interviewer asked how I prepared for the interview, boss wants me to be “emotional and raw,” and more

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

1. Interviewer asked me how I prepared for the interview

I had my first job interview in close to a decade the other day. It was an initial phone call.

The interviewer asked me a few questions that initially caught me off guard. One was, “So how did you prepare for today’s interview?” Then this followed: “Can you tell me what it is our company does?” To be clear, I’d researched the company thoroughly, including speaking to someone I know who works there (who did not have great things to say about how management treats the staff; this was backed up by several reviews on Indeed and Glassdoor). But the way the interviewer asked the questions, it’s like he was looking for a “gotcha” moment.

My resume shows that my professional experience goes back almost 10 years. I thought the conversation would be more along the lines of reviewing my qualifications and how they might align with the requirements for the position. Instead, I felt like I was being treated like I was a kid in grade school being given a pop quiz by the teacher. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t been in an interview in a while, but am I wrong to be a little put off by this line of questioning?

You’re not wrong. Those questions come across like gotchas — an attempt by your interviewer to somehow catch you out (the second one less so, except in a context where it’s coming on the heels of the first). It might come across differently in an interview for an internship or entry-level job, as a way to probe into the person’s approach to organization and preparation, but not for someone with a 10-year track record of working to look at. (And I’m skeptical that he’d have responded well if you asked how he prepared for the conversation.)

For what it’s worth, he didn’t necessarily come up with those questions himself; they periodically appear on lists of suggested questions for interviewers to ask. But he or someone else at the company chose to ask those instead of using the time in other ways. You’re entitled to find it off-putting.

2. My boss wants me to share my “emotional and raw” reasons for working in my job

I have a manager who is new to me and my team but not new to the company or management in general. We have had a strained relationship but are slowly building a rapport.

In our most recent 1:1, he asked me to describe my emotional and raw personal reasons for working in my current role at my current company. I am a woman in tech, and I have worked my entire career to not appear emotional or tie my emotions to any portion of my work, in part for professionalism and in part to avoid the “emotional woman can’t handle the work” stereotypes. How do I push back on my manager and tell him I am not comfortable tying my emotions to my work? When I told him I prefer to be rational in my workplace and keep emotions at the door he told me I was “leaving all the fun out of it” and implied the only way for us to move forward was if I bared my soul to him. I am not comfortable with this! Please help!

This is weird for so many reasons, not least because most people don’t have “emotional and raw” reasons for choosing their jobs. And I’m not sure I’d want to hear anyone’s emotional and raw reasons if they did!

You could try to educate your boss about why his request is inappropriate (perhaps including “your request is a real land mine for women in this field, in ways you might not realize”) but the path of least resistance might be to just make up some BS that will satisfy him. Give him a very serious speech about your dedication to (subject matter of your job) and how seriously you take the opportunity to ___, stare at him meaningfully, and call it a day.

You shouldn’t have to do that. But if the relationship is already strained, sometimes the better part of valor is to take the easy way out and conserve your energy for other things.

3. Does remote work harm junior employees?

I’ve noticed that a lot of the questions and answers on your site are generally supportive of remote work. I work for an engineering company that has a hybrid approach. Most people can work from home two days a week, and we have a few fully remote employees. There seems to be interest from some employees, both junior and senior, in working from home more than two days a week or full-time.

My concern is that over time, the junior staff’s learning and growth will be impacted by not spending as much face to face time with the senior staff. This is the kind of thing that may not be noticable in short term metrics, but becomes impactful over time. The type of work we do is somewhat complex and requires a lot of on the job training, learning through experience, and learning through mentoring. So much of this happens in ad-hoc conversations around the building, chatting after meetings have officially ended, and overhearing other conversations that are happening around you. We use Zoom for meetings when people are not in the office and encourage people to have their cameras on to help facilitate connection and conversation between staff. However, I notice that this does not seem to happen as much on remote work days, and happened significantly less during Covid shutdowns when everyone was fully remote. Everyone is fully comfortable in Zoom meetings by now, but I don’t know if one can force the human connection that happens in person to happen over Zoom.

I am concerned about the long-term impacts of this on our business, but I haven’t seen much of that in the conversations on remote work. I’m wondering what your thoughts are on this — do you think remote work hurts the growth of junior employees (and the company) when they are not getting as much face time with the senior staff and their peers?

Yes. In my opinion, it’s the biggest drawback to the shift to more remote work and one we haven’t figured out how to solve. For early-career people, a huge amount of learning happens simply from being around more senior people as they do their jobs — hearing how someone talks to a client, or puzzles through a problem, or interviews a source. And that’s before we even get into the ad hoc conversations you describe that happen naturally in an office but require more formal planning to make happen remotely.

The benefits of remote work can be so enormous that in some cases they might outweigh that concern — but it’s a very real issue that I haven’t seen anyone come up with a good solution to (aside from hybrid schedules where everyone comes in on the same days).

4. Should I take a job offer at the start of my search if it’s not what I want to do?

I just learned I will be laid off two months from now, and immediately sprang into a job search. I’m well advanced into my career, serving as a department director for the past 18 months and having worked in the same industry my entire career.

Within 24 hours, I one of the jobs I applied to called me in for an interview, but here’s the catch: it’s a position well below my abilities and salary. It’s nearly identical to a position I held more than 10 years ago, and I have no doubt I could do it easily and well, but it’s not where I see myself now.

So how to proceed? Do I take this lower job while continuing my search, knowing full well that I already have a foot out the door? Or do I hold out for a more suitable position, which will likely take longer to find? I’m debt free, have a healthy emergency savings, and two more months of employment, so there’s no immediate desperation. Just the same, I don’t want to put myself in a precarious situation just because I refused a job I felt was beneath me.

There’s no guaranteed-to-be-right answer to this. There’s inherently some risk built in no matter what you do.

But if you’re getting invited to interview within 24 hours of beginning your search, it’s very likely that you’re going to get invited to other interviews too, and some of them will probably be for jobs you’re more interested in.

If you had less of a financial cushion, you might not have the luxury of turning down a job you didn’t want. But in your situation, I think it’s worth gambling that there more interviews will come. It is a gamble, but given that you’re only a day into your search, I don’t think it’s a huge one.

You also do have the option of taking the job and continuing to search. It’s not a great thing to do to the employer, but sometimes financial realities don’t give you much choice in that regard.

5. A temp bringing bagels

I’m wondering if you can give me some perspective on something I did while I was in a temporary position at my current job. (I’ve since been hired on permanently in that role, and have been here for a year and a half.)

While I was a temp, I came into a bit of unexpected money, and since I liked everyone I was working with and had recently come from a job with a heavy emphasis on potlucks and sharing food, I decided to use my windfall to treat everyone to bagels and cream cheese. So I went around the office, stated what I was doing, and asked everyone what flavors they wanted. (There are only 10 people in the office at maximum on any given day, so this wasn’t a huge stretch.)

I got mostly surprised (but pleased) reactions and assurances that I could get whatever flavors for the most part, and plenty of people thanked me at the time and enjoyed a bagel. But thinking back on it now, and given that I’ve never done anything like this again, I’m starting to wonder if it read more like a “please hire me!” campaign ad. The position was temp to hire, so while I feel like my intentions were pure, could this have backfired on me if I had misread what I could and couldn’t get away with as a temp worker? On the off chance that I end up in that position again, I want to get an outside perspective on what that looked like. (I’m not a supervisor, for the record, just a regular, front-of-office drone, in case that changes anything.)

I think you’re fine and I doubt it looked like a “please hire me!” campaign.

In some offices it might have felt like a mildly surprising act from a temp. This analogy isn’t quite right, but sort of like if an intern had done it — there might be a feeling of “save your money and don’t spend it on treats for us.” (The analogy isn’t exactly right because temps are different from interns, and you might have been far better paid, but that’s as close as I can get.) However, the longer you had been temping there, the less that would be the case, and the kindness of the act (and the joy of having bagels) would have outweighed that anyway. And in most offices it wouldn’t seem strange or register at all.

Also, this kind of thing tends to get interpreted through the lens of what people already know about you. If you were doing a lot of other stuff that read as a “hire me” campaign, then this might have felt like part of that. But assuming you weren’t, and you just had warm relationships with people, it would have been seen through that lens.

{ 395 comments… read them below }

    1. Triplestep*

      I’ll just use this space to mention to LW#5 that the surprised reaction you got from folks was probably due to being asked for a bagel order. I’ve seen a lot of bagels brought to offices over the years and someone just gets a mixed bag and maybe a few kinds of cream cheese. Never saw an order taken, even for groups much smaller than the number of people you work with. That’s not to say what you did was wrong, just might explain the surprise you encountered.

      Also it’s not clear from your letter if you actually explained your windfall to each person you approached, but that might have contributed to the surprised expressions. People don’t expect to hear about the financial situations of others typically.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree, I have eaten many an office bagel and I think probably once ever was I asked in advance to say what kind of bagel I would want. It’s perfectly normal thing to ask of course I think most people just don’t bother to.

        I feel like basically anytime someone brings in food it’s a pleasant surprise. So it makes sense that if you actually go around and one by one tell people that you’re going to bring them food then you will witness their pleasantly surprised reactions lol.

      2. Alexander Graham Yell*

        Yep. Though I did work in an office with enough people with specific preferences that we had a full SOP for ordering bagels, and the unwritten rule was certain bagels should be available for the usual suspects to refuse before anybody else could take them. It wasn’t a huge deal if somebody at their preferred bagel, but we all knew they liked them the most so I’d say 75% of the time they got the bagel they wanted and the 25% they didn’t nobody pitched a fit.

        1. Sandy Beach*

          “You get what you get, and you don’t get upset” is never more applicable than to FREE BAGELS.

      3. DataSci*

        This is where’s I land too. A bunch of mixed bagels? Totally unremarkable. Taking orders? Never seen it and would be quite surprised.

    2. lifebeforecorona*

      LW5 A surprise bagel order is a nice gesture. Asking everyone every day for their bagel order is going to make people uncomfortable. The reasons behind the gesture don’t really matter, it will make co-workers feel that it it forcing a relationship with them. What you did was a pleasant surprise. I’m a a baker and occasionally brought treats to the office but it was random enough that there was no expectation of brownies in the breakroom every Friday.

  1. Eyes Kiwami*

    #3. I wish more companies used training and knowledge sharing as explicit reasons to require time in the office. Everything I’ve heard from my employers and online has been “something something collaboration” with no specifics about how in-person time actually helps collaboration, how they’re managing that or considering enhancing that.

    Even as a big WFH fan, I fully understand how much easier it is to ask questions and gain information as a new or junior worker in the office. I would understand RTO if management said they were increasing coworking spaces and opportunities, encouraging networking and rewarding workers who collaborated exceptionally, maybe creating a mentorship program, maybe starting other initiatives to mitigate this downside of WFH. It would get a lot more buy-in from employees. I can only conclude they don’t because they haven’t actually thought about management at all, or they intentionally want people to quit to cut costs.

    1. Tib*

      This is something I’m seeing a lot as a potential junior software developer living in a rural area. I’d love to be in the office but there’s not enough local jobs for that to be likely. And many companies want their junior developers in the office or at least hybrid for the learning and collaboration opportunities.

      1. The Person from the Resume*

        This is what I was thinking. Some sort of in-office does limit you to hiring only people in a small geographic area.

        OTOH I absolutely agree with the LW’s point. I left my fist extremely long term unique employer and moved to one with virtual teams. I went into the office 5 days a week and never saw my teammates, but at least saw some other employees, learned the culture, was able to ask admin staff thing, developed habits for working on virtual teams while in an office.. I gradually and eventually moved to full time work from home and it is fine. But I can’t imagine how I would have adapted trying to learn new organization culture and how to work on virtual teams working from my home office. Just having someone in person to ask for help seems critical to me getting settled.

        To do it virtually I feel like you have really needed a really strong onboarding program and some sort of POC who was always willing to take an IM or call to explain things to the newbie and who proactively talked to the newbie regularly.

        1. lilsheba*

          Three years ago almost, 3 of us started on a brand new team in a new company, all on Teams, all remote, and it worked out great. There are no downsides to working from home.

          1. Uranus Wars*

            I think this varies wildly from not just industry to industry but person to person. The downfall of me working remote all the time is that I feel trapped in one location and my personal life suffers greatly. But I work with people who thrive on it, which is why I feel lucky to live near my employer and have the choice.

            1. UKDancer*

              This so much. I would not do well working from home 100% of the time. I have a small flat and feel constrained and frustrated. Hybrid works better for me. My newest member of staff shares a house with 3 other people and has a choice of working on his knee on his bed or trying to argue for a share of the dining table. They’re also worried about the electricity bills at the house as they’ve gone up. He wants to be in the office all the time because there’s more room and it’s warmer.

              I’m of the view that whether people want to work remotely has as much to do with what their home environment is like as whether they actually like working from home.

              1. LadyVet*

                I just started an in-office job and am so, so thrilled. I mean, I am having a hard time adjusting to waking up and getting moving every day after two years of freelancing, but I live in a studio a pretty far subway ride from a lot of my friends, and just couldn’t make impromptu plans with anyone.

                But I have a lot of friends who would be happy to work from home forever.

              2. cncx*

                Yes! Some people’s living situations are a big downside to working remote, especially in junior level jobs. I have a bigger apartment now but my apartment early in the pandemic was not suited for 100 percent remote, and in my current apartment I need to watch my electricity bill.

          2. Filosofickle*

            I don’t think it’s true to say there are no downsides — maybe not for your team but many teams do experience them. I am 100% committed to total WFH forever, I’ve already been working remotely for a long time and will not go back. I joined a brand new team two years ago, one that was designed to be permanently remote for all, and we’re doing fine but not as well as we would if we shared office time. We simply aren’t as bonded/connected, information doesn’t get shared as freely, and we’re often a little out of sync. (Because we are all senior, we don’t have the learning gap that I also believe is a problem.) Personally, it’s is worth the trade-offs to me, but I do see that there are downsides. I hope that in time organizations will find new/better tools and ways of working that can replicate the in-person experience more to close this gap.

          3. PlantProf*

            I started a new job as a junior person about three years ago and people working largely from home for the first year or two definitely had downsides for me. Even after three years, I’m still less connected to the broader structure of my institution than I was in places where I worked for just a year or two. And if it had been my first job in the field I would have had a really hard time. It may have worked well for you, but that’s not a universal experience, and the problem the letter writer is addressing really resonated with me.

          4. Flowers*

            Please don’t do this. Just because it’s great for you, doesn’t mean it’s great for everyone. It’s not a blanket. Just like there are people who don’t like being in an office, there are others who do enjoy it and vitriol is constantly thrown at the latter, esp here.

    2. Daisy*

      In that case they would then have to allow some sort of training or knowledge sharing on those in-office days. Good, useful training takes energy and time for the presenter to put together (unless you are reusing lesson plans – which often go out of date quickly). General knowledge sharing is great, however, there are always some employees who dislike mentoring or speaking in a group (or being in a group) and casual shoot-the-breeze type gatherings are often not encouraged by management that wants measurable deliverables. In many businesses the long-term benefits of training and knowledge sharing are ignored in favor of short-term goals.

    3. Rach*

      As a process engineer it is vital for junior employees to be on-site as much as possible. I love WFH (but also like the human interaction on-site) and can magange a hybrid schedule. Some days I do my virtual meetings from home and then head on site, or if I have something in person in the morning I go on-site and head home at lunch, some days are fully on-site, and some fully at home. The flexibility is amazing

      I’m NOT more productive on-site nor more productive at home, I’d say it is about equal, but since it is a fab (factory) environment some things just can’t be done at home and there’s no way to know when those things will come up, junior employees are at a complete disadvantage if they WFH. And absolutely if a junior person is struggling (like our newest employee) hybrid just doesn’t work.

      1. EngineeringFun*

        I’m a mechanical engineer with 20 years industry experience and did a short stint in ace demos. I need to go into office when I test build things. And we are asked to be in office TWR.
        My current company has many junior engineers. I suggested holding lunch and learns to discuss/educate on all engineer topics. We’ve had one so far on a boring topic, but I had an engaging exercise so even the managers participated. I am also mentoring junior engineers on how to create conduct a design review presentation, so I meet with them 1-1, over zoom, and editing online documents….

        When I’m in the office I make sure to ask “how goes it” with the junior staff. I’m not being asked to do this but I enjoy it and it will help the overall company/culture. When you’re in the office do only things you can do in the office. I crunch data MF.

        1. Colette*

          One of the groups I work with has onboarded quite a few junior software developers, and they’re all doing a great job. But they were intentional about making sure they got support.

          1) They have an hour long slot every morning for “office hours” lead by the team lead. That’s an open call they can call into to talk about their work and ask any questions they have
          2) Once a week, they have a technical elaboration meeting – it’s booked for an hour but often goes over. That’s for the group to discuss problems and how to fix them – architecture, tools, anything that they need more eyes on.
          3) Every Friday is a social hour. Everyone calls in for a standup, and after the standup they have time to chat or play online games together.

          1. ferrina*

            Intentionality is key.

            I’ve been remote since pre-pandemic, managing remote teams and cross-departmental collaboration. The trick is to intentionally create virtual spaces. I have standing virtual coffee times with different groups, and these times are essential. We trade ideas, share frustrations and have an information exchange. SO HELPFUL. I regularly facilitate discussions groups on various topics (I’m a trained moderator). We have information going through multiple channels to ensure everyone has the same access (which is a best practice whether you’re in person or remote) When done with intentionality, I’ve found that communication and training can be at least if not more effective remotely. My company is also spread across the U.S., so in-person training is either costly or region-specific, which historically created weird knowledge/training silos.

    4. skunky_x*

      My one caveat for this would be actually providing superiors in the office for me to learn with.

      I started a new job in October and all the new starter paper work said you had to be in office for your probation period (six months) for learning etc. Fine, whatever, I can suck it up, I made it clear in my interview that I would be applying for hybrid ASAP and they said they 100% supported that following completion of my probation.

      I went in every day for about a month and I would say 95% of the time I was the only non-support staff member of the office in. That meant I was stil having to call/email/Teams people to get advice and understanding.

      I eventually raised it with my line manager who basically said “Oh yeah don’t worry. I won’t tell HR if you don’t” and I now work from home unless needed for client meetings etc.

      1. OP 3*

        OP here – I should clarify that everyone has the same WFH days, so when the junior employees are in the office, the senior employees are too. This was intentional to facilitate collaboration.

        1. Smithy*

          Yes, I think that a major reality around remote work is around a variety of training and coaching that I think is very often beyond the bounds and realities of developing more formal training courses.

          Before COVID, I was part of a team in a large NGO that over the course of three years – our team alone went through three restructures. So the realities of our onboarding materials, that occasionally someone would spend a lot of time updating….is how relevant those were, was always in flux. Therefore new hire onboarding was always a mix between official organization materials, team materials (that were/were not relevant), and then sector resources – which again – are/are not relevant.

          So junior staff would learn the most based on their managers, peers who they could ask, and the learning opportunities in the projects they were assigned. And post-COVID, when I see someone struggling – where I see it most is around soft or ambiguous concepts. Which knowing the strengths of myself and my managers, I do not see us creating high quality training guides to improve those areas of work – but also know those aren’t areas of work we were good at on day one on the job either.

      2. Lalalala*

        Yes! The senior people need to be present for it to work. Long before COVID, was at a smaller office for my company and it got to the point that only junior folks were in the office each day, while more senior people did a lot of WFH. It had a really negative impact on morale and made the work culture sort of grim. (That said, you want to your senior people to have flexibility – it is definitely a catch 22.)

      3. Ranon*

        Our office mandated senior folks in the office well before we went to everyone in the office two days a week week for just that reason- the younger employees needed folks around to provide mentorship!

    5. Chris R*

      I am a manager in IT/software dev in a fully remote company and we hire a lot of juniors / interns. The mentoring/learning by example/osmosis and similar CAN be done remotely, but it takes effort and deliberate work and structure. We find it worth it, but you can’t just do what you would have done in the office at home. We do a lot of pair programming and mobbing (two or more people all working on the same problem, typically with one person inputting to the computer, the others engaged and providing brain power), with the positions rotating every hour or so. It is remarkable how efficient this can be for certain types of problems – you feel like it’d be slower than the people each working on their own tasks, but depending on the situation, it can be faster. It is a great way to to do solve problems, but also to model that problem solving or to transfer knowledge. Lots of info available on pair and mob programming, but we do it for all sorts of problem solving or implementations.

      Probably not going to work in all industries, but sure does in tech

    6. Quinalla*

      Yes, I agree that this is the kind of stuff that would be worth coming in the office for. We have folks who are full time in office, hybrid to all sorts of degrees and full time WFH so this is a real concern for us. We’ve stepped up more formal training – we started doing this during COVID anyway, we’ve stepped up are onboarding process, each new employee has a “go to” person beyond their manager, we do a lot of intentional one-on-ones outside of that as well with various folks who are leaders in each department and we look for opportunities to include folks in different ways. Have them come to a meeting, do some designing together sharing a screen to mimic some of that in-office more spontaneous interaction – trying to kind of mimic success of pair programming type activities our software folks do (most of us are engineers/designers). If we see a gap, we’ll throw together spontaneous trainings that usually are 15-30 minutes with small groups. It isn’t perfect, but it has helped our new employees come on board about the same as when we were all in the office.

