, say, start a load of laundry, without damaging my actual productivity at all.

  18. boredatwork*

    what is and what is not acceptable small talk – we have a new hire and she is adorable but she loudly announced that she had slept with three different men that week (it was friday). Stories about staying out late and partying on work nights, crazy weekend shenanigan where cops were involved.

    Things that would be totally fine to discuss with friends, but are 100% not appropriate topics for the office. I would phrase this as your audience may be fine with this conversation but someone passing by/overhearing may not be.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      This kind of thing will always mystify me: Even in my early jobs when we were all in our teens and twenties, we’d shut down stuff like this. I specifically remember one job where a former employee applied to work there again (I didn’t know her; she left before I started working there) and everyone who had worked with her went to the manager and said, “no, way,” because she had a habit of talking graphically about her personal hygiene and sex life and they didn’t want to be subjected to it again. None of them were over 25 and they were not especially conservative or squeamish; apparently the girl was just that gross.

    2. Snoopy Clifton*

      I think we have the same employee! Ours is a lovely and talented recent college grad and I had to advise her that she shouldn’t share that she is taking some PTO because she needs to get her IUD replaced. I don’t care and our current (small) staff won’t either, but I told her that some day she might find herself working with judge-y, conservative folks who absolutely would care and who might make her work life hell because of it. It’s no one’s business what is going on medically or personally and she needs to learn to be purposefully vague.

      1. Yes Anastasia*

        Eh, I agree it makes sense to be a little more private, but I don’t consider talking about birth control to be the same as talking about your sex life, especially since not everyone on birth control is sexually active. I consider it similar to talking about childbirth or other health topics – as long as they’re mindful of their surroundings and audience, it’s up to the individual whether they want to go there.

        1. Snoopy Clifton*

          I don’t disagree, but long ago I had a co-worker who thought that the three female twenty-somethings in the office should still be virgins and act accordingly. She was absolutely horrified to learn that we did not live like nuns and that we all used birth control. In her opinion, no unmarried woman should need birth control b/c she should not be having pre-marital sex. She actually went to a supervisor and complained about this. She was shut down but was very difficult to work with after that. I am forever thankful that she was not my supervisor and had no input on my reviews, raises, etc.

          1. L*

            As someone from a faith background with relatively conservative moral views on these topics, I would never say anything about it in the workplace (let alone complain to a supervisor!) but I will say, birth control conversations at work make me HIGHLY uncomfortable. In my experience, there is often an assumption that everyone in the room is on board with this as a small talk topic, and it puts me in an incredibly awkward position as a single woman who everyone assumes must be on birth control. I am not going to preach to anyone at work but also feel like my silence draws a lot of attention to me when everyone else is participating in such a conversation, when I don’t particularly want to discuss my religious views in the workplace.

            Yeah, I get that people are on birth control for reasons other than it being a contraceptive, but it is an uncomfortable topic for the workplace.

          2. RussianInTexas*

            Years ago somehow the conversation in the lunch room turned to pajamas, and I let it slip I slept naked and an older (in her late 40s maybe? I was in my mid-20, so she was “older” to me) female coworker was shocked. SHOCKED. How could I, it’s inappropriate, indecent, tec. Mind you, I even lived alone then.

        2. Michelle*

          I feel like any kind of graphic medical stuff is inappropriate. (Though I’d argue that reproductive/genital medical stuff is especially so, being as how it’s the convergence of two bad workplace conversational choices, graphic bodily stuff and sexual implications.)

          People may not feel comfortable asking you to stop, even when they’re squicked out. (My experience has been that some women assume that graphic OB/gyn stuff is *the* all-time great bonding topic with female coworkers. (And quite a few of them think it’s the funniest thing on earth if you tell them you don’t want to hear it, and they’ll make a big show of laughing at you and doubling down.) (Usually those are the ones oversharing their graphic childbirth stories, though sometimes it’s periods instead.)

          Mind you, I’m not talking about telling a coworker (if you choose to share the info) that you were diagnosed with x disease or are scheduled for y procedure. I’m objecting to describing stuff graphically to (or in front of) people who haven’t explicitly asked for alllll of the gory details.

      2. Shirley Temple*

        That sounds pretty American, I think. Of course I want to talk about my IUD (if the topic comes up… not just willy-nilly), because a lot about gyno health and IUDs is mysterious and underresearched, and I’d like to be a resource for people who aren’t sure whether an IUD is right for them.

        And to reassure That Kind Of American, I have an IUD for my health, not for birth control. That’s because I’m a lesbian. Oops, I lost you again…

    3. Pierrot*

      I had a coworker at my last job who overshared. Granted, it wasn’t a super formal environment but the issue was more the level of detail she went into…about everything. One day I did just gently tell her that sharing the details of certain personal/family conflicts isn’t the best thing to do in front of the owner of our small business, and that it’s a good idea to keep those things close to the chest while at work in general depending on your relationship with your boss/coworkers. She wasn’t offended or hurt by what I said and had a sense of humor about it. I thought it was a kindness to say something since she was young and newer to the workforce.

      1. Pudding*

        Yep, I trauma dumped on my team in one of my first jobs, and I remember one of my coworkers finally bluntly telling me that everyone has problems and challenges in life and I was way over sharing about mine. I am really grateful to her for being so direct, I was pretty clueless.

        1. Dust Bunny*

          I had a coworker with whom I really did want to be friends but she basically introduced herself by telling me about her abusive ex and her much better (but actually, it turned out, also abusive, just not physically) second husband, and all her trauma. We had never met before. It was . . . a lot. I ended up backing way, way, off.

  19. Captain awkward*

    My first job was in a fairly small office where we all sat together in the same room. I sat opposite my boss and another senior staff member and had absolutely no idea if I needed to ask permission leave my desk to go for lunch (or at the end of the work day!). No specific lunch hours had been sent and it turned out people just left whenever suited them but I didn’t know what the rules were at first so ended up just sitting there awkwardly until my boss left for lunch at which point it was safe for me to do the same!

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Ha! My first day at my first professional job, I had read all the training packets they had given me and then was just sitting in my cubicle for a while. Luckily my coworker in the cube next to me said “why are you still here? go home” at 4:55 and I realized I could leave a little before 5pm when I didn’t have anything left to do (especially helpful the first few weeks, when I was still being trained).

    2. So Tired*

      I did something similar at my first internship! No one had told me that it was ok to leave for lunch whenever, or that when it hit 5, my day was done and I was allowed to leave. So the first day I was just kind of sitting there at like 5:15 when one of the supervisors was like “oh, why haven’t you left? You don’t need to be here still.” But everyone else was still working so I didn’t know I was allowed to leave!

    3. Shira VonDoom*

      oof, the Lunch Rules, LOL

      my first law firm, TECHNICALLY we could go to lunch whenever (I prefer later, to break up the day), but in practice, if you were out when your attorney got back from lunch, they’d get huffy. so I had to watch to see when they went to lunch, and then go immediately. they often went to lunch like 11:30.

      I hated this, LOL.

      my current firm, if an attorney is in office in a meeting, and no one else is in but me, I’ll stay clocked in till they’re done as a courtesy of my own choice. otherwise I can go whenever I want and there’s no fuss about it. these attorneys are used to working a lot more independently though.

    4. Lauren19*

      Lunch is something I’ve had to navigate differently by employer. In the agency world where time is billable, you ate lunch at your desk, and usually not until 12:30 (at the earliest). I’m in house now and people regularly do 1.5 hour sit down lunches off site. It’s baffling how different the cultures are.

      Leave time is also something you have to learn what the norms are. I had one place that ‘stated’ hours were 8:30-5. But in reality most people worked 9-6. The more senior you were, the later your day started and ended. So if a junior person came in at 7:30 or 8 and wanted to leave by 5, they better make sure it’s known to the senior folks they’re not skirting out ‘early’.

  20. eeb18*

    I think not understanding certain industry jargon or common workplace abbreviations (EOD meaning end of day, etc.) is a big one. At my first job, my manager gave me some examples of terms she hadn’t known when starting the job, and told me to ask her if I ever heard a term I didn’t understand. She did this in such an approachable way that I didn’t feel embarrassed to ask. I’ve tried to do the same thing with my new hires since.

    1. The Original K.*

      That’s an awesome thing for your boss to do! Different industries have different jargon, so a cheat sheet is really helpful for new people even if they’ve been in the work force a while but are new to your industry.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        I work in the double whammy world of government & healthcare. We have a list of terms on our intranet. It also includes references for more information.

        1. starsaphire*

          We also have a page of acronyms on our intranet. I forward that link to every new hire in my department, because I didn’t know where it was for like a year and a half, and I had to keep Googling things and guessing.

          Some acronyms should not be repurposed in the work place, btw. Just sayin.

        2. RPOhno*

          I used to work in pharma manufacturing, and I wish we’d had something like that list of acronyms. Took me an embarrassing number of years to figure out that “wiffy” was actually WFI and stood for “water for injection”

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          When I worked for a government contractor, I made a cheat sheet for new hires. There were some really crazy and unintuitive ones on there. And if you google, for example, “GFE”, it comes back with “girlfriend experience” before “government-funded equipment”.

      1. Government UnderPeon*

        I love this — I just created a excel spreadsheet and sent to our big team and said, “how many acronyms can we come up with and define in the next 24 hours? We’ll use this for the next onboarding!” Immediately seven people jumped in and I just heard from one of them, “Crowdsourcing this is such a great idea” — THANKS, AAM community!

    2. Rage*

      Yeah, that’s definitely a thing that isn’t normal in many places but should be. When I started at my current role I had zero clue about all of the acronyms that were tossed about. (Second day: “So-and-so from Tazzin is calling.” Who or what is a Tazzin? It was TASN – an acronym – but I felt awful having to literally ask the called how to spell the organization name.) I made a little cheat-sheet for myself and my boss saw it and thought it was a great idea – so we expanded on it and made it available to all new team members. Sometimes it’s easy to forget that what you now know so intrinsically isn’t universal knowledge.

      Fun fact: “Tazzin” is now my go-to fantasy character placeholder name during NaNoWriMo.

      We got a new COO 18 months ago and he was (is – do you ever stop being?) an engineer. So he brought a lot of new-to-us terminology like COB (close of business). He just tossed them out, assuming everyone knew, and very few people who did (we just had not used that specific acronym before so people who had started there careers with us and moved up in rank had likely never heard it before) – and there was much confusion.

      1. Filosofickle*

        FWIW we’ve had looooong comment threads before that confirm even if you know what EOD and COB stand for, what it actually *means* varies from person to person! Knowing the acronym doesn’t mean you know if the expected deadline is before end of regular business hours (say, 5p), the end of YOUR day (which could be later), or it’s fine as long as it’s there by morning when the other person starts.

        1. Lurker Cat*

          Also terms that share the same acronym but have totally different meanings. At my first job TOC was Total Organic Carbon, at my second job it was Theory of Constraints. I found that very confusing the first time I went to a TOC meeting at new job and it was about the ship schedule instead of the chemistry results.

          1. CurrentlyBill*

            And when I see TOC, I see Table of Contentents.

            POC is another one that’s popping up in more comms, lately — Point of Contact vs Person of Color.

            1. EvilSiegfried*

              Another fun one is POS: the Point of Sale system that like McDonalds uses when you place your order vs. Piece of S***

          2. MigraineMonth*

            I worked at a company that developed Artificial Intelligence systems and would talk about “action items” every meeting. I had a couple of confusing conversations before I realized that they weren’t telling me to build an artificial intelligence system to monitor performance, they wanted me to do it as an “action item”.

