my boss’s speeches are way too long, etiquette when you’re next to a cougher, and more

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

1. My boss’s speeches are way too long

The head of our office is frequently invited to give opening remarks at events, and our new boss is very passionate about speaking … to the point where he is just talking way too much.

To give two recent examples, he was asked to provide three to five minutes of remarks, and spoke for 45 minutes. At another event, he was given 20 minutes to do a more in-depth speech, and he spoke for an hour and a half. These were both dinners, and the food was cold by the time it came out! At other events, he’s caused the scheduling to run massively overtime, and on several occasions the main content of the event has had to be cut from the schedule.

His role is quite high-ranking (think politician/CEO), so no one is in a position to stop him once he gets going. Generally a staff member will write the speeches so we can monitor length/content, but this boss insists on either writing his own from scratch, or greatly expanding on whatever notes were provided to him. A couple of staff have quietly suggested he keep speeches short when passing on a request we’ve received for remarks, and he reacted quite angrily.

Do you have any suggestions on how we lowly staff can gently approach him to give feedback? I’m afraid we’ll stop being invited to attend events, which would be hugely detrimental to our office.

If he didn’t have a history of reacting angrily when people bring it up, sure. In that case you could say, “We’ve been hearing from event organizers that your remarks are going too long and throwing off the rest of the program, and they really need you to stick to X minutes and no longer.”

But since he does have a history of reacting angrily, you need someone high-up and influential to address it with him — a board member, a major donor, possibly a second-in-command or another senior leader who he respects, the head of an event he really cares about appearing at — someone whose feedback he’ll feel obligated to take seriously.

It that’s not an option or it doesn’t work, all you can really do is try stressing the schedule to him right before he speaks … and maybe discreetly mentioning to event organizers that he tends to run long and they’ll need to be assertive about managing his speaking time if they want to stick to their schedule; they may have tools to do that if they’re prepared ahead of time. But otherwise … this is who your boss is and if he lashes out at feedback, you can’t fix that for him.

2. Etiquette when someone is coughing right next to you

Last week I was sitting at a conference presentation and the person behind me started coughing. They were unmasked, as was I. I am low-risk for Covid complications, and have accepted the risk I’m taking going unmasked in public settings, but I still don’t want to expose myself when someone around me clearly seems ill.

I didn’t know this person, so I don’t know if they were sick/just allergies and didn’t feel comfortable asking. I didn’t want to offend them (or get into an argument) by masking up when they started coughing, and for the same reason I didn’t move my seat (we were in the back and they would definitely have seen me move, plus I didn’t want to disrupt the presenter). For the same reason, leaving the presentation entirely wasn’t an option. I chose to do nothing, sat there trying to not visibly wince every time they coughed, and took a ton of vitamin C as soon as I got home! If (when) I find myself in this situation again, what’s the best way to handle it in a way that keeps me as germ-free as possible, while not insulting anyone or risking a scene?

The best thing you can do is to carry your own mask and put it on if you feel uneasy. You can’t control what someone else is doing, but you can take steps to control your own level of exposure. It sounds like you felt that would be a rude and obvious reaction to their coughing, but it’s not rude to take measures to protect yourself (and they don’t know what your situation is; maybe you meant to be masked the whole time and forgot until the sound of a cough reminded you) … but if they do take offense, that’s their own issue. If they comment on it (unlikely from someone sitting behind you mid-presentation, but not impossible), you could just cheerfully say, “Yeah, I can’t risk getting sick right now, should have had this on the whole time!” If they have Feelings about that, that’s on them. You’re protecting yourself, not asking them to do anything differently.

That said, I also think it would have been fine to get up and move. If they saw you, oh well! If someone is coughing in public, some people might choose to keep a distance. That’s just how it goes. An alternative is to get up for a different reason — grab some coffee or go to the bathroom — and then choose a different seat when you return.

Obviously there’s also a whole thing here about how people can spread infections without coughing or having other visible symptoms, but you’re aware of that and it’s not unreasonable to calibrate your level of risk tolerance to “if you visibly have a higher chance of being ill, I want to take extra protection.”

3. Employee turns in paperwork with gross things on it

Is there a good way to address what I think are occasional dried boogers on paperwork? I can’t believe I have to ask this. I’m a manager and starting a couple months ago (with an employee I’ve had for 10 years) it has become a not-too-uncommon event to find dried boogers on paperwork they turn in. I don’t want to keep dealing with it, but I’m afraid of what happens after I say something. We all have embarrassing habits and I don’t think I could return to the office if anyone ever had to have a conversation like that with me.

Gross, what the hell! You could address it without speculating on what the, uh, foreign matter is: “Could you please ensure your paperwork is clean before you turn it in? Lately there have been things smeared on it.” If they seem confused, hand one of the papers back and say, “Like this — I’m not sure if it’s food or something else, but I’d like you to be more careful to keep paperwork clean.”

But also: is something else going on with this employee? This seems awfully similar to people who purposely do gross things to bathroom walls as an act of hostility. Eeeww, I’m going to stop thinking about it now, but sadly you have to.

4. Can I call out a hiring manager for excessive back-channeling?

A few weeks ago, I turned down an offer for a position with a company I’d been referred to by a friend. This friend’s organization is a client of the agency that made me the offer.

During the hiring process, the co-founder had reached out to my friend for a back-channel reference check, which I thought was a bit odd. I would’ve been happy to have that conversation with him and answer firsthand, but my friend did splendidly. I brought it up during a subsequent chat but didn’t make a fuss. However, that prompted me to listen much more carefully, and several red flags were raised, which is why I ultimately turned the offer down. The CEO and his right-hand dude both received my email response to their offer.

Cut to now, almost a month later. I receive a text from my friend showing the message she received from the CEO on LinkedIn. He states that he offered me a much higher salary than I expected but that “something that was said during the offer must’ve turned (me) off”, and he was hoping he could get some “back channel feedback” from her.

I’ve already drafted an email to the CEO, because I feel very icky about the whole thing — that he’d reveal something like this to my friend, a third party to this entire process, feels like my privacy was violated. It’s also dragging her into this unnecessarily, which I find inconsiderate of them. Especially when they could’ve written to me directly at any point, but chose not to. I know it’s template “tech dude heard a tip about back-channeling at a conference and figured he’d do this all the time,” but I feel like someone should at least try to shake it out of him. Am I off-base, or is this just deeply out of touch with professional norms?

It’s not off-base that he contacted your friend for a reference — she’s their client and she referred you for the job; it would be surprising if if he didn’t ask for her thoughts on you. When someone refers a candidate for a job, it’s understood that they might be asked for their impressions about the person. That part isn’t weird or inappropriate.

The message after you turned down the offer is odder — not necessarily because he asked if she had any insight into what went wrong (they have a relationship, she referred you) but the way he asked it is a bit off (sharing the salary thing, calling it “back channel feedback,” implying they must have turned you off in some way rather than you just not thinking it was the right fit). Also, there’s not always a sharable story when you turn down an offer, especially not one you’d want someone else to share on your behalf. So I’d say that was a bit off, but not shockingly so, and not something worth calling him out for.

5. Screening candidates when your candidates aren’t great at applying and interviewing

As a candidate I’ve read so many of your Q&As and tips on writing resumes, cover letters, interviewing skills, etc. and it’s made such a massive difference to the interview process each time I’ve been on the candidate side, so firstly — thank you! Secondly, from an employer/manager side, I’d love to get your thoughts on what to screen for, or what to do, when you aren’t getting applicants who have done these things.

We are hiring in a relatively competitive market for a mid-level job (non-management) at a mid pay range (on the high end of industry and role salary bands, but not over and above) and what I’ve noticed is that the majority of candidates are not writing cover letters, or when they do both the letters and their resumes aren’t personalized to the job at all. Oftentimes its clear even at the interview stage that they haven’t put any effort in to researching the company or industry, and these are the best of the candidates applying.

I guess my question is in this type of situation, do I take it as a mark against them (I am happy and able to keep the position open and keep searching) or do I accept that this is the standard of applications and focus more on their skills? Part of this is I see it as a bit of a double standard — I would never send an application/interview like this but I am aware I am a very career-oriented person — but maybe this is okay in some situations?

Yes, it’s okay.

When you’re the one looking for a job, it’s in your interests to present the most compelling case for yourself as a candidate that you can. That’s what all the advice about strengthening your resume and cover letter and prepping for interviews is about.

But when you’re hiring, your job is to identify the candidates most likely to excel in the job. That doesn’t necessarily mean the person who wrote the best cover letter or prepared the best! Those things help candidates show you who they are and why they’d (hopefully) excel at the job — but they are means to an end, and you only need to be focused on the end (which is finding the strongest person for the job). You’re not looking for the person who’s the best at job-hunting; you’re looking for the person who will be the best at the role you’re hiring for. Candidates who take the sort of job-search advice here make it easier for you to see when that’s them, but them doing it/not doing it isn’t on its own a reason to hire/not hire them.

{ 560 comments… read them below }

  1. Caramel and Cheddar*

    I feel like if you’re unmasked and coughing in a crowd during an ongoing pandemic, you don’t get to think other people are being rude for putting on a mask or moving further away from you.

    Do whatever you need to do, LW 2, and don’t worry about what other people think of you for making the decisions they chose not to.

    1. John Smith*

      I’d add that there’s nothing wrong in politely asking the person, if they’re not already doing so, to cough into their elbow (a now automatic reaction for me) or to otherwise cover their mouth – something I had to do with my manager during the plague.

      If this person happens to be handing in dirty paperwork, have a word with LW3.

      1. Barrie*

        I just had this conversation last night with a friend- I was in the office and someone was loudly bragging how he felt unwell but had dragged himself to the office anyway- and proceeded to cough everywhere all day. It was real cognisant dissonance for me- like did the last 3 years not make any impact, he couldn’t even cover his mouth!?? I’m in the uk where people definitely believe everything is long over- despite it doing the rounds again. People seem more willing to just “get on with things” and it’s frustrating!

        1. Clara*

          I had a similar event in my team in London, I ended up complaining to my boss’ boss that she needed to set firmer boundaries with the team about coming in when unwell. I’m not getting long Covid because you feel you’re above a Teams meeting!

          1. Barrie*

            Right! It’s wild to me because we still have wfh and a fairly (for now at least) flexible hybrid schedule, so it wouldn’t be out of line to miss a few days in the office. I think a lot of people still have that “presentee-ism” mindset, so it needs senior leadership to set the tone.

            1. Charlotte Lucas*

              My boss is currently ill, but told us yesterday that he planned to “power through” to support us. (Remotely at least. But he’s pretty useless when healthy, so we definitely don’t need him to try to “power through.”)

              Then I found out that he plans to be at an all-day in-person meeting today. All staff are required to be there if they’re working today, but I took the day off. And am glad I did!

        2. 1-800-BrownCow*

          I used to work with a woman who bragged about how she never missed work and was so proud of herself for still coming to work when she had pneumonia. Sadly, she was a supervisor and would find reasons to fire her employees that would call off sick.

          1. DJ Abbott*

            As someone who is just getting over pneumonia and been off work for nearly 2 weeks, they were better off not working for her.

            1. Rainy*

              I took off 3 weeks after emergency surgery (and should have taken more) and someone in my office told me that our Director had had the same surgery I did and was back to work the next day, with the implication that I was malingering. I asked the director (which that person definitely did not expect me to do) and she was like “Absolutely not, I still have that organ and I would not have come back the next day from any surgery, that’s absurd.”

              Still mad about it, honestly. What a stupid, hateful thing to do. A coworker had emergency surgery (not the same kind but still) some months later and I told her that if she felt bad she should be recovering at home. No way I’m telling people they should come back to work sooner after having an organ removed!

          2. jellied brains*

            I had a boss like that. Second crappiest place I’ve ever worked. She got the flu and spread it around so we were all stuck working Christmas Day walking/feeding/cleaning up after nearly 100 dogs while we all felt like death.

        3. Shan*

          Someone who works remote multiple days a week at my office let the two people she had a meeting scheduled with know that she’d had a really sore throat for two days, but was going to try to attend the meeting in-person… fortunately my manager was like “please don’t.”

        4. WhatTheActualFact*

          Not covering one’s mouth when coughing has a long and unpleasant history. Many people are simply oblivious.

        5. The Shenanigans*

          Oh, the last three years made an impact alright. People are now less willing to stay home, give others grace, or otherwise react wisely to illness. It’s like we all learned the exact wrong lessons.

        6. Vio*

          I’m in UK too and you’d almost believe Covid didn’t exist from how people behave. There’s still hand gel in most doorways (which most people ignore), the occasional social distancing sign (which most people ignore) and it’s mostly only the international students wearing masks.
          Hardly surprising though when we have a government who were caught flagrantly disregarding the rules in lockdown (with no repercussions beyond some slap-on-the-wrist fines), stopped giving free covid tests (in the middle of a massive cost of living crisis so most people can’t or won’t pay for them) and have now decided that instead of encouraging people to vaccinate they won’t even let most of the population have a vaccine, even if they are willing to pay for one themselves.
          So clearly of course there can’t be anything to worry about at all and we can go back to invading personal space in queues, coughing on each other and having secret contests to see who can get the filthiest hands…

      2. A*

        I’d really suggest not asking someone to cough into their elbow if you don’t know them… as someone with chronic allergies I’ve struggled with my whole life, I have a cough maybe 10 months out of the year. I cough as gingerly as possible in public and remind myself it’s not personal as people make comments and change seats to avoid me which has happened since grade school.

        But being asked to put on a mask, to cough properly, being glared at as if I should have stayed home, are like rubbing salt in the wound. Allergies are a significant contributor to depression for many people and it’s easy to understand why. I don’t need to be told how to cough by a stranger when I’ve been doing it about a billion times more than they have.

        Sorry, it’s a touchy subject for me. I’d just try to approach it with some grace if you don’t know the stranger at all. I can guarantee that no one wants to be that person who appears sick in public. Allergies really suck.

        1. A*

          And I’d just add that, by being in public, you’re subject to so many germs without a clear source that honing in on someone coughing is more of a red herring. I’m not talking about people who brag about going to work sick obviously. For people with allergies who are already having a hard time, they’re the de facto blamed party whenever in public.

          I think it’s a good exercise to remind yourself that not everyone who coughs is contagious, many people have allergies who are still expected to work for a living, and removing a person with a cough would still not eliminate your odds of getting sick when you’re in public.

          1. Lauren19*

            “I think it’s a good exercise to remind yourself that not everyone who coughs is contagious” Thank you for saying this!! I have a good friend with cystic fibrosis and chronic coughing is part of the deal. You never know why someone is coughing, but I echo Allison’s reocmmendation that if it bothers you, it’s ok to put on a mask and/or move elsewhere. But don’t assume they are intentionally going into public sick.

            1. A*

              Exactly. I’m sorry for your friend, I have one with CF as well and it sounds so challenging to deal with! No need for us to add “rudeness in public” on top of their list of problems to deal with.

            2. Donkey Hotey*

              In the years BC (Before Covid), my boss once sent me home for coughing, nevermind the fact that it was for reflux, nothing contagious.

          2. Vio*

            No matter what causes the cough you should still make an effort to cover your mouth (ideally with the inside of your elbow as nobody’s likely to touch that) because your saliva still contains lots of potentially contagious things regardless of why you are coughing. Most coughs and sneezes aren’t covid. But they all contain germs that might do somebody harm. Sure, they might not. But why risk it? We have a very easy and convenient way of covering them which greatly reduces the risk. It’s not only rude not to do so when possible, it’s reckless.

        2. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          So what you’re saying is, you know how to cough properly, but you don’t because you have allergies? What? If you are doing it properly no one will tell you how to do it properly.

          Allergies suck. Catching COVID or flu or pneumonia also sucks a lot more. How do I know why you are coughing if you don’t say so?

          You are definitely wrong that “no one wants to appear sick in public”. You can only speak for yourself here. Other people do not need to be “gentle” with a total stranger coughing and spraying droplets all around – you are violating the social contract by doing that. (Also, remember this person was at a conference, in a presentation, where the cougher is preventing them from *hearing the presentation*.)

          YOU can say, “Sorry, allergies” while coughing properly if you want people to know you aren’t contagious. And excuse yourself when your cough won’t stop. Or you can live with being glared at for being self-centered while you tell yourself how unfair it is.

          1. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            “Allergies suck. Catching COVID or flu or pneumonia also sucks a lot more.”

            I would gladly trade a bout of the flu or even covid for my allergies. A couple weeks of misery for a lifetime without eczema and the ability to eat all the stuff I can’t eat now (eggs! even just eggs!) would be well worth it.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              There is a very serious chance that covid won’t just be “a couple weeks of misery.” The stats vary, but generally it’s estimated that around 10% of infections (at minimum) end in Long Covid, with repeated infections increasing your risk. A CDC press release from last year put it at 1 in 5 infections. We can’t be thinking of this the same way we used to think about seasonal colds.

              Remove spaces for source: https : // www . cdc . gov / nchs / pressroom / nchs_press_releases / 2022 / 20220622 . htm

              1. Emikyu*

                Thank you for saying this. As someone who has dealt with allergies all my life and is now disabled due to long Covid, only one of those things destroyed my ability to work full-time – thus causing me to lose my house and have to move to a lower cost-of-living area, away from my entire social support network, contributing to severe depression because I can barely manage to leave the house even now, over a year and half after the initial infection.

                Allergies suck, yes, but they don’t ruin your life to this degree.

            2. anonymous for this one*

              As someone whose quite mild COVID turned into 6 weeks bedbound, and a few more before I could tolerate stairs to go outside, this take is…bad.

              I’m also someone with Celiac disease and now a mast cell problem that means I have year round environmental allergies and intermittent allergies to foods, hot showers, certain body positions, and often the watch my long COVID heart issue requires me to wear. So I get not being able to eat foods, and believe me it’s nothing compared to wondering if I’ll ever be able to go for a walk again.

              1. A*

                I’m really sorry that you’re going through that. However I do believe the point still stands that it was an overstep on the commenter’s part to assert that these illnesses are always worse than conditions like allergies. My bad psoriasis flare-ups for example have lasted for months and landed me in a wheelchair. An illness with a higher likelihood of being temporary often seems preferable. But the grass is always greener and your take is of course understandable. I hope your days get better.

            3. FrivYeti*

              A couple of weeks of misery followed by a lifetime of exhaustion and brain fatigue, heart problems, lung damage, substantially increased chance of dementia later in life, a permanently increased chance of getting other diseases, and possibly AIDS-like symptoms.

          2. A*

            > If you are doing it properly no one will tell you how to do it properly.
            Unfortunately not the case. Germaphobia is not always rational and people will make comments even when you’re doing things fine.

            > YOU can say, “Sorry, allergies” while coughing properly if you want people to know you aren’t contagious. And excuse yourself when your cough won’t stop.
            I don’t need to explain myself to a stranger and I’m not responsible for managing their anxiety over my condition. Would you expect someone with a wheelchair to tell you don’t worry, it’s not contagious? Or someone with a skin rash to tell you it’s just psoriasis? These unknowable exposures and possibilities are facts of life you consent to when you’re in public.

            > And excuse yourself when your cough won’t stop.
            This is what I’m addressing when I say some people have allergies, and yet we are still expected to earn a living. If I excused myself whenever I had a cough, I wouldn’t be able to have a job.

            1. metadata minion*

              “Would you expect someone with a wheelchair to tell you don’t worry, it’s not contagious?”

              No, because even if they’re using a wheelchair due to complications from a transmissible illness, they’re almost certainly not contagious anymore. Whereas coughing is a very common symptom of many, many contagious illnesses, and even coughing from allergies will help spread anything else you might be carrying.

              1. A*

                I asked about skin rashes as well because the fact is that there are innumerable symptoms of innumerable diseases that may or may not be contagious at any given time, and it’s just as impolite to make comments on one as it is for another. If you’re out in public, it’s better to try to accept that than to single out someone coughing as if it’s going to keep you safe from something.

                1. Katara's side braids*

                  I get the point you’re making, and agree that it’s rude to glare at or comment on anyone’s symptoms under most circumstances. If someone is coughing but covering their mouth (which I understand you do) or wearing a mask, there’s no reason to bother them. I’m sorry that so many people have done so in your case.

                  If someone isn’t covering their mouth, I also agree that it’s better to put on your own mask and move away if possible. But if that isn’t possible, there are some circumstances where I think it’s okay to politely say something. Like a cancer patient riding public transit to a medical appointment, for example. In that situation, their own mask may not be enough to protect them from high velocity aerosols.

                  Coughing/sneezing is somewhat unique in that it spreads whatever is in your respiratory tract (even if you’re not sick) at high speed to a pretty large radius. *Generally* speaking (I know there are exceptions), the things that affect mobility or the skin require much closer contact to spread, so are less of a concern. It’s true that most aerosols are spread through breathing, but the lower velocity makes it a bit easier to manage through ventilation. Coughs/sneezes disperse things pretty rapidly, so may reach someone else’s respiratory tract before they can be diluted by fresher air.

                  I’m sure there are too many people out there who unfairly single out coughing people even when they’re taking precautions, and that’s frustrating. But lots of people are concerned about coughing in particular because compared to other symptoms it *is* more likely to keep them safe if they avoid those aerosols. Not because they think you’re some kind of superspreader villain.

                2. A*

                  Katara’s side braids, thank you for your understanding. I agree with your comment. I understand people give symptoms like coughing some additional attention, and even though it might seem justified to make a comment, it has the effect of singling out certain subsets of people without removing the risk of contagions that occur anywhere. I will keep dealing with it because I don’t have a choice, but I just want others to consider how impolite it is to try to control others’ behaviors instead of managing yourself.

              2. I Have RBF*

                As an allergy sufferer, I understand that having allergies makes you sniffle and cough. But I’ve also had what I thought was allergies turn out to be a nasty summer cold (pre-Covid). The best thing I did was to mask up so I didn’t get more pollen. That mask kept me from spreading it to others, too.

                When I *did* get Covid, it initially presented exactly like my seasonal allergies. It’s only when I started running a fever that I actually took a test.

                I really would like us to regularize wearing a mask when there is a level of pollen or smoke in the air that causes allergies to flare. I sometimes wear a mask alone in my car, just so I don’t end up sneezing and coughing while driving. An N95 mask works really well against pollen. But most people would rather be miserable than wear a mask.

            2. WhatTheActualFact*

              I cough a LOT too and actually I DO often say “sorry, it’s not contagious”.
              People are not mind readers and are not in a position to know whether your coughing is due to allergies or real contagious illness.
              Mind you if I were sick I would not be out there!

              1. A*

                I don’t think it should be expected of everyone who has a chronic cough to explain themselves but it’s kind of you to do that. You could also argue that they’re already acting as mindreaders if they want to assume that I’m contagious or trying to screw everyone over by coming into work sick. If that’s their perspective, they’re not someone I’m trying to appease anyway.

            3. Liva*

              Frankly you don’t know whether your cough is just allergies *or* COVID and allergies (I personally know multiple people who have been infected by a “just allergies” person).

              People have genuine reasons beyond “germaphobia” for wanting to avoid COVID (for one thing it can worsen existing allergies – but that’s on the mild end of the spectrum. You’re also look at increased risk for heart disease, strokes, neurological disorders, potentially cancer etc.)

              1. Shakti*

                Yes this! I went out with friends and one was coughing a ton, but kept saying it’s just allergies and then proceeded to give me a horrific pre Covid era illness where I was useless for 3 weeks because I got so sick. Sometimes people can’t tell the difference and it’s better to be safe than sorry

              2. A*

                As others have commented, for people who cough all of the time, it’s typically easy to tell the difference when you’re sick. I test regularly and beyond that, I’m not going to apply COVID-level measures when I’m dealing with a condition I’ve had my entire life in order to make others more comfortable.

                Those without germaphobia should understand that it’s impossible to remove all risks of contagion when you go out in public, and there are more sources of COVID than a stranger’s cough. It would behoove us all to remember that the next person you hear coughing could have allergies, asthma, cystic fibrosis, etc. — and that they have already received more than their fair share of strangers’ fear mongering.

                1. e271828*

                  Just cough into your properly-fitted mask, OK? Then you can cough all you need to and not spray anyone with saliva, bacteria, and whatever viruses you’re incubating. Thanks!

          3. Nik*

            Yeah, you are still spraying your saliva all over if you are just coughing unmitigated. Just because you don’t knowingly have something contagious doesn’t mean I want you spraying on me.

            1. A*

              Looks like you missed all the clarifications I’ve made saying I always cover my mouth. If someone is assaulting you with spit you have my blessing to say whatever you want.

        3. JB*

          I’m not sure I understand your comment. If you are coughing, you need to cover your mouth?

          I say this as someone who has overactive lungs so that if I inhale some dust and cough on Monday, I’ll still be coughing intermittently on Friday. I cough all the time. But if you are just free coughing into the room, people have a right to not take your word for it that it’s “just allergies” (especially those of us who have known several people who have been sick more than once with Covid after insisting it was just allergies) and ask you to cover your mouth, which you should be doing anyway.