    7. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

      I’m fully remote. I’ve been working in my areas of concentration for a long time, and in each of those areas I have someone newer working with me who will eventually take over.

      Much of our work is done through emails, document review and virtual meetings. The folks who are learning are seeing how I work, what considerations I weigh, in addition to the substantive knowledge involved. They are learning a lot from me, and I from them.

      All this without ever having met them in person.

    8. mlem*

      My team decided to have a rotating schedule of seniors to be in with our new staff. I signed up for a day, went in, checked with the new person and encouraged her to approach me with any questions … checked at lunch … checked at the end of the day. She did have questions but waited not just for me to check on her but also for me to draw them out of her, which I could have done just as easily with remote check-ins. (The desk reservation system in place at the time didn’t help; I was seated around the corner from her rather than next to her.)

      We’re now doing concentrated days, with my division encouraged to come in on Wednesdays and a different division encouraged to be in on Tuesdays and/or Thursdays. One manager is surprised that nearly everyone is signing up only for the bare minimum being “asked” of senior staff, but there are still a reasonable number of people in for each of the days, and I think we all object to unwritten expectations. (I don’t know if the newer people are actually benefiting; I’ve heard some resentment from them for being required to go in every week if they don’t have two full years of tenure.) We’re senior and responsible enough to watch for good collaboration days — three new people will be in Building S on Decanuary Eleventy? Let’s book that day!

      1. Uranus Wars*

        Yeah, I think for this to be done well it has to be more than a day; especially with a new person who might need to feel more comfortable with the person they have been assigned. And more like the collaboration day(s) that you mention at the end!

    9. LeahS*

      My new team has working meeting over Teams to combat this problem- we are in a meeting together all working and asking questions. We also do one day in the office a week. It works pretty well!

      1. mf*

        This is what my team does too. It helps that we have a very collaborative and communicative culture. I’ve never felt that my ability to learn new things (or the ability of my younger colleagues to do so) has been stunted by remote work.

    10. AngelS.*

      When I go to the office, it’s nice to see that there are still a few people there. Honestly, having everyone in at once would be so distracting. I go in only one day a week, and I really take advantage of doing what I can’t do from home, mostly work with physical records and documents, arrange workspace, etc. Once in a while we might have an event in which more people meet. However, there are so many different departments that don’t work together, so I’m not sure if it would make a difference.

    11. Samwise*

      Some of this can be accomplished online. We do some training and collaborative work during our weekly staff meetings most weeks. Breakout rooms are great for this. The person leading the training or work session needs to plan the breakouts so that they encourage collaboration and interaction, allow enough time so that the breakout groups feel they can do some “socializing”, and assign people to breakouts so that there’s a mix of newer/junior and more experienced/senior folks.

      If you set it up well, it does work nicely. We hired several people while we were 100% remote during the pandemic — it helped integrate them into our department community, I think.

    12. Antilles*

      Everything I’ve heard from my employers and online has been “something something collaboration” with no specifics about how in-person time actually helps collaboration, how they’re managing that or considering enhancing that.
      Nothing makes people lose interest in “back to office” quicker than when you say something like collaboration / in-person growth / etc – then people show up and sit in their offices alone, never interacting with others, just wondering what “collaboration” was supposed to happen to justify the 40 minute drive through traffic.

      1. Mill Miker*

        I got way more face time with my coworkers after going remote in early 2020 than I had before.

        In the office, we were relying on those “organic” moments of collaboration, but since everyone was so busy with their own tasks, it almost never happened.

        Once the organic interaction was off the table, we had to be deliberate about setting aside time for interaction, and so it actually happened.

        1. High Score!*

          The company I worked for has a fancy coffee machine that will make espressos, lattes, etc.. even hot cocoa. It’s popular, we all line up to get our company provided beverages. This spurs the organic collaboration.
          Even though we get to decide when we work from home and when we go in office, managers will alert us to new employees and ask us to come in office when they’re in or have bagel days and ask people to come in if they can.

        2. Smithy*

          I guess where I’d push back on this, is that while I see this working for more experienced staff – I’ve had a different experience with more junior staff.

          My office hasn’t done much around requiring in-office presence – however one team typically has the highest number of junior staff as well as semi-regular turnover. It’s one of those regular “take the job for two years, then move on” positions either before or after grad school. Despite no requiring being in the office, it’s fairly apparent that those new staff who choose to come into the office more frequently, learn the job more quickly as well as become more sophisticated in their performance faster, get promoted more quickly, etc.

          This is a team I work with occasionally and our desks in the office are close, but we have no reporting lines. When I’m in the office, it’s common to get the occasional “hey – this is a weird question, maybe you can advise?” Sometimes those questions are very specific to their daily work, but sometimes they’re more generic professional development questions. I get none of those questions when I’m remote, unless they’re hyper specific to a shared project.

          Where I see this discrepency the most for junior employees is not about coming into the office 3 vs 1 days a week, but rather those who are 100% remote. Performance weaknesses get fixed slower, and if they’re regarding an area of work that’s not regular – it can severely slow their promotion path.

    13. Well...*

      This might not be super helpful for LW or practical in general, but I wonder how much this is still just a reflection of working in-office seen as the default. If we lived in a world where WFH was the norm, and junior people were pushing to go into the office more, would we be lamenting about how they are missing out on valuable time gaining experience and becoming highly skilled in remote work (there are social skills involved to use Slack effectively, time management when you’re constantly being pinged, self-management and independence, etc)?

      Perhaps we would place higher value on remote-work skills and less on skills one picks up in-person (since those would be less relevant if all work were remote). I’m just musing though. For me, I like going into the office a lot because otherwise my productivity/energy levels/love of my job plummets.

      1. Justin D*

        Yes! Working remotely effectively is a skill. A lot of companies have people spread out all over the country (or world) so you have to learn to do that anyways, whether you’re in an office or at home.

    14. MigraineMonth*

      Ironically, I collaborate with coworkers far more with coworkers in my current fully-remote job than in my previous open-office job. It’s a lot easier for me to say “can we voice chat?” than to find a place in the open office where I could talk without disturbing 20 other people. Screen-sharing is also a lot easier than trying to both watch the same screen, in my opinion.

      1. mf*

        Same. When I worked on-site 100% before the pandemic, I could never get a hold of my coworkers. They were always in meetings or traveling. I spent a lot of my time just trying to track people down.

        Now that I and 98% of my coworkers are remote, communication and collaboration is SO much easier.

  2. Garfield*

    For #4:

    You’re jumping the gun here because it doesn’t seem like you have an offer yet.

    When you do get an offer, the obvious solution here is to say that you are conducting a job search, thank them for the offer, and say that you’re waiting to conclude the job search for deciding. If it makes it easier you can say that you are currently in the interviewing process with a couple of companies, and want to wait for their offers so that you can compare them all.

    That way, you’re not saying yes, and you’re not saying no. It’s good to give them a time frame, though.

    1. Jules*

      Maybe it’s different in your field but employers won’t usually wait around like that. You need to give your answer within a week or so or they need to move on to their next applicant.

    2. goducks*

      Companies rarely hold jobs open for candidates to explore options once an offer is extended. A few days to review an offer and make a decision is fine, but telling someone you’re waiting to see if a better offer comes along before deciding will often mean the offer is rescinded.

      1. DataSci*

        Yeah, in my experience they’ll maybe give you a week rather than two days if you say something like “I had a final round interview last week at XYZ and am waiting for an offer” but won’t delay the process for anything earlier in the process.

    3. GammaGirl1908*

      I think the answer for LW is different now than it would be in, say, six months, which is why there is no right or wrong answer. The answer evolves as your situation evolves. Right now, she has savings and several more weeks of work, so she doesn’t have to take an offer just to have a job. She can be picky and wait for the right offer to come along, especially because a couple of months off work is not a disaster in her case. That is, she’s already ahead of the game with regard to the reasons why people usually are desperate to take a job.

      That landscape might look different after a few months without a job, where she is dipping heavily into savings. At that point, it makes sense to take a lower-rung job and keep looking.

    4. ceiswyn*

      That’s basically telling them that you plan to string them along while you see if you can get a better offer. They will not be OK with that.

      You can get away with asking for a few days to think over the offer, but that’s all. They want to fill the role imminently with someone who’s happy to work there, and at the point you ask them to hang on for a couple of weeks for you to check out other options, they know that person isn’t you.

    5. Betty Flintstone*

      Not only does she not have an offer, but I’m wondering why she applied for this job in the first place? She isn’t at a place in her job search where she’s desperate to take any job, so I’m guessing maybe she panic applied after finding out the news about losing her job.

      In any event, I think interview practice is always a good thing and good networking. Also, I have seen so many people think they will find a new job quickly after a lay off, only to have it take far longer than they expected. I would interview for the job and see how things play out.

      1. mlem*

        Agreed. If the LW specifically applied to the job, it seems strange to decide so quickly that it’s unsuitable. (The given reasons are fine! But they’ll probably make the company wonder why the LW bothered applying at all.) Taking the interview as practice, and being open to the possibility that a better-fitting position might actually be possible there, doesn’t seem like a terrible idea.

      2. Lady Lia*

        OP 4 here. You’re correct that I did a spate of panic applying when I got the news about the impending layoff. I think I had already decided against the job even before the interview, but I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained so I went to the interview and walked out with a job offer. I was very upfront with them that I was looking for a senior position far above what they could pay. I felt bad for the couple, immigrants who had bought a franchise in an industry they know nothing about, and it immediately triggered my codependent rescuer instinct. But they were genuinely nice people, and I didn’t want to give them a raw deal by taking the job, then quitting for something better in a few month’s time. I suppose part of me needed an ego boost, but all that was wasted as a couple of hours of hot air. Going forward, I intend to apply for jobs at the top of my career and only work my way backwards if finances dictate.

        1. The Person from the Resume*

          That’s great because I thought Alison’s answer was absolutely spot on, but I was going to ask why you applied for a job you didn’t actually want. You should be a more selective, at least at this point, when you still have a job for 2 months and you have a financial cushion to be able to handle being out of work. That’s a good plan.

      3. Kes*

        Yeah, it sounds like she wasn’t sure how many responses she’d get so she applied widely, but the quick response is making her rethink that. In a situation like this where you do have some time/leeway I’d recommend starting by applying only to the jobs you are most interested in and would take if they were offered, and then depending on success there gradually widen the net as needed

      4. fhqwhgads*

        It might not have been completely clear until after going through the process that it was well-below what she was looking for, and now that it’s resulted in an actual offer, she’s stuck in the indecision of “but if my current jobs has an expiration date, should I take it anyway?”

    6. Delta Delta*

      And just because there was a quick response for an interview doesn’t mean there’ll be a quick decision. If we’ve learned anything from this comment section it’s that hiring can take forever. If OP gets an offer at all it might be some time down the road.

    7. MurpMaureep*

      As a hiring manager there’s no way I’d wait for more than 2 weeks for a decision, and that would be for a great candidate who I was reasonably sure would accept but had some extenuating circumstances. Not “eh I want to see what else I get”. I’d also want to know if the position I’m offering them was a serious downgrade in terms of salary/level, because while people certainly have good reasons for moving down, it can be a red flag that they won’t work out longterm due to factors outside my control.

    8. M2*

      This is not how it works. If someone said that to me I (or HR) would give them a timeframe to give me an answer usually 72 hours max. If someone asked for just this open-ended time to decide I would pull the offer and keep interviewing or pick the second choice. And yes sometimes the period for hire after that is 3-4 weeks or longer depending on the position, but then you can plan.

      It’s not fair to leave a job open forever to wait on one person!

    9. Lady Lia*

      OP 4 here with an update. I did a spate of panic applying when I got the news about the impending layoff. I think I had already decided against the job even before the interview, but I figured nothing ventured, nothing gained so I went to the interview and walked out with a job offer. I was very upfront with them that I was looking for a senior position far above what they could pay. I felt bad for the couple, immigrants who had bought a franchise in an industry they know nothing about, and it immediately triggered my codependent rescuer instinct. But they were genuinely nice people, and I didn’t want to give them a raw deal by taking the job, then quitting for something better in a few month’s time. I suppose part of me needed an ego boost, but all that was wasted as a couple of hours of hot air. Going forward, I intend to apply for jobs at the top of my career and only work my way backwards if finances dictate.

      1. OrdinaryJoe*

        Panic is understandable! I did the same thing when I was in your situation … I had a generous cushion but the idea of NO JOB!! RESUME GAP!!! SAVINGS!!! was so strong, I panic applied to several positions, too. Throw in the mixed message about the jobs forecast and I think most people would panic apply a few times :-)

  3. Educator*

    Re #3, I think that in fully remote environments, it is incumbent on more senior staff to intentionally structure those learning opportunities that used to be ad hock—and for more junior staff to advocate for them when needed.

    For example, this week I invited a new team member to shadow me in a client meeting, ended a regional meeting with ten minutes of optional casual chat after we finished our agenda, used our messaging system to check in with all of my direct reports on an ongoing basis throughout the day, and attended a virtual industry event. You cannot force connection over Zoom (or, I would argue, in person!) but you can authentically build connections if you make an effort, regardless of the format.

    Interestingly, many of my younger employees have never worked in an office, and they tend to be great at building virtual connections. So I am learning from them!

    1. Jujyfruits*

      I agree. There needs to be intentional time for learning. At one of my office jobs years ago, they constantly had us move desks to hear other conversations. I can’t learn by listing to 20 people on 20 different calls around me. I had to tune it out to do my own work. Our structured team meeting is where I learned. So I’m pretty cynical about the “ad-hoc” learning because it could mean stimulation that makes it hard for me to work.

    2. MK*

      Eh, no. You are basically saying that senior staff have an obligation to take on an additional duty, something that isn’t in their job description, or something they might have expected to be part of their job, I am assuming for no additional compensation. As someone who prefers a hybrid schedule, being told it’s incumbent on me to make sure coworkers who prefer work from home don’t lose out on anything because of that, would get a resounding no. Your comment is in the same spirit as those who claimed that work from home worked perfectly, while ignoring that it only worked because those still coming into the office took on extra workload.

      Work from home has disadvantages, that’s a reality people need to face. It’s the company’s responsibility to ameliorate those, not senior staff’s to take on a training role when it’s not their job to do. To be clear, if my organization put in the work to structure these training opportunities, I would be happy to participate, and of course if someone wants to take on this “mentor” “training” role, great. But incumbent, no.

      1. bamcheeks*

        I think if you’ve got mid-career and senior staff who any to opt out of “mentor and support the next generation of talent” because it isn’t part of their formal job description, that’s a problem your company should probably rectify! Seems very unsustainable.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes. My company is very clear that one of the metrices I’m judged against is my role in supporting and developing junior staff. That’s part of my role as a manager. If we don’t bring on talent then the company doesn’t tgrive

          1. MK*

            The type of interaction described in the letter isn’t about that, though, at least that’s how I read it. Absolutely, supporting and developing younger coworkers in an active way, by mentorship and training, is part of more senior people’s work. But the learning that happens organically by working alongside more experienced people isn’t.

            1. bamcheeks*

              Oh gosh, I think that’s a hugely important part of senior people’s work! If that has to be made explicit rather than implicit I think that’s a good thing.

              I’ve done quite a lot of work alongside healthcare professions, where that kind of “everyone is responsible for teaching and training at every level” is really really thoroughly embedded, and I really think it’s a model more sectors should adopt.

            2. Hiring Mgr*

              I’m struggling to see the difference between supporting and developing younger coworkers and more experienced people helping less experienced people

            3. OP 3*

              OP here – yes, exactly. I should clarify that my company and the senior employees are intentional about training and working with junior staff. We have daily stand up meetings where the whole team discussed what they are working on and any impediments as well as training sessions etc.. The senior employees all recognize that it is in their best interests to train the junior employees and do so.

              As others have mentioned in the comments I’m specifically talking about things like overhearing a conversation between two employees that you would otherwise not hear, hearing another employee on the phone with a customer to understand how to speak to them, hearing about something going south on a project you were not involved in and the lesson you can learn from that, hearing how your boss handles situations that don’t involve you, which can better teach you to do their job.

              1. Hlao-roo*

                Have you (or can you if you haven’t) explain this to your employees–both junior and senior? A little “here are the benefits of being in the office on the same days” discussion may cut down on the interest in working from home more often.

                Senior employees may have forgotten how important all those overheard conversations were early in their careers, so they only see the upsides of working from home more, not what the junior employees will lose with them WFH.

                And some junior employees may not realize that sometimes it’s OK to casually overhear conversations in the cube farm to learn how to speak to customers or how to solve a problem. Some junior employees are certainly doing this on their in-office days, but others may be popping in head phones every time they’re in the office or otherwise intentionally trying not to overhear the other discussions happening in the office and it would be good to explicitly tell them the benefits of listening in.

              2. know a guy who knew a guy*

                I work fully remotely as does the rest of my team, but I agree this is the stuff where being in person can really help.

                It’s very extreme for me because I only work side by side with colleagues a couple times a year, but I think of in-office time as time to chat, hear what’s going on with others’ related work, talk through ideas and strategies, etc. WFH time is time to actually do work.

              3. Emi (not a bear expert)*

                Some of this can be accomplished virtually, though, if people are willing to change their habits and management will support the extra time it takes. You can discuss that project that went south in a group meeting, the senior employee may be able to pull the junior into that call for training (idk how the customers would react in your field but my work involves a lot of shadowing at the start so I’ve had to remind myself to include my shadow even in quick phone calls). Maybe you or your workplace is already doing all you can! But I think most people (including myself) have not made enough of a mindset shift about hybrid work and it’s an important thing to focus on, much more than buying extra webcams or whatever.

              4. DataSci*

                Some of these (the project going south, the situation that doesn’t involve you) can easily be handled in a team meeting which works just as well in a team meeting. That leaves the “overhearing” situations which must be office or industry dependent – it seems really weird to me to deliberately listen in on conversations that don’t involve me.

                1. NancyDrew*

                  It’s less about “deliberately listening in” and more about the facts of time and space, though. I’ve had many a time when I was sitting happily at my desk working and overheard a conversation between two people that was relevant and helpful to my work — and I absolutely would not have gleaned that same information if I was at home that day.

                  I just want to clarify that people aren’t eavesdropping; it’s literally just a factor of two people standing near me and sound traveling.

                2. Flowers*

                  work related Conversations happening at a normal volume in an open office space are not private conversations that you’re eavesdropping on or being nosy if you do listen. If someone chooses to ignore everything happening, that’s perfectly fine – but then the flip side of it isn’t that they’re being nosy. Sorry but it’s kind of frustrating – if you want privacy, pull to the side or in a closed office or even low tones.

                  (why yes, I fully accept I may be projecting a tiny bit)

            4. Essess*

              Agreed. When I first started out as a computer programmer, the majority of skills that I learned was from over hearing teammates in neighboring cubes discussing what they were working on and problem-solving together. I picked up so many tips and appropriate shortcuts and frequently used the same solutions in my work. I frequently found out that something that I was working on would have an impact on something a coworker was working on at the same time and gave us a chance to make sure it worked together smoothly instead of one of us needing to make changes later.

        2. MK*

          But this isn’t about opting out of supporting the next generation. It’s frankly the next generation opting out of this type of learning opportunity (or the company excluding them for it by establishing remote roles) and then senior staff being expected to solve the issue by doing a lot of work to offer alternative types.

          1. Princess Peach*

            How are younger workers supposed to know what they’re missing though? Or know to opt in to something subtle that no one clearly tells them they need? I cringe now at some of my ignorant spots from when I first started out, but I had no idea at the time.

            While I figured out a lot through observation, it wasn’t deliberate at first. It wasn’t laziness or disengagement, just lack of experience. Not everyone enters the working world with great professional role models or the benefit of multiple internships. The people with more resources and a better sense of professional norms have to pick up some of that slack if they want their new people to learn.

          2. londonedit*

            The problem where I live/work is that, in general, most companies now have hybrid models of working but it tends to be the case that younger, more junior people want to be in the office 3/4/5 days a week, because they’re more likely to be living in shared houses and they’ve had enough of working from their bedroom with their housemates being around all the time. The older, more senior people tend to live further out from central London, they tend to own their own homes or at least rent somewhere with a bit more space and no housemates, and so they’re far less keen on coming into the office. So you’ll have the junior staff coming in two or three days a week, but their bosses and the people they could really learn from are only in once a week, or they come in a few days a month, or whatever. It’s not a case of the junior people choosing to opt out – in fact, they’re the ones opting in to going to the office more often – but if the senior people aren’t there then it’s still going to be a struggle for them.

            1. UKDancer*

              We have the same experience in my company. The new people (especially the young ones) really want to be in the office more. We’ve had 4 people start in the last quarter and they all want to be in the office 3-4 days per week. In London I think it’s definitely because it’s more comfortable than being in a house share or other suboptimal accommodation.

