is “return to work” a way to get people to leave, asking my boss for rides to work, and more

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

1. Is “return to work” a way to get people to leave?

I have a friend who works for a very large tech company that recently announced a return to work mandate. My friend insists that the company doesn’t really care about whether people are working from home. They say that the real reason the company is demanding people come back to the office is because they can’t afford their staff. My friend thinks that the company’s strategy is to force people back into the office with little justification and hope that so many people quit in response that they won’t have to initiate layoffs. Do you think this is likely? What do you think of this strategy?

That does seem to be the widespread theory! A lot of tech companies over-hired in the last few years and are well aware that requiring a return to the office means they’ll get a lot of attrition. As I wrote in a different post earlier this week, it’s a bad way to cut your numbers — it means you’re likely to lose your best people, who have the most options — but when you’re faced with needing to make enormous cuts (and pay severance to a huge number of people if you do it through layoffs), it can change the calculus.

I maintain it’s a bad strategy; if you have work-related reasons for wanting people back in the office, so be it, but changing a major policy (that influences who you’ll be able to hire and retain in the future) with the sole purpose of getting people to quit is a bad strategy. In reality, though, I suspect it’s both — they want people back in the office for Reasons, and they see it as a side benefit that it’ll shave their numbers down.

2. Employer won’t hire anyone who doesn’t wash their coffee mug after their interview

I saw an article about an employer who gives this “test” at every interview and won’t hire anyone who doesn’t pass. The gist is that he will take you down to their kitchen and offer a cup of coffee, and at the end of the interview if you take your cup back down to the kitchen and wash it, you pass. If you don’t, you fail and don’t get hired. What do you think of these types of tests?

On one hand, I can see it being a helpful thing to know if your candidate is considerate. But on the other hand, I don’t think someone who doesn’t wash a coffee cup at an interview is necessarily inconsiderate. There are many reasons I can think of that someone might not wash their cup (they don’t remember where the kitchen is and don’t want to look dumb by asking, they really need to use the restroom after drinking a whole cup of coffee, they forgot they had a cup in the first place, etc.). I also don’t like the idea of these goofy tests on the first place. Assuming you’re not interviewing for a job washing coffee cups, it seems weird to evaluate a candidate solely on that. And it’s cheesy.

It’s a terrible test! In addition to the reasons you gave, it also ignores a very common concept of hospitality, where the host handles any clean-up from the meeting and it’s not impolite to assume that they will. Plus, if you want to assess candidates for courtesy and consideration, there are lots of more direct ways to do that.

People who have secret “tests” unrelated to the job itself generally think their methods are brilliant and are utterly unaware of how flawed they typically are — which correlates strongly with not knowing to interview effectively and screen for what they actually need.

3. Can I ask my manager to drive me to work in the winter?

I’m starting my first internship (required by my degree) in a few weeks. I’m excited but a little nervous. I live somewhere where it snows quite a bit, and I’m concerned about how I will physically get to the building once winter starts. I can’t drive. There’s a pretty good bus system here, but I still get a little panicky thinking about walking a block in knee-deep snow from the bus stop to where I’ll be working.

When I interviewed for the internship, my future boss told me she got excited seeing the address on my resume. Apparently, we live very close to one another, within minutes. She probably passes by my apartment on the way to work.

Would it be weird/unprofessional if I asked her if she’d be willing to give me a ride once winter hits? If it helps, she seems like a very warm, mom-to-everyone kind of person. The second I walked in to interview, she offered me a sandwich and a soda before I’d even really introduced myself.

It’s fine to ask very occasionally in particularly bad weather — but don’t ask for her to do it as an regular thing. For a lot of people, that would be a pretty big imposition. If she offers it on her own — which she might at some point — that’s a different thing, but it’s not something you should request.

(Also, I know this was only a throw-away comment in your letter and I don’t want to read too much into it — but she’s not an office mom! It’s can be really undermining to women to be tagged with that label. Maybe she’s a kind, supportive, or thoughtful manager … but not she’s not being maternal, any more than a man who cares about the people working for him is being paternal.)

4. My boss took off two weeks with no notice

This is my first time working in a job where salaried employees have “unlimited vacation” as long as they are attending to their job duties. Last week, my boss announced on Monday that they were off for the week. Last Thursday, they cancelled all of their meetings for this week and announced they’d see us after Labor Day. So no management available for two weeks, notified the the day it started.

I am a project situation that requires management input, as well as certain timely things that require their approval before happening, for which no alternate arrangements have been made. We are in the middle of several timely projects, which without their input require me to shoulder additional responsibility (and hours) that I could not plan ahead for. There’s no one above my boss who could help. This is really bothering me, and adding significant stress to my position.

With unlimited vacation, is it considered reasonable announce that day that you’re taking a week off? And then extend it with a weekend’s notice? I want to know if I need to adjust my thinking to understand that this could happen in any future workplace.

There are jobs where you absolutely could announce the day of that you’re taking a week off — jobs where you manage your own workload and can make plans for anything that needs to be covered in your absence to be covered or where you have the authority to decide that it’s okay to put things on hold. There are also jobs where you definitely couldn’t. And there are jobs in-between, where you could do that once but if you started doing it multiple times, someone would ask you to give more notice.

When you manage people, though, you shouldn’t do this without an explicit conversation with the people you manage about what your absence will mean for their work (unless it’s obvious that it will mean nothing — which isn’t the case for you). Your boss dropped the ball by not doing that.

You asked if you should expect this could happen in any future workplace and sure, it could. The more senior someone is, the more control they’ll generally have over their own schedule, which can include last-minute time off. But generally if you have a manager who’s reasonably on top of things, they won’t do what your boss did to you — or if they do, you can point it out once they’re back and ask for different arrangements in the future, or you can just call them and say, “Before you disconnect, we need to talk about X, Y, and Z.”

5. What are my responsibilities after giving notice?

I recently gave three weeks notice at my job and am serving that time out right now. My boss and I are a two-person department so presumably a lot of work will fall on her, but no one has once approached me to ask what I do, what needs to be taken over, how to do things I’m in charge of, etc. I trained my boss on her job and know she certainly can’t do mine, because it’s very admin/computer heavy and she’s borderline technology illiterate. Do I need to approach her/other management now that it’s my last week and give an overview of what will need to happen when I leave? Or does them not asking me mean it’s not a concern so to let it go?

This is something your boss should be managing. If she’s not, it’s not on you to go over her head to try to make it happen. However, as part of being generally conscientious, it would make sense to ask your boss if she wants to meet to go over transition items, or if there’s anyone she wants you to train on X or Y. Ideally you’d also leave behind documentation of where projects stand, key things a replacement will need to know, etc. so that you can direct her to it when you leave.

{ 653 comments… read them below }

  1. Immortal for a limited time*

    #2. Yeah, when I’m in an office I’ve never visited before, with people I’ve never met before, there is zero chance I’m going to say, Wait, before you escort me out, give me a couple minutes while I rummage around in your break-room cabinet for some dish soap… *eye roll*

      1. Presea*

        Frankly, this feels like something that would have a disproportionately ableist impact. There are a LOT of potentially medical related or neurodivergence related reasons why someone would turn down the coffee. Not to mention the impact of cultural background or other things that affect how you receive social cues. What if someone’s sincerely held religious beliefs forbid them from drinking the coffee or washing the cup for some reason, like if they’re on a fast or need to follow specific cleaning procedures? etc etc etc. This is a mess.

        1. Alex*

          Whilst I agree it’s absolutely ridiculous to do this it doesn’t actually specify what happens to candidates who refuse the coffee in the first place so they may well be willing to hire someone who opts for a water instead as long as they wash the glass the water was in.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            And if the candidate doesn’t want to drink anything or brought their own bottle of water in their bag, do they have some sort of alternate test or are those candidates all dismissed too? Makes no sense to me at all.

        2. Princess Sparklepony*

          Although if you don’t take the coffee then you are off the hook for the test. There is no cup that needs cleaning.

          Back when I was interviewing, I rarely accepted drinks. It was just something else I had to juggle and deal with and possibly spill because that happens….

      2. Laura*

        Seems to me it’s one of those “cull the list by whatever means”-things. They could roll a die, but that would make it too obvious to themselves what they are doing.

        1. So they all cheap-ass rolled over and one fell out*

          The time to do that is before they spend time bringing the candidate in-person. By the time you get to that stage, your company has invested too much time in the candidate for shenanigans. (and the candidate spent their time as well, but who cares about that, right?)

      3. OMG, Bees!*

        The only thing I can see it as a test, using generous thinking on it, is it should weed out people who use dishes and expect someone else (like the receptionist, or an assistant, or some random woman) to clean up for them. I’ve seen stories like that on here a few times and I’ve seen companies hire a maid/cleaning service specifically to handle dishes so no employee was forced to.

        But yeah, strange test indeed.

    1. MEH Squared*

      And what if someone doesn’t accept the coffee (as I would not)? Does that count for them or against them? Such a silly and meaningless ‘test’.

        1. Phil*

          I don’t either, and choose to believe the logic would require them to offer a higher position than what I interviewed for.

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Haha, that would be great!
            I don’t drink coffee, so I would politely decline. And I may have brought my own water bottle because a dry throat during an interview would suck.

        2. Justme, The OG*

          I love coffee but there is zero chance I’m drinking it in an interview. I’m likely to spill or dribble it on myself, and I don’t want to leave lip gloss marks on the mug when I’m already being scrutinized.

          1. Pet Jack*

            Right! I don’t need to be trying to look professional and answer questions and worry about what I’m drinking. Water if fine if I get a dry mouth, but that’s it.

        3. A Simple Narwhal*

          Right? I’ll occasionally treat myself to a decaf coffee if I want a coffee-flavored treat, and there’s almost zero chance that office coffee is going to be a “treat”, so no coffee for me! I also pretty much always refuse all other beverages out of not wanting to be a burden (and I always have my hydroflask with me anyway) so no water, juice, etc either. Then what? They’ll just have to evaluate me on my skills?

          I guess they could always just look inside my bag or ask what type of tree I would be instead!

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            Exactly. I likely will have planned ahead to make sure I’m the right amount of caffeinated. I drink tea (not coffee) and I wouldn’t want to ask for that since it takes much more time to make and I don’t want to be a pain / cut into the interview time.

        4. Wilbur*

          I think there was some other article where a hiring manager stated he wouldn’t hire someone that wouldn’t take a cup of tea or water or something. Some dumb reason like not assimilating to the company culture, etc. Anything to cover the fact they don’t know how to hire.

          1. Emikyu*

            Company culture = not having a small bladder?

            Seriously, my reason for never taking a drink during an interview is that I would inevitably have to pee. I don’t want to be distracted, feel rushed, or feel awkward interrupting to ask where the bathroom is (which would then cut into my interview time).

            These types of “tests” are beyond stupid.

      1. Commentmouse*

        This was my first thought as well. Are they forced to accept water in a coffee mug? I… would not want that.

        1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

          #3 No, do NOT ask your manager – or a coworker – for lifts to/from work. Lifts would be an imposition and the request would make you appear immature and needy.

          An internship should help prepare you for the world of work. One of the prerequisites for being an employee is being able to reliably get to work independently and on time, including during bad weather conditions that are not sufficiently severe to close the place of work.

          Even if you have a disability that makes getting to work difficult, the normal accommodation is not to ask coworkers for lifts.

          1. Lenora Rose*

            I generally agree – and am a longtime user of public transit in winter in a snowy place. I have never asked for a ride, and while I have sometimes taken one if offered, I don’t think it’s the right move to do on a regular basis. (There may be exceptions for emergencies/extremes ONLY, but regular winter weather is not it.)

            I can give tips on winter prep, but the first one is, don’t depend on other individuals, especially management or coworkers, for ride service. (The second is, if they offer and it happens more than once in an extreme, pay for their gas sometimes.)

          2. Gracia*

            #3: I am currently unable to drive for medical reasons. OP, you should not ask your boss for a ride to work. The internship is a chance to demonstrate the skills you have, and learn the ones you don’t get in a classroom environment. And one of those is just showing up to work no matter what it takes. Knee deep snow = buy good boots and snow pants and be prepped to change when you get to work on especially snowy days.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        Same here and honestly, the whole thing would make me nervous, because I have…probably sensory issues with food that mean being offered food in a situation like that would have me feeling uncomfortable that it’s making me look odd straight off. I also find small talk and so on difficult and perform better in a formal interview than in a “hey, come and get coffee” typed situation, so…yeah, I probably wouldn’t have a chance at this job even apart from the question of washing the cup. Not that that would necessarily be a bad thing, as it sounds like the whole thing is a bit of a red flag for the company, but still. It’s just a bad test all around.

        1. amoeba*

          I’ve been offered coffee in every formal interview I’ve ever had (well, excluding the virtual ones) – I don’t think this scenario necessarily implies an informal “coffee meeting”!

          (We tend to have long whole-day thing with multiple panel interviews, presentations, and so on – so coffee during the day is very welcome!)

          1. Michelle Smith*

            May I ask what field you’re in? I find that super interesting! I’ve never been offered a drink of any kind in any formal interview before.

        2. ThatGirl*

          Yeah, this isn’t the same as a “coffee meeting” – it’s typically a nicety to be offered water, coffee, or maybe tea for an in-person interview. You can always say no thanks :)

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes. I’ve been offered water in every face to face interview I’ve had. When I’m interviewing I always provide water for the candidate. They can drink it or not, but I always make sure there’s a fresh glass on the table.

            I’ve never offered or been offered coffee.

      3. Porch Life*

        I don’t drink coffee. I just don’t like it. Does that make me a shoo-in, or an automatic reject? Talk about a dumb screening tool..,

          1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

            I hope so! Though I’m biased because I’ll probably have my own water bottle. Hopefully this makes us look organized AF.

      4. Lexie*

        I read the article a couple of weeks ago. It’s not just coffee it’s any beverage in a cup and apparently this person makes sure you accept a drink. I don’t know how they make sure everyone takes a drink but it’s sounds like every candidate leaves the kitchen with a cup in hand.

        1. Armchair Analyst*

          why not spend that energy on actually interviewing people rather than cup-pushing? so weird

        2. Charlotte Lucas*

          I foresee some weird interactions based on this. (Weirder than expecting a guest to wash their own dishes.) Some people will have their own travel mug, some people won’t want to use a communal mug, some people won’t be thirsty, some people will be on medication that dictates what and when they can have liquids, etc.

          1. Totally Minnie*

            I live in a hot environment, so I always have water with me. Every time I’ve ever been offered a beverage in an interview, I’ve replied with a polite “no thank you, I’m fine.” I’d be extremely weirded out if the interviewer kept pushing me to accept a drink after that, and I probably wouldn’t even want to move forward in that hiring process if I’m getting weird and uncomfortable vibes from the boss.

            1. Just Another Zebra*

              Exactly this. I don’t use communal plates in offices, as a rule. The most I’d accept is a bottle of water, and it would probably sit next to me unopened the entire interview. If someone kept insisting and nagging at me to take coffee/ tea/ water/ soda/ whatever, I’d be really uncomfortable and probably make an awkward joke about them wanting me to drink the Kool-Aid before I’d even been hired. And then never look back.

            2. Nightengale*

              I bring water in a bottle with a screw top lid with me in my shoulder bag.

              I generally refuse offers of drinks places because I do not have the balance and coordination to carry a cup of liquid with a cane in one hand and the shoulder bag over the other arm.

          2. AnonORama*

            Another reason: some don’t want to worry about needing a restroom break or sitting with discomfort! For some reason, every interview where I’ve made the mistake of drinking some water or coffee has been the one where some full-of-himself (sometimes -herself, but usually not) hiring manager or HR person has bloviated for an extra half hour and I’m thinking my bladder might burst!

        3. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Honestly, that bothers me even more than the bad “test” — it means they’re really pushy about making sure you take a drink, even if you don’t want one.

          I will say that this “test” does probably screen for people who wash their own dishes. The people who volunteer to wash a mug in an interview will probably wash their mugs on the job, too. There are plenty of people who won’t pass this test who are probably assiduous dish-washers once actually employed, and I don’t think that the people who pass don’t correlate strongly with anything else job-related, but if not having a sink of dirty dishes is your most important hiring criterion, and you’re willing to pass on otherwise excellent candidates who would wash their dishes (but not in an interview), you can do that, I guess.

          Me, I’ll be over here trying to judge if people can do the job.

          1. Michelle Smith*

            The more I think about it, the more the whole thing is just bizarre to me. I only ever drink or eat out of my own dishes at work, and I usually prefer to bring them home to wash them in the dishwasher instead of standing at the work sink and using a communal sponge or paper towels. Washing dishes at the office or leaving them in the sink for others are far from the only options available. The other options (bringing your personal dirty dishes home and not using communal ones, only using disposables like paper plates, not eating or drinking from dishes at work but using the takeout containers they came in, etc.) really don’t say anything about being contentious to other coworkers.

          1. hex*

            Yeah, that would have been my first assumption if someone INSISTED I take a drink. And it would make my highly uncomfortable.

            1. Princess Sparklepony*

              You are a nicer person than I am. I’d be wondering what they were trying to drug me with.

        4. Observer*

          It’s not just coffee it’s any beverage in a cup and apparently this person makes sure you accept a drink. I don’t know how they make sure everyone takes a drink but it’s sounds like every candidate leaves the kitchen with a cup in hand.

          Yes, and that makes it worse. Because there are so many reasons why people would not want to take a drink. People have provided some examples. Another one is religious. There is no way I’m taking anything in mug or (non-disposable) cup in an office that I don’t know well, and not even in most of those. And I’d be willing to bet that the same would be true for anyone who are highly sensitive to various food items – like if you are the kind of person for whom the warnings that “This product was produced in a factory that also processes nuts and may contain traces” are meant for. It’s literally too dangerous for them.

        5. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Part of me wants to have a battle of wills with this person. Which would turn out like a reverse version of Monty Python’s Cheese Shop sketch. Or the Dead Parrot sketch.

          “My mother was killed by an orange…”
          “Oh, I don’t drink wine and grape juice is just too close.”

        6. FrivYeti*

          I wonder what this person would do when I tell them I’m not planning on taking my mask off during the interview.

      5. Moodbling*

        Yeah, if I have caffeine I’ll have a medical emergency and at best need to leave immediately and go home. I’m not accepting the coffee.

      6. Just Another Zebra*

        This was my first thought! Walk me down, offer me coffee, and I respond “oh, no thank you”… then what? We have a stand off while you try to get me to accept the test coffee, I wonder how long before I can escape? I think the only thing I’d accept in an interview was a bottle of water, and I’d take that with me.

      7. zuzu*

        I’ve got an interview next week, and I will probably be masking the whole time (9-5 and potentially dinner; academic interview. Whee!) given the uptick of Covid cases with the new, freaky variant, the fact I have to travel by plane, and the fact that classes just started up again and both my and their school have seen an influx of students and faculty who spent who-knows-where with who-knows-who all summer.

        I’m not planning to drink anything if I don’t have to, and as for lunch, I’m probably going to email them today and request we get an outdoor spot even though it’ll be very hot there. Since they haven’t yet told me when and where to meet them or what I’m doing. I haven’t yet had the ‘Rona and I don’t intend to if I can possibly help it.

      8. Ozzac*

        Yes, I don’t like the taste of coffee, so I’ll politely decline. Now what would this genius do?

    2. allathian*

      Yeah, it’s idiotic.

      I mean it’s bad enough with some consulting companies who intentionally tell candidates to show up earlier than the actual appointment by giving them the wrong time. They make the candidates wait to see who’ll start doing whatever work/schoolwork they can and who’ll just sit around rolling their thumbs, and the latter counts as a black mark against the candidate. This sort of makes sense because they’re looking for A-types who live to work and thrive on 60+ hour workweeks, but I still think the practice’s unethical. The person who can take advantage of opportunities to relax can be the more productive one when they’re actually working than the one who’s doing busywork to keep up appearances.

      That said, I do like stories about hiring managers asking the receptionist/EA of their opinion of candidates, especially when hiring executives, to eliminate people who kiss up and kick down.

      1. nnn*

        > They make the candidates wait to see who’ll start doing whatever work/schoolwork they can

        I’m thinking if I’m employed, it would be particularly bad form to open up my work files in a competitor’s office where I’m interviewing!

        (And if I’m not employed, I probably don’t have work to do)

        1. amoeba*

          Ha, indeed, that was my first thought as well! *That* might actually be a valid reason to not hire me…

          Also, wtf? If I’m interviewing, I presumably took PTO for the day, so I guess they’re screening for people who work during their time off?
          And anyway, I want to be in the right frame of mind *for the interview*, not think of my current job! So I’d probably be going over my notes, not answer random emails or whatever. (Would that let me “pass” or not, though, I wonder?)

          1. KateM*

            Yes, I can’t imagine waiting for an interview and do unrelated schoolwork during that time, unless that schoolwork was so easy as to be practically a mindless way to distract myself from getting nervous/bored during wait. But anything that actually took my attention completely elsewhere, nope.

            I also wonder if playing candy crush on phone would count as worse or better than just sitting around (which actually could look the same as being deep thought over a work problem – how would they tell the difference?).

            1. darsynia*

              I’d pull out my phone to write in all the things my jerk-face brain thought of while I was driving and unable to note them down (novel/fanfiction), and the person in charge of judging me would assume I’m on buzzfeed or something.

              Those ‘see what people do’ screening things are so stupid, they never account for out of the box thinking in their candidates or themselves.

        2. College Career Counselor*

          Besides your very valid points, how can they tell if you’re answering emails on your phone, texting your bff (saying “can you believe these people made me show up an hour early?), telling your next appointment you’re going to be late, posting on AAM (“can you believe these people made me show up an hour early?!”), or whatever. It seems to me that what you’re screening for in that case is people who are adept at looking reasonably engaged, whether or not they’re being “productive” in the way that you’d ideally want. Not sure that’s what a consulting firm is looking for in its workforce.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            So, reflection and mental preparation are “unproductive”? Interesting.

            I too would find doing unrelated tasks distracting and likely to split my focus.

            1. Totally Minnie*

              Not to mention, sitting quietly with no work in front of you doesn’t mean you’re doing nothing. If I’m waiting for my job interview to start, I’m probably going over my talking points in my head to make sure I remember to say important things and have potential answers lined up for common questions. That’s work, but it’s not work that’s obvious to an outside observer.

              1. Charlotte Lucas*

                This was always me before tests in school. It freaked some people out, but it made me really ready.

        3. AnotherOne*

          yeah, that was my thought.

          plus if i’m going to an interview, i’m probably not bringing a bag that can contain something for me to work on.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Re: asking the receptionist, the only “coffee test” I consider remotely reasonable is the one where the receptionist offers the candidate a drink and the candidate’s interaction with them is part of the assessment.

        1. Presea*

          Yeah, but in that case it’s relevant to the job – they want to see how candidates are going to interact with admin, assistants, custodians and trades workers, etc. Nearly every job where you physically go to an office is going to require you to interact with people with these less prestigious positions. And I don’t think the interviewer usually cares about whether the candidate accepts the drink or not.

        2. Observer*

          the only “coffee test” I consider remotely reasonable is the one where the receptionist offers the candidate a drink and the candidate’s interaction with them is part of the assessment

          Sure. It makes sense to make sure that the people you hire know how to interact with the support staff. But also, you’ve left it wide open. You are not looking for a *specific* interaction, but the overall tone and behavior.

          I know that you know this, but I thought it’s worth fleshing out.

      3. BubbleTea*

        I’d potentially do some work while waiting… but it would look exactly the same as scrolling Reddit or playing a game. I have a lot of my work on my phone for easy access in downtime, but how would they know that?

      4. Cat Tree*

        If I had to wait for a long time to interview, I’d think that the hiring manager is bad at time management and/or that the place is constantly (metaphorically) on fire and filled with constant urgent interruptions. Interviews go both ways and creating a test like that means good candidates might not want to work there.

        1. Observer*

          I’d think that the hiring manager is bad at time management and/or that the place is constantly (metaphorically) on fire and filled with constant urgent interruptions.

          That’s a really good point.

          If I ever found out that this was *deliberate* I would turn down the job if it were offered to me and I had any other options. Because this would show that these are people who act in bad faith and cannot be trusted.

          The idea that it’s ok to waste people’s time like that is just gross and disrespectful. Especially considering that for many people taking a job interview means taking off work and / or dealing with other responsibilities. There was a time where if you had me come in an hour early, I would probably have had to leave either before or during the actual interview, because it was good chance that my child care arrangements were not going to cover that extra hour, assuming it wasn’t during the work day, in which case that’s its own set of legitimate pressures.

      5. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

        I interviewed once with a company that wanted someone to market some “revolutionary” new software program they developed (this was in the early 00’s). At the end of the interview when they asked if I had any questions I asked if I could get a demo of the software so I could see what I would be marketing. The interviewer’s eyes lit up and she said I was the first person she interviewed who had asked to see the software.

        Unfortunately they went out of business while I was still in the hiring process so I’ll never know if I passed a secret test.

        1. Lydia*

          In about 2012 I was interviewing at a start-up and thought to ask about their funding and the person interviewing me was impressed. It only occurred to me to ask because my friend was employed by a start-up and that was a near constant topic of conversation at her office.

      6. Just Another Zebra*

        I had one of these – out of my two hour interview, about 90 minutes was spent… waiting. I walked in five minutes early, introduced myself, and sat. Twenty minutes later I was taken on a “tour” of the building – about another twenty minutes. Then I was parked back in my chair, waited another ten minutes, then was herded to another area. Again, I waited. And waited. And waited. Eventually, I pulled out my book (a physical book) and started reading. I got through a chapter and a half before they were ready for me again. FWIW, the panel interview was a mess, too.

        I did not take that job, and was very direct about why.

      7. Observer*

        They make the candidates wait to see who’ll start doing whatever work/schoolwork they can and who’ll just sit around rolling their thumbs, and the latter counts as a black mark against the candidate. This sort of makes sense because they’re looking for A-types who live to work and thrive on 60+ hour workweeks,

        I have to disagree that it makes any sense. Because a lot of type A types are also very meticulous and planned out. And trying to get a few *unplanned* minutes in on Project X while they wait will not go well as they won’t have the things they need with them, they need to block out a certain amount of time, and / or they don’t want to start something that might get interrupted because it will cause problems down the road.

        So all you’ve done with the Type A ones is to stress then out because they are now “forced” to sit and do nothing, whereas if they had been warned that there would be wait time, they would have planned for it.

      8. Lenora Rose*

        And how will they know what specifically you were doing on your phone or device? If typing, can they tell the difference between posting a rant on facebook, answering a quick work question, and texting to support a suicidal friend, if scrolling are you on social media, reading a book, reviewing your interview tips and planned questions, studying their web site and Glassdoor (again), triple-checking your calendar to see why the interview is later than you noted, or playing Candy Crush… ?

        If not on your phone or device, they *definitely* can’t tell whether your brain is resting to avoid stressing, spinning with nerves, replaying interview questions, daydreaming, or planning your household chores.

        I’m so-so on the receptionist thing, because I’ve been a receptionist, and in my experience, 95% of candidates basically talk to me long enough to know where to sit down, whether I’ve contacted the interviewer or their closed in a meeting, and once in a blue moon, where the bathroom is, and hit a baseline of polite. The last 5% are split between unusually nice but manage to look sincere about it, trying to be nice but obviously doing do because they read somewhere to butter up reception a bit, or an extra big nope. It’s not a terribly good filter. And despite our reputation, I don’t think Canucks are *that* much more polite than Americans that I would expect the stats to change over the border.

