is my answer to “tell me about yourself” turning off interviewers, am I bribing my coworkers, and more

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

1. Is my answer to “tell me about yourself” too impersonal?

I have been operating under the assumption that discussing personal information is not acceptable during a job interview, and as a result whenever someone says “tell me about yourself,” I take it in the professional sense, outlining my job history and saying nothing about my life outside of work. However, it’s recently come to my attention that doing so might be actively harmful. Instead of coming off as professional, it could instead be seen as distant or distrustful, and might explain why I’ve been having such a hard time landing a job offer. Could you please confirm whether this is case, and maybe provide some advice on what kind of personal info to provide?

Most interviewers are looking for exactly what you’ve been offering (“tell us about you as a professional”), although some are hoping for something a little more expansive (although generally not a ton more — just something like “I grew up in Florida and moved here after college” or “and outside of work I do a lot of volunteering with homeless armadillos” — literally just a sentence or two, and nothing terribly personal).

But if they’re interested in a broader answer than what you gave, any competent interviewer would simply say, “Tell us a little about you as a person outside of work too.” It’s extremely unlikely that not offering up anything personal originally is losing you offers or coming across as distant or distrustful. I suppose it’s possible that you’re coming across as distant or distrustful in other ways, but it’s not because you’re confining your answer to this question to the professional sphere. That’s a really normal thing to do.

how to answer “tell me about yourself” in a job interview

2. My friends say I’m bribing colleagues by being nice

I try to be extra nice to the service folks at my job: custodians, IT, shipping/receiving, etc. Mainly I do this because they are humans who deserve the same respect as the engineers/scientists I work with, but also partially because I want them to like working with my team, which might get us better service in the future. I was telling this to some friends and they accused me of trying to “bribe” these workers to get better service. Some examples I told them were:

– Our AC was getting fixed and I told the HVAC crew if they wanted any sodas or snacks out of our snack bar, they were welcome to them. (I manage the snack bar, so I have the authority to do this.)
– We were having a cookout at my building and the custodian happened to arrive while we were grilling. I told them to feel free to grab a burger/hotdog/sides/soda. We had plenty of food and several other folks told them the same thing.
– I needed something shipped out on super short notice and when I brought my package to the shipping office, I gave them a large bar of chocolate to tell them sorry for the rush.
– I had a very tricky computer problem and when it was resolved I wrote a very nice email to the IT department praising the two people who helped me by name. Apparently they were both given a $60 customer service award from their team because I did this.

Maybe this is bribery, but I feel like that term can get blown out of proportion very quickly. I am torn because while no one at my work has said anything, my friends told me I might get in trouble if management starts hearing about it.

Your friends are being ridiculous. All the examples are you just being a kind person and recognizing other people’s humanity. I assume the part your friends latched onto is that part of your motivation is that your team might get better service in the future — but all you’re doing is being thoughtful about your work relationships and being someone people will have good will toward in the future, which is a really standard, smart, and emotionally intelligent way to operate (in addition to making you someone your colleagues probably like working with).

It would be different if you were covertly sliding cash their way. But you’re just treating them kindly and letting their managers know you appreciate their work. That’s not bribery, and that’s a really bizarre lens for your friends to be putting on thoughtfulness and kindness.

I’m dying to know what your friends’ work relationships are like if they think there’s something nefarious about being kind to your colleagues!

3. Should I hire someone to finish a side project that a coworker offered to do for free?

I’ve been working on a dream I have had for a while, a small food business (think catering like apps, meat and cheese boards, venetian hour setups, etc.). I have been doing this casually for quite a while now and I have probably two dozen repeat customers. I never intended this to be anything more than a monetized hobby as I have a full-time job in an unrelated field I love.

After a very successful holiday season last year, I decided to come up with a formal name and eventually create business cards, a website, etc. Yay!

Here is my dilemma. I did an event for a coworker, James, at the end of last year that went really well. The success of this event, and the number of people asking for a business card so they could hire me in the future, is what spurred my decision to get my butt in gear and turn this into a legit side business. I mentioned that I didn’t know where to start, and James offered to help create the logo and website. He graduated from an art school with some kind of degree in digital marketing and design. Awesome! I thought about it for a few weeks and then brought him a name and a general idea about the logo. I told him to send me his rates so I could pay him for his time, he said that he didn’t want any payment, and sent me over a first draft of my logo within 12 hours. I was so happy!

I asked for one small change to the design, regarding coloring. I never heard back. I followed up a few times to see if my idea was plausible but it was radio silence. This was back in April. Since the season was ending and I knew my side work would disappear for the summer, I left it alone and figured I would follow up as we approached the season (which starts in mid-November). I was starting to feel like a pest and since I didn’t pay him, it felt wrong to essentially demand his time.

A really good friend of mine, Jessie, just started a business doing the same thing and has offered to finish up what James started and more. I really liked the logo he came up with, just not the coloring, and Jessie has been doing this work successfully for years with great reviews so I trust she could make something I love with the bones of James’ design.

Can I take that logo James started and have Jessie finish it? I reached out again a few times this past month in anticipation of rolling out everything for the season, but never heard back from him. Our in-person conversations hint that he doesn’t think I should change anything and I am starting to feel like he thinks his ideas are too good to be changed at all. That leaves me with a general design I like, but coloring that essentially feels … so not me. Should I offer to buy the current design from him again so I can have Jessie do whatever I want with it? I am unsure of how copyright might play into this (if at all). Alternatively, his silence since then has been so weird to me that I am wondering if I committed some kind of faux pas by asking him to change the coloring even though he didn’t want payment for his time or work. Should I have just been happy with what I got?

Last question first: Nope, definitely do not accept a logo that isn’t what you want. It’s entirely reasonable and normal to have several rounds of tweaking after a first design. It would be surprising if you didn’t!

As for the rest: Who knows what happened with James — maybe he got caught up in other things, maybe he’s too touchy about his work to be designing for people, maybe he realizes he shouldn’t have offered his time for free and doesn’t know how to backtrack. But regardless, you shouldn’t use or change his design without his okay. He owns the copyright to it unless you have a written agreement to the contrary, and it could be a big mess (as well as just bad manners) if you changed and then used something he legally owns. The safest thing to do is to start over from scratch with Jessie (who might prefer that anyway, rather than tweaking another designer’s work, and who might come up with something you like better anyway).

Also, make sure you sign a contract with Jessie specifying transfer of rights, etc., even though she’s a friend and even if she’s doing it for free!

4. How long do I have to wait before adding my new job to LinkedIn?

After years of working jobs that were crushing my spirit, I recently started a new job that is a great set-up in my career, doing work I enjoy, with an organization that seems to have a healthy culture. I just finished my first week and it seems to be a great fit! I’ve read that you’re not supposed to update your LinkedIn profile until a few weeks (or even months) into a new role — in your opinion, how true is this? I’m really excited to update my profile with my new position … but is it too soon? Does it even matter?

Nah, update it now if you want. That advice has always seemed overly cautious to me. The thinking is that the job might not work out and if you’re not there in a few months, you don’t want to have to deal with it being on your LinkedIn … but you could just remove it at that point if you want to. It’s not a big deal, and very few people are monitoring changes to your LinkedIn profile that closely.

I do agree it doesn’t make sense to add it before you actually start the job — but you’ve started, it’s been a few weeks, and it’s fine to add it now if you want.

5. Employee working four hours, then taking the rest of the day off

If an exempt employee works four hours and then takes the remaining four hours off, are they paid for the full four hours?

Yes. If exempt employees work any part of the week, they must be paid their salary for the full week. (Starting and ending weeks are an exception to this.) The employer could deduct the time from their PTO, but they must legally pay for it.

Employers are allowed to prevent abuse of this, of course; they can require X number of hours of work a week even you’re exempt, and can address it like any other performance issue if someone isn’t doing that. But even if that’s happening, they’d still need to pay exempt workers their full salary for the week.

{ 422 comments… read them below }

  1. The Prettiest Curse*

    #2 – if your friends don’t think you should treat service staff like human beings, you need better friends. Kindness, in addition to being a good thing in itself, is also an investment in your future relationships with people. It’s amazing how few people realise that service staff might be inclined to give better service to people who treat them with dignity and kindness.

    1. Artemesia*

      This was one of the dumber things I have read here. The OP is behaving perfectly, treating those who serve like the human being they are. Being nice because then people are nice back is the way a decent society works. The co-workers are deeply disturbed.

      One of the most useful things any new hire can do, is shut up and observe and see who are the informal power centers in any office. Some of those will be admins who keep the place running and control the resources you need. Being nice to these people is both prudent and the right thing to do as a decent human.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Yup, exactly. As a former admin/reception cover, always remember that support staff have the ability to make your working life either easier or more difficult. If you don’t treat people well, they will be a lot less inclined to make your working life easier!

        1. feline outerwear catalog*

          This is totally normal to me. I work in higher ed and as much as it has it’s downsides, I’ve generally found more of this type of kindness than when I was in corporate or other non profits.

        2. Miette*

          This is a lesson I make sure to share with anyone who works for me, because it really does pay off in spades: even if people are never in a position to help you, you’ve made their day marginally less shitty, and in OP’s case, often even better. If that isn’t worth it to OP’s friends, then I’d be side-eyeing hard.

        3. Beth*

          Support staff can make your life easier/more difficult. And you can make THEIR lives easier and more pleasant! And it’s easy! It drives me nuts that anyone has a problem with that.

          It goes for every level of support and service work, too. When we have work done on our house (in Florida), we provide bottled water and soda and make sure the people know that they’re free to use the bathroom.

          (For those who don’t know — most companies do not ALLOW their service personnel to ask to use your bathroom, and it’s a real kindness to offer.)

          1. Bern Notice*

            We had a major plumbing job at our house, outside, in the summer (digging up and replacing the sewer line from the house to the street – brutal job). We had a cooler full of water, Gatorade and sodas out there in the shade for the guys. Also told them to feel free to knock on the back door for bathroom breaks (powder room back there) and asked if we could get them lunch from the burger joint down the road. They were so happy to be treated well, and told us “the people in the big fancy houses won’t even offer us a drink from the hose”. I think us middle class folks have much more empathy for the blue collar people we all depend on.

        4. Chili Heeler*

          Exactly. Also, while I agree with the general rule that “secret tests” for job applicants (like the coffee mug one from a recent letter) are awful, an applicant who is rude to the receptionist will most likely not be moving on to the next round.

          I understand that they might feel awkward/anxious but that is different from being rude and usually demanding. A job interview is when you’re on your very best behavior, so if you can’t manage basic manners then, things will only get worse.

      2. Jamjari*

        Sort of a flip side of this, I had a former manager who would always ask the front desk staff about candidates we were interviewing – if they were rude to them that would have been a big red flag.

        1. So Tired*

          I’m not a fan of secret hiring “tests” but this is one I fully support. Because it’s actually not hard at all to be nice to people, especially if you’re trying to make a good impression.

          1. Ginger Cat Lady*

            It’s not really a test, though. It’s a normal interaction with an employee (not a setup) and they’re just asking for their impression of the candidate.

            1. AnonORama*

              That was always a dating test, too — if they’re nice to you and rude to the server, they’re not a catch.

            2. GreyjoyGardens*

              Agreed it’s not a “secret test.” It’s more to see if this person thinks support staff are peons to be ignored or barked commands at, or if they think support staff are people entitled to basic courtesy. I would much rather hire and work with the latter.

              1. Selena81*

                It would be a ‘secret test’ if they demanded something weirdly specific (like, you have to loudly say ‘thank you’ when she hands you your badge, or ‘she told you to take a seat but you kept standing’).
                But if it is merely ‘we will not hire anyone who is rude and dismissive’ that is just common sense.

        2. Csethiro Ceredin*

          We do that too! Only once did she say they were really rude, and he’d put his foot in his mouth in the interview too, but it’s a great filter.

      3. Lulu*

        I worked with a fellow who refused to say “Thank You” if you did something he thought was non-optional. It made him unpleasant to work with. His reasoning was that he had read that people are less likely to do the right thing if you thank them for it, and believed that “thank you” was “wrong” when doing your job. I’ve known other people like this, too, who are so concerned with any ulterior motive that they think it usurps any “right” motive that also exists. It smacks of immaturity and superiority. Yes, I guess bribery is kind of part of it, but that’s actually okay. It’s also a nice thing to do. It also helps your department. There is nuance in this world, and these friends haven’t come to terms with that fact yet.

        1. Jaydee*

          Wait, so like if a server brings his food or refills his drink, he doesn’t say “thank you”? If you email him the draft of the llama grooming report he asked for, he doesn’t send you a “got it, thanks” email? I know there are differences of opinion about “thank you” emails on this site…but with him you just never have to worry about getting one that would clog your inbox because he would never send one?

          I’m curious how he feels if someone thanks him for doing something that is an expected part of his job. Does he appreciate it, or does he scoff and feel superior to them because of some pop psychology article he read?

          1. Lulu*

            Right, yeah, he would not thank anyone for doing something he thought they should do. So he might reply “got it”, but never “Thanks! I’ll take a look at it” or anything like that. He worked at an IT service desk, so I think he was frustrated at the lack of technical ability he worked with every day. If I took my computer to him for assistance, I might say “This is the problem; I tried x, y, and even z, but no luck yet,” and he would respond, “okay” because he thought that if he didn’t say thank you, I’d be more likely in the future to do the same troubleshooting. And if he’d said “thank you,” I’d think I’d done him a favor, not something I should do, and choose not to do it again. He didn’t think it was wise to say “Thanks for trying those solutions first, let’s take a look at what might be going on,” because pleasantness was less important than gaming out my future hypothetical unhelpful behavior. As Sorrischian said below, I suspect the inside of his head was not a very comfortable place.

          2. Overit*

            Years ago, when I was an event planner in the midwest, I was told by a group of servers that most people do NOT
            1. Say thank you
            2. Look at them
            3. Pause conversation when the server comes to the table to greet them, take the order, check on them.

        2. Sorrischian*

          I had a coworker who felt that it was deeply rude to say “you’re welcome” if someone thanked you, because that implied that you thought you deserved to be thanked. She was constantly looking for ulterior motives, too. I suspect the inside of her head was not a very comfortable place.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            I had an older relative like that, constantly suspicious of people, looking for ulterior motives, thinking that being nice was “bribery,” etc. It was mostly his upbringing (very poor in an insular community). He was an unhappy person with few friends and a major drinking problem. Not the kind of person I want to be.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            That’s equally ridiculous as the people who think it’s rude to say “No problem” if someone thanks you. Something about implying the person is a problem (or kids these days)?

            It’s just social scripting that is designed to make interactions easier, not a revelation of someone’s innermost motives!

      4. Wintermute*

        yeah I hate to risk being hyperbolic but the LWs friends sound trashy as heck. One of the enduring marks of class and grace is how you treat service workers and those you hire to perform work for you.

    2. londonedit*

      Absolutely. All of this is exactly how the world should work. If everyone just extended a bit of kindness and thought for the other people around them, things would be so much better than they are. Of course, building relationships with people means that those people will be more willing to help you out when you need it. That’s how it’s meant to work! You’re nice to your fellow humans, they’re nice to you. It’s not ‘bribing’, it’s basic human interaction.

      1. Nebula*

        I find it baffling that some people don’t realise this. My landlord is really stingy and will get into arguments with tradespeople about the price of doing work in our flat. My flatmate and I, who are the ones who are actually around when this is done, are of course nice to people who are coming to fix things because you know, that’s just the right thing to do and it’s nice for us to have pleasant interactions with people!

        This did happen to pay dividends for us earlier this year: our boiler was very old and inefficient, but of course the landlord had refused to replace it because it was still working. When someone came round to service it, he remarked on how old it was, we told him the situation and he said “Leave it with me, I know she’s tight.” Lo and behold, we then got a new boiler, because he told her it was absolutely imperative to replace it, when it wasn’t really. If she’d been nice to him in the past, or if we’d been dicks to him, he wouldn’t have done that. But I don’t think she’ll ever learn that lesson.

    3. You got caught with a flat, well......*

      #2 Your friends are so wrong. Your simple interactions are the grease in the cogs of simple human interactions. You want excellent service, help, whatever, you treat people as human beings. Reddit subreddits such as TalesFromYourServer show how truly vile people can be and for why? Where did this mindset come from? Especially in the USA for servers – you get below poverty line wages so you have to be nice to me for me to tip you therefore I can treat you like dirt?
      You are totally in the right #2, continue to do this and your path will be smoother.
      “it’s easier to catch flies with honey than vinegar”
      A throwaway example, I found a gift card I’d been given for a concert booking service. It had expired and had been worth £150. So I rang the telephone line and explained what had happened and was apologetic and asked the woman if there was anything she could do. After a nice chat she refunded me the money. She didn’t have to but then again I didn’t ring up and be an outraged howling demon ranting on about being ripped off.

      1. Kili*

        I was thinking of a similar subreddit (TalesFromTechSupport) while reading that. There’s a lot of people in that sub who will *very* bluntly say they go a little further for coworkers/customers who are nicer to them… but, also, it’s not even always “just because I like you more, and for no other reason.”

        If you have to do something which is going to require any amount of back-and-forth troubleshooting/planning/training/etc, it’s easier to walk a technically inept but nice person (takes your job seriously, respects your time, and listens to your instructions even if they don’t understand them) through it than a more technically experienced but mean person (keeps wasting your time or outright ignoring you and then blaming you when doing the wrong thing doesn’t work). If it comes down to “I have two problems which will theoretically take the same amount of time to solve, but only time to fix one and they both require a lot of interaction with the end user”, the “nicer” user may also be the objectively more efficient one.

    4. ecnaseener*

      Seems like the “investment” part is what the friends don’t like – they think it has to be purely selfless to “count” and anything else is exploitative. (Which is obviously an absurd stance to take and functionally just an excuse to be critical of people’s thoughtcrimes, but it’s not uncommon!)

      1. Miss Muffet*

        Right! It would be different if later on she was like, well-I let you have a hamburger from our party so now you HAVE to do this thing for me. That walks closer to “bribery”. But otherwise it’s just being a normal nice person.

      2. Harlem Nights*

        In my experience, transactional people are not friends.

        Well, they are…until I can’t do something for them.

        1. Trippedamean*

          Yep. I come from a transactional family – if they do something for me, I somehow “owe” them something in return. I’ve distanced myself from them for that and many other reasons.

          If LW’s friends who think this is bribery come from a family or community that thinks like that, I can see why they might view it as bribery. But I would also hope for their sakes that it doesn’t have to be like that and in fact, life is a lot better when it isn’t. It doesn’t mean you never get paid back; it just means no one is holding a score card.

      3. Smithy*

        This is absolutely it.

        I’m based in our office HQ, and on occasion do donor visits in country offices that I know take time, offices don’t get extra money for, are lots of stress, etc etc. So when I visit, I will often bring candy for the office as a “thank you” for helping me with a job that I know is hard. Sometimes the visit is to a place where I can’t bring candy, sometimes I forget – so I do try to make it clear that the candy is a gesture and does not replace words of thanks for jobs well done and specific shout outs for those who have gone above and beyond. But the candy can be a big part of that overall investment in those relationships in a task that I know is difficult and can be stressful.

        I do think that there can be push back around when we define something we do as part of us being a “good person” as opposed to a smart or savvy person. And so the friends may be bristling at that and choosing an overly antagonistic in their response.

      4. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

        And it’s so annoying when people pretend not to understand the difference between, “I’m doing this to be nice but also can recognize the side benefit (possible better service)” vs. “I’m doing this exclusively to get better service even if people just think I’m being nice.”

        You don’t have to be willfully blind to possible outcomes of your nice behavior to have it count as still motivated by kindness.

        1. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

          (It seems like OP’s friend just found it gauche for OP to have said the better-service part out loud. But good friends are supposed to know you well enough to take what you say in good faith.)

    5. Jazz and Manhattans*

      Absolutely everyone should be treated with the same respect because its the right thing to do. But what gave me pause, and probably OPs friends is that they state: “…but also partially because I want them to like working with my team, which might get us better service in the future.” That’s not being nice because its the right thing to do, its being nice so you can get something in return; it just turned transactional. That may be what OPs friends were calling bribery and they aren’t that wrong. You do nice things to be nice. End stop. Not because you want something in return.

      1. Flax Dancer*

        There’s no evidence in that letter that the LW is being rude and haughty towards people who AREN’T in a position to do them personal favors; they’re simply treating support / maintenance staff with kindness and decency. If the result of that is that (duh!) those people appreciate it and go the extra mile for someone who treats them well, that’s only to be expected.

        Frankly, I’d much prefer to work with the LW than with someone so preoccupied with purity of motive that they scold someone for being kind. And are those friends’ own motives SO totally pure 100% of the time? (Are YOUR motives totally pure 100% of the time?) I kinda doubt it!

      2. Cyborg Llama Horde*

        Humans are relational animals. There’s no harm in recognizing that deliberately cultivating those relationships can be advantageous in the future. As Flax said, it’s not ethically iffy unless LW is ONLY doing it with people who will be in a position to do them favors later, and awful to everyone else, which we don’t see any evidence of.