          I have bad allergies and have my whole life, so I get it. But in a world where people choose to freely go about in public despite knowing they are sick with something contagious and immunocompromised people are basically stuck in their homes because the population in general thinks wearing a mask is an enormous sacrifice, the least you can do is cover your mouth when you cough?

          1. A*

            Yes, this was a misunderstanding. I always cover my mouth when I cough but people will still feel comfortable making comments or glaring at me as if I’m in the wrong for going in public and ~exposing~ everyone to a condition that is not contagious.

            Like I said, no one wants to be that person who appears sick in public (except for, apparently, some of the coworkers described here — it is truly obnoxious to go to work and brag about how sick you are.) Regardless, unfortunately, people hear a cough and feel comfortable making assumptions and calling you out.

            1. Vio*

              If you’re coughs are covered then the other people are indeed being rude in their reactions. There’s a reason coughs are usually listed as “new and persistent cough” in symptoms and that’s because there are indeed a lot of different causes of coughs and some conditions that make regular coughing just a normal part of breathing. It would be insanely unreasonable to expect everyone who coughs to isolate themselves.
              Also the cougher may be somebody who has experienced no symptoms *until* that cough. They couldn’t have known when they prepared to go outside that they were going to cough later in the day and so cancel their plans.

              Coughing is only rude when deliberately used to interrupt or otherwise make a point, or when uncovered. People who responsibly deal with their coughs should, if anything, be given a quiet nod of thanks for their consideration.

        4. Pippa K*

          Yeah, no. No one who is more than five years old should have to be told “cover your mouth when you cough.” No matter why they’re coughing.
          You seem to be saying that you know it bothers people to be around someone who is coughing, and you know why – they know it might be something contagious and they don’t want to get sick – but that they shouldn’t make you aware of their discomfort because knowing they’re reacting to your cough makes you feel bad. Essentially, that their discomfort (over worry of illness) is less important than yours (over feeling criticised for not covering your coughs.) Come on now.

          1. A*

            Not sure where the communication has happened here. I cover my mouth when I cough and if someone is uncomfortable about my allergies beyond that, it’s largely their problem, and inappropriate to take that out on me. Glaring at me or making comments to “make me aware of their discomfort” helps no one and it’s quite wild to defend that.

            If you’re uncomfortable, change seats, put on a mask, etc. — but there’s no need to “make me aware” that my chronic condition makes you nervous, anymore than there would be for you to comment on someone’s disfigured appearance in public. You can’t know a stranger’s health history and politeness goes both ways.

            1. Pippa K*

              I’m not talking about people taking specific actions for the purpose of making you aware of their discomfort. You said you were offended by people asking you “to cough properly,” which generally means covering your cough. And that comparison in your last paragraph to being rude about someone’s appearance – wow, speaking of things that are “wild”…

              1. A*

                >You said you were offended by people asking you “to cough properly,” which generally means covering your cough
                This has happened even when I’m covering my cough. Ultimately people with anxiety over germs tend to get very worked up and find things to comment on.

                >And that comparison in your last paragraph to being rude about someone’s appearance – wow, speaking of things that are “wild”
                I’m missing your point here. Allergies are a condition like any other. I’ve received comments before on my psoriasis from people who are concerned that it’s contagious. To me, there is no difference between these situations and the comments come from the same bucket of people — I am just as deserving of courtesy and respect as you are.

                1. Me...Just Me*

                  A – I agree with you wholeheartedly. People need to manage themselves rather than attempting to manage others (especially strangers). The OP was sitting in front of someone coughing — so did not know whether or not the person was covering their cough and still made the assumption that the cougher was somehow putting them in danger. People cough for all sorts of reasons (allergies definitely being a big one). The kindest thing would be to offer a cough drop or something positive (kind smile, nod of understanding) rather than make comments or to glare at a stranger. Why be rude? (and for the record, I don’t think the OP was in any way rude — just that some commenters appear to tend towards that, from what I’ve read here)

                2. A*

                  Thank you, Me…Just Me. I’m not able to reply to your comment (maybe because it’s too far down the chain) but I wanted to thank you for taking the time to write it. It seems a lot of people here are sensitive about coughing especially after COVID. Your comment is exactly what I’m trying to say.

            2. Starbuck*

              When you said this “I’d really suggest not asking someone to cough into their elbow if you don’t know them… ”
              Of course people are assuming that means you’re not coughing into your elbow and properly covering your mouth.

              1. A*

                Thanks, I get that. I still don’t think it’s appropriate to ask. That’s based on personal experience and other people can disagree.

            3. Ace in the Hole*

              I think you may have misread the comment you initially replied to, which specifically said it was okay to ask someone to cover their mouth while coughing “if they are not already doing so” and also said one should do so politely.

              Your responses seem to be directed towards people who are making rude comments, glaring, and/or telling people to cover up when they are already doing so. But since that wasn’t what John Smith suggested, it came across as you saying it’s inappropriate to politely ask someone to follow basic hygiene standards when they’re currently spraying saliva across the room.

              1. A*

                I don’t think any comment is appropriate when a stranger is coughing. I’ve been told both to cover my mouth when I was covering it and to wear a different mask when I was in a surgical mask (as required) rather than an N95. If you’re uncomfortable, you need to manage your own feelings like an adult, not try to modify someone else’s behavior.

                1. Not This Again!*

                  No, no, no. People do rude unsanitary stuff like double dipping, and should be called out when doing it. I’m not just uncomfortable, I’m protecting my health. Your rights end where mine begin.

                  Things will never be the same post pandemic, Covd is still with us, and I’m someone with CHF who has a dry cough. But I wear a mask in public, so…

                2. Ace in the Hole*

                  Let’s apply this to some other hypothetical examples:

                  If someone licks the serving spoons clean at a potluck and puts them back in the communal dishes, it’s inappropriate to tell them to stop.

                  If someone doesn’t wash their hands after using the restroom, it’s inappropriate to ask them to wash their hands before they continue using communal kitchen equipment in the break room.

                  If someone sneezes on their hand during a meeting and wipes the boogers off on your desk, it’s inappropriate to tell them not to do that again.

                  If someone tracks dog poo into your office, it’s inappropriate to ask them to step outside and wipe their shoes on the mat.

                  If a stranger spits on you, it’s not okay to tell them to stop doing it. You need to manage your feelings like an adult, not try to modify their behavior.

        5. TootsNYC*

          I have a chronic cough due to an annoying but not dangerous lung condition. I can be fine, and then a big coughing jag will rise up.

          I BRING A MASK and put it on if I’m about to have a coughing jag.
          If a cough catches me before I can get the mask on, I cough into the neck of my jacket or shirt.

          I know it’s a bummer, but you need to work to keep other people comfortable. Putting on a mask as soon as you can is a way to let them know that you’re someone they can trust.

          (I ended up with a small stash of masks back in March 2020 because in January of that year, I’d bought a box of 25 to see if I could just wear one on the subway at all times just to make other people comfortable, and so I didn’t have to let go of the pole to ineffectively cover my mouth)

          1. A*

            It’s kind of you to bring a mask and nice that has become socially acceptable without being judged (depending on your location, unfortunately.) They aggravate my ability to breathe so I avoid them unless required.

            >I know it’s a bummer, but you need to work to keep other people comfortable. Putting on a mask as soon as you can is a way to let them know that you’re someone they can trust.
            We diverge a bit here. I always cover my mouth and other than that, I don’t care about a stranger’s ability to trust me when I’m going about my business. It’s not up to me to make them comfortable. I already have chronic allergies, I’m not going to sign up additionally to accommodating other people’s anxiety over something that’s not contagious. It is very kind of you to do so.

            1. Alice*

              Please tell NIH about your discovery of how to tell the difference between “my normal cough without COVID” and “my normal cough with asymptomatic or presymptomatic COVID or presymptomatic influenza.”

              1. A*

                I never said one should be able to tell the difference. It’s not my job to explain to strangers that reasons for a cough other than COVID exist. If you’re implying I might have COVID and not know it, that’s fine — it’s not possible to prove a negative and I’m not a fanatic. I test regularly and have never been positive, yet I have still received comments on places like planes where everyone was required to test negative beforehand.

                Maybe you’re implying that I live recklessly and get COVID all the time, or something. I live alone, WFH, and have avoided risky gatherings since this all began, as I can trust you did as well.

                1. Not This Again!*

                  No need to be so defensive. Everyone knows there are reasons to cough other than covid, but unfortunately it is a premiere covid symptom. It will make folks nervous from now on, and all of us may receive nasty looks from time to time when coughing.

              2. Chronic Cougher*

                I have had COVID three times and each time knew before I tested positive (as in, was still testing negative) because my COVID cough feels very different than my standard chronic cough, which is asthma-related (or any cough I’ve had with other illnesses). In my experience talking to other chronic coughers – we can tell what’s going on with our lungs. I generally know the difference between my asthmatic cough and a cold, allergies, etc.

                Does that mean that I assume that a cough that doesn’t feel that way isn’t COVID/isn’t something contagious? No. Does it mean I cough into the air instead of covering my mouth? No. Does it mean I don’t mask up if I know I’m going to be coughing a lot? No. But I can, in fact, tell.

                Generally speaking (and not directly in response to this comment), as someone who has dealt with this chronic cough since age 10 (that can sound like pneumonia when it doesn’t bother me at all – I’ve had medical professionals think I need an ambulance based on the cough before listening to my lungs and concluding I’m fine) — the nasty looks, rude comments, attempts to exclude me from work or school environments, etc., have been non-stop my entire life, and have only gotten worse since COVID (although fortunately I’ve recently avoided most of the illnesses that will then trigger months of coughing post-recovery).

                I don’t care if people move or put on a mask; they don’t know me or my medical history (and I don’t know them or theirs), and they can and should take care of themselves. I do care when people treat me rudely or otherwise try to exclude me from basic life activities because of it.

                1. Happy*

                  Sounds like your case was symptomatic, then. Alice clearly was talking only about asymptomatic/pre-symptomatic cases, so your example is not a counterexample.

            2. t4ci3*

              if you have respiratory allergies, you should be wearing a mask For You. Remember how allergies were dramatically reduced during the summer of 2020 when everyone was masking up all the time and getting all those irritating particulates filtered out?

              1. A*

                Please reread your comment from a different perspective. Since COVID, many people now feel more comfortable speaking about other people’s health and particularly coughing. Despite that, it’s not appropriate to give me unsolicited medical advice for something I’ve dealt with my entire life when you are not even aware of my exact allergy or my related conditions.

                1. Not This Again!*

                  Please step away for a bit, you’re taking all of these anonymous comments entirely too personally.

        6. Danielle*

          Came here to say this. I have a chronic lung condition that means I cough a ton. Of course I do cover my mouth, but the coughs do not indicate that I am sick. I wouldn’t mind if someone sitting next to me put on a mask, but wouldn’t appreciate someone confronting me about why I came to work or ordering me to mask when they aren’t.

          1. A*

            Thank you. I’m surprised so many here seem to think it’s okay. I think a lot of people have become more comfortable being disrespectful in this way since COVID, and it’s unfortunate.

            1. Not This Again!*

              Most of useat our discomfort and are not rude. I get side-eye for wearing a mask now, but don’t care. It’s the new reality.

          2. Chronic Cougher*

            As someone with a chronic asthmatic cough, I could not live my life if I stayed home when I had a cough. I’ve had colleagues demand that I be forced to take unpaid leave until I stop coughing, which could take months or frankly just be never (my boss’s solution at the time was to give me an office with a door; she was great). I had a law school professor confront me in front of my entire 1L section about coming to class sick (I wasn’t sick; he backed down after I raised seeking accommodations if he wouldn’t allow me in class — this was well before virtual classes). And I’ve received endless nasty looks and comments in basically every environment

            I try to extend those folks the grace they do not extend me, because I get it — it sounds scary, they don’t know my medical history, and they may have personal reasons to be uneasy or worried about getting sick. But I am also someone who has to be careful of my health because of this issue, and I take responsibility for looking out for my own health (which, indeed, can be affected by people showing no symptoms whatsoever!), including masking or removing myself from situations where I have significant concerns.

        7. Pet Jack*

          But why can’t you cover your cough? yeah, allergies suck. Also allergies make me sneeeeeze like crazy, but I don’t just go around sneezing droplets and other viruses all around. Even if it won’t make people sick, it’s generally considered gross by the social contract.
          Just cover your mouth when coughing!

        8. M*

          I’ve dealt with allergies and asthma and therefore frequent coughing my whole life. I can count on one hand the number of real life scenarios where I couldn’t cover my mouth or at least turn my head when coughing. I can’t count the enumerable times my allergy symptoms turns out to be something worse. It’s really not up to the cougher to decide if their is a risk to others in spreading their droplets. This really sounds like a lack of hygienic practice learned over time and not a real excuse to cough in the open.

      3. Knope Knope Knope*

        I was coughing yesterday. I am not sick, I just had a tickle in my throat and I didn’t have a mask. I was so self conscious. I definitely wouldn’t blame anyone for moving and/or masking and I felt really bad about the whole thing all day.

      4. RagingADHD*

        Telling strangers how to behave is a lot more confrontational than just putting on a mask or switching seats.

        Yes, coughing right at people with your mouth uncovered is rude no matter what the reason. Yawning with your mouth uncovered is rude, too. But at the same time, you aren’t their mother and it’s not your place to teach them manners.

        If we all actively minded our own business (including caring for our needs), without trying to mind other people’s business for them (including managing the feelings of strangers), the world would be a better and more peaceful place.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          Yawning with your mouth uncovered may be rude, but it’s not unhygienic. Coughing with your mouth uncovered creates clouds of aerosolized saliva and mucous that travel substantially farther than ordinary breathing or talking.

        2. Zelda*

          The potential of spreading a deadly airborne disease takes this out of the realm of “manners” and “other people’s business.” “I don’t want to look at your half-chewed food” makes chewing with an open mouth rude. “I don’t want long covid” makes other people’s uncovered coughs more than just “those people’s manners” or “those people’s personal business”– it does affect me.

    2. Greetings*

      Are you aware that many people see that differently? For a large part of humanity, the pandemic is “over” in the acute sense, and I’m not only talking about the US (hi from Europe!).

      1. SaeniaKite*

        I work in community pharmacy and a man came in yesterday to ask ‘Is Covid going round again?’ then when we confirmed it was, proceeded to list all the symptoms he was having that were similar to the last time he had it, all while unmasked and getting closer to colleagues and other customers. And this is why I still mask in the workplace, not only for my protection but for those patients who may be high risk.

        1. Turquoisecow*

          And this is why, although I’ve not been masking as much as I used to, I still wear one at the pharmacy. People are going in to pick up medication for their sick selves and not masking! I’m shocked that the pharmacists and pharmacy clerks don’t mask.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            That really surprised me too! I don’t expect masking of the general public anymore, but unless they have amazing ventilation I would mask while dispensing medication.

          2. Lydia*

            I just had a blood draw done. Went in wearing a mask. Two people came in after me who, through overhearing conversations, I learned were transplant patients. Neither were masked, and while it is up to them to make their own decisions regarding their health care, I still said an internal, “Seriously?!”. But even more of a WTF is that medical settings (pharmacies, labs) have just given up on masking as if the people they see daily might not be susceptible.

            1. Katara's side braids*

              I work in a doctor’s office serving underserved populations and think this every day. It’s mind boggling. I was one of the last staff members masking until this current surge, when Covid started ripping through the office. At least one (very young!) staff member now has long term symptoms.

      2. Just me*

        I agree that tons of people feel that the pandemic is over. But are you saying they’re justified in taking offense if they cough and someone nearby moves away or puts on a mask?

        I think it makes sense to accept that there are barefaced coughers in public and shared spaces, that that’s a norm now. I think it’s also a norm that some people don’t want to inhale those coughs.

        If we’re being laissez faire about coughing, shouldn’t we also be laissez faire about how people choose to protect themselves from others’ coughs?

        1. short'n'stout'n'masked'n'public*

          They might not be coughing *because* of COVID, but if they are asymptomatic or presymptomatic for influenza or RSV or *gasp* COVID, then that asthmatic or allergic or accidental breakfast cough can still transmit the virus.

          The WHO says COVID is no longer a “global health emergency”. But they also took care to stress that this does NOT mean that the disease is no longer a global threat. The virus is still circulating through the population, it is still mutating into new variants, and it still causes a disease that can be life-threatening for some, and life-changing (for the worse) for many others.

          And while I’m here: you can bet your butterfly that flu is far from trivial, and even colds are unpleasant and debilitating. Even if you don’t care about spreading COVID, you should be never be careless about contracting or spreading either of those diseases.

          1. Observer*

            They might not be coughing *because* of COVID, but if they are asymptomatic or presymptomatic for influenza or RSV or *gasp* COVID, then that asthmatic or allergic or accidental breakfast cough can still transmit the virus.

            Not significantly more than all of the other exposures that happen in shared spaces. Someone coughing in a large, well ventilated space with good air turnover is going to be less of a risk to others than the sick person who doesn’t cough if you’re crammed into a relatively small space with no ventilation, for starters.

            Even if you don’t care about spreading COVID, you should be never be careless about contracting or spreading either of those diseases.

            Agreed. Masking if you have anything contagious, coughing or not, is just a good idea when in enclosed spaces.

        2. Pennyworth*

          The pandemic (exponential growth) may be over but that doesn’t mean Covid has gone away, it is now endemic in most parts of the world. Covid infections and deaths are still occurring.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Yup. And “endemicity” doesn’t mean what people seem to think it means, either. Ebola is endemic to certain regions. Smallpox used to be endemic. It baffles me that people are using the transition to endemicity as an excuse to abandon the vulnerable.

            1. Lydia*

              Right. They tend to think being endemic means not dangerous. The disease itself hasn’t changed in its severity, only in how many people are catching it.

        3. BubbleTea*

          Flu also kills people. The fact we used to be more blasé about the inevitability of viral respiratory infections doesn’t mean we can’t now try to be more careful. Everyone now owns or has previously used masks – they can be bought in any shop. We know better, we should do better.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Right!!! The “but the flu!!” argument makes 0 sense to me – I used to be ignorant about the harm I was doing by going to work or other public places sick and unmasked, but now that I know better, why on earth would I not do better?

            1. Lydia*

              I like to tell people that say it’s “just the flu” that I had H1N1, it was the sickest I’ve ever been, and I have asthma now because of it. There is no such thing as “just the flu.” Get your damn vaccine if it’s safe for you to do so.

        4. Irish Teacher*

          Honestly, I’m going to disagree with your last line. While we couldn’t continue remaining in our homes and not going outside forever, there are some very valuable lessons we learnt from covid that are applicable in other situations and “think about how you would have reacted before you knew as much as you now do about protecting yourself from contagious illnesses and react that way” makes no sense to me.

          Wearing a mask in a busy place or when somebody is coughing or when you have a cold has no disadvantages whatsoever and could save your life or somebody else’s so it makes no sense to me to pretend we don’t know that just so that we can remind ourselves that the worst of the covid pandemic is over.

          I don’t see why we have to throw away the good things like better protection from illnesses, more opportunities for remote work in companies where that is beneficial to everybody, etc.

          No, most coughs aren’t covid, but the flu is a very serious illness and other things can be spread by coughing too and it’s not like masking around somebody who doesn’t have anything serious or contagious like the flu or covid does any harm.

          It’s not that being next to somebody coughing or sneezing is “unpleasant”. It’s that it can make you ill and for some people, it can be genuinely life-threatening and putting their lives at risk just to say “well, covid is over and we don’t want any reminders of it” doesn’t make sense to me.

          Wearing a mask is no more about “‘but covid’ panic” than wearing a seatbelt is about “but massive pile-ups on the road” panic. Both are just simple things we can do to increase our own safety and those of others with little to no downside.

          If the LW were insisting the person coughing should have been thrown out of the conference because they might have covid, that would strike me as a bit out of proportion, but wearing a mask is simply a minor adjustment that is a good idea and that no reasonable person could possibly object to the LW doing.

          They have a reason to wear a mask: they don’t want to get ill. They have no reason not to wear one. So…why wouldn’t they?

        5. Kara*

          I do not understand the people going ‘oh but it’s just a cold’. I don’t want your cold or flu either! If you’re sick stay home. If you can’t bring yourself to do that, then you’re just going to have deal with seeing my N95 from as far away in the room as i can physically get.

          1. NYCWeasel*

            Exactly, the “slightly congested for two days and then feeling fine” colds I used to get all the time from coworkers set off 2-3 month long asthma attacks, sometime to the brink of me needing to go to urgent care or an ER. I’d have been over the cold itself for weeks but my breathing needed aggressive treatments to recover. As for Covid, I got it in early 2020 (pre testing, but able to confirm due to skin reactions post-infection), and my breathing has never fully recovered. Personally I always still mask in crowds and I also utilize nasal sprays like Enovid when I may need to be unmasked around others. It’s not a 100% solution, but I’ve had good results even when near others who ended up ill.

            1. Relentlessly Socratic*

              This–someone else’s mild cold can leave me ill for months. Actually in fall of 2019 I was ill from Sept-Dec with something that a friend caught at the same time, and he was better in a few days. I had several months of inhalers, nebulizers, antibiotics, chest X-rays, fevers, rib pain, poor sleep, and oral steroids. I don’t want your mild cold, full stop.

              When I cough, it’s usually nice and juicy and productive. I am not contagious, but I am certainly gross to be around and will apologize and remove myself from being overly close to people if I am having a coughing fit when possible. I do still mask when I’m out and about for my own protection, sure, and I also do it so that if I have a coughing fit, someone else isn’t made unnecessarily anxious by my phlegm.

          2. Constance Lloyd*

            I’m back in office full time and unfortunately only have the mandated 3 days of sick time plus 10 days of PTO. None of this time carries over to the next year, so I can’t even accrue it over time. As is the case for many, I won’t be able to stay home for a cold, but I will mask if I’m feeling unwell and would never fault someone for keeping their distance. In the US, this is unfortunately the best some can do. If anybody takes offense I feel very comfortable simply not caring!

            1. NotRealAnonForThis*

              That’s pretty much where I’m at. I get screwed over (at the biological level) by every stupid viral infection that I get. Ergo, I don’t really care too much if someone who is coughing and hacking takes offense at me either using an N95 or leaving the area. Says a lot more about them than me.

          3. Thatoneoverthere*

            I don’t understand this either. Just yesterday the woman who sits across from me was coughing and coughing. She had a large bottle of prescription strength medicine on her desk. She had been coughing for days at this point. Thankfully either she realized she needed to leave or someone asked her. Our company def doesn’t frown upon WFH. Since she sits across from me I see her everyday, she has to have sick time bc she’s barely ever off.

            I hate the notion its just a cold. I get knocked out by colds every time. It takes me a good 2 weeks of feeling miserable to get rid of it. Then it spreads to my kids and husband. I understand most of us can’t take 2 weeks off, but at least stay home for the bad days, and wear a mask.

            1. Stay-at-Homesteader*

              Now that we’re past the post-pandemic germ catch-up, I’m not getting my kids’ colds as often or as badly…and I *still* don’t want them. We as a family stopped taking strict precautions a while ago (when our oldest started school toward the end of the pandemic), but that doesn’t mean I’m suddenly okay with spreading *any* illness to other people when I could prevent it! Sure, it’s going to happen and for the most part it’s not a big deal for a lot of (but not all) people…but why do it?

          4. Radioactive Cyborg Llama*

            Exactly! I don’t want the flu. The flu is miserable, and often leads to bronchitis and by the end of it, I’ve been sick for a month (same with a bad cold). And I know people who have had long covid–one who lost her job and our youngest who has to withdraw from college for a while and I don’t want that either.

            1. Clisby*

              Yes, I remember back in the early days of Covid, people were pooh-poohing it as “just like the flu.”

              I’ve had flu twice as an adult, and it’s the sickest I’ve ever been. Both times, it took 6-8 weeks to be entirely recovered. So yeah, I get my flu vaccine every year. I’ve been lucky enough (so far) to avoid Covid, and I want to stay lucky.

          5. Nebula*

            Yeah I got flu in December 2019 and ended up in hospital because of it – as an otherwise healthy 27 year old. When Covid first started going around and people were saying ‘Oh it’s just like flu, it’s nothing to worry about’ – well, those people were wrong, of course, but even without knowing that I was like ‘No way am I getting something like flu again so soon’. Anyone who said (or says!) ‘Oh it’s *just* a flu’ has not a single clue about how bad flu can be.

              1. Lydia*

                H1N1 crew, wassup!

                I had it, too. Of all the illnesses I’ve ever had, I remember H1N1 the clearest. I had never been, and haven’t been since, as sick as I was when I had it. Why on this green earth would I want to deal with COVID or the flu?

        6. JSPA*

          Flu isn’t currently circulating at high levels, though it is starting to tick upwards earlier than usual, based on the influenza data explorer at ourworldindata website).

          Why do we have good data on influenza? Because we’ve made the political choice to keep tracking it, year-in, year-out, to design better flu shots, and get them to people in a timely matter. (Too bad that this year, the flu may be getting an early start, relative to vaccine availability.)