        1. Zelda*

          It may not filter out *many*, but it’s still an important filter– the jerks are definitely people the employer does not want, in ways that might not show up during a skills/history based interview with someone the candidate recognizes as having power. So, necessary even if not sufficient.

      9. Festively Dressed Earl*

        Does reading a nonfiction book count as thumb twiddling, or is it evidence of intellectual curiosity? What about doing a crossword?

      10. Loredena*

        So you need to have a work or school laptop with you. (Why would you?). Then have access to their wireless or a cell hotspot. Then be willing to trust the free wireless or hotspot with your work or school data. That would be no all the way around!

        If instead of a laptop I’m using my phone they would have no way to know if I’m working, reading AAM or browsing icanhazcheezburger. So much fail.

      11. zuzu*

        Doodling on a notepad/tablet looks just like taking notes as long as they don’t see what you’re writing!

        Writing grocery lists looks like to-do lists!

        People who think like that are those for whom the phrase “look busy” was invented. They are so easily gulled.

    3. PollyQ*

      I have to think at least 90% of the candidates “fail” this test. Maybe 99%. I’m surprised they have any employees at all.

        1. Nico m*

          Ah its a test of network research

          of course, an employer that expects candidates to spontaneously deviate from interview norms to meet their inhouse weirdness is to be avoided at all costs

        2. Artemesia*

          Sure. I remember as a consultant in the Middle East having my handler who picked me up the airport tell me that the director was obsessive about proper business card etiquette. I knew the drill but I might well not have remembered in the moment. So when he was introduced and offered his card, I took it with two hands and carefully perused it before carefully putting it away and then presenting mine. I cold tell he was a little disappointed because he didn’t get his fix of looking down on or berating for the day.

          So if I worked with this dweeb and had a friend applying, I would tip them on the coffee cup thing — but if that represents the actual office, the tip might well be ‘run.’

      1. Antilles*

        I’d bet the only people who “pass” the test are those who unknowingly avoid the whole issue of mugs by asking for a bottle of water instead.

      2. popko*

        Yeah, this is such a bizarre expectation that it makes me suspect the employer in the article was blowing smoke to sound “””smart””” and doesn’t actually do this at all. Who on earth is going to wash their mug at an interview?

    4. The Prettiest Curse*

      Both of the kitchens in my last two offices have had dishwashers. So it might occur to me to put the dirty mug in the dishwasher if it was obviously open for dirty items and if it was possible to do so in a non-awkward way. But I’m not going to go over to the sink, because I don’t know where you keep your dish soap and I don’t know any quirks of your sink and tap, so I don’t want to potentially get water all over myself!

      1. Janice*

        After my last job interview the hiring manager went to the kitchen with his own dirty cup and put it in the dishwasher. I just followed suit and did the same thing. I got the job.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, I do that or if I notice the cups are just standing there, I’ll probably actually ask whether I can put them in the dishwasher or something. Most times, the hiring manager is like, no, no, don’t worry, I’ll take care of it. Or I do put them in the dishwasher if they say so. But I might also forget because, well, interview! Stress!

          (I do believe that for my last interview that went well I did put my cup away! Maybe that’s why they liked me?)

      2. Pat*

        yeah, I would think it incredibly weird if a non-employee washed a mug (or anything) by hand in the office kitchenette.

        Putting a mug in the dishwasher – yes! (but not penalized for not doing that)

        hand washing a mug – no! (and weird)

        1. Sunflower*

          And besides etiquette, it’s weird if the candidate returns to an employees-only space. They haven’t been hired there yet!

      3. Smithy*

        I’ve also worked in a few offices that had different types of janitorial coverage where they took care of glasses/mugs.

        In one place, staff were expected to take care of any plates/silverware used during a personal lunch – but mugs, glasses, and items used for larger staff meetings were handled by the cleaning staff. Where I am now, individual staff load the dish washer and the receptionist runs it and empties it.

        In no way would I expect the next place I work to be an exact replica of either – but also wouldn’t be surprised to see either practice again. Regardless, the idea that there’s one set practice is also just silly.

        1. Observer*

          Regardless, the idea that there’s one set practice is also just silly.

          Completely. Which makes it pretty impossible for an interviewee to know what they “should” do with their cup. Now, if the interviewer says that they are just going to go to the kitchen to deposit their cup, an interviewee who took something should absolutely follow suit. But otherwise?

    5. Tiger Snake*

      Yeah, that’s what I was thinking.

      It’s not equivalent to how you treat the secretary or underlings, and therefore not a good way to filter out people who would be difficult to work work. It’s going to filter to include only those people who are willing to feel uncomfortable sticking around somewhere after they’ve been asked to leave.

      ….I suppose by that metric, you could use it to look suitable staff for a scam call centre /s

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I like this secret test! It would actually correlate to something.

        Maybe the ideal candidate would wash their cup, then start dusting, waiting to see if the hiring manager acknowledged their thoughtfulness and came through with the appropriate response, a generous job offer on the spot.

        1. Tg33*

          If you’re a man, you’re a go-getter. If you’ are woman it’s a sign you’re willing to be the company mother as well as do your job. It’s a very loaded test.

    6. Myrin*

      Yeah, I don’t drink coffee so I would probably be in a completely different predicament in this situation anyway, but when I’ve drunk water in an instance such as this, I just… put it on the table and it wasn’t anywhere near me by the time I left the room.

      1. Lexie*

        I read the piece and it’s actually any drink in a reusable cup. The headline just says “coffee”.

        1. Observer*

          I read the piece and it’s actually any drink in a reusable cup.

          I don’t think it is a disposable cup. He specifically says “and one of the things I’m always looking for at the end of the interview is, does the person doing the interview want to take that empty cup back to the kitchen?” That’s not about chucking your garbage into the nearest trash bin. He also says “and the attitude that we talk a lot about is the concept of ‘wash your coffee cup‘.”

          So, while it’s any drink, it still is about going back to the kitchen and washing up in circumstances where it makes no sense. And absolutely washes out anyone who might not want to take a drink.

    7. Aghast of Derby*

      Isn’t one of the main Interview bits of advice NOT to accept a drink as it’s distracting? As for some of the other “tests”, just wow. The one about being early – if its an interview I don’t take anything with me except my notes and my cv. Nothing that causes bulges in my suit (there are enough bulges already, I can’t button it). To do my present employers work while waiting – isn’t that really disrespectful to the new company? And of course, if you keep me waiting more than half an hour – I’m leaving and guess where you job can go.
      However, talking of receptionists, I am always very polite. Especially as if you get the job you will be dealing with them a lot. Then if you are an idiot and forget your security pass on your second day (naming no names here) they are very helpful.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        yes I was thinking just this! I wouldn’t accept coffee in case it stained my teeth, and I don’t want to risk dribbling it down my blouse either! I wouldn’t even accept a glass of water unless I had a coughing fit or something, because I’d be afraid of needing to pee, which would prevent me from thinking straight.
        The Prime Minister in the UK who decided to hold the Brexit referendum typically used to wait until he needed to pee before making certain decisions. His disastrous legacy is a useful pointer to the pertinence of such a strategy.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup! I definitely always take water, otherwise I’ll get a dry throat or start coughing or whatever if I have to talk a lot. And for long interview days, coffee is invaluable for me! Would never occur to me to turn it down for some weird convention/”interview hack” or whatever.

          (Now, I did turn down the coffee that my professor at uni always offered for oral exams because that definitely does not seem like an in any way relaxed situation! I still appreciate him offering though, although I believe nobody ever took him up on it. Guess he just really wanted a coffee himself and not be impolite!)

    8. Richard Hershberger*

      I wondered about the practicalities. Is there dish soap sitting out? Something to scrub the mug with? A drying rack? Or is the candidate expected to go on a quest to find these items?

    9. Cat Tree*

      In any place I’ve worked that had reusable cups or dishes, there was always a professional service that cleaned the dishes at the end of each day.

      Using a community mug where I have to rely on the previous user to clean it properly is really dicey. Some people are really conscientious but some people really aren’t, and I’d have no way of knowing who used it previously. On top of that, I think communal office sponges are just gross even when people are washing their own stuff, and it’s wasteful to use the detergent to wash one item at a time since one squeeze of it can wash quite a few dishes. I always bring my mug home to wash it at home and bring a fresh one the next day.

      The whole set-up is gross and I wouldn’t want to work at a place like that unless I had no other options.

    10. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      I wouldn’t have accepted the cup of coffee, so I’m not sure whether he’d want to hire me either.

    11. Let me librarian that for you*

      And what if the interviewer declines coffee? No cup, no test, no interview? So misguided.

    12. Jane*

      We offer people water or coffee at my work during interviews and I would be weirded out if they insisted on washing the dishes. Don’t wander around the building like you already work there. One cup is not an imposition to stick in the washer.

    13. Also-ADHD*

      I saw that article and honestly I wouldn’t even accept the coffee, not everyone drinks it!

      1. Petty_Boop*

        LOL, I’m picturing you just accepting a lot of interviews and putting the mugs in your purse as you say “Thanks, bye,” until you have a full set of 12.

    14. Liz Lemon*

      I have a friend who had a “practice interview” with a college career counselor, who offered them water. They accepted, and in their later interview feedback was “don’t accept water if offered, it makes you look unprepared”.

      I thought (and still think) anyone who uses hospitality as a test is not somewhere I want to work.

      1. H3llifIknow*

        Yeah that’s silly! When I interviewed for one of the BIG Govt. contractors, it was a 5 hour process of meeting w/ 4 different people, each of whom was to assess or discuss something different (think: culture fit, tech knowledge, benefits, etc…). I did have some water with me, but that barely lasted the first 1.5 hours! Thank goodness they offered me cold bottled water from a small fridge there in the conference room or I’d have been breathing out sawdust after a while!

    15. CommanderBanana*

      I don’t even drink coffee, so would definitely fail the Brilliant Coffee Cup Test of Brilliantness right out of the gate.

    16. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Who ARE the people who are doing that? I can only think folks who are used to cleaning up after everyone else. So they are looking for people they can take advantage of because they are people pleasers/helpers.

    17. Miette*

      I mean? “Hey you don’t mind if I wander around your offices unescorted looking for a kitchen to wash this here mug on my way out, do ya?” Ridonkulous.

    18. Ex-prof*

      Same. In fact, so much same that I’d say it’s a better method for interviewees to screen out interviewers than vice versa.

      Especially female interviewees. Reeks of “Sure, you can code, but will you clean up after us?”

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Thank you! If you are grading me, a woman, on whether I clean in the office, it’s probably not a good fit for either one of us. (And, yes, I do clean up after myself in the office, including handwashing my own cup or putting it in the dishwasher, but it’s not a core part of my professional skill set I want to showcase in an interview.)

    19. This_is_Todays_Name*

      Also, everywhere I’ve interviewed, if they offered coffee, they had a Keurig or a Flavia and disposable cups, so I’d simply throw it away, but because ya never know how the coffee is gonna …. hit (ahem), I 99% of the time decline any. If I were given a mug, I might ask, “what would you like me to do with this?” but that’s just being “I don’t want to leave a dirty mug on your clean conference table” and not any weird assumption that it’s a test!

    20. el l*

      I’m sure we’ve all known people who test other people. Giving a test once for a very particular reason is one thing – but giving tests habitually is another.

      In my professional and personal experience, the ones who constantly test others are substituting “giving tests” for organically building trust. Because…they don’t know how to naturally build trust.

      If you notice (not test, see the difference?) that a job candidate doesn’t treat support staff well, that’s telling. If you notice that they are constantly knocking down people they’ve worked with, that’s telling. But expecting the right people to Do This One Thing is dumb at best, manipulative at worst.

      Finally, about this particular “test”: Job interviews are stressful. Most of the time, people are just happy to be done talking, and want to go home and think about what they said and heard. Washing the coffee cup is about #328 in list of priorities.

      1. AnonORama*

        Or they scheduled the interview VERY tightly as a “doctor’s appointment” or something similar (or just snuck out) because they can’t take much time away from their current job. Most people aren’t likely thinking about the dishes anyway, even their own, and a lot of folks are going to be rushing to get back to work before anyone goes “where’s so-and-so this morning?”

    21. Trillian*

      I heard about a CEO who wanted his employees to show curiosity. One secret test was to observe if they showed curiosity about the new heat-sensitive buttons in the elevator.

      I’d have failed. I spent my childhood getting scolded for “not paying attention”–because girls are supposed to be focussed on other people, and not gadgets or the world around them–or for challenging teachers by asking questions. So the last thing I would have done in an elevator with an interviewer was play with the elevator panel or ask about something not related to the job. But the first time I met one of those elevator panels I rode up and down the elevator, experimenting–hovered my finger over it, checked whether warm breath was enough to activate it, etc. But I’d made sure I was alone.

      1. KateM*

        I can’t really imagine start playing with elevator buttons when in elevator with my possible future boss.

    22. Paulina*

      Yes. At the end of the interview I expect that I’m supposed to be *leaving*, not wandering around the facilities. I’d use the washroom if I needed one, but otherwise I figure I’m supposed to be getting out of there so that the interviewers can discuss me without me overhearing and then get back to whatever else they were doing that day.

    23. Sunflower*

      It would be weird and inappropriate for the guest/interviewee to wash the mug! They’re only going to get performatively domestic weirdos this way! That idea is so annoying.

    24. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      I’m struggling to understand how anyone passes this test. I’ve had tons of interviews over the years and it would never occur to me to wash my own cup. Most of the time I turn down refreshments of any kind in a interview, I just see it as an opportunity to knock a drink over in my nervousness and look like a goof.

    25. Terranovan*

      I’ve heard that Henry Ford took applicants for promotions out to lunch. If an applicant added salt to his* soup before tasting it, Ford got the impression he’d* make changes to a situation before evaluating it.
      *I’m assuming they were usually male.

    26. commonsensesometimesmakessense*

      I wonder what this guy does when the person declines the coffee or any other beverage …

    27. learnedthehardway*

      Agreed – that’s about the most asinine thing I have ever heard of. I wouldn’t DREAM of wandering around a potential employer’s offices after an interview for any reason, unescorted. I would assume this would be taken as a very presumptuous and nosy thing to do, and would kill my chances at the role. It might even result in someone calling security about the unknown person in the kitchen!

    28. Jane*

      I’m curious about what this employer thinks of candidates that decline the cup of coffee? Would they insist the candidate have one? Would they offer them a different beverage? If the candidate has a drink of water would they still expect them to go wash their own cup?

      Also I 100% feel like the employer is an older cis white male because this is something my boomer dad (and former navy recruiter) would absolutely have done.

    29. chewingle*

      Not to mention the security issues surrounding letting a non-employee wander around looking for the kitchen. Maybe the hiring manager was going to escort them, but the letter didn’t sound like that was the case.

  2. Artemesia*

    The coffee cup thing is the most ridiculous ‘job test’ I have heard of. I would consider it odd if an interviewee did that; we are the hosts, we offer coffee, of course we expect that the interviewee will leave it in the office and we will take care of it. Would this yutz expect people who come to dinner parties at his home to wash the dishes?

    1. Allonge*

      This. I know that there are cultural differences on this (in some places you are absolutely expected to [offer to] help clean after a dinner), but an office is already removed from that. And as said above, not everyone will take a coffee. Then what.

      Anyhow, if they start employment with these kinds of tricks, most likely there is also a bunch of unstated Rules TM when you actually work there, so thanks but no thanks.

      1. Sleve*

        Exactly. It sounds like a great way to accidentally discriminate against people coming from a strong hospitality culture where the host is expected to take care of everything food-related and it would be offensive for the guest to assume that they won’t.

        1. Mongrel*

          Even in the UK it’s a safe assumption in that environment it’s not your problem to clean up like this it’s the hosts.
          At worst they’re going to grab the offending items and put them in the kitchen, if it’s convenient, as they walk you out.

      2. I Have RBF*

        There’s a related “test” that’s more reasonable, but still not a job related test: Have them get coffee, tea or water in a disposable cup, and have a regular office trash basket near the door. Do they throw it away on their way out, or do they leave it for “the staff” to pick up? (Test is “Do they pick up after themselves?”) A caveat is that if they didn’t finish it they might leave it because putting liquids in office trash cans in frowned upon.

        1. Kay*

          No – even this doesn’t work. There are a ton of reasons from recycling to smelly fragrances to they are hosting in a work setting! to what if I miss and drop this in front of them looking like an idiot- as to why a candidate wouldn’t take the most standard business practice option and simply leave the room as they came.

    2. Aquamarine*

      I would be really taken aback if, after an interview, someone just went wondering off to the kitchen. That would be so odd and not terribly polite. After an interview, you’re expected to leave, not stay and clean up!

      1. stratospherica*

        Agreed – I’d feel like I was being incredibly inappropriate if I just wandered off into an office’s kitchen if I didn’t work there. I don’t think I’d have the clearance to be doing that where I’m a guest, unless I’m being escorted back to the kitchen on the way back, and I can’t imagine most employers would take kindly to me sticking around to wander about the office when our business is concluded.

      2. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        The very most it might be courteous to do (in my culture, at least) would be to ask, “Where should I put my mug/glass?” but you would fully expect to be told to leave it where it lay and not worry about it.

        1. amoeba*

          Yeah, I do that. And sometimes the host will actually be like “oh, yeah, I’m putting mine into the dishwasher now, you can put yours as well!”. Most times, they tell me not to worry and just leave it though. And I think it’s very normal to forget to ask in a high stress interview situation, as well!

        2. Aghast of Derby*

          Totally, I have done that on the very rare occasions I’ve had a drink (if I had a tickly cough for instance) and the answer has always been along the lines of “just leave it there”

        3. Aerin*

          That’s probably what I would do with it. Or, like someone else mentioned above, I would end up setting it down somewhere out of my sight line at which point it would disappear completely from my memory. “I should find a place to wash this” would never even occur to me. I feel like this isn’t testing for courtesy, it’s testing for subservience.

        4. Era*

          Yeah, that’s my instinct, and I think a fairly common one — makes me wonder how they respond to that! Would they say “oh, whatever you feel is best”, or something equally vague? Would they go for “leave it there” as is the socially expected reply, and judge you for taking them at their word?

          I would by slightly surprised but not offended if the response to “what should I do with this” was “Oh, if you don’t mind washing it, I can show you to the kitchen”, but… that seems like too much to hope from people who would set this test.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes, and even at a dinner party, where you are in an area or group of people where it’s common to help, you wouldn’t normally just start the washing up, you’d ask if your host would like help / what they would like you to do.

      Also – in our offices, the interviewee wouldn’t know where the kitchen is – we typically interview in our meeting rooms, the candidates wouldn’t be going into or anywhere near the kitchen.

      1. londonedit*

        Yep, fully agree. Most of the time, at a dinner party the host will wait until everyone goes home before they start tidying up/doing the washing up, so while you might offer to help (usually in a ‘Goodness, sorry to leave you with all this to clear up – can we help before we go?’ sort of way) it’s in no way expected and the host will in 99% of cases say ‘No, it’s absolutely fine, thank you!’ and send you on your way. Maybe at an informal gathering with friends who know each other well, you might ask the friend who’s hosting if you can give them a hand with the washing up, and they might well say yes, but unless you know the host well it’s not really a thing you’re ever expected to do.

        Same in this situation – an interview is a fairly formal occasion, so while it’s definitely polite for a candidate to ask ‘Is there somewhere I can put my mug?’ at the end of the interview if they’ve accepted a tea or coffee, it’s also pretty much the accepted form for the interviewer to say ‘Oh, don’t worry about it, I’ll clear those up in a minute’. It’d be very unusual for a candidate to insist on going and washing their mug themselves – they probably have no idea where the kitchen is and it’d be an odd thing to ask to do. The only time I can see it happening is if you’re in a meeting with people you know well, and you’ve been to their offices before and know the layout – then you’d probably say ‘Oh, I’ll take this to the kitchen’ or ‘Let me help you tidy up these glasses’. But not in an interview.

    4. Cyborg Llama Horde*

      Mind you, I saw the coffee cup thing in an article along with someone who gives the interviewee a wobbly chair, and you only “pass” if you stop the interview to ask for a not-wobbly chair. And while the coffee cup one is bad, I think the chair is actively worse, in that I suspect people who are willing to complain about the chair are strongly (not exclusively, but strongly) correlated with people who have a lot of privilege, and are above-average likely to be socialized male.

      1. Totally Minnie*

        I would never even think to ask the interviewer for a different chair. That’s so weird, and has nothing to do with whether somebody would be a good employee.

      2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

        Weird. I would have thought that they’d fail you for asking a different chair, because they want humble and grateful employees who don’t complain about small stuff. And if I want to impress a potential future employer and show how much I’d love to work in their office, I most definitely wouldn’t tell them “I don’t approve of your standard for chairs, I’m too good to sit on a thing like this” (even in a more polite version) unless the chair was actually dangerous or extremely disgusting.

        1. londonedit*

          Yeah, I’d definitely have assumed that you’d ‘pass’ the (ridiculous) test if you just put up with the chair and didn’t say anything – it’d be something about not causing conflict, just getting on with things, dealing with adversity without making a fuss, etc.

          Basically any of these ‘secret test that the candidate has no idea about’ things are utterly stupid. It’s one thing asking the receptionist for their initial impressions, that’s fine, but trying to ‘pass’ or ‘fail’ people on whether they wash up their mug or ask for a different chair is totally ridiculous.

          1. JustaTech*

            Seriously this. If someone is giving you an opportunity, if feels weird to complain about something like a wobbly chair.

            Years ago a friend’s parents invited a big group of us to their vacation house. The bed I was assigned was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever slept on (including camping), but I didn’t want to be rude and complain when I was a guest.
            It turned out that someone had messed up making the bed and put the box spring on top, but my friend’s mom was very irritated with me that I *hadn’t* wanted to tell her, because to her it wasn’t “ungrateful young person complaining about my house” but rather “person pointing out a problem I can fix in my business” because they rented out the vacation house.
            You can’t win.

            1. Phryne*

              ‘If someone is giving you an opportunity, if feels weird to complain about something like a wobbly chair.’

              This is a very strange way of looking at an interview for a job. As Allison often says, the interviews are for both parties. If they are not, that is a major signal to not want to work there anyway.
              Your friends mom was right.

      3. Sunflower*

        Ridiculous! That could easily be a test the opposite direction: if you ask for a non-wobbly chair, you have some inability to roll with the punches or something.

        All of these kinds of tests are ridiculous, because you could easily demand the opposite outcome, and come up with a justification for it as well.

      4. Phryne*

        I disagree. If i sit down and the chair is clearly wobbly and unstable I would not find it odd to politely ask for a different one, in a ‘whoops, this one seems to be broken, I’ll just scoot over to the next one’ kind of way. Conversely, I would be horrified if a guest turned out to have sat on a wobbly chair for the whole interview without mentioning it or me noticing. It is fairly normal to expect a functioning chair and anyone reacting strangely to such a normal request is a red flag. I am interviewing for a professional job, not begging to please take me on.
        Then again, I work in education, so malfunctioning furniture is just another Wednesday, just toss in in the hall and notify facilities we need a new one, and I am Dutch, and we Dutch don’t suffer in silence.

    5. Texan In Exile*

      Well, actually…..

      Years ago (mid 80s), a boss had us to his house for supper.

      After supper, his wife started to clear the table. And everyone looked at the other female employee and me. The expectation was very clear that we help. Which we did. (We were in our early 20s – what did we know?)

      The men stayed at the table.

      I am still cranky about that. I should have stayed sitting.

    6. Chirpy*

      I legitimately once was invited to a guy’s house for dinner…which he expected me to cook for him. At HIS house. Which I had never been to. OH HELL NO.

      I never spoke to him again, and I’m still pissed at the friend who set that up.

  3. Immortal for a limited time*

    and #3 – Hmmm. If you live where it snows (as I do) you just… deal with it. It doesn’t sound like you’ve just recently moved to this location, but that you’ve been there long enough to know that it snows quite a bit. If you “get panicky just thinking about” walking in knee-deep snow, you should probably know that (a) having to walk blocks in fresh snow 18 inches deep unlikely to be a frequent occurrence, and (b) snowboots and traction devices exist. Unless you have mobility issues you didn’t mention, it sounds like you’re prematurely overreacting in a way that is not going to work in your favor in the adult working world.

    1. Artemesia*

      Absolutely don’t be asking the boss for rides as an intern. If she volunteers on a very snowy day be grateful and accept, but part of being an adult in an adult job is to manage your life. There is a bus and boots exist.

    2. winter wonderland*

      Came to say the same for #3. Lived half my life where yes, you could get 12+ inches of snow overnight several times a winter. But anywhere that gets that much snow regularly has the infrastructure to deal with it, including plowing the roads and people knowing to shovel public sidewalks. If it’s the norm, people know how to live – and work – in the environment.

      And if there is just SO MUCH SNOW that roads are impassable, you’d be instructed to stay home from the office anyway given no one would be able to safely get there. (And if it’s really one singular block from bus to office…strap those boots on unless something hinders you from doing so.)

      1. Be Gneiss*

        That was the part that stood out to me – that it is one block from the bus stop to the office.
        I live in a very snowy, rural place without functioning public transit to speak of (so nobody is clearing sidewalks at bus stops)…and even here sidewalks are cleared pretty quickly. It’s the kind of place where we routinely get knee deep snow overnight. I guess if I was walking a block at 6am, the sidewalks probably wouldn’t be cleared.
        So, buy boots and mittens, and some yak trax if you’re worried about ice, and keep your good shoes at your desk. If your boss offers a ride on a particularly snowy day, great.
        And please please please don’t think of your manager as the office mom!!

        1. Zelda*

          Big yes on the yaktrax! Around here, a lot of places are a little lacking on getting things cleared, or they’re “cleared” in a way that still leaves a layer of compacted snow that quickly turns to ice. I live in fear of a nasty fall, but fortunately there are a number of different brands and styles of traction wear that can put my mind at ease.

            1. Zelda*

              I guess if you were riding a bus it would be kind to get the sort with wires spiraled around the rubber base, as being less damaging to the floor of the bus than any of the crampons-lite things. We still have little dimples in the wood of our back deck from the winter we developed our own private backyard glacier and needed traction wear every time we took the dog out for a potty break.

      2. Antilles*

        If it’s the norm, people know how to live – and work – in the environment.
        Even more to the point, everybody will *expect* that you’ll know how to live and work in the environment and handle a fairly ‘normal’ level of snowfall for the area. And it’ll come off very strangely if you’re struggling with an overnight snow that everybody else is viewing as just a fairly typical January day.

        1. A Poster Has No Name*

          I agree. Part of internships is learning the nuts & bolts of working in an office, which includes things like how to get to and from and office and manage that timing and deal with normal things like weather or traffic or whatever.

        2. I'm just here for the cats!!*

          I will point out that if the OP is originally from someplace that doesnt get snow, and everyone knows this, the office will probably give them a pass if they struggle at first. Especially in the upper midwest. I know of several people who moved to Minnesota or Wisconsin and then were not as prepared as they thought they were for the winter. We just rolled our eyes, maybe joked with them and then explained best practices.

          1. Smithy*

            Absolutely this.

            My first winter in Wisconsin was after growing up in southern Ohio and spending a few years in western Massachusetts. So I thought I knew what winter would be like and then freaked out when it arrived. Eye rolls, light joking/teasing and then help was 100% how it went.