        When I started my first corporate job, one of the things my senior coworker told me was, “A big part of your job is to make your coworkers like you.” This was literally true, given how the review system was set up, but it was also true in a more ideological sense — we were providing technical support, and one of the things about tech support is that you are often in a position of helping people who are stressed and frustrated. These interactions tend to go MUCH better if the people you’re helping already like and trust you. (And that’s not just a selfish motive — when I say “better,” I mean that it’s a better experience for everyone. Think about the difference between taking a stressful health problem to a strange doctor you’ve never met, vs. taking it to a doctor you’ve worked with for years, who you know takes time to listen to your concerns and address them.)

      3. Angstrom*

        It’s not either/or. If doing the right thing also has tangible benefits, that doesn’t make it wrong.

      4. Engineer*

        All social interactions are transactional, when you get down to it, because we cannot receive something without giving first. Now, maybe on the surface some interactions look purely altruistic, but dig a bit deeper and the person is receiving the sense of doing a good job, of giving back, of being the change they want to see.

        And our brains are wired to respond well to positive interactions. I mean, there wouldn’t be such emphasis on bedside manners for doctors if there wasn’t proof that that little modicum of kindness smooths the way for more difficult conversations.

        So yes, LW2 has spoken aloud the quiet part, but she’s not wrong to do. It’s a basic logic path – treat people well and they’ll treat me well.

        1. Antilles*

          Especially true at work, since the basis of the interaction is fundamentally transactional – OP calls IT not because they’re personal friends but because OP needs a computer fixed and IT is the department that’s paid to do so.

        2. Chauncy Gardener*

          And OP, I think you need new friends. These folks sound not nice at all. Just because you spoke about the unspoken side of things doesn’t make it wrong! Or not exist if you didn’t say it. They sound pretty rigid and priggish and like they don’t understand how society really works.
          No matter how high up the corporate food chain I get, I am ALWAYS kind and grateful to everyone who is doing any kind of work for me or my company and it has unfailingly been a good thing for everyone.

        3. GreyjoyGardens*

          + infinity

          Many primatologists and anthropologists have concluded that we humans got as far as we did not because of “aggression” or “Man the Hunter,” but because we are social creatures. One (Sarah Blaffer Hrdy) noted that you could not pack a bunch of chimpanzees on an airplane the way you can humans; you’d get mayhem and murder. But humans can and do peacefully coexist and cooperate, in groups, with strangers.

          Being “nice” may be transactional but it’s also human decency; it’s both-and, not either-or. The LW isn’t martyring themselves on the one hand or being openly transactional only to people who can do them some good on the other. They are doing what most people do – being nice because it’s the right thing to do AND because it makes people want to work with them. Nothing wrong with that!

          LW needs new friends, agreed. If LW was somehow in a position where they were in need rather than granting favors, would their friends stick around?

        4. MigraineMonth*

          Exactly! When I spend my time and energy, it’s because I’m getting something out of it. That may be tangible (“a paycheck” or “free pizza”) or intangible (“gratitude”, “fun”, “feeling like a good person”, “paying a kindness forward” or “reputation of generosity”), but it’s fundamentally a selfish urge.

          I used to try to do completely selfless volunteering where I’d do something I didn’t enjoy and wasn’t appreciated for, and guess what? I never did it for long.

      5. Eldritch Office Worker*

        I am as nice as possible to everyone I encounter casually, especially if they’re doing something for me because – well they’re doing something for me, and I want to be appropriately appreciative of that. But if I’m having a crappy morning, I’m going to make an extra effort to not blow off or grump at the doorperson at my building. Partially because I have to see her every day and I don’t want future interactions to be awkward, and partially because yeah sometimes I need her for stuff and if we are on good terms that’s always going to be a smoother process. I am also going to be nicer to my husband or my direct office neighbor because I have to spend a lot of time with them and tension makes that unpleasant.

        All social interactions have a sense of transaction to them. You give kindness to get kindness, you want your environment to be comfy, you don’t want someone to spit in your coffee – whatever it may be. That’s not deceitful it’s just how being in a social environment works.

      6. Olive*

        These are professional interactions in her capacity as an employee and on behalf of her team.

        If I flip this and think “when I do my job, other people who work with me are trying to make our interactions as pleasant as possible both because they are nice and because they want to have a positive professional relationship and make things go as smoothly for their team as possible”, there really shouldn’t be any offense that there’s a transactional component. Absolutely none.

        1. Jaydee*

          The transactional nature goes both ways. If I’m nice to the janitor because I’m hoping she’ll put a little extra effort into cleaning our offices or she’ll come quickly with the vacuum when the three-hole punch explodes and litters the floor with little paper discs, she’s nice to us in the hopes we’ll keep our offices a little tidier and won’t leave any gross messes in the bathrooms. (I know this because our previous janitor regularly complimented our office for being “easy” and complained about people in other departments who were messier.)

      7. SheLooksFamiliar*

        ‘That’s not being nice because its the right thing to do, its being nice so you can get something in return; it just turned transactional.’

        That’s a pretty single-minded take. The OP described multi-faceted situations and interactions; their response to them can be likewise. Seems to me the OP is simply trying to be a goodwill ambassador, for both their team and those who support the team.

      8. House On The Rock*

        LW doesn’t come across as a mustache twirling villain for wanting to be both kind to others *and* garner goodwill for herself and her team. Also note that she’s actively thinking of those who work for her, not just herself! That strikes me as entirely A-OK and her friends strike me as incredibly cynical and off.

      9. Stopgap*

        What do you propose? Should OP stop having wants and needs, or should they be an asshole to anyone who’s in a position to do them a favor?

      10. Kit*

        The idea that being kind is somehow devalued by thinking there might be a benefit in it for you is… not how humans work? I try to be kind to service workers myself, for a variety of reasons: because I know how hard their jobs are, because I know how rare basic decency is in their customers, because I enjoy brightening someone’s day… but also because they are likely to give me better service if I’m not a jerk to them. The fact that I know my kindness might result in a benefit to me doesn’t change its impact on the people I’m kind to.

        Pure moral altruism sounds great in theory, but it’s okay for people not to be absolute paragons of virtue (especially since not all moral frameworks value pure altruism as the pinnacle). Enlightened self-interest – in this case, knowing that kindness will result in a net benefit either now or later – is an extremely valid means of navigating the world and social interaction.

      11. learnedthehardway*

        There’s nothing wrong with recognizing that work relationships are transactional, though. In fact, MOST relationships have a transactional component, if you really look at them closely. Not a fact people generally want to consider, but it’s very true. Even marriage is a contract, at the heart of it.

        Most relationships are like a bank – you invest in the relationship and do things to grow the relationship. You expect certain benefits from the relationship – whether that is companionship, help, advice, whatever. If the relationship becomes too one-sided (one person only giving, the other only taking), then it sours and you feel taken advantage of – de facto, that makes relationships transactional.

        Now, this is a very stark, perhaps even mercenary, view of relationships generally – I totally admit that. But it is also useful to think of one’s relationships in this way, so that one takes care to contribute value, and also so that one does not get taken advantage of.

        In that context, being good to people and building relationships in a business context is just a continuity on a bit more explicit / overt basis. It makes sense to be kind, accommodating, and to express appreciation. Bribery only pertains if you are doing favours to get advantages that you aren’t supposed to be able to access. If someone is supposed to do the job anyway, being extra nice is appreciation and building the relationship for the future.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I think of these kinds of relationships less as “transactional” than “reciprocal”. I’m polite to strangers and hope they’ll return politeness for politeness. I try to put kindness out into society as a whole because it makes me feel good *and* it improves my social credit for when I need kindness in the future.

          In non-monetary societies, very few trades would be things of equal value. Rather, you gave your neighbor your hammer when they needed one, and at some point they gave you some chicks when your chicken died. To keep things fair there would be social consequences if you always took favors and never gave.

      12. Butterfly Counter*

        This reminds me of The Good Place, specifically the plot surrounding Princeton-guy.

        Basically, doing good deeds for selfish reasons will not give you positive points to get you to the Good Place. But if you’re doing good deeds, you’re not doing bad deeds, which WILL give you negative points and will lead to the Bad Place.

        The idea was to let Princeton-guy, who only knows transactional behavior, know that there’s a point system so that he’ll keep doing good deeds. He won’t be benefiting from those deeds, but they won’t count against him either. And then, the hope was, he’ll start doing good deeds out of habit and realize the benefit of being a good person overall, which will make him do goodness for goodness sake.

        Ain’t nothin’ wrong with doing the right thing, even if your motives aren’t 100% pure. The actions are still good.

      13. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

        I’d rather have someone be nice to me for partially transactional reasons than to have someone be 100% genuinely rude.

        1. Alternative Person*

          Seriously. I’d have a lot less ill will towards a certain person at my job if they were at least nice about it. Sure, I might still be of the opinion they’re putting on a show but I’d at least think they have enough sense not to be outright rude.

      14. aebhel*

        Work relationships ARE largely transactional, and I promise you that most service workers are aware of that. ‘If I make working with us pleasant, I’m likely to receive better service’ and ‘I’m going to offer better service because I know that this person is always pleasant to work with’ are both examples of rational self-interest.

      15. Selina Luna*

        This applies to your comment:

        There is a Jewish story about a wealthy man who came to his rabbi and said “I have decided to build an orphanage, can you put me in touch with the relevant people”

        The rabbi was delighted to do it, and introduced the man to some charities. After a few weeks, the man came back to the rabbi.

        “I have decided not to build the orphanage,” he said. “I realised that I was only doing it because I wanted to be admired as a philanthropist, my motives were selfish.”

        The rabbi answered, “do you think the orphans will care what your motives were? Build the orphanage!”

        In other words, who cares about your motives if the result is a better world for everyone?

      16. I Have RBF*


        Yes, being nice to service staff is right from both a human perspective and a “If I’m nice to service staff I have found that I get better service” perspective. It’s still not transactional – they are still doing their job, it’s just that it’s not as much of a burden if the person is always nice to them and appreciative of their efforts.

        Which coworker would you rather work with/for: the one who always says hello and is cheerful, or the one who just bluntly hands out orders and demands? Yes, you could be all transactional and say that the only reason that I’m being nice is that I want something from them, but that’s a really cynical take. Being nice to coworkers so they will like working with your team is not transactional – it’s understanding how the world works with human beings.

    6. AnonInCanada*

      This. Seriously, I think OP#2’s “friends” are the types who fill the stereotypical Karen image. You know the one with their nose stuck in the air or up their butts and have that “I want to speak to your manager” haircut. Do unto others something something…

      1. GreyjoyGardens*

        Agreed, and I also wonder if LW’s friends would still be friends if LW had a long stretch of unemployment, or got cancer, or was in need somehow.

    7. Anonymouse*

      I wonder if the friend works in state/local/federal Government? They typically have really strict rules on what can be given and or received since it’s tax payers $$ and ideally don’t want to look like they are trying to gain influence

      1. Observer*

        They typically have really strict rules on what can be given and or received since it’s tax payers $$ and ideally don’t want to look like they are trying to gain influence

        So? Even government workers are allowed to give someone a bar of chocolate. Even a “large” one. As for all of the rest of the things that OP mentions? The idea that there *might* be even the slightest *appearance* of impropriety is simply ludicrous. Government employees are NOT supposed to be curmudgeons.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          Exactly! “Please” and “thank you” are free. There is no law against saying “please” and “thank you” or offering someone a bottle of water. If the LW is in government, good for LW for not upholding the stereotype of government workers as snippy and rude.

        2. Orv*

          It depends. I used to work for the Washington state government, at a university, and we weren’t allowed to accept lunch from vendors, nor were retail workers for the university allowed to accept tips, because the laws there considered it a kickback/bribe. On the other hand in California there’s a dollar amount below which it’s OK.

      2. Ama*

        Yeah that was the only thing that made sense to me — if they are in government or finance (or heck NCAA-regulated collegiate sports) they may not realize not every sector has rules that make giving someone a free snack a major problem.

        1. Selina Luna*

          My understanding of those rules was that the ACCEPTANCE of such things was frowned upon, but the act of offering was still a kindness. Also, it sounds like these are workers from other departments in the same general business where the poster works, in which case there is no impropriety.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            Also, “please” and “thank you” are free. I don’t know of even the strictest workplace that outlaws those phrases.

    8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      It sounds like OP’s scientist/engineer colleagues are trying to enforce a rigid hierarchy or delineation between themselves and the rest of the organization. Which, besides being impolite and borderline antisocial, is also counterproductive.

    9. 1-800-BrownCow*

      This one blew my mind!!! Being kind is not “bribing”. I work in a higher up position and I’ve always treated service staff with kindness, they’re just as critical to the company as anyone else. It baffles me when some people treat them rudely and look down on them.

      Yeah, if I had friends who thought being kind was bribery, I’d be looking for new friends.

    10. The Meat Embezzler*

      Yeah…Op #2…your friends might be broken human beings if that was their stance when you described the situations in your letter.

    11. AnotherOne*

      My specific office has done this as long as I’ve been there. It’s definitely organized by our office manager- but we do holiday gifts for our main facilities contact and the main security guard for our building. We offer all the delivery people snacks.

      If we have extra lunches, we’ll pop downstairs and offer them to whoever is working the security desk at the moment. (And if we have multiples, we’ll bring them all down because we know there are people in other buildings that they’ll share them with.)

      It’s minimal extra money for us.

    12. Yorick*

      The friends aren’t necessarily terrible snobs or anything like that. It’s possible the part of the interactions that involve giving them something that’s making the friends misunderstand. I think it’s perfectly appropriate to share with these people! The only one that seems a bit more like bribery to me is giving the person in the shipping office a chocolate bar – and I do still think it’s silly to call that bribery. But I can almost understand where the friends are coming from, even though they’re wrong.

      1. JustaTech*

        And even the chocolate bar is walking the line of “bribery chocolate” and “apology chocolate”.

        1. I Have RBF*

          Yes, and I put it more on the side of “apology chocolate” since it’s a “thank you in advance” for doing a rush job. It’s basically an acknowledgement that the LW is asking for a faster turn-around.

          Also, if a chocolate bar is “bribery”, the recipient has a really low threshold for bribes. It’s not cash or a trip on a yacht, it’s just a chocolate bar.

          1. GreyjoyGardens*

            It’s one chocolate bar, Michael, how much can it cost?

            (Seriously, unless that chocolate bar had a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory in it, its value as a “bribe” is laughable.)

            1. Judge Judy and Executioner*


              haha, love me a good Arrested Development reference. There’s always money in the banana stand!

              I worked at a place where it was known that if you gave IT a couple specific chocolate treats, your tickets would get done faster. Since our function needed IT assistance a lot, my department stocked up on the treats to offer than as needed. I’m glad to know that this was probably more like apology chocolate than bribery chocolate. :)

    13. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yep. You sound like a kind and decent person LW#2. Look for some better friends because anyone who thinks that the perfectly normal behavior you describe is “bribery” cannot be someone worth spending a lot of time with.

    14. Really?*

      Well put.
      My brother, an attorney (very senior, at this point) once told me that one of the secrets to his success was that he was really really nice to the admin‘s, which many people neglected.
      I have also follow this advice, and find it is paid off in good relationships with people who can make my life easier.
      A Little civility goes a long way to make a better working environment for everyone.
      Wish we could impart this wisdom to our elected officials!

      1. ThunderRoad*

        Your brother was 1000% correct. One of my summer jobs during college was working as an admin to the QC manager at a manufacturing facility. I had to interact with employees on the factory floor, as well as management at the corporate headquarters a couple of states away. On my last day, the QC manager told me that he was most impressed with the ease and respect I’d shown when dealing with all of these employees. I practiced law for 35 years before retiring, and to this day I count that as the best performance review comment I have ever received.
        And yes, the OP did nothing wrong.

      2. Csethiro Ceredin*

        Yup. My dad used to work at a scientific facility with a bunch of high level scientists as well as admins and technologists. He didn’t much care for the other scientists and bonded with the technologists and admins, who were generally treated like minions despite being very skilled.

        I remember one day he came home laughing because there had been some big tech issue and the various members of the tech and IT teams individually did the fixes for his program first and the other scientists were all grumbling.

    15. Momma Bear*

      It’s human decency to be nice to people. People tend to want to help out those who are kind to them. Sounds like OP is just a good human and their friends should take notes.

    16. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Came here to say it. LW2, I highly HIGHLY recommend new friends, because what the heck?! Bribing people with hotdogs and emails to their managers, give me a break. As an IT person, the “email from happy user to management” is something I have seen many many times in my career and a professional thing to do. May your STBX friends have the working relationships they deserve.

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Want to add that, for those of us that are white-collar professionals, some of us have worked in service-type jobs in the past and others never did, and I think I can guess which one LW’s friends are.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          White collar professional who has had a long, if not storied, career in service work of various kinds here. You bet you’re bippy I’m nice to service workers, having been in their position. I’m not better than them, and neither are LW’s “friends.”

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I worked coat check for like 3 months in college (surprisingly difficult job in Russia in the middle of winter, at a college where neither students nor professors were allowed to have their coats with them in class) and to this day, whenever I use the coat check, I hold my coat so that it’s the easiest for the person taking it to hang it up… 35 years later.

        2. Observer*

          for those of us that are white-collar professionals, some of us have worked in service-type jobs in the past and others never did, and I think I can guess which one LW’s friends are.

          My original comment seems to have gotten eaten by moderation. In any case, I’m not sure I agree. We’ve seen enough crazy stories even here of bosses, parents and coworkers who essentially say “deal with it” *because* they also dealt with it.

          The one that sticks in my head was the boss who told the OP that she should just accept people walking in on her pumping because Boss had no support when she was a new mother.

          Although someone mentioned in a comment a while ago that they have a sibling, if I recall correctly, who *throws bread* at servers despite having been a server in an earlier phase.

      2. MigraineMonth*

        The idea that writing an email to management saying someone had done a great job counted as “bribery” because they won a cash award kinda blew my mind. As long as it wasn’t a quid-pro-quo arrangement, the entire point of the cash award was to make people who went above and beyond feel appreciated!

    17. I Have RBF*


      Like the other day with “please” and “thank you”, it is those basic courtesies and considerations that smooth out life for both us and those we work with, including service staff. Plus, if you treat everyone with respect, you never have to worry about mistaking the CEO for a janitor or something.

      As far as gifts and compliments are concerned, if you would do it for someone on your team, then you should do it for those who aren’t directly on your team. Because all of those support staff? They make your focused job possible. Giving a token gift when asking for a rush job is not bribery – it’s a “thank you” for going the extra mile when I’m in a bind!

      I’m really side-eyeing your so-called friends here. Are they the type that never tip extra for really good service? Do they refuse to tip more than a paltry 10% regardless of the service? Do they consider maintenance, clerical and janitorial staff beneath them, and refuse to even acknowledge their presence unless giving them orders? If that’s the case, they need a remedial lesson in humanity.

      1. Observer*

        Plus, if you treat everyone with respect, you never have to worry about mistaking the CEO for a janitor or something.

        LOL. But *very* true.

        There is a story I have mentioned before about a well know Rabbi, who was both somewhat poor and very modest, so when he traveled he traveled simply and alone. One evening he comes to an inn, and the innkeeper is really rude to him. There is no room at the inn, because another well known Rabbi is coming for the night with a fairly large entourage so all the rooms are booked. After some negotiating the innkeeper allows Anonymous Rabbi to stay in the main dining hall where everyone eats, and he’ll have some supper when Known Rabbi comes and supper is served.

        Along comes Known Rabbi and as soon as he sets eyes on Anonymous Rabbi he rushes over and greets him enthusiastically and with great respect. He begs Anonymous Rabbi to join him and his followers and grace them with some Torah thoughts and perhaps even some scholarship. The innkeeper is HORRIFIED – he immediately realizes that Anonymous Rabbi is a genuinely Big Deal.

        The next morning, when Anonymous Rabbi is set to leave and goes to settle his bill with the innkeeper, the man begs for forgiveness for not recognizing who he was dealing with and treating him appropriately. Anonymous Rabbi tells him “It’s no big deal that you didn’t know who I am. But the thing I am *really* upset about is that this is how you treat ANYONE. NO ONE should be treated the way you treated me, even if they aren’t a big shot.”

    18. Gerri’s Jaunty Hat*

      These things OP is doing aren’t even things other departments couldn’t also be doing! Especially the thank you emails and offering a hot dog or whatever to someone who comes by the BBQ. These could and should be universal behaviors, it’s not a zero sum game!

    19. Just Another Cog*

      I noted that their big complaint was that the OP …. treats support staff like human beings.

      Yeah, that tracks. I’d bet folding money that they’re in academia or some other field where they all have JDs or MBAs.

      Here’s a fact: Those people are human freaking beings and as such should be treated with dignity.

      Here’s another fact: All the MBAs and JDs in the world can have their work brought down by a lack of those support people.

      We had an admin melt down during COVID, badly. She had a lot of family and health issues and work-from-home did not work, at all, and she struggled, and got behind and dropped all the balls. And not having her foundational work getting done on time put the entire project into serious jeopardy. My project leads came out of that whole situation with a much higher appreciation of the real value that every job on the project has.