          Why do we no longer have good data on Covid-19? Because we’ve made the political choice to no longer track it, at the level that we track flu, and to declare that it has already turned into “essentially another cold.”

          We are still tracking positives in hospitals, which provides some insight. “It’s a cold, for most people” is largely true from an the standpoint of spread, due to the number of people who have been exposed or vaccinated. But it’s not true for the non-negligible number of people who are ending up in hospital not merely “with” Covid (about half the hospital positives) but “because of” Covid symptoms (the other half of the hospital positives).

          The New York Times headline summed it up, on Sept 7th, as “Covid Continues to Rise, but Experts Remain Optimistic.” The article further quotes expert advice to,
          “tailor their behavior to their own risk” with “older adults, pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems” reasonably choosing to “take the utmost precautions, such as masking most or all of the time and avoiding crowded indoor spaces,” and those at less risk tailoring precautions to outside circumstances (e.g. “if they might pass the virus to more vulnerable people.” They focus on keeping boosted. But “don’t be your own little superspreader event, if you are actively ill” should also go without saying, no?

        7. Caramel and Cheddar*

          The WHO didn’t declare the pandemic over, they declared the emergency phase of it over. The pandemic is very much still real to them and something they track alongside other epidemics and pandemics.

        8. Ellis Bell*

          Perhaps you are assuming the cougher kept their mouth covered and it was a one-off surprise cough? Because it was rude and unhygienic to cough a lot on people well before 2020! It was also dangerous, the flu and pneumonia have always killed and hurt people.

          1. Pippa K*

            Yes! I do not get the “coughs and sneezes are fine, actually, why are you being so fussy” attitude. Before 2020, if someone was coughing a lot near me, I thought “crap, I’m probably going to get your cold” and tried to move away. If they were coughing without covering their mouth, I thought “were you raised by wolves, what is wrong with you??” We had both viruses and manners before 2020, these are not wild newfangled ideas.

        9. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

          Some coughs *are* Covid. Some coughs are other contagious illnesses. The cougher is a jerk no matter why they keep hacking away in a conference.

          In 2019, I would have turned around and asked them to step outside, since they are a distraction from the presentation. In 2023, I’d be afraid for my safety, so would say nothing and mask up. And possibly move seats as well.

          Oh, is that not what you meant? There is no “the pandemic never happened” button. We’ve all changed since 2020 and a lot of folks have doubled-down on being selfish assholes.

          I would have thought we cannot continue the “Covid is fake, I’m an entitled ass” forever either, but I seem to be wrong about that.

          1. Relentlessly Socratic*

            Isn’t it amazing, in 2023 I’m too afraid of being punched by someone to ask them to cover their coughs. What the heck happened to us all?

        10. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

          The WHO declared the “emergency” over, not the pandemic itself.

          There are fewer quick deaths since the vaccines. It’s still quite a dangerous virus in terms of the damage it does.

        11. TootsNYC*

          It is true that not all coughs are COVID. But we have always been required to cover our mouths when we cough. So much so that in 2019, if you’d ask someone to finish the sentence “Cover your mouth…” they’d have immediately said “when you cough.”

          I have a chronic cough that’s not COVID. Even BEFORE the pandemic, I had people moving away from me on the subway train if a coughing jag hit. Even though I covered my mouth. Once, I was holding the pole and didn’t have a hand free to cover my mouth, so I tucked my face into my jacket neck and coughed down my own shirt (I thought it was far more effective than covering my mouth with my hand or elbow). The lady sitting in front of me yelled at me to cover my mouth when I cough; my explanation of coughing into my jacket being more effective than my hand wasn’t enough for her (some younger lady on the other side of the almost-crowded train got up and told me to take her seat, just to let me get away from her).

          BEFORE COVID hit, I had purchased a box of surgical masks to wear on the train, with the express purpose of making other people less uncomfortable about my cough.

          At the time, I decided that it actually made things worse. But now, I just put a mask on when I cough around other people. And interestingly, they seldom get up and move to another seat when I do.

          Because it doesn’t matter whether I have a contagious illness (those existed before COVID too) or not; other people are uncomfortable. And not making them uncomfortable is my responsibility. Especially because it’s so easy.

          We’re supposed to cover our mouth when we cough, and always have been.

          1. Lydia*

            This, this, this. Back in the day you covered with your hand. They’ve updated that to coughing into your elbow. But for a LONG time it’s been the norm to cover your mouth when you cough.

      3. Irish Teacher*

        Even if we weren’t in a pandemic, it would be utterly illogical to see another person wearing a mask as rude. For one thing, their mask protects those around them too, so it would be bizarre to think, “oh, that person is so rude, trying to protect their health and mine”. We now know that masks help to protect us from either passing on or contracting various illnesses so it would be really weird to be offended by somebody wearing one.

        And it’s not in any way offensive not to want to get ill. I have sinus problems, which sometimes cause me to cough repeatedly. However, it is in no way rude to me if somebody who does not know this keeps their distance in case I have something contagious such as covid or the flu. That is simply them being responsible. Thinking somebody may be ill isn’t an insult to them. Nor is not wanting to become ill.

        1. ferrina*


          Even taking Covid out of the equation, no one wants to get sick. It’s not rude to take precautions. Yes, I get the perspective of “but it feels like they’re saying I’m dirty!” except, well, humans have a bunch of germs. To germ is human. It’s okay not to want to be coughed on. The person who is being coughed on has no way of telling if it’s just allergies or something highly contagious- and honestly, the person who is coughing can’t know with absolute certainty either. I had a certain family member who showed up coughing and sniffling to visit my newborn (literally, less than a week old baby). She insisted it was just basic post-nasal drip. I refused to let her be in the same room as the baby. She called me every name her polite Midwestern heart would let her and was deeply offended she couldn’t hold the newborn. 2 days later, she was at the doctor being diagnosed with a contagious condition. I regret nothing.

          1. Observer*

            Yes, I get the perspective of “but it feels like they’re saying I’m dirty!” except, well, humans have a bunch of germs. To germ is human. It’s okay not to want to be coughed on.

            Yes, all of this and that adults should be able to get past such feelings and act on basic facts. While it’s true that good hygiene reduces the spread of disease, keeping clean is not anything *close* to a guarantee that one won’t get sick. Being sick is not a sign of being dirty. And acting as though anyone who thinks you are sick *really* thinks you are dirty is just hugely self-defeating. And not just in relation to Covid or even disease spread.

            She insisted it was just basic post-nasal drip.

            That’s just stupid. Because post nasal drip per se is not contagious. But whatever is *causing* that drip could be! I get post nasal drip due to allergy, and that’s not contagious. But if I have infected sinuses and *that* causes post nasal drip (and it can), then it’s a real possibility that I’m contagious. So for anyone who says “it’s just post nasal drip” the question is *What is causing it*.

            I’m glad you were up to protecting your baby. Did your family member ever apologize?

            1. ferrina*

              Nope, she never apologized. She’s one of those people that comes across as nice, but Always Knows Best and will never apologize.
              She’s out of my life now, and I don’t miss her.

          2. darsynia*

            I’m a huge fan of Tony Stark and there’s this scene in Iron Man 2 where Pepper is coughing and he asks her to cover her mouth cause he doesn’t want to get sick, and she says ‘That’s rude.’ It’s from 2010 or 2011 and I always found that so fascinating, because the framing at the time I think was meant to show how narcissistic he is, that he isn’t asking her if she’s okay or suggesting she got home if she’s unwell, he’s worried about the effect on him. At the same time, Pepper makes no effort to change her behavior after the exchange, either!

            I mention it because it was intentionally made a part of their interaction in this blockbuster film, and perfectly explains the weird social confluence where being personally concerned for your health is considered rude, even among two people who both have a working relationship but also are secretly in love with each other. And that being offended by being told you’re coughing germs into the room makes it a reasonable response not to stop.

        2. TootsNYC*

          in 2008, my mom wore an N95 on the plane at her doctor’s orders because her pancreas had been removed, which lessened her immune system.

        3. Philosophia*

          Wearing a mask in public has made it onto the list of things (such as lacking an interest in watching television) that we are not doing AT anyone.

        4. Kyrielle*

          THIS. I have allergies. I cough a lot. I mask when indoors in public, and when outdoors if it’s at all crowded. First, if I am coming down with something and don’t have specific symptoms yet, my cough still means I can send a lot of potentially-infectious droplets out; a mask should mostly stop those. Second, no one has to wonder whether I am in fact contagious.

          And periodically I have to explain that I’m masking because of my allergies, either because someone is still worried (understandable, depending on their risk factors, which I don’t know!) or because they wonder if I am worried and need them to mask. (I am well vaccinated and boostered, for covid and the flu, and not terribly worried about my likelihood of catching it, so I’m fine if they don’t – unless they’re showing signs of illness, I suppose, but no one who is ever asks. They’re either already masking or aren’t going to.)

      4. JSPA*

        That’s certainly the attitude where I am, but several of the more elderly neighbors have suddenly been coughing terribly–one to the point of puking loudly at night, such a delight to wake up to, but no doubt worse to experience–and one of those houses had an ambulence there last night, lights flashing, for over two hours, before they drove away slowly.

        Which is to say, whether or not it’s “over” is a political choice… and a state of mind… and a matter of statistical modeling… and a choice about the acceptable amount of direct suffering, and acceptable number of direct deaths, vs indirect suffering and indirect deaths… but nobody told the virus.

        Nobody’s suggesting more lock downs.

        B ut doing one’s part to keep one’s germs to oneself has always been good behavior, and not giving a fig for others has always been selfish behavior.

      5. JSPA*

        Yes, but so what? The AIDS epidemic has also officially been over for decades; HIV continues to spread (per, “An estimated 1.3 million individuals worldwide acquired HIV in 2022”) and those who don’t have access to treatment, still sicken and die.

        There’s plenty of space between “time for official declarations and political restrictions” and “time to put on a mask in a crowded place, if you’re coughing up a storm, or in any case, not mock those who have their on, as they likely have perfectly good reasons to do so, and in any case, it’s none of your onions.”

          1. AQu33n*

            On the contrary, people say that all the time, at least in the gay male community. Lots of guys think that because of PrEP and really effective antiretrovirals, they don’t need to worry about getting HIV even if they have unprotected sex with hookups. I think these guys are wrong, but they exist and they’re vocal about their beliefs.

            1. JSPA*

              PrEP is “doing something” though!

              Like, I don’t care if you mask or stay home or go snog an entire team’s worth of like-minded, low-risk people; but don’t go sharing it with me, or with anyone else who hasn’t volunteered to share your fluids.

            2. Nobby Nobbs*

              And that’s how we get syphilis outbreaks two decades into the twenty-first century! (Well, not the only reason, but it’s certainly not helping.)

          2. Velociraptor Attack*

            You would be very wrong about that. There’s a reason the highest rates of diagnosis are in younger men, there is definitely a resistance to condoms. Part of my work deals with HIV and I was in a meeting earlier this week where someone mentioned specifically that promoting condoms is flat-out not going to work as a prevention method.

            1. John Smith*

              I’ve even heard someone say they’d rather have HIV than diabetes. it seems the phrase “Don’t die of ignorance” needs to be reintroduced.

      6. almost retired*

        But why would you get ill when you didn’t have to be? Masks are protective, and I’d hope from COVID we have learned not to go to work when having a contagious disease. All those folk with Long Covid I’m sure wished they were not infected; in the UK we are giving booster vaccine shots to the over 65s, because of the possible deleterious effects of getting COVID. So, not totally over yet at least in practical medical terms. I don’t see anything wrong with moving or putting on a mask to avoid getting infected with a cold, flu, COVID, etc.

      7. Hannah Lee*

        Just as there are people who submit paperwork at work with boogers on it, either thoughtlessly, because it doesn’t register as gross, unsanitary to them or purposefully, because they … have issues, there are people who are going to cough, sneeze, spit in crowded places.

        Just because those people exist doesn’t me the rest of us have to lower our standards of expected hygiene, sanitation and norms to meet them. Facts don’t cease to exist because we choose to ignore them: no matter what government agencies or certain talking heads are saying, in many places COVID *is* circulating, cases have been rising recently, people are still getting very sick from it, still developing long-COVID which can be life changing, or yes even dying from it.

        With that backdrop, people who cough, sneeze in crowded public spaces without covering their noses and mouths can get over themselves if someone near them masks up or moves away.
        Personally I don’t recommend approaching, directly addressing the coughing, sneezing person at all, but instead just doing whatever I need to to reduce my risk of illness in the moment. The only time I’d address it is if I were the person’s parent, close friend or work supervisor.

        1. Lydia*

          I just have to say, I could not read the booger question and so far, I’ve had to slide right on past any comments talking about it. This is not to say don’t mention it; it is to say of all the things I’ve read on this site and watched on YouTube, for whatever reason, this is where I Cannot.

      8. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Hahaha – yes, I’m aware many people are entitled jerks who will cough all over you and then pretend it’s cool because giving someone a contagious illness is okay as long as it’s not COVID (that they haven’t bothered to test for because the pandemic is over, therefore there are no contagious diseases anymore). Not sure what makes that European. There are plenty of assholes in the US.

    3. MK*

      To be fair, the whole “they would have thought me rude” is complete speculation on OP’s part; there is no indication the cougher would have taken offense (or even noticed) OP putting on a mask, moving their chair or leaving (especially the last).

    4. bamcheeks*

      I don’t have any sympathy for people who get arsey about other people masking, but I do have a bit of sympathy for public coughers! My partner’s had a couple of days off this week with a horrible cold, and the fatigue and everything have cleared up now, but she’ll have the cough for another two or three weeks because that’s what she DOES. Coughs always settle on her chest for a week or three. She’s done covid tests and she’s got a mask with her, but I’m sure she’s going to get dirty looks from people who think she shouldn’t be out in public but it’s just not possible to stay at home for three weeks!

      1. JSPA*

        Eh, if they’re not adequately comforted by her mask, they should be pulling out their own mask, no?

        I’d bet that some of them look annoyed because they’re annoyed at themselves, for not having a mask along, as they realize that this is the third loudly coughing person they’ve encountered in the store.

        Similarly, it just doesn’t do to assume that people who cough when they see you in a mask are mocking you; I’ve felt mocked, only to then find the same people, outside, coughing up a storm.

        Policing and being policed are so emotionally draining. I have found that resolving to focus on my own mask status (and my own work / shopping / other persuits) is really the only psychologically robust path for me, long-term.

        1. Observer*

          Policing and being policed are so emotionally draining. I have found that resolving to focus on my own mask status (and my own work / shopping / other persuits) is really the only psychologically robust path for me, long-term.

          I suspect that a lot of people would find this to be true if they just tried it.

          You simply cannot control other people’s behavior. So it’s wise to focus on your own.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            This 100%. I spend far too much energy on things that I can’t affect, rather than focusing on the things that are within my power to change.

      2. Kara*

        Just as a heads up, word is that Eris, the newest variant, may not test positive on a home test for a good 7 days past symptom start. So you’re not necessarily in the clear even if you test negative.

        1. JSPA*

          Interesting! Anyone got a decent primary source on that? I’m not loving the secondary sources google is showing me.

      3. Caramel & Cheddar*

        I had a persistent cough for weeks and weeks after having COVID, so I am definitely not saying people should never cough in public! It can and will happen, but it’s definitely up to the cougher not to feel put out by a stranger assuming they might be sick.

    5. Blackbeard*

      LW #3: eeeewwwwwww.

      I think “with an employee I’ve had for 10 years” should be read “with an employee who is 10 years old” :)

    6. DLW*

      Could not agree more. For the love of all the universe people, if you’re coughing there should be a mask on your face! Has the pandemic taught us nothing?!?

    7. infopubs*

      Back in 2021, I stood up and left a very small waiting area when someone started coughing. She chased me out into the hallway to yell at me, telling me she didn’t have Covid. I got my first Covid infection 3 days later. So yeah, worse case scenario: yelled at for being “impolite” by the infectious person who most likely made me sick.

    8. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Exactly. And if that person tries to start an argument, just don’t react. It takes two people to have an argument.

    9. Software Engineer*

      OP, you might think you’re low-risk, but that will be cold comfort if you end up with Long COVID. You might want to consider masking in crowded situations like the one you described.

    10. HannahS*

      I’m back to masking with the covid surge and flu season coming, but over the summer I wasn’t. I’m the person who’s usually coughing all the time–asthma means I get wicked post-viral coughs for weeks and weeks on end without necessarily being contagious. I would never be offended if someone put a mask on around me. It wouldn’t be very nice to make a snarky comment or give me a dirty look, but just putting on a mask isn’t a directed gesture.

      1. HannahS*

        Oh, and also, I often would say to people, “I’m so sorry, I’m not sick, I just have asthma and it’s really dry in here.” And they would say, “Oh, ok” and they could either mask or not, and it was fine (and for context, this is mostly all healthcare workers talking to each other at work.) Just adding that to offer the perspective that I was trying to reassure people, but certainly no intent to making them feel bad or defensive. If someone says that to you, you can just say, great, hope you feel better soon and put your mask on anyway.

    11. Boof*

      I feel like there is a roll for that stage left wooden hook to come out and reel him in like they used to have in cartoons… Seriously, perhaps not the kindest thought but my first reaction is “what a selfish windbag!” (it’s a recurring thing and he gets mad when told to keep it within the requested time limits? Blarf I couldn’t work with someone so addicted to the spotlight and disrespectful of other people’s time)

    12. Holmes, MD*

      COVID is no longer pandemic, but agreed that anyone with upper respiratory symptoms should be wearing a mask in public and has no right to be offended if other people move away or mask.

      1. TrixM*

        It doesn’t matter if it’s epidemic, pandemic or endemic – it’s out there in most places and we can catch it. As a colleague in my team reported she has approx 30 mins ago.

        Then there are all the other things you can catch, as you observe.

      2. FrivYeti*

        Anyone with *lungs* should be wearing a mask in public right now, if you’re in the northern hemisphere. An estimated 1 in 30 people in the United States have Covid on any given day, and an estimated 1 in 10 of them are going to have lifelong complications. We’re barreling towards a polio-level health emergency in the next decade because everyone decided that if it wasn’t going to kill them immediately, it wasn’t a problem.

    13. The Shenanigans*

      Even if it wasn’t a tripledemic, It is STILL okay to protect yourself from others in public. Moving seats or masking is a very non-threatening way to do that. People who take it personally are, frankly, unhinged.

    14. Don’t Cough On Me*

      TOTALLY! It’s so frustrating that the LW feels conflicted about being rude to someone BEING COMPLETELY gross and rude. I get it. But don’t be afraid to take up your own space. You have a right to not get sick. I probably would have put on my mask and glared but I’m a petty B.

  2. RedinSC*

    Oh dang, 3-4 minutes turns into 45….I’d be so over that.

    I would give the event people a heads up, let them take the heat for getting your boss off stage (unless it’s your event, in which case just plan for your boss to go over, by a lot and schedule things appropriately)

    1. Jackalope*

      If nothing else, I would also tell them that if the boss starts talking that doesn’t mean that the food can’t come out. Many events I’ve been to have people serving food while other stuff is happening, and there’s no reason people can’t eat while he’s spouting off.

      1. AcademiaNut*

        Yeah, I was thinking warning the organizers so they know to serve food and then have the speech while people eat. It will still be a less than pleasant dinner, but at least people will get warm food, and it will finish on time. And if he keeps talking, people can choose to discreetly go to the washroom and forget to come back without skipping dinner.

        1. LifeBeforeCorona*

          Years during my first year with an organization there was a fundraising dinner. After dinner the director began his speech. he started with family slides and it went downhill from there, he didn’t touch on the purpose of the dinner until an hour in. Because of the setup of the room, it was very obvious when someone left because they had to squeeze past other guests. When he finally finished people literally stampeded out of the room. It was so bad that the next year almost no one responded to an invite and the fundraiser was cancelled. Sadly, there was no one with any standing to tell him to keep it short and sweet.

        2. LW1*

          Unfortunately the 45 minute dinner was a buffet style one, but it may help hosts consider how the food comes out in future.
          He’s only been here a few months and it took a while to twig that this is just how he speaks and not a couple of instances of mistakenly running overtime.

          1. BatManDan*

            If I were attending, I’d stand up and help myself to the buffet; betcha $100 others would have followed suit. In any situation, you have my attention for exactly as long as we agreed to going in. I don’t care what you are talking about, once your time is up, my head and my heart are moving on to the next thing.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        As an evsnt organiser, this is what I would do, because I want people to get their food! (Luckily, the only speaker at our annual dinner is our director, who always keeps it to 5 minutes max.)

        It’s definitely a good idea to let event organisers know that your boss runneth over so that they can factor it into their schedule. If I know that a speaker’s talks run long, I’d put them as the last speaker of the day, so the audience can just leave if they have to.

        1. Lauren19*

          Speechwriter here. Presumably the speaker does have a point they want to get across. However something that long — especially unscripted, rarely if ever gets the point across. Good feedbak to the event organizers is what you took away as the main points, or if the takeaway is confusion share that. If the feedback is tied to the speaker’s goals rather than them as a person, they *may* be more receptive.

      3. Observer*

        If nothing else, I would also tell them that if the boss starts talking that doesn’t mean that the food can’t come out.

        Very much this.

        Honestly, you should not have needed to tell them. No excuses for your boss, but he’s not the first person to do this, and he won’t be the last. Good events organizers know that, and bring out the food anyway for the most part. But since it turns out that on at least one occasion they didn’t do that, be proactive.

        1. Kermit's Bookkeepers*

          Former caterer here. Unfortunately we really do need to rely on the client to let us know if this is the preference; the industry standard is *not* to distract from the program (especially important speakers like CEOs) with food service.

          1. Observer*

            Former caterer here

            I get that. It’s not the caterer the OP needs to talk to, it’s the event organizer. *They* are the ones who could – and should- make the call.

            1. Lydia*

              Yes. There’s nothing wrong with the event organizer letting the caterer know the CEO tends to run his mouth endlessly and it’s likely they’ll get the okay to serve dinner while he’s speaking. And then the event organizer can do that when the time comes.

      4. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        Maybe if he sees wait staff moving about, he might get the hint and stop talking. Or he will realize no one is paying attention to him because they are eating so he stops talking.

        1. MassMatt*

          Blowhards like this are almost always completely oblivious to any social cues. The boss in this story is getting angry at his staff directly telling him to shorten his talks. Eye rolls, coughs, and staff moving around are not going to get him to shut up. He’s going to talk right through dinner, or might even act indignant that people were “distracted” from his spellbinding oratory.

          1. mb*

            He can be indignant – or maybe when he sees the food coming out he’ll wrap it up because he wants to be able to eat his own dinner while it’s still warm. Or not. Whatever – if it happens a few times he’ll either learn to cut down on how long he speaks, or he’ll stop speaking altogether – either way, a win.

      5. K*

        If the goal here is to not piss off the boss this will not work. I would not be pleased if I was giving a speech and dinner started to get served. That can be quite loud and I would feel disrespected. I think it’s best to actually be honest with the guy about his lack of concision.

      6. goddessoftransitory*

        This. Why jam up everyone’s meal because of a speaker? It’s obvious from the setup that people are there to eat–if the boss wants all eyes on him he should rein in his remarks.

    2. Mister_L*

      Years ago I learned of a figure of speech in my native language I hadn’t heard before.
      “Sprich über was du willst, aber sprich nicht über 5 Minuten”.
      The pun unfortunately goes missing in translation, but it roughly means: “Speak about what you want, but don’t speak longer than 5 minutes.”

      1. Your Former Password Resetter*

        For the non-German speakers, a literal translation is something like: “Speak over what you want, but don’t speak over 5 minutes”

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        There is an old church saying: “No one was ever converted more than fifteen minutes into a sermon.”

        1. Kaiko*

          A minister friend of mine says a service should be a story, three songs, and a prayer. I think about that often.

        2. Donkey Hotey*

          Nods in agreement and wanders off singing “Church” by Lyle Lovett (a song about the perils of an over-long sermon).

      3. münchner kindl*

        Actually it’s a variant of advice ascribed to Martin Luther to aspiring (protestant) pastors on preaching – Preach about (what topic) you like, but not about (longer) 20 minutes”.

        1. Richard Hershberger*

          Fascinating. I knew a version of the adage, but not that it (allegedly) came from Luther. This surprises me, as we Lutherans tend to be very aware of this sort of thing.

      4. Martin*

        The one I heard is
        “A speech should have a good beginning, and a good ending, and put them as close together as possible”.

      5. Donkey Hotey*

        I’d always heard that a speech should be like a skirt: “long enough to cover the subject but short enough to keep it interesting.”

        (I first heard this, as a man, while performing Shakespeare in a tunic and hose.)

      1. GammaGirl1908*

        Or go full award show, and slowly lower the microphone, turn out the lights, and start loudly playing Hit the Road, Jack.

        Ha, poor Jennifer Coolidge described it as feeling like a giant hook suddenly came out and hauled her off the stage.

