I didn’t get hired because I wasn’t “high energy” enough, telling a coworker to rein in their aggravation, and more

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

1. I didn’t get hired because I wasn’t “high energy” enough

I interviewed with a start-up recently and I think it went well: the standard recruiter call, the hiring manager call, then a call with a would-be colleague who I’d work in parallel with.

The day after the third call, the recruiter called and said they wouldn’t be moving forward with me for the role. I asked for feedback on how I can improve, and they said there really wasn’t anything negative, just that I wasn’t as strong as other candidates. So I asked again, what could I have done better that the other candidates showed? They said I wasn’t “high-energy” enough and that the other candidates were.

I know these people don’t know me that well because we only spoke for less than two hours total, but I am a very enthusiastic and energetic person. Others have recognized this in me, both at work and in my personal life. I even texted former coworkers about this and they essentially said “ha!” when I asked if I wasn’t a high-energy person.

I don’t know what to make of this feedback. I felt I brought my authentic self to this interview process, as I do for all the others. I ended the third call saying I was excited about the role and looking forward to working together. I’ve been working in this space for a few years now so I know how to talk, act, think, etc. for this crowd. But now I’m not so sure.

Is this just recruiter BS? Is this something that’s a valid criticism? And how would I demonstrate my energy levels authentically in an interview?

I wouldn’t put a ton of stock in it. Especially because the recruiter didn’t say it until you pushed for feedback a second time, it’s entirely possible that they took an off-hand comment the hiring manager made and put more weight on it than it deserved. (For example, the hiring manager commented that she liked that one of the other candidates was high-energy, and the recruiter turned that into a deficiency on your part because you were pushing for something — when it doesn’t necessarily mean that at all.)

Of course, it’s always good to reflect on feedback, even if it seems off-base to you. But it sounds like you’ve done that.

That said, some quick thoughts on ways to demonstrate energy: varying your tone of voice/not using a monotone, smiling, nodding, eye contact, paying attention to your posture (leaning forward a bit comes across differently than leaning back the whole time), asking thoughtful questions, finding ways to make a personal connection to the position, moving with some urgency when things are asked of you (like not delaying if you’re asked to send references) … and if you’re really concerned, you could do a mock interview with someone and get their feedback. But again, it’s likely this was just a recruiter reaching for something when pushed for feedback.

2. Should I tell a younger coworker to rein in their clearly audible aggravation?

A couple teams share my office suite, and one of them currently only has two full-time members, who are both 23 years old. They’re good at their jobs, but they’ve been forced to take on a lot of extra work with no extra help. Their boss resigned months ago, and no one has replaced her yet.

As time goes on, one of them has become more and more downright contemptuous about all other teams. I see their point, but the expressions of frustration are beyond office norms. We have plenty of gallows humor, but I hear them cursing out emails from across the floor at least once a day. Today, we were in an elevator with other employees, and they were naming and shaming a C-suite boss. While walking to the C-suite floor, they loudly said one department must be illiterate.

I once had their job and really sympathize with them. And frankly, I don’t care if they hate everyone. I get it! But I feel like they’d benefit from someone saying, “I know how pissed you are. Keep the cursing to under your breath, and do not say anything bad outside our office. No one else knows our culture, and it sounds really spiteful.”

I am in no way their boss, just a colleague who’s been here many more years but is still a relatively young person. Is there any graceful way to give this note, or does it cross into unprofessional feedback they didn’t ask for?

A reasonable person would appreciate that feedback and would want to know if they were potentially causing harm to themselves. I don’t know if this particular colleague is reasonable or not, but it would be a kindness to say it. Explain you know how frustrated they are and why, and they’re not wrong to be upset — i.e., establish that you’re on their side about that part — but that they’re not doing themselves any favors by being overheard talking the way they’re talking. Give a couple of examples and explain what could happen if someone other than you heard them. If they don’t appreciate it, that’s on them, but it’s not overstepping by trying to help, particularly given how new to the world work they are.

Don’t keep harping on it, obviously; this is a one-and-done conversation, and then it’s up to them what they do with the info.

3. Employee keeps calling me “hun”

How do I address an employee who keeps calling me “hun”? While I do not believe there is malicious intent, I prefer not to be called that. This is someone who does not report to me, but I am in HR so it’s a bit weird that he feels comfortable doing so. He has only done so via email but not yet over the phone (but I know it’s coming). What makes it even stranger is that he is young (22). I’d be more inclined to let it go if were an older person, but I just can’t let it slide. It feels condescending. Any suggestions or wording to put an end to this?

“Please call me Jane, not hun — thanks!”

And if that doesn’t immediately put a stop to it, have a word with his manager because it’s highly likely he’s doing it to other people and should be told to cut it out.

4. How can I talk to my employee about accommodations for her ADHD?

My current supervisee used to be my supervisor. We both did other things for a year and returned to our company, this time in a different division, of which I’m now the lead. We had a frank discussion about the change in dynamics and so far, things are going decently well.

My question is how to talk about accommodations, if appropriate, with her. In our previous roles she had shared that she had recently been diagnosed with ADHD and other learning disabilities. I was her supervisee at the time so I didn’t ask questions. When we transitioned into our new roles, she made an off-handed comment about her diagnoses, so I asked her if there were any accommodations in place that I should be aware of. She said she didn’t need any, and was handling it.

But, she isn’t. There are lots of things falling through the cracks. She has trouble following conversation threads, misses meetings, forgets things, and doesn’t follow through. I’ve addressed each thing as they have come up and asked her input on how to improve, but because I know what I know about her, I wonder if she really could benefit from some accommodations. However, I don’t know what those would be and our history together and the potential HR issues implicated here complicate things. I sought out the advice of our HR department, but they were unhelpful.

You’ve got to use a pretty light touch when it comes to pushing someone to seek out formal medical accommodations. You should name the issues you’re seeing, and you should say that those problems are serious enough that things are at the point where you need to figure out solutions — but beyond that, the most about accommodations specifically would be something like, “I want to hear from you what you think might help, including potentially whether it’s something we could approach from an accommodations standpoint.”

You could also look at the Job Accommodation Network’s suggestions of accommodations that can be helpful for ADHD and think about whether you want to suggest trying any of those — not necessarily in the context of “this is a formal accommodation for your ADHD” but just as strategies in general (since many strategies for ADHD can be helpful in a whole variety of contexts).

{ 382 comments… read them below }

  1. Famous Amos*

    About a year into a really great job, I asked my coworkers about the day I went in for my interview and asked if I’d been second choice. (There was a big gap between interview and hiring.) I’m still not sure if I was or not but one did say they’d thought I might be too bubbly for them. Fam, I am not at all bubbly. It actually turned out to be a great job and team. (Of course it didn’t last. We got bought out by a competitor.) Needless to say, it’s all such a crap shoot at the point of hiring.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I bet I come off way more bubbly than I am when I’m interviewing. I almost default to a customer service voice, albeit an extra professional one.

      It’s important for hiring managers to know how different the person they interview may be from the one they get, and a lot do, but you can only go with the information in front of you.

      1. ThatGirl*

        I recruited a friend and former coworker to join my current team, but I coincidentally wasn’t in town when she interviewed, so I asked my coworkers what they thought and they all said “she’s so cheerful and bubbly!” and … she is, but I also thought “well, sure, she’s interviewing, everyone ramps up the charm then, don’t they?”

    2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

      I’m overthinking, but I wonder if the person gave subjective feedback because experience taught her that objective feedback brings argument or debate.
      We are looking for someone with five years’ experience.
      “I have 3 years, but I worked overtime and I volunteer with….”
      We need someone who knows XYX program.
      “I know ABC program. They are similar in critical ways…explanation”
      “You are not high energy enough compared to other candidates”
      …ok, thank you for your feedback.

    3. 123*

      Was talking to a former recruiter the other day. She emphasized how subjective it all was. More than once she has told me, “You could be rejected just because you remind of them of their dad.”

      There is no rhyme or reason to it.

      1. pally*

        Yep! I rejected one finalist because I got a “bad feeling” about the candidate. He issued all the right responses, but something about him just didn’t agree with my “inner voice”.

        I feel bad about such an assessment. However, my boss interviewed him and told me not to hire him (the other two candidates were both okay by him to hire). Boss couldn’t explain why, other than he got a bad feeling about the guy. This without knowing my assessment about him.

        And, to be fair, another time, the charming, funny, interesting, ‘high energy’ candidate we hired turned out to be a nightmare. For everyone.

        It’s purely the luck of the draw.

        1. Longtime Reader*

          Ooh, this is an interesting one! Did you and your boss interview this guy on the same day? Did you ever find out anything about him afterwards that validated the two of you getting bad vibes?

        2. Lana Kane*

          My team and I interviewed a guy who was so. good. during his interview. My manager was excited to check his references and get the paperwork started. The references were terrible. He used all that charm and knowledge to harass and bully his coworkers.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        This is why I don’t bother asking for feedback. If it’s for a discriminatory reason, they aren’t going to be stupid enough to tell me. If it’s for an arbitrary reason, they probably aren’t going to want to tell me that. If it’s because of something objective, like the selected candidate had more years of experience in X than I did, usually they either volunteer that information or it’s obvious for me to figure that out when they announce the new hire.

        I’ve never been described as a high-energy person. I do light up when people talk about one of my special interests though, one of which is the field I’m now working in. If the interviewer is good with that level of enthusiasm, great! If not? No worries. I do not want to get into that job and then have to fake happiness all the time when my general demeanor is somewhat personable raincloud. I bring my authentic self to interviews and then let them decide if that’s what they’re looking for.

        1. Barefoot Librarian*

          “I bring my authentic self to interviews and then let them decide if that’s what they’re looking for.”

          This is something I’ve been working on doing the last few years and weirdly, it’s working out for me. Either way, I don’t want to pretend to be something I’m not when I get hired. I just moved up to a director position in my tech company two steps below the CEO and I didn’t mask at all in my interview. I know my resume shines, but I’m ADHD and sometimes scatter brained; cheerful but a bit sassy; knowledgeable but a bit cocky about it. This has occasionally gotten me some unsavory labels as a woman in a largely male dominated field, but the interviewers clearly were good with it because I got the job and I was up against some strong candidates. Better yet, the team is a GREAT match for me. I fit right in and get along well with everyone.

      3. Sarah*

        I think that’s the thing to remember. You can get rejected because of someone’s preconceived notion of you or your experience, and that’s just how that cookie crumbles. In my opinion, these kinds of things are shorthand for ‘you weren’t the first choice based on interviewers subjective preferences and not because of anything on your resume’. Back when I was job searching several years ago, I was rejected by a hiring manager that had seemed completely perfunctory and uninterested in me from the moment the interview started. After the fact I got the feedback of “she thought that you wouldn’t be interested in staying in a job like this in the long term” (which, it was a contract so by definition it had an end date). Sometimes hiring managers just make arbitrary decisions.

      4. Zoe*

        My employer does the opposite, makes terrible hiring choices because they remind her of her daughters and wants to give them a chance.

    4. lilsheba*

      I really hate that whole “high energy” thing. Like you have to be UP all the time. They never account for anyone who is neuro divergent in any way or introverted. Why can’t people just be calm for gods sake.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        I’d consider this job a bullet dodged. I do my best to match the energy of the person I’m collaborating with, but on migraine days I consider “pleasant and mildly interested” to be an achievement.

      2. Rare Disease Anon*

        Yeah, in addition to being aut istic, I have a hereditary connective tissue disorder. One of the ways in which it manifests is that my voice tires more easily than most people’s (joints and connective tissue are involved in speaking! they just are not ones that people normally think about) and I am naturally quite soft-spoken. And combined with the aut ism, that means that I have to actively monitor my own affect and prosody and put a lot of effort into it if it needs to be different than what would come naturally to me.

        I have a job where sometimes I do need to do that, and that’s fine. I knew that was the case when I took the job, and I actually like most of the tasks where I have to do that except for that piece of them. At a previous job that involved working with members of the public, I ran into problems because a few people complained to my manager about my ostensibly being apathetic (at least I got better at modulating my affect and prosody when I need to as a result of that, but it was very stressful).

        1. DivergentStitches*

          Oh hi you’re me (hugs)

          I once got written up because I didn’t verbally say hi to a coworker in the hall, just smiled and nodded.

        2. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

          The vocal chord fatigue is so real! Especially after being remote for so long (hi, EDS vulnerability to long COVID!), doing a whole day of talking in the office is so hard, and hurts my throat, and always scares me that I’ve caught something despite masking. Such an annoying downside.

      3. so tired*

        THIS!!! I am really bubbly, but sometimes I burn out and get quiet. I have a non-verbal learning disability so other times I don’t know when to stop talking. I also feel like women get this feedback more then men. I hate this market right now it’s such crap.

    5. Jessica*

      I also wonder if LW is female or from another marginalized group, because the “there’s no negative feedback we can give you, the other candidates were just stronger… Uh, you weren’t ‘high-energy’ enough” is pinging my potential unconscious bias radar. (And where I work, it’s something that would get pushback and requests for more concrete data in the interview debrief.)

      There was a trend covered by a lot of media about 10 years ago around how, in reviews and other work feedback situations, men were more likely to get actionable feedback about their *behavior,* while women were more likely to get inactionable feedback about their *personalities* (e.g. the dreaded “abrasive” label).

      This is similarly useless personality feedback. (We usually use “high-energy” to describe *people,* not their behavior.)

      You can absolutely *interpret* it into actionable behavior feedback, like Alison did, but on its face (especially in combo with the initial response that they didn’t have any feedback), it basically translates to “we just didn’t like you as much.”

      So it’s very much the sort of thing that I wouldn’t spend too much time trying to parse, and wouldn’t take too much to heart.

      1. Random Dice*

        That’s exactly where my mind went. I was guessing that LW is female and the other candidates were male.

    6. Meow*

      I had the opposite. People’s first impression of me tends to be that I am… a stick in the mud, to be kind to myself. I was hired for a job once and when I got there the first day, the boss made a comment that he was glad I was here to “whip those boys into shape”. Haha. I fit right with them, actually. Might have stayed longer if the boss wasn’t such a jerk.

  2. so very tired*

    Re #4:

    I have ADHD and I’ve asked for accommodations at work. It helps to know what’s actually available and possible from HR/the company: can an employee work from home, and if so how long? Can anything be done about securing a desk or workspace in a quiet area that’s low on visual distractions? Can instructions be more explicit? Just a few things I’ve asked for and successfully won, to some extent.

    Also knowing what is required of the employee to get said accommodations. For my work from home exemption I needed a letter from my doctor explaining which accommodations I needed and how not having them was adversely impacting my health. I’m not sure how formal your company’s requirements for accommodations are. Maybe there are little things you can do to make things a bit easier on the employee without bringing in paperwork and HR review etc.? That stuff can really spook anyone. If you can bring it up in a way that seems like disciplinary and more like reaching out in good faith, maybe that will help too. People with ADHD are pretty used to feeling like we’re constantly in trouble so “I got it” is sometimes not true. It might just be a shield because we rarely get the support we need at work.

    If you can bring any suggestions on what accommodations realistically exist that might help get the ball rolling. Every person with ADHD has different experiences, and that makes it hard to find the right things on the surface. For me knowing what I could realistically ask for and knowing where the hard no’s were made it possible to negotiate and trade off things that were nice-to-haves for the things that were necessary.

    This is not easy and I want to say thank you for trying to help your employee. I hope it works out.

    1. Moodbling*

      I have ADHD too and strongly agree. one of the hardest parts of asking for accommodations is not having any idea what the employer will find reasonable. if you can go to your employee with some options to start from, it will be much more helpful than just saying “do you need an accommodation/do you need help.”

      but also, please make sure the specific things you offer are actually real options before you bring them up.

      1. Mimmy*

        I’ve had this issue too. I remember years ago when I started a new job, my supervisor said to let her know if I needed any accommodations. I didn’t have any ideas at the time and ended up having a lot of difficulty. Even nowadays having much more knowledge about accommodations, I still don’t really know what to ask for. It’s hard to know until you really start to learn your job and start to get a sense of how accommodating the employer really is.

    2. Earlk*

      YEah, it definitely isn’t a one size fits all situation. Ultimately I needed to leave a job and find one more suited to how I work best before any of the accommodations I’d sourced from research/therapy actually helped make a difference.

      Unfortunately, there is very little an employer can do in many cases however if you have the time (and think they’d appreciate it) in the last job where I really struggled keeping all my plates spinning my manager and I had twice weekly meetings where we’d both go through our task lists and help prompt each other with things we might have missed and also brainstormed if there was anything either of us was stuck on. She doesn’t have ADHD but we thought we may as well make the time useful for both of us :)

      1. Ophelia*

        This is helpful – I manage an employee who is up-front about her ADHD, and while I generally don’t see her work suffer at all, I do think she has a tendency to take on too much, and while she does keep all the plates spinning, I don’t want her to burn out. I have done a few basic things–keeping a closer eye on workload, sending agendas ahead of our check-ins so we have a clear list of things to discuss, making sure that people don’t bother her on vacation–but those are all things I really should be doing with ALL my staff, so it’s actually been a benefit to me as a manager, I think.

        1. Katrina*

          Yeah, the taking on too much is a common issue that comes with time blindness. I have ADHD, and I will analyze ten-minute tasks as, “That will only take a [literal] minute” or “that will take [literally] no time at all.”

          Then even when I stay focused and move smoothly from one thing to another, I’m shocked and amazed that doing a dozen such tasks takes two hours and not less than fifteen minutes. And until I actually figured out what the issue was, I just thought I was a slow, lazy worker for never being able to complete what logically to me I should have had time for.

          It helps me when someone says, “Can you do X? It should take about [realistic time estimation from person with working internal clock].” (But the other stuff you’re doing is great, too!) The nice thing is, when I have a clearly outlined and realistic workload, I am insanely productive, because just finishing all the stuff I set out to do feels like a mental treat.

          It’s when I start to get overwhelmed that executive function starts failing hard.

          Hope some of this is helpful!

          1. Longtime Reader*

            Fellow ADHDer here, I totally agree! Knowing the “normal” amount of time I should plan to work on something is super helpful from both a time management perspective, and to head off my own perfectionist tendencies so that I don’t accidentally spend three hours on a task that would have been “good enough” after 15 minutes. Making expectations as clear and explicit as possible is something I think managers should generally strive for anyway, for all employees, but it makes an especially big difference for neurodivergent folks.