      You treat people well because they’re people. But it does also build relationships with those people, and as a project manager I can also say that when you need things done, and now, having that relationship of respect and trust makes it way more likely that things will happen.

    20. Meaghan*

      I would also hazard a guess that her friends don’t see these people as their colleagues cause they’re “just janitors” or “just IT” or “just shipping” etc… they’re not worthy of being colleagues because of perceived educational levels/lifestyle choices/race issues, etc.

    21. Reluctant Mezzo*

      My husband was always nice to the school secretaries and replaced the Twizzlers on the desk on a semi-regular basis. The vice-principal would devour the Twizzlers and not replace them. Guess whose requests got done first.

    22. Pumpkin215*

      I go out of my way to be nice to the people at our front desk. Same goes for security, the coffee shop, and the cafeteria.

      I know all of their names and some of their kids. I’m friendly and kind. I ask how their weekend was, tell them the soup was great today, that I like their earrings, and that I appreciate them.

      I do not do this for the extra bacon that shows up in my breakfast order. Or the free shot of espresso in my drink. I do it because all of them work hard and it does not go unnoticed.

  2. hellohello*

    #2, the only thing that gets even close to bribery is the chocolate bar, and that’s so low stakes I cannot imagine anyone getting in trouble for it. (It’d be one thing if you were bringing candy along with every request you made, but as a one off it’s just a nice gesture.) The rest is just standard issue kindness, and the kind of thing I’d hope everyone would do when the opportunity arises.

    1. Cmdrshprd*

      when it comes to bribery I think even the calling the chocolate bar is too much. I am not an expert but I think even for government employees that would be allowed with out any reporting requirement. I think items under $25/50 are fine and don’t have to be reported.

      In theory I kinda understand where the friends are coming from, the way OP explained it did make it seem like a big/part of the reason OP is being nice to the service workers is to get something out of it, better service, rather than just for the sake of being nice.

      For the record I don’t think that is why OP is doing it, but OP is just acknowledging the basic fact that people are willing to help people out that are nice/they like more.

      Further even if someone really did think service staff suck I don’t want to be nice to them but that person choose to act/be nice just to try to get better service and didn’t actually care about them as people, so what? If the end result is someone being nice to service workers even if it’s just a means to an end that is fine.

      1. Observer*

        In theory I kinda understand where the friends are coming from, the way OP explained it did make it seem like a big/part of the reason OP is being nice to the service workers is to get something out of it, better service, rather than just for the sake of being nice.

        The thing is that even if that were the only reason the OP were doing this, it would *still* not be a problem. The world would be a much better place if more people were motivated by *enlightened* self interest, rather than self interest that fails to recognize humanity. As you say in your last paragraph. But to me that’s such a big issue, that I simply can’t see how you get around that.

        And, in a way, the fact that they can’t see that makes me wonder how they treat people. Because they seem to be putting purity of motive over good behavior. And I do mean *purity*, because the OP does say that their starting point is that these people deserve respect because all people deserve respect. But that’s apparently not good enough. SMH.

        1. KateM*

          I sometimes explain why being nice to people is pragmatically speaking in my self-interest because I know the *listeners* need a reason like that. OP could have known that their friends would not be nice to people if it didn’t profit them.

              1. MissElizaTudor*

                Honestly, we have no way of knowing this. They didn’t say the LW should be rude or tell them not to be kind. Most (except the cookout one imo) of these examples are the OP going above and beyond basic politeness.

                They could just have a really weird idea of what bribery is. The comment section kinda decided they’re bad people, but they could just as well be very silly people or people with a really bad misunderstanding of workplace norms around giving people things or praise.

                I kind of doubt the LW would find it useful for a bunch of people to say presumptuous and negative things about their friends rather than just let them know those friends are very very wrong about this.

                1. Observer*

                  <I. They didn’t say the LW should be rude or tell them not to be kind. Most (except the cookout one imo) of these examples are the OP going above and beyond basic politeness.

                  You are wrong about this. Except for the chocolate bar calling anything that the OP lists as being “beyond” basic kindness and, yes, respect and courtesy is deeply problematic. My mind simply boggles at the idea that spending 2 minutes to acknowledge good work to someone’s supervisor is “above and beyond”. Objecting to something like that *is* saying to not be kind.

                  he comment section kinda decided they’re bad people, but they could just as well be very silly people or people with a really bad misunderstanding of workplace norms around giving people things or praise.

                  The two are not mutually exclusive. I think that the latter is true – and is a direct result of some really, really problematic views of how people should interact.

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              It’s very social primates trying to assure themselves that they are not sliding down the pecking order, there are still castes beneath them.

              (Those at the top of a given social group don’t stress about this, because they are confident that they are on top.)

          1. Pet Jack*

            I’ve had to explain this to other managers in terms of treating employees well. FIRST, you should treat employees well – full stop. But ALSO, we have a huge retention problem. Having people who are treated well will stay and also do really good work for you because it’s easy. I do have to play to the “bottom line” in explanations as well as the human part, but it is crazy the managers that are just bad people, but can’t even see how being nice would benefit their business. Like, ok I am nice to people but I also run the most profitable division in this company…why do you think that is?

            1. House On The Rock*

              I will never understand people who think that cracking the whip with staff is the way to get better performance. I still remember the shocked look on a previous director’s face when told him that no one is ever truly motivated to do their best work when being told to constantly work more. People also are more willing to put in extra effort when needed if they are generally well supported and treated well. That’s so basic, and yet, rarely recognized or acknowledged.

              1. Momma Bear*

                Agreed. How often do we hear that people don’t quit jobs, they quit managers. We see it on this site all the time. If you want someone to work hard for you, work with them. Empower them. Make them feel valued. People will put forth a lot of effort if they feel recognized and rewarded for said effort. We have one PM who sends out a congratulatory email to the team at the end of a project – and ccs all their bosses to make sure that their work is seen. Guess whose projects are consistently successful and usually on time?

              2. DJ Abbott*

                I posted yesterday about our assistant manager who likes to pressure me. “Cracking the whip” is putting it strongly, but she does pressure me when I’m already swamped and doing my best. It doesn’t make me want to work harder. It makes me want to leave.
                I’ve set boundaries with her a couple of times now. Remains to be seen if I’ll get in trouble or lose my job.

              3. Dek*

                I will never forget a friend of mine who is a medical illustrator being asked by her boss if she might work faster (doing more projects) if they paid her less per project to encourage her to take on more projects. He seemed baffled when she said no, she didn’t think that would be very motivating or get more work out of her.

          2. MigraineMonth*

            This reminds me of a time I was passionately advocating for housing-first solutions because it was more cost effective than leaving homeless people on the street. (Which is true: emergency services are even more expensive than housing.)

            One of the listeners replied, “Also, it’s the right thing to do.”

            I realized I had spent way too much time arguing with “fiscal conservatives” if my main argument was cost savings rather than basic humanity toward our fellow man.

        2. Czhorat*

          Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still doing the right thing.

          It also doesn’t seem purely transactional; OP isn’t being kind only when they need something, but is overall. They admitted that part of it is wanting a smooth working relationship, but that should go for *everyone* with whom you work, whether higher or lower on the ladder. A little bit of kindness helps build relationships that will informally let some things be done quicker, better, or with more enthusiasm. It also creates a more pleasant atmosphere for everyone.

          There’s literally nothing wrong with this and a great deal right with it.

          1. Falling Diphthong*

            Doing the right thing for the wrong reasons is still doing the right thing.

            I would much rather live surrounded by people doing the right thing–even if part of the motivation is that others think well of them, or be more willing to help them in future–than by those proudly doing the wrong thing because the right thing doesn’t have enough short term benefits to them.

          2. Olive*

            Agreed, and a lot of comments on here on a normal day end up being about how much we *don’t* owe to our coworkers or people around us. Doing the right thing for professional reasons even when we don’t feel like it is good work behavior. It’s uplifting that OP is happy to be kind overall.

            1. MigraineMonth*

              Huh, I’ve only seen Alison talk about what we don’t owe our employers (our mental health, our personal lives, silence about illegal business practices, unreturned loyalty, the chance to abuse us over and over).

              Alison makes clear that readers should always treat coworkers (peers, subordinates, administrators and management) with respect, friendliness and collegiality… unless they are crossing boundaries, abusing or exploiting you.

      2. Jojo*

        We had a government auditor who was stationed in our office. He wouldn’t even take a Tootsie Roll from anyone and despite many years in our office. It seemed like overkill to me, but his integrity was never in question, which I appreciated as an auditee.

        And, when it comes to government employees, we are not allow to offer them a ride from the airport (Even if we are on the same flight) and we need to put a collection plate out if they want to eat food that has been provided for a group meeting.

        All that said, LW2, you are doing nothing even close to bribery. Your friends are weird.

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          “but his integrity was never in question, which I appreciated as an auditee.”

          Idk this strikes me as being very overboard, I think you can still have integrity/not have it come into question and take a tootsie roll/candy bar once in a while. I guess it depends on what you mean by anyone, if it is people/companies he was auditing that makes sense.

          If it is other colleagues/vendors offering a piece of candy/cake etc… it seems like a lot. I understand there is a lot of gray middle ground, but I think there is also a lot of cases on the edge that are clear cut in the bribery/not bribery.

        2. I Have RBF*

          And, when it comes to government employees, we are not allow to offer them a ride from the airport (Even if we are on the same flight) and we need to put a collection plate out if they want to eat food that has been provided for a group meeting.

          If you are on the same flight, but you are driving your own vehicle to the office, can you offer to let them pay for gas and then it’s just a transaction? Or if you get a Lyft/cab, can you offer to split the cost?

          IMO, putting out a collection jar for work food isn’t a bad idea anyway if your company is budget constrained, as long as you realize that most people won’t contribute.

      3. Common Taters on the Ax*

        In the US government, I’m pretty sure you can’t even buy someone or accept a cup of coffee…but that only applies IF that person is a vendor or other business partner. As far as I can tell, these people are all part of the internal organization, and plus this is clearly not the government we’re talking about.

        I do think some of the friends might have had government anti-bribery training. That’s the only way I can explain the crazy idea that these things qualify as bribery.

        1. Dek*

          I think the thing is, since the US government serves the public, anyone could be considered to have a “business tie” of some sort.

          The rules iirc are that gifts of food must be consumed in the presence of the giver.

        2. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I have to confess that a former Air Force member in a procurement office joined the dark side and became a vendor. However, those doughnuts never existed! Never! On the other hand, we had a sergeant negotiate one side of a major contract one year and the other side the next year, and I thought that was a bit much.

      4. Jaydee*

        In my state the limit for gifts to public employees officials or employees from contractors, potential contractors, regulated entities, lobbyists, etc. is $3, so receiving a large or fancy candy bar *could* be a problem. Still doesn’t seem like that would be at issue in the scenario in this letter.

      5. Dek*

        “I am not an expert but I think even for government employees that would be allowed with out any reporting requirement”

        Nope. Unless they ate it in front of OP. The examples of no-no gifts we’re given in our annual ethical training includes, like, a plate of cookies. So even a chocolate bar, technically, could get you in trouble.

        Granted, someone would have to be unBELIEVABLY petty to do that

        1. Cmdrshprd*

          What is level of government are you in?
          Based on responses it seems to vary depending on if a person is a local/municipal, state, or federal employee.

          For federal employees, and maybe it even differs by the type/branch of federal employees it is $20 per occasion and no more than $50 from a single person in a year.

          “Gift rules specifically exclude certain things from being classified as gifts. The gift EXCLUSIONS include:
          Modest items of food and refreshments, such as soft drinks, coffee, and donuts, offered other than as part of a meal……..Gifts of $20 or Less
          Under the $20 rule, an employee may accept an unsolicited gift of $20 or less per occasion and no more than $50 in a calendar year from one person.”

          From the GSA smartpay website.

          1. Common Taters on the Ax*

            Those rules appear to apply to gifts from the public, not from vendors or contractors. That’s where the even-a-cookie-counts rules come in. But neither rule applies here, so it doesn’t really matter except to possibly explain how the friends got confused.

      6. Raida*

        Honestly if I took a chocolate bar to IT every time I wanted something, and I got good service, my friends would call that… “smart.”

        I want good service, I can be extremely low effort nice and get it? Sounds like a good deal to me!

        1. Reluctant Mezzo*

          I told someone that if I ever needed something signed in a hurry by Mr. Bigshot, I would take it to his admin with a big chocolate bar, and they looked at me like I was Einstein. This was the private sector, so we got to do that.

    2. Allonge*

      It’s also incredibly unlikely that the chocolate bar was the reason the office did the shipping with the necessary speed. I would expect they get such requests regularly and do it as much as it is feasible, but they appreciate the acknowledgement that it’s a bit more of a request than the normal shipments.

      OP, your friend is confused about how life works. Being mindful and appreciative of support staff is the right thing to do and, as a bonus, will make work easier for everyone involved.

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Yes. Presumably everyone is still doing their jobs but a little bit of kindness means they are more willing to go above and beyond — on ocassion — for a person. If you always have last minute shipping requests, a candy bar each time isn’t going to make that better. But if you have the ocassional last minute thing, the candy bar is a nice acknowledgement that you know you caused a problem with the other person’s workflow.

        the best one was the thank you note. More people should do this.

        1. I Have RBF*

          The best one was the thank you note. More people should do this.

          Yes. I have both given and received “thank you” notes in my work. If someone knocks it out of the park, or saves your bacon in a work context, you make sure to let their boss know that they did their job really well. You shouldn’t be too specific if they bent the rules a bit, but praising their diligence and can-do attitude is always appropriate.

    3. Kella*

      Quite simply, a bribe is intended to persuade people to treat you *differently* than they would normally treat someone. It’s transactional. And if someone offers a bribe and doesn’t receive the improved treatment, they’re usually pissed about that.

      OP, you are offering kindness, thoughtfulness, and appreciation, *and not expecting anything extra in return*. Instead, you are aware that people are more likely to be generous and easy to work with when they are offered the same treatment.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Right. In the chocolate bar situation, if I didn’t have a chocolate bar handy I would be falling over myself “I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry thank you thank you thank you”. I hate inconveniencing people! But a chocolate bar would certainly get that point across more tangibly.

      2. Anne of Green Gables*

        This. People like to be appreciated. There is nothing here that is a bribe. There is kindness and respect and generosity, but no bribes.

    4. RinaL*

      I work (more or less technically) as government employee in a function, where we are under really close observation/scrutiny. Our limit is EUR 35, everything above that counts towards bribery if we don‘t report it.

      Can I gift chocolate to somebody in another team as appreciation for something that they have done for my team? Absolutely. I see it as an investment in my personal network and sometimes as a „thanks for the hard work!“. I don‘t gift chocolate every week, but when somebody goes above and beyond to help us tackle a tricky problem or solve a time sensitive issue (even when other urengt things are piling up on their desk) I try to reward it. Either with a small token of appreciation or with mentioning it in emails or chats with their boss. In my opinion, thats basic human decency.

      Can I get a branded chocolate bar from one of my customers? Also technically allowed, although I try to limit that – otherwise I would be flooded with chocolate if people think they can „buy“ faster service. ;)

      1. MsSolo (UK)*

        I’m in the UK Civil Service, and our rule is no gifts more valuable than a branded pen or notepad, and a limit of £25 for a prize or reward from someone outside the department, so a chocolate bar for being the most helpful civil servant they’ve met is fine, but a nice box from Hotel Chocolat is out of the question. You wouldn’t necessarily have to refuse a gift from an external supplier (though you’re encouraged to suggest they donate it to charity instead), but you have to fill in an extensive form to get permission to accept it.

        And that’s before we get into the whole minefield of lunches! When you can have the catered, when you can accept them, is it internal or external, who proposed the meeting…

        1. bamcheeks*

          I simultaneously think it’s good that we have these rules and also that it’s absolutely nuts that you have to follow them whilst MPs are like, “sure, I’ll go on an all-expenses paid holiday where I’ll chat with oil execs! Ooh, a non-executive directorship for £50k a year? delightful! Let me just write it in the book and we’re good to go!”

        2. Sparkle Llama*

          I am in local government in the US and our state limit is $5 which would allow for most chocolate bars.

          There is also a general understanding that anything not outrageous given out at a conference booth is ok (like a water bottle that might be $15) but that meals are not. But I also wouldn’t consider it a faux pas to offer something beyond that, I just would have to decline if I felt it exceeded the limits.

          1. Sparkle Llama*

            Also, I would not accept a gift of any size that is tied to a particular request. So if someone picked up their approved permit/license/etc and tried to give me even something small like a chocolate bar, I would decline but occasionally people will drop off a package of cookies at reception with a note generally thanking city staff and that is fine with me.

            Again though, it is my responsibility to know what I can and can’t accept- not the person trying to appreciate me. And the thank you emails are absolutely fantastic and make my week. Way better than a physical or food gift even if I could accept it. I work in the field I do to try to help people so knowing I genuinely have is a great feeling (and helps me justify the programs to elected officials).

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              The nice thing about thank you/kudos emails and notes is that they are something tangible you can show your boss. “Jane and Fergus at Alpaca Shearing Contractors, Inc. sent me this note saying they appreciated how I had everything prepared for them and the alpacas all washed and ready.” That’s got to count when it comes to giving out raises, bonuses, promotions, etc. At least if your boss is not like LW’s friends.

    5. Miette*

      Exactly, especially if the candy was a clear quid pro quo, which it was not. OP wasn’t using the candy to get the shipping people to do something they shouldn’t do, she was asking them to do something they might have perceived as beyond their scope/or just a pain in the butt because last minute. It’s an important distinction that I think their friends have missed.

    6. HonorBox*

      Nah. Not bribery. It was a small thing given out of recognition that the OP’s request was for something that was out of the norm. OP needed something rushed, and maybe it was their fault or maybe it was someone else’s fault that there was added urgency. It was a small kindness to say “I recognize that this is creating a potential inconvenience for you, and I appreciate your assistance.”

      Bribery would be giving the chocolate bar to get someone in shipping to rush a bunch of packages that were personal items. Or coming in outside of normal hours. And even then, not exactly bribery.

    7. learnedthehardway*

      There’s also the mitigating factor that the gift was given within the organization, and for a service that would be performed, regardless. So, not gaining undue/unearned/undeserved advantage. Also, it was at least as much an apology for the inconvenience of a request at short notice as it was a gift to incent the coworker to get the work they were supposed to do done.

      I think “bribery” is the wrong word here.

    8. Trout 'Waver*

      Yeah, I think that the chocolate part in example 3 is *slightly* across the line. If the shipping department can’t always handle last minute requests, they might be perceived as favoring the people who bring treats, which would be an issue. I don’t think OP#2 did anything wrong here, for the record.

      If there’s a service reward for the shipping department akin to the IT department one, that might be the better avenue. Or just putting your thanks in writing is useful; that can be useful to them in corporate settings.

  3. IT's a good thing*

    #2 – I handle all tickets professionally… but I’m more enthusiastic and willing to help the people that are actually pleasant to deal with.

    I certainly don’t let those people’s calls ring a little longer in the hopes someone else will deal with it.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      If someone wants to get off the waiting list for a sold-out event and is rude to me or my team, they’re not getting off the list. When you have a limited quantity of something popular, you have to use some criteria to ration it, and “don’t be a jerk to the people organising the event you want to attend” is as good as anything else.

    2. ecnaseener*

      This. I don’t do it out of spite, but if every interaction with you has been adversarial, I’m probably going to procrastinate on reading your latest email because I’m human.

      1. Pet Jack*

        Yes, I have to triage my responses and work. If you are too difficult, you will go behind others (these are other people in the industry I work with and not consumers)

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          This is the flip side. Be difficult to work with and you will get moved to the bottom of the list. It will get done professionally, but it may take some time. OR be kind and get helped either in the normal course or even a little faster.

    3. Olive*

      Yes, everyone knows which clients are pleasant and which are painful. I’ve never refused to help someone or given them shoddy work, but I will go above and beyond to deliver something extra to those who have been a pleasure to work with.

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I am SO NICE to my IT people. And thank them profusely for the extra work they put in dealing with our “VIP big wigs” who can barely right click. I know how annoying non-tech people can be and I know how much more difficult my life gets if they let the phone ring too long. So yes maybe I’m technically bribing them when I buy them lunch but it’s to show them genuine appreciation. I know they’d still do their jobs if I was less appreciative but we’d all be having a worse time.

    5. PumpkinSpice4Ever*

      Back in the dark ages, I worked as a temp admin assistant to the admin assistant for the dean of a school in an Ivy League university. I had a physical inbox with things to work on. For the people who were nice to me, I moved their requests to the top of the pile. For the jerks who treated me like crap, I absolutely 100% would lift the pile up and put their requests on the very bottom. (I got to everyone in the requested time, but… yeah. I felt no rush to help the worst of the crowd.)

    6. Alexis (they/them)*

      As an IT person, I’m not saying we can be bribed but I remember every single person who has given us food.

    7. DJ Abbott*

      I answer the phone at work. If the caller ID shows someone who is difficult to deal with, I might not answer if I’m in the middle of something else or dealing with a lot of stress. They will leave a voicemail and I’ll get back to them later.
      Also, someone who has left angry voicemails is not going to be the first call returned. Someone who doesn’t say what they want, ditto.