              My company has made it pretty clear that senior staff should make sure they’re in some of the time to coincide with more junior staff.

          3. ferrina*

            When I was part of the younger generation, all my training was in-person and ad hoc. And it suuuuuccked. No one actually took the time to train me in my role. I had no senior staff in my department to talk me through the ins and outs and best practices. It wasn’t that anyone opted out- it was that no one opted in. They would help only if I asked for help; it was incumbent on me to find the senior staff member, build rapport so I could have some of their time, then instinctively know what questions to ask. It was exhausting, and it definitely didn’t work as well as an intentional professional growth plan would have.

            Honestly, I don’t think this is wholly on the junior staff or the senior staff. This isn’t something we should expect individuals to solve. This is something that the company should be building in systemically, whether it’s through a formal training system, mentorship programs, or best practices set for managers to help them set professional development plans for their team

          4. Qwerty*

            Hard no, the senior staff are the ones that are putting up the roadblocks in my experience. (Caveat – I’m in engineering, where collaboration/teamwork is drilled into you)

            If senior engineers want to work remotely all the time, they need to find a way to still fulfil their duties of training/mentoring junior and mid-level team members effectively. What I’m running into is the seniors say that they can write their code just fine from home and ignore all the people skill side of their jobs. Then they claim they are “more effective” from home because they wrote a slightly higher amount of code while the team output dropped.

            The juniors want the mentorship! If a junior refuses to engage in the mentoring process, it’s just their own career growth that gets stunted and eventually there’s going to be a performance conversation. But its only a small percentage that actively aren’t engaging, roughly the same as when everyone was in person. What I’m finding is they feel intimidated by seniors, don’t feel comfortable asking questions, spend much longer trying to figure things out on their own, and have mental health problems because no one is talking to them which really gets to a person.

            My conclusion is that working remote brings out the anti-social side of people. I have been shocked by the callusness that I have seen out of senior staff since 2020. Juniors are trying – not always the right way, but they want to learn and if there’s enough of them they start trying to mentor each other. I also interview so many junior engineers who are terribly behind on how much experience they have – their main question is whether they’ll actually get any mentorship or support at my company.

          5. Twix*

            I understand what you’re saying, but you’re also framing this whole thing as senior staff being expected to do a lot of work that’s not part of their job. That’s the current situation because we’re still making this transition, but there is absolutely no reason it couldn’t be formalized, and with that part of the objection resolved the rest falls apart. Obviously the company would need to budget workloads and infrastructure accordingly and there are people who wouldn’t want to do that, but that’s true of any job duty. As far as who’s fault it is, you could frame it either way – younger workers not taking the opportunity to work alongside senior staff in person, or senior staff not wanting to adapt to the needs of the company changing with the workforce. But frankly that’s largely beside the point. It looks like WFH is here to stay for a lot of people, and that being the case employers have a vested interest in making accommodations for employee development.

        3. L-squared*

          I totally disagree.

          I’m more than happy to assist people when asked. But I also don’t think I need to go out of my way to facilitate these junior employees learning. My manager may have an obligation to do that, but just being a more senior member of the team doesn’t make it my responsibility. Its not “opting out of supporting people”, its not taking on additional work and responsibility

        4. Riot Grrrl*

          That’s not what MK is saying. It is literally impossible to plan ad hoc interactions. The way learning happens in many environments is that a learner has a (relatively minor) question and catches the senior person on the way to the break room with a “Oh by the way…” type question. Those kinds of interactions are significantly less likely to happen when everyone is remote.

          That type of learning has been going on for millennia and it’s folly to think that we would have found an adequate replacement in 3 years.

          1. ferrina*

            It’s not totally impossible- I do regular coffee meetings with several groups of people. After a few awkward sessions, we’ve now got a rhythm and we’ve created a similar cadence to the ad hoc interactions. A couple of us are now comfortable enough to randomly reach out as well.

            Caveat: It is literally my job to facilitate these interactions. I’m in charge of trainings, so I need to keep my finger on the pulse. A job requirement is that I quickly establish rapport and trust that folks can ask me any random thing (if I don’t know the answer, I know who will and make an introduction).

            I think a part of this falls on the company. They need to set up institutional practices and structures to easily facilitate virtual communication, learnings and relationships. As you say, Riot Grrrl, people can’t be expected to adjust a millenia-old practice in just 3 years on their own.

      2. GythaOgden*

        Yup. As in-office support staff, I find there’s a real need for people to touch base with us so we know who they are and what they do when someone rings us up asking after them. Other things we’re not equipped to handle are being foisted on us because we happen to be in one location and someone who’s not our manager is trying to manage us from 200 miles away because she decided she had the ability to do that but forgot about the organisation and logistics that couldn’t move that far away and for which she’s still responsible.

        The issue doesn’t start with management; it starts with everyone in the organisation, top to bottom, being aware of the needs and functions of others. Too often here it’s ‘Oh management should be forcing people to do this’ when actually it starts with individuals learning not to be oblivious to anything outside their own home.

        If you think you need other people to initiate things or force people to do things, then you probably need to start thinking about what you can do yourself to alleviate a particular problem that’s been brought to your attention.

        I bang this drum a lot but I’ll keep banging it until people start actually listening and taking their own responsibility for a collegiate work environment that recognises those people they depend upon for the equipment and logistics that enable them to work at home.

      3. Allonge*

        Educator was talking about fully remote environments though. If you are in the office regularly, that does give juniors an opportunity to observe you and ask questions in ways that remote does not (as long as they are there too of course but that’s on them/management).

      4. Snow Globe*

        It probably depends on the job, but where I work, providing support and guidance to other (junior) staff is absolutely part of the job; it is mentioned in goals and performance reviews (and I am not currently managing anyone). As people move from Llama Groomer 1 to Llama Groomer 2 and Llama Groomer 3, that (teaching the more junior coworkers) becomes a bigger part of the job.

      5. mlem*

        But mentoring and otherwise assisting more junior staff is literally in my senior-staff job description, along with all the other higher-than-entry-level titles at my company. Or do you mean “senior” only in the sense of tenure? (Even then, my company does consider it part of our duties, though.)

      6. Hell in a Handbasket*

        I completely agree. Yes, mentoring has always been part of senior staff’s job, but casual, in-person, ad hoc mentoring and allowing new employees to absorb by osmosis is very different than going through the effort to set up all the structured activities people mention here. Honestly, I have a full-time job, an aging parent, and three kids — and still come to the office three days a week for the benefits of collaboration. Having to work extra to compensate for the twenty-somethings who want to stay home because they enjoy “staying in their pajamas all day” or “like hanging out with their dogs” is not high on my priority list. (To be clear, I happily help them out when asked, but I’m not going out of my way to set up special systems for mentoring.)

        1. DataSci*

          I have a full time job, aging parents, a kid, and my own health issues, and I’m not interested in going into the office because management thinks juniors listening in on my conversations provides vitally important information they can’t possibly get by asking me or my coworkers. To me, “going into the office just for the benefit of the juniors” IS going out of my way to set up special systems.

    3. Richard Hershberger*

      That last paragraph is important. My teenagers are perfectly happy with virtual relationships, in some cases with people they have never met. (Yes, we had the “creepy fifty year old dude pretending to be a teenager) discussion. For that matter, they got it in school, too. This is pounded into them from an early age, and they seem to take it seriously.) All the hand-wringing about remote team-building and the like is a generational thing. We are in an awkward transitional phase, but it will pass.

      1. BethDH*

        I actually don’t find that that’s true, at least in terms of the kinds of relationships that foster learning. I work with college students, and some are pretty good at developing relationships in an online environment if it’s well structured. It takes them longer on average though, and generally they do better in peer-to-peer virtual relationships than mentor-peer ones.
        This will change further with technology shifts and human experience, no doubt, and there are absolutely some aspects of relationships that I do find bloom more online that are relevant to the work world. Small group projects done synchronously, like preparing presentations, seem to work really well in a structured online environment, probably because they’re in the same headspace with the tools they’re using. And I get really good results with “virtual computer lab time” where they can text chat with me or screen share as they’re working on coding projects.

      2. ecnaseener*

        I don’t think you can count on this being a sweeping generational norm – for one, I think it may be a transitory teen-brain thing; I also developed close relationships mostly over text as a teen and now I don’t enjoy texting with anybody. For another, the ability to build relationships virtually doesn’t mean the learning-through-osmosis thing will automatically happen virtually. You’d need some sort of virtual co-working space like Gather to allow for that.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Yeah, I wonder if the metaverse or something similar will eventually allow a fully virtual working environment. As an event organiser, I would love it if there was a way to make the conference networking experience just as good for virtual attendees as in-person attendees. Alas, the current virtual networking options for events are just … not good at all.

          1. ecnaseener*

            I know I’m the one who suggested it, but I can’t imagine a virtual or metaverse office not suuuuuucking. I’ve heard good things about Gather for conferences, but sitting on any type of virtual space all day while you’re mostly just working quietly sounds terrible.

            1. The Prettiest Curse*

              The only good things about a metaverse office would be 1. The ability to control your personal space settings and 2. No smell of smoke or perfume.
              It might actually work okay for meetings, but not as an 8 hours-a-day thing.

          2. GythaOgden*

            And there’s a logistics issue behind it. Our organisation has largely gone WFH where people can, but our building remained open throughout as an IT hardware distributor, maintenance/repair workshop and a place from which we could issue various items of kit. We sent them out throughout the pandemic, but haven’t necessarily reaped any rewards through doing so — our facilities and tools have been eroded by people who are now really at arm’s length from those who need stuff. It feels like it’s the worst of both worlds from our position — our role is crucial in supporting those WingFH, and yet the people who make those decisions don’t visit the actual office enough to hear our feedback on any changes or action our requests for supplies and equipment fast enough.

            Management were also very solicitous of the opinions and experiences of both WFH staff and, in our case in public healthcare, clinicians, but us workers in the middle have never really been addressed directly by our leadership. Yet if we stopped doing our job and refused to, say, open the door or frank the post, their systems — yours! — wouldn’t function at all.

            I’m totally OK with the principle of WFH and looking for a more challenging hybrid role now my health and personal issues are cutting me increasing amounts of slack, but at the same time, remember that it’s a massive privilege to be able to do so, remember whose work you rely on to do it, and act accordingly when talking online about how the future may well be virtual. I wouldn’t have done anything different over the last three years because it’s made me far more cognisant of what I actually do for my organisation and what could be lost if I moved upwards a bit and forgot where I came from.

        2. Avery*

          In regards to your first point, it’s not solely a transitory teen-brain thing, at least. I’m in my early 30s and most of my relationships are mostly/solely virtual and text-based these days. Some of that’s due to personal circumstances making in-person meetings difficult, but I definitely do connect to people based on text alone.
          …though I’m also neurodivergent, so perhaps that’s a factor?

      3. ferrina*

        I agree with this. As a society, we don’t much experience interacting in a virtual environment. We’re still trying to negotiate a virtual social contract. I’ve been working remotely since pre-pandemic times, and I’ve noticed that my work has 3 camps: 1) those that accept the company’s remote model and have adapted their communication styles, 2) those that want the perks of remote but haven’t adapted their communication styles, and 3) those that would rather be in person and haven’t adapted their communication styles.

        There’s definitely different ways of communicating virtually vs remotely (what you need to spell out, what questions to ask, how to set expectations). Like all communication norms, it’s not instinctive to everyone and some folks need more direct guidance and practice, and there are certain people swear that they are amazing at it while they are truly terrible.

      4. Riot Grrrl*

        I just don’t think you’re right about this. I have been trying to train and work with a new employee for two years now in a fairly technical position. After about 20 months on the job, he’s about where someone with 5 or 6 months of in-office experience would be.

        inb4: No, he is not an idiot. He is smart, engaged, and interested in learning.

        inb4: Yes, we have created all sorts of formal training options, been extremely explicit whenever we can about procedures, etc., have taken everything very seriously. We want him to succeed and learn. He wants to succeed and learn.

        Occam’s Razor explanation: It’s way harder and slower to learn these technical matters without face-to-face interaction.

        1. DataSci*

          Based on a sample size of one? It’s harder FOR HIM to learn that way. You’re overgeneralizing.

          1. Riot Grrrl*

            Yes, a sample size of one. I was specifically reacting to a comment that I felt was itself an overgeneralization. My response to that comment is that I think there are counter-cases and I described one such case. That’s all I’m doing here. I’m not making any more of a general claim than that.

        2. Nopetopus*

          And meanwhile, I’m a manager who has been onboarding my 3 new employees at my fully remote company for the past 6 months, all of whom are now performing at a level that in-person hires pre-pandemic had taken at least a year to get to.

          I’m with DataSci on this one.

    4. MurpMaureep*

      I completely agree but this means the organization as a whole has to buy into giving managers and senior staff time to mentor and train. In my position, all HR and staff development duties (hiring, on-boarding, training, mentoring, performance coaching, career planning, etc.) are seen as, essentially, “free”. As in none of my workload as a director of almost 20 staff and dozens of conplex projects goes down or can be shifted for these tasks, and they are incredibly time consuming. I’d love to carve out dedicated, in office time for myself, leads, and senior individual contributors to help new hires, but there’s no room for that. I realize thus is about my circumstances, but I suspect it’s true many places.

    5. mlem*

      I agree. I was slow to adapt to video-on virtual meetings originally, but once all our meetings became virtual, I learned. Members of my team will reach out by chat and email, and we’ll smoothly shift to on-camera consultations if something isn’t coming across by those methods. Transfers into new roles are shadowing their mentors in virtual meetings. It seems to work quite well. (My company does have senior staff joining our newest staff in-person regularly as well, but it’s not as if all work waits for those specifically scheduled days.) It’s generally fine.

      Thank you also for pointing out you can’t force connections in person any more than you can remotely.

      1. ABK*

        I work with a lot of early career folks (my group hires ~80 new grads each year). People work and live all around the country, with a few pockets around big offices. It’s definitely more remote than pre-covid, but we have a strong culture of mentoring junior people on projects. The whole team is invited to all team/client meetings, I’ll have 1:1 meeting between 1 and 3 times a week with junior teammates, we chat back and forth, I’ll make warm intros to folks they should network with. Culturally, it’s VERY rare to turn down a networking chat with someone. We generally don’t have ad hoc meetings since everyone is remote and because peoples schedules are pretty busy. Basically, yes, you can set up a culture and structure that doesn’t leave junior people behind but it has to be intentional and I’m not sure it’s as good as in person but it definitely levels the playing field a bit. More senior people with (generally) more complex lives get the remote flexibility we need, and in return, we work pretty hard to mentor and integrate newer people.

    6. Emi (not a bear expert)*

      Yeah I hear a LOT of concern about early-career development from senior leadership in my organization but they don’t seem to want to take any responsibility for *doing anything about it*, beyond making people come into the office in person. It’s just “oh I learned so much at the start from being pulled into meetings because I was right there, and that doesn’t happen over zoom.” Well, dude, you are literally the boss! You are the one running those meetings! Make it happen!

    7. Dona Florinda*

      This. I joined my current company during the pandemic, when everyone was fully remote, and part of my training was to sit around at other meetings and just watch my senior coworkers, and that was very helpful.

      I agree that the lack of face to face interaction can a be problem, but (at least in some fields) it’s possible to work around that.

    8. Accidental Manager*

      As a manager in a fully remote, small company, I have to really convince our new hires that it is okay to socialize with coworkers during the work day. One of our chat channels is called ‘Water Cooler’ and is spot to share stories, photos (some kids, lots of pets) and sometimes blow off steam. This is part of building relationships with coworkers of all levels. We also have channels for questions – some department specific, one company wide. Post your question, and get responses from a variety of perspectives. A lot of brainstorming happens, and problems get solved. We encourage conference calls where screens are shared, and team meetings where everyone is encouraged to be engaged in the discussion. I think people get too hung up on the idea that when remote, you have to be ‘producing’ all. the. time. in order to justify working from home. Remote collaboration has to be intentional and encouraged, without being undermined by management. The company has been fully remote for 10 years – and we are growing by leaps and bounds. So instead of relying on junior level employees gaining knowledge by listening in on someone else’s conversation, make a point of inviting them in on the call or channel to be a part of the conversation. Be innovative, instead of stuck in how it’s always been done.

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – that was an odd and clumsy way for the interviewer to go about asking what you knew about the company, considering you have 10 years of work experience. For someone straight out of school – sure. But a better interviewer would have asked you something like – “What do you see as the major trends in our industry?” OR “What opportunities do you see for our product / line of business to enter new markets?” OR literally anything that would have given the interviewer some insights about whether you actually knew anything substantial about the organization, its industry, etc. Not only would a better question have respected your experience, but it would have given a lot more information about your viability as a candidate.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      Yeah it would make me wonder about the seniority of the role and about oversight and micromanagement. If I was still tempted by the role and hoping they were just stock questions, I would have to address just how basic those questions are: “Some of the questions yesterday made it appear that this was a very junior or first-time position, like checking on whether the applicant has looked up the company. I’m still interested based on the job description but wanted to double check the level of the position and how much oversight the role needs.” I’d be more likely to walk away though.

    2. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

      It reminds me of the situation (not sure if it was here, but I think it was) where someone was given a typing speed test for a Director level position. An odd thing to ask — or in an odd way — for a role that someone with 10 years of experience will be applying for which sounds fairly senior. I wonder if the position is being described correctly.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      The way it reads to me is: This is an interviewer who has been unpleasantly surprised in the past by applicants who have done little or no research before coming to an interview. But that’s based on my personal experience. I work for a non-profit that has a name similar to our for-profit sister company, and even when the ad and job description CLEARLY state that the job is for the non-profit, for which there is LOTS of information freely available online, we frequently hear from people who think they are interviewing with the for-profit company.

      So part of the interview process around here is indeed making sure the applicant has some faint idea what the non-profit does. I like to think we’re more subtle than the OP’s interviewer, at least when talking to people who aren’t brand-new to the workforce, but hey, I could be wrong!

    4. MassMatt*

      Just because someone has ten years of experience doesn’t mean they know much about this particular company or what unique challenges or strategies they have. While I agree the question could be better stated, it seems to me that the answer is more important the more senior the role, not less.

    5. Ancient Llama*

      After seeing your preparation included getting bad network and Glassdoor reviews, I almost wonder if they are trying to check who knows already they have red flags they need to address and who they don’t likely have to spend time on that PR recovery.
      In both questions, if you assume positive intent it is more about them understanding what you know already so they can fill in gaps (or address issues/misperceptions like the non-profit/for-profit and dairy farm/ice cream shop examples in other comments) .
      So I think you gave them what they needed, without worrying about their actual intent.
      But given the review red flags, hopefully you did hear from them what makes you want to work for them (2-way street).

    6. Vienna Waits for You*

      The team I work on is doing a lot of hiring right now (we mostly coordinate inter-specialty records sharing, mostly electronic, for a health system), and we’ve noticed that unfortunately we have to do just a tiny bit of screening because we’re getting TONS of internal transfer requests that make us question if the people applying have actually read the job description past the words “Work Location: Telework.” But we’re asking variants on “what do you think is the largest challenge for Team’s workload” and “what do you find most interesting of Teams projects” to weed out the folks internally who just seem to feels that they are entitled to a telework position transfer – without bothering to look at the job duties description (we don’t do that with external candidates). The only wrong answers are along the lines of:
      -billing is super detailed (we aren’t in billing at all)
      -anything to do with telehealth delivery (again, wrong department)
      -anything to do with complex coding (also wrong department)
      -schedule Tetris is my favorite game (still not our department)
      -nothing or getting upset at the question (yeah – we actually had somebody get upset and close zoom over the biggest challenge question)

      If they interview great but are just confused as to department we have been passing their package on to the correct team (but some of those teams aren’t telework yet – some never will be due to too much patient interaction).

      (We’re also verifying that you know the pay band and shift times – because there’s an astounding number of people who apply and then think they can convince us to let them work flex hours – which not being able to and the hours are three places in the description but well – details, details. Not being willing to work the B-Shift schedule is an auto disqualification for our team – best of luck finding hours that work better for your needs.)

  5. MassMatt*

    #1 I’ve never been asked how I prepared for an interview, it’s an unusual question but it doesn’t strike me as a “gotcha”, maybe it was in tone of voice? Even less so the “can you explain what we do”. Part of my preparation when I interviewed for jobs was to learn exactly this. I was rarely asked this straight out, but in the best interviews (where I got offers or moved to the next round) I was able to ask intelligent questions about the organization and its plans, initiatives, etc.

    When I interviewed candidates, I didn’t ask that question directly either but people who clearly had done that prep work certainly stood out for me in a good way. And people whose answers were very generic stood out in a less favorable way, particularly if their resume made it seem unlikely that this was the job they really wanted.

    I guess IMO seven if the question never comes up, candidates should prepare as though it will.