          2. ThatGirl*

            I had the kind of opposite experience, where I grew up in northern Indiana and dealt with snow a fair amount, then moved to northern Kentucky for a couple years where they had NO idea how to deal with snow or ice. I’ll never forget watching my neighbors try to scrape their windshield with cardboard. Meanwhile, I was like “what’s the big deal, it’s just a couple inches of snow!”

            1. Artemesia*

              I grew up in Seattle with almost no snow in those days and did my career in Nashville where a half inch of snow would paralyze the city. I once had to walk two miles home in the snow from where I dumped my car in a church parking lot after backing down a gentle hill because some yoyo backed out onto that hill and couldn’t go forward and thus all the people who knew you have to go slow and stead with no stop on snow were thus blocked from making it up the hill. All of us had to back down. I just gave up an walked at that point.

              but the OP reads like someone who has had Mom and Dad plow the way and make sure she has a ride if weather is bad etc and she is at the point of transitioning to being her own adult person managing these things — it takes a little adjustment and the time to start is now.

          3. Panhandlerann*

            Absolutely. Years ago, I moved to the Upper Midwest from southern Nevada, so you can imagine the adjustment I had to undergo when winter came round!

          4. Catalyst*

            Agreed. I am from a place that got a lot of snow and we would let new employees who were from places without it what to expect, not just office wise, but in general. And gave them more grace then locals their first winter. We did have a lot of people who came from other countries so maybe we were more accustomed to having those conversations, but I have no doubt that if the OP asked someone would be happy to say “on a snowy day expect X”.
            As well, I moved later to a place that is coastal but still has winters. As soon as I got here (even though it was summer) I had a few colleagues say to me, make sure you have a really good water proof winter jacket and fall coat, it’s too windy for umbrellas. Best advice anyone could have given me, I was well prepared for a different kind of winter then I was used to.

          5. MigraineMonth*

            I’m from the northeast and went to college in the Midwest. I had a spiel that I gave students from warmer climes that basically boiled down to “avoid goosedown or cotton if they might get wet; wear layers of fleece or wool.”

        3. ferrina*

          But LW is new to the working world. The rules can be a little different- where I live, schools can be closed pretty quickly due to snow, whereas businesses tend to stay open (one of the reasons schools close is to avoid the traffic jams if they need to close mid-day; the commute around can be intense).

          As an intern, LW should ask about the general approach to snow- “Hey, on days when it snows a lot, does the office do anything different?”
          They might learn that there is flexibility in start time, or the option for remote work, or no, it’s just Tuesday. If the coworker is open to talking, LW can ask for advice on how to approach the situation- “It’s going to sound weird, but I’ve actually never been in this situation before. Any tips for me?”

          1. Lenora Rose*

            IME, schools close more easily than businesses, but universities and colleges close less often than schools, and you often have to cross campuses. With the exception of the one place I worked that was 15 minutes from a viable bus route, university was where I had some of the longest, worst snow-weather public transit commutes — so a block for an internship shouldn’t be causing this much stress if they’ve been in this location for college.

            But yes, ask the workplace. They can also give tips on whether this particular stretch of sidewalk is shoveled same day or marked as lower priority.

        4. learnedthehardway*

          Agreed – unless that includes driving, when the person has never driven in a snow belt before. And if that is the case, the OP should make sure they get winter tires on their vehicle and even find someone to do a lesson or two with them, so they know what to expect while driving.

          My dad taught me to drive on an ice rink so I would learn to steer out of a skid before I ever encountered one on the road.

    3. Shakti*

      I spent a lot of my working life in Massachusetts and I had to walk several blocks every day in that much snow that wasn’t shoveled for weeks (yes people were really that inconsiderate in my neighborhood) and it would snow that much multiple times per winter, but it really wasn’t that big a deal? I’m baffled by the panic! I did that type of walk while pregnant and although it was annoying it wasn’t dangerous. Unless there are whiteout conditions in which case they shouldn’t go to the office at all they really should be able to manage just fine again unless there’s some kind of mobility issue they don’t mention in the letter

      1. Shakti*

        Oh I forgot to mention the walk was to the bus and they buses were always safe k never worried about them at all

      2. allathian*

        Yes, I’m in Finland, and I’m very grateful that the municipality is responsible for shoveling/plowing sidewalks here, just like they plow the streets. We’re just responsible for shoveling our own drive.

        I have a pair of black knee-high off-piste boots that I mainly use for getting to the office when there’s been a lot of snow. But large amounts of snow are certainly a problem for people with mobility issues.

      3. mlem*

        Also in Massachusetts, and there are often cases where the sidewalks are so impassable that people have to walk in the traffic lanes; there was a case pre-pan when a high schooler was hit or killed because of that. (I think the city or state was responsible for the high-school-adjacent sidewalks in that case.) I wonder if the LW is catastrophizing to scenarios like that being likely? (I don’t mean that as any kind of insult, nor as a diagnosis, but as a suggestion that the LW may want to address those concerns/anxieties separately.)

      4. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Right I’m in Boston and I’m walking up and down icy hills even with a mobility aid…it’s not always ideal but it’s just a thing you do.

      5. Willow Pillow*

        Same thing for me in northern Canada and use public transit – I walk a mile most days in addition to the bus (yay service cuts!). Snow sticks around from November-March, it’s been colder than Mars, etc. My commute has never involved knee-deep snow.

      6. Choggy*

        Also lived in MA for 10 years, without a car, so the T or bus were my only choices, regardless of weather. There was no WFH in those days, so I just bundled up, and off I went. I miss those days; I was the healthiest I ever was when having to walk everywhere!

    4. Daisy*

      Yeah, I came here to say this.
      I live in snow country. Anywhere that has a good bus system will have methods of dealing with snow. Where I live any sidewalks (and I can’t imagine busses dropping you off to work without sidewalks) must be cleaned by the building owners soon after the storm stops (private homes included). There is a whole economy surrounding snow removal – county snowplows, city snowplows, private snow removal businesses (some with major equipment), odd jobbers and children with snow shovels who roam neighborhoods clearing walks and driveways for cash, and friendly neighbors who do it for free.
      Buy a decent pair of boots or yaktraks for your shoes and you will be fine. I suggest wool, alpaca, or buffalo socks and mittens for winter.

      1. Sunflower*

        The only thing to look up is whether your bus changes its route during snow. Otherwise, just leave extra time for walking slowly.

    5. Lilo*

      I lived in the Midwest and the only days I’ve had to walk through deep snow on the sidewalk were blizzard days, which are decently rare (and usually on the way home). Unless you’re off the grid a bit there shouldn’t be knee deep snow between the bus stop and work. But also, just have snowboots. You can keep work shoes in your desk or bag if it’s the kind ofmworkplace where snowboots aren’t acceptable.

      You definitely can’t regularly ask for rides. Maybe on a blizzard day (I once got stuck on a city bus for hours during an unexpected blizzard, but honestly being in a car would have been worse).

    6. BreakingDishes*

      You can do this. Knee deep snow is actually rare and would usually be accompanied by work closures. Get some good winter wear and you should be fine. Walking in the snow can be really enjoyable! Beautiful and often quieter.

      1. LegoGirl*

        And if there isn’t a cleared sidewalk yet, just walk in the street for that block. You probably aren’t the only getting off the bus making that choice.

        1. Some Words*

          And appreciate the luxury of letting the bus-driver deal with the bad roads. It always felt safer to me than driving my car. Definitely worth a 1 block snowy trudge.

    7. AcademiaNut*

      My first internship involved spending a semester in a city which got extensive snowfall (coming from an area that did not), and bus transportation. It was literally the first time I had ever seen a snowblower. I borrowed a winter coat from relatives, and got boots for Christmas, and managed.

      Wear boots with good soles, get a pair of waterproof over pants to keep snow for sticking to your pants and melting later, and dive in (figuratively). If you’re worried about balance, get a collapsable hiking pole for a little extra stability.

    8. Falling Diphthong*

      Yes, the panicky line stood out to me.

      If you just moved to the Yukon, your mindset should be that this is an exciting adventure and you’re going to figure it out, maybe start asking the locals now for their advice of what you’ll need when the snow starts.

      If you have lived in the Yukon for a while, you should have figured out how to deal with the anticipated snow via living your life.

      1. mlem*

        If your family just moved you to the Yukon — maybe you’re a high schooler with little to no say in the move — and so aren’t there by choice, you don’t have to view deep snow as an exciting adventure, but asking for local advice is still wise.

        Regardless of backstory, that can even be a conversation with the boss/mentor! “I’m commuting by bus; do you have any winter tips?”

    9. Richard Hershberger*

      This. I first lived in snow country as an adult living alone. The first time there was a significant snow, I looked out the window and thought to myself “If I were as smart as I think I am, I would have bought a snow shovel before now.” Then I bundled up and walked about a mile to a store where I could buy one, then back home where I started shoveling. It is just part of daily living. For someone young-ish and healthy, it is nothing to obsess over.

      1. Ally McBeal*

        During the dark winter months when running outside is entirely unpalatable, I LOVE shoveling for cardio. I’ll go out right at 5pm when there’s still a sliver of light in the sky and shovel out my parking spot while listening to a podcast.

    10. Heather*

      Seconded. You really, really don’t want to be known as the intern who is afraid of snow and asked their boss to drive them to and from work.

    11. Ally McBeal*

      Indeed – and generally speaking, cities either handle sidewalk shoveling as a municipal matter or explicitly place that burden on the shop and home owners. Knowing who’s responsible (and with whom to file a complaint about egregiously unshoveled sidewalks) might ease some of LW3’s anxiety. I lived in NYC for a decade and live in the upper Midwest now and have never truly had a problem where I both had to go to work AND the sidewalks were impassable – i.e., the worst of it happened on weekends or I was able to work from home/work was cancelled.

    12. amanda*

      ONE BLOCK. ONE BLOCK IN SNOW. You’ll be fine. This is not a situation in which “panic” is reasonable.

      I used to walk three miles in snow to buy groceries in winter. It builds character.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*


        jk but yes panicking over one block is…a lot. I have to imagine this is general new job jitters manifesting oddly.

        1. ferrina*


          But seconding this- unless there’s extenuating circumstances that make that one block difficult in the best of times, you’ll be alright in snow. It may help LW to take that walk several times when the snow first starts (if possible).

      2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        People have anxiety over things. Telling them its not reasonable is not helpful. They know its not reasonable, they feel that way anyway.

        Having said that, figuring out a plan in advance will help with the anxiety. Good boots, knowing whether the sidewalks actually have to be shoveled or not. Things like that.

        True story. We had a major snowstorm. I had court the first day the courts reopened after the storm. I figured I would be parking in the garage right across from the courthouse, so I wore 4 inch heels. Turns out the garage was full of city vehicles that couldn’t park in the usual lot. I found street parking a few blocks away, easily walking distance. The sidewalks were clear, no problem. Except, water had dripped from melting icicles in one spot make a large icy patch in one place. Too large to just hop over. Remember, I’m in 4 inch heels, no WAY am I safely walking over that icy patch. so what did I do? Took off my shoes and walked the rest of the way in my nylon feet. Word reached the courthouse before I did. It was … mentioned. But I got there safely and that’s what mattered. No my feet weren’t cold as long as I kept moving.

        1. Observer*

          People have anxiety over things. Telling them its not reasonable is not helpful. They know its not reasonable, they feel that way anyway.

          That’s the thing. *Some* people know that it’s not reasonable. And they also know that they need to manage their anxiety. But not everyone does.

          It does look like the OP actually does *not* realize that they are being somewhat unreasonable. It’s not just that they don’t acknowledge that it’s a bit over the top. It’s also that they think that asking their boss to drive them to work is a reasonable way to handle the situation. If they understood that they are actually over-reacting, they would probably realize that this could be a really bad look.

      3. e271828*

        I would walk home four miles from work in snow; there were sidewalks, but badly cleared and icy. The buses would get so delayed, that I could get there in about the same time if they skipped one, because the schedule was every half-hour. I had a Walkman and a pocketful of tapes, and I enjoyed the walking at the time and remember it fondly still.

        A block. Buy some nice Sorel boots and wicking socks if you’re worried about wet feet, and embrace the season.

      4. J*

        I have a lot of dread about snow coming from a rural area with so little infrastructure where school buses regularly went off the road when I was on my way to school because they wouldn’t call off. Once I moved to the city and realized I could just walk in snow, it was so so so much better. I will walk 2 miles to the nearest tea house in snow or down the block to dinner but I still won’t drive in it. The only worry I’d have for LW is that our bus schedule is usually miserably bad on most days and twice as bad on snow days so I might be stuck outside for a bit more than planned. When the normal headway is an hour and they get delayed a lot, you will need to be bundled up a lot.

    13. Samwise*

      Agreed. My rather uncharitable initial reaction to this was “Bless your little heart!” But I know people get anxious about situations that are new to them.

      If the snow is that deep, the plows will be out and the sidewalks salted. If the sidewalks are not cleared, walk in the street unless it’s trafficky.

      High ankle hiking boots with stabil-icers from REI (if it’s icy, otherwise just the boots) are my go-to. Leave a pair of dress shoes at the office, as well as an extra pair of boot socks. Wear snow pants over your work clothes if you will truly be slogging thru a lot of snow.(When I lived in a very snowy northern US city, I had an entire outfit rolled up in my desk just in case. Never needed it. But the dry dress shoes were necessary.)

      1. AnotherOne*

        yeah, that was my thought. i get it- new is scary.

        but when Boston would get really snowy (or really cold), I’d just walk to work in snow pants or with long underwear on and snow/hiking boots, and just adjust my outfit when i got to my office. (and always kept shoes in a drawer at the office. that’s just as useful in the rain.)

        cuz nothing says a winter storm like a dress over snowpants. (not that anyone can see it under your winter coat.)

        1. e271828*

          OP may want to invest in a “big coat,” too, depending on how stormy winters are where they are.

    14. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      I’d also add that everyone else will be dealing with the snow. Even if they drive they are going to have to walk from the car to the building in the snow. (and with some parking lots it can be almost a block from the building).

      If the OP is worried about not looking professional, that’s when you take extra shoes with you. Heck, I know someone who would change from/into snow pants. As someone who lives in Wisconsin and takes the bus to work, I also recommend that you keep some extra socks in your desk. You never know if your boots will leak or if you get caught in a rainstorm.

      OP I think you need to relax a little bit. Unless you are going to be working in a very rigid company, even if you are a bit disheveled because of weather no one shoud be holding that against you. You have time before the snow starts to learn about your office. When it gets to be closer to snowy time, or when the forcasts predict snow you could bring it up to your boss asking what the policy is about bad weather. Do they give people grace if they are running late because of snow, allow you to leave early, etc.

    15. Orange You Glad*

      I agree with this comment and what others have said. I commute exclusively by bus. Snow happens and it can be inconvenient, but walking one block isn’t that big of a deal. I find snow more preferable for commuting than rain. When it rains in my city, the sidewalks can become skating rinks. At least with the snow, I have some traction when walking.

    16. Butterfly Counter*

      To put it another way, the unreasonable panic is akin to someone from Maine moving to Arizona and worrying about walking a block 120 degree weather in full sun without any shade. Or like someone from Los Angeles moving to Florida and worrying about navigating torrential downpours and flooded roads for a block. In other words, if it’s safe enough to come in, it will be fine. It will not be fun when the weather is that region’s flavor of “bad,” but it’s doable and no reason to panic.

    17. Yorick*

      It is unlikely but possible that the sidewalks might not get cleared before you go to work. In my city, property owners are responsible for that and so some don’t do it. The sidewalk of the place where I got off the bus (across the street from work) did not get cleared all winter. I used YakTrax for the slippery aspect. You could get tall boots or snow pants to wear over your work clothes in case the snow is very deep.

      Don’t ask your boss for a ride. You’ll probably be fine taking public transit. If there are a few days when that doesn’t work so well, you can take an uber.

      1. AnonORama*

        I admit, I moved 1,500 miles because I hate snow (the last straws were a five-digit roofing bill after snow crashed through, and having to crawl over/around a plowed-in car to get to work). But there are ways to deal with this if you plan ahead, many mentioned above. If the weather is that awful, WFH (if you can) may be a better option than asking your boss for a ride. If she does offer, go for it, but make sure to keep it professional with no mom/kid vibes.

    18. zuzu*

      Not even “blocks.” “A” block. A single block.

      Absent a mobility issue, for which the kind of unplowed/unshoveled/unsanded sidewalk or walkway to transportation that requires slogging through knee-deep snow certainly merits calling out, it’s incumbent upon LW3 to figure out how to get to work in inclement weather without panicking about a single block in the snow.

      I have to wonder if LW3’s college classes have all been remote, and if high school was door-to-door if this has never been an issue before in a place that clearly has familiarity with winter weather.

    19. ReallyBadPerson*

      I got the impression that the intern *was* new to a cold climate (or had never had to manage one without help salting/shoveling? In either case, the advice in this thread is excellent, and I hope it helps them.

  4. eternalfiresong*

    Completely agree on the secret tests and oddball interview questions thing. I had an early job interview where they asked a few weird questions, including ones that I now know I failed (along the lines of, would you mop the floors if I asked you to (at a higher-end design type job)? Thought I answered that one slick at the time, but more experienced me just shakes her head now.). The one that still stands out in my mind is “If I was on the outside of this room and you were trying to keep me out, where would be the best place to apply force on the door to stop me??” And my brain short circuited, not thinking of fulcrums or leverage or anything besides wtf. Some people really think they have the best questions, but none of the ones I think I “failed” were related to the actual position or talents or job history. Having conducted interviews myself now, I can’t imagine doing them like that. I’m sure he thought he had people figured out though.

    1. bananaphone*

      I’m curious how you responded to the mopping question at the time, and how you’d respond now!

      1. eternalfiresong*

        Ha, at the time I responded a bit… high handed. Said something along the lines of “while I would hope you had that positioned filled, I would help if needed.” Which to the me of now, feels a bit arrogant. Nowadays, having been in more levels of a business, and still both mopped and taken out the trash whenever needed, I think I would be more likely just say “If that’s what the team needed, of course I would.”

        Granted, due to my field, I seem to typically find myself in very small businesses (15 employees or fewer) and the multi-hat expectations seem to be much higher there. And present day me doesn’t mind emptying the trash every now and then to keep things flowing smoothly, if that helps my boss’s peace of mind. Even if it’s technically not my “job” lol.

        1. Katie Impact*

          Yeah, I don’t think the mopping question is necessarily a weird or bad one if it’s something you might realistically have to do in a pinch, although as a candidate I’d want to know why they asked and how common an expectation that was in practice.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            That last point of yours is key–Mop up a bizarre teapot failure while someone gets their burn treated? Of course!

            But mop the public restrooms daily instead of having a custodial service? Not unless I’m a part-owner needing to make ends meet for a specific time period.

            1. KateM*

              I think it is a sign of how long I have read AAM that it took me about five times reading this post (because it’s such a good description) until I realized that the “bizarre teapot failure” was maybe meant as an actual teapot in office kitchen, not a stand-in for some work-related machine.

              1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

                Me too. I was imagining all sorts of teapot designs that might result in a bout of mopping!

                1. English Rose*

                  Me three! What I’m longing for is a query on here from an actual honest to god llama groomer!

            2. Richard Hershberger*

              The paralegal version of this question is how I feel about filing, as in putting actual paper files in cabinets. The honest answer is I am happy to do what is necessary in a pinch, but if this is to be a regular part of my job duties then either they want a wildly overpaid file clerk or our salary expectations are wildly divergent.

            3. Nico m*


              The question reads as “if you had no work to do, would you accept my order to do an unrelated menial task instead” – in which case the answer is, no go **** yourself.

              1. ferrina*

                That’s how I read the question. “Are you willing to do whatever I ask no matter how little it aligns with your actual job?”
                Um, no. I’m interested in the job you’ve advertised, not some hidden custodial position. If it’s extenuating circumstances, sure (I’ve been known to go to great lengths on extenuating circumstances), but if it’s regular enough that you’re asking me about it in the interview, I’m not interested.

                eternalfiresong, I completely agree with your original answer.

        2. Yellow cake*

          I wouldn’t say yes even of the team needed it. At least – not unless it was a reasonable part of the job. I’ve mopped many floors (and cleaned toilets etc) in jobs where that was the job. Or a reasonable part of the job.

          But in a non-cleaning role I’d wonder how sexist the company was that they thought I’d be cleaning for them. If you hire me as an accountant I’ll take my turn buying milk for the coffee. But I won’t clean the floors. That’s just not my job.

          I’d fail that test. At best I’d be asking for clarification of the role requirements.

      2. Morning Coffee*

        My answer would be asking if I am busy with my main task or do my duties have a lull moment

    2. münchner kindl*

      “If I was outside this room and you were trying to keep me out…”

      After reading AAM for some time, I would assume that at least one employee or manager there is unhinged enough to get physical and people try to barricade themselves in their offices when this happens; not that I should think about fulcrums.

      Also, I’ve seen a test that the average Hollywood tactic of “shove chair under door handle to block” doesn’t work in real life because of the height difference of average door handles to chairs….

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Having read AAM for a while my answer to that is, I would not be thinking about how to prevent you from getting in, because no way am I ever accepting a job where the interviewer implies that I might have to deal with violent colleagues.

        1. pally*

          That’s where my mind went as well. Keeping out active shooters is a job skill needed here?? Nope, I’m outta here.

        2. Totally Minnie*

          Right? Unless I’m interviewing for a job and a security guard, that question is a bright red flag.

      2. Antilles*

        Even if your chair does happen to be the exact right height, it still doesn’t work because while your chair beneath the door handle might stop it from turning downwards, many (most?) modern door handles work just as well if you turn them the upwards, i.e., so the handle moves the opposite direction.
        The real-world benefit to putting a chair against the door is more as a weight barricade to make it harder to push the door open.

    3. birch*

      Please tell me the door question was for a job involving physics or engineering (or like, police or firefighting?). In that case it’s an unfortunate example but in any other situation that would be terrifying that the interviewer’s mind goes to how you would defend from someone forcing the door open.

    4. Aghast of Derby*

      I would reply that I would open the door slightly and then they couldn’t get in as it’s no longer a door it’s ajar.

      Stupid questions get stupid answers

    5. ferrina*

      My only version of the “secret test” was to see how candidates reacted to learning new information during the interview.
      I was hiring for a really niche job, the kind that is almost impossible to describe in a job description, at an unusual company, which was also had to describe in a job description. It was also a semi-start up, so we wore a lot of hats. Most candidates had only a vague sense of what the job entailed, so as part of the interview I’d give them a full rundown and answer any questions.
      If the candidate quickly grasped what the job was and tailored their questions and responses based on that, they passed.
      If the candidate held to their assumptions or told me “that’s not how your industry works”, they failed. (the candidate that told me that had never actually worked in our industry before).
      This was relevant to the role- we were often given new information and expected to adjust on the fly. Being able to learn quickly and integrate new information was an essential skill.

  5. Posilutely*

    LW3, I agree with Alison’s helpful side-comment about not mapping maternal motives onto a work situation. I’m a paediatric nurse so there’s definitely a lot more crossover with traditional parenting roles than there would be in an office but it’s still annoying. I was at a meeting recently and before it started, someone sneezed and asked if anyone had a tissue, someone else realised they had forgotten their pen, and a third person had a sunburned arm. I had tissues, pens and (coincidentally! I’m not Mary Poppins!) after-sun lotion in my bag and was thanked and then referred to as ‘Mummy’ for the rest of the day. It’s not maternal to be organised, prepared (in my case), accomodating, helpful or hospitable (in your manager’s case). It’s just organised, prepared, accomodating, helpful or hospitable. Best of luck with your new job and may your feet stay dry!

    1. Babanon5*

      Yep, strongly agree! I also think some of my more caring elements make me a really good leader. So it’s frustrating when they get summed up as some sort of innate mother instinct vs. a skill I bring to the table.

      1. rebelwithmouseyhair*

        Well I just read an article yesterday about how women surgeons have better outcomes all round that men, so I’d just chalk it up to our natural superiority!

          1. Generic Name*

            Yuuuup. This is why I only see female doctors, and female minority doctors if I can find them. I figure they have to be at least twice as good as white male doctors just to make it. If that’s sexist, I don’t care.

      2. ursula*

        This is my situation, too. We need fewer chauvinistic leaders. Women need to be able to lead from a place of kindness without getting mom labels attached. FWIW, this dynamic doesn’t just hurt women leaders but also the staff who attach the “mom” thing to us as well – I have had staff make weird and inappropriate comments/requests to me that they would never normally make of a boss, directly because they thought of me in this way, and it hurt their standing with me and my perception of their judgment. So nipping in this bud is honestly going to help everyone. (To clarify, I have corrected this behaviour where possible and not held it against staffmembers who internalized the feedback and changed their behaviour – everyone needs to learn. But it’s also awkward, embarassing, and crappy for all involved.)

        1. Observer*

          and it hurt their standing with me and my perception of their judgment. So nipping in this bud is honestly going to help everyone.

          I think that this is very important.

          Obviously it would be ideal if the OP took on board the fact that it’s inappropriate and unfair to do this to women in leadership and management. But, especially given their apparent difficulty in making the transition, it would not be shocking to me (nor a sign that they are a terrible person) if that didn’t entirely get through to them. So, understanding that it would be bad for them as well is a good thing – for them and their manager.

    2. Artemesia*

      This is why in my day, women were cautioned to not let it be known they could type if they were not hired in admin roles. (long before laptops and everyone typed). I bet you won’t have tissues and lotion next time.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Yes – I’m a paralegal and have had to be “incapable” of audio typing (by virtue of making sure the software wasn’t installed on my machine) in a previous job to make sure my role stayed specialised.

    3. BubbleTea*

      I am a mother and I almost never remember to even take what my toddler might need with me (I don’t neglect him, don’t get me wrong! But I frequently forget about snacks) so it doesn’t even work as a comparison. Some mothers are organised, some are not. It’s almost like mothers are people…

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Tangentially related, but one day last week my coworker (older female, has grandkids) commented that my purse was a “mom bag” because I carry a large tote. My child is in high school, absolutely nothing I carry in my bag is for her. I just like to have snacks and a book and a planner for myself.

        1. JustaTech*

          Weirdly, as a new mom I’m downgrading from a giant “bag of holding” that has all kinds of stuff in it to one of those little belt bags (ok, actually it’s my original 90’s fanny pack in neon pink), because I can’t carry the giant purse and the baby and the car seat and his bag of daycare stuff.

          1. AnonORama*

            LOL, I was asked if my big tote had “started as a diaper bag” and I’m 40+ and childless. (Nope! I just don’t want to carry a separate computer bag, so I need one big enough to just put my laptop in a sleeve and shove it in.) I’ve actually looked at some of the nylon Kate Spade bags I think are supposed to be diaper bags because they have lots of compartments and I’m trying to get away from buying leather, but they could be anything from the outside. They’re usually a bit out of my budget, but I have no shame about buying a “diaper” bag if that’s what works best.

          2. Artemesia*

            As a Mom I got used to always carrying a big bag and being equipped for all contingencies — and yes when my 3 year old fell down on the Guggenheim ramp, I had bandaids for his knees and a snack for his feelings. And this extended to travel where I always had a big bag over my shoulder with an umbrella and waters and etc etc. One day I noticed my daughter never carried a purse and we talked about it.

            She had a system for using pockets for bare essentials — now I carry my phone on a Bandolier phone case and have a tiny leather attached envelope purse for keys, credit cards, a few meds, a mask — and when traveling I can cram the passports in there. NO more afternoon shoulder/head aches from lugging stuff everywhere. It is unbelievably freeing and when we day trip and do need stuff we take a small backpack and my husband and I take turns carrying it — no more Mom bag with Mom doing it all. You would be surprised at how little you need to carry day to day.