  4. Boof*

    OP2 – I know there are some people out there who have some kind of all or nothing approach to altruistic behaviors; like it can have zero possible personal benefit except the unadultured joy of doing the thing for it’s own sake. I used to feel like maybe I shouldn’t do volunteer gigs if some of my motivation was, say, to help with medical school application. But the volunteer gigs I did because I had to for school or whatever, I loved, and I think I did a good job with them, and I think I still helped people even if I did it because some sort of volunteer work was assigned (assisting paraplegics with lunch etc), or because I got to goof out with friends while doing it (recycling around school after hours – careening around with bins etc)
    Yes what you are doing is fine, your “bribes” are just common good will you are extending to everyone, yes please keep being nice to everyone and especially service folks who probably have to deal with a lot of other people who are not nearly so enlightened.

    1. Boof*

      Er, oh yes, OP 3 please allison is spot on. At best you can use the logo as an EXAMPLE of something you liked when getting a new one. Do not use the logo in any way if you have not had explicit permission to do so.
      That is of course the hazards of free work; high chance that folks will decide to move on, be underwhelmed at doing revisions, and likely no contract or clear expectations outlined on either side to boot

      1. OP#3*

        You are totally right and its part of the reason that i asked him a few times what his rates were. I should’ve known him not having anything set was a sign!

        1. Boof*

          It does tend to force a conversation about expectations (ideally); it’s pure speculation but my guess is they wanted it to be a fun one-off and either got busy or just didn’t want to work more on it. Would be nice if they answered you and said yes/no but as you’re already aware, only yes is yes; everything else is a no. You can show it to the new person and say what you liked and didn’t like about it, provided they don’t copy it exactly. If someone has a fit about even that, well, they’re being a bit unreasonable, referencing is part of common artistic practice even if some folks get wildly territorial about “their idea” or whatever, you can’t claim ownership of an idea (excluding things like patents and trademarks, which are a bit different and very formally outlined or have to be close enough that a reasonable person would confuse the two things) and, frankly, it would be pretty stifling if such a thing were even attempted.

    2. GythaOgden*

      Totally. I’m doing a stint on our corporate social responsibility programme later this month. I want to help and I’d been thinking about doing it now I’m not under the supervisor who is dragging her feet under new management and taking my career down with her. I am not naive enough to think that I’m doing it purely because I want to spend two days grubbing in the dirt for a new garden for the homeless shelter we’re doing it for, although that’s the main reason.

      It’s because (a) it gets me out of the office and some exercise, which I need at the moment as I’m running to seed a bit physically; (b) because I genuinely want to meet new people within our org and was specifically invited as someone who they knew to be champing at the bit for something more to do and (c) it’s a good networking day with the upper reaches of my team.

      I’m actually excited about it but I’m definitely glad. I was thinking about taking advantage of the days that we are allocated by working for a charity I know elsewhere and who I have donated a lot to in terms of goods (it’s basically a clothing bank that helps victims of fire or other total loss of property, refugees, the homeless, and provides suits and smart clothing for people who need it for interviews etc). It’s a way of showing I’m a much better team player than anyone else on-site, and the reactions of my ex-supervisor in particular now make me really glad she’s my ex-supervisor. (We can be friends without that awkward work relationship and career priorities getting in the way, which is even better.)

      So yeah, what goes around, comes around and that not only includes pure altruistic voluntary work but also participating in corporate life.

      1. Boof*

        I mean honestly the best kinds of relationships/programs/etc ARE mutually beneficial. That’s much more sustainable. And if it’s corporate, it’s important to be able to point out what the gains are to all the powers that be; someone needs to justify expenses somewhere, we aren’t anywhere near a post scarcity society yet, unfortunately.

    3. allathian*

      I admit I can’t deal with people who think that altruistic endeavors only count if you feel miserable while doing them and can make a virtue out of suffering for the benefit of others. I have absolutely zero patience with that sort of philosophy and will actively avoid people who subscribe to it.

      If I do someone a favor, I’m going to be very disappointed if I don’t even get a simple thank you as an acknowledgement from them. If that happens, I’m extremely unlikely to even consider doing them any favors in future, regardless of how good being able to help others makes me feel in general. This obviously applies to adults. There are few things I value more than sincere thanks from kids, but I didn’t serve for 3 years on my son’s daycare PTA to get thanks from kids for the extras the funds we raised paid for, although I did appreciate the thanks from other parents.

      I don’t do people favors expecting to be paid back with an equivalent favor necessarily, but I’m more likely to do favors for people who’ve done me favors in the past than those who haven’t. That said, I also believe in paying it forward to other people if not the person who did me a favor. I admit that I’m a lot less likely to do favors for people who’ve failed me in the past when I’ve needed a favor from them.

      1. Ellis Bell*

        Those kinds of people have no concept of net benefit; that being unkind to yourself while being kind to someone else is counterproductive. It’s also really exhausting being in a relationship with someone who only values gestures which come from suffering, so anything that isn’t a sacrifice is totally unappreciated.

      2. Irish Teacher*

        I once read an argument that there was no such thing as altruism, because doing good always has a benefit for the person doing it, even if it is just that they feel good about themselves for doing something good, which…struck me as kind of ridiculous, because the reason they feel good is because they want to help others. So yeah, there do seem to be people who think it only “counts” if there is nothing at all to gain from it – doesn’t make you feel good, doesn’t make people more likely to like you, etc.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Oh yeah, my college philosophy teacher made this argument about Mother Teresa actually being a bad person, because she only did good works for the glory or something. You can have whatever opinion you want on her and her work, but that is ridiculous!

          1. Boof*

            See, there’s a logical fallacy there – that because someone gets benefit they are therefor bad for doing good things. benefit !–> bad!
            But I get these are just ways of trying to be edgy and honestly one of the negative stereotypes i have about philosophy; that it’s just a way to argue yourself into saying up is down and black is white for no practical reason other than to be smug

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          I was told, when I asked for it in a support group that I’d joined while leaving religion, that altruism is an evolutionary trait – without sticking together and supporting each other, our ancestors would’ve been all eaten by predators and I wouldn’t be sitting here typing this comment, because humans would be long extinct. I am totally okay with supporting people in my community with the added benefit of feeling good because we as a species been conditioned to have it make us feel good.

    4. münchner kindl*

      People can have more feelings than a tea spoon.

      Actually it’s a win-win situation to volunteer because you get something out of it (application help) and the other person also gets something out of it (doing a stint of Red Cross volunteer during an event). Among other things, this also ensures that volunteers don’t drop things, but keep coming, because it’s a good feeling to do the right thing and see that it helps people.

      The most important part for me is professional competence, which comes before any motivations: if you are volunteering as Red Cross(1), you need to be certified, usually because you are a member of the local red cross group already. That also includes not doing what the volunteer “feels” is helping, but listening to the people who need aid first (okay, not in first aid context, but more general aid).
      We don’t take volunteers with fuzzy feelings and let them implement what feels good, we have professional organisations who know what helps whom, and who then train the volunteers.

      While I have no proof from studies, my assumption is that people who assume everybody must have nefarious motives for doing altruistic work, e.g. firemen are secretly arsonists, nurses want to feel power, are saying this because they believe in life as zero-sum, and because they want an easy excuse to get out of volunteering themselves.

      Thus I disregard this impugning of motives and keep doing things that I consider good.

      (1) Red Cross as shorthand for all first aid organisations, so also includes Maltesans and Johanniter and Workers Samaritians.

      1. ferrina*

        Exactly! The best relationships are where both parties are benefiting. When the advice is “do something that makes you miserable because it makes the other party happy”, something is wrong.

        It’s possible to be both kind and strategic. Cultivating strong relationships is strategic, and the way to do that is through kindness. Does that negate the kindness? No. If the only reason OP was kind was to get some sort of benefit, that would be transactional and entitled (ugh, how I hate the people who are nice so they can get something, then when you can’t/won’t do what they want, the niceness immediately switches off). OP sounds like they are genuinely kind and thoughtful, they invest in relationships, and they don’t sound entitled or selfish at all.

        1. Silver Robin*

          Yeah, the trick is, how does OP respond when they do not get what they want? Are they still kind and understanding, or do they get huffy? My sense is the former, which means the actions are rooted in genuine humanity with an understanding of how that leads to other benefits.

    5. Ubergaladababa*

      This is, if I remember correctly back from my teenaged years, a Randian characature of leftist altruism: that if you’re doing it because you want to, even a little, if you get even a little joy or satisfaction or ego-boosting out of doing something it doesn’t count. That is, of course, not how it works! Do good things, feel good about them, be nice to people and build relationships at work because those are good things to do. That’s what matters.

      1. alienor*

        I’m trying to figure out how it would even be possible to do something nice without having any positive feelings about it. I mean, I can think of times when I’ve had to do something technically “nice” for someone I didn’t like and/or didn’t particularly want to help. But even then, I felt mildly positive about it afterward because hey, at least I did it and it was over with, good job me.

        1. Filosofickle*

          There was a Friends episode about this! Joey insisted all acts of kindness are selfish because they make you feel good.

  5. Aaron*

    #3 another option would be to reach out to James and tell him what you want to do and ask him if either 1) he wants to do the work for hire himself (if he was realizing that he should have asked for payment then this is an opening for him to do that) or 2) if he doesn’t want to do it for hire then ask him to confirm that was intending to give you the design and is ok with you working with someone else to tweak it and make it your own.

    1. Not Australian*

      Yep, I would have thought the place to start would be “James, I like what you did so far but clearly you’re very busy at the moment: how about I just pay you for what you’ve sent me, and then I can go ahead with someone else?” That way both OP and James should get something out of the arrangement. Only get a proper transfer of right document, in case James has already shopped the same design to a third party!

      1. Garblesnark*

        I would not recommend phrasing this as a question. James has had over four months of opportunity to respond to contact on this project. OP should say “Clearly you’re very busy at the moment, so I am happy to pay you for what you’ve sent me and I’ve decided to go ahead with someone else.” It’s important that OP not leave this open for discussion and then give James room to argue about it.

        1. FrivYeti*

          The reason to phrase it as a question is that OP has gotten the idea from James that he doesn’t want his work being altered, and the initial logo was a favour, not a paid contract.

          James may not *want* to sell the logo so that it can be altered; in his mind, it may be either she takes it as it is, or she doesn’t take it. It’s fair for OP to make it clear that she’ll either buy the logo to alter it, or to use something else, but she is legitimately asking whether selling it is something he’s even willing to do.

    2. amoeba*

      “Should I offer to buy the current design from him again so I can have Jessie do whatever I want with it?”

      Sounds like this is what OP was thinking about? They never write that they’re even considering using James’ work without explicitly buying it from them first…

      (Still feels like a minefield I’d prefer to avoid though!)

      1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Can we commend OP for understanding that artists need to be paid. Her first interaction was send me the rate sheet. Now she wants to buy the design. OP THANK YOU.

        1. OP#3*

          Oh of COURSEE!  I am not necessarily an artist but I do personalized cakes and food setups and I’m almost overly vigilant when it comes to that because of how many people have tried to screw me over. I really respect creative artists

    3. OP#3*

      Thank you! I think I am going to check with Jessie first and see if she has any ideas before i go back to James and see if i can buy it, someone mentioned that Jessie might not want to work over someone else work and i didn’t even think of that! So thats my modus operandi moving forward.

      I think I am going to get James a gift card to Starbucks as a thank you for the time he spent on the original logo, he has maintained that he doesnt want any money, but i dont feel right giving him nothing even if i do not move forward with his design at all

      1. CM*

        OP #3, if you do go back to James, please ask him for a written assignment of rights and pay him at least a token amount in exchange, so it will be enforceable. (Google “assignment of rights marketing logo” to get examples.) You can explain that you’re not trying to do him a favor, but instead are trying to make sure that you have the rights you need. Once you have something in writing, then you can do whatever you want. If he won’t do this for whatever reason, then use a different logo. You don’t want to be in a situation where a few years down the line when your business has invested in branding, James informs you that you’re no longer allowed to use his design.

      2. Selena81*

        First talking to Jessie and getting an explanation about logo-designing definitely sounds like the right move: maybe you realize you really really really want James’ design and nothing else and are willing to jump through whatever hoops are needed to make that happen, or maybe you realize the design was pretty meh and you just fixated on it because it was the only one you had.

  6. Being nice should be the norm*

    LW1 – I absolutely LOATHE that question. I am a relatively private person & do not like sharing things about myself with strangers. I find the question intrusive & unnecessary so I answer it with weird responses like “in my spare time I knit jumpers for frogs” & I have an excellent poker face so they never know if I am yanking their chain or serious.

    LW2 – What a sad old world we live in when being nice to people is considered bribery.

    LW5 – I am on salary, which I think is what you call exempt (I am paid the same amount each week regardless of how many hours I work). Some weeks I will work 50 or 60 hours when we have critical deadlines so if I have a day where things are slow I will work until lunch then go home.

    1. coffee*

      Do people not ask about the knitted frog jumpers? Because I would only ask more questions (in the hopes of seeing little frog jumpers) (although I don’t think jumpers would be good for frogs, with the exception of the more typical leg kind of jumping).

      1. bamcheeks*

        I discovered the other day that there are hi-viz vest for chickens. With spaces for their wings and everything. I have no idea what to do with this knowledge.

        1. Laika*

          Similarly useless chicken-related knowledge: I was looking at 3D models yesterday and found a printable that is tiny t-rex arms for your pet chickens.

          I don’t want my comment to get eaten by the automoderation but if you google “Chicken Arms! – Chicken becomes Dinosaur” you will see an example. It’s very cute and pointless!

        2. I went to school with only 1 Jennifer*

          Buy them! And you will know that your chickens are always safe, when they cross the road.

      2. ferrina*

        I use a tactic like this for interviews. I add quirky details in the conversation (usually related to interesting work projects, but not always) as a way to make a personal connection with the interviewer. Connecting on a small personal thing helps me stand out as a candidate (“oh, the person who had the same unusual pet as me!”) and helps them get more invested in the conversation (i.e., I become someone they want to talk to rather than just another step in the interview process). It also is a lovely demonstration of how well you connect with others and quickly build rapport.

        You have to be careful in doing this so it doesn’t look like you’re trying to derail the conversation, but it can be very fun.

    2. nnn*

      ” I find the question intrusive & unnecessary so I answer it with weird responses”

      That doesn’t seem like a great strategy, frankly.

      1. Allonge*

        Indeed – at best it shows that one is not aware of widespread office norms. I imagine there are qualifications that override this concern in some cases but it’s unlikely to be helpful overall.

    3. JR*

      Would it help to reframe the question in your mind as “tell me things about yourself that are relevant to this job” or “start us off with a nice foundation for this interview by giving me some context about your fit”? Kind of like how “how are you?” doesn’t typically mean “tell me your deepest feelings about today”, but rather, “I acknowledge your existence.”

      1. Selena81*

        I was confused about the question (and especially about how to answer it ‘the right way’) when i first started applying to jobs. But i’ve since come to understand it as just an ice-breaker: managers think it’s awkward to immidiately start with specific questions ( i see you went to school in.. tell me about a time when….) and therefore start with asking for a general introduction.

        I’m the kind of person who prefers to keep it 100% about work, but it doesn’t seem to be a faux pas to sprinkle in some personal stuff (as long as it’s upbeat and doesn’t derail the conversation)

        ‘Mentioning a weird hobby to stand out’ is the kind of advice that keeps bouncing around and i am glad to have found AAM and her take on such gimmicks (that it’s basically never worth the effort: you stand out by being a good candidate)

    4. Ducky*

      They’re not asking you to share private info. They want a summary of your professional life, which is absolutely relevant and appropriate to ask about. If you are unwilling to share that, something has gone badly wrong with your understanding of professional norms.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        I know we all hate interviews, but if you’re not willing to discuss your professional life in a job interview (which is what this question is about), then just don’t bother showing up. I really don’t mind the open-ended nature of “tell me about yourself” because it allows me to talk about the path I took to my current career area.

        I think the question freaks a lot of people out because it’s open-ended, but if you have any kind of unconventional career path, or you’re switching industries or relocating, it’s an absolute gift because you can just explain those topics up-front so that they don’t have to ask later. This was a really useful question to me when I was interviewing after moving back to the UK from the US, and to talk about why I was switching out of admin roles to focus on events.

        The key to answering this question successfully is to be able to talk about your career and why you want this specific job for about 90 seconds. Think of it as a version of the first 2 paragraphs of your cover letter. Practice your answer and plan out what you’re going to say in response to this question for every interview. Even if they don’t ask that question, you will still be thinking about how to talk about your professional life in a coherent way, which will really help with answering other interview questions too.

        1. Oxford Comma*

          Yes,, definitely. We interviewed someone recently who had done a lot of really different things in their professional life and they used that question as a way of tying everything together. All their different work experiences had helped inform what they wanted to do and they talked about how the different skills would make them a good fit for our job.

        2. Selena81*

          Exactely. If there is something unusual about your CV this is a good opportunity to give a preprepared little speech: ‘actually that background makes me a better candidate for the job, because….’

      2. londonedit*

        Yeah, this is a bizarre response. The whole point is that they’re not asking for deeply personal information. They want an overview of your career, how you got to where you are, the decisions you’ve made along the way.

        ‘I moved to Llamaville in 2003, because after my degree I knew I wanted to work with llamas, and of course Llamaville is the place to be for llama work. I started off mucking out stables at a small llama farm, which was great because I got to talk to everyone who worked on the farm and find out about their jobs. That’s what made me decide that llama grooming was the direction I wanted to go in, so when a position for a junior groomer opened up on a neighbouring farm, I applied, and got the job. I was there for five years and it was the best grounding I could have had; they gave me the chance to work with a wide range of llamas, and I was lucky in that they were just starting to offer llama dyeing services to clients. I’d studied a bit of dyeing at uni, so I was able to offer my knowledge, and because of that I ended up being promoted to Llama Dye Assistant. Since then, I’ve really focused in on llama dyeing and it’s been a really fruitful career path, as there are so many new techniques coming out all the time and I really enjoy adding those to my skillset. That’s why I’m interested in this job; being Head of Dye Development would really allow me to consolidate everything I’ve learned so far, as well as starting to pass on that knowledge to other llama dyers who are just starting out in their career’.

        Absolutely nothing about your personal life or your family situation needed. They just want you to talk through your experience in a way that’s more expansive and rounded than the bullet points on your CV.

        1. amoeba*

          Yup, this is what I do as well. If it helps, I’d just rephrase the question to “walk me through your CV” in your head (which is the more common way that people have asked me, but I’ve always understood them to have similar meaning, and nobody has ever complained…)

          I don’t even have any problem chatting about more personal stuff in interviews, I even have some interest outside work on my CV and am happy to have some small talk about the fact that I do martial arts or play the piano! But not in response to that question…

        2. Allonge*

          Yes – there is absolutely no need to give out even only theoretically private personal details here. It’s good to show some indication that they are talking to a human being (I especially liked, I enjoy, I would be looking forward to, I was not that keen to [work task]).

          It’s not out of line for prospective employers to expect to learn these kinds of things about an interviewee. If someone prefers a level of privacy that does not allow an intro speech as in the post above, that will likely limit their employment options.

          1. AngryOctopus*

            This. When interviewing for CurrentJob and asked that question, it gave me the chance to talk about what work I had done in the field before, why I changed for OldCompany, and why OldCompany was no longer a good fit for me. You don’t have all those details on your resume, but they can be an important part of “why I’d be good for this job”.

          2. Pastor Petty Labelle*

            This goes along with Question #2. A little human connection goes a long way. You don’t have to get deeply personal, but you want interviewers to see you as a person, not just a resume. You are going to be more memorable if you use more personal words such as like, I enjoyed,, etc, than a weird answer to get them to leave you alone.

            We work with other human beings. We need to acknowledge that. A little humanity can make your working life a lot easier.

          3. Momma Bear*

            My question for LW#1 is where is this criticism coming from? Is the source reliable or a parent offering potentially outdated advice? You can still tell a lot about someone’s personality from how they answer that question even if they only stick to professional examples. If LW thinks there’s a problem, is it the information or the delivery? Does LW have an “elevator pitch” for themselves? I don’t need to know the details of one’s home life to have an idea if I want them on my team. To be honest, we often use a small panel interview style and deliberately try to have at least one woman, to see how they respond to different people. That matters more than a hobby.

      3. Miette*

        Not only that, but the question is the softest of balls upon which to start the interview. It’s meant to be almost an ice-breaker, a “gimme” so you can relax a bit in a stressful situation. What’s easier than talking about yourself in a professional context/way? There shouldn’t be too much more to it.

      4. Observer*

        hey want a summary of your professional life, which is absolutely relevant and appropriate to ask about.

        I agree, although some people have said that the question really *is* intended to cover more personal stuff, because they don’t need you to restate your resume. But even those folks are not looking for deeply personal stuff. They are looking for work relevant things like or just an overview of the fact that you are a human being with an actual life. That’s hardly intrusive or irrelevant.