    1. Heidi*

      I think the perceived “gotcha” was the combination of the 2 questions. They ask the applicant how they prepared, and the applicant says they did research and talked to people who worked there, etc. If the applicant can’t subsequently describe what the company does, you’ve caught them in a lie because they obviously didn’t do all that research they said they did. At least that’s how I’m reading it.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        I think the explanation is probably simpler than that: checklist driven interviewing. Somewhere in their paperwork they likely have to put an answer for candidate’s responses to those two questions. You sometimes see this under the guise of ‘equality’ but it’s mostly due to a checklist driven mentality in general.

        1. BethDH*

          Perhaps the difference between having a list of things you’re trying to assess and thinking you should phrase each of those as a question instead of gathering them from multiple questions.
          I could 100% see assessing the candidate’s familiarity with the company’s position in the industry even for a senior position. But in the senior level interviews I’ve been on (lots of panel interviews in my field!) that’s been something we got from other questions that were more targeted to the specific role.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      It was phrased in the exact same way I ask kids for their homework; the kids who never do their homework and claim they do, but uh oh something happened to it. So, I ask them a follow up question so I know for sure whether or not they did it; I ask it in such a way that they know I’m on to them and I will remain on to them. I think that’s a concerning tone for one adult to take with another. It’s not that the question of what the company does will never come up; it almost certainly will because the entire interview will focus on what the company does and the role within it. OP was prepared for the question because she was prepared for the interview. That’s what makes the first question so insultingly basic.

    3. Lily Rowan*

      I had an HR interviewer really nail me with the “how did you research” and ” what do we do” line of questioning, to the point that I was in tears at the end of it, and the next person I spoke with did not seem surprised at the state I was in, so that must have been the HR person’s standard practice.

      I still don’t know what more the HR person wanted me to have done or what answer I was supposed to give.

      1. Well...*

        Ugh, that’s awful, I’m so sorry. I’m on the academic job market, and I’m finding that most universities want to tell me that kind of specific information about them… they don’t expect that I researched them. I used to skim through basic info on their website get some quick stats like # of students, etc. Now I don’t, because I find that I’m often just being told that information directly. It does actually feel more like a two-way street (we’re both seeing if this is a good fit) rather than a “dance for me, monkey” kind of situation.

        Here I am complimenting academia, who have I become.

        1. Zoe Karvounopsina*

          ‘What attracted you to X academic institution?’

          Well, you’re near where I live, you’ve got a decent academic reputation, and you were hiring… (Obviously I actually complimented their cafe…not sure how that worked…)

          1. Well...*

            Lol near where you live? I feel like I’m narrowing my search too far by just picking one country /sob

    4. Grilledcheeser*

      I used to get the “how did you prepare” question a lot in the late 90s when doing technical interviews. I got the feeling most applicants had no answer at all – because when I started talking about all the research I did, I would break the interviewer’s brains. “You … you looked up our annual reports? You read the transcript of our quarterly earnings call? You went over our P/E Ratio?!? What IS that? Wait, how do you know about that last round of seed money we got from the angel investor – *I* don’t even know that?!” Yeah, all public knowledge, folks. Libraries are your friend.

      I found it fascinating that when I stopped getting that question in the 2000s, and never since.

      I have had the “how do you know about us /how did you find us” questions a few times in the last 5 years.

  6. Weekend Warrior*

    OP#1 – I’ve been on committees that used the “how did you prepare” question as a soft opener to the interview because it’s an easy question for most people to answer. It turned out to be a very good question because a surprising number of people weren’t able to answer it well. That is, they gave the impression that they hadn’t done much to prepare at all! We were looking for people who were able to concisely outline their preparation as a series of organized and conscious actions as that approach, and the ability to communicate it, is highly valued in our field. Bonus points if they’d actually looked at our web site and knew what our organization did. :) Definitely a question that a senior person could turn to their advantage.

    1. coffee*

      I would hate being asked “how did you prepare” because if I prepared well then that will come out in the interview, surely, and it would leave me wondering if you had rigid expectations around “the right way to interview”. We’ve seen some strange assumptions from people writing in.

      Why not ask about their preparation for something they did in the workplace?

    2. Allonge*

      If research (methods) are relevant to your field, it’s much less of a gotcha!

      To me it feels like it can be one otherwise because you get to ask actual content questions on the results of the research, and you can see for yourself is there was prep or not.

    3. bamcheeks*

      One of the other (but probably not both together) is also a good question from a genuine information-gathering point of view! “Ahh, it seems like you’ve got a good handle on the company overall, but it doesn’t seem like you’ve come across our directorate’s specific strategy, yes? OK, so to fill you in on that, we’re working on a five-year cycle of…”

    4. Jessica*

      The “how did you prepare” question seem weird, pointless, and intrusive to me. I mean, maybe I took my anxiety meds. Maybe I prayed to my god(s) of choice. Maybe I lined up some childcare so my kids wouldn’t interrupt the zoom interview. How is it anyone’s business?

      It seems like they’re looking for some exact right porridge here, where I know proper job-hunting rituals and did enough to appear conscientious and engaged, but not too much to seem desperate or lacking confidence.

      1. ecnaseener*

        That’s where I land too. Are you hiring for someone who can do this job well, or are you hiring for someone who’s had the right education or done the right googling to know How To Job-Search Correctly? You can’t avoid indirectly screening for the second to an extent, but I don’t see the need to directly focus on it.

        1. mlem*

          Yeah, I had *no* training in how to search for jobs when I was doing just that back in the 90s, when online presences were thin at best. I prepared by … answering your ad in the paper and mailing you my resume? (I don’t interview or hire, but I feel so bad for the people who haven’t been taught and don’t yet realize that there are interview strategies to search for.)

      2. TrixM*

        Same feeling here. “I read the top level of the company website, the Wikipedia entry, Glassdoor, and googled the org and ceo name to see if anything of note came up” probably wouldn’t go down too well either.

        A softball question to me is “what were your primary duties in your last role and what were the aspects you enjoyed most?”

        Although even that can be revealing of people who can’t string together a couple of relevant sentences, or whose self-described last role is wildly divergent from what’s in their CV.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        Yeah, I have literally never done anything I’d consider “preparing” for an interview. So this would’ve definitely been a “gotcha” moment for me. Researching the company/role is stuff I might do before deciding I want to apply, but if I’ve gotten as far as I applying, I think I’m qualified based on what I know about the role, and I expect to find the answers to unknowns about them/the job via the interview.

    5. spcepickle*

      I also ask this question in interviews – but only for interns. The answers are really interesting and there is an almost 100% overlap between people who can’t answer this question and those who do very poorly on interviews.
      Also most intern students don’t have much work experience so having them give us a concrete example of preparing is a softball.
      I once answered this question in part by saying I had carefully picked out my outfit.

  7. PoolLounger*

    I think many very large and international companies have the remote issues figured out, even if they don’t realize or even acknowledge it, because they’ve been doing it for years. Working for a very large company, you might be the only one on your team in your city, and you may work with many people in other countries. My partner works for a big 5 company, and many of the issues with remote work just have to be solved because even if you work in an office you’re often basically remote with your team, your bosses, and people on other teams that affect your work. So many people today develop important relationships online, and chatting over zoom and slack seem more natural now. When managers know that new and young employees are going to be remote, they can work with that and make an extra effort to build connections and talk about workplace norms.

    1. turquoisecow*

      Yeah, my husband works for a large tech company and he and his team are remote from each other, spread out across states and time zones (and countries, even!). Even if he were to go to the office, most of his coworkers would be at another office. So even before Covid, they had to figure out how to communicate with one another, via Zoom, Slack, Teams, phone, texting, emails, etc. I don’t know if it’s necessarily worked well for letting junior employees move up, but he’s had people on his team get promoted, so there’s clearly upward mobility.

      I’ve only worked for medium and small regional companies who strongly resisted the WFH model and so they haven’t inherently built in structures of communication the way my husband’s larger company has. His company has open slack channels to encourage non-work chitchat (they have some on pets and food and kids, for example) as well as plenty of work topic related channels.

      I think the communication has to be deliberate. The junior employees need to be deliberate about asking for help or guidance from their supervisors or peers so that they learn the job effectively. The supervisors need to make sure they’re checking in with junior employees frequently in one-on-one meetings and make sure they know who to go to for help so they’re not working in a silo and lost until Boss checks in. (“Jane’s the expert on teapot filings so if you’re not sure how to file those, message her with the question.” Maybe introduce Jane and the new person even.) Mentoring programs are great also, as well as supervisors checking in with their team about what they’re having trouble with, what they’d like them to learn next, what they’re interested in training in. Maybe having them sit in on remote meetings. I think it can still happen, but you have to be deliberate and consciously doing it instead of just hoping the new person picks it up by osmosis because they overhear the boss’s conversations.

      1. TechWorker*

        I didn’t write #3 but I could have. I work for a huge tech company that in theory values collaboration but does indeed have some teams that are geographically spread (moreso since covid). My department has done exactly what Alison suggests (hybrid but set days we have to be in the office) and whilst those geographically spread teams work okay… I can tell there are downsides. Notably junior developers who seem to have chat rooms with hundreds of people in them as their only avenue for help… like *eventually* they get help but things would be a lot quicker if there was someone on their team to look over their shoulder. I’m not saying no company can do hybrid ‘perfectly’ but I still fully believe it’s a lot easier to train and mentor people in the office!

        1. TechWorker*

          Also.. we were fully remote for nearly 2 years during covid and there is a noticeable development lag in the people who joined in that time. Not through lack of trying – we had mentors assigned (as we do in person), virtual socials, team chat rooms, ad hoc meetings if they had questions… but somehow still people learnt less, possibly because they weren’t used to the company culture and didn’t feel as comfortable asking ‘stupid’ questions or taking up lots of their mentors time. High fliers still flew, but those who would normally be more middle of the road really struggled.

          1. OP 3*

            Thank you for this! This is exactly what I’m talking about and afraid of. My company is intentional about mentoring, scheduled and ad hoc meetings, training, check ins, etc. but the learning from casual conversations and overhearing conversations you would not otherwise be involved in seems to lack when WFH

          2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

            I gotta wonder if all of those middle of the road employees would actually be middle of the road if they’d had the easier learning opportunities in the office.

    2. bamcheeks*

      It is kind of fascinating how bad companies are at this though! I met my partner online 20 years ago this month, through another friend who is also never met in person at that point. I have 15 and 20+ friendships with people who were only in the same country as me for a few months, which started on bulletin boards and then livejournal and now twitter and Facebook and WhatsApp. I mean, I am GOOD AT and a big believer in virtual and text-based relationships being as real and meaningful as F2F one’s! But I’ve never come across a work Slack or chat that comes close to my non-work virtual friendships.

      1. Dinwar*

        It goes back to the chilling effect of surveillance.

        To give but one example: There’s a psychological concept called counter-signaling, where you’re on such good terms that you actively violate social norms to show that you no longer need such things in your relationship. Think good-natured ribbing (note the “good natured” part–this is a powerful psychological phenomenon, and misuse can get bad quickly) and the like. For example, if your best friend came into your house, made themselves a sandwich, and flipped on the TV without saying a word, you may be fine with that (seen it happen). The problem is, taken out of the context of people extremely close to one another, counter-signaling can appear to be quite bad, especially in a business context. Everyone knows this, and everyone carefully avoids counter-signaling, thus removing this potentially powerful tool for relationship building from use.

        In a casual conversation–one outside a business context–this sort of thing isn’t an issue. I seriously doubt anyone is going to dig through my Discord chats, for example. I don’t need to care about my statements being taken out of context because the only people who are ever going to read it ARE the context. But in a business setting these things are different, and everyone worth working with knows it (those who don’t realize it tend to egregiously violate norms anyway). You have to consider how your boss will interpret it, how HR will, how someone six cubicles down the row will. That’s necessarily going to alter how people communicate.

        1. Anon for this*

          This! This! This! Even more of a problem when people stop thinking about the potential for survelliance.

          Pre-pandemic, I was super careful about what I put into a workplace chat. But that relaxed. With everyone mostly remote, we put all of our discussions into Slack. Rather than exchange phone numbers and text / meet up in person, people just used Slack.

          Welp, the company has access to all of that. And one day decided to read messages from people that had expressed concerns. Talk to a coworker about annoyance with a new policy? Disagree with something that came down from leadership? Well, now you are being disciplined for “back channeling” (no proof given but it was quick to figure out it was slack)

        2. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, this is dry true, and I’m quite deliberate about what I put on eg. shared WhatsApp with team mates vs company-owned Teams.

          I suppose the other side of it is survivor bias though— those twenty-year friendships lasted *because* were both people who are good at and enjoy the same kinds of text-based relationships, and that’s no indicator that a random group of ten people would be able to do the same thing.

    3. Betty Flintstone*

      I think you can build good relationships within your own team virtually, but you won’t develop relationships with other people who work on different teams in the same office and those are relationships that can lead to career opportunities. I switched to a new team while my company was still remote and after going back to the office on a hybrid schedule last year, I have gotten to know several people on different teams well, whom I never would have developed a relationship with online (eg, I became friendly with a coworker after we bonded over the admin who was loudly yelling curse words on the phone in the office). I have teenagers so I get the whole virtual friendships thing, but I don’t know that a bunch of people you’ve never met and hung out with are going to give you jobs or promotions.

      1. Snow Globe*

        Yes, this! When I first started in this industry (a few decades ago) I learned a lot not just from my team, but from people in other departments who worked on our floor, just hearing about what they did was an important part in learning how my department fit in to the overall whole company. I also met and chatted with senior managers from various departments while getting coffee or riding the elevators, etc., so when job openings happen, I knew them and they kind of knew me. I work for a very large company, fully remote for about 7 years, and while it’s fine for me since I already understand how the company works and who’s who, a new person would really be missing out on a lot of learning if they aren’t in the office.

      2. bamcheeks*

        That was one thing I really noticed about the shift to homeworking in 2020. Our team had been moved organisationally out of one directorate into another, and moved from a shared office with the old directorate to a shared office with the new directorate. Our work was still closely related to the old directorate, but we only had a few “formal” touchpoints. Whilst we were in different offices but the same building, we still ran into each other all the time in the lifts, in the canteen, and so on, and had those, “oh hey, how are you? oh, by the way, how did things work out with the oatmeal polishing machines?” conversations.

        Once we were working from home, all that got cut off, but it was sporadic enough that it was only after a few months that we really started to notice it and started to suggest to our managers that we needed to formalise some of those conversations– by having business partners or keeping-in-touch meetings or something. It’s not impossible to get these things to work remotely, but you have to make it much more deliberate, I think.

      3. mlem*

        I don’t think that’s as broadly accurate as many people assume (that you won’t develop relationships with people on other teams). Back in the mid-teens, I was the point person interfacing my application with two others. I developed strong relationships with the point person for each of those applications to the point we still consult each other directly for cross-application issues. We worked over email, *even when we were in the same building*. I think I’ve worked in-person with one of them exactly once, and it was awkward.

        And “so-and-so hung out with me” is honestly a terrible reason for promotion. My colleague recently got promoted, and he’s been mostly-WFH longer than the rest of us because the company sold the building he worked from; he was an effective expert and leader regardless.

        1. Allonge*

          I think the point is not that you never ever develop relationships with other teams, it’s just that it’s a lot less likely to happen unless – as in your example – there is a particular project you work on together.

        2. Just Another Starving Artist*

          > And “so-and-so hung out with me” is honestly a terrible reason for promotion.

          This is disingenuous and silly. It’s not just because you hung out with someone. It’s that a strong interpersonal relationship + deliverables is always going to be better than just deliverables. And people who don’t realize that usually shouldn’t rise above an individual contributor level.

          And it’s not just internal. If you are good at your job AND you build a strong interpersonal relationship with someone, they’re more likely to remember when they move on. That’s how people work. Some people are great at building those relationships online — in my experience, those people are as good, if not better, at building relationships in person. I see far more people who are great in person but who will balk at the extra steps necessary to build those relationships remotely.

          1. DataSci*

            And not everyone wants to transition away from being an IC, or should. (I hate this “rise above” framing as though every manager is better than every IC. I am a very good data scientist with many years of experience. I have zero training, education, or interest in people management. It would be in nobody’s interest for me to make the switch just because someone decided that’s what “career advancement” must mean.

            1. Just Another Starving Artist*

              Oh, absolutely! It’s perfectly valid to want to keep your head down and do the work. But it feels in like most fields, advancement means at least partial management of others, rather than just going deeper into subject matter.

      4. Qwerty*

        This has worked really well for me in the past. It isn’t the friendships necessarily, but all of the work related stuff that you learn as a result of it. I’d be able to make broader connections because I know what multiple teams are working on from the view of ICs rather than managers. If teams A, B, and C are all trying do something similar just different flavors, it helps to know both that its happening and that A&B are hitting a roadblock while C succeeded easily. Or know that every team is trying to do the same thing as its unofficial side project so maybe we should collaborate.

        I call it being the glue between the teams.

      5. No Thanks in Advance*

        I’ve kind of had the opposite. In the office, I’m with my team and our adjacent team. I go to the breakroom and run into people, but it’s brief. Online, our whole department is in some of the same spaces, and I talk with a lot more people from other teams more frequently, and know them better. We have team Slack channels, and channels for communicating with certain other groups, but we have a number of Slack channels that are department-wide, and those foster relationships. We also have some casual non “work” Zoom meetings that do the same thing.

    4. Llama Llama*

      I work for a large company. 95% of my coworkers are on the other side of the world (and were prior to 2020). My clients were not close either. When the pandemic started, our transition to home work was easy because we already were collaborating online anyway.

      Hell I trained that 95% online as well.

    5. TPS reporter*

      I am in a large company, eve before COVID the majority of our work was with people in a different building, city, state, country, etc. It’s honestly more efficient to be remote so you’re not distracted by the people around you doing things that aren’t relevant to your job. Yes the team that you’re on does similar work but for me the overwhelming-ness of being in an office with thousands of people was way less efficient. Now I can have quiet conversations with my team in a variety of ways- email, chat, call, video. We are sucked in to every in person interaction. We are more intentional when we do meet and it feels more comfortable for me to open up in a remote environment

  8. Properlike*

    #4 – I’m curious about this job offer – you say you applied for this job? Did you discover during the interview that it was for someone with lower abilities for less salary, or did you apply for this job specifically as a “safety” expecting that they’d see you were overqualified or maybe would reply down the road?

    Asking because, reading between the lines of your letter, it seems you’re proceeding as if any job would be better than none, despite your relative financial security at this point. If so, maybe the initial strategy could be tweaked a bit because it’s too early to be at this point?

    1. LG*

      I also wondered why the LW applied for a job that they didn’t really want. Perhaps the job description wasn’t clear enough when they applied, but as soon as they find out that it’s not what they want, I don’t see why they would even consider taking it.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

        > why the LW applied for a job that they didn’t really want.

        Probably the fact that their income is about to evaporate in two months was a factor … I have been in a similar position and applied to jobs within an hour or so of being told the bad news. They’d consider taking it because they will be out of their current job in two months regardless, so are (understandably) asking whether it’s appropriate to take this job anyway as a backup.

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, this is a weird question to ask in this context. LW’s question is whether to take a job they’re overqualified for, so obviously they had not decided that yet at the time they applied…it’s perfectly okay to apply without being sure whether you’d take the job.

        2. AngryOctopus*

          I mean, when our layoffs were announced I immediately started looking at job postings too. But this letter feels like the OP 1-panic applied to ANY job that looked relevant as soon as they saw it and 2-given that they’re agonizing on whether to take this job when they don’t even have an offer, they’re still in panic mode. I would recommend that OP take a step back, really assess their finances, whether they’re getting severance, etc. This seems driven still by “Panic At Being Unemployed In Two Months So Must Take Anything” rather than a real assessment of the job market and their applications and jobs that they’re seeing posted out there combined with a realistic look at their finances and what they can afford. There could be a time to panic, but they are not anywhere near it.

    2. Lady Lia*

      OP 4 here. I did a spate of panic applying when I got the news about the impending layoff. I come from a background of poverty, and my emotions overrode the objective reality spelled out on my bank statements. Going forward, I intend to apply for jobs at the top of my career and only work my way backwards if finances dictate.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        I’m sorry you keep getting this question here because it was quite clear to me that this was an impulse so many of us have and act on in the exact same way you did here.

        For what it is worth, I’m in almost the exact same position and I am so so grateful to see this question asked here today. In my case, I expect two offers a week apart from the same employer but different divisions. I still haven’t used my once-in-a-career “nevermind” (accept a role then reneg to take a better one) and I know that I absolutely cannot do that when both jobs are in the same agency. It’s a dance. I wish you luck.

  9. Bess Jarvis*

    Re: number 3 — I work doing remote mental health counseling (the counselling was remote even pre-pandemic, but we worked in a call centre office). When we went remote, we started daily group meetings to just talk about the challenges we were facing that day and how we handled them. Just 30 minutes, but it kept us connected and means new people can still learn from more experienced counsellors. I wonder if something similar could help with this issue…if companies built in meetings that were focused on knowledge and experience sharing between people with similar responsibilities and career goals.

    1. Rosacoletti*

      In my business, key learnings happen by osmosis – you’re around, say, when a major problem gets solved for a client. You see and hear it all, and those that relish that and put that learning into practise are the ones who become invaluable employees. Those who aren’t ‘in the room’ will absolutely get left behind.