      2. NotSoEvilHRLady*

        I work in state government and we have an entire WEBSITE devoted to the acronyms for state agencies and boards, plus other useful terms.

    3. Agrajag*

      EOD is a good one, not to mention COB (close of business) if your industry uses it! I’m in a workplace now where people rarely work outside business hours, so there might not be a difference here, but at my last job COB meant “before 5” and usually required a specified time zone as we were a big, sprawling, and collaborative firm, whereas EOD meant something like “before midnight, my time zone” or “I’m not sure exactly when I’ll finish, but it’ll be on your desk in the morning.”

    4. Betty Flintstone*

      This is a great one! For EOD, also express what that really means in context. Like I used to manage someone who thought end of day meant by 11:59 pm and I meant by like 5-6 pm so I could review it in the evening if I wanted. I both clarified with her that’s what I meant, and also changed to using COB (close of business) going forward

    5. Morte*

      And different acronyms can be different things in different settings!
      EOD -Entry on Duty at my job (we use COB- close of business where EOD is commonly used)

    6. Caffeine*

      I created a wiki for team-centric abbreviations, which links out to the corporate jargon wiki. I’ve only just started remembering what KPI, SLA, and SWAG stands for.

    7. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Or stuff like EOM meaning “end of message” aka “the subject line is all there is to this email.”

    8. Ama*

      I work in a medical research nonprofit and the disease we specialize in has so many acronyms (there are over 100 different biological iterations of this disease)– we actually have a very good website and programs designed to help patients and caretakers learn so I always encourage new hires to start there, but I also try to assure them that I’ve been here almost a decade and I still run into terms I’ve never heard before and that there is no shame in looking things up on the internet or asking for clarification.

    9. Common Taters on the Ax*

      Yes, that’s really great. I would have loved that when I was starting out. I had a boss who would write throw several abbreviations in each email, and originally I would try to figure them out. Often I could, but I reached the point where I was so annoyed, even if I could figure out her meaning, I would often ask her what she meant to make her realize how obscure she was being. Sorry, I would say, what does “wrt” mean?

    10. MigraineMonth*

      The first time I received an email with “follow up” abbreviated as “f/u”, I was shocked.

      1. Mac (I Wish All The Floors Were Lava)*

        I experienced a little frisson of shock just now reading this comment! Thank you for preparing me for meeting it out in the wild!

      2. Flying Fish*

        I work in healthcare, where follow up is often “f/u” or “FU”…. “f/u diarrhea” or “f/u colon CA” are entirely normal to see!

        Also, for us EOD means every other day…

    11. Somehow_I_Manage*

      When I was an intern, I sat in on a meeting with a contractor who was throwing out all kinds of engineering acronyms I hadn’t heard of. I kept a list and followed up with my supervisor and went through them one by one. His favorite was when I asked- “He kept saying he needed things PDQ. What is a PDQ?” He laughed and said- “Pretty Damn Quick!”

    12. new year, new name*

      For a while, I worked in a field where there were different regulations for different classes of things: Class One things, Class Two things, etc. Knowing which things fit into which class was important. Anyway, I was explaining this to my new hire and I will always remember glancing down at her notebook and seeing that she had very dutifully written down “classics” instead of “Class Six.”

    13. Llama face!*

      On the first day at my previous job- which was a new industry for me, I brought a notebook to write in and mentioned to my new supervisor that I wanted to note down any industry-specific jargon or acronyms. She responded that they didn’t have any of that sort of thing… and then proceeded to use a large amount of jargon and industry-specific acronyms the rest of the day. (Ex. CAB? No, not a taxi- that’s the Community Advisory Board.)

      So, long story short, people may not even realize the language they use is not intuitive to outsiders and asking questions to clarify is a good thing.

    14. Sociology Rocks!*

      Part of my job is taking meeting notes and, learning acronyms gets worse when half the people using them have accents and/or English isn’t their first or most used language. Unless someone else I do reliably understand uses it, I can’t always tell if it’s an acronym I know that is altered by their accented pronunciation, or if it is a new one I haven’t encountered, on top of trying to guess what the acronym means so that I can follow the conversation in a meaningful way. That and our project name is basically an acronym with an acronym within it, which I feel like speaks for itself .

    15. Michelle Smith*

      This is huge. I created a running list of acronyms and terms at my job because it was so, so confusing to keep track of them all when I first started. We share the list (which is on a shared drive so it can be updated as we all think of new ones) with all our new hires now.

    16. Hello Sweetie*

      I would have thought EOD meant Explosive Ordnance Disposal!

      Here we say COB – close of business.

    17. cor blimey*

      The company where I work just LOVES abbreviations. They have one for everything. Everybody uses them, but when you ask them what it stands for, nobody knows. We all know it’s ridiculous, but whatever. Even the CEO joked about it a few times.

  21. Introvert girl*

    During my unpaid lunchbreak at my first job out of uni we weren’t allowed to choose where we sat at the long table. You just had to sit next to where the person in front of you sat down. Most of us were rookies so we obeyed. These days I would just laugh in their face and sat down wherever I wanted and with whom I wanted.

      1. Introvert girl*

        Socialising. All of us sat in a single room (over 100 people), except for the 4 directors, the noise was just awful.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      What the heck?! I just finished watching Oz and even there, inmates could choose where to sit at lunch. smh. I am curious to know what the consequences were for not sitting in your expected spot.

    2. Tuna Casserole*

      When I was fresh out of University, I got a job at the hospital where my mom and my uncle worked. At lunchtime, I would eat with one of or both of them. Also, Mom was a department head, and other department heads would sometimes join us for lunch. The secretary of my department pulled me aside and told me that “we don’t mix with other departments” and people thought I was thinking too much of myself by eating with department heads. She also said it was unseemly to eat lunch with my uncle, because he was an older man.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        Reminds me of the woman who accused her manager of having an affair… with the manager’s own husband. She was shocked a married woman would eat lunch with a *man*.

  22. DisneyChannelThis*

    Worst one I had to try to teach new employee – not to sleep in the main hallway on their lunch break. The optics of a employee lying down in a public area just not good. He was really adamant it was his lunch he could sleep wherever the hell he wanted. The head of the division on the other hand was really adamant that if you couldn’t stay awake in the main hallway you could go home permanently.

    1. Stevesie*

      Oh yes I once rested my head on my desk during a break and got a lot of concerned looks from managers! Oddly, I have a coworker who often takes lunch naps on couches that are out of view and no one thinks anything of it.

      1. snoopythedog*

        Hidden lunch naps are life when I worked in office. Now I just set my status to away and nap at home.

      2. yala*

        I worked at a very old, well-known historic place, and there were two breakrooms–the “active” one that had the fridge, the vending machines, tables, et al where employees could eat and talk, and a “quiet” one that was dimly lit with comfy couches and chairs and looked like something out of Downton Abbey. It was heaven.

      3. No Longer Gig-Less Data Analyst*

        When I was pregnant a million years ago, I was incredibly fatigued/nauseated in my first trimester. I one time put my head down on my desk to “rest my eyes” and fell asleep for over an hour. At that point everyone knew about my condition, so when I woke up with drool on my desk calendar and asked why no one got me up (I was in a cube but not terrible out of the way), they just said they figured I needed the rest.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I fell asleep in the middle of a small meeting with my manager attending. I’m never taking that “non-drowsy” cold medicine before work again!

        2. allathian*

          I had to tell my manager about my pregnancy earlier than I wanted to, she found me asleep at my desk once. I didn’t have any pregnancy-related nausea, except when I smelled coffee, particularly stale coffee, but I was *so tired* most of the time, except for a few weeks in the middle of my second trimester. In the first trimester it was just normal hormonal fatigue, but in the third it was because I couldn’t sleep. In the last month of pregnancy I got up to pee once an hour or so.

      4. Ama*

        I had a direct report fresh out of college who did this during her lunch break, my boss saw her before I did, and she never was fully able to overcome that first impression in the two years she worked for us. She was my first report and it quite honestly didn’t occur to me to have to say “don’t sleep at your desk, even if you are on break” — now I have a whole spiel about how “you are welcome to take your lunch at your desk but be aware that people won’t necessarily know you are on lunch so you need to be prepared to answer work questions — if you want a full break for the hour I recommend you go in the lunch room or out elsewhere.”

      5. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

        At one job there was a couch that had been in someone’s office that they didn’t want any more, and there was no other good place to put it. We had them put it in the server room that only my group had access to. We would go in there, put in earplugs, and catch a nap. “Where’s Curmudgeon?” “Oh, they’re in the server room.”

    2. Wordnerd*

      My student office assistant job in college wasn’t reception, but projects/filing in cubicle in clear view of the front desk. I had to be told that while doing my homework was acceptable when I didn’t have a project, just putting my head down and taking a nap on the clock was not.
      Fun fact, I now supervise college student workers and do my best to be clear about these things!

      1. spcepickle*

        My previous boss has a whole set up under his desk! A little mat, pillow, and blanket. He naps under his desk almost every day at lunch. He does have an office, but even with the door closed we can all hear him snoring.

    3. A Person*

      I think in my workplace this would result in waking up in a ring of concerned colleagues with a first-aider trying to check your breathing!

  23. Jedi Mike*

    Something odd when I recently started my (pretty good) office job in the past few months is HOW MUCH people laugh in conversation! I accept it as normal but it still grates on me a little. Some of my coworkers also have work/non-work chats lasting upwards of an hour including said laughter. Could just be my workplace but it seems semi common here. That’s just not my conversation style. I can talk to someone for 10-15 minutes (unless it’s a work meeting) but then it just feels odd

    1. Kate*

      Yes, the norm in my department is very zingy and (kindly) jokey and sometimes I notice people from other departments being quietly taken aback when we interact with them. We don’t work on anything it’s inappropriate to have a spirit of lightness and humor around, so I think we’re a good influence.

      1. Shira VonDoom*

        yeah, I think that’s just a “different groups have different norms” thing too.

        my social media circles tend to be very bantery, and I’ve had a couple irl friends admit they didn’t participate a lot because they felt intimidated, even though I very specifically moderate my accounts because I don’t allow meanness…but for some folks, even friendly back and forth is a lot.

  24. just another queer reader*

    The idea that many/most people have set start and end times that they work each day.

    (My parents worked super-flexible and somewhat unusual hours, so I kind of figured that was how life worked. Turns out many people in my company work, say, 8 to 5 every day. I just kind of worked until I felt like going home, which was often pretty late, so I wasn’t slacking or anything, but it might have looked funny.)

    1. Forgot my name again*

      In my first job I used to come in a bit late, and would often enter the building the same time as the big boss – so I figured it was fine since he’s not making the effort to be there on time either. He sat me down and pointed out that I was working specified contracted hours and he wasn’t, which was thoroughly mortifying, and I was never late for that job again. However, working contracted hours I realised that I wasn’t being paid for the amount of work I did, only the amount of time I spent on it, which led to other problems…!

    2. Esprit de l'escalier*

      One thing I would urge new employees to find out ASAP is … it’s so basic I hesitate to type it, but it tripped me up early in my career — “What are the required hours for my job?” This can vary in different ways, and your job interviewer might not think to mention it if you don’t ask.