        2. Le Sigh*

          My SAHM actually slimmed down to a very small purse (big enough for keys, wallet, etc.) because she got tired of us always asking her to store something we didn’t feel like carrying in her big purse. She’d just look at us and say, “sorry, no room, guess you’ll have to carry that since you brought it.”

        3. Pointy's in the North Tower*

          Ha! My work bag is a laptop bag. (I’m a woman.) I need room for: my journal, my Kindle, my inhaler, my personal phone, my work phone, eye drops, chapstick, work badge, car keys, Tums, glasses cleaner, my wallet, hair ties, a comb, earbuds, bottle of Aleve, plus any other items I need for that specific day. I want it organized into compartments so I can find what I need quickly. I also hate purses with the fury of a star going supernova.

    4. Totally Minnie*

      Yes, this. I manage my anxiety by being wildly over-prepared. That doesn’t make me anybody’s mom. It just makes me somebody who thinks ahead and tries to plan for what might be needed.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      As I was getting ready to leave a job once (admin, early 20s), a well-meaning engineer about my age told me he thought I’d be a great mom. I stared at him as my brain struggled with all the implications, gave it up as too much to unpack, and just said thanks.

    6. Observer*

      was thanked and then referred to as ‘Mummy’ for the rest of the day

      Oh my! How did you react in the moment?

      I agree – so inappropriate.

      1. Posilutely*

        I rolled my eyes so heavily I’m pretty sure it was audible and said something like ‘You wouldn’t be mocking me if we ended up on a desert island and I was the one with all the useful items’. Not exactly a pithy bite-back but I’m afraid it’s truth rather than internet story truth!

        1. Observer*

          Not exactly a pithy bite-back

          True. But a LOT better than I think I would be able to come back with. Short enough and completely clear.

    7. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

      My old boss had a Mary Poppins bag! I swear, she was prepared for any kind of emergency – papercut, she had Band-Aids. It’s raining unexpectedly? Here’s two collapsible umbrellas, one for each of us. Spilled coffee on you shirt? Tide Pen was on it’s way over to you.

      I never saw it as a maternal thing, especially as she and I were the same age. It was really more of a “my God this person is ready for anything and I can trust them with my life” kind of vibe.

  6. LinZella*

    OP#3: Please don’t keep letting yourself think of your new BOSS as a MOM. She’s not. And even thinking of making the relationship between the two of you in any way like family/mother and daughter is a smart move.
    It sounds like you’re likely young and without much professional office work experience. You will learn lots there and one thing is about professional~personal relationships and how they’re different at work.
    Buy some really tough winter boots and coat and hopefully one block away will be doable for walking.
    Good luck!

    1. Not your office Mom*

      This. People think of me as an office mom a whole lot. I am not. I am a working mom. I have my own kids to support and as many working parents will tell you, our time is incredibly stretched.

      I genuinely care about my employees, and I am glad that that comes through. If it occurred to me and I was able I mightttt offer the ride in this situation. But I probably would not, because now I have to deal with whatever the weather means for getting my kids to school and my whole commute already being 1000x more difficult without adding an intern’s needs… Maybe this is unfair or uncharitable but the resentment this would cause me would potentially irreparably harm my view of this intern forever. Don’t do this. You’re an adult, and if you need to build community that makes sense but this is an inappropriate expectation of your boss.

      1. Saberise*

        That was my thought. We have all experience doing something nice for someone that we thought was a one time or occasional thing that somehow turned into it being expected. While kicking yourself for getting into the mess you also resent the other person for it.

    2. Keeley Jones, The Independent Woman*

      A good pair of boots and wool socks can make all the difference! I’m partial to Bogs for boots as they are easy to get on and not too heavy. Save for the best boots you can afford or ask for them as a gift. It’s a game changer.

      I get it, having to slog through snow sucks, but it’s not something you can really avoid.It’s also ok to ask about your works severe weather policies. If it’s in an area that gets a lot of snow, they definitely have some guidelines on how to manage it (come in late, work from home)

    3. ferrina*

      I am not your mother. I will not love you unconditionally. If you act up, I will not hold your hand and tell you it’s okay; I will put you on a PIP and tell you to review the training materials. I will not clean up after your messes; I will expect you to alert me when something is getting messy and ask for guidance as appropriate. I will not remind you to do your homework and check to make sure you are doing it; I will assign deadlines and expect you to get it done (or proactively let me know if that’s not possible). I will not encourage you to follow your dreams no matter what; the business needs come first, and if your dreams are incompatible with business needs, you’ll need to find somewhere else to pursue them (but if you’re doing good work, we’re happy to be your day job while you’re working on your dream career in your free time).

      I’m a very kind and supportive manager and coworker, but not an “office mom”.

  7. talos*

    I’m at a tech company that is steadily leaning more on RTO, _and_ we’re having ongoing layoffs. So maybe the RTO isn’t about attrition, because we’re doing layoffs also?

    Reading the tea leaves is gonna drive me to madness

    1. Anax*

      I really think it’s a matter of control for many tech companies. I live near Silicon Valley and grew up near an unrelated big tech company. The workplaces banging the RTO drum are the same ones which habitually hire people fresh out of college who aren’t very familiar with workplace norms, and which have a lot of time-saving office perks (free lunches, free laundry, gyms, etc.).

      The throughline I see there is that they want people who will habitually overwork. People who will base their entire identity and social life on their workplace because that’s where they spend all their time and energy, and who won’t realize this isn’t typical or that they have other options.

      Under those circumstances, it’s no surprise that they’re pushing RTO – it’s really hard to impose the same social and cultural pressure remotely, because even if they’re working overtime, they’re going to spend whatever off-hours they have – meals, socializing, errands – with OTHER people, outside the work culture.

      If that hypothesis is correct – they don’t care if they’re going to lose good employees. They succeed by hiring people fresh out of college, then replacing them when they inevitably burn out in 2-4 years. The employees who worked through COVID are ripe for replacement, and there are always new, bright-eyed twenty-two year olds.

      :( Sorry, I know that’s pretty negative, but I’ve seen it happen over and over at those specific well-known tech companies. I consider it a big warning sign if a workplace has a lot of perks which mean you’ll *never have to leave work*.

      I’m sure RTO is happening in other companies for different reasons, as well.

      Here in California, the companies and organizations holding onto remote work are often ones with strong union ties, because unions recognize just how popular and important remote work is to their constituents. I’m hoping my next job will be one of those, because I’m being laid off too.

      1. talos*

        Yeah, I’ve heard the theory. The demographic doesn’t quite square with the people I know at my big tech company, as most of us are in our 30s, on our second or third job, and have various stuff going on outside work, but I can picture it at other companies/other departments of mine. Great times all around.

      2. münchner kindl*

        Which overlaps to a large degree with cult tactics: cut off time with outside people, so no different perspective; reduce time spent on outside things; always “on” = working means no time to think and reflect.

        Coupled with the owner of start-up being revered as tech genius who can do no wrong = absolute leader, and you are very close to a destructive cult.

        1. BubbleTea*

          The term “high control group” is used to describe cults and other very controlling organisations (like some religious groups and some twelve step programmes), and could easily apply to a company.

      3. Just Here For This*

        My observation personally is that the WFH people are not carrying the same work load. I came into the office through all of it, and it is not true that the work is getting done and is the same quality. It is a burden on those of us in the office. I suspect a lot of RTO policy is just how many people abused this.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Speaking as someone who has been kicked out of their office because I couldn’t approach my remote productivity while onsite, that observation isn’t universal.

        2. ferrina*

          The solution is to set standards, not demand you all come to class like kindergarteners (fun fact: my kid’s elementary school sent out a warning the first week that you better get your kids to show up at school if you want them to learn anything).

          Remote management requires different strategies from on-site management. I’ve successfully managed remote teams before. I’ve also seen managers that relied on in-person management tactics to struggle with remote management tactics. It’s just a different skill set. Remote may not work for every team, but if it can work for a team, there’s a lot of benefits. At one point I switched from on-site to remote because that 90-minutes I spent commuting every day ended up being used as an extra 90 minutes of work time.

          1. MassMatt*

            The push to return to office work seems to be strongest with managers that don’t actually measure work output or quality.

            If you don’t measure productivity, then of COURSE you are going to push for butts in seats—your only metric is time spent at work. I remember a manager at a general meeting praising the “long hours” someone put in. This guy was useless dead weight, he spent most of his time playing Tetris. But he “put in the hours” as the manager said. The mass eye roll was almost audible.

        3. Oh Please*

          I don’t know where you work but your culture must be wild. Myself and others that have WFH were often the ones on all the projects, carrying everything. I’ve seen employees “in the office” and completely useless as well.

        4. Justin D*

          I, like many others forced to RTO, still work remotely, just at an office. My whole team lives in other states. For my entire division this is typical.

      4. TechWorker*

        I work for a big tech company (though not one with a notably terrible culture) & we are now pushing for RTO. I do not think the reasons (at least for my company!) are as cynical as this at all. It’s genuinely that as much as some (v much not all!) software engineers would love to think their job is totally independent and they can code away by themselves without talking to anyone that’s actually not a great outcome for project quality, or for development of junior engineers. Hybrid is here to stay, but totally remote honestly doesn’t work for us.

        1. mlem*

          In my tech job, we have … y’know … tech that lets us talk to our colleagues remotely. Which we do, every single day. We were spread across office campuses pre-pan; we’re scattered across the state now, and when we go into the office, we still have to connect virtually because we’re not in the same building. RTO is not some magical coworking panacea.

          Zoom forcing their own staff back was the biggest no-stars review of their own product I can imagine.

          1. Pet Jack*

            Yeah, I manage completely remotely and have a great and active relationship with all my employees, because we talk and message everyday. Some people can’t manage remotely, but then maybe THEY need better skills at communicating in different ways, not bringing people into offices.

          2. amoeba*

            Eh. Just because the technology works for it’s intended purpose does not mean it can (or should, or was ever intended to) completely replace personal completely!

            1. Parakeet*

              It’s true for sure that it requires different strategies to develop a relationship. But the “WFH isn’t as productive” people (there always seems to be at least one here on any discussion about WFH), and the people who seem to think it’s just too hard to manage remote workers, seem to forget that remote work isn’t new. There were all-remote organizations and companies before the pandemic! And hybrid ones, and ones where the staff were a mix.

              I think there’s a divide between teams that were already doing some amount of remote work pre-pandemic, and teams that were forced into it without having thought before about how to implement it.

          3. Turquoisecow*

            Yeah my husband works for a tech company that’s spread out. We are in NY and only one of the people on his team is also in NY – his closest colleagues are in California, Texas, Boston, France, and Poland. There’s really no point to his company pushing him to go into an office to “collaborate” with people who are mostly not there. He’s gotten new hires during the pandemic and trained them virtually, though none of them were entry-level.

            There is now some pressure for him and some of the others to travel occasionally – before the pandemic he would travel to California where their headquarters are periodically, and he plans on taking that trip later this month for the first time in more than 3 years. But even that is less “come in or you’re fired,” and more “we’d really like to see you for this series of meetings and collaborations.”

        2. Gyne*

          Yeah, probably an unpopular opinion here, but if the work product was truly equivalent with in office vs WFH, no one higher up would care where the work was getting done. The places that are pushing RTO have probably noticed a slide in their teams’ output & quality. We absolutely have with our two departments that are now remote. I highly doubt there are any nefarious ulterior motives to RTO. It’s a business decision being made in the context of how the entire business is doing.

          1. Pet Jack*

            This isn’t uniformly true though. In my industry WFH has been FAR more productive, and there were so many reasons to let people do so and leadership still wanted people back, because I think it’s an old idea that people need to be in an office to work. They did this right when they rolled out their DEI initiative too. RTO directly affected women more etc etc so it was a really bad look for them. They changed their tune when so many people quit immediately when they even required one day a week. Now we hire across the country and get so much talent. (We are not an industry doing layoffs, we desperately have a shortage)

            1. Gyne*

              I agree with you 100% that none of the decisions being made are uniformly true across all industries and even all companies within the same industry. And as your company saw, WFH was working well, RTO didn’t, so they changed back immediately. I just don’t think there’s a massive conspiracy going on.

          2. Peccy*

            There are a lot of other factors, though, like companies owning real estate which is crashing in value, or having their special tax breaks arranged with local cities/states threatened because without people coming into the office they are not adding local jobs and local economic benefit so the tax break is generating no value. I have family that works for a large company with a long and fruitful relationship with its HQ town/suburb where they are being forced back into the office to retain their tax deals

          3. AnotherOne*

            I imagine there is no one size approach.

            I’m not in tech. But my office is WFH 4 days/wk. We initially returned to the office 2 days a wk but the extra day wasn’t found to be beneficial/people complained about the commute. (NYC traffic.)

            That said- they’ve found benefit from the 1 day. When we were WFH, we lost the hallway mtgs, where ppl would just stop and talk about a random work thing. Or if someone emailed a question- if we’re in the same office, I can just pop over for 5 minutes v. arranging a time to talk and the whole thing taking 20 minutes. (Yes, I can still meet with someone on WFH days and do but it’s faster in office.)

            And it’s easier for new hires to meet people. Understand what’s going on. How things work together. Have social events at the end of the day. Basically things that are nice for everyone but particularly for the new people. (This was issue was flagged by new people when we were WFH fulltime.)

            However, my office said from the moment we went home that we’d be back in office. So we didn’t have any shock when we went back.

          4. Lily Potter*

            There’s lots of hue and cry about “Why are we being asked to RTO? We’ve proven that WHF is more productive!”

            Well…..maybe YOU have proven more productive but your team overall has not. Or maybe your small team is more productive but your larger department and/or the company as a whole has not proven more productive. There’s little way for people to assess productivity for people not in their immediate orbit. If WFH is producing spectacular results across a company, there’s no logical reason for a company to pull it organization-wide. Ergo, I suspect that the company feels it will get better results with RTO in some fashion.

            1. FrivYeti*

              This assumes that major companies operate mostly logically, and if that were the case we’d be in a much better world overall.

              The primary evidence is that a lot of major companies operate mainly according to the biases, assumptions, and ingrained beliefs of upper management, which are often only tangentially related to logical results. If CEOs personally prefer to be at the office, they are going to minimize evidence that WFH works in favour of evidence that supports what they already believe.

          5. Alice*

            I mean – my boss (who loves in person work) told me explicitly that I was super productive during WFH, and that she has no productivity concerns, in the same conversation when she told me, look, you have to come in 2 days / week because of a policy issued 5 steps above her. In my case, maybe it’s not “nefarious” (although my employer is the biggest landlord downtown in my city, renting space to many restaurants and other businesses that depend on foot traffic), but the return to working on site ultimatum is clearly not just about productivity. (More fool them, if they are trying to have a collegial culture – I felt a bigger sense of belonging with my co-workers when I wasn’t worried that one of them will give me COVID – again – so that I bring it home to my immunocompromised spouse.)

          6. MassMatt*

            I think it’s a complex issue. Some people, and jobs, are well suited for remote work and others are not. The pandemic forced a lot of people to go remote, whether they wanted to or not.

            Managers forcing RTO across the board seem to be assuming every job and person works better in the office, and this is clearly not the case. If they were applying metrics to productivity, quality, etc and making decisions on that basis it would be quite different, but few seem to be doing that.

            IMO the common idea among upper management that people that WFH are goofing off seems like a big case of projection to me. I walked around the office area for a lot of the directors, SVP’s etc at a large company I worked for pre-pandemic and let me tell you, their butts were not in those seats all that much. It was a ghost town most days after 4, and far earlier on Fridays.

          7. MonkeyCages*

            The issue I have with this narrative is that the single clearest comparison of office versus WFH I’ve seen was a paper in European Financial Management which demonstrated quite clearly that WFH reduced the likelihood of financial misconduct.

            I think there are very strong reasons why RTO is being pushed. The problem is that I suspect they are pretty unethical reasons: it’s a lot harder to push unethical work norms in an environment where all communications are recorded.

      5. Busy Middle Manager*

        There doesn’t need to be a conspiracy theory going on.

        To address the word “control,” it’s always used in a derogative way. But if you’re managing situations or people who sometimes behave as a herd of cats – control is needed. And then it is a good thing. And that is what offices are for

        As a manager, I find I close to impossible at times to implement real change and get people on board with it remotely, as well as to come to a resolution on difficult problems. When I’ve said this before online, people throw it back on me like I am not saying some magic sentence that will get people to step up to the plate. But it’s really not. It’s human nature, the way people communicate and process information, and despite what people say about WFH – lack of distractions.

        Sometimes I need to force other people to come together and they just aren’t doing it remotely.

        That being said, the RTO word is in two camps. I go to the office 2X a week. It’s 70% full, other people come in voluntarily. Starting to seem like old times in a way. Then I go online and there are constant threads in places like reddit about RTO is the worse possible thing ever and the only possible reason a company would do it is oddly because they want to fire you (which we can do anyway, don’t need made up reasons). If one works from home and didn’t know that many offices have activity, you’d think it was a ridiculous thing to go back in. Then you go back in and suddenly it’s 2019 again and it’s fine. Some people claim they’re super busy and 200% more productive while WFH
        Well even if that is true and given that we are talking about office work, much of which can be automated in this day and age, that can still be a problem. I’ve managed people who are ridiculously busy because, for example, they do things the manual or old-fashioned way. Or don’t tell me they took on extra work that we could automate or train someone else in. Or they refuse to train someone else because the thing is “super complicated” but then we do train someone, and they get it, or they make mistakes on such a small thing that it effectively doesn’t matter.

        It also depends on the nature of your job. The RTO discussions online seem to paint every office job and doing repeat tasks and reports. Well many corporate jobs have more ad hoc projects or projects with multiple moving parts like “get the lower performing team up to speed” or “decide what we’re going to sell to keep up with the times.” And those involve loads of typical office tasks like pulling data and making presentations. But at the end of the day, IME, trying to decide strategy or fic performance issues or even train people has failed when everyone is a little box on team with half of them muted and needing questions repeated

      6. Smithy*

        While I think the theory of control isn’t wrong – I think the control via RTO is about a subset of businesses that feel their ability to cultivate control is their office culture. And that when they have higher percentages of WFH, they’ve not been able to set the kind of culture they want – which we often equate with working long hours, but I think it’s a broader notion of getting your staff to believe that your way of operating is the way to operate.

        For years I had jobs in cities where a high percentage of the workforce all had jobs in the same sector. Therefore, it was really normal to have broader networks of friends, neighbors, friendly acquaintances who had similar or the same kinds of jobs that I did. And through that it was a lot easier to learn broader industry norms and what better and worse practices looked like.

        I then took a job in the same industry in NYC, where our sector was just one of many in the city – and suddenly I was on a team where it really was like everyone had drank the koolaid. They believed our salaries were “the best” in the industry, our team was amazing and so our ways of working had to be absolutely correct, etc. It’s not that we were the only shop in town in NYC, it was just clear that the culture of this workplace and this team was so isolated from the sector as a whole that it wasn’t uncommon to hear people say that if they didn’t work for this one employer, they’d leave the sector entirely. Think of hearing your colleagues say “if I don’t work for Insert Any Tech Company Name, I’d leave the sector entirely.”

        When you have the kind of culture you want, remote or in office work doesn’t matter – because you have people believing in you to that degree. And if the way they know to breed that culture is with more people in the office, then that’s what they want.

    2. Allonge*

      I think it’s likely to be both – RTO is a lot of administation and discussions and whatnot, I don’t see any org doing it just for funsies if the layoffs are also known already.

      If there are layoffs, a lot of the best people are likely to consider leaving anyway, so maybe they think it’s not that much of an extra risk if they tell people to come to the office.

      1. Llama Llama*

        This is what I am figuring. They talk about the problems with it and when they get to the people will quit part, it doesn’t matter because they have to layoff 10% of the company.

    3. Peccy*

      I work at a very large tech company doing RTO after doing waves of layoffs previously, and my assumption is that the reason for RTO now isn’t so much that they want to drive some specific number of attrition but that right now they dont mind the attrition because we’re ok shrinking, and also with the current job market there’s just fewer places to go so people are more trapped than usual (not the best people though, as Allison noted, they’re most likely to find another job!). There was a previous RTO push a couple years ago that was abandoned, because everyone pushed back and it was during a still-growing and hiring period where the attrition would be costly to replace. Now I think leadership is considering attrition as less costly and impactful so it changes the math significantly

    4. North American Couch Wizard Society Member*

      I had a conversation last month with an old friend who is a senior level manager at a FAANG and she mentioned that they have seen significant drops in work productivity and quality with WAH (although hybrid seems to be okay), which she thinks is probably related to loss of collaborative work and the kind of more spontaneous communication/troubleshooting for complicated work you get when you are physically in proximity to people. Of course, that doesn’t apply to the kind of widgets-per-hour work that many people do, nor to jobs that have a fairly defined task structure, so maybe most of those really are about pruning the staff. (I should note that she thinks the layoffs at her company have been poorly handled and lacked transparency. )

      My own job is not WAH but I do have a dispersed team at multiple sites, and it seems like it’s just harder to keep on top of everything people are doing when you’re only in contact 1-2 times a week, even if you do have easy access to them via instant messaging.

      I wish that companies could use a flexible approach to approving hybrid or remote work rather than mandating full RTW or some fixed number of days in the office, but I imagine that it’s probably easier for managers at many levels to just put down a standard rather than trying to navigate a bunch of nuances that also have the possibility of violating equal treatment for protected classes.


    5. a fed up former tech worker*

      It’s not just RTO either – stack ranking, measure everything to death, pit teams against each other to see who performs, etc – all these are things I saw happening. I repeated “people who have options are going to leave over this” ad naseum to my management, and somehow still got shocked pikachu face when I gave notice.

      1. a fed up former tech worker*

        Also, to clarify this: RTO in and of itself was not the issue. Neither was giving more attention to managing performance, measuring the business, or any other “appease the shareholders” policy. On paper, all of these were quite balanced and reasonable. Also, the job I left for is more onsite days and a longer commute, so being in the office was not the issue for me.

        What I couldn’t stand was how unskilled managers wanted to use the most rigid interpretation of every new policy as a way to signal to their management how on board they were with the new way of doing things, even if doing so had no impact or even a determental impact on actual business goals. Any managers who argued for flexibility or common sense got labeled as difficult. No one seemed to be able to see the forest for the trees in terms of the overall impact on morale.

  8. Viki*

    #1) Another thing, working in Big Tech, we have more real estate now, that has been sitting empty for ~3 years. We were able to write those off in pandemic times, with government subsidiaries but since those no longer exist, we have empty office space in leases we are in the middle of.

    Is this a great strategy? No, anyone would argue it’s not. But. Companies are floating these leases, and it’s easier to get everyone back to office, wait out the lease and loose head count and office overflow in ~2 years

    1. talos*

      Also companies often get tax cuts from cities in exchange for them bringing workers downtown, so you have to have your workers downtown in order to not pay taxes.

      1. Heather*

        Yup. It’s easy to say “I think the reasons are stupid so I shouldn’t have to do it”, but sometimes it’s like that. that’s what the money is for, after all.

        1. Ama*

          This might just be my opinion, but I wish if that is actually the main reason, that companies would just admit it. My employer has been extremely opaque about the reason they required everyone near the office to go back three days a week, if they’d just say this is to avoid financial penalties or get a tax break or whatever, I think morale in my office would not be in the toilet. But every time someone asks “okay but WHY is the plan this way not (other more flexible option)” we just get vague non-answers and are forced to conclude that it’s just because our CEO wants people in the office because of her personal preference and doesn’t want to actually admit that because it would go against her image as an approachable, open-door leader who listens to her staff.

          1. Lily Potter*

            Nope, not a good idea to be that transparent.

            For one thing, your employer doesn’t need a bunch of employees running around town complaining that “We’d get to WFH except the City of Whoville is requiring us to RTO”. Makes the company look bad for taking tax money and it makes the City of Whoville look bad (and no doubt, your company wants to keep in Whoville’s good graces)

            Other thing – once the penalties are paid or the tax break expires, employees will start the clamor for WFH again (“No reason now to make us come to the office!”) No sane company would want to infer that WFH will be 100% possible at some point in time.

          2. Alice*

            I’d rather hear no reason than a specious one. My dept’s “time to return” email said that in-person work was necessary to accomplish our DEI goals. Tell me more about how we are returning to work, without a mask requirement (even back when our city had one, my workplace policy didn’t require it while people were seated in a cubicle), and expecting people to travel around a large campus physically instead of using Zoom for meetings that were Zoom *before the pandemic*, and that’s good for including people with disabilities. I’m listening.

            1. Lily Potter*

              Yeah, DEI is one of the dumber across-the-board rationales that I’ve heard for a RTO policy. Honestly, I’d prefer management just be forthright: “In-person work is how we prefer to accomplish our goals . It may not be your preferred method, but it’s ours, and that’s the way things are going to be. We’ll give you a month to adjust your personal circumstances to the new normal, but after X date, you’ll need to be in the office on weekdays between X and Y time. Exceptions will not be granted.”

    2. Gary Patterson’s Cat*

      This is what RTO is really about. Secondly is wanting to cut headcount.

      I think it’s great employees are pushing back and not buying all this “collaboration” and “culture” crap. If a company really wants to claim better productivity as a reason, they’d better show facts to back that up.

      1. TechWorker*

        Quite a few of our projects had worse quality the 2 years we were fully remote. Things fell through the gaps between teams because people didn’t talk to each other much. The junior engineers who started in that time found it WAY harder to get up to speed and despite being told they should do things like ‘not work long hours’ and ‘ask loads of questions’, felt under pressure to do those things because they weren’t actually seeing the people around them display that culture. Companies don’t need irrefutable statistics to take decisions that make sense based on multiple observations.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            Yeah, agreed. There are real drawbacks to fully remote cultures especially for people entering the workforce. I know those conversations are frustrating for people who really want to WFH full time and do it well, but the reality doesn’t always match the ideal.

            1. Parakeet*

              Part of the reason it’s frustrating for us (I WFH except when I need to travel – my office is 8 hours away and my whole team is remote, and scattered around the country, except for one person who’s in-office totally voluntarily, she doesn’t have to be), is that outside of a few online spaces, so many people still treat WFH like it’s not real work. Early in the pandemic (different job from now), I was WFH but my job sometimes involved life-or-death situations and usually involved very emotionally intense work. It was a job that is pretty “essential” to having a decent society, but wasn’t called “essential” because that came to mean work-on-site during the pandemic. Yes I got to do laundry, but that didn’t somehow make the work less intense (it was a field that in fact got somewhat more intense during the pandemic, for pandemic-related reasons).

              It was really demoralizing, especially with some of the stuff I dealt with in my job, to hear people talk about WFH like it wasn’t real work, or like my job wasn’t socially useful because it wasn’t on-site (complicated, too, by the fact that someone who had done something very bad and violent to me was an “essential worker” and bragging about it – I ended up just having to mute the phrase “essential worker” because that aspect made it triggering for a while). Even the language of “return to work” that I see in a lot of places that aren’t here, is so demeaning. I love working from home, and my boss loves me and also works from home, so I’m not concerned for my own sake. But the frustration with the conversations stems from the frustration with so many people acting like WFH can’t possibly be real work, and like we all know that even if someone says they’re more productive that way it can’t be true.