      2. Phony Genius*

        There’s a ceremony for dubious achievements in science called the Ig Nobel Prizes. During the ceremony, if somebody’s speech runs too long, they have a solution called Miss Sweetie Poo. She is an 8-year-old girl who is sent onto the stage to repeatedly announce, loudly, “Please stop, I’m bored!” You can find a YouTube video of this in action. (I don’t want the link to get stuck in moderation.)

        Another (non-serious) solution to consider: trap door.

        1. MassMatt*

          At The Apollo Theater, they used to have a guy dressed as a vagrant called Porto Rico come out to dispatch bad acts (as though the famously vocal audiences there were not enough!). His antics included the well-known hook, but also included chasing them off with a chair, or playing “taps” on a bugle. Sometimes he would stage elaborate executions with blindfolds, last cigarettes, and a firing squad.

          Many a variety show or evening of speakers would be improved by a Porto Rico.

      3. umami*

        I have a new boss, and he is a TALKER. We had a welcome event for him the other day, and the entire program was supposed to be no more than 20 minutes (to include a couple of other speakers and a short video). Well, he talked for about 15 minutes when I started inching toward the stage and stood off to the side a bit to subtly catch his attention, and he said, ‘oh, I guess that’s my signal to wrap up!’ And then spent about another 15 minutes talking lol. It was fine because the event was fairly informal and specifically in his honor, but for anything else I will definitely signal him to wrap up sooner because he really does just lose track of time. At least he is an engaging speaker, and people really do like him.

      4. WillowSunstar*

        They could also do what Toastmasters does at district-level events and start clapping the person down. Designate someone as the official event timer for this to work.

    3. Miette*

      As I person who manages these kinds of things for clients, I can’t agree more. Depending on the level of sophistication/tech at these events, the planners can do a few things to keep him on time: remind him of the run of show when he arrives/before he goes on, include a countdown timer for him to see how much he’s got left/gone over in his remarks; have the event’s MC/host intervene subtly by standing in his line of sight and gesturing for him to finish.

      That said, if the guy is truly a Big Wig (I’m talking they’re a US Senator or similar), then there’s not much more that can be done in the moment. Some of them are pros and some of them just drone on and on. In that case, Alison’s advice to try to find a peer to bring this up would be a kindness to all.

      One more thing: there’s nothing wrong with serving food during remarks. I would advise the event organizers that this guy will drone on, and if they can’t/won’t try to reel him in, they should plan to let food be served. Or better yet–serve the food at the top of the program and include the remarks later. Perhaps if your boss sees people getting up and leaving as he’s droning on, he’ll take the hint faster.

      1. Phony Genius*

        I agree with your point about Big Wigs. If the organization whose event it is needs the speaker more than they need him, such as a case where he’s an elected official who has control over funding for the organization, then you have to let him speak or risk consequences for the entire organization. So the organizers/host may not want to step in as suggested.

        The LW does not say what their personal role is in this. If they’re getting angry reactions from organizations on one side, and from their boss on the other when they relay this information, the only way out of the situation is to get out and look elsewhere.

      2. umami*

        Yes to all of this! We’ve already ordered a countdown timer for my boss (I commented on him above) because reviewing the run of show and getting in his line of sight didn’t really work. He’s the president, so yeah, there’s no peer or higher to bring it up to him. I can’t imagine why anyone would think to hold the food until the remarks end, we say what time to serve and expect that to be done on schedule unless told otherwise!

        1. MassMatt*

          I can’t imagine this guy isn’t damaging the organization or himself with this. I mean Bill Clinton was famous for running long, but there’s only one Bill Clinton.

          Someone should have told the caterers to start serving the food.

          1. Miette*

            He not only runs long, he’s typically late. Meanwhile, you and your guests are sitting around, afraid to leave because there’s secret service all over the place. Its so fun! /s

          2. JustaTech*

            I was thinking of Bill Clinton too!
            There was a great story about how he was a guest on the NPR news quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me and he was supposed to be flying somewhere (he had called in to the show) and his handlers were begging the host to get him off the phone because air traffic control needed the runway like *now* and the poor host is like “how am *I* supposed to stop Bill Clinton from talking?! I’ve already said goodbye three times!”

    4. Venus*

      I’d be tempted to tell him he always has 5 minutes, especially if he’s changing that to 45 mins. He thinks 20 mins means 90? Time to lie because he can’t be trusted.

      I also agree with serving food during his talk and having him last.

      1. umami*

        Our congresswoman likes to come to our commencement ceremonies, and I always tell her staff she has 5 minutes. But she will definitely talk as long as she feels like (and at whatever point in the program she arrives lol). It’s become a running joke to see where we are going to slot her in any given year. She really likes me because I’m the one who introduces her and reads her (3-page) bio – the first year I did it, afterwards she thanked me for the wonderful introduction. I didn’t bother mentioning that her office provided the bio and said we were required to read it all!

      2. Donkey Hotey*

        There is no harm in that level of “petit mensonge.”

        Semi-related: When my uncle got married, I asked what time I should be there for photos. He looked at me and said 3:00. Apparently, he had told my mother 2:30, my aunt 2:00, and his parents 3:15. And we all walked in the door at 3:00.

    5. Auntie Social*

      Have him be the after-dinner speaker. He can ramble on (don’t let the hotel serve ice cream for dessert, it will be melted) and maybe he’ll notice when folks start walking out on his speeches.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Grrat idea! There are 3 advantages to making him the after-dinner speaker:
        1. Nobody goes hungry listening to him drone on.
        2. People can leave
        3. Some of the audience will be a few drinks in and won’t care.

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          Sorry for all my typos in this thread, I currently have Covid and it’s apparently messing up my proofreading abilities!

    6. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Was going to say the same thing. Let the organizers know and leave it to them to figure out what the plan is. Are they going to cut him off? Adjust the schedule on the fly? Tell him before he goes out that they really have to stick to the schedule because the next speaker has to leave on time?

      At the big conference in my field, the sessions each have 3-5 speakers in an hour-long slot. There’s a volunteer at the front timing things, and holding up coloured cards to alert the speaker about how much time they have left. I wouldn’t be surprised if the boss thinks everyone is *absolutely thrilled* to get more of his time. Something like this would at least be an indicator that this is not the case.

      Alternately, when he’s gone over, someone could shine a really bright light right at his face. That’ll make him want to leave the stage.

      1. LW1*

        Unfortunately the kind of events he speaks at don’t generally have time cards or bells or anything like that. It’s usually remarks with a couple of other speakers (although he’s usually the highest ranking) for an official opening ceremony, welcome dinner, or other event. It’s considered an honor to have him speak, so most hosts would have trouble doing a hard cut off.

        1. BatManDan*

          Personally, this sort of lack of awareness or consideration would prevent me from supporting his org / voting for him, regardless of party or cause. I’d actively campaign against him. If he’s that unaware, he can’t be good at a role that involves service to others. (Let’s all remember, they are elected SERVANTS, not elected LEADERS.)

          1. Sweet 'N Low*

            Makes me think about a politician client we had at my former print shop job. He sent us flyers to print, and apparently the file he sent us had a mistake in it. One side said “City Council”, the other side said “City Council at Large”. Apparently this mistake was so glaringly obvious that he was furious that we hadn’t noticed it, and he was a massive jerk about it. He was not kind to us.

            I looked up his website later, and I really liked the platform he was running on; he had a lot of really great, progressive views. Shame, because no way in hell would I vote for someone who treats service professionals like that.

    7. MassMatt*

      Schedule things appropriately: I would try some of the same techniques people use for chronically tardy friends and family members: If he has 45 minutes to speak, tell him he has 3-5. Never hold meals for him to finish talking. Schedule him last (so people can leave) and tell him it’s a place of honor.

      How is it that this blowhard keeps getting invited to speak anywhere? Even politicians and CEO’s get told to shut up. Are you working for Stalin?

    8. There You Are*

      I always wonder how “gets angry when people gently suggest a different course of action” people make into such high positions of power.

      Was everyone too afraid of them when they were a staff-level grunt to tell them to rein in the anger or they’ll never get promoted? Do these people always find jobs where anger [in men] is seen as a strength?

      It’s fascinating, from a psychological perspective, to imagine being the kind of person who believes that everything they do is 100% perfect and any perceived criticism of their behavior is deserving of an angry backlash.

      1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

        A lot of the time, they grew up rich or had access to money that got them into those positions of power. And some of the time, it’s just that the people around them are non-confrontational, or don’t want to deal with them and they just kept getting promoted up.

        1. MassMatt*

          I wonder this also, and think there are two main possibilities: They are adept at kissing up and kicking down, so no one above them ever has any idea they are like this. Or, as former Texas governor Ann Richards famously put it “He was born on third base and thinks he hit a home run”.

    9. Katherine*

      It’d be nice if the emcee at the next event would pounce the first time he comes up for air, walk onto the stage clapping, thank him sincerely for his remarks, and move on to the next thing. But you’d have to have a really good emcee for that.

    10. BatManDan*

      Yup. My advice is find whomever is running the sound board, let them know that you have their back, and tell them to kill the mic when the time is up! Have a handful of people that are in on the plan to jump to their feet and start applauding when the speaker pauses, realizing the mic is off, and presto! Speech over!

    1. High Score!*

      This! As an engineer, over noticed my best performing, sharpest colleagues tend to be socially awkward.

    2. HR Friend*

      Agree. LW5 doesn’t say what industry they’re in, but 100% this for technical roles. Proof of tech skills + work experience + how they talk about their approach to programming, problem solving, project management, adaptability, etc, = way more important than tailoring their application to a specific company.

      1. I Have RBF*


        My resume doesn’t brag about sales numbers or something unrelated to my technical skills. My resume is all about skills and what I’ve done with it. IT is usually a cost center, so I seldom have numbers on how much money I saved.

        In IT, if I do my job right, the C suite says “Things are running fine. What do I even pay you for?” If they are going off the rails, I hear “Our IT is a mess! What am I paying you for?” It’s a no win situation. I sure as hell don’t get brag numbers on how many outages I’ve prevented, because the whole idea of prevention is that they don’t exist to be counted!

        How do I know when I’m doing my job well? The tickets and questions I get are about improvements, upgrades, or other normal transitions, and most of my time is spent adding those “nice to have” things instead of always fighting fires. But most execs don’t know to look for that.

        I swear I could write a book on what execs should look for as a good IT Infrastructure department, good IT people, and how to evaluate them. But no one would publish it, because I’m not an IT manager in a Fortune 500 company.

    3. spcepickle*

      Do you think there is a way to tweak interviews that favor people who do well in your jobs but interview poorly? I am not having great success hiring winner lately and have been considering how to tweak my process.

      1. thelettermegan*

        I’ve found that for software engineering jobs, there’s a bit of a gap between what we do and what people think we do, and what skills actually matter in the job. This can translate into a lot of interview questions that have very little to do with the job itself.

        Since I come from an arts background, I often get tons of questions in interviews and from non-technical managers about how I bring creativity into my work. But this work to me is much more about organizational and logic skills. Dramatic plotlines and imaginative cryptoids are not going to make the electrons move faster, and my talents in that area are not going to make my job easier. I’m now at the point where if I hear that assertion, I just shut it down. There’s a lack of satisfaction from it, but I’d rather be known for skills that get me promotions and raises rather than unrelated undergraduate degrees.

        Meanwhile, what I’m usually looking for is a match of technical skills and needs. If you need advanced C++ skills immediately and I’m more intermediate in Python, we might get along great but I know you won’t hire me for that position. And for much of what I do, it doesn’t really matter what the company does or how. Software programming collapses all tasks into sets of functions, so whether it’s data mining for llama grooming or underwater basket weaving, the work remains about the same.

        The end result is that I’m rarely interested in a company’s clients or market share. I want to know about a team’s techstack and SDLC process. I think it’s easy to imagine how a recruiter might interpret that as disinterest or a lack of research, but I’m genuinely trying to meet you at information that isn’t readily available on the company website, and I won’t know if an opportunity is worth pursuing until I see a list of needed skills.

        You’ll want to look for gaps like that in your hiring procress. Ask your winners for a list of desired skills, interview questions and expected results, without bringing up the typical or corporate mandated questions. They might surprise you with their answers.

        If it’s anything technical, please remember that specificity is everything. We don’t want to waste the time of someone who writes acceptance tests if we really need someone who writes units tests, and vice versa.

        1. spcepickle*

          Thank you for taking time to write this! While I do like to ask people in the roll I am interviewing for to provide a list of skills they think are necessary – I had not through to ask them for their answers to interview questions.

        2. I Have RBF*


          What I look for in a job req in my field is 1) a description of the tech stack, 2) any items that are “must have”, and 3) what the mandate of the role is – is it QA, production support and maintenance, greenfield programming, software maintenance, purely architecture, or the proverbial small shop wearing all the hats.

          I might be strong in language A and weaker in language B, so if you really need A I might not be a fit, but if you need A, B and C, and C is the critical item, A and B are similar enough that experience in one makes picking up the other easier.

          When people get picky about programming languages though, I have to laugh. I’m a sysadmin more than I am a programmer, but I have still had experience with over 15 languages (macro, scripting and compiled) in the course of college and two careers. There are really only so many ways to write an if-then statement or a for loop, and all the rest is syntax details and punctuation. I’m at the point where, when looking at code, I often have to double check the specific language it’s in to debug it, because it all runs together. Google is my friend at time like that.

    4. Chauncy Gardener*

      100% this! We give technical skills tests and ask a lot of “what if” questions. Who cares if they speak in a monotone and don’t smile and are awkward?

    5. MigraineMonth*

      In contrast, I’ve always thought that the ability to communicate well makes me a better software developer. If you’re hiring for a role that talks to end-users and figures out project requirements, you need more than just technical skills.

    6. TrixM*

      As a former IT manager, I found that people who interviewed poorly were not great in the team. Sure, tons of introverts and so on, which is fine, but if you can’t engage in a polite way and discuss your skills, their relevancy in an understandable way, and how you deal with colleagues, that adds up as “poor” to me.

      Then again, anyone who claims they knew everything and that they “live for service!” (as someone interviewing as a senior sysadmin did once) comes off poorly too.

      But an interview is not the same as an application – I’m pretty picky about grammar, spelling, etc in my own life, but if they’ve done their application well enough to convey their skills, show an adequate understanding of the instructions and writing standard for the actual role, then I’m not much fussed.

  3. Zarniwoop*

    I think it’s weird and inappropriate. I also think it’s Not Your Problem. The risk/benefit balance of you trying to address it is not in your favor.

    Just have as little as possible to do with this guy going forwards now that you know what he’s like.

    1. MK*

      Why? It’s OP’s take of the situation that I find weird myself. To begin with, they seem to think the hiring manager contacting the person who referred OP for the job is inappropriate, somehow? I suspect it’s because OP is primarily thinking of this person as her friend, but that’s not her part in this; OP, if you were to substitute “my friend” with “the person who referred me for the job” in your story, would you find it equally inappropriate? Because it’s completely normal for the person who gave the referal to be contacted about the hiring process. I get the impression that OP is thinking of this person as her resource exclusively, but that’s not really how referals work.

      I also don’t understand what this talk about “back-channel” means; it sounds like a buzz word used to describe normal practices to make them sound cool (for the hiring manager) or underhanded (for the OP). They contacted the person who gave the referal for a reference, that’s simply a reference check. They asked for feedback from the person who gave the referal, that’s asking for feedback. They wanted the perspective of someone who was already involved loosely in the hiring process and knew the OP. And the objection about “privacy” is misplaced in my opinion, for the same reasons.

      1. BreadBurglar*

        same! I have referred people before and always get asked for info about the person when they decide to interview. I have firsthand knowledge of the person so can speak to why I think they would be good in the role.

        I think it might help to think of it like this: if you were applying to somewhere that someone in your network worked you would ask them for info about the workplace, people, culture, etc. This is the same in reverse. The employer knows this person knows and referred you so is asking for info.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          Alison suggests that due diligence before hiring should include talking to people who aren’t on the list of references. As long as you aren’t endangering their current employment or talking to their kindergarten teacher, I don’t see a problem with that.

          In this case, I would argue that the person who *refers you* is automatically a reference. That’s kind of the point of a referral!

      2. Seashell*

        I agree. What the LW described about the interview process did not seem weird at all to me. If you don’t want questions of the person referring you for a job, don’t let anyone refer you. It’s not like the hiring people can only speak to references you’ve approved of – if they know someone who knows you, they can ask that person’s opinion.

        1. Pastor Petty Labelle*

          They seem to think the hiring manager should only talk to them, not anyone else. Which is … odd. Of course, they are going to talk to others. They need to know information about what you are as an employee and no one is going to saying anything negative about their work ethic. Even if there is nothing bad there, people tend to shade things in the light most favorable to them. Hiring managers need to know without the personal shading.

          I don’t even thing the second message was that odd. They were trying to figure out if there is a problem with their hiring process to improve. So you ask around.

          OP, I think you need to recalibrate what you think goes on in the hiring process.

        2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Particularly if the person referring already has a strong professional relationship with the hiring manager. In any industry, people talk to each other. It would be inappropriate to share legitimately personal information, but unless the person referring shared things the LW told her in confidence, this isn’t that.

        3. ferrina*

          This was my take too!

          Like- it’s okay for LW to use their network to boost their application, but it’s not okay for the CEO to use their network to get feedback on candidates?

          Maybe there were different red flags about the CEO that the LW didn’t include, but nothing the LW wrote about struck me as inappropriate.

      3. Venus*

        Completely agreed. I would question the hiring manager’s competence if they didn’t talk to the friend because it’s such an easy way to get reliable info about OP. Using the term back-channel later may have turned OP off, but if they thought that reaching out to the friend in the first place was a red flag then it makes sense to view the second much more negatively.

      4. Sparkles McFadden*

        All of this sounds pretty normal to me. If you put someone’s name up for a job, you get called about that person. You might even get a call at each round of interviewing with more specific questions. In some cases, depending on the relationships, you may even get a call telling you they decided not to move forward with the person you recommended and why. If you’re vouching for the person you need to know if they lied about their credentials in the interview or if they were belligerent in the interview or some such thing that might reflect back poorly on you.

      5. umami*

        Yeah, generally those types of conversations work in a candidate’s favor, so I’m surprised LW finds it strange and inappropriate. Just this week I had a friend reach out about a position in my organization, and I passed his information on to the hiring manager so she could see if he fit what she’s looking for. She came back with some follow-up questions that I was able to help fill in some details on, which I would expect my friend to appreciate! If he gets an offer and decides against it, I wouldn’t be surprised if my colleague were to ask what might have gone wrong, because I would probably ask my friend too!

      6. Industry Behemoth*

        Yes. It would have been different if the hiring manager knew someone at OP 4’s current employer, and contacted them for a backdoor reference on OP.

        Now that would be a violation of privacy. Even if the two work in the same department, that doesn’t mean they’ve worked together or even know each other. So the friend can’t offer any insights into the candidate.

        Aside, sometimes the referring contact doesn’t know what the candidate’s like. They may only know that Sam’s looking for a job and Teapots Inc. has a vacancy. So they put the two in touch, and whatever happens afterward is between Sam and Teapots Inc.

        Something similar happened at PastJob, where Sam’s spouse was a colleague of the referring contact. I always wondered who the contact was really referring: Sam on their own merits, or Sam their colleague’s spouse.

        1. MigraineMonth*

          I don’t think the issue is the violation of privacy. I don’t think there’s an expectation of privacy at work that would stop someone from sharing what you’re like to work with. I think the real issue is that you can endanger the candidate’s job if you contact people at their current employer, and in cases where that isn’t the case (candidate is getting laid off/coming to the end of a contract/has told their company they’re job-searching) it would be fine.

          It is on the contact not to share truly private information such as health claims info.

    2. Ellis Bell*

      I had a former friend-referee get all up in arms because my interviewers asked her for dates of when I was working with her (I had passed them her name! I had given her a heads up!) and she felt this was them overstepping and invading my privacy to ask for such detail. In fact she went to our bosses (the very people I was did NOT want to hear about my job application) and told them not to reveal information to this org because they were such “intrusive questions”. It was just standard character and work reference chat! The OP reminded me of her a great deal.

    3. Zarniwoop*

      It’s the post-interview act of asking the friend why he didn’t take the job instead of asking him directly that I find odd.

      1. MK*

        I don’t think it’s that odd. Maybe slightly unusual, but they probably thought they would get a more direct answer from the person who referred the OP. And in any case it’s neither inappropriate or an invasion of privacy.

      2. Observer*

        It’s the post-interview act of asking the friend why he didn’t take the job instead of asking him directly that I find odd.

        Only a little. People pass on information about the results of referrals all the time. And it’s not uncommon to ask the source for some insight it the person does not work. Not *standard* but not really unusual.

      3. MigraineMonth*

        I assume the OP gave a vague reason for not taking the job, and the company hoped to get more frank answers from the person who referred them.

    4. Misty*

      I also think OP is weirder than the CEO.

      Someone interviewed with us and resume said they previously worked at former company if mine. I contacted my former coworker.

      Who thinks anyone is going to not get their own info?

      1. sdog*

        Agreed – I don’t find either to be odd. Maybe the wording after was a bit odd, with the “back channel feedback” but the fact that he asked seems perfectly fine to me. Makes me wonder a bit about the other “red flags” OP noticed during the interview process.

  4. PDB*

    People cough for many reasons other than illness. I do. I’ve had 2 operations on my throat, the anatomy is changed and sometimes I just cough. Sorry.

    1. Not A Manager*

      Some people cough for many reasons other than illness, but I’ll bet that more people cough because of illness. Maybe allergies. If someone is coughing a lot near me, it costs me nothing to assume they are ill. It could cost me greatly if I wrongly assume that they are not in fact ill.

      1. Roxaboxim*

        I agree that it costs you nothing to assume they are ill, so better to err on the side of caution. But I think people cough more often for other reasons. For example: smoker’s cough, dry air, swallowed wrong (this is something that happens more often the older you get and it is absolutely possible to choke on your own spit for no particular reason – super annoying).

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Swallowing wrong causes my worst and longest coughing fits! So annoying.

          I have a sensitive throat and have been coughing more since the wildfires this summer (we had some really bad haze during a time I had to WFH with no AC – it was brutal). But I am not at all offended when people mask up, even if my cough is purely due to something irritating my throat.

        2. lilsheba*

          that choking on your own spit (or salt or any liquid) happens to me all the time. But while it seems like forever that coughing is short-lived and tends to be more violent than coughing when you’re sick, which is going to last all day long.

          1. MigraineMonth*

            You would think after 40 years of practice I could manage breathing and also drinking water, but it all still goes wrong 1% of the time. If I slow down and concentrate on not choking, it happens even more often.

            At this point, I think user error is inevitable and something should be done about the design flaw of using the trachea for both air and liquids.

        3. Lily Rowan*

          When I recently had a non-sickness coughing fit in public, I immediately got up so I could finish coughing away from people, because I know it’s a concern!

          But you can’t do that when it’s a chronic non-illness cough, I get that.

      2. short'n'stout'n'masked'n'public*

        I’m taking a medication which causes coughing as a side-effect. I would never be offended by someone near me putting on a mask.

        I do mask in public and in my workplace, not only because of my cough, but because I feel safer that way, and I encourage anyone around me to do what they need to do to also feel safe.

        1. Irish Teacher*

          I agree. I have sinus issues and sometimes get a cough or other symptoms. If they are bad, I now check my temperature and assuming it’s normal, which is nearly always is, I mask in public. If I have a temperature or if I have any symptoms that go beyond my usual sinus problems, I obviously take greater precautions (covid test, remaining home, etc), but thankfully, this is very rare because I don’t get sick often and it almost always is just my sinus problems.

          But I wouldn’t be offended if somebody put on a mask. Why would I be? It’s not an insult to me in any way.

    2. Jennifer*

      we’re on the back end of a respiratory pandemic that killed many of our loved ones, so surely you won’t be offended if someone puts on a mask when you cough? It’s not personal.

      1. SaeniaKite*

        Especially because there isn’t the moral judgement attached to that that the suspected ill person sometimes thinks there is. No-one thinks you’re bad or dirty or it’s you’re fault you are ill. They just don’t want to get ill too!

        1. Bit o' Brit*

          The reason this comment section is going to be so defensive about coughing in public while not actually sick is precisely because there is now a moral judgement, thanks to the pandemic. We’ve seen it over and over people being called stupid and selfish for leaving their homes while sick, and not necessarily incorrectly when those sick people have gone on to spread covid.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Eh, as a very Covid cautious person who is fed up with the current denialism, I’m also aware that sick leave policies in the US are basically nonexistent. The people I see coughing in public may literally have no other choice.

            It’s not their leaving the house or coughing that I have a problem with; it’s doing so unmasked. Even then, there are some employers (like In-N-Out in some states) that started penalizing employees for masking as soon as they were legally allowed to.

            That being said, when people who are out but clearly NOT at work or an essential activity are coughing/sneezing unmasked….yeah. I don’t think I’ll ever understand the people who see their only options as “full lockdown, never leaving the house” or “living your life” without regard for who you endanger in the process. You can do SO MANY “living your life” activities with a mask on!!! Make it make sense.