      I was accustomed to a start time of either 8:45 or 9:00 am and had no idea that my next job started at 8:30. It had never come up during the hiring process or when onboarding. My director finally realized that this is why I was always nonchalantly coming in late, and let me know. I was mortified….

      1. Our Mr Wilson*

        I figured this out pretty quickly when I showed up on my first day at 8 and no one was even around to let me in the building for almost an hour. I’m definitely asking in the future!

      2. Mama Bear*

        Literally was scrolling to see if someone had commented this. Especially over the pandemic, we have a ton of new / junior folks who are mysteriously disappeared in the middle of the working day and just? Don’t? Realize? That they should let people know ahead of time if they’re going to go poof? (This is like, 1-4 PM, not at some unreasonable time.)

  25. Manatee Matinee*

    “Business casual.” I still don’t know what it means! One place I worked meant “jeans and a polo,” another place meant “you can wear jeans one Friday a month but otherwise wear slacks/skirt and a blouse/collared shirt,” and in my current place I work from home in quite literally pajamas and wear a ruana when I need to go to a meeting. I miss wearing a uniform like I did in retail/fast food, because at least with a uniform you know exactly what is expected of you.

    1. Accounting Gal*

      Yes, this one is tough! Every office I’ve worked at has been “business casual” but that has been a huge range. Definitely would recommend someone new spend a few weeks seeing how other people dress and trying to fall somewhere in that range. Is it jeans + blazer? Casual shirt + flat shoes with slacks or a skirt? Or is it basically business but without the suit jacket? Such a range!

    2. Felicitous*

      As the only woman in a tech office in my first job out of college, I felt like I was constantly guessing whether my clothes were work appropriate, because there were just a bunch of men wearing jeans and polos, but I have some sensory issues and hate jeans and polos. I have since determined that no one will say anything about what I’m wearing because most of my coworkers won’t even notice, and those that do don’t want to be That Guy talking about the appearance of the only woman in the office. As such, I can wear anything I want short of a onesie.

      1. matt*

        I had the same problem, but in reverse! I was the only man in my office and everyone else was wearing dresses or skirts. Took me a little while to figure out what the equivalent level of dress was for me, but figured it out eventually.

        1. Laffing Frog*

          I used to work in Community Health and found that female staff (doctors, admin, social workers, allied health, etc) would turn up in gorgeous brightly patterned dresses, and often had quirky statement jewellery scarves, glasses.
          Male employees found the dresscode a little more baffling, as they felt a suit would come across too stuffy to the working class/disadvantaged clientele, but were afraid to wear jeans for fear of not being taken seriously enough.

    3. Feral Humanist*

      Yes, the amount of variation in “business casual” is difficult. I had trouble with this when I went from grad school (where I had dressed more formally than many of my peers and well within the “business casual” parameters of the job I had before I went back to school) to my first job after grad school. That workplace had an ED who used the dress code as a cudgel against people she thought needed to be taken down a peg, and she particularly hated pants with patch pockets –– so basically, it was abusive with a side of (in my case) fatphobia. She used to send me pictures of $200 blazers despite knowing that I made 1/6 what she did. (Yes, she was a nightmare in many others ways.)

      I have something of a stubborn streak, so I started wearing pants with patch pockets with long sweaters over them. No one knew but me, but that made all the difference. And after she finally left and we got leadership who didn’t care about the dresscode in the same way, I started dressing better than I ever had under the old ED!

      1. Feral Humanist*

        I should add: She had been known to SEND PEOPLE HOME TO CHANGE because their pants had patch pockets.

        1. Seashell*

          I have never even heard of a patch pocket, so I wouldn’t have known what she was talking about.

          1. Feral Humanist*

            I never had either! It’s the pockets on the back of jeans and corduroys. She had special hatred for ones that have visible hardware, like rivets. She thought it made the pants too casual for work. As though we were all walking around examining each other’s rear-ends! *facepalm*

    4. TX_Trucker*

      I don’t think anyone “knows” what business casual means. Decades ago, I used to work in an ultraconservative office. Their definition of business casual still required men to wear a suit, but they could skip the tie.

    5. Corky's Wife Bonnie*

      It’s helpful when companies like mine provide a list of acceptable and unacceptable under the business casual definition. I really appreciated that when I first started. My previous company was business casual and what was okay there was on my present company unacceptable list.

    6. Thatoneoverthere*

      My first job out of college was at a small temp firm. I typically wore nice sweaters/blouses, slacks and dress shoes. The one guy in our office, wore polos and khakis. My manager was stuck in the 80s/90s (this was in 2008) and wore really out of date pant suits. She pulled me aside and said I needed to dress exactly like her and stop wearing blouses and slacks. She said I could probably find matching suit sets at Goodwill. For the record I wore a suit to my interview, but everyone (literally everyone but her) dressed the way I did. I asked her why the one guy in the office could wear a polo and I was supposed to wear a jacket. She didn’t have an answer.

      A few weeks later I asked to leave at 4:30 for a 5pm doctor’s appointment and she fired me on the spot. It was the worst ran place in the world. I honestly was happy she fired me!

    7. The Rise and Fall of Sanctuary Moon*

      I asked early on at my current job what “business casual” actually meant for us, and my boss laughed at said, “Oh we only have a dress code because the biologists kept turning up for meetings straight from the field covered in mud. Other than no visible dirt, maybe don’t wear a bathing suit, maybe don’t wear a ballgown.” I have managed to abide by all of those rules since then.

      1. Corporate Goth*

        I gave a presentation in college in what became known as “the ballgown” later. I was two hours away from home, no car, no clothing stores within walking distance (or money, for that matter), and it was a formal thing. My choices at the time were ripped jeans or a long purple dress. I only found out because the instructor forgot it was me and cautioned people in the next class that suits were more appropriate than ballgowns.

        I still think it was better than the plaid miniskirt my partner wore, but also I did nearly all the work the night before while she slept…sigh.

    8. Captain Swan*

      My first professional job (decades ago) was extra fun on the wardrobe front. I was the only female employee (really small engineering firm) in our office and the vast majority of my coworkers were closer to my parents age. Coworkers clothing choices were more formal than business casual but not quite business formal. Throw in the fact that I’m a plus sized woman. I shudder at the amount of effort I spent trying to thread the needle on dialing in equivalent work appropriate outfits given my age and size. I definitely could have used advice from similarly situated experienced coworkers.

    9. Not Mindy*

      I have never heard the word ruana before. I think it would be a great entry in a NYT crossword puzzle.

    10. Magenta*

      I had to go and train an team in Manila, I was told the business casual dress code was vigorously enforced and so packed the clothes I would wear to visit clients in London. It turns out that in that office business casual meant jeans, ho0dies and trainers so my tailored dresses with heels and sheer tights (pantyhose?) were really out of place!

    11. another poster*

      Yes, this. Wait a few weeks and play it VERY SAFE/usually too nice is safer than the opposite, before you buy anything new or take big swings attire-wise. Also, know that the goal is to swing for the middle of the dress code, until you have some goodwill stored up at least. Maybe no one cares that the mad scientist/genius shows up rumpled cause they’ve worked there forever and aren’t outward facing… but you are new and probably should dress more like the middle range. Also, I know there’s been other questions on this – what you wear to go out to the bars probably isn’t what you should wear to work. I work around the legislature (so granted very conservative attire, and on occasion you all have to be business formal). The interns or new hires – the number of them in miniskirts, crop tops, and clear heels is pretty high. bring it with you and change after work before happy hour.
      OH! and I love fashion and colorful clothes accessories etc. But at some point, you want to be remembered for your good work, and what you said, instead of what you wore. So taking some time to figure out your work style makes sense.

  26. Jessica*

    This is going to be a great thread. So many of the things I can think of either have changed over the years or are variable. But I think even for things where work culture is different from one workplace to another, there are things it’s good to be aware of. Like, not “A is universally true,” but “some workplaces are A, some are B, and you should always pay attention and figure out which one is in effect.”
    For instance:
    — If you have an office, norms about door open or closed, disturbing, and knocking.
    — How much does punctuality matter if you’re not hourly
    — Do you ask or tell for vacation time? Is there a process to share coverage around popular times?
    — What about doing personal things in the workplace, whether it’s making a personal-business call or playing on your phone—huge faux pas, or some amount is normal, or what
    — Dress, of course.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Lunch & break culture! Sometimes people take breaks together. Where I work when you’re in the office, there’s a strong culture of walking on breaks to get caffeine or lunch. You can go alone, but you often have company. And sometimes people just want to go for a walk.

      At my old job, I generally took most walks by myself. But my team often went together to a restaurant for lunch at least every couple of weeks.

    2. Little My*

      The punctuality thing is HUGE. My first job I got in a lot of trouble for being 5-10 minutes late every day. At my current office even pre-pandemic that didn’t matter at all.

    3. Bird Lady*

      When I had a door to my office, I usually closed the door for confidential conversations, or if I was handling sensitive materials. I used to work in Development, so I often had people’s bank information to process gifts. I had a whiteboard on the outside of the door, where I would leave notes indicating I was in a confidential meeting until a certain time, or I was working on a tight deadline and to knock if there was an important request. My manager and the board president knew they could come in at any time, unless I was in a confidential conversation.

      And since I worked from before offices opened until well after they closed, I totally made personal calls to schedule doctor’s appointments, or when I was buying a house, send info to the lawyer. That was the only way these things were going to happen.

    4. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      A thing I learned relatively early on is that if you leave someone’s office, it’s good to ask, “Door open or closed?” regardless of its state when you arrived or while you were there. Because they might be about to get on the phone, or might be about to get coffee, or whatever, and it’s a courtesy that indicates your respect for their private space.

      1. Corporate Goth*

        Yes, this! And whatever you do, don’t fling an office’s closed door open without knocking.

  27. Prospect Gone Bad*

    The way most larger companies silo off 99% of information from entry level workers and then get mad they make “mistakes” based on their lack of knowledge of the larger picture. I consistently had this at my last job. For example, at one company, I couldn’t even look up what the parts were I was entering orders for. Yes, I kid you not. But then I’d get frantic calls about putting in an order for an A38218283 when it was supposed to be an A38222992 which is a completely different thing and obviously it was wrong because the customer (who’s order history I couldn’t search) always ordered that. This is why I switched to smaller companies.

  28. S*

    When I started out I had a hard time telling when/how it was ok to interrupt someone at their work to ask a question. Now with IM it’s easier, they can just ignore you or give a “later” response if it’s not a good time. But in person is still confusing

  29. Doozy*

    I remember being really surprised that I couldn’t take time off without pay whenever I wanted. Sure, I got 2 weeks vacation (or whatever) but early in my career I thought that was just a limit on how much they’d pay for, and if I wanted to take a month off in the summer, for example, it was just a matter of making sure my budget would cover the 2 weeks without pay. It was a big surprise to me that a lot of places did not want you taking off more than whatever their vacation allotment was.

    1. Stevesie*

      I had a similar experience! I went from a job where people worked overtime during busy season, and hours were cut during slow season. Not an issue to take unpaid time off during the slow season at all. Next job I had to beg to get some unpaid time off for a long vacation I had planned without knowing they didn’t allow that.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      I know some young workers who still do this. I don’t think they’ve yet seen the parallel between taking a lot of time off and not advancing at the job (or even keeping jobs long term). Some jobs will be explicit that unpaid time is not allowed. Others will let you do it, but it isn’t a good long-term strategy.

      1. sal*

        And at some it’s fine! I’m so grateful to work at a company that allows unpaid PTO. Even a lot of managers and “high value” employees (in my section, anyway) have taken a month+ off.