      1. Betty Flintstone*

        Also the office politics are hard to get if you aren’t in the office. I’m not going to put in writing “hey Big Boss is super pissed at Boss for the way he acted in the meeting with client” but it’s absolutely the kind of thing you pick up the office. In my line of work, the politics are super important. We aren’t making widgets in a factory so it’s not driven by metrics of how many items we are producing. Rather it’s subjective assessments – so knowing the politics is critical.

      2. Three Cats in a Trenchcoat*

        I think this is a situation where the nature of the work really makes a difference – in mental health / health care in general, you *can’t* learn by osmosis in the same way, and so it is really helpful to have explicit time set aside for discussion. When I am in the office, I am typically seeing primarily virtual patients, so I am alone in my office with the door shut. This is not conducive to interacting with my coworkers, who are also in their offices with the door shut seeing their patients. Maybe you bump into someone at the water cooler or heating up lunch, but it is really helpful to build in that time to share things like referral sources or services.

        Obviously many jobs are not like this, but there some where you are really doing individual work, and so “collaboration” is really not the same, and not as easy to do organically.

    2. Tsp*

      I don’t know that this would work on my hybrid office. The people who are onsite are often onsite (begrudgingly) because they have a lot to do that requires them to be in the office that day. To then be told they have to set aside 30 mins to an hour for a meeting set-up for the purpose of helping WFHers feel more connected to the office that day, well it would go over like a lead balloon.

  10. martin blackwood*

    #2 I want to know (not really) what your bosses answer to that question is. Is he in leadership in an effort to prove something to his father? Was he saved from a burning building by a [your profession here] as a child and swore to follow that person into the field? Did he have an extremely cathartic cry about a job issue with a coworker that single handed cured his imposter syndrome?

    I dont recommend asking him that, even though it could spark a realization how inappropriate this is, theres also a chance it would prompt him to do introspection to find that reason and then tell you about i5. And if he has a emotional reason waiting in the wings, im 99% sure it will be oversharing and you dont want to know

    1. Allonge*

      Totally what I thought – I think I would ask boss to illustrate what he means, maybe by his own example. And then I see if I can tag onto that with a ‘actually mine is less raw/dramatic, but I always liked doing X bacause Y and I am glad I can be part of Z over here’.

      But questions like this should have a committee approving them before they can be asked. Committee should have at least one 10-year-old, at least two people who worked in non-office and office conditions for over 40 years (each or some combination), and a standup comedian. You can appeal to Alison.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I would actually be fascinated to know what this guy’s deal is and why he wants to be OP’s spiritual guide and emotional touchstone. Oh wait, I think I found out what his personal reasons for being in his role are.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Well he said she wasn’t “fun” when she refused to play along. So I think we know what he was trying to do. His reports exist to provide him amusement by telling him personal things. I really hope that is all it is and not they need to tell him personal things so he can use it against them later.

        1. Miette*

          Probably a little of both from the sound of it.

          OP, I’d be tempted to reword much of your letter into a script and throw it right back at him and his male privilege. Guaranteed he hasn’t thought through how that question has landed with any degree of seriousness or critical thinking, and i wonder if he’s asking it of other (white, male) colleagues or just you.

        2. Lilas*

          I honestly think he’s trying to toe the line of boundaries with OP as a prelude to creeping on her. “No fun”? Wanting her to get “raw and emotional”? He’s putting out feelers for how she reacts to blurry lines. Not good.

          1. Allonge*

            I hate to say it but this is also what it sounded like to me! Raw and emotional? From a boss? Ewwww.

          2. iiii*

            Also my first thought. If he’s not trying to groom her into a relationship, he’s doing his damnedest to sound like the kind of creep who would.

          3. A. Tiskit & A. Taskit LLC*

            Hmm…somehow I doubt that he’ll stop at blurring those lines at work. Perhaps suggest that they go to lunch together…or that he “mentor” her…or give her some tips on how to fit in so that the other guys won’t think she’s a killjoy…etc., etc.

    3. The Eye of Argon*

      I mean, I applied for my job because I was qualified to do it, it was better pay than I’d been getting, and quite frankly no one else wanted it (it’s a bookkeeping job involving both heaps of tedious busywork and customer service. Only one other person applied.) I couldn’t get raw and emotional about it if I tried.

      1. Gemstone*

        Yeah. I applied for my job because it was within my skillset and it paid me the money I wanted. Raw and dramatic enough for you, boss?

    4. Shirley Keeldar*

      Or what were his raw and emotional reasons for hiring you? Did you remind him vividly of his lost love? Does he feel spiritually called to mentor less experienced people and guide them into, I dunno, expert creation of TPS reports for the good of humanity? I mean.

    5. MigraineMonth*

      This question strongly reminded me of a computer science class where the professor decided to stop a lecture to ask me–the only female-presenting person in the class–why there weren’t more women in computer science.

      I managed to suppress my knee-jerk reaction (“Maybe it’s because they don’t want to be singled out based on gender”) and mumbled something about asking women who weren’t in tech why they didn’t choose it.

  11. Decidedly Me*

    OP3 – the company my partner works at operates on this idea; that people learn by being around others in person, through unplanned conversations, etc. It’s so ingrained in company culture that, while people were WFH at the height of COVID, the majority have returned to at least hybrid without the company even asking folks to start returning.

    On the other hand, though, I think a lot can be done to facilitate these opportunities in a remote environment. I am full remote and just today, I held someone back after a Zoom meeting to discuss a particular situation they were handling and a few others also decided to hang back to learn too. We do a lot of training via shadowing (both with someone learning watching experienced and vice versa). Most Slack discussions happen in public channels so people can “overhear” those.

    If remote/hybrid is going to be the future for your company, then it’s important to also build a culture around that that’s supportive of learning opportunities.

    1. TPS reporter*

      I agree with you. Maybe because I’m a millennial, I’m just used to developing relationships remotely. I moved away from my family as well so in addition to remote work have remote family and friendships.

      It’s honestly more freeing for me to have a remote meeting or chat. I feel more comfortable, able to relax and have difficult conversations.

      1. Ray Gillette*

        I get where you’re coming from (also a Millennial who has started many a long-term friendship and relationship online), but at the same time I get the other side of the conversation, too. My workplace got rid of our office and went 100% remote in response to the pandemic. In a lot of ways, that’s been really great. But a lot of how I learned when I was younger was random enough that it wouldn’t have occurred to me to do it proactively. Things like the classic “water cooler” conversation, or chatting with people who had different roles but happened to have cubicles near mine and learning a lot that was relevant to me in the process. Proximity helps to create conversations that aren’t forbidden but probably wouldn’t occur to either person to seek out independently.

        I’m a huge fan of remote work. I was able to turn a long-distance relationship into a live-in relationship in large part thanks to remote work, I love not having a commute, and being able to hire people in multiple locations has been a godsend since I manage a customer-facing team that needs coverage for multiple time zones. But it’s totally correct to say that the informal, unstructured learning opportunities that can happen in a good office are hard to replicate remotely, and I’m not sure what the solution is.

    2. Dinwar*

      The difference between random office chit-chat and online communications is tremendous, though. As others have pointed out these are monitored, recorded, and can end up in court, used against you within the company, etc. This means people are far more guarded in what they say in those channels. Online and in person communications are not and cannot be equivalent.

      Further, a huge percentage of communication is non-verbal, something that electronic communications are not good at conveying. Even video isn’t good at it. I know some people who I swear think they’re charged by the letter for sending an email. I’ve had multiple people ask me “Is he really angry with me?” The same message delivered in person isn’t nearly as aggressive–because tone, body language, and the general results of three million years of evolution are better at conveying information than words alone.

  12. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

    #3: I learned SO MUCH of my job from being in the same space as my coworkers. -I learned most of my phone skills from overhearing their conversations with customers and stole or modified their phrasing. Honestly, I think I half of what I learned in those first few weeks was stuff I watched and heard but wasn’t intentionally taught.
    -It’s so much easier to ask questions from people who are right there.
    -It’s so much easier to teach someone when you can read their face to see if they understand what you are saying.
    -When you are in the same physical space, you get to overhear interesting and sometimes useful work chat. My boss would never have mentioned to me that one of her more time consuming clients was leaving us (yay!), since it doesn’t affect me directly at all since I never deal with that client. But it does mean she has more time for other stuff, which does affect me.
    -Employees can’t complain properly over work channels, which are stored and monitored and might even end up in court cases. Nobody wants to dis their boss on slack. Or ask if anybody else is kinda creeped out by Bob. And I’d never talk about clients in writing the way I do verbally. But it’s so useful to know that it’s not just me, that dude is a raging idiot with everybody, and totally drives them nuts too!

    I’ve heard a lot of people say that these problems can be overcome by management with great communication skills. Honestly though, how many of our bosses actually have great communication skills? Mine certainly doesn’t. She’s a pretty good boss in person, but she wouldn’t be a good remote boss.

    1. Rosacoletti*

      I totally agree with everything you’ve said Elspeth. I think that even if it’s true that Managers need to change the way they manage for remote workers, it would inevitably take a lot more time and we simply can’t afford that.

      I think it will be interesting in a few years when the benefit of having people who ‘know the drill’ and can perhaps effectively remotely have moved on and have been replaced by those who have never really bought into the business culture, never overheard those important conversations, don’t really know who’s who in the zoo to even know who the best person to ask is….. I fear a lot of stagnating businesses.

      1. Allonge*

        Stagnating businesses are a possible outcome, but I also see a version of this where the ‘junior squad’, in the office or hybrid, creates their own culture and the seniors who are working from home and are not in the loop – or known – get left out.

        Anyone who can be a mentor today may get a ‘too old and out of touch’ or some similar label tomorrow – true or not.

    2. Allonge*

      these problems can be overcome by management with great communication skills. Honestly though, how many of our bosses actually have great communication skills?

      I think it’s even worse – certainly managers need to have better communication skills for remote than for in-person – but so does everyone else!

      Managers, even with the best intentions and best comms skills (and I fully agree that is not a given!) cannot do all.

      We also need the experienced individual contributors to be good communicators and be proactive in mentoring or sharing knowledge – not just to get the junior people up to speed, but also to not lose touch with the team/org.

      And the newcomers also need to be a lot more proactive and deliberate on their needs than they would in the office. I don’t think you can do the ‘I am too shy to ask questions’ routine in this setup and succeed.

      So, yes, while it’s very doable, it also needs a lot of things that have a learning curve for the companies that are not set up for this.

      1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Oh, yes, and do you know who have lousy communication skills? Brand new employees. Not all of them, of course, but business communication is a learned skill, that they are supposed to be learning in their first jobs!

    3. spruce*

      I’m thrown back to my early career when I learned SO MUCH by osmosis. Hearing the tone people used while on the phone with someone else. How to approach the CEO casually for a quick opinion on a project, without asking for an official 1:1. Who was working on what in departments I don’t closely work with – and how I might like to work there actually! What in the world does a “business casual” dress code look like (your colleagues are one giant pinterest board for that).
      Who can help with specific knowledge areas: Who is super knowledgeable about Baby Alpaca Grooming because they brought it up at the lunch table. Who speaks Klingon fluently and could help me understand a document that sounds interesting but isn’t available in a language I speak.
      And then, it helped others know me, and helped me be noticed for more opportunities. When people know what you’re good at because they’re learning about you by seeing you and hearing you work, they will suggest opportunities. That’s so important in early careers, when you’re probably in temp jobs, or doing maternity covers, and you’re looking for small more stable.

      1. Happy meal with extra happy*

        When I started at an earlier job, there were numerous times where I would just hang out in my boss’s office while she did her work, including reviewing stuff and answering questions for people who would come by her office. It was a super helpful, quick way to learn some work things but more importantly get the culture of the place.

    4. Yet another librarian*

      I work in higher ed and I have to do a lot of relationship building across campus. Pre-Covid, committee meetings were a great opportunity less because of the committee work but more because everyone would get there a few minutes early and chit chat, and I’d often walk across campus with another member afterwards. When we were remote, everyone would login to Zoom the minute the meeting started, and leave the second it ended. I tried reaching out to see if anyone wanted to zoom 1:1 but got no takers. Now we’re mostly back on campus, and our committee meets in Zoom. But I’ve had really good success getting people to meet me in person for coffee!

    5. FashionablyEvil*

      Yes to all of this. In addition, I also learned a lot from my fellow junior colleagues. It was so helpful to get a sense of “is this normal?” or “where do I even START with this task?”

      There are plenty of times when you don’t want to bother a boss or other senior colleague, but a peer perspective is very helpful.

    6. Colette*

      It’s true that you can learn a lot by being in the same room as other people – it’s more natural to pick things up without effort.

      I’m unconvinced that that’s worth the trade off of costing everyone a couple of hours of commute + the distraction and annoyances of being in the office.

      Yes, if people are working remotely companies/teams need to be more intentional about knowledge sharing – but that’s a thing people can do, and many international companies were doing it before the pandemic. At a previous job, most of my team was in India, and we managed to get stuff done.

      1. Allonge*

        I’m unconvinced that that’s worth the trade off of costing everyone a couple of hours of commute + the distraction and annoyances of being in the office.

        This is the equation for the employee. The employer is very unlikely to care about the commute costs (time or money) and most likely assumes that the distraction happens everywhere.

        Plus the distraction is part of the ‘informal training’ we are talking about in the first place. Junior staff posing questions is both a distraction and part of their learning process.

        1. Colette*

          Sure, maybe the employer doesn’t care – but if it’s important for the business, they should be paying for it.

          Some distraction is part of informal training – but a lot of it isn’t, particularly if you are being distracted by people you don’t work with. Another team having a loud conversation a row over from your desk is distracting, but it doesn’t help you in any way.

          1. Anon4This*

            This is where I fall, especially since the trend in offices for decades has been to cut the amenities that make office work comfortable for the worker bees to the bone (private offices-> cubicle farms -> open plan offices -> hotdesking, for example) in the name of shareholder profits and ludicrously high C-suite salaries. Covid pointed out quite abruptly how untenable this workplace model actually is, but people are already rushing to forget the lessons that millions of people worldwide died to teach us.

            Workplaces are going to have to adapt to the changing needs of a different world, which includes respecting the rights of workers who are increasingly less likely to put up with the abuses of The Powers That Be that are loathe to let their little monopolies of worker exploitation end. And part of that will include building and maintaining the structural support needed to train and maintain remote workers for all of the jobs where it makes most sense to have them.

    7. Lily Rowan*

      Agreed — and I have realized that overhearing things is shockingly useful and important! And I’m pretty seasoned/senior at this point.

    8. My Cabbages!*

      Plus when you are remote, you can’t catch a glimpse of someone and realize they’re that guy you saw on the train that one time. ;)

      (Sorry, I literally finished that book again yesterday!)

    1. Despachito*

      LOL this is good.

      I am neither emotional nor raw by nature, and would not understand what exactly he wants from me, and it would very likely transpire in my answer. He may try to wring water out of a stone.

    2. Zaphod Beeblebrox*

      Yep. My first thought was the classic “money can be exchanged for goods and services”.

    3. Daisy*

      Yeah, that was my first reaction too, LOL. I’m emotionally attached to sleeping inside a building, on a bed, and having a working refrigerator, stove, and oven.

    4. Mercurial*

      Yup. Came here to suggest this.

      “I’m passionate about earning a living. I find that having a roof over my head and hot food to eat are (*bang table*) what drives me with a force I can’t explain. I am deeply committed to wearing clean and warm clothes. I feel that supporting myself, and my family, are motivating beyond anything I could ever explain.” *possibly wipe a dramatic tear away*

    5. Sparkles McFadden*

      I once had a manager who got visibly upset when I wanted to discuss raise numbers at my yearly review. He said “It’s like you’re only here for the money!” I said “Uh…yes…”

    6. Charlotte Lucas*

      So, I work for a healthcare agency. Many people I work with both within & outside the agency have emotional reasons for the work they do. But they only talk about it if they want to, & it happens organically. Baseline is that we all assume that as human beings, we care about the populations we serve. But that we also all need food & shelter. (Despite some factions believing that those doing this work should be willing to do it for free or close to it. Don’t get me started…)

    7. MigraineMonth*

      *Someone* needs to keep my cats in the lifestyle and fancy cat food they have become accustomed to!

      1. Gracely*

        LOL, this is exactly what I tell my cats when I leave for work and they protest. “Your treats and toys don’t come out of thin air! Someone around here has to earn money to pay for your kitty food!”

  13. Cookies For Breakfast*

    I once had a manager similar to OP2’s, and throughout our (also strained) relationship, I came to believe for a few reasons that he would never have set up conversations to be that emotional if I’d been a man.

    My strategy was figuring out the path of least resistance with my answers, changing the subject back to work whenever I could, and letting the oversharing about his life go in one ear and out the other. But that ended up being the tip of the iceberg in a management style that was problematic (and low-key sexist) in many other ways.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if you ended up spotting other major red flags too. Continue keeping an eye out for them, in case you reach the point of questioning whether it’s really worth continuing to work for this person.

    1. TrixM*

      Agreed. I’d actually ask other people working with this dude if he did the same thing with them, and adjust the BS level accordingly.

      If his other reports have no idea what you’re talking about, I would explicitly ask why it was only me being asked to discuss my career in these terms, and probably escalate it up the chain.

      I also work in tech, and if a manager wants their team to BS to them, fine, if it’s across the board. Asking other colleagues helps gauge how seriously they’re taking it too.

      If I’m possibly being negatively singled out for being a woman, I’m taking it upstairs. There are other jobs, if it comes to that. I wouldn’t jump immediately to the sexism thing in my initial description of the issue – just the “why just me” line to begin with.

    2. e271828*

      Yes! this is a typical start of a bad pattern. Make the target uncomfortable with an overly-intimate question. LW#2, watch out for this guy and maintain strong boundaries. Be prepared to take visible notes in all meetings with him of everything, including his inappropriate questions and phrasings.

  14. andy*

    For OP2: I would just say that “Uh, I am not much of an emotional person. I would need to think this through deeper and longer to put into words”. If he pressed, I would say “I have pleasant feelings from doing this work” or some such. I would not worry about leaving myself out of the fun remark. I think that this question has more to do with his emotionality then anything else.

    My reaction would be to ask him about his emotions a bit more often. Because, regardless of whether he felt it appropriate to ask the question due to your gender or not, this means he himself is more of emotional person. He is someone who likes to talk about emotions.

    Also, appeals on emotions arguments will likely work on him, but I would tread carefully there. You dont want to cross into manipulative, but yeah, emotional framing of things (customer will feel bad) might work to achieve things.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      As well as the problems women have with appearing emotional at work, there’s also the old chestnut of women only working for passion or self fulfilment, so they don’t need the same kind of salary as a “breadwinner” who can be concerned about money without being seen as selfish.

    2. Hlao-roo*

      One approach that could work for OP2 is from the post “how to show passion for your work when you’re not a demonstrative person” from January 14, 2014. (I’ll link in a follow-up comment.)

    3. Curious*

      I would reply that the question is illogical. I would note that I value infinite diversity in infinite combinations.

      1. Miette*

        Throw in a “Live long and prosper” with a “F you very much” tone, and it’d be perfect :)

  15. HR Lady*

    Re: #3 – I am currently managing an apprentice. Our team do three days a week in the office and I now try to ensure that my WFH days are on his WFH day and his ‘school’ day (professional apprentices in my country do one day in education and 4 days in work to ensure they get a qualification on top of the learning on the job). On the rare chance I need to switch my WFH day for personal reasons/holiday/etc I will always make sure a close colleague is about.

    I really strongly feel the onus is on the senior people in these relationships to ensure that junior members of staff have senior employees around during working days exactly for this kind of learning, the ability to lean over and say “can I just quickly check…” and to observe workplace norms, it slightly grinds my gears when management insist that juniors need to be in all the time to learn these things without putting the infrastructure in place to support it!

  16. Don't take the job*

    OP4 – we sound like we’re in similar career stages and I was impacted by layoffs at my tech company 3 weeks ago, without the 2 month runway you have.
    I turned down an offer yesterday, more tied to financial reasons than job responsibilities and in the same day, got calls from 3 other orgs I’ve applied to to start the interview process!
    Caveats: the offer I turned down was from an org I used to work at and left on great terms so accepting their offer and continuing to search, either renegging before I started or within a few months felt wrong & would destroy the relationship in a massive but tight-knit industry.
    I’d encourage you not to accept so you don’t have that hanging over you and are able to put all of your energy into your search. Plus, it’s expensive to bring on a new employee between procuring equipment & software licenses, onboarding, setting up benefits, etc. just to have them leave a short time later.

    Fortune favors the bold!!

    1. Lady Lia*

      OP 4 here. Thanks for the sage advice. It’s very valuable to know how other people are handling a similar situation. I hope we both soon get the great jobs we’re destined for and find ourselves writing to Alison about “fish in the microwave” level problems.

  17. Princess Peach*

    I prefer to be stoic and cooked, thank you.