    3. Clare*

      Sometimes things that help aren’t really formal accommodations but just a commitment to not jumping to the conclusion of “She’s slacking off” when the person is trying to get some extra dopamine. Things like taking her laptop outside to work in the nearby park, playing videos on one monitor (with headphones) while working on the other or jumping from task to task instead of completing them sequentially are all traditional markers of ‘slacking off’ that can counter-intuitively improve ADHD productivity. Those kinds of things don’t need formal accommodations so much as an “Oh that’s just Alex, she gets more done that way” attitude. Only if she actually does get more done that way, of course. But “Be as weird as you like so long as you get a lot of work done and don’t distract others” can be a great non-accommodation accommodation ime.

      1. Irish Teacher*

        I don’t have ADHD but may or may not be autistic and yeah, this. My colleagues seem to have figured that it’s a good idea to be clear with me if they want me to do something (our previous Special Educational Needs Co-Ordinator used straight out tell me, “I’m busy now. I haven’t time to listen to you” if I were talking too much when she needed to work, which was actually great because it was understood that I could go and talk to her any time and she would tell me if she was busy and couldn’t talk). They also ignore my constant fidgeting and doing things like tossing my markers in the air and catching them (which my students actually think kinda cool) and try to accommodate my picky eating and ensure I’m not overwhelmed at things like nights out.

        I don’t need any formal accommodations but the general air of “be as weird as you like. It’s worth putting up with your social awkwardness and talk about de Valera in order to get your obsessive planning and research and accurate memory” is pretty helpful and reassuring.

        1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          You totally misread. Not video games, *videos*. Like a Youtube video on one monitor that you listen to while working on the other monitor.

        2. Michelle Smith*

          No one said playing video games. I do want to say however that playing video games on my phone on my breaks actually does help me relax and be more focused when it’s time to get back to work.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            It is funny how the exact same activity gets different reactions on different platforms:
            -Paper & pencil game like sudoku? They’re sharpening their mind.
            -Same game on the phone? That’s only allowed on break.
            -Same game on the computer? Waste of company resources.
            -Same game on a gaming console? Fired.

      2. Stuckinacrazyjob*

        Yes, not jumping to conclusions of ‘ she was DOING THINGS AT ME DUE TO HATE IN HER HEART’ is the greatest accomodation

      3. Tau*

        I am always nervous about visibly doing something else on a video call (i.e.: colouring or knitting – usually the actual object is off camera but I’ll be obviously looking at something else). But in classic ADHD mode, if I’m on Zoom and not actively leading the meeting you can either get me appearing to be distracted but fully listening, or giving off all the overt signals of paying attention but not taking in a word of what’s happening. Thankfully, so far nobody’s objected.

        1. Aggretsuko*

          Yeah, my work would rather I have paid no attention as long as I LOOK like I paid attention.

          But since Zoom lets me look at other things or knit under the desk, it’s a lot better on this topic.

        2. Random Dice*

          ADHDer here – I use physical fidgets for that. So much Thinking Putty! And ONO rollers. And spinners. But mostly Thinking Putty.

      4. Aggretsuko*

        Honestly, the ADHD accommodations I’d want are ‘just let me be doing something else at the same time instead of sitting still staring at you.” But my office won’t make allowances for anyway.

    4. cleo*

      “People with ADHD are pretty used to feeling like we’re constantly in trouble so “I got it” is sometimes not true. It might just be a shield because we rarely get the support we need at work.”

      Oh my goodness did I need to read that this morning (I woke up early, freaking out about possibly causing a project to be delayed at work, because I wasn’t realistic about what I did and didn’t have under control). That is so, so true for me.

    5. Queenofthetamazons*

      I am also adhd have been working around the accommodations side of things. It’s hard to ask for accommodations because you don’t want to come across as being unable to perform your duties.

      When it comes to things like large projects, I would suggest setting up a schedule that chunks it into smaller sections. Most adhd people have large problems with time Blindness (not knowing how long something will take), Time management, And time horizons (How far away something is timewise). We also can’t always accurately prioritize.When everything is equally important nothing is important. When we’re struggling with enough to dopamine to initiate a task, a lot of times we wait for panic to be the motivator. This is why things are often left to the last minute. By setting up a schedule with mini goals and deadlines, it might be easier to stay on target.

      I would also suggest that there be a recap at the end of an important conversation. Ask her what did she take away from the conversation? Important points, order of operations et cetera. That way, you can make sure that you’re both on the same thing.

      1. NothingIsLittle*

        Time blindness is my biggest problem! If it’s a regular task, I like to time how long it takes then write that down +~5mins wiggle room so that I have a reasonable understanding of what is actually on my plate.

        1. Longtime Reader*

          This is a great suggestion! I’ve found that knowing objectively how long certain tasks will take can make them easier to initiate, because what might *feel* like it takes a long time, such as a task that I don’t personally enjoy, may only take a few minutes in reality. If I can make a point to check and focus on the “real world” time it takes instead of the time in my head, it’s not as much of a struggle to get started (and finished!).

          It can also help to pair passive and active tasks that should take similar amounts of time, setting the passive one in motion and then using it as a sort of “timer” for the active one. I can’t think of a work example at the moment, but a home example is putting the kettle on, then unloading the dishwasher while it comes to a boil. Two things get done at once and the starting of the passive task is a cue to also start the active task, plus there’s motivation to finish the active task before the passive task ends on its own.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          I have this issue with my dyscalculia. I have to build in extra time to do things because I can’t estimate it very well. Or do many things ahead of time, like setting up my entire morning the night before.

      2. Michelle Smith*

        Dear god, yes. If you tell me something is low priority, you might as well not have told me to do it in the first place. I’m slowly realizing “no rush” from my boss means “in the next couple of weeks” not “whenever you get around to it,” which for me is sometime between tomorrow and never. I’ve started asking for more concrete deadlines because without a real deadline (I need the X file by Tuesday, I’ve booked some time in my calendar to review this tomorrow, so get it to me by EOB, etc.), I just don’t have any urgency behind getting it done.

    6. NothingIsLittle*

      I completely agree and I would urge the OP to look at what the employee does well and what tools or skills are involved in that success. For example, I do much better and quicker graphic design work when listening to a video or podcast. When I started implementing that well doing rote tasks like uploading programming to websites, that also made me more accurate and quicker because I was at my optimal mental arousal level. Obviously people with ADHD differ, but her work allow her to listen to podcasts or wear noise cancelling headphones?

      Does she have any meetings or tasks that she’s consistently on top of and are they given to her or tracked differently from her other tasks? I have a coworker with a TBI who needs to have tasks I give him added as a calendar invite to the deadline so that he will remember them. I also need those calendar notifications for routine tasks that aren’t as frequent, like paying and submitting two monthly invoices.

      It also helps me to keep my email inbox as clear as possible so that the only things I see are outstanding tasks or important reminders. I have a robust set of rules to ensure that emails I might need to reference but do not need to see immediately are sent to appropriate folders so they don’t clutter my inbox and I am ruthless about deleting emails. (I work for a division of local government, so my deleted emails are not actually gone but they are not stored somewhere that I need to worry about.)

      Some people need a lot of follow up to stay on top of their work, so be fair with yourself about what you, as her manager, can and cannot offer as support. If she were to need a morning meeting and afternoon follow up email every day, is that something you could commit to in the short and/or long term? What about a weekly meeting? or daily emails? How regularly could you check a tracking sheet? Yes, it is good to be cognizant of other people’s neurodiversity, but the ADHD is hers to manage. As someone who also has ADHD, you are not doing any favors for her if you keep letting her not do any work, miss meetings, and ruin her reputation.

      My boss had to have a talk with me in my first 6 months to say, “Hey, this meeting isn’t optional and you can’t be consistently late to it, even though your actual arrival time does not matter as long as you’re working 40 hours a week. I do something different to my calendar to remember.” I knew that wouldn’t work for me, so she agreed I could come in earlier on all days. I genuinely would not have realized it was a problem, since others were regularly late to join or early to leave, but they had extenuating circumstances that did not extend to me.

    7. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I have ADHD and work with getting accommodations for employees who have ADHD and such a big hurdle is the fact that employees really need to ask for what they need. I can suggest things and point to resources, but it can be very overwhelming to consider twenty things you know won’t work for you just in hopes of figuring out one or two that will.

      Moreso than getting a special chair or allowing a shifted schedule, neurodivergence accommodations really need to be an interactive process. Our brains work differently, and we work our best under different conditions. And we might have no idea what those are.

      1. fine tipped pen aficionado*

        I also enjoy how sometimes the accommodations you fight tooth and nail for can just stop working for you! It can take a long time to find out if an accommodation really works for you or if you’re just enjoying the novelty of it, but even if something works for years one day it can just not do that anymore.

        (God forbid you have monthly hormonal fluctuations that change what works and what doesn’t every few weeks.)

        1. Putting the Dys in Dysfunction*

          I never stick with one organizational scheme, I’m constantly coming up with something different.

          But that’s what works for me.

    8. ferrina*

      Joining the chorus.

      I also have ADHD, and I’ve managed people with ADHD. When I had this convo, I approached it as a collaborative effort to get the person to the performance level I needed. First, I named the pattern of behavior. Next, say, “I want to help you in finding a solution, but I’m not sure what would be most helpful. I have no idea if the ADHD is a factor [say this even if you 100% know the ADHD is a factor], but I looked into some options for accommodations and here are a few things that we could offer. You let me know if any of these might make sense for you.” Then once your supervisee selects their strategy, say “great! Let’s give this a try and check in in a few weeks to see how this is going.”

      This is ultimately a conversation about performance. You need your supervisee to reach a certain level of performance. There are certain things that you can support them with; there are certain things you can’t help them with. The best thing you can do is name the problem and lay out a few actions. Another thing that can help is if you know they are trying a new strategy, think about how that fits into the workload. If you adjust the workload, be explicit about what you are doing “I know you are trying a new work flow strategy, so I am not going to assign you to the Ginormous Megalodon Files until we’ve had a chance to test this workflow and its impact.”
      Note that these conversations aren’t about ADHD- it’s about strategies for performance management. ADHD looks very different in different people, and different people will need different strategies. As the saying goes, “Try different.” And you don’t need to automatically say “yes” to any strategy that is suggested- you can say “Hmm, I need to think about how that would impact our workflow.” Then talk with HR to confirm that that particular accommodation causes undue burden (for example, I had an employee that wanted me to read her emails and give her action items based on the emails. Nope, that was unfeasible- she was welcome to ask about specific emails, but I didn’t have time to screen her inbox. I was running a department.)

      1. ecnaseener*

        +100 to “Note that these conversations aren’t about ADHD- it’s about strategies for performance management. ADHD looks very different in different people, and different people will need different strategies.” I’ve been in enough conversations (on this site, ADHD forums, etc) to have come to the conclusion that there are ZERO strategies or accommodations that will work for all ADHDers. For every value of X, some ADHDer needs X and another one needs Not X.

        1. Mill Miker*

          And even for the most reliable of accommodations, you’ll still find people who had that accommodation forced on them, with unrealistic expectations of what kind of improvement to expect. So even if it did work for them, there’s too much baggage now.

      2. Really Trying but Don't Know How*

        I’ve worked with/managed someone with ADHD for several years. Based on past work performance and not knowing of their diagnosis until recently, I fought hard to not expand their role. After I was given no choice, I didn’t embrace it but at least agreed to try. ive changed my tone to very friendly. hoping to avoid the panicked look they often have. We’ve started using printed calendars in addition to the handwritten task list that I give them. it helps to an extent, but doesn’t solve everything. I still have to check in with them hourly because they’ll often either stare into space or start playing games on their phone. I also have to remind them to follow their task list. I also feel that the job just may not be suited for them, but it’s beyond my control.
        In the meantime, I do continue to research ideas that may help.

        1. Random Dice*

          As a manager with ADHD who manages someone with ADHD… that situation you describe isn’t not workable. It’s wild that you’ve been doing this for years.

    9. kiki*

      Yes! I think this is a place where things can get hairy with accommodations. I think some managers see accommodations as something where the employee will come into the conversation with exactly what they need, but that’s not necessarily how it works. Employees don’t know what’s potentially an option from an employer’s standpoint.

      When I was really struggling with my mental health, I didn’t know what to ask for. I knew I couldn’t keep working how I was working, but I also didn’t know what was a realistic option. My boss listed some ideas, including the option to take a month of unpaid time off. I was in a place where I could financially swing that but I didn’t think it would be something my company would agree to.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        This happened at Exjob. I knew I needed something, but then my boss wouldn’t tell me what my new tasks would be. All I got was “it’s in Excel,” not what function or operations would be used. How was I supposed to figure out what processes to adapt if I didn’t know what I was going to be doing? I was told to take basic Microsoft Excel training online. I already knew how to use it; I used it every day, argh.

        It was very frustrating. They gave me an advocate, but Boss wouldn’t share anything with her either!

    10. fingerguns*

      This post encouraged me to go to my boss to request an informal accommodation to start wearing noise-dampening earplugs, so thank you and fingers crossed that it’s approved!

      Also seconding Queenoftheamazons on asking the employee to provide their own recap at the end of a conversation. It’s massively helpful to put things in my own words and check my comprehension. Bring it up in your conversation with the employee about possible accommodations to see whether they agree.

    11. Data Bear*

      Yes to everything people have said here, and I’ll add one more possibility to consider:

      I have the flavor of ADHD that comes with a lot of mental inertia. It takes time for my brain to come up to speed on a task. The strength of this trait is that once I’ve built up momentum, I can keep going and get a whole lot done in one stretch. The weakness is that lots of task-switching absolutely *kills* my productivity. I also find it incredibly difficult to engage with something big if I know I’m going to have to put it down in an hour or two because there’s something else coming up.

      This makes meetings in particular a thing that I have to manage carefully. I try really hard to corral all my meetings into a couple days on the calendar, because I can do a lot of talking or I can get stuff done, but it’s really hard to do both on the same day.

      If your employee is similar, it might be that she’s getting pulled in multiple directions and keeps trying to change course. Maybe her schedule is too fragmented. Maybe she needs permission not to respond immediately to email. (A common ADHD problem is focusing on the urgent but not important at the expense of the important but not urgent.) Maybe she’s got too many projects that are all important, and needs help prioritizing / sequencing them.

      1. Gatomon*

        Ah, this is me as well. Too many meetings in my day becomes, “I can’t start a task because I’ve got a meeting in 20 minutes,” and then, “I need a mental break after being in that meeting for an hour!” By the time that break is over, its situation 1 again, and I get nothing done.

        I personally also really need quiet, distraction-free space. If work ever does throw down the gauntlet about returning to the office full time, I’ll be requesting WFH as an accomodation. I do okay in the office if there’s no one else there, but when we’ve all been forced to gather, the constant noise and visual distraction kills me, and a private office isn’t an option. I become irritable and at risk of melting down when I reach my limit, and my errors skyrocket. Noise-canceling headphones help with sound, but they do nothing for visual disturbances, like people walking by, or the physical discomfort of having to sit properly or be stuck in a cube for hours.

        I also really need to have the time to try and be organized, to look at my tasks and think about everything that needs to happen and in what order, consult my checklists, verify I did the thing I suddenly thought of, etc. If I don’t have time to do this, everything falls apart because my brain is a sieve for everything but the most rote routine. I guess other people just remember details and whether they’ve done something, but for me, if it’s not written down somewhere where I can remember to look for it later, it didn’t happen/doesn’t exist. I take copious notes.

        And re: notes, I also have slow processing. So I can take notes to recall the meeting later, but I can’t process the meeting until later. Managers have never liked how quiet I am in meetings (teachers always dinged me on participation too). If I don’t take notes and the meeting isn’t engaging enough, my brain is in another dimension. I really, really prefer emails and IM to calls and meetings because they’re slower forms of communication, which gives me time to think about the topic and respond, and the conversation is already written down for my notes.

    12. Jessica*

      It’s very much not a one-size-fits-all situation, but I will say that a lot of accommodations for neurodiverse people/disabled people/etc. end up being good for everyone, so makes sense to look at both what you can do for her on an individual level, and also if there are practices you can put in place on a team or department level that may help.

      A lot of practices around reminders, focus time, etc. that ADHD coworkers have requested in the past have also turned out to be absolutely clutch for the neurotypical members of the team in crunch periods and other times of heightened stress. Turns out stress/trauma/etc. give you problems with executive function too.

      In 2023, I don’t think there are a lot of people walking around who *don’t* have some sort of issue that can make workplace norms difficult, whether it’s mental illness, neurodiversity, personal trauma, or just the general trauma from living in a late capitalist society that’s still in a pandemic and possibly a recession. Just because someone’s high-functioning and/or outwardly fine doesn’t mean that they’re not expending a ton of emotional and mental energy to achieve that.

      Individual accommodations for an employee with ADHD are great and you should absolutely pursue them.

      But I’d also take this as an opportunity to do some additional resource on non-individual ways to make your team’s environment more accessible and see if there are norms you can change or team practices you can put in place that may have been developed for people with specific challenges but can benefit your entire team.

  3. Dhaskoi*

    LW #1 It might also be that you just didn’t click quite as well with the manager and/or the potential coworker as some of the other candidates, possibly for reasons they can’t properly articulate.

    Possibly you just weren’t the best fit for the company culture, in which case this might be the best outcome for all concerned.

    1. Ellis Bell*

      I consider myself an enthused, people-focused person, but recently saw a job ad that was waaay too much in the way of enthusiasm culture for me. It went on and on about relationships and flexibility, and how special their culture was; more or less saying that the relationships and interaction were more important than their job roles, or getting work done (in fact, saying they don’t give out defined job roles in case those got in the way of “connections”). It looked like an advert for a party. There are all different kinds of levels for this stuff. If they don’t think you match them, it’s probably a bullet dodged.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        Yikes! That sounds like an absolute nightmare, with neither boundaries nor clear objectives for their employees. We need only consider as a thought experiment which employee would get the big raise: the guy who is the life of the party, or the guy sitting quietly in the corner making sure the work gets done.

      2. Get That Oscar*

        My company is almost all the way to this, (including the job title thing) and it is just atrocious. Like if you’re not constantly crowing about how lucky you are to be there, you’re “not engaged” or “don’t want to be there”. Like, calmly and competently doing your job is a thing too!