        1. Antilles*

          Exactly. Even if they do clarify they’re asking about your life outside of work, they’re still only looking for breezy general information. Basically, a couple paragraph indication that yes I am a human who does stuff for the other 128 hours in a week.

          I get that some people are more private than others, but is it really that hard to give a couple paragraphs of generic chit-chat about a hobby? Because that’s literally all this question is asking. And by the way, this also doesn’t necessarily need to be your top-top tier hobby or biggest non-work passion; just something you can have some intelligent back-and-forth about for <90 seconds of chit-chat.

          1. Observer*

            but is it really that hard to give a couple paragraphs of generic chit-chat about a hobby?

            It doesn’t even have to be a couple of paragraphs. “I like to read, and I have really eclectic tastes. I also like to get out of the house, and just get moving a little.” or “The most surprising activity I found myself getting into is rock climbing. It’s a lot more fun that I imagined.” Or whatever. It’s light, very surface level information, but humanizing.

      5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Exactly. I get it that my work history is on my resume, but my resume (thanks to excellent advice from this site) is one page long and I see how both the hiring manager would want more details, and I would want to add more detail in order to sell myself better. I may or may not add “in my spare time, I knit frogs” or what have you – that one is optional.

    5. NL*

      You find “tell me about yourself” in an interview intrusive and unnecessary? That is a very weird take. You’re there so they can learn about you, it’s not intrusive to ask for an overview. As Alison says, most interviewers are asking for a professional overview, not deeply personal revelations. Are you having a lot of success with this approach?

      1. alienor*

        I’m curious what sort of personal information the LW believes they’re asking for with this question. My own history is a minefield, and there are some things in it that only a few close friends know and I certainly wouldn’t share with an interviewer. But there are still plenty of “personal” details I can share that won’t make a conversation weird (why I chose the degree I did, some of the places I’ve lived and traveled to, that sort of thing).

    6. metadata minion*

      Telling a stranger things about yourself is kind of the nature of an interview, unless you happen to know the interviewer. That’s awkward or uncomfortable for many people, but there’s not really a way around it, and just sticking to the professional side of things is fine if you’re not comfortable sharing anything personal.

    7. mlem*

      “Exempt” and “salary” are two different things, at least in the US. Salary means you get paid a set rate every week; exempt means you’re not legally required to get overtime pay. If your salary is low enough (currently $684/week or $35,568, according to Paylocity), you can still be legally entitled for overtime pay. There’s a job-classification requirement as well (“their job duties must primarily involve executive, administrative, or professional work”).

      My only-pays-salary company had to go through and figure out overtime-management strategies the last time they were looking to raise the limit.

      1. EasternPhoebe*

        Yes, this! I once had a job that was both non-exempt and salaried, so whenever I worked more than 40 hours in a week, I was paid overtime, but I was also guaranteed my salary were I to work less than 40 hours.

    8. fhqwhgads*

      Did you not read the response to the letter? They’re not asking your intrusive personal stuff in an interview. They want to know about you professionally, just as the OP was answering. OP has the correct interpretation of the question.

    9. Generic Name*

      I’m trying to say this kindly- reading your response to letter 2 after reading your response to letter 1 I heard a record scratch in my brain. You answer normal getting to know you in a business sense question with a sarcastic response, but then you think it’s sad people aren’t nice anymore?

    10. Fluffy Fish*

      I hope you mean when asked in your personal life, not interviews. OP is specifically referring to interviews.

      An interviewer isn’t interested in your private life and its a normal interview question. It’s just a high level summary of your career.

      Answering it weirdly will likely cost people consideration for the job.

    11. Stopgap*

      Your response to “Tell me about yourself,” sounds like what my response to “How are you?” used to be. It felt invasive to me that distant acquaintances and strangers kept probing for my feelings and state of mind. Then I realized they weren’t – “How are you?” actually means, “I acknowledge you, fellow human being.” Likewise, in a job interview, “Tell me about yourself,” means, “Summarize your professional history.” As you would know if you’d read Alison’s response.

      1. Lily Rowan*

        Miss Manners had a recent question about “How are you?”, where she said it’s the replacement for “How do you do?” which should be said without a question mark and answered with the same phrase!

    12. Oxford Comma*

      When we interview people, and we ask “tell me about yourself,” we don’t want to know about your personal life. We’re asking about your work self and if you answered with strange questions about frog sweaters, I think it would be a mark against you as a candidate.

  7. LobsterPhone*

    No.2…I don’t think any of the examples sound like bribes, some sound like general politeness/courtesy, the rest sound like genuine appreciation for someone’s efforts on your behalf. I think it’s great that you do this and I’m sure the recipients appreciate it also.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I would also like to point out how important the last example can be for some people. In a lot of roles, supervisors/managers only witness a certain amount of interaction between their staff and those they support. A lot of people are more likely to go to them with complaints. Knowing when their staff is doing well can be useful data for them.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Exactly. A thank you email to someone’s manager outlining how well a staff member did the job can make a difference for the person when raises are being decided.

        1. GreyjoyGardens*

          Exactly! It’s worth more even than a chocolate bar. And, even in ultra-strict government agencies, letters and emails praising a particular employee are absolutely allowed.

          “I had a last-minute project calling for 100 gilded teapots to be shipped for Scrooge McDuck’s birthday. I could not have done it without Bob and Jane in the shipping department and their hard work and extra effort. Thanks to Bob and Jane, we got the teapots there on time!” This makes Bob and Jane feel good, it makes their supervisor feel good, and it might help Bob or Jane get that promotion. Win-win.

      2. JustaTech*

        Yes! A couple of times I’ve had difficult problems with various insurance providers and had customer service reps who really went out of their way to be helpful and walk me through the labyrinthine process. You can bet your buttons that I not only asked to be transferred to their supervisor to offer praise but also filled out the survey with highest marks.

        People deserve to be recognized for a job well done!

  8. Dhaskoi*

    #1 – This is actually the first question we ask in interviews where I work, and then the second question is asking you to go into your work history in more detail, so it’s actually a little awkward if the answer to the first question is just a potted work history. We don’t expect applicants to divulge anything very personal, but we do want some insight into how you might act at work on a daily basis.

    Although this is for a position where soft skills are vital and your personality/demeanour will play a large part in how well you’re suited to the role, above and beyond what they do in any job.

    1. Observer*

      We don’t expect applicants to divulge anything very personal, but we do want some insight into how you might act at work on a daily basis.

      So tell them what you want.

      But also, what makes you think that personal stuff is going to tell you more about how someone might act at work that actual work history. Like, I am married, I have kids, my mother lives out of state, and I like to read. What exactly does that tell you about what my work behavior or performance might be like? Or what my soft skills look like?

        1. GythaOgden*

          Yeah, I’ve always assumed that Tell Me About Yourself was a way to give a broad overview of your career and the personal choices you made. It’s not rocket science to understand that and it’s like a second go at the cover letter for me — explaining where I am now, why I’m there (because I’ve had lots of comments to the effect of ‘what’s an LSE [London School of Economics, think MIT for social sciences] graduate doing sitting on reception?’ and I’ve briefly explained why I’ve kind of dropped out of higher level work and find myself looking for something lower stress and administrative in nature) and where I want to be.

          It seems a bit superfluous to spell it out — and I’m on the spectrum so I’m rather susceptible to literal interpretations of questions like that. (I was once asked where I’d come from, and I thought the guy had asked where I came from, and so I went into a spiel about my dad being from Manchester and my mum being from Northern Ireland, when all he wanted to know was whether I’d come straight from uni to interview him for our newspaper or whatever.) A bit of lateral thinking will help here, not least because day to day life involves so many different ambiguous situations and questions that being too wilfully pedantic will hurt you in the actual workspace.

          1. metadata minion*

            Hah — I would have assumed “where did you come from” to mean “where [as in what town, not address] do you live?”.

            1. bamcheeks*

              It’s a classically confusing question in my idiolect, to be honest– I ask it to mean, “where do you live”, butI know loads of Black and Asian people who’ve been asked it really aggressively in a “I am entitled to know your ethnic background!!” way and I’m super careful now about only asking it in contexts where it’s pretty clear that I mean, “was your journey long” or “which bit of Lancashire is that accent from”.

              1. Anna*

                I’ve found a good way to get around that is to ask ‘Are you from around here?’ (or ‘Are you from [city we’re in]’ or some other phrasing). Makes clear that you consider the other person someone who could be local, and leaves the door wide open for all kinds of answers.

            2. Allonge*

              Yes, this is a question easily misunderstood, neurodivergence or not.

              It’s not a question with an immediately obvious meaning (especially in live conversation with contractions, accents, hearing issues and so on).

      1. Fikly*

        The facts in your answer don’t necessarily convey information about your soft skills, but how you answer does. Can you carry a conversation? Can you put someone at ease in a stressful situation? How is your small talk? How are you judging the question being asked, and are you responding appropriately?

        Yes, many people might not understand the question initially, but for certain jobs, such as one being described above, being able to understand these types of questions is a very relevant soft skill. While it’s often a reasonable expectation to want coworkers to ask clear questions, it’s rarely reasonable to expect this of customers/the public. So you need employees who have this skill.

        That is, if this is a genuine question you’re asking, and not you just being irritated.

        1. metadata minion*

          But in a job interview, I assume “tell me about yourself” *does* mean in a professional sense, with maybe a few personal details thrown in there as in Alison’s answer. Is that not a reasonable reading of the question in this context? I’d answer very differently in a social setting, or even in a casual chat at a professional conference.

        2. Observer*

          Can you carry a conversation? Can you put someone at ease in a stressful situation? How is your small talk? How are you judging the question being asked, and are you responding appropriately?

          Some of what you are looking for doesn’t really apply without much more than an initial answer to a question. And “putting someone at ease” is *not* something you can gauge in a first interview in any case, because the dynamics of the conversation don’t allow for it in any case.

          As for the question of “responding appropriately”, sticking to purely professional “about me” is equally appropriate as putting in some personal stuff. Sure, there are some exceptions – like if you are interviewing for a position that looks like a REALLY odd fit for your professional history and skill set, a little bit of background be really useful. But otherwise, I don’t see any argument that one reaction is more or less appropriate than the other.

          I get that dealing with unclear questions is often a key part of a job – it’s something I deal with all the time. But that’s all the more reason I push back on this kind of thing. *Especially* when dealing with people who may not always be able to precisely articulate their issue, it’s important to not expect that there is ONE right way / ONE “accepted” meaning of a question this vague and general. The *really* useful skill, in my experience, is recognizing the myriad ways the statement or question could be meant, and asking followup up questions as necessary.

          I wouldn’t ask follow up questions it I were the interviewee getting this question, because the more often than not the question is meant as a bit of an ice breaker and asking “what precisely are you asking?” or something like that winds up coming off as adversarial or pedantic. If get the wrong end of it (whether I am more personal and questioner wanted more about my professional background or the reverse), it’s easy enough for the questioner to follow up with clarification. If they can’t / won’t there is a problem. Either I’m being rude and off-putting, or the interviewer is not doing a good job. But either way, which way I choose to answer really doesn’t matter *that* much in terms of providing information on how I operate.

          That is, if this is a genuine question you’re asking, and not you just being irritated.

          That is a *wild* leap. Is that how you always assess people?

    2. Myrin*

      I do think that in that case it’s on you as the interviewer to be flexible, though, because any awkwardness is solely on your end – the interviewee probably isn’t a mindreader and can’t know that they’re giving an answer to something you’d planned to be the second question.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, this is the time to go from ‘tell us about your work history’ to ‘is there anything in your work history you have not mentioned above that is relevant to this job’ or something similar. Or if it’s all covered, to something specific about the personality connected to the job you are hiring for – or just the next question.

        *I know that some places interview with a set list of questions and they are not allowed to use others, but then you really need to be more specific in the questions.

        1. Dhaskoi*

          ‘tell us about your work history’ to ‘is there anything in your work history you have not mentioned above that is relevant to this job’

          That’s basically question 4.

          1. Allonge*

            But then you skip it at that point.

            Or it’s time to revise your questions because people will consistently have large overlaps between 1, 2 and 4. This is not the fault of the interviewee, you are asking by and large the same question three times.

            I would suggest to go for a general opening (tell us about yourself), then based on what you get, a follow-up on work history or important personality issues (e.g. if the job is talking to people all day, or going away with a project for three months alone – whatever is applicable – explain that and ask what that sounds like). And you can still end with a general ‘is there anything you have not mentioned that you would like to’ as a final chance to bring things up.

          2. Francesca*

            This sounds like poor interviewing technique on your/your company’s side then. That’s a lot of overlapping questions which leads to redundancy, repetition and failure to move forward meaningfully in the conversation. As the candidate, that level of repetition would make me feel that you were unclear, poorly organised, and inexperienced at interviewing, which would give me pause about working for you.

            1. Pesad@*

              +1. Came here to say this. I think ‘Tell us about your work history’ is a bad question. It’s a sign the interviewer is either novice or is unprepared and hasn’t read my resume.

        2. KateM*

          Your follow-up question sounds rather unfriendly to me in a “so, anything that you didn’t tell us / would you now tell us something relevant as well” way.

          1. Allonge*

            I am not sure I understand what you mean – I don’t necessarily advocate for using only this specific phrasing but what’s wrong with giving people an additional chance to bring up something relevant that they have not mentioned yet?

            When I was asked this question last in an interview (they did not limit it to work experience, just a general ‘anything that you would still like to share’), I grabbed the opportunity to mention something in my past that reflected that I believe in the org’s mission – there was no natural way to bring that up before. If nothing comes to mind, you say that, and maybe thanks for the discussion.

            1. KateM*

              I think it’s the specific phrasing that makes it feel unfriendly. Or maybe I am imagining a wrong tone.

              1. Allonge*

                Oh, it’s definitely meant to be adjusted as needed for wording, and with a light tone – it’s not an interrogation, it’s giving a chance to bring something up that was omitted so far.

      2. ferrina*

        Exactly. The candidate doesn’t know what questions you are going to ask (unless you are providing the questions before hand). It’s pretty normal to respond with potted work history, and then let the interviewer delve from there. The candidate doesn’t know the exact needs of this job, and doesn’t know which parts of their experience are most interesting to the interviewers. When you ask a general question, expect a general answer. If you don’t ask for what you need (i.e., tell me about your personality) then don’t be annoyed when it takes folks a few tries to figure out what you actually want.

        I’m a trained interviewer who does research interviews as part of my job. We always start with a general question, then delve from there. If the respondent answers Question 2, 5 and 7 as part of their answer to Question 1, great! It means I can spend more time on other questions in the interview. I certainly don’t get annoyed that they didn’t answer the questions in the correct order (that they had no way of knowing). It would be a shame to have someone “fail” an interview because they weren’t psychic

    3. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I think what you’re expecting from the question and what most people will take the question as are misaligned. Maybe you should change the wording to what you’re looking for.

    4. AnneShirley*

      “Although this is for a position where soft skills are vital and your personality/demeanour will play a large part in how well you’re suited to the role, above and beyond what they do in any job.”

      I think this is crucial! I’m interviewing right now (actually just received an informal offer, so I must be doing something right) and in each case this has been my experience: it’s the first question they act and it’s a nice way to loosen things up a tiny bit and set the stage for further, in-depth specifics. It’s providing context, and showing that I have enough interpersonal skills to open up the meeting and talk to the interviewer/panel like fellow people– and, importantly, to see ME as a person too! I don’t think there are too many jobs out there where that doesn’t count for anything.

      Honestly, I’m not even getting THAT personal. I open with where I’m from, what I went to school for and how much I liked it (relevant to my field), and then a little bit about my career progression and one to two highlights. In my case, I just relocated, so I finish by saying (truthfully!) that I just moved to the city and am really enjoying it so far, especially the local food.

    5. bzh*

      If they answer your first question with their work history, why would you then ask them for their work history? I agree you are being a little awkward.

    1. nnn*

      Eh, I would not suggest that. It’s such a common interview question that you’re expected to be able to answer it.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, start with the work history and let them interrupt or ask different questions if they really meant ‘have you ever worked with homeless armadillos’.

    2. Fluffy Fish*

      No, please don’t. It makes you look out of touch with professional norms.

      Asking that is going to make the interviewer think its weird you don’t know how to provide a professional summary of your work.

  9. Kella*

    Honestly, people really underestimate how easy it is to get little acts of special treatment from service workers (that are still within the parameters of their job but not strictly required of them) by just being nice to them. My boyfriend and I order takeout from the same restaurant about once a week. We would go and pick it up and it would always be the same woman handing us our food. We’d interact for a maximum of 20 seconds but we were always nice and smiley with her. After a few months of this, she noticed that we often ordered an extra side of peanut sauce. To our surprise, she started putting 2-3 extra cups of peanut sauce, for free, in our bag of food, often writing a note that said something like “Happy Friday!” or just a heart. It always makes us smile.

    1. MrsThePlague*

      I love this so much, and it randomly reminded me of a similar story about a friend of mine who passed away unexpectedly not long ago, and her boyfriend. Thanks for the happy memory and I hope you get to a chance to keep showing your appreciation to your peanut sauce friend!

    2. High Score!*

      Reminds me of when I waited in a long line at a fast food place. When I got to the counter, I smiled back at the TEENAGE girl taking my order. She happy cried because no one had smiled at her or said a nice word her entire shift.
      Way to go people! If you’re wondering why “no one wants to work anymore”, there’s your answer.

      1. PhyllisB*

        Yep. When my oldest daughter was pregnant and close to delivery I kept my phone handy at all times just in case. Sure enough, I was going through a checkout line when THE CALL came. I apologized to the cashier for answering the phone while I was interacting with her. She said, “that’s okay, at least you see me as a person.”

        1. Been there*

          That cashier tells it like it is. I’ve never heard it put so simply but that gets to the heart of the matter. It’s amazing how many people just look right through you when you’re in a service job.

    3. Telephone Sanitizer, Third Class*

      I know some people who regularly went to the same restaurant and had the same waitress almost every time, and when they went to set up catering from that place for their holiday party, they invited her too!

    4. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah I go to a specific coffee shop maybe once a week and just smile and say how are you – today I told the barista I like her shirt. Not making best friends for like, but she gives me free stuff sometimes and we always have a good interaction.

      Service workers deal with a lot of crappy people, they react well to being treated human. It’s not a big lift.

    5. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I make a point of being polite to people who are required to interact with me, such as service people, and I’ve also noticed this. (I mean, I don’t go out of my way to be rude to people when interacting is optional, either, but I make myself be a little extra polite rather than withdrawn even if I’m tired and grumpy if the person I’m talking to can’t opt-out.)

      I particularly notice this with hotel breakfasts at places where the servers bring you stuff (rather thn self-service buffets). I’m usually at a hotel for a convention, and my goal at a hotel breakfast is to drink as much coffee as physically possible in the hopes that my brain will start working since I am not a morning person. By being known as “the polite and reasonable one who also tips appropriately”, usually by the second or third day I find it easier and easier to get those frequent coffee refills since (a) checking on me is part of their job anyway and (b) they know that when they come to refill my coffee mug they will get a smile and a polite “thank you” rather than a list of complaints that they can’t do anything about, which means that refilling my coffee mug just became one of the better parts of their circuit around the room and a little breath of fresh air from some other person they also have to deal with that morning.

    6. Turquoisecow*

      Yep. We used to regularly eat at a specific sushi restaurant. We didn’t go above and beyond but we were friendly and complimentary to the people there and they’d occasionally give us a special appetizer or something like that as a treat. We also always tip well, so it wasn’t long before they remembered our names.

      When the pandemic happened and we had to switch to delivery, our order was often accompanied by like a free soup or something, and a little note saying “enjoy!” Not really special but enough to make the interaction pleasant on both sides, nothing wrong with that.

    7. MsSolo (UK)*

      Thought I’m always friendly to service workers (and have been one), this is actually one of the reasons I try to avoid going anywhere often enough to be recognised – it’s lovely that you want to give me things, but I really only want exactly what I ordered. I don’t need three times as much sauce, or a can of coke, or for the delivery to arrive twenty minutes before I was expecting it. I just want to complete the transaction as advertised and tell you your hair looks cool, because your hair really does look cool and in no way relates to the number of fries I’m capable of eating today.

  10. Fruit Snacks*

    YMMV but I work retail and got a coworker to stay an extra 15 minutes so I could take a real break with a pack of fruit snacks (she was also on the clock obviously and I would have still given her the fruit snacks if she said no, which she knew). My manager was amazed how easy it was. Never underestimate the power of food. But also don’t use the power for evil.

  11. Annie Bannie*

    “Service” people are humans too, but their jobs can sometimes be unpleasant, so let’s treat them extra nice! How about treating everyone kindly?

  12. Ellis Bell*

    OP2, I kind of have to assume your friends must be making an awkward joke, that’s how odd the alternative is; that they could seriously see kindness and graciousness towards busy people doing you a service as bribery! They seem to be suggesting people should just be trudging on with the work without any incentive to do so, not even a positive reaction to their work or inclusion in treats available to others – come on they have to be joking! Maybe they see it as sucking up? I don’t know but I hope they think a little bit more about this because it’s concerning!