        1. Pet Jack*

          Good managers and teams can eliminate these issues, the only thing is that it actually takes work to do so. Most managers don’t want to do this, they just want things to be easy or can’t adjust to different communication styles. Everytime there has been an issue with remote workers at my company, it directly relates the culture and habits of the manager and team.

          1. Eldritch Office Worker*

            For some jobs, that’s absolutely true. But not all jobs are ideal for a remote setup. Hybrid, however, works for a lot of places!

          2. Hell in a Handbasket*

            Well…even if this is true, I think it’s legit that companies/managers don’t want to make more work for themselves! That is a decision they are allowed to make (and of course, the employees are allowed to look for work elsewhere if they choose).

        2. Hell in a Handbasket*

          Agreed, TechWorker. I have seen the same, especially with junior employees. It baffles me that people are so much like, “WFH is always better under all circumstances and these big evil companies are forcing people back for no reason!!!”

          1. SharkTentacles*

            Well, sure, you’re going to be confused by other perspective if you parody them as juvenile hysteria.

            1. Hell in a Handbasket*

              Some people — obviously no everyone who wants to WFH — do have this extreme of a view. When my company announced that those close to the office would be expected to come in twice a week, a lot of comments on that post could 100% be described as “juvenile hysteria”. And I’ve seen comments on AAM that would also qualify.

        3. UKDancer*

          Without exception all the young / early career people who started during the past 3 years want to be in the office as much as possible. They feel they learn better that way but they also often live in shared houses / flats with limited space to work.

          Just because some people feel they work better remotely, doesn’t mean everyone else does.

          My company went for hybrid working so we’re all in an office 3 days per week on average and we mostly make sure the days overlap.

          1. I Have RBF*

            IMO, hybrid works well enough, but is fully “right” for very few. It still risks people’s lives, it still increases traffic.

            If people work better in an office, fine, let them. If they don’t, fine, let them be remote. If people work best hybrid, let them. One size fits all doesn’t actually fit all.

            Making people who happen to live closer come in is selecting only on location, not on actual job requirements. It feels coercive and arbitrary. I bowed out of consideration for a job because I lived close enough to their headquarters that I would have to be hybrid, not remote.

            As far as slacking off is concerned, trust me when I say I’ve seen just as many ways of slacking off in an office as I do remote. Worse, the in-office ways usually distract other people as well.

  9. Coverage Associate*

    #2. I have asked if there’s a place I can leave my water glass at the end of an interview, but I am not wandering around by myself in an office I don’t work in, and wandering is not allowed of visitors in any office I have worked in or visited regularly. If my interviewer ended the interview in the break room and started washing his own glass, I might offer to wash mine, but I might just awkwardly put it next to the sink. At church, where there definitely isn’t someone paid to deal with the dishes, the ladies generally prefer to wash a stack rather than have people switch off, each washing their own. So I might feel like washing it myself was getting in the way.

    I had an interview once that was full of these “tests.” What kind of car did I drive? Did I own or rent my home? What were my parents’ professions? And then the really problematic questions about religion and marriage and children. He said that everyone cries about work at the firm eventually, and it’s ok because they win the next one, or whatever.

    The interviewer is very successful, and his staff don’t seem completely miserable. I got a callback. Both my husband and I were unemployed at the time, but I didn’t go for the second interview.

    1. pally*

      Yes-good point! The places I’ve interviewed and where I work now, all require guests to be escorted anywhere they go within the building. No person is allowed to wander through the place alone. In fact, we’re supposed to alert management immediately if there is a non-employee around (who hasn’t been otherwise brought in for service on equipment or something). And, we must be prepared to call the authorities (we had an armed man, intent on killing someone in the building, enter our facility one time. No injuries occurred. Since then, we’ve been hyper alert to strangers).

      So, yeah, don’t wander through the building alone just to wash a coffee mug.

    2. Generic Name*

      Why on earth does ones’ parents’ professions matter, unless the interviewer is screening for people of a certain class?

      1. JustaTech*

        “unless the interviewer is screening for people of a certain class?”
        Ding ding ding, winner!
        Parents’ profession, rent vs own home and what kind of car you drive are all super unsubtle class markers. Like, maybe a really good interviewer could draw me out about my parents’ professions in the “get to know you” chat, and possibly even my car, but as soon as they ask if I rent or own my home, yikes. And a really good interviewer wouldn’t be asking those kinds of things because they wouldn’t be basing their hiring decisions on your perceived class.

    3. I Have RBF*

      What kind of car did I drive? Did I own or rent my home? What were my parents’ professions? And then the really problematic questions about religion and marriage and children.

      Holy problematic and illegal questions, Batman!

      I might answer one of two, but some of them I would just stare at them with my mouth open in incredulity. If they asked my parent’s professions I would say “Dead or retired”, with a disapproving look.

      I would have probably walked out, depending on how hard up I was for a job.

      1. Coverage Associate*

        Since it was a job that required thinking on your feet and dodging unwanted questions, I sometimes wonder if he was testing that skill, but doing it in a stupid way. Also, in the work, you know where you stand in terms of questions coming from an adverse or helpful person. There’s very little “I don’t know if this person doesn’t know it’s an inappropriate question, so I don’t know whether to just answer, dodge, or call them out” whereas I don’t know what he was getting at in the interview.

        Also, he is the only person ever to tell me I wasn’t analytical enough, so I think whatever he thought he was getting from his questions, he didn’t get.

        Definitely there are sort of inverse “gumption” stories about potential employers checking if your car is well cared for, and renters are considered flighty and unlikely to stay in a place (and therefore job?) long. [I have lived in this county since I was 4 and gave up a lot to return after law school, including owning a home during my parents’ lifetimes. I am not going anywhere.] He was definitely of the “gumption” generation, and I mostly chalk his interview style up to that.

        I almost reported him to whatever agency investigates discriminatory hiring, but he would have known who reported him, and we were bound to cross paths professionally again.

  10. fanciestcat*

    That coffee one is bizzare, I’ve never interviewed anywhere where you were allowed to walk around on your own, aside from asking about the restroom and going directly there and back. I’ve also never had an interviewer not walk with me out of a room at the end of the interview. If I was holding one of their mugs at that time, I’d just ask the interviewer where I should put it.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Yeah, unless the whole interview is in the kitchen or they deliberately walk you into the kitchen at the end of the interview, I’m not even going to know where the kitchen is located or how to get there! Do they expect you to take the mug into the bathroom, leave the door open so the interviewer can see what you’re doing and whip out your own personal dishwashing kit, which you carry around especially for situations like these?

    2. Lilo*

      I work in a government building and we’re supposed to escort visitors. Obviously we don’t follow people into the bathroom, but if someone wandered off to the kitchen by themselves, it’d be a problem.

    3. amoeba*

      I mean, at least I hope if they do that bananapants test, it’s at least in a situation where it makes sense! (Like, the coffee corner with sink and dishwashing things is right next to the door and clearly visible, or whatever.)
      If they expected people to find out for themselves, that would make it 100x more bizarre!

    4. Falling Diphthong*

      I am picturing Hardison insisting on taking his mug to be washed after the interview, and “accidentally” bumbling into the space with The Secret Stuff, which he then accidentally took pictures of.

  11. Coverage Associate*

    Oh, and if you want to know how courteous an applicant is, you ask about times they pitched in, and you can ask for a peer reference and ask that person. My mom owns her business and learned the hard way not to just look at qualifications, but she doesn’t do silly tests. She asks smart questions.

        1. Observer*

          True. But then you often get an even better look – because there are often people who work near the entrance, and how people treat those people is at least as instructive.

          Like, not just how polite are they to support staff, but what assumptions do they make about people who are sitting in the area.

        2. JustaTech*

          I just visited an office that (apparently) has a robot receptionist. I wonder what information you would get about an applicant from it?
          (I say apparently because I never saw it do anything like move or change the screen, and it was hidden behind a plant so I only noticed it when someone pointed it out, which is not much of a receptionist.)

      1. Coverage Associate*

        Sure. But people can be polite to support staff (especially for just a few minutes) while being not team players. In fact, sometimes people are nice to support staff to shield themselves from not being nice to peer professionals.

        This was for a licensed professional job, so, sure it’s great to have someone who cleans up their own lunch, but willingness to stay late to do the licensed work was also important, and that’s the kind of courtesy hard to test with a coffee mug.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, beyond all the things mentioned already, this is a very very specific test for courtesy or willing to be pitching in. I wash my own cups at work (duh) and cleaned up a kitchen after others many a times but (unless otherwise instructed) I also leave used tableware at restaurants and cafés and at conference centres and when visiting just about anywhere because (gasp!) different situations require different courtesies.

      This test is expecting people to say ‘Good morning’ (exactly those words) upon entering a room regardless of time of day or the fact that otherwise you are speaking Spanish throughout or whether or not you met everyone already in the lobby and greeted them.

      It will dramatically reduce the number of applicants though, so I suppose all for good?

    2. Lilo*

      The reality of hiring is also, no matter what you do, you’re going to hire someone who’s a bad fit. You can screen as much as you want but it’s just going to happen. Obviously asking good questions, checking references, and so on helps, but no method is 100%.

      1. Ama*

        Yes, I have hired a person who was an absolute disaster that went through the interview/reference check process with flying colors (and not just my opinion, two C-levels also thought she was awesome). I have also hired someone who was a great fit that quit after five months because an old boss offered her a salary we couldn’t possibly match. Getting hung up on a “perfect” interview question or process is just impossible, you can do the best you can to get someone who can do the job but the truth is you may end up having to do it all again in a few months anyway.

  12. Daria grace*

    #2 I suspect weird tests like this looking for hyper specific examples of etiquette/behaviour irrelevant to the job also have a risk of being accidentally discriminatory to people of different cultural/class backgrounds or who are neurodiverse

    1. NewJobNewGal*

      And there are religions that do not allow coffee. I have to wonder if the test is really about personality or about weeding out the unwanted religions.
      Also, a woman interviewing in heels is less likely to want to walk around an office with a cup of coffee. I just bought a white blazer, heck no, I’m not walking around an unknown territory waiting to spill coffee all over me!

      1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

        I read the article and I think they just use coffee as a placement for any drink. So they aren’t only offering coffee, but they just use that in the article because its smoother than saying glass or mug. I understood it that they offer a drink such as coffee, tea, water, and expect the person to take care of the mugh or glass they used.

        1. Observer*

          I read the article and I think they just use coffee as a placement for any drink. So they aren’t only offering coffee,

          Still a potential problem. Because there are a lot of reasons why a lot of people would not accept any drink. Some are religious, some are medical related, some are about not trusting unknown kitchens. *None* are really relevant to the work. But they absolutely have a disparate impact that could even rise to the level of being a legal problem.

          expect the person to take care of the mugh or glass they used.

          I think you are right, based on what he says. And it’s seriously stupid. It absolutely does not tell you anything about someone’s attitude and willingness to literally and figuratively clean up after themself.

          1. No Longer Gig-less Data Analyst*

            Yep! I mentioned upthread that I almost always decline refreshments in an interview setting. For me it’s just an opportunity to spill a drink like a doofus in my nervousness. I think there’s maybe been one or two long interviews where I accepted a water because my mouth was getting dry from all the talking, but I can probably count those on one hand with fingers left over.

        2. FrivYeti*

          Yes, but there are also people in the comments of that article saying that if you refuse a drink when it’s offered, that is “saying something about your character” and they wouldn’t hire you.

          I can’t imagine *what* they think it says about your character, but I guess they find it the height of rudeness to turn down a glass of water.

  13. nnn*

    Assorted thoughts about #2 with no thesis:

    1. I wonder what they do if you decline a drink?

    2. I wonder what they’d do if you asked “What would you like me to do with this cup?”

    3. The idea of a job interview candidate unilaterally and uninvited walking into the office kitchen and washing dishes after the interview ends seems kind of…pushy, maybe? I would have thought the unspoken social norm is to leave the office, not to wander around doing random tasks. Offices I’ve worked in tend not to let visitors wander around freely anyway, so someone would have to escort you, and you’d be delaying them getting back to their work. Do they normally let visitors wander the office freely?

    4. In personal etiquette, if you imagine visiting someone’s home, a first-time visitor who doesn’t have established kitchen privileges wouldn’t take dishes back into the kitchen to be washed unless their host was also in the process of clearing the table. I don’t think you’d wash the cup yourself independently of the host unless you’d also fix a drink yourself independently of the host.

    5. Given all this, I wonder if any interviewees actually wash the coffee cup at all?

      1. NewJobNewGal*

        I quit an admin job because they wanted me to wash dirty dishes left in the sink. If the hiring manager is that focused on a woman washing dishes, then I’d run for the hills.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Given the logistics, I strongly suspect this is a purely imaginary test invented for purposes of LinkedIn content.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        I wouldn’t be surprised! There are a lot of really bizarre and stupid screening test that crappy employers pull on interviewees, but a test that no-one actually passes isn’t going to last long.

    2. Corelle*

      I usually arrive at interviews with my own hot drink in a disposable cup. Cupping my hands around a warm cup helps me relax tension and appear less anxious, and the cup gives me something to do with my hands besides fidget.

  14. Coverage Associate*

    Sorry. Third story about the silly coffee mug test. I interviewed somewhere with the same embossed coasters as my current job, except the new place had etched glassware too. (I had worked the morning in a conference room with a stack of coasters so was especially primed to notice.) I was a little impressed by the flashiness (they also had a top floor suite with an amazing view), though also perplexed because the business wasn’t one to have lots of visitors.

    Anyway, I don’t think I even asked if there was a place to leave my water glass. I could tell that the office was set up to isolate conference rooms from other work areas (common in the industry) and it was the type of place where staff handle glassware from business meetings.

    And I must have been in the ballpark of acceptable behavior, because I have an offer from them.

  15. Just*

    #2. Washing dishes by hand wastes water. So the interviewer is selecting for non-eco-friendly employees.

    Isn’t there a psychology term for setting little hidden tests like this up?

    1. amoeba*

      I mean, I would assume this would only happen in an office that doesn’t actually have a dishwasher and cups are usually washed by hand! Washing your dish by hand while there’s a dishwasher next to you would mostly make me question your ability to use tools correctly…

      1. Totally Minnie*

        Yeah, I’ve worked a lot of places over the last 25 years and only one of them has had a working dishwasher in the staff kitchen.

    2. ADidgeridooForYou*

      To be fair, lots of places don’t have dishwashers (I personally have to wash all of my dishes by hand because I don’t have a dishwasher in the home I rent). I’d also argue it wastes more water to run the dishwasher for a single mug.

  16. JSPA*

    #1: there are multiple elephants in the room, but a big one is that companies can use “back to office” as a way to “blamelessly” and (semi) legally shed people who

    a) have health issues (which companies presume it means higher insurance costs and more absences)

    b) have immediate family or are caregivers for people with health issues (ditto)

    c) have backbone in standing up for their own needs (itself presumed inconvenient, and potentially also a proxy for “willing to organize”)

    d) are less given to herd behavior, groupthink, and misplaced loyalty (with the side “benefit” of weeding out people who are idiosyncratic to manage, and perhaps more likely whistleblowers).

    As well as being morally dubious and potentially legally iffy (if one were able to demonstrate either intent or a predictable and actual pattern of disparate effects on the basis of health status, gender, family status etc), I’d suspect this is also economically short-sighted, given that nobody is best served by losing hours in commuting, and group-think isn’t a great way to create robust products. But they clearly disagree.

    As to the problem of losing one’s best people, they may have done the calculus and decided that they are best-served not by catering to their best and brightest, but by keeping people who are a little less ambitious and have somewhat fewer options, as those people are most likely to stick around longer.

    1. Allonge*

      People who don’t mind working from an office are more prone to group-think? That’s a new one for me.

      1. Anon for this*

        It’s also a lot easier to have casual conversations with coworkers about things like pay, benefits, and other compensation in person, rather than using company monitored chat programs. It’s also easier to unionise when you can have those conversations while being less monitored.

        1. nopetopus*

          My sector is pushing to WFH hard, and I suspect this is the exact reason why. Working conditions are somewhat exploitative and all the admin is already handled at HQ, so isolating us from each other is a smart move in their eyes. My company is known for shutting down locations that I’ve organizing activity going on, and even closed operations in one of our largest regions as retaliation for a class action suit alleging wage theft and other labor law violations. Getting us all to work from home would be a huge boon.

          1. CommanderBanana*

            My working assumption is always that whatever a corporation is pushing is to their benefit and not to the workers’ benefit, whether that’s pushing for WFH or pushing for return to the office.

            Kind of like how corporation tout their “unlimited PTO! No sick time, it’s all the same bucket!” and try to dress it up as a great benefit, but really it’s to avoid accrued PTO they would have to pay out when you leave. Capitalism is always exploitative in some way, just to more or less degrees based on how much power any group of workers has at any given time. It will always push to take as much as it can at the expense of workers.

        2. J*

          As soon as another nonprofit unionized in my city, my previous nonprofit employer demanded we return to work. Then they immediately changed floors people were on. Then started satellite offices so small groups were together but more disconnected from friends. There’d already been a small failed attempt before and they’d doubled the staff in 2020-2021 (some of the services we provided aligned with the pandemic needs) and turns out most people recruited had worked for other unionized nonprofits. They were scared. So far it’s worked. They demanded everyone return in March 2022 and so far no union organizing has been able to take hold.

      2. Anon for this*

        It’s the typical thing from some of the very pro-work from home set. There is this idea that if anyone prefers working from the office or thinks there are genuine work reasons for it must be wrong-wrong-wrong and are not only wrong but unthinking and immoral.

      3. JSPA*

        that’s quite a straw man!

        (as well as a breakdown in formal logic:
        “If A then B” =/= “if not A then not B”)

        I’m not sure what’s so contentious about the idea that the subset of people who enjoy analysis more than they enjoy the company of other people, would be over-represented in the group, “people who prefer WFH over RTO”?

        As for organizing, yes, it’s easy to chat in person. But it’s not like in-person workplaces have been hotbeds of union activity for the past 30 years of in-person work. And phones still exist… and people can choose to go in (and organize or not) without being forced to do so.

        Keeping “in office” as an encouraged option is great; forcing it on people after encouraging them to plan their life around WFH is a gross power play.

        1. Allonge*

          I’m not sure what’s so contentious about the idea that the subset of people who enjoy analysis more than they enjoy the company of other people, would be over-represented in the group, “people who prefer WFH over RTO”?

          Well, the logic in your post and follow-up is not that clear either – ‘likes analysis more than people’ is not the same as ‘likes work from home’ and neither equal ‘not prone to group-think’. If a company wants to get rid of independent thinkers for whatever reason, this is a pretty error-prone way of doing it.

          1. TechWorker*

            Plus why the hell are two choices ‘enjoy analysis’ or ‘enjoy the company of other people’ (!?!!). It’s like saying ‘you either like bread or you hate trains, pick one!’

            1. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Right – also my company does a lot of collaborative analysis that has proven to be easier in person for certain projects (so much so that people will come in on days they could WFH just to do that) – where do they fall?

              1. I Have RBF*

                They allow people to decide what way of working works best for their current project.

                I’m all for letting people chose where to work, and training managers to manage for results regardless of whether people are in the office or not. I know people for whom WFH does not work – either no place to do it, or too much distraction, or whatever. I know people for whom in-office work is very uncomfortable and risky, and who may not be able to work in person.

                My company has on-site positions, hybrid positions, and remote positions, all based on the requirements for the job. (EG laboratory jobs are fully on-site, sysadmin jobs are mostly remote, etc.)

            2. JSPA*

              whistleblowers in specific, and people who swim against the tide more generally, do tend (and let me emphasize, it’s a tendency! not some exclusive or absolute state of being!) to be willing to displease others, in the name of following abstract rules.

              Sure, whistleblowers could and can be warm people with close relationships with all their coworkers, who just happen to stumble into knowledge that they can’t ignore, and can’t excuse by saying “well, I trust my coworkers, there must be some innocent explanation.”

              But finding, noticing, believing, not explaining away, and being willing to go to regulatory authorities, police or the press?

              That’s an easier set of steps if you don’t have to fight against a bunch of warm collegial interactions. Or people who stare you in the eye, clap you on the back, and distract you while you’re trying to follow the details of their procedures.

              I’m mostly aware of this playing out in terms of scientific misconduct, notably when the person faking the data is good at being popular / known for having magic hands / has tenure. The person willing and able to call them out is often someone who ignores the analysis (as presented) and stares at the figures and tables of raw data…someone who is relatively immune to the charm offensive because they are bit of a loner (and/or marching to a different drum).

              And, yeah, people who don’t thrive on positive feelings from social situations, probably are more likely to find utility in quite a bit of WFH time, unless they need access to specific equipment.

              Look, there’s not a thing wrong with being more social or less social. There’s not a thing wrong with being more of a team player who integrates seamlessly with others, vs being the person who pokes holes in the great idea that everyone else signed off on. Point is, companies need both… but sometimes they don’t value both.

              As you note, it’s not like every introvert or curmudgeon or cynic is an eagle-eyed whistleblower; nor are any of those groups all WFH proponents. Each category is its own circles on a venn diagram.

              But there can still be far more than random overlap. In my experience, that’s the case.

              In the short term, a company might prefer not to hear that the drugs in their development pipeline are not actually performing better than placebos. Especially if they are looking for another round of funding. But in the long term, their continued existence requires those dissenting voices. Some of those voices belong to average people; some of them (probably a disproportionate number) belong to slightly antisocial or awkward odd ducks.

              1. goducks*

                In my experience, it’s a lot more effective to be the dissenting voice in person than remote because when you’re remote the powers that be can forget about you the moment the call ends. When you’re in person, they have to see you all day everyday and it’s harder for them to just dismiss you and your point of view.

              2. ADidgeridooForYou*

                You can be social and stand up for something you find wrong, lol. It’s not one or the other.

                1. Green beans*

                  yeah I’m super popular/friendly at work and also well known for my ability to poke holes in stuff/give critical feedback/speak up when something is wrong.

                  Those are by no means mutually exclusive.

              3. Anonymous 75*

                Look I’m not going to agree or disagree with you here but do have any actual data to back up these statements or are you just going by your opinion/viewpoint?

            3. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

              I, for one, enjoy analysis AND the company of people.
              I know many people who really dislike both.
              Apples and oranges, my friend!

        2. TechWorker*

          As well as my other disagreements lol I disagree with your view of ‘formal logic’ :p

          If you are splitting into groups A and B, and say ‘group A is less likely to do x’ you are inherently implying ‘when compared to group B’ at the end of that sentence or it literally makes no sense? There’s no straw man there it’s just what you wrote…

        3. Hell in a Handbasket*

          “forcing it on people after encouraging them to plan their life around WFH”

          Seriously?? Workplaces moved to WFH as a temporary measure due to a pandemic. The vast majority never said it was going to be forever, and certainly didn’t “encouraging to plan their life around WFH”.

          1. UKDancer*

            Yes. My company sent us home at the start of the pandemic but it was never explained as “things will be like this forever more” and it was always “this is a temporary measure for Covid.” Once the restrictions became less, they moved to a hybrid arrangement.

            Views on working from home varied in the company from loving it to hating it and often it had as much to do with peoples’ home working set up as anything else. Most people liked it some of the time but very few people wanted to work from home all the time.

          2. Tundra Dog*

            Yes, seriously. In 2021, the CEO of my company publicaly stated that remote/office policies would be set in at the department level and that there would be no top-down return to office mandate.

            The department I worked in took this to heart. The director of the dept gathered employee input and drafted a policy. Based on this policy, people DID in fact plan their lives around the way they WERE TOLD that the organization would work. Bought houses in more affordable areas outside commutable distance, for instance. Sold the second car that they no longer needed. Etc.

            I would say a policy that lays out the rules around WFH and makes it clear that permanent WFH is allowed is absolutely “encouraging people to plan their life around WFH.” People had actual written approval from their managers stating that they could do this!

            Mid-2022, same CEO reiterated — no plans to return to office.

            Also during all this time — company aggressively hires remote employees all over the country/world, explicitly telling them they are permanent remote and won’t be expected to go to any office. They didn’t have to do that! They could have told recruits that this was temporary during the pandemic. They could have told recruits that remote work is an experiment that could change at any time! But they (HR/hiring managers/recruiting) did not. They said “this is a remote position.”

            Early 2023 — CEO announces we must return to office 3 days/week! All those dept-level policies are void. A few exceptions here and there, but for the most part — everyone expected to comply. Even those hired-as-remote people, some of whom turned down jobs at ACTUAL remote companies because of the promises of HR/recruiters/hiring managers at the time. Some of these employees are now told that they must relocate to keep their jobs.

            So yeah…maybe at your company it was clearly a temporary measure. At mine, they sure as fuck made it look permanent and then yanked the rug out from everyone. Hard to see that as anything other than a hostile act to drive attrition.

            (Why am I still working here despite my bitterness at how this was handled? I’m one of the few “lucky” employees with a WFH exception that still seems to be valid, and finding a remote tech job in the present economy seems tough. Hoping to hold out until things improve. And, I actually love my job and my manager and my team, just not the people in charge. But I am aware my prospects for growth are now limited with the RTO-culture, and my exception could be revoked at any time)

      4. WellRed*

        I feel like my coworkers are more into group think that they wfh. Of course, we’ve been bought by a corporation and now use Microsoft Teams so maybe that’s part of the indoctrination.

      5. TechWorker*

        Yea there’s people who advocate strongly for remote work for those who it works for (not every job, not every person) and then… there’s this…

        1. Allonge*

          I would so very much like for it to be ok to say people want to work from home because they prefer to, and it has X, Y, Z advantages for them (and if this is in a negotiation with their manager, A, B and C for their particular company).

          There is no need to “prove” that working in an office is evil, it’s really ok to strongly prefer WFH. But part of this is recognising that it really does not work for everyone and every place.

      6. Ellis Bell*

        I agree with you that it’s not actually the case; people who like working in the office range from “it’s the best place to get in work mode” to “I don’t actually have private spare rooms at home to supply the company with”. However I do think this idea of them being authority pleasing, groupthink conformists is a common misconception with a certain type of boss. Because there is a certain type of boss who can’t manage people by looking at output and performance, so they only care about appearances, bums in seats, and people conforming to whatever arbitrary standards the boss sets. Because visibility is important to the unskilled manager, sometimes the in-office worker is mistaken for a conformist who the unskilled manager is happy to oversee, even though it’s more likely that the employee has either their own reasons for the preference, or no real choice.

        1. Allonge*

          I can see that! It’s part of being a toxic system: difficult to avoid taking on some of the unsaid norms.

          It’s just ironic that someone who is (at least indirectly) claiming to be an analytical, individual thinker accepts that without, well, thinking about it. This is the adult equivalent of accusing people of being the teacher’s pet based on the grades they get, and does not really point to someone thinking outside of constraints.

      7. Kara*

        I mean, humans are social animals. There’s study after study showing that we modify (often unconsciously) our behavior around other humans, and that over time that can even lead to shifts in thought patterns. How many times has Alison had to point out that a LW has internalized toxic patterns? So yes, just by proximity people in the office are more susceptible to group think because we are social animals.

        On a personal note: there might even be truth to the accusations of toxic group think because the ones who lead the charge on RTO tended to be the ones with inflexible, monolithic, and frankly poisonous cultures. Combine that with the human social animal effect and there might actually be a small but tangible ‘toxic group think’ effect.

        1. Allonge*

          Look, if we are generalizing to this level, people who work from home are likely to be antisocial and lose connection to the rest of society.

          Groupthink spreads online too. Everyone who works with others is suspectible, it’s not a proximity thing like COVID.