    Anytime I’ve seen a higher-up at work push for uncomfortable emotional intimacy, they later tried to weaponize that knowledge. Don’t tell this guy anything real.

    1. LaFramboise*

      I agree with Princess Peach. Give him intricate examples, like your love of a certain process and how satisfying it is for you when X is completed successfully. Please don’t lay bare your soul for him. If he presses you, give him another example of a process you love. Please leave out your personal life, this boss seems emotionally manipulative so I would give him no ammunition. As much as I like to bring the snark in these situations, I don’t advise being like me. If you’re earnest about work, I think it would be harder for him to twist your words.

      If the environment he is trying to create is bad, please document your interactions. Prepare for the worst, expect the best.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      I guess my German Lutheran heritage gives me a leg up here. I don’t even have the vocabulary for an anodyne answer. Ask me a question like this and I will blink a few times, then ask for clarification, as I don’t understand the question. My ultimate fallback is to ask for examples of what they are looking for, then spout a lightly revised version back at them.

      1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        And my flavor of neurospicy does the same thing – I don’t DO emotional. It took my husband three tries before I realized he was proposing, and then my answer was “Are you sure you want to do that?” :P I sure don’t have emotional and raw nonsense at WORK.

      2. Anon Supervisor*

        Fellow German Lutheran here and I’m with you! I’m in therapy and one of the topics I bring up often is how in the heck to I tell you how I’m feeling?

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Garrison Keillor had a joke about Minnesota Lutheran therapy sessions, which consisted of a half hour of uncomfortable silence followed by “Yep. You betcha.”

        2. Avery*

          I didn’t even know this was a stereotype, but my dad was raised German Lutheran… it explains some things, let me tell you!

    3. OP 3*

      OP 3 here:

      After reading some of the comments (thank you for all of them!) I think I should clarify a few things:
      – Our in-office days are synced. So everyone’s WFH days are the same.
      – My company is very intentional about mentoring, daily stand up meetings with the team to help get unstuck and hear what others are working on, and training
      – The senior staff recognizes that it’s in their best interest to train the junior staff, and they willingly do so. It is also an expectation of their role.
      – We work closely with people in other companies around the country, so even pre-pandemic, we had the infrastructure and habits in place for remote collaboration.
      – Office chit chat is not frowned upon at our company, and there is a lot of interaction between people on in-office days so those days aren’t pointless for people to come in.
      – I’m a millennial, mid-level, and I’m not a manager

      I think I have read so much that is heavily supportive of remote work and saying that it is the way the world is going that I was starting to wonder if I was the only one who was concerned. Our hybrid schedule works well enough, but my fear is that people will keep pushing for more WFH without appreciating the benefit of those in office days for the junior staff (and, frankly, the senior staff. Nobody stops learning). I worry about this for my company, but also the workforce as a whole.

  18. Future silver banker*

    On Letter 3 – In strategy consulting, we have started seeing the difference in performance and this end of year was the first time in a decade that we as a firm had to layoff people for poor performance. On paper they attended all trainings and meetings, but the cringey “learning by osmosis” trope is very real. Those of us who knew how to do the job pre-pandemic are able to keep growing in this hybrid set-up, but those who are still learning the ropes got a raw deal. I now make a bit of an effort to go to the office so junior colleagues can ask ad-hoc questions or just have useful discussions at lunch but technically there is no obligation for me to do so and no upside for my own performance (except perhaps having a more productive team)

    1. andy*

      When I was starting up, years ago, the manager would come to me proactively every other day to ask how it is going. When they sent me to senior to advice, they also told the senior to help me out and to proactively check on me. The “osmosis” happened, but not by itself. It happened because years ago, management philosophy involved the “walking around the floor”, “showing empathy” and otherwise proactively dealing with people as individuals.

      The industries has changed a lot. Today, management is way more administrative and way less likely to provide actual interest about helping new people. There is no interest in what people down have to say or whether they need help with something.

  19. Irish Teacher*

    LW3, I think a certain amount of it is an adjustment period. We are still very early in the whole remote work thing or at least a lot of companies are. If companies went remote during covid, that’s only three years and the first six months to a year barely count as we were all dealing with so much – a global pandemic, uncertainty about how long we would be online, restrictions in our personal lives, lack of childcare – that I don’t think most people were in much position to start thinking about adjusting business norms.

    I think, to some extent, we are all still thinking of in-person as the norm and how remote working compensates or prepares people for that and I suspect as years and decades pass, we will develop new norms more centred on remote working. This may mean some of the professional norms that are harder to learn while online become less important. It may mean people learn them in different ways. It may mean something I haven’t thought of.

    I do agree that people who are new to the workplace do learn a lot from interaction with more experienced staff. I know some student teachers who have said they learnt more in the staffroom than in the classroom (while teaching) or in their lectures but I do imagine that when remote working becomes the norm, people will gradually develop other ways to pass on this knowledge whether it be by formal mentoring or professional development groups online or just people remaining online and chatting to coworkers after zoom meetings or whatever. I also think some of the norms people learn in person like the dress code in the office might be less of an issue for remote workers anyway.

    I do agree with what somebody said above, that remote working has it’s negatives, just as in person does and some things may be more difficult. And it’s also going to differ by field. But I also think that we are very early in the game and there are always going to be problems with a new way of working and some will sort themselves out just as time goes by and we stop thinking of remote work as “a perk” or an emergency measure and start thinking of it as being just as normal as “in person” and companies stop asking “can we offer remote work?” and start asking “would this role be better done in person or remote?” with neither option the automatic default.

  20. Justin*

    So my company was hybrid before covid (and before me), so they simply made more official policies. There are things that are harder, but mostly they wouldn’t be solved by going in because none of my team lives here (I still go in 2x a week because lunch in Manhattan is more fun than cooking for me). We simply have to be very intentional about training (and I’m an educator so I get it).

    That said, we do have major silo issues and I do think if we saw each other more they would be easier. But that’s more a function of distance than remote… one of the people I need info from is in Colorado by herself so me going to Manhattan on the subway won’t resolve that.

    Point being you gotta be real intentional about it, there are indeed possible issues that need to be planned for and we haven’t solved all of them.

  21. Harper the Other One*

    I have a unique perspective on #3 because I am not new to the work world but early in my new career (retrained in accounting) and working in a fully remote position for a small consulting firm.

    Some of the “learn by osmosis” stuff is wishful thinking. For example, the head of my company regularly has meetings with the heads of the companies we serve that I am not privy to. I wouldn’t be in an office either, though, so while I might see how he greets them etc. I wouldn’t see any more of the meat of that interaction at an in-person office.

    Other concerns are very valid, particularly not having a person to quickly touch base with about questions. I came in just before another staff member went on maternity leave and while she was here that was very easy – a quick Teams message, we’d have a five minute video meet/screen share, and I’d be back on my way. While she’s been off it’s been much more difficult because my boss is extremely busy so if I can get a half hour video meet with him once a week, I’m lucky – and some things that can be solved with thirty seconds of conversation take multiple emails back and forth!

    I think the best way to mitigate some of this is to be very intentional about cultivating early career people. Assigning a “buddy” or mentor who’s available for those short questions makes a big difference. Deliberately including a junior staff member in a few higher-tier meetings, or explicitly explaining strategic decisions, etc. would be another good way to encourage that learning.

    Fully remote work is never going to work for everyone but I think a lot of the jitters about it right now are because it’s new and different from past experiences. Over time it will shake out.

  22. Testerbert*

    LW2: Woof. Does *everyone* need a raw and emotional reason to work a particular job? Or is it solely restricted to women?
    This one particularly rankles me, due to timing. A (female) colleague of mine got pestered to respond to a survey about who ‘inspired’ her to work in tech and other such things as part of our company ‘celebrating’ some UN thing about women & girls in STEM. Of course, such a survey ignores the possibility of there being no inspiring figure or true calling to work as a test analyst, just circumstance and ability. It all felt performative and forced additional work onto someone for no good reason.

    LW3: does requriring in-office work harm junior employees? They’ll likely be the least well placed to shoulder the extra costs of commuting, living close enough to the work place, having to buy ‘work’ outfits, and the supposed benefits of working in proximity to others are routinely undermined by reality. “Come into the office”, says the manager, “so you can work face to face with your colleagues!” only for those colleagues to be stuck in Teams/Zoom meetings all day with people based in other locations or who are WFH that day.

    If you are worried about WFH hurting the development of new workers, sit down and work out *exactly* what skills you need them to learn, and *when* you expect them to pick these skills up. Expecting new starters to pester more senior workers to tell them how to do their jobs isn’t effective or fair. You need to properly plan how they’ll be trained.

    1. Bit o' Brit*

      It’s not just a question of skills, but of domain knowledge. You can learn a lot about how a company functions outside of your own job role/department by hearing what’s going on around you in an office, which in turn can make it clear how your job affects those you never directly interact with. Without that, you only learn that you’re missing context when things go wrong – like when my company got rid of our VPN for home working in late 2020. No one thought to mention it to me until the week before, when if we’d been in the office I’d have overheard the plan and been able to ask what the plan was to replace all the reports that needed the VPN. I’d get the same answer (“what reports?”) and the same solution (recreate them in a way that doesn’t require the VPN) but might have had more than a week to do it.

      1. Samwise*

        Well, but that’s not picking up stuff you can;t get in any other way, or can’t get as well except by being around and engaging with folks.

        That’s your employer screwing up the communication about an important work tool. Which they could have easily done with an email.

        1. Bit o' Brit*

          It’s an example of people with siloed knowledge not knowing what they don’t know because it has nothing to do with their usual job. Which is exactly what you miss by not witnessing conversations between other departments.

    2. Emmy Noether*

      Ugh, the “inspired to work in tech” sounds like a complete misunderstanding of the observation that it would be good to have more women role models in STEM to inspire next generations. It’s a basic logic fail to think that therefore every woman had a role model.

      I’m a woman in STEM, and I don’t have an inspiration or role model either. It’s just what I’m naturally good at, and no-one succeeded in discouraging me. I guess I’m my own inspiration.

  23. I should really pick a name*

    For LW4, it sounds like they don’t have an offer yet.
    The hiring process can take longer than you’d expect. I’d suggest taking the interview. Your circumstances might be different by the time an offer is on the table. Maybe during the process, you’ll find an opportunity for a better role with that company.
    At the end of the day, you can always turn down the offer.


    leaving all the fun out of it


  24. Rosieplichta*

    My husband, many years ago, had been laid off and was hired by a new company. They told him the tradition was that on birthdays, the celebrant would bring in treats for everyone. So he happily brought bagels and cream cheese on his birthday. He had been with them only a few months. Afterward, his manager came to him and told him NEVER to bring, “that kind of food” again. He was dumbfounded, and thought it was super weird, but said okay. We interpreted it as an anti-Semetic slur. And although he was a wonderful person, he was an ordinary white guy who had gone to Catholic school, his whole life. And not long after, he was laid off.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      This is the most bizarre take on bagels and cream cheese I have ever seen. I’m thinking that lay-off was a bit of a blessing.

    2. Silver Robin*

      I am so confused… Yes, bagels are Jewish, but they are also so widely popular that I cannot imagine a basic bagel+schmear coming across as particularly Jewish. If there were lox involved, sure, but you can get bagels at literally any grocery chain. And they are in the bread section, not the “international” aisle!

      I was honestly considering that everyone there was gluten intolerant in some way. Or maybe your husband bought the bagels from the wrong place and there is some long-standing feud?

      Hope your husband was able to find work quickly again!

      1. Gray Lady*

        Or maybe just that it was not sweets?

        OTOH, there may have been clues from the context that we’re not privy to that gives weight to the anti-Semitic angle.

        1. XF1013*

          Yeah, “not sweets” is the most generous interpretation I can think of. Perhaps the manager was really looking forward to birthday cake and thought “bring treats” was clear. As this blog has revealed many times, people in offices have weird and unreasonable hang-ups about food. :-(

      2. fhqwhgads*

        It’s the “that kind” that begs the question. It’s sort of the food equivalent of saying “those sorts of people”. I’m not saying suspecting the guy was antisemitic is a guaranteed correct assessment, but dude’s wording causes reasonable suspicion. Yes there are innocuous explanations for what “kind” he meant. However, if he meant “breakfast food” or “not cake” or whatever, it’s verrrrry odd to have phrased it this way. Not that everyone always chooses their words perfectly, but that particular phrase, in this context, doesn’t make a ton of sense.

    3. Ellis Bell*

      That is so, so odd. I have to tip my hat off at the restraint for not asking “what kind of food would that be?”

    4. Hiring Mgr*

      If it was during the Jewish holiday Passover, the manager may have been thrown off because you don’t eat bread during that time (only Matzoh which is unleavened)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Sure but then he wouldn’t have said to not ever bring it again. He’d have said don’t do it during Pesach.

          1. Kit*

            Why are all the good Tam Tam flavors not pesadike?!?

            Although I could eat garlic Tam Tams and whitefish salad basically every day forever, possibly with a nice schmear alternate if I wanted to be dairy rather than pareve…

  25. Tiredpuppy*

    #4- Do you get any type of unemployment or severance? I am thinking in most US states you will likely get unemployment. I would hold out personally and keep looking.

  26. Zarniwoop*

    LW2: I (not female) work in tech, because I enjoy the intellectual reward when something complicated comes together in my mind. I wouldn’t call that “raw” or “emotional” but it’s all I’d have for an answer.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      Seconding this. I don’t work in tech, but my job is highly technical and I can feel a dopamine hit when all the pieces of a particular project come together and I can sign off on the whole thing.

      I guess it’s because I’m very project oriented. I like making lists and I like getting things done so that I can check things off those lists. If I were asked a question like this, this is where I would go.

    2. Phony Genius*

      On #2, what kind of answer is the boss looking for, especially in the world of tech? “I cry tears of joy whenever I complete a section of code,” or something like that?

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        There is a certain amount of pleasure that comes from solving a problem, though. It’s possible the boss was just asking in a clumsy way (although I doubt it). But yeah, crying tears of joy is hyperbolic, but pleasure can be found in these jobs.

  27. Dinwar*

    #3: Remote work has two major drawbacks that generally aren’t considered. By working from home you’re subsidizing the company–paying the power, water, and other utility bills that they would normally pay in order to work. There’s a reason many companies like the concept, and it’s not because workers are happier. You’re also cutting yourself off from the majority of networking activities–scheduled meetings simply cannot replace random socializing at the coffee pot, and the potential for surveillance has a chilling effect on online interactions. (If you know anyone who tapes over their webcam you’ve seen proof of this.)

    In some cases, the second issue isn’t a concern. If you want to do the job, put in 40 hours, and get a paycheck, it’s fine–you don’t want to advance up the ladder, so the loss of opportunities to position yourself to do so doesn’t count as a cost, and may count as a benefit. And to be clear, this is not a bad thing! Everyone talks about wanting go-getters and ambitious people on their staff, but the reality is people who have been doing the job for years and want to continue to do the job are just as vital to the company. You just need to go into such a career with your eyes open about what to expect.

    This is why in the Before Times working from home was a perk. At least in the cases I’ve seen, it was for people who already had an established network, had already made something of a name for themselves, and had proven they could continue to support projects remotely (“remote” and “work from home” are not the same in my career–I’ve given presentations to clients from active flight lines before).

    How do we solve this? I don’t think we know. The issue is, the skills you need to develop are soft skills, not technical ones. Remember, the higher up in the company you move the more critical interpersonal skills become. Technical expertise alone won’t convince a client to give you $10 million for a project, or convince a staff member to accept your judgment on an issue, or help you smooth over problems with the executives. These are interpersonal skills that need to be developed by building relationships. If you don’t want to move up, again, that’s fine–you don’t need these skills, so it makes sense to focus on the technical ones! But if you change your mind you’re necessarily going to be behind those who had the opportunities to build relationships.

  28. Girl Alex PR*


    I’m a communications director for a government engineering agency that is largely virtual or hybrid and this is something I have been working on for the past 18 months. We have a large intern program for both high schoolers and college students, as well as summer camps for middle schoolers focused on STEM, so some of our workforce is naturally younger.

    Some things we’ve implemented:

    A Young Professionals group, championed by our director. It’s not led by him, but he touts it at meetings, all-hands, etc. and suggests opportunities for those who join. We offer tours of labs, talks from experienced staff, engagement opportunities, social events and more. It’s been a great tool to build our community of younger staffers and expose them to leadership and ideas in a way that’s difficult in a virtual environment.

    Created a shadowing program. Anyone 3 years or newer to the agency can shadow our director or two assistant directors for two weeks. It’s a one-at-a-time opportunity. The shadower sits in on all meetings, there’s social happy hours they’re invited to, etc.

    Created a formal mentoring program. New engineers are assigned a more senior mentor as well as a mentor who is just a few years removed from where the new employee is career-wise. No mentor has more than two new engineers at a time and they are encouraged to include their mentee wherever possible. The mentors are rewarded with award leave at the end of the fiscal year as a thank you for their support, which has increased the dedication and number of older employees applying to be a mentor.

    This hasn’t completely solved the issues you’re highlighting, but it’s helped significantly!

    1. Just stopping by*

      What is interesting about your first two suggestions is that they would require someone to be physically on site (touring, shadowing at meetings). These are great suggestions! But what about those interns, junior employees who want to be 100% remote and presumably wouldn’t participate in these activities as a result?

      We are running into this with our intern program. The interns who are on-site are proving to be head and shoulders above those who asked to be remote. We’re evaluating whether or not to permit remote work for interns going forward.

  29. Andi*

    Bringing in bagels is fine and fun.
    Going around asking everyone to place an order is awkward and uncomfortable.
    In the future, just get a box of a dozen assorted and call it a day.

  30. Ranon*

    #3- I’m in a field with a lot of ad-hoc learning and the only thing I’ve seen really work for our junior employees is to pair them with a senior employee so that they are both working on the same projects 100% of the week and therefore talking to each other basically all the time.

    There are still gaps because the junior employee doesn’t get the breadth of experience they would working with more people (am currently advocating for one of our junior folks to get paired with a new senior person as she has gaps she will need to fill with someone else, current senior person will be seriously bummed because they are now a well oiled machine). But in terms of seeing fully remote junior folks grow at the rate we would like to see it seems to be the most effective.

  31. Onward*

    I think one of the extra off-putting things about #2 is that the boss said that by not telling him her “raw and emotional” reasons for being in the field, she was “leaving all the fun out of it”.

    So you want people to bare their souls to you for the fun of it? Because it amuses you? Really, dude?

    It also strikes me as very similar to the “just kidding” thing people do when they say something offensive and someone calls them out on it. “Oh, you don’t want to be forced to share your most vulnerable feelings with the person who holds your job in their hands? Spoil sport. I was just trying to have FUN with you!”

    1. FashionablyEvil*

      Well, and often times, it isn’t safe for people with marginalized identities to “bring their whole selves to work” and be “raw and vulnerable” because their experiences (at best) will be misunderstood or (at worst) actively used against them.

      There’s a great TED talk by Jodi-Ann Burey about this.

    2. EPLawyer*

      You said it better than I did.

      I would not give a boring answer. I would go to HR. More as hey you might want to know this kinda thing. Because if he IS only asking women or he is weaponizing it in some way, this could lead to problems down the road. If it is pattern HR will know it.

  32. Trillian*

    I am a senior engineer and struggling with the same issues as #3. So far we are trying to have regular group lunches paid for by the company and informal weekly breakfasts. I also make a point of inviting junior staff to virtual meetings with clients if possible and then immediately calling them to check in afterwards to discuss and answer questions.

  33. I don't mean to be rude, I'm just good at it*

    During the last century, I was laid off from my urban high school teaching job and accepted a long term substitute position in a ritzy suburban school district.

    At the time I had a seasonal job working for the professional baseball team and had access to the “club boxes”. Often, the boxes went unused as did the food that was provided. I was in the substitute position for a number of months and brought in a huge deli tray to share with my department for lunch. My coworkers were beyond thrilled, but administration was not impressed with one higher up telling me this would not help me get a permanent position.

    My response was NSFW and we all enjoyed a gourmet lunch.

  34. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    #2 Oh wow, do I feel for you.

    I’m a male engineer. I’ve learned through bitter experience, in my personal and professional lives, that when I make decisions while in the grip of strong emotions, those generally turn out to be bad emotions. So I’m with you about not showing emotion at work.

    I would be tempted to respond “Fergus, you ought to know by now that trying to bring emotions into the management of tech people is not going to work very well”. But in your case, since you already have a strained relationship, that wouldn’t work.

    I’m paraphrasing Samuel Florman here – you could say something like “I get deep existential satisfaction from performing my job well day to day, and seeing how what I do at XYZ Inc provides (whatever the output of your job/department/company) to our customers.” Don’t know if that’s ‘raw’ enough for him…

    1. Tuna Casserole*

      My first thought was “I was introduced to Javascipt at a young age, and after that I just never looked back.” You could substitute Java for whatever program your business uses most.