    3. EvilSiegfried*

      I’m at my first job and one of my coworkers just got COVID, so she had to stay home and dipped into “negative PTO”, a concept that was and is truly bizarre to me. I thought if you were out of PTO and you got COVID, it would just be UTO by default. I’m still not clear about how negative PTO works, what if she gets sick again? What if she quits before she gets back into the positive?

      1. Allison Wonderland*

        I guess it’s possible they would make her pay back those days if she left before accruing more PTO, though hopefully they would let it slide. I’ve never worked for a place that combined sick time and vacation into one PTO bank, so I’m still kinda confused how that works. And is there no short-term disability option for an illness that lasts longer than 5 days or so?

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          I worked at a place with combined, and it was only allowed to carry over 1 week. So in order to take a vacation in February, before I had accrued more time, I had to go negative. And yes, I was required to keep accruing to catch back up, and it would have come out of my last paycheck if I’d quit before I had caught up. This was a place that did not allow unpaid time off, period.

        2. MigraineMonth*

          Everywhere I’ve worked, you’re allowed to dip into the red on PTO. If you quit or are fired, you need to pay back the company, just like the company has to pay you for PTO you’ve earned but not used.

          I’ve never had short-term disability coverage kick in at less than 90 days, but if you qualify for FMLA they have to allow you to take time unpaid once you’ve exhausted your PTO.

          1. ronda*

            its not universal that you get paid out for unused vacation. state law in Georgia does not require it . other states might.
            (I was laid off and they didnt pay the vacation time)

        3. Captain Swan*

          Almost everywhere I worked had all leave in one bucket. Generally, if the employee went negative on PTO and quit before they had worked it off and were positive again then the remaining PTO was paid back to the company out of the employee’s last paycheck. It’s basically the reverse of the scenario where an employee has unused PTO and quits. Unused PTO is paid out in the lastvpaycheck. At least at places I have worked, other companies or states may have different rules.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        Where I currently work, they award you the coming year’s allotment of PTO, but you haven’t actually earned it yet. So if you use the three weeks in January and quit in March, you owe the organization money.

        This is a change from every other place I’ve worked (where you earn PTO each month), and I would have gone into the red for a December vacation if they didn’t decide that the refresh happens mid-December for some reason.

  30. darlingpants*

    I wish someone had walked me through the cycle of reviews -> raises. In my industry/region you have self-reflection reviews in December, manager reviews in January, raises are decided in February, your bonus is paid in March and you new salary kicks in in April. So if you want a raise in April you better be thinking about it in December.

    This is for very large companies, I’m sure for smaller companies in the same industry it’s a little more flexible, but it is very common to have bonuses paid in March, enough that it’s hard to recruit in Q1 because everyone is waiting for their bonus payout.

    1. urguncle*

      In tech, and our bonuses have almost always paid out at the end of Q1 specifically to keep you around for them. I think it’s manipulative, because it does legitimately make it more difficult to find a job later in the year, when budgets have been in effect for several months. It definitely keeps you in the mindset of “well, what’s another year?” until you can’t take it anymore.

      1. Captain Swan*

        I had a coworker once that was very dissatisfied with the company about something. He planned ahead. Did the interviews and got and accepted an offer that had very flexible timelines for start date. 3 months later he turned in his notice to our employer, the day after our yearly bonuses were paid out. Started the job (with the offer he signed 3 months earlier) after he worked out his notice.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      I’m very glad my first manager told me to set achievable goals because raises were based on our reviews. He also told me to include projects I worked on that weren’t directly related to my goals when I was filling out my self-reflection reviews because he can’t remember everything all of his reports worked on all year, and that helped him write a better review for me.

      1. ferrina*

        This is such helpful info. I learned early on that the annual review is often a marketing doc- you want to be honest, but generally complimentary.

        I learned the hard way that your manager will probably forget what you did last year. My manager completely forgot about anything I had done more than 3 months ago (and she didn’t read my self review). Now I make bullets, “happen” to chat about my accomplishments in 1:1s a couple weeks before reviews to jog my manager’s memory

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      When I worked PT jobs that didn’t fall under a corporate review/raise cycle, I wish I knew how to ask for a raise.

      My dad was in a union, & my mom worked somewhere that had set reviews, so it never came up when they discussed work.

    4. Somehow_I_Manage*

      It’s so variable and often unstructured, that this is actually a totally reasonable thing to ask your supervisor about in any job.

    5. Pink Candyfloss*

      Our cycle is the same – we probably work in the same large global industry lol.

      People stay until March bonuses are paid out and then you see a surge in announcements of departures and new hires at month-end and into Q2.

    6. L*

      Oh yeah this is an important one if you work in the white collar fortune 500 world. If you ask for a raise when they give you your performance review… you are way too late for anything to happen!

  31. Former Retail Lifer*

    My friend and I got a job in an office in high school and were told only that the dress code was “business casual.” We just thought that meant no jeans or shorts, so we both regularly rolled in wearing band t-shirts with a flannel over them and khakis or corduroy pants (it was the early 1990s). It took far too long for someone to pull us aside and school us on what they meant by business casual.

    1. Love to WFH*

      Just today at work, someone used “not wearing shorts to work” as an example of commonly understood expectations.

      I was “what?” In the places where I’ve worked in software development, wearing cargo shorts to work was completely normal. (Also commonly done in freezing weather, but that’s another topic.)

      1. Michelle Smith*

        There is so much variation even within industries, that it’s really important to be specific if there are strict expectations. I’ve always worked at relatively conservative offices (legal field), but one place took it entirely too far and mandated that if you were wearing a skirt you HAD to wear pantyhose with it. No this wasn’t the 90s, this was 2017!

  32. Kay*

    Maybe not quite a norm? But when I got my first proper office job, I wish someone had really gone to the trouble to explain how Outlook works. I got through a whole year without needing to send someone a calendar invite, but it was super embarrassing to have to ask someone to show me how to do it. I was in my mid-30s, but I was coming from a hands-on field where we just didn’t use that kind of system. Someone More Important Than You scheduled a meeting and told you about it, period.

    1. Mbarr*

      This. I manage student employees, and didn’t realize until a month after my first student started that he didn’t know how to schedule meetings with zoom info in them. Nor did he know how to set up an Outlook rule.

      I was also surprised to find out that my students prefer to use the online version of Outlook instead of the desktop version. There are minor but important differences in the UI of both that can affect instructions. (E.g. One of my excel workbooks has a bunch of power queries that only work if the file is open in the desktop version.)

      1. lunchtime caller*

        I absolutely prefer the online version too (though I will often keep both open so I can use the desktop one for the calendar) and it often surprises my coworkers who are all the same age as me! I think it’s because I didn’t start using Outlook until a couple of years ago, and the online one is closer to the Gmail UI.

      2. umami*

        I just hired a new admin. assistant, and she was having issues because she would open emails in the online version and not find attachments and such. I couldn’t understand why not until I went over to her desk. I also asked her to send an email as a blind copy to a list of recipients, and she didn’t know what that was. To her credit, she figured it out and then told me that was her first time doing it, so she’s definitely resourceful!

      3. Parakeet*

        Heh, I haven’t been an undergrad in a long time (elder millennial), and I never had to do either of those things at work until my current job, which I started last year. They weren’t too hard to figure out by myself, but they were new to me.

    2. Kvothe*

      I second this! Also figuring out if the culture allows you to just look at everyone’s calendars and send an invite, or engage in the email back-and-forth before picking a time. (It the back-and-forth drives me crazy when people won’t use the Outlook features to avoid this, but sometimes in the office culture it’s required.)

      1. Kate*

        I appreciate your awareness that this can be a cultural difference! For me it feels HUGELY peremptory to get an invite with no email first.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        My boss made a big push about 5 years ago to move everyone from a bunch of meeting scheduling emails over to using scheduling assistant in Outlook and just sending it with a note that says, “please propose a new time if this doesn’t work for you”. It is so much more efficient, and getting emails asking about availability irritate the crap out of me – I keep my calendar up to date, if you insist on sending the email at least look and propose a time that’s not already occupied?

    3. ferrina*

      So much! Or sending a PTO hold on a calendar that then makes all the recipients look like they are busy all day…..that’s a pet peeve of mine, and I’m now very cognizant of showing junior staff how to send an invite that is marked as Free (i.e., don’t clutter my calendar, I do enough of that on my own)

    4. Accounting Gal*

      This is good but I’m going to add for people new to the workforce: don’t be afraid to Google something like this. Something like sending a calendar invite in Outlook is easily Googled and then it’s one less thing you had to ask someone how to do (as opposed to internal processes or tasks requiring institutional knowledge – things you can’t look up online)

    5. Devo Forevo*

      Thirding this point since I had this conversation two days ago with a subordinate who was consistently missing important info. Turned out she didn’t know she could organize her inbox. We were about to put her on a PIP!

    6. a name goes here*

      Absolutely this. Outlook can be a really powerful tool and some of these kids may not be familiar enough with it to even know the right questions to ask.

      Then even when you know how to check someone’s calendar, there is a lot of workplace etiquette that might need to be spelled out. Who should you copy and when? When should you drop people out of copy? When is it ok to decline a meeting? What info to include when sending a meeting invite?

    7. Mama Bear*

      On a related-ish note, email culture – do people read long emails? How do they feel about bullets or bolded headings? (Some people apparently find this condescending, who knows?) is it common practice to put a TL;DR somewhere in the email?

    8. Texan In Exile*

      I needed to align the checkboxes on a powerpoint slide and was holding a ruler up to the computer screen, manually moving each bit of text and still not able to get it right.

      My boss saw me and started laughing. And then he showed me how to use the align function.

  33. CLC*

    Over summers in college I had worked admin office jobs and was paid hourly. After college I worked in consulting on a salary. Not having a lot of rules/structure was really confusing at first. How long can I take for lunch? What time do I come in? When is it ok to leave? Who do I tell if I’m going to be out? What do I do if I’m low on work? This was over 20 years ago and consulting is notorious for leaving new grads to figure everything out themselves. But I think when you are new to less structured jobs after working in retail or admin it’s really important for someone to level set upfront and actually help you navigate these things. I’ll also note that this was particularly hard for me being ADHD. Always remember that these things are particularly difficult for ND employees.

    1. Data Slicentist*

      I didn’t know that I’m ADHD until recently (about 10 years into my career), but this really resonates with me. I was so glad to have having public transit schedules set my start and end times, since nobody cared as long as my work was done…definitely an adjustment.
      Once I *did* get the hang of things, I was shocked by how much better I performed in an office environment than I had in academic settings.

    2. ferrina*

      I’m in consulting, and I second this. Our new grads are historically expected to watch the senior staff and figure everything out from there. In practice, it just means that folks with a hands-on manager get better training than those whose managers are MIA. And it meant that any mid-levels that were hired from outside the company got 0 formal introduction to company culture- you had to intuit everything. It was a disaster.

      Thankfully my company is overhauling this. There’s a deliberate effort to unify and document institutional knowledge and expectations. We completely changed the onboarding process to clearly state expectations and give safety nets for when we inevitably miss something. Because it was soooo exclusionary for ND or anyone that didn’t have the same upbringing as the upper management (I’m in both categories).