    1. Myrin*

      I was astonished that these are friends, plural. I can see one outlier seriously holding that kind of opinion but several people all at once? I was wondering if there was possibly one dominant person with that opinion in that group and the others just went along with it because like you say, the alternative is downright bizzare.
      (OTOH, it’s of course always possible that these people found each other in the first place because of their pessimistic outlook on the world.)

    2. Bit o' Brit*

      Right, I would absolutely call the chocolate bar bribery, but I’m also the kind of person who, when buying specific snacks when we have people over for game night or cake for a work-friend’s birthday, will tell those people that I am bribing them into being my friend and to please tell me if it’s working (and it totally paid off, I got a little crochet mushroom guy from one of them as “mutual friendship bribery”).

      But offering food to an acquaintance who happens to be in the area when you’re having a cook-out or offering drinks to someone working in your area? That’s just plain good manners if it’s available to offer.

      The email of recognition that got the IT folks a little bonus is literally the point of the award, so that one doesn’t even belong on the list.

      1. Butterfly Counter*

        I would say that the email recognition is the opposite of a bribe. The people helping out wouldn’t and couldn’t know that the OP would be sending an email. They might have never known unless the boss rewarded them as a result (which is what happened). Basically, OP did something to affect others’ opinions of her helpers in very positive ways. The fact it actually paid off for the helpers in $$ is just icing on the cake.

      2. Aitch Arr*

        “The email of recognition that got the IT folks a little bonus is literally the point of the award, so that one doesn’t even belong on the list.”

        Agreed, and in fact, my company’s Rewards & Recognition platform is literally designed to give small but meaningful recognition to colleagues. (1 point = 1 penny. Employees can save up for rewards, including days off, cash, gift cards, etc.)

        Not only does it feel good to give recognition like this (it can be done publicly or privately on the platform), it feels good to read all the recognitions! (You can also give a ‘high five’ of 5 points, similar to a ‘Like’ on FB.)

        Managers are able to view the recognitions for their employees and those can factor in to performance reviews.

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      “Trudging on with the work without any incentive to do so” reminds me so unpleasantly of all the workplaces who want you (“you” usually meaning their women employees) to work For Love or be paid in sunshine or warm fuzzies. No thank you. My condo HOA fees are not payable in warm fuzzies and neither are my utilities.

      Being nice to people you work with or for, or who work for you, should be a given. It’s not “bribery.” I’m appalled at the mentality of these “friends.”

  13. Le Vauteur*

    #2 Another background worker here, and we REALLY appreciate having our efforts noticed and appreciated, and being treated like competent human beings. In my first job, the CEO taught everyone that no one is above basic common courtesy – if I was walking through a door carrying stuff, he would get the door.
    You can’t run an organisation without your support staff. If the CEO is out for a week, away on business, most places will carry on as normal and bigger places won’t even notice. The janitor is out for a week? Everyone is going to notice the full bins and lack of toilet paper. IT is out for a week and something happens that needs them? Armageddon without toilet paper.

    1. Pretty as a Princess*

      I appreciate you, Le Vauteur!

      We have custodial staff who work through the building twice a day. They are a couple person team, but I usually meet the same person. The first day she popped her head in and asked if my trash needed to go out, I said no thanks, showed her my candy dish which is always stocked and told her she’s always welcome to stop by when the door is open, and asked her name. She said no one here had asked her her name before. I was like “You work here and you help me, of course I’d like to know your name so I can say hi!”

      Our mailroom is run by an older gentleman and a younger man. I used to pop in to put stuff in the outbound, say hello, and bring them candy when I popped by. I got a package one day and the older fellow came up to my office to bring it to me instead of dropping it in my mail slot. I told him from the return address that it was an award from a professional association. So he asked if he could stay and watch me open it, and then congratulated me. Made my entire day to just have a nice moment.

      I am BAFFLED at people who don’t just take the second to be kind/acknowledge others who provide them services. I’m not nice to Mailroom Guy so he will personally deliver my mail, I’m nice to him because he does hard work here and I want him to know I appreciate it. But when you are considerate to everyone, it comes back in the form of warm, pleasant interactions and I relish every one.

      1. A person*

        Occasionally one of our custodial staff that normally works at one of our bigger and stuffier locations will have to cover our tiny and much more informal location. I’m always saddened by how shocked they are that everyone in our building always greets them and asks how their day is and such. Apparently at the big and stuffy locations, people not only refuse to acknowledge the custodial staff mostly, but when they do it’s always to imply that they’re bothering them with their presence like making loud comments to each other like “I don’t know why we don’t do our cleaning at night when no one is here”… ummm, cleaning people have families and stuff too and also don’t want to work nights… you can deal with someone emptying trash cans in your area for 5 minutes a day. Sheesh.

    2. alienor*

      Even sooner than that! I remember one year, the company I worked for at the time was open on a particular holiday, but most of the other companies in the building were closed. It turned out that the maintenance and cleaning staff, who worked for the building management company and not for us, also had the day off and we didn’t know. The bathrooms in our offices were starting to get grungy by lunchtime, and descended into full dystopian chaos by mid-afternoon. I’m still amazed by how fast it happened and how quickly people started panicking because no one was there to take care of it.

  14. Irish Teacher*

    I’m assuming the cookout was for a particular team? Otherwise I’d expect the custodian to be invited anyway. And I think it would be kind of rude not to offer him anything when he arrived during it.

    We often have cake in the staffroom for World Teachers’ day and of course, the cleaning staff, office staff, caretaker etc can partake. Given the degree to which the teaching staff outnumbers them, leaving them out would be kind of exclusionary.

    As regards the chocolate, there are certain leaves that we have to get cover for ourselves among our colleagues. Things like taking time off for a wedding. We just ask our colleagues, “is anybody free to take such a class for me at such a time” and it’s not uncommon to pay those who’ve covered for you in chocolate, either by giving a chocolate bar to each person who has taken a class for you or if it was something that took a couple of days and lots of people covered, to bring in a box of chocolates for the staff. I wouldn’t see that as a bribe. Just as showing appreciation. It’s not like I’m going to refuse to cover a class in the future for somebody because they didn’t give me chocolate or like I would be more willing to do it because of the possibility somebody would.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      I was thinking about my work setup where we’re in an office building, so a lot of different companies sharing one set of facilities. If we’re having a staff gathering and someone from the building wanders in we would absolutely invite them/offer them something but they wouldn’t necessarily be invited from the jump.

  15. Nela*

    #3 I’m a designer, I agree with Alison that Jessie would very likely prefer to create something original for you, rather than tweak other people’s work.

    If you have no written agreement with James and he’s MIA, just cross that off and start fresh. He’s being weird about a quite normal aspect of logo design, and the nonresponsiveness is such a red flag in a freelancer, and a friend. If he can’t deal with disagreement in a mature way, he’s in for a hard time.

    1. Smurfette*

      I agree. However, when you brief Jessie, you can show them the work James did for you, and explain what you like and dislike about it – along with some other examples of similar work (e.g. competitor logos). It’s easier to communicate what you’re looking for if you have something concrete to refer to.

  16. Put the Blame on Edamame*

    Ahh LW1, you’re good, I had an interview with a prospective hire last week whose response to that question took up nearly half of a 30 minute long interview and covered his hobbies, fave celebrities, preferred holiday destinations, and family life.

    It’s an entry level job and he had all the qualities to go forward, so we are progressing his application, but it was a tad TMI!

  17. münchner kindl*

    #2 Bribery
    It’s sad that the friends are so outside norms that the really interesting question about bribery is not anywhere near.

    Because I remember some interesting articles on real bribery, where people who professionally try to stop bribery explain how difficult it is when everybody thinks of briefcases full of money, but actually, the slipper slope starts much earlier: it’s just “local custom” in foreign country to bring a gift from your home country when visiting managers; it’s normal business to invite vendors and customers at a certain level for expensive dinner, etc.

    Because what is normal can subtly influence people, and can quickly creep from “how nice, you brought me a key chain from your country” to “you should bring me a proper gift, like a cuckoos clock (which starts at several hundred Euros)”, or from a nice business dinner to full private dinner for the family of the person you’re trying to get good relations.

    And even in the same company: a chocolate bar might not be much, but if there is only one person who does that, and therefore that person gets jumped to the top of the urgency IT queue, this can mess up business flow.

    All of this is not on OP who is behaving correctly.

    Just to point out that even small things have the potiental to develop into bigger things, and that’s often why anti-bribery rules (laws) are so strict that nothing can be accepted as gift.

    It’s human nature to want easy relationships with other people, to be liked and like, and to do a favour for a friendly person, and it’s also easy to get used to it, until nobody can get an IT job done without 12 bars of chocolate (to exaggerate).
    Because this has happened many times in real life, both with big stuff like dinners (invites to concerts and games…) and with small stuff for internal things.

    1. el l*

      3 thoughts about bribery, all of which say this isn’t it at all:

      a. An expectation of impartiality. While that’s “low-grade true” for HVAC techs and custodians, it’s not the same level of impartiality as (say) what we should expect of a senior civil servant awarding government contracts.
      b. An expectation of quid pro quo. OP is not doing this only/primarily to influence behavior. If they did this solely as a quid pro quo – “I be nice to you just so you do different/more than for others” – that’s a spirit of bribery. This isn’t there.
      c. When it really becomes a problem – which dovetails with your point – is when the service provider expecting/requiring the gift as a condition of doing what they’re supposed to do for free. Don’t see that happening here.

      Merriam-Webster definition of bribery: “Money or favor given or promised in order to influence the judgment or conduct of a person in a position of trust.”

    2. Sparkles McFadden*

      The topic would be an interesting discussion as there’s a lot of nuance involved. Many people can tell the difference between a kind gesture and a disingenuous effort to curry favor or get special treatment, but some cannot.

      In certain areas, like civil service, there are very strict rules so that no one has to try to figure out if something is some sort of a bribe. No one has to figure out where the slippery slope is if you’ve been told you have to say no to anything offered…and that’s also for the sake of optics. It’s a way to signal “No one can get special treatment here.”

      There are fewer rules in publicly owned corporations, and fewer still in private businesses, but there usually are guidelines to explain what’s acceptable and what’s not. I imagine that, internationally, this must become a nightmare as corporate guidelines meet local guidelines. But, really, none of this is what LW#2 is describing. Maybe the group of friends was trying to have this sort of lively discussion and used LW’s description of acts of general kindness as a jumping off point.

    3. GreyjoyGardens*

      Of course, a “thank you,” a note of thanks for a good job, or telling someone’s boss “I appreciate Fergus going above and beyond on that billing issue” is not bribery, and I hope LW’s friends didn’t think that, because if they did, they are…not nice people. Being nice costs nothing.

  18. Mango the Expat*

    This was literally my first time hearing about a venetian hour! I love those random times you learn something new completely unexpectedly.

    1. Madame Arcati*

      Me too. I have to google now and then but I feel like I could write a list of concepts brought to me by AAM! Mostly uk-us culture differences but still. And many good or neutral – i now know what is meant by K-cups, C-suite, town halls, potlucks…

      1. amoeba*

        Hah, same here for most of these, except for the townhall – this is very much used in my European company as well.

        1. londonedit*

          We’ve only used ‘town hall’ since Covid, because before that we never had meetings where literally the whole company would attend (apart from special events). Moving meetings online meant it was much easier to have everyone dial in, and the company set up monthly town hall meetings as a way of keeping everyone connected. Before that, it wasn’t a term I’d heard in my industry.

        2. Irish Teacher*

          When I first read the term “townhall” here, I thought it meant the company was doing something that affected the community and they were holding a meeting to inform the local community of what was taking place, allow them to raise objections, etc.

    2. londonedit*

      Same! I’d never heard of it before. Initially I thought it might be something like aperitivo, but no, it’s to do with having a big buffet of cakes and pastries at a wedding. Never seen that before in my life!

    3. Charlotte Lucas*

      I grew up in the Chicago area. It sounds like what I would call a “sweet table.” (A well-done one is an elaborate and beautiful tribute to the art of baking little treats.)

      1. Imtheone*

        Just went to a wedding where the groom was from Pittsburgh. He invited everyone to have cake and to stop by the “cookie table,” which he said was a Pittsburgh tradition. Sounds similar!

    4. Not A Raccoon Keeper*

      I’m from the Canadian Prairies, and a midnight buffet is our equivalent. I’m used to more of a second dinner style, often with hot food, a deli tray, and some sweets, and a bunch of strong coffee to try to sober your guests up.

      My area specifically has strong German and Ukrainian roots, and my mom once told me that if there aren’t cabbage rolls at the midnight buffet, the wedding and therefor the marriage isn’t valid :)

  19. Madame Arcati*

    #2 I feel like the friends in this aren’t distinguishing between bribing (in the colloquial sense not getting into law and corporate or government policy!) – and thanks. Bribery is giving to get special treatment as opposed to rewarding a good or helpful deed. The only thing that gets even close to that is the chocolate, which to be fair we don’t know wasn’t “oh you got that shipped out today? You guys are great, here’s some chocolate” as opposed to “can you ship this today, I’ve brought treats…” but I do think that’s being way too pernickety and over thinking. Also for all we know OP might have had a box of chocolate bars sitting on her desk from a promotional thing or because her spouse works for a big food company and they get more free stuff than they can use*, so she was just sharing the love…which brings me to the first and second things which were – things that were happened anyway! They have sodas and snacks available, why not offer them to someone who’s fixing something? They were all eating hotdogs why not offer one to the colleague who passes through in the course of the day, especially when that person is probs on a lower wage doing an often unpleasant job. It’s no more bribery than me saying “I’m having a cup of tea do you want one?” to the bloke fixing my boiler, or “oh hello [company facilities management person come to fix the internal door that keeps slamming], its my birthday would you like a piece of this cake?”

    As for the fourth example; quite apart from the fact that the language implies op didn’t know the monetary reward would result or at least didn’t give the good feedback for that reason – good feedback for good work is good practice in my opinion. Employee recognition is really important for morale and it’s a shame (in work and in life in general) if people only give feedback, reviews etc to complain. It reinforces the good work and makes people feel valued; it’s important for management appraisals. And who doesn’t love receiving it? I still treasure the memory of an email complimenting my work sent to my boss from a client shall we say, in a position held in high regard/respect by my side of the business, even though the deal didn’t go that well. I wish I’d thought to save it but I can see bits of it now in my head, “…documentation in perfect order which is so often not the case…would like to compliment Miss Arcati’s professionalism”. Gives me a warm glow. And that was c.2006. So don’t stop doing that, OP!

    *possible – a former neighbour of mine, her boyfriend worked for such a company and she used to stuff bars of [high end British brand chocolate] in my handbag when I went round for coffee as they couldn’t eat it all!

  20. The answer is (probably) 42*

    I’m just here to say that I’m excited to see a Pokémon reference in the letter pseudonyms!

  21. frida*

    LW#2, I have been an office manager for years and this has always been my practice with service providers. Be friendly, offer them snacks, give them Christmas cards, stop to chat when you’re walking by, it all makes a difference when you need a favour or a big issue that needs urgent fixing. I used to work at an office where people would do the same thing as your coworkers and question why I was being friendly with the repair guys or chatting with the cleaner about how her kids were doing in school or letting the mailroom guys help themselves to our candy dish. Being a nice human goes a long way!!

  22. Claire*

    Just FYI most logos actually do not qualify for copyright protection. Typically logos fall under trademark, which is meant to protect the business using it, not the artist who created it. I still think it’s probably a good idea to start fresh with a new designer for other reasons, but unless it is an unusually intricate design it is unlikely that copyright is at play here.

    1. Nela*

      If a logo is a simple shape that’s been seen before, or just the name set in a certain ready-made font, or if it’s a clear copy of someone else’s work, then it’s considered derivative work and not subject to copyright. But any unique shape (like a symbol/icon), or a unique combination of image + name typeset in a certain font is subject to copyright.
      It would require an IP specialist to evaluate an individual case to make a judgement.

      A trademark is owned by the party that files it. That’s typically the business owner, because they’re investing in their own property. But the business has to own the rights to commercially exploit the design in order to be able to file a trademark application. If the business takes someone’s work without permission, the original designer can contest the application.

      (I’m not a lawyer, but a designer that has to keep up on top of legal regulations across the world where my clients are.)

  23. Royal Fizzbin*

    Everyone should be nice to everyone – not just service workers. Maybe your friends were thinking more condescension than bribery? Clearly you’re being super kind – maybe they’re just mad they didn’t think of it first.

  24. Single Parent Barbie*

    OP 1 – No one really pays enough attention to the homeless armadillo population, so kudos.

    I do not want to tell people what I do outside of work because I am boring. Uh laundry? Talk to my dog? Cuss out my sports teams? Cook dinner? Spray down the shower and hope that’s enough to avoid having to scrub it? I do the elevator pitch. How I ended up in the field, highlights of things I have done or accomplished, etc

    2. Who ever said you need new friends, I second it.

    You have built a working relationship with the people in these roles and there is nothing unusual about offering them to partake in whatever is going on. Is it bribery if you have extra food from a lunch meeting that you offer to your peers?

    I am my father’s daughter and I am always nice to everyone I work with (to start). I started one job and was one of the first people on site every morning. I was usually at my desk when the lady in facilities would come in to empty my trash can. Every morning I said good morning and she would kind of grunt back.

    Eventually she started saying good morning back.

    Then she started saying good morning first as she walked in to my office.

    By the time I was transferred to a new location 8 months later, I could not get her to leave my office and was convinced no one else’s garbage was getting picked up because she would chat me ear off.

    My rule is “always err on the side of kindness.”

    1. Michelle Smith*

      I certainly wouldn’t lead with those activities, but I think it’s highly relatable to mention if directly asked about hobbies/life outside of work that you care for a pet, cook, and watch sports. Lots of people love dogs and that could be a point of connection with the interviewer. Same thing with sports, although I suppose it could be risky if the interviewer really hates your favorite team? And cooking is a nice safe thing to embellish into a “hobby” even though it’s something most of us have to do in order to survive. It’s not controversial and if anyone asks you more about it, it’s very easy to explain what kind of food you’re into (“I’m perfecting the pork chop” or “I’m experimenting with vegan dishes for meal prep”). No, it’s not rock climbing or whatever, but that’s fine because you didn’t list your interests on your resume (which I think would be weird unless it’s something truly unique and interesting, or directly relevant to the job). The goal of answering that question as I understand it is just to seem like a normal person with a life and interests outside of work, not necessarily the coolest or most busy person.

  25. Dinwar*

    #2: I do the first two things you mention as a matter of routine. We have a break room with coffee and chilled bottles of water (the plumbing is…not great, so tap water isn’t an option), and I make sure that any maintenance folks who come in know they’re welcome to it. And if we have a cookout we make a point to invite the folks that routinely come to the office (cleaning staff, mostly). Partially it’s cynical–you wouldn’t BELIEVE how much information these folks pick up, and if you treat them like humans they’ll be willing to pass it along! Partially it’s professional–one of my jobs is to make sure everyone stays safe, and in 110 degree heat with humidity so high it condenses on your arm hairs when you walk outside, cold water is a necessity. And partially it’s because I try to be a nice person–my grandmother was a maid, and I used to help her out as a kid (all of her grandkids did), so I know how hard they work. No one’s ever said anything negative. My boss’s boss has said positive things, since he’s a big believer in the idea that we all have a job to do, and all jobs are important.

    I don’t think I’ve ever given anyone candy as a thank you for a rush job, but I’ve seen others do it. That’s going to be dependent on the person. I do keep snacks on my desk, though.

    As for the email, it’s normal business practice. You’re providing feedback, which is always a good thing.

    So yeah, you’re fine. Well within what I’ve seen as normal.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I like to bake and often bring treats in. But I don’t want to take home leftovers, so I offer them to people working later than I do. Years ago at a previous job, I had a few treats left and offered them to the evening security guard. He told me he had worked there 5 years, and nobody had ever offered him something like that. It made me so sad to find that out. (And, yes, he took the treats.)

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      I offer cold water to service people as a matter of course, for the same reason – it gets hot here in summer, and I do not want anyone collapsing from dehydration or overheating. That’s not bribery; that’s a matter of health.

  26. Falling Diphthong*

    I wonder if #1 was observed by someone who thought they seemed distant and distrustful as a vibe, and when asked “but what specifically am I doing?” this was the concrete thing the observer could point to.

    For vibe shifting, Toastmasters and improv classes are the two that come to mind as ways to figure out what small elements go into a vibe, and how you can control them.

  27. Michelle Smith*

    LW1: I am assuming you aren’t, but just in case, when you’re asked to tell the interviewer about yourself, generally they are not looking for a rehash of your resume. If that’s what you’re doing, you absolutely do need to rework your answer into more of an elevator pitch. I do my best to tell a coherent narrative that makes the job I’m interviewing for the next logical progression in my career. I don’t want to provide to much detailed personal information, but mine loosely follows this kind of structure: “X experience as a law student led me to Y passion, which led me to Z job. X experience at Z job fueled/changed my worldview in ABC ways, which led me to change course and take D job. X experience at D job had an impact on me that led me to seek out E jobs, like this one that I’m applying for.” I get across not just what jobs are in my resume, but what motivated my career changes, what I’m passionate about, and what I’m looking for in my next role.