    2. MissGirl*

      I had an interview with a hiring manager who asked to tell her about a project that had a measurable impact. I told her about one that lasted for months because it showed my work in complicated ways with multiple stakeholders and had a huge impact. She rejected me because I never worked on short term projects and she’d wished I’d gone into more detail about my last role.

      I work on 90% short term projects and would’ve gladly told her that had she asked. I also didn’t go into a ton of detail about my projects at my last job because I got laid off after five chaotic months. I never knew the impact of my projects. None of this was communicated in my interview.

      I figured she rejected me over some nebulous reason that was hard to communicate and pulled the other one out.

      1. Satan’s Panties*

        Like being an actor. The casting director will say Thanks very much, but we’re looking for someone taller/shorter/blonder/darker/more ethnic/less ethnic/thinner/more toned… Fact is, they just don’t want YOU.

        1. Annony*

          It doesn’t even sound like they were outright rejecting the OP for the role. It sounds more like OP seemed like someone who would do fine in the role, but there were other candidates that seemed better. If those other candidates hadn’t applied, they would happily hire OP.

          1. Ama*

            This is true and I think in those cases it can be very difficult to articulate why the OP wasn’t chosen aside from “the other candidate had this one extra thing we thought would be better/make their onboarding a bit easier.”

            I’ve chosen between two very strong candidates before and it really did boil down to one candidate being stronger in A and the other being stronger in B — I ended up picking the A candidate because I thought it was slightly easier to train someone in the B skills but really either candidate would have probably worked out fine.

        2. Jackalope*

          I always remind myself of something Matt Mercer said once. For those who aren’t familiar with him, he’s a well-known voice actor for things like video games, as well as the DM for a D&D show/podcast called Critical Role. Once he was auditioning for a VA role and was told, “We’re looking for a real Matt Mercer type.” He thought it was a slam dunk, but they…. went with someone else. He apparently said to his wife when debriefing, “Who’s more like me than…. me?” Just one example of someone making a hiring decision when they didn’t really know what they wanted until they did the interviews.

          1. Skytext*

            Jackalope, that story reminds me of the one about when Dolly Parton entered a Dolly Parton Look-Alike Contest, and came in third lol.

      2. learnedthehardway*

        How frustrating!!! I tell my hiring manager to ask what they NEED TO KNOW. Don’t assume the candidate can figure it out – they can’t. They’re not psychic. If you need to know something specific, be specific in your questions.

    3. Get That Oscar*

      Yeah, to me this is a huge culture bullet dodged, regardless of your natural energy levels, being asked to perform energy all day every day is exhausting.

      I’m in that boat and have to have a post-it on my monitor reminding me to turn up the energy/positivity dial when my boss is on the call. It is very stupid when your company/boss cares more about how you make them feel than about your work product, and if that was a real observation by the hiring manager, you’re probably better off elsewhere.

    4. Blackbeard*

      Yes, this. Often small companies have their own ideas about how candidates should be. Being a quiet and reflective person myself, I call BS on this “being high energy”.

  4. Anonymous poster*

    For #1, I found out a couple years into one job that I was originally the second choice, but they didn’t like how the other candidate seemed more laid back about certain things that they valued. This, I think, was fair feedback, but they followed on with, “But Anonymous, she was really hot, so you’re also kind of lucky.” It was really gross, to me, so I still don’t know what to make of it.

    For #2, it’s a mercy to this person to give them the feedback about workplace norms. I had a boss who I still deeply appreciate that called me out on bad behavior after college. I deeply, truly, needed it and am much better for it. If I ever see her in person again in the future, I want to make sure she knows how much I appreciate that hard conversation, because it really helped me a lot. She wasn’t unreasonable, I was. And I needed to hear it and change, badly, or else I was headed down a bad path. Please have this conversation – you may not see fruit, but you’re really helping this person out.

    And it’s not like my pre high school job that would be mad that I didn’t ‘appreciate’ the work, nevermind I was paid $2/hour for farm labor (It was legal in the state and under labor law, this person fired everyone when they turned 16 because they couldn’t afford to pay minimum wage, and $100/week for an 8th grader isn’t chump change at the time).

    1. Your Former Password Resetter*

      #1 Ewww, that’s a major red flag for that hiring manager. If they were going to be my boss, that sort of casual sexism would give me serious pause.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Look like Anonymous didn’t find that out until they’d been there a couple of years. Maybe they found a new job shortly thereafter, though?

    2. Slow Gin Lizz*

      “But Anonymous, she was really hot, so you’re also kind of lucky.” I…what???? What does that even mean, never mind being a weird and gross comment???

      1. Hlao-roo*

        My best guess is “we almost overlooked her easy-going-ness because she was hot, so you are lucky that in the end the attitude mismatch outweighed the physical attractiveness, and we hired you instead.” Weird, gross, and certainly tells on themselves.

        1. Not A Manager*

          Yes, that’s my take too. The worse take is “she’s hot and you’re not, so be thankful anyone gave you a job.” Which that language supports. I hope that man steps on a Lego.

          1. pally*

            “I hope that man steps on a Lego.”

            Every single night of his life.

            Yeah, I worked in a lab where the two project managers were hiring a new lab tech. One of the PMs commented that “this time, I think we should hire a blonde.”

            This was said in the middle of the lab where all of us non-blondes were working.

    3. Cmdrshprd*

      “For #1, I found out a couple years into one job that I was originally the second choice, but they didn’t like how the other candidate seemed more laid back about certain things that they valued.”

      I has a similar situation in reverse. A few years into my job I was told that they thought the other candidate was the better qualified person, but they seemed a bit high strung. Since I seemed a bit more laid back/easy going they went with me.

  5. The Prettiest Curse*

    #1 – it sounds like the feedback was off base. But you asked twice for feedback, and it’s entirely possible that the recruiter mis-remembered something or was grasping at straws just because they wanted to tell you something other than “there were a lot ot strong candidates for this role.”

    1. Hannah Lee*

      I worked with someone once who was involved in the company’s hiring process in an administrative / support capacity, but not a decision maker. If candidates pressed them for a reason they were turned down, if they didn’t have notes from anyone else, they’d give feedback based on what *they’d* thought. The kind of feedback OP got was the kind of thing they’d say, also “came across as nervous, insecure” (they’d seen the candidate fidgeting while waiting to get called in) or some random comment about resume formatting.

      OP’s considered the feedback, asked around to see if that’s a general impression they give off and it’s not. I think it’s okay to move along without worrying about it.

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Yup. And it also could be that the other candidates had more experience than OP or something like that but the recruiter isn’t privy to that information. When hiring one person for a role and interviewing several, unless there is a truly standout candidate, I don’t think it’s even really possible to elucidate on the details of a rejected candidate since the reason for rejection might be so esoteric as to not be describable.

        I agree that there’s no point in worrying about it, OP. I don’t think what the recruiter said was helpful or even possibly truthful; they were, as others have said, just grasping at straws to answer your question. It might be helpful to keep all this in mind for the future, that you may receive future rejections and have no real honest feedback as to why you weren’t chosen except that there was another candidate they chose instead. Best of luck in your search!

        1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

          Yeah, my team has rejected people for reasons as nebulous as “They were okaaay… but we weren’t excited about them,” or “They were fine-but-not-great in most areas and we didn’t find any areas where they were really strong.” It’s not anything the candidate did wrong… it’s just not enough right.

          1. Cyborg Llama Horde*

            And sometimes you find people who you like a lot and wish you could hire, but there’s another candidate you also like a lot who’s just ever-s0-slightly a better fit… more experience overall, or gave a better answer to a couple of key questions, or, or, or…

            (Am I still bummed about letting second choice candidate go? …yeah. First choice candidate is working out great and I don’t have regrets precisely, but I still wish we could’ve hired both of them.)

            1. Slow Gin Lizz*

              I’ve never been a hiring manager but I imagine that sometimes the decision is REALLY hard. Sorry you had to let that candidate go.

            2. Eldritch Office Worker*

              I have one of those too. I passed her resume on to my boss JUST IN CASE we needed it or my boss had a change of heart. But she’s haunting me.

            3. fhqwhgads*

              Yeah and sometimes it’s “I’m pretty sure any of these three would be great, but at the end of the day, I do only have one opening”. Like not necessarily even “ever-so-slightly”, nearly a coin-flip. Or it’s an “if it were totally up to me, I think A is ever-so-slightly better, but it’s not only up to me, and others thought B was ever-so-slightly better” but either way it was a splitting hairs situation.

            4. Too Many Tabs Open*

              We had that situation the last time I was involved with a hire. The person we went with had relevant experience that our second choice didn’t, and they’re a great hire, but I really wish we could’ve hired our second choice as well.

            5. All Het Up About It*

              This! It sounds like OP really wanted some feed back they could use to improve and the recruiter kind of fumbled their way into the enthusiasm statement. Maybe the lead candidate just really bonded with peer interviewer over a particular challenge and got enthusiastic about problem solving it.

              It’s really hard to hear that you can do great during an interview and still not move on/get the offer because someone else also did great and had a nebulous “It.” But sometimes it really is the truth that there isn’t any feedback other than keep doing wat you are doing and the right role will happen eventually.

          2. Mill Miker*

            We almost didn’t hire someone once because they were too good for their experience level, and we were pretty under-staffed. There was some fear that they’d hit the ground running, but in the wrong direction, and be able to get a lot done before anyone could course-correct them.

            We did end up hiring them, however, and they turned out to have good instincts about what to do and how often to ask for feedback. However, if we hadn’t, it would have been a weird thing to explain.

        2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

          Yeah, having been involved in a lot of hiring decisions (I’m not a manager, but in my field it’s standard to have 5 or so people involve in interviewing) unless a candidate really messes something up badly it’s not so much a case of “This is why we didn’t make Candidate X an offer” as “Candidate Y did a better job in these areas”. It may help to remember that from the hiring point of view it’s not about individually evaluating whether each candidate is hirable but about picking the best one.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah, OP seems to be operating on the assumption that there’s some ‘secret reason’ they don’t know, or some kind of specific thing they did wrong. In my experience of hiring, that’s rarely how it is when there’s a competitive pool. “Many qualified applicants” isn’t just rhetoric they use to get rid of you. You probably were great, someone else was a better fit, and by pushing for more specific feedback and then worrying about it, you’re not doing yourself any favors. I think it’s Picard who said, “”It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness, that is life.”

      1. Slow Gin Lizz*

        Man, I had to do a google search to figure out when Picard actually said that.* Die hard Trekkie here, but I honestly can’t say that I saw the episode that quote is from more than a couple of times because I completely forgot it existed. It’s a great quote and very appropriate for this situation and any job hunter out there.

        * TNG episode Peak Performance (season 2), in case you’re wondering.

    3. The Person from the Resume*

      It sounds like LW#1 thinks there must be a concrete they can fix for next time.

      Many times, most times, more than one applicant would do a good job in the job, but there is only one opening they’re hiring for and the company has to pick one. So there isn’t one concrete thing wrong with you that you can fix for next time.

      I do think it is telling that you had to ask several times for feedback and it’s quite possible the recruiter just said that/something/anything to keep you from asking again. They could tell that you wanted an answer so they gave you one.

      I’m even wondering if the recruiter was privy to the details of the selection. They may not really know anything other than that you weren’t strong as other candidate, but you were insistent.

    4. Sara C*

      Agreed. Having been the person having to give feedback in this situation, sometimes it truly is that there were many strong candidates and ultimately only one job opening! Among the top candidates, there is not necessarily anything “bad” or that I think they need to work on or change…we just had to pick one person. Any feedback I might give would be so idiosyncratic as to be unhelpful (i.e. the person who was hired just so happened to have this random skill that could potentially be useful at some pointm so that gave them the edge — that doesn’t mean the person in second place should go out and get that random skill, this was just a really random thing about that specific search).

  6. Matt*

    #1: You dodged a bullet.

    Employers who want “high energy employees” are likely vampires that suck out their employees’ energy. Those are the same that claim they are like a big family because you would do anything and give all your energy for your family (and shouldn’t have another family out there of course).

    1. Mister_L*

      Was thinking something similar. Maybe it’s because I watch a bit too much anti-MLM-content, but “Not high energy enough” sounds to me like “was asking inconvenient questions”.

      1. TechWorker*

        Yea maybe but also sometimes there’s no big conspiracy and you can be a really good – even fantastic – candidate and still not the best. This letter reads like the OP has sort of forgotten that.

      2. Cats and Bats Rule*

        I thought this also. it also made me think of startups where employees are expected to pull 20-hour days regularly. LW #1 probably dodged a bullet!

            1. EventPlannerGal*

              That’s not really true, though. Plenty of roles can be fast-paced regardless of how big your team is just because of the nature of the work, especially if it’s something client-facing.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        True but it might help OP move on if they think that way. Oh I’m not high energy enough what over enthusiatic place is this then?

    2. linger*

      There are some roles that intrinsically do demand a lot, at least in short bursts.
      If this was not one of those roles (and possibly even if it was), then I tend to agree that it’s at least a yellow flag: “high energy” may be code for “young” or “able to perform physically demanding activity” or “able to work long hours”, intersecting at “someone we can really exploit to the maximum”.
      As an interviewee, such suspicions might be allayed by asking about typical tenure in the role: how long have past incumbents usually stayed? But that is a question likely to label you “lower energy”.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        It depends so much on the role. It could mean “we need you to sell or be ‘on’ for clients in a specific way and we’re not seeing evidence of that here”. It could mean “we don’t think you’re showing enthusiasm for the job and it seems like other candidates want it more”. It could mean “we don’t think you’d be a good culture fit”. It could mean “I couldn’t think of anything else to say”.

        I’m not advocating any of those but just highlighting that speculating can drive you nuts. OP, it’s vague enough feedback that I would just discount it and move on.

        1. Observer*

          I’m not advocating any of those but just highlighting that speculating can drive you nuts. OP, it’s vague enough feedback that I would just discount it and move on.

          This is it, in a nutshell.

    3. Tonka Bean*

      There’s nothing to indicate the company actually particularly WANTED “high energy employees” here. The OP had to push to get feedback beyond “there were stronger candidates” and it’s likely the recruiter was simply trying to offer something relatively neutral since they were pushing. If the feedback on the successful candidate was “highly skilled, great knowledge, tons of experience and a high energy approach”, the recruiter may have seized on the last point as something (seemingly) less negative to say than “you were less skilled”, “you were less knowledgeable”, or “you had less experience”.

      I think OP is doing the not unusual job applicant thing of trying to read the tea-leaves. This isn’t particularly meaningful feedback, and it’s not worth worrying over.

    4. RVA Cat*

      “Not high energy enough” is pinging my ageism radar that they want young single people who’ll work a lot of overtime.

      1. pally*

        yeah- I was rejected for similar reason. Energy. Or lack thereof. And the ubiquitous “fit” excuse.

        The HR person seemed to really like me and proceeded to give me a 45 minute “coaching” on how I come across given I am, ahem, “experienced”.

        To be “high energy” means all your responses have to be “unqualified yesses”. No matter what. Gotta convey confidence at all costs.

        Don’t lie; but don’t hesitate one bit when responding. In my case, they brought up scheduling a lab technical. Internally I wasn’t sure when I could fit this into my schedule. Guess that came across in my affirmative response. Wish the HR person had told me a lab technical might be involved. She wasn’t aware this was part of the hiring manager’s plans.

        Always be positive and affirming with responses. No matter what. Do I have experience in A? Yes, I do (Never mind that I only have book knowledge of A).

        Don’t qualify with “I’ve done llama grooming but have limited experience with supersized llamas that we occasionally encountered” answers. It’s “Yes! I’ve done llama grooming! Gained loads of experience at llamas ‘r’ us grooming their llamas.”

        There’s lots more she went on to say. It was educational but really left a bad taste in my mouth. I know she was being kind.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          What you describe here is the stuff of my nightmares, and what I was trying to say with my post below. I must have encountered enough jobs where this was expected to learn to scream and run.
          They say don’t lie, but of course, they want you to lie. They want you to be a yes person at all times no matter how stupid/counterproductive/harmful that approach is, because all the boss cares about is hearing what he wants to hear and having people do his bidding.

        2. Random Dice*

          She may have *intended* to be kind, but she wasn’t actually kind.

          She was condescending, paternalistic, ageist, and clutching a fistful of red flags on sticks.

          I’m so delighted for you that you didn’t land at that terrible job.

    5. Tad Cooper*

      I was going to say: did you try to apply for a job at my old startup? I tried for months to hire another person for my department, and I had five candidates who the recruiter liked and who I really liked shot down by my bosses because they “weren’t high energy enough.”

      —Translation: we worked in an extremely high pressure environment where my bosses preferred to just hire idealists fresh out of college who didn’t know enough to push back on the workload.

      I left over a year ago. That position (and mine) are still open.

    6. Smithy*

      I once got feedback during an unsuccessful interview process about not being cut out for a start-up environment. And when getting that kind of feedback, there can be a rush to defend oneself or one’s ego – similar to getting dumped by someone you didn’t want to date anymore anyways.

      If the reality was that I received this feedback twice or had a strong desire for that kind of work, then it’s worth interrogating. But sometimes that feedback does come from places where there is just a culture fit, and while I’d rather not be rejected – it may be for the best. I later learned that one “start-up environment” job was really chaotic and an bad environment.

    7. Dinwar*

      If the employer had said they were rejecting the LW for not being high-enough energy the first time the LW asked for feedback, this may be a consideration (not as the definitive answer, just as a “Yeah, that could happen” possibility).

      Since the LW had to pester for feedback, odds are FAR higher that this was just something random to make the LW go away.

    8. Ahnon4Thisss*

      Or they just didn’t know what else to say when LW kept pushing for a concrete reason as to why she was not picked. They could have thought she was a stronger pick but someone was just a bit stronger or she might have just not meshed as well as she thought with the hiring team.

      Honestly, there isn’t enough info besides what the LW knows from their brief encounter with this company. There is a lot of fanfiction going on in the comments about how they’re probably terrible employers, or practicing some form of bigotry. Maybe that’s true, but we don’t know for certain. To me this is a lesson about how you don’t always get what you want even when you’re doing your best, not that LW was saved from a terrible company.

    9. Jessica*

      I would say it’s a yellow flag, but I agree that when I see that sort of language in a job description, it’s a warning sign like “rock star” or “work hard, play hard.”