  34. Presea*

    I had no idea how flexible hours were supposed to work; I’m neurodivergent in a way where “it’s okay to just do whatever you want or need” or “I need you to do [time sensitive task] it in an hour or two” are ambiguous to the point of making me feel stressed and confused. I didn’t understand that (in my context, in every professional job I’ve personally worked) there’s actually no such thing as being “late to work” as long as I’m working the correct number of hours in the end!

    My first professional job was an hourly wage job that included a billable hours component, but obviously I would occasionally work hours that weren’t billable to the client. I thought that if the hours weren’t billable, I shouldn’t put that time on my time sheet to get paid for it, but I was actually required by law to be paid for that time.

    Speaking of requirements to be paid for time – in a college internship, I had no idea that it was actually an Extremely Big Deal that I kept procrastinating on turning in my employment papers that allowed me to actually be legally employed by the university. I worked for free for like, two months before it occurred to me that not turning those in might have something to do with me not getting paid.

    1. CheeryO*

      My first job out of college was at a small consulting company, and it was an absolute nightmare for me with all of the unwritten rules about billing hours and how slow or fast to work and what to do when you didn’t have enough to do.

  35. Former Retail Lifer*

    At my first job ever, I didn’t understand how the payroll cycle worked and I always thought my hours were wrong. If I got paid every two weeks on Friday, I thought it should include my hours through Thursday. I didn’t realize that payroll closed the week before and there was a delay.

    1. Allison Wonderland*

      Yeah, and this is arguable kind of fishy. It sucks if you start a job and have to potentially wait up to 3 weeks to even get your first paycheck.

      1. KathyG*

        This is quite common if the employer is using an outside payroll processing service. For example, if you want a payday on Friday, you may have to submit the input (on THEIR forms) by 3:00pm Tuesday. Depending on the format your HR/Payroll gets the info in, it can take a day or two to tabulate, reconcile, and do data entry. Suddenly, a working week has been used up.

        I do agree that it sucks from an employee standpoint.

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      One of the things I appreciated about my first employer is that they sent all the hourly employees a schedule each year that included the pay dates and the ranges of dates that were included in each check. We did our own payroll in-house, so it was only off by a few days, but, when I was working OT, it was really helpful for my tracking purposes.

    1. Valancy Trinit*

      Exclude, usually. However, whether working through lunch is acceptable/encouraged varies widely from company to company.

  36. just another queer reader*

    Clothing was a tough one for me!

    In my first job, my boss’s expectations of what I should wear didn’t match the company’s dress code, and it resulted in awkwardness on my boss’s part and strong resentment on my part.

    I like Alison’s strategy of spelling out clothing expectations really clearly to new hires, because it isn’t always obvious!

    1. Kowalski! Options!*

      Absolutely. And it can go both ways, too: I’ve started jobs where I walked in wearing a business suit and nice shoes, only to find out that most of the people (programmers, specifically) were dressed like they were going to a Pearl Jam show after work. Awkward as hell when you’re dressed like a C-suite type but definitely not C-suite level!

      1. FEE FI FO FUM*

        I started working in the not-for-profit sector where the organisation guide books stated that employees had to dress professionally, in formal officewear.
        No jeans, no branded clothing or running shoes.

        Low and behold, the 1st week was a surprise indeed, as all staff I encountered wore branded casual clothing and sneakers, and the big boss himself wore loud Hawaiian shirts.

        Imagine the awkwardness of me turning up in a formal suit.

    2. Jules*

      I got pulled aside in my first job (law firm) and told that I needed to dress more professionally. I was technically adhering to the dress code (no jeans, no tennis shoes) but I was WAY too casual for the environment. It was mortifying.

  37. SpringIsForPlanting!*

    If it’s not a chair, don’t sit on it. (Desk, table, floor…)

    Should I have known this? Yes. Did I? Somehow no.

    1. Katie from Scotland*

      In the category of “Should I have known this?”:
      Don’t show up to work hungover on a regular basis, and definitely don’t gloat to your boss about how great your nights out are.

      How I wish someone would have told me that bars and offices have completely different work norms.

  38. No Tribble At All*

    Don’t sass people just because that’s how you talk to your friends! Your coworkers (at least initially) are not necessarily your friends; they’re just being friendly. Affectionate teasing is noooooot always received well.

    1. CreepyPaper*

      This, particularly because I had to defuse this exact situation between two of our younger team members over Teams chat today. Back in my early career in the 2000’s, that sort of thing was shut down instantly and never happened again but recently it seems to have become more of a norm to talk to your coworkers like they’re your buddies, at least in my office.

    2. Little My*

      That is so real, and goes hand in hand with “don’t curse in most offices, even if we’re all adults.”

      1. Kayem*

        The only office I ever worked in where people cursed like they needed it to breathe was a small law firm that was constantly overworked and understaffed. I’ve never heard so many f-bombs dropped in one day. My mom stopped by one day one her way through town and I don’t think she’s ever gotten over hearing so many people in nice suits use every swear in the dictionary.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          LOL. In computer operations we used to say “We have three vices: drinking, smoking and cussing.” Well, I no longer smoke, rarely drink, so all I have left is cussing. grin

          The university pitched kitten fits when I cussed, but said absolutely zero when the men cussed. I’m AFAB, and it was sexist as hell. They had to shut up about it when I noted that my bucket mouth was mostly a result of my stroke short circuiting my filters. Under stress, I cuss like a sailor, and don’t realize it until after I said it.

      2. Eater of Cupcakes*

        That’s why I avoid swearing regardless of circumstances. I can’t accidentally offend somebody if the worst thing I ever say is “What the Jack Robinson?”

      3. umami*

        There’s a newer (and considerably younger) VP on our team, and she will quite regularly use a curse word casually for emphasis. It does seem weird! And believe me, I was in the military, cursing does not bother me at all, but it sounds very strange in the president’s conference room. I’ve wondered if I should mention something, but also I don’t think the boss or anyone else on my team minds, so I haven’t.

        1. Curmudgeon in California (they/them)*

          The CIO of my current company, called me on Friday afternoon about a meeting Monday morning. She warned me that some people used somewhat rough language, and she hoped I wasn’t bothered by it. I managed not to laugh, and told her it wasn’t a problem, I’d done field work. (I absolutely laughed when I got off of the phone! My spouse wondered what was so funny…)

    3. Fernie*

      Yes, this! I got a very stern talking-to once when I forgot my boundaries and talked this way to my boss who was the owner of the company.

  39. too many dogs*

    Right out of college (100 years ago) the first thing we noticed about the working world was: In Real Life you can’t skip class for a week and then stay up all night to catch up. You had to show up Every Day. Decades later, I see this confusion in some new hires when they realize that being hired to work on Saturdays really means showing up every Saturday.

    1. Prospect Gone Bad*

      For me, it was the opposite! You can’t reschedule school, but if you’re deathly sick you can have someone cover for you, move meetings, or dial into something/do an urgent task from bed nowadays and sleep the rest of the day

      1. Mother of Cats*

        Yes, that’s what it was like for me as well! My current job is the first one I’ve ever had with paid time off, and the first time I used it, I felt so weird about being paid but not actually working. I’m still getting used to having sick days, but I feel like that’s a good problem to have.

  40. WiscoKate*

    I didn’t realize I didn’t have to let anyone know I was going to the bathroom at my office job. Finally my coworker kindly let me know that I could just go when I needed.

    1. lilsheba*

      I worked that way for YEARS and then I had to take a call center job where that was micromanaged and if I went to the bathroom outside of breaks or lunch I was “out of adherence” I ended up saying “screw that” and just went when I needed to, I’m not in kindergarten here I am an adult and disabled and will go when I need to go.

    2. nm*

      I am always telling my students (new to college) that they don’t need to tell me when they go to the bathroom!

    3. Zephy*

      Even so, especially if it’s just you and one other person in the office, it’s good form to let them know you’re stepping out for a second, if it’s a public-facing office. But yeah generally speaking unless you being away from your work space for five to ten minutes is going to cause immediate problems, nobody actually needs to know your every move.

  41. NyaChan*

    Not to show up early to meetings if it is in someone’s office. I was so used to an entry-level cube setting where you had to get a separate conference room that it didn’t occur to me that showing up 10-15 minutes early would interrupt someone’s work if we were meeting in their office. I guess somewhere in my head, I assumed they’d either start early or wouldn’t mind me sitting there until we were ready to start. Instead, they very politely asked me to come back at the proper meeting time. Always made sure to wait somewhere else after that if I was early to arrive.

    1. AGC*

      Yes, I had to work on this type of thing with interns a few summers back. We regularly used a conference room 3-10ft from their cubes, in full view of our whole (small) team, and they would get there 5-10 min early to sit, like you would for class.

      1. L*

        I totally forgot I had this issue when I was an intern. I sat on the other side of the floor from most of my coworkers, and I wasn’t too busy during my internship, so sometimes I was waiting around most of the day not doing much until a meeting happened. I’d go over 5-10 minutes early (like for a class!) and was always surprised no one had shown up yet. Duh, it takes 10 seconds to walk to the conference room, you don’t need to be there 10 minutes early! Lol.

    2. PerplexedPigeon*

      This! Right out of high school I joined the Air Force, and the rule was “if you’re early, you’re on time; if you’re on time you’re late!” and people meant it. 20 years out of the service and I still struggle to be on time and not early to everything. Or to be a little late if I need to stop at the bathroom on the way. And not get anxious if other people are 2-5 minutes late to meeting me…they didn’t ghost me, they’re just normal people.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      Do this with Zoom too please folks! It’s really awkward when the new person shows up to the virtual meeting 15 minutes early. I’m not starting early. I will be there at the start time or, if I’m leading it, 5 minutes before to get set up. I really don’t want you sitting in the room while I’m trying to get my slides loaded up and I don’t like feeling pressured to start a meeting well before it’s actually supposed to start. Plus, if my previous meeting is running over, now I’m asking you to leave or come back 10 minutes into the scheduled time and it just feels uncomfortable. Just check some email or take a quick walk and sign in when it’s time to start!

  42. WonderWoman*

    When I started my career, I struggled with assessing how long tasks would take and didn’t know how to communicate expectations with my supervisor. It also took me a while to understand the definition of done for different types of tasks (ie, an early draft vs. a client-ready deliverable.)

    1. ferrina*

      Yes! And building in time for interruptions- I kept giving the time the task would take me start-to-finish, but I was in a role where I would be regularly interrupted. I had to learn how to build in buffer time for the ad hoc work.

  43. Michelle*

    Not an office norm, but in my first job after college I was surprised to realize that co-workers, and bosses, were sometimes just dumb. I’d just assumed that everyone involved in an organization had the org’s best interests as their priority, and anyone in a position of authority would exercise that authority wisely.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      In a similar vein, I was surprised when I realized that not everyone who worked at the same company got along. Because I was the new person, I didn’t have the backstories, so I didn’t know who just rubbed each other the wrong way and who had legitimately bad work experiences with each other.

    2. xyz123*

      LOL I was going to say something like this but wasn’t sure how it would go over. This was the single biggest culture shock for me once I got into the working world. There are people who are bad at their jobs and no one does anything about it, and people who don’t care about their jobs at all and again no one does anything about it. Wild stuff.

    3. ferrina*

      ROFL! I love this so much!

      I came at this from the opposite end–I was super jaded starting in elementary school (I was abnormally smart but ADHD; regularly argued with the teachers, and was regularly right). I assumed dumb people were everywhere, and I would make snide comments. Quickly had to learn to quit that.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        In a similar vein, I got a talking to from my supervisor for complaining loudly in a public space about what a crappy job a coworker had done on something that I then had to completely redo. And then I argued with that feedback and told her everyone in earshot of me was aware that his work was crap, and I was just saying what everyone was thinking.