    3. Mackenna*

      I’ve had issues with dusty or dry air in a conference room before, I started coughing and just could not stop! I was not illness or anything, I just had a tickle in my throat that I could not stop. There was no water left. I was extremely grateful when the lady next to me tapped me on the elbow and held out a packet of lozenges. I often have something like this in my work handbag for exactly this reason – you never know when they will come in handy. It is also a less accusatory way of dropping a hint to the person, while offering a potential solution at the same time, if you were to offer them a lozenge with your mask firmly in place.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        “It is also a less accusatory way of dropping a hint to the person…”

        This is an odd read on the situation. Wearing a mask isn’t a hint at anything. Person Alpha knows when they are coughing. Person Gamma can decide whether they want to wear a mask; it’s not hinting or suggesting anything about Person Alpha.

        It was kind of the person to offer you a lozenge, but what was she hinting at or accusing you of?

      2. Katara's side braids*

        “Less accusatory” than what? Putting on a mask and/or moving away aren’t an “accusation” of anything.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

      If someone is coughing or sneezing repeatable near me I’m inclined to find a mask, because even if it’s not a symptom of infection your mouth and nose contain germs 100% of the time.

      It’s not a statement of whether I think the other person is dirty or ill or rude – it’s just I really don’t want any infections.

    5. Not your typical admin*

      Frequent cougher because of allergies here. Whenever the seasons change, I have about 3 weeks where I have constant sinus drainage which results in lots of coughing. Especially if I eat something dry, it can last for several minutes. I keep water, and cough drops with me; and try to excuse myself if it gets bad. I would never be offended at someone who puts a mask on. The only thing that has ever upsets me is when people assume I’m contagious and I get dirty looks or rude comments.

      1. Seashell*

        You could potentially have your sinus problem AND be contagious and not know it. It would be helpful to wear a mask in public during that time, so people don’t think you’re transmitting something to them from all the coughing and so you actually don’t.

        1. JSPA*

          I also find that a really well-fitted N-95 cuts my seasonal allergies down dramatically, at least if I also run an air purifier at home overnight, so that I don’t start the day already dripping and snorting. (The air purifier also seems to help the leaf-mold-allergic cat in spring and fall, so I’m pretty sure it’s not pure placebo effect.)

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Yes, absolutely! I generally only mask indoors, but I did try wearing my KF94 on some recent outdoor walks in pollen-heavy areas, and it was a game changer. So much more pleasant both during and after.

          2. ferrina*

            I’ve got pollen allergies, and I found that just wearing a cloth mask outdoors for those months cuts my symptoms dramatically. I’m actually a functional person in the spring! I didn’t need the daily allergy meds anymore! I can – gasp!- go outside!

            It’s the best!
            *usual caveat that this may not work for everyone, results may vary or be non-existent

          3. J*

            I realized all my allergies disappeared in 2020 because I was masking everywhere. People will swear they are just coughing because of allergies but don’t take the ease of mitigating the allergies.

        2. Kara*

          Been there, did that, and never did find out what happened to the coworker I’d worked alongside and accidentally exposed. I’d thought my asthma had just flared up a little. Nope. My employer turned out after the fact to have been hiding the fact that employees were dropping like flies, so i don’t even have the comfort of knowing that no news is good news.

          And speaking of asthma, definitely seconding that masks help A Lot with seasonal allergies and asthma.

    6. JSPA*

      You’re in good company. People have not stopped having lung cancer, COPD, smoker’s cough, allergies, reflux, or any of the other things that always made people cough!


      1. do you get bent out of shape if other people mask around you, potentially in response?

      2. if you’re feeling even a bit more under the weather than usual, do you mentally allow for the possibility that you could have both your regular cough AND something communicable, and react accordingly?

      “I cough” isn’t a problem. “I can’t possibly have a spreading cough, because I have a chronic cough,” in contrast, can be (or can become) a problem. But only if you choose to make it so.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        Right? Pre-COVID in my office I was in the middle of three Big Sneezers who never stifled or covered their sneezes at all, and they would all insist “it’s just allergies!” And my thought process was always ‘but what if you also have something that could make someone else sick?’ Like RSV or whooping cough (pertussis) aren’t always that noticeable in adults (with healthy immune systems) but could be deadly to young children.

        Influenza is asymptomatic but transmissible for a day or two prior to actually showing symptoms. And we know that COVID can be asymptomatic.

        If you are showing symptoms of illness, it is not rude for others to consider that you may be ill. And it’s in your best interest (and others) to do what you can to mitigate those symptoms.

        I have allergies, too. And I’m always hit harder than the average person in terms of long-term coughing/throat issues when I get any kind of respiratory virus (cold/influenza/etc.), so I got used to covering coughs/sneezes, doing handwashing, and carrying tissues and throat lozenges. I sneeze hard but can stifle 99% of them down to a tiny little * snerk * sound. And when I was in that office and had a coughing fit due to inhaling a bit of beverage accidentally, I immediately covered my mouth and nose and fled into the hallway so that I would not cough everywhere among my coworkers.

    7. Dr. Rebecca*

      I mean, so long as you cover your mouth (unfortunately not a given these days…) then we’re good!

    8. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      And if you’re unable to stop during a presentation, then what? Do you excuse yourself or keep coughing? Do you do anything about how your cough affects others or do you respond “too bad, sometimes I just cough”?

    9. Salsa Your Face*

      Similarly, I often end up with a cough that lingers for 6-8 weeks after getting sick, long after I’m otherwise recovered. I do everything I can to reduce coughing in public, including taking prescription and over the counter cough suppressants, using lozenges, and even an inhaler, but nothing really stops it other than time. As much as I would like to avoid coughing around others, I simply can’t lock myself away for two months when the cold itself only lasts a few days.

    10. umami*

      Yeah, I tend to cough a lot, especially when I’ve been running a lot outdoors. But the act of coughing still spreads germs whether I think I am ill or not, so I totally get it when people are leery of being around me when coughing.

      1. MigraineMonth*

        This is a good point. Even things that aren’t symptoms of illness, such as not washing your hands or spitting in public, are still vectors of transmission. We’re germy critters, even when we aren’t sick!

    11. ferrina*

      But how would I, a stranger, know your medical history? People that cough for other reasons can also cough because they are sick. As Not A Manager said, “If someone is coughing a lot near me, it costs me nothing to assume they are ill. It could cost me greatly if I wrongly assume that they are not in fact ill.”

      My kid coughs in dry air. I have taken to carrying masks everywhere, and if he starts coughing, we put on our masks (me in solidarity). That way we signal to people that we know what it looks like and we care about their health- I’ve noticed people start to glare, realize that we were wearing masks, and sort of shrug. Yes, it might be unnecessary, but wearing a mask in a store is a really, really small cost for helping people be more aware of public health and feel safer. (In the office, I don’t mask in my personal desk space, do mask in the kitchen, then may or may not in meetings, depending who I’m meeting with). Plus in the off-chance that it’s not what we think it is and actually is a cold, we minimize the spread.

    12. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      I’ve had an intermittent cough since a case of covid in 2021. As far as I know, I haven’t had anything infectious since–but people with chronic coughs are as likely as anyone else to have an asymptomatic respiratory infection. And a cough, regardless of its cause, will propel viruses and bacteria further than breathing quietly while reading a book.

      I wear a mask in public indoor spaces (like buses and supermarkets) mostly for my own safety–one case of covid was more than enough. That mask also protects people around me, if I have asymptomatic covid or flu, or am just coming down with an ordinary cold.

      The more people go unmasked while coughing, the greater the risk of transmitting a virus. I don’t enjoy masking, even with the most comfortable N95 I’ve found. But I like breathing, and not being hospitalized.

  5. AcademiaNut*

    With cover letters – if there are a lot of applicants resumes at a ver similar resume, or if an applicant has context to explain (like how they kept up skills during an extended gap, or why they’re applying for a job that they are, on paper, over qualified for), then not having a decent cover letter can push them from the interview list to not considered. But if an applicant has a resume that’s head and shoulders above the rest, or the number of applicants is very low, it has less of an effect.

    1. Snow Globe*

      One thing to consider – if the job posting specifically instructs candidates to submit a resume and cover letter and they don’t include a cover letter, then you do have one piece of valid information about the candidate – they aren’t great at following written instructions.

    2. Starsky and Pooch*

      I am wondering if this person is using LinkedIn’s “Easy Apply,” because that might explain why they’re getting so many resumes without cover letters. If you are doing this, please don’t. A lot of people use the “Easy Apply,” thinking they don’t need to do their due diligence like they normally would and just hit submit.

      1. Indeed Lurker*

        Currently job-hunting here. Not every job posting on LinkedIn/Indeed allows for you to use the “easy apply”/quick auto-fill option. I have seen many job postings that allow you to use the “easy apply”, but say in the description something along the lines of “Please fill out our application at”. This seems like an oversight/error in using the platform on the employer end, but it can be confusing. The majority of job postings state “Cover letter: Optional”.

        In this job search, I have applied to 40+ jobs, mostly through LinkedIn/Indeed. About half of the 40+ jobs did not respond to my application in any way. Another job that required a cover letter took literally 3 months to send me a rejection email, with no other communication in between. With this abysmal response rate, it is hard for me to wrap my head around writing an individualized cover letter for each job I apply to– so I only write them when they are explicitly stated to be required. If I were writing detailed cover letters for each job application, I don’t think I’d find a job for years.

  6. Clare*

    LW#1, is there any chance it would be possible to just give people a warning? To maybe explicitly tell them to ask him for a 5 minute speech if they want an hour, a three minute speech if they want 45, and a couple of quick sentences if they want 30 minutes? I know it’s very much not ideal, but sometimes one just has to work around powerful people like that. Of course that does rely on somehow getting to people before they ask him to talk which that might be impossible. But it might solve, say, 20% of cases. Better than nothing.

    1. LW1*

      Thank you, I think that’s what we might have to start doing. We were hoping to keep it internal and sort things out before he got up to the podium so as to not look like there is disharmony in the office, but I think we may need to start very politely mentioning that his speeches tend to run long. Often the requests come to us via email, so generally there is opportunity to jump in before the request reaches him.

      1. Dog Child*

        I don’t think mentioning it to event organisers would give any impression of ‘disharmony’. As a prior event organiser, this is just prudent information about an important person’s quirks.

        1. Dog Child*

          *Just wanted to add to that: it doesn’t suggest disharmony if you present it in a neutral, matter-of-fact way. If you seem frustrated or exasperated, or even (overly) apologetic then that might suggest an internal problem because it’ll seem like you’re struggling to work with him.

          But, oh by the way, VIP has a tendency to overrun on his speeches/remarks. He gets quite passionate about the topic and loses track of time. We will, of course, work towards your time limit in our preparation but you may need budget reserve time for that or make timeline adjustments accordingly.

          1. Antilles*

            I don’t think that second paragraph is anywhere close to conveying the scope of things here. When me-the-organizer asks for 5 minutes of remarks and you say “budget reserve time”, I’m thinking that he might add an extra few minutes, not 45 minutes.
            And when you’re saying “timeline adjustments”, I’m going to assume that means maybe needing to shuffle around some gaps in the schedule, not canceling the main content of the event (!).

            1. Venus*

              Given that the boss is known for being angry, I think in this case if there is a chance that boss would see the emails then it would be prudent to be more vague in an email and then have a phone conversation to clarify.

        2. Your Former Password Resetter*

          I would also be very clear on how much he runs over, preferably with examples. Since this seems pretty extreme even for an enthusiastic talker.

      2. The Prettiest Curse*

        As someone who organises events for a living, please don’t worry about giving the wrong impression! Lots of speakers have their quirks (or just strong preferences) and it’s always better to know about this type of thing in advance so that we can plan around it.

      3. GammaGirl1908*

        This doesn’t seem like disharmony at all; just letting them know the reality of what they’re dealing with. In fact, it sounds like you all are presenting a united front in terms of knowing your boss and what he’s bringing to the table, and you are providing helpful information to people who are asking him to speak. If I were an event organizer, I would want to know this.

        Ha, apparently it is a running joke in the White House press pool that different presidents hold press conferences of completely different lengths, regardless of their schedule or the relative depth of the topic at hand. Apparently Bill Clinton in particular was extremely famous for keeping them all there for hours and loving the sound of his own voice no matter the topic, whereas other presidents famously kept it tight and got in and got out so fast they barely got to ask questions.

      4. almost retired*

        At academic conferences where speakers go over long, we have 5 minutes left, 2 minutes left, 1 minutes left, and time up signs which we hold up to the speaker, and if that doesn’t work, say gently, thanks for your talk, but we are going to have to get to the next item on the program. Sometimes people get into what they are talking about and lose track of time.

        That is the gentle way. The nuclear option is to have an egg timer, which I obviously don’t suggest in this case. But my first conference, that is what the chair of the session had, and she did use it. I made pretty sure to be within time so I didn’t hear the dreaded ‘ding’!

        I mean, I know he is your boss, etc, but to keep talking when people’s food is getting cold shows a lack of empathy or self awareness.

        1. Venus*

          I worked with a guy who was well known for going over time by 20-30 minutes when we were given 15 minute slots at our yearly meeting (10 for presentation, 5 for Q&A). One year we finally had enough and implemented a very loud alarm that was used for everyone but only needed for him. My other coworker found an app with the loudest, most obnoxious alarm because a simple ‘bing’ wouldn’t have slowed him. In the end he talked for 10 minutes and the alarm went off, then I asked if he wanted to continue or go directly to Q&A and he requested to continue his talk, at which point he continued on for another 5 minutes before being cut off again and we moved on to the next person. It was the best result we could have hoped for!

          1. WheresMyPen*

            We had people at uni who’d do presentations like this. We’d be told to prepare a 15 minute presentation, and the teacher would use a timer. When it went off, they’d signal to that person to wrap up, if they weren’t already. Some people would keep going for 5-1o minutes more, even if they’d been told to finish and everyone was visibly squirming and very bored.

            1. Jaunty Banana Hat I*

              That’s so wild to me–every time I had to do a presentation for class like that in uni, hitting the appropriate time within a certain margin (usually 2-3 minutes) was a part of the grade. Going over or under by a lot would hurt your grade.
              I hated it at the time, but it was really helpful in keeping me aware of how time passes when I’m speaking publicly/to a group of people when I have to do that for my job now.

        2. LW1*

          Unfortunately he doesn’t really speak at the type of events that would have signs or a timer to signal he’s running over. Think more like remarks at an opening ceremony. The only option would probably be the MC coming up to the podium, which would be quite obvious, and since the organisers have generally invited him to come the power dynamic may not be there.

      5. Me (I think)*

        “His speeches tend to run long” suggests that he goes a few minutes over the allotted time. You really ought to be clearer than that. “He loves to speak, and often goes for an hour and a half if you give him 20 minutes.” The organizers *need* to know this.

        1. Kay*

          This! I might not put it in writing but I would definitely make sure the organizers know what they were dealing with. Running over an hour is so outside the definition of “tend to run long” that most organizers aren’t going understand the scope of the problem if you don’t name it.

      6. Pastor Petty Labelle*

        I would be careful though. If the email chain just gets forwarded — which happens a lot — he might see your helpful suggestions to the organizers. He will not take your so-called interference well.

        1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

          Fair point. In this case, it might be best to call the person who reached out. Wouldn’t be such an issue if he wasn’t known to reacting poorly to this kind of thing. Which you are doing to protect his reputation.

      7. goddessoftransitory*

        I’d bet he’s already better known than he thinks for “running long.” Word definitely gets around in circles, especially locally.

        1. LW1*

          This is my hope, and fear. I don’t want us to not be invited to events, but at least if it gets around then people can plan accordingly in future.

  7. Coverage Associate*

    A professional event coordinator I know goes out and hugs the speakers that go on too long. Obviously, this isn’t possible with every event or every speaker, but it does show that industry professionals have strategies to handle the problem.

    I am not in that industry. To me, it would be very hard to cut off the very first speaker at an event, because then the person jumping in has no relationship with the audience, but I think professionals in the industry should either be the first speaker themselves or have a designated early speaker ready to cut off anyone who goes over.

    I don’t know a lot of politicians, but one did tell me about peppering one of her fundraising dinners with updates on the football score. She understood people attended to show their support, not learn the details of her platform.

    1. GythaOgden*

      Yeah, hugging the CEO here, already known for his volatile behaviour and who presumably has a quick trigger finger when it comes to firing decisions, sounds like a bad idea.

      You could do it with someone below you in rank but not above you. And this is coming from someone who was offered a job in person the other day and had to really stop myself from actively hugging my regional manager, who was offering me the job (I’ve been looking for two years now and it has been an exhausting process). I hug…but not my boss.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        I think this would be someone not in the company, someone from the outside group he’s speaking at. Obviously, hugging isn’t generally the way to go, but someone coming out smiling, with their arm outstretched for a handshake, saying, “Thank you so much for coming! Fergus McWindy, everyone!” might do the trick.

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      Our annual conference has chairs for each session. If someone was really droning on with no end in sight, we’d ask the chair to go on stage and say something like “Thank you, Professor X, for your insights into your relationship with Magneto. Does anyone have any questions?” The audience gets 2 questions, then it’s the next speaker.

    3. Anna*

      But there is usually some kind of moderator, no? Someone who says welcome to the audience, introduces the speaker, and then you get the first speaker. It would be weird (in my culture at least) to have the first speaker be the one who welcomes everyone.

      1. Antilles*

        Even if the first speaker IS the one welcoming everyone, there’s still some kind of event organizer who could (should) be willing to stand up at the back and wave a “time’s up” signal and then walk up to interrupt as needed with a “thanks for that introduction, everybody give a hand for Professor Flea, our next speaker is going to be Doctor Slash who’s going to talk about…”

      2. Baby Yoda*

        Maybe you could have the waiters serve at a certain time, even if he is still talking. Set the pace by starting to eat yourself so others will follow suit.

      3. umami*

        It depends. I generally serve in that role, but my last boss liked to go up and start his remarks with no introduction. But he was always short and to the point, so it worked well. My new boss is a motivational speaker and is good with me serving as MC. He already has shown a penchant for over-talking (I was the moderator for the candidate open forums when he interviewed, and he was the only one I really struggled to keep on time!), so yeah, it will be my job to rein him in when necessary. Luckily, he is very good-natured!

      4. bighairnoheart*

        Usually! But not always. And even when there is a moderator, they’re not always comfortable with interrupting a speaker who’s going long.

    4. Tammy 2*

      I have the most hilarious mental image of this person going in for a hug and then just sort of wrestling the speaker off the stage instead of letting go.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      I’m not sure it’d work with this dude given what it seems his personality is like, but at events we put on, there’s literally a 5 minute warning (if their time is meant to be longer than that), a 1 minute warning, and then a live countdown for the last 10 seconds on the prompter when a speaker is speaking. It’s impossible to ignore unless the speaker is doing it all off the top of their head. It really helped us cut down on people running over. I think at least partly, they assumed they’d be cut off so they wrapped it up. (Well mostly I think people just didn’t intend to run over so knowing they were about to they’d be considerate enough to not, but people who weren’t considerate and just thought they could run over if they felt like it, they assumed they’d be cut off. There will of course always be people who think “I’m going to talk until they cut me off”. They suck.)

    6. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      I don’t like the hug thing, but if it’s a dinner event, and the speaker is an invited guest instead of the host, start serving, make like Oscars and queue up the band or a video, have a professional MC that walks out and queues the audience to start clapping, hand-shake, here’s a crystal trophy, “thank you for your inspiring words, let’s enjoy the food.”

      …hmmm speaking of video, play into the CEO’s ego by suggesting that today’s audiences really really want a video, as in… it can be edited for length and clarity for the dinner, and the long version can be added to the website with a QR code printed on the program…”but wait, there’s more!” Just don’t give him the analytics (or do?) on the views.

  8. A (Former) Library Person*

    To OP #5 I would add that you can consider specifically asking for cover letters in job advertisements if you find that you need them to distinguish the best candidates (which may not be the case in your situation if you are still finding strong candidates without them) or if qualities like attention to detail or strong writing skills are relevant to the positions. I know from experience that you will still get applications that lack cover letters, but a requirement (or even just a suggestion) might help narrow the field if these omissions are hindering your searches.

    1. Heather*

      This is true, but LW should also consider that they might lose very strong candidates who just can’t be bothered to spend very long customizing a resume and cover letter for them specifically, when they could instead spend that time firing off their standard resume to five competitors and have a job offer within a week.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        It’s weird you felt the need to say this. If the LW needs these qualities for the job, she puts them in the ad and you “can’t be bothered” to fulfill them, then by definition you are not a strong candidate.

        1. Itsa Me, Mario*

          If I’m on the job hunt and I see 20 job postings that aren’t asking for a cover letter, and one that is, unless the one asking for a cover letter is a slam dunk for me (company I’m excited about, great commute, better title, specific aspects of the role that make it an obvious fit), I’m just not going to apply to that one.

          I think in a great economy where the idea is that people are applying to maybe 2-3 jobs, getting responses to each of those applications, going through a fairly simple hiring process, and definitely getting one of those few jobs they applied for, a tailor made cover letter for each application makes sense. In that context, truly, I am giving serious thought to each application and carefully weighing which of a small handful of jobs seems like the right fit.

          But that’s not the job hunting landscape right now. At this point, it’s apply to 50 jobs, hear back about 5 of them, go through a 3-4 step hiring process, and potentially not get any of those jobs. It is simply not possible to write a tailored cover letter for 50+ jobs, most of which you will never hear back about.

          1. K*

            I don’t think I’ve ever seen a job posting for a professional job that doesn’t require a cover letter. Like not even once.

      2. Chocolate Covered Cotton*

        Funny you should say this. I just yesterday had an online exchange with someone complaining they’d applied at hundreds of places in the last 3 months with no success. I suggested, based on my reading here, they might be better served by focusing their attention and time on the most closely-fitting posts, researching the company, and customizing their resume and cover letter emphasizing their fit for that position. That a targeted approach might work better than the shotgun approach of sending the same standard resume/cover letter to every open job.

        The response: experts recommend the standard resume and cover letters are obsolete, so much so that their last boss told them a cover letter from an applicant would look weird and out of touch. That’s right. This person says customized resumes and cover letters are weird, out of touch, and old fashioned. And blames their poor luck in their current job search on a weak job market, about which all the media is lying.

        I told them, ok, keep doing what you’re doing, I’m sure it will work out.

        Is that actually advice people are getting? DON’T customize your resume, it’s a waste of time? DON’T bother with cover letters, they’ll make you look old and out of touch? Who says this?

        1. Hiring Mgr*

          From what I’ve seen here, cover letters seem industry based. As an example Im in tech sales and have never sent or received one.

          I don’t get why you wouldn’t customize a resume though. Usually you’d just keep a few different versions of the resume so it’s not like you’d be starting from scratch every time.

        2. Reluctant Manager*

          And to add on to that: if the job requirements include “written communication skills,” the best way to show me those is to write a good cover letter.

  9. philmar*

    If you are having a coughing fit, I think it’s polite to just leave the room until it’s over. Leaving aside COVID, it is a super annoying sound and disruptive to people around you trying to pay attention to the presentation. If you know you are prone to coughing, bring water. Unfortunately none of this helps the LW, unless you can say something like “there’s water at the coffee bar/a water fountain in the hallway” to hint they should do something to stop it.

    I am in the military, which has a very high tolerance for bluntness to the point of rudeness, so if it really lasted a long time it would be okay for me to say, “bro, either knock it off or get out of here and fix it” which I am aware would not fly in a lot of places.

    1. Varthema*

      To some extent I agree, but also when you’re in the middle of a row full of people (or it’s one of those seminar rooms and there are people packing the aisles and hanging along the sides) sometimes trying to squeeze your way past all of them WHILE in mid-cough attack seems like an even worse and more disruptive choice. Usually my worst coughing attacks aren’t even illness-based, they’re because I inhaled my own saliva or have silent reflux or just got an awful tickle deep in my throat.

      I would never judge someone for masking up if I’m coughing, but likewise there’s a certain flavor of judgyness often thrown at people who are experiencing a very normal, involuntary reflex.

      1. UKDancer*

        Same. Conference rooms are often dry and overly air conditioned which can make my throat dry and give me a tendency to cough. If you’re sitting in a row of people in a lecture theatre it can be difficult to get yourself discreetly out of the row while coughing. So I usually bring some form of throat sweet to conferences now.

      2. kalli*

        I have dysphagia and when I have a coughing fit I am also near-paralysed. I can try to swallow the cough or keep my mouth closed until I can cover it, but trying to get out would be a lot more disruptive than me staying in my spot and riding it out.

        If someone were to move away or mask up that would be fine with me; I’d barely even register it. Anyone making a big deal or stopping things until I left or suggesting I drink more/have a lolly/don’t eat in the 24 hours prior would make it worse, and draw more attention that could distract other people a lot more than me squishing my arm over my mouth and being unusually rigid for five minutes.