    2. connie*

      What can you cite to show that people who work in offices are less likely to advocate for their own needs? Or that they don’t stand up for themselves?

      This is so wildly, um, imaginative.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I find it much easier to advocate for myself when I’m physically in a room and someone can’t just sign off the call or play solitaire in another window!

      2. Dawn*

        It’s also easier to talk to others in person. Someone wrote to Alison within the last year or so, who was concerned about possible office politics/layoffs.

        The LW had been with their employer about nine months, and was hired and had been remote that entire time. From their work interactions they were getting the sense that something was up at the company. But being remote and still kind of newish, they weren’t sure how to bring this up with colleagues, to feel out whether their instincts might be right.

    3. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      Which is just so stupid!
      It’s like when they say they’re not paying for that training course because what if staff will then seek another job elsewhere? What if you don’t train them at all in anything? How will that benefit your company?

    4. BlanketFort*

      My partner works for what I’m guessing is the company in #1. The way they sprung this on workers has been awful abd demorazlizing, not to mention hypocritical (the higher level workers who are forcing people back to the office work from home themselves). We know one person who was head-hunted not a year ago and told explicitly there were no back-to-office plans—now he’s being forced out. The offices they’re sending people to are random—you can move to offices A, B, or C, but not D or E, and it has nothing to do with whether the rest of your team would be in the same office. So you move to office C and still spend your entire day on Zoom. And of course all offices are in incredibly expensive cities—and they don’t pay most employees enough to be able to afford a house or even a semi-nice apartment in these places. Another factor for this seems to be that the company is either merging or dumping entire areas of the company, and so of course they want people gone without having to lay them off. It’s miserable, but they’ve been going downhill in conpany culture and management ability for years, so it’s also not exactly a surprise.

      1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

        I suspect this is the same company my friend works for – she’s been remote for her entire tenure there (over 20 years! Since before it was nearly as much a thing as it is now!). She’s safe … for now.

    5. Nope.*

      “As to the problem of losing one’s best people, they may have done the calculus and decided that they are best-served not by catering to their best and brightest, but by keeping people who are a little less ambitious and have somewhat fewer options, as those people are most likely to stick around longer.”

      Preferring to work from the office and having no issue with a return to such does not mean I fall into the latter group, thanks. Your logic in this entire thread is wildly off and practically insulting.

      1. ADidgeridooForYou*

        Yeah, as an introvert, I understand the frustration with society’s general mindset that being extroverted is “the right way to be,” but the solution isn’t to call everyone who enjoys socializing a complacent idiot lol.

    6. Robin*

      you fascinate me. i want to study you in a lab. put you in a centrifuge until all of your thoughts come out.

      there are many, MANY reasons why offices push for RTO over WFH that range from useful to bad (rent for office spaces, in person collaboration, butt-in-seat mentality) but “less given to herd behavior and group think” generally isn’t one of them? is this just a way to make yourself feel great about working from home? please elaborate i’m dying to know

    7. The Charioteer*

      I am currently involved in organizing my largely remote workplace, and did the same at my fully in-person workplace before the pandemic.

      Having people work in person rather than remotely—where they are separated, less aware of each other’s issues, and digitally monitored—absolutely does not make unionizing less likely. It’s quite the opposite.

  17. Lucia*

    If LW 3 doesn’t drive, and is panicky about walking in the snow – are they just not planning to go anywhere for the whole winter? I’m not trying to be snarky, I’m actually genuinely curious about how they plan to manage.

    1. nnn*

      I’d imagine the sidewalks get cleared at some point. Places that regularly get snow generally don’t leave knee-deep snow covering the sidewalks all winter long. It just takes time to clear them, so you might have to walk through knee-deep snow the morning after the storm until everything’s been plowed and shovelled.

      1. Dog momma*

        I’m from WNY. the roads are plowed and salted at 3-4″ of snow and ice. If there’s a major storm/ blizzard, the city will also plow the sidewalks. no one is walking in 18″ of snow unless its in the middle of a blizzard, at night, or your name is Jim Cantore

        This person either is new to snow country or very young & mom and dad have gone out of their way to provide transportation in any and every scenario.

        1. constant_craving*

          It’s not a safe assumption in every place though. I lived in Pittsburgh for 6 years. Sidewalk clearing was left up to the owner of the property the sidewalk was in front of. Sidewalks were basically never cleared.

      2. metadata minion*

        It really depends on the area. I’m in Massachusetts and even when there’s a blizzard, residents are responsible for clearing their own sidewalks and don’t even have any sort of legal obligation to do so. Some sidewalks are beautifully clear because someone on that block has a snowblower, but others just stay an icy craggy disaster that means I get to decide whether to climb them or walk in the street. Snowplows will dump drifts onto the sidewalk, which then are really not removable since they’re so compacted. Honestly, it’s a safer and more pleasant walk to slog through a fresh snowfall than it is at any point afterward.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          “don’t even have any sort of legal obligation to do so”

          They might! All of the towns and cities I’ve lived in in Massachusetts have some kind of city ordinance about this.

          1. Ahnon4Thisss*

            Yep, also in Mass. We have a day to clear the sidewalks once the snow stops or we get fined. Common in snowy areas.

          2. constant_craving*

            If there’s a legal obligation but no one ever enforces it, it doesn’t meaningfully exist.

          3. WalkingWithAWalkerInMassWinter*

            Most of the towns in MA with shoveling requirements have no enforcement policies. Town employees are often the worst at complying. People may clear the sidewalk but not a corner, and certainly not one that lines up with the ramp. In general they shovel a path barely wide enough for a fairly thin person to fit through and almost never for someone using a Walker or wheelchair. Bus stops are rarely cleared at all. Massachusetts is horrible at dealing with snow compared to any of the other snowy places I’ve lived. Cambridge is one of the only towns that takes it seriously.

            At my last hybrid job (pre-pandemic) I had such a hard time getting from the bus stop to the office a block and a half away one time 3-4 days after a moderate snow that my boss decided they’d pay for a limited number of Uber rides when I really needed to be in the office so I didn’t end up seriously injuring myself – I was in sufficiently bad shape when I got there it was clear to everyone it wasn’t sustainable. This was in Waltham which only requires shoveling if you’re on Moody or Main so there was nothing ostensibly wrong with the dreadful shape of the sidewalks and especially the corners from a legal perspective but unless you could climb up and down uneven slabs of ice and snow you were stuck.

            But that’s just the most extreme example. There are unusable bus stops all over Metro Boston as late as May, and very few sidewalks have their corners properly clear even if they have a channel cleared elsewhere. Many ramps that connect to a street or sidewalk are unusable because even if they’re cleared the pathway to the street isn’t. If you can get in and out of buildings you normally have to walk in the street itself. I don’t even try for 3-4 days after a snow because ramps are always the last thing cleared so they’ve often have frozen over while still filled with snow, slush, or ice.

    2. Dahlia*

      I think they’d just like… prefer to walk after it’s been plowed? As most of us do?

      Like in places that have six feet of snow all winter long we don’t just leave it there. But plowing takes time, and often isn’t done by 9am on the nose.

      1. KateM*

        Yes, but… have they not been living there until now? How have they managed before – have they had parents driving them door to door and then lived in dormitories directly connected to study halls? That is, is internship during getting a degree really the first time in OP’s life when they need to walk a block before 9 am?

        1. SuperAdmin*

          A lot of interns in my company move to the area specifically for one year for their internship. They are usually coming from university accommodation and/or a big city with more reliable transport, where things are more accessible.

          1. KateM*

            OK, that’s good to know. Except the transport sounds like being pretty reliable and accessible in this town if OP can get as near as one block by bus.
            But I think the number of people baffled in comments about why is this such a problem as to be escalated to asking boss to drive them should be a good indicator for OP that if they really asked their boss or coworkers, they would most probably leave an unfavourable impression of themselves.

            1. Myrin*

              It also simply doesn’t sound like OP is new to the area. Re-reading the letter, it doesn’t actually say anywhere that this is her hometown or similar, but the whole way the OP talks about the topic very distinctly read to me like this is the area she’s actually from.

        2. Hlao-roo*

          I went to college and work in snowy areas of the US.

          In college:

          * the university would cancel classes on heavy snow days (18+” meant no classes)
          * sometimes my classes didn’t start until late morning or afternoon, and sidewalks were mostly/all cleared by then
          * if I had to walk through uncleared sidewalks to get to class, I could wear casual clothes, proper snow gear, and not worry about being sweaty when I arrived. It’s a college class, professional office appearance standards didn’t apply
          * if I was a few minutes late to class because I had to walk through snow drifts, I wasn’t worried about getting fired

          In contrast, for my first professional job:

          * the office almost never officially closed (we were allowed to WFH or call out if we couldn’t safely make it into the office, but I was new to the work world and didn’t have good judgement so I went into the office a few very snowy days only to find out my entire team was working from home)
          * I wore snow boots and changed shoes at the office, but otherwise wore my office clothes and I didn’t want them to look sweaty/disheveled/wet with melting snow when I arrived
          * I was afraid I would be fired if I arrived late, so I was a bit panicky when my commute took longer than normal on my first few snowy days (until I realized my manager was a reasonable human being and wouldn’t fire me for being 10 min late on a snowy day)

          All of this is to illustrate that even for someone who has grown up with snow, going to school (or other activities) in the snow can feel a lot different than going to work in the snow, especially for someone who is new(er) to the professional world.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            I don’t understand why you wouldn’t pack office clothes and change when you get there, if you think you’re going to get sweaty/disheveled/wet with snow? I don’t do that for winter (don’t often have to slog in the snow), but I certainly do for summer, commuting in shorts and flip flops and changing once I get to the office.

            1. Hlao-roo*

              Oh, I would do that now! My problem-solving skills weren’t great when I was in my early 20s. I had this idea that I had to show up for work every day perfectly on-time and looking perfectly professional the moment I walked through the door. I learned very quickly how to solve the problem of “getting to work on a snowy day” when I started working.

              I just wanted to illustrate that to someone new to the world of professional work, it’s not always as simply as “do exactly as you do to get to non-work places in the snow” because the standards are different for work. The differences I highlighted are solvable but there still are differences.

              1. Ellis Bell*

                Yeah I think that’s a hugely common idea, that you have to make the perfectly polished entrance. It’s hard to work this stuff out in advance.

              2. Eldritch Office Worker*

                “My problem-solving skills weren’t great when I was in my early 20s.”

                I think that’s exactly what’s going on here

        3. ScruffyInternHerder*

          Completely anecdotal information here, but of the interns I’ve herded around at OldJob, over 50% had never seen snow before (either a rarely snowing area of the southern US or a warm Asian clime). SnowyMidwestWinter where I live was eye opening for them.

      2. Dog momma*

        Plows work all night in snow country. They don’t start at 7am. Most outside parking lots, gas stations etc are plowed out well before 9am .❄❄❄⛄

        1. mlem*

          Not in Massachusetts! Depending on the size of the storm, it can be afternoon or even a day or two for certain lots to be plowed, much less sidewalks.

          1. mlem*

            (That’s with plows starting overnight, I mean. They definitely do work at all hours; they just aren’t *that* efficient that nearly all plowing work is complete by 9am.)

        2. NotRealAnonForThis*

          And they tackle the residential neighborhoods three days later, about the point at which the school bus drivers have absolutely refused to do stops in those neighborhoods as they’re impassible. And yes, I definitely live in snow country.

          Everyone pearl-clutches that our suburban school district calls off for snow at the drop of a hat – while forgetting that half of said district is on dirt roads that are not maintained in the winter!

          1. Lady_Lessa*

            And in the southern part of the US, what frequently comes before snow is freezing rain. I don’t mind driving in snow, and since I am living in the upper midwest, my skills have increased, but driving on ice. Forget it. I once did a 360 on an unseen patch of ice. Fortunately, the area was flat and I didn’t hit the person shoveling snow near the roadside.

            1. BDText*

              I went to college in Richmond, VA, and the ice was a serious problem. There were days I wished they hadn’t plowed, because all it did was clear the sticky snow off the inch thick layer of slippery ice, making travel worse. The ice was so clear, you could see the road markings through it, with a gap between that and your feet. Even with all that, this Florida girl managed to get where I needed to be.

      3. Amy*

        I’m in New England and the town plow usually hits our street around 5:30AM.

        And if roads aren’t plowed and there’s any significant snow, you aren’t driving anyway even with 4WD and snow tires.

    3. Indisch blau*

      I live and work in a place that doesn’t get much snow anymore. One day, when we had fresh snow a few years ago, I skied to work. Took my skies off to cross the major roads that had already been plowed. As I am not a very proficient skier it took me longer than if I had walked, but oh the joy of leaving tracks in the virgin snow in the parking lot!

      1. anononon*

        That is so cool! I can’t ski any more due to an injury, but I’d have loved to do that back in the day! These days, on the odd occasion we get snow where I live in the south of the UK, I take much joy in me (and my cats) putting virgin footprints in the fresh snow.

      2. AngryOctopus*

        When I used to be able to walk to work, I would occasionally snowshoe down the bike path on a snowy day. Safer than navigating the main road (some businesses either didn’t do their sidewalks or plowed their sidewalks to their property line and left a huge pile of snow), and fun! It wasn’t always enough snow to use the snowshoes, but so fun!

    4. Not my coffee*

      I am originally from snow country. I now live somewhere where the threat of snow is enough to shut the place down. Life happened and I had to move. Every year snow country makes the US news because of all the snow. I am often met with comments from the locals how they would never go outside in the winter. it always turns into some strange long, winded speech about the weather and the stupid people who choose to live there. It gets on my nerves. It sounds so nonsensical and oddly hostile. In light of the hostility, I always ask for clarification. “So you’re saying you wouldn’t go to work the grocery store doctors appointments or anything else from October to March?” That’s enough to bring people back to normal but then again, maybe I just know weird folks.

      1. PhyllisB*

        And the other side of that coin is people from other areas of the country talking about ‘stupid Southerners who can’t drive in snow.” There was a man at our church who moved to our area from Michigan who would say things like this constantly. One day I had enough and tartly reminded him that we didn’t have snowplows, snow tires, ect that people in the North have, so of course we can’t drive in the snow. We might get a significant snowfall once every 10 years so it wouldn’t be cost effective to have all the tools for snow survival other areas have.

        1. Llama Llama*

          This always makee me think of my uncle from Buffalo NY. He was visiting us in Tennessee and making fun of us not being able to drive in the snow. He then promptly wrecked his car….

    5. A Girl Named Fred*

      I mean, as someone who is only recently starting to get over almost debilitating anxiety re: driving in snow despite living in the Midwest my whole life, it’s pretty easy to decide never to go out in the snow other than for work or another “mandatory” activity like a funeral. That was my mantra for years. If you know this about yourself, you pay close attention to weather forecasts and get groceries and other errands done on clear days so that when it’s snowy you can hunker down. Plus, as many people have said, roads and sidewalks usually get cleared enough to be less worrisome in a day or two.

      Note that I’m not RECOMMENDING this approach, just that it’s not that hard to avoid going out in snow other than to work if you plan for it.

      1. Broadway Duchess*

        I agree that it’s not that hard to avoid snow if you’re intentional. I don’t even have debilitating anxiety about snow in particular and I do this. I just don’t like the cold or the inconvenience, so I try to batch tasks on relatively (for Chicago winters, anyway) mild.

    6. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      I feel like they are panicking not because of the snow but how it looks to be walking in the snow. They may think that since they don’t drive that it looks less professional. And being they are an intern and still in college they may feel like their co-workers will see them not as adulty or treat them childishly.
      I’ve seen this before, especially if the OP comes from someplace that doesn’t have very good public transport and/or their friend or family looked down on people who took public transport.

      1. KateM*

        Except their co-workers will think them far more childish if they can’t even manage their own commute.

  18. Green great dragon*

    LW4, do you know why your boss took off? A sudden departure which is extended part way through doesn’t suggest holiday to me, it suggests family member taken ill or similar. Sure, it would have been helpful if they’d taken a moment to tell you who to go to in their absence, but it may be more complicated than not bothering to mention a vacation.

    1. Melicious*

      I was thinking this too. Unless it was urgent and unexpected time off, I wouldn’t leave without making sure my employees had what they need while I’m out. This is definitely not the norm, even with lax or non-existent leave policies. “As long as your work gets done” includes preparing for your absence. I’m wondering if this was not vacation.

      1. Dog momma*

        I agree. and it may be something they want kept private. their own boss knows, but not the staff.

    2. Andy*

      I was going to comment about this too. I once had a manager suddenly take time off. From memory, I think he originally had holiday leave, and then when he was due to return he… didn’t? He explained he would continue to be unavailable. I can’t remember the exact wording, but I interpreted it as extending his leave another week. And then he did it again. And again! I began to get a bit miffed, but soon learnt his very young child was in hospital with a pretty serious illness so of course I immediately softened on the whole thing. And thank God the child made a complete recovery.

    3. Phryne*

      I think LW4 is focussing on the wrong aspect here. They based their question around the unlimited leave aspect, but the problem they are faced with is not an unlimited leave problem, it is a manager suddenly leaving problem.

      1. JSPA*

        It’s an “irreplaceable manager” problem, too. If nobody up the chain of command can make the decision, and the timelines are not flexible, and there’s no designated process, the company has a problem that goes beyond someone taking a vacation.

        1. Phryne*

          For sure! If the manager had had to take sick leave suddenly, this exact problem would have occurred.
          So it has little to do with the company offering unlimited leave or not. Maybe tangentially in the sense that, if there is limited leave, people will more often be expected to ask specific time off well in advance? But that is not inherent to a limited leave system, and an unlimited leave system can also still have requirements in how much advance warning you need to give, I’d think.

          1. OP*

            OP here, yes, my overall question was the more general of, should I expect this in the future? However, to answer some questions posed, the time was announced as vacation and this person is the head of a small organization where everyone reports to them. I agree with the commenter who said we should have plans in place in case somebody needs to be out unexpectedly. I certainly considered that there may be something going on, which is part of why I’m asking the broader question as I’m genuinely curious about how this unlimited vacation thing works going forward. Thanks for your input!

            1. Observer*

              However, to answer some questions posed, the time was announced as vacation and this person is the head of a small organization where everyone reports to them.

              That doesn’t mean that it’s actually a vacation. In addition to the other stuff that others have mentioned, it’s possible that there is an investigation going on. I recall one high profile scandal in NYC where the ED of a large organization was basically sent out of the office without warning, and then they got the forensic accountants and investigators in to check his work and computer. The rest of the office only knew that he was “on vacation” until the *** hit the fan.

    4. BreakingDishes*

      I thought this too. The suddenness of this suggests something urgent: family or personal illness.

    5. Delta Delta*

      I was thinking it might be something serious, but calling it a vacation was easier. Although I did once work for a guy who would frequently disappear at the drop of a hat to go fishing or skiing for a day or two and nobody knew where he was.

    6. WellRed*

      This was my thought too though the manager at some point should have communicated it somehow to someone.

    7. The Rafters*

      My brain didn’t leap straight to vacation. My brain went to, have an emergency, hoping it will be sorted out w/in the next 2 weeks.

    8. Observer*

      A sudden departure which is extended part way through doesn’t suggest holiday to me, it suggests family member taken ill or similar

      Add me to all of the people who agree with you.

      OP, this is not typical. But also, it’s so untypical that it’s probably something bigger going on.

      1. Is this the new normal?*

        OP here again, I have reason to believe it is vacation, though obviously sympathetic to the idea it could be something else. Also, pretty likely not an investigation, I’d probably have to be involved if it was (without giving too many details). My question remains, absent extenuating circumstances, is this the new normal? Am I likely to encounter this again?

        1. Observer*

          My question remains, absent extenuating circumstances, is this the new normal? Am I likely to encounter this again?

          No and No. There is a reason why so many people are coming up with all of these possible explanations – this is untypical so people are trying to come up with more likely scenarios.

    9. so very tired*

      This week the two most senior people in my department went on PTO for several days (one for two weeks) and didn’t tell anyone on the team. We only found out via their out of office email auto responders.

      Emergencies, unforeseen circumstances, etc. happen of course. But our team is usually good about communication on sick days, planned PTO, needing time off for other urgent things. The fact that both of them are gone for days without any notification to the rest of our team is incredibly sus. So I’m definitely skeptical.

  19. Mmm.*

    “Hi, I’m a rando you’ve never seen and may never see again. I’m just here to wash this mug. Oh, it’s your mug? Hm…”

    Not weird at all. Totally normal.

    “Where would you like me to put this?” is the furthest you should have to go when using a reusable mug.

    Also, if you don’t get a drink, do you also not get hired?

  20. Mmm.*

    As for the snow…get some snow pants and snow boots. Unless you have a disability that would make this type of travel difficult, this type of thing is something you just have to deal with! I lived in a place where waking up to 18″ of snow wasn’t uncommon, and I would take a bus then walk a half mile to work. It’s not that bad once you get the hang of it. And safer than being in a car.

    That said, if she offers and seems sincere, then you may want to consider it.

  21. Commentmouse*

    I don’t know that I would feel comfortable drinking coffee out of some random mug in an office where I’m not an employee? Is that too neurotic?

    Like… Whose mug is it, when was it last cleaned, what if someone had used it to eat a gross soup, etc. I would have some concerns.

    1. Ally*

      How do you normally drink hot drinks at work then?! Is it just that you know the people at your current work so it feels more comfortable?

      1. Commentmouse*

        We all have our own personal mugs! I’ve actually never worked anywhere with communal mugs. But probably I’d be more okay with it because I’d know the other people.

      2. Thatoneoverthere*

        Most places I have worked have disposable cups. I realize this isn’t eco friendly at all, but its what most of the places I work at provide.

        I did work somewhere with communal dishware and they had 2 dishwashers that they ran throughout the day. I will say I ended using my own dishes and just washing them by hand and keeping them at my desk (in a drawer). I am not the biggest fan of using communal dishes, esp during cold and flu season. Yes I realize restaurants do this, but everyday communal dishware is different to me than every once and a while at a restaurant.

        1. Cheshire Cat*

          Restaurants have to follow standards of cleanliness, though. As far as I know, no one is inspecting my office’s kitchen to be sure that everything is up to par. I bring my own mugs and utensils.

      3. Observer*

        How do you normally drink hot drinks at work then?!

        Sometimes if you know who else is using the dishes, it IS more comfortable (not just “feels”.) But that’s actually not the most likely scenario, imo.

        More likely scenarios:

        You know that all dishes are being run through the dishwasher on a proper cycle (hot enough water and the appropriate amount of soap)

        You use disposables

        You have your own cup

        You wash your cup *before* you use it

        There is someone whose job it is to wash all of the dishes, and you know that they know what they are doing.

        All but the last are more likely that just “I trust the people who work here”. And in the aggregate, much more likely.

    2. amoeba*

      Huh? Yeah, that would be weird to me, indeed. Most offices I’ve worked in have a dishwasher, and the mugs go in the dishwasher and then, clean, into the cupboard where they’re waiting to be used. Like, you know, in most places (restaurants, cafés…)
      I’d probably be a bit like “…wait, do you think we’re disgusting?” if you were uncomfortable with that…

      1. Commentmouse*

        You make a good point! I guess as this hypothetical interviewee being offered coffee in a mug as a test, I wouldn’t know the office culture and whether everyone was consistent about putting mugs in the dishwasher or if someone could have done a perfunctory rinse and just stuck it back on the shelf. But I’m sure if I actually worked there I’d be more comfortable.

        1. Ellis Bell*

          Which is ironic because the hypothetical interviewee that they are waiting on to wash the mug is clearly someone who would only be able to do a perfunctory rinse… unless they’ve got a sink of hot suds and a clean dishcloth waiting.

      2. Observer*

        Most offices I’ve worked in have a dishwasher, and the mugs go in the dishwasher and then, clean, into the cupboard where they’re waiting to be used.

        I’m sure there are a lot of place like that but it’s far from universal. Which means that people with strong sensitivities still need to be careful. And I can’t speak to other religious traditions, but for me, I could never take a hot drink from someone in a non-disposable cup in a kitchen that I don’t know for sure is kept kosher.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      I now really want you to interview with this manager and whip out your own mug when he offers coffee.

    4. Cat Tree*

      I had the exact and thought and added a similar comment upthread. If I found out after the fact that I used a communal mug and was relying on the previous user to clean it, that would gross me out. Sure, most people would clean it adequately but some definitely would not, and I’d have no way to know the difference.

    5. rebelwithmouseyhair*

      You know if it’s a plastic single-use cup there’s a decent chance it was peed on by a rat in the factory right?

      1. metadata minion*

        Do you have a source for this? Do they then wash the plastic cups? Rat pee is very, very obvious and smelly.

    6. HonorBox*

      If I was an outsider and walked into our communal kitchen, I might find some dirty dishes sitting in the sink. That might make me wonder. So does someone have to explain to me that Elbert had leftover spaghetti for lunch and is soaking his dishes to get the sauce and cheese to come off more easily? Especially if the office doesn’t have a dishwasher, is the interviewer making sure that everything is reasonably clean and tidy in the kitchen? I’d almost feel like I needed to scrub other dishes just to clear enough space to wash my mug. Also, do you need to dry it and put it in a cupboard? Do you leave it in the drying rack? So many weird possibilities in play…

    7. MsSolo (UK)*

      See, I wouldn’t have these thoughts (most places I’ve worked have had communal mugs, though my current place is bring-your-own-or-pay-a-deposit-at-the-cafe-to-borrow-one), but I have absolutely been caught out be a badly washed mug – staying an an airbnb with a turtle, it became apparent previous guests had been scooping the turtle food with one of the mugs, triggering my fish allergy.

    8. Two Pop Tarts*

      That was my first thought.

      Restaurants, fine. They have standing procedures for washing (and sterilizing) glassware, but an office? I have no idea how, or even if, that cup was cleaned properly.

      And given the new hyper awareness over the spreading of germs, I wouldn’t accept it.

    9. Stretchy McGillicuddy*

      If I had any sort of serious food allergy at all I would not even consider drinking out of a communal mug. In any case, the obvious answer to passing this silly interview test is to simply ring a bell when you finish your coffee so your butler can arrange to have your coffee mug washed for you.

    10. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      ?? We’re a small company, but we have a kitchen with a dishwasher, cabinets, a whole bunch of mugs, plates, glasses, silverware that all came out the same box.

  22. Seeking Second Childhood*

    About the snow– if you’re interning in the same area you’ve grown up in, think of how you navigated snow to get to school all these past years. This is the same thing.

    If youre worried about walking in conservative office attire, well, you don’t. You wear slacks that day, a long coat & snow boot. Carry your good shoes, and change at the office. (Some people use galoshes.)

    Even in a formal office with an expectation of stylish clothing, people dress down for blizzards & thunderstorms– at least for the trip in. Allow extra time to change or fix hair & makeup *before* your scheduled start.

    And congrats on the internship!

    1. amoeba*

      Yeah, I’m a little confused! I first misread the question as coming from somebody who’s new to the area and not used to snow, but if you’re from there, you just… get around the same way you have for the last 18 or whatever years of your life?

    2. AngryOctopus*

      You can wear winter sport appropriate clothes to commute in if you’re worried about slogging in snow, and then change at the office! I do that in summer (shorts/flip flops to commute, change when I get in). But really, for a block, all you need is a good pair of snowboots, and a nice warm coat (for waiting for the bus). Keep work shoes at work to change into, so you’re 1-not tracking melting snow and salt everywhere all the time and 2-if you’re like me, snowboots will overheat you, so better to have extra shoes!