  7. WoodswomanWrites*

    #2, I agree it would be a kindness to let your co-worker know that audibly complaining about colleagues, including the C-suite, will ultimately harm them in the workplace.

    Here’s an example. I used to work with a capable colleague whose position was shifted to a C-suite manager on a different team. The change was not managed well in that the employee was kept in the dark until the last minute (so was the previous manager). I understand why they were unhappy.

    However, this colleague very publicly trashed the new C-suite manager and the good reputation they had was damaged. They once complained to me where someone from another department nearby could easily hear them. When I cautioned them about that–I sure didn’t want to be perceived as having the same opinion–they responded that the person listening already knew about how they felt and it was no big deal.

    It was no surprise when my colleague was fired not long after that.

    1. Smithy*

      I think even less intense than that, being miserable at work and still hired can be a blessing.

      It may be that these young people plan on going back to grad school next fall, and being able to keep these jobs until then is the key win. Or they are in the midst of planning a wedding or a big move in the next 6 months (or 18 months…), and after that they can look for a new job and want to stay hired and in good standing until then. Or their job hunt goes slowly, and not feeling rushed to take the very first job offered means they can turn down offers that aren’t wonderful and wait that extra 1-3 months for the great offer.

      Obviously not getting fired is a huge motivator, but just staying out of professional angst is also nice. I’m not going to pretend that being unhappy and pretending to be fine isn’t work, but it is often less work than actively being reprimanded.

      1. Observer*

        I’m not going to pretend that being unhappy and pretending to be fine isn’t work, but it is often less work than actively being reprimanded.

        They don’t even have to pretend to be fine, though. There is a lot of space between pretending that all is well when it really isn’t, and the kind of complaining and flat out rudeness they are displaying.

        I remember a number of years ago, we had an employee who was unhappy about a number of things, some more reasonable than others. For the most part people cut them slack about, but they did keep her complaining under control in the beginning. Then a new person (NP) was hired, and NP was not too popular. EE (Existing Employee) ramped up their complaining and started complaining about how Boss was “protecting” NP. Now, I think that Boss did cut NP a bit too much slack, but there was no “protecting” going on or anything like that. But EE was past being reasonable. One day they went on a rant about NP and Boss. Boss walked in as the rant was in full flow so got to hear some really nasty (and stupid) things that EE said about Boss. To no one’s surprise, EE was let go. Even the people who mostly agreed with EE about NP were not surprised, and though some were upset because EE was their friend, it was in a “upset about bad things happening” way, not “Upset about boss being unfair”. Because everyone understood that EE had really crossed a line.

        Cursing out emails loudly enough that you can hear them across the floor; “naming and shaming” almost anyone in public, much less a C-Suite member; loudly talking about how people must be illiterate, are all extremely rude and are way beyond just not pretending that all is well.

    2. Ama*

      Over ten years ago, I was in a general admin job where I was overworked and the senior management kept watering down any plans to get me some extra help to the point that they almost did nothing (an additional FT admin got pushed down to two student workers who could each only work a max of 10 hours). At one point I apparently was starting to let my frustration and stress show to other colleagues and my boss called me on it. It was not easy to hear, but it was a good lesson that I took to heart.

      It also made me realize that if I was so frustrated it was noticeably affecting my professionalism and nothing was going to change, the best thing to do was to leave — while OP doesn’t need to point that out to the colleagues, they may be young enough to not realize that they don’t have to stay in a job that is causing them that much frustration.

      1. Observer*

        they may be young enough to not realize that they don’t have to stay in a job that is causing them that much frustration.

        That’s a good point. And, OP, if you talk to them, you may want to point out to them that if they want to escape, their best bet is to NOT tarnish their reputations with this kind of behavior. Whatever they may think of their bosses and others in the place – and even if their most negative opinions are correct! you don’t know who talks to whom and who you are going to encounter down the line. Getting a reputation for this kind of behavior could have long term negative ramifications for them, beyond this one job.

  8. Worldwalker*

    #3: There’s always “My name isn’t Attila, so please don’t call me Hun.” :)

    This person addressing anyone at work with a lover’s endearments is beyond wrong. Southern waitresses get to call everyone “hon” or “luv” — and that’s how they address absolutely everyone, from a toddler to his great-grandfather. Nobody else should. She’s not his lover or his child; addressing her as though she was is demeaning and unprofessional.

    1. Malarkey01*

      It’s a HUGE thing in Baltimore. They’ve tried to make it part of their city identity. It caught me really off guard when I did an extensive work travel stint there and tons of people (different ages, genders, races, etc) were calling me hon at work, socially, strangers in restaurants.

      1. Artemesia*

        My first thought when I read it was ‘is this Maryland’ — I too have known people from Maryland who insisted on this ‘hun’ thing. Ick.

        1. JSPA*

          Yeah, there are several regions where it’s closer to a universal verbal tic, than anything else. Doesn’t mean it will fly, elewhere (or even in a professional context, in those regions).

          I’d message it as, “You’ve been using ‘Hon’ as a mode of address in the office. That word carries very different weight and implications in different places. Without assuming any bad intent on your part, it’s still not something you can use in this office, to anyone.”

          If there’s push back, “Understood! But even though it’s a harmless regional habit to you, it’s a sexist or sexualized familiarity in much of the world. We can’t have you accidentally sexually harassing people. It has to stop for their sake, for your sake, and legally, for our sake.”

          1. Dr. Vibrissae*

            Yeah, when I read the first part of the letter, I’d assumed it was a verbal tick. But when I got the part where it’s only in emails, I was confused. If someone called me hun offhandedly in person I might ignore it, but to write it out in a business communication, that’s… weird.

            1. BessMarvin*

              I also thought that was the oddest thing about #3! I could maybe see if someone was calling someone “hun” verbally (though I would still want to stop that from happening) but TYPING IT IN AN EMAIL (more than once!!) seems super odd.

        2. Las Vegas*

          It’s not ick, it’s cultural. If you haven’t lived in Baltimore, please don’t confidently comment that “hun” is sexual or condescending. It’s 100% a part of the local language, and if you try to stamp it out, you won’t be able to hire anyone who’s local and 40+. We have a ROUGH hiring pool in Baltimore, so splitting hairs on stuff like this is harmful.

          1. not nice, don't care*

            It’s ick. No one gets to tell targets of inappropriate language what’s appropriate. You know that.

        3. LadyVet*

          But in emails?

          It’s one thing to use “hon” in-person, maybe even on the phone, but it shouldn’t occur to anyone to type “hon” instead of the recipient’s name.

      2. Dramatic Intent To Flounce*

        Yeah, thirding the “Huh, this sounds like Baltimore.” But I can’t see many people doing it in WRITING except those who are really trying hard. (And you’d expect it from, say, the organizers of Honfest for an email related to that, which this obviously is not.) It’s used to refer to people, but it’s also used just to end sentences the way the stereotypical Canadian ‘eh’ is. Verbal habits like that rarely translate to writing.

        1. AvonLady Barksdale*

          This is the biggest part of the problem– in writing??? I grew up in Baltimore, I have called many a person “hon” (probably at work by accident once or twice), but never in writing.

          If he is actually spelling it “hun” then he’s probably not from Baltimore, so… there’s that.

          1. Daria*

            Also from the Baltimore area and I’ve never seen it used in writing. And the only person I know who spells it “hun” (and she does use it in writing a lot for a Facebook group she runs) is not from Baltimore but married a Baltimorean so perhaps was trying fit in.

          1. sb51*

            Yeah the only explanation that I wouldn’t rage over (I’d still ask for it to never happen again) would be “verbal tic plus writes all emails via speech to text and hadn’t realized the huns were sneaking in under cover of Siri.”

        2. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          That part made me stop and stare. I get just saying it. Habit, laziness, sexist, bad a names. But to make the effort to address someone in an email (someone whose name IS RIGHT THERE) is next level assholery.

        3. Miss Muffet*

          Yeah the fact that it was in writing (only) was also super strange to me. It’s one thing to have a cultural verbal thing like that that slips out but to WRITE it? So, so strange.

        4. BessMarvin*

          I’m a Canadian who says “eh” all the time out loud, and I don’t think I’ve ever typed it in an email.

      3. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        Yeah, my first thought was “Is he from Baltimore?” In which case, if the job isn’t in Baltimore, a friendly reminder that the “hon” regionalism doesn’t travel well would probably help.

      4. NotBatman*

        As a former Baltimorean, I read OP3’s letter and winced. I use “y’all” and “hon” all the time as softening language with acquaintances and strangers — to me “Y’all have tea here, hon?” feels more polite than “Sir, give me tea.” If I see a coworker in public, “Y’alright, hon?” will be what pops out of my mouth. I’m not in Maryland now, but I still have the habit.

        That said, I’m also a small woman who hates strangers calling me “sweetheart” because of the implied condescension. So I empathize with both the speaker and the listener in this letter. OP3, I hope just one “please don’t call me ‘hon'” should draw your coworker up and help him realize you don’t welcome this particular regionalism.

      5. Baltimoron Hun*

        I was going to say that too. It’s a Baltimore thing, but especially the working class neighborhoods like Dundalk.

        I once slipped up and called my direct report “hun” and had to apologize for my Baltimore coming out!

    2. Mister_L*

      At first I thought it was a hunbot trying to recruit LW, but given that it’s a 22 year old man I think general disrespect / misogyny is more likely.

    3. Prunella*

      I was so confused when OP said that he called them that in writing and it not just slipping out when speaking. He actually types “hon” to a person in HR?? Regularly? How many people does he do this to? He needs a conversation as much as the two complaining coworkers in one of the other letters.

      1. Green Mamba*

        It’s writing it out that makes it extra weird. I’m a woman in a management position and have a colleague on a peer team that calls me “hun” and a dotted line report who calls me “darling.” In conversation, not writing. They are both women, different cultures to each other and to me. I don’t love it, but I don’t mind it enough to bring it up. But, if a male co-worker did this, no matter what culture he was from, I would definitely address it. And if anyone did it in writing I would address it. The context can make this feel very different.

        1. NotBatman*

          I’m from Baltimore, and I’ve seen it in writing many many times. Including in business emails. It’s just regional.

      2. Clare*

        That’s what got me too. Saying it, maybe. But seeing the word in front of your eyes and deciding to click send? I’m baffled.

      3. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        Yeah, this. It’s wild to me that someone would actually write it in an email. I can easily see it being a slip of the tongue or habit, especially in certain parts of the US, but writing it out is WEIRD.

      4. Weaponized Pumpkin*

        The two things that are the weirdest about the story is being young and doing it in writing — where those two things actually intersect is “hun culture”. A woman-positive thing embraced mostly embraced by young women and queers and is seen on social and texting. No idea if this is the case, but it’s something that jumped out at me that would explain this particular odd intersection.

        Still, tell him to knock it off.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      “No, Roman, actually.”

      Or Sabine, Visigoth, Greek, Armenian, etc…

        1. Not Tom, Just Petty*

          The things I read here truly lean toward the brilliant.
          (including your user name. I hope I’ve said it before, but mad respect!)

      1. Random Dice*

        In my house we don’t use the word “savage” because it’s so loaded for indigenous folks, but we do use the word “barbarian” because none of us actually DO speak Greek.

        So we’ll make a big deal about eating corn on the cob “like a barbarian” (though whether that’s circular or sideways changes from day to day), then we’ll randomly throw out the one or two Greek words we do know – “efkharisto!” “Cristos aneste!” “Hades!” and then it’s all completely ridiculous.

    5. Critical Rolls*

      “Oh, please, make it Attila, we’re all friends here.” [looks around] “This is a pretty nice civilization you’ve got here…”

  9. Lorna*


    I applied at a search engine big player way back when they were a lot smaller, only to be told the same thing: not enough energy, not enough enthusiasm for this company, not the right spirit.
    Looking back it was probably for the best – the people who DID get hired worked mad, excruciating hours, had to be on point 24/7 ( smile! it’s our company policy) and burned out within 1 or 2 years.

    1. Awkwardness*

      I Was thinking along the same lines.

      LW1 – it is always good to ask about feedback, but you seem to overvalue this one too much. If you had gotten the same feedback 3 or 4 times, yes, but for one single instance it can easily be contributed to differences in personality. It’s “high energy to one”, it’s “hyperactive” or “talking to much” to the other.

      1. AngryOctopus*

        Or it means “other candidate was visibly excited about a project we have on the horizon because they’d wanted to do something like it for years” and all other things being equal, they went with that candidate. LW, it strikes me as a thing said which is generally inoffensive and bland but convenient when you don’t accept a “we had a lot of strong candidates” answer. Esp when you’re pushing for a reason.

      2. Antilles*

        If you had gotten the same feedback 3 or 4 times, yes, but for one single instance it can easily be contributed to differences in personality.
        Even more so because OP checked with others who know them professionally and confirmed that’s not an issue. Chalk this up as a one-off personality clash and leave it at that.

  10. I should really pick a name*

    How would you approach this if you didn’t know about the ADHD/learning disabilities?

    What happens when you address problems?
    What is the discussion like when a problem you’ve adressée occurs again?
    Strategies to deal with these issues don’t necessarily have to be accommodations.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, there aren’t many accommodations for stuff not getting done or someone who needs better coping mechanisms for the day to day routine. Accommodations are often along the lines of adapting tools, both mental and physical, to enable someone to do the job another person can do. There’s no accommodation that can be found for someone who forgets stuff or whose mind wanders or who can’t do the job fully.

      I’ve been there as autistic — being unceremoniously sacked propelled me into getting treatment, and I’m much better off (and very grateful) for being able to do that and having the family support even into my 30s. I also got medication that helped drastically restructure my thought processes a while back when there was no option but to step up to the plate — when my husband’s needs eclipsed mine. But looking through the list of problems, they all seem like stuff where the job simply isn’t being done, and as neurodivergent myself, I’m not sure what actual accommodations, formal or informal, could be offered.

      It’s unfortunate but most people have some sort of social, economic or neuro/physiological handicap and reframing it like that might help — she’s not the first person to struggle, she won’t be the last, and you want to work in partnership with her to build a better structure for her. Accommodations don’t generally mean duties are reassigned, so I’m not sure how far you can go with that (I had bad anxiety part way through 2017 but we needed coverage at the front desk while my co-receptionist used up her holidays. My manager met with me to discuss it on my request and we worked out that there wasn’t much we could actually do, but just the knowledge he had my back and had also experienced chronic anxiety himself helped the mental process along) but offer her EAP support maybe? This is where I think being able to bring disability into the conversation would help — the UK differs in culture in that occupational health is a key part of employers’ responsibilities and my culture at work in the NHS in particular is that people can be open about their issues and not have it held against them. In fact, my management has been really great at assisting and empowering me rather than marginalising or condescending to me, so I’m happy to work with them on that. But I get the reluctance elsewhere…right up until it would make more sense to disclose and discuss accommodation rather than go down in flames because the job they’re paying for you to do isn’t getting done.

      If she can’t or won’t address the issues though, I’m not sure what can reasonably be done. Accommodations aren’t a magic fix in many cases nor can they really allow her to not do her job, so at that point it may be a wake-up call she needs. It’s a shame because it’s never nice from either side, but eventually the company needs someone who can do their job and the person struggling needs more help than an employer can reasonably provide. Sometimes just knowing they aren’t alone can be enough, psychologically speaking, but ultimately perhaps your place of employment isn’t the best place to get the therapy you need.

      1. MissElizaTudor*

        There are accommodations for forgetting things, having a wandering mind, and needing better coping mechanisms for the day to day routine (e.g., flexibility, allowing WFH, moving someone to a quieter location in the office, allowing use of headphones, interim deadlines for large projects, more frequent check-ins, setting up automated reminders). They may not work for this person or in this job, but it doesn’t sound like the LW has had a frank conversation about the issues as a whole, so there’s no reason to assume either way.

      2. Hastily Blessed Fritos*

        There absolutely are accommodations for forgetting things. My wife and son both have ADHD (like many women she was diagnosed after filling out the diagnostic questionnaire for him and thinking “but wait, I do this too”) and things like more detailed checklists of tasks are tremendously helpful. So for my kid rather than saying “Clean your room”, which would work for a neurotypical kid, I’d say “Put all the dirty laundry in the hamper, and the clean laundry in your drawers. Put all the books on the bookshelf. Bring any toys downstairs and throw away any trash”. I’m still expecting him to get it done, but I spell out in more detail what needs to be done. At school he’s allowed to use a fidget in the classroom, and to listen to lofi music while working to keep the distractable part of his brain busy. Similar things can work in a workplace as well. If no accommodations for ADHD could be made there’d be a lot fewer kids with IEPs – it’s one of the most common, if not THE most common, reason why kids have them.

    2. Thegreatprevaricator*

      I kind of agree and disagree with this! Thinking about my own experience, I’ve highlighted certain areas I struggle with to my manager. It was much more effective and I got a lot further when I talked within the framework of accommodations because it gave my manager something to work with. And god love them, they had no context for it but did due diligence and did the research!

      Before that we had addressed the issues but solutions were less effective because they weren’t responding to the cause. Certain solutions don’t work with ADHD (just use a to-do list!). When we talked within language of accommodations I was able to request support that was relevant to me. That said, some very effective supports for me aren’t necessarily accommodations. My top one would be agreeing that my manager would ask ‘do you actually have capacity to do that’ when talking workload and deadlines. I’ve proposed a few things and recently had to kick up a bit of a fuss because my requests weren’t quite filtering through when work is assigned. So I do agree that a lot can be done without formal accommodation but I’ve found that can be the framework that is most powerful to approach work.

      1. Also-ADHD*

        I have ADHD and “just use a to do list” (but usually digital) works well for me, though that’s not an accommodation obviously, just a strategy. I feel like assumptions about ADHD are really not useful sometimes and this is an example. But I find PM tools (basically fancy to do lists) are very useful for me and other ADHD people I know, though not all as neurodivergence is very personal. Which is why accommodation processes should happen at the request of the employee not in some patronizing way for them.

    3. Persephone*

      This type of questioning would result in ableism/discrimination.

      ADHD (and other learning disabilities) is a neurological disorder. The brain does not function the way the brains society has been built around function. None of the issues it causes can be dealt with the way it would be if it was a neurotypical person.