  35. Lisa*

    I completely understand where the first interviewer is coming from though! I work for a place that has a fun public-facing aspect and a much more boring aspect – think a big dairy farm with a cute little ice cream shop attached. All the job postings make it extremely clear that we are X Dairy and Ice Cream Shop, both aspects of the organization are described, yet the last time I was involved in hiring, fully 70% of applicants straight-up did not realize there was a dairy attached to the ice cream job they thought they were applying for. When asked to describe us, they only described that fun side of our work, and when asked about the boring side they were totally blank. I think it’s fair for us to make sure applicants bothered to find out what kind of company they were applying for.

    1. Colette*

      There are more effective (and less antagonistic) ways to find that out, though – for example, asking “why are you interested in this job?”

      1. Lisa*

        To be clear we don’t ask how they prepared, that does seem pointless, but we ask them “what do you know about the company.”

        1. Hlao-roo*

          “What do you know about the company?” is a fairly standard interview question, and definitely sounds like one that makes a lot of sense to ask in your situation. Like Alison mentioned, it only feels like a “gotcha” question when it comes right after “how did you prepare for this interview?” or similar questions.

    2. AngryOctopus*

      Why did they think they were applying for an ice cream job if the work also involved the dairy itself? That sounds like an issue in your posting, not an issue with the applicants (and if the dairy doesn’t figure in the work they’d be doing, why bother focusing on it?).

      1. Lisa*

        Ha, sorry, the ice cream thing is a metaphor. But everyone here works on projects for both the “fun side” and the “boring side” of the company, which is definitely explicit in the postings.

  36. Ex-prof*

    LW 2, this sounds like straight-up sexual harassment. Bets he didn’t ask any of your male coworkers to get emotional and raw for the fun of the job.

  37. Butterfly Counter*

    For OP5.

    I’ve worked as a temp a LOT.

    People who have the “please hire me!” attitude are not difficult for anyone to spot. It’s in the actions they do almost every day. A one-off of bringing bagels isn’t going to land you with that association.

    1. EPLawyer*

      Oh I am sure OP had a please hire me campaign going — by being good at her job.

      The bagels not so much part of that campaign.

    2. Heidi*

      Yeah. And even if there was a not-100%-altruistic motive way down deep, it’s not like a bagel is going to persuade someone to hire a temp who can’t do the job. Get voted for class president, yes, but not this.

  38. ABCYaBYE*

    OP1 – I also think that question sucks. I’ve had opportunity to interview a number of people over the last several months and never thought to ask that question. Why? Because each person will prepare differently and who am I to say what’s right. My preparation for an interview might be different than someone else’s but as long as someone can provide answers that shows understanding, their method of preparation makes almost no difference.

  39. Plethora*

    Forgive my skepticism about #3, but every time I hear this objection to remote work it sounds like major concern trolling, just another attempt to undermine the entire thing. Yes, those concerns are real for early-career workers. But they could be greatly alleviated by managers who do their damn job of managing and mentoring … by formalized, long-term mentoring, training, and onboarding programs … by intentional career development opportunities … by companies who create clear career pathways and outline explicit routes for advancement … and so much more.

    Shitty managers and leadership have relied on informal, ad-hoc training and development for so long they don’t see another way. The other way is them doing their jobs.

    1. Jujyfruits*

      Thank you. I didn’t “learn by osmosis” 10 years ago in an office. I have to tune out noise to focus on my work. It’s so much easier at home! All these assumptions that people will overhear conversations and learn from them are odd to me. It’s not how my brain works, and I’m neurotypical.

      Intentional learning is important, regardless of office or remote setting.

  40. LoV...*

    LW#3 For this, one thing I found was calling even when you don’t think you need to call someone and including someone in meetings where normally they might not be included. Sometimes this can seem excessive and I don’t always like phone calls, but really, the more you do this, the more natural it feels. And I think it genuinely helps.

  41. jane's nemesis*

    I really think that the drawbacks for junior employees not being around senior employees in a WFH environment can be mitigated with intentional acts. Create regular times for casual chat online – not socializing happy hours, but office hours where juniors can pick the brains of seniors for things they’re stuck on. Have junior employees shadow senior employees on client calls so that they can observe the interactions, language used, relationship building etc.

    It’s harder and not as organic as being in office used to be, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done. It just means being thoughtful about it and not just blindly pulling everyone back in office “for the culture.”

  42. Susannah*

    LW1, Oh, I would be so tempted to look directly into interviewer’s eyes and say, “well, I did a thorough background check on you – home values, education, professional background, criminal record.” Then just stare at him/her.
    But probably would have thought instead, this is not a place I want to work. I doubt that’s an isolated attitude there.

  43. SpicySpice*

    Regarding #2 – what a weird question to be asked! My raw and emotional reason for having my job is that I like eating and having a place to live. Doesn’t get more emotional than that!

    1. Tuesday*

      I’m cracking up at the advice to “stare meaningfully at him.” I’m imagining the puppy-dog-eyes emoji.

  44. Susannah*

    Job-searcher: the problem with taking the unwanted job is that you are then searching for another job from that position – lower title, less money (and unless you live somewhere where asking a candidate’s salary is prohibited, it will be an issue and affect your offer). You then are coming at your ongoing search from a weakened position. Plus, how do you explain that you are leaving new/lackluster job just weeks or months into it?
    Unemployment is at a 50-plus year low. Unless you are in a field where jobs are scarce (and if you got an interview offer in 24 hours, probably not the case), keep looking. You can and will do better!

  45. ABCYaBYE*

    Re LW2 – I’m really curious what the manager is looking for. Raw and emotional is very odd phrasing. While you want someone to feel connected to the job, and perhaps even feel passionate about the job, raw and emotional isn’t exactly the way I’d want employees thinking about their jobs. Even in a profession like social work where you’re likely more emotionally connected to the job and clients, it feels sort of icky to ask people to be raw and emotional. And similar to #1, where you don’t have to ask specifically because you’ll find out when you ask better questions, asking you what you enjoy about your work or something like that will get you a better answer. My fear would be that if you’re asking that kind of question with the expectations that one might draw from the question, you’re going to get some BS and not an actual answer.

    Also, did the manager ask EVERYONE that same question? Because if not, there are other conclusions that you can draw that I don’t think a good manager would want drawn about them.

  46. noncommittal pseudonym*

    Questions like #2 really make me want to know the company and name, so that I could forward them the question, answer, and comments and say, “Look! There are millions of people on the internet laughing at you for being such a tool!”

    Now, even if I *did* know who it was about, I wouldn’t actually do that, because that would be ridiculous, but I’d really, REALLY want to.

  47. Art3mis*

    LW3 – I think it can. Since COVID hit I’ve been fully WFH for three different companies. I would say that none of them handle it well, though I’m not sure what handling it well looks like. I like the benefits of WFH, but it’s very isolating and makes learning a new job difficult. Even telling your manager specifically “I’m having a difficult time learning my job” it’s sort of in one ear and out the other.

  48. Avril Ludgateaux*

    #3 this will require a cultural change, not a scheduling or logistical one. As a millennial, I grew up alongside the transition from strictly in-person socialization to the mainstream spread of email, instant messaging, text messaging, blogging, social media, internet gaming, online dating, video calls, and all other forms of virtual communication. For me, having a long-distance “pen pal” who I considered a real friend was something that, at first, felt uncomfortable, foreign, even suspicious, not disconnected from the messaging about the dangers of the internet and how you can’t really know a person and yada yada… And that is still true, we should still always “proceed with caution,” but over time, I became more comfortable with the prospect of establishing a relationship using primarily digital communication. Being adults who are spread out all over, some of whom have kids too, it’s harder and harder to see people in person, but I communicate with my friends every day and feel more connected and “in the know” than ever before. It’s just that most of my communication these days, even with my social circle, is digital/remote – and I would guess this is true for most people, they just don’t think about phone calls and text messages (or even social media) as “remote” communication.

    My point is, the only way for this perception and this prejudice – which is precisely what it is – to change is for people to stop resisting the change and insisting upon the old ways of doing things. You can have impromptu “watercooler” chats using Teams or Slack or whatever. “Face time” is what we make it.

    TL;DR: Junior people are “suffering” from remote work because the senior people who make decisions about their career trajectory are biased against it.

    1. BellyButton*

      “Junior people are “suffering” from remote work because the senior people who make decisions about their career trajectory are biased against it.”

      Gawd this is so true, and they just don’t know how. I am in people development for a company that is 100% remote, it is on the younger side- GenX , Millennials, and Gen Zs- and we are doing fine, great actually. We have routine huddles, we have slack channels for various topics that aren’t all work related. We give everyone Uber eat credits once a month to have team or company lunches. We also used the capital we gained from selling our buildings to get together quarterly as an entire company. How many companies sold their buildings or cancelled their leases and included that capital in the profits, instead of using it like we are? We also have an open travel policy so if a team wants to get together in person for any reason they can.

      It can be done and it can be done well and effective if people are willing to learn new ways to work. Literally, yesterday I asked someone to a Zoom meeting and shared my screen. I told them I was working on updating something in a system I am not 100% confident in, I showed her what I was doing and asked if she knew a better or more efficient way to do it. It worked exactly the same as it would have if I called her over to my desk in an office.

      We use slack more as “ping me when you have a second to talk” and then we Zoom to have a face to face conversation. I’ve noticed a lot of people are unwilling to zoom on camera, but I don’t get how it is different that getting dressed and going into an office every day. There are always times when we don’t want to- last week I was feeling under the weather and didn’t want to fix my hair and makeup so I told people I wouldn’t be on camera, but normal day to day we always talk with videos on.

      It is a change in how we do business and build relationships, but people have to be open to new ways and continue to adapt.

  49. Fiona*

    Maybe I’ve watched too many things like The Vow but I would definitely be careful around a boss who is anxious for you to share “raw” and “emotional” things. I can’t imagine he doesn’t want to, even subconsciously, file those things away for future use/manipulation. I would tread very carefully and only tell him the most boring, milquetoast things that he could never use against you, even if he accuses you of being “no fun.”

  50. Lily Potter*

    This is a modified cut-n-paste of a post I did last week on this topic. I wrote it a few days after the original post went up, so its unlikely that many read it originally.

    LW 3 and junior employees: A part of understanding an offices’ politics involves confidential information – some of it gossip, some of it just people privately expressing unpopular opinions. I cannot tell you the number of times in my in-person working career that people started a conversation with “I probably shouldn’t tell you this but……” When two people are in a private office having a conversation, all sorts of information flows. When two people are on a Teams call……well, smart people do NOT freely express unpopular opinions……those calls can and sometimes are recorded, plus you never know who might be listening in a background on the other end. When you work from home 100% of the time or even most of the time, you miss out on that informal information exchange. Let’s face it – people don’t CALL their co-workers to dish the dirt in the way that they’ll grab someone and shut an office door. You can have all the technical chops in the world and yet not be successful at a job because you don’t really know the opinions and personalities of your managers and co-workers. You only are allowed to know the “public facing” person on a computer screen and not the “read” person that you get when you’re in-person with them.

    1. Avril Ludgateaux*

      Let’s face it – people don’t CALL their co-workers to dish the dirt in the way that they’ll grab someone and shut an office door.

      It is utterly bizarre to me that (it seems) you are trying to portray “remote work leads to less office gossip” as a bad thing.

      1. Dinwar*

        Few people are happy in environments where you’re expected to sit down, shut up, and quietly work for 8 hours a day. Most people want some sort of human interaction. And yes, that includes gossip. I know that’s almost heresy in these parts, but it’s the truth for most of humanity.

        Further, it’s not merely a question (as someone else said) of giving promotions to people who hang out with you. Casual discussions let you know a lot about people–how they handle problems, how they react under stress, whether your moral codes line up or not. This matters. The Hominin clade has spent some three million years evolving brains specifically to process such information, and we are really good at picking up on it.

      2. Lily Potter*

        Not all gossip is a bad thing! It helps people, especially juniors, learn about their co-workers and managers.

        For example, if Brianna pulls Marsali into a conference room and tells her “Did you hear that Jack Randall screamed at Roger for 20 minutes because the TPS report wasn’t formatted in Comic Sans font?”, the two ladies will gossip back and forth about all the crappy things that Jack Randall has been doing to his reports lately. Marsali will make damn sure that her TPS reports are always done in Comic Sans, and she’ll probably also know to watch her step around Jack, even if he is treating her decently. However, if everyone’s working at home, Marsali is unlikely to hear about the event at all. Brianna is unlikely to set up a Teams meeting for this in the way that she would just grab Marsali’s
        ear in person. If she’s smart, Brianna knows that Jack Randall is just the type to pull records of the phone conversation……

        1. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

          Yeah, I’m not going to say bad things about my coworkers, management or clients in writing. That’s a recipe for disaster. But sometimes bad things need to be said about those people.

          Thing I personally have said:
          -boss wants things done way A, but way B works just as well and is much faster. I always do way B.
          -Is client C the same person you were having problems with? You’ll never guess what he’s done now! (SO many variations on this theme.)
          -Man, that meeting was stupid. Do we really have to keep going to more of them?
          -Yeah, I’m bored and thinking of job searching.

  51. WantonSeedStitch*

    One thing that’s happened in my office that has actually helped EVERYONE keep learning from each other while working remotely is that we have a whole-team Slack channel that we use to share neat new tips and tricks that we find, to ask questions when we’re stumped, and to get a “gut check” on work. It’s the kind of thing that when we were in person in the office would mostly take the form of popping your head in to talk to your cubicle neighbor. Nowadays, it happens in a (virtual) space where more people can benefit from it. I’ve learned a lot on that Slack channel, in spite of being the head of the team and one of the most experienced people on it, because all my team members have different kinds of experience and different specialties. And even if I’m the one answering questions, I know that it’s not just the person who’s asking who will learn from it–others will see how I answered the question and know too.

  52. AnonInCanada*

    LW#1: small wonder why this company has scathing Glassdoor and Indeed reviews. What an off-putting question! You’re right: this interviewer is treating you like a teacher from back in middle school springing a pop quiz on the class. Send them to the principal’s office. Then write your own scathing Glassdoor review.

  53. BlackLodge*

    Re: #3, I can say first hand that, yes it is a problem. I started a new job mid-Pandemic when most everyone was 100% WFM. I spent maybe 3 weeks working in the office before becoming remote myself and I thought the uphill climb would never end. It’s a pretty fussy job and trying to learn the ropes at a distance was very challenging.

  54. Abogado Avocado*

    Re: #1, I understand why those questions were asked: because the interviewer has had a bit too much experience with job applicants at all levels who haven’t accessed free, public sources about the business and, therefore, when asked why they wanted to work there, have made it clear that the work they want to do doesn’t align with the company’s work.

    I haven’t had that experience, but my husband has many times in his previous position as CEO of a teapot company. Even though it was very clear following a Google search what the company’s focus and designs were, a number of applicants would say, for example, that their greatest contribution would be to design Victorian teacups when it was quite clear online that the company designed Mayfair teapots. And so he started initiating interviews by asking what the applicants knew about the company and its work so that both of them could be aligned regarding the company’s focus and the job opening.

    I agree that such questions can be off-putting to one with your experience. However, with your experience, I bet you aced the answers.

  55. Lady Lia*

    OP4 here with an update. I went to the interview and left with a job offer, which I declined a few days later. I was very upfront with them that I was looking for a senior position far above what they could pay. I felt bad for the couple, immigrants who had bought a franchise in an industry they know nothing about, and it immediately triggered my codependent rescuer instinct. But they were genuinely nice people, and I didn’t want to give them a raw deal by taking the job, then quitting for something better in a few month’s time. I suppose part of me needed an ego boost, but all that was wasted as a couple of hours of hot air. Going forward, I intend to apply for jobs at the top of my career and only work my way backwards if finances dictate.

    This leads me to a question. How do I go about getting in front of high-level folks who have the power to hire me? My professional network is tiny, and certainly doesn’t reach in to the C suites. The kinds of jobs that I’m looking for aren’t usually listed on Indeed and the like either. My interview and portfolio usually wow, but I’m at a loss as to how to get my foot in the door. Growing up working class in the Rust Belt left me completely unprepared for traversing the halls of power. Please advise.

    1. Hlao-roo*

      Thanks for the update, and good luck in your job search going forward!

      I don’t have experience searching for high-level jobs, so I’m going to throw out some ideas in the hopes that maybe one of them is useful to you:

      – Your professional network is small, but you have one and you have two months before you’re laid off. Can you let your network know that your job will end in two months, you are looking for such-and-such a position, and could they please connect you with anyone they know who is looking for XYZ?

      – The jobs you’re looking for aren’t on Indeed, but are they listed on company/organization websites on their “careers” pages? If so, you can make a list of companies/orgs in your industry and periodically check their career pages to see if they’ve listed a job that would be a good fit for you. It’s more work than searching for a job title on Indeed, but it may be the best way to see job ads for positions at your level.

    2. Michelle Smith*

      NOTE: I’m not in the C-Suite. So take my advice with that in mind.

      It sounds like it’s time to use your network, and fast. I agree with Hlao that you should reach out to them immediately. The benefit of a network is not just the people you know but the people that THEY know and so on. Think of it less like a bucket of people and more like a spider web of interconnected people that extends out in layers. You might only know John Smith who is a mid-career professional, but John might know Becky Jones who is a COO and who might do John a favor by agreeing to do an informational interview with you. Or Becky might be too busy to talk to you, but she knows Sheryl and Sheryl is available for a 30 minute call. Advice from someone who has been where you are can be invaluable. So can referrals. Maybe John Smith works at ACME Corp. and happens to know that their CFO just retired. Maybe he’d be willing to refer you. Maybe his best friend Fang just used Professional Executive Recruitment Firm to land a sweet gig and now you know who to contact to help with your search. You never know what value your network can provide unless you use it.

      I’d also follow recruiters on LinkedIn who recruit for the kinds of positions you’re looking for and interact with their posts. Look for people who are posting good advice in addition to people who might have jobs you’re looking to apply for. (You can tell if it’s good advice if other recruiters in the comments are agreeing and if it’s clear in the person’s work history that they have experience as an executive recruiter. You can tell it’s probably not good advice if the only people agreeing are other job seekers and the person posting it doesn’t have relevant experience. I might work with people who are C-Suite level, but I’ve never been through that process on either side of the table, so I wouldn’t be the right person to follow for this advice, even if I’m constantly posting about how broken the system is and pumping up job seekers to support my coaching business…I think you get my point. Just be selective.) Change your headline to reflect what you’re looking for and turn on the feature that allows recruiters to see that you are open to work.

      Don’t neglect Indeed and other sites just because you think the jobs you’re looking for won’t be there. A quick search showed over 8,000 C-suite executive roles on Indeed right now. Most of those, if not all, might be in a different field than yours, but that could change. You never know. Set up alerts on there and on LinkedIn anyway, so at least you’ll get an email if something relevant does happen to get posted.

      Finally, make sure you’re putting yourself out there in a way that makes sense for the kind of role you’re targeting. I don’t know what that would be for C-Suite. Maybe it means a website of some kind, accepting speaking engagements, serving on a nonprofit board, or doing volunteer work. Look up some advice online for what to do for the specific field or position you’re targeting and then go put that advice into practice.

  56. Riot Grrrl*

    #3: Thank you for bringing this up.

    I’m glad the discussion around this topic is beginning to thaw frankly. Six or eight months ago, it seemed impossible to advocate for the benefits of face-to-face work without incurring a great deal of resistance.

    I would even go beyond Alison’s answer to note that there is no bright line between a “junior” employee and a “senior” employee. People are always learning and developing in their job functions, if for no other reason than the world around them is constantly changing. Everyone is “junior” to someone else.

    Also, something that no one is talking about is how often senior employees learn from junior employees, whether it be about changing social norms, new technologies, or simply fresh approaches to problems. Reduced face-to-face work interaction risks impeding those further up the ladder as well.

  57. BellyButton*

    I wonder if the recruiter asked those questions as a way to see if the LW needed any coaching on what the company does and their culture as a way to prepare them for the interview with the hiring manager. Knowing at least something about the company and the culture helps to ask the interviewers thoughtful and meaningful questions during the interview and to be able to connect your experience to what and who they are.

  58. Scott M*

    #3 : It’s always been my opinion that management needs to formalize this informal interactions. They shouldn’t rely on these chance encounters to provide training and employee development. It’s great when this happens, of course. But it shouldn’t be relied upon to the extent that it is.

    1. Riot Grrrl*

      I’m walking through the office and look over and happen to notice that Junior Employee is using Photoshop to manually convert 214 color images to black-and-white. “No, no,” I say, “Just build a script to do this automatically. Here, I’ll show you how.”

      How exactly do you propose formalizing this interaction? In a remote scenario, the images would have been delivered perfectly converted to black-and-white, and there would be no way of knowing that it had been done inefficiently. And Junior Employee would have no way of knowing that there was a better way to do it.

      1. jane's nemesis*

        Better training on tasks from the start, so Junior never is left to figure out how to convert 214 color images to black-and-white on their own?