        I got better.

    4. CheeryO*

      Honestly, yeah. Figuring out how to work around people who are incompetent or lazy or do things their way instead of the standard way is hard, especially when some of those people are your superiors.

  44. Limotruck87*

    I think my biggest learning curve was how to talk to clients/customers. I’ve worked in veterinary medicine my whole life, and in my early twenties I said a lot of judgmental, flippant, know-it-all things to clients that make me cringe now. I didn’t have a good grasp of the line between things-that-may-be-accurate/true-but-will-alienate-clients and things that I could say without reflecting poorly on myself or the practice.

    In retrospect, I wish I’d had some training or guidance on how to interface with clients in a professional way–it wasn’t something I showed up to my first adult job automatically knowing.

    1. Angstrom*

      Yup. Learning to talk less with clients/customers was important. It took a while to grasp “it’s not ok to lie, but it is normal to tell only the parts we want to share” in a business context.

    2. cor blimey*

      I had a coworker who started with us straight out of university, and he had some weird notions about the hierarchy. Well, I thought it was weird. He would “sir” and “ma’am” everybody more senior than him, and he would treat the admin staff like they were his personal assistants. We tried to explain to him that you treat everybody with the same respect, regardless of their position, but he didn’t get it. He said shit like “If I walk into their office I expect them to stand up and say ‘what can we do for you'”, and “There are many other people who want their jobs.” And I said “Sure, and there are other people out there who can replace you.”
      It took him a while to realise he is just another employee. But he got there. Now he’s doing alright.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      I was a condescending know-it-all in my 20s, and I am so grateful that a few mentors pulled me aside and gave me the feedback I needed to knock that shit off because it was overshadowing the quality of my work. It was hard to hear, but it really helped me a lot.

  45. The Wizard Rincewind*

    At my first job, I worked with my mom. I called her “Mom.” All my coworkers asked “Have you seen your mom recently?” I didn’t think anything of it, but I know now that in many workplaces, that wouldn’t be the norm. (In this instance, it was a small, privately-owned office that my mom had worked in for years before I showed up, so everyone already knew me as “X’s daughter” and that just transferred over to my work.)

    (And if anyone’s curious, we worked together very well!)

    1. t-vex*

      I work in a company with a couple of parent-child combos and most people go years without ever knowing they’re related! Last month Lacey was off for a family member’s funeral and many people were confused why that meant Susan was out too.

    2. Hanani*

      I worked in my parent’s office when I was in high school, and the full-time staff were always a little wary around me. I ended up never eating lunch in the staff lunchroom (for example), because I’d be immediately introduced as “so-and-so’s child” to any new person.

      I’d handle it much better now, but as a very awkward 16yo, I had no idea what to do.

  46. The Person from the Resume*

    If their job involves answering a phone (it may not), I’d school them on phone etiquette for the company.

    It’s less and less necessary in business and life, but if you expect them to have to be professional on the phone explain it.

    I was in college and this was not a job, but had a wierd situation where I was put in a room and told to answer the phone and when it rang I just said “hello” like I did at my own home. The guy on the other end was not happy with that and expect the name of the office.

    Come to think of it, it’s probably the source of some of my phone resistance today in addition to shyness and introvertness which prefers not to be put on the spot about speaking.

    1. Zephy*

      Phone scripts are such a basic thing – even if your employee has some idea of business phone etiquette, there’s nothing wrong with saying “we want you to greet callers in this way.” A new-to-the-workforce-at-all employee might well have never used the phone in a business context; a new-to-your-company employee certainly doesn’t know how your phone tree works.

    2. Common Taters on the Ax*

      Oooh, yes, this was a big one for me in my first office job, when I was in college. For example, my boss told me to call a bunch of people to confirm appointments, and no one else was around to ask how to do that. I knew what it basically meant, but I’d never heard anyone do it, and I had no script. I couldn’t think of any way to ask, Are you planning to show up? that didn’t seem rude. But really, everything about the phone, I needed lessons on, including not just what to say to people but where the hold button was, how to switch between lines, etc.

    3. Michelle Smith*

      And if they have their own phone (landline or cell) – what the voicemail standards are! In some offices, I had to follow a certain structure so that the message reflected the image the organization wanted to portray. In another, a disclaimer was required so clients knew if they left rambling messages about their cases, it could be discoverable and have to be turned over to opposing counsel.

      And for email signatures and out of office messages too! There are a lot of things to learn and being the one who is cute or quirky in their phone or email practices is not the best way to make a positive impression in most fields.

    4. Manfred Longshanks*

      In my first job, I had to ask my manager how to use the phone in the first place. My family hadn’t had a phone with a cord on it since before I was old enough to be using a phone, so I had only ever used cordless landlines or mobile phones. If anyone reading this is managing Gen Z employees, bear this in mind!

      Interestingly, I had heard enough people be professional on the phone that I didn’t need to be taught that part.

  47. Lizzie*

    Oh wow. So many things! I started working back in the dinosaur age when smoking in the building, albeit in one’s private office, not in common spaces, was acceptable and allowed, and typewriters were the norm.

    I think for me, it was mainly being more independent and not asking about every little thing I could, should, or should not be doing! And oversharing. I cringe to think how much I did that in my younger days! Including why I needed time off for being sick, which I felt guilty about every darn time! Now? I just email my bosses “I’m not feeling well, taking a sick day” and leave it at that.

    A lot of what other’s have said; calling bosses by their first name, making sure you give plenty of notice to take more than a day or so off. And, having learned this by watching a new co-worker at my first job, IF you are hired and have time off planned, mention it then, NOT the Friday before you’ll be off for a week! They let her but weren’t happy about it.

  48. Hanani*

    I know I’m repeating some, and the answers will vary from office-to-office:

    – what to call your colleagues vs your boss
    – how to schedule meetings (find an opening on the calendar? Email? Chat program? Call?)
    – are you meant to wait on direction or start something proactively? In many (most?) workplaces, the expectation is that you don’t just sit there until someone gives you direction.
    – phone and email norms: is there a standard way of answering the phone? Is there a standard email signature? Do people treat emails more like letters or more like chats?
    – being overly formal is generally better than being overly informal, but too much formality can cause distance and awkward working relationships
    – dress, and what business casual means (I’m in higher ed, for example, and clean, neat jeans are often totally fine – but it depends on the job and the institution)

  49. ResearcHER*

    *If you are not an essential worker,* do not risk your personal safety by coming to the office during extreme weather.

    Perhaps you will need to take PTO, or will lose wages for the day, but your personal safety is always first priority.

    Even essential employees typically have very clear protocols for who needs to report to work and when during weather emergencies. If this does not apply to you, please feel empowered to call/text/email with a message that you’ll need to stay home because conditions are unsafe for you.

    1. Tuesday*

      I agree with this in theory, but in practice you will look very unreliable calling in every time it snows or whatever. Maybe this makes more sense in places where severe weather is uncommon.

      1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

        And it can depend on the company. I mentioned Face Time below. It turns out that “showing your dedication” in travelling to the office through snow was noted by management. At a later company that had thousands of people on the plant site, the management was very quick to declare snow days. They didn’t want a large number of employees ending up in accidents.

        1. Tuesday*

          We just had this come up this week due to snow in our area and it was infuriating. Three employees were allowed to work remote, but it was first come first serve – the rest of us had to come in because “it looks bad” if we don’t. I think employees getting into accidents due to weather also “looks bad,” but they didn’t ask me!

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        I think those of us who live in these places just define “extreme weather” differently. The snow I see falling today isn’t enough to keep people off the road. But I have seen snow that is impossible to travel in.

      3. ResearcHER*

        Sure. There is a difference between “I should allow more travel time/should dress for strong rain/snow/etc, and may be inconvenienced” vs. Extreme Conditions.

        Do not attempt to drive when you cannot see the road, etc. Your employer will not replace your car, pay for damages, and certainly cannot replace your life. Perhaps you can arrive late, or leave early to avoid hazards. But if conditions are extreme, please be empowered to politely, but matter-of-factly, prioritize your personal safety.

      4. rubble*

        in places where it snows regularly I don’t think normal snow counts as extreme weather. but a blizzard probably would.

    2. Lacey*

      Yes! I had a friend who risked her life driving 8 hours in a snowstorm to be home for her shift the next day. And of course the business was closed anyway, but she didn’t realize she could just tell them the weather was too bad for her to make it even if they had been open.

      1. Presea*

        I feel like “never risk your life to get to work/not be late” needs to be explicitly stated more often and be more of a Thing. That and “never endanger yourself for work in general (unless that’s an explicit expectation of your job that has a good reason to exist)”. Obviously as long as work is tied to survival the way it is there are going to be people desperate enough to take the risk anyway, but it’s horrifying to me that your friend simply didn’t realize she had options! I’m glad she made it through okay in the end.

    3. ThursdaysGeek*

      I worked at a place and it snowed so much that schools were closed and my little car couldn’t get out of our driveway. I called and told them I couldn’t get in. The owner called back a little bit later and said one of their high school kids who didn’t have school would come and give me a ride to work.

      So… this definitely varies!

    4. Somehow_I_Manage*

      This was the first paradigm shift for me. It’s a shock after coming from 16+ years of somebody else being responsible for that kind of decision (e.g., school is closed/delayed). Part of being professional is you are given trust that you’ll exercise good judgement.

      Turns out, that theme exists throughout the workplace. You are the steward of your career. You may be lucky to have some good managers and mentors along the way, but it’s up to you to take the lead in shaping your path.

    5. Our Mr Wilson*

      I started my first job in February and a week or two in, I showed up to work even though it was snowing and only getting snowier. My boss and other team members didn’t come, but nobody told me I didn’t have to. I sat in the office for several hours until someone I knew showed up and was surprised to see me and told me I could leave. I might be different with hybrid/ remote work now, but even at that time, you could stay home if you needed and there wouldn’t be an official announcement.

    6. DawnShadow*

      When I started my first professional job, there was a morning where the freezing rain was so bad I did a 180 in my parking lot and took that as a sign that I should go right back in my parking stall. I called in, was told that I would have to take a day without pay and it would look bad. I said “okay” and hung up. The next day I found out that my coworker tried to make it in, had to abandon her car on the exit ramp, walked the rest of the way in to work, and when her boyfriend picked her up at the end of her shift they went to where she’d left her car and it was gone! The city had towed it. She ended up paying more to get it back than she made that day at work. Boy was she steamed. Looking back I guess I was the one who was “unprofessional,” but honestly either of us could have ended up dead. I have to agree with your statement.

      1. Chirpy*

        A few years ago, I blew out two tires trying to make it into work during extreme severe weather because the manager said he expected us in even though he wasn’t going to make it himself. It cost me nearly a week’s pay to fix….I wish I had just said “no, this is insane” and called in without trying first.

    7. Lisa Simpson*

      One of my coworkers almost got hit by a light-rail train walking into work at 4 am during a blizzard with thundersnow, because “a customer might come in!”

      Another one of my coworkers got trapped at work overnight because he wasn’t allowed to go home early, during a blizzard.

      A third was not allowed to go home early, went out to her car, had to crawl across the parking lot to her car, and when she got there, found it caked in a half inch of ice. She had to smash the ice off the car sitting on the ice because the ground was too slippery.