      Accommodation doesn’t always mean exceptions and paperwork. It does mean that the disability (or whatever issue) is taken into account when trying to find a solution.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        The LW has invited their employee to discuss accommodations and they have declined, so I think it’s reasonable to ask the LW how they would handle this situation without knowledge of ADHD.
        Additionally, the fact that the employee has ADHD doesn’t mean that all of the listed issues were caused by ADHD.

    4. Squirrel*

      As someone with diagnosed ADHD (who also has a PhD and was a member of MENSA) I’m alarmed by the LW’s wording of “ADHD and other learning disabilities.”

      ADHD is absolutely not a learning disability. A person might coincidentally have ADHD plus an LD, but ADHD is not inherently a learning disability.

      1. Aqua*

        ADHD is classed as a specific learning difficulty. I have ADHD and absolutely describe myself as having a learning difficulty.

          1. Bit o' Brit*

            Technically (in the UK at least) learning disability is synonymous with intellectual impairment and defined by a low IQ, so ADHD isn’t a learning disability, just a disability that affects learning.

            1. GythaOgden*

              I’m autistic and far from learning disabled, but for me the term ‘developmental disability’ helps. It suggests to the listener that the issue isn’t with my intellect (far from it!) but with the way I struggle with routine parts of daily life and have had to exert discipline on myself to get things done.

              I’m not sure where that leaves ADHD but I do feel there’s an actual disorder in there that has held me back independent of social interaction. That is, even if society was perfectly accepting and I was totally integrated into it (and from my perspective that’s not actually too far off my own experience), I’d still have something wrong with the way my brain works compared to others and still need some kind of support. Like, I have to wear a support strap because of the injury to my ankle. It doesn’t make me less human, it doesn’t mean I feel discriminated against (carrying a walking stick actually gets me consideration on buses and trains, particularly when they’re full and I need a seat) but it does exist beyond the social realm in the realm of actual objective difference.

              There’s nothing my work itself can do for me. Most of the responsibility for solving my issues depends on me, and it’s taken a long time and been pretty exhausting to get even where I am now. But for me, autism has been a disability and there’s no point in trying to hide it. Developmental disability encapsulates how I’ve experienced it and it is definitely a better phrase than that used.

        1. Also-ADHD*

          I have ADHD and do not have a learning disability at all—in fact, I’m good at learning and also a human performance consultant who designs and analyses learning (training) for Fortune 500 companies. Someone may have ADHD and a learning disability, but nothing about ADHD inherently causes that. It’s either neurodivergence or an executive functioning disorder, either a brain working differently, or struggles with ED in brain, depending, but there’s nothing people with ADHD inherently struggle with universally with learning. The disorder is wildly misunderstood (and the word attention is probably part of the issue). In most jurisdictions, it also doesn’t qualify as an LD for say an IEP in schools (unless accompanied by low IQ or other issues and ADHD doesn’t correlate to low IQ) in America (this is more so in UK etc. where LD is more fully tied to IQ). It would qualify in American schools usually for a 504 which aren’t usually particularly LDs but more general disabilities not covered by IEP systems.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            To clarify this a bit, ADHD _could_ be covered under an IEP as an emotional disturbance, if it rose to the level that it required specialized instruction. Obviously, most cases of ADHD don’t meet those criteria. But also, most case of learning disability don’t require specialized education either, and so would qualify for a 504 (needs accommodation) rather than an IEP (needs specialized instruction). The difference between IEP and 504 is a question of how significant the adjustment needed is, rather than the cause. To take it to the world of physical impairments – kids can get an IEP if they need to skip gym class for a year because of an orthopedic issue, or a 504 if they need to do slower laps in gym class because of asthma.

        2. Eldritch Office Worker*

          In the US ADHD is not classified as a learning disability. If you google the phrase “ADHD learning disability” the first thing that comes up is “ADHD is not a learning disability”. It’s a disability, and a cognitive disorder, but a learning disability is a specific thing and ADHD is not that.

          Source: Have ADHD, do professional education on ADHD, work in HR, work with doctors and specialists to establish ADHD accommodations and learn about new ones constantly.

      2. Bit o' Brit*

        ADHD is legally recognised as a disability that is classified as a learning “difficulty”. It’s hardly cause for alarm that someone got their terms confused.

          1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

            I want to push back on this a little. In the US, at least, “learning disability” doesn’t imply anything about intelligence or skill. It implies a specific problem with math or language (eg, dyslexia, dysgraphia, auditory processing disorder, aphasia) that isn’t covered in another physical, emotional, or intellectual disability. That definition is evidently not universal, but here ADHD isn’t a learning disorder because it’s too broad. Plenty of people with fairly significant learning disorders are skilled and intelligent; they just could benefit from accessibility accomodations like different fonts, using graph paper, etc.

            1. Jules*

              “In the US, at least, “learning disability” doesn’t imply anything about intelligence or skill.”

              What community in the US do you live in? Because I want to move to this magical land.

              I’m not discrediting your experience, but it is… wildly different from my own. As a clinical definition, sure, “learning disability” doesn’t imply a stigma about intelligence level. As a term used out in the world, it absolutely does.

              1. YetAnotherAnalyst*

                Maybe imply was the wrong word? Since Bit o’ Brit talks about the legal recognition of ADHD as a learning difficulty in the UK, and further upthread explained that learning disability is tied to low IQ in the UK, I was making the point that – in the US – that’s not the case. The US, as far as I’m aware, doesn’t have a definition for “learning difficulty”, probably because we don’t offer accommodations for “difficulty”, only “disability”.
                We do have a technical definition for “learning disability”, and it specifically excludes low IQ (which is categorized as “intellectual disability”). ADHD does not meet this definition of “learning disability”, because the issues aren’t specific to math or language.
                In the common parlance, though, all sorts of things get thrown together as “learning disabilities”, including ADHD. That makes sense, because it’s a disability and it impacts learning. If calling ADHD a learning disability is wrong, it’s because we’re using the technical definition of learning disability – and in the US, that has nothing to do with IQ.
                TL;DR – We shouldn’t destigmatize ADHD by increasing the stigma on dyslexia, essentially.

    5. Sloanicota*

      Number four seems like a very stressful /awkward situation to me, to be supervising a former boss and be dissatisfied with their follow-through. It’s not OP’s fault, but if I were the former boss I’d want to be job searching rather than having someone I used to manage tell me stuff is falling through the cracks. Good duos can work together in various configurations but it’s hard when there’s a need for correction.

  11. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd*

    OP2 (audible complaining) – the behaviour isn’t great obviously, but ultimately seems rooted in overwork and perhaps the start of burnout. Amd they have no boss (resigned) to pick up on it and act. Is anyone overseeing that team or are they really just operating independently at this point? I think in OPs situation I would talk to the grandboss, person overseeing the team on an interim basis (if any) or otherwise, HR – about my concerns about their workload. The audible complaining is just a symptom.

    1. Anima*

      I always complained loudly about my last job because I was burned out to coal – I just didn’t know it until I left. I needed to went to stay sane, and that’s not a good look.

    2. Sloanicota*

      Yeah you’ve got two very young employees in a bad situation, I realize OP may not be able to help them, but telling them to better conceal there irritation feels like “the beatings will continue until morale improves.” I wonder if a more helpful message is, “You might want to jobsearch – this company is pretty messed up about dumping work on people without supervision. There are other jobs out there where you may learn more and get better mentorship. The level of dissatisfaction here isn’t typical and will seem really out of tune with other workplaces.”

      1. Itsa Me, Mario*

        I think this is spot on. I would also add something like “I absolutely get that you need to vent. But it’s better to do that off of work premises, and ideally in private with people who have no connection to your job.”

        We’ve all had jobs that made us miserable. You just don’t talk about it, like, in the elevator.

    3. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      I wouldn’;t go to grandboss. OP really doesn’t have standing to discuss another team’s workload. Grandboss should know what is going on anyway. If GB doesn’t that’s a whole other problem. But GB may be trying to fix it, and its just taking longer. Or GB doesn’t care in which case raising it won’t change anything. By raising it, no matter what GB knows and is or isn’t doing, will only put the complainers on the radar. Which actually won’t help them.

      1. The Dude Abides*

        If GB is trying to fix it, then GB needs to be a lot more transparent with the reports about that process. Holding that info close to the chest does no one any good.

    4. NothingIsLittle*

      I agree that overwork is definitely the cause of the complaining, but OP was concerned about the coworker’s reputation, since people outside their team don’t know what’s going on in it. I think it’s reasonable for them to say, “Hey, I agree that this sucks and you’re overworked and under supported, but the other departments don’t know how badly we’re understaffed and if they hear you complaining, you’ll look bad. It’s fine to complain within our unit because we know why you’re doing it, of course,” and then add, if they are aware and the coworker seems responsive, “My sense is that this is (not) normally how this company operates and my best guess is that *blank* is the timeline for getting a new boss/filling some of the vacancies/addressing the workload issue.”

      But I’d feel very uncomfortable and pushed out if a colleague I wasn’t close to started telling me to job search, even if they framed it as you described. Am I at risk of being fired? Was my someone in leadership secretly complaining about me? Does this coworker have an agenda for telling me this?

    5. Random Dice*

      A man complaining loudly and angrily at work would make me want to throw up, thanks to violence based PTSD.

      It’s not at all innocuous or acceptable to act that way.

      In fact, those are what Workplace Violence programs call “behaviors of concern”. I hope she skips talking to him (so he doesn’t know it was her) and straight to Security. They won’t actually arrest him or fire him, but… They should keep an eye on him.

  12. Fikly*

    LW2: I disagree with your take on the situation, and how you want to react to it. Their situation sucks, and you are normalizing it as some kind of rite of passage or paying their dues. Just because you are still at this company years later doesn’t mean that they have to be, or frankly, that you should be.

    Is their reaction actually hurting them right now? They clearly aren’t getting fired. It’s highly doubtful it’s preventing them from getting a raise or promotion, because this is a company that is just piling extra work on them with no reward and then getting that extra work for no extra cost, so they have no incentive to do anything different. (Are they doing that to you too? I bet they are.)

    If you talk to them, tell them it sucks and it’s not ok and to start applying elsewhere. And then offer to be a reference.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Wait, what? I was so confused by this response I had to go back and check if it was the same letter. They in no way act like anything you’ve said. You sound like you’re projecting something here.

      They are concerned their very young colleague will be fired for loudly complaining about everyone and everything at all times. What does “they aren’t getting fired” even mean? You would have no way of knowing if it’s being considered until it happens.

      Sure, not having a boss right now is hard for them and there are valid complaints, but helping them understand how to voice those professionally would be a kindness. Frankly, they might not even know they could ask for their workload to be reduced because they’re inexperienced. They might think they just have to “take it” and complain about it… kinda like you’re doing.

    2. Yorick*

      LW2 is not at all seeing their situation as a rite of passage. LW says they understand why these coworkers are frustrated and doesn’t blame them. But it is highly unprofessional to curse about receiving an email to the extent that someone else can overhear. They should already know that, frankly.

      It’s not ok to act any which way just because things are frustrating at work. There are professional ways to stand up for yourself. Calling executives rude names behind their back isn’t one of them.

    3. NothingIsLittle*

      It sounds like this is a temporary situation, not their regular modus operandi. My understanding is that OP is worried about the coworker’s reputation during a temporarily turbulent time that is not widely visible to other teams.

      Their reputation and job is in jeopardy not because they are dissatisfied, but because it is not obvious to those outside the team that these complaints are warranted and if the CEO decides they want you gone for a bad attitude, not having an acting boss won’t save you.

      And reputation isn’t just important for raises and firing, if the coworker wants to move to another job and one of the interviewers knows someone from the current company, the response, “Yeah, she was always complaining and no one really understood why,” is not going to help her prospects.

    4. Samwise*

      They’re not getting fired *right now*

      And even if it doesn’t rise to the level of being fired, it’s giving them a reputation.

      They don’t have to pretend to be happy about the situation. But the kind of public grousing this newer employee is engaged in, is not a good look and it can indeed harm them.

      Maybe not at this employer. But if they take this habit to another workplace, it sure can.

      Or say I am someone in a department where Grousing Employee may want to transfer over. If I hear the kind of public complaining OP describes (and it seems that it’s happening all over and plenty of folks are hearing it), I may very well put Grousing Employee lower down my list of candidates because who wants to deal with that kind of negativity? Or I may think, wow, that was indiscreet! I can’t have someone talking trash about my department…Grousing Employee will not be a good fit.

  13. He's only beginning*

    About the “Hun” guy: remember that he is 22. In my early twenties I did a few awkward things that I now wouldn’t DREAM of. At the time my brother had a tongue-in-cheek habit of calling me (quite respectfully) a “good kid” and “little one”, so I once referred to a colleagued I liked and respected as “a good kid” and called another colleague I liked and respected “little one”.
    I did it with utmost respect for their professional status. I didn’t mean to patronise in the slightest. And it was only a few years later I realised, “ding! how could I have SAID that??!

    1. MillennialHR*

      Agreed and you don’t know where they’ve been working – perhaps they spent their entire undergrad career in restaurants (Hun and Sweetheart were the big nicknames in a kitchen at a restaurant when I was in undergrad). Maybe just pointing out that most people just like to be called by their names rather than a nickname – he may not know that professional norm! I also do still get called Hun at my current job as an almost 30 year old working in HR, but to me, it brings back good memories (when I could be on my feet actively for 12-14 and it’s only by those in the office, so I don’t mind.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      But you don’t just let people go on doing it because “they’re only 22…” – they need to *learn* so that they can get to the point where they realize how dumb it is.
      You deal with it no matter how old the person is.
      Just like you deal with misogynist teens instead of just saying “boys will be boys” and letting it continue.
      Age and inexperience does not mean you allow problematic stuff to continue.

      1. Lana Kane*

        It’s not about not dealing with it – it’s about approaching it with understanding, rather than scolding.

  14. ADHDFox*

    LW 3 – I have recently been through the process of getting reasonable accomodations for my ADHD at work, and it was very fraught and partially led through me not knowing how to get that which I really need. I also went through the process of changing some WOW’s with my boss. Here are some management stuff that don’t seem like accomodations but really are:
    – Verbally setting the topics of meetings upfront
    – Recording conversations if possible (this might be a bit sensitive to manage but try it)
    – Confirming deliverables and deadlines in writing
    – Communicating intent clearly (“This is important because” or “I am trying to be supportive here”)
    – Using organisation systems for your team that are visual
    – Making time/space for play, connection and decompression
    – Giving employees the opportunity to recover from periods of high “masking” or to opt out of high-masking scenarios (I work with customers and often we have long customer engagements where I am only part of some of it, and I have in informal accomodation that I can leave/opt out of parts of an all-day thing so I don’t have to waste energy maskin)
    – Having regular conversations to agree and align on priorities

    Although it’s not exactly an accomodation, it might be helpful to learn about RSD and how your interactions might be misinterpreted through a lens of negative messages.

    1. Sharon*

      Yes! And most of these are things that can be done with any employee regardless of whether they have a medical diagnosis or not. If your employee needs to improve in a certain area, you should be asking them for ideas about what would help them be successful. Everybody works differently – for example, some prefer to receive direction via a conversation while others prefer it in writing – and a good manager will take this into account. You only need to go the “medical accommodation” route if the employee needs something you wouldn’t ordinarily provide or permit.

  15. Call Me Ishmael*

    The co-worker in LW3’s letter is almost certainly from Baltimore. where it is very common to call people “hun.” It is more common in speech but does happen in writing. Commentators need to more mindful of local customs and not jump to the conclusion that everything must be about mysogyny all the time.

      1. Jackalope*

        Amanda Montell wrote a book about this (called Wordsl*t). Linguistic patterns form to reflect the world view held by the culture that is speaking, and because disdain for women is so baked into so many cultures, the words and phrases we use tend to both support that and strengthen it. One common example of this is men using terms of endearment like this to put women in their place, which is a place below the men who are talking (obviously this is different if the man and woman in question are in a relationship where that’s appropriate).

        Now, is this specific young man trying to do that? Maybe – whether he’s doing it consciously or unconsciously, this is a common way to show disrespect. Or maybe he’s just from someplace – whether Baltimore or somewhere else – that uses this as a term of endearment. It doesn’t matter; the HR rep doesn’t like it, so he needs to stop. And he needs to hear that it’s not appropriate to use this as a term of endearment in the workplace like this. If he’s doing it innocently then this is a good life lesson to help him out at the beginning of his career, and if he’s doing it on purpose to be a jerk then this will put him on notice that that will not be accepted here and help him learn to do better.

        1. Jackalope*

          Upon further thought, I would like to point out that a) only one person before this has used the term “misogyny” and no one talking about this letter used the word “sexist” or “sexism”. Given how frequently pet names like this are used by men to demean or condescend to women it’s 100% reasonable to consider that as a possible explanation. And b) this is yet another example of the idea circulating that the bad thing is not that women (and people perceived as women) have to experience sexism and misogyny, it’s that innocent men who meant nothing of the sort might be accused of being sexist or misogynistic, and we must therefore prove in ironclad detail that that’s what’s going on before being allowed to use the terms. So far the LW’s situation appears fairly low-stakes and unless there’s more going on under the surface it’s plausible that a quick comment along the lines of, “Don’t use that in the workplace, it can come across as condescending, thanks!” will resolve the issue. But even if this employee is not secretly cackling behind closed doors at his chance to wield his sexist superpowers at work, it’s important for him to know that this can give the appearance of being sexist.

      2. Ontariariario*

        Keep in mind that some local customs use terms that are gendered in some places but not there. For example I’ve had meals on the east coast where servers called everyone ‘Dear’ whether they were 5 or 95, male or female. But the key is to see if the person using those terms only uses them with women or men. Much harder to do with emails of course! If I were OP I would ask a male coworker if they are seeing the same thing. OP can still push back even if the person is using the term for everyone, but if they are only using it with women then I would push back a lot harder.

        There is an old joke where a couple new to PEI are having their home renovated, and after a couple days the wife worriedly says to the husband that she’s concerned because the repair guy keeps referring to her as Dear. At which point the husband laughs and says that he’s getting it too.

    1. Engineer*

      There is such a thing as code-switching, wherein a person changes certain behaviors to reflect the environment they’re in. This is, in fact, a very necessary skill to learn and cultivate, as it’s what helps stop people from swearing, talking about their sex life, and saying inappropriate jokes at work. And it extends to such behaviors as calling everyone “hun” – local custom does not trump appropriateness.