        1. Riot Grrrl*

          Yep, I knew that was coming… Many jobs (maybe most?) include thousands of different micro-skills. Formal training is typically designed to give people a good grounding in the general skills and protocols needed to do the job. Outside of that, many things come up in the course of a project that cannot be anticipated. And it may not occur either to Junior Employee or to Senior Employee that there’s a problem there that needs to be solved. These are the things that are revealed by informal interactions, overhearing other people’s conversations, stopping by a meeting where someone else is discussing something similar, etc.

          I’m all for making training as robust as is humanly possible. It’s a part of my job. Obviously that is necessary to form a solid foundation. Forty years of real-world project management, however, make me unsympathetic to the notion that the thousands of micro-skills required to do complex jobs can be completely or even primarily captured in formal training.

          1. Hlao-roo*

            Rather than formalize “training for how to convert images to black-and-white (plus 1000 other skills),” you can formalize the “drop by Junior Employee’s desk.” This can be done by one of the following:

            (1) being more explicit on how to go about the assignment (ex. “I want you to use a script to convert all these images”)
            (2) asking JE what their approach to the assignment is (either in the same discussion or a “get started and I’ll check in on you in [30 min/1 hr/tomorrow]”)
            (3) give JE a timeframe for the assignment and instruct them to reach out to you if it’s taking longer than expected (ex. “should take about 2 hrs to convert all the images, let me know if it’s taking longer than that and I’ll see what I can do to speed things up”)

          2. Dinwar*

            Here’s the thing about training: After a certain point, it becomes background noise.

            Training in a new task? Cool. I’m going to pay attention, because I need to do this! Training for “Here’s how to draft an email”? A lot of people are going to be surfing the net while you’re talking.

            If your employees are converting photos to black and white regularly, sure, make some formal training. But if the training will take nearly as much time as the task, it’s not worth it.

          3. OP 3*

            Totally agree – formal training will only cover a small portion of a persons job. I think most people underestimate how many little things they pick up on or learn throughout their careers that are second nature to them but not something a new person would even know they didn’t know.

  59. Betsy S.*

    LW4: The last time I was laid off, I added up how long my savings and unemployment would last, divided the time into thirds, and outlined this rough plan:

    Phase 1: Full-time search , focused on jobs with a good fit and reasonable commute
    Phase 2: Broaden search to less desirable descriptions, longer commute, etc.
    Think about part-time, temp, or freelance work to sustain search.
    Phase 3: Find work, any sort of work.

    Turned out the market was good and I found a job in Phase 1, but having this plan made me feel more comfortable about the choices. Sharing the plan also helped my very young teen, who had seen family members struggle with long-term unemployment. She was old enough to worry, and young enough to be reassured by my calm and confidence.

    1. BellyButton*

      Yes! this is exactly what I did. I also hit the job hunting hard- I was applying to 10-30 jobs a day for months before the interviews finally started. I have been at my new job now for 2 months and jobs I applied for 4 months ago are now contacting me for interviews. You just never know. But I am a believer that you have to dedicate several hours a day to find the right companies and right positions.

      If I saw a company on LinkedIn that seemed to be hiring for certain positions, but not my level, I went to their website. My level isn’t often posted on LinkedIn, but it would be on their site. Most of my interview came from doing it like that. I also checked out lists of companies who were in the top “best places to work” and started looking directly at their sites. You have to branch out and get creative.

      1. Betsy S.*

        Also Yes! In tech, LinkedIn is hugely valuable. I haven’t gotten a job from a posted advertisement since 2002 , and for that job, I got the interview through a personal connection (found out later that the job had over 700 applicants! 2002 was a bad year for tech around here, and it was a big local employer)

        I’m aware of the downsides of this, that it can be exclusionary, and when I know of openings I make an effort to reach out.

    2. Lady Lia*

      OP4 here. That’s a brilliant strategy! I was looking for a concrete approach to the timeline for my job search, and yours is perfect. It frees me from the constant anxiety about whether I’m doing the right thing and when I need to abandon my lofty goals in favor of living indoors. Hopefully I’ll never get past phase 1. Thanks for the great suggestion!

  60. MKL*

    LW #2, my spine is crawling at your bosses question about your “Raw” moments. 30 years into management and my spidey sense says this guy is fishing for material he can use against you or fishing for material he can use to hook you in to some drama. I would document everything, use Alison’s polite brush off and then begin looking for other positions inside the company. I suspect that there’s a non zero chance he’s going to end up meeting with HR over his management approach so it would be helpful to have any email and text documentation you can get, but at a minimum a log of incidents and dates.

  61. Lilas*

    OP2 this one hundred percent reads to me as him starting to creep on you. I severely doubt he’s asked any guys on your team this. He’s boundary testing you. Be wary.

    1. MurpMaureep*

      This was my take as well. As a manager of an IT group myself, I can’t think of any scenario/job/assignment that would prompt me to ask staff to share in that way. At best he’s way out of whack with basic professional norms, and at worst…well I don’t even want to think what the worst is!

      LW would be well within her rights to directly question the reason for this request and not answer.

      P.S. I don’t love the advice to “make something up about your passion for the work” because that normalizes what he’s asking. I know Alison makes clear she shouldn’t have to do that, but still, why not push back? Any rational person would see it as weird/creepy/unprofessional. And if pushing back on that makes your boss treat you poorly, that’s a pretty clear “escalate to HR” situation.

    2. GreenDoor*

      It is creepy. That he would say “you’re taking all the fun out of it…” What part of someone showing raw emotion is supposed to be fun? Does this guy delight in seeing people emote? Are his employees just circus monkeys performing for his amusement? This is so creepy! I also disagree with making something up. But I would escalate this to his superiors. Because you know darn well he’s not asking the men to emote and get raw!

    3. katkat*

      BOUNDARY TESTING, thank you for this wording, Lilas. I had exactly the same reaction as you did, just didn’t have a name for it.

  62. AVP*

    Re #3, my company has always been fully remote so this is something we deal with quite a bit. We haven’t solved it, and frankly hire less entry-level than we otherwise might because it’s harder to level young workers up. But for people in their second (or so) jobs, what seems to work is a very active Slack community that encourages chatting and informal conversations and mentoring.

    No one is penalized for spending time on the frivolous channels, no one reads our DMs (unless there’s a relevant HR issue, but that hasn’t happened yet), and as a manager I take a very very active hand in sniffing out problems and miscommunications on project work that people may hint at in what they say online. I also have an open “door” and clear time for people to come ask me weekly questions that might normally be a quick hallway chat (and make it suuuuupppperrrr obvious that I welcome those kinds of messages at any time) and my boss does the same for me. It’s not perfect, but it’s working for us so far! We might also have more people reviewing drafts on newer colleagues’ work than similar companies might, and likely take more time to go over drafts 1:1 instead of just leaving comments.

    Really looking forward to read if anyone has found better solutions for entry-level, though….

    1. Lily Potter*

      Wow. I never before realized that companies were holding back on hiring entry level employees because of the WFH phenomena, but it makes perfect sense. I can totally see why it would be worth it monetarily to hire someone a bit overqualified than to hire a true entry level employee that needs extensive remote mentoring. I get it, but it also makes me sad – we all had to start somewhere in this working world!

  63. OP 3*

    OP 3 here:

    After reading some of the comments (thank you for all of them!) I think I should clarify a few things:
    – Our in-office days are synced. So everyone’s WFH days are the same.
    – My company is very intentional about mentoring, daily stand up meetings with the team to help get unstuck and hear what others are working on, and training
    – The senior staff recognizes that it’s in their best interest to train the junior staff, and they willingly do so. It is also an expectation of their role.
    – We work closely with people in other companies around the country, so even pre-pandemic, we had the infrastructure and habits in place for remote collaboration.
    – Office chit chat is not frowned upon at our company, and there is a lot of interaction between people on in-office days so those days aren’t pointless for people to come in.
    – I’m a millennial, mid-level, and I’m not a manager

    I think I have read so much that is heavily supportive of remote work and saying that it is the way the world is going that I was starting to wonder if I was the only one who was concerned. Our hybrid schedule works well enough, but my fear is that people will keep pushing for more WFH without appreciating the benefit of those in office days for the junior staff (and, frankly, the senior staff. Nobody stops learning). I worry about this for my company, but also the workforce as a whole.

    1. Ranon*

      I think the folks who feel passionately that remote work is the one true way are reluctant to acknowledge that there are interactions that are easier/ more common in person (and some folks just don’t value those interactions!) Junior staff at my company were the ones who were asking for more in office time and interaction- they noticed they needed the informal connections with more experienced people.

      I’m mid career but recently moved to a new company and role and I’m in the office 3-4 days a week- as are a lot of folks in my role, for various work/ personality reasons, and I’ve picked up a ton from folks I otherwise wouldn’t interact with hardly at all as our roles mean our work has no meaningful overlap. But when we’re in the same place venting to each other is natural, and builds connections and shares knowledge in ways that take a ton more work to do deliberately.

      1. Riot Grrrl*

        I don’t know… it’s weird to me that people are implying that on-the-fly, serendipitous learning in in-person environments is not a real thing, or is negligible, or whatever it is people believe. That’s not to say that therefore we need it every single day, every time, in every single case. Not at all. But it is an actual thing with value.

    2. Teapot Wrangler*

      I definitely think it is a risk. Plus just how much easier it is to build relationships in person. You can maintain well enough virtually (as I did during lockdown) but building from scratch is difficult.

  64. Dangermouse*

    #3 – I work on a fully remote team that has been remote since well before the pandemic. Our solution has been to do very involved mentorships, with each new person being partnered with another employee for several projects, where the mentor employee takes the lead, but the new team member does a significant share of the work.

    Supervision and involvement is really high at the beginning–in the first two or three projects, this involves daily mentorship conversations and reviews, along with seeing how the experienced team member handles situations as they arise.

    As the new employee gains experience and understanding, that tapers off. We also provide comprehensive mentorship materials for the new employee. This whole process takes a year or so, and is a significant investment of the mentor’s time, but by the time a new employee is ready to try a solo project, they’re confident and capable of success.

    And for those people who aren’t? It’s not about the quality of the mentorship or the support they get, it’s whether they’re willing to take advantage of that support and information, or instead resist the training we give them. We had one new-to-the-industry employee respond to a few mentors like they knew better than those experienced team members did. Despite multiple warnings their work wasn’t up to standard and multiple mentors who bent over backward to help them improve, the quality of their work just wasn’t there. That’s not a thing that would be any different if we all lived in the same city and went into the office daily.

  65. Alumni of Life University*

    Re: #1–I respectfully disagree with Alison’s answer. I have been asking candidates the question “How did you prepare for this interview” for years regardless of the level of the position. That should be a really easy question to answer if you did prepare and I don’t think that it’s wrong to expect people to actually prepare–a shocking number of people don’t. It also helps us get a look at how someone approaches something–their thought process, organization etc. We are an organization that is very visible nationally but a lot of people have misconceptions about what we actually do and what our mission is. So knowing that someone took the time to research and understand this, means a lot ot us. (And it is very easy to find this information without a lot of time and work. Google us and I promise there will be multiple news stories at any given time. We are also very active on all major social media platforms. )

    1. Lily Potter*

      I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with asking those two interview questions, but like with many things, it’s all in HOW they’re asked. Asking “so what do you know about our company?” in a deadpan, drill-sergeant voice is very different than something along the lines of “We’re always curious to know how our company is perceived from the outside in……can you tell me what you found out about our company when you were researching us?”

      Same question, just a far different approach. I suspect LW1’s interviewer was more of a drill sergeant.

      1. Alumni of Life University*

        I agree, tone can make all the difference. I always ask it in a genuine, curious way. Because I don’t intend to put them on the spot or for it to be a “gotcha” moment. In fact, as a follow up to that question, if they indeed answer that they researched out company, I ask if there was anything that surprised them about us. And there might not have been but if there was, it’s often very insightful to know and can spur a conversation that breaks the ice. Bottom line: I want to hire people who are curious and who take initiative because I think those are qualities that are very beneficial in our work. And regardless how much experience someone has, not everyone possesses those characteristics.

  66. Alexandra*

    Regarding #3, I wonder if depends on the people? I’m a newbie to working remote, and pretty new to the company I work for. My entire group is remote but I’ve been establishing myself as someone people can come to for help at any time. I’ve helped out my less experienced colleagues quite a bit. Part of this is because management is not easily accessible due to their workload and meetings.

  67. Chelsea*

    I appreciate the point #3 is making. I’m a staunch supporter of work-from-home, and am currently fighting to do it at my job that wants us in office 3 days a week, but I can see how it would be tough for an early-career person to learn things by osmosis.

  68. Constable George Crabtree*

    OP 3 – I left my first (dysfunctional) office job during covid WFH and joined a new one that was completely alien to me in its professionalism. I had to do a lot of learning, and it didn’t really happen till we went back to the office and I could really get to know my coworkers. The most helpful things for me were 1) a hybrid schedule with one day a week when my whole team was in office and 2) “junior co-leading” some projects with more veteran coworkers. #1 allowed me regular facetime with my coworkers and #2 gave me a more in-depth understanding of how to organize meetings and approach problems. After a few months of these things, I felt very integrated to my workplace and confident in my professionalism and development. If you can try those out then I bet it’d be really helpful to more junior staff!

  69. Empress Matilda*

    OP1, I’ve used “how did you prepare for this interview” before. I’m a records manager, which means I write policies around how my organization uses information. How do we organize it, how long do we store it, how do we make sure it’s accessible for re-use, and so on. Do you know the expression “they have just enough information to be dangerous”? Most people who work in offices have been exposed to records management at some point, and most people think they have a good idea of what’s involved. Most of them are wrong.

    So when I’m asking how someone prepared for the interview, I want to know if they’ve done any research beyond what a general user would know. Even a very basic Google search will produce the professional association for records managers, along with a number of organizational RM pages. That’s really all I’m looking for. I just want to confirm that they understand there’s a lot more to the job than what they’ve seen from the outside, and that they have a general idea of where the resources are.

  70. katkat*

    Is there a possibility that there was a sexual undertone….? I mean, I hope not, but just reading the line “youre takin all the fun out of it”… I’ve had people harrass me with a similar line.

    This obviously comes down to the tone and general vibe of the conversation in other parts, but Im sensitive in a way, that this would make me be on guard with this person.

  71. desiree*

    ’emotional and raw’ reason for working a job?!? I can’t be the only person in the world who works a job because first and foremost it pays well and has decent benefits and secondly is mildly interesting – with the added bonus of being work from home. I’m certainly not ‘passionate’ about my job – it’s a job, not my life.

  72. JennyEnydotz*

    LW4 – you applied and therefor IMO it would be rude not to accept an interview. In that interview, you can set expectations. You also might be missing an opportunity. Sometimes open reqs are adjusted to match an opportunity and maybe they want to check if you are a rare opportunity for them, for a position not posted.

  73. Inkognyto*

    LW #3.

    Here is what I recommend, if you are a junior employee get a channel for your team in whatever IM you are using. Teams/Slack etc.

    Use this for the questions on topics. If you have resistance or it’s not working, then talk to your manager that you need assistance from senior staff on those days and it isn’t happening.

    Get assigned a mentor. Someone who is willing to take questions and help guide you. Notice guide, they shouldn’t be giving the direct answer if it’s a complex issue. They need to guide you towards the answer or methods and approaches used, the process, then let you work on it. If they give the answer and never the method, and the why; then they are not a mentor, they just want you out of their sphere.

    I wrote so many documents on standards and processes over my career for this exact reason. “How do I?” if I got asked more than a few times. I’d write something up next time I did it. Minimal pictures, capture the basics of the process and then put it on the documentation site/location. I tried to keep them short 2 pages max. Nothing worse than a process that’s 10 pages as someone explains every small detail, and no one follows it as it’s too detailed.

    If someone ask for more than a simple question. I’d open a huddle on Slack to speak to them. Voice is way easier, or if they want to work through it, I’d open a zoom in order to screen share.

    The problem with zoom Video constantly is it’s draining. Trying to pick up nonverbal elements from many people all day long over a video call is draining. It also breaks workflow a lot more, as it adds a visual element. Takes me 15-20 minutes to get back into workflow after a meeting. I usually go for a small walk after a long meeting as I won’t be getting back to work anyways. I figure it’s like me walking back from a meeting. I need that decompression time.

    My background: I’m in IT for a Healthcare non profit. (6 hospitals) in a small city. My title is: Senior Data Security Analyst, I have no one to mentor as there’s only 1 of my position.

    I’m in the Data Services group and work in collaboration with the IT Security and take some direction from those in leadership.
    I handle database security, data transfer, data privacy, data governance, data protections. For example I wrote new data classification policy as my first task in the new position. The old one was from 2009. Then wrote a data transfer policy, then a processes and standards for data transfers for those that handle it to follow.

    Along my 2+ decade career I’ve trained dozens of employees. People just seem to gravitate to me asking for assistance and I’m happy to share my experience with anyone who asks.

    1. Inkognyto*

      I’m now 100% remote.

      I forgot to add. I started 100% on site for 3 months. Everyone working in IT for this org was allowed to work remote 3-4 days a week after 90 days. One day in for big team meetings and some collaboration. Frankly what happened was most people did meetings but sat around chattering to each other near cubes for 50% of the day when not in meetings. It wasn’t a ‘productive’ day. I saw the days before and after being in the office. It was very much cubeville. I shared an office with a person. I needed loud music in earbuds as he was in conference calls over 50% of the day. I’m way more productive at home.

      Then the Covid hit, 100% remote. Dec 2021, IT leadership made us 100% remote. They did it then because it gave payroll time to switch the local taxes for all of 2022.

      90-95% of IT works 100% remote. Upon being hired everyone is given a mentor also. Mine was a DBA, but he answered any questions he could or pointed me towards people. Often the mentor is in the same job, but they are there for the first six months or so to help people, but it doesn’t need to be short term.

  74. Flowers*

    #3 – it doesn’t just apply to being junior in the workforce, but dare I say, any new job where everything is new. At least for me – I struggle A LOT with transitions and changes. The few times I’ve tried to do a full time gig being 100% remote were spectacular failures (for many reasons, mostly my own). I thrive and learn more in an office with people (of course, that depends on the type of people too!)

  75. Mothman*

    My emotional and raw reason?

    “Well, I like to be able to afford all my bills and live in less than total poverty.”

    1. Luna*

      “You are willing to pay me money in exchange for my time and skills.”
      Like… there aren’t that many jobs where I would think you wouldn’t have the payment be *some* form of reason why you work there.

  76. Tiger Snake*

    #3 – unfortunately, I’ve found the answer has become “constantly interrupt the senior worker to ask questions in email, jabber and phone without ever trying to research the answer yourself”.

    Its the survey of one person, but as they cannot physically see me I’ve found that our juniors require lot more hand holding, that redirection to reference materials and SOPs doesn’t work and they’re substancially less respectful of my time. They know they’re not getting the same experience they would if we were all in the office, and they’re cheekily determined to make that my problem.

    They have a group chat to try and discuss with each other. They have reference material. I have made my calendar avaliable to all of them so they can see when I’m busy. I have had one on one conversations about the issue with all of them. And yet still I get very frantic “But how to I speak to so-and-so” questions while I’m presenting to the CFO.

  77. NotNemi*

    Wow, question number 4 is really close to what I’ve been looking for advice on – in a similar boat and have 2 interviews, one for a step sideways internally but on slightly less for a 2-year pilot contract, one for a permanent role externally, a step up with a pay rise, and a couple of other applications I won’t hear back from until the closing date has passed, including one I really like the look of but don’t think I will be offered as it’s a bigger step up. Will be watching for any updates with interest!

  78. Teapot Wrangler*

    LW1 – When I ask that question, what I’m generally looking for is whether they have a solid understanding of the role and have done their research. I generally want them to name check the kind of work we do, maybe something off our website and maybe mission/vision/values. In terms of prep, I’d want website plus review of JD etc. Just trying to make sure they’re someone who does prepare rather than winging things, mainly. I don’t always ask but I’ve sometimes found the answers illuminating e.g. person who didn’t know what we did, person who clearly didn’t do any prep, person who thought a tiny bit of the role was a much bigger portion, person who clearly prepares very well

  79. Marie*

    My very small, totally virtual company just doesn’t hire people straight out of school for just this reason–it’s too hard to train them. I’m not sure we’d even have the bandwidth to do that even if we had an office, but being virtual certainly doesn’t help. We have had one person successfully transition from intern to full-time employee so I know it’s possible but it is still hard.

  80. Kate*

    Regarding #3, my company is also hybrid and I also wouldn’t want to be fully remote for those reasons given (and others), but as someone who recently switched job type within the organisation and has had to learn a lot of new stuff, some of it while fully remote during lockdowns, I think we do something that may help a little.

    Our team as a running Teams chat where all members of the team will ask questions, give advice and puzzle through issues together. It’s been really helpful for me as a more junior member of the team, not just in getting ad hoc advice for problems, but also observing the way other team members go about solving problems, or share solutions and work they have done.

  81. Mark Baron*

    On #1, I don’t think those are “gotcha” questions at all. I ask those, and the answers tell me a lot about how interested the interviewee is in our company. It tells me if they are the person who goes that extra step on their own. I’ve found the responses to be very helpful.

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