      3. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Real question: have you ever asked anyone in your session (after the fact) if they would have preferred you squeeze out or stay and cough? Because I note you’re picking the option that’s easier for you and then justifying it.

        Again, no one else know why you are coughing, only that you are. Even if you’re not ill, you’re still disruptive and if you don’t cover your mouth, you spray saliva everywhere.

    2. Daisy-dog*

      Yes, I haven’t noticed anyone mention the noise aspect yet. I would assume anyone moving away from a cougher (including myself) in a conference session is moving because of the noise.

  10. Zircon*

    As an event organiser in a previous life and sometimes MC or chair, I always arranged to have a bell ring as a 5 minute warning, and told each speaker this would be the case. Our team would discuss what our actions would be if someone talked too long. Usually the process was bell at 5 minutes, longer bell at full time, then the MC or Chair would walk onto the stage with hand outstretched to say thank you. Our timetables were provided to speakers and attendees, so everyone knew how long each speech would last.
    This was our process with all speakers: politicians, heads of departments, heads of state!!!
    I’m not sure if any staff ever got into trouble because we as organisers didn’t let their senior managers talk on and on!!! We never held it against staff when it did happen – but we would probably not invite the speaker to talk again.
    Early in my event management career, we had a couple of speakers go over time. When the Chair walked onto the stage with hand outstretched, speaker said “Oh, is my time up?” Chair responded “Five minutes ago. Thank you very much for your time.” and started clapping. There was a ripple of laughter and everyone clapped and the talker left the stage basically in mid-flow.
    If it is safe for you to do so, please warn organisers, and especially the person timing from the back of the room, that your person over-talks. Suggest the use of a bell – because it is hard to see who has rung the bell. And suggest that they tell the speaker that a bell will ring at 5 minutes and then at full time. Then it’s not your responsibility.
    And the event and speaker world is not huge. Information about how to manage your senior will get around, especially if it is done successfully.

    1. The Prettiest Curse*

      Anothee way to do it is to have visual cues. You can have lights that are only visible to the speaker – so you can have a system that’s (for example) green light with 5 minutes to go, amber light with 2 minutes to go, red light for “wrap it up now.” At the breakout sessions in one of the events I used to do, we’d hold up signs for 5 minutes left and 1 minute left. You do need to brief speakers about this is advance, though, so they can’t claim they didn’t know what the lights meant!

      1. Aoife*

        Going by the reaction this boss had when approached about his timing, there’s every chance he would just ignore the less subtle visual cues, and claim that he was just so caught in the passion of is presentation etc.

        1. Antilles*

          He probably would, but it doesn’t matter.
          The visual cues still set the expectations in advance, make everybody is aware of it and empower the event organizer to cut him off and keep stuff moving.

      2. Beany*

        I attend & participate in scientific conferences full of short (5-15 minute) talks, all scheduled in quick succession, and this is what we do. There’s a configurable countdown box with small traffic lights — green means you’re in your main speaking time, orange means you have N (usually 2) minutes left, and red means you should be finished. But in our case, both the speaker and the audience can see the lights.

        And unfortunately, it’s not foolproof, since the speaker will often lose track of the light because they’re pointing out something on the projector screen/monitor behind them.

    2. NforKnowledge*

      I have witnessed someone (at a scientific conference) simply refuse to stop presenting even when the chair of the session stood up, waited a bit, walked over and stood next to them, waited a bit, and then said thanks and asked for questions! The person still just refused to stop trying to speed through like 30 slides per minute. So no method is foolproof, and it sounds like this LW’s boss is similarly oblivious.

      1. Zircon*

        In which case the sound technician turns off the microphone!!!
        I’ve never had to do that, but it is possible. Encouraging the audience to clap is a very clear signal that this session is at an end and it looks really bad on the part of the speaker to keep going. Most politicians are aware of what looks good and what doesn’t and that is why someone walking up and thanking them works.
        If people are completely oblivious they’ll soon not be invited to speak.

  11. HelloFromLondon*

    #5 – I likewise always submit tailored cover letters etc, however recently I went through a recruitment process as a candidate where they were trying to reduce bias for a role that was quite suitable to people from a wide range of professional backgrounds. So instead of a cover letter, they asked three questions (one generic about why you want the role, one a scenario question, and one assessing how you’d approach the strategy and planning elements of the role). If you scored highly on those, they then looked at your CV and shortlisted for interview. I was a bit meh at first at the extra time it took but honestly I ended up enjoying the application process and I definitely brought up things I wouldn’t have realised were relevant to put in my cover letter, prompted by the questions. And overall it probably took only a little longer than doing a tailored cover letter. No idea how it was from the recruiter side, and certainly wouldn’t be suitable for every role, but I imagine they got fewer and better applications in a competitive field. And I got the job hooray!

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      That’s an interesting approach! I don’t know if that would work for all of our roles, but I am going to take this one down for future reference.

  12. Daria grace*

    #2 as someone who is unfortunately a cougher as a result of a cough that won’t go away after a flu I had weeks ago, you have my encouragement to do whatever you need to do to feel comfortable. I know that my efforts (masking, working from home more, going to less crowded parts of places ect) only go so far so even knowing I’m very very unlikely to be contagious I’m not offended if people feel like they need to take their own steps

  13. Big Pig*

    Masking has been pretty politicised (UK person here so not just talking about US) so I can understand why people are hesitant. I wish we had taken the pandemic as a reason to start something similar to Japan, wear a mask if you are ill, coughing and probably on public transport too. I also wish masks were less awkward with glasses.

    1. Pennyworth*

      I wore a mask for the first time in ages last week because my friend had a chest infection and was going to hospital the next day, and I didn’t want to pass on my mild cold. I must say, I’d forgotten how stifling masks are.

      1. Minimal Pear*

        You could try a respirator, if you’re able to get one! I’m asthmatic and find regular masks a bit difficult, but I can pretty much breathe normally in my respirator.

      2. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

        I have found some masks much more comfortable than others–to the point that I wear my duckbill N95 mask outdoors on cold days because it gives the air time to warm up a little before I inhale.

        Different masks are more/less comfortable for different people, based at least partly on different face shapes. The masks that some friends of mine prefer are less comfortable for me, and some other people dislike the kind I’ve settled on. I doubt you’ll find any mask as comfortable as not wearing one, but there might be one less stifling for you than the ones you’re currently using when necessary.

        1. mlem*

          Masks are so, so different for every person! I find surgical masks super comfortable but largely ineffective, because air is constantly coming in and going out every edge; the 3M Aura gives me the most effective fit but isn’t all that comfortable. (I still wear it all day if I have to go into the office, though.)

    2. ferrina*

      I did this recently when my kid had a non-contagious respiratory condition! We still did normal activities, just masked up when we were out and about. (I didn’t require him to wear one for school, but I did let the teacher know what condition he had. I didn’t want her to worry if he was about to give her some illness).

      I actually found it relaxing- there was a noticeable difference in how people treated us. They were much more relaxed when they saw the mask on. No dirty glares, just sympathy.

    3. jellied brains*

      My whole blessed existence is considered “political” to some so I never bothered to care if people thought less of me for wearing a mask. I never stopped masking and I doubt I will now.

    4. Platypus*

      it always bothered me that masking became so politicized. Masking when you’re sick is just the cultural norm in pretty much every east asian country- China, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore…it was strange to see it treated as a statement in the west when here its the same as holding the door open for someone right behind you or putting your shopping cart back when you’re leaving.

    5. Hrodvitnir*

      Exactly this. It’s frankly ridiculous people take such umbrage. I can understand how frustrating they can be with glasses etc, but there are so many people who are resistant at baseline, without even being truthers.

      I live in Aotearoa and there is very little of the actual hatred of masking, but also our comparatively mild experience has meant people just don’t care.

    1. Gracie*

      I also thought it said cougar! I was very excited to find out about cougar ettiquete, like…is this a national park situation, or is your older female coworker flirting with too many young men?

    2. The Prettiest Curse*

      I have occasionally wished that I could set a cougar loose during a particularly boring conference presentation, just to liven things up a bit!

    3. SarahKay*

      I, too, originally read it as cougar and was somewhat disappointed when I then realised what it actually said.

      1. Donkey Hotey*

        I’ve already mused about the Venn diagram of Ask A Manager and Am I The A*hole. I suppose there is also the overlap between AAM and Letters to Penthouse.

    4. Elsewise*

      I read it that way too! I see two possible solutions to the cougar. Either puff yourself up and try to look really big, or tell her you have a boyfriend.

  14. Roeslein*

    #5 – It depends on the role. I hire consultants who by definition need to be detail-oriented and strong communicators (including in writing). When applying to a consulting job, you basically see the hiring manager as your “client” – you are just selling your skills rather than a particular project. In my experience, someone who does not demonstrate these skills during the hiring process (for example, their writing is not concise, there are many typos, the formatting of their CV is off, they did not bother to read up about us, etc.) is unlikely to demonstrate them in the role and may well show the same level of quality when working with our clients, which would be a problem. But obviously there are plenty of jobs that don’t require these skills!

  15. Richard Hershberger*

    “very passionate about speaking”

    What a delicate way to say “complete bore”! Nothing useful to add, but that is quite a flex by your boss. He must bring a lot to the table to be able to do this and still get invited to speak. It must be very invigorating for him.

  16. Richard Hershberger*

    LW5: Alison is spot on. The various pieces of advice to job seekers are ways to make their candidacy stand out. They aren’t mandatory boxes to be checked off. Treat them that way and the hiring process becomes seeking out the candidates who have mastered the job hunt, not candidates who have mastered the job.

    1. Ann Nonymous*

      As a job-seeker a few years back, the whole job search and application process sucked so badly that I can see how people put in minimal effort after getting rejected time after time after time. I tweaked my resume and customized it and my cover letter any number of times and literally got no response back. So after an exhausting while, I just sent in my normal resume because I couldn’t muster up the energy to do my best in a process that seemed designed to wear me down.

  17. VP of Monitoring Employees' LinkedIn Profiles*


    I must agree that the message should come from a board member. (“Bob, you talked so long that we had to cancel the guest of honor —again! If you keep that up, we’ll lose our funding.”)

  18. Erin*

    I have family members who can get a cold, stay home for several days, get better, but continue to have a cough for months afterward.

    I’m not saying you should 100% trust strangers to act in a way to preserve your health; I *am* saying that assuming a person who is choosing to be in a public place with a bad cough is therefore putting others at risk is untrue and potentially unfair.

    1. Alice*

      A person who has asymptomatic COVID can still generate aerosols carrying SARS-CoV-2.
      Aerosols are generated by tidal breathing, but coughing generates more of them.
      If those aerosols carry SARS-CoV-2 from the cougher’s asymptomatic or presymptomatic COVID infection, congrats, you’ve increased the COVID transmission risk to everyone around you. It doesn’t matter *why* you were coughing. It matters whether there is virus in the aerosol particles you’re breathing out.
      So, if a person chooses to be in a public indoor place with a bad cough, unmasked, without confirming that they don’t have COVID, is indeed putting others at higher risk.

      1. Katara's side braids*

        Exactly. I think a lot of people interpret concern about coughing, etc as an “accusation” that someone must be sick, but most of us know that people cough for a lot of reasons! It’s still good to mask, not because the cough is definitely a symptom of illness, but because coughs generate a lot of aerosols that can spread whatever else is in your system – even if the “whatever else” never actually makes the cougher sick.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I’d also like to point out that peoples mouths and noses always, always contain germs. This is why a person biting another often results in serious infections when the skin is broken. Your body is used to your internal flora but others are not.

        Not saying we should mask all the time because we humans be filthy but even if you’re sure you currently don’t have a nasty lung infection that doesn’t mean coughs and sneezes are now sterile.

    2. Dancing Otter*

      No, it’s prudent to take precautions against the worst case possibility. That doesn’t mean it’s ok to make nasty remarks, but moving away and adjusting my mask is not being unfair or unkind.
      Health aside, making noise during a presentation is rude and disruptive. They should either step out or expect a few glares, which the LW did NOT do, and which nobody is suggesting. I’ve seen coughers escorted out of the opera or symphony, long before the pandemic.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I have definitely been the person offering cough drops to people seated near me who were coughing. Sometimes my throat gets dry, so I come prepared.

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      But the LW didn’t assume that. They said straight up that they didn’t know if it was illness or allergies. Unfortunately, some people absolutely are putting others at risk, including going to things they don’t want to miss while knowing they have COVID. Obviously, not everyone with a cough has a communicable illness. Still, it makes sense to consider the possibility and quietly take reasonable precautions. Nobody is suggesting being mean to anyone coughing.

      1. uncomfortable*

        There are actually plenty of comments in this thread where people are being fairly hostile to those with allergies or other chronic coughs.

        1. bamcheeks*

          Yeah, the line for me is that, “got a cough? wear a mask!” is completely reasonable, and “got a cough? stay at home!” is not, and on the flipside, “someone’s coughing? move away” is reasonable, and “someone’s coughing? glare at them!” is not. Reading through the comments, I really think nearly everyone agrees, but it’s one of those topics where people are *really* sensitive to the nuances between those positions, and a vehement, “wear a mask” is taken as a “stay at home!” and a hasty “moving away” is taken as a “glaring disapproval”.

        2. J*

          People with allergies or chronic coughs can and should wear a mask. Nothing about a chronic condition changes the aerosol production. I say this as someone with a chronic condition who does mask and actually it improves my condition to do so.

    4. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

      Unfair is a weird way to view this. Life is, indeed, unfair. I am not going to risk my health and potentially my life because some random stranger is coughing in a crowded space and I don’t want to be “unfair” to them. The cougher is being unfair to everyone else!

      I assume a person who is in a public place with a bad cough can be considerate of others: wear a mask, cough into your elbow, drink water, take a lozenge, leave the room. Why do you think the burden should be on the people not coughing?

      You are saying “don’t trust strangers, but it’s unfair if you don’t trust strangers who are being untrustworthy”.

    5. Daisy-dog*

      But the LW didn’t want to do anything *TO* the cougher. LW wanted to potentially put on her mask or move to another chair further away.

    6. Critical Rolls*

      Not at all, especially if that person is choosing not to cover their cough. A lot of people seem to be reacting to this very defensively, as though the LW was considering leaping to their feet and dramatically accusing the cougher of spreading disease — or as though the very reasonable actions of masking and gaining some distance were tantamount to an accusation. It’s a very strange characterization of risk assessment (“I don’t know the health situation of the person coughing, therefore I consider that there is risk and act to mitigate it”) to say it’s untrue (which you don’t know) and unfair (I don’t even know how that applies).

  19. Yours sincerely, Raymond Holt*

    I was once invited to speak at an event. I prepared really carefully, practiced my remarks to time so I wouldn’t run over, structured my remarks so they fitted together, and travelled all the way to the event. They were a charity so I wasn’t paid a fee or anything like that. I travelled a fair way to the event, in the evening.

    But because another speaker went way over his time, my section was cut right down. I had to revamp my remarks on the spot. I was speaking about something very personal too.

    Next time the event asked me to speak, I had to politely say no.

    I understand the event organisers couldn’t help it but it felt extremely disrespectful to me. The man who overran absolutely knew he had an allotted amount of time, he knew there were other speakers to follow, he could see the clock. And he wasn’t an important politician or CEO; I think someone could have urged him along faster to be honest.

    They might not be bothered about having me speak again (I can only conclude that they weren’t, which is fine, I’m not super important), but it really is communicating something very, very clearly to your other speakers and attendees about how valuable their time is.

    And imagine having to listen to him while eating, rather than having conversations with other attendees!

    1. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Not only the other speakers but everyone else engaged with the event. While our long-winded director went on, staff in the back were seething because it meant that their evening was going to run a lot longer because they had to clean up and shut down. None of could leave either until the event was over and it made a long day so much more longer.

      1. a clockwork lemon*

        I would be pretty put out if I bought tickets to a fundraising event and the keynote speaker talked so long I ended up waiting over an hour to eat. Hangry guests at poorly-run events are rarely inclined to be generous givers.

        1. AnonORama*

          Yes! Particularly if the organization is doing an auction or asking folks to raise their bid paddles for donation after the meal. “I just listened to an hour-long boring speech and ate cold food” is not the way to bring out the warm feelings that get people donating. (Keeping the wine coming might or might not help, lol.)

      2. goddessoftransitory*

        THIS. It’s not just the attendees and other speakers who are being disrespected by being held hostage to this guy’s self-regard: it’s every employee at the venue. The caterers, the janitors, the coat check staff, the valets.

    2. Generic Name*

      The event organizers absolutely could have done something! And finding people willing to speak (for free) at events is actually kind of hard. Fear of public speaking is incredibly common, and many people just won’t do it. So your story is a perfect example of why someone needs to tell the guy droning on to wrap it up. And it shouldn’t be the LW.

    3. OrigCassandra*

      Yup, I had this happen during a conference session — blowhard before me took up half my designated time. I made it work, and in so doing I made the blowhard look extra-bad because I am a much more engaging presenter than he was.

      I think conferences are less tolerant of this nonsense than they used to be, and that’s all to the good.

      Speaking of blowhards, our thankfully-former CISO tried to blow past the time limit on a lightning talk for a campus event. As promised, the event organizers led a get-off-the-stage round of applause. He, not believing the rules applied to him, tried to keep talking. Two more rounds of applause were needed to eject him, but he WAS ejected. I truly enjoyed the thunderously-furious face he was wearing as he left the room. (I’d had a lightning talk in the same session. Came in at half my designated three minutes because I. am. just. that. good.)

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        Ha, I bet that at first he thought that the audience was just extra enthusiastic about his talk! Seeing him stalk off must have been totally hilarious.

        I was once at a music festival where Band I Didn’t Want To See were on directly before a Band I Really Wanted To See. The first band ran over and the audience started booing and throwing things at them. Obviously, this isn’t something I’d recommend for conference speakers, but it did make them get off the stage.

  20. münchner kindl*

    #1, long speechers – I wonder if there’s bigger problems in the organisation, and the speeches are just the obvious symptoms?

    Boss reacted aggressivly towards feedback
    the events he’s invited to are important for the organisation, but his behaviour turns people off, and organisation may no longer be invited
    given Boss’ behaviour, they can’t send another person because of importance
    There’s apparently no board or other person above boss who can reign him in

    so what other bad decisions has boss made/ will make, that harm the organisation, because he’s unwilling to listen to feedback, let alone modify his behaviour, or notice by himself that some of his behaviour is problematic?

    Because that trait in itself will probably cause more problems.

    Maybe, if boss is so annoying that organisers will rather not invite him any longer to events, it will serve as a wakeup call. But if it doesn’t, then LW should probably start searching for a job elsewhere before the whole thing goes down slowly.

    1. Antilles*

      the events he’s invited to are important for the organisation, but his behaviour turns people off, and organisation may no longer be invited
      This is unlikely to be the case.
      The way these sorts of events typically work is that it’s primarily a personal invitation. You get invited to speak because of your reputation within the field, research you’ve published, a well known project you ran, or something along those lines. It’s not really about the company whose logo is on the presentation, it’s about the person giving the presentation.
      The organization gets marketing and prestige benefits from everybody seeing the company logo on screen, but the negative fallout from him droning on isn’t falling back on the company.
      What’s going to happen (probably already has) is that the event organizers will be irritated about his talkativeness and decide to never invite him as speaker again…but he’ll still be welcome to attend as a guest and others from the company would still get invited to speak like they normally would.

  21. Clara*

    LW1, for events with food, could you have someone introduce the event very briefly, then have the food served, and then have the CEO speak? I would be much less irritated listening to someone bore on / zone out with a fully belly than an empty one.

    1. Seashell*

      Good idea. Or at least get an appetizer/salad course in ahead of Mr. Longwinded and save the hot food until after.

    2. LifeBeforeCorona*

      Unless you need to use the washroom, get another glass of wine or want to speak to someone that you only see at these functions.

    3. Generic Name*

      I don’t think LW is the one running these events. Honestly, I think the only thing LW can do is approach a board member about this. I’m on a nonprofit board, and if I were approached by a staff member about something like this, I absolutely would bring it up with the rest of the board.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Career nonprofit here – staff members approaching the board is often very much Not Done, depending on the organizational culture. With a new boss there might be more standing, but I’d want OP to either be very sure that was okay or know who in their upward reporting line would be appropriate to do the approaching. Otherwise this could set the boss off even more.

        1. AnonORama*

          Agree; some boards are pretty formal and the members would be taken aback if they received a request (or any contact, except maybe asking for a signature) from a non-senior-leader on staff. If your org is like this and you don’t have a personal relationship with any of the board members, ideally there’s someone in leadership who shares your opinion about Mr. Bloviator and can reach out to someone on the board.

    4. Madtown Maven*

      Exactly, Clara. If the windbag’s gonna blow a whole hurricane, they can be the entertainment DURING the timely dinner.

  22. The Meat Embezzler*

    LW 4:

    This is honestly pretty basic stuff the company you interviewed with did and I’m not sure why you’re hung up about it. Did you think the company was just….going to take your word on everything? Because, that’s the way it comes across in your letter. This company has a reasonably strong business relationship with your friend and I would’ve been honestly surprised if they HADN’T reached out to your friend to get their input.

    As for the offer follow up, that was handled a bit clunky but the CEO was just practicing good referral practices especially since the referral came from a client of theirs. The CEO was just closing the loop with the referral and if you read between the lines a bit you would’ve seen something like…”Hey referral, just wanted to give you a heads up that we loved Alf and made them an offer (code words for thanks for the referral! This person was awesome! We appreciate you thinking of us) but unfortunately they turned us down despite us making an above market offer (code word for we are not cheapskates and we value top talent). If you happen to connect with them again and this comes up would you let us know what happened?” (Code word for did we do something wrong? Was I, the CEO a jerk, too aggressive, was our front desk person unkind, did our coffee stink, is the commute a dealbreaker, was my fly down, etc).

    At the end of the day, they are just letting their client know they appreciated the referral, were keeping them in the loop and letting them know the conclusion. I’m sure we’ve all been on the other side of things were we refer a friend/colleague/family member/etc to a company for a position that we think they’d be a good fit for and you end up hearing crickets.

    1. Ferris Mewler*

      Completely agree with this comment. LW4, I think it would be really strange and off-base for you to send an email berating the CEO for this. Just let it go.

    2. Peanut Hamper*

      Completely agree.

      I really am amazed that LW is going down the “the CEO violated my privacy!” route when the friend also violated the CEO’s privacy by sharing the message. Talk about being blind in one eye.

      1. KateM*

        That’s a good point. Tell CEO that your friend shared their message and you may cause CEO looking at your friend with new eyes and wondering what other information is she sharing.

    3. Generic Name*

      This, 100%. I agree the CEO’s wording in the message could have been smoother, but none of this strikes me as outrageous or against business norms. If anything, and I’m trying to be as kind as possible, your perceptions of what happens during hiring are a bit skewed. I don’t know if you have experience in a different industry where things are done differently or what, but it’s super, super normal for hiring managers to use their network (either through a referral or just by reaching out to mutual contacts) to assess the fit of candidates. I know it happened during my most recent job hunt, and I know my last company did the same thing.

    4. M2RB*

      Agree with this comment; I thought the LW was being a little over-the-top in the reaction. Why *wouldn’t* the CEO have reached out for a reference from a mutual business acquaintance? And then follow up with them? I can understand the emotional reaction of feeling gossiped about, but when I think about this from a business perspective, the CEO wants to do all their due diligence. It’s a bit foolish not to gather information from all available, reliable sources, especially when those sources aren’t on the candidate’s carefully-screened-and-will-give-only-positive-comments reference list.

    5. Knope Knope Knope*

      Agreed. This is about the CEO and OPs friend as much or more than about OP. He’s showing the friend he values her referral and cares how he treats people who interviews with the company. It incentivizes the friend to keep sending good candidates.

      Also agreed a violation of privacy is a really weird way to interpret this.

    6. Sparkles McFadden*

      Yes, exactly. This is all normal. The first part is hiring manager due diligence. The person referred you so of course your interviewer will call that person. The hiring manager may even call people you did not list as references. I’ve gotten calls about former coworkers because the interviewer knew me and thought I might have worked with the person.

      The second part is all of what The Meat Embezzler listed and it’s also about preserving the relationship between the hiring company and LW#4’s friend. It really does sound as if they wanted good, constructive feedback, but it may just have been them closing the loop to say “You made a good recommendation but it didn’t work out.” Plus they don’t know what’s been said and they want to put how things went on record to maintain a good relationship with the client organization.

    7. Looper*

      I agree completely and I’m really curious what LW4 thinks happens when someone makes a personal reference for a prospective hire. Also, I would be mortified if I was the friend who made the reference and then LW tried emailing my CEO to “shake out” his habit of following up on references! Like, what? OF COURSE they talked to your reference! That’s the whole point.

    8. Lola*

      Yeah, I think the LW is way-off base here. Isn’t the whole point of a friend referring you to a potential job is for them to give you a good recommendation and talk you up outside of the official application/interview process? I personally got a job that way.