    2. Melissa*

      I am southern, and I do default to “sweetie” and “honey”, especially if someone is upset or in pain. I no longer live in the south and I’ve had to learn to rein that in! It isn’t easy to break a habit like that, either. You may have to remind your colleague more than once.

    3. Peanut Hamper*

      No, there is nothing to indicate that.

      Yes, this is common in Baltimore, but some people do use it outside of Baltimore. And most verbal habits do not translate into writing.

      Local custom or not, it’s still inappropriate at work, especially in an email. It doesn’t have to be misogynistic to be wrong.

    4. Liz*

      Sure, show me the emails where he does that to make colleagues -in writing- and I’ll believe that. This isn’t a slip of the tongue, it’s a professional email.

    5. Person from the Resume*

      How do you know?

      Do you think because “hun” is a regionalism in Maryland, it’s not used anywhere else?

      Doesn’t matter it’s rarely ever appropriate to call a coworker “hun.” The 22 year old man needs to be told that / learn that. HR is in a decent position to tell him it’s inappropriate.

    6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

      Even folks from Bawlmer know its not appropriate in the workplace. Regionalism is not an excuse for unprofessionalism.

      1. Call Me Ishmael*

        You are being very elitist and Midwest/standard American English centric when you take this view. You – as someone from the East Coast or whatever establishment bastion you’re in – do not get to swoop in and tell regional peons that they tawk funny.

        The same is true of Bit o’Brit above, and I am gobsmacked that she would think “mate” or “luv” (which I have heard all the time in UK offices) is acceptable but “hon” in Baltimore is not.

        1. Not A Manager*

          If the poster lived in Baltimore, don’t you think that she’d know that she lives in Baltimore? Since she’s an HR professional and implies that this is not acceptable in her location, maybe believe her.

        2. Dr. Vibrissae*

          I’d be very surprised if it was common for people in the UK to start a work email to a superior with ‘Hi Luv’. I would not find that appropriate, and even with close friends in my department, I keep a professional tone in my emails.

        3. Yorick*

          This is ridiculous. Nobody is saying people from a certain place talk funny. It is not elitist to note some things are unprofessional in the workplace even though they might be fine socially.

          LW doesn’t like being called hun, so she can ask him to stop. If it were totally acceptable to say this in her area, she probably wouldn’t mind and wouldn’t have written in.

        4. Bit o' Brit*

          I was responding specifically to this sentence of the parent comment:

          Commentators need to more mindful of local customs and not jump to the conclusion that everything must be about mysogyny all the time.

          Because I take issue with the implication that local customs and misogyny are mutually exclusive.

    7. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Nope. *You* need to stop making excuses for behavior (and also mind-reading). It doesn’t matter how common it is or whether it’s a local custom or whether he learned it at his mother’s knee.

      If I do a thing and someone tells me they don’t like the thing, I need to stop doing the thing. My good intentions don’t matter. My actions and behaviors matter.

      1. Call Me Ishmael*

        I am curious whether you would say this to a
        Black person who addressed you using Black English, or for example a Latino in the southwest who addressed you as “bro” or “ese” or said “bueno bye” as a farewell.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          We’re talking about how people are addressed in writing, and it’s perfectly fine for people to say they prefer to be addressed by their name rather than a term of endearment like “hun.”

          This is becoming derailing so move on, please.

    8. Sara C*

      But it doesn’t really matter what the reason is if the LW doesn’t like it. Regardless of the motivation behind the person using a nickname/diminutive, it is ALWAYS appropriate for someone to say “I don’t prefer to be called X, please call me Y.”

    9. Ginger Cat Lady*

      And you need to be more mindful of how “local customs” come off as very patronizing and infantilizing to many, many people. Baltimore isn’t the whole world, and if this dude is from Baltimore (and there’s zero reason to think he “almost certainly” is, and in fact as many people have pointed out here, in Baltimore it’s spelled with an O and he’s not spelling it the Baltimore way!) he needs to wake up and realize that what he is doing is not okay in a work context, period.
      “Local customs” does not excuse anything. People need to adapt to where they are. She does not want to be called “hun” he needs to stop it, now.
      Sometimes it IS sexism and misogyny. Sometimes people forget that.

    10. not nice, don't care*

      Been to any maga shitholes lately? You’d be amazed at their quaint local traditions of hate-criming folks.
      Commentators are perfectly ok calling out microaggressions, regional or not.

  16. Throwaway Account*

    Re “hun”
    I’m curious why Alison suggested the HR person talk to the 22 year old’s manager and not to him directly?

    Since OP is in HR, wouldn’t it be appropriate for OP to say something about not doing this to anyone at work? I mean, it is fine for the manager to address it, I’m not objecting to that, I’m just curious why HR should not address it.

    1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      I don’t think it’s proper for an HR person to mitigate their own disputes. There is a power weirdness there. That said, I agree it should be with another HR person but in absence of that, the manager is a good way to go, I guess. Their job is to coach the employee and I think LW isn’t looking for a formal / HR-style resolution. Just a “hey, that’s gonna get you into a lot more trouble and not everyone is going to read it as harmless like I do.”

  17. Irish Teacher*

    LW1, this honestly sounds to me like it was just one of those cases where there were more great candidates than they had jobs for. If a company has 50 or 100 applications, it’s quite like at least 10 or 20 of them would do the job really well, but they can only employ one and I’d imagine it’s often fairly difficult to say exactly why they chose the candidate they did.

    It’s likely to be a very small difference. It sounds like they mean at most that the candidate they chose seemed “higher energy” than you. That doesn’t really say anything about you. The odds are this candidate just gave them the indication they would be very high energy, probably in a specific way they wanted.

    I wouldn’t even consider what they said a criticism. They said there was nothing negative. They just had a candidate who was better and when you asked for specifics about how they were better, they likely just grabbed one thing that made the successful candidate stand out.

    I also wouldn’t think this is reason to try and demonstrate your energy levels in interviews. It sounds like they only thought of it when you really pushed and they felt they had to say SOMETHING, so firstly, it’s hardly likely to be a negative about you and secondly, it’s likely specific to this company. If you are known for being “high energy” and they wanted somebody even more energetic, that sounds like it’s specific to the role.

    It’s good to think about what you could have done better, but once they said there was nothing negative, that really means that you did everything right and were a great candidate but they just had somebody who was slightly better. No matter how well you perform at interviews, you will still likely be turned down for more roles than you will get. If you got feedback from three interviews mentioning the same thing or if the feedback was very immediate, like “we really needed people who were energetic and it was very clear from your interview that you wouldn’t be a fit for this,” then I would think you had reason to be concerned but one comment that was only said when you asked for anything that put the successful candidate above you and that doesn’t fit with how others see you…that’s unlikely to mean anything.

    1. londonedit*

      I agree. I think if there’s a pattern of ‘we didn’t think you came across as confident enough’ or ‘we’re looking for someone who can bring more energy to the role’ then I’d definitely think about whether you’re generally projecting nervousness, timidness or lack of confidence in interviews. But it sounds like this is the first time something like this has come up, and the fact that the OP is confused about it suggests to me that it’s the company and not them. Could just be an excuse that they came up with because they felt they had to say something, or could be that the company really does want someone who’s all rah-rah-rah 24/7, in which case it might be for the best that the OP didn’t get the job! Anyway I wouldn’t worry about it unless it becomes a pattern.

  18. Persephone*

    LW #4 – just want to say that as someone who has also been recently diagnosed with ADHD, chances are your employee doesn’t know how to manage it yet.

    Now that I know I have ADHD, I can identify my behaviours that are a direct result of it. But unfortunately, it’s been almost a year and I’m still very much in the trial-and-error stage of dealing with 99% of them.

    Brains are tricky and neurological disorders impact every single part of your life. Right now, she’s going “so that’s why I do this!” and relearning herself. She can’t tell you what accommodations she needs because she doesn’t know. She didn’t know she needed accommodations until now.

    At the moment, patience and grace are the two biggest things you can do.

    1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      She/you may never be able to say what you need though. That’s the challenge of executive dysfunction. There’s a nearly endless list of possibilities and you struggle to know where to start. Or when to stop.

      My husband has ADD and he’s had a lot of success with various things I have suggested and has had almost no ideas of his own for things to try. He also is terrible at judging when it’s time to stop trying and admit a thing doesn’t actually work for him. He’ll just keep “trying” and (silently) blame himself for not succeeding instead of seeing that the thing doesn’t work for him and try something else.

  19. Also-ADHD*

    Honestly, instead of accommodations and framing it around ADHD (until the employee asks for accommodations), for LW4, why not start with feedback on performance and where you need improvement. Frankly, many people will avoid disclosing ADHD because it leads to assumptions, and while the issues you’re wrong may be ADHD, it also could be other things, who knows, and the point the supervisor should make is first and foremost the performance they need. It is important to make sure you follow any accommodations in place and maybe even try not to address any larger issue by not creating, using, or promoting systems and practices in general that needlessly disable neurodivergent folk, trying to avoid ableism just like we should try to be culturally responsive etc. But this isn’tan issue of systems—seeing that an employee misses meeting’s for example is probably not a systems issue unless you know the way meetings are scheduled is somehow a problem (they’re said once verbally and no one sends a calendar invite, you’re supposed to just all remember every meeting in your head—that would be insane and it would also especially disable someone with ADHD but what company does that? Most use Outlook or whatever). But by making it about their ADHD when they’ve actively said they don’t want or need accommodations, that’s infantalizing them a bit almost. Just start with sharing what needs improvement, which every supervisor should share if there are performance issues anyway!

  20. DJ Abbott*

    Oh, God, the performative enthusiasm thing. When I was young I had health issues and couldn’t have done that to save my life. I was able to come to work and do the job and nothing more. Just leave me alone and let me do my work!
    Now I understand it’s important to be engaged with the work. Still, employers that require people to bounce off the walls to show enthusiasm or engagement are counterproductive. When an employee is focused on this performance they’re not focused on the work, and they miss a lot.
    Also, it’s sort of disrespectful. Let people be who they are and do their work!

    1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

      I show my enthusiasm by working so much my health suffers. please don’t expect performative joy from me!

    2. Call Me Ishmael*

      “I was able to come to work and do the job and nothing more”

      By all means you do you, but if I am hiring someone this is not exactly a selling point.

    3. Dinwar*

      The recruiter responded to a second request for feedback with a vague statement. In no way does this translate to anyone demanding “performative enthusiasm”. Odds are very good that the recruiter just came up with something to say to make the LW go away.

      That aside, there’s something to be said for cultural fit. If the office is 99% people who are bubbly and happy and talkative and you’re the lone person with the “heads down, do my work, go home” attitude, you’re going to create friction. On the other hand, if the ratios are reversed it can create issues. Neither option is bad; it’s not in any way a moral issue. It’s a cultural one. Some people simply do not fit into certain office cultures, and that’s okay.

      For my part, I like a certain amount of cynicism in the people I work around. Not bitterness, but the understanding that everything’s going to go sideways so you may as well plan for it. The job’s gonna turn you cynical after a while anyway (in the 18-24 month window you either learn to live with it or leave the industry, it seems), so it’s better to start with it.

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      You’re so busy projecting I can’t tell if you’re responding to letter 1 or letter 2. None of these letters are about performative enthusiasm.

  21. Peanut Hamper*

    LW #1:

    You asked for feedback and got it: “they said there really wasn’t anything negative, just that I wasn’t as strong as other candidates”.

    Asking for feedback is a bit of an overreach. Companies aren’t in the habit of coaching candidates on how to do better in an interview. A lot of places wouldn’t even respond to that question.

    But you weren’t happy with that so you asked again. Even more of an overreach. The recruiter was very likely grasping at straws.

    The only reason any person doesn’t get a job is because somebody else was a better fit. That’s it. People need to quit asking for feedback about past interviews and focus their energy on future interviews. Any feedback you get is not going to be really useful.

    1. K*

      I don’t think this is true. Yes, someone was a better candidate. But there’s a specific reason as to why. It’s not an overreach to ask for feedback and I think it could be useful. This specific answer wasn’t useful, especially since OP disagrees with it, but I can easily imagine answers that would be. For example, “The candidate we hired has a masters degree and you only have a BA.” Is a straight forward answer with a simple (if time consuming) solution.

      1. Peanut Hamper*

        You’ve just proven my point though–the master’s degree made them a better fit for the job.

        I make it a point not to provide reasons, as do lots of hiring managers–you are really opening yourself up to a lot of potential problems.

        And in your example, that’s still not feedback that is actionable for the candidate. What are they supposed to do with it? Get a master’s degree over the weekend?

        1. kiki*

          It may not be something they can immediately change, but it’s something to consider for the future, especially if they struggle be hired at a role that they want. If they hear back from every interview that they went forward with somebody with a master’s, they may want to revise the types of jobs they’re applying to and in the longterm perhaps reassess their educational plans.

          Feedback like that can also be a relief, though! Like, I’m much happier to hear that another candidate simply had more education than to wonder if I lost out on the job for having answered a question very poorly or done something to offend the hiring panel.

        2. K*

          I think it directly contradicts your point. They aren’t “just” a better fit. They are a better fit for an easily communicated reason. You don’t have to share that information but you’re certainly free to and it will help the candidate.

      2. LW#1*

        I always ask for feedback. Sometimes I get it. About half the time it’s a real reason like what K said, I don’t have the same level of education (BA versus MBA), or I don’t have specific experience with a platform or program they use, or I’m too senior, or suddenly an internal candidate became available and they went with them. That one really sucked, because I was supposed to have my final interview that day. Recently another job straight up said they don’t give feedback at all because it’s their company policy.

        None of these are ideal or actionable but it’s enough for me to close the book and move on. I said in my response to everyone here that I am looking for ways to do better. It’s looking like I can count on feedback to help with that. Which again sucks, but I can work with that.

        1. TyphoidMary*

          Yeah I think asking for feedback once is totally reasonable and can be helpful! But as you’re finding out, it’s probably not going to be the cleanest way to get “closure” on the process. I think if you find an internal way to provide yourself with that closure (say a little mantra after a rejection? toast yourself for trying, then move on?) it’ll be more reliable and helpful.

          The whole process really is frustrating, and I wish you the best!

      3. Sara C*

        Having hired for a lot of high-demand jobs (i.e. far more high-quality applicants than we could ever hire, even though a lot of them could 100% do the job very well), this is often just not the case! It absolutely can happen that there are multiple really strong applicants and ultimately only one position. I can’t create more positions out of thin air (much as I would like to). You just have to move forward with one candidate and the reasons can end up being rather random/non-actionable on the part of the candidate.

      4. DisgruntledPelican*

        But often times there isn’t a specific reason, or at least not something actionable or useful. Sometimes it’s just a vibe. The last person who got hired at my organization was hired over someone who had more direct experience than them but was rejected because the hiring manager just “got the feeling the candidate would find the team really annoying and end up hating us.” While that’s the truth, I can’t imagine anyone would just come out and say that to the candidate if they asked for feedback.

    2. kiki*

      It’s not an overreach to ask for feedback! Pushing for feedback after a company says they really don’t have any is unwise, but sometimes companies really do have feedback for candidates that could be helpful, but they’re not going to offer it unless somebody asks.

      One example was a candidate who arrived for the interview 45 minutes early*. That wasn’t the only reason we didn’t go forward with him– there were generally just better candidates– but when he asked for feedback we were able to give him that note for future interviews.

      * I know there’s been discussion before about earliness and how sometimes its out of a candidate’s control. As a public transit user, I know that sometimes the only options are obscenely early or late. But this interview took place at an office in the city near a park, a library, many coffee shops, etc. There were a ton of options available for him to kill time at.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes. I don’t think it’s a problem to ask for feedback and I usually do after an interview. You may not get it but in my experience it’s never been a problem to ask as long as you accept a “no” gracefully.

        I’ve had responses varying from a flat “no” through a few stilted paragraphs, to an interviewer who had coffee with me and gave me some really detailed and specific feedback on what I needed to improve about my interview technique get the job at the next level up. I did everything he said and I absolutely rocked at my next interview.

        So I always try and give feedback, even if the feedback is “you did nothing wrong, someone else was better.”

    3. ecnaseener*

      I don’t think it’s inherently an overreach to ask, but you can’t be surprised if the recruiter genuinely doesn’t know the reason, especially if you’re a finalist. The recruiter’s not usually (ever?) involved in choosing between finalists, and if the final decision came down to minor differences between great candidates, the hiring manager has no reason to fill the recruiter in on how exactly they decided.

  22. Chairman of the Bored*

    LW can tell their colleague about the downsides of openly griping, but they should be prepared for them not to change.

    I bet they’re already looking for another job and past caring about this one.

    Part of the fun of deciding to leave a crappy job is enjoying the senioritis period where you can pretty much say and do whatever you want without any real consequences.

    1. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Or sticking it out until retirement. Not that I have to listen to that person spout, sputter, bloviate, rant, and rave all day or anything. Bonus that he’s a conspiracy theorist with a horrid tendency to make thinly veiled racist, sexist, all-the-ist comments about (fill in the blank group that he doesn’t like) and works it into EVERY single conversation. “How about those TPS reports?” “Well……..(fill in ridiculous conspiracy, disparaging remarks about minority groups, finish up with more conspiracy theories)”

    2. Polly Hedron*

      I had a blast during my last year, speaking truth to power and thereby getting laid off with a severance check to supplement my retirement.

      1. Chairman of the Bored*

        Fantastic, good for you.

        Adult-onset senioritis is truly one of life’s greatest pleasures.

  23. theothermadeline*

    Re: ADHD at work.

    1. I could be reading too much into the syntax, however you said “ADHD and other learning disabilities” – ADHD is not a learning disability. She may have been diagnosed with ADHD and learning disabilities, however ADHD is primarily an executive functioning disorder. After I asked one of the older people at my office to please send me a message to ask if I’m free before calling me so that I don’t get thrown out of what I’m focused on because of my ADHD, she apparently flipped and started asking everyone why nobody had told her about my ‘learning disability’ and it was very very not cool.

    2. Like others said, there is no one size fits all and I’d argue no one size fits most. Some of the potential accommodations listed above would be awful for the way my ADHD manifests in my work. Working from home is FILLED with distraction for me because my prioritization conflicts don’t start and stop with the time on the clock. If my room is a disaster and I have a work deadline (and and and whatever else) the executive functioning paralysis can set in and both can wither on the vine.