    1. amoeba*

      The way I usually get asked is not to recap my CV, but to explain/walk them through my CV. So, like, why did I chose that field, how did I end up in that job, what do I enjoy most about it, how does that lead me to applying to the position…

    2. a raging ball of distinction*

      Yes, exactly. “Tell me about yourself” is your opportunity to turn your resume into a story that also conveniently highlights the skills and experiences that would help you excel at the job you’re interviewing for.

    3. ThatGirl*

      Mine has always been along these lines:

      “I studied journalism and started my career in newspapers, but shifted to marketing after about 4 years. Since then I spent 9 years at X company, doing Y and Z, then moved to A company where I focused on B, and I really enjoyed that. I got laid off from that job, and now I’m at Q company doing R and S. But I’m really looking to spend more time doing T, which is why this position interested me.” Maybe throw in a personal tidbit about moving states a few times, or that I like to bake or dabble in photography. Depends on the conversation.

  28. Chauncy Gardener*

    #4 – Add it on LinkedIn! At my company we do a welcome aboard email with to the whole company introducing the new hire with their LinkedIn profile link. We all link up within the first week. It’s a super way to be connected to your coworkers and to the company.
    Congrats on your new job!

    1. Michelle Smith*

      That’s actually a really interesting idea!

      I personally agree that LW4 should go ahead and add their job. I am riddled with anxiety, so I tend to wait until I’ve finished my first week, but there’s no reason you have to wait even that long. If for whatever reason the job doesn’t work out, you can remove it from your profile. Very few people are going to be paying enough attention to other people’s profiles that they’d even notice.

    2. Pretty as a Princess*

      Thank you for this idea! When a new member joins my team, I always send an email to the team and then to the entire division announcing them, their role, a tiny bit of background, and their office location. I never thought about adding their LinkedIn profile but that’s so handy!

    3. rusty*

      After some poor experiences, I only put my current position on linked in once I’ve got an offer letter for a new one.

      I also don’t add any current coworkers as friends/connection on any social media.

      It’s because of bad experiences from folks trying to cause drama, snoop, or be weird.

    4. alienor*

      I worked for a company a few years ago where updating your LinkedIn profile was part of the onboarding checklist you were given. They had recommendations for how to configure your title because it was a slightly unusual setup (employed by Company A, but contracted to Company B, which had much bigger name recognition).

  29. bripops*

    LW 2- there’s no way those people don’t LOVE you. you’re treating them with kindness and consideration, so if they do better work for you it’s going to be because of that, not a chocolate bar. someone wrote in to my first job almost 15 years ago acknowledging me by name and I still have a picture of it because it made me feel so good. especially in the case of custodians or people who work more “service” oriented jobs, no one EVER thinks of them so something as simple as offering them a snack or a drink is going to be a really big deal. people respond well to being treated with kindness— that’s pretty basic social interaction, not a bribe

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I like to bake and often bring treats in. But I don’t want to take home leftovers, so I offer them to people working later than I do. Years ago at a previous job, I had a few treats left and offered them to the evening security guard. He told me he had worked there 5 years, and nobody had ever offered him something like that. It made me so sad to find that out. (And, yes, he took the treats.)

  30. WellRed*

    1. Curious how this “came to your attention.” Make sure you aren’t getting bad advice somewhere.
    2. Your friends kinda suck.
    3. What is a Venetian hour? Also, start over with the logo and value your time and business if you want it to succeed. You’ve been way too passive with James who kinda sucks.

  31. LaurieS*

    LW 2 reminds me of a temp assignment I had a few years ago: there had been a mistake by whoever ordered the catering for two meetings and we ended up with a TON of extra food. the (small staff) had taken home everything we could ever want after the first one, but when it happened again the next day nobody wanted to load up on more. I’m talking hundreds of dollars of catering from a really nice place: dozens of sandwiches, pastries, salads, the whole nine yards. everyone started lamenting it going to waste and I asked if I could call the guy from the custodial team who cleaned our office (he and I had become friends quickly, he would help me practice his native language, which I was learning at the time). it was a big building (25 floors) and had the custodial team to match. a few guys came to get everything and they were thrilled, it was more than enough to feed everyone and send them home with leftovers. I was focused on not wasting the food and doing something nice for people who’d been very nice to me, and didn’t even notice until a week later when a coworker mentioned it to me that our office was the cleanest it had ever been because they were going the extra mile every day. people respond well to being treated well, it’s not necessarily a transactional or nefarious thing!

    1. Observer*

      people respond well to being treated well,

      They do. But also, you seem to have been the first person in the building to actually think of them as *people* not the just the “cleaning infrastructure”, which is why you were the only one to think of offering all of this leftover food to them.

      That’s really, really meaningful to people.

  32. Cas*

    OP #1 here. Thank you, that’s a load off my mind. I mention it because another employee said I should talk about my personal life more during interviews when I asked them for advice, not repeating anything on my resume makes sense since the employer already has it, my personal life is both fascinating and says good things about me and my work style, and most critically, the one time my crafting hobbies came up during an interview I would have gotten an offer if the person I was replacing hadn’t changed their mind about quitting.

    My plan going forward is to ask, “Do you mean that in a personal or professional context?” to double check what they’re looking for, and construct narratives for both so I seem more on the ball. Just in case the advice doesn’t apply to my field for some reason.

    1. The Person from the Resume*

      It doesn’t have to replicate your resume, though.

      Be aware that I am old, but I could say …

      As a kid I was interested in computers and played around with writing simple code (on my family’s Apple 2). I studied computer science in college and enjoyed it, but I took a bit of a detour. Then I stumbled into software development project management and discovered that really fits my natural desire to plan and organize things. I’ve been doing project management for the past 10 years.

      I’d actually put a few more details I’m leaving out for anonyminity, but it can be about work and your career path without restating each job you have held.

      I’ve always loved XXX.
      I stumbled across XXX and found out I’m really good at it/enjoy it.
      It fits my natural personality trait XXX where it could be being a people person (for someone who interacts with clients/customers) or being organized or having a lot of attention to detail for jobs that require that or loving to follow a process for a job that might be called boring by some.

    2. Canned Platypus*

      “ not repeating anything on my resume makes sense since the employer already has it”

      It is true that the interviewer already has your résumé, and it is also true that they want to hear you talk about the work on your résumé in a narrative form. In other words tell the story of how you went from job to job and the things you worked on rather than a bunch of bullet points. I would not ask the interviewer whether they mean work or personal because 98% of the time they do mean work. You could try tweaking whatever you are already saying to make it more conversational in tone.
      You can always finish up with a sentence about what you like to do outside of work in order to be more relatable. Or you could start off with a sentence in a lighthearted manner about your work with homeless armadillos and then segue into talkingThrough your work history. Either way, do continue to keep the main focus on the work when you answered this question.

    3. MsM*

      I wouldn’t even recommend asking for clarification. This employee doesn’t sound like somebody who does a lot of hiring themselves, or who maybe mostly deals with interns and other entry-level staff who have to give personal responses because they don’t have a ton of work experience yet. (“Don’t refer to your resume at all” is particularly unhelpful advice: you don’t want to end up reading it point for point, but don’t assume the interviewer’s read it all that carefully or remembers specific details you might want to draw attention to.) Just assume “tell me about yourself” in an interview context means the elevator pitch on who you are as a potential employee, and that if they want more personal details on you than that overview brings out, they’ll ask follow-up questions about hobbies or something along those lines.

      1. CM*

        Yes, don’t ask for clarification, and ignore this person’s advice!
        The comment above is great (“I’ve always been interested in X, here’s how I ended up in this field and a 2-sentence overview of what I’ve done”) and as Alison suggested, I often throw in a sentence at the end, “and outside of work I like to spend time in my garden” or whatever.

    4. I should be working*

      I wouldn’t recommend asking the question about “personal or professional context”, since it’s almost always expected that you’d give a professional answer. I worry that asking this may make you seem nervous or out of touch with the norms of interviewing. Could you instead cover all your bases by talking about your background, your current role, something you like about the current role or are particularly good at that’s related to the job you’re applying for, and end with a sentence like “in my spare time I enjoy crafting, specifically knitting and needlepoint” or whatever the crafts are.

      That would open up a door for the interviewer to ask for more information they want about your professional experience or personal experience.

      1. HonorBox*

        It potentially invites opening the discussion into things you don’t want to talk about in an interview, too. Like the interviewer legally can’t ask about marriage, kids, etc. but if you start down the path of personal information, you’re potentially giving them opportunity to know more than you want them to know.

        And while the interviewer does have the resume in front of them, your resume doesn’t provide context. It has basic information. And it also doesn’t mean that they’ve actually paid attention to everything. A brief narrative gives you the chance to highlight some things YOU want to make sure they know and gives them a sense of why you’re interested in the role and would be a good fit for their company.

        1. I should be working*

          Alternatively, adding something about yourself outside of work allows you to control the narrative about what “outside of work” topics you’d like to bring up. LW1 mentioned that their crafting hobbies show a lot about who they are and their work style that could be relevant to the interview. By offering a bit of information about a hobby that LW1 believes could reflect well on them, they’re opening the door for more discussion of the hobby that they could relate back to the conversation.

          It’s true that you have to be thoughtful about what personal information you share though. Something like “I love going to the playground with my family” really invites asking about marriage, kids, and all other types of inappropriate interview questions. Whereas it would be harder to get from “I enjoy doing needlepoint” to “Do you have a spouse and kids”.

    5. Fluffy Fish*

      1. Your colleague provided bad advice.

      Strongly discourage asking professional/personal.

      It’s 99.9999999999% its professional and its normal to answer it that way. Your assumption with any interview questions should be they are asking for professional context, not personal. If they want something personal, they will follow up with a question along those lines. That has happened to me exactly once in my life.

      Most interviewers are really not looking for personal anything. Think about people who ask about putting their experience running a household or as a stay at home parent on their resume. The answer is always a resounding no. I crochet but if I ask a question in an interview and the individuals givers me an answer pertaining to crochet, I’m scoring that answer a 0 because it doesn’t tell me anything about how the person operates in a work environment.

      It’s likely not anything to do with your crafting hobby that you were in the running – you simply were the best candidate.

    6. Happy meal with extra happy*

      I wouldn’t ask that clarification question – this is such a typical interview question, so it would be weird for most interviewers if they have to explain what they’re looking for.

    7. Anonymouse*

      DO NOT ASK FOR CLARIFICATION. A good elevator pitch is all you need. I’ve worked in academia, municipal government, healthcare, and commercial real estate development, and the brief-and-engaging 20-second spiel about the interests and experience that got you to that interview is appropriate in ALL of them.

      Asking your proposed question would make me think that this is your first real job or that despite having X experience you haven’t figured out how to have normal conversations. This is a _basic_ social interaction that serves to open dialogue at the beginning of an interview. If you’ve already answered several questions, then *MAYBE* you can ask for clarification, but at the beginning? Don’t. In my interviewing experience, there are so many qualified candidates to choose from that I don’t bother moving someone forward who gives me the distinct impression that they’re going to have 18 questions before they can handle something incredibly basic like “count how many of the boxes in this room are labeled X.”

      If you get flustered and ask, sure, it’s not the end of the world, but it should NOT be your standard operating procedure. Answer the question professionally with warmth and a smile. Don’t make it weird, and you’re done.

  33. Pookie87*

    There is nothing wrong with being kind to people outside your department/work group. I bring our grounds crew homemade cookies during weeks where we have big snow storms. They are working around the clock in terrible conditions. I like them to know I appreciate it.

  34. Capt. Liam Shaw*

    #3 If you like the logo and want the color changed. I would use the logo with the changed color.

    1. Nela*

      This is illegal. James owns all the rights to this work until he transfers them via a written agreement. If he was paid then the agreement could be implied (if it came down to a legal battle), but since he wasn’t, the OP has no rights to it whatsoever.

  35. vox experentia*

    to the poster accused of bribery – ignore your friends, they’re clueless. what you’re doing isn’t just the right way to treat other people, it’s also the smartest way to do business. i buy a lot of kolaches and breakfast tacos for support staff in our organization – from the receptionists to the HR team. i’m invariably polite, helpful, i make sure my IT team prioritizes their requests. It goes a long way to keeping things moving smoothly. They appreciate it, and when i need them to go the extra mile or assist with something on an expedited timeline, i can count on them to do so. it has served me and my team (and through us our customers) very well, and helped create a more pleasant work environment for everyone.

  36. Canned Platypus*

    I think the word your friends were really looking for is “transactional.“ It is a little transactional to do acts of kindness because you want something in return, and it is also perfectly OK at work.I would give you a little side eye if the only times you were nice to your friends were because you wanted something from them, but we are at work to do things for other people. Most of our relationships there are transactional in nature whether you have chocolate bars or not. Keep building relationships the way you do. It is part of the job.

    1. Lana Kane*

      I agree – I think they are using bribery for lasck of knowing the better term. I don’t think they’re bad people or treat others badly – I think it’s more likely that they reacted to what they perceived as a transactional thing and assigned it a negative motivation.

  37. saskia*

    #2 — I agree that this is all totally nice to do and probably quite appreciated by those on the receiving end! However, I’ve seen online that when people choose to highlight completely normal parts of their lives (as you may inadvertently have by telling your friends about these specific interactions), it invites criticism and questioning from the audience. My advice is to continue doing these things but stop telling people about them (and stop presenting them as a pattern of behavior if you do).

  38. Eldritch Office Worker*

    I know a lot of people change their LinkedIn once they accept a job offer or a day or two before the start date – maybe a little premature, but not a big deal, especially if they’re excited.

    And I know that because it’s people who join my company. I have no idea what my friends do, I’m not tracking their start dates. People definitely won’t notice!

  39. Juicebox Hero*

    Starting in 2021 or 2022, the veterinarian’s office where I take my cats knocks 10% off the bill if you’re nice to everyone (which I’d do anyway, since I’m standing there with the carrier containing a very pissed-off cat howling and yowling and plotting the doom of all mankind). The first time I heard that I was sort of flabbergasted, but then it made perfect sense. The good customers get rewarded and the nasty ones don’t know they’re being punished. With four cats the niceness discount makes a difference!

    I make a point of being super pleasant and kind to service workers as a rule because I’ve worked in customer-facing jobs myself since 1998. A few people are great; most are neutral; a few are just shit who will ruin your day/week. The ones you remember are the great ones and the shitty ones. I’d much rather be remembered for being nice than for being shitty.

    1. HonorBox*

      That’s awesome. I’ve seen social media posts where people share receipts and have seen the “well-behaved children” discount and other types of good customer discounts. It never hurts to be kind to people.

    2. GreyjoyGardens*

      I think that is awesome your vet’s office does that – and sad that it’s come down to “we have to, so to speak, bribe our customers to be nice to our staff!” BTW I take my cats to a cats only vet clinic, and am always nice to the staff because I have brought in cats who range from the Sweetest Teddy Bear Cat In The World but who has bowel issues, to “I had to corner this boy in a cupboard and “purrito” him to get him in his carrier, you have been warned.” I also send them a gift basket for the holidays because I do appreciate their infinite patience and great care they give my cats.

      But I’ve heard all kinds of horror stories about how awful customers have gotten since COVID, and feel bad for the service people and front-line workers who endure the lion’s share of the bad behavior.

    3. Jackalope*

      In addition to what everyone is saying here about how nice people make them want to go above and beyond, but mean people don’t, there are also biological reasons for this. If someone is yelling at you, calling you names, etc., the threat can cause actual physiological changes in your body because you feel threatened. So someone who’s being nasty to service employees and customer service reps is actively insuring that the service they get will be worse even if the person providing said service is giving it their best.

  40. umami*

    The outcome of being kind and thoughtful to people in general is a better working environment for everyone. People like to help … nice people. It’s not bribery. I once had a direct report who commented on how the police or the custodial folks would do things for me that they wouldn’t do for him, and I said, that’s because I talk to them whenever I see them, not just when I need something from them.

  41. Art3mis*

    LW2, this isn’t bribery because this isn’t your congressman or alderman or Supreme Court Judge. And you aren’t giving them a lot of cash or gifts or even tickets to a professional sports team. I’ve had to sit through those ethics CBTs every year and nothing you’ve done meets the criteria of what would need to be reported. You’re just being nice to every day people. They are being nice to you back. Your friends are probably wondering why their stuff takes so long to get done.

  42. Samwise*

    #2. I worked as a secretary for another academic department while in graduate school. It was nice to get chocolate or whatever as a thank-you, but what really mattered was being treated with courtesy and respect, as someone who knew what they were doing. People who were rude, dismissive, condescending — I did not go out of my way to be helpful, nor to do anything extra.

    For instance, if you were condescending, your request for a recommendation went on the bottom of the pile of work for Professor Z. She would get it, and take care of it eventually, but I wouldn’t flag it for her.

    If you were polite, I’d look it over to make sure you hadn’t forgotten to fill anything in, put it at the top of the stack with a sticky, and make a note to follow up with Professor Z the next week.

  43. Dork-e-ness*

    Fyi – #2 – IT people tend to be some of the most mistreated people in an organization because any technology problems are their fault no matter what and people don’t admit to what really happened when we are troubleshooting. I tend to do cookies and in the summer Frosties to our corporate IT staff when it’s been a rough patch for everyone. And my own local staff I support tend to leave me candy or a soda once a month. Helps me feel appreciated as I turn the favor for my brothers in arms.

    1. The IT Crowd*

      This so much! We’re not wizards people, “it doesn’t work” tells us nothing and we can only handle so many issues at a time, nor can we just snap our fingers and fix a complex issue when we don’t even know what caused it. Especially if it turns out to be an external problem. I can’t magic away issues with Microsoft’s servers.

    2. Lana Kane*

      Oh please allow me to chime in here:
      Me: “I’m happy to help, I just need some more info from you. Can you tell me X and Y?
      Them: Tell me X.
      Me: Great! And what about Y?
      Them: Silent for 2 weeks
      Me: Hi, just following up on Y
      Them: Gives me Y
      Me: All done, thanks!

      Feedback on the ticket: Unbelievable that this took so long. This had a negative impact on our team. 1 out of 5 stars.

  44. Another-tired-human*

    LW #2: Do not listen to your friends! Alison is 100% correct. You are just being a kind and courteous human.
    I used to travel with my boss a couple times a month and have business lunches/dinners etc. She was so rude or dismissive to everyone it made me uncomfortable. Never said thank you, please etc. I would smile, be understanding, and always said please and thank you. One time there was a mix-up with her hotel room and they didn’t have her reservation. They said they had no other rooms so she texted me and I said she would need to stay with me in my room. I called the hotel, explained the situation and begged for help. The reservations person found her a room. I’m sure because I was kind and she wasn’t.
    After observing things like this, my boss would say to people (with no self awareness) “People are always so nice to her and try to accommodate her, I don’t understand. People are never that nice to me”

    1. GreyjoyGardens*

      I just want to say I feel your pain of being in the company of someone who is rude to staff and it just makes me want to sink through the floor in mortification. I do not want to be associated with that behavior.

      So glad that you’re being nice paid off in getting Awful Boss her own room, as I am sure she’d have been a real picnic to share with. And her lack of self-awareness, “why are people soooo meeeean to meeeeee?” Karma’s a female dog, lady.

  45. The IT Crowd*

    LW2, as an IT helpdesk worker: thank you for remembering we are human beings too. Far too many people forget that (even on this comment section). Will this get you better service? Yes, absolutely, just like most service workers will go the extra mile for people who are nice to them while jerks get the bare minimum.

  46. learnedthehardway*

    OP#1 – I work in recruitment (in case that hadn’t become obvious by now, since I’ve been responding on this site for a couple years now). When I ask someone to tell me about themselves (and I typically don’t, because people tend to ramble), I want to hear their “elevator pitch” about themselves. ie. Give the interviewer a succinct, max 2 minute, outline of your experience and qualifications at a high level, that pertain to the role for which you are being interviewed.

    As a recruitment manager, I don’t want to hear the candidate’s life story, nor do I want them to outline their career from college onwards. I want to hear something like this, “I’m a senior llama grooming manager with 15 years of experience in commercial llama operations, and an undergrad degree in Agricultural engineering. I have also completed my Llama Grooming Certificate. I currently manage a team of 4 llama groomers and am responsible for planning, scheduling, maintenance and project management for Llama International’s Denver operations. I have worked at LI for 4 years, and progressed to the manager role from team lead 2 years ago. I previously worked in llama training for 3 years at LlamasRUs, and I do some consulting on the side for hobby farms. I’m currently looking for opportunities to progress my career to senior management or director level, where I can contribute on a more strategic basis.”

    ie. Outline your professional experience, general qualifications, context/scope of your roles, and your general goals. Short, sweet, to the point, and leaves lots of openings for the interviewer to ask questions.

    If someone wants to get more personal information about you, they should ask – CAREFULLY – about what you do to stay well-rounded outside of work.

    If someone is saying that you should be including personal information in your answer, I would say they are looking for a way to ask illegal questions, without actually coming out and doing so. A lot of people will include that they have a spouse, children, etc. etc. – that’s none of the interviewer’s business.