      And please, do NOT hang your friend out to dry with a letter to the CEO! The CEO may not take too kindly to their private message to your friend being shared and at this point it can only damage your friend’s career/job.

  23. 1-800-BrownCow*

    LW #2: Do what you feel you need to do. Most people really probably wouldn’t care or at least won’t get offended. If you were sitting near me and moved, I likely wouldn’t really notice, or at the very least, I’d assume it was for a better view, or you couldn’t hear well from your spot or some other reason I wouldn’t know. And if the stranger is actually offended you put on a mask or you moved, that’s on them. It’s not your responsibility to control their feelings. Likely you won’t see them again afterwards anyway.


    #5. I hire for lots of trades positions and expect to get terrible applications. To make the screening process easier, we have specific application questions related to job functions, such as: how many engines did you rebuild in the last year? Our former application had a generic “describe experience” box that yielded vague results.

    1. Peanut Hamper*

      THIS! If there is specific information you want to know, it is always best to just ask for it. People aren’t mind-readers! They have no idea what you mean by a vague question, even if it’s quite clear to you.

  25. Peanut Hamper*

    #4: Why on earth would you send an email calling out this CEO? You’ve already identified the red flags and turned down the offer. Just let this go.

    FWIW, the CEO contacting your friend after the fact is not odd–maybe they’re having trouble filling the position and are trying to gain some insight into that issue.

    Let this go. Not your circus, not your clowns, even if the clown car passes through your town.

    1. MsM*

      The guy did ask for feedback. Maybe it’s not as weird for him to go to the person who made the original referral for that as OP thinks, but I also don’t think it’s out of line for OP to point out that not at least putting what seem like important questions to OP directly first before trying to solicit an outside opinion was a factor in OP thinking this wouldn’t be a good fit.

      1. Observer*

        but I also don’t think it’s out of line for OP to point out that not at least putting what seem like important questions to OP directly first before trying to solicit an outside opinion was a factor in OP thinking this wouldn’t be a good fit.

        Disagree. It is completely and totally normal for someone to reach out to their network to ask about someone, and there is simply not such thing that you can only do so *after* you spoke to the candidate. And the OP is not just upset that the CEO reached *before* talking to them, but that they reached out at all and asked the referral source rather than them. That is absolutely not how any of this works.

      2. Fish*

        After reading everyone else’s comments, I have a thought. What if the prospective employer asked OP4’s friend a question that could be awkward for a friend to answer?

        I was once asked for both professional and personal references. My personal reference was a friend who’s also a one-time colleague, which was how we met.

        I could see an interviewer perceiving me as overly no-nonsense, maybe even inflexible. My friend could tell them that what Fish sees as getting the job done, some people might see as Fish being a taskmaster. But anyone who knows the job specialty would understand, and not be offended.

  26. Chronic cougher*

    As someone with a chronic cough that isn’t contagious (progressive lung disease) I can’t ever imagine anyone being offended if you put a mask on or left if I was having a coughing attack. Anyone in my condition wouldn’t judge you for being concerned. And while everyone has different feelings on this, I’d rather you put a mask on or leave than ask me to explain that I’m a 35 year old with a progressive lung disease.

  27. Trout 'Waver*

    I have two thoughts on #5:

    First, hiring people for the first time was a real eye-opener. Professional level white color jobs. 95%+ of the resumes were just low effort and terrible. Everything from entry level to experienced industry career person. If a job posting received 300 resumes, I’d be surprised if 20 were half-way decent.

    Second, candidates don’t always put a lot of effort into applications because the whole process is dehumanizing. Hiring processes go to great lengths to avoid giving any meaningful feedback to the vast majority of candidates. Applicant Tracking Software is uniformly horrible and a lot of good candidates would rather not apply than deal with it.

      1. The Unspeakable Queen Lisa*

        Even if you don’t want a cog, if your competitors do, that’s the environment the job seekers are coming from and they will look and act like cogs.

      2. Itsa Me, Mario*

        Often there is no real way not to look and act like a cog, if you want your application to actually be seen by a human!

    1. Needs Coffee*

      There’s also the applications that are out there to tick a box. I know in my state, and I assume in most, you have to do X number of “job search activities” per week (and record them for potential audit) for Unemployment benefits. There may not be X new jobs in a particular field available to apply for each week, or local job fairs, or whatever. So LinkedIn “easy apply” jobs that are at least somewhat tangential become the answer.

      Not really fair to either the business or the jobseeker, but bureaucratic hoops must be jumped through.

      1. Frickityfrack*

        Yup, we got some for our last position that I’m almost positive were from people just trying to meet their required number of applications for unemployment, based on dates and effort put in.

    2. Other Alice*

      Honestly, I don’t bother with cover letters and personalised resumes any more. I have two basic versions of my resume and that’s it. So many times I get absolutely no response on my application, it’s not worth the time and effort. I would spend the evening researching a company and writing a beautifully tailored cover letter, and hear nothing from the company 90% of the time. I’d rather spend the time and apply to 5 different companies with my generic resume and play the numbers game.

      1. Itsa Me, Mario*

        I will do a personalized resume if something about a particular role or particular company seems like my standard resume isn’t going to address my skills as a candidate.

        I will do a personalized cover letter if the role is outside the obvious expertise that is already on my resume, or some aspect of me, in particular, applying for this job in particular, isn’t well addressed by my resume. Or I will do a cover letter if the job application asks for a cover letter and the application platform gives me a place to submit a cover letter.

  28. Felix*

    op 2. what’s with this obsession to not embarrass others who we’ll most likely never meet again in the detriment of our own health? just get up and move.

    op5. people apply to hundreds of jobs monthly. imagine what would mean if everyone would stop to write cover letters for every job application. can we maybe stop already with the cover letters and let the resume speak for itself?

    1. Snow Globe*

      #5 – For most professional-level jobs, if you send out 5-10 applications a month and spend time crafting focused cover letters and resumes for each, you’ll likely get better results with less time invested (since every application means time spent entering stuff into the application tracking system).

      1. AngryOctopus*

        As mentioned above, that is generally not accepted for those who are trying to stay on unemployment. There is a minimum number of jobs you have to apply for.
        Also, lots of people on 9-10 month fed contracts get unemployment for the months off, but don’t actually want another job. So they are basically required to spam job listings in order to keep unemployment for the off months.

      2. Itsa Me, Mario*

        People say this, but in my experience in my current job search, it’s not the case.

        I’ve applied to somewhere between 20-50 jobs in the last 6 months. Some have been “dream job” type situations where the combination of company and role has been a slam dunk for me. Others have been fine/standard (company that seems fine offering a role that would be a good fit), and there have been a few outliers where I wasn’t sure if my skillset was what they were looking for, but it seemed interesting so I went ahead and applied. I was also recruited for some roles, where the company’s interest in me was more important than my own specific interest in that particular job.

        Within that group, I have submitted some applications — mostly to the “dream job” roles or interesting outliers — where I spent a lot of time working carefully on customized resumes and cover letters, and doing a lot of interview prep and research on the company. I have submitted other applications with my standard resume and a boilerplate cover letter, or no cover letter if it wasn’t asked for. For some of the jobs I’ve been recruited for, I simply supplied my resume to the recruiter in connection with a phone screen.

        Based on this sample, there doesn’t seem to be any clear correlation between times I submitted a heavily customized application and did a lot of prep work, and times I thought “this seems like a fine job” and just submitted my standard materials. So far, I have spent a long time creating a thoughtful job application for several openings where I literally never heard a single thing back. And I have also come very, very close to landing a few jobs I applied to off the cuff. In one of those cases, I actually got feedback that my application and interviews were fantastic. Despite doing the bare minimum.

        If anything, this hiring process has taught me that I’m doing too much and making a C+ effort at applying for jobs is fine.

    2. Risha*

      I agree with stopping the cover letters. Luckily in my industry, cover letters are not really done (unless you truly want to), but I never understood the purpose of it. The application/interview process is already stressful, and IMO, cover letters are pretty much begging for the job (again, this is just my opinion). The hiring manager can see my resume and can see what skills/experience I have. Also, I have great difficulty putting my thoughts into words and I know other people are the same way. If I ever had to do a cover letter, it would be horrible and I probably wouldn’t even be called for the interview. But I’m a good employee and always try to go above and beyond when I’m at work.
      Disregarding an applicant because they don’t have a good cover letter means that you may miss out on a rockstar candidate.

      OP2, don’t worry about offending people. If you’re worried, get up and move or put on your mask. Unless the other person is really unreasonable, I cannot see someone getting pissy about you moving your seat. There could be many reasons why you’re moving. And even if they do get pissy, why care? Put yourself first.

    3. Stardust*

      That’s all very nice until someone has a resumee that DOESN’T speak for itself, like when someone is trying for a career change or looking to step back a little and as such applying for what’s essetially a demotion or similar.
      For every one situation where a cover letter is a negative there’s another one where it’s a positive so really cant give a one size fits all kind of answer here.

  29. Yup!*

    I had one of those out-of-the-blue coughing fits in the middle of a grad class, and had to get up to leave the room for a bit, When I came back the classmate next to me had put on her mask. I felt embarrassed and slightly uncomfortable, but in no way blamed her. She was thinking of her health (and I later reassured her I wasn’t sick, just had a coughing fit), and that comes first.

  30. Phoenix*

    LW 5: One way to look at it is that you are not hiring them to interview for jobs, so being good at interviewing is not, itself, necessarily a qualification for the job. There are places where “good interview skills” and “skills necessary to succeed at the job” overlap, for sure, but it’s okay to separate what really matters to the job you’re hiring for from what’s just conventional wisdom for the hiring process.

  31. Nothing Happening Here*

    Laugh for the day – When I read the banner I misread it and thought one of the posts was about sitting next to a cougar!

  32. Nancy*

    I have chronic bronchitis. I can easily get coughs that last 8-10 weeks. I am aware of my cough, know it’s not infectious, but could not care less if someone moved or whatever because of not.

    1. Nancy*

      Point being, OP, this person most likely wouldn’t have cared or noticed, so do whatever you feel is best.

  33. Week Old Sourdough*

    #5 – I get frustrated by employers that expect a cover letter but don’t offer much to go off of in a job description. Is your job posting thorough? Does it explain what the role expects to do and how skills are applied? Sometimes it’s not very clear to those applying and it can be difficult in the few short paragraphs of a cover letter how our experience and education can suit us for the role.
    I’m also often told that hiring managers don’t read cover letters, and not to slow down the applying process by agonizing over a tailored letter that may not be read.

    1. Itsa Me, Mario*

      Similarly, is this role a standard role with a standard set of skills and expectations, that is similar to what you expect candidates will already be familiar with and already have reflected on their resumes? What further content are you expecting from a cover letter beyond ability to follow the instruction to submit a cover letter?

  34. Alice*

    Why is it always

    “I have accepted the risk I’m taking going unmasked in public settings”

    and it’s never

    “I have accepted the risk that I may transmit SAR-CoV-2 to vulnerable people due to a presymptomatic or asymptomatic infection”?

    1. Katara's side braids*

      +10000. We’ve always forced vulnerable people into an impossible choice between isolation and severe health risk, but at least we had the excuse of ignorance pre-Covid.

      1. Not Deborah*


        Deborah and Alice above seem to think that everyone should still be masking everywhere all the time. That is unrealistic. The broad risk profile for Covid has changed drastically since the disease emerged 3.5 years ago. There is widespread immunity due to vaccination and exposure. Dr. Fauci has acknowledged as much.

        There will always be a small subset of people who are particularly vulnerable to respiratory viruses. That was true before Covid, with respect to viruses such as influenza and RSV. The entire population did not mask then, and you are being tendentious by demanding that now.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          See my comment – most of us had the excuse of ignorance pre-Covid. The population of people highly susceptible to URIs is larger than you think, and growing as people get repeat Covid infections (which seem to progressively make outcomes even worse). I wish I’d been more thoughtful before Covid, but I can’t change that now. But if your reaction to learning about the risks to vulnerable folks is “welp, sucks for them” and not “how did we tolerate this inequity for so long?,” then I doubt I or anyone will get through to you. Genuinely hope Covid leaves you as it finds you each time so you don’t have to be on the other end of that individualistic mindset.

          Also, the options aren’t “leave vulnerable populations out to dry” or “mask everywhere forever.” All of us should be advocating for improved ventilation standards, sick leave policy, and Long Covid research so we don’t need to depend on masking. We’re all pre-disabled, unless we die young. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot by abandoning our future selves.

          1. Alice*

            Katara’s side braids, your comments on this post have been really interesting and insightful. Thank you. It’s great to think about building coalitions to advocate for more sick leave, for example.

        2. Alice*

          I don’t think “everyone should still be masking everywhere all the time.”
          I think that everyone should have access (subsidized or free if there are financial barriers) to N95s in a variety of models and sizes so that we can all have masks that fit and are comfortable. I think everyone should have paid sick time. I think there should be indoor air quality improvements (ventilation and filtration and maybe even UVGI) in public spaces. I think there should be a massive public awareness campaign about indoor air quality. I think we should be measuring the incidence of COVID-19 via wastewater testing in every sewershed.
          And yes, I think I should be able to go to the doctor’s office and the pharmacy and the ER without having to inhale the backwash of unmasked people, any of whom could have an airborne disease, whether they know it or not.

          1. Not Deborah*

            I don’t think “everyone should still be masking everywhere all the time.” I think that everyone should have access…to N95s…. I think everyone should have paid sick time…. I think there should be a massive public awareness campaign about indoor air quality. I think we should be measuring the incidence of COVID-19 via wastewater testing in every sewershed.

            Except that you began by complaining about people transmitting Covid “due to a presymptomatic or asymptomatic infection.” Three of your proposed policies — more sick time, improved indoor air quality, and wastewater testing — do nothing to address the issue of the spread of asymptomatic Covid.

            The only one of your remedies that addresses asymptomatic Covid is masking:
            – Asymptomatic carriers cannot take sick time if they’re unaware that they are ill.
            – Wastewater testing tells us about potential Covid spread en masse in communities, but nothing about whether any one individual has asymptomatic Covid.
            – Indoor air filtration may help stop the spread of Covid, but it is still unlikely to stop it to those very near an asymptomatic carrier.

            So, by the process of elimination, you do seem to endorse continued masking, and thus implicitly think that the risk of Covid is sufficiently high that we ought to continue masking. But my response is that (1) immunity to Covid is vastly higher now than it was previously, (2) Covid is much less virulent than it was previously, and (3) we can treat it better. This does not mean that Covid can never hurt anyone — obviously it can — but that the risk is commensurate with what we accept to live our lives normally. It also means that when we balance the benefits of masks against the disadvantages, such as deterring people from exercising or social isolation, the case for masks is much, much weaker now than in 2020.

            Finally, I suggest that architects and civil engineers today are indeed more aware of indoor air quality issues than they were in 2019, and that wastewater testing is relatively common, which was why the potential spread of XBB was identified this summer.

            Fauci and Leana Wen are not masking.

            1. Alice*

              I am aware that Tony “the vulnerable will fall by the wayside” Fauci is not masking
              Personally, when I hear “they’ll get hospitalized, and some will die” (another quote from the same BBC interview by Fauci), I think, hmm, maybe we should do something about that. But it would be a dull world if we all felt alike.

    2. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

      Because this comment section is full of people who have chronic coughs for various non-infectious, non-COVID reasons and the tendency to portray leaving your house with any kind of cough or sneeze as a moral failure is a major factor in why many people (possibly including LW2, definitely including myself) feel uncomfortable masking up when someone near them coughs.

      Yes the person behind LW2 could have been a jerk who was feeling sick and went to the conference anyways or they could have been perfectly healthy and coughing because the air in the conference room was dry. There’s no way for us to know.

      1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

        I read Alice’s comment as referring to the actions of the LW, not the person coughing. She has assessed the risk to herself and is comfortable being in public unmasked. But it appears she hasn’t considered that her decision on this affects other people. Like cancer patients shopping at the same grocery store.

        1. Katara's side braids*

          I think ThisIsNotADuplicateComment was saying that the assumptions about public coughers may have contributed to LW feeling uncomfortable masking? Like masking would mean participating in an armchair Covid diagnosis.

          But as others have mentioned, lots of us don’t necessarily worry about your cough because we assume you’re sick. Our respiratory tract can often contain pathogens that never end up causing us symptoms, but that still spread far when we cough/sneeze for other reasons like allergies. Also, I’ve known several people whose predictable coughing/sneezing due to allergies ended up masking a Covid infection that happened to coincide with allergy season.

          Of course it’s not realistic to stay home for all of allergy season or the entire post-cold recovery period, but I haven’t seen too many people ask for that. I’ve seen more requests for people to mask if they know they’re going to be coughing/sneezing, regardless of the reason. Given all of the above, I really don’t see how that’s so unreasonable.

          1. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

            Yes I was saying that LW2 may feel uncomfortable masking when someone near them coughs because during the pandemic there was a strong lean towards portraying leaving your house with any kind of cough/sneeze etc. as a huge moral failing and callous disregard for other people’s health without considering the various other reasons we have those bodily functions. I know that feeling didn’t come from nowhere, but I don’t think it’s a helpful attitude to have.

        2. ThisIsNotADuplicateComment*

          I interpreted it as referring to the cougher, but yes it also makes sense for it to be referring to the LW. But that’s honestly an even worse read in my opinion since Alice would then judging every single person who ever leaves their homes without a N95 mask for basically the rest of all eternity.

          1. Katara's side braids*

            Can’t speak for Alice, but I’m definitely disappointed that most people decided to abandon masking before we’ve figured out Long Covid and robust protection/treatment for vulnerable populations. I’m a pretty pessimistic person, but I don’t think it’ll take “the rest of all eternity” to get there. Masking, sick leave, and improved ventilation would have allowed a larger share of the population to get out and live their lives instead of forcing the vulnerable back into isolation.

          2. Alice*

            I’m not sure what part of my comment people object to.
            “There’s a risk that I might get COVID from someone at the event, and I accept that risk.” (Paraphrase of LW, and also Bob Wachter and Rochelle Walensky and a million other people)
            “There’s a risk that I might give someone COVID at the event, and I accept that risk.”
            Are people unaware of asymptomatic/presymptomatic transmission?

    3. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      Yup, it’s really sad that the outcome of the last three years seems to be most people being less likely to consider the effects of their decisions on other people. At least in North America and parts of Europe.

      I don’t want to crap all over the LW, as she’s certainly not the only one making decisions based on her risk level alone. And public health is failing miserably to communicate the short- and long-term risks of infection, so it’s just about impossible to assess risk accurately. It just makes me sad that we had the chance to come together and create a community of care, and it’s ended up being the opposite.

  35. Juicebox Hero*

    #3 (icky stuff on paperwork) lord I feel your pain – and disgust.

    I collect bill payments and some of the slips people bring in are disgusting. Coffee cup rings and water spots don’t bother me, but I have seen cheese, grease, tomato sauce, random crumbs, sticky… stuff, mud, and stuff I try not to look to hard at. I tend to gingerly set them aside and reprint a clean copy after the customer leaves because I have to handle those things to process them.

    And don’t get me started on cash, which is just disgusting…

    I wash my hands A LOT.

      1. #3 OP*

        Ug, I can’t imagine it at that level. I really doubt this employee is doing it as a personal attack, but I’m handing a large stack of paperwork back to get today and I think I’ll give Alison’s phrasing a try. I run multiple departments and I get gross stuff occasionally (HR paperwork turned in by zoomers can always be surprising). At least the guy who would turn in stacks of bills ready for payment that all reaked of his 24/7 cigar smoking retired.

    1. Hannah Lee*

      For LW #3

      Here’s a couple of suggestions, maybe one would help in this situation.

      1) Return any submitted paperwork with stuff smeared on it back to this employee, telling them it is unacceptable. Basically, return the problem back to them and don’t give them ‘credit’ for completing a task that involves paperwork until you get a clean copy (and you can scan the smeared paper for any info you need to move your workflow forward before sending it back)

      2) Desktop scanners, phone based image capture devices/SW/apps are widely available and maybe $100-300. (I’ve got a Canon ImageFormula scanner in my workspace that was maybe $250 USD. Perhaps buy one for this employee’s workspace, and instruct him to scan and submit all his documents electronically. Though you might already have a copier or other device with scan function in the workplace, it would be a kindness to others to not have to share it with another frequent user with document hygiene issues.

      3) if this employee frequently is submitting documents, other items to other employees, suppliers, etc, you need to address it more directly – that handing off dirty work product is unacceptable, that it won’t be tolerated and is there something he needs from you to make it stop (access to washrooms, access to cleaning supplies in his workspace, referral to an EAP for whatever support (he needs if it is a mental health, behavioral health issue, etc) Note, it’s not your role to identify the cause and what he needs to stop, that’s on him. But it is absolutely on you to let him know it’s unacceptable, that he needs to stop doing it or there will be consequences and to provide reasonable support if he identifies something that he needs to address it in the workplace.

      And then monitor it and put him on a PIP if necessary. This isn’t a minor thing, it is a bad sign of something that could cause other issues and issues for others, the company as a whole: carelessness for quality of work/output, disrespect for others, malicious intent or destructive psychological issues.

    2. Van Wilder*

      I don’t understand how everyone is not commenting on #3. I thought I’d read it all here, but I’m blown away. Boogers! In an adult workplace!

    3. Chinookwind*

      OP #3 – I worked for shipping company during covid and I will forever be in awe of how the site manger responded when one of the truckers coughed on the paperwork (not maliciously, just not thinking) and then handed it to one of the new unloaders.

      In sight of the driver, the manager grabbed a plastic bag (we had them for the products), took the documents from the unloader and put them in the bag, and told the driver he was no longer allowed to exit his truck while unloading and will only be dealing with managers going forward. She then turned to the new hire (again driver is still there) and send we are sending you for covid testing.

      The driver kept complaining it was just a cough and not covid and the manger pointed out that giving another human coughed on paperwork should never be acceptable, regardless of a pandemic. She is my hero!

  36. Petty_Boop*

    Awww man, LW3! I was (note past tense) eating breakfast of toast and jelly when I read that. Made the dog happy though!

  37. Risha*

    LW5, many people aren’t good at interviewing due to many factors. For example, I have bad social anxiety and always freeze up during interviews. I do research the company I’m interviewing at, I come prepared with questions, and I have good answers for common questions in my industry. But when I’m actually in the interview, I freeze up. I trip over my words, sometimes I forget what questions I wanted to ask, I cannot think of good examples for their “tell me about a time” questions. If any of the hiring managers based their hiring strictly off my interview skills, I probably would not ever have a job. Thank goodness they’ve always seen my skills and what I have to offer the employer, instead of how well I interview. Since my jobs are always fully remote and with low contact with other people, I always exceed expectations.
    My point of this is, give people a chance even if they don’t interview well or have a cover letter tailored to every single different employer. If you base hiring off who has the best answers or the greatest cover letter, you may miss out on a super employee. Would you rather have a great employee that does their job well but has a basic cover letter or a mediocre employee that has a beautiful cover letter?

    1. spcepickle*

      So this is a real question – how do I find that great employee? Because I have maybe an hour to go through a stack of resumes and cover letters to pick 3 or 4 people to interview and an hour each to interview them. How do I fix my application question and interview questions to get the data I need to separate the great employee who is not great at interviews from the mediocre person?

      1. Risha*

        I’m not in a position to interview candidates at my current job. But in the past, I did take part in interviewing and IMO there’s no way to know for sure until they start working for you. At my current job, we had a new hire who looked perfect on paper. He had the best cover letter I’ve ever seen (cover letters aren’t a thing in my industry). His cover letter looked absolutely magical and my boss thought she hit the jackpot with him. Well, once he started, she realized what a huge mistake she made. He made really critical errors (we’re all nurses and doctors in the health insurance industry so there’s no room for serious errors), he tried to dump his work on others, he wouldn’t pay attention in trainings then expect someone to have a personal zoom training with him to go over the material. He was a hot mess and was asked to resign after only 3 months of working here. It also turned out that he had an unstable job history, and if references were checked properly, this could’ve been avoided.

        All I’m saying is don’t disregard a candidate because they don’t have a great cover letter. There are so many reasons why a candidate doesn’t have a great cover letter. And sometimes, the crappy candidate will have the best letter you’ve ever seen (since many are good at BSing). I don’t have much experience interviewing candidates so I can’t answer your question. But I really do understand hiring managers have a lot of candidates with very little time to go through resumes/cover letters/interviews. My suggestion would be to go off their resume/prior work experiences more than the cover letter. Also to understand that many people have really bad social anxiety or other issues that may impact the way they interview. If you are interviewing someone that appears to be shy/anxious/nervous, give them time to answer or word the question a different way. If you interviewed me, you would probably think I have no idea what I’m doing. But that is not true at all. There are so many totally competent, knowledgeable people who just don’t do well in interviews or can’t put their thoughts down on paper.

        1. The Almost-Vulcanian*

          All I’m saying is don’t disregard a candidate because they don’t have a great cover letter.