    I started my job last year after having worked in environments with high variety tasks, urgent deadlines, and very frequent changes. My new job also involves a high variety of tasks, urgent deadlines, and frequent changes – but now I have multiple clients. I honestly had no idea how big of a change that would be for my ADHD and it was huge. My supervisors on the teams I was on would be clear about where I was dropping the ball, talk about what we could do in the moment to address that immediate ball, and then discussed also some smaller ways to make sure they were tuned in with whether or not I fell into wheel spinning. For my part I pushed my doctor for a meds adjustment which did a lot of good work, but certainly hasn’t fixed everything. The accommodation we’re trying is they’re allowing me to hire a contractor to build out a custom PM system that follows how my brain works so that I am able to keep a handle on all of the different client projects in a way that makes sense to me without overwhelming myself.

    It’s an accommodation I wouldn’t have thought of at all before and definitely wouldn’t have thought to ask for. To me it seems like a big cost, but yesterday they approved the contractor I hoped to work with no problem. What was great was that our practice manager named to me that they encouraged me to look up and think about what accommodation I might ask for in a moment where I wasn’t having a project crisis, and leading up to/in the context of my review but not as part of my review. It was very much an invitation and they made it clear that the office was willing to think creatively/invest in something to set me up for success.

    Also I know our practice manager reads here, so heyyyyyyy if you see this ;)

  24. K*

    “ What makes it even stranger is that he is young (22). I’d be more inclined to let it go if were an older person…”


    1. Dr. Vibrissae*

      My guess, based on experience, is that it takes a lot more professional capital to address this kind of thing with older entrenched male colleagues, and it’s often not worth the effort for something that’s only mildly annoying. That may be right or wrong, but sometimes it’s a pick your battles thing.

    2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Probably from the experience of said older person being dismissive and condescending, telling them it’s no big deal, complaining about millenials/kids these days – sometimes it’s not worth it. You have hope that the younger person might not be so entrenched in their casual sexism.

    3. Friday me*

      My guess is that, at least in certain geographic areas, many people grew up with hon as a regular way adults address each other – think southern hospitality – so they get a little bit of a pass. But she may think that it’s unexpected/strange coming from someone so young, especially in writing.

  25. SheLooksFamiliar*

    For OP1, Alison replied in part, ‘Especially because the recruiter didn’t say it until you pushed for feedback a second time, it’s entirely possible that they took an off-hand comment the hiring manager made and put more weight on it than it deserved.’

    It’s entirely possible that was the feedback the recruiter got because hiring managers don’t always give a measured, reasoned explanation for declining. It’s also entirely possible the recruiter didn’t agree with the rationale or deemed it inadequate, but offered it when pressed by OP1 because it was the only feedback they had.

    Recruiters are usually the messengers for hiring manager decisions, and the ones I know/trained push back on lame reasons. Sometimes, they can challenge a hiring manager’s lame decision, or at least get a more reasonable explanation, and soometimes, they end up with nothing more than an ‘off-hand comment’ as a final decision. They’re not putting ‘more weight than it deserved’ on the comment, it’s simply all they had to go on.

  26. noncommittal pseudonym*

    Just IME, “higher energy” is often code for “younger”. Obviously, I have no idea if that’s true in this case, but I’ve heard it used that way several times, more or less openly.

    1. Awkwardness*

      I did assume if this was the reason LW1 was bothered so much by the feedback – that they think they must prove something instead of looking for a truly good fit.

      But it always goes two ways. Once a loose acquaintance in tech consulting did try to recommend her employer: “No old people, nobody over 40!” I was already in my mid 30s then and had met my fair share of consultants yet. And I would have never considered this to be an attractive employer just because.

    2. Ginger Cat Lady*

      That was my thought, too. Age discrimination or possiblyableism or fatphobia. I’ve seen it used for all three. Along with “culture fit” which can cover a myriad of other types of discrimination.

  27. Pretend Scientist*

    I would leave the ADHD out of the discussion entirely, and keep it strictly performance based. I had to have a similar discussion with one of my employees a few weeks ago. This employee has been very vocal in the past about her ADHD, meds, etc., as an excuse for why things weren’t getting done (and her workload is 100% reasonable for her role). During the most recent performance disaster, she immediately launched into reasons related to her ADHD, and I had to shut it down, firmly. I essentially said “employee, we’ve had variations on this discussion approximately every six months over the last two years. Things improve for a bit, and then slip back again. At this point, this is a performance issue that is jeopardizing your job, whatever the underlying reasons may be. We are at the point where you may need to be transitioned out of this position”. LW, let your employee request accommodations if needed. Otherwise, keep the whole focus on the job duties that aren’t getting done.

  28. FrankieCat*

    #3- As a lifelong Baltimorean, hun is just a general friendly term for person, used by everyone, of all ages, for everyone. It’s so common it’s become an identifier of the region, just like steamed crabs and the Ravens. I’d love to know if that person was from here, because if so, it would never cross their mind to think of hun as in issue

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      So are you saying that Balitmoreans really don’t know standard office behavior? Because this should not be happening in an office.

      1. Dinwar*

        Regional variations in what’s considered acceptable, even standard, behavior are a thing.

        In an extreme example of this, I had a coworker who went to UAE to oversee some well installations. He was a project manager and a scientist, so by their standards he had to wear a suit and tie every day. In the UAE in the summer. On a jobsite. Fortunately the job budgeted for specialty-made suits so he didn’t die of heat stroke. But over there wearing even a polo shirt was considered far too informal.

        For a domestic example, I moved from Alabama to California. In Alabama the dress code was slacks and a polo or button down shirt if you were in the office. The PM for my first big project in CA–at least a $50 million project–came into the office for a meeting with the client and our team wearing torn jeans, a Metalica t-shirt, and beat-up sneakers.

        And career matters. In my group in the company everyone moved up from “field grunt” to wherever they are now, and that means that some of our conversations get…well, we were field grunts in a dangerous job, typical norms don’t apply. I’ve been called “hun”, “babe”, “sweety” and a few other things (about half of which were curse words) in the same conversation with the same person. Compared to a normal day behind a drill rig, being called these things ranks so low as to not be noticeable.

        This is one of those things where categorical rules are inapplicable. Variance is to be expected.

      2. DisgruntledPelican*

        It’s weird you don’t know that cultural difference exist and that there is no such thing as a universal “standard” (and that when people claim there is, usually it’s to the detriment of women, people of color, and other marginalized groups).

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Still not appropriate in a work email. In many places, it’s not appropriate in any work context, but writing it in an email (to HR, no less) is a major part of the issue. And that’s a lesson he needs to learn, regardless of where he’s from.

    3. A Nonny Mouse*

      Also a Baltimorean (and surrounding area here) and yet, my pet peeve is being called ‘hun’. Especially if I’ve asked someone to repeatedly stop. (I’ve had it used ‘dismissively and demeaningly’ far too often.)

      I do not bite the heads off of the average random person, b/c I get that it’s a ‘thing’ here. BUT after someone has asked that the person not use it? Said person should STOP. Period. It’s not appropriate to continue, whether professional or not. (If someone slips and truly forgets, but shows effort they are trying to improve? be graceful and remind them politely. But if someone is doing it on purpose? No mercy after the first polite request.)

      Whether the person LW is describing is from the region or not (aka whether it would not occur to them that it could be an issue), when requested to stop–they should STOP.

      For me, from the LW, it’s not clear that they’ve been asked to stop yet, which is a whole other kettle.

    4. Dido*

      You’re telling me that men regularly go around calling other men hun in Baltimore? Regardless, just as you wouldn’t go to Iran and give a thumbs up because it’s offensive there even though it isn’t in the US, you wouldn’t go into a professional workplace and start using condescending pet names on people (aka women) you don’t know.

  29. Hiring Mgr*

    I don’t know if it matters at all, but I can attest that “hun” is common in Baltimore as others have said. My dad was a business associate of former Baltimore Oriole (the local baseball team) Mark Belanger so this came up when I was younger. Mark was considered a gentleman so I doubt he would use that term if he didn’t mean well.

    Either way though it doesn’t sound appropriate for your office.

  30. LW#1*

    Thanks everyone for the feedback and perspective on trying to decode the “not high energy enough” puzzle! Immediately after the call, I wanted to assume that I simply didn’t pass the vibe check. Their vibe is not my vibe, and there’s not much you can do with that. Reading all of you bring up important points on ageism/tendency to exploit workers/toxic culture really helped me trust my instincts.

    I wanted to understand the original piece of feedback in case there was something actionable in there. It can be really damaging to hear less than good feedback at work or in interviews, especially if it’s untrue or not actionable. I can take this one as a fail but not on my part and just keep going in the hopes that I will find my vibe. And continue to make the joke that if I’m not high energy, they must all be on cocaine. :)

      1. ScruffyInternHerder*

        And….there goes my coffee. It may have been unintentionally humorous, and it may be true, but it still made me snort coffee either way.

    1. Hiring Mgr*

      I haven’t read all the comments but I don’t think one mention of high energy means toxic, exploitation, ageism etc.

      Most likely AG is correct and it’s just something that the recruiter said since you asked a couple of times. I wouldn’t give it another tbought!

  31. Pretty as a Princess*

    I agree with this but will add the caveat that a lot of people just don’t KNOW how to request accommodations or that they even can. So I would name the behavior & impact and if the employee says anything about the ADHD, the manager can say “Are there changes in the office that would be helpful in managing your work with your ADHD?” If employee says something – anything – that’s when you get to “We have a process for requesting accommodations that does not require you to disclose your specific condition… here’s the link/paperwork/person to call. ”

    When I got my first management job here I was NOT aware of how our process worked and no none suggested to me that it was a good thing to understand and have in my mental toolkit. I have found that it has helped my team members feel safe when I say “Oh, there’s a process to request accommodations in the workplace here – here’s how it works and here’s how it’s confidential about your condition. Why don’t you review the materials at this link and you can decide how you want to proceed?” I highly recommend any manager take a little time to get familiar with how this is operationalized in your organization.

  32. Jennifer Strange*

    It’s funny that everyone assumes the “hun” guy is in Baltimore. I moved from Louisiana, where I couldn’t go anywhere without being called “hun”, “boo”, “sweetie”, to Maryland (admittedly not Baltimore, but closer to DC) where I’ve never been called any of those once.

    1. Bebe*

      I moved from the east coast to New Orleans and have never been called “baby” this much since, well, since I actually was a baby. It took me a minute to get used to it, but now it makes me smile. (In social contexts – no one has called me “baby” at work!)

    2. If you come for the king, you best not call him hun*

      I’m from Baltimore, my mom, aunts, and grandma are all true Hamden hons, and I feel so at home in New Orleans, where my husband grew up.

      The fact that the LW’s co-worker writes the word and spells it “hun” shows he is probably not doing it as a Baltimore thing, where we all know it is “hon” because someone kept painting it onto the Welcome to Baltimore sign on the BW Parkway.

  33. Dinwar*

    LW1, sometimes shifting the story in your head helps. The recruiter didn’t say you were rejected–they said someone else was hired. This can happen through no fault of your own; I’ve seen situations where two candidates were equally solid, and we literally flipped a coin because we could only hire one. But the main point is that the people making this decision didn’t make a decision about you. They made a decision about someone else, and you not moving forward was inevitable fallout.

    It’s possible to everything perfectly and still lose, after all.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Absolutely. I got almost 200 applications for the most recent job I posted. We had a lot of great candidates. We only have budget to hire one. This is very common and is not a reflection on the candidates.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I’ve seen situations where two candidates were equally solid, and we literally flipped a coin because we could only hire one.

      In cases like that, I tend to go out of my way to stress to the rejectee that they should feel confident in their skills and their interview ability. That I could only hire one person, and they just got edged out by something they couldn’t have controlled. (I once made the decison between equal candidates because her interview materials got delayed in the mail, but she’d kept a photocopy and simply mailed them again. The other candidates couldn’t have created that demonstration of organizational forethought, but I decided I’d let it decide for me.)

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        That’s a really valid thing to give someone an edge for, and it never would’ve come up unless there had been an issue. Sometimes it’s truly just not something you could plan for or compete against.

        And I KNOW as a candidate that feels unfair, but when you have a big, impressive pool you are statistically unlikely to pick the person objectively absolutely best suited for the job. You make a lot of marginal decisions this way.

      2. Dinwar*

        What we did was immediately pass the resume of the other person on to some other hiring managers in the company, along with a strong endorsement–along the lines of “We can’t afford him, but the company absolutely wants this guy, can you help us out?” At least once the other person was hired by the other group in the company.

  34. HonorBox*

    OP2 – Pull the young coworker aside. Empathize (which you can honestly do because you’ve been in their shoes) and let them know their frustrations are understandable. Especially true because they’re functioning without a direct supervisor and more may be falling on their desk because of it. But they need to know that verbal outbursts, swearing, and snide comments about the C-suite will likely backfire. Heck, tell them that if they need a minute or two to vent, your door is open. Give them a safe space to voice their frustrations. But when (not if) the wrong person hears them, it won’t look good for them and will likely land them on someone’s s-list.

  35. HannahS*

    OP3, I once had a patient in his early 20s call me “babe.” I flatly said, “I’m not your babe,” and he went, “Oh, sorry” and stopped. In writing, you can just say, “Please don’t call me ‘hun,’ I prefer Jane,” or “Please call me ‘Jane’ and not ‘hun,’ thanks.”

    I don’t know about you, but I feel like I was socialized never to make anyone uncomfortable, and to instead be uncomfortable myself. Actually, it’s ok to make other people uncomfortable by telling them how to stop making you uncomfortable. Another advice column calls it “returning the awkward to sender” which I like. The other thing I like to consider is that telling someone how to treat you in a single sentence isn’t actually a treatise on why they’re a bad person, actually. You don’t have to do the emotional labour of parsing whether he’s a misogynist, or merely from Baltimore (as suggested above,) or indeed a misogynist from Baltimore, or if it’s an ESL issue, or if he’s an ESL misogynist from Bal–you get my point. Ultimately, what matters is that you don’t want to be called ‘hun.’ Tell him to stop. If he writes back with any explanation, gracefully ignore it and continue to be professional towards him.

    1. TootsNYC*

      re: “return awkward to sender”

      One other point that columnist makes is:
      You say you don’t want to make things awkward or uncomfortable. They are ALREADY awkward, because YOU are uncomfortable.

  36. The Formatting Queen*

    #3 – I had a boss who called me “hon/hun” a lot – he’d throw in a “Thanks hon” as we were wrapping up our phone conversations. He was in his early 60’s, and I was the department admin and nominally his assistant (I booked all his travel and did his expense reports, etc.) I told him so many times he couldn’t/shouldn’t call me that and he always said “oh, sorry, I know that, it just comes out” and honestly it was true – I was never going to be able to get him to stop. Just habit for him ingrained over many, many years. Eventually I just rolled my eyes every time and moved on. I wasn’t completely sad when he was let go.

  37. Lisa*

    I once didn’t get a job because I was “too bubbly”. I am a very quiet, laid-back and introverted. If I was too bubbly for the job, I cannot imagine what kind of employee they were looking for. LOL

    That would actually make a very good topic for this site! What is the wildest/weirdest reason you were turned down for a job? I imagine we’d get some pretty great stories! I once had a friend who was turned down for a job after meeting with the owner of a small company in person. She had gone through a phone interview and an in-person meeting with HR and felt that things were going really well as she had been told repeatedly that she was a very strong candidate. After the final interview she was told that they had decided to hire someone else and like most candidates she asked for some feedback. She was expecting the usual feedback of “we had a stronger candidate” and was surprised when the owner replied back that it was because she “reminded him too much of his ex-wife” LOL

  38. Majestic Cackling Hen*

    I have an employee who has been having performance issues for a long time now, and now that they’re on the brink of a PIP, we’ve just found out that they’re requesting accommodations. We don’t yet know the reason for the request but that it’s a “new diagnosis,” and I suspect it’s ADHD. What’d frustrating is that this person already works from home, has a pretty good amount of flexibility in their schedule, and has been getting a lot of hand-holding from their manager and reminders to do things that they’re supposed to do. Nearly everything in our work is deadline-driven, and we have systems in place for keeping track of those deadlines at a glance. There really isn’t much more we can do that would be likely to help, I don’t think, short of changing the work this person does or requiring them to do less work–which isn’t really feasible. Heck, even what we’ve BEEN doing is unsustainable, as this amount of hand-holding for an experienced employee is really exhausting their direct supervisor. I guess all we can do is wait to see what specifically is requested. I’m a firm believer in accommodations, but…I can’t help but think that this just isn’t a great job match for this person.

    1. TootsNYC*

      I know people often respond well to medication, and you can’t get that without a diagnosis, so it will be interesting to see what happens if that comes into the mix.

      1. Majestic Cackling Hen*

        That’s a good point. I honestly would love to see this person succeed (though they’ve also had some issues with unprofessionalism that are a separate problem we need to resolve), and if medication makes that possible, great!

        1. Jules*

          I have an anecdote that I hope might offer you some home.

          I was dx’d with ADHD at 36 about a year and a half ago. I didn’t pursue meds at the time, but I did start to finally make progress with my struggles at work because I finally started to come at them from an angle that made sense for my brain. I also made a ton of progress simply because I stopped hating myself so much. It really was that simple. (No one, not even my husband, knew how deep my self-loathing and shame went. Your employee might be suffering deeply.) When you’ve spent decades telling yourself what a POS loser you are, it’s hard to not let that self-conception color your reality.

          After diagnosis, I went from borderline PIP territory to getting performance awards within a few months.

          But it was SO HARD. So hard. I had all these skills to practice, all these techniques to implement. And it worked, but it was so labor intensive. I was able to keep the plates spinning for the first time in a long time, but it left me exhausted and I still dropped them more than it felt like I “should.”

          So I decided to try medicine. And it turns out meds + skills + self compassion is my magic formula.

          A few months ago, I began stimulant medication. It was like a light switch. The VERY first day I completed a task that I’d been absolutely paralyzed over and unable to even start for months. I’d wanted to. I knew I needed to. I was so distressed that I hadn’t. I was increasingly scared every day that it would come to light that I’d not done this thing. But I couldn’t. Paralysis really is an apt term– it truthfully was out of my ability to control. And the first day I took my meds, I did that task that afternoon. I wept. Literally.