  47. HonorBox*

    OP2 – The only thing wrong with anything you described is the reaction you got from your friends. Everything you outline is simple kindness. Why wouldn’t you invite someone to grab some food/drink when they’re either part of the team or helping you out? That just seems like kindness and recognition of people who are also doing important work. I’m really curious why your friends see this as bribery? Giving someone a chance to eat when they’re around and everyone else is eating isn’t offering to get a special favor. Maybe the HVAC technicians or the custodian think better of you after that, but you’re not getting anything from them that everyone else isn’t getting. I applaud you for being a kind person who understands that we’re all people, regardless of our job title.

  48. NYNY*

    LW2 –not bribery, but I see conflict here. OP says SHE is in control of pantry. In my organization, we have gone through many disputes between back office people and client sevice people. Client service people (who are paid more and harder to hire) have objected to back office people allegedly favoring their people/prefrences. Back office feel client service are treated better. Just because OP “controls snacks” may infuriate others. No easy answers.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      We definitely have one person here who is in charge of the pantry, and while anyone internal can have whatever they want it would certainly be her right more than others to offer extra to anyone visiting/helping. Might just depend on the setup.

        1. Eldritch Office Worker*

          My point was more everyone would agree it was her area and would defer to her, no bad feelings.

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

      But the people objecting are not her coworkers. They are just friends. And if she has authority to offer the snack bar then she should be ok.

    3. HonorBox*

      I think the idea of OP controlling the pantry is that she has oversight of the inventory and control, and can therefore offer some of the snacks/beverages to outside vendors. It doesn’t seem like this was anything that was objected to by anyone internal. And it isn’t favoring anyone… it is offering a snack and a drink to someone doing work for the company.

  49. Hashtag Destigmatize Therapy*

    Re: #2 – Since you mentioned that some of your colleagues are scientists/engineers, my next question would be if you’re in academia. People who go straight to grad school and only work academic jobs often develop the misconception that using people skills to make yourself likeable for professional gain is inherently “nepotism” and therefore “cheating.” I think this attitude is a product of three things: 1) our education system hinges on the illusion of meritocracy based on crude, superficial, and biased metrics (i.e., whoever has the best GPA/highest test scores/most publications is “objectively” the best); 2) nobody in (most) academic degree programs explains how important people skills are for success in basically any career; 3) the academic job market is so horrid right now that *anything* that might give your competitors an advantage over you can look like a threat to your very livelihood, so there’s a big emotional incentive to delegitimize it. Go on just about any academic jobs wiki, and chances are the discussion page will have someone catastrophizing about how all the jobs are going to internal candidates.

    Even though I never bought into the idea of academic meritocracy, up until about 4 years ago I would’ve thought that “I want them to like working with my team, which might get us better service in the future” was something akin to bribery (though even then I wouldn’t have found anything wrong with the examples). But I’ve since learned that no, it’s not nepotism when people want to work with you because they have a good experience when they work with you. OP2’s friends strike me as people who are ignorant and misguided rather than as jerks.

    1. Imtheone*

      Nepotism is giving favorable positions to relatives.

      Anti-nepotism rules kept future Nobel Prize winner Maria Goeppert Mayer from getting an appropriate position at several universities (because her husband had jobs there.)

  50. I should be working*

    I always try to add something “somewhat personal but not too personal” to the tell me about yourself question.

    Usually I bring up that I sing in a choir, or that I enjoy going for trail walks with my dog.

    I’m especially careful about this because often interviewers have an unconscious bias against say, women with families. so as a woman in my 30s, if I were to end with something as benign as “and I enjoy going on hikes with my husband”, an interviewer could be worried about me going on maternity leave, and fail to hire me because of that.

    Anyways, it’s a dangerous game to try to be personable without being seen as too much of a person. :) Luckily I have lots of inoffensive hobbies to talk about if an interviewer is interested!

  51. Tea&Company*

    3#, thank you for introducing me to the concept of a Venetian hour. I didn’t know about it, and I like it very much.

  52. USdesigner*


    LW #3 – I’m very excited for you to have gotten to the point where you are creating a name and look for your side business. That’s a huge step! As a passionate graphic designer, here are some thoughts from me about copyright, but do feel free to skip to the bottom for the short answer to your question.

    Graphic designer in the US here – The rules surrounding copyright in the US are unique to the US (so I can’t speak to how this works in other countries), but here is a general summary (very general since the answer somewhat varies by state, and since unless you do this for a living, there is no way to really know any of this!):

    1. As soon as anyone (in the US), graphic designer or not, puts a line on a piece of paper, that image is copyrighted, and the person who drew that image owns that copyright.

    2. US Copyright then specifies the parameters of the ownership around that image, which is where contracts come in.

    3. A contract spells out things like where and when an image can be used, for how long, what the compensation is for the use of the image, whether you can print it on things you sell (such as t-shirts) and so forth. The only time that anyone is allowed to use a copyrighted image is with permission. (I think that Social Media companies try to get around this law by having its users sign contracts giving up their rights when they sign up for services (Terms of Use), but that’s been in the courts a few times, so I’m not sure how that’s been decided for social media uses at present time.)

    4. The copyright stays with the original artist and does not transfer unless specified in a contract. (Get this in writing, so that there is no question later as to what was agreed upon.) It is generally not advised for a designer to give up their copyright for an image as it can become a headache for the designer years later, for various reasons (such as if they later want to use the image in their portfolio or other types of published work showcasing their career). The only time that it might be advised to give up copyright ownership is for logos, and even then not always. More typically, permissions are given for usage, while copyright ownership stays with the designer.

    5. There is a concept called “Work for Hire” which varies by state. In some states, contracts can be work-for-hire (in the sense that the contract can state that the work done by the designer was done through hire as an employee of the person contracting the work) and then, if stated in the contract, the copyright is owned by the person contracting the work. Not so in the State of California, where work-for-hire only refers to an employer/employee relationship where the employer pays a salary to the employee (W-2, benefits, sick leave, etc.) – only in that case, since it is a term of employment, does the employer own the copyright to the employees work. In all other cases, in the State of California the designer is a contract worker, which means that they pay their own taxes, and own the copyright to any and all of their work. (This issue becomes a bone of contention for designers and clients alike, as the laws around work-for-hire vary so much by state, and with the internet the expectations on either side can, and do, vary.)

    6. Unfortunately, without a contract there is no way of knowing what your rights are as the person who hired someone to create a unique image for you. It’s always best to get everything in writing, in a contract, before the project begins so that all parties are clear on what they are getting for the money (or no money) that is paid. It makes for better relationships long term if expectations are laid out clearly from the start.

    7. Oh, and a quick note about using another designer’s work “with a few tweaks to the design” – as noted above, the original designer has copyright ownership over their image, and the rules surrounding how much a design has to be changed before it’s no longer the original designer’s image is murky enough that I wouldn’t do it. Some people believe that there is a 30% rule, though how to prove that you have only used 30% of someone else’s idea in your own composition is not something that I’d want to end up in court over. And unfortunately, just changing a color of a drawing/image doesn’t change it enough to remove copyright ownership from the image, so you’re back to 1 above, and it’s best to just start from scratch.

    TL:DR – Use a contract! And find out before you start what you are getting for your money (or in this case for the unpaid work).

    My final bit of advice to LW #3: Feel free to let go of the logo that you wrote in to AAM about and start fresh with the new designer – I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised how much you like the new designer’s work, even though you currently like what the first designer created for you. If nothing else, it won’t have all of the bad history attached to it that the first one does, and you’ll be able to use the new logo with a free and clear conscience, and happy memories. Good luck to you, and congrats on the newly expanded venture!!!

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

      This is great information, thanks for sharing,.

      I’m wondering could the OP show the new graphic designer the old logo and say they want to see something similar. Not to copy the work but to show the style.

      1. USdesigner*

        Yes, absolutely! Often as part of creating a brand, a client will bring to the designer an example of the look that they want. It’s an excellent starting point for the conversation. And it’s good as a client to share with the designer what about that particular example resonates with you and/or your brand/company. From there, I’d trust your designer to help you to get a final logo that will work for you and your brand/company. Your suggestion is definitely a good starting point!

  53. I Speak for the Trees*

    1. Depending on the field, I often answer the “tell me about yourself” by curating facts that are tangential or somehow helpful to the field. For example, when applying for an office manager position at a Land Trust, I talked about my farming and outdoorsy experience. Or when applying for a real estate job, I talked a little bit about decorating and gardening. Basically, I just try to give people a sense of who I am and what soft/tangential skills I might possess.

    2. LW, you are 100% doing the right thing! Not only are you being a nice human and treating other humans with respect, you’re setting yourself up for getting good service in the future. When I started teaching, my mom (who had taught for 28 years told me that the two people in the building you want to make friends with are the secretary and the custodian. Principals come and go, but those two people have the power to make your life easier and better. She was right.

  54. Been there*

    LW2: I kind of get what the friends are saying, but I’m guessing they are a bit new to the business world. The LW is trying to cultivate professional relationships and trying to show professional contacts what it would be like to work more closely together. That may involve some “extras.” There’s nothing wrong with that.

    It’s a little more murky with personal relationships, but personal relationships involve some degree of “showing your best self” as well. You share your friend’s happiness about having found that final missing piece for their collection, even if you’re having an awful day and you think the collection is kind of dumb. LW2’s friends may think that’s not genuine, but the world is not as ideal as LW2’s friends want it to be.

  55. Jaid*

    A very old book of quotations I read had a quote about how a bicycle doesn’t need air in the tires to work, but the air makes the ride smoother.

    Sorry, I can’t remember who said it, but it remains one of the best things I ever read.

  56. merida*

    OP #1 – yeah, like Alison said, your friends are being ridiculous. Being nice to people is always good, but I also think the reasoning behind why we’re nice to people is important too – and for what it’s worth, it doesn’t even sound like OP is being nice in order to purposefully gain future favors, but just being kind for kindness sake.

    On that train of thought… I have a colleague who goes out of her way to be kind to our janitorial staff but in a way that feels slightly slimy to me – only because she constantly talks about how she’s nice to them on purpose because she wants them to show kindness back to her if we need their help. She’s performative and constantly makes sure to tell other colleagues about how she intentionally is “nice to the help” so they will help her in return. I have my own opinions on how the motivation there seems patronizing and objectifying of support staff, but at least the result is she’s polite and generous to our janitors, and she would never get in trouble for it! I’m just on the old fashioned side of wanting to be nice for purely altruistic reasons. But to clarify, it sounds like OP has perfectly good and normal motivations anyway. Personally I sense no bribery there, just kindness!

  57. Sneaky Squirrel*

    OP2 – You are doing nothing wrong and I’ve done a number of these myself at my company. This is just how people should be treated. None of what you have done is considered bribery. Yes, it may mean the service person remembers you and gives you better service in the future but that’s just a consequence of treating people with the dignity and respect.

    If you were working with government officials I would warn you that government representatives are sometimes held to higher standards. I’ve been told by visiting government officials that they are not supposed to accept what would generally be considered a basic courtesies (e.g. offering free soda in place of water, even if you do it for all clients). This is not the case for you.

  58. Frustrated and angry and struggling*

    Reading #2- I could not even!!!!! Tokens of appreciation as bribery? I’m a teacher- do you know how many times paraprofessional and custodial staff just get left out of appreciation activities!?!? How ignored their contributions are??? So just like the letter writer, I’m trying to let people I work with know I appreciate the work they do, etc. If telling the folks who keep the whole place running they’re welcome to the donuts I brought *for ALL of my colleagues (not just the ones on “my level”)* is bribery, then go ahead and charge me. Oh my goodness.

  59. knitcrazybooknut*

    #2 – If that’s bribery, I’m going to a correctional institute for a very long time. As Alison says, you’re recognizing their humanity. I often say to people when they help me, “I owe you chocolate!” and follow through with that statement. One of my favorite youtube channels has the closing line that everyone’s goal should be to make somebody smile, and I’ve always thought that you should make people happy if you can.

    Kudos to you for recognizing that your service providers are important!

  60. Slovenly Braid Cultist*

    Anyone who says that writing a nice, specific email praising someone’s above-and-beyond (or even just extremely competent!) service is a ‘bribe’ is being terrible. It costs you nothing to talk someone else up to their boss if they’ve genuinely helped you, and (as here!) it sometimes really helps.

    The only thing that might seem a little unusual to me here is the chocolate bar, but even that isn’t a bribe, it’s just a little excessive. Sharing snacks is just treating people like human beings.

  61. HonorBox*

    OP1 – I’ve read your comments above, and wanted to just share this recent experience. We just hired someone in my org and in the initial interview, the candidate shared some very specific information about a job they’d had this summer in their answer to our first question which was “tell us about yourself and what interests you in this role.” It allowed them to relate some very specific things that added context to what was on their resume, and opened up a couple of new avenues for questions that we hadn’t even considered. It was a really strong interview, and the candidate did themselves (and us) a great service by having a great, succinct answer to our question.

    1. Ray B Purchase*

      When I’m interviewing, I love when the candidate’s response to this question leads me to some follow-up questions! It makes the interview flow so much more like a conversation than interrogation and I always feel like the conversation vibe makes candidates less nervous and more likely to give the type of responses we’re looking for.

  62. Ray B Purchase*

    For #1 if you’re closer to an entry level career, I found it sometimes helps to give some insight into how you got interested in the work you’re applying for.

    I’ve found you can sometimes use your response here to basically lead your interviewer to ask the follow-up questions you want to answer. For me, because my undergrad degree is kind of atypical for an attorney, interviewers early in my career always wanted to dive into how I got from A to Z and they’d seem really focused on it, as though they were trying to prove that I didn’t really want to be a lawyer. I found it really helped move the conversation in the direction of the actual work I’d done in law school and during my internships and not back on my undergrad degree if I gave a really brief synopsis on how I landed on the type of law I wanted to practice while answering this question.

  63. Bruce*

    LW2: Treating custodians and other helpful staff well is basic decency! Regarding treats as a quid-pro-quo: my former boss is a great cook, at our former company we had a lot of lengthy approval forms to be signed… she would bring in a bowl of home-made gulab jamun (an Indian sweet) and go around with the bowl in one hand and the forms in the other :-) She always brought donuts to review meetings too. On the flip side she was known as someone who did not suffer fools and could fiercely advocate for a position, she went on to be a VP elsewhere before she retired!

  64. A_Jessica*

    No. 2
    I genuinely cannot comprehend giving somebody a hard time for being nice.

    I mean, even if you’re doing it for selfish reasons, both the person in the service position and you benefit.

  65. SunshineOH*

    #5. I see that same answer everywhere – if you work part of a week, you have to be paid for it. But my former employer will deduct missed time from exempt employees if they don’t have any PTO left in their bank. Anyone know if/how this is legal?

  66. PlainJane*

    LW3: For the sake of your friendships (and your state of mind)… don’t let your friends “volunteer” to help with business stuff. There are so many things that could go wrong and cause hard feelings–you’re trying to run a business, and you want to make your logo exactly what you want, but James is offended that after he tried to use all his skill to help you out, now you want to make changes. Jessie is excitedly offering to help you out, but you want her to work someone else’s old idea that you’re not even sure about copyright on. In a business situation, that’s kind of expected–you’d get the initial logo suggestions and make tweaks with your graphic designer, and if you switched, you’d have your copyright ducks in a row and be working with someone who understands that you’re trying have consistent branding. But for friends trying to “help out”? No. I can see hurt feelings for miles. If they want to work as your graphic designers, go on and hire them. If you don’t want to do that, make yourself a little logo in Inkscape (there are lots of LinkedIn Learning classes on how to create logos), and use that to get started. Hire a graphic designer later when you have the money.

  67. Rebecca*

    OP#2 you are not engaging in bribery, you are “building capital.” Yes, you’re just being a kind person, but these things tend to have a knock-on effect should you ever be in the position to need a favor or get preferential treatment. It’s very common in a professional setting to build capital by making sincere gestures of kindness and gratitude. You will find this often comes back to you! It’s all good.

  68. That One Who Definitely Isn’t A Superhero*

    I don’t have a ton of money but…

    “Welcome, my name is Casey. Can I get you anything to drink?”

    “Hi Casey, I’m One. How is your day going?”

    “Oh, actually… pretty good”

    “I’m glad. I’m going to need a to-go cup because I can’t lift heavier glasses. Can I get a Diet Coke and a water?”

    “Sure! Let me know if you need anything else!”

    Next week…

    “Hey Casey! Staying cool?”

    “Yeah. Let me grab that Diet Coke for you. I got you on the cup! I have fresh onion rings, you want any with your sandwich or are you trying something different today?”

    *smiles knowing how good it feels to be recognized, remembered and accommodated cheerfully as a quadriplegic*

  69. Can't ever remember who I am*

    5. Employee working four hours, then taking the rest of the day off

    I feel like it’s important to add that FML is an exception. Partial days can be unpaid due to an absence attributable to an FML reason.

  70. CuriousCat*

    Wait – let me get it straight…

    If you are nice to people above you, who can help you out in the future, it’s called ‘networking’…

    But if you are nice to people below you, who can help you (but also just to be nice), it’s called bribery??

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Begs the question of why the people above you would be nice back to you, doesn’t it? They wouldn’t want to be seen as bribing you, after all /s

  71. RagingADHD*

    #2, this is called building relational capital. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with it. When you’re kind and thoughtful to people, they want to help you in return. That’s the way human society has always worked. It’s not bribery. It’s reciprocation.

    And your friends’ comments sound like exactly the kind of bitter close-fisted attitude I would expect from people who can’t figure out why nobody wants to help them.

  72. Raida*

    2. My friends say I’m bribing colleagues by being nice

    Let’s be real clear here – being nice to people makes everyone’s day nicer and easier.
    I’m nice to people all the time on the basis of me just not deciding they should be treated poorly.
    Plus I know it helps me out.

    I am, to be very very honest, absolutely making self-interested decisions in how I treat other people. Including showing the house painters the car fridge plugged in outside and the drinks in it so they know they can use it and drink those, offering to refill furniture delivery guys’ water bottles and asking if they’d like ice (in Australia in Summer), bringing in extra brownies or biscuits to work and doing a quick walk through of the desks to offer them out, letting the gardener (townhouse complex) put his ute in my garage when it was going to hail and him shelter inside when it did hail…

    These all benefit me via them deciding in the future to do me a kindness/not be a tool. Because I did it first.

    For me it’s cold, logical, empathetic, gracious – doesn’t matter to the person on the other end! All the same from their perspective – I’m always friendly and generous and they like it.

    If your friends want to be offended by this behaviour, they sound like they just like being upset to be honest. OR….. do they also dislike you smiling at people because you’re pretty? Or dislike your clothing choices? Or dislike your food choices? Or your car? Or suggest that the way you look is an unfair advantage to you over someone else? Because is so… they are not a good friend ;) and you can distance yourself from their petty hateful behaviour and be happier

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I don’t remember being polled on this.

      I found my current job through it (sort of – former CIO started a new company and messaged me on LI with his cell# asking for a time to talk – called him and he scheduled a lunch – I showed up at the lunch and it was a job interview, but of the “do you wanna work for me again, here’s what I offer” nature).

      I had two BIG tech firms contact me through it (before they all started laying everybody off – one came to me in early 2021 and the other in early 22) and set up a hiring process. Didn’t get past the first coding interview either time, but that’s on me.

      I look up new coworkers and managers on it. Track old coworkers down on it when I need references. Message current and past managers on it when a friend is looking for work, to ask if they’re hiring and to put a good word in for the friend if they are. Pretty sure every job I applied to since LI became widespread, has looked me up on it before getting in touch. It is a great tool when used for what it was intended to be used; networking and job search. I don’t do things like read my newsfeed or post or comment on it. Neither do I endorse people for skills on it or keep track of my own endorsements, since in my understanding those are worthless and no one looks at them (and I have more than once been endorsed for skills I do not have by people I have no recollection of).

  73. ariel*

    OP1 : FWIW I rarely provide personal information in “tell me about yourself” – it’s usually a rough shape of the places I’ve worked/lived and my research interests, which aren’t necessarily clear from my resume or CV. I haven’t gotten the sense (or follow-up questions) that indicate people want more, and more casual conversation about interests or hobbies often comes up in meeting transitions or other convos. But I do work in a field with day-long interviews so there’s a lot of room for catching up.


    #2 – Please don’t stop doing what you are doing. These PEOPLE are vital to the company and should be treated with the same kindness and respect as anyone else in the company. Everyone likes to know that their contribution is appreciated. My company has a driver who our customers LOVE. Because he takes so much pride in what he does, he is part of the reason people like to do business with us.

  75. Pdweasel*

    I have a regional accent that comes out strongly whenever I’m nervous. Whenever I’ve interviewed for jobs, I’ve used that as the hook for my “tell me about yourself” response: “I grew up in Nebrahoma, and still have the accent, don’cha know. I did my Bachelor’s in Llama Grooming at xyz college and then got my doctorate in Advanced Llama Styling at the University of Nebrahoma…” It always gets a chuckle.

  76. Ladycrim*

    LW2, please keep being kind to your colleagues, especially when giving them last-minute work to deal this! I say this as someone who has received a number of apology items today after a bunch of miscommunication among other people forced me to throw out a 2,000 page project and redo it.

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