    3. constant_craving*

      It’s not really the same. Schools get canceled more often than companies close. Standard of dress is way different for school than work. Many colleges in snowy areas have tunnels or other ways of connecting buildings where you’re outside pretty minimally and a large percentage of college students live on campus where very few workers live at their company.

      Plus, having personally relied on public transit in snowy areas- sometimes the buses just can’t run. One winter they shut down for several days in a row in the city I was living in. It’s not a matter of just keeping ones clothes neat enough, you may be miles away from work with your standard transportation simply not available for the day. Arriving early to change/fix hair/ etc. isn’t always possible even if transit is running as expected because transit timing is so out of your control and an earlier bus may not exist or may only exist if you want to go in 90 minutes earlier.

      None of this is to say the LW isn’t going to have to figure out a method, but it’s not necessarily as easy as just doing what you did for school.

  23. Aghast of Derby*

    I had an incident where I was suddenly ill, had to leave so shoved dirty cup into desk drawer. Upon return a week later the explosive fall out meant I was driving home with no job 20 minutes later…..

    1. ecnaseener*

      What happened to raise such ire? Did the mug get all moldy in your drawer? (And if I may ask, why did you put it in a drawer in the first place?)

    2. CommanderBanana*

      I once forgot I had put a pear in my desk drawer before leaving for a week off. The results were…unpleasant. I also got fired when I returned to the office, but not because of the pear, because the owner of the company was a completely batshit psychopath who had hired and fired 11 people in my 3 person department alone within 9 months. From what I can tell, he spends all his time writing snarky replies to the hundreds of negative Glassdoor reviews his company has accrued in the 13 years since I left.

    3. I Have RBF*


      That’s an extreme reaction to someone being ill and shoving a dirty cup out of the way so they could leave ASAP. Even if it molded a bit in the intervening week. You just boil it and bleach it when you get back, FFS.

  24. Irish Teacher*

    LW2, that test also strikes me as potentially discriminatory as it assume people are familiar with social rules (and share THEIR understanding of social rules which can mean expecting them to come from a similar background that has similar expectations and norms) and that they are feeling relaxed enough to go into the kitchen and start washing a mug, in a context where most people are feeling unsure.

    I would probably fail that “test” and I don’t think I am inconsiderate or unhelpful (though I guess you’d have to ask others about that) but I would likely be unsure if it would look odd/ would end up making more work if they had a system/would look rude, like I was saying they wouldn’t clean it properly, etc.

    LW3, I think there’s a reasonable chance she will offer and if you get on well, you could mention to her that you were worried about getting in in winter, but I wouldn’t ask her to drive you in regularly or expect it. It might not be possible for her, for various reasons (she might stay over with friends/family/a partner regularly and not always be coming from home or might start late or work from home on occasions or might have plans before or after work – perhaps she goes to the gym for an hour daily before or after work, for example). And you don’t want to put her on the spot.

    I agree that the odd time is fine, especially if you phrase it so that it’s easy enough for her to say no.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I don’t even think it is a social rule though?! Knowing that there’s a whole multiverse of work cultures out there, I’m very willing to be corrected, but I don’t know any office hosting scenarios involving interviews where someone would be like “They seem to be winding down, so after this I’ll ask my own questions, then I’ll ask for directions to the sink and the scrubbing brush”. If you were that concerned about leaving a used mug on the table, you’d probably just not accept a drink, or use your own to-go travel mug everywhere you went. I’m more inclined to believe this is a boss using improbable fan fiction rather than a social rule they’ve seen in practice.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        Yeah, I’ve never come across such a rule either, but it sounds like the manager thinks it indicates something about how polite/helpful somebody is and is assuming everybody he or she interviews agrees with that and conforms to the same rules as them

  25. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #3 No, do NOT ask your manager – or a coworker – for lifts to/from work. Lifts would be an imposition and the request would make you appear immature and needy.

    An internship should help prepare you for the world of work. One of the prerequisites for being an employee is being able to reliably get to work independently and on time, including during bad weather conditions that are not sufficiently severe to close the place of work.

    Even if you have a disability that makes getting to work difficult, the normal accommodation is not to ask coworkers for lifts.

    1. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      oh and your elder female manager or coworker is NEVER your mum, so don’t regard her in that way. It is irritating/insulting to her and infantilising to you

    2. Learnedalesson*

      In an emergency I could see making an exception to asking for a ride to/from work. But it does become an imposition to the driver after a time or 2. I recently had a college age coworker ask me for rides to/from work for 3 weeks until she went back to college (her car unexpectedly broke past fixing) I thought “sure, no problem, what’s 3 weeks of rides?” Well after the first week of having to wake up earlier than normal and get home later than normal after working already long days I realized that extra time made a difference! Not to mention I no longer had freedom to run errands before or after work.
      So OP 3 should factor the longer term inconvenience into asking for favors

    3. JustaTech*

      I could see a coworker (or even manager) offering a ride *home* if the weather suddenly worsened (I’ve offered to take coworkers home or most of the way if I knew they were bus riders), but asking for a ride to work is different.

    4. I Have RBF*

      At most larger companies there is often a carpool coordinator, possibly informally. Or people post of the office bulletin board that they are looking for a carpool. But you don’t just ask your boss for a ride, even if they live next door.

      I got my first job in college by way of a neighbor who lived three houses down. We did not carpool – different hours for one thing, and I had classes some days. I also bought my first car from them. Great people.

  26. Peter*

    The coffee cup test got so much publicity and I am glad to see Alison address it here.

    I would just add that I find it even more annoying than most “I will work out the best candidate by tricking them all” strategies because it feels like an obvious LinkedIn humblebrag baked in, too. “I am such a lovely person that not only do I wash cups when I visit someone else’s office but it’s an absolute deal-breaker for me to hire only others who do the same”.

  27. Yellow cake*

    Hidden tests don’t work. They decrease diversity (uses socially coded behaviour that is not explicit), and reduce your potential pool based on things that aren’t relevant – potentially taking out the best options. If the secret test comes first – what you have left may or may not be capable.

    I applied for a tech role once and the interview was full of irrelevant how much of our website have you memorised. Some of it I probably should have thought they’d want. Most of it was completely irrelevant to the role. I didn’t progress (for numerous reasons, my personal life was not approved of – not a protected factor ). Thing is – they had a crazy high failure rate in their training program because people couldn’t do the tech side of things. But they were screening people based what looked like predominantly non-tech factors (on the tech side I blitzed their genuine requirements – on other things maybe not that great).

    What they should have done was ID everyone who applied that had the tech skills to likely pass their training program. Then, if these crazy side questions are things they care about, rated everyone on them. At this point – if they take the best for the secret tests – they have at least ensured their list can likely do the core role (maybe not the best, but at least capable).

    The core of the role isn’t everything – but it should be your first screen.

    1. Nico m*

      Nooo! Linkedin Glurge tells us “you can train for skills but you cant train for attitude!” How can such truthiness be wrong ?!

    2. Ellis Bell*

      Anything that isn’t a good faith, equal discussion is going to backfire, I think. I remember being in an interview with the most dreadful, awful and gimmicky questions (“what type of tree would you be?” etc) and the only one that was actually job related was one of the worst framings. So, at one point I was asked to list out as many of the names as I could (“because you should have looked them up and been prepared”) of some important contacts in the area, contacts I would need to work with. There was something about the “we are quizzing you” aspect of it, plus the list format which made my mind go completely blank: I’d spoken to some of the most prominent contacts that week, but I just couldn’t remember a single name. I did offer that detail and if they’d asked me about my experiences working with such contacts, I would have rattled off dozens of names because they were people whom I was already speaking to regularly… and their names are easily googleable! They ended up hiring a really junior person who I was actually training at the time, because I gave her a heads up about the list test. She prepared three names to mention and got the job. She also didn’t blink at the tree question. Im not sure she was happy there though.

      1. CommanderBanana*

        I’ve had not-great interviews before, but nothing this insane – and I kind of wish I do, because I would LOVE to get up and walk out of an interview.

  28. Weez*

    Snow OP – there’s a big difference, in terms of imposition, between arranging a ride in avances (which ties your chauffeur to your agreed ride schedule) vs an on-the-spot “it’s five o’clock, we’re both leaving at the same time and planning to head the same direction – and nether of us has a headache (and can’t wait to be alone). So we might as well travel together.”

    Similarly, there’s a difference between “yeah, a ride is nice, but I can totally take the bus” and “I have no idea how to get to work/home if you don’t drive me”. One makes it harder for the prospective chauffeur to say no.

    While it is mostly on your boss to manage their responses to you – not to make commitments lightly and to assertively decline making your problems theirs – you likely want to make a good impression and have a pleasant working relationship. So if you’re asking for rides* at all, try to minimize being an imposition on their schedule and on their emotions.

    *”Ride” makes it sound like a friendly favor. I assume you mean carpooling and you’re planning on sharing the cost of travel.

    1. CheeryO*

      Yes, this is a much more important point than whether or not it’s reasonable to be nervous about walking in the snow. LW’s boss is much more likely than they are to have last-minute meetings that make the day run late, or have the flexibility to run out early. It’s not reasonable to ask her to schedule her commutes around an intern, unless there is truly a gigantic storm forecasted in which buses might be canceled but the office would still be open (and hopefully that would never happen).

  29. Hiya*

    #3. If you’re boss did not live near you, how would you get to work in the snow? Do that!

    It’s nice if she offers, but otherwise I would not ask unless it’s truly a blizzard…in which case, in-office work is probably cancelled anyway.

    I would especially refrain from asking if you’d like to potentially work for this org post-graduation. Because they may be wary to hire someone who can’t manage their own commute in weather conditions that you described as regular.

    1. Pierrot*

      That’s what I was thinking. Presumably LW applied for the internship and was aware of the snow conditions where they live before they knew that the boss lived nearby. It’s important to consider commute issues *before* accepting a job, and it sounds like LW did have a plan but the thought process that their boss can give lifts and the accompanying anxiety about snow came after they had interviewed. So just pretend that the boss does not live nearby, and you should be good to go.

      I don’t want this to turn into a pile on towards the LW, because they came to AAM to ask if their idea was reasonable. Depending on the nature of the work, when it is truly treacherous outside, the office might close or allow people to work from home (though healthcare and some other industries are different).

  30. Falling Diphthong*

    I think we’re now zero out of however many secret tests striking anyone but their crafter as brilliant.

    I remember a letter from a job applicant with a secret test, where he would be deliberately late to the interview. He’d call shortly before to say he was stuck in traffic, walk in 20 minutes late, and wait to see whether they commended him for his exceptional thoughtfulness in calling to say he’d be late. No one but him was impressed by this test.

    While I take the point about decreasing diversity, most of these tests are so bizarrely narrow that they’re screening more for that day’s random whim hitting whatever the secret tester wanted. Like they have ascribed mystical powers to wearing an orange hat, and you happened to wear an orange hat today.

  31. Anon-mama*

    LW3: I called for rides just twice in my few years at this one job. I called *the office*, and explained that there were 3 foot frozen plow drifts taking up the whole sidewalk for half of my mile walk from the buried bus stop sign. This was in an outer suburban area, so no, the golf course or home owners were not about to have it shoveled out by 7:30 am. It was along a very busy commuter street, so there wasn’t really a safe option for climbing up and over and crossing, either. A team member came and got me, and I considered it as an act of compassion, and not mothering. It helped that they lived in residence on campus, too.

    Buy an excellent long coat, snow boots, and stash your dress shoes in a drawer at your desk. You’ll be fine on a city block. If you can, make the effort. Only after you try it once, and there’s a calamity, could you consider asking something like “Jane, would it possible to carpool the morning after predicted Snowmageddon? Or may I plan to work from home? I’d like to avoid what happened last time, which had [insert business related consequence].

  32. DJ Abbott*

    #3, The key to surviving winter on transit is the right gear. Make sure you have a good parka with a hood, mittens, and snow boots. If you can’t afford these things new, look for a good thrift or army surplus store. If possible, keep a pair of shoes or boots at the office to change out of snow boots, Or you can carry them with you.
    When I was young in the 80s, I bought a parka at an army surplus store for $40 and wore it for a few years.
    IMO it’s best not to get too dependent on other people for basic needs. If you can get to work fairly comfortably in all weather, you won’t need to ask anyone for rides.

  33. Hiring Mgr*

    fwiw there’s a good chance these tests don’t actually happen. I worked for a very well known company where an exec supposedly did a similar test (he would leave an empty cup on the table to see if you threw it out or not)

    Thing is, it was all just LinkedIn PR – they never did these tests at all. So yes it’s dumb, but I’d take it with a grain or several of salt

    1. Irish Teacher*

      That does not surprise me. When my brother was training to be a teacher, he had one of his own old teachers come in to give them a lecture. The teacher gave a talk on using IT and innovative methods, none of which he ever used in his own teaching, which were apparently just traditional chalk-and-talk, interspersed with stories about how awesome he (the teacher) was and how nobody appreciated him and it was unfair he hadn’t gotten to be principal.

  34. WellRed*

    Finally! A letter from someone who thinks cadging a ride is ok. So often, the letters are from the coworker saddled with giving the ride.

    1. Generic Name*

      Yeah….I encourage OP to read the handful of letters with people trying to get out of giving coworkers a ride.

    2. JustaTech*

      I think the OP is asking *if* asking for a ride is OK, not assuming that asking for a ride is OK (because then they wouldn’t have written in).

  35. That_guy*

    Re: coffee mug test
    What happens if the candidate doesn’t accept the offer of coffee? I never accept an offer of coffee/tea or even water in an interview because
    1) I don’t need the caffeine when I’m already wound up
    2) I’m clumsy and unlucky enough to spill it all over the place
    3) I have no idea if the kitchen in this place is clean enough for me to trust their products.
    and 4) I would forget to drink any of it anyway.

  36. HonorBox*

    RE letter 2: I think that is a TERRIBLE test. As Alison said, there is generally an expectation that the person hosting takes care of cleanup. I would treat an interview the same way I would if I had guests at my house. I never assume that someone is going to help with the dishes or cleanup. It is kind to offer when you’re close – like when you’re at a family’s home – but judging a candidate and assessing their viability for a position based on whether they’ll clean their own coffee cup is asinine. Depending on the office setup, a candidate may not know where to find the cleaning supplies. There may be discomfort if they’re running into employees in the break room. They may be on a timeline and need to get back to their own work. I’d be judging the interview myself if the company didn’t show an appropriate level of hospitality to a complete stranger, too. And what if you’re excluding an otherwise fantastic candidate from consideration just because they didn’t pick up on your stupid test? That’s a bad hiring process.

  37. Not nuts*

    I might be in the minority but I don’t think the coffee cup test is the worst one in the world. As long as you’re not using it disqualify otherwise great candidates. Everyone can share a story where they were conscientious, but not everyone actually is. Everyone also thinks they’re a conscientious person, and again, not everyone is.

    If someone gave me a mug at an interview, I’d ask “What do you want me to do with this?” Or I’d give the mug a quick rinse and leave it in the sink on the way out (if we walked by the break room on the way in.)

    A good way to use this would be to ask about a time the person was conscientious, and then if you were iffy on the candidate, see what they did.

    1. metadata minion*

      As many other people have said, this doesn’t seem like a good way to test for conscientiousness:

      * Plenty of people won’t take the offer of coffee at all.
      * Plenty of people consider it good manners to leave the coffee cup for the host to deal with in an unfamiliar environment, rather than getting in everyone’s way trying to figure out what to do with it.
      * It’s usually correct procedure to leave the office promptly after an interview, and if this is an industry where security is important, could even look suspicious to wander around trying to remember where the kitchen is.

      I agree that asking what you should do with the mug is ideal, but that wasn’t what the proposed scenario considered the “correct” response.

      1. Dust Bunny*

        All of this.

        The kitchen area is often a bit more private than the rest of the workspace–people have food and maybe personal possessions there–and a) as a candidate, wouldn’t expect to see that in an interview and b) as an interviewer, wouldn’t necessarily want to have someone I didn’t know well in with my coworkers’ stuff.

        Plus, sometimes there are unwritten office rules about how things are washed. At most we would ask someone to leave a mug in the sink and we’ll wash it ourselves later.

    2. Irish Teacher*

      The thing is that I don’t think this equates particularly well with whether or not the candidate is conscientious. I’d honestly be surprised if anybody at all took their mug back to the kitchen and started washing it and if they did, it would probably be more likely that they had had a tip-off that the company used it as a test or maybe that they were from a particular culture or background that very much valued “pitching in” or from a previous job that expected this, than that they were particularly conscientious.

      There are many reasons a person might not wash their cup, from not knowing they are permitted in the kitchen (I suspect most people would assume they aren’t allowed to just walk into random rooms in the building) to forgetting about the cup completely because they made a mistake in the interview or are just very nervous about interviews and are spiraling, wondering how bad their mistake was.

      And somebody not conscientious at all might know somebody in the company who tipped them off that this was a thing and then they would be the only one to do it.

      I just…don’t think it would even test for what they are looking for.

      I also think it could be discriminatory, as people who struggle with social skills or with anxiety might be less likely to do anything that isn’t on the usual list of norms for an interview and people from different cultures have different ideas about what is polite and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if some cultures or social groups considered this overstepping and actively impolite.

      I also wonder if it is more likely to be a test in interviews for certain positions, most likely those that tend to employ middle-aged women for positions that don’t require college degrees because in reality those are the people most likely to be dinged for not washing up. I think it less likely a role that primarily attracted young men in their twenties and thirties would expect this.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, I think one can be very conscientious and also come to the conclusion that it would be more of an imposition to try and take care of washing the mug yourself than to let the interviewer/staff handle it. Like, I can definitely wash a mug myself, but does the company have a dishwasher? Can I easily tell if the stuff in the washer is clean or dirty? Are there rules about loading the dishwasher? If there’s no dishwasher, are some sponges for specific purposes?

        All that is doable but it would end up taking 10 minutes for me to figure it out and leave whereas it’d take the interviewer or office staff 2 minutes.

    3. Broadway Duchess*

      The problem is that this cute little test doesn’t actually net the interviewer the information it’s intended to give. As many people have said, there are all sorts of reasons that they wouldn’t even think to wash, rinse, or even use the mug in the first place. I don’t drink coffee, so this would be lost on me.

    4. mreasy*

      This is SO cultural though. I have never worked, hired, or been a candidate anywhere – even small super scrappy companies – where a candidate would be expected to rinse their own mug. Sure, you can ask what to do with it. But it is SO normal to me that the candidate is a guest that the idea of judging someone who doesn’t do that, and instead assumes the person who offered them the coffee and who is running them the meeting already has a plan to handle it. If I walk by the kitchen on my way out, sure, I might be like “do you want me to put this in the sink/dishwasher” but the idea of making it a test is both pointless and counterproductive.

  38. I should really pick a name*

    While I imagine that some companies might use return to office as a way to reduce head count, it’s much easier to just lay people off.
    I would generally take it at face value that they just want people back in the office (whether for a good or bad reason).

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


      IMWO, RTO is mostly about control and surveillance. Using it as a defacto layoff cedes control (you can’t predict who will quit). Even ego (e.g. wanting to feel like a monarch holding court) fits largely into those two phenomena.

      My employer has dealt with a similar decline in productivity and reliability as we’ve migrated from BYOD to employer-supplied equipment. Similar theories abound, about as well supported (To induce attrition, to reduce wages via worse performance for reviews, reduce productivity to preserve headcount, etc). I chalk it up to bad news feeling more manageable if there’s a reason behind it (which seem to be how most conspiracy theories function).

      I land on it being a symptom of the health of the job market. If employees are in demand and there are more jobs than workers, remote work will be better tolerated and tolerated for more workers, and when jobs are in demand and there are more workers than jobs, the pendulum will swing the other way (which is what I see happening now).

    2. Gray Lady*

      If people leave voluntarily due to not wanting to return to office, they won’t qualify for unemployment. That’s to the company’s benefit.

      Still, I think you’re right that it’s most likely that they really do want people in the office. If they’re going to have to lease space, they don’t also want to pay for a large number of home setups. That’s just one possible reason, in addition to genuinely believing the work can better be done in person.

    3. B*

      One factor I haven’t really seen discussed in the comments–in addition to the costs of severance, unemployment, etc., there are reputational costs to doing layoffs. It’s totally plausible that companies would prefer “stealth” layoffs via RTO to avoid bad PR and a wave of public speculation about their financial stability.

      1. constant_craving*

        It’s a good point to consider, but I think in the current climate a pointless demand to return to office is also going to generate pretty bad PR.

      2. I Have RBF*

        I worked for a company that used an abusive quarterly performance “management” regime to avoid layoffs, and it conveniently targeted the less likely to work 50+ hours a week people – older, parents with small kids, single mothers. It also literally set up competition within work groups for keeping your job. This had the knock on effect of increasing the silos and putting a stake in the heart of collaboration. They are the same people (pre-pandemic) that did away with all working from home because a few fully remote people didn’t actually do any work, instead of retraining their managers. The place was full of bees and rotting from the top down.

    4. SpaceySteph*

      Yeah I agree with this. Do I put it past some oddball niche company doing this? No. But as a whole I don’t think that’s the goal. My employer is trying to slow attrition and hire new people to backfill a bunch of covid-time retirements, and yet still has a RTO mandate. The fact that their retention issues are somewhat linked to their RTO mandate seems to be escaping them…

  39. I should really pick a name*

    It’s important to remember that the internet means that anyone can post their wacky ideas.
    Just because someone posts about something and it gets some media attention doesn’t mean it’s a common practice that you need to worry about it.

    Additionally, the people who use ideas like this probably wouldn’t be great to work for anyway.

    1. pally*

      “the people who use ideas like this probably wouldn’t be great to work for anyway.”

      That’s my read as well. Having been put through many, many interviewer’s clever little trick questions (and stunts), I’m never left with a positive impression of either the interviewer or the company. If the hiring manager cannot ask straightforward questions pertaining to the job description, then maybe figure out why that’s the case.

      Who allows these interviewers to do these things?

  40. Purely Allegorical*

    #4 — The manager here is why companies don’t like doing unlimited PTO. This is NOT how it should operate. Taking two weeks off like that is completely unprofessional. If I were the LW, I’d send Alison’s suggested note to the Boss, but if the Boss doesn’t respond I would go to Grandboss. “I need direction on ABC, and unfort I’ve been unable to get in touch with Boss.” I can’t imagine that Grandboss would be okay with Boss taking this kind of leave??

    1. B*

      It’s not really an unlimited PTO problem, though, it’s a “taking PTO with no warning” problem. You could have, say, 3 weeks of PTO and do the exact same thing. And you could have unlimited PTO but require appropriate advance notice/approval.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Valid. Whether limited or not, taking a vacation without arranging for coverage of lines of responsibility is the problematic behavior.

          My current job has “unlimited” vacation and sick time for exempt staff. But we are required to tell our manager in advance using the right web form so they can sign off that they know about it. Same with sick time – let them know and put your out of office time on the shared calendar so your boss and coworkers know. Plus, my boss models taking both vacation and time off for medical stuff, and I really appreciate that.

          When I was under the weather with Covid for almost two months (two weeks with Covid, a month and a half recovering from recovering), I kept my boss informed, worked as much as I could while recovering, but I was able to put my health first.

          Communication solves so many problems.

    2. fhqwhgads*

      A) it’s not an unlimited PTO problem. This exact same scenario could’ve happened with a boss who had 4 weeks a year. Hell it could happen with someone who only had 2, but it’d be less likely.
      B) OP said there’s no one “above” to go to.

  41. Keymaster of Gozer*

    The thing about asking someone for a lift is that it creates (fairly or unfairly) a feeling that something is owed *back* consummate t the amount of effort (time + miles + frequency). For once in a blue moon it’s okay to ask anyone who can help.

    My boss at the time came and picked me up when it was very icy outside and I didn’t want to risk the walk to the bus stop. That was an emergency situation. And I made sure I was 100% doing excellent work that day to say thanks.

    If it were a ‘can you do this every time I can’t face that dangerous walk’ situation I know he’d have said ‘no, you need to figure it out eventually’ which is what I did in the end. Got a car and my blue badge.

    So for a one off, yeah okay. But make plans for after. And definitely make sure you’re the model employee afterwards.

  42. Helewise*

    #2: Personally, I’d be a little weirded out if someone started washing dishes after an interview. But to me there’s a gendered component, too – as a woman, asking me to wash up after an interview would be a hug red flag. What other non-job-related expectations would they have of me?

    1. Ellis Bell*

      It would immediately make me think of that admin who wrote in about being asked to deep clean. The one who was expecting to do some light clearing of surfaces here and there, but once she started they actually stopped paying cleaners and told her to get out the bleach and toilet brushes.

  43. Czhorat*

    For LW#1 – I hope not, because that would be short-sighted. This kind of stealth downsizing risks loss of the best people first – those who have skills strong enough and in enough demand to find a better position elsewhere. You end up keeping the ones either with few other options, an easy commute, or a genuine desire to work in a physical office.

    Smart companies don’t play games and make strategic decisions on which people to part ways with.

    1. kiki*

      I think it is both short-sighted and a thing that some companies who are poorly-managed are doing. That doesn’t mean all or even most companies requiring RTO have this intention, but it definitely seems like some companies are seeing the reduction of staff as a potential benefit of RTO. A lot of companies are not smart about personnel management stuff.

  44. i drink too much coffee*

    OP #5 – I’ve been in that situation, and as far as I’m concerned, let them crash and burn themselves, as bad as that sounds. Then again, I was in a really toxic workplace haha. But no one could do some of the things I did without being trained to, and my boss kept saying the others weren’t allowed to be trained by policy (this was absolutely not true, she just didn’t want them to have to do it haha). I offered quite a few times, and had people say they were definitely willing to be trained, but nope.

    I can only assume they had a really fun time for a little bit after I left.

    1. SnickersKat*

      I agree. Precovid I was laid off (kind of voluntarily, which is a whole story in itself) and therefore I had 3 months before I was to leave the company. I was literally the only person in the whole company who knew what I did and could do what I did, and my knowledge was hard won over several years of figuring things out on my own and hounding people in other departments who knew tiny pieces of the whole puzzle I was tasked with managing. I asked several times who I was going to train and they were always “working on it” so I stopped asking. Less than a week before my last day and I’m given a coworker who was a very sweet, but fairly incompetent person to train on how to do my job. I was so over it by that point that I offered very superficial training and gave her all my documentation that I know she wouldn’t have any clue as to what to do with it.

      Last I heard, they had a lot of problems after I left.

  45. Two Pop Tarts*

    I worked for a major corporation, with offices worldwide, that was big into remote work.

    One day, out of the blue, they said everyone working remotely would have to start going into their nearest office.

    Six months later they reinstated the old remote work policy.

    Either it was a scheme to cut people, or they lost so many people they had to backtrack. Regardless, any manager must know that forcing people back into the office will cause attrition.

    This was pre-pandemic, BTW.

  46. WantonSeedStitch*

    Re: #3, I agree with Alison that I wouldn’t ask the boss for rides! What I MIGHT do is ask for tips and info on commuting in the winter. “Does our town keep the sidewalks clean in the winter? And is the bus service generally reliable even if the weather is bad?” And you might ask if there’s anyone else in the office who commutes without a car. They might have some good pointers!

  47. You're a Mean One, Mrs. Grinch.*

    I’ll say this and get shot down here, but there are a lot of people in my org who are absolute deadweight and would have retired over the past few years were it not for telework. As long as they can stay home, they’ll “work” until they are dead.