          I am, if I may be so humble, killing it at work these days. I report to the director, and he’s thrilled with my performance. I got a shout-out at our all-staff meeting yesterday for the quality of my work. Two years ago this month, my then-boss told me my job was soon to be at risk. And now I’m the one saving people’s butts. I’m not some productivity robot or anything (which I was afraid of, to be honest– the stereotypes about meds and what they do and who seeks them and why absolutely cause harm and keep people away), but I’m driving the car now. I’m showing up the way I want to, not the way the negative traits of my ADHD want to.

          My diagnosis saved my career and my life. I am happier, more confident, more self-possessed in every aspect of my life. I understand myself, and I love myself. And this shows up everywhere I go and in everything I do. I dealt with a lot of grief when I was diagnosed and when I started meds over the life I didn’t get to live because my struggles were missed. But now I’ve mostly come to peace with that, and I feel like the world is my oyster.

          Is it a guarantee that your problem employee will turn into a star post-diagnosis? No. But I’d encourage you to hold onto hope for a bit longer. The ADHD brain works differently than a NT one, so the flexibilities and tracking and such that have been offered thus far might just not be the right ones, and now that they’re diagnosed they might be able to pursue ones that prove to be better-suited. (For me, telework and body doubling–I subscribe to Caveday and use it daily–has been incredibly helpful.) ADHD meds can be a game-changer. And never underestimate the changes wrought by self-understanding.

          1. Jules*

            *Offer you some hope! Not home! Hah, if I could manufacture houses out of thin air, I’d have done that for myself a long time ago!

            (Re-reading what I write before I post is still clearly a habit I’m not solid on!)

          2. I Have RBF*

            Thanks. I needed to read this. I’m hoping it will prod me toward getting an adult diagnosis.

            I was diagnosed as a kid, but not medicated, because I adapted “well enough” to get good grades in school, although I had some behavioral issues. Then I hit college, and my executive dysfunctions made me wash out of the engineering area I was studying. I could only get so far wherever I worked, and sooner or later I would drop the wrong ball. This has been the story of my career ever since.

            I’m hoping that if I get an adult Dx I can get on a light stimulant that will settle out my executive dysfunctions and memory issues, many of which get worse under stress. The headwind against this is that I tend to distrust the medical/psychiatric establishment for multiple reasons.

    2. kiki*

      I understand that it’s frustrating, but I think it’s important to remember that not all requested accommodations are reasonable. Ultimately, it is okay legally and ethically to say that something isn’t possible for your office. Obviously make a good-faith effort to see if it is possible, but sometimes certain roles aren’t a good fit for someone. The letter about the director with PMDD from earlier this week was an amped up example of this, but you absolutely do not have to move forward with accommodations that are unreasonable or wildly outside the norm. And a reminder that “this employee gets to be bad at their job and let others pick up the slack” is not actually a reasonable accommodation. Duties may certainly be shifted off their plate, but just because somebody has accommodations doesn’t mean they get to operate free of performance evaluation.

      1. Majestic Cackling Hen*

        Yes! I’ve told this to my direct report, who is this person’s manager. We can make REASONABLE accommodations, but anything that would mean this person can make the same salary and have the same title as another person on the team while doing less work and making others do more as a result is not reasonable because it’s not equitable.

    1. WantonSeedStitch*

      I thought the same thing! But even so, if someone doesn’t want to be called “hun,” it makes sense for them to speak up and the person doing so should knock it off.

  39. TootsNYC*

    but that they’re not doing themselves any favors by being overheard talking the way they’re talking.

    This is an important point, I think.

    Make it be about strategy, and the impact they’re having on others and how that will hurt them.

    Don’t make it be about morality or character.

  40. TootsNYC*

    re: ADHD accommodations

    As a parent whose child is on my insurance still, and who has encouraged him to seek out coaching, etc., for practical strategies to augment his medication:

    It’s frustrating to me that this kind of coaching is not eligible for insurance coverage. Maybe a psychologist would be able to provide that coaching, but most of the sources we’ve found do not have that level of training and certification.

    I’ve seen his coach make a difference in his ability to accomplish things. He actually implements strategies she suggests.

  41. 15 Pieces of Flair*

    LW 1 – A few years ago I worked at a tech startup where the CEO cited “lacking energy” as his rationale for not wanting to hire older professionals. While I don’t know your age relative to the other candidates, some employers cite “not seeming energetic enough” when they think the candidate is too old. Age discrimination is pretty common in startup environments but difficult to prove because employers can claim any number of reasons for not hiring a particular individual.

  42. DivergentStitches*

    #1 I hate BS like this. When I was a recruiter and in a position to, I would always push back on hiring managers who insisted that “high energy” or “good social skills” were things that were needed for roles like software engineering. Putting things like that in an ad, when they’re not necessary to succeed in the role, only causes introverted and/or disabled candidates to opt out because they think they won’t be considered. OR they get knocked out of the running because they weren’t outgoing enough. For a salesperson or someone who’s client facing, sure it makes sense, but SO MANY Hiring managers think that high energy or social skills are things that are needed – no, those things only make someone easier to manage.

    1. Ginger Cat Lady*

      That’s the whole point though, they want to discriminate, but if they can word the job description so that people self-select out, they cannot be accused of discriminating.
      I once saw a company ad that talked about how their company culture was all about running marathons together. Great way to signal that no one old, fat, disabled or out of shape need apply.

      1. DivergentStitches*

        The hiring managers I talked to in person were always gobsmacked when I told them to stop it. Like they were outgoing themselves so they had no idea not every one else in the world is.

        I still believe it’s just people wanting to be lazy managers and not wanting to manage anyone “hard”

    2. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

      “High energy” is a warning they are going to make you work all hours and burn you out within a year, then recruit another high energy sucker.

      “Good social skills” isn’t a warning for me; it tends to indicate they’ve been burnt previously by a brilliant jerk who made everyone miserable. At the least, it shows they don’t want brilliant jerks in their team – and neither do I.

  43. BellyButton*

    OP#2 – The reason I say something is because if they are saying it to me, I don’t want anyone who overhears to think I am participating in the b**ch fest.

  44. Stuart Foote*

    I have told his story before in the comments, but LW#1 made me think of my “high-energy” story. My first job out of college was a sales job with a very overbearing, bullying boss (he made at least one guy cry while I was there). I am a pretty deadpan guy, especially when I’m nervous, and my boss had a huge personality and wanted all his employees to be the same.

    Whenever we had a sales appointments we would have to go over our deal in front of all 25ish people in the company, and invariably he would get mad that I wasn’t “excited” enough. I might have been broke working a 100% commission job, but I didn’t like being bullied, so I would turn my excitement meter down to zero whenever I presented. I got the point where I basically sounded comatose. Then I would drink a ton of Red Bull before I actually met with the client boost my energy to close the deal.

    Eventually we started to get along, but for a while this guy couldn’t figure me out at all, especially since I was eventually one of the better salespeople in the office. I didn’t feel too bad because I knew that if I hadn’t been a strong performer, he would definitely have relentlessly bullied me.

  45. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – I wouldn’t give the reason you were given too much weight. You had to push a couple times to get anything, and the reason you were given wasn’t very useful.

    As a recruiter, it drives me crazy that hiring managers assume an energy level from a person based on a 1 hour interview. Some people are low key but highly productive; some people have nerves or a stomach ache or headache or are coming down with a cold; some people are introverts and are being forced to be extroverted for an interview, etc. etc. etc. Hiring managers should look at what the person accomplishes and how they do it. You can have someone who appears high energy but who gets nothing useful done.

  46. BellyButton*

    For those who have ADHD, or have someone in their life who does- I always ask them to look up The Pomodoro Technique, and implement some of the strategies and tools that are available online for free. I do not have ADHD, but I use the technique when I need to really focus and pound out a bunch of things.

    1. Mill Miker*

      As someone with ADHD, I’m a fan of the Pomodoro Technique, but I find how helpful it is really varies. It’s good for setting a pace and direction, but I like to compare it to water skiing instead of swimming. If I’ve got the energy to keep myself upright, it helps me move a lot faster and easier. If I don’t have the energy to balance, I’ll still get there faster, but in pretty rough shape.

  47. Piscera*

    LW’s 1 letter reminded me of an interviewer who told my recruiter she felt I’d put her on the defensive. That wasn’t my intention, but I agree. I’ve also never lost sleep over it, because I determined that anyone in the job would have been overloaded.

    More recently, I’m almost certain I didn’t pass an initial interview because I asked about the firm’s professionals coming into the office post-Covid. Their staffers were on a hybrid schedule. At best I’d been meh about even interviewing with the firm. I’d also seen a very recent Glassdoor review, that I was also almost certain was from the last person in the job.

    1. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

      I was asked if I prefer remote or in-office work. I work in the city the office is located and genuinely prefer to come in, assuming the office isn’t crowded, as my brain needs a formal separation between home and work (particularly in the winter months when the SAD flares up — I need something to force me out of the house & give me a routine/ritual, but did not volunteer this information for obvious reasons). The guy paused and laughed a little and said, “It wasn’t a trick question.”

      I…hadn’t thought it was. Weird. Should have just said remote, but I didn’t know there was a right answer. Some interviewers do their best to scare off candidates, although I won’t assume I was their #1 choice or anything (clearly not).

      1. Piscera*

        Several firms in my industry have required the staff to RTO either FT or hybrid, but not the professionals. Not surprisingly that’s caused a lot of hard feelings.

  48. The Happy Graduate*

    Unrelated to the post directly, but does any one know what happened to the related articles links? I miss them!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      They’re still there! They don’t display on the home page currently, but they’re there if you click through to the post. (It’ll be at least a few weeks before they return to the home page; an update to the plugin broke some of its functionality so I’ve got to have someone fix that element of it.)

  49. the bat in the office popcorn machine*

    #1: I wouldn’t sweat it. There is definitely a gut feeling involved in hiring — after all, they’re looking to hire for culture. I was in an interview end of July where I had all the right answers, but even I could feel across the table that I wasn’t a good fit for their culture. I just did an interview end of August and I could immediately feel a click with this team, as well as a sense of comfort in communicating with them. Some things are just a feeling and you can’t control it — we’re all strangers meeting for the first time, with only a paper and an hour talk to determine if we should spend 8 hrs a day, 5 days a week together.

    Sometimes “high energy” is really code for ‘this is vague, subjective, and non-discriminatory enough to be feedback that isn’t you didn’t pass the gut check, sorry!’

  50. Jo*

    start ups want high energy so they can sap the life and soul out of you. Use you up and burn you into the ground.

    Be thankful you didn’t get it, especially if you’re expected and can stick up for yourself.

  51. Black cat lady*

    Re: #2 with complaining worker:

    Maybe I missed something but it sounds like only one of the two workers is loudly complaining. It’s not only going to hurt their reputation but what about the second worker that has to listen to this all day? Listening to negative comments all day would certainly affect me at work. If nothing else that’s a good reason to ask the unhappy worker to put a lid on it.

    1. NotBatman*

      Yes! I’ve picked it up as a polite form of address for strangers while living there. I agree that any reasonable person should *stop* using it after one request from a coworker, and I make an effort not to use it in my (non-MD) workplace, but I was taught that it’s the kinder alternative to “sir” or “ma’am.”

  52. PlainJane*

    LW3: Ugh, the “hun” thing.

    The way I try to frame it to myself when service people (servers, cashiers, whatever) use it is that they think of it as being friendlier and less fraught than “Ma’am” or “Miss” when they don’t know my name. This helps me not get furious in the grocery line, and to not make their days worse by drawing punishment down on them when they think they’re just being nice. (I don’t want anyone dragged into an office to answer to a manager who cites a vague “customer complaint.” That’s a much bigger grievance to them than suffering through a “hun” or two is to me.)

    That said, as someone in HR, you are in a position to do something about it and you can control whether or not it comes off as a scolding. It’s possible, of course, that the employee is just a jerk who thinks all women should be called “hun” as a matter of course–I do not notice people saying that to men very often–but it’s also possible that no one has every told him that (a) some people are very offended by it and (b) no one loves it so much that losing a daily dose of “hun” would cause them to feel bereft and unloved.

    You’re in HR. You could work with higher-ups to come up with a general, official policy for how co-workers ought to address one another (and customers, pretty please!) during work hours and make sure that all employees are aware of it. That would apply to women calling each other hun and sweetie and so on as much as to men doing it. Then no one would have to individually have that uncomfortable moment of saying, “I, personally, wish you would not address me in that way.”

    1. PlainJane*

      (Just to clarify, I don’t mean that people shouldn’t express that something bothers them personally if they are comfortable doing so. Of course they should. But having an official policy in place gives them something to point to, and a knowledge that they will be supported. Also, it tells the person in question that it’s not just a PlainJane thing. It’s not PlainJane being a killjoy or a prude. It should be standard business practice to not use personal endearments on colleagues.)

  53. Ialwaysforgetmyname*

    I was freshly moved from Ohio to North Carolina in the mid 90’s in my first professional job in college administration, specifically residence halls. A shocking (to my Ohio ears at least) number of female students called me honey, sweetie, or sugar.

    One day, after yet another 18 year old female student called me sweetie, I responded “Since I’m an employee I’m not sure you should call me that.”

    To which she replied “oh hon, that’s just what we say down here.”

  54. Elliot*

    Letter 3:
    I think it’s a really common belief that we should let it slide when older people do something inappropriate and unprofessional (like calling someone pet names in the workplace) and I wish this line of thinking would stop! This should be addressed whether the person doing it is 22 or 62.
    Older employees shouldn’t get a pass to do weird things at work because things were different in their day! They can still learn and evolve towards what’s appropriate now.

  55. Bookworm*

    LW1: As someone who did actually used to get this feedback consistently earlier in my career, I am sympathetic but am also inclined to think this was a sign that the recruiter was grasping for something. Maybe the winner was in love with it and just clicked with the hiring people. Who knows?

    Sorry that happened, but I also take this as one of those “you interviewing them, too” situations: if you need to show a certain amount of enthusiasm for a job just because (and it’s not public facing or whatever), maybe it’s them and not you at all. Just a thought!

  56. Nnt*

    Regarding LW1, from the recruiting side of things, this is why it’s usually better for us to avoid giving feedback to rejected candidates unless it’s something concrete like “they had a certification that we wanted” or “the other candidate was bilingual and it tipped the scales.” So often the reason people don’t get hired is subjective and hard to explain, and then when you try to explain it you risk being misunderstood and coming across poorly. Most of the time there’s no way to say “you didn’t do anything wrong, they just liked the other person better” that rejected candidates will actually accept.

  57. DrSalty*

    LW#2, as someone who used be a loud complainer at work with a bad attitude and didn’t realize how I was coming across until my manager brought it up at my annual review, I think you’d be doing your coworker a favor if you raised it once, kindly and matter of factly.

    1. Random Dice*

      I wouldn’t paint a target on myself for someone who habitually acts so incredibly aggressively and angrily.

      In most cases of Workplace Violence, the surviving coworkers aren’t remotely surprised.

  58. Dawn*

    OP#1 – the actual feedback was that other candidates were stronger.

    That does happen more often than not. It is entirely possible for other people to be better/more suitable for a position than you for any number of reasons.

    Take it on board and if you want something constructive you can improve on in this instance, work on being able to let frustrating things go.

  59. I Have RBF*

    About “hon”/”hun”: Yuck. I hate pet names and forms of address in the workplace, especially since they are often gendered: “hun”, “Miss RBF”, etc.

    I really hate it when I get phone calls from customer service folks that call me “Miss FirstName”. For starters, “Miss” is only appropriate for young, unmarried females – either kids, teens or young adults. Since I’m over 60 and an enby, I don’t want to be infantilized like that.

    The fact is that some of these are diminutives, and imply that you are younger, junior, immature or too dumb to know how the world works. Maybe it’s just me being enby, but it sets my teeth on edge, and my reaction tends to be cold, as in icily professional.

    I realize that these things are baked into the cultures of certain regions, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t still sexist or ageist. I don’t think they belong at work.

    1. SnappinTerrapin*

      I see your perspective, and respect it.

      When I was growing up, neighbor children addressed my mother as Miss Firstname. She was relatively young, but definitely married. The honorific recognized her status as an adult, but was less formal and more familiar than Mrs. or Ms. Lastname.

      Similarly, during my childhood, it was common for children to address teachers as Ms. Lastname if we weren’t absolutely sure whether Miss or Mrs. was more appropriate. That was a few years before Ms. began to become the default address among adults.

      I’m older now than she was then. A lot of co-workers and others I work around address me as Mr. Firstname. In our culture, it’s a familiar yet respectful form of address. Personally, I don’t care whether I am addressed as Firstname, Mr. Firstname, or Mr. Lastname.

      This is just a different perspective from your perception. I’m not arguing that you are wrong for seeing things as you do, just that there is another way to look at it.

      1. PlainJane*

        Yes. I’ve gotten to a point, working with children, where “Miss Jane” is what I’m used to, because that’s what their parents said to call me.

        I don’t like it when strangers assume a right to my first name before I’ve given even tacit permission, but I’ve accepted that the train has long since left the station on that. Anyone asking to be called “Miss Lastname” would be marked as a snob in contemporary culture, and that’s not baggage I want.

  60. DontTellDisabledFolksWhatTheyNeed*

    OP4, I have a different disability (not ADHD). One thing that will make me almost grateful is if a coworker starts suggesting things I could do to improve my working environment/be more productive/fit in better with the way they do things and therefore think everyone else should do. Worse is their bringing it up more than once, and I have gone so far as to lose my temper in front of my whole team when two people ganged up on me in a meeting and tried to tell me how to “fix my problem” when my only problem was with them.

    I guarantee you if it’s something that might be helpful I’ve tried it and 99% of the stuff that people insist on suggesting doesn’t work or, often, will actively make things worse. This is often true even if the same approach/idea/action worked for someone else with some issue that might – maybe – be sort of similar to whatever the person getting the advice might need to address.

    Unless the other person explicity asks for ideas you should not provide any. You can, of course, bring up/address the things that aren’t happening or that are causing you problems in your job but please do not try to tell someone else how to deal with their disability. And if for some reason you really feel like you absolutely must please only do so once and back off when they tell you to back off.

  61. ADHDFox*

    It would be great if all the great suggestions around ADHD accommodations (informal or otherwise) could be condensed into a post. Please? (For my ADHD brain and my ADHD friends.)

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