          Ahem. Simple logic dictates that this is the wrong lesson to draw from your experience.

          From “good cover letter –> bad candidate,” it does not follow that “bad cover letter –> good candidate.”

    2. Mimmy*

      Hi, are you me?

      I’m always relieved when others describe their struggle with interviewing; I particularly have trouble with the “tell me about a time…” questions because it’s hard to remember details about specific conversations or actions.

      To your other point above…

      There are so many totally competent, knowledgeable people who just don’t do well in interviews or can’t put their thoughts down on paper.

      Exactly! I know I have a lot of potential beyond my current job; I’m just having trouble showing it in interviews. This is why I sometimes wish more employers would do short exercises related to specific job functions. For example, instead of asking a generic behavioral question, pose a specific scenario, then have the candidate talk through how they might approach that situation. I think it’s a better indicator of whether your approach aligns with their approach and that you have good problem-solving and analytical skills.

  38. Khatul Madame*

    I hope LW4 never applies for a job in an industry requiring background check or a security clearance, because these processes are a lot more invasive than the CEO’s clumsy request for feedback. They are also highly redundant: the subject gets asked a bunch of questions, and then the friends or colleagues are asked the same questions. Behind the subject’s back, the horror.

  39. MicroManagered*

    OP3 I would take the next booger-paper back to the employee and say “it looks like this copy has something stuck to it — can you get me a clean copy?”

    1. RVA Cat*

      Good idea. I did like Allison’s face-saving line to assume it’s food – “golden” raisins maybe?

      1. MicroManagered*

        Actually, I would NOT give a person who is wiping boogers on their work an “out” like that LOL. I think I’d just ask for a clean copy and let the mystery of what that is… sit there.

        Shame can be a valuable social conditioning tool.

    2. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      That would totally work. Or even just look at the paper as it’s being handed in and note it nonchalantly / ask for a fresh copy.

    3. Nik*

      Yes, just say something like “I can’t put this in the file with that stuck to it, please print a new clean copy.”

  40. kiki*

    I’m wondering if the speeches are good when they’re that long? Like, can remarks that are supposed to be 3-4 minutes long really be stretched out to 45 minutes in a way that is not just rambling around the point or a complete detour from the discussion at hand?

    I guess I don’t know what type of work the head of the office is in, but if there is anyone paid to advise him on his public image, they should try to bring up his speech length again. It’s not just disrespectful of folks’ time– he’s probably damaging his reputation a bit with these speeches. Maybe I’m underestimating this man and he’s delivering a speech on par with the Farewell to Baseball Address, but I imagine he’s up there rambling for 45 minutes and saying strange things.

    1. Grumpy Elder Millennial*

      I imagined this as a situation where he’s missing the mark on the objective of the remarks. Like, he’s supposed to say that X initiative is innovative and going to solve A, B, and C problems. Instead, he gets into the woodwork about the problems they’re trying to solve, the various approaches to solving them, why this approach is the best one, etc. I could definitely put together a 60 or 90 minute talk about something I was super knowledgeable about that would be solid. Though that would be with preparation; speaking off-the-cuff would be much less likely to go well.

    2. Richard Hershberger*

      Are long speeches good? Reputedly, back in the 19th century people sought out public speakers with the expectation of a long speech. But then we invented television. And even back in the day, it wasn’t Edward Everett’s two hour speech at the dedication of the Gettysburg cemetery that people remembered.

    3. goddessoftransitory*

      I blame Steve Jobs and that whole “charismatic pacing in front of one’s worshippers” thing he’d do whenever Apple slightly tweaked a screen. Ramblers like this all seem to think they’re entrancing their audience by their very presence.

    4. LW1*

      The sad thing is they often start great and have an interesting message, but then will just become bogged with way too much detail. If he could keep within the time he’d be a great speaker, but as it is you can see the audience start out highly interested and then the light starts to leave their eyes around 10-15 minutes in when it becomes clear that he’s just getting started.

  41. Ferret*

    LW1 should consider suggesting that these events implement the solution used by the Ig Nobel prizes – if a speaker goes over time they have a 7 year old girl (Miss Sweetie Poo) start saying “I’m bored” at increasing volumes

  42. Lace*

    LW #2 I would reconsider your choice to be unmasked in social settings. If you were masked, you wouldn’t have had this uncomfortable scenario in the first place. Also, it may be “I’ve accepted my risk” but please understand disabled and immunocompromised people can see you. They can’t change your mind, but they can make judgements about you and keep their distance physically and emotionally..

    In this particular instance though, I think you would have been fine moving!

    1. Bruce*

      Our lab team had a Covid case yesterday, the lab manager had to tell his whole team to start wearing masks again and keep an eye out for symptoms. One good thing is the guy with the case knew he’d been exposed and had been masking already. It being a lab he couldn’t work from home. Glad I’m getting a booster tomorrow!

  43. Risha*

    LW4, are you youngish and new to the working world? I’m genuinely curious on that. If you’re new to the office world, just know that this is a common thing. I work in a small world type industry, and it’s common for hiring managers to talk to people who’ve worked with you in the past (not just your references). Candidates will put down references who they know will say great things about them, so this is a way for hiring managers to get a feel for who the candidate really is. Since your friend referred you, it makes sense for the CEO to ask her about you. I know some of the comments here are saying you should be expecting this backchannel reference. But the thing is, if you’re new to the working world, you may not know this is done. And when you try to ask about this type of thing, you sometimes get harsh or snarky answers. When I first started out working in a professional environment, I didn’t know this was a thing either. I thought they only called the references you put down.
    My suggestion to you is, take the CEO’s name out of the email (leave the “to” field completely blank), type up the email with whatever you truly want to say to him, wait 24 hrs then delete it. Then move on and keep applying with the knowledge that they will ask other people about you.

    If you’re not new to the working world, then yes you have very unreasonable expectations of what reference checking entails and need to get over it or not have friends refer you anymore.

    1. Itsa Me, Mario*

      I’m more surprised at the “why did your friend not take the job????” back-channelling from the CEO than I am about them asking the friend for their thoughts during the hiring process.

      Did the CEO ask LW why they didn’t take the job? If not, it is odd that they instead directed that to the person who referred LW. If so, why do they not feel they can take LW’s feedback on its own merits?

  44. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – Back-door references are pretty common. I would say that they’re even warranted, in situations where you know one person has worked with another person. The CEO disclosing compensation information is the only real issue here – and if they only said “we offered more than they were looking for, and they turned us down” – well, that’s not really disclosure of compensation details.

    It’s not worth offending the company / CEO by protesting about this. You’re not going to accomplish anything but perhaps damage your networking potential in future. You also don’t owe them an explanation of why you specifically turned them down – and perhaps you would be better off not providing one.

    1. Eldritch Office Worker*

      Yeah I got a back door reference for my current job that I didn’t even know about until I’d been here like a year. People talk. Depending on your industry, people talk a lot. Asking the opinion of someone you trust who has information you may be looking for is just a good idea.

  45. Workerbee*

    OP#1, I am sorry your boss is So Very Important. My recommendation is to send his resume to a headhunter. Let another organization snap up this charmer!

  46. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – it would be a bad idea to hold untailored resumes or a lack of a cover letter against candidates in a highly competitive industry / functional area. Someone who hasn’t put a huge effort into tailoring their materials may be a stellar candidate. In fact, they may be a better candidate than someone who has carefully researched your company and tailored their cover letter and resume – but you won’t know unless you TALK to them.

    Part of recruitment is selling the opportunity / company to the great candidates you want to hire. Hiring managers forget this all the time, but the reality is that recruitment is marketing to as well as selection of the candidates you want to hire. So, don’t hold it against someone that they didn’t make a huge amount of effort before they determined whether they truly wanted to work for your company or not. You would be better off paying attention to how they conduct themselves throughout the whole process – are they responsive? Do they come reasonably prepared to interviews? Do they ask good questions? Are they genuinely interested in doing the job itself?

  47. BellyButton*

    Sometimes it is ok to be rude. If someone is coughing and not covering their mouth or excusing themself it is not rude to get up and move or walk away. They are being rude and you are allowed to respond.

  48. pwl*

    LW 1, if it can’t be handled internally, definitely give event organizers a clear heads-up. We plan out a very specific amount of time for speeches, down to the minute. While there’s always a little wiggle room, your boss’s problem is so extensive that it obviously derailing entire events.
    When you reach out to the event organizers, maybe strongly recommend that they provide time cues? IE have someone hold up a sign at the back of the room for a 5-minute, 2-minute, and out-of-time warning. Your boss might ignore it, but as an event organizer, I would be livid if he wrecked the carefully-planned event for my attendees, so it’s at least worth a shot.

  49. Just Thinkin' Here*

    The truth is that for anyone unemployed, your job is the 50th job they’ve applied for in that week. Making a custom cover letter and resume just isn’t possible when you are playing the numbers game and 95% of your applications disappear into the black hole of online hiring websites. That said, as a more senior individual contributor, I haven’t been asked for a cover letter in 15 years.

    I’d be more concerned if someone showed up for an interview without researching the company. It may be that they tried to, but you are in a different industry than they previously worked for (think IT guy worked for web company now applying for a IT job in healthcare) so the domain knowledge may be limited. The other issue – small companies, especially private, can have very limited information available to the public. Google isn’t necessarily going to help the applicant with helpful background information – some of the industry information may be behind paywalls, etc. And I’ve seen lots of company web sites that have all the buzzwords but don’t contain meaningful information about the corporation’s actual work.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      The truth is that for anyone unemployed, your job is the 50th job they’ve applied for in that week. Making a custom cover letter and resume just isn’t possible when you are playing the numbers game and 95% of your applications disappear into the black hole of online hiring websites.

      This, this, this, this, this.

    2. Lady_Lessa*

      And some companies, even if you are looking for info about what they sell, make it challenging. AND we buy from them.

  50. Ticotac*

    All I can think when reading LW1 is that scene in “Death of Stalin” where Stalin’s son, Vasily, is supposed to give a speech, and once he starts rambling an air show begins and drones him out.

    Maybe after five minutes the organizers should start blasting “Born in the USA”

  51. AnonInCanada*

    OP#3: I feel for you. Because something makes me wonder if that’s another kind of… err… bodily fluid. (Insert puke emoji here.) Thankfully, I wasn’t filling my mouth with coffee when I read the original post. And you’re right: no one should have to ask that question.

  52. Michelle Smith*

    LW2: I wear a mask pretty much all the time when I’m in public, generally only removing for the amount of time it takes me to take a sip of water or shove a bite of food in my mouth, unless I’m outdoors and isolated. Most people around me do not mask at all. I’m a very visible exception to the norm. No one has once asked me about it or made any rude comments (or comments at all, actually) to my face. If you don’t make a big deal out of putting on the mask, I strongly expect people will leave you alone about it.

  53. BellyButton*

    #1- I would give a heads-up to the event organizers and let them handle it. I would be very upfront and let them know he always goes over by 30-45 minutes! (which is just so utterly shocking and inconsiderate) Maybe they have a better shot of getting him to stick to the allotted time, or maybe they will just kill his mic and announce the meal is being served. What a pompous jerk.

  54. Mmm.*

    As someone with allergies and asthma in a post-covid world, feel free to move if I’m coughing and you’re uncomfortable!

    If you’re anxious, either “go to the bathroom” and take a more available seat when you return or stand at the back and feign back pain or restless legs (I have bad both, and you have my full permission!). Nowadays, any half decent speaker understands that people need to do this.

  55. HonorBox*

    OP1 – haven’t read all the comments, so apologies if this is what others have said, too. You (or someone) needs to give event organizers a heads up that your boss tends to go WAY off script and tends to run well past time limits. Let them deal with boss by saying something as he walks on stage about the time limit. Or maybe they play him off with music. But let them be the “bad guy” because it is THEIR event and they can stop him from hijacking the event.

  56. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

    #4 I think this is entirely up to the friend to say something to the CEO about his back-channel tactics if indeed it bothered her. Did she tell you because she was bothered, or was she also inquiring about why you turned the offer down after she went out on a limb and referred you? If you “call out” the CEO, be prepared to have that friend give you fewer referrals, because giving a referral is also a back-channel tactic.

    1. Bruce*

      I’m not clear on what their complaint is. I once got a call for a reference check for a former co-worker, it turned out he had not given my name as a reference and this company cold-called several people about him… To me that was unethical, especially since they said he >had< named me. But if the hiring manager knows me and calls for advice then that is just normal following up with connections.

  57. But Not the Hippopotamus*

    OP 1 – If all else fails, from now on all talks are “just a few introductory remarks – 1-2 minutes tops” to him and scheduled for 20-25 minutes. Yes, this is working around the problem, but in the event he finishes in only 10 minutes you run early, and people seldom complain about that. Alternatively, he gets closing remarks instead.

    I agree with other comments that food shouldn’t wait on him.

  58. Jamalama*

    I realize this comment is going to be buried but I wanted to point out that not every cougher is sick or has allergies. My husband has asthma that often presents itself as a hacking couch (thankfully usually only in the morning) and I take a medication where one of the side effects is a persistent dry cough. I don’t love telling that to people, but it’s why I cough and I don’t want to make people uncomfortable, but I am also not going to wear a mask everywhere I go because it’s not necessary. I don’t know if this comment is helpful; I think in this “post”- covid world some people need to chill a little about being out in our germy world.

    1. Katara's side braids*

      I don’t think most people in this comment section, or the LW for that matter, is suggesting that all coughs stem from contagious illness. But how do you tell the difference between a Covid cough and a medication-side-effect cough? I’ve known enough people whose “routine” coughs masked their Covid coughs that I just don’t find that explanation reassuring.

      We are not “post” Covid, but it seems like most people are “post” safety for vulnerable populations. Until we get a handle on long Covid and have more reliable treatments for the immunocompromised, the decision not to mask is ultimately a decision to prioritize one’s own comfort over an entire population’s ability to exist out of isolation. Since all of us will probably be elderly or disabled one day, our current decisions essentially reflect our attitudes toward our future selves.

      And yes, that was true before Covid also. But most of us could at least plead ignorance back then. We can’t un-know what we’ve since learned, but lots of people sure seem to be trying.

    2. Stop coughing at me*

      There are germs other than covid than can be spread with a cough. If people know they have a cough not related to an illness, how about wearing a mask themselves so they cough into their own mask instead of spreading their germs to other people? Or having a mask available to cough into if they feel it impinges on their own freedom to have to wear it?

      How do I know what your coughing is due to. If you cough, you should be the one to control your own germs as my wearing a mask doesn’t protect the hair on the back of my head from being imbued with your germs.

    3. J*

      “I am also not going to wear a mask everywhere I go because it’s not necessary”

      Why is it not necessary? Coughing in general can share a lot of germs, even if it’s not from a specific illness like Covid. I think it is good and decent for anyone with repeated sneezing and coughing to mask. There’s no harm in you doing it and it will only seek to make others feel or be safer.

    4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      People keep telling me that I have to take responsibility for my own health and safety, because they and the government have given up on keeping people safe from disease (but I still have to take my shoes off to board an airplane).

      I know a lot of people won’t bother getting the most recent vaccines, and people won’t mask, and there’s no budget for new monoclonal antibodies. That means that about all I can do to keep myself safe is to stay away from unmasked people (even if you’re not coughing).

      I am not prepared to “chill” about the fact that a lot of other people have decided to ignore that covid is still sometimes fatal or disabling, and is now endemic in the population, and won’t even bother to test before assuring me that whatever they’re sick with this week “isn’t covid.” At least let me wear my mask in peace, and keep my distance from strangers.

    5. I Have RBF*

      I think in this “post”- covid world some people need to chill a little about being out in our germy world.

      We are not in a “post-covid world”. Covid is still hospitalizing people, killing people, and causing Long Covid.

      No matter how much people put their fingers in their ears and yell “Covid is over! Stop living in fear!” it doesn’t change the fact that people are still getting infected, and vulnerable populations are taking the brunt of it.

      We have the technology to deal with living in a “germy” world. It’s just that most people don’t want to bother.

  59. The answer is (probably) 42*

    LW2: I have had a chronic (not remotely contagious) cough my entire adult life. I usually try to keep a mask in my bag in case it makes an inopportune appearance- even if no one can catch it I’d rather not make someone uncomfortable. And masked or not, I 100% would not blame anyone for moving to get away from me if I were coughing. I’d do the same.

    LW4: It might not be worth addressing directly with the company, but it probably is worth mentioning on Glassdoor! That’s exactly the kind of thing I’d want to know if I were interviewing somewhere.

  60. Itsa Me, Mario*

    Re #5 and cover letters. I’m in the job search process right now and rarely see job postings that ask for a cover letter anymore. Most of the linked job application portals don’t include any space to include a cover letter. Some job application portals do include a place where a candidate could add that or any other relevant materials, but it’s not highlighted in the listing and is included in the portal in a way that doesn’t make it seem like a cover letter is mandatory or even particularly encouraged.

    I saw one job posting recently that mentioned wanting a cover letter and even included specifics (“please attach a cover letter that describes your commitment to Sparklemotion”). I explicitly decided not to apply because it was only a medium fit for me, I hate writing cover letters, and something about the way the request was phrased seemed off-putting (it’s a job, not a #1 Fan Of This Company contest). I later got recruited for the role and asked the recruiter about the cover letter requirement. From her response it sounded like the cover letter phrasing had turned people off from applying for the role.

    All of which is to say — maybe LW isn’t receiving cover letters because they are no longer standard practice? I would only worry about this if the job postings are specifically asking for cover letters. And even then, I’d think seriously about whether a cover letter is strictly required, and what will happen if the request for one is a big turn off for otherwise qualified applicants.

  61. Mrs. Hawiggins*

    Ah yes, the cougher who finds their way next to you.
    I’m not going to bash someone who has a condition that they cannot control, any more than they should bash me for getting up and walking away. Disruption shmishruption, I’m not going to polite my way into an oxygen tent.

    I did the same thing when someone sat next to me who clearly had an intestinal issue that I will not judge (or guess) one way or another being a health condition or self infliction at lunch.

    But on the level without all the empathy I have, if someone tries to be the hero and shows up clearly ill at something because they, “can’t miss it,” they don’t get to thing YOU’RE being rude.

    1. Bruce*

      Back in the 80s I gave the flu to 2 out of 3 people I was having a meeting with, including a VP… because I was being hard core and showed up to work sick. Lesson learned (both people were justifiably not happy with me!)

  62. Sharon*

    Person with chronic cough here. I wouldn’t mind in the slightest if you masked up or moved. I drive myself nuts and try to proactively apologize and assure people I’m not contagious. However, do be kind and consider that the person might have a non-contagious medical condition that they can’t help.

  63. I Have RBF*

    RE #5

    When I’m unemployed, I apply for over a dozen positions a week. Customizing both the resume and cover letter takes at least an hour per. So that’s 12 more hours on top of spending up to an hour filling out all the stuff again in their ATS. So that’s 24 hours a week just to do applications. Then add in responding to emails, doing phone screens and interviews from previous weeks. For screens/interviews, I can have around eight from previous weeks, and there goes another eight hours right there. Researching companies for interviews takes two to four hours per, unless all you do is skim their website, so at two interviews a week, that’s another four to eight hours. I’ve had some days when job hunting where I had back to back phone screens or interviews with seven different companies. But you want me to research all seven, and keep it fresh in my memory as I talk to multiple different firms in one day?

    So I have a choice: I can spend two or hours per company just to apply (and get a form letter rejection), plus more time researching places that deign to even phone screen me, or I can apply to more places per week. Which do you think gets me a decent job faster? Hint: it’s not the one that treats each company like a unicorn that must be wooed.

    I tailor my resumes to the type of job I want, like llama groomer, llama shearer, of llama wool spinner, not to each company. Most companies have a department that deals with llamas, so unless their business model is exploitive, I don’t really care what their industry is. It effects my type of work very little. Hey, great, your company makes woolly seat covers, but you still have a llama department. I make sure that I match up with at least 80% of the job requirements in my resume for the type of work before I apply.

    No company is so special that I’m going to take hours customizing my resume and writing a fancy cover letter just to get thrown at their ATS anyway. It’s a bit different when I’m casually looking and going for dream job material. But usually, when I’m job hunting hard it’s because I don’t have a job. Then it’s purely a numbers game. The last time I was out of work I applied to at least a hundred companies, and was rejected or ghosted by most of them.

  64. Red*

    #3 I once got blood on non reproducible legal documents needed to export goods and I just had to send them and I forever felt terrible about every customs agent between the US and its final destination who had to handle the original. If your employee isn’t dirtying the docs intentionally, they’ll def want to know. Keep it unspecific yet clear like Alison says, but definitely let them know.

    1. Sally Rhubarb*

      I worked in a vet clinic for a minute and one time a client was being a real ass and leaned over the counter to grab the pen out of my hand & in the process knocked my tea ALL over the the patient intake forms I was working on.

      Had to write in big letters “not pee just tea” because the stain ended up being a questionable color.

  65. Bast*

    I hate to say it, but in many parts of the US Covid has not changed much, and coming in to work sick isn’t much of a choice. It’s still seen as a “badge of honor” to power through, and those who take a sick day or request to work from home are seen as unreliable, or whiners — and that’s if the company even allows work from home. My recently departed job stopped allowing work from home while sick, with the rationale that you can just use a sick day. There were 5 sick days for the entire year. 5. One cold can easily knock that out of the park, let alone one Covid quarantine. You had to ration it off for being “really” sick and it was that or lose your job. Unfortunately I see a good many jobs now that only offer 3 or 5 sick days a year and still complain about, or outright forbid work from home.

  66. Bruce*

    If someone is hacking out a lung right behind me I’ll mask up for sure and move if possible.
    The long winded CEO is a common curse, around 1992 I attended a big dinner where our CEO got an award from his alumni association, he proceeded to:
    Spend at least 5 minutes on a clip from Top-Gun
    Get his slides in the projector backwards
    Bloviate extensively
    Point out the table us employees were sitting at, ask us to put our hands up if we were divorced, and when more than half of the team put up their hand bragged he that at our company everyone put their job ahead of their marriage (including him).
    I had my hand down and was thinking “Damn, I’m glad my wife is not here!!!”

  67. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #3 “it has become a not-too-uncommon event to find dried boogers on paperwork they turn in”

    Coffee stains could be an accident, but dried boogers sounds a deliberate insult to you – and you need to stop him before he progresses to giving you samples of even worse bodily output.

    I wonder what triggered this suddenly after 10 years:
    Has your relationship changed in the last couple of months? Did you criticise some of his work, or did he not receive the pay rise he wanted?

    Regardless of what passes for thoughts in his brain, I’d hand each solied document back to him and say he must do a clean copy – with delivery the same day. If that means he stays late at work that evening, well that’s what being gross at work earns.

  68. Retired Vulcan Raises 1 Grey Eyebrow*

    #1 The Windbag.
    Your audiences are pretty damn polite.
    If a windbag was wittering on for 30 minutes to the accompaniment of everyone’s tummy rumbling I someone might start the traditional chorus of “Oh why are we waiting” with cutlery banging out the rhythm on the table.

    After feedback from frustrated attendees, I’d be surprised if he ever gets a repeat invitation.

    Maybe you can suggest those sending him the invitations to specify: “Please keep your remarks to maximum 5 minutes. Thank you for your understanding”

  69. Annie*

    #5 also demonstrates the limits of even good job search advice: At the end of the day, skills and qualifications matter. How you present them (such as in a resume or cover letter or interview) can elude to job-relevant skills, but not always.

    Yes, people have gotten jobs by just submitting an application. Yes, people still get jobs by walking into or calling places that have a Help Wanted sign out then asking, “What openings do you have?”.

    Yes, people have gotten jobs using resumes that look something like this:

    2010-2015 Llama Wrangler, Smith Ranch

    2015-2019 Llama Groomer, Johnson Llama Center

    2019-2022 Llama Grooming Shift Lead, Brown’s Trails

    It can help to know someone at the company or get a referral from a trusted individual, but it’s not universally necessary.

  70. Cat*

    Back in undergrad I would carry cough drops in my backpack during cold season. They were intended for my personal use, but one time I had a physics midterm and a guy was coughing behind me so I gave him one. It did work, so maybe that could be a strategy to consider for the future? I think undergrads are probably more open to being given stuff by random strangers than people past that stage of life are though, so it’s possible it could just come off as offensive.

  71. Not Contagious Cougher*

    When I’m sick, I would never want to expose anyone to any germs. And…about a year ago, just when the pandemic was starting to slow down, I was getting a pedicure . All of a sudden I started coughing, couldn’t stop. I knew I wasn’t sick – coughing due to post nasal tickle because of blood pressure meds I was taking. (Happens all the time.) Couldn’t leave – I was stuck in the chair with my feet in the water. All the other ladies around me including the peddicurist were kind but looked a little uncomfortable. After a few minutes I got the coughing under control but it was so very embarrassing. I did tell everyone I wasn’t sick just a tickle in my throat. I wanted to share this to let people know that not all coughs are due to a contagious illness. (Still feeling the shame.)

Comments are closed.