    I’m sure we aren’t alone. If bringing people back half time or some time means that the people who aren’t carrying their weight will go and we might have to hire new people to cover goodish people who leave, I’m alright with that.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      Even better, maybe management could just fire people who are dead weight…

    2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      It sounds like your org should start by getting rid of the deadweight managers who either can’t tell whether work is being done, or don’t care.

      Those not-managing “managers” may be getting away with not managing because the are going to the office regularly and schmoozing with upper management. Is someone not connecting the dots between the division that’s losing money and their golf buddy Fergus who manages that team?

    3. CommanderBanana*

      Honestly, and this is just my experience, the people who were dead weight remotely were dead weight in the office. Unresponsive coworkers in person remained unresponsive when we went remote. No one really changed their work habits – if anything, it became more obvious who wasn’t actually working, because they weren’t able to hide it by pretending to be SOBUSYZOMG!!eleventy in the office. Management can choose to deal with employees like that or ignore them. Bad management is bad in-person and bad remotely. It also revealed how little some middle managers were doing.

    4. Irish Teacher*

      It’s more that this is a poor way to handle it. Sure, some of the deadweight might retire, but…the odds are the “deadweight” is of varying ages and the 30 year olds aren’t going to. They’ll be the ones coming back to the office while some of the rockstars (not just “goodish” people leave) and given that the LW was talking about the companies trying to cut staff, they wouldn’t be replaced.

    5. Observer*

      If bringing people back half time or some time means that the people who aren’t carrying their weight will go and we might have to hire new people to cover goodish people who leave, I’m alright with that.

      You’ve got a lot of very faulty assumptions. For one thing, you may not just lose “goodish” people. In fact, if people realize that this is the primary reason for ending EFH, you will almost certainly lose your best people. For another, given that apparently no one is willing to manage, don’t think you are necessarily going to lose your dead weight.

      There are other issues, but these are the core two items specifically relating to the idea that ending WFH is going to do anything to improve the productivity of people who are pretty much seat warmers without any significant hit to morale or staffing.

  48. WantonSeedStitch*

    The person who wrote the article described in #2 reminds me of an old boss. When we all went out after work for a happy hour (not that I’d call any time spent around him “happy”), he would order a diet Coke with lemon and lime wedges. This was his “test” for the servers. if they brought just one of those or neither, he would tip less. He explained it wasn’t even because he cared so much about having both–he wanted to see if the servers were paying attention. Ugh. So glad my time there was relatively short, though it felt like an eternity.

  49. Delta Delta*

    #3 – I’d like to give the student with the internship in a snowy area a little bit of grace here. It sort of looks to me like there are multiple new things going on here – an internship, living in a new place, trying to navigate transportation. And the thing OP’s brain is choosing to freak out about is the possibility of having to trudge through some snow. And you know what – it’s okay. And it’s also true what the commenters are saying. Those of us who live in the snow belt just kind of get used to it. We get good boots and warm clothes, and that’s all. I suspect this won’t turn out to be an insurmountable problem, but right now for OP this feels like a worry. I want to encourage OP 3 to make the most of the internship and really get into it and by the time the snow flies, things will hopefully feel more in-hand.

  50. I'm just here for the cats!!*

    In regards to #1 is it normal for companies to give severances when they lay people off? In 2017 my company closed the branch in our town so we were all laid off (note the company was doing well, they had opened 2 other branches other places in the US but closed ours because they could pay less in other areas). All they did was have someone come in to explain how to file for unemployment. I think upper management got severance. So is it normal to get severance?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*


      I’ve been formally laid off once. I was offered a payment of 6 weeks’ salary if I stayed through the end of the year (120 days out). They were labeling this as severance, but structurally it was a retention bonus.

      I was part-time, and had come into the office that day to negotiate scheduling of PTO so I could interview with a full-time, permanent position in another industry with another company, so I didn’t last the 120 days. In my very limited experience, when the individual in question is not being fired for cause, American employers do tend to offer compensation of some sort to ease the transition to the next role and prevent the dismissal from immediately turning the departing employee’s life upside-down financially.

    2. ThatGirl*

      In my experience, yes, when you lose your job because your position has been eliminated, it’s normal for companies to offer severance. I’ve gotten it twice now in my two layoffs, and I know that people at my current company were offered severance when they were laid off.

      But that doesn’t mean it’s universal, of course.

    3. Two Pop Tarts*

      I’ve been laid off three times, almost four, in my long career. Each involved severance pay.

      Two were major corporations, two were small companies with less than 100 employees.

      Not paying severance pay is not normal in the USA.

      You should also have been paid for any unused vacation time.

    4. I Have RBF*

      I’ve been laid off multiple times in multiple industries.

      Good companies will offer severance with no strings. Average companies will offer severance with strings (retention bonus, odious severance agreements, etc.) Mediocre companies might, might offer you two weeks in lieu of notice and do the layoff on Friday at 5 pm.

      IOTW, it varies a lot.

  51. Samthehaggis*

    For #2, I think the coffee cup test is ridiculous, but there is one detail that’s getting missed out. The versions I read suggested that the OFFER to take one’s cup back to the kitchen was what was appreciated, and that they wouldn’t necessarily take up that offer. So the comments about job candidates traipsing back to the kitchen or rummaging around for the dish soap are perhaps a little extreme.

    1. Dahlia*

      People don’t know that, though, when they make the offer. Those are the factors into why people wouldn’t want to make the offer.

  52. Dust Bunny*

    #3: Do not do that.

    I ride the bus to work. There are four blocks between my two bus stops. It doesn’t snow here, usually, but it often rains like cats and dogs (and I grew up walking at least a block in the snow to the school bus stop, in a different state. I also went to college in the Midwest and walked all over everywhere in the snow). You get some boots and a decent coat, carry your office shoes with you, and walk it. It’s only one block.

    The odds are pretty good that sometime in your life you’re going to have to walk a lot further in bad weather than this. It’s not that big a deal.

  53. thelettermegan*

    #3 – people who live with regular snow will say that it ‘builds character’, which is really the best you can do. You can also build your wardrobe (base layer, knee high boots, warm socks, ear covering, and those quilted masks from under armour to go under a fetching scarf).

    But you’ll also want to carefully observe how people in your area tackle winter. Sometimes places will tell people to stay home until streets and sidewalks are cleared, or let people make their best judgement in the colder months. Sometimes it’s smarter to be in a giant bus than a small car in a blizzard.

    You can always ask how people deal with it and what advice they have. If the weather is a concern, your boss is more likely to tell you to work from home than offer a ride. Chances are, if you bring up the bad weather, and she doesn’t offer it to you, that’s a no from her, and it’s not going to be as bad as you think.

  54. Pleasure Cruise*

    For 4-
    Don’t take this as negatively as it’s going to sound (I’m not in an editing mode right now), but clearly these deadlines aren’t important. Deadlines are made up flat circles that are only there to keep people feeling important and useful. If your boss doesn’t care, you get to not care! Pass Go, Collect $200, and wait for them to come back.

    1. I'm just here for the cats!!*

      It really does depend on the company and industry. If they need something done by X date, then it’s going to matter.
      OP’s boss may not have realized where they were in the project and how this would have effected them.

      1. Pleasure Cruise*

        Sure, if that makes you feel complete, go ahead.

        But if the boss doesn’t care about the deadlines, you get to not care too. It becomes their problem for not making sure the important signatories are there.

        And if this arbitrary deadline is missed, so what? The other arbitrary deadlines are missed? Ok. Shucks.

        If the business shuts down because of that, that really isn’t your problem in the first place.

        Boss shoulda made sure it could be completed.

  55. raincoaster*

    “ I still get a little panicky thinking about walking a block in knee-deep snow…”

    Oh, bless.

    Signed, Canada.

    1. CommanderBanana*

      I live in the DMV, so when I hear there’s snow in the forecast, I drive to the Beltway and pre-emptively abandon my car there. :D

    2. Pleasure Cruise*

      Literally. Like, move? Or like, get used to the snow? It happens in half the world for half the year. We ALL don’t like getting around in knee-deep snow.

  56. rudster*

    #2 was totally my grandpa at the printing company he co-owned in the early 40’s. He would put a newspaper on the floor somewhere near were the candidate would be waiting and then watched to see if they picked it up and put back on the table.

  57. Observer*

    #3 – I am SOOOO glad that I’m not the only one who read this “brilliant” THING that supposedly tells you all you need to know about how someone is to get along with. It’s just nonsense.

    To take another reason why this doesn’t work – notions of hospitality vary all over the map. Even, maybe especially, in a workplace context where you don’t know roles and how work is distributed. In a lot of cultures asking something like this could be a real faux pas. Like you don’t realize that the people whose job it is, don’t know what to do / how to do it. Or like it’s faux folksiness. And in some workplaces, work rules around this stuff can be bewilderingly (at least to outsiders) specific and even rigid. So if we’re using disposable cups, sure I’ll chuck in to the nearest trash bin. Otherwise? I’m not taking up the time of my interviewer to help me get back to the kitchen and get in the way of the kitchen staff.

    I get it – this could be a place where people generally do bring their stuff back to the kitchen, and maybe even wash their own dishes. Presumably, if I went to work there someone would tell me that, and a reasonable person will just take care of their stuff. But how is anyone supposed to know from an initial interview?

  58. Dasein9 (he/him)*

    LW #3 Here are some things I learned after escaping from Virginia to New York, then Chicago:

    1. A few blocks in the snow will be fine. If the snow is fresh, it’s less slippery. People walking on the sidewalks will pack it down and that sometimes turns to ice, but there’s usually salt on sidewalks. If it’s really bad, get Yak Trax.

    2. Sometimes I found it warmer to just walk instead of waiting for the bus. Depends on how far you’re going.

    3. A big coat or parka does not require a lot of layers underneath. You’ll end up overheating, especially once you get on the bus. Dress lightly under your parka so you can unzip on the bus and not swelter.

    4. Mittens are warmer than gloves.

    5. Avoid the yellow snow. Not all dog owners think to steer their dogs away from spots passers-by might brush against when the upshoveled snow on the side of the walkways gets deep.

    6. People like sharing their tricks for dealing with the weather if you ask.

  59. Ex-prof*

    LW #3, find out if there’s a place where you can leave a pair of “office shoes”. This is common practice in some snowbound places; I have taught in buildings where each each classroom desk had a pair of shoes neatly lined up beside them.

    It’s important to get approval for this, though, as an intern who may not have their own desk.

  60. Observer*

    #3 – Worried about snow.

    I want to highlight what Alison said about “mom to everyone”. She is 100% correct. But also, if *she* actually sees herself in that role, it’s still not a good way to relate to her. Not for her and *not for you* You are an adult learning professional norms, not a child that needs to be taken care of. You want to be seen and treated as the former, not the latter. Because you will actually get a lot more out of the experience that way, and you will form more useful and possibly durable when people see you as an adult (almost) professional rather than a kid. And keep in mind that if you do relate to her in the Mom persona, it is going to be how others see you as well.

    1. MsSolo (UK)*

      Yes, the fact the manager gave LW a sandwich at the interview is raising red flags for me (I wonder how that fits into the other manager’s coffee test!). It’s not standard to feed interviewees unless it’s an all-day affair, which I assume a internship interview was not. If she does try to mother you, you risk looking like a kid to the rest of the office. Keeping professional boundaries is even more important in these circumstances.

  61. LivesinCalgary*

    #3, I’ve walked to work many times on very snow or very cold days, you can do it. Wear proper boots (but bring an extra pair of shoes for the office), wear snowpants if you need to, and give yourself extra time to get there. On those types of days I was often offered rides home by coworkers, sometimes I’d accept but not always as like Allison says, you don’t want it to become an expectation that people should give you rides.

    Side note: Proper winter gear is worthy investment. I spent too much of my early 20’s being cold and wet.

    1. nnn*

      Building on this, one thing #3 could actually do is, when water cooler talk naturally turns to cold weather, ask “You know, this is going to be the first time I’ve ever had to walk in snow! Any recommendations of what kind of boots to get?”

      This would be a way to drop the information that you’ll be walking in the snow and that it’s not effortless for you, while also coming across as prepared to take responsibility for getting yourself to work.

      Don’t keep bringing it up repeatedly to drop hints, just do it once.

  62. This_is_Todays_Name*

    lW4 stated, “salaried employees have “unlimited vacation” as long as they are attending to their job duties.” I take that to mean, “expect to be pinged about in the moment needs while on vacation if necessary,” so I think the LW would be fine sending an email or text saying, “Hey hope you’re enjoying sunny Aruba, and I hate to interrupt, but I need your signature on the attached before I can proceed with widget production. Thanks!”

    1. Clara*

      Huh? That’s not what it means. It means that you should arrange for whatever needs to happen for widget production before you go, but you can do that as many times a year as you’d like.

  63. WestWingOkay*

    #2: I was once on a (terrible for many reasons) campus interview where I had to clean my coffee cup *before* getting coffee. We were between sessions, and they offered me coffee or tea while I waited. Normally, I always turn it down, but I had slept terribly the night before and was so nervous, so I said coffee would be great. They seemed surprised I said yes and scrambled to find a cup for me (it was a small staff and everyone just had a mug from home). Someone finally located one not in use on their cubicle shelf, which had dust and coffee stains on the bottom. At this point, after they’d gone to so much trouble searching, I couldn’t turn it down. I rinsed it as best I could and cringed through every sip. Thankfully didn’t get the job.

    1. Observer*

      Yeah, I think you really dodged a bullet there. Not having a cup is no big deal. But do NOT ever offer someone something that you don’t have the capacity to provide.

      Maybe this was also a secret test, and you failed because you not only said yes but you didn’t stop them when they started scrambling.

      Or maybe they are just stupid and didn’t think.

      Either way, it sounds like it would be a terrible place to work.

  64. Angstrom*

    #2: The only “secret test” that seems reasonable is checking with the receptionist/admin/support staff on how they were treated by the interview candidate. The interviewee should get a little slack for being nervous, but being a flaming jerk to the folks who make the office run is a huge red flag.

    1. mreasy*

      YES to this. Or if it’s a meal, how they treat waitstaff. I wish that it weren’t a “secret” that people need to treat administrators & service staff well but it is absolutely a data point to use.

      1. I have opinions...*

        “I wish that it weren’t a “secret” that people need to treat administrators & service staff well…”

        I think that’s the crux of the issue. There are those who view those acts as tests to pass rather than simple human decency. Those are the ones who get upset when they believe this was applied as a secret test of sorts. And those are exactly the ones who are good to avoid hiring.

        1. Observer*

          There are those who view those acts as tests to pass rather than simple human decency. ~~snip!! And those are exactly the ones who are good to avoid hiring.

          Yup. 100% It reminds me of they guy who was upset that he didn’t get a job, and he though it was because he messed up the CEO’s wife (who he didn’t know was the CEO’s wife.) He complained in the follow up that no one at university had “explained” this to them.

          Follow up:

  65. RagingADHD*

    I think the coffee cup test is a way to screen out candidates who were raised with different etiquette rules about boundaries. Which is a great way to get a culturally homogenous office without admitting you’re only hiring people who are from the same place and raised the same way as you.

    In a lot of places, it would be considered a huge overstep for a guest to go into the kitchen and wash dishes without being explicitly invited to do so.

  66. Contracts Killer*

    I had to laugh at the wording of OP#5 final three weeks as “am serving that time out right now” like it’s the last bit of their jail sentence.

  67. CommentKoi*

    #2: tests like that are bad for a lot of reasons, but I was also thinking – what happens if a interviewee explicitly asks what to do with the cup? Because asking “oh, what would you like me to do with this?” is still considerate! It’s probably what I would do! Does the interviewer do the general polite thing and say “oh I’ll take it back to the break room”, thus undoing their own test? Or do they say “please take it to the break room and clean it”, which defeats the purpose but is also weird? There’s so many ways this falls apart. Interview “hidden tests” are silly.

  68. Marketing Ninja Unicorn*

    OP #2, when I hire (paid internships or direct reports), I always email them to confirm the interview and mention they’ll be coming to the main entrance where ‘Sue’ and ‘Jane’ at the front desk will sign them in and let me know they’re here.

    I always ask those women how the applicants spoke to them when they arrived. It’s not a deal-breaker, but part of my job and the jobs I hire for involves interfacing with other people/the public/stakeholders and I want the information of whether those people were polite to our front desk staff.

    We had one applicant last year who walked up, didn’t say hi, didn’t say his name, just said, ‘I’m here for my interview so you need to let Marketing Ninja know I’m here.’

    He didn’t get the job for a variety of other reasons, but his sheer rudeness to our staff was definitely a strike against him. I don’t need a rude person on staff because I don’t have time for damage control if you’re rude to the wrong person.

    1. el l*

      That’s fair. The difference is “observing” rather than “testing.”

      If you observe them being rude to front staff, that’s telling.

      If you require them to say a particular phrase to the front staff (or in this case don’t tell them and just expect them to do it organically), that’s just a dumb test.

      I do a similar observation thing: If there is someone (like my boss) who is a very important business relationship, I set up a dinner to make sure my spouse meets them. I then ask my spouse what they think, and if they detect trouble, listen. Because they’re not invested the way I am.

    2. RagingADHD*

      I think that’s completely relevant to the job (even one that isn’t public facing, because most jobs need people to be polite and get along with their coworkers). It’s also a pretty basic, universal standard of politeness – greet people, introduce themselves, etc.

      The thing that makes the coffee cup thing a “gotcha” is that it is not at all normal behavior in most job interviews.

    3. I Have RBF*

      I guess I’m just programmed to say “Hi”, “Hello”, or “Good morning/afternoon” when dealing with reception security. It is a basic courtesy that costs nothing.

      “Hi, I’m here for an interview with Marketing Ninja at 2 pm. My name is I Have RBF. Could you please let them know I’m here? Thanks!”

      Standard stuff.

  69. el l*

    I’m sure a company somewhere has done it that way. More likely and more common is a difference in perspective.

    The evidence from studies that people work more productively at home is…mixed. Depends on how collaborative your work is, be that collaboration internal or client-facing. The more collaboration is required for a finished product, the less productive WFH is. More thoughtful bosses understand this. For the less thoughtful bosses, they spend their days in meetings, and they assume that’s how work gets done, rather than lots of white-collar manual labor. That’s the movement.

    Even before COVID, I’ve been around long enough to see WFH experiencing pendulum shifts. We’re now moving towards the “in office” end of the pendulum. It’s typically happened about every decade, but is happening faster this time. Don’t worry, in-office will experience an overshot sometime in the next few years, and WFH will become acceptable again.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      This, and also adding:

      You may be extremely productive and your work may be incredibly in tune to working remotely, but it is entirely possible that same work is NOT conducive to remote training of NEW staff. And while some have said, “Well just have those people in office until they are trained up!” doesn’t work, because the people who need to train them/mentor them/etc. are remote. At my old job, we were dealing with this scenario with a particularly large unit and it is causing a lot of issues. The existing, pre-COVID staff can effectively complete their tasks fully remote, if needed, but the training is problematic. It’s actually a hybrid setup, so in theory there could be a manager-on-duty scenario, but people are also territorial about their work/processes/staff who report to them.

      There are definitely instances where this can be overcome and it’s not completely insurmountable an issue in all scenarios, but it is something to consider. However, companies should be looking at this thoughtfully rather than a one-size-fits-all solution.

      1. kiki*

        Yeah, this is what I’ve witnessed as well. People who are senior, experienced, or long-term employees of the company adjust really well to working remotely and don’t see a reason to be in the office. But then new folks and junior folks aren’t accounted for. Getting those folks up to speed in a remote setting requires a lot more intention, care, and proactive work than a lot of folks realize.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          Yup. And it is definitely doable! My former team came up with some really good strategies to train and keep new staff engaged. It was not something they ever expected they’d need to handle and they pivoted so seamlessly – it was definitely a point of pride for me to see these people who worked for me handle something like this with such little guidance and experience and do it so well. Especially since it isn’t at all universal.

          But I also will say this: different work is different, and there are some types of work that lend itself better to this sort of training than others. I will say, even my most ardent lovers/defenders of wfh on that team would routinely say that while they made it work and they were happy with the results, they found they missed the bullpen-style chatter that would come with just listening and absorbing what their more experienced colleagues were working on, or having someone with a different perspective chime in on an issue. Teams chats definitely helped with bridging this gap, but it was a more active/conscious engagement, with the former being more passive.

          1. el l*

            Really good, thoughtful points. Agree that younger employees lose many benefits of apprenticeships (figuratively) while remote. If the work flows directly and easily from your degree (e.g. coding), maybe not a huge issue, but for most workplaces I think it’s a huge liability. And your point is excellent that this apprenticeship does to some extent require the senior mentors to be around.

            Again, not that a reasonable approximation of this mentoring is impossible – but you have to be intentional about it rather than just expect it to happen as you go.

            1. Green beans*

              our coders are saying it’s actually a problem – the senior coders used to just look over at junior coders’ screens which they can’t do WFH, and the junior staff is much less likely to ask questions via slack and in stand up meetings.

              1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

                I definitely think there are a lot of roles where we hadn’t thought about the impacts of training/mentoring new staff long term!

                I think having a hybrid setup (at least for managers) works well, with new staff that are still training being in office for a set period before being authorized for a more set/regular remote schedule. This only works, however, if the managers aren’t territorial about other managers who are on site that day jumping in to answer questions or assist.

  70. Silicon Valley Girl*

    #4 has nothing to do with unlimited vacation. Managers need to let their direct reports know if they’ll be unavailable, unless it’s an unavoidable emergency — & even then, a decent manager will try to get word out at some point.

    I’ve worked at 2 companies with unlimited PTO & you need to give advance notice just as you would anywhere else.

  71. Floridian*

    The sandwiches crowd is being really aggro to the snow OP. Usually it’s so open minded here that folks’ brains are falling out. What’s the difference?

    1. Sally Rhubarb*

      While I agree that asking for a ride from your boss is probably poor form, people need to give LW 3 a break. If you’ve never had to deal with snow, it can be daunting!

      I’d like all of the Great Frozen Northeners to come down here in hurricane season and then tell me how to act in the face of a weather event I’m not familiar with.

    2. Observer*

      I think that what’s setting people off is two things.

      One is “panicky” is a bit of an over-reaction to the issue they are describing. I get that it’s daunting, but this goes beyond that. And then they seem to be jumping to the most problematic potential solution. A solution that essentially asks their manager to take care of them in ways that go well beyond a normal workplace relationship.

  72. Jenna*

    LW #3; please don’t ask your boss to drive you. I am the manager who in interviewing would notice a close by address (and maybe comment on a popular coffee shop/restaurant in the area to build comradery). That wouldn’t mean I’d be up for taking on driving an employee-for one you don’t know about the time they get up/if they take meetings in the car (that you might not be able to listen to) or what their schedule is like.

    Don’t open that can of worms. She may on occasion (bad weather, etc.) offer-(and in those exception cases I would be ok with it)-but don’t ask. It also can be construed as favoritism if she manages others.

    1. I have opinions...*

      Agreed. Do be honest with her about potential challenges getting in during extreme weather. But what she chooses to offer from there or not is entirely up to her. Don’t even broach the topic.

      1. Lily Potter*

        IF she offers to pick you up – it would be a kindness to, in return, offer to show up and help shovel her car out before the two if you head into the office.

  73. Potatoes*

    Coffee test is SO bizarre!
    In my office the kitchen is right in the middle of the floor and I sit closest to it, facing the kitchen. So I can see pretty much everyone and most ppl acknowledge me. Tbh, I’m not sure I would be happy seeing random people using our facilities and/or asking me questions.

  74. Mobius 1*

    Ironically enough, the method described in #2 is also probably good at preventing anybody getting hired, and thus rendering wacky forced attrition methods as depicted in #1 unnecessary.

  75. I have opinions...*

    I’d probably ask what they’d like me to do with the mug if they asked about coffee and I accepted. And I’d expect the answer to be, “Oh just leave it there. We’ve got it.” In other words, the same answer I’d give with roles reversed.

    If the answer was, “The kitchen is down that way. Get to it.” I’d cross that job off my list immediately. And if they didn’t ask me to wash it, but held it against me, I’d be just fine “losing” that opportunity.

  76. AnnieG*

    Intern who’s nervous about getting to work in the snow: nope, don’t ask your boss to give you a ride. If there’s snow, her commute is already going to be longer due to having to drive slower, and she may also need to clear snow from her driveway (which could take 20 minutes to an hour) or deal with backup childcare if it’s a snow day and she has school-age kids. Don’t impose on her.

    If you’re old enough and capable enough to have an internship, you can manage getting to the office. You can do this!

  77. K*

    I don’t see how #1 could really work. When a business needs to layoff employees they have a specific number in mind. Doing something annoying and hoping they just quit is not gonna cut it. They have no way of ensuring that the correct number of people will quit. If too few quit they’ll have to do layoffs anyway and if too many quit they’ll have to hire replacements. It’s just not an efficient way to do things. I just don’t think it’s happening.

  78. Fez Knots*

    LW #3: I twice had to walk about a mile and a half from a train/bus station to an internship and then later, my job, in the South Bronx. Through snow and rain it wasn’t fun, but it soon became par for the course and I learned to dress for the weather.

    Since you’ve only got a block to go, I bet you’ll soon feel the same way and even faster than I did!

  79. umami*

    Who offers someone coffee in a mug but doesn’t offer a mechanism to retrieve the drinkware? This doesn’t make any sense, that’s not hospitality works at all. At MOST I could see having a spot clearly designated for leaving dirty drinkware for them to use, but expecting any guest to wash a mug at your place of business is absurd.

  80. Satan's Panties*

    #2: Okay, this coffee-mug test reminds me of something. Earlier this week*, I discovered the letter and followup from the person who responded to management’s request to cut expenses by making ridiculous sacrifices, such “making a point of” not eating the pizza that management provided when her team worked late. And I kept thinking, “Imagine if it was the other way around — if management was keeping track of who eats how much, and basing hiring/firing decisions on that. Is that anyone you want to work for?”

    So there’s got to be *someone* out there, *one* boss who is fascist enough to do that. “I’m ordering pizza, and I’m going to keep track of everyone’s consumption. Anyone who takes three or more slices won’t survive the next round of layoffs. People who take one or zero slices are safe, and two-slicers better watch their step.” Ridiculous, but a lot of ridiculous things happen just the same.

    *There was that letter this week from someone whose co-worker was taking an extra sody-pop home to use as a mixer. Someone, or several someones, in the comments referenced the Pizza Martyr, and I had to find out!

  81. OMG, Bees!*

    LW5, I haven’t seen anyone else cover it (but there are a lot of comments), my main advice would be to just have processes and things documented to hand off to your boss. Probably for the next hire, but something so that if she contacts you weeks later, you can gently point to the documentation.

  82. Avery*

    #4, just wanted to say you’re not alone. I had one position where my boss would go on trips seemingly at random–often work-related trips, but still with no notice to me beforehand (maybe they were on her calendar, but checking that wasn’t a part of my regular work duties). While being very hands-on much of the rest of the time, and leaving me to flail wondering whether I could proceed without her approval, or how long I would have to wait for her to return.
    I think in that case, part of the problem was that I was the only remote worker, and everybody in-person already knew about the trip, so they just… forgot to tell me. It probably won’t surprise you to hear that that isn’t the only way that being the only remote worker there bit me in the butt, or that that boss/job was full of bees in other ways.

  83. Justin D*

    My only (very weak) defense of the coffee cup test is that if you have no idea what you’re looking for in an employee this is a good way to select for sort of “supplicant” type personalities.

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