      This does not apply in all jobs.

      1. Merrie*

        Exjob was at a medical facility that was decidedly not an emergency facility, but my boss and his boss still said that we should come to work in a level 3 snow emergency, but if we couldn’t make it in then so be it, but it would count as an occurrence. So we would go in and nobody would be there, because nobody should be traveling unless it’s an emergency, and if it is they should just go to the hospital. I miss that place not at all. Now I work in an actual hospital, so it’s legit that they expect us to come in if we possibly can, or hold us over.

  50. Stevesie*

    That you should not use work email or IM for anything you wouldn’t mind your boss/HR/a court hearing. IT people and management can search those records whenever they feel like it. When I type out a snarky message I think of the “Brian’s Hat” sketch of I Think You Should Leave.

    1. Warrior Princess Xena*

      If anyone wants a really fascinating example of this, a big chunk the of the Enron email database during and post the dissolution of the company is publically available. One of my data profs downloaded the lot and proceeded to use it as an example of using data tools to search for fraud for the next while. Most entertaining thing we found was an employee who wrote a VERY snarky poem about the BS senior management was shovelling during the last few months of its existance.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        The Enron data set was used as demo data for software products in my industry for a really long time, and what it is in it is just appalling – photos of people’s kids, really racist “joke” email, coordination of affair rendezvouses, porn, you name it. I have been telling everyone I know for years DO NOT USE YOUR WORK EMAIL FOR PERSONAL STUFF. Or someone like me will end up looking at it.

    2. Wolverine would be best possible ESA*

      For those in the public sector, anything in your work email and Teams/Slack messages is public record and can be requested via a Freedom of Information Act request. I’m very careful to only use my work email for work related matters and avoid using it for personal matters. I get the sense that my mindset is the exception rather than the norm at least in my office.

  51. Not A Real Manager*

    Obviously it varies from company to company, but moving from highly scheduled positions to salary, I now tell my manager what my plans are versus asking permission to schedule something non-work related.

    Example: I have to head out early today for a doctor’s appointment.

    At my company as long as you’re getting your work done and are generally available during working hours I am treated like and adult. It’s great!

    1. allathian*

      And even saying “doctor’s appointment” can be TMI. We have flex time, and I can basically just schedule my appointments any way I want as long as I attend any meetings I’ve agreed to attend. I’d never dream of telling my manager or coworkers that I have a doctor’s appointment. I might mention it afterwards if it’s somehow visible, i.e. if I’ve gone to the dentist and have a meeting afterwards before all the numbness has worn off.

  52. Miss Muffet*

    When I started at my first cubicle-job I would take the paper in to read at my desk occasionally (like we all pop in on the web throughout the day now, but this was early days of internet) and my coach had to explain that it is just bad optics. My very first job out of college, when I was a receptionist in a downtown high rise, I had a kind colleague explain that my very collegy backpack should probably be upgraded for something more professional, too. Some of the smaller growing pains, but I was still grateful for someone telling me nicely and privately to make a change!

  53. Llama Event Planner*

    I don’t know if this really counts to corporate world, but when I was managing at a bank one thing I noticed many of our part timer, college student tellers had a hard time with was the schedule. Like not being able to just show up for an hour b/c they had some free time today or a class got cancelled and get extra hours that way.

    The other thing we had to coach them on a lot was business casual dress. One girl came in a dress she was planning on wearing to the club later and just threw a small, thin cardigan over it and figured it would be okay.

    1. Llama Event Planner*

      Just remembered another one – coaching the new employees on how salaries/promotions worked (at the bank and at current company). Many of them seemed surprised/shocked vs the idea they had in their head from TV shows and movies. Or the ideal how it should be vs this the reality of how it works here.

      You don’t bust into your boss’ office and deliver ultimatums on how much of a raise you want or hours you’ll work or you’ll quit. At this place, they’ll call that bluff and let you go.

    2. cardigarden*

      I used to volunteer as a mock interviewer with the local college’s career center where they had a dress code for the interviews, but it was poorly communicated (“all black and wear a blazer”). While being cognizant of the fact that students are on a budget and usually limited by what they had on campus with them, there was at least one per semester where I had to make sure they understood that one should err on the conservative side for interviews and the outfit they arrived in was more appropriate for date night.

    3. World Weary*

      This is a corollary to the work friends thing above. You may actively dislike some of your coworkers and they may dislike you. It’s okay as long as you are civil/cordial and can work together. You don’t have to go to lunch with them or hang out together.

  54. UKgreen*

    I’m in my 40s, so was at university (in the UK) in the late 90s. Printing / photocopying was 10 pence a sheet in our IT room or libraries, and it took me a LONG time when I started working in office environments to realise that I did not have to scrimp and save on every last sheet of paper and that it was actually OK to print stuff off.

    Fast forward to now and we’re back to that for environmental, not cost reasons, but I’m still astonished at how much spews out the big printer every day that never gets picked up or gets read once and chucked straight in the bin :(

    1. LabMan*

      My father, when he was promoted to a sufficiently high level of management back in the mid-1980s, fought a long and hard battle to end the tracking of expenses for printing and copying at his office: “But people will just print and copy whatever they want!” “Is that a problem?” “It will cost a fortune!” “Our budget for printing and copying is less than 0.1% of our overall budget. I think we will be fine if someone abuses the system and runs off 50 flyers for their kid’s scout troop or something.” It took *years*, but he finally got all tracking of such things removed. Miraculously, abuses of the system remained negligible, and the organization was not rendered insolvent through Xerox abuse.

    2. amoeba*

      This is why we have “follow me printers”! We can submit the printing job to the network, but it only prints out once you scan your badge (on any machine in the network, although in practice there’s only one on my corridor). So if you submit a printing job and then forget about it, it never actually gets printed.

  55. No Tribble At All*

    Ooh, another one. In an office job, most of the time it’s not like homework/chores in that once you’ve completed the list, you’re done for the rest of the day. I had a boss gently explain that to me, that there’s always more you can work on –training, process improvement, etc. “When in doubt, sweep” if you were in a store. It’s expected that you’ll look for things you can do on your own — just check in with your boss later. “Boss, I’m going to do X Y Z” is a lot better than “Boss, I’m bored, what should I do?”

    (This is a Your Mileage May Vary sort of advice. Some jobs are more structured than others, but the general idea of “how can I help the team work better” is usually applicable)

    1. Jenthar the Destroyer*

      YES! This is probably my number one “complaint” about most of the juniors I’ve ever had! We hired you for a REASON! We’re SLAMMED! We need HELP!

      That said. I was the mandated contract employee at a government agency once, that wasn’t really needed but had to be hired because the 3 month position had been created. I dutifully finished every task assigned to me quickly and efficiently and pestered my supervisor for more to do and eventually she very kindly told me that it was more work than help for her to keep finding me work to do, so if I could kindly take the “slug” approach to this next assignment, she would be grateful.

      So I guess it is about knowing your company/role/team.

  56. Antilles*

    Always, always, always let relevant people know in advance if you think you might miss a deadline.
    If you let your boss or the project manager or whoever know early, they can often find a way to work it out by bringing in another staffer to help, helping you prioritize, or something. Or (surprisingly often) they’ll just ask you when you can get it done and be fine with your new deadline.
    But if they only find out that you’re missing the deadline when you’ve actually missed it, then it’s a much bigger deal…and it looks much worse for you.

    1. JoeyJoeJoe*

      Yes! This is true if you are going to be late for a meeting too. I have noticed some of my newer reports seem to think being late for a virtual meeting is less of a big deal as compared to an in-person was. Usually being late is fine, but you absolutely need to let me know!

    2. June*

      This! I have had people report to me who either tell me only at the last minute that a project will be late (at which point it is too late for me to manage expectations with the people relying on that deliverable), or they work super long and unreasonable hours trying to get something done on time. I have had to coach them to just tell me if they won’t make the deadline. 95% of the time this isn’t the end of the world. It can help me plan, manage expectations, and help me make sure the right level of staff is on a project or ensure more time is given next time, if possible.

      I had to learn this in my own work, too, and it dramatically lowered my stress level. Most deadlines (depends on your job and industry) are not hard dates and are made up and people would rather you deliver it a week later but be told in advance, then for you to be 1 day late but not tell them that until the last minute. Now, all the time, someone might email me, can you do this by December 1st? And I’ll reply, I am managing a couple different priorities, how flexible is this – I can guarantee it by December 7th no problem but will see what I can do about earlier. 90% of the time they’re like awesome, December 7th is fine. And now I have a reputation for always keeping people in the loop with project status and meeting the timeliness I commit to AND I get extra time and less stress than if I just took everyone’s suggested dates as hard dates. So many of my peers just endlessly work overtime towards impossible dates for no reason and leave our internal/external clients annoyed when things aren’t on time.

    3. NotAnotherManager!*

      Yes, yes, yes. We cover this in orientation because missing deadlines in what we do has serious, usually external consequences. If you’re not going to make it, we need a heads up well before deadline to bring in reinforcements or negotiate an extension.

  57. BossyPants*

    At my first salary job, I thought I should work around my boss’s schedule to look like the committed worker I definitely was. I tried to arrive before they did and was upset if they saw me walk in, and waited to leave until after they did. A kind supervisor frequently told me “you can leave” before I figured it out. They handled it well but I’m sure that was annoying. Now I tell new hires up front because I prefer to work late and it’s definitely not an expectation.

    Also you don’t need to inform me every time you leave your desk. I don’t care if you are going to the bathroom or grabbing a drink of water or stepping out for a few minutes. Just go. And if you needed a longer bathroom break – DEFINITELY don’t tell me.

    1. TigerPants*

      I had an opposite arrival/departure time issue at one of my first real jobs post grad school. I had (it later turned out) a terrible, work-avoiding boss who kept 10a-4p hours. No one ever told me what my work hours were, so I worked 9a-5p. I’d been thinking coming in earlier than Boss and leaving later showed how keen I was – until I called into Grand boss’ office to be told I was expected to arrive by 8a daily. Still cringe thinking that it never occurred to me to just ask what my work hours were when I first wondered about it!

      1. Michelle Smith*

        I’m cringing wondering why it never occurred to anyone involved in the hiring process to tell you your work hours at any point including onboarding. Definitely go easy on yourself. You shouldn’t have had to ask.

  58. old curmudgeon*

    I wish someone had pulled me aside and explained the concept of bullet points to me early in my career.

    I tend to go overboard in preparing comprehensive and thorough explanations of situations – my emails have been referred to as a thesis or a monograph by some folks – and it is really, really hard to pare my thoughts down to a few bullet points that hit the highlights of what needs to be said. Unfortunately, I’ve also learned the hard way that people just won’t read anything past about the first couple of sentences, so I have been forced to learn a more succinct style of communication. It just would have been nice to find out that is generally the preferred style a little earlier in my career.

    The other thing that I think should be made really clear to anyone new to the workforce is something my grand-boss often says: “never, ever put anything into an email that you wouldn’t want to see published in the New York Times.” Which can be translated to “think twice before you hit send,” but I think my grand-boss’s version is a bit more clear and direct.

    1. old curmudgeon*

      Oh, one other grand-bossism that I like is “I’m telling you this now before you hear it out on the street,” usually when delivering unwelcome news. Her point is that she always wants to be the first one to deliver bad news, both so that it doesn’t look like anyone is hiding anything and so that immediate action can be taken to remedy the situation to whatever extent is possible.

    2. Anon for This*

      I had a job where two of my co-workers’ emails did appear in the New York Times. It’s amazing how bad that looks, even for something innocuous.

    3. Warrior Princess Xena*

      This reminds me of studying for the essay portion of my certification exam (CPA). We had to write a business memo on a topic (reasonable) with a highly specific format (annoying because they didn’t provide any kind of example and you had to memorize) using no bullet points.

      I do not remember the last time I wrote a long email without bullet points. Bullet points are my life.

    4. ferrina*

      Brevity is gold.

      I’m loquacious by nature, and I thought more words made me look smarter. Now I’m constantly trying to use less words.

    5. llama groomer extraordinaire*

      BLUF – bottom line up front. Eight paragraphs on something with a recommendation in there gets ignored. An email of “The llama groomers won’t be able to meet the deadline” followed by a more detailed explanation is better, since then if someone needs clarification or elaboration it’s there, but if all they need is the fact that the llama groomers won’t meet the deadline, they can skim that and move on.

  59. Morgan Proctor*

    It took me at least a full decade to not feel horrendously guilty every time I needed to take a sick day. Even if I’d had someone sit me down and tell me, “You can just say you’re taking a sick day and offer no additional details and that’s that,” I still would have felt really, really bad about it. For me, that was one that only time and experience and no longer giving a crap could solve.

    I’ve never, ever had any kind of job where anyone addressed anyone by anything other than their first names. Even in academia, no one addressed anyone as “Doctor” so-and-so. Even when I was a student I called my professors by their first names, in both undergrad and grad. What are these industries where people expect their peers to call them Mr./Ms. or their titles?

    1. Excel-sior*

      This is perhaps the most important thing to learn, not just for the office but for all of adult life.

      Although i once worked with a chap with whom there was a long standing agreement preceding my time there; he wouldn’t make anybody else a tea, but would also never have someone else make one for him. Really nice guy, got on well with everyone, but just did not want to be part of the grand old traditions of office tea making.

      1. londonedit*

        That’s what I always say when I start a new job – I don’t drink tea (don’t tell anyone or they’ll take away my British passport) so I’m happy not to be included in the tea rounds. It’s much easier than weeks of people asking ‘Tea? No? Really? Do you not drink tea at all, or…?’

  60. It's Marie - Not Maria*

    I know these won’t be popular observations.
    I’ve been in the workforce for a long time, so anything from my own experience would not be relevant. I am in HR, so I can share some things our new Team Members seem to struggle with:
    1. They are expected to show up to work as scheduled, and work their full shifts once they get to work.
    2. They can’t just take a break or a lunch whenever they feel like it, due to the need for client coverage (we are a call center).
    3. They usually are not going to get promoted/get a raise in the first 90 days of their employment.
    4. They can’t swear or use street talk when they are talking to our clients.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Interestingly, these are the kinds of jobs where office work norms do intersect with shift work (like retail & food service) norms.

    2. Fishsticks*

      Every one of those seems like it can be easily laid out upfront before the job even begins, especially anything that might happen within the first 90 days of employment, except for the last one. If someone hiring me told me I couldn’t swear, for sure, i get that, but I would have no idea what “street talk” means.

      1. Michelle Smith*

        It’s a relatively common term that means slang rather than more formal language. If they were actually speaking to the new hire and the new hire was confused as to what that meant, I’m sure they’d explain. You can definitely use talk that is too casual without swearing. For example, saying “Yo, what’s up?” is not an appropriate way to answer a call. You shouldn’t email a client and say “Heyyy sorry, something came up, can we reschedule? LOL!” These are stupid examples, but do you see what I mean about inappropriate regardless of the absence of swears?

    3. ferrina*

      The promotion one gets me. I’ve worked with some people who expected to get a promotion every other year. Or the “I’m doing everything on my job description- I deserve a promotion!” Um, no, doing your job is why you get a pay check, not a promotion.

      1. Fishsticks*

        I’ve had a lot of job interviews where the possibility of a 90-day wage increase was heavily dangled and all but promised. I never believed it, but I can see if someone is coming from jobs where that happened, that they might think it would happen again.

        Promotions, though… that’s a bit baffling.

      2. Magenta*

        Our smallish British company was bought by a much bigger American one, we are part of the wider company and departments were absorbed into the wider company. So operations people are part of the wider operations structure, sales have the same reporting line no matter what part of the wider firm they are selling for etc. but we all still need to work together as one business unit. Previously we had functional titles, like project manager, head of research, data analyst etc, but they brought in job level titles and spent ages aligning them across the wider business.
        Oh My Goodness! The drama this caused, previously we had very little hierarchy and no one cared about status, just getting the job done. Afterwards people in operations were really put out because people in client services and sales had inflated job levels to impress the clients, people in sales thought they could boss around people in other departments who had way more experience and responsibility than them because they had a lesser job level. It was awful.
        Years later it has calmed down a bit, but some people are still really resentful. There is a rule that you are only eligible for a job level promotion every other year. It is literally a title bump, it comes with no extra money at all, but some people expect a “promotion” every other year and get really, really put out if it doesn’t happen.

  61. cmcinnyc*

    My job went from hourly wages to salaried. This was not a promotion–it was a way for the company to stop paying overtime. Those of us in this job were then simultaneously expected to act like hourly workers (getting coverage for the phone by trading lunch times, using PTO if we needed an hour here or there during a work day) AND salaried workers (available on the weekend/after hours/at 6am). It has never resolved, and I’ve landed on continuing to do my 9-5 with strict boundaries and getting coverage/using an hour of PTO when I have an appointment/etc. Those who don’t set boundaries like this burn out because they a) work all hours like a salaried person, but b) don’t have the flexibility to go see their child’s holiday show in the middle of the afternoon without getting coverage/using PTO. Knowing these lines and navigating them for myself is something I definitely had no clue about, and from the way many coworkers get tripped up (being salaried does not actually mean you can come and go as you please, either), I think a lot of people flounder with this.

    1. President Porpoise*

      Along these lines, it is really important for you to find out the employment laws for your jurisdiction and figure out how they apply to you. Hourly caps, paid breaks, salary/exempt, everything in the FLSA, etc. – you need to know what you’re entitled to and what your employer is prohibited from doing so you can protect yourself. The employer will (often) take advantage of your ignorance if it can, and you cannot ever count on anyone else standing up for you.

      cmcinnyc – they’re probably (almost certainly) misclassifying you as exempt and they may owe you money. You should pursue this if you feel safe and able to do so. IANAL.

  62. Tuesday*

    Embarrassing, but I had no idea that “the 9-5” did not include lunch. I was taking hourlong lunches with my coworkers every day and still leaving right at 5! We all came in at different times so no one noticed I was working an hour less per day than everyone else. I was mortified when I found out!

      1. Boopnash*

        yeah this confuses me, my employee handbook literally says our base hours are 9-5 to include a lunch break “no more” than an hour. I’m government though, everyone leaves on time.

        1. Tuesday*

          I suppose in some places it might include lunch, but the places I’ve worked have been clear that you need to be working for 8 hours a day – lunches and other breaks are unpaid (but often still mandatory, which is infuriating).

          1. Mill Miker*

            Yeah, I’ve worked a lot of places that were salaried, with no extra pay for overtime, and it was still very much expected that you at least work from 8:30am until 5:00pm and that the half hour for lunch was, somehow, explicitly unpaid.

      2. doreen*

        And it still does in some places – I never had a job where I worked 8 hours plus lunch. I always worked either 7 or 7.5 hours with an 30 minute or one hour lunch. I don’t know if that’s standard for my area or just a coincidence that literally all my jobs were that way.

        1. Common Taters on the Ax*

          In the US, this varies by region and also, of course, job-to-job. In much of the northeast, I think it’s by law no more than 7.5 hours. I’m in the South, and I think 8 hours plus lunch is more common here, or at least that’s been the expectation for every job I’ve had (with the possible exception of one county job). But I know some people do have 7.5 plus lunch.

      3. Fishsticks*

        It did. Like many things, it was something older Greatest Gen and early Boomers received that was promptly removed for those who came after them.

      4. I should really pick a name*

        Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone use the term 9-5 when it didn’t actually mean 9-5.

        1. Tuesday*

          I think it’s used as a colloquialism for a full-time job a lot – “heading to my 9-5!” – but in reality it’s more like 8-5 in a lot of places.

    1. londonedit*

      It does here in the UK (at least in my experience in nearly 20 years of office jobs), but lunch is usually unpaid. Our working hours are 9-5:30 with an hour’s unpaid lunch (standard full-time in the UK is 35 or 37.5 hours a week).

    2. June*

      Eh, this isn’t universal. I work 9-5 and take an hour lunch. No one cares as long as my work is done (I’m salaried). The culture on this varies company to company, and even among individual managers.

      1. Tuesday*

        Sure, but it’s definitely something to get clear on when you start a new job and not just assume!

    3. Manfred Longshanks*

      This happened to me too. Nobody mentioned that my lunch break was unpaid – it’s there if you look up employment legislation on the government’s website, but I needed to be explicitly told that I had to stay half an hour later if I took a lunch break. Obviously, I started eating at my desk so I could keep leaving at what had by then become my “normal” home time.

  63. Thistle Pie*

    I’ve worked at non-profit, private, and government organizations and definitely did not realize how different they all would be at the beginning of my career. Some things that fly at a start up absolutely do not translate to government work.

    – Make up at work needs to be toned down a lot. I hung out with a lot of punks so my college intern make up that I thought was tame was not work appropriate for my small non-profit job but would have been totally fine at the start up I worked at later
    – Watermarking documents with DRAFT is really important in government work, since it hasn’t been approved yet by a government entity. Also just how directly the Freedom of Information Act affects your work.
    – Don’t participate in any gossip where you say anything about a coworker that you wouldn’t want that coworker to hear directly from you. This is a good general practice anyways but I didn’t realize just how gossipy some workplaces are
    – How to make boobs workplace appropriate. There isn’t a perfect way (and so much of it shouldn’t have to be done) but it definitely took a long time to figure out what worked

    1. *OOF**

      Yes, the make-up!! I spent my paychecks on so much bright, crazy lipstick at my first job—and wore it to work! Still cringe thinking about the time I wore green lipstick and a vampy smoky eye.

      1. Thistle Pie*

        I had a hot pink lipstick that I justified as being work appropriate because it wasn’t black. My boss remarked in a meeting “I’m sorry, I’m having trouble focusing because I keep staring at Thistle Pie’s lipstick”. I was mortified and never wore it to work again.

  64. Khatul Madame*

    In a slightly different vein… I immigrated to the States as an adult with a few years of professional experience, and adjusting to the American work norms was a challenge.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Going from the UK work culture to the US work culture was fascinating to me. I found that to get a job in the US, you often have to self-promote and go on about how great you are much more than you would in the UK. (British people are generally bad at that type of thing, so I found it difficult.) And the amount of hugging that went on in West Coast nonprofit culture was initially very weird to me. The first time I was ever hugged by a colleague, my Britishness was internally screaming “WTF are you DOING??”

      1. TechWorker*

        Looool this is giving me flashbacks to when an American colleague came to visit our office. Now our office is very informal in some ways – people hang out outside of work, socials can be fairly boozy, people wear socks around the office or gym gear if they’re waiting for the shower. But we do not hug.

        American colleague comes to visit and hugs everyone, including the senior director. Never seen such an awkward series of hugs :)